Where I live, there is an off-street bike path that was completed about 10 years ago. Since then many new businesses have opened along the path. The economic impact of pulling people OUT OF A CAR and INTO THEIR environment is perhaps under-appreciated.
All you have to do is stop and take a look at pictures where you see lots of people riding bikes or walking near businesses and then contrast that with a 4-lane road to get an idea of how much more economic activity is generated locally for a business.
If you don't have an automobile industry (and even if you do) you are pillaging your own economic well-being by taking thousands of dollars from families and forcing them to send it to far away places that make cars and oil and gas when they could be spending it in their own neighborhoods and towns.
It's fucking crazy that we do this. I don't know how much more emphasis I can put on it. Requiring people to drive a car 20 miles, 40 minutes, whatever to just live their lives is so stupid it defies belief. That's not to say you can't have a car (or two). It's to say that we shouldn't design all of our towns and cities around moving cars around instead of people. We're literally making ourselves poor trying to do this.
Think of the median income of a country that you might imagine is a "nice" place to live. I found a source that lists them all (in fictitious "international dollars", not USD). So here's a few:
* USA: $19,300
* France: $16,300
* Japan: $14,200
* Israel: $10,800
* UK: $14,800
* Spain: $11,800
Wow, we are so much richer than those guys. Our quality of life must be higher, right? This extra 30% money for everyone(!) must translate to a higher standard of living. Maybe we work more than people in those countries, but it translates to: less air pollution, quieter streets, less time spent commuting, more pleasant built environments, more beautiful cities, better health, more civil services, better parks and public facilities ...
Nope. All that money just goes to cars. We make an extra 30% -- and then turn around and burn it, literally, in cars, making everyone poorer, more atomized, more depressed, more unhealthy. For an unlucky hundreds of thousands of us per year, we are physically hurt; for 35,000 of us, we are killed!
See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/General_Motors_streetcar_consp... for example.
> But Bianco points out that this plan wouldn’t have been feasible if the streetcar companies National City Lines purchased weren’t already struggling.
> By the 1930s, LA’s streetcars had become wildly unprofitable and were quickly losing riders. In Transport of Delight, Jonathan Richmond points out that the Pacific Electric company managed to turn a profit in only one year between 1913 and the beginning of World War II.
More importantly, much of the country was developed post-1945, and all followed the same car-dependent model. Atlanta isn't a car-dependent city because of conspiracies. It's because it's unpleasant to do physical activity outside for much of the year between the heat, humidity, and bugs.
And a for-profit system that's not pulling in enough money will let its service, sanitation, and safety degrade, causing a downward spiral of profitability and ridership.
The benefit generated by the car is $300 - $100 - $10. That amount is split between producer profit and consumer surplus. Note, the more value the buyer gets from the car, the bigger the total surplus, and the greater profit the producer can obtain. Profit and benefit aren’t the same thing, but they generally move in the same direction.
Generally when something is unprofitable, it’s because people don’t value it enough compared to what it costs to produce. Externalities can change that somewhat, but typically not by that much.
Externalized costs for vehicles is extremely well studied: https://www.team-bhp.com/forum/attachments/road-safety/18076.... For example, the externalized costs for my Toyota 4Runner are $0.13-0.21 per mile depending on whether you include crash costs or not. That’s at $50 per ton of CO2, which is probably too low. At $100 per ton that goes up to about $0.25/mile. That’s about $10 for the average 40 mile round trip commute. If you raised gas prices enough to fully internalize that cost, that would be like $200/month. Most 4Runner owners would probably just pay that. Some might get a slightly more fuel efficient car, or live a little closer to home. But those externalities aren’t so big that most people would give up the convenience of personal transit to use public transit instead.
I think this is the fundamental problem. I don't have a bone to pick with oil and gas companies. It's a resource, we need to address climate change, w/e, but fossil fuels are useful and should be used within reason.
But I do have a bone to pick with this idea that Americans are making a choice because I think they're not making a choice with complete information, they're incentivized to make certain choices, and they don't have a good feedback loop to see how their choices affect them. This ranges from highway construction which displaces natural habitats and eventually bankrupts towns and cities as initial costs are subsidized by the federal government (inflation anyone?) to obesity, racism, to loss of local businesses and economies and many more.
If the infrastructure is built for a certain vehicle then it's not really a choice is it?
> If the infrastructure is built for a certain vehicle then it's not really a choice is it?
Right... that's why I don't agree that anybody is choosing here.
This is just minutes from downtown Ulm: https://email@example.com,9.9727005,3a,75y,87....
I DON'T KNOW!
This is a continuing phenomenon. The fastest growing ethnic group in the U.S. today is Asians. But when polled, only 7-8% of Asians in Asia would migrate if they had the opportunity: https://news.gallup.com/poll/245255/750-million-worldwide-mi.... The ones that come here are the anti-social ones like my parents, who don't mind leaving behind their kin and ancestral ties to make their home in a foreign country. (They live in a suburb with no sidewalks and drive an SUV, of course.)
History: The American continent has been populated by migration. My wife's family landed on the east coast in the 1700s and kept moving west until they reached Oregon in the 1800s. This has both created a culture of valuing unrestricted mobility, and also as a practical matter meant that most development is greenfield. In Germany even tiny villages have been settled for hundreds of years--there are roads, old churches, etc., that force development into a particular pattern. My town in Maryland was mostly farmland just 50 years ago, and most of the stretch between here and DC is still farmland. The giant freeway connecting the two was built through 20 miles of nothing in the 1950s. But note that greenfield development happens in Europe too, and there's plenty of car-dependent suburbs in parts of Germany.
Wealth: Americans are significantly richer than Europeans, and vastly richer than Chinese. Many, many Chinese people would love to have a house on an acre of land and drive around in an air conditioned car all day. And Americans can afford to actually do that.
Arguably if it had NOT been for the interstate highway push in the US we'd have an America that would look more European.
Like you allude to, the US was bulldozed for the automobile. We didn’t develop around it. Amsterdam was following a similar path until mass protests in the 70s about people being slaughtered by cars. (https://inkspire.org/post/amsterdam-was-a-car-loving-city-in...)
And over the past several decades, they have made vast changes and redevelopments that we should have been following as well.
And now Amsterdam isn’t just amazing for cyclists and pedestrians… it’s also great for driving. ( https://youtu.be/d8RRE2rDw4k)
I've been roughly the same person the whole time. My change in buying behavior wasn't so much personal preference as much as it was the lifestyle that was enforced by the policy choices of the location I was living in.
For example jaywalking wasn't a crime until cars became the norm, then automakers lobbied police to be more aggressive against pedestrians: https://www.vox.com/2015/1/15/7551873/jaywalking-history
The Section 179 of the US tax rules creates a perverse incentive for buying heavier cars for larger tax withholding: https://diminishedvalueofgeorgia.com/6000-pound-vehicles/
And one could argue our gas subsidies have just continued to enable America's car dependency.
It's one thing if cars were an optional convenience. It's absolutely insane that they are a necessity in so many North American cities.
No, but lots of things push people to buy those vehicles.
As others buy giant vehicles, you might want to buy a giant vehicle so that you feel safer on the road. If everyone is riding around in a 4,000 pound (1,800 kg) SUV whose bumper is very tall, you don't want to be riding around in a 3,000 pound (1,350 kg) car whose bumper is low.
As we mandate parking minimums, we create stores that you can't walk to (because they have acres of parking separating you from every store) and we create neighborhoods you can't walk around (because we need enough storage space for all those cars and all those drivers want wide roads so they can get places "fast").
As we criminalized crossing the street (except in specified locations), we made walking slower and driving faster. As we changed our codes so that crosswalks were only mandated every half mile, we made it even harder to cross the street without a car. As our courts allowed drivers to strike and kill pedestrians with no repercussion, we made it easier for drivers to drive fast without fear of their actions; we made it easier for drivers to drive distracted without fear of their actions. That also made walking and biking more dangerous prospects.
> you don’t like the life choices most other Americans are making
People don't make life choices in a vacuum. People look at the world and make choices based on the reality that exists. If you lived in a city where parking was taxed at $1,000/mo, I bet you wouldn't make the choice of buying a car. If we changed our laws to say that killing a pedestrian would involve 1 year in prison and a permanent loss of license, you'd be a lot less likely to check your phone while driving.
Ok, you think those are contrived examples. Let's talk about giving Americans actual choice.
1) Remove all parking minimums. If the market will sell houses without parking (if Americans will make that life choice), we should let them, right? Or do we need to have laws propping up the oil and gas industry and not letting Americans make that choice? If stores think they don't need as much parking, let them build other stores on parts of their parking lots. Or do we need to mandate that stores accommodate cars rather than letting Americans make free choices? If Americans don't like that a store doesn't have a lot of parking, they'll vote with their feet/dollars and go elsewhere. If Americans don't like a home without parking, they'll vote with their feet/dollars and buy other housing. This is the easiest one to say to any skeptic because it's the free market. People will build, buy, and patronize what they feel fits their lifestyle.
2) Remove all road subsidies. Right now, drivers pay for around half of their state/local road usage (https://taxfoundation.org/states-road-funding-2019/, it varies by state). That doesn't even include the huge amount the federal government spends subsidizing highways. We should make drivers pay for what they're using - and if it's too high a price, they'll look for other modes of transportation. Instead, by making road usage cheaper than it actually is, we encourage people to use them more than they naturally would.
3) Remove parking subsidies. The US allows you to deduct parking costs from your taxes. If we're talking about letting people make free choices, let's not offer people money for being car-centric.
4) Explicitly allow accident victims to sue drivers due to their choice of dangerous vehicles. Trucks and SUVs have been exploding in size and raising their bumpers a lot - and that is leading to a lot more pedestrian deaths. Drivers of those vehicles should face the liability of their choice - including the negligence of their choice in protecting pedestrian safety. They should face higher insurance premiums to cover that negligence. Again, this is about people making free choices rather than being protected from the consequences of their actions. If you drive a car that's safer for pedestrians, that's a better choice. If you drive a car that's more dangerous for pedestrians, that's a worse choice - but you don't face any consequence for that.
5) Disallow car parking on public property without paying market rate. Many places offer free car parking on public property and many other places offer cheap car parking on public property. Why should we offer public property to drivers for free? Again, this is about making drivers face the real costs of their actions. By giving drivers so much free parking, we're subsidizing people to buy a car rather than giving them a free choice.
6) Make people pay for pollution/emissions. Drivers should have to pay for the pollution/emissions that their vehicles create. Otherwise, we're not giving people a free choice. If everyone else is polluting for free and you're not, then you're paying for and suffering from their pollution. By making drivers pay for their pollution and emissions, we make sure that we give people a free choice of what they want to pay for.
Others are harder to do completely independently. Building more public transit means making a choice that influences others choices. Building more or fewer roads means making a choice that influences other choices. Making roads safer for pedestrians might make cars a tad slower influencing people's choices.
Oil and car companies don't "just sell a product that people want to buy." We've created a whole system that makes it hard to live without that product while insulating drivers from the costs of their driving. Drivers always think "I pay so much" and it's nowhere near the cost of their driving. Would you support the 6 things I outlined above? Or is your freely made life choice only a choice you'd make as long as the government subsidizes a huge amount of the cost and protects you from the consequences of your actions?
Parking costs in furtherance of a business, yes. Same as the US allowing me to deduct the cost of taking the subway to a business meeting or the utility bills required to air condition my office building.
Meanwhile, things like making the electric car tax rebate an actual refundable credit can't be done because that might actually help poorer people!
But now that you've pushed it yes absolutely I think making that choice in the face of currently happening climate change crisis is wicked. I don't like it or respect it and don't see why I would be expected to.
I fail to see how this is "the real issue" though. At least as big a problem is we've been encouraged to believe our personal choices have no effect on other people and so there is no particular weight, meaning or consequence to them. It's not true though. Your decision affects other people negatively and you suck for not caring about that.
What’s different about Europe is virtually everything else. See my sibling post on this issue. In a nutshell, an immigrant nation with a long tradition of migration for opportunity and to get away from others places a higher value on unrestricted mobility. Culture is extremely sticky.
Additionally, Europe is very old and that affects patterns of development. Even rural Germany is dotted with towns that are hundreds of years old, and mid-sized cities that anchor regions, like Ulm, are over a thousand years old. Meanwhile, the vast majority of America was developed during the railroad age (leading to cities that are far apart) or the car age (leading to low-density residential development).
Then there’s population growth. Germany’s population only grew about 20% since 1939. That means that the housing areas for most of the population were already built up by the car age. The US population has increased by 150% since 1939. That’s 200 million more people that needed residential areas built for them during the car age.
(1) Most of Europe had less of a population boom during the time that the auto/highway build-out happened. Part of the reason, ironically, is that there was a lot of migration from Europe to the US. Many descendants of Europeans are stuck in car culture in the US, while their cousins who stayed home are not.
(2) There's a strong correlation between the ability of governments to "spend for the future" on things like transportation and the existence of decent transit infrastructure. It's no accident that Europe's infrastructure is better, Japan's and China's better still, while in hyper-individualist government-hating US it's the worst.
These two factors reinforce each other as well. Most of the "developed" world got out in front on this issue, while we veered off into insanity (thanks lobbyists!) and are now stuck with the near-impossible task of retrofitting The Right Thing onto a well entrenched Wrong Thing.
Not sure if it's what you meant, but that phrasing reverses cause and effect. The arrangement of homes, offices, and retail precedes most individual housing choices. In other words, people chose to live in places, already knowing what the transport implications would be. They weren't yanked out of their car-free utopia and forced to live a car-centric lifestyle.
I agree that the car-centric way we do transit and urban planning is absolutely disastrous and needs to change, but part of making that happen is not simply dismissing people's revealed preferences as something imposed from above. It's the solution that's likely to be imposed from above, and I'm OK with that personally, but in the political real world it pits a whole bunch of noble principles against the hyper-individualist anti-government attitudes prevalent especially in the US. That's how you end up with "ban all cars" on one side and "rolling coal" on the other. The trick is to understand and accommodate the reasons why people choose to live as they do, while still moving toward a better future.
"Understand and accommodate" can cover a much broader and more ambitious range of actions than that. Look at the plain words. What I'm saying is that we should understand why people have made the decisions they have, what capabilities or benefits they expect, and trying to preserve those capabilities or benefits even if it's with a completely different kind of infrastructure. It's just basic requirements analysis.
You know what's truly silly, since you used the word? Ignoring others' knowledge, judgment, and agency. Pretending those things don't exist. "You're a dummy who has been duped, screw your feelings, ban cars tomorrow" is both un-empathetic and absolutely useless as a way to formulate policy, but I see it again and again and again from the extremists in these discussions.
That's pretty misleading and tendentious framing. There's no law requiring people to drive that much: even in the most suburbanly zoned suburb, if you pick someplace close to your job, you have to drive far less than "20 miles, 40 minutes." If you have a more of a commute, it's probably due to optimizing for other priorities.
It'd be great if I could walk around the corner to the a coffee shop and a grocery store, but those businesses just wouldn't be viable at the density I also want to live in.
> if you pick someplace close to your job, you have to drive far less than "20 miles, 40 minutes."
I’d make a good wager that “living their lives”, did not mean going to work. It’s going to the park or the “nice, bustling area” of town a.k.a. the walkable area like the farmers market.
> but those businesses just wouldn't be viable at the density I also want to live in.
The density you want to live in doesn’t sound like it promotes social interactions, drives economic inequality, and takes money from the community.
Also in Texas, California, and Seattle this is a real thing for white collar work. This is a very real thing for blue collar work in almost any state.
Did you know that suburbs also have parks, shopping, etc. right?
> The density you want to live in doesn’t sound like it promotes social interactions,
FYI, "promoting social interactions" does not require density.
Honestly, it seems you have the strange idea that a particular kind of urban living (that you probably prefer or idealize) is the only kind of good living, and therefore feel the need to take a piss on every other type.
That's odd I get the exact same vibe from you.
Then you're projecting. I never said urban living was bad or inferior, just that it's not for me and that a lot of the negative characterizations being thrown around about it are incorrect. If you want to live in an apartment block downtown and bike everywhere, more power to you. Just don't put down suburbanites as anti-social people who are "forced" to drive 20 miles to experience "parks" and the "'nice, bustling area' of town" (because I guess there's nothing good in wasteland suburbia).
No thanks, would rather drive.
I usually jump on a soapbox whenever I see so much support for getting rid of cars on HN, so here goes:
Not everyone lives in a city.
I’m 100% in agreement for all of these arguments, with the precondition that you live in the city.
But many prefer and enjoy distance from neighbors, commerce/industry, and enjoy being surrounded by a more natural environment.
And many of these comments seem to completely ignore folks that prefer a quieter lifestyle over being surrounded by everything.
This is especially true as we move more towards remote work — if people are able to work out of their home, a percentage of those will want their home -- where they spend a large majority of their life -- to have some privacy and pleasant surroundings. Which means distance. Which means cars.
Even supposing that your surroundings are already very pleasant to you, wouldn't you be better able to revel in their pleasantness without the enclosure of a car or the urgency of a highway?
> Almost no one is actually surrounded by a natural environment.
He didn't say "a natural environment." He said a "more natural environment," which I hazard to guess means stuff like more grass and trees and less concrete outside the window.
Oh, and BTW: I live in surburbia and actually have a patch of legitimate forest in my backyard.
I would challenge the degree to which contemporary suburban sprawl developments actually deliver on this promise: wander around any of them, your field of view is going to be dominated by a wide road making a sweeping curve, huge driveways, imposing garage doors, and (maybe, if any houses are visible behind the garages) giant masses of vinyl siding. There's at least as much inorganic material in the vista as in any Manhattan streetscape, it's just the ugly and utilitarian kind, designed to facilitate efficient through-travel and car storage instead of something designed to be pleasant or inviting to people in itself.
You can have a nice patch of nature privately in your backyard, and perhaps in dedicated parks and preserves, but the connective tissue between all that stuff is remarkably hostile to any mode of engagement besides passing through at speed.
We don't live in a planned society and many many people have made mistakes about where to farm / raise livestock in the US. The good news is they usually eventually give up if the place is unsuitable, sometimes there are outsize subsidies that allow bad practices to go on forever, but in general it does correct itself. That land eventually (especially in non desert areas) returns back to its norm, where badly planned cities will take a much longer timescale to return back to nature.
But it's exactly how you said:
> want their home -- where they spend a large majority of their lives -- to have some privacy and pleasant surroundings
This applies to people living in cities too. I don't want to have to be afraid of death or serious injury whenever I cross the street.
Please leave your car at the park-and-ride outside.
By increasing density in some places, we would decrease density in other places, allowing people to have a choice in how they want to live. But in huge swaths of America, there is basically no diversity in density. You literally can’t live somewhere that’s walkable or bike-able to grocery stores and restaurants, and you can’t live somewhere that’s more rural than a suburb (because it’s all suburbs).
Even in non-cities I’ve lived in places where it’s perfectly fine to walk or bike to do my daily chores, but to have a car for longer trips. But if the only options are a Walmart 10 miles away, and a Home Depot 15 miles away from the Walmart, it’s just not possible.
Because in my "town" which is something like 10k, we're 30 miles from the nearest "bigger town" and 45 from the nearest international airport, but I can walk to Walmart in 30m or walk to Ace Hardware in about the same (though in a different direction).
So they do exist, they just don't exist where people want them to.
To me "rural" is mile long dirt driveway at the end of a gravel road that is ten miles from the nearest paved road, let alone the nearest services.
If you want to see how you can have your cake and eat it too, watch some of this guys videos:
What may not be sustainable is city-like road patterns with suburban densities.
This is compared with <20% of businesses that reported any kind of improvement in business conditions.
https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5bc63eb90b77bd20c50c5... (page 21)
Traffic also increased substantially on some of the nearby streets, as expected.
A reasonable discussion on the impact of these kinds of changes can be had; but not if we're going to make up statements about what the impact of the changes was.
> • 72% of visitors to the Study Area usually arrive by active transportation (by bicycle or walking). Only 4% report that driving is their usual mode of transportation.
> • Merchants overestimated the number of their customers who arrived by car. 42% of merchants estimated that more than 25% of their customers usually arrived by car.
Similarly, Toronto compared credit card transaction volume by mode in evaluating the Bloor bike lane. The area with the new bike lane saw increased card transaction volume, by slightly more than the control areas . Merchants did report an increase in customers at this time.
 https://www.toronto.ca/legdocs/mmis/2017/pw/bgrd/backgroundf... (Page 15 for Moneris data).
1. They drive to work and erroneously assume their customers also arrive by car
2. They're more likely to be old and dedicated to a car-centric society
3. They're more likely to live in outer boroughs and don't care much about neighborhood walkability
4. They heavily protested the changes and are invested in the idea that it wouldn't work
5. The minority of their customers who do drive are very loud. They hear them complain whenever they come in and so erroneously assume they're representative.
6. Self-reports are generally unreliable and inferior to actual measurement
I think I could probably think of more, if I had to.
There are very easy and very concrete ways to measure if businesses saw a drop in spending. You could look at tax receipts for the area, for one.
Instead they chose to ask peoples feelings about sales numbers...
It's cheaper, but it's not better. True investigations watch results over time and compare actual items (that still have to be determined to be significant).
There is an old saying that nobody who "works" in NYC can afford to live in NYC. You need passive family/investment income to support living there. The new saying might be that nobody who lives in new your can afford to live there. It is a place for people rich enough to maintain residences in multiple cities, a place for luxury crashpads servicing weekend benders. Nobody rich enough to owns a NYC apartment actually spends much time in NYC.
I've lived in all of the expensive cities in the US, never interested in saving for a downpayment so its a much larger budget that worked okay with whatever job I was doing
1. Gas stations
Everything else does better when the storefront is nearer the road, assuming all things else are equal (ie., rear parking vs front parking). However, to do this right you often need two entrances for the business, which can complicate things.
Even though it’s still shared with cars, it’s so much more pleasant and safe because they are more aware and polite.
Went from biking being just a thing I do to get around to taking my son to and from school on his bike every day.
There's a lovely saying in Dutch urban design circles, "Build for the traffic you want, not the traffic you have."
As a retail business, you want to be in a place where actual humans are there and moving slowly enough to lay eyes on your storefront.
The only way it works for stroad big box developments are giant ugly signs designed to be visible for miles. Even then, someone might just decide to drive on by rather than dealing with a two-way center left turn lane against two lanes of oncoming traffic.
And when buildings face the road and are closer to it, it becomes more walkable and rideable. You're more likely to slip into a store if it's up against the sidewalk than if you have to cross an acre of parking to get to it.
Just to put this context < 100 more people "did it". 138 -> 211 isn't significant at all. Also 138 was on day with 55 deg weather and 211 was on 75 deg weather. more people ride bikes on a perfect 75deg day.
>"While the growth rate change during each year was modest, the accumulated impact over the study period was more substantial – a growth rate in bicycle counts of 69% over the 6-year study period. Locations with an on-street bike lane, also showed growth though at a lower rate than protected bikeways. On average, these on-street bike lane locations saw 99 more cyclists on average during the peak period and a similar rate of increase in ridership over time compared to locations without facilities (26% increase over 6 years)."
If you drive, you're going to your destination and are unlikely to be derailed or sidetracked, just like ordering a book from Amazon doesn't get much visibility into anything else, even with all their AI.
Walking or biking suddenly makes that a matter of time savings and more noticeable.
Fat bike in the winter; road bike in the summer; fat bike/mountain bike on lots of mountain bike trails in the metro and outstate all year. It's pretty great.
Painting some lines on the road can help once people are on the bike - we need more dedicated bike lanes and they should be designed to "shortcut" in ways that roads do not.
Even things like "mostly" closing an alley to through car traffic and making it a bike "road" can work - people won't cut through it if cars are blocked from getting to the other end, but they can still use it to access back alley stuff if necessary.
Nah, it really doesn't. It just creates aggravation for cars and bikes alike, as both parties are stressed out about small spaces and eventually who-went-over-the-line. The only place it helps is at intersections, to favour filtering; whether that's a good thing per se, I'll leave for others to argue.
This is one of those areas where politicians' default modes ("compromise" and "progressive improvement") just don't work. On busy roads, you either build wholly-separated spaces for bicycles and motor vehicles, or you might as well not bother. On tight streets, you close the street to motors or you might as well not bother.
Painting lines is only useful to assuage somebody's conscience or tick some abstract box, not to actual road users. And I say that as a motorbike owner.
The thin bike lanes added to roads are a joke most of the time.
this german documentary makes exactly the same observation and argument. street markings may help existing riders, but most of those will ride anyways, even without dedicated paths.
whereas protected bike lanes are what really attracts new riders
Having read the study, I'm not impressed. No attempt was made to compare Minneapolis with peer cities as controls, that is, ones which did not increase bike infrastructure. A limited model was attempted regarding climate impacts, but beyond this little was done to control for external factors. Thus we have no idea if the change in bike usage was due to the bike lanes or if it was due to some other factor, such as societal, environmental, or other changes in Minnesota, or the US, which increased ridership over the 7-year inclusive (!!!) time period of the study.
Additionally, this study was essentially a before-and-after for the US's $25 million Nonmotorized Transportation Pilot Program (NTPP). The study is based on data gathered by parties highly invested in the program's success, such as Transit for Livable Communities (a nonprofit paid by Minnesota to manage the program), rather than disinterested parties.
Do I want to see cycling successful? You bet I do. Does this paper tell us anything much? No, it does not.
I had a sort of similar reaction as you to the study though. It's better than nothing, it provides some numbers that are consistent with one interpretation, and I believe that interpretation, but there are other interpretations.
One issue is that dedicated bike paths in the Twin Cities don't get put in random places. The money and municipal planning involved in them is focused on pathways that are of critical infrastructural importance, or where studies have already shown that they're likely to see a lot of use. They get put in places where the city and county wants to increase nonvehicular transportation as much as possible, to increase access to something (e.g., light rail, some kind of hub) or to connect two or more places.
So showing that bike use is higher in places that a lot of city, county, park, and DoT planners have decided there's a demand for, based on years of study, isn't entirely surprising. It would be like if five companies did a multiyear study of demand for product X versus Y, concluded people would prefer X, made product X, and showed that it sold better than Y.
On the other hand, you could go full circle and interpret this as just meaning the municipal planning studies are usually right, and people do like dedicated bike lanes, especially in the places their studies suggest.
but in cities that previously didn't have good infrastructure, the massive improvements really did attract new riders that would not have considered riding a bike before.
Minneapolis in particular has been remarkable in the USA bikey world for their investment in multimodal infrastructure over the last 15 years. In this regard they've long been widely regarded as a success and discussed in detail in blogs, magazines, etc.
The comparison of bicycle infrastructure (and number of people cycling) is stark. Given how bad the vehicle traffic is in Boston, I expected lots of bike commuters.
But there's no cohesive bicycle infrastructure here. Protected lanes barely exist, and even when they do, they suddenly end - leaving you on the side of a busy road.
Maybe one day Boston can catch up.
The MBTA bus redesign ought to help too.
But there is no reason why downtown dense city areas should be so car-dependent. It's not like people will stop going to shops along Mass Ave if they can't drive there!
What's worse is that even in surrounding suburbs, which have wide roads, the bike infrastructure is basically nonexistent, and car traffic is correspondingly horrible.
Not to mention the economic benefits to small businesses of having downtown bike infrastructure. Imagine how places like Malden would benefit (especially since there is already a bike path there).
The Grand Rounds help a lot too. It's a great basis to have inherited from the past.
So far I've ridden one very good path connecting a few suburbs to Boston (Minuteman Bike Trail, a rails to trails path). There are other paths, but they're combined with running/walking trails and generally not conducive to bicycle travel.
The bike lanes of nearby Somerville and Cambridge are okay, but still lacking in comparison with Minneapolis.
I think my friends were riding along the Charles River, for what it's worth. They're more occasional bike commuters (once or twice per week) than a real serious bunch, and I don't know their start/end points.
Rail-to-trail appears to be how most longish (10 mile +) bike paths come into existence in the northeast, from my observations. There's a lot less "free space" to work with than other parts of the country, since the land is so developed / dominated by automobiles.
Worth mentioning is that the city has grown in population. That was designed by previous mayoral campaigns to bring in industry. Lots of suburban folks also started moving back into the city too in the 2010s, so demographically the city was ripe to see more cycling. There’s also just a better culture for exercise and outdoor activity in Minneapolis. It used to be one of the fittest cities.
I’m not sure this could work everywhere. Minneapolis has different planning than most cities I’ve seen. There’s a lot of residential space (that’s now being re-zoned), which means more room to build on and options in case bike paths reroute traffic. The streets are generally larger and there are lots of parallel avenues and boulevards that facilitate partitioning of cyclists and cars. Personally, I find this to be ideal for commuting, and Minneapolis began to experiment with closing streets to cyclists a long time ago. I’ll stop myself from ranting about the budget for interstates and road maintenance compared to the cost of 76mi bike lanes though.
I'm sure much of that has changed with recent events, but I'm moving back and am cautiously optimistic.
So like 50%?
Reminds me of an old cycling adage (possibly predates modern cycling, not sure):
There's no such thing as poor weather, only poor clothing choices.
I hate to come across as a Nordic fetishist, but there are several cold northern cities known for their year-round cycling. Bike paths are plowed and/or heated. And people just layer up. Oulu, Finland comes to mind - paths are designed to drain well so sheets of ice don't form, plows are paid bonuses for clearing snow in a timely manner, etc. Winter ridership numbers in Oulu would put most/all American cities' summer numbers to shame.
I always found winter riding far preferable to the alternative: walking in the cold to a bus stop, standing there for 5-10 minutes, standing for 15 minutes in a lukewarm bus, then walking 5+ minutes in the cold...
...versus biking home, and being warm within 5 minutes, and having all my jacket zippers open by the time I get home in a total of 20 minutes, walking in the door toasty warm.
Half the problem is that most of the American populace considers itself experts on bicycling despite knowing fuck-all about it (never use the front brake! Tell your kids to ride against traffic for safety! You'll sweat to death biking to work in the summer! You'll freeze to death biking to work in the winter!) and the other half of the problem is that the American populace is incredibly bigoted towards anyone on foot or especially on a bicycle, and considers themselves road vigilantes whose duty is to punish the cyclist in front of them for every traffic violation supposedly committed by another cyclist that they witnessed at one time.
Where I live the heat index is supposed to be 108F with almost no cloud coverage. Riding a bike a few miles in the middle of the day is definitely risking heat stroke. It is without a doubt poor weather for riding.
Bicycling is more efficient than walking; you're generating less heat to move at the same speed, or you can move faster for the same heat generation, generating more cooling breeze.
I've ridden in over 100 degree weather during a heat wave. I dressed in the lightest clothing I owned, and arrived barely sweating.
My coworkers demanded to know how I'd arrived not drenched in sweat; after all, just walking from the bus stop many of them had gotten soaked in sweat.
Simple: I planned an extra ten minutes for my commute, and barely pressed the pedals...
I find that biking (and more broadly, being outdoors) sucks during rainy winter days, but I live in a place with no snow and only humid, rainy winters. Also, having something waterproof to cover your head has a negative impact on your ability to see properly (even as a pedestrian).
I've been a few times to places where it snows in the winter (nothing extreme, NYC in February and Ottawa in January) and found that it is more tolerable for me to be outdoors (given proper clothing) during snow than during rainy winter days.
And yeah, cold rain is the worst. We get far more of that than snow where I am.
In over ten years of riding in all conditions including heavy snow with sand and salt, I have never done any maintenance on my belt drive system. I'm on my second belt.
Spiked tires work really well in winter by the way.
What you can do in hot conditions is ride an ebike.
94F with humidity around 70% is a dew point of 83. Most scales will rate a dew point of above 70 as something like "miserable" or "intolerable".
The only outdoor activity I want to be doing when the dew point is 83 is called "going inside where there is AC". No I will not be riding an ebike around when the dew point is 83.
When was the last time you did something outdoors when the dew point was 83 or above?
(I don’t ride in snow because we don’t get snow where I live, not for lack of tires.)
I biked to work everyday in Chicago for years. Unless it rained or snowed. I thought the people who did that were crazy. The people who never biked to work thought I was crazy.
Where I live, local footpaths are cleared almost as fast as roads (local HOA/town management does it). The main mixed-use trail sometimes gets plowed, depends on the municipality and timing/availability (it's 50 miles long, almost straight, and spans 4+ counties/towns).
Bike lanes that are adjacent to roads are usually full of snow from the car lane. And intersection corners are usually 12+ inches of wet slush/ice water that catches and doesn't drain. So walking or riding in these areas is impossible. It sucks - I usually walk to work (1 mile from office) but can't in the snow because I can't cross major intersections without walking through that wet slush at the corners. Such poor design.
A mudflap fixed the problem. Well, not the rust, but the spray.
Fortunately bikes are pretty sturdy and a bit of rust won't take them down. Mine is still doing fine over a decade later.
Salt sucks. It's better in my area (suburbs outside DC) since they switched to brining roads in advance of storms instead of dumping salt mix afterwards. And we have a horrible freeze/thaw cycle - below freezing overnight, low-30s daytime, so we get slick "black ice" if nothing is put down.
Bike paths are plowed in winter, but biking in -10C weather doesn't sound pleasant. I haven't tried winter biking yet, and honestly, I'm a bit scared to.
I'm tempted to try it again this winter with battery powered hand warmers on my hands and feet, and handlebar mitts to keep the wind off my mittens.
Another important factor is the length of your ride. It takes a while to cool off, so a 15 minute ride may be fine while an hour long ride is miserable.
Winter biking can mean a lot of differen things, and no, you do not need to start with trying to bike 20km on a -10c blizzard against the wind. A short trip on a calm, cool day is a surprisingly mundane thing after a try or two. A few notes, though:
- if there are icy patches, you might want to invest in studded tires. They are awesome.
- experiment with clothing on shorter trips. If you live there, you likely have anyway suitable clothes for a variety of different trips.
- somehow I feel that fatbikes have gotten a bit out of fashion, but they are really cool winter bikes and not nearly as bad in the summer as you might think (assuming a quality bike)
- overall, you need much less new things you might think to try. And after you try, you know much better what you actually want.
The only part I find really hard to balancing clothing with effort. Easy enough for a quick run to the pharmacy or whatever. Harder for a workout or longer ride, where the effort ramps up quickly and excessive sweat quickly becomes a problem.
I enjoy riding in the snow (on my mountain bike). But, it's a once/season treat here.
Also invest in mid to fat tires depending on the snow condition. Don't use road bike.
wear high visibility clothing because of reduced visibility in winter.
don't pivot around obstacles (snow covered potholes) suddenly, try to go over them or safely pivot by looking behind you.
I cannot emphasize enough how much less miserable these made my winter commute.
Check out PeopleForBikes' city ratings.
1. Turning right at red lights. Legal in most of the US. This is a huge safety issue for pedestrians and cyclists;
2. Many streets don't even have widewalks;
3. Many major roads don't even have any form of pedestrian crossings. For example, I had Google Maps tell me to just run across an 8 lane highway (at least there was somewhere safe to stand in the middle) where the speed limit was 45mph. Why? There was absolutely no alternative.
In comparison, many freeways or highways in other countries will regularly have dedicated pedestrian crossing bridges.
4. In cities with a dedicated cycling lane in many US cities it gets used as extra parking, forcing cyclists out onto the road. Some I have sympathy for (eg delivery drivers) but many other people just don't give a shit they're blocking a lane of traffic and creating a safety issue.
5. Many Americans never walk anywhere so are an annoyance (if not an outright safety hazard) on any space shared with cyclists. I routinely see runners refuse to get out of the way in a dedicated cycle path. Many are oblivious and will just walk onto a cycle path without looking. I've had many near-misses this way.
So there are a lot of things you can do to improve this situation, most of which doesn't take exttra room. For example:
1. Netherlands style intersections designed to improve cyclist safety ;
2. Suburbia is dominated by cul-de-sacs to avoid car through traffic. These back streets should have dedicated cycle paths (to avoid cycling on highways) combined with car-free connections to allow through-traffic and safe crossings o fhighways with lights if necessary;
3. Instead of road->cycle lane->parked cars create separation with road->parking->cycle path where the cycle path has a physical barrier to avoid people using it as parking;
4. Have islands separating traffic on roads. In addition to making driving safer, this island can make cycling safer as you can half-cross the road and then cross the rest when it's clear without impeding traffic or risking being hit;
5. Splitting straight and turn right lanes. This will create another island for safety and less guessing on what motorists will do.
I guess I could summarize this as "just do what Amsterdam does".
We have setup #3, minus the physical barrier, on a few roads in my town. I can say as a driver it can be quite difficult to see cyclists when it comes time to make a right turn at an intersection or driveway. Additionally, dooring may be more likely on those roads since passengers aren't used to looking for cyclists on the curb side of the car.
These new bike lanes were the city doubling down on being a bicycle-friendly city.
"The University of Northern Iowa Sustainable Tourism and Environment Program conducted a (2008) study of RAGBRAI's economic impact on the state, and found the event generated nearly $25 million in direct spending. For overnight stops like Coralville and the points in between, that could mean more than $3 million a day in tourism spending." 
I'm curious what a 69% increase looks like in real numbers - a 20% increase on next to nothing is still next to nothing.
In my honest opinion Minneapolis is 75% of the year too hot or too cold for all but the most keen bikers.
This is a big deal, because for inexperienced cyclists, their perception of safety is dictated by the most unsafe portion of the journey, not the average safety.
I don't think the weather has that much to do with it. There are hotter and colder cities out there with higher bike ridership then Minneapolis. Good infrastructure is the number one contributor to bike ridership, and weather is a secondary factor at most.
You can also look at data here:
It's a good question. User Cenk just provided a link to the full paper in another comment: https://oa.mg/pdf/10.1016-j.trip.2022.100604.pdf
If my skimming is accurate, the answer seems to be that they surveyed two hours of afternoon commute in September in 39 locations, and saw an average increase from 138 cyclists to 211. So likely a real increase rather than a statistical artifact, but also quite small in terms of absolute numbers given the costs involved.
How many cyclists you've personally witnessed using the lane is irrelevant. Look up the stats from a bike count.
> In my honest opinion Minneapolis is 75% of the year too hot or too cold for all but the most keen bikers.
Just goes to show the value of an opinion: 43% of Minneapolis bicyclists ride year-round: https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/36685502.pdf
Also, a few years ago your city had the third highest percentage of bicycle commuters in the country: https://www.startribune.com/bicycle-commuting-at-highest-rat...
I don't think it is, when it comes to the value of the infrastructure. I can undeniably note that the number of humans going by in cars is orders of magnitude higher than bicycle.
> 43% of Minneapolis bicyclists ride year-round
Compared to how many people who don't cycle at all because of the weather? This is meaningless.
1. It’s possible your sampling is biased. I.e. you usually pass that street at its lowest usage time, and never at its highest usage time.
2. It’s possible that road is a cycle infrastructure fragment. I.e. it’s great, but unconnected to the rest of the cycling network - so it’s not being used because only people who are going from one place on that strip to another place on that strip can make use of it. Once it’s joined up to the rest of the infrastructure it would start to get heavily used.
As for Minneapolis’ climate - i’ve not been there so i can’t speak firsthand but I have lived and biked in Toronto and Montreal, which have roughly similar climates (very cold + very hot) and SO MANY CYCLISTS - so I think you might be wrong about that
So they're not well-used yet, which some are taking as a signal that we should foreclose on the entire idea before it even truly gets started.
San Diego needs to reconsider the design of virtually all of its surface roads. They're designed for 45mph traffic but the signs ask politely, maybe 25mph instead? Which everyone ignores.
Probably there were only 3 people using bikes and now there are 5, that is a HUGE percental increase but not quite significant as a whole
I agree that improving bus infrastructure would be a huge help, but that's not mutually exclusive to improving bike infrastructure. If you haven't experienced biking in Minneapolis, please visit some time! Try our bike share bikes, and the trails above, and see for yourself.
paper seems to be behind a wall. Hard to see what the actual number of cyclists this 69% represents.
The paper seems to have the information you are looking for. If I'm reading it right, the numeric increase was from an average of 138 bicycles per site to 211 per site, measured over two hour periods in September.
Are dedicated bike lanes near pedestrian friendly paths a safe transportation environment? I feel that bikes and electric scooters are more dangerous than cars.
How do you get this idea? In a collision with a pedestrian, the person on the scooter/bike will come to harm more likely than the pedestrian. But such collisions do not happen too often, and when they do, they don't go as bad as car crashes.
I live in a German City (Darmstadt) where next to the big roads as well as in the city centre bikes and pedestrians share a lot of place, and it is not a big problem that people keep getting hurt because of this. Most accidents in these places are because bikers had accidents due to bad roads, hidden stairs, car drivers, bad bike lanes, etc. If you ask me, making a city nore bike friendly, also close to pedestrian areas, decreases the chances of bikers getting hurt.
A car has better ability to brake suddenly then scooters and bikes where the rider can get thrown forward. I can hear a car coming.
In the city they don't drive fast where as bikes ignore lots of rules and travel very quickly.
Ask yourself this: is a motorbike hitting a pedestrian more dangerous or a car hitting a pedestrian, where are both are driving at city speeds with lots of braking in short distances.
Cars are more massive than bikes and scooters and kill almost everyone they hit at a minimum of 40mph. Bikes max out at 20mph with the exception for a racing cyclist. Also by weight they are far smaller.
Car produced noise, micro plastics, and exhaust also have detrimental effects on the environment we live in.
The list goes on an on. Bikes and scooters whizzing by pedestrians is annoying, but probably not the huge danger that is compared to a car.
- other people driving cars
Why do you feel that bikes and scooters are more dangerous than cars?
It does happen, but it's very very rare.
Near accidents and collisions between pedestrians and cyclists
An online survey was directed to inhabitants of Finnish cities ... The main results show that near accidents are far more common... Only 16 survey respondents had been involved in a collision during the 3-year period, whereas roughly a third had experienced at least one near accident.
There are also places on these paths/trails where they have separated a secondary path that is pedestrian only. The shared path in these places also have an enforced 10mph speed limit for the bikes. Much less spandex types on this section except for those trying to get to the other paths.
Electric scooters pretty much no longer exist in my town because A) the companies sucked at operations and B) humans sucked at being decent
You sound like the person that yells at me for stopping at a stop sign and causes them to slow down to a stop as well. Sorry, but rules are rules especially when the stop sign is only there for the bike/pedestrian path.
A pedestrian walking in the same direction you are traveling has no idea you are coming as they tend to not have eyes in the back of their head. If they do something that surprises you, then you have failed to anticipate properly. It happens. Riding at 15+mph on a congested mixed use path is just inconsiderate. It is not a dedicated bike path pedestrians are encroaching. It's mixed used. Be considerate. Yes, it is a pain to slow down, but dems da brakes on choosing to use a mixed used path. Just do it. If you want to travel at higher speeds, use appropriate lanes for that.