Tag Archives: bicycle

Need an SUV for the Family?

Need an SUV? Get Real. Get a Bike. (photo: Suhee Kang | Sociecity)

Need an SUV? Get Real. Get a Bike. (photo: Suhee Kang | Sociecity)

Outside of the ultra-density urban hubs, bike use in Japan is surprisingly high. It’s not uncommon to see a mother toting groceries and two children around on her bicycle without breaking a sweat. But then, these cities also have robust bicycle infrastructure, bike parking garages, bike valet, and all of the accommodations you’d usually only see afforded to cars and SUVs. This kind of infrastructure allows people to make a healthy choice, and to opt out of buying a car altogether.

…with bikes and pedestrians relegated to busy car-dominated roadsides, we end up sacrificing our health and safety for convenience.

It’s time to re think our transportation infrastructure and what that infrastructure is serving. In many cases you can’t truly answer that a solely car-based infrastructure is serving the good of the general public. Is it serving our convenience? Perhaps. But with bikes and pedestrians relegated to busy car-dominated roadsides, we end up sacrificing our health and safety for convenience.

The world needs not only to rethink the role of the vehicle, but to get to work on infrastructure for bicycles and pedestrians so that this scene is a common and safe one for all of us.

This photo was captured in Takamatsu, Japan by our Asia section editor, Suhee Kang.


London’s $1.4 Billion Cycling Seed

Cyclists ride along a river path (photo: P.M. Lydon | sociecity)

Last week the city of London announced one of the largest cycling transportation development budgets in the history of the bicycle. The city’s Mayor, Borris Johnson, committed nearly £1 Billion ($1.4 Billion USD) to building up London’s bicycle infrastructure over the next decade. When completed the cycling network will qualify as one of the world’s largest public works projects.

To grasp the enormity of London’s $1.4 billion bicycle investment, Janette Sadik-Khan, the sitting Commissioner of New York’s Department of Transportation (DOT) has a budget of roughly $2 billion at her disposal… that’s her entire transportation budget. The entire New York City cycling development budget over the past five years is in the neighborhood of $2 million, or about 0.009% of what London’s budget will be in 2015 alone. The proposal is enormous.

New York City’s cycling budget over the past five years was roughly $2 million, that’s 0.009% of what London plans to spend in a single year alone.

But largely, Americans aren’t taking notice, and neither is the American media rushing to task. Take the words  “Boris, Cycling” for a spin on the New York Times internal search engine and you’ll come up with a big goose egg: ‘0 results,’ says the Times.

All of this is not unexpected of course. Cycling has gained tremendous popularity among commuters in London, many of whom speak largely of cycling’s physical and mental health benefits, as well as a general frustration at the high costs associated with operating motor vehicles. On the other side of the Atlantic, however, Americans have been notoriously slow to covert to pedal power. In the U.S., cycling is still considered by the majority to be a poor person’s transport, or perhaps at best, a lifestyle accessory. The overwhelming successes and lessons from Europe are often mockingly shrugged off as ‘not relevant’ in America.

Still, cities like New York do aggressively attempt to put in place new cycling infrastructures, and it remains an uphill battle, competing against powerful lobbyists —  from old-fashioned district presidents to passionate residents — who are often most vocal in defense of the neighborhood parking spaces which tend to fall prey to new bicycle lanes. Even so, bike use in New York City has tripled since 2008, and hundreds of miles of bike lanes were put in place for this reason; since then, the two numbers have begun to feed off each other.

A Critical Mass?

Other cities across America are battling similar problems, but most are plagued by a duo of budgetary constraints and lack of direct demands from citizens.

Bike riders in Valencia, Spain (photo: PM. Lydon | sociecity)

Bike riders in Valencia, Spain (photo: P.M. Lydon | sociecity)

According to Nancy Folbre, economics professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, the city of Portland, Oregon — perhaps the most bike friendly city in America — has a commuting population of just 5.8-percent (less than 30,000 persons). Comparatively, some areas of London see over 50-percent of commute trips taken by bicycle. So which comes first, infrastructure or riders?

In London, not only did the chicken come before the egg, it pretty well popped out and started walking before the egg, too. When a city the size of London suddenly finds its commute routes saturated with bicycle riders, there is a necessity to respond with the proper infrastructure. Barring popular critical-mass-style bike rides, most cities in the United States seem to be many years away from having a ‘problem’ of too many bike riders.

But as John Pucher and Ralph Buehler of Rutgers University argue, bicycle development hasn’t always followed a chicken-before-the-egg path. Their study points out that bicycle use in the Netherlands, Denmark, and Germany — all seen as cycling meccas today — were subject to decades of tremendous decline through 1975; at one point in the 1950’s, the UK even sported a cycling mode-share higher than that of Germany. The changes, say Pucher and Buehler, were not spurred by cultural factors alone, but by government policy-makers who “focused on serving people, making their cities people-friendly rather than car-friendly,” shaping laws and regulations at encouraging human-powered transportation and discouraging the use of motor vehicles.

Today, most government bodies in the U.S. aren’t quite so pushy, they require immense pressure from riders to push for new bicycle infrastructure on a large scale, and also for more riders to be out on the streets in spite of the lack of infrastructure. Looking at trends in the U.S. over the past decade — where both ridership and government investment have risen steadily — these are issues that the States will eventually come to terms with.

At this point, it’s likely a matter of whether it will be slow and excruciating, or quick and painless. We, of course, vote for the latter.


More on Bikes @ Sociecity

NYC: Moving on Two Wheels
Transforming Suburbia to Eco-Utopia
Copenhagen Economics: Cars a Net Loss, Bikes a Benefit
Does Car + Bike = A Good Thing?

Further Reading and Resources


Transforming Suburbia into Eco-Utopia (part 3)

This is the final entry of a 3-part series on the city of San Jose’s sustainable transportation goals, based on Sociecity’s April 12, 2012 interview with Hans Larsen, the city’s Director of Transportation.

Bikes parked at a station in Chiba, Japan (photo: Patrick Lydon | sociecity)

Bikes parked at a station in Chiba, Japan (photo: Patrick Lydon | sociecity)

Continuing our conversation on bicycle infrastructure, I tell Hans that I have some fun stuff for him, too, and present a private stash of bike-infrastructure photos, taken during my visits to various cities including Barcelona, Tokyo, Amsterdam, Seoul, among others. [ view full slideshow ].

The first photo (shown at right) is of a Tokyo suburb – I use the term ‘suburb’ loosely, as the density of a Tokyo suburb is about on par with the most dense urban areas in the U.S.

In Tokyo, a city where you’re rarely ever more than several hundred feet from a metro station, bike usage is not tremendous; but, I tell Hans, if you visit the stations a little further out from the city, you have these huge parking lots, not for cars, but for bikes.

Looking at the photo, Hans cracks a smile; it is — as he mentions later in our conversation — not something he had witnessed during his visit to Japan.

The next photo we look at is a mockup that sociecity produced in 2011 for an article on the Alameda Bicycle Boulevard. I take the opportunity to ask Hans about the feasibility of a center lane that is physically separated and reserved for bikes, walking, and a landscaping buffer.

I know that New York has one, Hans responds, and Washington D.C. has one in a small stretch.

It’s interesting, because we have a project on the Alameda to make it more pedestrian friendly, kind of beautification, putting a landscape buffer in the center, make crossing easy for a pedestrian refuge area…

…but this, Hans says as he looks at the sociecity illustration (seen below), this is interesting…

Bicycle Boulevard Concept for the Alameda, San Jose, USA (design: Patrick Lydon, illustration: Chiaki Koyama | sociecity)

Bicycle Boulevard Concept for the Alameda, San Jose, USA (design: Patrick Lydon, illustration: Chiaki Koyama | sociecity)

Hans tell me that the main issue is how to deal with the intersections, and he gives Copenhagen and Amsterdam as examples where individual traffic signals are necessary for the bikes. He also admits that, while San Jose’s goal is to be “one of the nation’s leading bike cities,” the city has lot of catch up to do.

We’re very open to looking at trying new things, he adds.

One of the assets we have is the creek trail, kind of like a bicycle freeway that provides major avenues of long distance right of ways that are safe and convenient, and we’re looking to create a network to get from the creek trails to where you are going. I call it a ladder system, where most of the creeks run north/south and then there are these east/west connectors that form the rungs of the ladder.

The east-west routes would be mostly on city streets, where Hans says they intend to foster a trail-like experience, using both physical separations and colored bike lanes.

I ask what issues San Jose has with creating new bike lanes that are physically separated from cars, such as in New York, where some lanes use parked cars as a buffer between bikes and traffic.

New bicycle lanes planned for summer 2012 in San Jose (Illustration: Patrick Lydon | sociecity, Map: Google Maps)

New bicycle lanes planned for summer 2012 in San Jose (Illustration: Patrick Lydon | sociecity, Map: Google Maps)

When we had the downtown bike plan go to council, says Hans, Sam Liccardo [City Councilman] added some direction to actually have us look at that concept, and we do have a few places where we can, like 4th street where we’ve laid out a two-way bike lane buffered by parking, running against San Jose State and City Hall.

Generally, however, Hans tells us that most successful bike lanes of this type in other cities were originally one way streets built pre-car with few or no driveways to get in the way. Unfortunately for San Jose, most of the city’s streets were built post-car and are full of driveways and parking lot entrances.

The city is planning, however, to look at a separated bike lane option for 4th street along San Jose State University and City Hall, and Park Avenue from Guadalupe River Trail to the Cesar Chavez Park.

The current 3-lane single direction 10th street near San Jose State University. One lane will be removed and replaced with two bicycle lanes. (photo: Josh Hires | sociecity)

The current 3-lane single direction 10th street near San Jose State University. One lane will be removed and replaced with two bicycle lanes. (photo: Josh Hires | sociecity)

Hans pulls out a document containing a bicycle network that will be implemented this summer. The plan shows the 3rd/4th street corridors and the 10th/11th street corridors will lose a lane for automobile travel, and each gain two bicycle lanes.

These streets are currently main north/south thoroughfares, each with at least 3 lanes of one-way traffic, so it’s an impressive statement to drop an entire lane of car travel for two bike lanes. The city is not, however, planning to create a physical separations or buffer zones between bikes and traffic when they re-stripe the streets this June, something both Councilman Liccardo and many other advocates would like to see as a safety mechanism.

After these new bicycle lanes are completed in the Downtown area, the city will launch a bicycle share program in the city’s center. The system is the first of its kind in Silicon Valley and will initially comprise about 200 bikes installed in the city core.

These projects show a city leadership that is finally making strong efforts to live up to its promise of having a serious bicycle infrastructure…

…an infrastructure that aims to move a lofty 15% of the city’s traffic on bicycle by 2040, according to the city’s general plan.

Hans tells me, that although the city has a lot of good ideas, they have been struggling for a while in terms of not having much money to implement these projects.

How about corporate sponsorship, or joint public/private developments, I ask Him, maybe the Adobe Bike Paseo or Specialized Bike Highway?

We’ve kind of kicked that around on the maintenance side, more of having somebody adopt the bike route to help with money to re-paint the bike lanes every couple years. I don’t really know how generous corporations would have to be. Specilized is actually partnering with us on the Walk and Roll program, and we also have Lucille Packard working with us on that.

Bicycle Highway in Seoul, South Korea (photo: Patrick Lydon)

Bicycle Highway in Seoul, South Korea (photo: Patrick Lydon)

Hans turns his attention to a photo I handed him of Seoul, and asks if it is a dedicated corridor… I explain that it is part of Seoul’s revitalization of the main river running through the city (Han River). The photo shows a four lane bike highway along the river.

I’ve been to Japan, he continues, but I didn’t really see that much bike use, I guess like you say, it’s not until you get out into the suburbs.

That’s the idea, I tell Hans, and even then, you have things like an underground bike parking garage at the shopping center.

Looking at another photo taken in Germany, Hans says that the city has considered separated bike and pedestrian areas on trails, where, as the trails get congested you have people walking their dog, or the stroller on one side, and people moving faster on bikes on the other side. Hans seems skeptical, however, of whether San Jose will get to the point where pedestrian/bike separation is necessary on the trail system.

People and bikes on the sidewalk in Germany (photo: Patrick Lydon | sociecity)

People and bikes on the sidewalk in Germany (photo: Patrick Lydon | sociecity)

It would be a nice problem to have, I tell him; we share a nod and smile at the notion.

Yes, it would.

Hans’ main interest in moving San Jose towards these sustainable transportation goals, he says, is that they can be driven largely by building smart around existing transit hubs.

The “station city” concept is popular in Europe and Asia, where is isn’t uncommon to see a dozen stories of shopping, corporate offices, entertainment and housing above, under, and adjacent to main train stations.

The newly built "Hakata Station City" railway station in Fukuoka, Japan (photo: Patrick Lydon | sociecity)

The newly built twelve-floor "Hakata Station City" railway station in Fukuoka, Japan (photo: Patrick Lydon | sociecity)

San Jose certainly isn’t planning for a “Station City” anytime soon — although development in the city’s Diridon Station area might come close — but with a sea of parking lots currently surrounding San Jose’s transit hubs, the city does have many open opportunities to develop smaller, station-centric villages.

Hans says that the transit-oriented village is a key goal for the city, and the transit authority is essentially waiting to develop the current parking lot real estate that surrounds light rail stations into higher density shopping and housing — when the right plan comes along.

The city’s transit network is good, Hans says, but he also maintains that city land use does not support that system well.

It’s clear that there is opportunity to increase and optimize the use of existing mass transit — such as the city’s light rail system, which serves just 30,000 passengers per day — but in order for that to happen, smart, higher-density development needs to happen around the existing stations.

Hans finishes the statement by taking it back to bikes…

Having that [bicycle network] downtown, and expanding it to North San Jose, the East Side, Willow Glen, Rose Garden; building a really strong bike network is where we are going. I am optimistic in hoping that we can see some big changes.

After hearing and seeing the work the Hans is doing, I too, am rather optimistic for San Jose.

For more on San Jose development news, have a look at the San Jose Department of Transportation Website, or tootle on over to the San Jose Blog. There also seem to be some very passionate people over at SPUR San Jose.

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Transforming Suburbia into Eco-Utopia (part 2)

This is the second of a 3-part series on the city of San Jose’s sustainable transportation goals, based on Sociecity’s April 12, 2012 interview with Hans Larsen, the city’s Director of Transportation.

“We’re trying to create downtown San Jose as the ‘urban center’ of Silicon Valley” says Hans Larsen, Director of Transportation for the City of San Jose.

…the new generation doesn’t want to drive a 50 mile commute, to be wedded to a car, they’d rather spend their time doing other things, living close to where they work, being able to walk, bike, and/or have an easy transit trip.

I mention to Hans that, if we were to generalize, there are age groups engaged with this issue: the young group, maybe just graduated college, they want the hip, urban environment; then there are those who grew up in the valley with a house, and a car, and you couldn’t pull them out of their cars if you wanted to; they are perfectly happy to have their job, to drive home, and to have their yard.

A couple walks through San Jose's South First Street Arts District (photo: Patrick Lydon | sociecity)

A couple walks through San Jose’s South First Street Arts District (photo: Patrick Lydon | sociecity)

Hans enthusiastically interjects “that generation are a bunch of empty-nesters, that have the yard, the maintenance, and they are interested in coming to an urban environment where things are close and they can enjoy the cultural amenities in the community.”

“Someone like my grandmother” I respond to Hans, taking a break to spoon some sausage soup into my mouth with a slurp “she lives near tons of shopping, only ¼ mile away at the Pruneyard, yet can’t get to it because she can’t drive. Most people her age don’t want to walk across the 8-lane street that separates them from the shopping centers. It feels dangerous.”

“It probably is,” Hans remarks.

But if you’ve been to any major U.S. City with infrastructure built after the 1930s, you’ll know that San Jose is not alone here. In most of these cities, sidewalks, crosswalks, and bike lanes aren’t much more than an afterthought, a technical formality built alongside roads without much thought to where they are going or to what surrounds them.

Walk around a “technically-correct” neighborhood in San Jose, California — sidewalks and all — and you’re likely to be hugely out-numbered by vehicles.

Interestingly, if you take a stroll in a neighborhood that breaks all of the technical rules — no sidewalks, small street widths, no designated street parking — such as the one pictured below in Seoul, South Korea, and people usually will far outnumber vehicles.

Perhaps we’ve gotten the “rules” all wrong? Along with building a technically-perfect-yet-mis-guided infrastructure, we have essentially removed the ability for our youth and our elders to be self-sufficient in getting themselves around to do very basic things.

Car-oriented street near Cafe Crema in San Jose, California, and people-oriented street near Rogpa Cafe in Seoul, South Korea (photos: Patrick Lydon | sociecity)

Even though San Jose is laden with a robust system of car oriented strip malls, Hans maintains that these are actually a very important resource that can help in creating a more sustainable, walkable city. I’m curious as to how, exactly, that logic works.

“…there are opportunities to build those up,” says Hans.

To put in a high rise, you know, a senior residential tower, and bring in a larger diverse set of services there. Of the 70 urban villages we have, many of them are looking at transforming these larger strip shopping centers, or the regional malls, to have those become mini-downtowns or communities.”

Those words are tremendous, mostly because they signal a 180-degree turn from the city’s planning goals over the past 70+ years. To be sure, Hans and his colleagues at City Hall have played no small part in crafting this plan, yet the driving force behind it can likely be traced to one of the biggest city-wide community input initiatives in San Jose’s history.

The Alameda / San Carlos Street - San Jose General Plan (Courtesy, City of San Jose)

The Alameda / San Carlos Street – San Jose General Plan (Courtesy, City of San Jose)

The development of real, walkable “urban villages” is a concept now firmly in place as part of San Jose’s Envision 2040 general plan, an initiative in which more than 5,000 citizens helped the city come up with the most important targets for San Jose’s growth over the next three decades.

Among the development goals identified by the city and it’s citizens, squarely in the top five are:

  • Creating Urban Villages
  • Environmental Leadership, and
  • Increasing Transit Ridership

I ask how bicycling as a major transportation mechanism fits into this general plan, and Hans maintains it is a city-wide concern and priority. “The city has seen a decade of budget shortfalls, but even with limited funds for simple things like road maintenance, there are ways to get creative.”

San Jose plans to bring multiple new bike lanes into the Downtown core by the end of the summer, and much of the work won’t cost the city much more than standard street maintenance. It works, as Hans tells me, by grouping bike-lane striping in with maintenance.

One of the interesting things we’ve done with the downtown bike plan, is that we’ve aligned our maintenance needs with bike system development. We’re actually going to be sealing those downtown streets (3rd, 4th, 10th, and 11th streets) which are due for maintenance, and so it’s an opportunity to essentially have a blank slate on how to re-stripe the street after you are done with re-surfacing.

The city plans to use this tactic to add multiple bicycle lanes city-wide, with the first of the lanes concentrated downtown in preparation for the city’s first bicycle share system, which will be installed later this summer.

Next installment, we talk specifics with Hans on San Jose’s new bicycle routes, a bicycle share system, and removing entire lanes of car traffic in the Downtown core.

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Transforming Suburbia into Eco-Utopia (part 1)

The Paseo de San Pedro in Downtown San Jose, California (photo: Patrick Lydon | soceicity)

The Paseo de San Pedro in Downtown San Jose, California (photo: Patrick Lydon | soceicity)

This article is the first of a 3-part series on the city of San Jose’s sustainable transportation goals, based on Sociecity’s April 12, 2012 interview with Hans Larsen, the city’s Director of Transportation.

San Jose, California – It’s only 11:25 am yet, so the smell of grilled sandwiches hasn’t quite saturated the cold air in this building. I am sitting at Cafe Too, a surprisingly chic space inside of a circa-1892 Romanesque sandstone masterpiece which is also home to the San Jose Museum of Art. The building, one of the lone historical edifices in the surrounding blocks, seems to defy much of what San Jose has become.

San Jose — billed as the Capital of Silicon Valley — is in the middle of one of the great innovation centers of the modern world to be sure, but when it comes to sustainable development, the city has traditionally been a perfect example of what not to do.

Arial View of suburban development in San Jose, California (photo: Patrick Lydon | sociecity)

Arial View of suburban development in San Jose, California (photo: Patrick Lydon | sociecity)

Which is one of the reasons why I am meeting today with Hans Larsen, San Jose’s newly appointed Director of Transportation. Hans isn’t new to the job — having served as Acting Director of the department since 2009, and being involved with the city’s transportation planning since 1985 — and he has some rather large plans brewing for the city’s transportation system, and necessarily so; bringing a city that was built for the car into the age of modern eco-friendly transportation is probably one of the most difficult tasks a guy like Hans could think of facing.

I sit down on one of the simple leather couches in the cafe and Hans gets right to the point.

San Jose’s challenge is that we are interested in being a leading sustainable city, but… we are coming from an environment that was literally built around the car. So how do you transform suburbia into a more sustainable model. There are not many leaders who have to come at it form that angle.

Hans shows me a few pages from the new San Jose City Master Plan, commenting on the transportation goals and San Jose’s goal of building over 70 walkable, mixed-use urban ‘villages’ within the city.

The plan looks nice on paper, I tell Hans. I mean, the goal is great, but what are the challenges in terms of both enforcing it, and actually making it happen?

In reply, Hans first points me to some charts showing transportation modal share (the percentage of trips taken using different kinds of transportation).

“…on the transportaion side, this is where we are now,” he points to a chart showing how 80% of people drive in cars by themselves to get from place to place.

San Jose Master Plan - Transportation Use (courtesy of the City of San Jose)

San Jose Master Plan - Transportation Use Table (courtesy of the City of San Jose)

We want that to be less than 40 percent by the year 2040. So it’s a big increase in transit, walking, biking.

No kidding.

In a meeting just last month, Hans noted that a passionate San Jose councilman named Sam Liccardo focused on making sure there were performance measurements for alternative transportation goals for biking, walking, and transit. When it comes to new development, Liccardo wants the city to consciously ask themselves “are we getting more people walking, biking, taking transit?”

But is the current status quo too far away from the ultimate goal? Hans puts the onus primarily on re-envisioning land use to fit with transportation infrastructure.

We need to change our land use. Right now, all the jobs are in the north, the housing is in the south, and you’ve got 10-15 mile distances in between the two. That’s difficult to you know, to walk, bike, and not really conducive to transit. So to mix up the land use to put jobs where the houses are and houses where the jobs are, and creating – one of the elements of this plan – 70 urban villages in San Jose that are designed to be mixed-use communities where you have jobs, housing, retail, recreation, social needs all within a compact community. It’s that land use change that’s really going to drive a lot of the mode shift, building communities where walking and biking are the most convenient ways. So it’s the land use, and also changing the transportation system and having more infrastructure, particularly for biking and transit, so we have programs oriented towards that.

I point out to Hans that the city also has many venerable ‘older’ plans for transportation oriented development that have not seemed to pan out. “In North San Jose for instance, along the light rail corridor, ” I tell him  “there’s a great looking plan, but it hasn’t happened, so how do you make sure it happens?”

Hans notes that the plan for North San Jose was put together as a 30 year master plan for the area.

The North San Jose plan brings [in theory] 32,000 new housing units into what is primarily a job center, and also intensifies the kind of office-buildings that go in there, converting from 1-3 story tilt-up configurations to more of a 10-20 story built environment. One of the challenges is just market forces.

In this respect, San Jose is in much the same situation as any other American city today. While we may have realized our follies in developing transportation systems based almost solely on the car, our change of heart comes at a poor time economically.

Good thing then, that bike infrastructure is cheap.

In part 2 of this series, we explore a trio of ‘age groups’ and look at the seeds of San Jose’s Bicycle plan…

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Copenhagen Economics: Cars are a Net Loss, Bikes a Benefit

A study commissioned in 2010 by Bo Asmus Kjeldgaard, Mayor of Copenhagen found that driving cars offers up a $0.20 net loss for each mile driven.

But the major form of transportation in this city of 1.2 million is not the car, but the bicycle. This leads us to what is perhaps the more amazing fact from this study… bicycles offer a $0.35 net benefit to the economy per mile ridden.

Math Note: 1 DKK = 18 cents (2010 currency rates) | 1.61km = 1mi

Other neat facts about Copenhagen from this study:

  • Sixty-Eight Percent – An astounding 68% of residents bicycle at least once a week
  • Most Popular Commute Choice – Citywide, 35% of residents bicycle to and from work/school, more than any other transportation method
  • Sorry Cars, You’re Outnumbered – When taking trips of under 6 miles, bicyclists outnumber cars 3 to 1
  • Rain, Sleet, or Snow – Most commuters cycle year-round, even with an average low of 28-degrees Fahrenheit during snowy winter months and 2.5 inches of rain during summer months
  • Kids Rule – A full 98% of children in the city own a bicycle
Any American city would rightly be envious of those numbers, and indeed, Copenhagen sets an example for the world, but are they happy about their position atop bicycle-meccas? Nope.
Copenhagen city government has recently called for even better infrastructure, increased safety measures, and has upped the cycling maintenance budget alone by €1.3 million in the past year.

[box type=”info” style=”rounded” border=”full”]More Research

Good, Better, Best: Copenhagen’s Bicycle Strategy – City of Copenhagen
Copenhagen City of Cyclists – City of Copenhagen


Does Car + Bike = A Good Thing?

Besides gaining ultra-buff legs, many ‘part-time’ bike commuters end up with an extra  $12,400 at the end of the year.

Earlier this month, I wrote a piece about how Rush Hour can Save you Money, it compared a typical Silicon Valley commute using a car, and the same commute using a bicycle. At the end of the article, a breakdown of costs was provided.

A Twitter re-posting in several different languages followed the article, and many readers found it compelling proof that you don’t need to completely replace your car with a bicycle in order to see immense benefits. Part-time bicycle commuters come away all the better through increased health and cost-savings.

Today, we’re spelling the results out in visual form. The graph below illustrates the average cost of car ownership vs. bicycle ownership over the span of 1 year. We concede of course, that the average bike owner will also need a car on occasion, so we tack on the the bicycle-rider’s budget, around 5,000 miles worth of car rental travel through the ZIP Car service.

Perhaps surprising to many, the bike+rental car still come out on top by far…

The Cost of Your Commute | Car vs. Bicycle and Zip Car (illustration, Patrick Lydon | sociecity)

The Cost of Your Commute | Car vs. Bicycle and Zip Car (illustration, Patrick Lydon | sociecity)

How did we come up with these numbers? Check out Calculating the Savings.

[box type=”info” style=”rounded” border=”full”]Links

Can Rush Hour Save you Money? – sociecity
ZIP Car – urban car sharing / rental
Contact Your City Leaders – usa.gov
Map You Bike Route – Google Maps for Bikes
Physical Activity and Public Health – Journal of the American Heart Association
The Cost of Being Obese – USA Today


Can “Rush Hour” Save You Money?

Biking to Work in Japan (photo, Patrick Lydon | sociecity)

Biking to Work in Japan (photo, Patrick Lydon | sociecity)

What if our path to saving money and becoming more healthy could be as simple as applying some math and logic to our daily commutes? Well, it might take a little bit of physical effort too, but we’ve cooked up a plan that just may be the cure to that pesky post holiday “fund-drain” and “weight-gain” duo. It should be of no surprise that it has to do with one of our favorite topics of late, the humble bicycle.

The illustration below uses times for a typical Silicon Valley commute (during rush hour) on bike and by car. Examining the two commutes, we find that:

1) Car Commute: The typical car commute includes around 1/2 hour in traffic each way, and enough calories burnt to eat a scant few bags of airline peanuts. Then, if you’re still up for it after work, you’ll have to spend more time and energy to sneak in that extra cardio workout. There’s also a whole heap of added money involved (we’ll get to the details of that later.)

2) Bike Commute: The typical day with a bicycle commute often means zero time sitting in traffic, and a whole Big Mac’s worth of calories burnt each way. Then there’s also less time at the gym, with the majority of commute time often going towards a solid cardio workout.

The Bicycle Commute vs the Car Commute | time, money, calories (Illustration: Patrick Lydon | sociecity)

The Bicycle Commute vs the Car Commute | time, money, calories (Illustration: Patrick Lydon | sociecity)

Using cycling as a commute tool can quickly and easily reduce money spent on gas, vehicle wear and tear, gym memberships, stress management, diet plans. But there’s more to using the bicycle as a commute tool than even this…

Calculating the Savings: A Little Incentive for Everyone

One common belief when contemplating the bicycle vs. the motor vehicle is that the biggest savings is on fuel. While this may come to pass eventually given recent rises in the cost of fuel, it’s currently not the case. There are several areas in which you can save huge amounts of money by riding a bicycle, and not all of them are as apparent as one might think.

Another belief — or hardcore eco-cyclist mantra — is the “all or nothing” attitude: ride every day, and ride through wind, rain, sleet, and snow. This is fine for a select few riders, and kudos to those who get out there and do it, but it’s not necessary for all of us to think this way, especially in the beginnings of our bicycle adventures.

The reality is that you don’t have to completely replace your car with a bicycle in order to enjoy the monetary and health benefits of riding.

Even part time bicycle commuting once a week will add up at the end of the year, both in terms of health benefits and money savings. The following numbers take a balanced approach, counting out the cost of a car vs bicycle over an entire year when each method of transportation is used for commuting and short trips around town. These figures also take into account that the bicycle rider will need to use a car for a certain percentage of trips.

Cost to Purchase
Car: $6,811
Road Bike: $126

This price figures the average purchase price of a new car ($28,400) and a new road bike ($524) and depreciates that cost evenly over an average ownership time of 50 months. Figures are from the FTC, and the NBDA, respectively.

Insurance  / Registration
Car: $1525
Bike: $5

The average insurance and registration cost for a motor vehicle, according to AAA statistics (2011). Bicycle registration is not available or not required in most states or municipalities, although in areas where it is, the cost is usually between $1 and $10 a year, we split the difference.

Car: $810
Bike: $400

The average maintenance cost per year for a motor vehicle, according to AAA statistics (2011). Statistics on bicycle maintenance are scarce and vary, so I relied on the folks at New York’s Metro Bicycle store for an estimate based on their experience with customers. Because of the location in NYC, this estimate may be on the high side.

Finance Charge (interest)
Car: $796
Bike: $0

The average cost of financing your purchase, according to AAA statistics. As the cost to purchase an entire bicycle is about 1/3 the average down payment for a car, it is assumed that a bicycle purchase would not be financed.

Added Health Costs
Car: $2,120
Bike: $0

If you get your exercise some other way, it’s safe for car drivers to remove this from their total cost. The number for car commuters represents the average increase in health costs due to being overweight and/or obese, according to a study by researchers at Gorge Washington University. If you think you’re not in this boat, remember that 70% of Americans currently are! Multiple studies such as those found in the American Journal of Public Health have also found that bicycle commuters have far lower rates of obesity and/or health problems in general.

Added Fuel Costs
Car: $1,923
Bike: $0

Average cost of fuel for a midsize car driven 15,000 miles, according to AAA statistics. Although we assume that the bicycle commuter would also need to drive a car around 5,000 miles per year for trips where the bicycle was an inconvenient mode of transportation, these figures are included in the next section.

Zip Car / Car Rental
Car: $0
Bike: $1,020

Because the bicyclist can’t conceivably make all of his or her trips on bicycle, we’ve figured in an average yearly usage of the zipcar service, both for weekly trips around town and day trips throughout the year. Zipcar includes fuel and insurance as part of their flat-fee rental structure.

[box style=”rounded” border=”full”]TOTAL COST PER YEAR

CAR ONLY: $13,985

BICYCLE + PART TIME CAR: $1,551[/box]


For those of us who are stuck all day in traffic, in a cubicle, or in a gym full of sweaty people, cycling to work begins to look like an appetizing alternative to a workweek of driving.  And call us penny-pinchers, but we’re always open to the prospect of staying physically and mentally healthy, while saving gobs of money to boot.

[box type=”info” style=”rounded” border=”full”]Links

Contact Your City Leaders – usa.gov
Map You Bike Route – Google Maps for Bikes
Physical Activity and Public Health – Journal of the American Heart Association
The Cost of Being Obese – USA Today


“Buckshot” Needed to hit Emissions Targets

Multimodal Transportation in Barcelona, Spain (photograph: Patrick Lydon | sociecity)

Multimodal Transportation in Barcelona, Spain (photograph: Patrick Lydon | sociecity)

Let’s face it. Even if you’re not on the Global Warming Boat — we assume a boat would be the best place if the sea level were rising — there aren’t many viewing angles at which burning fossil fuel looks good for us in the long term. The issue of airborne pollutants alone should be reason to take emissions reductions seriously, especially given the recent headlines regarding places such as Beijing, where air pollution routinely enters seriously hazardous levels for human health.

In light of all of this, the European Union has set a goal of achieving a 80-95% reduction in greenhouse gas (CHG) emission levels by 2050. When faced with the task of actually doing it, however, the pertinent industries (energy, transportation, manufacturing) generally argue that this goal is nearly impossible to reach, while your standard-model eco-scientists fight back with: We’re going under Scotty. We don’t care how you do it, just get it fixed.

Aye, captain.

The Bicycle, the Bus, and the Car

Father and Children Cycling in the Netherlands (photo: Marc van Woudenberg)

Father and Children Cycling in the Netherlands (photo: Marc van Woudenberg)

The European Cycling Federation (ECF) released a report yesterday, giving an extremely thorough and well thought out study on transportation forms and how they will contribute to a serious reduction in emissions.

The commission’s report takes a serious look at the issue of emissions, quantifying production, operation, maintenance as well as infrastructure and disposal as part of the entire “transportation” picture. In doing so, they show a rather rough looking road to the dramatic European Union targets for lower carbon emissions, and also one where large-scale reconsideration of transportation methods is a requirement.

According to the study, about 24% of CHG emissions in the EU are from transportation (cars, airplanes, boats, trains) and 30% come from power generation (household, commercial, industrial, your electric car). The ECF figures that for every 1,000 miles driven in a car, you would need to ride approximately 13,500 miles on a bicycle to produce the same CHG emissions levels.

But what about my cool “∞ MPG” shirt, you ask?

Well, yes, bicycles are infinately better for the environment and for the personal health of the people who use them as a method of transport, but they create emissions too, however small.

These emissions are not from a tail pipe so to speak, but from the foods that riders eat, the metal and rubber that makes up their bicycles, and the transportation required to move all of that stuff. After all is accounted for, biking still results in emissions over 10 times lower than that of your average passenger car.

The Silver Buckshot

Simply evolving technology in transportation methods is not nearly enough to reach emissions goals, the study asserts. So what’s left, then?

Changing habits, changing commute lengths, and pretty much a complete restructuring on how we think of transportation.

The study calls this approach using “silver buckshot, instead of a silver bullet.” Getting folks out of cars and onto bicycles may seem like the most difficult way to reach emissions goals, but on the flip-side of that, switching to bikes is certainly one of the cheapest and most effective changes we can make.

If the general population cycled an average of just 3 miles per day, 50% of the targeted CNG emissions reductions could be achieved, the study suggests.

In general, however, the entire transportation system needs to be rethought. When used, vechicles need to be able to travel at consistent speeds, traffic needs to be reduced, public transportation and rail travel needs to be more efficient and link the correct places, and cities need to be built in concert with these modes of transportation.

European Cycling Federation - Avoid, Shift, Improve (Source : Dalkmann and Brannigan)

European Cycling Federation - Avoid, Shift, Improve (Source : Dalkmann and Brannigan)

The ECF model identifies three targets for change 1) Avoid — help reduce the necessity for car-trips with better city planning and land use 2) Shift — change our habits to make use of current alternative transportation methods 3) Improve– finally, engineer better mass transit and personal motorized transportation mechanisms.

If this sounds troubling for the EU, it is  a problem magnitudes worse to solve in the US. This is because, for the most part, large areas of EU cities are already built to work with mass transit, walking, and bicycles. In America, the majority of cities are unfailingly incompatible with the idea of short local commutes, efficient mass transit, and trips by bicycles and walking.

This study doesn’t paint a pretty picture for the US and other countries who have built their cities around the personal motor vehicle. In doing so, however, it shows us that we need to approach the restructuring of our cities with the utmost seriousness. We need to be doing everything in our power to make this change possible.

The study focuses on CO2, understandably, since it is a popular metric and driver of the eco industry. But CO2 isn’t truly a root or reason for a restructuring of our transportation system, it is just one symptom of an imperfect system. For the Eco movement to be understood and implemented correctly, the conversation must evolve to talk not simply about measurable pollution, but about the end results in terms of health benefits to individuals, the planet, and society as a whole.

[box type=”info” style=”rounded” border=”full”]Read More:

Read the Full ECF Study – (PDF)
Beijing Pollution – Wall Street Journal[/box]

When Cycling is a Crime

Cyclist in a painted roadside lane in Campbell, California (photo: Patrick Lydon | sociecity)

Cyclist in a painted roadside lane in Campbell, California (photo: Patrick Lydon | sociecity)

Riding a bicycle on the side of a busy street with traffic buzzing past at 35-50 miles-per-hour; it is one of the most uncomfortable, undesirable ways to get around town for the average person, yet many cities encourage it. Not only that, they are also proud of their accomplishments in painting white lines on the sides of main roads.

Even leading bicycle-friendly cities in the U.S. such as Portland, Seattle, and San Francisco exhibit the same bicycle infrastructure  inadequacies. Yet many planners and riders alike in the U.S. are under the impression that a bike-friendly city plan begins and ends with lines painted on the side of a busy road, riverside paths used for recreation (but not as commute routes), and fragments of good separate right-of-ways that do not create useful routes.

In fact, none of these elements make for a bike-friendly city; they only maintain a car-centric city in which bicycles are both a marginalized and dangerous form of transportation, along with a nuisance to drivers.

Cyclists who care about their safety, as well as motorists who are weary of driving next to bicycles should put their cities on notice: Cycling is not share the road signs, it is not a brand new riverside bike path, and it is certainly not lines painted on a road built for cars.

Cycling is a complete infrastructure, it is a dedicated system, and it is a culture; and it is something that most U.S. cities sadly do not have.

Dr. Bernhard Ensink, Secretary General of the European Cyclists’ Federation — a man who you might hear a lot about around these parts — reminds us about the dangers associated with high-speed traffic and on-road bicycle lanes. Dr. Ensink states that in a car/bicycle collision at 20 mph the cyclist has a 5% chance of death; raise that vehicle speed, and the chances of death rise sharply from there, with an 80% chance of death by the time you reach 35 mph.

Safety in Helmets?

Many think it’s not infrastructure, but helmets that are the answer, yet while the U.S. already has one of the highest percentage of riders wearing helmets (an estimated 1 in 2), it also has one of the highest cyclist fatality rates (110 deaths per billion km traveled.)

The Netherlands, by comparison, sees only a small number wearing helmets (1 in 1,000 riders), yet it has one of the lowest percentages of bicycle-related fatalities (17 deaths per billion km traveled.)

The reality is that, helmet or not, nearly all of the people who die in bicycle accidents are being killed by motor vehicles. Bicycles have no business being next to motor vehicles and vehicles have no business traveling next to bicycles.

Despite the logic, statistics, and common sense which would tell us otherwise, we seem to think our system is quite reasonable. Someone from Amstersam, however, might tell us:

“A 3,000-kilo SUV traveling 55kph beside a 10-kilo bicycle traveling 15kph? Are you Americans fu***ng nuts?” — Jaques Brissot, a Frenchman living in Amsterdam.

Okay, well if it’s not helmets, what do the Dutch have that we don’t?

Digging Deep Roots

Bicycles in Amsterdam, Netherlands (photo: Patrick Lydon | sociecity)

Bicycles in Amsterdam, Netherlands (photo: Patrick Lydon | sociecity)

For starters, the Dutch have a proper infrastructure, a safe and dedicated system, and a deep-rooted culture of cycling.

Deep roots must start somewhere, and for the U.S. to grow them, we must realize that, if the majority of bicycle lanes are placed alongside fast moving traffic, people will ride their bicycles less, and fatal accidents will happen far more often. This is especially true if said lanes are not separated from traffic, not respected by traffic, and not given their own infrastructure including the bicycle traffic signals common in much of Europe and Asia.

This is not an issue we can squarely blame on any one entity, both the government and people alike have made the current system acceptable; the government by their actions, and the people by their collective inaction. A few mid-sized cities in the U.S. have become unsung heroes, Boulder, Colorado being one of the notables in the fact that they have a large network of bicycle-only roads, underpasses for safe cycle and pedestrian passage, and they spent 49% of their transportation budget on bicycle, pedestrian, transit and transportation demand management projects during 2007-08.

Boulder successfully changed their way of thinking about the bicycle, and was able to make it a viable transit option.

If we want to make a positive change on a large scale, more citizens and municipalities must begin to look at bicycling in a completely different way, as a healthy form of transportation, a serious form of transportation, and quite frankly, as a big part of the future of local transportation.

Bicycle Boulevard Concept for the Alameda, San Jose, USA (design: Patrick Lydon, illustration: Chiaki Koyama | sociecity)

Bicycle Boulevard Concept for the Alameda, San Jose, USA (design: Patrick Lydon, illustration: Chiaki Koyama | sociecity)

As citizens, we must demand from our cities, that if a person chooses to keep themselves and the planet healthy by riding a bicycle, they should no longer be punished for their efforts in this cruel way, essentially gambling their lives each time they ride. Proper bicycle infrastructure is a necessity for the health and safety of citizens, there is no other way to say it, and there should be no excuses to squirm out of that fact.

We are moving forward into a new found “green” age, and if our world civic and business leaders would like to come along for the ride and support green transportation, they must also make the pledge to do it smartly by placing cycling as a priority, not an afterthought.

[box type=”info” style=”rounded” border=”full”]Resources:

Bicycle Crash Facts – Bicycling Info
The Boulder, Colorado Multimodal Transportation System – Bicycling Info
Getting Cyclists to Use Helmets – Wall Street Journal
Bicycle Fatalities Data and Map – Mercury News
National Bike Helmet Use Survey – U.S. CPSC


Editor’s Note: When this article was published on Nov 29, 2011, it incorrectly noted that Boulder spent 49% of their transportation budget on bicycle infrastructure. This number also includes pedestrian, transit and transportation demand management projects.

Burgers to the Grid: Fat-Powered City

From Burgers to the Grid (Illustration: Patrick Lydon | sociecity)

From Burgers to the Grid (Illustration: Patrick Lydon | sociecity)

What is the largest source of stored energy in the U.S. today?

Is it in battery bays adjacent to wind-power facilities? The undercarriages of the 1 million Prius vehicles on our streets? The coal mines and oil reserves yet to be tapped into?

Or is it in the bellies of 238 million overweight and obese Americans?

According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, U.S. citizens either eat or waste an average of 3,600 calories per day, that’s 1,600 calories over the 2,000 calorie recommended daily allowance. Because calories are essentially energy (which soon get converted into fat) we began to wonder: What if we were able to convert all of that excess caloric energy into power? Perhaps we might do well to introduce America’s renewable energy needs to our bellies.

It’s a tongue-in-cheek statement of course, but looking at the numbers, if that extra 1,600 calories were converted into energy, that would make (1,600kcal x 317,000,000 Americans) = 185 trillion kcal. Convert those kcals to joules and you come up with a figure of around 250 Million Gigawatt/hr of power.

All told, Americans eat or waste enough excess food-energy in a single year to provide power to 7.95 Billion households, or enough to power every house in the U.S. For 70 years at current power consumption rates.

Of course, the results of these calculations would only be possible if every American burned off all of the excess calories they ate (about 4-5 hours of cycling per day) and if those calories were able to be directly (losslessly) converted to energy. It is at this point that any vision of an electricity grid powered by cyclists at the gym begins to seem impossible at worst, and unlikely at best.

There are glints of hope, however: using bicycles for power (either for direct mechanical power, or to produce stored energy) is not a new idea. We’ve been powering everything from lightbulbs (electrically) to blenders (mechanically) with bicycles for quite some time, and recently, a few students at MIT even developed a bicycle-powered laptop.

MIT ‘innovation’ aside, a very small amount of time, research and funding has gone into making human-power energy generation technology more efficient, especially when compared to other ‘sustainable’ energy creation methods.

Store Calories to make Fat, or Burn Calories to make Energy? (Illustration | sociecity)

Store Calories to make Fat, or Burn Calories to make Energy? (Illustration: Patrick Lydon | sociecity)

Using human energy for electric power would do more than just provide exercise and energy however, it would give Americans an important reason to come together for a common goal and, of equal importance, would help us attach a tangible activity to our consumption.

Conceptually, the idea has much in common with projects such as the Victory Gardens during WWII, also a lot of manual work, yet hugely successful on many levels. Given proper intellectual and financial resources, human-power could be a big win for the United States, perhaps making us one of the leanest, greenest nations, instead of the fattest and most wasteful.

While powering all of the houses in the U.S. for 70 years may not be possible, just visualizing those 185 trillion calories as watts gives us a very real glimpse at the amount of raw excess energy (yes, food is energy) that we put in our mouths each day.

So then, until our local neighborhood bike generator farm arrives, perhaps we should just start making smaller plates?

[box type=”info” style=”rounded” border=”full”]More Research:

The Nutrition Transition to 3020 – Schmidhuber/Shetty (pdf)
Population Clock – U.S. Census Bureau
Installed Capacity of World Power Plants – Steam Tables Online
Household Energy Savings – Silverman/U.C. Irvine
U.S. Energy Consumption – U.S. Energy Information Administration


Changwon: Why the Bicycle isn’t About “Saving the Planet”

Bernhard Ensink speaks in Changwon, South Korea (photo | sociecity)

Bernhard Ensink speaks in Changwon, South Korea (photo | sociecity)

This Saturday in Changwon, Bernhard Ensink, Secretary General of the European Cyclists’ Federation claimed that the attitude of young German adults is changing, that they are less inclined to feel the need or even ‘want’ for a personal automobile, and more inclined to want the latest iPhone. According to Ensink, a staggering 80% of young Germans believe that people don’t need a private car anymore. His words have striking relevance, not just in Germany or the EU, but throughout industrialized nations around the globe.

It was a finding echoed most often during the EcoMobility World Congress, there a very real change in mindset happening, and a distinct movement away from the car in most developed nations.

Whether it’s gasoline, electric, hybrid, ethanol, nitrogen, or CNG, cars as a form of transportation have already hit or will soon hit peak usage in most developed nations, and the numbers are slowly shifting towards human power and public transit.  Although the “eco-conscious” wave might have helped us get here, in the end it’s not only about saving the planet, not about less CO2 emissions, not about global warming; it’s about a better quality of life for every human being, and the cities and transportation methods necessary to achieve that quality of life.

When examining multiple quality of life issues, transportation comes up in relation to nearly every single one of them and can have a very negative or very positive effect. EcoMobility enforced that notion, and it’s apparent that may of the world’s transportation leaders have found their field to be most relevant to daily life improvements. And as Eric Burton notes, compared with other large-scale changes, transportation is not so difficult a change to make… out of all the technological improvements which touch our day to day life, transportation is the easiest to impact.

Freedom, What is it Good For?

Early on in the conference, Ensink took us back to 1919, where the average ‘safe walking distance’ for a person was around six miles. That is to say, mom would generally tell her sons: Going fishing boys? Just make sure you don’t walk too far that you can’t make it back before dinner time.

Safe Walking Distance (illustration | sociecity)

Safe Walking Distance (illustration | sociecity)

By 1950, the distance viewed as safe for walking had been reduced down to 1 mile, mom would now say: boys, I don’t want you crossing the main road to hang out with those filthy Lehman kids, and be sure to make it back in time for dinner.

Today’s average, safe walking distance? It’s around 300 yards, or to the end of the block. Mom is now saying: if I can’t see you kids from the window, you’ve gone too far, and come in for dinner when I blow the dinner whistle.

Kids want to rome, explore, learn, and parents want them to be safe doing it, the same limitations apply to elders who can no longer drive, who stand at the doorstep of their home, looking out at a system which fails to help them meet simple needs such as walking to the store on their own.

Gil Penalusa, Director of 8-80 Cities makes the point in the very name of his organization, asking us to think of an 8 year old, and think of an 80 year old, both of whom are very close to you, then ask if you would let them walk across an intersection to the store alone. If your answer is yes, you live in a walkable city. If the answer is no, you must ask, why not, and what improvements should be made so that your neighborhood is more safe, and more walkable?

In essence, everyone deserves to be able to answer yes to Gil’s question. How free do we really feel if we can’t safely walk further than the end of our street?

From Vehicle Traffic to Crime

It’s interesting that many people’s minds will jump to crime as the culprit, as the cause of this shortened ring of safety. But you can’t blame the the smoke for pollution, and while crime may be a factor, it is not the root cause of our inability to walk through a neighborhood.

The root cause is 100% in the design flaws of the modern city, or more specifically, cities designed for the car. Humans, bikes, and rail be damned, they are all afterthoughts in most city design.

Our cities are currently geared towards one thing: a 1.5 Ton metal box hurtling down a street at 45mph, carrying a single person 1/2oth its weight. The problem with this design? We are not a society of cars, we are a society of people who unfortunately have chosen to embrace the automobile as our main method of transportation.

Nubija Bike System Tour, Changwon, South Korea (photo: Suhee Kang | sociecity)

Nubija Bike System Tour, Changwon, South Korea (photo: Suhee Kang | sociecity)

The needs of the person and the needs of the car are not synonymous, and by design, the city must return to servicing the needs of the person first.

To anyone looking in from outside our society, our reliance on the automobile would seem completely ridiculous, but we have grown up with the fact that is is ‘normal’ and thus it has become an acceptable part of life for us. However, many of us are now challenging this thought, and asking ourselves “would I rather drive a metal box that weighs 20-times my weight and be confined to that box for 99% of my travel, or would I rather reject the car and move about freely through walking, bicycling, and public transit for 99% of my travel?”

We’re beginning to ‘get it’ finally, and as most acts of cultural re-programming go, it starts with our youth. Attitudes are changing, and the sticking point is now largely in infrastructure.

But this new infrastructure won’t build itself, and it won’t appear for the good of the citizens alone, it must be demanded by those who want a better quality of life.

Today, the question isn’t if, but when today’s school children, university students,  housewives, and commuters will stand up and force our cities and our transportation industry to change for the better.

[box type=”info” style=”rounded” border=”full”]For More Information:

EcoMobility Alliance: http://www.ecomobility.org/
Nubija Bicycle System: http://nubija.changwon.go.kr/english/english.htm
European Cyclists’ Federation: http://www.ecf.com/
8-80 Cities: http://www.8-80cities.org [/box]


Nubija Bike System Real-Time Bike Station Capacity Map, Changwon, South Korea (photo: Patrick Lydon | sociecity)

Changwon: High-Tech Nubija Bicycle Share System

photos: Patrick Lydon and Suhee Kang | sociecity

It’s called “NUBIJA,” and as Government  acronyms go, this is a rather fun one:

Nearby Useful Bike, Interesting Joyful Attraction.

In Korean the word “nubija” also roughly translates to “let’s go together,” and indeed today NUBIJA was all of these things.

We were given a tour Changwon’s rather high-tech bicycle system and control center today along with about 200 dignitaries, politicians, and media. I was laughing at the site of us — a big group of smiling people in suits on bikes — the entire way. They system is the first of its kind in Korea and was developed by the Changwon government as a service to residents.

NUBIJA contains some 4,000 bicycles, and costs roughly $20 USD per year for a resident to have unlimited access to bicycles at any of the 230 terminals with the simple swipe of an RF card.

Here are some photos from the ride…

Korean Dance Performance to Start off the Conference (photo: P.M. Lydon | sociecity)

Changwon: The Future of Mobility

As part of our participation in the EcoMobility World Congress in Changwon, South Korea over the next 4 days, sociecity will be putting out a series of short reports, interviews.

Saturday, October 22 (morning)

Many hundreds of delegates are here from all over the world are here this weekend, however there is a — maybe not so curious — lack of presence from the United States, where I am one of only 8 participants.
Imagine: it’s 2050, and there are throngs of people too obese to walk, moving around the city in personal hover crafts. Statistically if we were to continue our current habits, this scene — reminiscent of the animated film Wall-E –gives us a view of the future that might not be too far off.

Bay Area Gets Blasted by Philippe Crist for Limited Public and Bike Transit (photo: P.M. Lydon | sociecity)

Bay Area Gets Blasted by Philippe Crist for Limited Public and Bike Transit (photo: P.M. Lydon | sociecity)

But if the group of global leaders, doers, and thinkers here at the EcoMobility World Conference in Changwon, South Korea have anything to do with it, our future will be a complete 180-degree about face from this. And based on the progress already made in cities such as Changwon, Bogota (Coloumbia), and Boulder (USA), it’s starting to look as if this may be the case.

This morning was bicycle-centric, and the first round of introductory speakers talked about implementations of city-wide bicycle sharing, comprehensive road-separated bicycle routes, and days where only bicycle and pedestrian traffic is allowed on city streets. They were not speaking in the future tense, either, these are programs currently happening in Europe, Asia, and the Americas.


Alameda Bicycle Boulevard, San Jose, California (Illustration: Chiaki Koyama)

Alameda Bicycle Boulevard

illustration: Chiaki Koyama

I am truly excited about San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed’s vision and his backing of healthy transportation alternates such as cycling. But while the current bicycle plan calls for about 250 new miles of bicycle routes, they mainly consist of painted lines on shared roads. Other cities throughout the U.S. and world are building true, dedicated bicycle infrastructure.

This presentation was created on behalf of all of those who would like to cycle around town, yet find it difficult to ride in tiny painted lanes through debris, on roads where traffic is passing within inches at 5x the speed.

This theoretical design presents the Alameda as a true bicycle boulevard, as seen in Netherlands, Spain, France, Korea and Japan among others.

These slides are not meant as concrete plans, but rather to help facilitate new discussions. Special thanks to San Jose State University Design student, Chiaki Koyama for the beautifully painted site illustration which you will see on the final slide.

Press the play button below to move through the slides.