Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Pedaling Revolution - Golden Nuggets of Info

I have previously posted about my new favorite book, Pedaling Revolution by Jeff Mapes. I went crazy with my highlighter - so many great thoughts, ideas and facts to come back to! Here is a great passage regarding the economic power of cycling in Portland, referred to as "Portland's Green Dividend" by economist Joe Cortright:

"The residents of the Portland region drive about 20 percent fewer miles per capita than residents of the average large metro area...producing an annual savings of $1.1 billion...those savings have a higher chance of staying and circulating in the region than money spent on gasoline, of which at least 73 percent of its value is immediately exported." (Based on $3/gallon)

Every chapter is full of this kind of great information - "mainstream" talking points, if you will, for those conversations at the water cooler. Read this book!!! :)


Scott Redd said...

May I borrow your copy? It's not available for sale locally, and Bob has the library's only copy.

If so, bring it to the Old Chicago party tonight, please.



RD said...

i do agree but I still think in Omaha people should be looking at twins cities/ madison not PDX we have seasons they only have two dry and wet

Biker Bob said...

I would agree that for some things, looking to cities with a similar climate is a good idea. However, many of the ideas covered in the book are more universal in nature, like how to make bike lanes safer, or how to make a difference politically, or how to develop a cycling culture.

RD... have you had a chance to read this book yet? I was surprised at how much political magic has happened in the last 10 or so years to get the US thinking more about bikes as transportation and assigning tax dollars to develop things to that end.

I think climate has less to do with developing a healthy bike transportation share than many people think. I ride right through the winter, and other than driving when it's icy (because I don't trust the SUV behind me) and taking a bit more time to dress properly, it's not much harder than summer riding. Yeah, you need some special gear for REALLY cold temps or longer rides below freezing, but how is that any different than getting chains for your car, or buying a winter coat.

AOJules said...

Bob - your comment ("I think climate has less to do with developing a healthy bike transportation share than many people think.") might be right on track...just subsitute "bike" with "alternative." Some of the latest Safe Routes to School research data shows that weather doesn't affect the number of kids walking/riding to school as much as they previously thought. (However, they admit that they need to drill that down more to know for sure.)

RD said...

I haven't read the book yet...
My only point of contention is that your shared street design might be diffrent in four season city than to season. With that being said it obviously doable if you want it to be doable

dale said...

portland review

This looks like something the mayor's cycling advisory committee should be familiar with, along with other advocates.

I will buy a copy for our club's library to check out. This sounds like a resource to have in my personal reference library.

AOJules said...

Awesome, Dale. I know you'll like it, and I'm glad we'll have another copy circulating. I know that Marty Shukert has a copy, too. Be sure to post the golden nuggets you find most compelling!

Scott Redd said...

Thanks for loaning the book to me, Julie. I'm enjoying it. So who gets it next?

AOJules said...

Scott - be sure to post your most compelling golden nuggets! Recruit someone else to read it next! The more people we can get to drink the proverbial Kool Aide, the better off we'll be! :) ha

Jeff said...

Yes, please recruit more people to read my book! Thanks so much for the great review and all the interesting comments.

Without a doubt, weather plays a factor everywhere. But everywhere I've ever been has at least some decent riding weather during the year. And I find that the more I ride, the more the weather just doesn't seem to be that big of a deal. Good thing I'm one of those people who doesn't melt in the rain!

Biker Bob said...

Hello Jeff. Welcome to BikeOmaha.

Well done on the book. Not only is it full of information and ideas, but it's also a joy to read.

I'm always surprised at how much fun it is to ride in the rain (once I get out there). My favorite time to ride is during light snow.

Scott Redd said...

I'm really bad at taking notes while reading a book, however, there are a few things that really resonated with me.

One is that in Amsterdam where cycling is so common, people don't even think about bike commuting. It's just something that's done. We enthusiasts would probably seem annoying to an Amsterdam citizen if we talked about bikes all of the time.

Maybe utility cycling will get so common here that it won't seem weird and folks like me won't be so excited about it, outside of the thrill from riding a well maintained bike.

I'm a big fan of utility and commuting cycling, and particularly enjoyed the passage about how car ownership seems to lose its status. "Once you spend most of your time on a bike, the difference between a Toyota Corolla and a BMW seems insignificant."

How true. Just before I started bike commuting, I began to make the case for a new vehicle to replace my 10 year old pick up truck. Now, after a year of all season commuting and utility riding, I've only filled the gas tank four times, and it no longer bothers me that the A/C is broken, the suspension bouncy, and the cabin noisy. I use the truck only when I have to.

I drive the truck so infrequently that I was able to call my insurance company and get my premium reduced by about $100 a year.

And finally, it now seems preposterous for me to consider driving a 1/2 mile to the grocery store for a few items when I can get there just as fast on my bike. I do almost all of my grocery shopping by bike. I make a few little trips during the week, and one big trip on the weekend(using rack and panniers) for about 50 pounds of specialty items from the Whole Foods (16 miles RT).

It's also easy to stop by the store on the way home from work. Doing this I am able to patronize a small downtown market over a big box grocery.

I definitely think we should be passing this book around to all Omahans who believe that cycling can transform our communities. This book should not be allowed to rest of a bookshelf.

I just finished it last night. Who wants it next?

Stuart said...

OK... I've become so curious about this book that I'm 'this close' to visiting amazon. But there better be pictures! Stuart.

AOJules said...

Scott - let's get the book to Stuart next! I'm returning home with a renewed spirit, ready to pick up the torch and do my part to move the revolution forward!

AOJules said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Biker Bob said...

Stuart... Yes, there are some pictures. ;-)

Scott Redd said...

Unfortunately, I already colored all the pictures. I tried to stay inside the lines. :)

Scott Redd said...

I delivered the book to Stuart's office RDG yesterday, where he graciously showed me around. It was cool to see how planners work in large, open areas, with no walls. Stuart introduced me to some of his coworkers; Amy, Cory, and a bright young man, still in high school, named Andrew, whom I'd met just a few days ago at the CBSO auction when he took possession of a nifty 1970s Fuji road bike, which was now leaning up against the wall inside the office.

Stuart is heading off on his honeymoon this week, and no doubt he will spend all his time away reading this book. :)

Like Julie said, please be sure to post your Golden Nuggets from the book, and then recruit the next reader.

Biker Bob said...

Put me down as the next reader. I only got to chapter 3 before I had to return it to the library.

dale said...

Pedaling Revolution by Jeff Mapes, Oregon State University Press, 2009

Ordered through Borders, here in about a week. Thorough bibliography and index. This book records primary source interviews and research on the development of utilitarian cycling infrastructure and subculture. If that interests you, I recommend buying a copy to read and mark up for your personal library.

Chapter 5 on Portland, Oregon is a great example for Omaha to follow.

Portland, OR (wikipedia)
575K July 2008, 29th largest city in U.S.
134 sq miles land
4291 people/sq mile

Omaha, NE (wikipedia)
438K US census estimate 2008, 40th largest city in U.S.
115 sq miles land
3809 people/sq mile

- Omaha has some momentum for cycling transportation, but we need a city wide master plan to most efficiently and effectively cultivate utilitarian bicycling.

"The idea was that the city would not only draft a bike master plan, it would actually try to follow it. Portland would not just be a city that stripes in a few bike lanes under pressure and then leaves cyclists to fend for themselves at dangerous intersections. It would try to think through the problems of how to make it easier for bicyclist to travel throughout the city." (152)

- How big a plan should Omaha have?

... in 1996, [Portland] adopted a master plan that called for a 630 mile system. (153) 630/134=4.7 miles of bike infrastructure per square mile. 4.7x115=540 mile system for Omaha.

- How can such a plan be paid for?

"Oregon in 1971 adopted its own law requiring that at least 1 percent of road money be spent accommodating cyclists and pedestrians." (145)

"Just as importantly, the region ... has committed intself to compact development. That has helped make the bicycle a viable transportation tool." (145)

"And unlike Portland's light rail and streetcar systems, which cities around the country are rushing to emulate, a bikeway network is a cheap investment. Even if you throw in the city's trail network and a waterfront esplanade, both of which serve recreation and scenic purposes as much as bike transportation, the cost of building Portland's bike network between 1993 and 2008 clocked in at less than $100M." (143)

In the Omaha Downtown planning meetings for a new master plan, planners/engineers were saying an Omaha streetcar system would cost $100M/mile!!! That is unbelievably high. The 6 lane W. Dodge elevated bridge was around $150M for almost a mile.

Whatever types of bicycling infrastructure best fits Omaha's needs should be planned (see chapter 7 and city chapter examples). Compared to other modes of transportation, cycling is the best bang for the buck. Therefore, the Omaha cycling infrastructure should be not be skimped on to save money. Learn from other cities and use best design practices to get the most people using their bikes. This means designing for women which means having strategic arterial bike lanes separated from auto traffic, i.e. "protected bike lanes, special traffic signals, and even special routes that allow them to speed through inner city areas more quickly than cars." (197)

- Besides the Mayor buying into this, what is the most important city department needed to see everything through bicycle glasses?

"Birk [director of bicycling program] knew one of her first jobs was to change the car-oriented culture of the transportation department." (152)

I would recommend "Pedaling Revolution" be read by all city planners, especially transportation and land development. Street rules/ regulations for design and operation need to be changed in order to improve safety. For instance, neighborhood street speed should be reduced from 25 to 20 mph.

There are many other things, such as educating kids, adults, police, on safe cycling, that are too numerous to mention. You need to read the book.

Stuart said...

Julie, Thanks for circulating the book! I found the numerous examples of change in the bicycle community enlightening. Omaha has many friends on the road to cycling heaven.

Biker Bob said...

I'm done reading the copy Julie is loaning out. Who gets it next?

I especially liked Chapter 8 and the observations about how our communities are often developed in such a way that there is no reason to get out and walk/bike. IE, there are no destinations to walk/bike to. I can’t do it justice here, but read the book if you haven’t, even if you not a bike person. There are so many obviously bad aspect (along with the good) about leaving in the suburbs that we often don’t even realize.

I've been to Portland (my Brother-in-law lives there) and while we were there we would walk down the street to a coffee shop, or over to the local mom/pop pet store, or to his car mechanic a few blocks over. We didn't even think of driving when the destinations were so close. But in my neighborhood (in the suburbs pretty much) I have no such destination within walking distance.

After reading this book, and realizing that the more time my kids spend in a car, the more likely it is that my kids will die in a car, I almost want to move into the city where it's safer. Even a city with a high crime rate can't offset the inherent dangers of spending a lot of time in a car driving to/from the suburbs. Not to mention that the sedentary life-style that the suburbs encourage is bad for my health and the health of my family.

Plus, I’d love not having to mow a lawn, but that is another story.