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CityKid Mar 12, 2011 12:00 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by northbay (Post 5197142)
^ good to see a physical barrier instead of just pylons or paint. don't mind that they removed a lane of auto either.

good job long beach. any plans for future expansions?

They're currently doing community meetings to update the Bicycle Master Plan, and we'll probably have a better idea of what is going to happen next when that is released. In the last year, though, they have added a bike boulevard on Vista St (a couple of blocks north of 2nd St in Belmont Shore), installed lots of bike racks and even a few bike corrals, and painted miles of bike lanes. You can find even more information at BikeLongBeach.org.

M II A II R II K Mar 12, 2011 4:13 PM

Portland’s Not Perfect, But Offers Bright Ideas For Making Biking Mainstream


Feb 28th, 2011

By Jay Walljasper

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Read More: http://americancity.org/buzz/entry/2919/

Quote:

It’s become a cliché that Portland is America’s most livable city, a hotbed of innovation when it comes to green policies, public spaces, pedestrian amenities, transit, public spaces, and, of course, bicycles. In fact some people are growing weary (and the rest of us envious) of hearing about how great things are in Oregon’s largest city. But clichés often turn out to be true. After spending several days exploring Portland as part of a Bikes Belong Foundation-sponsored transportation workshop for city officials from across the country, I must admit that Portland offers a wealth of inspiration and practical tips for how we can make our towns more bikeable, vital and fun.

Yet, as the delegation of transportation leaders from Chicago, Houston, Seattle, Minneapolis and Salt Lake City discovered while biking across the city, Portland is no Ecotopia. Local bikers still contend with roaring traffic on crowded streets and motorists who park illegally in bike lanes or honk for no apparent reason. As Laura Spanjian, Sustainability Director in the Houston mayor’s office, observed, “I was surprised there’s so much traffic. Actually that made me hopeful—that we can do some of the same things in Houston even with all our traffic.” “Portland is still an American city,” explains Roger Geller, the city’s Bicycle Coordinator. “But since the 1990s, we’ve tried to make biking safer and more comfortable, and good things have happened. What you see are the results of a 20-year effort to promote biking.”

The accomplishments are impressive. Today Portland sports the highest share of bicycle commuters (6-8 percent) of any large U.S. city. It’s also the only large city to earn The League of American Bicyclists’ coveted platinum status as a bicycle-friendly city. (The others in that league are Boulder, Colorado, and Davis, California.) “We don’t see the bicycle as simply an end in itself,” notes Catherine Ciarlo, Transportation Director for Portland Mayor Sam Adams, “but the means to a clean, green, vital city.” She points proudly to Portland’s 314 miles of bikeways, which fall into four categories:

- Bike lanes, separated from traffic by a painted line (202 miles).

- Neighborhood greenways, residential streets where bikes take priority over cars; also known as bike boulevards (36 miles).

- Bike paths, off-street facilities, typically multi-use, that wind through parks or follow old rail lines (76 miles).

- Cycle tracks, a bike-only space along a busy street where cyclists are physically buffered from cars by a median, grade separation or wide strip of painted pavement (just under a mile completed, but more are underway).

.....




http://americancity.org/images/buzz/portbike.jpg

M II A II R II K Mar 15, 2011 3:17 PM

Battle of the Bike Lanes


March 8, 2011

By John Cassidy

Read More: http://www.newyorker.com/online/blog...s-schumer.html

Quote:

At the risk of incurring the wrath of the bicycle lobby, a constituency that pursues its agenda with about as much modesty and humor as the Jacobins pursued theirs, and which has found its heroine in transportation commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, I say hats off to Iris Weinshall, the former transportation commissioner (and wife of Senator Chuck Schumer), who, together with some like-minded citizens, has filed a lawsuit challenging a bike lane on Prospect Park West.

- Tuesday’s (Lawsuit Seeks to Erase Bike Lane in New York City) said the lawsuit, which was filed Monday in State Supreme Court, calls on the city to remove the controversial green tarmac, citing a state law that allows citizens to challenge arbitrary and unfair actions by the government. The lawsuit concerns just one stretch of road. If successful, however, it could open the way to a broader challenge to City Hall, which sometimes seems intent on turning New York into Amsterdam, or perhaps Beijing.

- Today, of course, bicycling is almost universally regarded as a serious, eco-friendly mode of transport, and cyclists want it easy. From San Francisco to London, local governments are introducing bike lanes, bike parks, bike-rental schemes, and other policies designed to encourage two-wheel motion. Generally speaking, I don’t have a problem with this movement: indeed, I support it. But the way it has been implemented, particularly in New York, irks me to no end. I view the Bloomberg bike-lane policy as a classic case of regulatory capture by a small faddist minority intent on foisting its bipedalist views on a disinterested or actively reluctant populace.

- Part of my beef, then, is undoubtedly an emotional reaction to the bike lobby’s effort to poach on our territory. But from an economic perspective I also question whether the blanketing of the city with bike lanes—more than two hundred miles in the past three years—meets an objective cost-benefit criterion. Beyond a certain point, given the limited number of bicyclists in the city, the benefits of extra bike lanes must run into diminishing returns, and the costs to motorists (and pedestrians) of implementing the policies must increase. Have we reached that point? I would say so.

.....



Rebuttal: The New York City Bike Lane Backlash is Completely Irrational


3rd Party Analysis Of Rebuttal: http://blogs.reuters.com/felix-salmo...idy-vs-bipeds/


More Rebuttals:

http://6thfloor.blogs.nytimes.com/20...party/?partner

http://www.economist.com/blogs/freee...gedies_commons

M II A II R II K Mar 15, 2011 3:23 PM

Denver bike-share program rolls into its second season


03/14/2011

By Jordan Steffen

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Read More: http://www.denverpost.com/breakingnews/ci_17611250

Quote:

Denver B-cycle kicked up the kickstands and cruised into its second season this morning. Denver Mayor Guillermo (Bill) V. Vidal was joined by Colorado Rapids players Conor Casey and Omar Cummings to celebrate the second season of the city's bike share program, as well as the start of the Rapids' 2011 season. "We get to celebrate two of my favorite things today - biking and soccer," Vidal said. Vidal addressed the crowd while sitting on one of the red cruisers at the Denver B-cycle station on the west side of the Denver Public Library.

All of the program's 500 bikes were cleaned and updated with sturdier kickstands and new handlebar grips. The bikes are available at 50 stations across the city. The kiosks were updated with new technology and friendlier color LCD screens. The age limit for riders was changed from 18 years or older to 16 years of age with a valid driver's license. During last season, ended on Dec. 5 after about seven months, the program reached 102,981 rides totalling 211,111 miles around the Denver area. In the program's first year, more than 20 percent of members combined their trips with light rail or bus commutes.

.....



Photo of, left to right, Colorado Rapids soccer players Omar Cummings and Conor Casey join Denver Mayor Guillermo (Bill) Vidal for a little bike ride to launch the second-year of the city's B-cycle, and announce improvements to the bike sharing program. (THE DENVER POST | JOHN PRIETO)

http://extras.mnginteractive.com/liv...b-cycle~p1.jpg

M II A II R II K Mar 21, 2011 9:54 PM

Is New York too New York for bike lanes?


Mar 20, 2011

By Matthew Shaer

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Page 1 of 8: http://nymag.com/news/features/bike-wars-2011-3/

Quote:

SUMMARY


Reporter Matthew Shaer talks with folks on both sides of the highly contentious lawsuit seeking to remove a bike lane from Brookyln's Park Slope neighborhood.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of a group calling itself "Neighbors for Better Bike Lanes", which includes many powerful Park Slope neighbors, says Shaer. They argue that the city is exaggerating the benefits of the bike lane, and say they have hours of video footage that proves it.

Shaer shows that the lines are not as clearly drawn as one might think in this battle:

"In the prevailing spin, the bike-lane fight has two sides: the blue-collar New Yorkers who have to drive to work and the coddled creative-class types who live close enough to commute on their Bianchis. But the class dynamics are actually far more complicated, and the allegiances often defy expectations. The bike-lane opponent, for instance, is just as likely to be a well-to-do Manhattanite, and his main gripe the deliveryman who just pedaled the wrong way down a freshly laid bike lane, in a rush to unload a wood-oven pizza (which, on another day, that Manhattanite himself might have ordered). Simple nimbyism can’t entirely account for the feud in Park Slope..."

Much of the article is dedicated to DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan's bike lane expansion policies.



The biker careers against traffic; the driver veers into the forbidden lane; the jaywalker marches, oblivious. But only the sucker yields. Photo-illustration by Peter Rad

http://images.nymag.com/news/feature...110328_560.jpg

urbanlife Mar 21, 2011 11:47 PM

Quote:

...and his main gripe the deliveryman who just pedaled the wrong way down a freshly laid bike lane, in a rush to unload a wood-oven pizza...
That should be considered breaking the law and warrant a ticket, and the more times a bicyclist gets a ticket for that, the amount should increase. No wasting money to send them to jail or anything like that, just make the offense come with a ticket that gets bigger if violations continue.

My biggest issue with bikes are the ones who give us a bad name by thinking they are above cars and pedestrians, and can function as a moving vehicle and pedestrian at the same time.

If someone drove their car down the wrong way on a street, people don't just go "oh he is a car driver, so he can do whatever he wants when driving." That same rule should apply to bicyclist, including messenger bikers and delivery bikers.

M II A II R II K Mar 22, 2011 2:36 PM

Toronto Set to Launch Bike-Sharing Program


March 21, 2011

By Itir Sonuparlak

Read More: http://thecityfix.com/toronto-set-to...aring-program/

Website: http://www.toronto.bixi.com/

Quote:

A new bike-sharing program, called BIXI (short for “bicycle-taxi,”) will be installed in Toronto starting May 2011. Currently, the system has been operating in Montreal, Canada, since its inception in May 2009. Although the program is not expected to begin until later this spring, 1,200 users have already signed for annual memberships. Inspired by Vélib, a public bicycle rental system in Paris, the City of Toronto will install 1,000 bicycles in 80 different locations for public use. Although the locations of the stations are not yet determined, the system is meant to be an extension of the current public transportation system in Toronto. This is not the first time Toronto experimented with a bike-sharing program. The Community Bicycle Network’s former initiative, known as BikeShare, stopped operations in 2007 after a lack of funding.

To ensure the success of the new BIXI program, the City of Toronto committed to a $4.8 million loan for the Public Bike System Company (PBSC), the unit of Montreal’s parking authority that will see through the BIXI program. The financial commitment requires the City of Toronto to make the payments for the program, in case the PBSC fails to do so. The City of Toronto will also be required to cover the cost of damaged and stolen bicycles, and of maintaining bicycle stations. The profits from the program will be shared evenly between the City of Toronto and the PBSC. In order to rent bicycles through BIXI’s program, users are encouraged to subscribe to an annual membership, however, occasional users are also welcome and can take out bicycles using credit cards. Similar to bike-sharing programs around the world, BIXI’s annual members can rent bicycles for free for the first half-hour, with additional charges for extra time of usage.

.....



http://thecityfix.com/files/2011/03/bixi-toronto.jpg

M II A II R II K Mar 23, 2011 3:26 PM

Bike plan reimagines urban design for a city where the car is king


03.21.2011

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Read More: http://www.archpaper.com/e-board_rev.asp?News_ID=5243

Quote:

Early this month, L.A. City Council voted unanimously to adopt a revised Bicycle Plan, radically improving its bike infrastructure. The latest iteration—the plan hasn’t gone through a comprehensive update since 1996—outlines a 1,680-mile network of interconnected bikeways, with about 200 more miles to be added every five years. Bike boulevards or “traffic-calmed quiet streets where bikes are a priority” were also introduced, deploying signage, street adjustments and traffic diverters, which slow cars down and create a safer biking environment.

The plan introduces three new bicycle networks for L.A. with a citywide system of bike boulevards, shorter neighborhood paths, and “Green” paths near beaches, parks or other recreational areas. “In the past the city has only done about 8 to 12 miles a year, so the commitment to do 40 miles a year is a great step forward,” said Alexis Lantz, Planning and Policy Director for the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, one of the major voices that shaped the plan. The city currently has only 378 miles of existing and planned bikeways.

Major road changes could begin as soon as July on 7th Street from Koreatown to Downtown and will include a “road diet” with a car lane in each direction replaced by a bike lane. The city’s first bike boulevard will likely be on 4th Street and Catalina, also in Koreatown. While there are no final designs, a rendering from Aaron Kuehn of AARLINE shows how an S-shape “diverter” would move cars off the bike boulevard. The city is looking at using part of the Measure R local return earmarked for bicycle and pedestrian projects to fund it.

.....



The proposed s-shaped 'diverter' for Los Angeles' Koreatown. Aaron Kuehn

http://www.archpaper.com/uploads/ima...dinance_04.jpg




Proposed bike station. Deborah Murphy

http://www.archpaper.com/uploads/la_...dinance_02.jpg

http://www.archpaper.com/uploads/la_...dinance_03.jpg




2010 Los Angeles Bicycle Plan. Courtesy City of Los Angeles Bicycle Plan

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M II A II R II K Mar 23, 2011 4:31 PM

Contraflow Bike Lanes Deemed Acceptable by the U.S. Federal Highway Administration


March 22, 2011

By Itir Sonuparlak

Read More: http://thecityfix.com/contraflow-bik...table-by-fhwa/

Quote:

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) confirmed contraflow bike lanes with proper signage and pavement markings as permissible under the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD). MUTCD is a periodically updated set of national standards for all traffic control devices administered by the FHWA.

Contraflow bike lanes, lanes where bicycles go against traffic flow, have been a highly debated and controversial issue. Those against the idea argue on the basis of traffic laws, safety, directing resources away from automobiles and even based on the cost of new signage. However, supporters of contraflow bike lanes argue that they would open up one-way streets to cyclists, allow for two-way bike traffic, increase convenience of bike travel and safety, and slow down traffic by narrowing the road.

The conflict between the two sides and the ambiguity of whether contraflow bike lanes are in accordance with existing traffic laws have been the major causes of reluctance on behalf of local governments to administer them in their jurisdictions. Although contraflow bike lanes have already been implemented in parts of the United Sates, the confirmation from FHWA is further proof of their acceptance into everday traffic infrastructure.

.....




Doady Mar 23, 2011 6:52 PM

Seems like waste of time for cities like Portland and Denver to be promoting biking due to their weather. Too much rain, too cold, too high altitude (not enough oxygen). It would make more sense to promote cars and build more freeways. Transportation should be designed for middle- and upper-class people who have to drive their children to school and make up the majority of the population instead of poor people and immigrants.

urbanlife Mar 23, 2011 6:59 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Doady (Post 5212463)
Seems like waste of time for cities like Portland and Denver to be promoting biking due to their weather. Too much rain, too cold, too high altitude (not enough oxygen). It would make more sense to promote cars and build more freeways. Transportation should be designed for middle- and upper-class people who have to drive their children to school and make up the majority of the population instead of poor people and immigrants.

This is meant to be sarcasm, right?

Okstate Mar 24, 2011 1:26 AM

Doady...You do realize the middle/upper class people of Portland also walk/bike? I live in arguably the most expensive neighborhood in Portland & my son walks to school. Even the wimpiest of wimps can walk/bike in drizzle, no? Also, I have one word for you.... Amsterdam.

Rizzo Mar 24, 2011 3:12 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by M II A II R II K (Post 5212259)
Contraflow Bike Lanes Deemed Acceptable by the U.S. Federal Highway Administration


March 22, 2011

By Itir Sonuparlak

Read More: http://thecityfix.com/contraflow-bik...table-by-fhwa/


Ehh, I still find this horribly dangerous unless you have the configuration shown in the video above. Contraflow bike lanes would have to be supplemented with "No Turns" signs for vehicles on most narrower avenues. The problem is motorists and cars coming towards each other are more likely to misjudge their approach and create an accident. I know Rush street where I live would be perfect for contraflow, but only because it's wide and the one-way streets run in a particular way where turns have very high visibility.

Beta_Magellan Mar 24, 2011 4:11 AM

In Beijing I constantly saw bikes and motorcycles using the outer lanes of the Third Ring Road’s frontage roads as contra-flow lanes, even though they were never designated as such…of course, Chinese driving’s pretty libertarian already and after living there for a couple of months I got the hang of the organized chaos of the driving culture there.

American drivers, though, have a whole different set of expectations when it comes to road use. Although I’m glad the FHWA has made contraflow bike lanes possible on American streets, communities will definitely need to be careful in applying them.

M II A II R II K Mar 25, 2011 12:33 AM

Bicycles Empower Women and Boost Economic Development in Uganda


March 24, 2011

By Itir Sonuparlak

Read More: http://thecityfix.com/bicycles-empow...ent-in-uganda/

Quote:

Over 200 Ugandan women met in Buhoma,Uganda to learn how to ride and repair bicycles in an effort to promote bicycling and provide economic development opportunities. Ride 4 a Woman (R4W), a nonprofit organization focused on economically and socially empowering local women living near Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park, and OneStreet, an international nonprofit organization working to promote bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly transit, spearheaded the project.

The three-week workshop, which took place in a village classroom in early January 2011, was an effort to educate disadvantaged women to acquire marketable skills to elevate themselves out of poverty, while promoting an environmentally friendly and affordable transportation option. Part of the program’s master plan is to incorporate local women’s newfound bicycle skills into running touristic bike tours. R4W advertises local bike tours on its website, both self-guided and expert-led, that explore the Biwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park and surrounding villages.

The fee from the bike rentals and donations go into sponsoring a Women’s Community Centre, serving as a safe haven for women involved in the program. The centre will house training courses and a bicycle repair shop, further helping local women improve their skills. Denis Rubalema, the executive director of R4W, sees the women’s centre and the training program as a life-changing experience for Ugandan women. “The project will have a profound impact on the livelihoods of the women and their families,” Rubalema said.

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http://thecityfix.com/files/2011/03/Uganda_bike2.jpg

urbanlife Mar 25, 2011 8:35 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Beta_Magellan (Post 5213237)
American drivers, though, have a whole different set of expectations when it comes to road use. Although I’m glad the FHWA has made contraflow bike lanes possible on American streets, communities will definitely need to be careful in applying them.

Like, if it's pavement, then it must be made for cars to drive on. We have that happening all the time here, people parking and driving in bike lanes, driving down bus only lanes, driving down LRT lanes, and so on...basically I have come to terms that a majority of the people in this country seem to have no clue that there is paint on the roads and what it means, which often times annoys me and I make it a point to inform people when they are making driving mistakes.

pioli12 Mar 25, 2011 3:11 PM

I'm a college student in Boston. And I've really been contemplating whether or not to get a bike in the city. Boston is suppost to be one of the least bike friendly cities in the US, and you can tell by the lack of bike lanes and the numerous bike thefts on campus. But I really love the biking and it's much more fun than taking the subway to work everyday. For some trips I take it's much more convient too. What should I do?!
Man up and get a bike but take the risk of getting it stolen etc., or continue using public transportation and play it safe. (Hearing from anyone with experience riding in Boston would be awesome, but I would apprieciate anyone's opinion regardless).

Steely Dan Mar 25, 2011 3:25 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by pioli12 (Post 5215144)
I'm a college student in Boston. And I've really been contemplating whether or not to get a bike in the city. Boston is suppost to be one of the least bike friendly cities in the US, and you can tell by the lack of bike lanes and the numerous bike thefts on campus. But I really love the biking and it's much more fun than taking the subway to work everyday. For some trips I take it's much more convient too. What should I do?!
Man up and get a bike but take the risk of getting it stolen etc., or continue using public transportation and play it safe. (Hearing from anyone with experience riding in Boston would be awesome, but I would apprieciate anyone's opinion regardless).

i can't speak to riding on the streets of boston, but if fear of theft is your biggest impediment to biking and you don't have a place to bring your bike inside and store it at work, you could always consider a folding bike so that you can fold it up, bring it inside with you, and store the bike under a desk or in a storage closet or somewhere else out of the way.

or you could invest serious money in some super-beefy u-locks and chain locks, but the only real measure of bike security is to get the bike off the street because professional bike thieves can beat even the best of locking systems.

or you could get a broken-down old beater bike for 30 bucks on craigslist that won't break your heart if it's stolen. that might not be as fun to ride as a nice bike and may require more frequent maintenance, but even a rusty old beater can do the job of getting you from A to B if you put a little elbow grease into it.

lawfin Mar 25, 2011 5:07 PM

Didn;t see this posted yet....a nice counterpoise to John Cassidy's hit piece a few weeks ago.

The Economics of Bike Lanes – How can John Cassidy get it so wrong?
http://olafstorbeck.com/2011/03/11/t...t-it-so-wrong/


6 Votes


As an economic journalist, I absolutely admire John Cassidy. He is one of the best economic writers I’m aware of. Few people can explain utterly complex issues as simply and entertainingly as John does. I wholeheartedly recommend his books on the internet bubble (“Dot Con – the greatest story ever sold”) and the financial crisis (“How markets fail : the logic of economic calamities”). I’ve cited his brilliant interview with Eugene Fama several times.

However, as an avid cyclist (from John’s perspective: as a sansculotte of the bicycle lobby), I’m deeply disappointed in him. He recently published a rant against bike lanes in his home town New York City on his blog “Rational Irrationality”. His central argument is that bike lanes come at the expense of free parking. (Many thanks to Andreas aka London Cyclist for drawing my attention to John’s post.)

What really annoys my inner economist is that John is using improper economic arguments. He writes:

from an economic perspective I question whether the blanketing of the city with bike lanes (…) meets an objective cost-benefit criterion. Beyond a certain point, given the limited number of bicyclists in the city, the benefits of extra bike lanes must run into diminishing returns, and the costs to motorists (and pedestrians) of implementing the policies must increase. Have we reached that point? I would say so.

I find it absolutely incredible how such a smart economist can get it so woefully wrong. For a number of reasons his economic arguments are deeply flawed.

Free parking isn’t free

First of all, John is taking free parking for granted. However, there is no such thing as free parking. As Donald Shoup, Professor of Urban Planning with UCLA, argues in his book “The High Cost of Free Parking”:

“The cost of parking is hidden in higher prices for everything else. In addition to the monetary cost, which is enormous, free parking imposes many other hidden costs on cities, the economy and the environment. (…) If drivers don’t pay for parking, who does? Everyone does, even if they don’t drive. Initially the developer pays for the required parking, but soon the tenants do, and then their customers, and so on, until the cost of parking has diffused everywhere in the economy. When we shop in a store, eat in a restaurant, or see a movie, we pay for parking indirectly because its cost is included in the prices of merchandise, meals, and theater tickets. We unknowingly support our cars with almost every commercial transaction we make because a small share of the money changing hands pays for parking. Residents pay for parking through higher prices for housing. Businesses pay for parking through higher rents for their premises. Shoppers pay for parking through higher prices for everything they buy.”

Update: The Washington Post has recently published an interesting piece on Washington’s Metrorail, which tries to encourage more people to use their bicycles to get to the station. The piece included some staggering numbers about the costs of parking:

Parking spaces cost on average $25,000 each, compared with $1,000 per space for a secured bike cage. “It’s an extremely expensive proposition for us” to expand car parking, [Kristin Haldeman, Metro’s manager of access planning] said.

Bike lanes are economically different from parking

You might ask yourself if those arguments also apply to bike lanes. Frankly, I don’t think so, because parking is a private good which the free market can easily provide. The same isn’t true for bike lanes. Parking has a market price (the going rate for one hour of parking in Manhattan around 9 am in the morning currently seems to be between $9 and $24. ) If there is high demand for parking in Manhattan private investors can knock down houses and build more multi storey-car park.

Unfortunately, however, the free market is not able to provide bike lanes in the same fashion. To a certain degree bike lanes are public goods.

If I use a parking pace, John cannot use it at the same time. However, if I was cycling on one of those malicious bike lanes John could do this as well simultaneously. (Of course, bike lanes ultimately have capacity constraints. At some point congestion would be an issue. However, it will take quite some time until they are going to bite. Cyclists need much less space on the street than cars, as this poster impressively shows)

The second criteria which defines a public good also applies for cycle paths: non-excludability. Nobody can be effectively excluded from using a bike lane. Hence, it is practically impossible to charge cyclists who are using them. This means that even if there is significant demand for bike lanes the private market won’t be able to deliver them.

From an economic perspective bike lanes are rather similar to interstate highways or paved roads.

Increasing Returns of Bike Lanes

John is suggesting that bike lanes have diminishing returns. I’m afraid this is another point he’s getting wrong. Quite the contrary is true. Bike lanes are probably characterised by increasing returns. Transport for London is using exactly this argument as a justification (see page 8 of this document) for the introduction of the so called “cycling superhighways” :

Seeing other cyclists undertaking a safe and direct journey to work is expected to attract people to start commuting by bike, or to cycle more often. The high visibility of the Barclays Cycle Superhighways is also likely to generate increased awareness and consideration of cyclists among different road users.

Update: This “bandwagon effect” probably isn’t the most important reason why cycle paths are characterised by increasing returns. Two economists idepentently drew my attention to another issue: network effects. “A few isolated bike lanes don’t help much if you still have to go through dangerous stretches on most trips”, Matthias Doepke (Northwestern University) wrote me. “Once there is a connected network, the attractiveness of biking goes up a lot. That’s where we are in Chicago now – good number of lanes, but no real network yet.”

Greg Ip, US economics editor with “The Economist” puts it this way: “Just as you are more likely to buy an Ipad the more applications it has, you are more likely to switch from car to bicycle the more bicycle lanes (and therefore destinations reachable by bicycle) are available. Doubling the number of bike lanes more than doubles the number of cyclists likely to use them.” They are both absolutely right - I’ve missed this point.

The number of cyclists is not exogenous

Another key pillar of his arguments is that there is just no demand for bike lanes in NYC.

When I drive up and down Third Avenue, as I do often, what I usually see are cars and trucks inching along in single file (it’s a two-way street) with an empty bike lane next to them. (On those rare occasions when I do happen across a cyclist, or two, he or she invariably runs the red lights.)

At first sight this is true. Only 1% of NYC citizens currently commute to work by bicycle. Nonetheless, John does not have a point here. He is treating the number of cyclists as exogenously given. I’m sure that this is a fallacy. In Amsterdam, for example, 22% of all journeys are being done by bike. Even here in Central London in morning peakthe ratio of bikes to private cars is now 1 to 3. (Felix Salmon makes a similar point.)

This is neither due to a biking gene nor to Amsterdam or London being flatter or less rainy than NYC. It’s due to cycling infrastructure as well as a different cycling culture.

Both things don’t have to be taken for granted. They can be influenced by policy.

Hence the whole argument boils down to one simple political question: Should the government promote cycling?

This is a normative question which cannot be answered using economic arguments.

My personal opinion as a citizen is: Yes, of course. The private and social benefits of cycling are impressive (the health benefits are nicely summarised by UK’s Cyclists Touring Club) and it’s obvious that cycling is carbon neutral. (Update: Problably I was overrating the emission effect, as a back-of-the-envelope calculation I’ve published on my cycling blog suggests.) Paradoxically, even car drivers are benefiting from cycling (more cyclists mean fewer cars and less competition for parking spaces). (Felix Salmon with Reuters makes a similar point here . Other good replies to John come from Ryan Avent (“The Economist”) and Adam Sternbergh (“New York Times”).

I have to accept that John apparently has a different political view on cycling than I have. However, I’m don’t think it’s fair that he disguises his political opinions with flawed economic arguments.

P.S.: John, the next time you happen to be in London I would love to convince you how much fun cycling in a big city can be. I’d love to pay for rented cycle and show you around by bike. Afterwards I’d invite you for dinner. And don’t worry, I won’t take you to “Look Mum no hands”. Just drop me an email [o dot storbeck at gmail dot com] in advance.

P.P.S: This is probably one of the very few posts I’ll publish on my econ blog as well as on my cycling blog…

Update regarding cycling safety: I’ve just published a post on the topic “Cycling in London – How dangerous is it?” on my cycling blog. There I present a spreadsheet and a map with infor

lawfin Mar 25, 2011 5:10 PM

Another nice rejoinder to Cassidy's hit piece:

John Cassidy Watch, externalities edition
Mar 10, 2011 18:21 EST


http://blogs.reuters.com/felix-salmo...ities-edition/

I’m beginning to think that John Cassidy must have a serious masochistic streak: he’s now back for a third round of smack-downs, after having drawn unanimous scorn for his first two attempts to demonize bike lanes.

Cassidy purports to take seriously the question of his negative externalities when he drives his Jaguar. But he gets it embarrassingly wrong:

In the case of motor vehicles, there are several negative spillovers, the most obvious of which is pollution and the associated climate threat…

A second issue is congestion…

This gets things completely backwards. The amount of pollution emitted by today’s cars is actually pretty low, while the amount of congestion they cause is enormous. I’d be happy to introduce Cassidy to Charlie Komanoff one day, the guy who’s actually done all the hard empirical math on this question. The pollution-related negative externalities associated with Cassidy’s drives into Manhattan are tiny, while the congestion-related ones are enormous — well over $100 per trip.

And Cassidy’s proposals for tackling congestion are weird indeed: carpool lanes? I have no idea how that’s meant to work on 52nd Street. Meanwhile, the one thing which does work — congestion pricing — is conspicuously absent from Cassidy’s list.

All of this rhetoric allows Cassidy to set up a classic straw man:

Some would say that reducing New York’s carbon footprint is of such importance that we need to utilize bike lanes and other techniques to further inconvenience car drivers.

Actually, John, amid all the thousands of words which have been directed at you since you embarked upon this bizarre crusade, no one said anything like that at all. Big cities like New York are already by far the carbon-friendliest places in America, as Cassidy’s colleague David Owen would be happy to explain to him.

But Cassidy drives blithely on:

I haven’t seen any cost-benefit analysis backing this up, and, frankly, I don’t think such concerns are driving the debate. If global warming disappeared tomorrow, the bike lobby would still demand more bike lanes.

Well, John, here’s a cost-benefit analysis for you. It’s a massive Excel file, It has almost nothing to do with global warming, and it’s completely compelling. The bike lobby has a solidly-grounded empirical basis for the advantages of building bike lanes. You, on the other hand, have an XJ6, an 8pm reservation on Grove Street, and an overgrown sense of entitlement.

Cassidy claims that he wants

some sort of efficiency test beyond the rule of two wheels good, four wheels bad. Do the putative gains in convenience, safety, and fuel-economy from a particular bike lane outweigh the costs to motorists (and other parties, such as taxpayers and local businesses)?

At this point it’s clear that Cassidy has no idea what this kind of analysis — which actually does get done — is involved in these things. He gets the benefits largely right, although I think that he massively underestimates the value and importance of safety gains. If you significantly reduce pedestrian fatalities, as the Prospect Park West bike lane has done, that in and of itself is reason to build it. As for the costs, there’s really very little evidence that motorists and taxpayers and local businesses bear any costs at all.

Cassidy’s in such a bizarro world here that he even wonders out loud whether the Prospect Park West bike lane might endanger pedestrians, when in fact it protects them. And when he forays into the issue of pedestrian safety — an issue which the pro-bike-lane crowd would happily make the sole deciding issue for every single lane — he decides that what’s important here is “the growing problem of cyclists terrorizing pedestrians”. Again, without any empirical evidence to back up his assertion that this problem is growing at all, and certainly without any recognition of the fact that cars are much deadlier in collisions with pedestrians than bikes could ever be.

Cassidy reckons, in his conclusion, that the question of whether to build bike lanes is not a question of a public-interest transportation facility against private-interest parking spots. Instead, he says, “it comes down to one private user versus another” — presumably the bikers on the lane, versus the car drivers who would otherwise be able to park in those spots. Well, that’s an easy balance to strike. When Cassidy plonks his Jag down on a West Village street and disappears off to dinner, he’s just using up space: he’s not serving any public interest at all, and he’s blocking that part of the road for anybody else who might want to use it. When a bicyclist travels down a bike lane, by contrast, she’s there and she’s gone. She uses up almost no space, and she immediately frees up the lane for the next cyclist to come along behind her.

On top of that, every driver who decides to bicycle on one of the new lanes is one less driver for Cassidy to compete with in crosstown gridlock. By rights, he should be loving the way that bike lanes are reducing the number of cars on the road, rather than railing against them. But for all that he claims to be “wonky” in this post, it’s clear that he’s much more interested in coming up with any conceivable justification for his already-existing prejudices than he is in dispassionate analysis. The fact is, it’s the bicyclists who have all the data on their side. The car lobby just has inchoate rants.


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