Maps of commute biking and value-added facilities

Combining my concepts of target area and value-added facilities, I developed maps for each city which select the circle of census tracts near the central city which have the great number of commute cyclists. One thing that's visibly notable is the relatively weak connection of value-added facilities to cycling rates; only in Columbus are they well-connected. Part of what I conclude is that cultural factors and the indigenous qualities of the street network are more important than value-added facilities in cycling mode choice. The methodology is potentially interesting for other kinds of analysis; you could easily optimize for any other census data.

Thesis

I've been too busy with thesis work to post any updates here, but now it's actually done! And I'll have some time to start sharing bits of it. The most common reaction I've gotten from bike-identified people I've shared the work with is, "that's interesting, I haven't thought about it that way before," which I will accept as an indication that the project has been successful.

Bike mode share, facilities, and crashes within 4-mile radius circle in central Austin (1:100,000)

Target area data analysis

One problem I noticed while doing field research is that the city extents vary greatly; Austin, for example, has over six times Minneapolis' land area, which means that Austin includes some sprawling, low-density areas with low cycling rates that are excluded from Minneapolis' mode share numbers. I looked at creating a 4-mile radius circle to encompass the highest-cycling area of each city (by ACS mode share data), to be able to develop more comparable metrics from city to city. There are still a lot of issues with the data, but at least I'll be comparing rotten apples to rotten apples.

Roads vs. streets

Urbanists like to distinguish streets from roads. The somewhat distasteful neo-liberal conception is that roads exist to connect productive places, and streets exist as a platform for building wealth. A similar dichotomy exists with bike infrastructure; bike roads get us from place to place efficiently, and bike streets are interesting places to be.

Scioto River Valley

Columbus is the host of the Tour of the Scioto River Valley (TOSRV), one of America's longest-standing large group rides. TOSRV makes the claim, with some credibility, that its popularity led to the original U.S. bike boom back in the 1970s. So, social riding is part of the culture around Columbus, and I was able to hook up with the regular Tuesday night social ride. The leader of the ride, Ray George, is one of the founders of Yay Bikes!, and he was more than happy to talk about the organization.

Subaltern cyclists

Subaltern cyclists

Heading towards downtown Columbus from Old Towne East, you see a tall building with a sign that reads "Motorists," which seems to emphasize the transportation hierarchy in town. There seems to have been some nasty conflict between bike groups here, and one thing we know about subaltern groups is that there is a tendency towards infighting and competition amongst themselves. Instead of banding together to fight for their interests, they can fall into disputes over goals and methods–especially, whether to work within the system or to disrupt it.

Typical street in Old Town East

Indigenous bikeways

I'm thinking of using the term indigenous instead of natural to describe the existing infrastructure of a city prior to the construction of any bike-specific facilities. The OED defines indigenous as "Originating or occurring naturally in a particular place," which I think captures the idea I want to get across. Indigenous bikeways aren't entirely natural, but they exist (or don't) based on decisions that were made decades or centuries ago. The term also has a slightly unsettling connection to colonialism which I actually think is good, because I think urbanism often has a slightly unsettling connection to colonialism, or more specifically Orientalism. And I happened to be visiting a city named for America's favorite colonialist.

Bikeway taxonomy

There have been a number of different attempts to categorize bikeways based on different criteria, some related to the facility design, some related to its users. I'm not really happy with any of them. I'm working on developing a taxonomy that could improve our discussions about bike facilities.

Wrapping up the Twin Cities

I did a ton of riding in the Twin Cities, largely thanks to my friend Max who provided both a nice bike and a whole lot of guidance on where to go. People who race alleycats know a lot about how to get around the city. I totaled over 300km, and hit almost everywhere I needed to get a sense of Minneapolis and St. Paul.

streets.mn

The Twin Cities have a strong urbanist community, symbolized by the active streets.mn blog. There's a ton of interesting content there. Several people had suggested that I should meet Bill Lindeke, one of the blog's regular contributors. Bill describes himself as an urban geographer; in addition to writing on a broad range of subjects for streets.mn and for the Minneapolis Post, and sitting on the planning commission for St. Paul, he organizes walking and biking tours which highlight different aspects of the historical or current city.

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