Posts Tagged ‘commuting’

It’s winter bike commuting, not the Olympics

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009


The Detroit News recently had a Tom Greenwood column on winter commuting.

As the Free Press did this spring, the media made the mistake of asking an advanced cyclist about commuting when they should have asked someone a little more entry-level. Rather than make winter commuting approachable, they made it overly technical, very expensive, and time consuming.

The “first thing” is to get carbide studded tires? If the roads are so slick and icy that you might fall, most people will drive or take the bus. Besides those tires are very expensive which only deters newcomers.

Gore-Tex? No, not necessary. Most cyclists aren’t going to commute long distances and can wear cotton and a windbreaker/winter coat. Even blue jeans aren’t a bad choice on dry days.

Shoe covers? Why not just have flat pedals and wear normal winter boots. You don’t need to use cycling shoes. You don’t need to be clipped into pedals. It’s not a race.

In the end, it’s unclear whether this article is about winter bike commuting or selling bike-specific clothing and accessories.

Is it even remotely reasonable to expect those riding to the corner store or to the local coffee shop to switch into an expensive winter cycling-specific outfit? No, just jump on your bike (any bike) and ride.

This photo from Copenhagen is a nice contrast. That looks normal. We’re guessing she’s not running carbide studded tires. That doesn’t look like Gore-Text. Those fancy red boots don’t have shoe covers. Biking mittens? They look like winter gloves to me. Simple and effective.

And she’s not riding on the sidewalk.

Portland Bicycle Plan

Friday, October 9th, 2009

Seal_of_Portland_ORPortland, Oregon recently created a proposed bicycle plan.

One highlight of that plan is a supplement on Bicycle Design Best Practices, where they have compiled a very comprehensive and up-to-date collection of bicycle facilities. Some of the newer facilities (newer to the U.S. at least) include bicycle boulevards and separated bike lanes (a.k.a. cycle tracks.)

This report documents an extensive review of best practices from world‐class bicycling cities where the most innovative technology advances in designing for bicycle traffic have been proven effective. The purpose of the report is to create a guide for traffic engineers, designers and planners detailing tried and‐ tested bicycle facility designs along with essential considerations for their implementation.

Note that there are no side paths or “safety” paths shown in their best practices guide.

And while speaking of Portland, the Census Bureau recently released 2008 American Community Survey data. This data includes statistics on how people get to work. Portland not only leads the U.S. in this people biking to work, they are reporting a record increase.

Portland experienced the largest one-year increase in bicycling as commuters primary mode of transportation ever, according to the Census Bureau’s annual American Community Survey.

“Our small investment in bicycling infrastructure and education are paying off in a big way,” Mayor Sam Adams said. “Once again the data backs up our belief that when Portlanders are given a safe, convenient alternative to driving they will get out of their car and onto a bike.” Adams has been in charge of the Portland Bureau of Transportation since 2004.

The data released Monday showed 6.4 percent responded to the survey that they bicycled to work in 2008. This makes Portland number one in bicycle commuting among the 30 largest cities in the country. The percentage of walkers and transit users also rose.

The city of Detroit and Metro Detroit bike commuting numbers were fairly flat. This is surprising given the greater number of bicyclists on the roads (though they may not all be riding to work.) Or they are biking to work and using transit, in which case it’s unclear how they would have responded to this census survey.

That said, there was a decrease in car use which appears to have shifted to transit.

SEMCOG starts MI Bike Match service

Thursday, September 24th, 2009

MI Ride shareSEMCOG recently launched a new MiBikematch service and the Free Press has an article it.

MiBikematch, a service to match up bike riders who would be more comfortable taking the trip with another rider, has been launched, the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments said Wednesday.

Users register there, entering their starting point, destination, days they ride and their work hours. That information is compared to other users for potential matches. Participants may contact potential riding companions through e-mail or the Web site. The service is free, SEMCOG spokeswoman Iris Steinberg said.

The program is part of an effort by state and local agencies to encourage folks to think beyond driving to ease congestion and improve air quality in a state among the tops in the nation in the percentage of drivers commuting alone by car.

Note that after signing up, you can select how you prefer to commute: by bike, car pool, van pool, or some combination of those.

It’s apparent that in order to make this service a success, we need a lot of bike commuters signing up.

$5 per gallon of gas would hurt the program either.

Detroit: a terrific city for cycling

Tuesday, August 11th, 2009

Steve Roach, the League of Michigan Bicyclists (LMB) Director for Detroit and the Pointes, was recently profiled in Grosse Pointe Today.

Roach, 48, is a lawyer at Miller Canfield in downtown Detroit. Several times a week, weather permitting, he leaves his car at home and commutes from his Grosse Pointe Park house to his office by bicycle. The 8.5-mile route carries him into decaying neighborhoods, over rutted pavement and sometimes through sweltering heat, but all of this doesn’t stop him, or even slow him down, and it certainly doesn’t bum him out. Exercise is its own reward.

“It occurred to me that it takes me at least 20 minutes to drive (to my office), and I started thinking I bet I could ride (there) in 20. I’m able to clear my head and enjoy it. For an extra 20 minutes of commuting a day, I get an hour’s worth of exercise.”

Through my job as Detroit Greenway Coordinator for MTGA, I get to work with Steve quite often. He’s definitely one of the shining stars within the LMB.

And on our most recent Detroit rides we even rescued a baby goat. Serious.

While he’s been very supportive of the Detroit biking and trail efforts, he and others are also working to make the Pointes more bike friendly. One suggestion is having bike lanes on Jefferson, or at least some Share the Road signage.

Here’s a video from the Grosse Pointe Today article as well.

Does your commute suck?

Thursday, July 16th, 2009

My Commute sucksTom Greenwood wrote a Detroit News column earlier this month that highlighted a new web site called where commuters can report how good or bad their commute is.

Like most Metro Detroiters, Greenwood is often blinded by auto-centrism. In other words, the transportation options on the other side of the windshield are rarely recognized or understood.

For example, I don’t think he understands that non-auto commuting can provide additional simultaneous benefits. Sure, the San Francisco woman has a 90 minute round trip commute, however that also includes 40 minutes of exercise, time to relax, grab some food, read the paper, and apparently socialize.

Another factor rarely considered when compared commute modes is cost. As an example, for me, biking three miles into downtown Royal Oak takes about 5 minutes longer than driving. However, I need to work about 6 minutes to cover the added vehicle and parking costs. In effect, biking is slightly quicker, but especially once I include the time to find a parking space.

Also, based on his column, I don’t think Mr. Greenwood realizes that the group behind this web site, Transportation for America, is pushing for a new federal transportation bill that reduces auto dependence while increasing other options such as biking and mass transit.

Our congested roads have lanes added to them – yet promptly fill up again. More and more people are riding the train and bus, yet service is being cut. Biking has never been more popular, but it seems our streets have never been more difficult or dangerous to use.

I think that just put a crack in the windshield…