Posts Tagged ‘Paris’

New Mobility Agenda

Tuesday, January 20th, 2009

At a recent transportation engineer meeting in Farmington Hills a presenter told the following story.

An Australian businessman said that when he’s in the U.S., he schedules 3 meetings per day.  When in Australia, he schedules 4 per day, but when in Europe, he can handle 5 meetings per day.

In the U.S. he spent more time traveling between meetings compared with being in them.

The irony is there is more mobility in the U.S.  We have high-speed roads and expressways allowing people to move more quickly.  In Europe, transportation is not as fast, however, this has promoted greater density.  In other words, everything’s closer together.

This same issue was raised by Glatting-Jackson transportation engineer Ian Lockwood during his presentations in Detroit.  The more cities increase mobility, the more everything spreads out.

Accessibility/new mobility — being able to readily get between locations — is more valuable than high-speed mobility.

That’s a concept that’s been lost not only on most Metro Detroit road planners but on people like Oakland County executive L. Brooks Patterson.  Patterson has been sprawl promoter but has not connected the dots showing that inefficient land use leads to an inefficient and uncompetitive business environment — with or without gas at $4 a gallon.

Of course biking and walking suffer greatly when communities pursue high-speed mobility.  High-speed roads are rarely bike friendly.  And in these less dense communities, everything is further away which makes cycling and walking less attractive.  Lower density also makes public transit less effective.

Here is a great Streetfilm video from Paris that talks about how they’re doing things right.  Their engineers look at how to efficiently move people not cars.  It’s pretty basic and common sense.

Mandatory Bicycle Helmets Laws

Saturday, December 6th, 2008
Photo by Dan Burden /

Photo by Dan Burden /

Laws that require bicyclists to use helmets are certainly the result of good intentions — making cycling safer. Unfortunately these laws result in reduced health and safety by discouraging cycling.

First, let’s look at Australia, where a mandatory bicycle helmet law went into effect in 1992.  The results are “ambiguous” according to a report from the Bicycle Federation of Australia

Any countries or jurisdictions considering the introduction of compulsory helmet wearing laws should look very closely at the available data to see if it still supports such a move in light of the ambiguous Australian experience. It is essential that reliable evaluation methodologies be recognised, and the common shortcomings of both databases and interpretation which bedevilled the early Australian evaluations be avoided.

Resources devoted, on the European model, to improving facilities for cyclists and to reducing urban speed limits are likely to be far more cost-effective than the introduction of helmet legislation. These measures must be considered as a valid alternative to helmet legislation or as a vital and integral part of such legislation.

It is crucial that a good and extensive data base of regional or national hospital admissions, and if possible hospital casualty department treatments be assembled for the decade or so preceding the legislation. This is needed to allow a reliable comparison with data collected after the introduction of any legislation.

Note that the second paragraph reiterates a point we’ve made before.  We’d make bicycling much safer in Michigan if we devoted more time promoting safe bicycle facilties (e.g. bike lanes) rather than helmets.

This conclusion is also supported by an article published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine:

In both Western Australia and New Zealand, helmet use increased from negligible levels to more than 80% in around eight years, yet follow-up studies did not show long-term benefits for the cyclist populations relative to control groups. Study of injury trends in each state of Australia for the period when helmet laws were passed shows stable characteristics, revealing no evidence of extra prevention due to legislation coming into force.

And this same article notes that mandatory helmet laws significantly discourage cycling at a time when we need more people getting exercise.

The one clear population-level effect of helmet laws that has been widely reported is the deterrence of cycling. In every case where data are available, cycle use has fallen by 25-50% when a helmet law was enforced. This has a direct consequence on the risk of death in cycling. Study of international evidence points to a reliable relationship between the amount of cycling and the risk in cycling12-a power-law relationship with an index value of around 0.4. A fall in cycle use of 50% would increase risk per cyclist by more than 50%, whereas an increase in cycling of 100% would reduce the risk by almost 40%. Public health would benefit substantially. A report by the Commons Select Committee on Health specifically cited a resurgence in cycling as ‘probably the most effective response’ that could be made to address the obesity ‘time bomb’. It is most likely that road deaths would fall overall; even in Britain one hour of cycle use is not more likely to result in a road death than one hour of driving, because the third-party risk from cycling is so low.

The last point about third-parties is an interesting one.  Motor vehicle crashes with pedestrians and cyclists too often result in death.  Cycling crashes do not.  The more we can promote bicycle use in place of motor vehicle use, the more we can improve overall safety.

This is especially true in our downtowns where there is a greater concentration of pedestrians.

And one way of encouraging a shift from car use to bike use is through bike rentals.  Paris is the world leader in bike rentals.  They have over 20,000 rental bikes throughout their city.  The bike rentals are free for the first half-hour.  One only needs a credit card to place a deposit on the bicycle — and it’s fully automated.  There is a bike rental station about every 1,000 feet so they’re never too far away.

In it’s first year, there were 27.5 million trips made on these Paris bikes, or about 120,000 per day.

What did it cost Paris?  Zero.  An advertiser paid for the system and subsidizes its use in exchange for advertising space.

Bikes Belong has an very cool video demonstration of this Paris system.

It’s been so successful that other cities such as Washington D.C. and Chicago are pursuing similar systems.

So what does this have to do with mandatory helmet laws?  There is no reliable and safe way to rent helmets with these bike rental systems.

From Austrailia to Israel, mandatory bicycle helmet laws are a significant obstacle to these bicycle rentals.

Overall, the safety results are quite conclusive.  Mandatory bike helmet laws are no substitute for designing our roads for safe bicycling and making it easy for people to choose bicycling.

Chicago eyes Paris self-service bike scheme – Yahoo! News

Thursday, September 13th, 2007

Chicago eyes Paris self-service bike scheme – Yahoo! News:

“The United States’ third largest city, Chicago, may soon adopt a rent-a-bike scheme similar to the one launched this summer in Paris, mayor Richard M. Daley said during a trip to the French capital Tuesday.

“The Democrat mayor, himself a cyclist, said he was ‘greatly impressed’ with the Paris network of self-service bicycles, which has clocked up more than 3.7 million rides since its launch in mid-July.

“Riders can pick up a bike at any time of day or night, after lodging a 150-euro safety deposit. The first half hour is free, with prices rising to one euro (1.4 dollars) for every extra half hour.”