Sunday, September 30, 2007

Bike Industry Gets Green

It looks as though the American bicycle industry finally figured out during the past year or so that bicycles can be used for transportation, and "city bikes" were the big deal at Interbike earlier this month. See this article in Wired.

And while you're perusing Wired, check out this piece on the mountain bike downhill speed record.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Whose Roads? Who Pays?

You’ll often hear or read some ill-informed person claim that cyclists don’t have the right to use public roadways because they don’t pay gas taxes. I suppose one could simply call them a fascist and be done with it (and be correct), but more reasonable and effective arguments are available.

First and foremost, use of public rights-of-way is a basic liberty, not a privilege of taxpayers.

But even if it were not a basic liberty, cyclists (and pedestrians) are certainly paying their way (and then some).

“User fees” such as gas taxes, vehicle taxes and fees, and tolls, account for only 60% of transportation funding; the other 40% is from property taxes, bonds, general funds, and other taxes, all of which are paid (directly or indirectly) by non-motorists. According to Todd Litman of the Victoria Transport Policy Institute,

“On average, local and regional governments spend $300-500 annually per automobile in general taxes on local roads and traffic services, averaging more than 6¢ per mile driven on local roads. Only 0.7¢ of this is paid through vehicle user charges, meaning that driving is subsidized through general taxes by about 5.6¢ per mile on local roads.”

Most gas tax money goes to widening roadways to accommodate more cars (thereby encouraging more driving) and to maintaining roads. Virtually all wear and tear on roads is due to motor vehicles (especially large trucks), not cyclists, and certainly not pedestrians. The cost of accommodating cyclists and pedestrians is generally less than 2% of the total cost of a road. Non-motorists therefore overpay for their use of roads, while motorists underpay.

Those who shop by bike, walk or transit pay gas taxes indirectly. Shipping costs, which are included in the costs of virtually all goods, include gas taxes.

Of course, most cyclists DO buy gasoline, since most own and drive internal combustion vehicles. To say one must always use the vehicle that makes the taxpaying necessary is an absurd trap. "You have no choice! You must drive a car because you paid the tax!" This argument also implies that those who pay more in taxes have greater rights than those who pay less. Those who drive electric cars might similarly be accused of driving on roads without paying “their fair share.” An electric car owner would only pay about one-third as much in “user fees” as the owner of an internal combustion engine vehicle.

Print and save for when you get into that inevitable argument!

Making Friends

I find it ironic that cyclists in one of the most bike-friendly cities in America are reaching out to motorists to get them to be even friendlier.

Check out the story here.

Bravo Portland!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

State Approves Land Purchase for 51-Mile Trail

Gov. Charlie Crist and the Florida Cabinet today approved spending $16 million to purchase the right-of-way for the East Central Regional Rail-Trail, which will some day run from Enterprise (across Lake Monroe from Sanford) to Titusville and Edgewater (the corridor is a "Y" shape).

See the Daytona Beach News Journal story here.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Lake Helen Receives Visionary Planning Award

City of Lake Helen to Receive Award from 1000 Friends of Florida For Visionary Planning to Protect Community's Small-town Character

The City of Lake Helen will be presented with 1000 Friends of Florida’s Better Community Award for its citizen engagement and visionary planning to protect the community’s historic, small-town character. The award will be presented by 1000 Friends President Charles Pattison at an “Ice Cream Social” to be held in the City of Lake Helen on the evening of Tuesday, September 25 at 7 p.m. Residents of Volusia County are urged to attend this event at Lake Helen’s community center, historic Hopkins Hall, at the corner of Euclid and Connecticut Avenues.

“The City of Lake Helen has done what many other communities only contemplate,” says Charles. “It has engaged its citizens, established a compelling vision, and then incorporated that vision into its local plan.” The community was nominated for the award by Sam Tollefson of Cassadaga. “Having been an activist fighting to control the growth machine that has swallowed much of Southeast Florida, I have been alarmed to see such growth coming to Central Florida and other parts of state,” says Sam. “I was delighted to learn that Lake Helen has the insight, vision and courage to implement a growth plan that, if sustained, will enrich the lives of the people that live here for generations to come.”

In 2001, the community held a series of visioning sessions, and it soon became clear there was strong public support for maintaining Lake Helen’s unique, small-town, historic character. As a follow up, the city commissioned a population build out study on its 1992 comprehensive plan. Citizens and community leaders alike were shocked to realize that it would allow the distinctive community to grow dramatically in population.

Under the leadership of Mayor Mark Shuttleworth, Lake Helen then embarked on a four-year planning process to update the community’s comprehensive plan. In 2005 the city amended the plan, directing development first to infill areas, and incorporating smart growth principles for development outside the central core. The new plan slightly more than doubles the current population of almost 3,000 residents, which is considerably less than the 12,000 residents contemplated in the previous plan.

Mayor Shuttleworth attributes their success to two factors. “For years, our citizens have clearly expressed their desire to preserve Lake Helen’s small town atmosphere and quality of life,” says the Mayor. “They were willing to forgo ‘economic development’ and ‘jobs’ promised by strip malls and highway convenience stores in order to maintain our community’s environmental quality.” He goes on to note that the citizens trusted local government when it rezoned two-thirds of the town to ensure a population cap of about 6,500 at build out.

Mayor Shuttleworth also credits City Administrator/Planner Don Findell, who has guided the city’s planning and municipal infrastructure development program over the last eight years. “Don has been invaluable,” says Shuttleworth. “He brought many years of experience from other locales, and helped develop an acclaimed planning strategy to ensure the survival of this small Central Florida town.”

“The City of Lake Helen is a shining model for other communities across the state,” says 1000 Friends President Charles Pattison. “While its 1992 plan maximized the city’s future population and growth potential, the 2005 plan incorporates focuses on maintaining Lake Helen’s distinctive, small-town character.”

1000 Friends’ Better Community Award is presented annually for plans that have been implemented and projects that are completed that use the principles of smart growth to create livable, vital environments. 1000 Friends of Florida is also presenting six other awards for individual achievement and journalism at separate events over the course of 2007.

A statewide nonprofit organization, 1000 Friends was founded in 1986 to serve as Florida’s growth management watchdog. It has been presenting awards for innovative growth management efforts since 1990. For more information on 1000 Friends, visit


Canadian cycling instructor Bruce Mol developed an interesting matrix of bicycling behavior types. I thought it was a more useful approach than the “Types A, B & C” cyclists that the feds promote. You can think of these cyclists fitting along the X and Y axis of Vehicular Cycling Experience and Social Responsibility. Like so:

Here are descriptions of the types:

Integrates with other traffic, but “doesn’t play well with others”
High level physical skills
BUT with poor understanding of vehicular cycling principles and practices
Attitude: “I know what I’m doing; I don’t care about your stupid laws.”
Crash Risk: Moderate-to-High
Facility Effects
Bike Lanes: may “calm” this user in some circumstances, but will not teach him to share the road
Paths: often treats other users as hindrances
Education and Enforcement Needs
Training on principles and practices of cooperative vehicular cycling
Enforcement of stop signs, signals

Poor physical skills (as well as poorly-maintained bike)
Poor understanding of vehicular cycling principles and practices
Low consideration of their own responsibilities
Low expectations for motorist behavior; usually on sidewalks; often “invisible”
Attitude: “I can’t wait ‘til I can get a car.”
Crash Risk: High
Facility Effects
Bike Lanes: often won’t use them, (stay on sidewalk); will still ride wrong way when they do use them
Paths: use them, but likely to ignore rules, especially at intersections
Education and Enforcement Needs
Training on nearly everything
Enforcement of stop signs, signals, wrong-way riding, lights at night

Modest physical skills
Modest understanding of vehicular cycling principles and practices
High consideration of their own responsibilities
Poor expectations for motorist behavior; keeps to local streets and paths, sidewalks on busier streets
Attitude: “I wish I could bike more but it’s so dangerous.”
Crash Risk: Low-to-Moderate
Facility Effects
Bike Lanes: likely to use them, especially after training; will recognize that they don’t address most safety problems
Paths: enthusiastic, responsible users; but want to use roads to get to them
Education and Enforcement Needs
Training on nearly everything
Tend to obey the law

High physical skills
High understanding of vehicular cycling principles and practices
High consideration of their own responsibilities
Modest expectations for motorist behavior; travels everywhere, rarely on sidewalks
Attitude: “I wish I could bike more than 5,000 miles a year but I don’t have time.”
Crash Risk: Low
Facility Effects
Bike Lanes: likely to use them, but not upset if they’re not available; understand that they don’t address most safety problems
Paths: will use them if they are convenient and uncrowded
Education and Enforcement Needs
Virtually none -- well-trained and tend to obey the law

So, where do you fit in this scheme?

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Complete Streets Video from AARP

Dr. Bob Chauncey from the National Center for Bicycling and Walking explains "complete streets."

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Focus on the Truth, Not the Myth

FDOT Assistant Pedestrian and Bicycle Coordinator Dwight Kingsbury posted the following to the e-mail list of the Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals. It's information that will be especially useful for advocates and safety proponents:

"The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently issued a flier to combat myths about the flu vaccine. It recited various commonly held views and labeled them either "true" or "false." Among those identified as false were statements such as "The side effects are worse than the flu" and "Only older people need flu vaccine.""

"When University of Michigan social psychologist Norbert Schwarz had volunteers read the CDC flier, however, he found that within 30 minutes, older people misremembered 28 percent of the false statements as true. Three days later, they remembered 40 percent of the myths as factual."

"Younger people did better at first, but three days later they made as many errors as older people did after 30 minutes. Most troubling was that people of all ages now felt that the source of their false beliefs was the respected CDC...the studies show that the brain uses subconscious "rules of thumb" that can bias it into thinking that false information is true...."

"The research also highlights the disturbing reality that once an idea has been implanted in people's minds, it can be difficult to dislodge. Denials inherently require repeating the bad information, which may be one reason they can paradoxically reinforce it..."

"Mayo found that rather than deny a false claim, it is better to make a completely new assertion that makes no reference to the original myth..."

The lesson for cyclists: the more you say "That road is dangerous," the more people believe you don't belong on it. Then, as other advocates say, "It's a myth that cycling on the road is dangerous," it only get reinforced even more.

The more motorists believe cycling on roadways is dangerous, the worse they will treat us.