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lawfin Mar 25, 2011 5:12 PM

I have to say I did enjoy Cassidy's work in 'How Markets Fail'.....interesting that he cannot get his head around the market failure surrounding a near public good like a bike lane.

lawfin Mar 25, 2011 5:16 PM

And a related piece :
The Man Who Could Unsnarl Manhattan Traffic

spreadsheet linK:

By Felix Salmon Email Author
May 24, 2010 |
12:00 pm |
Wired June 2010

Photo: Peter Yang

Charles Komanoff says he has the solution to New York's congestion problem—and he’s got the math to prove it.
Photo: Peter Yang

The walk to Charles Komanoff’s favorite lunch spot, a patisserie two blocks from his office in Manhattan’s Financial District, usually takes a couple of minutes. But on this December afternoon, Komanoff has spotted a truck from the grocery-delivery service FreshDirect. His eyes widen and his steps quicken as he approaches the orange and green refrigerated vehicle. Within seconds, he’s peppering the driver—politely but insistently—with questions. What route did you take to get here? How many deliveries do you make per trip? How often do you double-park? Do you leave the engine running?

Komanoff assures the driver that he is not a corporate spy. He’s a traffic expert who has taken up the Borgesian task of re-creating, in precise detail, the economic and environmental impact of every single car, bus, truck, taxi, train, subway, bicycle, and pedestrian moving around New York City. And to do that he needs data. Lots of data. Which is why even the shortest walk can turn into an hours-long fact-finding mission.

When he finally gets back to his office, Komanoff will use this interview to inform his magnum opus, the Balanced Transportation Analyzer (.xls), an enormous Excel spreadsheet that he’s been building for the past three years. Over the course of about 50 worksheets, the BTA breaks down every aspect of New York City transportation—subway revenues, traffic jams, noise pollution—in an attempt to discover which mix of tolls and surcharges would create the greatest benefit for the largest number of people.

Komanoff’s spreadsheet, which he has posted online, calculates how new fees and changes to existing tolls affect traffic at different times of day. It calculates which costs are borne by city dwellers and which by suburbanites. It calculates how long it takes passengers to dig for change and board buses. And it allows any user to adjust dozens of different variables—from taxi surcharges to truck tolls—and measure their impact. The result is a kind of statistical SimCity, an opportunity to play God (or at least Robert Moses) and devise the perfect traffic policy.

Komanoff is a dyed-in-the-wool stats geek, and the BTA demonstrates his faith in data. By measuring the problem—the amount of time and money lost in traffic every year—we can begin to solve it, he says. We can turn the knobs on the entire transportation system to maximize efficiency. Komanoff’s model suggests a world in which everything from subway fares to bridge tolls can be precisely tuned throughout the day, allowing city planners to steer traffic flow as quickly and smoothly as a taxi driver tooling his cab down Broadway on a quiet Sunday morning.

It’s hard for Komanoff—a fit, if slightly unkempt, 62-year-old—to conceal his pride in this spreadsheet. “It’s a mansion with 50 rooms, and each one relates to all the others,” says Komanoff, who shares his Tribeca apartment with his wife, two kids, and a Steinway piano. “Maybe this is how Mozart felt when he was scoring Don Giovanni.”

Komanoff’s masterpiece has impressed municipal traffic planners from New York to Paris to Guangzhou, China. “Charlie has created the first believable model of the impact of pricing on transportation choices,” says Sam Schwartz, a former New York City traffic commissioner who actually coined the word gridlock.

It’s also the most ambitious effort yet to impose mathematical rigor and predictability on an inherently chaotic phenomenon. Despite decades of attempts to curb delays—adding lanes to highways, synchronizing traffic lights—planners haven’t had much success at unsnarling gridlock. A study by the Texas Transportation Institute found that in 2007, metropolitan-area drivers in the US spent an average of 36 hours stuck in traffic—up from 14 hours in 1982.

But the BTA, Komanoff says, will finally allow engineers to model the effects of proposed transportation policies in realistic detail. He translates all traffic impacts—delays, collisions, injuries, air pollution—into dollars and cents; that way, it’s easy for users to compare the benefits and costs of different plans. He has even come up with a plan of his own that would, according to his calculations, collect $1.3 billion in motorist tolls per year—all of which would be spent on improving public transit—and save $2.5 billion in time costs by reducing delays. To that, add $190 million from decreased mortality as a result of making streets more bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly, $83 million in collision damage reduction, and $34 million in lower CO2 emissions.

But there’s one aspect of Komanoff’s plan that his spreadsheet can’t help with: how to put it into practice. Americans hate the idea of paying to drive on public roads. No US city has succeeded at passing any plan remotely like Komanoff’s. And the response from New York City’s Department of Transportation has been tepid at best. Komanoff may have created a vision of the traffic system of the future, but he’s still stuck with the government and politics of the present.

Ebb and Flow:
A Day in the Life of Manhattan Traffic

Charles Komanoff has spent three years building a model of the traffic patterns in New York City. The result is an exhaustive accounting of every mile traveled, every slowdown encountered, and every hour wasted. Below, a rundown of traffic on an average weekday in Manhattan’s central business district.
Infographic: Pitch Interactive

Infographic: Pitch Interactive

Komanoff’s life has been driven by two passions: cycling and data. Naturally, he has combined them in another spreadsheet, one that logs every mile he has biked since January 1, 2001. The very act of entering the data, Komanoff says, keeps him motivated to ride everywhere, even in the rain and snow. “I want to be able to enter the miles,” he says. He ends up inputting about 3,000 of them every year.

A bearded former antiwar activist, Komanoff grew up in a liberal enclave of Long Island and studied mathematics and economics at Harvard. In 1973, he analyzed a proposed hydroelectric facility in upstate New York whose business model relied on the existence of extensive nuclear power in the Northeast. He wrote a report showing that the kilowatt price of nuclear power was rising fast and that the economics of the scheme simply didn’t work. It was his professional breakthrough, and in 1981 he published a massive book (.pdf) on the subject, Power Plant Cost Escalation: Nuclear and Coal Capital Costs, Regulation and Economics. “I thought I’d never do anything that ambitious again,” he says.

Over the next 30 years, Komanoff built a career at this intersection of algorithms and advocacy, especially around what he calls “the two leading sources of environmental and social harm in industrial societies: electricity generation and motor vehicles.”

As an energy analyst, Komanoff has published several books and reports and has consulted for dozens of US state and federal agencies. He started getting involved in transportation issues in 1986, when he resuscitated Transportation Alternatives, an advocacy organization that lobbies for policies that favor cycling, walking, and public transportation and which is now a major force in New York City politics. He also cofounded a pedestrian rights organization, Right of Way, in 1996. Two and a half years later, he produced a detailed statistical analysis of pedestrian and cyclist deaths—it showed that casualties are not random, unpredictable accidents but the foreseeable result of given traffic conditions.

Komanoff’s work may not have made him a celebrity, but his rigor gained him a reputation within the rarefied world of traffic geeks. In 2007, he got a phone call. Ted Kheel, a legendary labor lawyer and one of Komanoff’s heroes, had made it his personal mission to completely rethink New York City’s traffic policy. Was Komanoff free to help?

Now 95 years old, Kheel has been trying to improve New York’s traffic for more than half a century. He is obsessed with the economic damage that cars do to cities—damage that’s much greater than most people realize. In 1958, as the New York City Transit Authority was preparing to raise subway fares, Kheel wrote a paper citing a survey that found that traffic congestion cost more than $2 billion a year. “This vast sum,” Kheel wrote, “equal to $1 a working day for every man, woman, and child in the city, has to be paid by someone, and it is. It is assessed against all of us in the form of higher prices, inflated delivery costs, and increased taxes.” It would be cheaper, he argued, to subsidize public transportation and save the hidden costs associated with driving.

Kheel made the same point a decade later, in a New York magazine cover story arguing against another fare increase: “Any balanced analysis will surely prove that the taxpayer actually pays, for every person who chooses to drive to and from work in his own car, an indirect subsidy at least 10 times as great as the indirect subsidy now paid the mass-transit rider.”

The thread running through these essays is a concept familiar to all economists: the problem of negative externalities, costs that accrue when the self-interested actions of one person leave bystanders worse off. The biggest example of a negative externality is global warming: When we burn carbon-based fuels, we benefit ourselves while imposing a great cost on billions of other present and future inhabitants of the planet.

Urban planners know this problem all too well. After all, traffic is filled with negative externalities. A small action by one driver—a mere tap on the brakes—can have ripple effects that impact thousands of other motorists. But because externalities are so hard to calculate, and because the costs are not paid out of any central budget, planners had always struggled to incorporate them in their analysis—which typically meant that such costs were undercounted, if they were counted at all.

In 2007, Kheel was still advocating for a traffic plan that took externalities into account and offered free public transportation as a way to reduce them. His basic notion was to impose a “congestion fee” on any driver entering New York’s central business district—the area south of 60th Street—and use the proceeds to pay for everything from subways and buses to improved pedestrian access.

But how much to charge? Kheel could make only an educated guess. Then he found Komanoff, a man who shared his goals and had the mathematical chops to help realize them. Drawing on his own personal savings and the resources of one of his foundations, Kheel offered to pay him to determine the optimal congestion fee.

Komanoff is the kind of guy who takes a little while to get focused on a subject—but once focused can carry on more or less indefinitely. That’s exactly what happened with the spreadsheet he created for Kheel. It turned out to be relatively straightforward to calculate a congestion charge that would pay for public transit; Komanoff arrived at a fee of $16 for every vehicle trip into the central business district. But he knew that he could come up with a model that was much more sophisticated. “I gave them what they were looking for,” Komanoff says. “And then I kept on asking myself more questions.”

So, after the report was released in January 2008, Komanoff requested more funding from Kheel to keep plugging away at the spreadsheet. One of the first tasks was to nail down those externalities. That meant figuring out exactly how much New Yorkers’ time was worth and how much of it they wasted in traffic. He started with a Brookings Institution estimate of the value of a US airline passenger’s time—about $53 an hour. Based on salary data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Komanoff bumped that up by 20 percent for people in New York City. He wanted to use conservative estimates, so he assumed that a car driver’s commuting time was 25 percent less valuable than an airline passenger’s; if someone was driving for nonwork purposes, their time was 50 percent less valuable. He drew on survey data to peg a taxi passenger’s time at 90 percent of the average air passenger’s; additional passengers—perhaps children—would be worth much less. Eventually, after taking into account the mix of cars, trucks, taxis, and buses in traffic—as well as the number of people in each type of vehicle—Komanoff concluded that the average vehicle in the central business district has a time value of $53.39 per hour; outside the CBD that number falls to $34.44. (Komanoff based some assumptions on his own research, but the spreadsheet allows anyone to plug in their own estimates to see how they affect the results.)

The rest of his calculations are more complicated. To work out the total delay caused by each car, Komanoff turned to a formula devised by UC Irvine economist Ken Small: S = 24.2/[1 + 0.1(V/Vk)4.08], where S is traffic speed, V is number of vehicles, and Vk is a constant that changes from city to city (it was originally set at an arbitrary level of 1,000 for an area of Toronto in 1978). For S and V, Komanoff drew on the city’s estimates of average daytime traffic speeds (8 mph) and volume (870,301 vehicles) within the CBD. This let him calculate the value of Vk, which came out to be 97,105. He then used that value of Vk and his own estimates of traffic volume to come up with a new—and, by his lights, more accurate—value for S. He then ran the equation again to find the value of S when 1,000 cars were added. The difference, divided by 1,000, represented the impact of each individual car.

In the end, Komanoff found that every car entering the CBD causes an average of 3.23 person-hours of delays. Multiply that by $39.53—a weighted average of vehicles’ time value within and outside the CBD—and it turns out that the average weekday vehicle journey costs other New Yorkers $128 in lost time. At last, urban planners could say just how big the externalities associated with driving are, knowing that the number was backed up with solid empirical analysis.

“The work Komanoff is doing will be essential,” says Tom Vanderbilt, author of Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us). “He’s showing the impact of traffic in easy-to-understand language, considering all transport options, and getting away from the idea that transportation happens in a vacuum.”

Kheel hoped that Komanoff’s work would support a plan to offer completely free public transit. But Komanoff found that the system would still be overloaded at rush hour. Drivers had to be encouraged to travel at different times of the day. So he devised a new plan, one that charged both drivers and transit riders different rates at different times. It would charge $3 to cars entering the CBD on weekday nights, $6 for most of the day, and $9 during rush hour. The subway fare also varies, but is always less than the $2.25 it is today: $1 at night, rising to $1.50 as day breaks, and peaking at $2 during weekday rush hours. Buses are always free, because the time saved when passengers aren’t fumbling for change more than makes up for the lost fare revenue. Komanoff’s plan also imposes a 33 percent surcharge on every taxi ride, 10 percent of which would go to the cab driver and the rest to the city.

Komanoff’s plan is vastly more sophisticated than a simple bridge toll. Instead of merely punishing drivers, he has built a delicate system of incentives and revenue streams. Just as a musical fugue weaves several melodic lines into a complex yet harmonious whole, Komanoff’s policy assembles all the various modes of transportation into a coherent, integrated traffic system.

Komanoff’s plan may be ambitious. It may be mathematically correct. But it is unlikely ever to be adopted in the US. Cities like Stockholm and London have implemented so-called congestion pricing plans—systems that charge drivers different rates at different times—but Americans see street tolls as a new tax, and one that benefits relatively affluent city dwellers at the expense of hard-pressed suburban commuters. And the plan would require new toll plazas or license-plate-monitoring cameras, which many see as an invasion of privacy. (In 2008, a congestion-pricing plan proposed by New York mayor Michael Bloomberg was soundly rejected by the state legislature.)

But Komanoff’s followers can’t help but root for him. “This really could happen,” insists conservative analyst Reihan Salam, a longtime advocate of congestion pricing. Salam points out that Bloomberg’s plan was seen as pure punishment. Komanoff’s proposal would balance the fees with real benefits for New York’s subway and bus riders. “This makes New York more livable,” Salam says.

Still, for all of its sophistication, Komanoff’s plan remains imperfect. Komanoff himself admits that an ideal system would track drivers wherever they went, charging by the mile and the minute, with rates determined by location. He calls this “the holy grail of congestion pricing.”

Someday, technology will probably help fulfill this promise. Skymeter, a Toronto-based company, has developed a GPS-based metering system that can track and bill cars in even the densest urban areas. With such a system, Komanoff says, he could adjust congestion prices on a block-by-block basis. Cities could do away with parking meters and simply track how long cars sat at a curb. Insurance premiums could reflect the habits of individual drivers instead of relying on crude proxies like age. Drivers could be rewarded for taking the roads less traveled—not having to pay, and sometimes even getting paid, if they chose to commute on less congested routes on particularly busy days. “It’s going to happen,” Komanoff says. “Cities will charge per mile or per minute according to your exact location and the type of vehicle you’re driving.”

When it happens, Kheel and Komanoff will be lauded for their efforts to give empirical rigor to the fight to decongest cities. The only question is whether it will happen in Kheel’s lifetime—or, for that matter, in Komanoff’s.

lawfin Mar 25, 2011 5:31 PM

Trading Parking Spaces for Bike Lanes and Sidewalks

Bike Lanes, On-Street Parking and Business — A Study of Bloor Street in Toronto’s Annex Neighbourhood was recently published by Totonto’s Clean Air Partnership. The study set out to understand and estimate the importance of onstreet parking to business on Bloor Street in the Annex neighbourhood of Toronto.

From the study:

The spending habits of cyclists and pedestrians, their relatively high travel mode share, and the minimal impact on parking all demonstrate that merchants in this area are unlikely to be negatively affected by reallocating on‐street parking space to a bike lane. On the contrary, this change will likely increase commercial activity.

It is recommended that this type of study be replicated on other commercial streets where there is concern about reducing parking to accommodate wider sidewalks or bicycle lanes. Specifically, the researchers also recommend that the City of Toronto use this study to look more closely at the future of Bloor Street as a candidate for a cross‐town bikeway.

In 2006, Transportation Alternatives published a similar study that examined the travel, shopping and spending patterns of visitors, residents and workers on Prince Street, in the historic SoHo neighborhood of Manhattan. Its findings were similar:

The major implication of the study is that Prince Street would be improved for visitors, residents and workers through an expansion of the space allocated to pedestrians. Doing so would relieve that current overcrowding on the sidewalks. Merchants would benefit as those who patronize the neighborhood’s stores and restaurants would come more often, drawn by the reduced crowding on sidewalks. This increased patronage would offset by a five to one ratio any lost retail sales from those not coming due to reduced parking spaces.

We need more studies like these. Too often merchants quickly rally against reduced parking based upon the assumption that it will negatively affect business, without first considering the potential increase in business that can be brought on by improved pedestrian and bicycling facilities.

lawfin Mar 25, 2011 5:51 PM

Metro to lure bike-to-rail commuters
By Ann Scott Tyson, Sunday, March 20, 9:25 PM

With packs on their backs, reflective neon straps around their ankles and sometimes even headlamps, they are the proud few who brave traffic, rainstorms and thieves to bicycle to Metrorail stations.

Bike-to-rail commuters represent 0.7 percent of Metrorail riders — compared with about 40 percent who drive, 33 percent who walk and 22 percent who take the bus to stations.

But Metro’s long-range planners, desperate to avoid having to build 30,000 to 40,000 expensive parking spaces at stations to meet the projected surge in ridership over the next 20 years, have launched an initiative to quintuple the number of cyclists.

“It’s very much strategic for us to put a really big focus on bicycle parking,” said Kristin Haldeman, Metro’s manager of access planning. 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, she said.

Bike riders say they are motivated to mount up each day by necessity, a desire to save time and money, or, in the case of Ryan Buchholz, guilt.

“I was telling my patients they had to exercise a half-hour a day,” said Buchholz, 36, a physician who rides from his home in Falls Church to the East Falls Church Station.

The father of two decided a year ago that biking to Metro was the easiest way to fit a workout into his hectic day.

More than 90 cyclists park and ride each weekday morning at East Falls Church, which has the highest number of bike-to-rail commuters of Metro’s 86 rail stations.

The Medical Center Station in Bethesda attracts the most bike riders in Maryland and is the top station in the transit system in the percentage of peak-period riders who cycle to the station — 7.1 percent.

Harley Frazis, 53, hops on a hybrid mountain/touring bike at his Bethesda condominium each morning to shave five minutes off his commute to the Medical Center Station. Frazis, a research economist at the Bureau of Labor, is a die-hard bike commuter who said the only thing that deters him is ice on the path.

“If there’s intermittent rain, I’ll sweat it out,” he said.

In the District, the Woodley Park-Zoo/Adams Morgan Station is the most popular with cyclists, drawing 61 during weekday morning peak periods.

Strapping on her helmet for a seven-minute ride from the station to her home in Mount Pleasant, Catherine Harrington said she bikes because there is no other convenient mode of transportation to reach the Red Line, which she takes to her job at the Women’s Learning Partnership in Bethesda.

“It’s a 25-minute walk,” she said, so she bikes in order to sleep 15 minutes later in the morning.

Though their reasons for biking are different, Buchholz, Frazis and Harrington have all experienced what surveys show are the biggest frustrations of the pedaling crowd: Traffic dangers and theft.

Buchholz painfully recalled the day he had to ride home standing up after his bike seat was snatched. Frazis had two bikes stolen before he replaced his cable lock with a U-shaped metal bar lock. Harrington’s last bike was stolen when she was living in New York City — so to discourage thieves, she rides a battered Peugeot bought on Craigslist.

All three voiced a strong interest in seeing more bike lanes and paths to make commuting safer.

Washington is “really lacking with the bike lanes,” especially compared with New York, Harrington said.

To address those challenges and lure more cyclists, Metro plans to invest more than $11 million in projects to improve bicycle and pedestrian access to its rail stations through 2017.

Of that, $3 million would go toward replacing rapidly deteriorating bicycle racks and lockers. Metro plans to spend $8 million on expanding bicycle parking and improving connections to stations from communities.

Metro has 1,700 free racks, which can hold two bicycles each, and 1,270 key-operated lockers that rent for $200 a year. New racks are planned for high-ridership stations such as East Falls Church, Vienna, Braddock Road, Bethesda, Silver Spring, West Hyattsville, and Columbia Heights.

Metro also plans to try bike storage at the College Park station and will put in a new bike path at Vienna, said Nat Bottigheimer, director of Metro’s Office of Long Range Planning. The College Park trial facility will consist of an enclosed room — secured with bars and monitored by closed-circuit video — with spaces for 80 bikes. Riders will use a SmarTrip card to access the storage area, he said.

Bottigheimer, an avid biker, said cycling to Metro offers many benefits. “It gives you a view of the city,” he said, and besides, “it’s energetic, fun and youthful.”

M II A II R II K Mar 29, 2011 2:52 PM

A National Bike Map



The graphic shows the ACS bicycle commuter mode share and the number of female and male bike commuters in each state. The ratio of female to male bicyclists is considered an important indicator of bicycle-friendliness. In several of the cities with the highest bicycle mode share in Europe, female bicyclists outnumber male bicyclists. That is not the case in any state or large city in the US.

The graphic also highlights the 10 cities with the largest bicycle mode share (among the largest 70 US cities) and indicates their Bicycle Friendly Community (BFC) status. At the bottom of the visual, Kory graphs the per capita and total federal spending on bicycle and pedestrian projects since 1990.


Bike Map:

M II A II R II K Mar 31, 2011 8:17 PM

Promoting Bicycle Lanes as if They Were on the Ballot


Struggling to control the controversy over one of its signature transportation policies, the Bloomberg administration is embarking on an unusual kind of political campaign: convincing New Yorkers that bicycle lanes are good for them. In a calculated shift, City Hall has turned to its savviest political strategist, Deputy Mayor Howard Wolfson, to lead a stepped-up public-relations blitz aimed at strengthening support for the lanes and minimizing political fallout for Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg.

It is rare for a deputy mayor to step directly into a municipal dispute over street space. But aides to Mr. Bloomberg say they have been increasingly frustrated in recent weeks over a spate of negative publicity for the bicycle lanes, which have provoked a lawsuit accusing the city of misrepresenting traffic data and widespread criticism for Janette Sadik-Khan, the transportation commissioner.

The city, the aides concluded, had not been aggressive enough in making its case. “We allowed the other side to frame this debate,” Mr. Wolfson said in an interview. “That’s really the bottom line: our voice was missing here.” Last week, Mr. Wolfson, a former adviser to Hillary Rodham Clinton’s presidential campaign, stepped in to fill that void. He composed a communiqué that laid out a sober, data-driven argument in favor of the lanes — the type of bullet-pointed memo more familiar to political spin shops than public agencies — and posted it on the mayor’s Web site.


fflint Mar 31, 2011 10:49 PM

^The New York Times has been partisan in the "controversy" and has helped "frame" bicycle infrastructure in a negative way because they curry favor with reactionaries like Schumer who want limousine lanes for their rich and powerful cabal instead of bike lanes for the people.

M II A II R II K Apr 5, 2011 3:23 PM

How Ad Dollars Help Explain the Media’s Bike Backlash

April 4, 2011

By Catherine Lutz and Anne Lutz Fernandez

Read More:


The media loves drama, of course. As your high school English teacher explained it, if Hamlet doesn’t get pissed about his dad’s murder or if Atticus Finch doesn’t step up to defend a black man falsely accused — that is, if somebody doesn’t say no, you’ve got no story. So the vociferous opposition of a handful of people to a handful of bike lane projects in New York City has been dramatized, through a series of news stories and op-eds, into a full-blown citizens’ backlash against the complete streets movement.

The narrative potential of controversy, though, cannot fully explain the glaring disconnect between polls showing that most residents support bike lanes and press portrayals of the backlash as widespread. Advocate Aaron Naparstek, who knows more about the city’s transportation politics than most anyone, has posited one theory: that Bloomberg’s DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, the woman behind many of the positive changes to New York City streets in recent years, has infuriated members of the political class — powerful New Yorkers who, unlike most, rely on cars as transportation.

But as always, it also makes sense to follow the money. In 2010 alone, the automotive sector spent $13 billion on advertising, more than any other industry including telecom, and accounting for one out of every ten dollars doled out by advertisers in the U.S. Local media outlets are especially dependent on auto manufacturers and dealers for advertising revenue. At the same time, traditional news media continue to lose audience, and even while other types of media benefit from a rebound in ad spending, newspapers suffer persistent drops in ad revenues, plunging last year to a quarter-century low.

It’s hard not to notice that as papers like the New York Times have shrunk, cutting costs by shedding sections, plump Automotive sections hang tight and become even more critical to newspaper survival. Now, of course, this doesn’t necessarily mean that the Times, the New York Post, or other papers act unethically in how they cover transportation issues, including bike lane brouhahas.


fflint Apr 5, 2011 5:29 PM

^Those handful of rich, powerful elitists in New York fighting for the destruction of bike lanes and for the restoration of limousine lanes have spun their selfishness into a "story" in the biased New York Times in no small part because the rich anti-bike elitists have hired a New York PR firm and a white shoe law firm.

It's The Luxury City v. the Livable City. We saw the same thing in SF when all new bike improvements were outlawed for several years while the rich elite and their petroleum-pimping lackeys had their days--er, years--in court. The limousine brigade eventually lost, to the benefit of tens of thousands of local bike commuters. But then we didn't have a Senator using his power and privilege in the way Schumer is doing.

M II A II R II K Apr 5, 2011 6:13 PM

They probably would go after the new BRT lanes in NYC next.

Wizened Variations Apr 6, 2011 5:24 PM

I suspected as much, but, still stunning, MIIAIIRIIK
I suspect this this is not confined to NYC.

The continued concentration of capital has created a true aristocracy in the US, and this group does not need public transportation, bike lanes, etc. H*ll, they ride bikes they take on the back of their cars out into the country, or ride along manicured bike lanes in the upper end suburbs.

Even small metropolitan areas like Denver have much of this, just on a smaller, more 'provincial' scale. Light rail, heavy rail, and, buses are for 'students' (their kids go to upper buck colleges), blue collar help, IDEALISTS, and mean people that might hurt them. ((So, raise the speed limits parallel to a productive light rail, and let those south of Bowles and west of the S. Platte River get to work 5 minutes quicker by car! (an upper middle to lower upper middle class area in the southwestern Denver area).

I am sure if one looks at the politics and the demographics of the upper middle and lower upper classes in Minneapolis, Phoenix, Dallas, Houston, St. Louis, Austin, Seattle, and, others, a similiar pattern will emerge. Calling it economic apartheid, or class stratification does not alter the reality that when 'Green' changes are instituted that might increase mingling with the unwashed, most of the upper 1-5% of the US will fight the change politically (the cost of running for City Council in a city like Denver is somewhere around $7.50. A campaign even at that level could over $100k. And that's just Denver!)

The only way to get public transportation infrastructure built or bike lanes put in, etc., increasingly is to make it profitable to those that control the money.. While this is a reflection of money and power that is eons old, when real change is needed, little change occurrs until the 'bitter end' and what is built itends to be 'mediocre' and marginally functional.

Oh yes, add the oil companies, the state departments of transportation, the big box stores and the opposition to efficient public and personal transportation becomes intense.

We do live in strange times.

M II A II R II K Apr 7, 2011 2:08 PM

New Haven Releases Smart Cycling Handbook


The City of New Haven, Conn. released a Smart Cycling Handbook in order to ensure road safety and traffic education for all commuters. This is a new effort by the city to become a bike-friendly community in light of a growing bicycle culture. The handbook is meant to provide guidelines to cyclists, who, according to the Mayor’s Message, have as many rights and obligations to the road as car drivers.

- “When we asked for community members to help put a biking book together, we received a tremendous amount of support,” Travers told TheCityFix in an email. “The City has an excellent relationship with the cycling community. What we have created in New Haven has been a clear result of the communication between both parties. It has been a partnership in the truest sense of the word.”

- The handbook, in part, will serve the cycling community as an instructional set of guidelines, providing tips on bike maintenance, introducing parks and trails, illustrating proper ways to signal turns, and offering recommendations for equipment. The handbook will also reinforce rights of sharing road space to ensure safety, such as the “3-foot rule,” which requires motorists to provide cyclists three feet of space on either side of the road, and following “sharrows,” or arrows marking a multi-purpose road to indicate the right of cyclists to take up the entire lane.

- Part of the Smart Cycling initiative includes a pledge that encourages cyclists to follow rules like avoiding sidewalks and using cell phone while cycling. Both efforts are a part of New Haven’s Street Smarts campaign, an attempt to educate and encourage the community to share the road safely and patiently. Although the handbook is specific to New Haven and Connecticut when it comes to cycling laws and trail maps, guidelines regarding cyclists’ responsibilities and bike maintenance can be applied to other cities.


Handbook PDF:

M II A II R II K Apr 7, 2011 4:43 PM

What London’s Cycle Hire Scheme Got Right (And What it Got Wrong)

Apr 6th, 2011

By Joe Peach


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London’s cycle hire scheme got some international press recently when Arnold Schwarzenegger – former Governor of California – went for a spin with the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson. Later tweeting that he ‘loved riding the Boris bikes’, Mr Schwarzenegger has joined the not-so-elite fan club of London’s cycle hire – a scheme so successful its users have cycled 10 million kilometres in six months (that’s the equivalent of 13 trips to the moon and back, for those of you into factoids). For London – a city used to public transport failures – this is a strange position to be in. So what did the city do to turn its cycle hire scheme into such a success?


1. Price

Whilst the pricing system for London’s cycle hire varies depending on usage, used wisely it is the cheapest transport option by a long shot. Annual membership comes in at £45 pounds, and if you only use the bikes for trips of 30 minutes or less, that’s all you’ll pay all year. Compared to around £14 for unlimited daily travel in the city, the motivation is clear.....

2. Starting BIG

Launch day saw nearly 5,000 bicycles and 316 docking stations activated on London’s streets. Since then, numbers have climbed even further, with over 400 functional docking stations throughout London’s Zone 1 – an area of around 45 square kilometres. By launching in such large numbers London has been able to avoid the fate of Melbourne’s cycle hire scheme.....

3. Flexible growth

Soon after the scheme’s launch I said ‘the frequency of docking points in central London needs to be increased, making the scheme more convenient, practical and attractive for short journeys in the city‘. London must be listening, as that is exactly what’s happened. New docking stations have been introduced throughout the city – including an enormous 124-space dock at Waterloo Station – and existing docks have been extended to meet demand....

4. Treating it as an extension of the public transport system

Whilst my suggestions for the scheme’s growth have materialised, one of my initial criticisms was very wrong. The London cycle hire bicycles are not fitted with a lock, meaning the only way to securely leave your bicycle is to drop it off at your nearest docking station. Based on this, I concluded that ‘these bikes are not as useful as they could have been‘, which I now realise is the opposite of the truth.....


1. Barclays Cycle Hire

One of Britain’s biggest banks gave London a couple of million pounds, and now every cycle hire bike and cycle superhighway in the city is emblazoned with its name and logo. Whilst the ethical questions alone could be the topic of another post, it simply isn’t a good name. My personal opinions aside, who in London has yet to hear a friend or colleague saying ‘I cycled to work this morning on the Barclays Cycle Hire’? We’re an inventive bunch in this city, and if you give something a stupid name, we will simply collectively rename it.....

2. Forgetting about south London

South London often gets left out of exciting developments, and with the cycle hire scheme that hasn’t changed. Whilst Zone 1 falls mainly north of the river, opportunity for further expansion southwards seems obvious considering its population density and relatively flat terrain.....

3. No Oyster integration

London’s wildly popular electronic ticketing system – called ‘Oyster’ – allows entry to all forms of public transport simply by touching the card against a ‘reader’. All forms except the cycle hire, that is. Had London integrated the Oyster card, a significant barrier to entry would have been removed, allowing the scheme to become even more successful than it already has.....


fflint Apr 7, 2011 6:15 PM

I'm glad London's bikeshare project is succeeding. "Go big" is probably the most critical factor in its success, as going small has brought other cities' projects more lackluster results.

Steely Dan Apr 7, 2011 7:09 PM


Originally Posted by fflint (Post 5232525)
I'm glad London's bikeshare project is succeeding. "Go big" is probably the most critical factor in its success, as going small has brought other cities' projects more lackluster results.

agreed. chicago's system is a joke. 6 stations and 50 bikes? who cares?

M II A II R II K Apr 7, 2011 7:19 PM

Toronto will start soon with 1000 bikes in 80 locations, but probably mostly downtown at first. Sounds like they're starting with a percentage per population as what London started with.

M II A II R II K Apr 8, 2011 3:20 PM

Seoul City to provide cyclists with subsidies


By Kim Rahn

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Citizens cycling to subway stations will receive subsidies as part of Seoul City’s effort to encourage bicycle use. Free bike rentals will also be available by making use of abandoned bicycles. The Seoul Metropolitan Government announced its revised bicycle policy Wednesday to deal with the inconvenience citizens have experienced for the last two years since the city started making a total of 88.3 kilometers of bicycle-only lanes. To boost bike use, the city plans to give about 200-300 won subsidies to people who ride between their homes and subway stations, starting August. Kiosks have been installed at bicycle parking lots near Sindorim Station and Suyu Station for the pilot program.

“Citizens can cycle from home to the station, park there, have the kiosk scan their traffic card, and take the subway to work or school. On their return, they can retrieve the bikes from the kiosk and the subsidy will be credited to their cards. They can use the money later for buying goods or taking public transportation,” a city official said. The service will be expanded to six bike parking lots in Seoul next year. City officials are also talking with nearby metropolitan governments and Korail (Korea Railroad Corp.) to link the service to buses and subway lines going beyond the city border.

Free rental bikes will also be available from the first half of this year. Citizens will be able to use free bikes in their residential areas as well as to and from nearby subway stations, and are required to return them at community centers or stations. “We plan to use abandoned bicycles for the service. We estimate 7,300 bikes are abandoned per year and 800 of them may be eligible for reuse,” the official said.


urbanlife Apr 9, 2011 7:37 PM


Originally Posted by Steely Dan (Post 5232587)
agreed. chicago's system is a joke. 6 stations and 50 bikes? who cares?

Wow, that is all Chicago has?? I think Denver even went bigger than that, I remember seeing those bike rental stations all throughout downtown. I want to say we have a couple here in Portland, but on the flip side we have more than enough bike rental shops all throughout downtown.

awholeparade Apr 9, 2011 7:58 PM


Originally Posted by urbanlife (Post 5234947)
Wow, that is all Chicago has?? I think Denver even went bigger than that, I remember seeing those bike rental stations all throughout downtown. I want to say we have a couple here in Portland, but on the flip side we have more than enough bike rental shops all throughout downtown.

lol, Denver has around 50 stations...not bikes.

M II A II R II K Apr 10, 2011 2:11 PM

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