It’s Not About Adding Bike Lanes. It’s About Taking Away from the Car

By Dom Nozzi

For most all bicycling advocates, there is a single-minded tactic for increasing the number of bicyclists: Provide bike lanes, bike paths and bike parking. However, in my career as a transportation planner, I have come to realize that to meaningfully increase the number of bicyclists, adding new facilities for bicycling (or for pedestrians or transit users, for that matter), the community must make driving and parking cars significantly more inconvenient and costly.bike lane in suburbs How is this done? Here are some excellent tools: * Road diets (where road travel lanes are removed – going from four lanes to three is the most common diet). * Employing low-speed street design (such as on-street parking, bulb-outs, tight turning radii, and other “traffic calming” tactics). * Mixing homes with retail and jobs. * Providing more in-town housing (such as “granny flats”). * Shrinking the size of parking lots. * Increasing the gas tax. * Installing more on-street car parking. * Charging market-based prices for the use of roads and parking. * Eliminating “minimum parking requirements” in the zoning code (ie, regulations that require the installation of at least “X” amount of car parking for particular developments – parking MAXIMUMS are far preferable). * Requiring buildings to be pulled up to the street so that there is no car parking between the front of the building and the street. Without taking steps such as these, installing bike lanes, off-street bike paths, bike parking, showers at work, etc., will have very little impact on recruiting new bicyclists. Without these tools, distances are too excessive for convenient bicycle travel, costs are too low for driving a car, and there is too much of a difference in speed between cars and bicyclists. With regard to convenience, because cars consume so much more space (on average, about 17 times more space is needed for a person in a car than a person in a chair), motorists need to feel inconvenienced by street and parking dimensions if we are designing a community for the pleasure of humans rather than cars. Urban designers call this pleasant, relatively intimate spacing as “human scale” design. I should note that one of the most effective ways to recruit new bicyclists is to create the conditions that deliver large numbers of bicyclists in the community. This is because when a lot of community residents are bicycling, many non-bicyclists are inspired to try bicycling. With a lot of people bicycling, it seems much more hip, enjoyably sociable, and safe to ride a bicycle. And as has been shown in studies, bicycling safety dramatically improves due to safety in numbers. The more bicyclists are bicycling, the safer bicycling becomes. Given this, once a threshold is reached with regard to the number of bicyclists, community bicycling can reach a self-perpetuating virtuous cycle where the existence of a large number of bicyclists recruits even more bicyclists. We too often recommend the bike lanes, paths, and bike parking when asked how to induce lots of new bicyclists. When very few new bicyclists are then recruited (due to the enormous obstacles I describe above), the Sprawl Lobby will disparagingly point out how wasteful it was to install bike facilities, and insist that we “get real” by getting back to the program of car-happy road widening. I think many of us know there are more effective tactics, such as those I mention above, but when we only have a hammer, all our problems look like nails. It is time to start finding ways to introduce the effective tools to grow the number of bicyclists. _________________________________________________ Visit my urban design website read more about what I have to say on those topics. You can also schedule me to give a speech in your community about transportation and congestion, land use development and sprawl, and improving quality of life. Visit: www.walkablestreets.wordpress.com Or email me at: dom[AT]walkablestreets.com 50 Years Memoir CoverMy memoir can be purchased here: Paperback = http://goo.gl/9S2Uab Hardcover =  http://goo.gl/S5ldyF My book, The Car is the Enemy of the City (WalkableStreets, 2010), can be purchased here: http://www.lulu.com/product/paperback/the-car-is-the-enemy-of-the-city/10905607 My book, Road to Ruin, can be purchased here: http://www.amazon.com/Road-Ruin-Introduction-Sprawl-Cure/dp/0275981290 My Adventures blog http://domnozziadventures.wordpress.com/ Run for Your Life! Dom’s Dangerous Opinions blog http://domdangerous.wordpress.com/ My Town & Transportation Planning website http://walkablestreets.wordpress.com/ My Plan B blog https://domz60.wordpress.com/ My Facebook profile http://www.facebook.com/dom.nozzi My YouTube video library http://www.youtube.com/user/dnozzi My Picasa Photo library https://picasaweb.google.com/105049746337657914534 My Author spotlight http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/domatwalkablestreetsdotcom

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1 Comment

Filed under Bicycling, Road Diet, Sprawl, Suburbia, Urban Design

One response to “It’s Not About Adding Bike Lanes. It’s About Taking Away from the Car

  1. All of the points above are +1. There are a few things I like to restate in a more positive – and in a way many people see it – more accurate way. 😉

    Driver’s must take accountability…

    “…the community must make driving and parking cars significantly more inconvenient and costly.”

    or simply, drivers…

    “…must actually cover their driving and parking costs without taking from the general budget.”

    Stop forcing developers to build against people…

    “Eliminating “minimum parking requirements” in the zoning code (ie, regulations that require the installation of at least “X” amount of car parking for particular developments – parking MAXIMUMS are far preferable).”

    and…

    “…enable developers to build to actual market demands of people. If a property can sell without parking, then that is evident that market demand does NOT dictate parking.”

    …etc., etc. 🙂 The only crux with that later bit, which we’ve run into in Portland. Infill was built without parking, because there is demand for it. But what happened is a mismatch of residents. People that have cars have moved into them and mooch the on street parking that was available to existing residents. Other places, such as some of the parking available units have been purchased by people that have no car. So a focal point on getting buyers with intent aligned before building is also a good idea, or at least having some type of baseline for future buyers. Otherwise even in a progressive city like Portland they’ve backed down on the zoning allowance. 😦

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