Saturday, September 6, 2014

If you want your city to replace parking spots with bike lanes, use perspective


montreal protected bike lane story
CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 Joel Mann
One of the biggest challenges of making cities more bike friendly is that most of the road space is already "used up." Adding bike lanes means removing something. That's when a bit of perspective comes in handy.
Convincing your city's decision-makers and other citizens to replace some car infrastructure with bike infrastructure can be a huge challenge. Unfortunately, arguing that shifting more people to bicycling will free up space on the roads and reduce congestion isn't always effective. So, how have other cities succeeded in breaking through the anti-bike barrier?
Montreal city planners have one tip. Back in 2005, when they were working on a downtown bike project that has helped make Montreal one of the better North American cities for bicyclists, they wanted to take out 300 parking spaces. Anyone who has played this game for, I don't know, 5 days, knows that requesting removal of parking spaces is a good way to get yourself stoned by the locals. Trying to find a way around a public stoning while still requesting that 300 parking spaces be turned into bike lanes, the planners decided to put things into perspective.
Payton Chung/CC BY 2.0
The planners counted up all of the parking spaces within 200 meters of the project. They came to a total of 11,000. Of course, 300 compared to 11,000 doesn't sound like much, and that leaves a full 10,700.
Put in other terms, it's just ~2.7% of the parking spaces in the area.
"The effect on the debate was a surprise," said Jean-Francois Pronovost of Vélo Québec. "No one estimated that there was that number of car parking [spaces] available."
There's probably some kind of natural law explaining this, but I'm sure humans have a tendency to underestimate the number of parking spaces in any given area. In actuality, our cities are flooded with parking spaces. Many places are designed to accommodate Black Friday crowds, even required to do so by local zoning laws. But when we can't find parking for 10 seconds, we get the idea that there isn't much parking in the area.
If you're trying to bring some sanity back to your city's transportation system and you're tackling a tough problem like removing hundreds of parking spaces, try using a bit of perspective. You can make numbers that might seem big without context seem very small in context. Make it seem downright absurd to fight against something like a shift from 11,000 parking spaces to 10,700. Slip your tempting (and genuinely helpful) bike project in by understanding how humans think about things and how to make a benign project actually appear benign.
I'm sure there are other good ways to add perspective about such a project as well. Chime in with more tips if you have them. Another idea I love is using piled up snow on the roadway "as tracing paper" to identify areas of the roadway that are really not needed and could be turned over to bikers and pedestrians.
Via Planetizen

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Helmet Cam Video raises VT bike law question

From the Burlington Free Press

An encounter on a dark road in East Montpelier in late July quickly became an example of the kinds of conflicts that can easily arise between motorists and cyclists in Vermont.
Carl Etnier biked in the center of the lane on U.S. 2 in the post-sunset hours of July 25. The road narrows at a certain point during his 10-mile ride from his job at Goddard College to his home in East Montpelier, and he later said the lane was too narrow for a car to pass him safely. He relied on his four-LED flashing red light and reflectors to make him visible.
Two men in a car came upon Etnier on the two-lane road, which has a speed limit of 50 mph, and began to follow Etnier closely, yelling at him and honking the horn. Etnier quickly turned on the camera he keeps attached to his bicycle helmet to capture any incidents that unfold, he told the Burlington Free Press.
"Get out of the road!" one man yelled at Etnier from the car, as shown in the video. "What the hell is wrong with you?"
Two cars went around Etnier and the car behind him, passing on the other side of the road.
Etnier eventually pulled to the side of the road. The car stopped next to him.
"Are you crazy?" the passenger in the car said while cursing. The man yelled that the vehicle almost "killed you," adding, he and the driver "should" have killed him.
Etnier responded, "What's your name?" as the situation escalated. He later fired back at the men: "You're on candid camera."
Etnier led the men to the nearby fire station, and he said he had the people on duty at the station call the Vermont State Police to settle the disagreement. The men willingly went along with him.
Etnier eventually received a ticket for failing to ride close enough to the right.
No other citations were given, and the state police did not respond to an email seeking the names of the drivers.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Report Road Rage incidents

Central Vermont cyclist Carl Etnier was bicycling home via Route 2 in East Montpelier on Friday, July 25.  Because this particular stretch of Route 2 has no shoulder, poor sight lines, and a narrow travel lane, Carl did the safe thing he has been trained to do:  he moved to the left and "took the lane," signaling to motorists behind him that there was not room to occupy the lane beside him.  Motorists who wished to pass Carl needed to cross the center line at a time when it was safe to do so.  One motorist became enraged at the sight of Carl in the middle of the lane.  The driver and his passenger unloaded a string of profanities and screamed at Carl:  "We should have f*ing killed you."  Carl's helmet-mounted video captures the images and the words as the sickening abuse unfolds over half a mile of travel. Click here to see this video: 

As the motorist's rage escalated, Carl took refuge at a firehouse nearby and asked for law enforcement. When Vermont State Police arrived, they ticketed Carl for not riding on the right.  The motorist was not penalized, although the motorist clearly violated the Safe Passing law.  Carl is consulting with the VBPC and others regarding how he should proceed.  He is working to arrange a time later this month to show his video to law enforcement in the hope that the ticket he was issued will be torn up and the motorist will be cited.  If you wish to email Carl about his experience, his address is

What happened to Carl is, unfortunately, much too common.  This incident points out why bicycle advocacy is so important and why it's essential for all victims to report incidents of harassment to law enforcement and local elected officials.  The victim is viewed as a credible witness in a court of law.  You don't need a helmet-mounted camera to prove it.  Please report!

Nancy Schulz
Executive Director
VT Bicycle & Pedestrian Coalition
PO Box 1234 
Montpelier, VT 05601

Friday, July 25, 2014

Kid's Mountain biking Event Series in Hubbard Park coming up!!

It's a first! Don't miss out on the fun.

The Montpelier Area Mountain Bike Association Presents
 Sunday, August 3rd
 Sunday, August 24th
 Saturday, September 13th
 Saturday, October 4th

 Children of all ages are welcome to join in the
fun for any and all of these FREE, family-fun
 Volunteers will lead beginner and intermediate
groups starting from the NEW SHELTER at
9:30am and 11:00am on designated routes.
Parents are encouraged to join!
 Trail etiquette, safe riding techniques and
other educational components will precede
and be integrated into each ride.
 Post and pre-ride snacks are generously
provided thanks to Hunger Mountain Coop!
NOTICE: Some of the trails utilized for this event are
not normally open to bikers. Please be mindful of trail
designations and respect all other park users, wildlife
and the natural environment.
Complete information regarding the event and route
maps can be found at
MAMBA would like to thank the Montpelier Parks Commission for permission to hold this special event series!

Monday, July 14, 2014

First public work session leading towardspedestrian and bicycle master plan for Montpelier

Hello Local Cyclists and Advocates,

We are well underway with the bike and pedestrian master plan process for Montpelier. A public work session this Thursday will focus on identifying the existing conditions (and problems) for cycling and walking here.  More info below.

Bill Merrylees, Montpelier Bike Advisory Committee, 522-4913 

Montpelier is sponsoring the first of several public work sessions leading towards the completion of a pedestrian and bicycle master plan for the City.
July 17, 6:30 PM  City Hall
Come learn about existing walking and bicycling conditions in the City, talk about the issues and let the City know what you think the pedestrian and bicycle plan should address or include.
 To view an existing conditions report about walking and bicycling in Montpelier, please visit the Broadreach Planning & Design website: and go to Projects/Currentand then Montpelier in Motion Information will be available after July 14, 2014.

To leave comments about the project, please email Broadreach Planning & Design

Saturday, July 12, 2014

How Bicycles Bring Business

How Bicycles Bring Business
April 29, 2013

Pat Brown was just hoping to hang on in a tough economy. When she relocated her art gallery in 2008, it was the rock-bottom rent that drew her to a still struggling strip of downtown Memphis, TN. “We were just trying to survive,” she said.
Brown was betting on a small core of community members determined to transform Broad Avenue from a fast-moving thoroughfare, where traffic whizzed past boarded-up storefronts at 50 mph (80 km/h), into a bustling arts district. Little did she know that they would hit the jackpot with bicycling.
Shortly after Brown opened T Clifton Gallery, Sarah Newstok walked in. The local nonprofit Newstok led, Livable Memphis, had a vision for Broad Avenue, too. They wanted to build a protected bike lane that would pass right by Brown’s door, creating a vital connection between a popular multi-use trail and the city’s largest park. “We’re a retail business, so any time there’s a concept to bring additional traffic directly by your storefront, it’s very easy to say ‘yes,’” Brown recalled with a laugh.
In 2010, after garnering support from city officials and surrounding businesses, Livable Memphis and the Broad Avenue Arts District rolled out the idea in a dramatic way. They painted temporary bike lanes and crosswalks and invited the community to “A New Face for an Old Broad,” a celebration, complete with live music, street vendors and a kids’ bike parade down the freshly striped cycle track.
“Until then, the area had been doing art walks once a year and, at best, those were bringing in 1,000 people,” Brown said. “Our goal for this day-and-a-half event, where the street itself would be a sort of theatrical performance, was maybe 5,000 people. We had 15,000 show up. The energy level was incredible. It was a huge tipping point for us – it changed the trajectory of the revitalization efforts.”
The energy didn’t wane once the event was over and bicyclists started taking advantage of the temporary lanes. Since then, the promise of permanent facilities has drawn more than $6 million in private investment. More than 15 new businesses have opened and nearly 30 properties have been renovated. Traffic has slowed, new customers are arriving on two wheels and, suddenly the rock-bottom neighborhood is one of the hottest spots in town.
Memphis isn’t the only city where bicycling is bringing business. Increasingly leaders in the public and private sector are realizing that being bike-friendly makes good business sense, boosting the bottom line and promoting community-wide economic development. Bicycling in the United States is a $6 billion national industry and one study estimates that the spillover effects of recreational bicycling alone could be as large as $133 billion. But that’s just the beginning, barely scratching the surface of the economic impact of transportation bicycling in communities across North America.
Uncovering the Spending Power of Customers on Bicycles
Tom Birchard’s business sits at the intersection of two busy bike routes in the city that never sleeps. During the morning and evening commute, people pour past his restaurant, Veselka, in New York City, NY.
“It’s a steady stream of cyclists coming down the Second Avenue bike lane heading for the bridges to Brooklyn or downtown,” he said. “And the Ninth Street lane is the same going east-west – particularly in the morning.”
For Birchard, those bike lanes offer a tempting preview for potential customers. Passersby aren’t speeding by at 40 miles per hour; they’re traveling at a pace where they can be enticed by the sight and scent of fresh pierogies on the plates of patrons in the sidewalk café. “For me,” Birchard said, “bikes mean business.”
In the minds of many business owners, though, there’s still a direct correlation between cars and customers. Too often, the opposition to bicycle infrastructure is led by retailers who believe ample car parking space is critical to their customer base. But that belief could be depriving businesses of their best potential patrons: cyclists.
Just this summer, the advocacy group Transportation Alternatives did a travel study in Birchard’s neighborhood, the Lower East Side. They found that only a tiny fraction – just four percent – of customers arrived by car. In contrast, 23 percent arrived by bike. A study of travel patterns in the city center of Utrecht in the Netherlands showed similar results: customers on bikes significantly outnumbered those in cars (26 versus 17 percent). Even individual businesses are taking stock of how customers get to their door. The East End Food Co-Op in Vancouver, BC, conducted a survey that showed that 24 percent of its patrons usually pedaled to the store – more than the number of people who drove.
That’s good news, because a growing body of research shows that people who arrive on two wheels have a bigger impact on the bottom line, too. Recent research out of Portland, OR, showed that cycling customers spent more per month ($75.66) than their car-driving counterparts ($68.56) at bars, restaurants and convenience stores. A 2009 study of Bloor Street in Toronto, ON, found that customers who arrive by foot and bicycle visit the most often and spend the most money per month.
Why do people who arrive on bicycles spend more money? Researchers in Muenster, Germany, suggest that because bicyclists buy smaller quantities and thus shop more frequently, they’re “exposed more often to temptation” – more likely to get extra items that aren’t on the shopping list. So it’s not surprising that a survey of 1,200 consumers in Bern, Switzerland, found that businesses made more profit per square meter of bike parking ($9,900 per year) than car parking ($8,800).
For Birchard getting more bike parking is more than an amenity for bicyclists – it’s a business imperative. “Across the street from me, the coffee shop put in a bike corral, and it’s always full,” he said. “We need many, many more.”
How Businesses Are Cashing In on Bicycles
Jeff Motch wasn’t trying to cater to fellow bike riders when he put a bike in the logo of his business, the Blind Lady Ale House. But as soon as he opened his restaurant in San Diego, CA, his clientele started asking: So what’s the connection to biking?
“Bicycle people were attracted to our place, even though it wasn’t intentional,” Motch said of the logo. “And when you tap into a small, core group like that, word spreads very quickly.”
Motch started offering a 10 percent discount for anyone who arrived by bike and built a large and loyal fan base faster than you can brew a batch of pale ale. On Sunday mornings, Blind Lady is the meeting spot for social rides, like the annual Growler Run, which takes participants to a local brewery. Now, on any given weekend, Motch’s place is packed – and a sizable percentage of patrons are cyclists. “I have 20 or 30 bikes outside my place on a Friday night,” he said.
Increasingly, businesses across the country are trying to tap into the spending power of cyclists. In 2008, the League of American Bicyclists launched its Bicycle Friendly Business (BFB) program, setting clear criteria for how employers can encourage cycling among their staff and customers and recognizing companies at the Bronze, Silver, Gold or Platinum level for their achievements. From small coffee shops to major corporations, a staggering 480 businesses in the US have earned a BFB designation. Hundreds more have applied.
“Even we couldn’t have expected the incredible interest and buy-in we’ve seen in just a few short years,” says Andy Clarke, president of the League of American Bicyclists. “Some of the most iconic companies in the country – Facebook, Apple, and General Mills, to name a few – are realizing bikes can boost their bottom line.”
Standing Stone Brewery, in Ashland, OR, is just one of the hundreds of BFBs that have made small bike investments and seen big payoffs. “Working with the City of Ashland to trade a car parking space for bike parking spaces has definitely led to more business,” says manager Danielle Amarotico. “While we paid to fabricate and install the rack, it’s set the stage for customers to realize that we’re bike-friendly and have gone the extra mile to promote cycling in our community.”
Because that rack sits right in front of the restaurant, it’s become a central hub for community bike parking in all of downtown. And that external welcome is just the beginning. Standing Stone also buys a new bike for all of its employees and financially supports local cycling events. “That exposure brings large numbers of locals and visitors in our doors,” Amarotico added.
For Motch, though, it isn’t just about revenue. It’s about making his work meaningful. “What’s been so awesome for us is [being bike-friendly] brings us the kind of person we want coming through our door,” he says. “People who are active – not just active in their lifestyle, but active in their community.”
That sense of engagement has become a draw for new businesses in bicycle-friendly areas. “I never thought I’d leave San Francisco to move back to my hometown; it’s too car-centric for my taste,” said April Economides, the owner of Green Octopus Consulting. “But mine is just one of 25 businesses that have moved to, opened, or expanded in Long Beach in the past three years because of the city’s bicycling progress.”