Infrastructure planning processes have long been forced to rely on expensive and time-consuming methods of data gathering or, in some cases, anecdotal evidence and hypothetical arguments from both project supporters and opponents. Fortunately, thanks to the increased availability of location data, cities are beginning to add important quantitative measures to their decision-making process, including the opportunity to analyze the conditions before and after a project is installed.
The goal of investing substantially in public transportation infrastructure and complementary transit oriented development (TOD) is to create positive outcomes for communities, including reducing carbon emissions, increasing access to jobs, and reducing reliance on personal vehicles. Two new studies highlight additional impacts of these investments; transit infrastructure leading to increased levels of physical activity and TOD residents forgoing driving for non-commute trips.
The death of a well-known cyclist in Phoenix, Arizona, persuaded the city DOT to scrap changes it had proposed for an essential local street, in favor of protected bike lanes. As the Phoenix New Times reported, the death of a cyclist and downtown ambassador in central Phoenix galvanized supporters to call for protected bike lanes in the area of the crash. The city Street Transportation Department moved away from installing lanes shared by drivers and bicyclists, to painted, buffered bicycle lanes, and, on some blocks, fully protected bike lanes.
The state DOTs in Washington (WSDOT) and Utah (UDOT) recently developed methods to evaluate the comfort, safety, and connectivity of active transportation networks, focusing on bicycle and pedestrian connectivity across highways. The studies leverage newer data sources and GIS techniques to think about how highways can create barriers for nearby communities and how major corridors can be made more permeable.
A new study found little evidence that new bike infrastructure leads to displacement of low-income households or people of color, despite the two sometimes being linked in public discourse. The data reveal some bias toward mostly white neighborhoods in terms of where new facilities are installed, but sharrows, or markings that indicate a preferred bicycle route, account for more of the difference than separated bike lanes.
Although, there are many platforms and companies offering bike-ped travel data acquired through smartphone apps, location-based services, fitness apps, etc., the choice can be very confusing and at times expensive. A recent paper from Texas A&M Transportation Institute discusses the top sources for this travel data. This could help us understand how to solve the complexities of incorporating active transportation modes into traditional planning practices.
Try asking a conventional travel demand model about bicycle trips and you might get anything from an educated guess to an error message. A recent study from Sweden, however, shows what it takes to fix them. The short answer is to make the models much bigger. That leaves an important question: is it worth it?
Can the rise of new personal mobility options lure drivers out of their cars for short trips? Several recent reports say, “yes,” but only if cities resolve both infrastructure and legal issues surrounding their use. At the same time, examination of walking and biking rates from 2001 to 2017 show that better infrastructure and policies are needed to help them supplant driving for short trips. However, cities that have invested in infrastructure have seen a dramatic rise in active transportation.
Smartphones with GPS tracking ability are capable of collecting large amounts of pedestrian and cyclist movement data. But do tracking apps developed largely for athletic or route-planning use capture the big picture of where pedestrians and cyclists travel and what infrastructure they use? The answer, according to a new study in the Journal of Transport & Health, is “no.” These apps miss data from segments of the cycling population, as well as information about the usage of particular kinds of infrastructure by riders with particular characteristics.
We have written before about studies that find bicyclists in the U.S. break the law at about the same rate as motorists, although for different reasons. Now a study in Denmark finds that, although Danish cyclists break the law at a far lower rate than in the U.S., the prevalence of scofflaw behavior varies based on the presence of bicycle infrastructure, size of the city, and size of the intersection.