Rail~Volution Trip Wrap

A fun, if all-too-brief, trip out to Hollywood (that screwy ballyhooey Hollywood) to panel-chat about linking bikesharing and transit. Slides posted here – if you’ve been at another shindig where I’ve chatted on the same subject, you won’t find much new, except for one slide with some summary info on the demographics of Capital Bikeshare users and DC/Arlington bicyclists. That data is pinched from a paper still in draft that will be finalized in the next few weeks for another conference. Interesting stuff, says the guy posting powerpoint slides on a Friday night.

This trip was my first trip with my Brompton, carried in a soft-sided ‘B-Bag’ purchased from my chums at BicycleSPACE. It worked out extremely well for me. Kate Ryan has a rather thorough guide to thinking through your Brompton travel options, to which my only addition would be that for short trips, packing your clothes and shoes into the B-Bag not only saves you having to pack a separate bag, but gives good padding for the bike, and remains well under the 50lb limbo pole. Also, the shoulder strap on the B-Bag lets you bike to/from the airport, if so inclined.

I was traveling on a rather severe budget, so I stayed at a rather cheap motel, located a half-mile or so from the Rail~Volution venue. A happy surprise was finding my lodgings at one end of a bike boulevard, and the venue at the opposite end. Hooray for intersection traffic diverters!

Anyway, go to Rail~Volution if you ever have the chance. And definitely present if given the opportunity – I have presented 3 or 4 times on bikesharing, and the audience discussion was the most sophisticated and engaging that I have experienced to date.

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Changes in Natitude, Changes in Rackitude

As a follow-up to yesterday’s bike counting expedition to Nats Park, I decided to do it again. No, I do not have much of a social life.

So, on the highly trafficked north/northeast side of the stadium, racks remained packed:

However, other racks around the stadium were quite a bit roomier than yesterday, like this one on 1st St:

Or these along South Capitol St, that were teeming full on Wednesday:

I don’t recall this unoccupied and fenced-off Fairfax-Connector-colorway bus yesterday, hording about 30 or so parking slots [I also don’t see a lock on it, so keep your eyes peeled for it on Craigslist]:

Many still took advantage of opportunities to lock to whatever they could find in the vicinity of the N St side.

Like trees. Sigh.

Results!(?)

  Oct  10th Oct 11th Change
Bikeshare 160 170 6.3%
Bike Valet 120* 100* (16.7%)
Bike Racks 250** 150 (40.0%)
Signposts 50 40 (20.0%)
Treeboxes 15 10 (33.3%)
N St Fence 25 8 (68.0%)
Trees 8 5 (37.5%)
Total Counts 628 483 (23.1%)

*Bike Valet “counts” were obtained by me cruising by the lockup, observing that the cage was full on both nights, and on Wednesday, counting the number of bikes visibly propped around the cage, and adding that to the reported capacity of the valet (100). Commenter Corey questions that 100 bike capacity, and Commenter Andrew reports a firsthand number reported Wednesday by one of the staff that is FAR higher (420!). Would love some official confirmation from the Nationals…

**Was that Fairfax-Connecterish bus there on Wednesday? I don’t recall seeing it, but if so, subtract 30 riders from Wednesday’s tally, bringing the decline to 19.2%.

Overall attendance was 1.4% lower, at 44,392, which puts our estimated bike modeshare at around 1.1%. Both assume my much lower estimate for the bike valet, and assume that the bus was not in fact there on Wednesday.

Caveats:

  • I did both counts around 40-45 minutes after first-pitch. While anecdotal reports indicated that on Wednesday, folks defied the DC stereotype of fans being fashionably late to sporting events, I do not know if that held for Game 4.
  • Wednesday’s game started just after 1PM, while yesterday’s began well after 4PM. Tonight’s game (at which I will not be loitering around taking pictures of bicycles and receiving the collective stinkeye of the police) begins after 8:30PM.

Theories for decline in bike modeshare:

  1. Biking While Intoxicated (BWI) – (Yes, it is a crime). Commenter Lauren theorized that fans overall decided not to bike because they wanted to imbibe at the park. I extended that theory to suggest that it could help explain the disproportional CaBi ridership, since bikeshare allows for the possibility of a one-way trip, while a secured bicycle has to either be taken home or left overnight.
  2. The High Cost of Crap Parking – Commenter Jim Moore infers, and Commenter Chris anecdotally attests, that a lack of sufficient quantity and quality of bike parking influences mode choice. Given my own experience elsewhere, I can certainly sign onto that theory, and some season-long data and a travel survey of Nats fans could help shed a whole lot more light on the issue.
  3. What Gets Counted Gets Mounted – A city agency, the Washington Post, and fans of the system itself are excitedly and understandably cheerleading the growing use of CaBi for events. Riding a personally-owned bike (or “unrestricted bikehording system membership,” if you like) gets memorialized for double-digit readership by this guy. Chipping in on something so loudly lauded as successful makes it “Werth” it (apologies). Ask Portlandites about their bike barometer, for instance.
  4. The twilight darkens, the Metro calls – People are less apt to ride a bicycle in the dark. That might help explain the falloff from Wednesday to Thursday. I will not be observing tonight, but the CaBi Corral Count for tonight’s game might provide a useful proxy measure.
  5. DC bicyclists, in the aggregate, are loathsome frontrunners – Considering Wednesday’s shellacking, entirely possible.

Conclusions:

Very few. There’s a big spatial mismatch between bike parking capacity (distributed relatively evenly around the perimeter of the stadium), and demand (N St). Even where capacity is sufficient to give everyone a rack space, the spatial mismatch meant that 13% of riders were locking to something that was not a bike rack (down from 16%). Conversely, CaBi riders are provided certain parking at the high-demand zone of the stadium, and perhaps due in part to some of the theories floated above, CaBi’s share of all bike rides rose from 26% to 35.2%, both far above CaBi’s overall estimated 11% share of all bike rides in DC/Arlington.

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Biking Natitude

[Note: This is the first of two posts on bike modeshare to Nationals Park during the NLDS. A second round of counting, collected on 10/11/12, is summarized and discussed here]

In a futile bid to feel the buzz of playoff excitement occuring two short blocks from my office (well, besides feeling the buzz of that pregame jet flyover rattle my building), I broke away from my cubicle just before 2PM, pulled a CaBi bike, and did a rough count of about how many folks rode a bicycle to Nats Park today.

Bikeshare — We know that just over 100 folks made use of the Capital Bikeshare corral at the stadium around first pitch time. When I biked by, not much was going on, so we’ll assume that was about it. I checked the O’Brien map in the leadup to the game, and it looked like all three nearby bikeshare stations filled with game patrons, so that’s another 55 or so riders. In all, that’s about 160 bikeshare whips, or about 9-10% of the deployed fleet.

Nats Park Bike Valet— I wish I could find a citation, but I am quite sure the Nats Park bike valet holds 100 bikes. As seen below, they were not only filled, but had 20 bikes propped along the walls.

Nats Park Racks – DCist says that there are over 250 rack spaces. Most were filled:

…Though scooters gobbled up a few extra slots…

…And that one lonely predictably sparse rack at the corner of South Capitol and Potomac Ave SE.

So, let’s call the whole thing a wash and say 250 bikes in racks, OK?

The People’s DOT Racks — There was a bunch of unofficial parking.  I counted 25 or so locked to the N St fence…

…Another 15 or so lashed to treeboxes…

…And at least 50 lashed to signposts…

…and 8 sadly locked to trees.

Total — By my count, that’s a total of 628 bikes. Only 530 (or 84%) were accomodated by official parking/storage, including the 26% of all riders who used Capital Bikeshare (above my estimate of CaBi comprising 11% of all ridership in DC/Arlington, it should be noted). Rides/riders I did not or could not account for:

  • Pedicab riders – there were a ton of pedicabs around, and I have no idea how many folks they carried.
  • Plural Bikes – there were a few bikeseats on bikes, I think I spotted a tandem and a cargo bike, and I have no idea how many of those passenger seats were occupied.
  • Off-site parkers – a few riders may have parked in adjacent garages at their offices, or maybe parked a few blocks away for easy escape, I only rode the perimeter of the stadium, and the route to/from New Jersey Ave.

In all, those missing rides are likely negligable, but it makes sense to note them.

Bottom-Line It For Me – With a stadium capacity of around 41,000 45,017, that’s about 1.5% 1.4% of people biking to the game. Following an odd DC trend, this is far lower than our commute-to-work share of 3.3%, and right on par with Washington DC’s estimated bike modeshare for all trips of 1.5%.  Given the unfathomably awesome weather, the fact that transit is beginning the rush-hour meltdown everyone knew was coming even as I type this, and the fact that Nats Park lies right in the heart of Livable Walkable Ward 6, I would have expected more (acknowledging that looking solely at the one transportation mode I obsess about is a distortion). What’s missing?

More than usual appeared to take Capital Bikeshare, and perhaps the promise of a guaranteed “dock” influenced that choice. Some additional bike parking, even as a temporary measure, would at the very least save folks from the slightly shameful act of having to lock up to a tree or fence. Some sheltered bike facilities anywhere in the SE/SW quadrants would boost ridership for everyone. And on and on.

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Helmetry Zealotry

You might have seen that recent NY Times piece, which presented the argument that helmet promotion did more harm than good, as it allegedly discourages bicycling by making it synonymous with catastrophic injury in the minds of the average person. The public health impacts of reduced ridership, according the benefit/cost study cited, far outweigh the benefit of reduced head injuries.

In accordance with the terms of the self-imposed dullification of blogging that I mentioned yesterday, I will not responding to well-intentioned acquaintances trying to draw me into debates on this issue, where terms like “stupidity,” “traumatic brain injury,” “nanny state,” “sin,” “organ donor,” and of course, “Nazis” are already predictably being thrown around. Whenever I get back to actually writing useful content, I will throw together a research roundup, and contribute my misguided two cents. But for the time being, here’s a slideshow of creepy stalker pics I took while my embarrassed wife and I were nursing beers in Amsterdam. [Aside: I hate to romanticize bicycling in Amsterdam, but these shots only captured maybe 2/3rds of the bicyclists who passed by our table in a 30 minute timespan. That’s a LOT of people on bikes].

Questions for future discussion: How do you think these folks perceive their own safety? Do you think they are safe? And would you run up and invite each one to visit and talk with patients at the local traumatic brain injury hospital ward?

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Regular Programming Will Resume Soon

Apologies for the long bout of silence on the blog. I am under consideration for a couple of on-topic jobs, and in order to avoid (or rather, not further exacerbate) the potential for a “when keeping it real goes wrong” type of blog post, I have locked myself in long-form exile.

However, a nice banal topic to tackle is the issue of bicycling attire. Whether it is the shmackdown of a shooper-shexy bike-chic fashion show, or the bookend war on spandex, I tend to tune out the extreme ‘thou-shalts.’ No research has shown that style dictates at either extreme significantly discourage riding, and go ahead and call me myopic, but that’s where my personal interest ends. The larger issues that are raised regarding gender and sexism at both extremes are important, but there’s scant evidence that there is any significant relationship between the testosterony bike industry and low bicycle ridership.

Consider me firmly in the cyclewhatever camp. Here’s a pic I submitted awhile back, and in a pic I submitted earlier today, Fudgie the pug and I are captured slumming it on my Brompton.

Clearly, neither of our outfits will land us feature status with Mikael Colville-Andersen or Bicycling Magazine. But we’re OK with that.

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What happens in Vegas stays in cages

Like two incredibly boring ships passing in the night, I had some pro-forma fun with John Burke’s 5% mode share challenge at Interbike a few nights ago, while the Bureau of the Census was simultaneously releasing 2011 one-year American Community Survey estimates. Faster than you can say, “isn’t it non-Alanis ironic,” I fired up the Factfinder* to see how the home of Interbike stacked up.

Residents of Las Vegas (just the city, not the broader sprawling mass) use a bicycle as their primary means of commuting to/from work an estimated 0.3% (+/- .2%) of the time. And folks with an interest in advancing women cycling might be disappointed to note that women commute by bicycle an estimated 0.0% (+/- .2%) of the time.** Blurg.

Many within the bike industry have been grousing for years about the Vegas siting of Interbike. There are many practical and defensible reasons why it continues there (and will apparently continue through at least 2015). But for many bikeshop owners and employees, Interbike is their only trip out of town for the year. If Mr. Burke and Bikes Belong want the industry (and the local bikeshop part of that industry in particular) to take on a far more active advocacy role, they can start by urging Interbike to morph into an opportunity to give the people in the industry to what cities must look like to get bike modeshare to 5% of all*** trips (Portland OR, Palo Alto CA, Vancouver BC, etc), and stop shipping them out to talk about radical change in an environment that is emblematic of the exact opposite.

*Maybe it’s just me, but I find Factfinder to be an absolute nightmare to work with, especially for simple queries. Cyclelicious posted some really nice straightforward instructions for pulling summary modeshare info, and your Federal Highway Administration posted some summary charts on largest modeshare changes from 2000 to 2010. And no, Vegas/Clark County is not among the Top 30 gainers either.

**These estimates are highly variable (and thus, quite unreliable) due to their small sample size and short time span. There are also many issues with the ACS methodology, chiefly that it only measures the primary mode of transportation used in a given week, so that bike trips to a rail station, or biking once or twice a week, likely does not get counted.  The Bike League had a more thorough explanation of this stuff when last year’s data was released.

***Mr. Burke’s challenge to reach 5% of ALL trips is not quite comparable to the ACS measurement of just commute-to-work trips. The National Household Travel Survey measures all trips, but does not collect sufficient survey responses report down to the city level.

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Burke, BHAGs, and Bikeshare

A million-dollar idea for whoever the tech-smartest of my six readers is — a CAPTCHA-like gizmo that bars owners of bicycle-oriented blogs from posting after a less-than-stellar workday and commute. Please pardon today’s extra dose of cynicism.

Out in Las Vegas (“it’s a dry heat, but dripping in irony”), the bicycle industry has gathered for their start-of-school-year Sorting Hat ceremony, Interbike. The smart and studious Ravenclaw bicycle store buyers and owners eye-f@#k the shoes of Shawn Johnson’s ex like satellite images of Saddam’s alleged nuclear missile tubes. Be sure to politely exchange business cards with the diligent and purposeful Hufflepuff import brokers cloistered in their own small corral with the vaguely-racist nickname. But beware the cunning Slytherin, those CAT4 bros on the shop team who tag along as “employees.

From the start, however, we all know who the real heroes are in this fable. The US bicycle branding and marketing industry firmly inhabits the House of Gryffindor at the Hogwarts Conference Center and Casino. And the Harry-Potteriest of all is John Burke, head of Trek Bikes [I would love to somehow add a “Mike Sinyard = Ron Weasley” crack in here, but I am afraid that I would get sued]. Anyway, today, Twitter tells me that Mr. Burke gave the gathered masses a keynote address, where he said things like bicycling, “needs to get its act together like the NRA.” Um, OK… not sure that simile is gonna play well in Portlandia. But he also apparently unleashed this b-school textbook Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG) – “Let’s get biking up to 5% of all trips by 2025.

A seemingly feasible goal — about half of the current bike modeshare in Germany, for example…

Chart from “Walking and Biking in Western Europe” (pdf), Pucher and Buehler 2012

But here comes the extra serving of cynicism I promised. I went on at some length yesterday about why Capital Bikeshare needs to start convincing some bikeshare users to become bike owners.  Because as awesome as CaBi is, and all its great attributes, I believe that it has given the Washington DC area a decent bump in bike modeshare, but not the revolutionary multiple necessary to, say, approach the “Burke BHAG.”

Just one cynical idiot’s jaded opinion, but the estimated 11% of local rides taken by bikeshare seem to be blotting out the sun in the local bike world these days. While CaBi grows up and out and finishes triathlons, the creation of new enticing places for all riders to ride are mired in unexplained delay, stepwise delay, and carefully-studied mediocrity.

Becoming a world-class bicycle transportation city will take more than boundless expansion of bikeshare. How about we grab hold of the Burke BHAG of 5% modeshare to illustrate the point, and use the same assumptions I used to estimate that CaBi accounts for 11% of current bike trips:

  • About 215,000 people live in Arlington County, VA, 615,000 live in Washington, DC. We’ll assume this doesn’t change in the next 12 years.
  • According to the MWCOG’s ’07-08 household travel survey, Arlingtonians took 0.8% of all their trips by bicycle, and District residents took 1.5% by bike.
  • So the population-weighted average bike modeshare for all trips is 1.3%
  • We’re going to ignore other cities and counties, just cuz.
  • People averaged about 4 trips per person per day.
  • We can estimate (people x trips x bike rates = total trips) that somewhere around 44,000 combined trips are taken by Arlington and District residents by bike every day.
  • According to the latest CaBi Dashboard ridership data, CaBi averaged 4,715 rides per day over the past year.

So the “Burke BHAG” requires us to roughly triple quadruple (math is hard!) the number of trips taken by bike in DC and Arlington in the next 12 years. And since each is a Silver level Bicycle Friendly Community, logic dictates that we would need to actually achieve far higher to get all trips across the country to 5%, since we have to make up for lovely places like Blackhawk, CO, and Grimes, IA. But for simplicity’s sake, we will ignore that, and just shoot for taking care of our own house.

Using all those assumptions above, we need to collectively take 166,000 trips by bicycle per day. If we ignore all logic, and plan for every single additional bicycle trip to be taken by Capital Bikeshare, we would need a system that:

Don’t misunderstand me — Capital Bikeshare plays an important role in bicycling, by introducing new or lapsed riders to the bicycle as transportation, and bumping up the number of trips taken by existing bicyclists by providing convenience. We absolutely should continue growing the system, and there’s no reason why CaBi shouldn’t still account for 11ish% of the tripled bike modeshare in 2025. But that other 89% needs some very focused attention paid to the less sexy stuff – things like inviting the interested to buy the all-you-can-bike buffet, and providing low-stress places to ride, arranged in a useful network, with an eye firmly on mobility. Perhaps we need an Albus Dumbledore to get us pointed in the right direction.

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