November 27 2013

Cruising Down the Green Lane: Recapping #thegrid Twitter Chat on Bicycle Infrastructure in Cities

Last week, Global Site Plan’s The Grid co-hosted a TweetChat with The Green Lane Project about implementing bike infrastructure in cities. Over forty bike-enthusiasts joined us to share their wisdom on the topic. What came about was a fast-paced, hour-long discussion that revealed five major trends within the bicycle advocacy movement.

1) Cities Must Have the Will to Change

Cities must show they are serious about becoming bicycle friendly. That commitment to change comes from several areas, as listed in the tweet above. Some of our participants had different feelings on exactly where that change should begin. @aevictoratou states, “Community should put pressure on politicians.” However, the @GreenLaneProj pointed to the success of cities with committed mayors – those being “NYC under Bloomberg, DC under Fenty and Chicago under Emanuel.” Perhaps it requires support from both sides to instill true reform?

2) Locating New Bike Infrastructure is Harder Than You Think

The group seemed to be in agreeance with @copenhagenize – the goal of building new bike infrastructure is to increase ridership. However, some people have different feelings on how we prioritize where bike amenities are placed. @GreenLaneProj states, “Different bike infrastructure is appropriate on different streets.” The streets with the most traffic and greatest speeds need physical separation for bike lanes in order to entice riders. But @EBBC makes an interesting point based on their own experience, “[In] Dublin, CA last night, [we] pushed for separated bike lanes on [a] busy street. [The] Council said [there are currently] not enough bikes to justify [adding lanes].” This reflects the challenges bicycle advocates face.

3) Transportation Equity is a Hot Topic

While this may have been the touchiest subject of the conversation, it’s an important point to bring up. As @bikepeacenyc addresses above, the goal is to make our cities more livable. @GreenLaneProj makes the point that “good biking liberates cities from car dependence, which is great for poor people.” But @r_hunt believes the issue is complex because “people who’ve pushed for bike infra have done so from a place of privilege.” And then there’s the issue of gentrification. @EBBC says “…it’s a real issue, addressed from within the community.” It’s hard to say whether or not the implementation of new bike infrastructure is a sign or a cause of gentrification. But we must do our best to ensure our efforts benefit all demographics.

4) U.S. Cities Still Have a Lot to Learn

Cities such as Amsterdam and Copenhagen have been leading the way in bicycle commuting. But @GreenLaneProj points to Seville, Spain as an exemplary city, where the daily percentage of trips made via bike increased from one percent to six percent from 2007 to 2010. The U.S. can also look to Amsterdam’s “large amount of secure bike parking,” as @foskett15 mentions. But in reality, there are many cities around the world that have found unique ways to serve the bicycle commuter – check out these 19 photos courtesy of The Green Lane Project. You may be surprised to learn that Minneapolis is the number one bike city in America, as noted by @GlobalSitePlans. The end goal is simple: “Make it safe, make it enjoyable, make it the easiest and most attractive way to get from A to B,” courtesy of @bikepeacenyc.

5) Spread the Love

As bicycle advocates, we are always looking for more effective ways to communicate our message, particularly to those who don’t support our cause. @prinzrob states that we need to find “unconventional partners” and build coalitions; this includes getting elected officials on bikes and getting those already on bikes elected. @toastforbrekkie believes we have to cater our message to our audience. “To sell politicians on bikes, talk safety. To sell the public, create an image and talk health and savings.” The goal is to increase ridership. @BikeBikeYYC brings up two points. First, we must teach kids to cycle, because they will grow up understanding bikes better. And their second statement is simple but powerful message. “More people on bikes begets more people on bikes.”

What kind of bike infrastructure does your city have? Green Lane Project is looking for six U.S. cities eager to improve biking. To get green lanes in your city, apply here.

This is only a sample of what took place. If you are interested in the full discussion, check out the Hashtracking report. Stay tuned for #thegrid’s next Twitter Chat, which will take place on Wednesday, December 18th at 3PM EDT/ 2PM CDT/ 12PM PDT/ 8PM BST/ 10PM EEST. We are looking forward to you joining the conversation!

Robert Poole

Robert Poole recently graduated from UC Berkeley with a degree in Anthropology and a minor in City and Regional Planning. He grew up in San Diego but now resides in San Francisco. He is intrigued by, yet concerned with the large discrepancies in socio-economic development within the Bay Area. He currently works at a non-profit organization in San Francisco that advocates for new housing development in the City through policy and legislation. As he continues his work, he hopes to gain a more in-depth understanding of the city’s public process in order to develop solutions that create more affordable housing options for the City's low to middle-income residents.

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, November 27th, 2013 at 9:40 am and is filed under #thegrid Twitter Chat, Branding, Education and Careers, Land Use, Robert Poole, Social/Demographics, Transportation, Urban Planning and Design. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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3 Responses to “Cruising Down the Green Lane: Recapping #thegrid Twitter Chat on Bicycle Infrastructure in Cities”

  1. Liz Patek Says:

    This was a great discussion and thanks for including a few of my contributions in the round up. One quick correction for you, I was the one who tweeted “More people on bikes begets more people on bikes”, not @bikebikeyyc even though I’m echoing what many of us already know. Cheers.

  2. Robert Poole Says:

    Thanks for the notice Liz! I’ll make that correction.

    And I was scanning through your blog for a bit. I was in New York a few weeks ago and was amazing by their Citi Bike system. I live in San Francisco, where we have a similar system, but on a much smaller scale. It’s amazing how quickly New York is able to implement these amazing programs that enhance the urban experience on a significantly larger scale. In San Francisco, getting the Bike Share system took a long time and was controversial, so the best we could do was a pilot program with 700 bikes (I believe). That’s in a city with 800,000 people. And that number doubles during the day with commuters and workers coming in. How do you think Citi Bike is working out in NY?

  3. Liz Patek Says:

    Citibike is a huge success here in NYC. As of Nov 8, 2013 there were nearly 94,000 annual members and a total of 5 million trips made by Citibike since it’s launch in May. It’s really been a tipping point (in a good way) for people on bikes and the call for complete streets. As with anything new, there was NIMBY opposition and media efforts to create controversy before the launch and for a few weeks afterward, but in the end most NYer’s love Ciitibike, even if they don’t use it.

    Now people in the areas not covered by Citibike are asking when will it come to them? The majority want the expansion, it’s just that the funds aren’t there for it at the moment.

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