Friday, September 9, 2011

Why we aren't Europe (or, Have you seen that video of people biking in Amsterdam?!)

I am reposting this from the Assoc. of Pedestrian and Bicycling Professionals listserv because I think it is the best summary of these issues that I have seen:

"Culture is constructed. A big difference between the US and Europe is the number of people who live in cities vs. the number who live in the suburbs. Gasoline prices are significantly different. It's a lot harder and more expensive to get a drivers license in Europe. Car excise taxes are much higher. In many European cities, it is very hard to get urban parking privileges. (E.g., in DC, a residential parking permit costs $15/year.) Etc.(Sorry to be pedantic.)

So bikes and cars (and transit) aren't on a level playing field, motor vehicle based mobility occupies a privileged position. That's not about culture or norms, it's about policy.

But I raise the issue of cities vs. suburbs for two reasons (1) because in cities speed limits tend to be significantly lower than in suburbs. And with slower speeds and shorter distances between stop and yield signs and traffic signals, traffic moves much more slowly. In such situations it's a lot easier to ride in mixed traffic situations. It helps that the distances between origins and destinations can be relatively short.

(2) in most cities, with the exception of parts of DC, Boston, NYC, Chicago, Seattle, SF, Portland, LA, and parts of certain others, trends still don't favor urban living, therefore trends don't favor urban biking.

Biking as transportation is a class movement (well, it's bimodal, and also appealing to people who can't afford a car). And for the people with choices living in the suburbs, generally lack of facilities, high speeds on traffic engorged arterials, and long distances between origins and destinations makes biking comparatively impractical.

In DC I do feel like I am seeing a lot more bicyclists in the core of the city, and especially women, in significant numbers. The city has two cycletracks (but one, on PA. Ave. isn't in an area where people are likely to use it) and a few trails. Most transportational cyclists ride in places with either no lanes or lanes, not cycletracks. I attribute this to the class/choice factor mostly, co-incident with the change in attitudes that favors living in DC (as opposed to the suburbs). This has been a phenomenon of the past 5-7 years especially (e.g., you could still buy commercial buildings in now hip areas for under $200K through early 2003).

I get "riled up" when people talk about "bicycle culture" or similarly "how people in Portland are somehow unique and atypical."

What is atypical about Portland is that around 1970 they began developing a sustainable transportation policy (they tore down a freeway), and prioritized public investment downtown including bus transit, later extended to light rail and streetcar transit, and then to the support of bicycling. That's not culture. It's policy, and it's taken them 40 years to get to where they are.

Only by understanding this process, that it is a process, and not something that derives from drinking special koolaid, or special "culture" can we make comparable progress with sustainable transportation policy elsewhere. (This pertains to Copenhagen and Amsterdam as well.)"
--Richard Layman

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Benefit for Steve Hancock, local cyclist

Saturday, September 17 at 3:00pm
Barley's - Old City

For many years, Steve Hancock has had a saying: Make hard jobs easier.

Hancock, a local musician and cycling enthusiast, was riding his bicycle on May 5 when he was struck in the right lane by an uninsured motorist. His bicycle was destroyed and he was thrown far from the road, sustaining many horrible injury to his lower torso and legs. The cost of putting him on the road to recovery was and is staggering. Rehabilitating his damaged body and paying for the attention he needs to do so is a very hard job.

And we are going to make that hard job easier. If you'll help.

On September 17, Barley's will host a benefit concert featuring various Knoxville bands (many of which include cyclists). There will also be multiple morning bike rides which will end at Barley's for the show (details coming). There will also be several fantastic items silent-auctioned off, including merchandise from local businesses and an painting by local artist Jenna Hancock, inspired by her father.

Bike ride details (among other details) will be posted in the next few days. Here is the line-up:

Outside performances by:
3pm - Will Fist
4pm - Econopop
5pm - Greg horne
6pm - Katieand the Bass Drums

Inside performances by:
8pm Stolen Sheep
9pm The Tim Lee 3
10pm Three Man Band
11pm Senryu (and guests)
12pm Fine Peduncle

Cover: $10 (or more, if you feel like being completely awesome)
Age: All Ages during the day, 18+ after 10 (subject to clarification)

There will also be a website where donations will be accepted for Steve and his family, for people who cannot travel in for the show, or those who wish to donate after the event. URL soon!

WUTK is really nice to sponsor this! They are nice to support so much, so often, and also deserve your support.

PLEASE SHARE THIS EVENT. Help us show love to a family that shows non-stop love to Knoxville and Knoxville music.

Online Donation link here: 100% of the donations will be disbursed to the Hancock family by the Jeff Roth Cycling Foundation.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

UT Launches Nation's First Fully Automated E-bike Sharing System

UT Launches Nation's First Fully Automated E-bike Sharing System

KNOXVILLE--The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, is home to the nation's first automated electric bicycle (e-bike) sharing system. The pilot program is the subject of a research study by civil and engineering assistant professor Chris Cherry and Stacy Worley and David Smith from biosystems engineering. If successful, it may be adopted into a full-scale program by the university.

The system will introduce two bike sharing stations with 10 bikes each--seven e-bikes and three bicycles. The first station is on Presidential Court. A second station is slated for installation on the Agriculture Campus.

The media are invited to view and test the e-bikes from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. Wednesday, Sept. 7, at Presidential Court. Interviews will be available.

"We are pleased to add the e-biking share program as we work to become a more pedestrian and bike friendly campus," said Jeff Maples, senior associate vice chancellor for finance and administration. "This effort also fits in well with our campus’ commitment to sustainability and energy savings. It is yet another way UT is blazing a new trail in our long term climate commitment and energy savings and efficiency goals."

An electric bicycle is a bicycle with an attached motor which activates when pedaling gets more difficult for the rider. The sharing station consists of an integrated bike rack with a battery-charging kiosk which distributes batteries to those who check out e-bikes. The system is fully automated. Users simply swipe their university ID cards to check out and return bikes to the station when finished. The pilot test is free to subscribers within the UT community.Currently, the project is recruiting 200 volunteers for two-month cycles for the academic year.

The e-bike is heralded as an environmentally friendly alternative to driving. Cherry notes they could be a part of a solution to three related problems: environmental degradation that impacts public health, quality of life and economic security; over-reliance on insecure energy; and a public health crisis of obesity related to inactivity.

"Electric bike sharing has a chance to introduce much more people to mild active transport," said Cherry. "Nobody wants to work too hard to get around campus but would still like to get some exercise in their daily activities. This system will provide that, improving the users' health and also reducing emissions."

The goal of Cherry's study is to test the operational and economic feasibility of introducing electric bikes in a shared bike system and also test how users respond to them.

"We want to test the technology, operations, environmental impacts, travel demand, impacts on physical activity and economics of developing such a system," said Cherry. "With this being the first fully automated electric bike sharing system in the country, and one of the first in the world, we hope to prove or disprove many of the assumptions that are attached to such a system."

Cherry hopes the program is attractive to both bike and non-bike users and to leverage his research into developing a full-scale program that can be adopted by the university as part of its Make Orange Green environmental initiative.

"This is a very car-oriented campus, and UT is committed to providing high-quality alternative transportation modes to get to and from campus and to get around campus," he said. "This is a research project first but could provide a highly sustainable alternative model should the university adopt it."

The bike sharing program is funded by the University of Tennessee Student Sustainability Initiative, Southeastern Transportation Center and Tennessee Department of Transportation, with support from Currie Technologies, Fountain City Pedaler and UT's Civil and Environmental Engineering Department and the Biosystems Engineering and Soil Sciences Department. For more information, visit

For more information on UT Knoxville's sustainability efforts, visit the Make Orange Green website at