Advertise on Bikeforums.net



User Tag List

Results 1 to 18 of 18
  1. #1
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    Location
    Bronx, NY
    Posts
    85
    Mentioned
    0 Post(s)
    Tagged
    0 Thread(s)

    Topography & Bikeability

    Hi everyone,

    I'm posting this because I want to get some input on an initiative that I'm working on. I work as an urban planner, and the community I work for is looking to do its part in promoting the use of bikes as a viable mode of transportation. I'm also a roadie myself.

    The issue is this: the location is one in suburban NYC. It's a dense, walkable environment, but one that has been decimated in large part by 60s era urban renewal and post WWII car culture. It's located in the Hudson River Valley, in an area where there are lots of hills. It's very scenic and the Hudson Highlands begin just north of here. As soon as you step out of your front door, you're either going up or down a hill. There are no flats here. The result of all this is a community in which no one rides bikes... except for yours truly, but I'm an anomaly. There are other communities in the area in which people do ride bikes... this one just happens to have excessively steep topography in comparison. Surveys have revealed that the difficult topography is the main reason for the use of cars instead of biking and walking. That, and the 45mph arterial roads crisscrossing the municipality.

    Is bike culture something that can be cultivated in a place like this? I really welcome any thoughts on what I can do to make this happen. I'm writing a grant proposal for a federal program called Safe Routes to School, which is designed to promote this sort of thing.

    Thanks.

  2. #2
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Location
    Leeds UK
    Posts
    1,869
    Mentioned
    0 Post(s)
    Tagged
    0 Thread(s)
    How detailed is your proposal in geographical terms, Jrather, and what sort of gradients are you dealing with?

    While an area may be very hilly, the shortish distance that children travel to school, especially primary schools, may mean that the routes are, in many cases, cycleable by any reasonably active kid.

    I suspect (tho' have no hard, surveyed facts) that there are other reasons for the massive decline in children walking or cycling to school than topography, e.g:

    Both parents working make the car trip a convenience
    Because more people drive their kids to school, they themselves are the cause of the perceived increas in danger from motor traffic. Are you a dangerous driver, madam? No? Then why are other parents scared of you, since you are one of the potentially dangerous drivers that that frightens them?
    A lack of safe bike storage
    A reluctance to put in place and rigorously enforce 20mph speed limits within the immediate neighbourhood of schools
    An underestimate of the physical capabilities of children to ride their bikes safely and for some considerable distance
    Unjustified and exagerated "fear of strangers", when, in the UK at least, the figures for this kind of crime haven't noticeably changed in 30 years
    Plus others that I am unaware of.

    You also need to consider the lack of any suitable training in roadcraft for children or adults, not to mention the commonly held views about cyclists held by drivers who are ignorant of the rights of other types of road users.

    Good luck.

    By the way, Cycle England has just been awarded 140m to overcome the same kind of problems that you are involved in. Sounds wonderful, and it is, but it's only about 2.30 per head of population.

    Good luck

    By the way, have you ever heard of "bike trains"? Parents are trained to accompany groups of children to school on their bikes. similar principle to "walking buses" that I believe are not unkonw in the States

  3. #3
    Senior Member bikebuddha's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2003
    Location
    Somewhere in time
    Posts
    1,101
    Mentioned
    0 Post(s)
    Tagged
    1 Thread(s)
    I live in suburban Atlanta, which suffers from many of the problems you describe. And while it would be a stretch to say there’s a real bike culture here we do have our share of dedicated cyclist. One secret I’ve discovered is that older roads seem to follow the contour of the land more than newer roads which just seem to go up and over every single hill.
    The few, the proud, the likely insane, Metro-Atlanta bicycle commuters.

  4. #4
    ---- buzzman's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Location
    Newton, MA
    Posts
    4,501
    Mentioned
    1 Post(s)
    Tagged
    0 Thread(s)
    Jrather-

    interesting dilemma. I've ridden in that area and though I love hills, often seek out particularly tough ones, that area has it's unique collection of some pretty stiff challenges. The roads are also, as I recall, not always in the best shape regarding frost heaves and road conditions generally so fast descents can be tricky safety-wise.

    Given those factors both recreational and particularly transportational cycling might be challenging to encourage for many residents. However, the Rails to Trails initiative might be worth checking with- that area was, and to some degree still is, served by some rail. I'm wondering if there are any older industrial rail beds no longer in use but a portion of the land in public domain that could be converted as a Multiple Use Path. Many might argue with the value of an MUP as anything other than a slow going form of recreational path but a well designed MUP can provide a valuable route that interconnects parts of a region for commuter/transportational cycling as well as for recreational use. When designed with that in mind these paths can serve faster cyclists almost as well as a good road and at times even better.

    There may be state or national Transportation money available to develop such a path. It would take some time but certainly worth pursuing. Once the path is layed in and people start to use it they often expand out onto the surrounding roads and suddenly those hills won't seem quite so daunting as they originally seemed and you might have some folks to ride with occasionally.

    best of luck.

  5. #5
    feros ferio John E's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2000
    Location
    www.ci.encinitas.ca.us
    My Bikes
    1959 Capo; 1980 Peugeot PKN-10; 1981 Bianchi; 1988 Schwinn KOM-10;
    Posts
    14,357
    Mentioned
    2 Post(s)
    Tagged
    0 Thread(s)
    At least for me, Road design, particularly at intersections, and traffic speed and density are far greater factors than gravity. I am sure hills deter some potential new cyclists, but I think both justifiable and inflated fears of traffic are the main issue.
    "Early to bed, early to rise. Work like hell, and advertise." -- George Stahlman
    Capo [dschaw'-poe]: 1959 Modell Campagnolo, S/N 40324; 1960 Sieger, S/N 42624
    Peugeot: 1970 UO-8, S/N 0010468
    Bianchi: 1981 Campione d'Italia, S/N 1.M9914
    Schwinn: 1988 Project KOM-10, S/N F804069

  6. #6
    Pat
    Pat is offline
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Jan 2002
    Location
    Orlando, FL
    My Bikes
    litespeed, cannondale
    Posts
    2,795
    Mentioned
    2 Post(s)
    Tagged
    0 Thread(s)
    I have lived in Athens, Georgia and its hills are similar to Atlanta. You can ride a bike in Athens with no problem. It just means you have some hills to contend with. Dayton, Ohio has steeper hills than I have seen in either Athens or Atlanta and one can cycle in Dayton just fine. Dayton can be a pain because it seems as if there is a stop sign at the bottom of each and every steep hill. It is a matter of picking your route to avoid the worst hills or just being able to climb either because you are in shape or you have low enough gears.

  7. #7
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Location
    San Diego, CA
    My Bikes
    Giant Cypress
    Posts
    115
    Mentioned
    0 Post(s)
    Tagged
    0 Thread(s)
    If you have trouble establishing a bike culture, perhaps you might have success with an electric bike one. I'm planning to upgrade my bike to electric to help deal with the hills here in northern San Diego county.

    A bicycle lift here and there may help, too.

  8. #8
    littlecircles bmike's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Location
    Vermont
    Posts
    3,308
    Mentioned
    0 Post(s)
    Tagged
    0 Thread(s)
    i'm in burlington, vt and volunteer on the local advocacy board.
    with the hills (mountains! not far away) and weather you would think that cycling wouldn't work too well here - there are lots of bikes on the road - many college and med students for sure - but many more everyday commuting and utility cyclists. even in the winter, with the snow and ice - there are people moving about under their own power.

    granted, our downtown is very walkable - but if you live just outside of town you deal with 2 lane roads or a few 4 lane roads, and longer distances between things. areas just east of town are inspired by 'roadside' america - mini marts, a mall, etc. etc.

    somehow the bike does win here. it takes work - and normal folks out riding.

    maybe you can organize some 'utility 101' classes and show folks that its not as hard as they think? plan some low key group events - a pub crawl, or picnic when the weather is nice? tie it into some advocacy work...
    Last edited by bmike; 01-24-08 at 12:52 PM.

  9. #9
    Banned Bikepacker67's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Location
    Ogopogo's shoreline
    My Bikes
    LHT, Kona Smoke
    Posts
    4,063
    Mentioned
    3 Post(s)
    Tagged
    0 Thread(s)
    As long as the average American seems absolutely petrified of perspiration, I don't see much hope.

    If we could only get them addicted to the exhilaration of a good sweat!

  10. #10
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
    Location
    Potomac MD, USA
    My Bikes
    Klein Quantum Pro w/ Ultegra, Klein Pulse Comp w/ Marzocchi Z3 & XT/LX
    Posts
    286
    Mentioned
    0 Post(s)
    Tagged
    0 Thread(s)
    How were your studies worded? The quiestion might have been loaded, so beware.

    Most studies show that people's main obstacle to cycling is fear of motor vehicle traffic.

    Make the environment more bike friendly, and you'll get more people on bikes, no matter what. Note that one of the most bike friendly cities in the US, with some of the highest bike use per capita, is San Francisco.

    Seattle is close behind, and it's pretty hilly too, as well as cold, rainy, and windy half the year.

    Hills are easy to get used to. Car-focused design and no bike racks anywhere? Not so much.

  11. #11
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Oct 2007
    Location
    Bronx, NY
    Posts
    85
    Mentioned
    0 Post(s)
    Tagged
    0 Thread(s)
    Thanks for all the replies....


    See, for the dedicated cyclist types like myself (who would ride no matter what the conditions happened to be), the hills and traffic aren't that much of an issue. The problem is convincing Mom to let her 9 year old kid ride his bike to school. The schools here used to have bike racks. The local school district removed them due to fear of a lawsuit... they were worried that if someone's kid was hit, that they'd be liable for encouraging the use of bicycles by providing bike racks. Insane, I know... because every kid that isn't walking or riding a bike adds an additional car to the road every morning and afternoon, exacerbating the problem.

    We had a meeting with the local chamber of commerce and downtown association today, and improvements to bikeability were brought up during the discussion. I had recommended that we install bike racks at multiple locations downtown, at the library, and get the school district onboard with the idea of putting the bike racks back in at the schools. One of the downtown association members recommended that we not focus on bikes, because "No one will ride their bikes downtown due to the hills. They may be able to ride INTO downtown (downhill), but they won't be able to leave once they arrive."

    The lack of traffic enforcement is a huge barrier as well. That's a regional problem, however: traffic enforcement in the NYC metro is non-existent. The speed limits on all streets within the municipality is 30mph, but anyone who tries driving this slow on the arterials will have people flying around them left and right going 20mph faster. I think this may be what really petrifies the parents... not so much the hills. Even if a bike lane were added next to the shoulder, you'd still have the 50mph traffic.

    And Buzzman: we do have the North and South County Trailway systems here. They're great... but people drive to the trail to ride, and the trails are also not located anywhere near the local central business districts. This makes them more or less useless for commuting.

    I guess the issue that I really could use a hand with is how to go about building a coalition to advocate for bicycling from scratch. There isn't even so much as a bike shop in this town, so where to begin? That's the question.

  12. #12
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Sep 2001
    Location
    Montreal
    My Bikes
    Peugeot Hybrid, Minelli Hybrid
    Posts
    6,521
    Mentioned
    0 Post(s)
    Tagged
    0 Thread(s)
    My mother used a bike to go down to the shops in the town. She had to push the bike up the hill but it was much easier with the shopping in the basket and hanging from the ends of the bars than carrying it with her arms. On the 45 mph main roads the intersections should be designed to make it easier for pedestrian crossings. Dead end streets in residential neighbourhoods are designed for car living. Foot/bike paths should be added to connect the end of these streets with the rest of the road network so you can ride directly towards your destination.

  13. #13
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    Posts
    2,013
    Mentioned
    0 Post(s)
    Tagged
    0 Thread(s)
    "Is bike culture something that can be cultivated in a place like this?"

    If people can shop or work within 3 mi of where they live, yes. For kids, going to school or work, maybe 5 mi. Perhaps riding to school would be considered a physical education class. They could get a period off from school which they could use to take additional classes or leave early, perhaps allowing them to work extra hours at their after school job. It would also save the school district some $$$.

    If there are situations where people are walking more than 15 min, for example parking lots, a folding bike like a-bike, might make their lives easier.

    I read somewhere that parents leaving their kids at some activity where bringing bikes to let themselves get in some sort of activity. Perhaps if there is a little league type thing, a short bike tour for the moms and dads would be OK.

    The real problem is zoning laws. There would be much higher population densities if people were allowed to live that way.

    See if a local bike shop can offer repair classes, I think part tool has a program. If people knew a little about bike repair they would be more confident about riding bikes, and know more about selecting the best bike for the job.

    Possible model organizations:
    www.5bbc.org transalt.org times-up.org www.bikenewyork.org/
    Last edited by geo8rge; 01-26-08 at 07:15 AM.
    2000 Montague CX, I do not recommend it, but still ride it.
    Strida 3, I recommend it for rides < 10mi wo steep hills.
    2006 Rowbike 720 Sport, I recommend it as an exercise bike.
    1996 Birdy, Recommend.
    Wieleder CARiBIKE (folding), decent frame.

  14. #14
    Junior Member
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
    Location
    Bremgarten bei Bern, Switzerland
    Posts
    23
    Mentioned
    0 Post(s)
    Tagged
    0 Thread(s)
    Quote Originally Posted by Bikepacker67 View Post
    As long as the average American seems absolutely petrified of perspiration, I don't see much hope.
    There are some solutions to that. Where I work it's perfectly ok to turn up in shorts and t-shirt in summer. (It would be OK in winter to, but not really advicable). We also have showers. And 150 parking spaces for 1900 employees... A lot of people cycle here, even though it is quite hilly. This is Switzerland, after all.

    What is quite common on steep roads here is to have a bike lane in the uphill direction, but not in the downhill direction. Having a "crawling lane" for bikes is quite convenient. Downhill you just ride with the cars at their speed. The large differences in speed uphill versus downhill is something to consider when planning for bikes.

  15. #15
    Junior Member
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
    Location
    Bremgarten bei Bern, Switzerland
    Posts
    23
    Mentioned
    0 Post(s)
    Tagged
    0 Thread(s)
    Quote Originally Posted by Jrather View Post
    The problem is convincing Mom to let her 9 year old kid ride his bike to school. The schools here used to have bike racks. The local school district removed them due to fear of a lawsuit... they were worried that if someone's kid was hit, that they'd be liable for encouraging the use of bicycles by providing bike racks. Insane, I know...
    Where I grew up (a small country in Europe) schools were liable by law for anything that happened to a school kid on it's way to or from school. The schools took out insurance to cover them. Biking was nevertheless actively encouraged and at my school almost everybody rode a bike to school.

    To increase safety, especially for the younger kids "bike pools" where organized where kids from the same neighborhood would cycle to school in group. Maybe that is something to consider in your area.

  16. #16
    Senior Member MrCjolsen's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2004
    Location
    Davis CA
    My Bikes
    Surly Cross-Check, '85 Giant road bike (unrecogizable fixed-gear conversion
    Posts
    3,954
    Mentioned
    0 Post(s)
    Tagged
    0 Thread(s)
    Quote Originally Posted by atbman View Post

    Because more people drive their kids to school, they themselves are the cause of the perceived increas in danger from motor traffic.
    At the school where I teach, we need no less than four staff members after school to work the crossings to make sure that kids don't get run over by all the parents picking up their kids. On my 14 mile bike commute, the most perilous leg of my journey is the last 300 yards before I reach the entrance to the playground.

    A reluctance to put in place and rigorously enforce 20mph speed limits within the immediate neighbourhood of schools
    When I was in the Air Force, the speed limit on every base I was ever at was 25mph and 15mph in the base housing area. And guess what. In 20 years, I don't ever recall being in a traffic jam on a military base. Lower speed limits improve traffic flow and reduce congestion.

  17. #17
    Junior Member
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
    Location
    Troy, NY
    My Bikes
    Fuji Touring for commuting; Jamis Ventura for fun
    Posts
    15
    Mentioned
    0 Post(s)
    Tagged
    0 Thread(s)
    Jrather,

    Have you contacted the NY Bicycling Coalition? They may a good resource.

    http://www.nybc.net/site/index.php

  18. #18
    It's faster than the bus Catgrrl70's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Location
    Seattle
    My Bikes
    Soma Smoothie ES, Gary Fisher retro hard tail
    Posts
    601
    Mentioned
    0 Post(s)
    Tagged
    0 Thread(s)
    Even though Seattle has a pretty good-sized bike community, it is hampered (in my humble opinion) by traffic, weather and hills. There's not a good intra-city bike route system and the system that exists serves mostly the northern part of the city. Those of us southward have virtually nothing, so riding on the roads as a beginner commuter is often way too intimidating since once downtown, you have no choice but to ride on busy city streets. The first reaction I usually get is that I'm crazy to deal with the traffic. The weather is often cold, rainy and windy. Maybe May - October there's good weather, but you have to have decent rain gear available at all times and know how to use it. Many businesses don't have good bike storage facilities (secure, out of the weather, or none at all) or showers and locker rooms for bike commuters. Hills - lots of them. I even have to arrange my grocery store runs and neighborhood runs according to what hill I have to go up. Most people are not in shape to even ride around the neighborhood on a bike, lots of walking and bike pushing would be in order, so why bother, not to mention the sweat factor if one wants to go out and socialize. Having a good transit system than allows bikes to be stored (bike racks) and used is very important in this case. Even sometimes I don't want to ride all the way, esp. if I'm sick or have to be somewhere quickly.

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •