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  1. #1
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    diminishing returns in Davis and Irvine, CA?

    I found this entry on Wikipedia:


    Bicycling has been a popular mode of transportation in Davis for decades, particularly among UC Davis students.

    Bicycle infrastructure became a political issue in the 1960s, culminating in the election of a pro-bicycle majority to the City Council in 1966.[12] By the early 1970s, Davis became a pioneer in the implementation of cycling facilities. As the city expands, new facilities are usually mandated. As a result, Davis residents today enjoy an extensive network of bike lanes, bike paths, and grade-separated bicycle crossings. The flat terrain and temperate climate are also conducive to bicycling.

    [...]

    In 2005 the Bicycle-Friendly Community program of the League of American Bicyclists recognized Davis as the first Platinum Level city in the U.S.[13] In March 2006, Bicycling magazine named Davis the best small town for cycling in its compilation of "America's Best Biking Cities."[14] Yet bicycling appears to be on the wane among Davis residents. From 1990 to 2000, the U.S. census reported a decline in the fraction of commuters traveling by bicycle, from 22 percent to 15 percent.[15]

    From this article and from what I have previously heard and read about Davis, the cycle infrastructure is extensive enough to rival that of Amsterdam. However, a modal share of 15 percent is just slightly higher than that of Portland (8 percent, where most riders ride on city streets, although many are traffic-calmed bike boulevards). Irvine, CA has "44.5 miles (71.6 km) of off-road bicycle trails and 282 miles (454 km) of on-road bicycle lanes", but my understanding is that its modal share is incredibly small. I wish I could find an exact percentage -- most of what I have heard about Irvine is anecdotal, namely former residents saying that it was almost unheard of for people to use the bike paths for commuting or errands.

    I don't feel like looking up the exact ridership of Copenhagen and Amsterdam right now, but I know it is somewhere between 40-50 percent. These are also colder and rainier cities.

    Irvine and Davis seem to demonstrate that "if you build it, they will come" is only true up to a certain point -- you will get diminishing returns upon your investment unless there is some other factor encouraging people to bike.

    The only other factors that I can think are the expensive parking, narrow streets, high cost of car ownership, and high energy prices that you find in European cities. If oil prices permanently shoot up to $200+ in the U.S. due to global demand outstripping supply, maybe our modal share will rival that of Europe. In that case, all we really have to do is wait -- bike specific infrastructure won't be necessary then, as the roads will become more hospitable due to fewer motorists (who will in turn be forced to modify their driving habits due to more cyclists).

    (As a disclaimer, I don't really align myself with either the vehicular cyclist or "built a s**t ton of specialized infrastructure" side of the debate. I take more of a minimalist stance, namely that bike boulevards combined with bike/ped shortcuts and bridge paths are the most inexpensive and cost-effective form of infrastructure, and that they aren't based upon the utopian vision that we could persuade the majority of the population to cycle without economic necessity forcing them to.)

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    Quote Originally Posted by chriswnw View Post
    Irvine and Davis seem to demonstrate that "if you build it, they will come" is only true up to a certain point -- you will get diminishing returns upon your investment unless there is some other factor encouraging people to bike.

    The only other factors that I can think are the expensive parking, narrow streets, high cost of car ownership, and high energy prices that you find in European cities.
    Some other factors: Cars banned in the urban center, transportation policies that deliberately make it difficult to get from Point A to Point B by automobile (and conversely, deliberately make it easy to get from Point A to Point B by bicycle), human-scaled travel distances, flat terrain, extensive system of bicycle infrastructure, legal system that places a rebuttable presumption of liability on the driver in any car-bike collision...

    There are probably other factors that I'm forgetting right now.
    Last edited by Blue Order; 04-30-09 at 03:26 PM.

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    Senior Member randya's Avatar
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    so a couple of 'cycle tracks' dropped on the streetscape ain't gonna cut it, eh?


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    Banned. Bekologist's Avatar
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    a major contributing factor in the blame game is late 20th century american autocentricity.

    portlands 8 percent versus davis' 15 percent IS significant regarding modal share.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Blue Order View Post
    Some other factors: Cars banned in the urban center, transportation policies that deliberately make it difficult to get from Point A to Point B by automobile (and conversely, deliberately make it easy to get from Point A to Point B by bicycle), human-scaled travel distances, flat terrain, extensive system of bicycle infrastructure, legal system that places a rebuttable presumption of liability on the driver in any car-bike collision...
    Well, Davis has "human-scaled travel distances, flat terrain, extensive system of bicycle infrastructure", but might be lacking in the others. Yes, if city planners deliberately made it extremely difficult to drive, that might also increase ridership, but such measures are unlikely to be popular in most American cities. Even in Portland, people howl about the perceived anticar agenda of the city government. We might have to wait for the global economy to make driving really expensive.

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    Quote Originally Posted by chriswnw View Post
    Well, Davis has... "extensive system of bicycle infrastructure"
    I don't think they're really comparable.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Blue Order View Post
    Some other factors: Cars banned in the urban center, transportation policies that deliberately make it difficult to get from Point A to Point B by automobile (and conversely, deliberately make it easy to get from Point A to Point B by bicycle), human-scaled travel distances, flat terrain, extensive system of bicycle infrastructure, legal system that places a rebuttable presumption of liability on the driver in any car-bike collision...

    There are probably other factors that I'm forgetting right now.
    Thank you. There are still significant differences that make all the difference...literally. That said, 15% isn't just "slightly higher" than Portland; it's twice as good. It means that there are twice as many cyclists on the road per square mile in one city than in another. That makes a *huge* difference in safety for the cyclists, due to a greater forced awareness for drivers.

    JesseDuncan:I just love how "cars will be forced to cross the double yellow lines on dangerous limited visibility roads".

    I don't want to have a head on but oh god, I HAVE to fling myself into oncoming traffic to pass, theres no alternative!!!

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    Quote Originally Posted by chriswnw View Post
    I found this entry on Wikipedia:





    From this article and from what I have previously heard and read about Davis, the cycle infrastructure is extensive enough to rival that of Amsterdam. However, a modal share of 15 percent is just slightly higher than that of Portland (8 percent, where most riders ride on city streets, although many are traffic-calmed bike boulevards). Irvine, CA has "44.5 miles (71.6 km) of off-road bicycle trails and 282 miles (454 km) of on-road bicycle lanes", but my understanding is that its modal share is incredibly small. I wish I could find an exact percentage -- most of what I have heard about Irvine is anecdotal, namely former residents saying that it was almost unheard of for people to use the bike paths for commuting or errands.

    I don't feel like looking up the exact ridership of Copenhagen and Amsterdam right now, but I know it is somewhere between 40-50 percent. These are also colder and rainier cities.

    Irvine and Davis seem to demonstrate that "if you build it, they will come" is only true up to a certain point -- you will get diminishing returns upon your investment unless there is some other factor encouraging people to bike.

    The only other factors that I can think are the expensive parking, narrow streets, high cost of car ownership, and high energy prices that you find in European cities. If oil prices permanently shoot up to $200+ in the U.S. due to global demand outstripping supply, maybe our modal share will rival that of Europe. In that case, all we really have to do is wait -- bike specific infrastructure won't be necessary then, as the roads will become more hospitable due to fewer motorists (who will in turn be forced to modify their driving habits due to more cyclists).

    (As a disclaimer, I don't really align myself with either the vehicular cyclist or "built a s**t ton of specialized infrastructure" side of the debate. I take more of a minimalist stance, namely that bike boulevards combined with bike/ped shortcuts and bridge paths are the most inexpensive and cost-effective form of infrastructure, and that they aren't based upon the utopian vision that we could persuade the majority of the population to cycle without economic necessity forcing them to.)

    First statement I have is that 15% is nearly twice as much as 8%. Now maybe in the overall scheme of things it is a small number, but compared to the roughly 1% modal share of the whole nation, that 15% is pretty darn nice.

    Now to go on and look at the rest of your comments... no matter how you look at it, the US is a automobile centric society. Even with all those nice bike accommodations in Davis, I suspect they are still secondary to the general automotive centric designs of the city as a whole.

    Portland is still an auto centric environment... The fact is that there are no American cities that consider people first and the car second.

    As far as diminishing returns... what exactly is the return of the mostly empty auto?

  9. #9
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    Okay, yes, ridership in Davis is 1.8 times higher than that of Portland -- my bad. However, it has declined from 22 percent over the course of ten years.

    But how about Irvine? I finally found some stats: A measly 1.36 percent. Here is their bike map. To be fair, Irvine is but one of many cities in Orange County, and many of its residents probably work outside the city limits. Davis is more of a small metropolitan area unto itself.

    My point was that ridership will only climb so high unless driving is made far more difficult and expensive, either by accident or by design. "Autocentric" merely means "easy and cheap to drive". You will only get Amsterdam's numbers if it is hard and expensive to drive. Although I love biking and view it as a superior option for me, most people aren't like me -- they view the car as the best transportation vehicle, and would only downgrade to something else (and they would view it as "downgrading") if they had to.
    Last edited by chriswnw; 05-01-09 at 12:20 AM.

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    Senior Member StrangeWill's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Blue Order View Post
    Some other factors: Cars banned in the urban center, transportation policies that deliberately make it difficult to get from Point A to Point B by automobile (and conversely, deliberately make it easy to get from Point A to Point B by bicycle), human-scaled travel distances, flat terrain, extensive system of bicycle infrastructure, legal system that places a rebuttable presumption of liability on the driver in any car-bike collision...

    There are probably other factors that I'm forgetting right now.
    So basically you're saying cripple an entire infrastructure for the purpose of promoting cycling?

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    Quote Originally Posted by StrangeWill View Post
    So basically you're saying cripple an entire infrastructure for the purpose of promoting cycling?
    No, I'm saying those are some of the additional factors that account for high ridership in Dutch cities.


    Quote Originally Posted by chriswnw View Post
    My point was that ridership will only climb so high unless driving is made far more difficult and expensive, either by accident or by design. "Autocentric" merely means "easy and cheap to drive". You will only get Amsterdam's numbers if it is hard and expensive to drive. Although I love biking and view it as a superior option for me, most people aren't like me -- they view the car as the best transportation vehicle, and would only downgrade to something else (and they would view it as "downgrading") if they had to.
    I think there's something else to consider-- high ridership in Amsterdam and other cities was achieved through policies which deliberately promoted higher ridership, but once high ridership has been achieved, cycling becomes embedded in the culture. We can see this cultural acceptance of cycling developing in Portland.

    In the United States, part of what has made the automobile dominant has been this cultural factor-- "America's love affair with the automobile."

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    genec genec's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by StrangeWill View Post
    So basically you're saying cripple an entire infrastructure for the purpose of promoting cycling?
    No, basically we are saying that whatever the "entire infrastructure" is built for will have preferential treatment.

    If an infrastructure is built for cars, then cars (and thus motorists, vice cyclists and pedestrians) have preferential treatment.

    Build an infrastructure for people, and people will have preferential treatment.

    There is not a town or city in the US that does not give preferential treatment to the automobile over any thing else. Cities, subdivisions and urban centers have been cut into two (or more) pieces to support freeways, to support the auto.

    How often and how little space is dedicated to the pedestrian? To the cyclist? Even our homes often dedicate the largest single room... to the car.

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    Quote Originally Posted by genec View Post
    No, basically we are saying that whatever the "entire infrastructure" is built for will have preferential treatment.

    If an infrastructure is built for cars, then cars (and thus motorists, vice cyclists and pedestrians) have preferential treatment.

    Build an infrastructure for people, and people will have preferential treatment.

    There is not a town or city in the US that does not give preferential treatment to the automobile over any thing else. Cities, subdivisions and urban centers have been cut into two (or more) pieces to support freeways, to support the auto.

    How often and how little space is dedicated to the pedestrian? To the cyclist? Even our homes often dedicate the largest single room... to the car.
    Yes, this is true.

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    genec genec's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by chriswnw View Post
    Okay, yes, ridership in Davis is 1.8 times higher than that of Portland -- my bad. However, it has declined from 22 percent over the course of ten years.

    But how about Irvine? I finally found some stats: A measly 1.36 percent. Here is their bike map. To be fair, Irvine is but one of many cities in Orange County, and many of its residents probably work outside the city limits. Davis is more of a small metropolitan area unto itself.

    My point was that ridership will only climb so high unless driving is made far more difficult and expensive, either by accident or by design. "Autocentric" merely means "easy and cheap to drive". You will only get Amsterdam's numbers if it is hard and expensive to drive. Although I love biking and view it as a superior option for me, most people aren't like me -- they view the car as the best transportation vehicle, and would only downgrade to something else (and they would view it as "downgrading") if they had to.
    Ever been to Orange County... the bike map is a drop in the bucket compared to the freeway system there... along with the high speed interconnecting arterial roads with speeds upwards of 55 and 65MPH, on shared surface streets. The bike system is nothing compared to the treatment given to cars.

    In a way you have a point... as long as it is easier to drive anywhere, the generally lazy human, will do just that.

    But the real question is at what price? Gas has been cheap for a long time in America... but what has that wrought... noisy polluted cities that are scaled for large, rather overpowered, mostly empty boxes to move single humans about.

    Our cities are scaled for the auto... humans as people are given tiny strips at the sides upon which to wander... and heaven forbid if you need to get cross town. "No one walks in LA."

    Indeed even in the likes of Davis, distances and city designs favor the auto. But what happens when there is no more room for the auto? Such as in London, or NYC? What happens when fuel is not nearly as cheap?

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    Here in State College, PA, the downtown is littered with parking garages. Same with the Penn State campus. Those things are expensive, which somewhat perversely, has been good for bicycle infrastructure as the township tries to drive parking off-road and into the garages. But the investment in autos has been huge. And it's still horrible to ride a bike from one end of downtown to the other. Getting to campus on a bike is not too bad, much easier than in a car. If you aren't a big muckety muck, you have to park downtown (or at a very remote parking lot) and walk to campus, ride a bus, or ride a bike. Not sure why bike riding isn't a lot more popular here.

    It really struck me when we moved here that such a small town had such a huge parking problem. I still don't understand it fully, but it probably has to do with the temporary influx of people into town every day to work.

    I'm going to go into town and park in one of those expensive parking garages when I'm done with this.

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    Part-time epistemologist invisiblehand's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by genec View Post
    Ever been to Orange County... the bike map is a drop in the bucket compared to the freeway system there... along with the high speed interconnecting arterial roads with speeds upwards of 55 and 65MPH, on shared surface streets. The bike system is nothing compared to the treatment given to cars.
    Yeah ... Orange County -- which is actually a large area consisting of much more than just Irvine -- is definitely designed for cars.

    I don't think that miles of on/off road bicycle facilities is a good metric anyway. Largely because it is a noisy measure of the connectivity and quality of these facilities. Consequently any estimate of the relationship between miles of bikeway as a proxy for connectivity/quality and ridership will be biased towards zero.

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    uke
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    In many countries, they realized that people didn't ride because they didn't feel safe.
    Instead of ignoring this and asking people to drive, they built infrastructure to support
    cycling and reduced infrastructure available to cars. Maybe someday we'll try this here!

    JesseDuncan:I just love how "cars will be forced to cross the double yellow lines on dangerous limited visibility roads".

    I don't want to have a head on but oh god, I HAVE to fling myself into oncoming traffic to pass, theres no alternative!!!

  18. #18
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    As a native of almost-Irvine (Newport Beach), and former UCI student, I can explain this, at least partly.

    First, Davis: 20 years ago there was little else there besides the university. Since then the non-university (and largely non-biking) population has grown tremendously.

    The growth in Irvine has been even more extreme. What were strawberry fields 20 years ago are now skyscrapers.

    UCI has always been a commuter campus in the heart of a metro area, which is now a major metro area. Housing around UCI is way too expensive for most students. So most live well beyond biking distance. A dedicated cyclist would do it but not the average person -- like they can in most college towns, where nothing is more than a mile or two from anything else.

    Add to that having to work, maybe several miles in another direction, and biking becomes less practical.
    bikeNewportBeach.org
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    Quote Originally Posted by invisiblehand View Post
    Yeah ... Orange County -- which is actually a large area consisting of much more than just Irvine -- is definitely designed for cars.
    Like Northern VA.

    I don't think that miles of on/off road bicycle facilities is a good metric anyway. Largely because it is a noisy measure of the connectivity and quality of these facilities. Consequently any estimate of the relationship between miles of bikeway as a proxy for connectivity/quality and ridership will be biased towards zero.
    I agree. However I think the connectedness of Orange County is pretty good. The bike paths are strategically placed to provide shortcuts and avoid major roads and intersections.

    I often make the comparison between OC and NoVA because they're so similar in many ways, but biking in OC is easier because the arterial roads are wider. The fetishists among us will argue 'til doomsday about bike lane stripes, but no sane person would assert that the extra width on 50 MPH arterial roads doesn't make biking easier and less intimidating for most people.
    Last edited by mattotoole; 05-03-09 at 12:40 PM.
    bikeNewportBeach.org
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    Senior Member Rex G's Avatar
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    I look at the photo in post #17, and think, that would be nice around here, except that as soon as traffic started getting congested, cars would be jumping into those lanes and driving in them, regardless of the law. That already does happen with smaller cars and motorcycles/scooters in some of the designated bikes lanes in Houston, that are just striped areas on the pavement, next to standard traffic lanes. (Which is one reason I didn't mind seeing some of those designated bike lanes disappear.)

    Of course, Houston also famously lets car PARK in the bike lanes with no penalty.
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    Davis had a two fold problem
    1 - The nature of the town went from rural college town to suburban bedroom community. The dynamics shifted with the longer commutes and more people commuting.
    2 - The advocacy of bicycles at the university changed. More parking garages were built on campus, allowing greater use of vehicles.
    3 - Existing bicycle infrastructure is not being maintained like it used to.

    www.des.ucdavis.edu/faculty/handy/Davis_bike_history.pdf

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    Davis, Portland actual cities. Irvine a giant freaken suburb. Larger distances involved, different demographic. As other poster mentioned students either live on campus or commute from outside Irvine.
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    Quote Originally Posted by unterhausen View Post
    Here in State College, PA, the downtown is littered with parking garages. Same with the Penn State campus. Those things are expensive, which somewhat perversely, has been good for bicycle infrastructure as the township tries to drive parking off-road and into the garages. But the investment in autos has been huge. And it's still horrible to ride a bike from one end of downtown to the other. Getting to campus on a bike is not too bad, much easier than in a car. If you aren't a big muckety muck, you have to park downtown (or at a very remote parking lot) and walk to campus, ride a bus, or ride a bike. Not sure why bike riding isn't a lot more popular here.

    It really struck me when we moved here that such a small town had such a huge parking problem. I still don't understand it fully, but it probably has to do with the temporary influx of people into town every day to work.

    I'm going to go into town and park in one of those expensive parking garages when I'm done with this.
    pretty ironic that to promote bicycling you have to build super expensive parking garages for the motorists so that the curb side parking space is freed up for bicycle infrastucture, eh?

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    Senior Member randya's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by uke View Post


    In many countries, they realized that people didn't ride because they didn't feel safe.
    Instead of ignoring this and asking people to drive, they built infrastructure to support
    cycling and reduced infrastructure available to cars. Maybe someday we'll try this here!
    looks like a dooring 'accident' waiting to happen.

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    Quote Originally Posted by randya View Post
    looks like a dooring 'accident' waiting to happen.
    A good illustration of why just copying infrastructure from one location to another may not be successful. There probably aren't many dooring incidents if that path typically has the high level of bicycle usage shown. People exiting cars would expect bicyclists to be present and act accordingly.

    But put the same path in an area with fewer cyclists and the car doors would be flung open without first looking.

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