Tomorrow, Topeka Metro is offering free rides on all its fixed routes in the city, in recognition of the 60th Anniversary of Rosa Parks’ bus protest.
Have you ever wanted to try out the bus? Tomorrow would be a great day for that! Check out the system map and find the route that suits you best – either one that goes close to home or close to work. Metro uses a hub-and-spoke system, so if you need two routes to get to your destination, that might mean transferring at Quincy Street Station downtown.
If you live in city limits, chances are good that you live near a bus route. Almost 75% of Topekans are within a 1/4-mile of a bus route – that’s just a 10-minute walk!
Bicycling, whether you ride or not, benefits you. Bicyclists make your commute safer, easier, healthier, and cheaper.
Safer: Cities with high rates of cycling see fewer traffic injuries and fatalities, and in some cases cut these risks in half (PDF).
Easier: When bicycle infrastructure exists, traffic flows more smoothly. For drivers, that means less time spent in traffic, and less money spent on gas.
Healthier: Every person who bikes to work saves a half gallon of gas, and prevents 10 pounds of carbon dioxide from being added to the air every day. That can add up to almost two tons of CO2 and 200 gallons of gas – per person, per year.
Cheaper: Finally, bicycling is good for the economy. The return on investment for cycling infrastructure is in some cases 12 to 1. Missouri’s Katy Trail brings total economic effects of more than $18 million every year. The city of Seville, Spain, decided bicycling was valuable and important enough to spend $43 million on a world-class network. And one of the more dramatic examples – Iowa gives bicycling credit for $1 million per day (PDF).
If you’re starting to think favorably about bicycling, it’s time to get involved.
Bikeshare: an inexpensive way to start
Next to walking – bicycling is just about the cheapest way to travel. But buying, storing, and maintaining a good bike can add up over the course of a year. So the absolute cheapest way to commute by bike is by using bikeshare. In Topeka in the spring of 2015, you’ll be able to get a year-long membership to Topeka Metro Bikes for $25. That will let you check out a bike for two hours, every day for a year, for free. You could ride 6,000 miles in that time! What’s more – you’ll never have to fix a flat tire, lug a bike up to your balcony, or hang it on your car. When you’re done with a ride, just lock the bike up at a good bike rack, and forget about it. (Shameless plug)
Bike-friendly tips for retail & small business
Good news for business owners – bicyclists spend more money than motorists. A recent study (PDF) found that cyclists may not spend as much per visit as motorists, but they make more visits to retail businesses than motorists, and are likely to spend more in a month. That’s all the more reason to make minimal effort to accommodate bicyclists.
What are some ways to do that? The first one is really, really simple. Put a picture of a bike on the front of your store. Just a smaller sticker by the door will do. This is totally serious – but it also carries a commitment with it: You have to promise not to grimace when cyclists waddle in, carrying helmets, and wearing skin-tight lycra. You don’t have to talk about bikes, or physical activity at all – a simple comment on the weather will do just fine.
Next, consider installing a bike rack near your front door for visitors – or somewhere secure and tucked away for employees. You have car-parking, don’t you? And sidewalks? Don’t forget about bikes! But please, if you’re thinking about getting a bike rack – don’t just go out and buy the first one you find. The kinds of racks that support wheels, but not bike frames, can actually damage bicycles, and they’re not very secure. The Topeka Community Cycle Project has you covered – they can help you get a great bike rack, in almost any color.
How to get involved in Topeka
Sign up for a bikeshare membership! Topeka is launching the state’s first bikeshare system, and it’s only a pilot phase. If it’s not successful, it may not last. (Shameless plug)
Employers – offer the bike commuter tax benefit to your employees who ride often. Healthy employees are happier, take fewer sick days, and are more productive.
Set up a placed-based promotion with the local bikeshare system – encourage bikeshare users to visit you.
Read Bikenomics by Elly Blue. This is the be-all, end-all compendium of practical bicycling economics. Her series at Grist makes a nice introduction.
Visit the Topeka Community Cycle Project to meet bike commuters, and learn to work on your own bike, or visit Capp’s Bike Shop or Jerry’s Bike Shop to meet expert mechanics and pick up useful gear – or a new bike!
Show up for Bike Month events in May 2015 – starting with Dinner & Bikes!
Check out this press release from NYC. The City’s Comptroller is reporting that claims against the city have cost NYC taxpayers almost $90 million. Clearly there is a financial case for investing in pedestrian (and cyclist) infrastructure. If bad roads are killing and injuring people — not to mention, costing the city millions of dollars, isn’t it time to make them better?
This line is especially sweet:
“The City should employ best practices to reduce risk to pedestrians, examine the hot spots identified by this data and determine whether additional traffic calming measures may be needed,” Stringer said.
Most cities are relying on debt to finance wide swaths of infrastructure, or economic development, or public works projects. We’ve grown too big for our britches, and infrastructure is a huge part of the problem. Property taxes collected no longer cover the costs of the cities we’ve built.
by Zach Vanderkooy, Bikes Belong Foundation. Originally published in the Alliance for Biking & Walking 2012 Benchmarking Report.
Seville’s embrace of the bicycle is decidedly 21st century. As recently as 2004, bicycling in this city of 700,000 was seen as a fringe activity for elite athletes and people too poor to own a car. There was no bicycle infrastructure to speak of, and the few Sevillianos who did use bikes for utilitarian purposes (0.2% of all trips in 2000) were practically invisible on the streets and in public life. Cars and trucks dominated the transportation landscape. For the average person to ride a bike to work or school was unimaginable.
For people living in most American cities, this story feels awfully familiar. That’s why Seville’s remarkable transformation is drawing excited attention on our side of the Atlantic. In just five years, bicycling has grown from a statistically nonexistent mode of transportation to a significant—if not yet ordinary—part of daily life. Seville’s engineers built a network of comfortable separated bikeways connecting the city that now carries 7% of all traffic. It has implemented a state-of-the-art bike sharing system, offering residents and visitors affordable access to more than 2,000 bicycles stationed throughout the city. And it has redesigned many plazas, squares, and streets to make them more inviting spaces for those traveling on foot and on two wheels. The investments are paying dividends more quickly than anyone figured.
Traffic congestion and pollution are declining for the first time in 30 years. Businesses are thriving along bike routes and around the newly improved public spaces that are breathing fresh life into the central city. The number of car trips into the historic city center has plummeted from 25,000 a day to 10,000, freeing valuable space for residents to park and visitors to linger. More than 70,000 bike trips are made every day, up from just 2,500 in 2002. Bicycling has given Sevillianos a healthy, speedy new way to get around.
Designing a better city
When it came to designing Seville’s bicycle infrastructure, the city looked north for inspiration. David Muñoz de la Torre, Director of Seville’s Bike Program, cites the Netherlands as a key influence in shaping the city’s bikeway system. “We wanted to create a complete network, not a piecemeal system,” he emphasized. Nothing discourages potential bike riders more than bike lanes that end abruptly, forcing them to mix with fast-moving cars. Seville’s bikeways continue through intersections, around roundabouts, and across zigzags, making navigation a breeze — just follow the impossible-to-miss bright green path and you’ll stay on route. All the bikeways along major roads are physically separated from car and pedestrian traffic as much as possible. City leaders explain that protection from traffic is a key factor in making the system appealing to less experienced riders, particularly children, women, and older people. “Our design target is a 65-year old woman with groceries,” explained Muñoz de la Torre. He reasons that if bicycling is safe for her, it is safe for everyone.
The entire 87-mile network cost about $43 million to install between 2007 and 2009—a bargain when you consider that a single mile of urban freeway in the United States easily costs twice as much. With the core bicycling network now in place, Muñoz de la Torre says the city is focused on improving difficult crossings and tight squeezes on the streets, installing more bike parking, and launching public education campaigns as the next steps to boost bicycle use. The city expects 15% of all trips in Seville to be made by bike in 2015.
Change isn’t easy—but it can happen overnight
In order to build support for its rapid urban transformation, Seville’s leaders had to win the favor of a public that had little familiarity with bicycling and merchants skeptical that customers would arrive on bike and foot instead of in cars. The city hosted hundreds of public meetings and charrettes—design workshops involving the public—to incorporate ideas from neighborhoods into plans for newly configured public spaces and roadways. Initial opposition to removing or relocating car parking was fierce, but business owners came to realize that streets filled with pedestrians and bicyclists create more opportunities for folks to spontaneously stop in a shop or café. Some controversy remains, but polls show both residents and businesses are predominantly pleased with the changes. The rise in bicycling is a bright spot in tough economic times, as stores, restaurants, and plazas of the central city are usually packed with residents and tourists.
If they can do it, why can’t we?
For U.S. cities just beginning to build bikeway networks, Seville is an inspiring example of how quickly results can be achieved with focused investments. This scorching hot, car-centered Spanish city is far different from the Dutch and Danish cities usually celebrated as bicycling Meccas. Seville’s story challenges the common assumption that biking and walking have always been a way of life in European cities. With families strolling and bikes rolling on avenues that just 5 years ago were filled with roaring cars and trucks, it’s impossible not to ask the question: If Seville can do it, why not Dallas, Atlanta, or Los Angeles?
Seville added 87 miles of new bike infrastructure in 36 months between 2007 and 2009.
85% of the space came from removal of car parking and travel lanes; 15% came from pedestrian space (which was compensated for by major, new additions to public space in other places).
The improvements increased the percentage of all trips taken by bicycle from 0.4% to ~ 7%.
In 2005, the Alameda de Hercules, a major public plaza, was redesigned to be more inviting to people on bikes and on foot. More than 100 public meetings were held to discuss the plan, which required reallocating 200 parking spaces to make room for new public space. Initially neighbors and local businesses strongly opposed the changes, but now 22% of customers arrive by bike and businesses along the plaza are thriving.
City Council passed a law that restricts non-resident auto access into the cramped central city; the law reduced the daily number of cars in downtown from 25,000 to 10,000, drastically reducing congestion.
“Great is the enemy of good.” The city’s infrastructure emphasizes network connectivity, not perfection. It’s far from the polished bikeways of Northern Europe, but the protected bikeways of Seville are safe, convenient, and get you where you need to go without interruption.
City population: 700,000; metro area, 1.5 million.