Saturday, August 18, 2007

Stumbled across this...

It's a discussion of bicycle use as an indicator of perceived safety on the streets, specifically by measuring the numbers of female cyclists. This is certainly an interesting idea worth further reading. I don't know that I'd refer to women as an "indicator species" because the blonds in my house would probably get huffy and women like 'Wendy' would pop a gasket or two or three.

I'm not a fan of using anecdotal evidence to support an argument or position, but it's hard to deny that increasing the numbers of bike racks around area businesses indicate more customers arriving on bicycles. Businesses don't spend money on something that goes unused, not if they want to stay in business. I would be overjoyed if the rack in front of my building was crowded with 8 or 10 bikes rather than my lonely Centurion.

My thanks to Ben Warner of Community Indicators, where I first stumbled across this information. I've included links to Richard Layman's blog and the original story in the Sacramento Bee.

Community Indicators


Saturday, August 18, 2007
Indicators on Two Wheels: Measuring Bicycles?

...For the record, here's the first couple sentences of the MySpace article: "Bicyclists are social indicators. The number of people riding and commuting by bicycle can tell us something about the communities in which we live in." While I suspected that was true, I wasn't quite sure what that "something" was.

After all, in one part of the area I live in, we have an extraordinarily high number of accidents involving bicyclists. Anecdotally, I've been told by someone working in the field that the number of bicycle accidents are proportional to DUI's resulting in suspended licenses, leading to a rise of "bicycling while intoxicated" that can be more deadly than being back behind the wheel, though less of a threat to others. But I don't think that's the "something" that the number-of-bicyclists indicator would tell us.

Then I ran across Richard Layman's blog. He references a Sacramento Bee article called Cycle City? in which Peter Jacobsen "points to a key 'indicator species,' the female cyclist. Their numbers on the road, he argues, are a direct measure of the perceived safety of cycling and its likelihood to catch on with the general population."

Bicyclists as a measure of the popularity of bicycling doesn't seem like such an exciting indicator. But bicyclists as a measure of perceptions of safety and of urban renewal and the development of neighborhoods? That's a lot more interesting.

Sacramento Bee


(Excerpts follow)

Cycle City?
Sacramento streets gearing up for cruisers and commuters
By Tim Holt - Special to The Bee

Published 12:00 am PDT Sunday, August 12, 2007

Is it possible that sprawling, car-oriented Sacramento is becoming a bicycling town? A larger version of Davis?

Health writer and dedicated Sacramento cyclist Peter Jacobsen thinks so. To make his case, he points to a key "indicator species," the female cyclist. Their numbers on the road, he argues, are a direct measure of the perceived safety of cycling and its likelihood to catch on with the general population.

Using this test, one can make the case that Sacramento is on the verge of becoming a cycling town, with midtown as its incubator. Cycling by both sexes is much in evidence in midtown, and it has a decidedly retro, back-to-the-future look. Twenty-somethings there are embracing colorful "cruiser" bikes -- those fat-tired bikes that hark back to the days when newspapers were delivered on two wheels.

...And midtown is a logical incubator for cycling. It's where trips tend to be shorter and more easily manageable on two wheels. Midtown is packed with destinations for younger folks, with lots of restaurants, bars and nightclubs.

...The Census Bureau reported that a 2005 supplemental survey of U.S. commuters ranked Portland first and Sacramento tied for fifth among major cities in the percentage of commuters who traveled by bicycle. For Sacramento, that's 1.8 percent of all Sacramento commuters, or 3,305 cyclists.

There's more-recent anecdotal evidence that suggests cycling has grown in popularity since then. To keep up with demand, bike parking spaces for City Hall staffers have quadrupled, from 10 to 42, over the past two years. Bike racks are sprouting up all over midtown in front of restaurants and coffee houses. Participation in the Million Mile May campaign, which encourages Sacramento cyclists to rack up as many miles as they can in one month, has doubled since 2005, from more than 2,000 participants to 4,133 last May.



Blogger Ben Warner said...

Thanks for the comments! I like the idea of counting bike racks -- perhaps easier than counting cyclists, or it might be a supplementary indicator to the number of cyclists.

Until recently, only a very few buses in our community allowed you to put your bike on the back, and even those only had room for a couple of bikes -- making it much harder to promote bike use as alternate transportation. There's a number of ways we can measure how well a community welcomes and encourages bicycles.

(I'm heading to Tulsa next month, and had hoped to be able to stop in OKC where I went to high school many years ago, but other commitments are going to make this a quick trip. I'll keep my eyes out for bike racks -- once upon a time I remember riding bicycles to watch Quail Springs Mall being built outside of town in OKC -- rumor has it the town caught up.)

5:09 PM  
Blogger Fritz said...

Paul Dorn mentioned this too and I think it's worth some more discussion. I have some thoughts on it but I haven't had a chance to put them to ink (or electrons, as it were...).

12:42 AM  

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