Category Archives: public policy

Cycling to work and beyond

This week in May many cities celebrate cycling with a “bike to work day.”  Here in Albuquerque it’s Friday May 19.  I’m a believer in cycling everyday, and aligning a ride around work or school is a good way to get started.  That’s how my cycling began 20 years ago in Reno, Nevada.

There are more benefits than we can imagine in cycling to work.  We get to know our cities better.  We see life from a new perspective.  And we develop our cycling skills as we navigate through varied infrastructure to get to where we need to go.  Cycling to work is a healthy habit.

The key is making cycling a routine.  Transportation is a lifeway, just like eating.  When we try changing with a short term fix, like going on a diet, it usually doesn’t stick.  And cycling to work is going to be the same way.  The idea is to make it a habit that becomes integral to your routine.  We can celebrate cycling everyday!  Bike to church.  Bike to the store.  Bike to open space.

The amazing thing about cycle commuting is how much you accomplish outside of the trip itself.  First of all, cycling energize our lives.  We arrive to work fresh, and if the weather was bad outside, actually relieved to be at our desk.  Free shelter!  Many employers reward cycle commuters with health bonuses, and you become an example for your colleagues.  You boost morale and your enthusiasm is contagious.  People are proud to work with you!  And when you arrive home, you’re already refreshed and replenished with a happy and clear mind.

As a student of cycling, the bike commute is a masters course.  It gets us on the bike twice a day.  The preparation it takes commands concentration and mindfulness.  And we get to practice our cycling skills without having to carve away free time.  There’s an interview with our national hill climbing champion, Leroy Popowski, on the top of Pikes Peak in Colorado.  They ask him what he does to get fit, and he responds that most of his training is riding to and from work with a backpack.  He’s not kidding.  You can look him up on Strava.  Same route twice a day.  That’s ten rides a week.  Of course, then he goes off on the weekends and does more exploring.  But the bike commute is the core for a joyful cycling life.  I hope you seize the chance to begin this May!

Resources:
Find out more at Albuquerque’s member-driven volunteer-run not-for-profit, BikeABQ:
http://www.bikeabq.org
Check out Santa Fe, New Mexico’s bike to work day events:  https://www.biketoworksantafe.com
The League of American Cyclists bike to work month page: http://bikeleague.org/bikemonth

Sharing the air and voting with legs

Equality is in the air we breathe. –Langston Hughes, “Let America Be America Again”

Life’s greatest satisfaction is staying in good health. –Warren Buffett on Charlie Rose

the-mountains

I remember walking into the classroom at commercial driving school at age 21 and gagging on the heavy stench of diesel fumes wafting through the building.  The classroom was next to the yard where old flat-faced Mack trucks with over a million miles were jockeying 48 foot long trailers, dark foggy plumes rolling out of their vertical chrome exhaust stacks.  For three months I would know that smell.  When I graduated and hired on to Cannon Express, they issued a company truck to me.  I drove it across the country hauling loads for companies like WalMart and looking for parking spaces at night that were upwind from the rest of the idling trucks and vapor-letting fuel pumps.  The smell of engine exhaust and fuel vapors remind some people of work, but for me I thought of cancer, asthma, and diminished health.  I tried to avoid it as much as possible, but it is impossible to avoid completely, even for those that don’t work as drivers.  I won fuel awards for high average miles per gallon in my company truck because I refused to idle it at night like the other drivers did for heat or air conditioning.  I preferred clean and quiet.

bike

My love for driving and the road is mostly funneled through cycling now.  But I still get exposed to all kinds of fumes.  We all do.  There was an interesting article in The Guardian yesterday that tried to determine how bad air quality would have to be to negate the health benefits one creates from the physical activities of cycling and walking.  The answer is it has to be pretty bad but in some cities around the world–particularly in India, China and the Middle East–the air has passed that tipping point.  Bad air exacerbates the problem by suppressing healthier transport choices, unjustly impacting active and thrifty people.  The Guardian cites a study in Preventative Medicine: “Since transport is an important source of air pollution in urban areas, mode shifts from motorized transport to active travel would not only improve health in active travelers, but also help to reduce air pollution exposures for the whole population.”

la-luz-light

In America with the Clean Air Act of 1970 and increasing fuel efficiency standards for motorized vehicles, we are improving the air quality in most of our cities.  This is an area where there is a great opportunity to lead, as a country and as individuals.  We can make better protections,  incentivize and make healthy choices.  Vote with your legs if you can.  Be a leader, cycle onward!

The most important political office is that of private citizen. –Louis Brandeis

If your stomach is sound, your lungs and feet in good order, you need no regal riches to make you happy. –Horace

Resources:

The Guardian’s article on cycling and air quality: https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2017/feb/13/tipping-point-cities-exercise-more-harm-than-good

“Can air pollution negate the health benefits of cycling and walking?”  in Preventative Medicine
http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0091743516000402

New York Times article on increasing efficiency and reducing pollution of large vehicles:

Pedaler in Chief

“Bicycles will save the world.”  –Susan Handy, UC Davis Environmental Science & Policy

How poignant this Rush song is today.  It was written in 1985 when greed was being institutionalized in America.  I grew up a confused child in a troubled world.

After high school I worked as a roofer.  I started college.  At 21, I drove an 18 wheeler around America the beautiful, and epic Canada too.  But it was the bicycle–rediscovered at the age of 22 when I realized the car could not save me and was too expensive for me to operate anymore–that changed me.  It was a tool that helped me learn Emerson’s Self-Reliance from the inside by living it.  It’s not easy, and I don’t know where this journey is taking me, but it is a fun ride.

mais-scene

What if our next President charged the country with cycling more?  Make a difference, bike more.  We don’t need everyone to ride, we simply need to support people that are out there cycling right now and encourage people that will.  Especially our youth, and young at heart.

If you’re feeling cynical during this election cycle I recommend cycling more.  It builds us up and connects us to the greater world.  I would also recommend voting.  We have to make our effort and let go of factors beyond our control.  We can only dictate our own effort.  And it works.

2012 was a pivotal moment on my cycling journey when Joe Shannon, Flagstaff Cycling’s Pedaler in Chief, gave me an opportunity to race again, build a team and smooth out my pedal stroke.  We keep growing the movement and spreading the word.  What if the next President of the U.S.A. embraced this new title, Pedaler in Chief, and built a team with all Americans and World Leaders?   Who knows, maybe big money can help more too.  Let’s ask.

References–
Check out Dr. Handy’s research here:  http://www.des.ucdavis.edu/faculty/handy/
Joe’s team is linked here–
https://flagstaffcycling.squarespace.com/
Cycling joins together disciplines:  UC Davis’s Center for Environmental Policy and Behavior

Leadership

‘I started to take a deep interest in not only transportation but land use plans’ –Secretary Foxx

’embedded in our infrastructure are the values of past eras that accepted disconnections, that accepted a view of our country of folks that are in, and folks that are out, and I think we have to have a different idea of our country in the 21st century’  —Secretary Foxx

Or watch the video and view resources on the Ladders of Opportunity website–

https://www.transportation.gov/opportunity

CenterLines, the Active Transportation Digest

CenterLines, the National Center for Bicycling and Walking’s biweekly news bulletin, covers current developments in the world of active transportation in North America.  It’s a one stop source for all things bicycling and walking and more.  If you’re just beginning to investigate active transportation, an experienced professional, or somewhere in between, CenterLines is a smorgasbord of opportunities, ideas, and ways to make new connections.  It covers research, policies, events, conferences, job listings, trainings, news and ways to get involved.  Here are a couple content examples from the most recent CenterLines issue published on March 23.

* Health Impacts of Active Transportation in Europe
This study measured the health impact of increased bicycling and walking in six European cities.  Increases in cycling to 35% of all trips improved health the most of all the scenarios analyzed in the study.  The research team concluded that “Increased collaboration between health practitioners, transport specialists and urban planners will help to introduce the health perspective in transport policies and promote active transportation” for substantial benefits.

* The International Mtn. Biking Assocation (IMBA) World Summit is in Bentonville, AR
November 10-12, 2016 Arkansas welcomes the IMBA summit, which gathers together mountain bikers, public land stewards, the business community and advocates of all kinds.  I was just in Arkansas visiting my grandmother and it is an incredible place to bicycle (blog posts here).  When IMBA came to Santa Fe in 2012 the local scene “got discovered.”  Certainly Northwest Arkansas will experience a similar recognition for their beautiful countryside and the way local communities have wholeheartedly embraced cycling as a way to explore the Natural State.

*CenterLines has a Quotes R Us section.  “Our ultimate goal is to improve the economic and environmental health of American communities and the personal health of the people who live there.  To achieve this, we will reconnect America with trails in the same way that railroads once connected people and places.”  –Keith Laughlin, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy President

CenterLines is free, published online and open to the general public.  It is a good place to start and come back to when you want to grow your understanding of the quickly expanding frontiers of the active transportation world.  The presentation is not flashy, but the content is deep, diverse, and leading edge.  The National Center for Bicycling and Walking is my Bike Org. of the Month for March 2016.  Keep up the important work that you are doing.  Arigato.

benches

Spring bloom outside of Mesa Vista Hall on the main campus of UNM in central Albuquerque

Resources Focused on Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety

Here are a trio of resources for improving roads.  These are good tools for connecting communities together around caring for safer roads.  Now’s the time for responsible action.

Safer People, Safer Streets: Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety Initiative  by the USDOT
Everyday Counts
initiative by the FHWA Center for Innovation
FAST Act (Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act), America’s five year transportation bill

In December 2015 Congress passed Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act (FAST Act), a five year bill that increases funding for bicycle and pedestrian safety education, awareness, and enforcement. The FAST Act allocates additional funding for the purpose of decreasing pedestrian and bicycle fatalities and injuries that result from crashes involving a motor vehicle to States where the annual combined pedestrian and bicycle fatalities exceed 15 percent of the total annual crash fatalities in the State.  Of 20 States eligible for this additional funding, 6 are in the Southwest U.S., AZ, CA, UT, NV, NM, and TX.  Funding may be used for “training of law enforcement officials on State laws applicable to pedestrian and bicycle safety; enforcement mobilizations and campaigns designed to enforce State traffic laws applicable to pedestrian and bicycle safety; and public education and awareness programs designed to inform motorists, pedestrians, and bicyclists of State traffic laws applicable to pedestrian and bicycle safety.”

The road diet program in Everyday Counts helps reconfigure roadways to encourage or accommodate a wider array of transportation modes.  It simplifies operation and helps to calm traffic, making it a more inviting place for everyone.  Crashes are reduced by 19 to 47 percent.

The Safer People, Safer Streets initiative has a family of programs including the Mayors’ Challenge, Road Safety Assessments, and Road Safety for Transit Patrons.  I’ve participated in two Road Safety Assessments in New Mexico and hope to do more and apply our knowledge.

There is also a Focused Approach To Safety program where eligible States may receive “technical assistance such as data analysis and action plan development from initiation to implementation; training and associated materials in a variety of formats, including classroom-based workshops or online webinars; support for a wide range of analysis tools and countermeasures”.  New Mexico is a focus State for pedestrian and bicycle safety.

statemap_fas2015

Looking forward to keeping you updated as we work with these programs.

Strava Connects Athletes with Planners

Strava technology blows my mind.  Strava has united what I’ve always done, bicycling, with my current project in long range transportation planning, design and education.  I’ve always thought the best way to advocate for bicycling is to do it.  I’m good at that.  With Strava, a free application that tracks your movement with GPS from a device as simple as your current cell phone, our riding becomes visible to planners and elected officials.  It literally makes your riding count and show up as evidence on how much and where people are bicycling.

If you’re riding and you’re not on Strava, please sign up for Strava for free.

La Luz piñon

This makes a huge difference.  Metro Planning Organizations have been counting cars since the 1970’s, but systematic counts for pedestrians and bicyclists have not been programmed as well.  So the lack of statistical “evidence” that people are walking and bicycling has been detrimental to justifying the allocation of funds for making improvements.  Strava says “nearly one-half of all rides on Strava in denser metro areas are commutes so Strava Metro data gives great insight into the needs of those riding for transportation.”  Strava is doing us all kinds of favors, including breaking down false divides between people that bike for health (“sport”) and for those that bike for transportation (“utility”).  People bike for all reasons, just like we use cars.

Winter ride

Aside from the social networking you can do with Strava, such as tracking your friends’ rides, and taking pictures and uploading them to rides (the photos on this blog post are from my rides on Strava), you are serving a greater purpose too by making your riding more visible and making it part of a big data set.  Strava is my bike org. of the month for December 2015.

S14 descending

Sign up for Strava:  http://www.strava.com/how-it-works
Follow me on Strava:  https://www.strava.com/athletes/1817826

References:
http://metro.strava.com/faq/
http://metro.strava.com/
http://labs.strava.com/heatmap/#6/-120.90000/38.36000/blue/bike

from Strava Metro

Strava Metro is a data service providing “ground truth” on where people ride and run. Millions of GPS-tracked activities are uploaded to Strava every week from around the globe. In denser metro areas, nearly one-half of these are commutes. These activities create billions of data points that, when aggregated, enable deep analysis and understanding of real-world cycling and pedestrian route preferences.”

Here’s a little heat map screen print from our bicycle rides in Albuquerque:

Strava Heat ABQ 2016