Boyonabike!

Life beyond the automobile in Southern California

Archive for the category “bicycle economics”

Why bike lanes matter

The city of Carlsbad narrowed vehicle travel lanes on the coast highway to create buffered bike lanes that increase safety.  Traffic speed limits were also lowered.

Carlsbad narrowed vehicle lanes, creating buffered bike lanes and lowered speed limits on the coast highway.

I spent last week in Carlsbad and the surrounding North San Diego County area with my family for a summer beach break.  We come down here every year, and it is always interesting to watch the area slowly become more bike-friendly.

One of the new bike corrals in downtown carlsbad.

One of the new bike corrals in downtown carlsbad.

Perhaps the biggest change I noticed this year was the addition of more bike lanes and lots of additional bike parking in Carlsbad’s downtown business district.   The city got an active transportation grant from the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) and installed over 180 bike racks throughout town.  There are literally scores of new bike racks up and down Carlsbad Village Drive, the town’s main north-south artery, and even a new “bike corral” near the intersection of Carlsbad Village and State Street (see photo).  There are ample bike racks throughout town, especially at restaurants, beach access points, and other popular destinations in town.  It may seem like a small thing, but knowing there will be bike racks when you get to your destination is a major improvement, and the city has installed good “inverted U” racks (not the crappy “wheel bender” racks that some cities install as an afterthought).

Carlsbad Village Drive, the main artery through the village business district, now has new bike lanes along the shoulder of the road.  In years past, my family and I had not felt safe bicycling Carlsbad Village Drive and always avoided it, taking the long way around if we rode our bikes to the stores and restaurants on that road, but this year we were able to ride to shops and restaurants in the safety of a bike lane.  The ease with which one can now access the Village’s shops and restaurants by bike is remarkably improved.  These small changes made a huge difference for us, and I noticed more people bicycling around town than ever before.

The most impressive infrastructure improvement is the road diet on Carlsbad Blvd., the portion of the coast highway that runs through town (top photo).  Carlsbad Blvd already had bike lanes, but 40-45 mph traffic on the road made it an intimidating experience for all but the most fearless cyclists.  The city’s transportation department has now reduced the two auto traffic lane widths in each direction from 12 feet to 10 feet, creating 4 feet of space with which to provide wider bike lanes and buffer zones between automobiles and the bike lanes.  Meanwhile traffic speed limits have been lowered on the highway to 35 mph, and 30 mph in the central town area and pedestrian crossings have been improved.  The effect is to make the road much safer for everyone and make the town more accessible on foot and by bike.

By comparison, travel further south on the Coast Highway (Hwy 101) through Leucadia and Encinitas, and the value of separate bicycle infrastructure becomes abundantly clear.  There, with traffic speed limits averaging 40 mph, the bike lanes end and are replaced by sharrows in the right-hand lane and signs indicating bikes may use full lane.  I traveled that stretch daily for much of the week I was in Carlsbad, and noted the behavior of cyclists along the stretch of road that had sharrows.  Invariably, cyclists of all ability levels stayed as far to the right as possible, often riding on the shoulder instead of the middle of the sharrow lane.  Meanwhile, cars continued to zoom by heedless of the sharrow lanes.  In several instances, I saw slower cyclists leave the street entirely when the bike lane ended and continue on the sidewalk instead of the sharrow lane.  I can’t say I blame them, as automobile traffic on Hwy 101 can approach 45-50 mph on that stretch.

The situation may be different on the weekends, when packs of experienced cyclists could take and hold the sharrow lane on their fast-paced rides up and down the coast.  However, for a lone cyclist, whether an experienced commuter or an inexperienced kid on a beach cruiser, the sharrows on 101 seem so much wasted paint.  Some combination of lane removal, road diet, and/or removal of curbside parking on Hwy 101 should be undertaken to create space for bike lanes.  After viewing this dramatic demonstration of the difference between bike lanes and sharrows, Vehicular Cycling advocates who promote sharrows instead of cycle tracks or bike lanes cannot convince me that sharrows are superior.

The southbound side of the coast highway in Carlsbad now has a buffer protecting cyclists from the "door zone" as they pass parked cars.

The southbound side of the coast highway in Carlsbad now has a buffer protecting cyclists from the “door zone” of parked cars.

Carlsbad, like many beach towns in Southern California, struggles with traffic and parking congestion in the peak summer months (and, yes, tourists like me add to the problem).  As such, encouraging people to ride bikes for short trips around town makes good sense from a variety of perspectives.  It decreases traffic and parking congestion; decreases pollution, noise, and carbon emissions; increases the accessibility and vibrancy of the downtown business district; and improves public health.  Best yet, with its accessibility from the Coaster commuter rail, it’s now feasible to visit Carlsbad car-free and it should become a premier destination for bicycle tourism.  We’ve always loved Carlsbad for its beautiful beaches and lagoons.  Now it’s also becoming a great place to walk and bicycle and we have more reasons to love it.  It’s time for the neighboring towns of Oceanside, Leucadia, and Encinitas to catch up to Carlsbad.

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Christmas by Bike

XmasShoppingBike

It’s been perfect weather for bicycling here in Southern California lately, and I’ve done almost all of my Christmas shopping by bike this year (with the exception of a few things I’ve ordered online or by catalogue).  For the most part, it is an enjoyable experience.  The shopping center shown in the picture of my Salsa Fargo and Croozer cargo trailer (above) has a number of well-placed bike racks, which allows bike riders to lock up directly in front of most stores and makes it safer and more convenient for people on bikes.  I wish more merchants and municipalities understood the value of good quality bike racks and bike access to add to their bottom line.  In the absence of a bike rack, the shopper is forced to look for a sign pole or railing on which to lock up her bike, and these aren’t always located in the most convenient or safe places.  The presence of a good bike rack says to the bicycling customer, “you are welcome here and your business matters.”  Moreover, designing or retrofitting businesses with bike access costs far less than providing access and parking for cars.

Bike_U-Lock

As for locks, I recommend a good quality U-lock or chain lock (shown above).  You should use the lock to secure the frame of your bicycle to a rack or other immovable object.  If possible, place the U-lock around your wheel and your frame for extra security, as shown in the photo.  Don’t lock your bike to a post unless it is high enough and there is a sign on top of it which would prevent someone from lifting your bike over it.  Avoid cable locks (except perhaps to wrap around wheels and secure to a U-lock).  Most cable locks are relatively easy to cut with bolt cutters, and I wouldn’t use a cable lock if I was going to leave my bike unattended for more than a minute. Good locks aren’t cheap, but unlike many overpriced bike accessories, they’re definitely worth the expense.  Locking your bike properly will avoid giving a bike thief a Christmas present.

Wishing all my readers a joyous holiday, goodwill, and a safe journey on your bike!

Bikes Good for Local Business

Portland bike corral

A new study by Portland State University shows that walkable and bikeable neighborhoods are good for local businesses.  The study showed that, while drivers spent more at supermarkets, walkers and bicyclists spent more at other local businesses.  The study, which surveyed about 20,000 Portlanders in neighborhoods where there is good bike and pedestrian infrastructure, concluded that, Drivers spent more per visit, but bicyclists and walkers made more frequent visits and tended to spend more per month.

It also reinforces the findings of a recent New York City Department of Transportation study that found significant sales increases for businesses on streets with protected bike lanes.  The conclusions of these studies confirm what most bicyclists know intuitively.  You’re more likely to stop by a pizza shop, coffee shop, or bakery when you’re walking or riding by than if you’re driving by at 35 MPH.  Moreover, this makes sense from a macro-economic perspective, too.  Consumers who spend less money on gas every month because they’re not driving as much have more disposable income to spend at local stores.

Such data is important to counteract the resistance some business owners have to, say, remove on-street parking to make room for a bike lane, cycle track, or bike corral (shown above).  It also reinforces the economic benefits of reallocating public space from cars to alternative transportation, such as walking, biking, and public transit.

Just one more reason rethinking our public space for walkability and bikeability makes good sense.

Stan’s Monrovia Bike Shop

Stan's Bike Shop openingI’ve long been a supporter of local bike shops.  They are part of the backbone of any healthy community.  A place to get your bike fixed, pick up that new light, lock, spare tube, or other accessory.  A place for riders to hang out.  And, of course, a place to buy that shiny new bike you’ve been wanting.  Local bike shop owners also contribute to their community in important ways: sponsoring rides, clubs, and other activities.  So, when a new bike shop opens, or an old one takes on a new life, as in the case of Stan’s, I think it’s cause for rejoicing.

Saturday, December 1, Stan’s Bike Shop held its grand opening under new ownership, with a ribbon-cutting ceremony in front of a crowd of about 50 who gathered for the occasion.  Stan’s, a local institution on 880 N. Myrtle Ave in Monrovia, has changed owners, but didn’t change character.  New owner Carlos Morales hopes to maintain the shop’s traditional focus on local road riders, and expand the focus to include casual riders as well.   Morales promises to continue the service the shop’s old clients have come to expect, and expand his inventory to include a wider range of bikes for people of all ages.  He’s expanded the shop’s service department and added clothing, bikes, and other inventory for women.  Especially exciting to me is his commitment to reaching out to local youth, through bike safety workshops, bike rodeos, and other community events the shop will be involved in.  In short, he hopes to reach out and get more of the community on bikes.

I’m delighted to see Carlos taking ownership of Stan’s Monrovia Bike Shop.  His energy and vision have helped him start the Eastside Bike Club and helped him become an activist for the American Diabetes Association’s “Tour de Cure.”  These talents will help him in his new role as a bike shop owner.  If you’re in the Monrovia area, need a new bike, an old bike repaired, or want to find out about local bike events, stop by Stan’s on Myrtle Ave, or check out their facebook page.

Support Your Local Bike Shop

According to AAA, Americans spend an average of more than $8,000 per year on automobile ownership.  4/5 of that money (gas, insurance, financing) leaves the local economy.  As Elly Blue has argued in her series “Bikenomics: how bicycling will save the economy (if we let it),”

Support your local bike shop.

bikes are a great way to boost the local economy.  Not only does bicycling support the bike-related economy (like the local bike shop) that employs local people, but when people use their bikes to shop, the dollars tend to stay in the local economy, as bicyclists are more likely to stop and shop at smaller, locally-owned stores, not big-box behemoths surrounded by acres of parking lots.

The revenue generated by bike-related economic activity is surprisingly large.  A 2008 study in Portland, OR, found that bike-related industries contributed $90 million to the local economy each year.  In Wisconsin, the contribution to the state economy is estimated to be more than $1.5 billion annually.

So, ride your bike.  Shop locally when you can.  And, support your local bike shop.

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