Tag Archives: bike safety

From Dani Simons’s Smart Marketing for Sustainable Streets

Using Hashtags to Build #Bike Community

Maybe I’ve been spending too much time in front of my computer this holiday season, but I’ve been thinking a lot about how lots of “next generation” bike commuters in New York are forging a useful and meaningful community via Twitter.

When I first started riding here, it seemed that every hardcore bike commuter I met (at the time, mostly older, most white, mostly men, mostly in spandex, who tended to go on and on and on at various community meetings or social occasions) read a listserv called e-bikes.

But e-bikes was often filled with cranky complainers and the tips and useful bits of information were few and far between. At that point getting answers on bike questions (such as, when is that new lane going to be installed, or when is that construction on the bridge going to be finished) was also much harder than it is today, so people turned to e-bikes for answers. And even if you had a “silly” newbie question like “How can I make sure my hair doesn’t look totally ridiculous when I arrive at work after biking 7 miles in a helmet?” you had to find an actual bike commuter (a rarer breed eight years ago), or risk putting that question out on e-bikes and being snarked at.

Today, all of those questions and more are being asked semi-anonymously through the #bikenyc hashtag, and many people are offering tips and encouragement using the same.

Consider this tweet (which was retweeted by several others) from @MikeLydon the other morning, the first brutally cold snap of this winter “Dear #bikenyc, you look beautiful all bundled up on the morning commute. Keep riding!”

A few other cities appear to be catching on and using a bike hashtag, I found a decent number of #bikeChi and #bikeLA tweets on a recent search.

As we saw this spring and summer in the Middle East, (and even earlier than that in Iran), Twitter and it’s hashtags can be a very powerful way to organize, or at the very least spread information through a diffuse community. Clay Shirky has written very eloquently about the political power of social media, if you happen to be more interested in this, than say, biking…

It’s worth advocacy organizations or even city governments promoting city bike hashtags. Twitter is a great way to distribute rapid bits of information (“Bridge closed for emergency repairs tonight” or “Careful for the big new pothole that just appeared on Maple Lane” or “Free bike lights being distributed this evening on Maple Lane”). And since the media increasingly monitors Twitter for tips and breaking news, important tweets are often rebroadcast outside of Twitter as well. Using a hashtag at the end of these tweets allows users to create a dedicated “search” for this information, almost like tuning their Twitter radio to your station if you need an old-school analogy.

Twitter hashtags are also a good way for communities of interest to share information and support each other. Even if you don’t know a bike commuter personally in New York (which now seems rather far-fetched), you can connect with hundreds online via #bikenyc. Sure, some are still snarky as hell, but many are friendly, or as friendly as New York City cyclists get anyway…at least you don’t have to look at any spandex. At least not until you go to one of those #bikenyc meetups. But even then I’ve been pleasant surprised to find that #bikenyc fashion has evolved quite a bit since I arrived nearly eight years ago.

Not that I’m the boss of this, but I’d recommend for cities that aren’t using a bike hashtag yet to pick a simple one, maybe just #bike + your city’s airport code, which would keep things short (important for Twitter) local and easy to remember (important for the overall usability/success).

That would give you #bikeBOS for Boston, #bikeMSP for Minneapolis St. Paul, #bikePDX for Portland, #bikeSFO for San Fran, etc…

If I missed any cities that are already making great use of a hashtag to build cycling community online, let me know. I’d be eager to take a look at some other examples and learn more about how others are using this technique.

Some basic do’s and don’t for hashtag use in case you’re new to Twitter and wanted some more tips. 

Study: Painted Bike Lanes Don’t Endanger Pedestrians or Anyone Else

from Streetsblog

New York City’s tabloid media simply can’t stop seeing the city’s bike boom as a mortal threat to pedestrians. Even research showing a decline in the number of bike-ped crashes was somehow spun to say the opposite, that more cyclists were hitting pedestrians than ever. Now, new peer-reviewed research confirms once again that bike lanes don’t endanger pedestrians and don’t cause more crashes. If anything, researchers say, they make streets safer.

Even though they attract more cyclists onto the street, New York City’s painted bike lanes don’t lead to any increase in the number of traffic crashes, according to a new study in the American Journal of Public Health. The study’s authors expect that if they could adequately control for increased bike traffic, the numbers would show that crash rates went down due to the installation of bike lanes.

The researchers attempted to mimic the structure of a true experiment by pairing each street with a bike lane to a street without a bike lane that was otherwise as similar as possible. They attempted to control not only for design features like the number and direction of the lanes and the presence of stop signs or traffic signals, but also contextual factors like population and retail density. That enabled them to factor out the significant increase in traffic safety that has taken place across all of New York City.

“The difference between the treatment group and the comparison group in terms of a reduction is just not significant,” author Cynthia Chen, a transportation engineer at the University of Washington, told Streetsblog. The change in the number of crashes was statistically insignificant not only for total crashes, but for vehicle crashes, bike crashes, pedestrian crashes, and crashes that caused death or serious injury.

 

The study only looked at painted bike lanes installed in New York City between 1996 and 2006. Protected bike lanes, all of which were installed after that period, have had impressive safety results. A protected lane installed on Manhattan’s Eighth Avenue, for example,reduced injuries for all street users by 35 percent, according to DOT.

DOT’s landmark pedestrian safety study, which similarly attempted to control for confounding factors, also found that on streets with bike lanes, serious crashes were 40 percent less likely to kill victims.

Chen argued that her team would likely have found significant results if they had better data about bicycle volumes, which they believe increase after bike lanes are installed. “We think that if we were able to control the increase in bicycle volume, we would probably have found a significant reduction in crashes for the treatment group.” In other words, bike lanes might improve safety per person even if the total number of crashes holds steady.

The researchers also saw far greater numbers of bicycle crashes at intersections than on straight road segments. To improve safety, they recommended extending bike markings across intersections and installing more bike boxes.

The study, set to be released in an upcoming issue of the peer-reviewed journal, was conducted by a team of five academics and one city DOT official. DOT also funded the study.

The Surprising Psychology of Driver Interaction with Cyclists

 

Pop quiz. Do you wear a helmet when you ride? Spandex or normal clothes? Are you female or male?

Though they may seem unrelated, your answers to those questions affect how much deference motorists give you when you set off down the street on a bicycle. That’s according to a number of studies outlined by Sam Ollinger on Network blog Bike San Diego.

A classic post from Traffic author Tom Vanderbilt on How We Drive, detailing the findings from a UK study on helmet use and motorist behavior, serves as the starting point:

In his study (published as “Drivers overtaking bicyclists: Objective data on the effects of riding position, helmet use, vehicle type and apparent gender,” in the journal Accident Analysis and Prevention), [Ian] Walker outfitted a bike with a device that measured the distance of passing cars. He found, among other things, that drivers tended to pass more closely when he was wearing a helmet than when not (he was struck by vehicles twice, both while wearing a helmet).

New research has identified similar effects. Ollinger writes:

In a Florida DOT commissioned study [pdf] published last month, researchers reached a very similar conclusion. Although the study didn’t specifically address helmet usage, the researchers found that their data was consistent with Walker’s conclusions when it came to how closely drivers passed bicyclists based on the bicyclist’s gender and attire. The study found that on average, drivers passed cyclists more closely when cyclists were dressed in “bicycle attire” and if the cyclist was male. The study was unable to determine the reasons on this passing behavior and the authors of the study speculated that, “it [was] possible that motorists perceived less risk passing riders who were in [a] bicycle outfit.”

 

The gender factor, at least, appears to be noticeable to the general public. In fact, it has a name: the Mary Poppins Effect.

All of which raises the question, what’s a cyclist to do?

Ollinger says: “I suppose effective measures that can be made as a result of the Florida study would be to encourage cyclists to ride in casual clothing rather than bicycle-specific attire.” As for helmet usage, a cyclist is still probably safer with a protective shield over his or her skull, but it does seem to offer support for those who choose to go helmetless.

From StreetsBlog.org

Posted: 26 Oct 2011 07:57 AM PDT