Bikes on the brain: Bike Summit 2009 Wrap-up

Way back on May 28, Toronto had its Bike Summit. Better late than never. The presentations are now all on the TCAT website. You can also see a few photos on flickr. Instead of an exhaustive review, I'd like to provide a quick montage. There were other interesting speakers and ideas.

The above photo of a cyclists brain is from Keven Krizek's who emphasized the difficulty of getting accurate statistics of the benefits and costs of cycling infrastructure. The bike modal share in North America is just so low that a 100% increase would only bring it up to about 2%. There is no big impact on CO2 emissions or reduction in car use. The one statistic that we can be certain of (confirmed by Northern European experience) is that separated bike facilities increase the perception of bike safety --> which results in increased bicycle use --> which results in safety in numbers.

The big question (as we've learned with the fight for more bike lanes in Toronto) is: How do we convince the 94% majority that the effects are benign and allow better cycling facilities for the 6% that are going to use them? (Exact numbers may differ depending on location.)

This is Councillor Adrian Heaps talking about how City Council agreed last year to $70 million for the bike capital budget for the next few years with a 37-3 vote. It was not a contentious issue at the time despite the rhetoric of a "war on the car" with the current Jarvis Street bike lanes.

Ralph Bueler of Virginia Tech (no photo) explained how Germany is comparable to North America: high car ownership, rich, freeways with no speed limit. The difference is that Germans drive a lot less at all income levels and population density. In the US 70% of all trips are made by car, 1% by bike. In Germany 15% of all trips are by bike. What makes the difference? Individual choice and policy changes. Germany had a cycling boom in the 70s triggered by the oil crisis and enhanced by policy changes at the local planning level and the federal level such as with much higher gas and road taxes.

Pauline Craig touched on bicycle parking in Toronto. There's a draft zoning by-law in Toronto that will include bicycle parking regulations for the first time - both short-term and secure, long-term bike parking (please comment on the zoning website!). The Bicycle Station is the highlight for this year. Also in the photo are Eric Anderson of Berkeley who spoke about bike parking in the US (lots of great on-street bike parking that takes over car spots), and Andrea White-Kjoss spoke on the nitty gritty of the Bikestation, a company that runs bike stations in a number of American cities.

Adolfo Hernandez, from Chicago's Active Transportation Alliance, explained how his organization has worked with African-American and Latino communities to strengthen and bring diversity to the cycling movement. Activists have to work with the local authorities - churches, mosques, community centres - to get people behind active transportation.

Dave Meslin pointed out that active transportation advocates should be more about anti-car rather than trying to put just walking and cycling under one roof. Despite the similarities of moving legs, the goals may diverge. The idea of "road diets" may be helpful for neighbourhoods and pedestrians, but not as helpful for cyclists and transit users who would rather see roads be shared with bike lanes and transit priority lanes. Active transportation advocates should keep to the idea of "Complete Streets" - streets made for all uses: walking, cycling, transit, cars - rather than just reducing roads.

The bike union did valet bike parking. If you want valet parking for your outdoor play, football game or birthday party, let them know - they're really good at it and you should give them money to do it.

The day previous to the Bike Summit the speakers joined City staff Sean Wheldrake and Dan Egan on a tour of various neighbourhoods and cycling infrastructure. The highlights were the Don Trail, Lakeshore Trail, Cabbagetown, Regent Park, St. Lawrence Market and Distillery District. I came along and brought the old Bikeshare bikes to be used by the out of town riders.

Comments

Looks like they did alot of talking.
I hope there will be less inaction after the studies and the round tables are done delegating.

We've been "studying" the future for far to long, its time to make it happen!

I hope this atleast puts a foot in the door for a real cycling budget that isn't mostly for studies and bureaucracy.

For someone who favours action over words, you sure spend a lot of time on this discussion board. =)

I understand your frustration pat, but unfortunately, cyclists remain a small, relatively powerless minority. As far as I see, we can't DO a hell of a lot unless we convince other people do do what we want. That means studies, conferences, etc, no?

Maybe I'm wrong. What are the bold, active steps you think that cycling activists could be taking that they are not?

Do local educational institutions have a role to play in promoting bicycling?

Anything useful that an opinionated professor on campus could do? :-)

Deleted. Full response below.

As far as I see, we can't DO a hell of a lot unless we convince other people do do what we want. That means studies, conferences, etc, no?

The time for studies is over, the time to create REAL cycling infastructure and a REAL budget to accompany that infastructure to educate and regulate a growing cycling industry.
We've been studying the issue for decades, it has passed the point of responsible research and is now more obviously a stalling tactic.

Bicycles are the future, gas powered transit is the past.

It would be great for us to see this mirrored in our political landscape as well as the way our society acts about the subject.

I understand your frustration pat, but unfortunately, cyclists remain a small, relatively powerless minority.

Ever heard of the chicken and the egg? Of course you have. This is no different, if you build the infastructure and make people feel safe riding a bike in our cities then more people will do so.

I have no bold new ideas, just the same tired pleas for our cycling issue to be considered a higher priority than that of the entrenched and established motor-vehicle/oil industry.

For someone who favours action over words, you sure spend a lot of time on this discussion board. =)

Should I be ashamed about liking this online cycling community? I don't know if you are aware but you can talk about issues as well as act on them, infact it is better to do both as one is heavily influenced by the other.
Try reading the tripe you post before you save it, it is passive agressive and im tired of responding to it.

PPP says "I don't know if you are aware but you can talk about issues as well as act on them, infact it is better to do both as one is heavily influenced by the other."

but in the first post you say
"Looks like they did alot of talking.
I hope there will be less inaction after the studies and the round tables are done delegating."

I'm a different anon. poster- but feel compelled to mention that you're criticising your own critique.

People at the conference were talking about things that they ARE and WILL BE ACTING on. Don't criticise those who are working at this - TCAT did an excellent job to put an event of this magnitude on, and the media attention this talk got will further political will for bold actions.

If you're tired of responding to "the tripe" - stop.

and the media attention this talk got will further political will for bold actions.

Media attention?
Hah.

If you call media attention the back pages of the GTA section in the Toronto Star then well yes...

this talk got will further political will for bold actions.

That is exactly what I meant for my disdain for all this talk. Politicians talk about cycling and talking about the environment but where is the actual progress?

So sorry for criticising my own critique in your eyes but I was referring to two seperate and very different context's in regards to talking vs action.

I commend the TCAT for hosting the 2009 Bike Summit and in no way do I want to dampen their accomplishments.

I agree that we need infrastructure to get people on their bikes, and never questioned that, but I don't think we need everyone in Toronto to be a cyclist in order to get bike lanes. The situation, therefore, is not a catch-22. We just need to help convince non-cyclists in Toronto that bike lanes

a) will not horribly inconvenience them
b) is safer for cyclists, may actually make driving less stressful (because of less bikes in their way)
c) is a good idea for the environment (which many of them care about somewhat, despite their driving habit)

I would, of course, love to build ALL the needed infrastructure in 3 months, and say: Look! See how well it works?

But that's just not going to happen. Small additions to the bike lane network (which demonstrate its usefulness), constant pressure on politicians, and regular studies/conferences etc, to help make our arguments more convincing to skeptics - all of these things are the only methods we have of achieving our goals.

As for quick, immediate "action" - I just don't see how it would work. How you you propose we build this cycling infrastructure without convincing politicians (and therefore, a majority of the population they represent) to fund it? Bake sales to raise the millions of dollars required? Should we be out there with shovels and spray-paint ourselves, and expect our renovations to last?

You're so absolutely right, Pat! Why talk when we can do! Instead of getting all these speakers from other countries and cities to just blab on about what's going on their cities, let's just put a shovel or spray can in their hands and tell them to start making some bike lanes! Who needs a plan! There's no need to share ideas when obviously we all know the answer: bike lanes!

Oh, wait, what's that you say? Actually bike parking is more important? Okay then, forget the bike lanes let's put in bike parking? Who's got a forge? Hmmm... what's that? Make sure we also put in separated bike facilities? What are those? How do we make them? Forget it. No time! Must. Act. Now!

You're so absolutely right, Pat! Why talk when we can do! Instead of getting all these speakers from other countries and cities to just blab on about what's going on their cities, let's just put a shovel or spray can in their hands and tell them to start making some bike lanes! Who needs a plan! There's no need to share ideas when obviously we all know the answer: bike lanes!

Oh, wait, what's that you say? Actually bike parking is more important? Okay then, forget the bike lanes let's put in bike parking? Who's got a forge? Hmmm... what's that? Make sure we also put in separated bike facilities? What are those? How do we make them? Forget it. No time! Must. Act. Now!

Set phazers to sarcasm!

I commend the TCAT for hosting the 2009 Bike Summit and in no way do I want to dampen their accomplishments.

You made your point herb as well as that more articulate RC.