Bicycle commuters represent a significant chunk of business consumers in Portland, Ore., one of America's most bike-friendly cities. OTREC research in the past year has provided data on how cyclists and other mode users patronize local businesses.
OTREC extends a warm welcome to Research Associate Krista Nordback, Ph.D., P.E., the newest member of the team. She just moved to Portland, Oregon after finishing up her Ph.D. in Denver, Colorado, to continue working on her favorite research focus: urban bicycle safety.
Nordback has been riding bikes since before she was old enough to remember. Together with her husband, Kurt, she continues to enjoy it as a form of both recreation and transportation. When the pair moved to Portland in February of this year, one of their first actions was to bike the Springwater Corridor, the Portland metro area’s 21-mile bike trail, all the way from Portland to Boring on their semi-recumbent tandem.
As a bicycle commuter, safety is one of Nordback’s top priorities, and it’s also the primary goal of her civil engineering research. In her PhD thesis, “Estimating Annual Average Daily Bicyclists and Analyzing Cyclist Safety at Urban Intersections,” she came up with methods for determining the average number of cyclists passing through a given intersection on a daily basis. In order to increase bicycle safety measures in urban areas, one of the first steps is simple yet essential: count the bikes. Having an understanding of the numbers of bicycles that traffic through an area is the starting point for coming up with...Read more
OTREC turned its education efforts on a decidedly younger crowd March 13: sixth graders. A class from Rochester, N.Y., visited Portland on a trip geared toward improving bicycling in their own community.
The students, from Genesee Community Charter School, visited the OTREC offices to learn about active transportation research methods. They took part in group exercises designed to get them thinking about the planning and engineering challenges of transportation systems set up to serve multiple transportation modes.
The highlight of the day came when the students took to Portland’s streets — OTREC’s living laboratory — to conduct research of their own. Armed with bicycle-counter tubes and infrared detectors, students counted cyclists and pedestrians passing on the Broadway cycle track on Portland State University’s campus.
Other students verified the technology with manual counters.
Students moved on to their next stop on a four-day tour of Portland with a better sense of what kind of data researchers collect and how they can use those data to inform policy. Given their experience — the students already have influenced their city on policy ranging from Erie Canal re-watering to an urban art corridor to skate parks — they stand a good chance of using Portland’s lessons to build a bike-friendly Rochester.
This fall, the Friday transportation seminar series at Portland State University has focused on data collection and how information is used to make transportation investments. The Oct. 26 seminar, with the University of Minnesota’s Greg Lindsey, covered tracking and modeling travel behavior.
Engineers and planners alike have relied on traffic counts for their traffic models, but data behind bike and pedestrian travel has been fuzzy. Now, researchers such as Lindsey are offering new methods for conducting bike and pedestrian counts on trails and multiuse paths.
With little guidance from the Federal Highway Administration, Lindsey said, most of the efforts in creating best practices have bubbled up from communities like the Twin Cities, chosen as Nonmotorized Transportation Pilot Cities. Lindsey and his researchers monitored six trails in Minneapolis, using inductive loops and infrared beams.
To address calibration problems and offer validity to their field numbers, Lindsey also sent students into the field to verify counts. The technology allowed for finer-grained detail, especially over a 24-hour period. OTREC Director Jennifer Dill noted, “Too much in the past we’ve lumped “bike and peds” together and your work and analysis is demonstrating that they truly are different modes, with different behaviors.”
Lindsey stressed the importance of conducting this type of research, and measuring our “bicycle miles traveled” and “pedestrian miles traveled” in...Read more
When policymakers look to meet cycling goals by investing in new bicycle routes, they have little research to help them determine whether cyclists will actually use them. As a result, bicycle facilities aren’t considered equally with motor vehicle infrastructure.
That’s changing, thanks in part to OTREC research. An OTREC-funded study, the first to gather large-scale data that reveal cyclists’ actual route preference, is being published in a scientific journal (Transportation Research Part A). The findings have already been incorporated into the regional travel demand model used to make transportation investment decisions across the Portland region.
In the study, Portland State University researchers Joseph Broach, Jennifer Dill and John Gliebe (Gliebe is now with RSG Inc.) outfitted cyclists with GPS units to record which routes they chose and model the choices to reveal preferences. Previous studies have relied on stated preference surveys or less reliable methods of determining cyclists’ actual routes. The data gathering was supported by a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation through its national program Active...Read more
A project to create more miles of protected bike lanes in American cities, which launched this week, turned to OTREC researchers for the project’s research component. The Green Lane Project invited the researchers to Chicago for the project launch.
The Green Lane Project, a project of the Bikes Belong Foundation, chose six cities to serve as pilot sites for new designs and approaches to creating comfortable, separated bike routes such as cycle tracks, which may or may not be painted green. Being part of the project will enable the cities to share their experiences, get help with communication and coordinate with federal, state and local agencies.
The six cities are Austin, Texas; Chicago; Memphis, Tenn.; Portland, Ore.; San Fransicso; and Washington, D.C.
Portland State University researchers Chris Monsere, Kelly Clifton and OTREC Director Jennifer Dill went to Chicago for the launch and to meet potential research partners. They shared their research approach with representatives from the six cities.
After performing similar evaluations of bicycle facilities in Portland and Washington, D.C., the Portland State researchers are proposing to fine-tune and apply their methodology to the six project cities. The team would assess the safety, operations economic effects,...Read more
When Peter Furth returned from a sabbatical in the Netherlands inspired to make his home country as bike-friendly, he knew he’d encounter bicycle skeptics. What surprised him was the resistance he got from bicycle supporters.
Furth , a professor at Northeastern University and an OTREC visiting scholar, shared some of his research on low-stress bicycle networks in a talk May 4 at Portland State University. Click here for more information.
Even in recent years, bicycling advocacy organizations were dominated by followers John Forester’s concept of “vehicular cycling,” Furth said, and opposed to separated bicycle facilities. Cyclists should use the road, and be treated, like any other vehicle operators, according to this reasoning.
“People get an idea of what utopia is,” Furth said, “and their idea is just bikes operating like any other vehicle. The crazy thing is, it’s an experiment that has been lived out every day for the last 50 years. You can go out and do it today. It just doesn’t work. It’s just nutty.”
European cities have carried out their own massive experiment for decades as well, Furth said. “Millions of people every day are riding on separated facilities, and what is the outcome? Huge numbers of people riding: children, old people, men and women in equal numbers, and the bike fatality rate is 10 times lower than ours.”
Students in Transportation Engineering and Planning, the OTREC-funded transportation student group at Portland State University, held its biggest-ever Urban Olympics, the annual celebration of Portland’s quirks and oddities. The 2012 games, held in April, featured participation from planning, engineering and public health departments.
Teams competed in games such as Urban NASCAR, which included slow-biking and gummy worm-eating components, and the noncopyright-infringing “Astonishing Rush” scavenger hunt. The first-year master of urban and regional planning, or MURP, students took the participation award, with 16 competitors, while the best department award went to the second-year MURPs.
The best team award went to Team Jellis, composed of Jamie Jones and Scotty Ellis. More awards are at the STEP website.
Photos are after the jump.
For rapid transportation mode-share changes, it’s hard to beat Kunming, China, where OTREC Director Jennifer Dill is visiting this week. In recent years, car and transit trips have quadrupled. Bicycling, which used to account for more than half of trips, now makes up less than a quarter.
Dill is with a team visiting Kunming as part of the PSU-China Innovations in Urbanization program.The visit is led by professor Connie Ozawa, director of Portland State University's Nohad A. Toulan School of Urban Studies & Planning (TSUSP), and includes: professor Yiping Fang; practitioner-in-residence Gill Kelley, former planning director of the city of Portland; Dean Marriott, city of Portland’s director of environmental services; and Jianhong Ye, a post-doctorate fellow at TSUSP.
The team participated in a workshop with over 50 planners from the region, sharing information on how Portland plans for sustainability. The visit is hosted by the Energy Foundation and the city of Kunming.
Like many cities in China, Kunming is facing tremendous growth pressures and increasing motorization. Between 1995 and 2011, car ownership went up from 20 cars per 1,000 people to 150 per 1,000. As a result, the...Read more