Greater Greater Washington

Cutting dependence on cars isn't anti-car, it's common sense

Cleveland Park resident Herb Caudill posted about the zoning update on the neighborhood listserv, and triggered a lively debate. On the issue of required parking, one resident wrote about "the growing hostility toward the automobile," and said, "The need for parking is a reality of modern urban life." Caudill followed up with this fantastic article, which we're cross-posting with his permission.

The thing about the "anti-car/pro-car" frame is that it's utterly useless when talking about urban planning and transportation planning. Most of us drive sometimes or all of the time. I drive, my wife drives, my friends and neighbors all drive.


Photo by M.V. Jantzen on Flickr.

Certainly some people are car-free by choice and sanctimonious about it; let's ignore them for the time being. And while externalities like pollution and fossil fuels are important, they don't need to factor into this conversation either. This isn't about morality or virtue or sustainability.

The central fact about cars, from a planner's perspective, is that they take up space. Lots of space. And this matters because space in cities (a.k.a real estate) is scarce and therefore expensive.

Cars take up space when they're moving and they take up space when they're parked, and even though they can't be simultaneously moving and parked, you have to plan for both states and plan for peak demand; so you have to set aside some multiple of the real estate actually occupied by the car at any given time.

That's just a practical observation about the spatial geometry of cities that doesn't bow to my ideology or yours. And it would still remain true even if cars ran on nothing but recycled newspapers and emitted nothing but rainbows and unicorn tears.

In the past, our policy response has been to just set aside more and more space for cars: More freeways, more roads, more lanes on existing roads, more parking garages and surface lots. This approach hasn't worked, and there are two very practical reasons why:

First, you can never build enough. There's a phenomenon called "induced demand" that is very well understood by now. A new lane or a new freeway never reduces congestion in the long run: People respond to new capacity by driving more or by living or working in previously remote places, and you're very quickly back where you started and have to build still more. The same phenomenon applies to increases in the supply of parking. It's a game you can't win.

Second, when you do make more space for cars you quickly start to crowd out any other potential mode of transportation, especially walking. All those parking lots and freeways and roads spread everything else out so that the distances become too great for walking. And the more you optimize any given space for cars the more hostile that space is for pedestrians. Very quickly you get to the point where it becomes impossibleor prohibitively depressingto get things done on foot.

And this last fact has huge quality-of-life implications for human beingsnot just because driving to a distant strip mall for a gallon of milk is less pleasant than walking to a corner store, but also because for many people driving simply isn't an option.

Some people can't drive because they're not old enough, others because they're too old. Some people are blind. Some people don't know how to drive. Most of all, plenty of people can't afford a car. And it's really, really not fun to be in one of those categories and live in a place where you have to drive to get anything done.

The District government has very belatedly come around to the realization that instead of focusing narrowly on cars, we need to focus more broadly on mobility. Cars will always a big part of that, but one third of DC residents live in households that don't own one, so it can't be the only part.

Some drivers have reacted to that shift with outrage that they're no longer the center of the universe, like only children who have acquired a baby sibling. That's not a mature or reasonable or productive reaction. As DC's population continues to grow, the population of cars can't keep growing at the same rate. Not because cars are bad but simply because we don't have room for them.

So we have to take steps to increase the market share of non-driving modes of transportation. That's not a pro-car policy or an anti-car policy, it's just a sensible response to the way the world is.

What does this have to do with zoning? Well, you don't take "everyone drives" as a starting point or as an end point. As a matter of fact, not everyone can drive; and as a matter of principle, we want people to have other options. So we allow corner stores so people can run simple errands without driving. We allow alley dwellings and garage apartments so a few more people can live in walkable neighborhoods and near metro stops. And we stop forcing developers to build more parking than the market demands. These are very modest but obvious common-sense steps.

Meanwhile, I'm going to keep driving when I need to, and so are you, and that's fine. Nevertheless it's in all of our best interests for DC to make sure that that's not the only choice we have.

Herb Caudill lives in Cleveland Park with his wife, Lynne, and two young boys. He has lived in DC since 1995; he taught math as a Peace Corps volunteer in West and Central Africa, and currently runs DevResults, a web-based mapping and data management tool for foreign aid projects.  

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Very well said. Thank you.

by NikolasM on Aug 29, 2012 3:36 pm • linkreport

If anything, cutting our dependance on cars would result in more love for the automobile in that we'd free ourselves and our roads from the drudgery of daily commuting in traffic and use the car for more pleasurable persuits, like the "happy motoring" era, when few of us needed cars to survive. Good news on this front, Philadelphia has cut their parking requirements for downtown apartments from one per unit to three per ten units.

by Thayer-D on Aug 29, 2012 3:38 pm • linkreport

This is fantastic. Thank you. I hope this clicks for people who just don't get it.

by cmc on Aug 29, 2012 3:38 pm • linkreport

Thank you for pointing out the fact that even if cars didn't pollute they wouldn't always be good for urbanism/mobility/safety. I've made it a couple times in other comment threads and one I think that should be made more often.

by drumz on Aug 29, 2012 3:45 pm • linkreport

This is an excellent article.

I find that people understand the first point, of induced demand, when it's explained to them.

The second point, that not everyone drives and that mode shift is possible - fewer car trips would be made if other modes were supported - is harder for people to accept.

And the best way to convince people of this 2nd point is meeting real people who explode their stereotypes. People who either (a) used to drive and now drive less or (b) are people they would assume drive everywhere but they actually drive very little.

by Ken Archer on Aug 29, 2012 3:48 pm • linkreport

I love it. Thanks for writing this. As a car-owner who would like to walk and take transit for more of my trips, I heartily agree. It's not ideology, it's simple geometry.

by AnotherDavid on Aug 29, 2012 3:49 pm • linkreport

Bravo. Having read this, I retire...

by oboe on Aug 29, 2012 3:53 pm • linkreport

Well said. Allow for more mobility options and people will choose them, freeing up more room for those who prefer or need to use their car.

by MLD on Aug 29, 2012 3:53 pm • linkreport

@MLD
On point. There are many people who'd rather take public transportation than drive if it was offered to them, frequent enough, and convenient. A small reduction of cars on the road would dramatically improve local automobile traffic conditions for those that have to drive.

by cmc on Aug 29, 2012 4:02 pm • linkreport

"There's a phenomenon called "induced demand" that is very well understood by now. A new lane or a new freeway never reduces congestion in the long run".

I can't believe anyone accepts this 1) as a truism, or 2) as support for not building roads.

If you build a new road and people take up the capacity on the road, that would indicate that you built something that people value. If you built a new road and it went unused because it connects two points where no one wants to go, then you probably wasted your money.

by Greg on Aug 29, 2012 4:06 pm • linkreport

@ Greg:If you build a new road and people take up the capacity on the road, that would indicate that you built something that people value.

True, but if a road fills up due to new (induced) demand, then it does not solve congestion, it just creates more. Which was the point.

@ Herb C: Please send this to the Post or so as a Op-ed.

by Jasper on Aug 29, 2012 4:09 pm • linkreport

Thank you for stressing the inclusive aspects of this issue rather than the divisive. I believe that what makes biking work in the Netherlands is exactly that all drivers are also cyclists at some point, so sharing of the road (&other resources) comes naturally: http://bit.ly/QzLkPF
Besides, physical mobility has health benefits that can save a city or state enormous amounts of money in the long run, so cutting the dependence on cars isn't just common sense, it's the savvy thing to do.

by CelloMom on Aug 29, 2012 4:11 pm • linkreport

@ Greg,
If they build a road and it dosen't fill up, it might be that the subdivisions and strip malls haven't been built yet to fill it up. Once they do though and you have traffic jams, imagine they built a trolley along side it. People would gravitate to the trolley if it guaranteed timley and dependable service becasue as much as people like their cars, they prefer the time they have with theri loved ones over the time they waste in traffic. It's about choice, not dominance.

by Thayer-D on Aug 29, 2012 4:14 pm • linkreport

@Jasper - No offense, but it's like saying McDonald's should stop selling hamburgers because people keep buying them.

The point is to improve people's lives. As much as people complain about congestion, they choose to live with it. If adding roads lets them get a bigger house/lawn/family at the expense of enduring similar congestion, then so be it. The road obviously is valued if it's being used.

I think there are plenty of reasons to encourage alternative forms of transportation, but induced demand is just silly.

by Greg on Aug 29, 2012 4:23 pm • linkreport

@Greg,

One of example of induced demand that I've observed is traffic in August. Legend has it that traffic so great in August because everyone is out of town...my experience, however, is that August is just as bad as all the other months. One likely explanation is that everyone who isn't on vacation thinks "hey, everyone is out of town, I'm going to drive instead of taking the metro because there's less traffic" and boom, traffic jam in August. I think you could say the same thing about expanding traffic lanes. People think "oh, they just added a lane to I-66, traffic should be improved so I can drive now" and of course, traffic doesn't improve.

Unfortunately, I think we may see this effect when the Silver Line starts running. People will think that everyone else is going to use the metro, so they'll drive, thinking their commute will be improved.

by MM on Aug 29, 2012 4:26 pm • linkreport

I think there are plenty of reasons to encourage alternative forms of transportation, but induced demand is just silly.

Well, this isn't a post about encouraging alternative forms of transportation - at least not directly. It's about reducing the requirement to build parking in the zoning code, and thereby reducing the induced demand for auto travel.

As much as people complain about congestion, they choose to live with it.

Do they? I don't think most actually get to choose - that's the point. Our public policies have not been set up in a way that gives them the choice.

by Alex B. on Aug 29, 2012 4:29 pm • linkreport

@Thayer-D - Induced demand theory says you are wrong. That people do not value the time they have with their families, but would rather live farther from work in a bigger house then be at home with the kids.

by Greg on Aug 29, 2012 4:29 pm • linkreport

@Greg,

If a road is built or improved to better connect two distinct points, that is a road that is valued.

If a road is built with the sole purpose to reduce congestion, it has been shown repeatedly that such congestion reduction is temporary at best. This is induced demand.

By providing an additonal transportation option, such as a fleet of buses, an additional road would not have to built, conegestion would be reduced, and more people would be able to travel the same road.

by cmc on Aug 29, 2012 4:30 pm • linkreport

"I can't believe anyone accepts this 1) as a truism, or 2) as support for not building roads.

If you build a new road and people take up the capacity on the road, that would indicate that you built something that people value. If you built a new road and it went unused because it connects two points where no one wants to go, then you probably wasted your money."

Yes but that money that could have gone to a lane could have instead gone to transit installation/upgrades which could have a greater aggregate effect. Ultimately the best way improve throughput is to remove vehicles (by switching people to different modes) rather than adding lanes.

by drumz on Aug 29, 2012 4:30 pm • linkreport

I love driving, but I don't commute by car.

I take Metro or buses whenever they're a practical option, because they offer the flexibility of not having to park or return via car, run into less traffic, and even cost less in some cases. However, Metro's terrible off-peak schedules have largely prevented that for the past year or two (buses are generally better, especially the Circulator).

I'd like to see DDOT make improvements that benefit cars, pedestrians, and cyclists alike. Yes, you can make things better without snubbing one of the other groups!

by andrew on Aug 29, 2012 4:31 pm • linkreport

"Well, this isn't a post about encouraging alternative forms of transportation - at least not directly. It's about reducing the requirement to build parking in the zoning code, and thereby reducing the induced demand for auto travel."

Alex makes an excellent point. Even if induced trips have postive value, that positive value is unlikely to be sufficient to justify command policies that demand more auto accommodation than the marketplace does.

The application to road funding, or the construction of incremental highway capacity out of tolls, might be somewhat different.

BTW, I am strongly convinced the DC zoning revisions are a good idea - but I am particularly interested if any such revisions are in the works in any NoVa jurisdictions.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Aug 29, 2012 4:35 pm • linkreport

@Alex B - I was waiting for this argument. Somehow the people on this site (I'm generalizing) were able to choose to live in smaller houses/apartments closer to the city center, but the poor slobs in South Riding got snookered.

Do you believe that? Do you know how many conversations I've had with people along the lines of "I can't believe people commute from [suburb of the week] everyday. I would shoot myself." Are we city slickers so much smarter than those rubes in Loudoun? I don't think so. We just have different values.

by Greg on Aug 29, 2012 4:36 pm • linkreport

"@Alex B - I was waiting for this argument. Somehow the people on this site (I'm generalizing) were able to choose to live in smaller houses/apartments closer to the city center, but the poor slobs in South Riding got snookered. "

greg - I am one of those who think that building more highway capacity to make it possible for the poor slobs to live in South Riding MAY sometimes be justified, especially when its financed through tolls. I would suggest its a leap further to suggest that parking minimums are required to enable that life style. The market will undoubtedly mean lots of free spaces in South Riding - and for those who commute from there to places like DC or Alexandria, its likely to provide enough parking spaces as well (though it will price them in ways some folks from South Riding may not like)

by AWalkerInTheCity on Aug 29, 2012 4:41 pm • linkreport

I don't think it's a suburb vs. city thing (or jurisdictional). It's about form. It's shouldn't be a value judgment to be able to walk to a few things if you so desire. I can do that in Arlington where I live now, I couldn't do that in Burke even though the density of my Burke neighborhood was about the same size (in pop. and area) as my current one. It's just that in Burke its assumed that you will drive even to the target 1/4 mile away while in Arlington I can walk on a sidewalk from my neighborhood across the street to CVS for staples or all the way down wilson blvd either way.

South Riding is similar in density to a lot of Arlington/DC neighborhoods and yet that's not enough to ensure a car-lite lifestyle.

by drumz on Aug 29, 2012 4:43 pm • linkreport

Greg,

You wrote: "The road obviously is valued if it's being used." You infer this because people have chosen to use that road. My point is that they (often) were not given an actual choice.

Are we city slickers so much smarter than those rubes in Loudoun? I don't think so. We just have different values.

Of course not, but let's not pretend that the outcomes of where people live is some magical manifestation of the free market (and therefore of our choices) - not when public policy (like parking requirements in zoning codes) has its thumb on the scale.

So, circle back to the question at hand: DC's zoning update. The revision would reduce the mandatory inclusion of parking, letting the market have more leeway in deciding how much to provide. How is that a bad thing?

by Alex B. on Aug 29, 2012 4:46 pm • linkreport

@Greg - A preposterous example of induced demand: Suppose we had the money to turn I-66 into a 20-lane freeway from the Potomac all the way to the West Virginia line. At first we would have a very, very fast and uncongested road, and you could get from Strasburg to DC in 20 minutes. Yay! People's needs are being met. But you would very quickly see a spectacular property boom all along that road, and billboards advertising the short commute, and within a few years you'd have your traffic jams back and people's needs are no longer being met. Meanwhile you've changed the world in a very negative way without having met your original goal of reducing congestion.

by Herb Caudill on Aug 29, 2012 5:01 pm • linkreport

"But you would very quickly see a spectacular property boom all along that road, and billboards advertising the short commute, and within a few years you'd have your traffic jams back and people's needs are no longer being met. "

actually I think thats dubious. There are other constraints on development aside from road capacity. Which is why there ARE "roads to nowhere" that never become congested. "we can't economically build our way out of metropolitan congestion" which is a very valid point, too often becomes "induced demand is infinite" or "there is never any value from anything that increase highway capacity" which to me at least, are ideological and not accurate. BTW, in general I liked your piece.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Aug 29, 2012 5:39 pm • linkreport

@Herb Caudill: Suppose we had even more money, enough to rip up I-66 and leave a dirt road. That will reverse the induced demand, and reduce traffic! Lets do this!

by goldfish on Aug 29, 2012 5:41 pm • linkreport

Induced demand is just like the tragedy of the commons. If you provide something free people will use it until it is exhausted/congested. Users fees/congestion pricing could address this, but mobility is so tied to someones economic livelihood that a user fees becomes regressive of lower wage workers.

by ArtR on Aug 29, 2012 5:45 pm • linkreport

Unlike suburbs where as car congestion increases more lanes can be added, there's a finite number of cars city streets can hold.

And we passed that finite number long ago.

by Tom Coumaris on Aug 29, 2012 5:59 pm • linkreport

@AWalkerInTheCity - That's fair.

@goldfish - You're being sarcastic but there's a valid policy point there. There is such a thing as "inverse induced demand" as was vividly illustrated in Manhattan recently: When they eliminated certain east-west routes and pedestrianized parts of Broadway, congestion didn't increase elsewhere - a certain amount of traffic just vanished. More about that here if you're curious. http://bit.ly/Pv5Er2

To bring the argument back to urban policy, the larger point is that, for better or for worse, there's an if-you-build-it-they-will-come effect in transportation planning. Or: You get what you plan for. If you plan for people to drive a lot, they will. If you don't, they won't. That's good news because it means that we have do in fact meaningful policy choices - we're not just faced with a fixed landscape of citizen preferences.

by Herb Caudill on Aug 29, 2012 6:05 pm • linkreport

Re: "Incuded demand" - Never build roads or add lanes because people will have the audacity to want to use them.

Am I the only one who sees the lack of reason in this argument?

by ceefer on Aug 29, 2012 6:27 pm • linkreport

Am I the only one who sees the lack of reason in this argument?

Yes, because the argument is quite reasonable.

Instead, the reaction should be to ask what the reason to increase capacity is. Why do you want to do this? Will it actually accomplish your goal?

If the reason is to reduce congestion, then no, adding capacity seldom actually accomplishes that task. If you want to reduce congestion, then you're often better off by putting on congestion pricing or something like that.

Now, sometimes you do want to add capacity, and that's fine - but it's all about being clear about what you want to do and how that will help accomplish your goal.

So, getting back to the original point of this piece, the argument is that the parking requirements in the zoning code are not helping us accomplish the goals we have for our city.

by Alex B. on Aug 29, 2012 6:48 pm • linkreport

This really is a fantastic article.

by Miriam on Aug 29, 2012 7:28 pm • linkreport

This is probably the best, most concise argument for multimodal transportation planning I've ever read. Thank you.

by Phil LaCombe on Aug 29, 2012 7:40 pm • linkreport

Bet they had this same argument when the horse and carriage came along.

I really wonder what would ridership be in DC for transit if everyone in the area had a car.

There is no way we will stop car dependence when most of the area is not even covered by transit. If every major road in DC have bus service that ran everyday we could possibly get more people off cars.

1 Not old enough, too old.
2 Some people are blind.
3 Some people don't know how to drive.
4 Most of all, plenty of people can't afford a car
5 Other health issues
6 Some choose to not have one

Reasons some have cars

1 Bus/train doesn't go where I need to go or doesnt go at X time
2 Can go somewhere any time of the day (no bus/train at 3am)
3 Bus/train takes too long; shorter trip by car
4 Bus/train doesn't serve my area (Parts of DC and Alexandria don't even have bus service)
5 I have X amount of stuff
6 Need to make frequent trips in X amount of time
7 Lots of people going or dont want to inconvenience other people by dealing carrying lots of bags etc or by taking small children on the bus.
8 Weather
9 Delays for Metrorail

Cars dont have to take up so much space btw; most people only have 1 person in the car if all regular size cars were replaced with Smart Fortwos there would be lots more room.

by kk on Aug 29, 2012 9:58 pm • linkreport

but it's like saying McDonald's should stop selling hamburgers because people keep buying them

No, it's not. Because McDonald's makes money on every hamburger they sell. But what if they lost money on every hamburger - like government does with roads? And what if making more hamburgers meant that people would eat more hamburgers, so McDonald's would lose even more money? Then I would say they should stop selling hamburgers.

ArtR hit the nail on the head. The problem is not that building roads means more people use them. The problem is a combination of the two following facts: 1. Roads are heavily subsidized 2. Widening roads makes people consume more transportation subsidy by moving farther away from where they work (and by making walking and biking harder as noted in this post).

And before you say the same is true of transit, let me note that it isn't. 1 is true, but 2 is not. Improved transit gets people to move closer and become consumers of less transit subsidy.

by David C on Aug 30, 2012 12:08 am • linkreport

Get a scooter. No one ever mentions them as a great alternative mode of transportation. Better than a car or bicycle.

by Sydney on Aug 30, 2012 2:18 am • linkreport

@kk - I agree that all of those factors are very good reasons to drive. What I'd point out is that while old age, blindness, and poverty aren't the sort of things that can be addressed by better public policy at the local level, bus and metro service are. And more pragmatic zoning rules would make it possible for more people to live within walking distance of some of their errands and eliminate car trips that way.

by Herb Caudill on Aug 30, 2012 6:58 am • linkreport

When I explain induced demand I think it helps to emphasize the "freeness" of the public resource, such as an additional road lane. So while a new free resource like a highway lane may induce new development, sprawl etc. in the long run, it can also induce demand directly in the short run by changing the congestion cost of driving. On non-tolled roads, the marginal cost of driving is mostly gas and time (congestion cost). Efforts to reduce congestion costs by building more free road lanes lowers the price of driving compared with other modes temporarily. But as more people rationally decide to drive, the congestion price quickly goes back up toward the prior equilibrium. Of course, it is possible to overbuild roads to the point of no congestion in remote areas or areas where development, roads or not, is unlikely or would be very slow to occur (north exurbs of Kansas City?).

But people who say, "Well, at least the roads will be less congested until the induced developments sprawl out here" or "There's no room for additional sprawl development, so this time the road should really reduce congestion" are getting an incomplete understanding of induced demand. In high-population areas, free roads can induce demand even absent additional sprawl, simply by changing the relative prices of travel. This wouldn't be so much of an issue of the roads were tolled.

by Greenbelt on Aug 30, 2012 8:36 am • linkreport

I agree with ceefer (and I'm not being sarcastic). Induce demand is real, but it's only one factor, and it's certainly not a trump card in the infrastructure debate. For one thing, as he points out, it proves too much. If it stands for the futility of ever building roads, then we never build roads. That's an illogical result. For one thing, induced demand does not apply to only one mode of transportation--it applies to all. It's an argument for passivity, and ever-worsening immobility.

by Crickey7 on Aug 30, 2012 9:24 am • linkreport

I still think it's a terrific article, though.

by Crickey7 on Aug 30, 2012 9:30 am • linkreport

"Induced demand is a chameleon kind of argument. When discussing roads, it is given as a reason to NOT build more of them -- the "you can't win" argument. OTOH for subway construction it is given as a reason TO build more of them. It is the foundation of "smart growth": by building subway lines encourages nearby high density development. For the silver line for example, the induced rider demand is given as a reason for success. For roads, "induced demand" = failure; for the metro, "induced demand" = success.

Thus, using "Induced demand" in an argument about transportation policy, it mostly just indicates the prejudice for urbanism.

by goldfish on Aug 30, 2012 9:33 am • linkreport

prejudice for ^high-density^ urbanism.

by goldfish on Aug 30, 2012 9:35 am • linkreport

And when the subway gets overcrowded? You can't escape the box that easily.

There are times when building roads is appropriate, and objections based on induced demand should not just be accepted at face value.

by Crickey7 on Aug 30, 2012 9:37 am • linkreport

"Thus, using "Induced demand" in an argument about transportation policy, it mostly just indicates the prejudice for urbanism."

no, considering induced demand in transportation policy is essential. using it as an argument to NEVER add road capacity is the mistake, which most of us here seem to realize is a mistake.

Induced demand is a complex thing. As greenbelt points out, its not all due to increased development, but to changes in travel patterns. What are those changes? If I can go visit my pal around the beltway in an evening, when rush hour traffic otherwise would have detered, thats a benefit (at least equal to my cost of making the trip -net is either zero or positive, leaving aside the social costs) But if I use it to go shop at Tysons instead of nearby - well the benefit depends on the economics of retail, a marketplace charecterized by high fixed costs, prices that seldom reflect marginal costs, etc. It MIGHT increase my choice in a good way, or it just might bankrupt my local store. hard to say. But no particular reason to think that even fairly priced additional capacity would lead to an optimal result.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Aug 30, 2012 9:49 am • linkreport

Every year we spend a couple of days on Mackinac Island in Michigan, which hasn't allowed motorized vehicles since the 1920s. It's all horses, bikes and feet. Of course it's a small resort island, and similar broad bans are impractical in most other places, but it's still fascinating to see how the absence of cars improves the immediate quality of life in precisely the way contemplated in this article. The island has had to make no accommodations for cars, because there are none. The 385-room Grand Hotel has no parking lot. The (tiny) airport has no parking lot. In fact none of the businesses do - so spare space is green and soft rather than black, hard and hot. If a car has a garage it's to hold a horse carriage and most people don't have carriages so most houses don't have garages. The roads are narrow and intimate. Parking is not a problem - the streets do become congested with parked bikes but you can always find a spot maybe a block away. A block!

One day we rode up to a park in the middle of the island (baseball diamond, playground, that sort of thing) to meet someone and had trouble figuring out where we should wait for them, because there was no parking lot and therefore no obvious "entrance".

I acknowledge, again, that this is a highly artificial situation, with restrictions poorly suited to most urban settings, but the thing that strikes me every time I'm there is how much of our usual existence is given over, without our even noticing it, to automobiles. It'd be great if there were a way to improve our real-life circumstances in this way by even 10%.

by John on Aug 30, 2012 9:50 am • linkreport

@goldfish, @Crickey7 - The difference between induced demand on a road network vs a transit system is that because of transit's efficiencies, you can actually get to a point where you absorb demand without breaking the bank and (to the core point of the post) without using more and more real estate. If I-66 is too congested, you can maybe squeeze in another lane or two at huge expense - and sacrificing any other potential use of that real estate; but if that ends up creating even more demand and you're congested again in a couple of years, then you're pretty much out of options. On the other hand if the Orange Line from Vienna is too congested, you can just keep increasing the frequency of trains until the demand is met. The same goes for buses. That's not free, but it costs less money than widening a freeway and - crucially - doesn't take any additional space.

by Herb Caudill on Aug 30, 2012 9:51 am • linkreport

Thus, using "Induced demand" in an argument about transportation policy, it mostly just indicates the prejudice for urbanism.

Induced demand is an argument against the statement that "the roads are congested, we need to widen them/build more." Because induced demand shows that it won't work.

It is not an argument against "We need to increase mobility or rebuild failed infrastructure" or even "we need a new road". The Wilson Bridge and the new 11th Street Bridge are both examples of road projects that succeed because they aren't based around the idea of 'reducing congestion' but rather reducing driving miles by rerouting traffic in a smart way. Even the HOT lanes hold up because the toll means it won't induce much demand.

by David C on Aug 30, 2012 9:54 am • linkreport

the other difference is that induced demand on a highway will usually mean more trips. period. Expanding capacity on the orange line may lead to more trips but the shift in mode share from highways would likely be far larger. So the net effect would be to reduce congestion on another congested facility. Now a radical user of induced demand would say thats just as bad as adding capacity to a highway - and indeed I think there are folks here who oppose suburban rail extensions for essentially that reason.

the other different - To the extent transit increases development, its usually pretty dense, which enables more use of walking as a means of transport, which does not add to congestion problems and space needs. Unless and until the sidewalks get serious congested. Which I think is a minor problem in the USA outside Manhattan.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Aug 30, 2012 9:58 am • linkreport

Great article. The new zoning regs make sense. If affluent suburban-like DC neighborhoods like Chevy Chase DC, with 2.4 cars each household, are going to kick and scream, well, so be it.

by Chevy Chase on Aug 30, 2012 9:59 am • linkreport

@John: Interesting story. I would like to visit there.

Question: how do they haul stuff around, with horses? Where do they keep the horses?

by goldfish on Aug 30, 2012 10:00 am • linkreport

"Even the HOT lanes hold up because the toll means it won't induce much demand."

or at least that the induced trips will have a relatively high marginal value to the trip takers, making it less likely that we will get lots of induced trips of minimal personal value and negative (even aside from the facility cost) social value

(and yes I know it would have been better to toll the whole road, lets not go there now)

by AWalkerInTheCity on Aug 30, 2012 10:01 am • linkreport

A fine article. Building car-centric infrastructure can benefit a large number of people because so many people have cars, they have flexible schedules and routing, and they can go a longer distance, but it can be quite expensive in both real estate and cost. Ped/bike infrastructure may not affect as may people due to the distance involved but is generally cheaper in both space and cost. Transit tends not to have the flexibility of cars, but has the ability to move a lot of people with a lot less space required. A balance needs to be struck, for a long time it has been tipped towards the cars.

I do think there needs to be some studies done on what effect unicorn tears have on the environment.

by Another Josh on Aug 30, 2012 10:09 am • linkreport

@goldfish -
Horses - big draft horses, four or six at a time - haul everything. You see them grinding up hills with construction materials loaded onto flatbed carriages.

The horses - about 500 of them - are kept in stables in various places on the island. Some of these places are more obvious than others. But now that you mention it, I really don't know where they all stay or how much space is required for them overnight. Certainly not none.

You have helped me with a small refinement, which is that in addition to there being no cars, it's also true that no one rides individual horses to actually get anywhere. It's all just horse-taxis and carriages, so those large creatures are never "parked" and no allowance has to be made for them in that way.

by John on Aug 30, 2012 10:12 am • linkreport

@Herb, induced demand does apply to mass transit when you have folks like WMATA running the Metro system. You're advocating for "increasing frequency of trains," but realistically they're at peak usage already and overcongested because the system was designed--idiotically, I might add--for 1/4 of it's current users. There is no third track causing even more problems everytime anything remote happens. It's really not even cost efficient since the price is on par with most monthly parking rates meaning Metro's value added for commuters is if they receive a ridership subsidy (I note ridership since it's already subsidized by local governments) or if it's a significant time savings. Quite frankly, our poorly planned Metro system is part of the problem. People can argue if that's because of it's design of regional power-sharing, inept bureaucratic leadership, or any host of reasons, but that is ultimately failing to live up to it's potential.

DC's space problem is more than a literal spatial configuration issue. It's compounded by the fact that the city is immensely spread out, suburbs (with cars) start literally a dozen blocks from the "downtown" area, and there is a massive height restriction that effectively forbids highrise living thereby driving more people into the suburbs. Tack on the fact that there is relatively little in the way of highway system in the city and some of the most heavily traveled routes out of the city are dotted by stoplights through suburban landscapes and you have the magic formula for horrific traffic.

The induced demand argument assumes a vacuum, but we know nature abhors a vacuum. It's a byproduct of city design, city rules, lacklust mass transit, and a host of factors. There aren't really concrete solutions to the problem, but some of the better ideas are relocating federal agencies to outter rings of the suburbs (employees will scream fits), easing height requirements, new Metro rail having 3 lines (oh wait, Silver Line already said screw that), more awareness of pedal power transit saving money and time for those living inside the Beltway, regional cooridination (see the DC/MD Western Avenue squabble that turned a four lane road into a two lane road), and staggered start/leave time for employees (better yet remote). Do I think most of this will happen? Nope. So, I endure the commute by car only when I have to and get my free exercise, views, and save money when possible--power to the pedals.

by T11 on Aug 30, 2012 10:18 am • linkreport

Greg: The analogy to McDonalds is incorrect.

McDonalds is a private business, and more building reflects more demand. You have to pay to eat a hamburger.

By contrast, roads are free, and a heavily subsidized public good. Unfortunately, the subsidies eat at our budgets, crowd out other uses of the space, and create as many problems as they solve. Just like any overly generous welfare system.

by SJE on Aug 30, 2012 10:21 am • linkreport

@John: the stables are the equivalent of parking. And there is no automobile analogue for the solid waste they leave behind.

Still would like to see it though.

by goldfish on Aug 30, 2012 10:27 am • linkreport

FWIW when I do testimonies and such, I make the point that the spatial design of the city was executed during the Walking City era, and the Walking City spatial design was extended by the Transit City (or Streetcar) era (these areas cover 1800-1920), and therefore the City of Washington is designed to optimize walking, transit, and biking.

Not to mention the space issue of accommodating the car as you lay out in your entry.

More than once, people who work for the city have come up to me afterwards and commented that they hadn't really thought of transportation-mobility issues in those terms.

It's important to continually make and reiterate this point.

http://www.autolife.umd.umich.edu/Environment/E_Casestudy/E_casestudy3.htm

- Muller, P.O. “The suburban transformation of the globalizing American city,” The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Scvience, 551 (May 1997): 44-58.

- Muller, P.O. “Transportation and urban form: Stages in the spatial evolution of the American metropolis,” in Susan Hanson and Genevieve Giuliano, eds., The Geography of Urban Transportation (New York: Guilford Press, 3rd rev. ed., 2004), pp. 59-85.

by Richard Layman on Aug 30, 2012 10:31 am • linkreport

@goldfish
The island indeed spends a lot of money cleaning up the horses' residue. Which may, parenthetically, may be easier and cheaper scrub that from the streets than CO and SO2 are from the atmosphere.

In any case I'm not suggesting we return to horses. My only real point is that, when I remove myself from our auto-centric culture, I am able to see how much space, money and energy we devote to simply their physical existence. We really surrender a lot to them, and from time to time it's worth taking a step back to consider whether that's really the best arrangement; maybe some adjustments are in order.

by John on Aug 30, 2012 10:36 am • linkreport

- draft horses create other issues (waste that has to be dealt with, they eat, so you have to get them food, they have to be taken care of, they get old and its not humane to kill them)

- the issue is more about form than it is about "induced demand"

READ. The best book on the subject is probably David Engwicht's _Reclaiming our cities and towns_. This book generated both "transportation demand management" as a theory and practice as well as "traffic calming."

He would think traffic calming is a bastardization though. His point was that through form and other choices, you can reduce the need to make trips in motor vehicles.

MOre importantly than induced demand, he has some great diagrams about the negative impact on space for exchange as more space (roads) is devoted to vehicular transportation.

The big point I make all the time isn't choice, but better choices, or "optimality."

But yes, people drive and for individuals, it will often be more efficient to drive than to take transit. The problem is that for the collective it doesn't work. It's a case of the invisible hand of the "market" creating dysfunction and inefficiency, not efficiency.

That's the biggest concept that people can't grapple with, accept, understand.

Yes scooters and motorcycles are better for certain trips than cars, but not necessarily better than bikes, especially if you take into account health effects.

Still from a mobility planning standpoint (see my writings on mobility shed and transit shed) scooters and other less environmentally damaging modes have positive impact.

The general "war on the cars" argument is bimodal in DC. There is the inner core policy and practice--the area well served by transit and the right urban form, and the outer core of the city, where transit is not optimized, although biking, depending on topography, can still be a good choice.

So the most vociferous arguments in favor of the car tend to come from people in the outer city, while the most vociferous arguments in favor of sustainable transportation come from people in the core of the city. You're talking past each other.

Focus on form, and sustainable modes, and building the system, infrastructure, policy, and practice to generate more sustainable transpo use.

It's not like the form + transit isn't already working. Most DC streets have minimal traffic throughout the day, including rush periods.

Form + transit works!

by Richard Layman on Aug 30, 2012 10:44 am • linkreport

When I hear people complain about the "induced demand" argument, I think to Seoul, where they demolished a highway that was running through the city. Some expected traffic would become absolutely horrible - instead, because there were fewer traffic lanes available, people instead opted to use Seoul's excellent mass transit system, and in fact, without those highway lanes, Seoul's traffic has drastically improved, as has the cityscape, since without that highway they were able to make a beautiful park around the river it once covered.

So you could call this "induced lack-of-demand".

http://www.preservenet.com/freeways/FreewaysCheonggye.html has more information and pictures.

by Andrew on Aug 30, 2012 10:51 am • linkreport

Goldfish:

Induced demand is a chameleon kind of argument. When discussing roads, it is given as a reason to NOT build more of them -- the "you can't win" argument. OTOH for subway construction it is given as a reason TO build more of them. It is the foundation of "smart growth": by building subway lines encourages nearby high density development. For the silver line for example, the induced rider demand is given as a reason for success. For roads, "induced demand" = failure; for the metro, "induced demand" = success.
Thus, using "Induced demand" in an argument about transportation policy, it mostly just indicates the prejudice for urbanism.

It's not a prejudice for urbanism - it's simply a matter of context, as we are talking about policy in an urban area.

And yes, new capacity does induce demand. Inducing travel demand isn't bad at all - it's the proverbial 'good problem to have.' But, in a constrained city, you must account for efficiency. And inducing auto demand is bad because cars are inefficient. They hog a ton of space and have a low capacity.

Transit occupies little space and has a high capacity.

As the city grows, the only option is to add density - such is the geometric reality of a pre-existing place.

Therefore, the policy goal to emphasize transit over cars is a simple recognition of the geometric realities governing place - after that, it's just about doing the simple math.

by Alex B. on Aug 30, 2012 11:02 am • linkreport

@Alex B: Transit occupies little space and has a high capacity.

.. and is not cost-effective to build in lower density settings.

"induced demand" = I prefer dense cities.

by goldfish on Aug 30, 2012 11:07 am • linkreport

@T11 - Those are all fair criticisms of DC's Metro specifically. The point remains that transit can absorb additional demand at a lower cost per person-mile than freeways can, and without occupying additional urban space. If for whatever reason we don't invest our money accordingly, then that's a failure of public policy, not an argument for more vehicular infrastructure.

by Herb Caudill on Aug 30, 2012 11:13 am • linkreport

.. and is not cost-effective to build in lower density settings.

Good thing when we're talking about expanding transit access throughout the DC area a lot of it is planned on going through areas already high density. It's not like we're planning on a subway line on an empty plain here.

by drumz on Aug 30, 2012 11:14 am • linkreport

@drumz: consider the silver line. It will induce demand in areas that have nowhere near high density of the central business district. Particularly in Loudoun county, its cost-effectiveness (compared to improving the road network) is very much in doubt.

by goldfish on Aug 30, 2012 11:21 am • linkreport

Lots of current tysons employees (and almost certainly future ones) will commute from LoCo. Ergo improving transit mode share from LoCo to Tysons is important to the full transformation of Tysons. Absent the very unique issues presented by the retrofitting of Tysons, I would have agreed that Silver Line to LoCo was a bad idea.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Aug 30, 2012 11:29 am • linkreport

It will have two stations in Loudoun (compared to the stations in already highly developed areas like Tysons and Reston). And the growth that will happen, will also happen if they decided to do a highway instead. Yes, it won't be as high as downtown DC (nor should it necessarily) but density isn't the only issue at play here. Form/land use matters as well and that transit investment will allow people to meet the same density goals on less land.

Moreover, in there is a huge difference in bucolic western Loudoun and the Sterling/Ashburn/Leesburg conurbation that the two stations will be serving.

by drumz on Aug 30, 2012 11:38 am • linkreport

@ goldfish:And there is no automobile analogue for the solid waste they leave behind.

No, car exhaust is gaseous. Most people however, do not realize the enormous amount of gas that cars emit. For instance, the average car emits a pound of CO2 per mile.

Horse do not emit a pound of shit per mile.

by Jasper on Aug 30, 2012 11:44 am • linkreport

@drumz: And the growth that will happen, will also happen if they decided to do a highway instead.

The growth that will occur if roads were built will be more uniformly spread out, compared to what will happen with the silver line. The metro will cause higher density near the stations.

My point that "induced demands" = I prefer dense cities, stands.

by goldfish on Aug 30, 2012 11:44 am • linkreport

@Jasper: horses also produce methane.

by goldfish on Aug 30, 2012 11:45 am • linkreport

Um, yeah. That's what is implied, otherwise what then? Stop building things?

If we're gonna have growth then we need to decide on the best way to accomodate that growth. I prefer that the growth maximize already built land that drives down the per capita environmental cost per person that also emphasizes that people can walk places if they desire. Some may disagree with me but I don't see how "induced demand" is some sort of dog whistle for people who want to turn the planet into the NYC of The Fifth Element.

by drumz on Aug 30, 2012 11:56 am • linkreport

@drumz: it IS a dog whistle, thanks for the apt characterization.

What is nice about vacation is getting out of town. Most of the US is not urban, and many people do not want it to be that way. It is useful to remember that.

by goldfish on Aug 30, 2012 12:00 pm • linkreport

"The growth that will occur if roads were built will be more uniformly spread out, compared to what will happen with the silver line. The metro will cause higher density near the stations."

which will mean more walking in LoCo, which creates congestin on neither roads nor transit, and shorter car trips within LoCo, which adds less congestion to the local roads.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Aug 30, 2012 12:02 pm • linkreport

"What is nice about vacation is getting out of town. Most of the US is not urban, and many people do not want it to be that way. It is useful to remember that."

nobody goes to Ashburn VA for vacation pre silver line, and no one will after. I dont see what vacations have to do with the Silver line.

Most of the land in the US is rural, and no small amount is almost completely uninhabited. That has nothing to do with the best ratios of suburban driveable to urban walkable WITHIN metro areas.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Aug 30, 2012 12:05 pm • linkreport

"The growth that will occur if roads were built will be more uniformly spread out, compared to what will happen with the silver line. The metro will cause higher density near the stations"

1 thats not necessarily 100% true. The silver line likely WILL speed up suburban style development in places like Brambleton.

2. LoCo will create TOD - but LoCo WANTS to cause they have single folks working for the tech firms out there, and attracting them to LoCo (instead of them reverse commuting from Reston Town center or further in) will mean more tax revenue (without more costs for schools)

by AWalkerInTheCity on Aug 30, 2012 12:08 pm • linkreport

@AWitC: the smaller US cities do not have subways, and the people that live there like it that way.

And, most people that live in the exurbs do not want it transformed into the high density of (say) Capital Hill.

by goldfish on Aug 30, 2012 12:09 pm • linkreport

Very well said. Let's also add the idea that it's in the best interest of drivers for planners to provide more alternatives for pedestrians, bicyclists, and transit riders because that results in less traffic and faster trips for drivers. And that means benefits such as less emissions, less stress, less time in the car, and more time with family and for exercise. And less Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) probably means less stress on infrastructure which then reduces lifecycle costs for infrastructure (road) maintenance (taxpayer savings).

by Colin on Aug 30, 2012 12:09 pm • linkreport

"@AWitC: the smaller US cities do not have subways, and the people that live there like it that way.
And, most people that live in the exurbs do not want it transformed into the high density of (say) Capital Hill."

small cities cannot economically support fixed guideway transit. Many wold love to have them, if they could persuade the fed govt to give grants with no consideration for cost benefit or ridership. Some have gotten them in times past - Jacksonville florida, morgantown WVa, etc.

"And, most people that live in the exurbs do not want it transformed into the high density of (say) Capital Hill."

No they want pockets of density to help fill county coffers - in LoCo thats small pockets, in FFX which is built out its much bigger and denser pockets.

I am not sure what that has to do with the DC zoning code, which is the topic of the OP

by AWalkerInTheCIty on Aug 30, 2012 12:14 pm • linkreport

Eh. In a few years when we're well past peak oil and gas is $8/gallon, people naturally gravitate toward situations that don't so frequently demand the use of cars.

by John on Aug 30, 2012 12:15 pm • linkreport

@AWitC: Many wold love to have them, if they could persuade the fed govt to give grants with no consideration for cost benefit or ridership.

Would they? And since they would pay for the upkeep, what make you think they would not consider cost-benefit? Boondoggles offend everyone, even those that benefit from them.

by goldfish on Aug 30, 2012 12:37 pm • linkreport

The piece was talking about transportation choices in the context of reducing parking requirements in the DC zoning code.

How is the cost-effectiveness of the Silver line in Loudoun relevant to this at all?

by Alex B. on Aug 30, 2012 12:53 pm • linkreport

What is nice about vacation is getting out of town. Most of the US is not urban, and many people do not want it to be that way. It is useful to remember that.

I think this sense of victimization is misplaced. We're talking about how best to serve a dense region--not how to march our stalwart rural neighbors into the cities, reverse Pol Pot style.

by oboe on Aug 30, 2012 1:03 pm • linkreport

I think I realize now after living here all these years that I miss the countryside where I grew up. I don't want to deal with a million people everyday and I don't want to ride a crowded train everyday anymore. I want to move back to my little hometown four hours away from the closest big city. Problem is I don't want to give up my big city salary...

by dara elyana on Aug 30, 2012 1:10 pm • linkreport

Some expected traffic would become absolutely horrible - instead, because there were fewer traffic lanes available, people instead opted to use Seoul's excellent mass transit system, and in fact, without those highway lanes, Seoul's traffic has drastically improved.

Didn't that happen in San Francisco as well after the major earthquake in the late 80s destroyed a double layer of interstate? The city and state chose not to rebuild it and a community that had been blighted by the highway came roaring back?

I just had the horrible experience of driving west on 66 at 3 p.m. on a Friday. Quite frankly I don't know how people do it daily without going stark bonkers. I kept thinking that once I got past Dulles, the traffic would clear up. No, now people who work in that area live west of Dulles, so even though the road widened considerably, the traffic actually increased.

by lou on Aug 30, 2012 1:14 pm • linkreport

@ goldfish:What is nice about vacation is getting out of town.

Funny you say that. Would you care to explain how DC is growing in popularity with tourists? A lot of whom, presumably, do not come from Lower Manhattan or the Loop?

by Jasper on Aug 30, 2012 1:18 pm • linkreport

"Would they? And since they would pay for the upkeep, what make you think they would not consider cost-benefit? Boondoggles offend everyone, even those that benefit from them."

what made me think that was living in jacksonville and hearing them push for it.

There is some serious boosterism in a lot of small cities.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Aug 30, 2012 1:21 pm • linkreport

@ goldfish: And there is no automobile analogue for the solid waste they leave behind.

Have you been to a junkyard?

I too visit Mackinac Island (pronounced "mack-i-naw") annually/nearly annually. Horse poo is not really a big deal even on Main St. where the ferries land and the taxi's line up.

In any case the poo is useful. The gardens on the island are fantastic.

by Tina on Aug 30, 2012 1:21 pm • linkreport

@Jasper: They come to see how their tax dollars were spent to create city of monuments -- why do you think this needs to be explained? And, just because people from the hinterlands visit here, does not mean that they want their town to be like this.

by goldfish on Aug 30, 2012 1:23 pm • linkreport

@Tina -- that horse analogue to a junkyard is the rendering plant. I'd take a junkyard over that!

by goldfish on Aug 30, 2012 1:26 pm • linkreport

To hopefully bring back the conversation about zoning my overall point is that, we have a lot of de facto urban areas around the DC region. What is needed is official recognition that some of these areas have moved beyond their traditional view as a suburb. Moreover, there are myriad ways to shape the urban form. What this post suggests and I agree with is that we should promote an urban form that prioritizes space in favor of the pedestrian since walking is our most natural form of transportation. It's nice to know that a lot of the country isn't like DC and its neighbors but that doesn't have any bearing on the fact that we have to have smart solutions for what we do have here. I don't think continuing to priortize the storage and movement of automobiles is a smart solution.

by drumz on Aug 30, 2012 1:28 pm • linkreport

Jasper: I see plenty of tourists NOT in their cars. Riding the Metro, trying to use CaBi, etc. Not using a car is one of the "experiences" some of them seek.

by SJE on Aug 30, 2012 1:30 pm • linkreport

I really don't think Mr Caudill is suggesting that horses will become more common in DC under the new zoning code, nor that abolishing parking minimums in the district will further the building of subway lines in Youngstown, Omaha, or Macon. Perhaps mentioning "induced traffic" hit some hot buttons - my point earlier is that using it in one context need not infer agreement with everyone who has ever used that term, and Mr Caudill agreed with me. Some folks seem to want to beat a dead horse, so to speak.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Aug 30, 2012 1:32 pm • linkreport

pardon - imply, not infer

by AWalkerInTheCity on Aug 30, 2012 1:34 pm • linkreport

Again I think the simple point is that cars are large and numerous. We have been adapting our living and working spaces (particularly urban spaces) in a variety of ways to accommodate these abundant large vehicles, both when they are moving and when they are stopped.

This has been going on for so long now (indeed throughout the entire lifetime of everyone participating here, for sure) that we do not even see it any more, and so it is useful to reflect and realize that, in all likelihood, spaces that do not give over such a large proportion of their area to the near-exclusive use of cars (e.g 4-6 lane roads, endless parking spaces and lots, 7 story parking structures - never mind the noise), would, almost by definition, be more agreeably suited to nearly everything that isn't a car - pedestrians, cyclists, front-stoop-sitters - than the status quo.

by John on Aug 30, 2012 2:03 pm • linkreport

@ SJE:I see plenty of tourists NOT in their cars. Riding the Metro, trying to use CaBi, etc.

We're getting off-topic here, but is that because they do not want to drive, or do not dare to drive? I know plenty of non-District-but-Greater-Washingtonians that dread driving in DC. Also, many tourist come without a car.

by Jasper on Aug 30, 2012 5:08 pm • linkreport

I'm not for or against cars. I myself do not own one, although I used to. I just want to mention a few points. Car-free doesn't necessarily mean you're saving money. Yes, you don't have a lease payment or loan payment (if you don't own the car), but to live the car-free lifestyle, you will be paying a handsome premium in rent/house price. I'm assuming we are all thinking of living within walking distance to the metro, grocery stores, bars, restaurants, etc. Where I live I can walk to the metro, but that's about it. There's nothing else I can walk to, and I know the only reason my rent is as high as it is is because of the proximity to the metro. And would probably be higher if there were restaurants, grocery stores, etc. within walking distance. But just two or three stops down towards the core, for the same size apartment, add $300 easily.

So if you could get the same size place farther out for $1200, but need a car, which could be $400 between payment and insurance, that's still a lot less than the $2,000 you'd be paying in rent in the walkable areas. I guess what I'm trying to say is not everyone can afford the car-free lifestyle. We need to get away from putting a premium on being close to major transit. And like what's mentioned in the article about finite real estate for roads and cars, the same thing can be said about proximity to transit. There's only so much that can be built around the metro, so at some point, even if you can afford it, you will have to look further out. And I don't know if raising the height restriction in DC will do anything. I've looked at highrises in the area, and for the same apartment in the same building, except on a higher floor, all the leasing agents told me the higher ones are more expensive solely because they're higher up. So imagine in DC if there were higher apartments, and now you could get even a sliver of a view of the Washington Monument or Capitol, imagine how much those will be.

Also, car-free may not be practical for a family. Who wants to schlep around a week's worth of groceries on the metro for a family of four. Or having to take one kid here and one kid there. So car-free can be workable for some people, others it won't.

by Nickyp on Aug 30, 2012 10:35 pm • linkreport

@Nickyp

I agree that car free may not work once kids come into the equation. On the other hand, more car-sharing programs will help significantly. The key here is having transportation options and determining what kinds of subsidies our society gives to single occupancy vehicles versus other forms of mobility given externalities such as pollution and quality of life.

As the author implies, cities should be for people, not cars. And, no one is suggesting that all new buildings be void of parking. Lenders and market conditions will ensure there is "enough" parking. The question is, should government mandate "too much" parking.

I do find it ironic that those arguing about maintaining parking minimums also complain about vehicular traffic in their neighborhoods. If you eliminate the excess parking, you also eliminate the cars seeking the storage in said parking.

by William on Aug 31, 2012 7:15 am • linkreport

76% of all commuters still take a single occupancy private car to work. 10% carpool.

Public Transport, despite its vast expense, comes in at 5%.

Taxis, under 0.1%.

This state of affairs is largely due to strange laws preventing anyone selling rides to anyone else.

We could mitigate traffic congestion by simply connecting all the empty seats travelling around with those people who need rides.

by Eric Masaba on Aug 31, 2012 8:58 am • linkreport

"Yes, you don't have a lease payment or loan payment (if you don't own the car), but to live the car-free lifestyle, you will be paying a handsome premium in rent/house price."

Which is exactly why we need to double down on our transit investments. Look at NYC, which has so much rail transit that it dosen't factor into the pricing of real estate nearly as much as it does in DC. It's a matter of supply, and DC's premium for transit on prices is as clear a signal from the market as there could be.

"Who wants to schlep around a week's worth of groceries on the metro for a family of four"

Absolutley, but imagine a typical European city or an many an old American city back in the day before they where abandoned by the middle class and thus drained of investment. You wouldn't make one trip to costco a week, rather during your daily routine you'd pick up this and that to even out the load. I grew up in Rome and every other day my mother would send me to the butcher and other small shops. You get more physical excersize and more human interactions, both which will make for a happier and healthier lifestyle. We all love the car and the independance it affords, but reducing parking requirements is just one of many incrimental steps to recapturing a life style option that is clearly in demand.

by Thayer-D on Aug 31, 2012 9:06 am • linkreport

The average car is used for less than one hour per day and only carries one person. 90% of trips are single occupancy.
(source: UC Berkeley, Susan Shaheen and Daniel Sperling)

Think about this. During rush hour in the DC-VA-MD-WV region, there 86% of the traffic is comprised of cars with an average occupancy of 1.3. In fact, the average for all trips at all times in still under 1.7 and may be as low as 1.2 for commutes.

Which means that there are at least 2 spare seats in each vehicle and that if each vehicle had an average occupancy of 3, 75% of the traffic during rushhour would be gone. Since commuting is 20% of traffic flows, that means that 15% of US traffic could be magicked away just by increasing utilisation of the existing car fleet.

According to Bill Ford, 30% of the fuel used by road traffic in America is spent by cars looking for a place to park.

What if every user of transport in a city could register their intentions to a futures exchange for transport - which would then act as a "database of transit intentions".

Such advances in transit technology (a Demand Responsive Transit Exchange - aka Texxi) could provide us with:

1 Predictive Broking – it would enable a person to hail by mobile device (SMS, smartphone etc) ahead of that person needing a vehicle resource based on an itinerary history (with opt-in consent). ("Eric Schmidt-Creepy" - I know)

2 Information so that individuals and those delivering transport-based services can make better informed decisions (mobile transit maps based on systematic time-domain analysis of real-time road conditions; Manchester may be only 30 miles away from Liverpool at all times of the day in the “Spatial Domain”, but in the “Time Domain”, Manchester is further from Liverpool at 0800 -1000 than at 22:00 – 06:00.)

3 The ability to manage the delivery of the services in real time, through the collection of information on the origin and destination of the user and real-time predictive modelling on a very large scale

4 The ability to control the movement of goods and people, with vehicles connected to each other and to the surrounding infrastructure so they become an integral part of an ‘intelligent’ system (see HLT Cloud Concept)

5 Infrastructure that is intelligent, so that it adapts itself to the needs of users - an integrated system that includes all modes of transport, public and private.

6 Integrated and intelligent supply and logistics chains that adapt continuously to provide the most efficient path from supplier to user ( Mobile Transit Maps)

7 Viable alternatives to moving goods and people (See E-Commerce Enabled Demand Responsive Logistics).

Want to know more - look on http://www.slideshare.net/texxi

A set of systems, methods and marketing applied to any vehicle operation firm to allow it to increase its earnings by enabling customers who so wish to share rides in vehicles by using a mobile device (SMS, smartphone, web or email) to summon the ride.

REFERENCES
(Source | Title | URL)

UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA BERKELEY
CarSharing in North America | Susan Shaheen, Daniel Sperling, and Conrad Wagner Printed in Transportation Quarterly (Summer 1998), Vol. 52, Number 3, pp. 35 -52
http://tsrc.berkeley.edu/sites/tsrc.berkeley.edu/files/Carsharing%20in%20Europe%20and%20North%20America.pdf

Crane Dragon
Why Now - What is the crisis in transport?
http://www.slideshare.net/Texxi/the-market-size-and-opportunity-for-texxi

Crane Dragon
The New Transport Economy
http://pdf.edocr.com/d82c28eb2a27bc58eb39bf759e94100a0025ebbc.pdf

Crane Dragon
The Market Size for linking empty seats with those users who need rides (EU5)
http://pdf.edocr.com/fb557f1128b8e3917717fe4fefb2fda459af10b8.pdf

United Nations | Department of Economic and Social Affairs
Population Division
WORLD POPULATION TO 2300
http://www.un.org/esa/population/publications/longrange2/WorldPop2300final.pdf

United Nations | Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division
World Urbanization Prospects The 2011 Revision | March 2012
http://esa.un.org/unup/pdf/WUP2011_Highlights.pdf

IEA Fast Facts
http://www.iea.org/journalists/fastfacts.asp
Transport accounts for about one quarter of global energy use and energy-related CO2 emissions. In absence of new policies, transport energy use and related CO2 emissions are projected to increase by nearly 50% by 2030 and by more than 80% by 2050. For more information see Transport, Energy and CO2: Moving Towards Sustainability.

CAR CRAZY - By Dave Cohen | Wed, Nov 21, 2007 by ASPO-USA / Energy Bulletin
http://www.itulip.com/forums/showthread.php/2530-2-billion-cars-projected-by-2030-Car-of-the-future-will-be-no-car-at-all?s=0efb71081ccef71ec71588b784da15d9

Crane Dragon
How was the Transit Exchange invented?
http://pdf.edocr.com/59e245c511d58bfb5637a571f66503024eb61d22.pdf

Crane Dragon
What is a Transit Exchange?
http://www.slideshare.net/Texxi/the-demand-responsive-transit-exchange

Vehicle Ownership and Income Growth, Worldwide: 1960-2030
Joyce Dargay, Dermot Gately and Martin Sommer | January 2007
http://www.econ.nyu.edu/dept/courses/gately/DGS_Vehicle%20Ownership_2007.pdf

Abstract:
The speed of vehicle ownership expansion in emerging market and developing countries
has important implications for transport and environmental policies, as well as the global
oil market. The literature remains divided on the issue of whether the vehicle ownership
rates will ever catch up to the levels common in the advanced economies. This paper
contributes to the debate by building a model that explicitly models the vehicle saturation
level as a function of observable country characteristics: urbanization and population
density. Our model is estimated on the basis of pooled time-series (1960-2002) and crosssection data for 45 countries that include 75 percent of the world’s population. We
project that the total vehicle stock will increase from about 800 million in 2002 to over 2
billion units in 2030. By this time, 56% of the world’s vehicles will be owned by nonOECD countries, compared with 24% in 2002. In particular, China’s vehicle stock will
increase nearly twenty-fold, to 390 million in 2030. This fast speed of vehicle ownership
expansion implies rapid growth in oil demand.

50BY50 GLOBAL FUEL ECONOMY INITIATIVE
www.50by50campaign.org
Making Cars 50% More Fuel Efficient by 2050 Worldwide
http://www.fiafoundation.org/50by50/Documents/50BY50_report.pdf

Two Billion Cars | March 2010 | Daniel Sperling | UCDavies
http://www.uic.edu/depts/cme/seminars/SperlingDaniel.pdf

World Vehicle Population Tops 1 Billion Units | Aug. 15, 2011 | John Sousanis | WardsAuto
http://wardsauto.com/ar/world_vehicle_population_110815
http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/ezra-klein/post/one-billion-vehicles-hit-the-road-are-we-ready-for-two-billion/2011/08/22/gIQA1am4WJ_blog.html

Commuting in the United States: 2009
http://www.census.gov/prod/2011pubs/acs-15.pdf

Transit Commuting Reported in the American Community Survey | Dec 22, 2010
http://www.apta.com/resources/statistics/Documents/2009_ACS_Transit_Commuter_Data.pdf

Commuting Statistics | Published 08/07/2008 04:00 PM | Updated 06/04/2012 11:54 AM
https://ntl.custhelp.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/419/~/commuting-statistics

Transportation Energy Futures | Daniel Sperling, Mark A. DeLuchi | Reprint | UCTC No. 11
http://www.uctc.net/papers/011.pdf

Two Billion Cars | Transforming a Culture | DANIEL SPERLING AND DEBORAH GORDON
http://onlinepubs.trb.org/onlinepubs/trnews/trnews259billioncars.pdf

Average Annual Miles per Driver by Age Group | Federal Highways Administration | Apr 4 2011
http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/ohim/onh00/bar8.htm

Our Nation's Highways - 2000 | Selected Facts and Figures | Publication No. FHWA-PL-01-1012 | Office of Highway Policy Information
http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/ohim/onh00/onh.htm

Federal Highways Administration | Apr 4 2011
Average Annual Miles per Driver by Age Group
http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/ohim/onh00/bar8.htm

Internation Transport Forum | Transport Outlook 2011 | Meeting the Needs of 9 Billion People
http://www.internationaltransportforum.org/Pub/pdf/11Outlook.pdf

Preparing for China's Urban Billion | McKinsey 2009
http://www.mckinsey.com/insights/mgi/research/urbanization/preparing_for_urban_billion_in_china

Projection of Chinese Motor Vehicle Growth | Oil Demand, and CO2 Emissions through 2050
Source: M. Wang, H. Huo, L. Johnson, and D. He, Argonne National Laboratory, 2006. Note: Excludes motorized two-wheelers and rural vehicles.

BP Energy Outlook 2030 | London, January 2012
http://www.bp.com/liveassets/bp_internet/globalbp/STAGING/global_assets/downloads/O/2012_2030_energy_outlook_booklet.pdf

International Energy Agency | Did you know?
http://www.iea.org/journalists/fastfacts.asp
Transport accounts for about one quarter of global energy use and energy-related CO2 emissions. In absence of new policies, transport energy use and related CO2 emissions are projected to increase by nearly 50% by 2030 and by more than 80% by 2050. For more information see

The world’s car fleet is expected to triple by 2050 with 80% of this growth occurring in developing economies. See "50by50" report from the Global Fuel Economy Initiative (GFEI) for more details. See also the IEA press release.

Number of Cars | The Physics Factbook™ | Edited by Glenn Elert -- Written by his students
http://hypertextbook.com/facts/2001/MarinaStasenko.shtml

Energy, Transport and CO2
http://www.iea.org/textbase/nppdf/free/2009/transport2009.pdf

by Eric Masaba on Aug 31, 2012 9:08 am • linkreport

By the way, a Transit Exchange solves the "Car-No Car" dichotomy.

Do you buy a house in every place you visit? No you rent a hotel room.

Do you buy your own aeroplane to fly from city to city, or maybe charter a private jet? Likelihood is that you buy just a seat in a large jet going your way.

Why not do the same thing with cars, carshares and carpools and offer people a way to manage the cost of their transportation using a futures exchange?

This is what a Transit Exchange does.

by Eric Masaba on Aug 31, 2012 9:13 am • linkreport

@William, @NickyP

What is you could get an appropriate transport resource for a specific purpose ( http://www.texxi.com/7ModesofTexxiAU.pdf ) simply by sending a message from a mobile device, or even better, block buying say 100 trips with options to get some of your money back if you cannot make the trip?

A New Beginning for Transport
http://www.texxi.com/pres/newbeginning.pdf

Market Opportunity
http://www.texxi.com/pres/marketopp.pdf

Underpinnings
http://www.texxi.com/pres/underpinnings.pdf

by Eric Masaba on Aug 31, 2012 9:20 am • linkreport

@Eric Masaba -- Your posts look like you are promoting a business, not discussing the thread. You are approaching spam.

by goldfish on Aug 31, 2012 9:32 am • linkreport

Here's a largely ignored problem communities need to face in setting road and parking policy. Even when you have areas well-served by public transportation (DC is now calling them transit routes), the businesses there are frequented by many people who do not live in areas where there is adequate mass transit. In my Crestwood neighborhood, for example, you can easily get north and south by transit, but not east and west. Yet the stores and restaurants are mainly east and west. If DC only looks within the transit areas themselves and makes policies that result in fewer parking spaces there, these other neighborhoods have had their access restricted (absent a significant introduction of new transit routes).

by DCDave on Aug 31, 2012 3:38 pm • linkreport

I think the best answer to Greg's fundamental point is the following counterexample:

Let's give everyone free McDonald's hamburgers. Let's put 10,000 hamburgers a day on a table in front of the Capitol (or wherever).

What would happen? People would take and eat the hamburgers, and once word got out, all 10,000 hamburgers would be taken very quickly every day. We may thus infer that because people need food and they really seemed to like those burgers, McDonald's hamburgers are an important public good.

A city planner might notice a problem: those 10,000 hamburgers just aren't enough. They get taken very early in the morning, so not everybody has a chance to get a hamburger. The obvious solution -- because burgers are a highly-valued public good -- is to provide more free burgers. So the city planner starts to provide 20,000 hamburgers a day.

You can see where this is going. People start going out of their way to get the free hamburgers, and planning their day around that trip. The city has to keep providing more and more free burgers -- eventually millions a day -- to keep satisfying the demand for free hamburgers. The competing food markets crater, because who would pay $2/lb for apples when you can get as many free burgers as you want (although maybe you have to wait in a 30-minute line). Public health goes to hell, because everybody's eating six burgers a day. And yet, everybody likes their free burgers and the Hamburger Department is an untouchable political powerhouse. Proposals for a 10-cent hamburger fee to cover the huge costs of hamburger provision get shot down by public outrage.

What's the problem here? The problem is that food is indeed a necessity, and yes, people seem to like McDonald's hamburgers -- but the fact that people will take free burgers does not prove that they are "highly valued" by the market. We are not seeing actual demand for burgers. We are seeing induced demand for a good which is being provided at artificially low prices.

But for some reason, replace hamburgers with roads and everybody goes nuts.

In short, the fact that a new lane or road immediately fills up with traffic does not "prove" that there was a high demand for that road -- it proves that people will use way too much of something that's free.

(I wrote the word "hamburgers" so many times in this comment that it has completely lost its meaning to my eyes.)

by Jacob on Sep 3, 2012 3:11 pm • linkreport

A question about induced demand, since there are people more educated than me on this topic:

Is there such thing as induced demand as it pertains to transit? I.e. if you offer more lines, more frequent service, etc. on Metro, would the system eventually become more overwhelmed (more crowds, more frequent breakdowns, etc)? Metro and other transit agencies are building new lines, even though they're all struggling to balance their operations budgets as they stand now.

This probably sounds like it's a political question, but that's not my intention. Just wondering if anyone can explain to me whether induced demand happens on all modes or just roads so that I can try to wrap my head around this discussion.

by Ryan on Sep 4, 2012 12:31 pm • linkreport

This is a great article, and indeed one of very few that elicit intelligent feedback. Getting back to the argument of parking minimums, let me offer an example from Pendleton, Oregon, population 16,000. We are home to the Pendleton Round Up rodeo, a week-long event that brings more than 50,000 people into town. The event is held at the Round Up grounds, which has virtually no off-street parking. As a result, very few people drive to the event. Virtually everybody walks or takes advantage of various shuttle options. Some folks even hire high school kids to be their taxi drivers, so there is no need to park a vehicle. Yes, traffic does increase quite a bit. But because there are so few places to park a vehicle, it’s simply not practical to drive. People walk everywhere. I initially thought that riding a bike around town during Round Up would be crazy, but quickly realized that it was incredibly efficient.
If we had ample off-street parking for the event, our town would turn into a traffic nightmare of massive proportions. Ironically, it is the LACK of off-street parking that makes Round Up the great event that it is. It’s also a boon for both local businesses and vendors that come in, because everybody walks by and has the opportunity to stop and shop. That would not happen if everybody was driving. Let us not forget that if we did build a ton of parking for the event, it would take up space that could otherwise be used for economic development the other 51 weeks of the year.
For the record, I grew up in Reston and used transit to get to Tysons from the early 1970s. I spent the summer of 2002 living in Old Town Alexandria without a car and survived just fine living in the "European style" previously described.
Don't think it's possible to live "car free" or "car less?" Read on: http://bikeportland.org/2012/06/28/with-six-kids-and-no-car-this-mom-does-it-all-by-bike-73731

by Evan on Sep 4, 2012 1:09 pm • linkreport

Another layer to this: to operate a vehicle takes time. Our commute, our route - the time it takes to operate a vehicle is time that we do not have to apply to more productive pursuits. Therefore, economically, as nation, we are losing our competitive edge because we are diverting substantial hours to an activity that doesn't really provide any lasting value.

by Will Wright on Sep 4, 2012 5:56 pm • linkreport

Ryan:

"Is there such thing as induced demand as it pertains to transit? I.e. if you offer more lines, more frequent service, etc. on Metro, would the system eventually become more overwhelmed (more crowds, more frequent breakdowns, etc)? Metro and other transit agencies are building new lines, even though they're all struggling to balance their operations budgets as they stand now."

Induced demand is a purely economic concept. If a good is priced for the consumer below its free-market cost, that will induce a higher level of usage than is economically efficient. In that sense, much current transit usage probably is induced demand, given the levels of government subsidy. Major transit systems typically have farebox recovery ratios of 30-60%.

A problem with this line of thought is that even if both were provided purely by the free market, both have significant externalities, positive and negative that are very difficult to quantify, but probably tend on balance to be positive for mass transit and negative for freeways. (Freeways: pollution, carbon, urban decentralization; modern mass transit: urban centralization, Jacobsian agglomeration economies, equity.)

Thus, a sensible economic argument can be made for subsidies for mass transit and penalty pricing for road usage relative to their free market prices. What we actually do -- large, broadly similar subsidies for both modes -- is pretty stupid and leads to the observed decimation of non-car options.

by Jacob on Sep 4, 2012 7:21 pm • linkreport

I won't attempt to wax poetic about this post, except to say Bravo!

by TC on Sep 5, 2012 9:55 pm • linkreport

I am a city planner. My husband is not. A few months ago, we drove by a brand new call center that had a huge parking lot -- it was just a sea of concrete. I smiled with pride as he casually observed, "Those employees will spend so much time at work, but their cubicle is smaller than their parking space."

Great article. I will be sharing it in hopes of delivering at least one "ah-ha" moment to a friend or family member.

by Sarah on Sep 5, 2012 10:06 pm • linkreport

@Greg

What you call "silly" - induce and demand- actually have got tons of research behind it. As well as there is tons of research of the economical and social benefits from offering multiple way of transports, especially focusing on walking, cycling and public transport.

In the end of the day, we need to base city planning decisions based on research not on emotions.

by Ella on Sep 7, 2012 3:37 pm • linkreport

[Deleted for violating the comment policy.] Induced demand results in higher economic efficiency. Money is saved traveling to residential and commercial locations that cost less vs. being in high demand ones. Individuals work out the trade offs of space costs with travel costs to maximize their benefit. Area increases with the square of the distance from a location, thus transportation with linear cost makes space costs go down faster (squared). Its geometry and arithmetic. High costs from space and transportation encourage companies to outsource where costs are lower like China, India, and eastern Europe. Affordable and plentiful transportation helps employment and productivity. Demand modification fails because other options exist.

Your complaints about cars could be as easily about people and that they want too much space. If only people didn't want cars or so many square feet, planning would be so much easier. Give people what they want, and its road transportation. People are lazy and won't bicycle. Most even won't take money to switch. They buy automatic transmissions so they don't have to shift gears while driving, let alone pedal too! When Americans have the same proportion of manual transmissions as Europeans, only then you might get similar bicycle usage rates.

Scooters and motorbikes are heavily used in the rest of the world. They have much higher: space efficiency, fuel efficiency, and raw materials efficiency than cars. They are only slightly larger than bicycles, similarly vulnerable for operators, and far more practical for hills, cargo, time efficiency (speed), and greater distances. Our government, however, unfairly applies similar insurance and registration costs to them to discourage use. For similar costs as a car, the car gets chosen. Open your mind and look what works in the rest of the world.

Pollution does count, especially in EPA non-compliance areas. The trouble is the EPA doesn't seem to model well "traffic calming" and "complete street" producers of pollution. These devices make trips take longer, with more stopping and starting. The end result is lower city MPG than highway and thus more CO2 production. Yet road designers ignore the harm they do with "friendly" streets. These streets are friendly to a minority, not the majority, resulting in net harm. Have constricted turns or curb extensions ever been shown to lower accidents? No. Thankfully the FDA doesn't let millions of dollars be wasted by consumers on drugs that don't work any better than a placebo.

Planners also ignore the damage to health from addition stress in driving on "traffic calmed" and congested streets. The result is similar to "going postal" - some people get road rage. Planners don't understand or experience the concept. They can work with inexplicable delays and continental drift rates of progress that most in the private sector can't. Again, more stress for the majority driving to make things marginally better for pedestrians and cyclists is a net health negative. Its an economic negative too with lost productivity and lost stress-relieving free time. Free time that might otherwise be spent with children, say going over their school work.

[Deleted for violating the comment policy.] Bring back those of 60 years ago who gave PEOPLE what they wanted along with booming economic growth, productivity, and prosperity.

by Mark on Sep 9, 2012 12:21 pm • linkreport

Hey Herb, how did my comments violate policy other than spoiling your party?

I tried asking via email, but moderator@ggwash.org bounced.

Motorbikes and scooters are a good solution discriminated against in North America which reduce parking requirements.

by Mark on Sep 11, 2012 5:39 am • linkreport

@Mark - I'm just a contributor, I don't moderate comments. I personally have no issue with scooters and motorbikes. Contact information for GGW is here http://greatergreaterwashington.org/about/ .

by Herb Caudill on Sep 11, 2012 6:35 am • linkreport

Mark: A widespread Internet DNS outage yesterday meant that a lot of emails bounced. Everything is working again now.

You got an email when we deleted those 2 small portions of your comment. I will send you a follow-up email about it as well. Let's have all further discussion of this via email and not here in the comments. Thanks!

by David Alpert on Sep 11, 2012 7:45 am • linkreport

Thanks Herb. I missed the part in your article where motorbikes are discussed as an improvement over the space needs for cars. US policy just needs to not make them as expensive to own as cars. Given similar registration and insurance costs, cars will be chosen over motorbikes by buyers. Two wheels with motor are nearly as compact as bicycles with most of the advantages of four wheels and a motor. North American planners seem to completely ignore motorbikes despite being nearly equal nationally to bicycle numbers for commuting to work.

by Mark on Sep 11, 2012 7:50 am • linkreport

@Mark

It's "US policy" that makes motorbikes more expensive? I thought it was the fact that they were more dangerous, meaning private insurance companies charge more to insure you on one.

by MLD on Sep 11, 2012 8:35 am • linkreport

@MLD: The policy comes from many states' (not Federal) requirement to carry insurance. In contrast, the states do not require bicyclists to carry insurance, making them SO much cheaper to operate, but pushing their risk, which cannot be ignored, onto those that do carry insurance, and onto the health (not auto) policies.

by goldfish on Sep 11, 2012 8:44 am • linkreport

@goldfish, the state doesn't force one to own insurance to insure oneself. They do it so that one can insure others - in case they hurt them or damage their property. The odds are so low that a cyclist will hurt someone or damage property that they don't need it. The same is not true of drivers.

How does the lack of insurance push risk onto others, and how does that differ from pedestrians? It sure isn't on health insurance since there is a mountain of evidence showing that the health benefits of cycling exceed the health costs. If anything, regular bike users should get a discount.

by David C on Sep 11, 2012 8:52 am • linkreport

@David C: from personal experience, I have visited physicians and the ER far more often due to (my own) bicycling mishaps than from driving mishaps. My health policy picked up the tab. As you are aware, not every bicyclist has health insurance.

There is risk in riding a bicycle, and this must be paid for one way or the other.

by goldfish on Sep 11, 2012 8:57 am • linkreport

There is risk in eating at McDonald's. There is risk in crossing the street. There is risk in standing on a stepladder to change a lightbulb. There is risk in stepping into a wet bathtub. Presumably it is your view that those risks must be separately paid for one way or another as well.

In point of fact I suppose they will be soon enough, when everyone in the country is required to purchase health insurance. I'm looking forward to that day, so that this silly argument can come off the table.

by John on Sep 11, 2012 9:07 am • linkreport

@John: I suppose so, up to a point.

It is reasonable to expect the health policies to cover mishaps doing everyday things that are not particularly risky, such as stepping into a bathtub or changing a light bulb. OTOH, should these same policies cover far riskier behaviors, such as mountain climbing, scuba diving, or bicycling? Why should those who do not take risks pay for those who do?

(The risk at eating at McDonald's is covered under McDonald;s insurance, btw.)

by goldfish on Sep 11, 2012 9:17 am • linkreport

But if we're talking about scooters, the insurance cheaper than car insurance. And in DC at least, registering a motorcycle costs less than registering a car.

And the bicycle comparison is off, study after study shows that the health benefits of cycling outweigh the health costs in terms of accidents. I doubt the same can be said for another vehicle you just sit on and drive. Not to mention the cost of a bicycle is an order of magnitude less than a scooter that isn't a 2-stroke pollution mess.

I also noticed that the DC DMV updated the PDF with their motorcycle rules and now includes a picture of a scooter in the "motorcycle" category. They also changed the wording of the rules about what constitutes a "motorcycle" - the definition is now just exclusive of motorized bikes rather than a list of criteria.
http://dmv.dc.gov/info/forms/NontraditionalMotorVehiclechart_pdf.shtm

by MLD on Sep 11, 2012 9:18 am • linkreport

"David C: from personal experience, I have visited physicians and the ER far more often due to (my own) bicycling mishaps than from driving mishaps. My health policy picked up the tab. As you are aware, not every bicyclist has health insurance.
There is risk in riding a bicycle, and this must be paid for one way or the other."

Given the number of ER visits and other uncompensated care that are caused by CVD, I have little doubt that cycling (even by those without health insurance) is a net reducer of those costs. However I am all FOR a MANDATE for all cyclists to carry health insurance. I support a MANDATE for all Americans to carry health insurance, and that would cover cyclists as well, of course.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Sep 11, 2012 9:18 am • linkreport

" mountain climbing, scuba diving, or bicycling? "

I see what you did there.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Sep 11, 2012 9:21 am • linkreport

@AWitC: I see what you did there -- and I stand by it. I never had a concussion except when I hit a patch of oil; never needed stitches either. Every serious bicyclists I know can tell stories of near misses and serious injuries. Such things do not happen to those who do not ride.

Bicycling is risky.

by goldfish on Sep 11, 2012 9:27 am • linkreport

Where does high school football fit on your list, @goldfish?

by John on Sep 11, 2012 9:31 am • linkreport

@John: yes.

by goldfish on Sep 11, 2012 9:33 am • linkreport

fatality or serious injury rate per hour of activity compared to mountain climbing or scuba diving?

Most regular walkers in city streets have tales of close calls, and certainly most drivers. IIUC the fatality rate per hour is not higher for cyclists than for drivers.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Sep 11, 2012 9:38 am • linkreport

It would be an interesting exercise to create a comprehensive and complete ranking of risky activities. I'm not sure though how useful it is to cherry-pick or proceed from anecdotes and personal experiences. My own list would, for example, rank co-ed rec soccer as much more dangerous than cycling - a collision in one match resulted in a torn ACL and two surgeries, $25,000 at least picked up by insurance; my most serious injury in 25 years and 70,000 miles of cycling was a broken thumb that required no treatment beyond a single visit to the doctor.

Just sayin', you know? If we're going to contend that some activities are so dangerous that they require their own separate insurance, we should be rigorous and consistent.

by John on Sep 11, 2012 9:46 am • linkreport

According to Bill Ford Jr, 30% of all the fuel used in urban America is burned by people looking for a place to park - www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2012/02/27/bill-ford-keynote-mobile-world-congress_n_1305940.html

(Thank you admin for allowing my other posts to remain, BTW - I am very passionate about transport.)

by Eric Masaba on Sep 11, 2012 9:53 am • linkreport

Football is second to bicycle head trauma. ER visits show only about 25% of bicycle related visits involved motor vehicles.

Bicyclists are a hazard to pedestrians. The elderly are very susceptible to hip fractures when knocked down. Half then die within a year. Most common fatal injuries caused by cyclists are head trauma. This is why cyclists should carry insurance.

While I consider 50cc scooters more dangerous for being too underpowered to get away from dangerous situations, being able to make use of bike lanes is appealing. 50cc seems rather arbitrary given some leaf blowers have bigger motors. Electric motors are too new a concept for many states, though safety has more to do with speed than how power is produced.

New Hampshire is a state without compulsorily mv insurance or helmet wearing, though others exist. There isn't enough warm weather there to dramatically increase motorbike use, however.

by Mark on Sep 11, 2012 9:56 am • linkreport

Girls soccer comes in about 3rd place after football. Girls generally have weaker neck muscles than boys putting them at greater risk for head injury. Using ones head to hit a ball just isn't a smart thing, repeatedly.

by Mark on Sep 11, 2012 10:00 am • linkreport

@John, I think your biking experience is extraordinary; you sure you are not forgetting something?

But if you are going to rank risk, it should be pro-rated by how much people are inclined to do it. Few people play soccer for 2 hours a day, but you must have biked that much, which increases your exposure to that particular risk. At the pro level, the risk from playing football is so clear that it is played far less often than in the past; now it is only really played during the games.

by goldfish on Sep 11, 2012 10:01 am • linkreport

A law change that would support motorbike use is to allow lane splitting as is frequently practiced by cyclists passing cars at stop lights (only to be overtaken again). With space, why not? Road width is becoming more scarce unfortunately as sidewalks keep getting fatter and fatter. In the old days, lane splitting was prohibited because it annoyed stationary car drivers, tempting them to door motorcyclists. Now annoying motorists seems to be a policy goal.

by Mark on Sep 11, 2012 10:13 am • linkreport

Here's a ranking of injuries per 1000 hours of activity for several sports:

1. Alpine skiing (8)
2. Rowing machine exercise (6)
3. Treadmill walking or jogging (6)
4. Tennis (5)
5. Dancing classes (5)
6. Resistance training with weight machines (4)
7. Resistance training with free weights (4)
8. Outdoor cycling (3.5)
9. Stationary cycle exercise (2)
10. Stair climbing (2)
11. Walking (2)

Source: Injuries in Recreational Adult Fitness Activities,' The American Journal of Sports Medicine, vol. 21 (3), pp. 461-467, 1993

So cycling is risky -in that their is risk - but less so than many other activities. But the money point has been made twice and as of yet not refuted: "the health benefits of cycling outweigh the health costs in terms of accidents."

by David C on Sep 11, 2012 10:14 am • linkreport

Well, I omitted a foot-long road rash on one shin following a fall on curve on a slippery bike path, and a basketball-sized bruise on my outer thigh when I fell at Washington Circle (in traffic but not the result of a collision).

Perhaps my experience is in fact unusual - which of course only underscores my prior point about the dangers of relying on anecdotal evidence or personal experience to make policy.

by John on Sep 11, 2012 10:14 am • linkreport

Mark, Football is second to bicycle head trauma.

Is that in pure number or numbers per participant? I suspect the former and that's due to way more people riding bikes than playing football.

Bicyclists are a hazard to pedestrians.

Not really. There are cases, but few considering how much the two interact. Other pedestrians are actually a greater threat - so should pedestrians carry insurance as well?

by David C on Sep 11, 2012 10:17 am • linkreport

Imagine 100 years ago the discussion would be how much space was wasted having carriage houses and all the expense and pollution of horses.

by Mark on Sep 11, 2012 10:19 am • linkreport

@David C: ALL CV exercise improves health. For example, swimming is probably more effective at improving cardiovascular function than bicycling, but is far less dangerous, and did not make your list of risky recreations. (The list is suspect because it does not show football.)

by goldfish on Sep 11, 2012 10:23 am • linkreport

"Bicyclists are a hazard to pedestrians. The elderly are very susceptible to hip fractures when knocked down. Half then die within a year. Most common fatal injuries caused by cyclists are head trauma. This is why cyclists should carry insurance."

by that logic the insurance requirement would have to apply to all cyclists, not just those who ride in roads, because the greatest danger is on trails and sidewalks. Which would mean even children would need to carry insurance, which means even children would have to register their bikes.

I do not think that is a feasible (or desirable) policy proposal.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Sep 11, 2012 10:28 am • linkreport

David, yes there are more cyclists suffering head trauma because participation is much higher. Younger riders are more likely than older ones also.

Your data was per 1,000 hours. For transit, per 1,000 miles is more useful. Seems odd that road riding is only slightly more dangerous than stationary.

Pedestrians are a greater threat? Are they all going 20-30 mph? Runners might be a threat, not regular folks walking. E=0.5 X Mass X Velocity-squared. Speed is the killer.

by Mark on Sep 11, 2012 10:28 am • linkreport

@goldfish -

How many people drown each year on their bikes?

by John on Sep 11, 2012 10:30 am • linkreport

@Mark

What is the relevance of these ranking stats you are throwing out, and where are they coming from?

by MLD on Sep 11, 2012 10:31 am • linkreport

"@David C: ALL CV exercise improves health. For example, swimming is probably more effective at improving cardiovascular function than bicycling"

but is much harder to integrate into your commute.

"but is far less dangerous,"

are you sure?

http://www.cdc.gov/homeandrecreationalsafety/water-safety/waterinjuries-factsheet.html

Granted there are safer and less safe place to swim etc - the same applies to biking.

" and did not make your list of risky recreations. (The list is suspect because it does not show football.) "

I think it excluded all team sports.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Sep 11, 2012 10:32 am • linkreport

"Pedestrians are a greater threat? " To frail elderly person whose main danger is a fall resulting in a hip injury that can later prove fatal?

It doesnt take a lot of speed to cause a frail elderly person to fall and break their hip - yes, a ped/ped collision can easily do that. And there are a lot more peds on the sidewalks than cyclists (and how many frail elderly are out on the cyclist heavy trails?"

by AWalkerInTheCity on Sep 11, 2012 10:35 am • linkreport

"Seems odd that road riding is only slightly more dangerous than stationary."

it was injuries, not fatalities or even serious injuries. I bet muscle issues are dominating the cyclist data, not issues from collisions or falls.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Sep 11, 2012 10:37 am • linkreport

Walker, the insurance need only be for using public roads where the goal is to safely get people where they need to go. Sidewalk riding is generally prohibited for its 3x (5x?) risk over roadway. Recreation is not why we pay for roads, so that on trails or whatever is not a public issue. I agree with others that health insurance is most important for cyclists to carry. Accident insurance is to pay for dents/scratches cyclists make on the sides of cars and injuring pedestrians or other cyclists and their vehicles. Dents on the hood are the responsibility of the motorist.

by Mark on Sep 11, 2012 10:38 am • linkreport

It sounds as if a great majority of the injuries under consideration are overuse injuries, not cases of trauma. Apples/apples?

And if we're really serious about preventing injuries to the frail, we should be in the business of banning bathtubs and stairs.

by David R. on Sep 11, 2012 10:39 am • linkreport

"Recreation is not why we pay for roads" - I'm disappointed to hear this. I so enjoyed those Sunday morning drives with the top down. I had no idea I was flying in the face of public policy.

by John on Sep 11, 2012 10:42 am • linkreport

"Walker, the insurance need only be for using public roads where the goal is to safely get people where they need to go."

that doesnt make sense if the danger is mainly to peds, esp the frail elderly.

"Sidewalk riding is generally prohibited for its 3x (5x?) risk over roadway."

No its not. Its legal in VA, and its legal in DC outside downtown. In general its only banned in congested urban areas. And its relative risk depends on the cyclist. For an 8 YO riding at 4 MPH, the sidewalk is probably the right place to ride.

"Recreation is not why we pay for roads, so that on trails or whatever is not a public issue."

We pay for trails, so thats certainly a public issue. Also of course some trails do work quite well as commuter routes.

"I agree with others that health insurance is most important for cyclists to carry."

And under Obamacare they (like everyone else) will soon be legally required to carry it.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Sep 11, 2012 10:45 am • linkreport

"Accident insurance is to pay for dents/scratches cyclists make on the sides of cars and injuring pedestrians or other cyclists and their vehicles. "

if its about peds, requiring it on roads only makes no sense.

If its about damage to other cyclists, the widespread opposition from cyclists should be taken into account.

it very much sounds like the only real claim is the motorists with denting issues. Which it seems to me must be weighed against the real loss of public benefit from less biking due to the costs and time of registering bikes.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Sep 11, 2012 10:47 am • linkreport

MLD, they are certainly off topic and only useful for risk management and helmet safety policy. I was at a recent presentation advocating replacing all 5-10+ yr old football helmets with new helmets for the high school with a locally invented electronic g-force monitor that warned when cumulative impacts exceeded safe bounds. The school committee rejected it because it wasn't their idea.

by Mark on Sep 11, 2012 10:48 am • linkreport

How the hell did this turn into "bicycling is not the greatest/safest/least injury prone form of exercise, therefore bicyclists should be licensed"?!

Totally off-topic and irrelevant.

Here's where the relevant comment started, with goldfish saying:
The policy comes from many states' (not Federal) requirement to carry insurance. In contrast, the states do not require bicyclists to carry insurance, making them SO much cheaper to operate, but pushing their risk, which cannot be ignored, onto those that do carry insurance, and onto the health (not auto) policies.
This in incorrect, because there are no costs pushed off from bicycling because the health BENEFITS to the population are worth MORE than the health COSTS of increased accidents.

The absolute injury rate of bicycling vs other sports doesn't mean anything. You can't "play tennis" to work. You can't "play football" to dinner.

by MLD on Sep 11, 2012 10:50 am • linkreport

@goldfish: Here's a comparison of youth sports injuries per million hours

Injuries per Million Hours
Football 1,900
Basketball 1,100
Soccer 600
Bicycling 50

@Mark yes there are more cyclists suffering head trauma because participation is much higher

Then I'm not really sure why it't relevant. I thought we were talking about risk.

For transit, per 1,000 miles is more useful.

Why is that?

Pedestrians are a greater threat?

It's because there are more exposure opportunities - more chances to get knocked down by another pedestrian. Runners are pedestrians BTW.

Walker, the insurance need only be for using public roads where the goal is to safely get people where they need to go.

So then that would include pedestrians too, right?

Accident insurance is to pay for dents/scratches cyclists make on the sides of cars and injuring pedestrians or other cyclists and their vehicles.

The cost of such a mandate would far exceed any benefits. We already have a tort system to deal with this. I can't imagine there is even one case where all of this is true:

1. A cyclist damaged a car
2. Was identified, with information exchanged
3. Was found at fault
4. Was unable to pay for the repairs.

Without that situation, I don't know what such a requirement would do.

by David C on Sep 11, 2012 10:55 am • linkreport

Walker, registering bikes has many uses including theft deterrence and recovery, traffic enforcement, hit and run identification, and increased responsibility of riders. What is most needed are insurance surcharge points on their car insurance no matter what vehicle is used to break a law - bicycle, scooter, motorcycle, car, truck.

I too rather see young kids and tentative adults riding on sidewalks than dangerous roads, however it should be at speeds similar to pedestrians. That's what Oregon specifies for riding on crosswalks. Its not just for the safety of pedestrians. Drivers crossing a sidewalk at a driveway will be looking both ways for a gap width based on pedestrian speed.

by Mark on Sep 11, 2012 10:58 am • linkreport

registering bikes has many uses including theft deterrence and recovery, traffic enforcement, hit and run identification, and increased responsibility of riders.

Problem is, it doesn't work. That's why everyone abandons it.

by David C on Sep 11, 2012 11:00 am • linkreport

The leading cause of non-fatal injury is falls, e.g. falling in the tub/tripping on a rug, nearly across the board in all but 1 age group and in that exception its 2nd. Bicycling is combined with several other non-automobile types of transportation in "other transport" and comes in at 10th in some age groups. Clearly taking a shower is a far greater cause of injury than bicycling.

http://www.cdc.gov/Injury/wisqars/pdf/National_Estim_10_Leading_Causes_Nonfatal_Injuries_Tx_Hospital-ED_US2010-a.pdf

Definitions here:
http://www.cdc.gov/ncipc/wisqars/nonfatal/definitions.htm#nonfatalinjuryreports

by Tina on Sep 11, 2012 11:05 am • linkreport

David,

Pedestrians don't need insurance because their road use is a right, not a privilege like any vehicle use, including bicycle.

If cyclists had license plates, torts might be OK. Its just too easy and common for cyclists to flee accidents. In MA, hit and run on a bicycle, $20 civil fine. With a motor vehicle, its a felony. State RMV had an advert program for cyclists: "Same Roads, Same Rules". Hardly.

Bicycling isn't the ignored opportunity in the US, its motorbikes which have many advantages over bicycles that more closely replace car need.

by Mark on Sep 11, 2012 11:07 am • linkreport

correction: "Other transport" does not include bicycling.

by Tina on Sep 11, 2012 11:10 am • linkreport

Pedestrians don't need insurance because their road use is a right, not a privilege like any vehicle use, including bicycle.

I beg to differ. Using a bike is a right too. Can anyone lose their privilege to bike?

Its just too easy and common for cyclists to flee accidents.

How does this change if cyclists have insurance? As I've mentioned, license plates on bikes simply do not work.

by David C on Sep 11, 2012 11:21 am • linkreport

Bicycling isn't the ignored opportunity in the US, its motorbikes

Well, I don't know why it has to be one vs. the other.

by David C on Sep 11, 2012 11:29 am • linkreport

I beg to differ. Using a bike is a right too. Can anyone lose their privilege to bike?

Funny, I was about to make this blindingly obvious point as well. This thread reads a bit like a master class in logical fallacy.

"Swimming is better exercise than cycling, therefore cyclists should be required to be licensed and insured. Plus, if she floats, she's a witch. Burn her!"

by oboe on Sep 11, 2012 12:23 pm • linkreport

Concerning drowning and similar injuries: swimmers DO pay for their risk, by paying the the fee at the door. The fee pays for lifeguards and liability insurance.

Bicyclists do not pay such things.

by goldfish on Sep 11, 2012 1:17 pm • linkreport

The ocean has a door?

by John on Sep 11, 2012 1:27 pm • linkreport

Using a bike is a right too. Can anyone lose their privilege to bike?

I have no doubt that the states have the power to regulate this. If a state requires a license to ride a bicycle, it can, and by the same reasoning, exclude certain people that it declares are not fit to ride.

When I was a kid bicycles in Appleton WI were required to have tags.

Can a state require a license to walk down the street? Now that is an interesting question.

by goldfish on Sep 11, 2012 1:31 pm • linkreport

"Can a state require a license to walk down the street? Now that is an interesting question."

how about a license only to walk on a road, or to walk on certain designated trails.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Sep 11, 2012 1:34 pm • linkreport

"A law change that would support motorbike use is to allow lane splitting as is frequently practiced by cyclists passing cars at stop lights (only to be overtaken again). "

actually lane splitting between two lanes of traffic is illegal for cyclists, at least in VA and DC. Its legal to pass only on the right (next to the parked cars, and IIUC, and only in safe manner.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Sep 11, 2012 1:36 pm • linkreport

If a state requires a license to ride a bicycle, it can, and by the same reasoning, exclude certain people that it declares are not fit to ride.

No state does and so it's unclear that it with withstand a legal challenge. But if they could require a bicyclist's license, certainly they could require a pedestrian's license.

When I was a kid bicycles in Appleton WI were required to have tags.

That's different. That falls under the taxing authority and it is a restriction on the bike, not the cyclist. By the same token, the state could surely require your shoes to have tags - and make walking barefoot illegal.

actually lane splitting between two lanes of traffic is illegal for cyclists, at least in VA and DC.

No, it's legal. A cyclist may pass on left or right, in the same lane or changing lanes, or pass off road. http://www.waba.org/resources/laws.php

by David C on Sep 11, 2012 2:06 pm • linkreport

David C: No state does and so it's unclear that it with withstand a legal challenge. But if they could require a bicyclist's license, certainly they could require a pedestrian's license.

The issue here is numbers. Until recently the main accident with a bike was when it got hit by a car; clearly the liability is with the car driver. However with the recent growth in bicycling there are going to be many more accidents among bicyclists and between a bike and pedestrian, with significant expense and no car involvement. So what has long been an oversight is going to become a larger problem.

by goldfish on Sep 11, 2012 2:18 pm • linkreport

@goldfish -Concerning drowning and similar injuries: swimmers DO pay for their risk, by paying the the fee at the door. The fee pays for lifeguards and liability insurance.

No, that's not the type of setting where the preponderance of drownings occur.

"Children ages 1 to 4 have the highest drowning rates; most drownings occur in home swimming pools.2"

"Nearly 80% of people who die from drowning are male.2"

http://www.cdc.gov/HomeandRecreationalSafety/Water-Safety/waterinjuries-factsheet.html

by Tina on Sep 11, 2012 2:25 pm • linkreport

David C

This was posted on the washington area bike forum:

"See below for more info, it's taken from VDOT (according to WABA's website, the law is the same in DC). You can read more on DC's laws on overtaking and passing here.

Passing

Bicyclists may overtake and pass another vehicle only when safe to do so. Bicyclists may pass another vehicle on the right or left, and they may stay in the same lane, change lanes, or ride off the road if necessary for safe passing. Please note that passing motor vehicles on the right side may be extremely dangerous if the motorist does not see the bicyclist and attempts a right turn.

A person riding a bicycle, electric personal assistive mobility device, electric power-assisted bicycle, motorized skateboard or scooter, or moped shall not travel between two lanes of traffic moving in the same direction, except where one lane is a separate turn lane or a mandatory turn lane.

Motorists must approach and pass a bicyclist at a reasonable speed at least two feet to the left of the bicyclist.

Reference: §§46.2-839,46.2-907 ^TOPICS "

Note passing, is allowed, but "traveling" between two lanes of traffic is NOT.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Sep 11, 2012 2:32 pm • linkreport

However with the recent growth in bicycling there are going to be many more accidents among bicyclists and between a bike and pedestrian, with significant expense and no car involvement. So what has long been an oversight is going to become a larger problem.

This predication is anything but obvious. We haven't seen an increase in the number of accidents between bicyclists or bike/ped accidents with the recent growth in cycling. What would lead you to believe we'd see one in the future.

Seems a lot of straws are being grasped at here.

by oboe on Sep 11, 2012 2:49 pm • linkreport

AWITC, we may be not be talking about the same thing. For me, lane-splitting is riding between two lanes of traffic that are not moving. When, as you cite above, the traffic is moving, then yes, that's probably illegal.

by David C on Sep 11, 2012 3:45 pm • linkreport

We haven't seen an increase in the number of accidents between bicyclists or bike/ped accidents with the recent growth in cycling.

This defies common sense. More bicyclists = more bike accidents (of all types).

http://articles.latimes.com/2011/nov/13/local/la-me-burbank-bikes-20111113

http://blogs.westword.com/latestword/2012/07/despite_increased_enforcement.php

http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot/downloads/pdf/bicyclefatalities.pdf --> see graph p. 5

by goldfish on Sep 12, 2012 8:05 am • linkreport

@goldfish-The study from NYC, the first of the links you provided that I've looked at, contradicts your assertion. It reports that while bicyling increased from 1996 to 2005 total crashes decreased; fatal crash remained steady and serious injury crash decreased 46%.

This finding comports with many other study results that also find that when biking increases bike safety increases too (crashes decrease/risk of crash decreases)

by Tina on Sep 12, 2012 8:54 am • linkreport

the other two links are not studies, they're newspaper reports.

by Tina on Sep 12, 2012 9:06 am • linkreport

David C

I think this may be semantics then. IIUC "lane splitting" is used to refer to riding between two lanes of MOVING traffic.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Sep 12, 2012 9:17 am • linkreport

goldfish, the two articles are about more bicycle-car crashes not more bike-bike or bike-ped crashes.

AWITC, I looked it up and we're both kind of right. NHTSA defines it as "Lane splitting: Passing between lanes of stopped or slower-moving vehicles on a motorcycle.”

by David C on Sep 12, 2012 9:42 am • linkreport

David C: That proves the point: more bikes = more bike crashes (of all types).

by goldfish on Sep 12, 2012 9:44 am • linkreport

That proves the point

No, it doesn't. What proves the point is evidence that more bikes cause more bike-bike and bike-ped crashes. I'd like to see that evidence.

by David C on Sep 12, 2012 10:00 am • linkreport

@Tina,I admit my scan of the NYC study was a bit hurried.

Still, there is good stuff in there. For example: "A total of 18 non-traffic bicyclist deaths occurred between 1996 and 2005. Fourteen of the deaths were bicycle-only deaths, where the bicyclist did not come into contact with a motor vehicle. Four of the crashes were with parked motor vehicles."

@David C: no, my point stands: more bikes = more bike crashes, of all types. The little fact I quoted for Tina also demonstrates that bicyclists are killed by dangers other than moving cars -- which is why they should carry insurance.

by goldfish on Sep 12, 2012 10:39 am • linkreport

goldfish, we don't normally mandate that people get insurance to protect themselves. People are adults and can make their own decisions. We usually make people get insurance to protect others when our misdeeds have the potential of causing harm that we can not afford to right. So a single-bike crash is not what insurance is for. [Of course, the health insurance mandate can be viewed as a detour from this, or not, but I don't really want to go down that rabbit hole]

And I disagree that your point stands. There's been no evidence presented to support it. If there is some, I'd love to see it.

by David C on Sep 12, 2012 10:50 am • linkreport

Once the individual mandate comes online isn't that the de facto insurance I would need if I injure myself (and only myself) on my bicycle?

And I thought it was well established that while the number of crashes increases the likelihood of any individual cyclist getting into a crash goes down.

by drumz on Sep 12, 2012 10:54 am • linkreport

@David C: more bikes = more bike accidents is obvious. This is an implicit assumption in your post, when you list the number of accident per 1000 hours of activity. If you double the hours, you double the number of accidents. So you are arguing against yourself as well.

by goldfish on Sep 12, 2012 10:57 am • linkreport

more bikes = more bike accidents is obvious

1. It's more accurate to say that it would seem obvious. But many things are counter-intuitive. This may be one of them. And since bike fatalities have gone down over the last decade, while cycling has gone up, I'm inclined to think it might be.

2. The question is not whether more bikes=more accidents - which has not been proven. It is whether more bikes= more bike-bike crashes and more bike-ped crashes. Which has also not been proven.

I am not allowed to discuss what was said in earlier comments as that leads to a "you said this" chain of discussions, but there is a difference between quantifying past behavior and projecting that behavior into the future. It is not an immutable law that 1 cyclist must be injured for every 50 million miles of biking, the way that an increase in cooking temperature will directly lead to a shorter boiling time. It is just that that is what has been observed under one set of circumstances. Adding more cyclists changes those circumstances. So, I do not believe I am arguing with myself.

by David C on Sep 12, 2012 11:09 am • linkreport

"@David C: more bikes = more bike accidents is obvious. This is an implicit assumption in your post, when you list the number of accident per 1000 hours of activity. If you double the hours, you double the number of accidents. So you are arguing against yourself as well. "

comparing the danger of activity to an individual, is not the same as predicting the impact of a societal increase in activity.

Do my odds of dying in an above 50 MPH crash on I395 go up as I drive more on I395 - Sure. Would they go up if usage of I395 quadrupled? no, because then no one would be going 50MPH on I395.

for bikes - yeah, the more YOU bike, the more likely you are to be a bike accident. If more people bike generally, there is more EXPOSURE yes. but also more critical mass - more cyclists means drivers are more aware of them, and MAY drive more safely around them. There is no a priori way to determine which effect dominates.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Sep 12, 2012 11:12 am • linkreport

I think it is also true that the more miles an individual rides, the less likely they are to be injured or involved in an accident. This makes perfect sense to me.

by John on Sep 12, 2012 11:16 am • linkreport

@AWitC: you are describing a second-order effect. which is a refinement on first-order effects.

Get the first order correct, then work on the refinement.

First order effect: the number of bicycle accidents is proportional to the amount of time, or number of miles, spent biking. Second-order effects include things like more bicyclists are wearing helmets, which presumably reduce the fatality rate; more bike lane miles reduce accidents, etc. To account for these would be refinement to the first-order approximation.

by goldfish on Sep 12, 2012 11:23 am • linkreport

What started this was

"The issue here is numbers. Until recently the main accident with a bike was when it got hit by a car; clearly the liability is with the car driver. However with the recent growth in bicycling there are going to be many more accidents among bicyclists and between a bike and pedestrian, with significant expense and no car involvement. So what has long been an oversight is going to become a larger problem."

The first order analysis I think is as follows

Its not clear that registering bikes to ride on the road is going to address bike-bike accidents, or bike-ped accidents. Requiring registration of all bikes, including those used only on sidewalks may not be feasible, and if it, almost certainly does not pass any cost benefit test.

Worrying about a possible increase in the number of bike-ped collisions due to increasing number of cyclists is itself a second order effect - unless we have a clear idea of what the registration process looks like (does it apply only on roads, or on trails and sidewalks, and at what ages, and how large would a "license plate" be, and with mandatory health insurance how much uncompensated care are we talking about, etc) its impossible to even begin to analyze costs and benefits (though I think under any scenarior the costs of bike licensing far exceed any benefits)

by AWalkerInTheCity on Sep 12, 2012 11:37 am • linkreport

@AWitC: Compared to cars, bikes are cheap, and most bicyclists I know own several of them. I agree, I cannot imagine that registering them would be cost-effective.

But a better rubric would be to require bicyclists to carry insurance -- which would be a distinction from motor vehicles.

by goldfish on Sep 12, 2012 11:45 am • linkreport

Great. The Affordable Care Act will require bicyclists to carry insurance, as all bicyclists are people (circus acts aside) and people will have to carry insurance. Excellent. Can we get back to talking about the zoning update?

by David Alpert on Sep 12, 2012 11:53 am • linkreport

Sure. If anyone wants to continue this discussion though, we can do so here.

by David C on Sep 12, 2012 12:01 pm • linkreport

I wasn't meaning to tell everyone they had to stop. Feel free to continue either place, as long as you are avoiding interpersonal sniping, which mostly everyone has.

by David Alpert on Sep 12, 2012 12:05 pm • linkreport

David, thanks for directing bike insurance elsewhere.

For those seeking studies in general: You are often at the mercy of those with an agenda to do them AND then publish them. Drug companies do lots of studies and only publish ones with findings they like, though the FDA defines what is tested, like safety or effectiveness.

With bicycling, its almost always only cycling proponents who have the motivation to do studies, and even then, they usually only choose to study things supporting their agenda.

Government agencies are often biased, also. NYC, SF, and elsewhere have clear transit department cycling agendas, so, again spin data analysis. The Transportation Research Board has funding offered for many important bicycling study questions that are impartial, but no takers, even for years.

A question I've had is: "Do the millions of dollars spent on curb extensions and bulb-outs actually save any lives or reduce accidents?" I've not yet found a study answering that.

So, unavailability published studies of questions is common, and by its absence, can hint at the answer.

by Mark on Sep 12, 2012 2:29 pm • linkreport

@goldfish- the NYC study explicitly states there was no change in the rate or trend of fatal bike crashes in the 10 years of study.

by Tina on Sep 12, 2012 3:02 pm • linkreport

Plenty of people cause financial strain on the system by failing to have supplemental insurance, Goldfish. So would it be correct to mandate such AFLAC-like coverage?

Ultimately cyclists assume responsibility under existing liability laws for any action. Mandating insurance suggests there is a large issue with cyclists utilizing services they are not already paying for. Your health insurance argument is a poor one given the acturial tables by insurance providers factor in what they call recreational injuries and they weight cycling as a net positive for healh effects. Ergo, an insurance mandate, while still a potential in the future (you're assuming a massive increase in cyclists) is still possible, but virtually an impossibility now.

by t11 on Sep 12, 2012 4:27 pm • linkreport

@Tina- the number of bicyclists in NYC didn't seem to change much either in those 10 years. Note that rate is very different from counts. Part of spinning the truth is using one or the other to favor an agenda.

by Mark on Sep 12, 2012 4:28 pm • linkreport

Your health insurance argument is a poor one given the acturial tables by insurance providers factor in what they call recreational injuries and they weight cycling as a net positive for healh effects.

...which assumes that bicycling is done for recreation -- occasional leisure activity; destination selected for lower traffic and fun.

Matters are different if bicycling is done for commuting -- daily; destination is work with unavoidable traffic.

by goldfish on Sep 12, 2012 4:35 pm • linkreport

@Mark -yes thats right the study says something like "while its difficult to assess levels of biking our evidence suggest it remained constant", I was wrong earlier that the study showed an increase. The study is very clear that the trend for fatalities remained the same, and if one assumes total number of bikers remained the same, the rate did too. However non-fatal crashes decreased by 46%.

I think you are overly cynical with regards to the integrity of public health epidemiologists. The goal is protecting public health and safety so even if a program director in DOT has an agenda that agenda has no bearing whatsoever on health data analysis. One cannot achieve the goal of protecting public health if one does not know where the patients are.

by Tina on Sep 12, 2012 5:00 pm • linkreport

@Tina- We only know that REPORTED non-fatal crashes went down, so we need to know accident reporting rates too! People could be just getting blase' about yet another bike crash.

Keen observation feeds my cynicism! BTW, here is a web site associated with a Boston University professor, mainly targeting bad public health policies: http://challengingdogma-spring2012.blogspot.com/

by Mark on Sep 12, 2012 5:23 pm • linkreport

Mark - the non-fatal crashes reported are those that "were serious injuries" and required hospitalization. Not exactly blaze. I didn't mention policies. I agree that bad policies abound. I specifically mentioned data analysis. Epidemiologists and biostatisticians do not make policy. They conduct studies, such as this one from NYC, and maybe make policy recommendations.

but since you brought up policy and the NYC study, it reports that ~97% of the fatal crashes occurred between bikes and motor vehicles outside of designated biking infrastructure. That is the kind of data that policy makers might be able to use. Without good data its hard to make good policy.

by Tina on Sep 12, 2012 5:34 pm • linkreport

@Mark -the blog piece you linked to is not a criticism of data analysis. its a criticism of messaging. Its not even a criticism of the accepted health science that too much sodium is a risk factor for high blood pressure. The criticism is the method of getting the message out to the public.

by Tina on Sep 12, 2012 5:40 pm • linkreport

@Mark -the methodolgy, i.e. definition of serious injury and where that data come from are, are defined in the methodolgy section of the NYC study on bike crashes. Can these reporting mechanisms be improved? Probably. But its unlikely an injury requiring hospitalization went unreported.

by Tina on Sep 12, 2012 6:03 pm • linkreport

@Tina- I agree with you on the importance of good data and information to make better decisions.

What I see too often are decisions being made first, and then data is found to suit. On page 3 of the NYC paper is: "Whether for transportation, exercise, or recreation, bicycling is good for New Yorkers." Compared to drivers at fault accidents, cycle-cycle, cycle-pedestrian, and solo cycle accidents are all going to be less reported, often because there is no insurance to collect from or cyclists did not identify themselves. An exception would be if they wanted to sue the city for a dangerous storm grate or other hazard. Fatalities, on the other hand are almost certainly reported.

At the national level, Ray LaHood has made similar decisions, along with a safety at any cost policy. No more considerations are made of cost per life saved. Today, productivity lost to congestion is no longer a government concern along with corridor transit time before/after.

Another beef of mine is ignoring negative factors when promoting decisions. One example is encouraging more bicycling by torturing drivers. Does some health improvement for a few people outweigh added stress for a much larger population? How much torture is needed to convert new followers?

While economists may be employed when deciding the age to start breast or prostrate cancer screening, it seems absent from many road and planning decisions. Unfavorable data for an already made decision simply isn't collected. I'm really sick of bad science, twisted statistics, and spin.

BTW, the challengingdogma.blogspot.com site has more content. Various course semesters have student pieces on varied topics. I found the site after the prof wrote a NY Times Op Ed piece on proposed outdoor smoking bans. He has done years of work on smoking-cessation policy and thought an outdoor ban was excessive.

by Mark on Sep 12, 2012 7:52 pm • linkreport

Earlier today I was chatting with a neighbor and he mentioned how a cyclist blew through a red light riding on the wrong side of the road and struck his car, doing $3K worth of damage 11 years ago. Police called an ambulance, but the cyclist refused treatment for his bruises. The car insurance company bore the entire cost and he heard the cyclist had tried to collect for damages too, though he never heard the outcome including if the insurance company got its expenses reimbursed by the cyclist. My neighbor also did not get charged an insurance surcharge for the accident, and Mass law doesn't allow the cyclist to be, even if they have a driving license, which means they know traffic laws and agree to follow them.

by Mark on Sep 15, 2012 7:59 pm • linkreport

"At the national level, Ray LaHood has made similar decisions, along with a safety at any cost policy. No more considerations are made of cost per life saved. Today, productivity lost to congestion is no longer a government concern along with corridor transit time before/after."

Those are both absolute lies.

by AnonForThis on Sep 15, 2012 8:12 pm • linkreport

Lies??? Care to provide examples of such decisions?

OK, how many lives saved and the cost in lost time and fuel, and increased pollution from:
1. Reduced radius turns at intersections.
2. Speed tables.
3. Having 5' bike lanes with 11' travel lanes vs. 14' shared travel lanes? Cost could be in lost travel lanes resulting in more congestion or need to acquire more land Right of Way.
4. Curb extensions, even in states with snow, creating higher snow removal costs and challenges.

Massachusetts does all of the above without any concern that none are effective or even calculates the costs. A state like Texas, which actually expands road infrastructure is in the minority. Reportedly they respect productivity by having an 85mph speed limit on a new toll highway. I've driven the Autobahn at over 120mph for mile after mile, so 85 isn't so fast for American roads and similar geometries.

by Mark on Sep 15, 2012 8:51 pm • linkreport

The author says about people who are car-free: "...let's ignore them for the time being."

This is a big mistake. People who are car-free have a great deal of insight into city features that can lessen car-dependency.

Oddly, I didn't see a similar call for ignoring the many people who are interested in continuing car-dependency--car salesmen, car manufacturers, oil companies, road-builders, and many more. Car-dependency is a mega-industry with companies with a great interest in affecting press coverage and public discussion such as this. Why weren't these parties called out to be "ignored?"

by JD on Jan 25, 2013 12:58 pm • linkreport

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