University of Minnesota Driven to Discover

Recently in Bicycling Category

bikeride.jpg

People love to walk and bike—for relaxation, for exercise, to get places like school, work, and stores. Biking and walking have increased significantly in the Twin Cities metro area during the past decade, and these activities are catching fire statewide.

U of M researchers have partnered with the Minnesota Department of Transportation, the Minnesota Department of Health, and several other state and local agencies to develop general guidance and consistent methods for counting all these bicyclists and pedestrians in Minnesota. Their work was honored with the 2014 CTS Research Partnership Award, which was presented at the CTS Annual Meeting and Awards Luncheon. The award recognizes research teams that have drawn on the strengths of their diverse partnerships to achieve significant impacts on transportation.

The research team, led by Professor Greg Lindsey of the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, developed tools and methods to count and analyze bike and pedestrian traffic using a mix of manual and automated methods.

Results from the counting initiative are allowing policymakers and planners to make data-driven decisions about transportation investments.

Work is continuing under the initiative. A MnDOT project, which will conclude in 2015, uses automated technologies for counting bicycles and pedestrians on trails, bike lanes, sidewalks, and shoulders in various urban and rural locations in Minnesota.

MnDOT also is considering how to incorporate such nonmotorized traffic data into its existing traffic database. The researchers recommended that MnDOT coordinate statewide counts and work with local agencies to establish a network of automated monitoring sites across the state.

In addition to supporting state goals, this research also is contributing to federal traffic monitoring standards.

Read the full article in the May issue of Catalyst.

Bike to Work Day: progress in Minnesota, but miles to go

| No Comments
30622_3.jpgBy Greg Lindsey
 

April 9 is national Bike to Work Day, a day to celebrate those who choose bicycling as their principal mode of transportation for commuting, and a time to encourage more people to consider this healthy, efficient transportation option. Minnesota has much to celebrate in terms of bicycle commuting. Bike-Walk Twin Cities and Transit for Livable Communities are wrapping up the National Non-Motorized Pilot Program, a federally funded program to demonstrate the potential to increase biking and walking through focused investment in infrastructure and other interventions. Bicycle commuting rates in Minneapolis have climbed to 4.5%, and Minneapolis now ranks 20th in the nation in bicycle commute share. This is a noteworthy achievement, especially considering our notorious winter weather.  These achievements, along with others such as the success of Nice Ride, our pioneering bike share program, have contributed to Minneapolis being named America’s most bike-friendly city by Bicycling Magazine.  Celebration of these achievements - which represent hard work by hundreds of individuals and thousands of commuters - certainly is warranted.

But we only need look across municipal boundaries to know we had better put more energy into encouraging bicycling than into celebration. Bicycle commute rates in St. Paul remain below 2% less than half the Minneapolis rate, and rates in most suburban, exurban, and rural communities remain even lower.  And the story remains essentially the same for all types of bicycle trips. Jessi Schoner, a doctoral candidate in the Department of Civil Engineering, is analyzing non-motorized mode shares for all trips recorded the Metropolitan Council’s recent Travel Behavior Inventory. Her analyses show that bicycling remains an urban phenomenon, with the share of all trips taken by bicycling highest in Minneapolis, followed by St. Paul, and then suburban and outlying communities. Why is this so? Better infrastructure no doubt is part of the reason, but there likely are other reasons, including housing patterns, access to employment, socio-demographic factors, and culture. Additional research is needed.

But this leads to additional reasons to be optimistic this Bike to Work Day: the commitments made by the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) to foster multi-modal transportation systems and the agency’s investments in research to increase understanding of bicycle traffic patterns. In 2013, as part of the Minnesota Bicycle and Pedestrian Counting Initiative, MnDOT funded the installation of the state’s first two automated, continuous in-street bicycle counters. These counters, which monitor bicycle traffic around the clock, 365 days per year, will provide new insights into the bicycle traffic volumes and their daily and seasonal patterns. While bicycle traffic monitoring in Minnesota is only in its infancy, it represents progress towards establishing the evidence base we need to determine how to make bicycling safer and to invest in bicycle infrastructure.   

And so celebrate this Bike to Work Day and thank your fellow Minnesotans for all they have accomplished. But also take time to reflect on the work that needs to be done to improve opportunities for cycling throughout the state, for we have miles to go. 

Greg Lindsey is a professor at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs. His areas of specialty include environmental planning, policy, and management. His current research involves studies of the relationship between the built environment and physical activity, specifically factors that affect the use of pedestrian and cycling infrastructure. Lindsey presented some of his bicycle and pedestrian data collection research at the 2014 Minnesota Transportation Conference held March 4-6. 




Exploring Nice Ride job accessibility and station choice

| No Comments
niceride2.jpg

Although bike share systems are becoming more popular across the United States, little is known about how people make decisions when integrating these systems into their daily travel.

In a study funded by CTS, researchers from the U of M’s civil engineering department investigated how people use the Nice Ride bike share system in Minneapolis and St. Paul. The researchers examined how Nice Ride affects accessibility to jobs and developed a model to predict station choice.

In the first part of the study, the researchers created maps showing accessibility to jobs by census block for both Nice Ride and walking—as well as the difference between the two—at time thresholds ranging from 5 to 55 minutes.

Overall, in blocks with both Nice Ride and walking job accessibility, Nice Ride provides access to 0.5 to 3.21 times as many jobs as walking.

By comparing Nice Ride to walking, the study demonstrated that walking can successfully be used as a baseline to show how a bike share system improves job accessibility. The results also pinpointed when and where Nice Ride had the strongest accessibility advantage over walking.

“This type of information can be used by bike share system planners to identify where new stations could be built to maximize their impact on job accessibility,” says grad student Jessica Schoner, a member of the research team.

In addition, the team developed a theoretical model for bike share station choice. The model considers users’ choice of a station based on their preference 
for the amount of time spent walking, deviation from the shortest path (the closest station may not be in the direct path of the person’s destination), and station amenities and neighborhood characteristics.

Findings show that people generally prefer to use stations that don’t require long detours to reach, but a station’s surroundings also play an important role. Results also indicate that commuters value shorter trips and tend to choose stations that minimize overall travel time.

According to Schoner, understanding people’s station preference can help provide guidance to planners that want to expand or optimize a bike share system.

Read the full article in the January issue of Catalyst.

CTS fall research seminars begin September 26

| No Comments

This fall, CTS will offer five research seminars on transportation topics ranging from resilient communities to asphalt at low temperatures.

Seminars will be held every Thursday from September 26 through October 31 (except Oct. 17) on the U of M campus in Minneapolis. You can either attend in person or watch the live webcast of each seminar. Additional information is available on the CTS website.

Seminar schedule:

Investigating air pollution risks for pedestrians and cyclists

| No Comments

Although active forms of travel such as bicycling and walking provide many health benefits, they may also increase travelers' exposure to air pollution—especially in urban areas, where the air pollutants that drive health concerns are typically at their highest concentrations.

pollution1.jpg

To investigate the exposure of cyclists and pedestrians to these pollutants in the City of Minneapolis, researchers from the U of M's Department of Civil Engineering (CE) are developing a block-by-block analysis of air pollution levels. In a presentation at the 24th Annual CTS Transportation Research Conference on May 23, graduate student Steve Hankey explained how this information could ultimately be used to identify high-risk locations and shape decisions about new nonmotorized infrastructure. The project is funded by the U of M's College of Science and Engineering and the Humphrey School of Public Affairs.

In summer 2012, Hankey collected particulate air pollution measurements in Minneapolis using an instrumented bicycle trailer as he rode around the city on three 20-mile routes. Each route captured different levels of traffic and air pollution, Hankey said, and included a wide variety of road types and surrounding land uses.

Preliminary findings suggest that air pollution levels are 1.5 to 2.3 times higher in on-road locations than on off-street trails and 2 to 3.5 times higher in the morning than in the afternoon. Results also indicate that air pollution concentrations are associated with street classification and traffic intensity.

pollution2.jpg

Arterial streets with the most traffic had the highest air pollution levels, with lower concentrations on local roads and off-street trails. "If you can choose to bike on a local road that's a block or two off an arterial collector, that would make a big difference in your exposure," Hankey said.

The project's next step is to tie the existing mobile measures to land-use variables so the data can be extrapolated to other parts of the city, Hankey said. The resulting model will show air pollution levels for every block in Minneapolis.

The researchers plan to use this model in conjunction with bicycle and pedestrian traffic volume data being collected by a team of researchers from the Humphrey School led by Professor Greg Lindsey. The combined model could be used to identify "hot spots" with both large volumes of pedestrian or bicycle traffic and high levels of air pollution, Hankey said.

This information could be used to develop mitigation strategies in high-risk locations and to make recommendations for the development of future infrastructure in areas with lower pollution concentrations.

"We'll also release the air pollution estimates so people can integrate them into existing tools," Hankey said. "For example, in [the bike route tool] Cyclopath, a user could choose a low air pollution route instead of the fastest route or shortest route."

Reprinted from CTS Catalyst, July 2013.

A new wave of technological change in transportation

| No Comments

From social media to intelligent transportation systems, technology is rapidly changing the transportation landscape to create "new mobility"—a trend that was the focus of Elizabeth Deakin's luncheon presentation at the 24th Annual CTS Transportation Research Conference.

sharing1.jpg

"New mobility isn't just about moving people—it is integrating new technologies and new ways of delivering sustainable transportation services that gives people access to more goods, services, and opportunities," said Deakin, a professor of city and regional planning at the University of California, Berkeley.

A number of transportation trends fall under the definition of new mobility, Deakin said, including car sharing, bike sharing, carpooling, smart transit, smart cars, and smart highways. Importantly, while these new mobility approaches have typically been used in urban areas, many of the ideas—such as car sharing, ride sharing, and bike sharing—can work in rural settings as well.

The reasons for the growing interest in new mobility are diverse. From a government perspective, it can enhance mobility, save money, reduce congestion, decrease environmental impacts, and improve public health. For users, it creates more transportation options, greater flexibility and affordability, and health benefits while promoting environmental and social responsibility.

sharing2.jpg

One of the driving forces behind the shift toward new mobility appears to be Millennials—the generation of 20-somethings that grew up building online communities through social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Today, they are using social and mobile technology to build communities in the real world—and transportation is no exception. Dynamic ride sharing is just one example: commuters use their smartphones or tablets to request or offer a ride on the fly; the device's GPS navigation capability is used to arrange the ride's pick-up and drop-off points. "We've also seen an increasing interest in services where users create a network of friends and offer dynamic ride sharing only to that known group," Deakin said.

Another growing carpooling trend is "casual carpooling," in which drivers pick up passengers from established locations to share a ride without an ongoing arrangement. "It's sort of like hitchhiking but more organized," Deakin said. "The benefit is that adding riders qualifies the car for HOV lanes and saves everyone significant time off their commute."

New mobility may also change our transportation system's future. Transit will likely get a boost from new technologies that improve travel times with exclusive lanes, signal preemption, off-board fare payment, and more. On the highway, the use of sensors to monitor traffic and control flows will help the whole system run more smoothly; vehicle-highway communication and vehicle sensors will improve safety.

According to Deakin, the move toward new mobility may be a way to bring together diverse views of transportation's future. "One vision of the future is cities that are transit-oriented, while others envision a new world of vehicles that basically drive themselves. New mobility may be the way we integrate those two visions by matching them to the local context to create a transportation system that goes beyond a one-size-fits-all approach."

Reprinted from CTS Catalyst, July 2013.

bicycling_30619_435px.jpg

In a continuing effort to better understand nonmotorized traffic patterns in Minnesota, researchers from the Humphrey School of Public Affairs have partnered with the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) to develop guidelines and analyze information collected in bicycle and pedestrian traffic counts throughout the state.
The research team, led by Professor Greg Lindsey, aims to develop consistent methods for monitoring and assessing bicycle and pedestrian traffic that can be used in both permanent, automated traffic counts and short-term manual counts. The goal is to provide evidence for decision making that Minnesota cities have historically lacked, Lindsey says. "We'll have practical, useful information about bike and pedestrian traffic that can help local jurisdictions as they plan and invest in infrastructure," he says.

As part of the 18-month project, the research team created a set of tools and methods for short-duration manual counts of nonmotorized traffic, held training workshops, and organized a statewide counting effort involving 43 Minnesota municipalities last fall. The overall response was positive, Lindsey says, and some communities are already using their collected data to submit grant proposals for projects related to nonmotorized traffic.

In addition, Lindsey and his team have examined traffic information from six permanent 37_250px.jpgcounters on Minneapolis trails. The continuous counts collected at these locations help the researchers understand traffic patterns and the factors that affect them, Lindsey says. For example, the team found that bike and pedestrian traffic vary by trail type, time of day, day of week, and season.

"Once we know the patterns at permanent sites, we can develop factors that help us expand short-term counts from other locations with similar conditions," Lindsey says. The factors could be used to estimate anything from total daily traffic to annual traffic, as long as the short-term count location is similar to an existing model.

Based on the overall results of the study, the research team developed recommendations for MnDOT. These include continuing to coordinate statewide short-term field counts, demonstrating the feasibility of automated counting technologies, and beginning to integrate nonmotorized and vehicular traffic databases.

Based on these recommendations, MnDOT is moving forward with a new project that will collect more short- and long-duration counts throughout Minnesota, says Lisa Austin, ABC Ramps coordinator at MnDOT. The next phase of work aims to collect counts for pedestrians on sidewalks, bicyclists on shoulders and in bike lanes, and pedestrians and bicyclists on multiuse trails. MnDOT plans to install more permanent, automated counters in suburban and midsize cities and to conduct additional manual counts in smaller cities around the state, Austin says.

"We're really excited that this bike and pedestrian counting project is moving into wider implementation," Austin says. "This next phase will help us see which automated counting technologies work well and make recommendations for moving forward on a broader scale."

Reprinted from the CTS Catalyst, May 2013.

Video on U of M transportation research highlights

| No Comments

U of M transportation research highlights during 2012-2013 include a smartphone app for visually impaired pedestrians, pedestrian and bicyclist safety in roundabouts, methods for counting bike and pedestrian traffic on trails for better urban planning, and filtering phosphorous from storm water.


Subscribe to Blog

Powered by MT-Notifier

Archives

Center for Transportation Studies

University of Minnesota

200 Transportation & Safety Building

511 Washington Ave SE

Minneapolis, MN 55455

Phone: 612-626-1077

Fax: 612-625-6381

E-mail: cts@umn.edu

Location & Contact Information