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6 BIKE YOUR COMMUTE

This action focuses on bicycle commuting to reduce transportation energy.

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why?

Bike PathBicycling is the alterntive-commuting choice that gets the most attention, but transportation data still shows that only 2.5% of Minneapolis residents (and less than 1% of all Americans) regularly commute to work by bike. Even if your commute is a considerable distance away, data from the League of American Bicyclists shows that the majority of trips taken in the United States are local: half of all trips are three miles or less and 40 percent are two miles or less. Nonetheless, currently 90 percent of these short trips are taken by car. (Leagure of American Bicyclists). Bicycling can offer a lower-stress way to transport yourself, whether for commuting or running errands, while keeping physically fit as well.

While driving may be a quicker way of getting around when there isn't traffic, the time Americans spend on congested freeways is motivation enough to consider some alternatives. The 2010 Urban Mobility Report, published by the Texas Transportation Institute at Texas A&M University paints the most accurate picture yet of traffic congestion in the 439 U.S. urban areas:

"…[The] problem is very large. In 2009, congestion caused urban Americans to travel 4.8 billion hours more and to purchase an extra 3.9 billion gallons of fuel (equal to 130 days of flow in the Alaska Pipeline) for a congestion cost of $115 billion." This translates to an average cost per commuter of $808 in 2009, compared to an inflation-adjusted $351 in 1982.

In the report, urban areas are ranked, the worst cities being Chicago and Washington DC. Both of these cities have an average delay per auto commuter of 70 hours a year. Residents of these cities use an extra 52-57 gallons of fuel while crawling along or idling their cars, costing them an extra $1,738. Even the least congested major urban areas such as Detroit have an average 33 hours of sitting in traffic per commuter, wasting 24 gallons of fuel and $760.

The report goes beyond just presenting the grim truth of wasted time and money, however, and presents some solutions to congestion problems such as freeway ramp metering, arterial street signal coordination and high-occupancy vehicle lanes. On average, cities which employ some these strategies could log a total savings of 15,397,000 hours of congestion and $364 million. Lastly, public transportation on average would save 44,732,000 hours and $1,071 million (TTI).

In addition, bicycling requires only the use of our own energy. Compared to driving a car, bicycling uses NO fossil fuel energy, and reduces total energy required for transportation by 95%. Bicycling offers the benefits of spending more time outdoors, less stress than driving and physical health benefits.


how to do this action:

KNOW THE ROUTES:

There are many resources for finding bicycle routes.

One of the best resources for customizing your route (for Minneapolis residents) is cyclopath.org. Cyclopath allows bicyclists to input many different factors as negetive or positive and maps the route accordingly. For example, you can input to find a route that avoids large hills, or gives preference to a bike path.

The City of Minneapolis has number of resources on their website as well.

Ultimately, the best route finding is often a result of your own experience. Some people will be more comfortable biking on busier roads, while others prefer to go a little further distance to ride on a bike path. Try out different routes and find a customized one to fit your needs.

KNOW THE LAW:

Minneapolis State Law link

One of the most essential tools for keeping safe on a bicycle is simply knowing the law, both what is requred of bicyclists and motorists. The operation of bicycles in Minnesota is regulated by Minnesota Statutes (M.S.), generally in section 169.222. Click here to see the highlights of those laws.

A summary of some of the key points is as follows:
  • Bicyclists not only CAN but SHOULD ride on the road.

    Minnesota bicycling law states that bicycles are required to ride in the road just right of center in the furthest-right lane (unless a bike path is provided). Do not ride in the gutter or too close to parked cars to avoid debris and car doors opening unexpectedly. Bicycling on sidewalks is actually against the law as this space is reserved for pedestrians and can often lead to bicycle accidents with motorists who do not see them when crossing streets.

    A 1996 study determined the likelihood of a bicycle accident by facility type. (This is the only major study that adjusts crash data for the number of miles bicyclists actually travel on these facilities.) The study found that riding on the road is not only safer—but much safer—than riding on these other types of facilities.
  • Bicycle Crashes per Million Kilometers Traveled

  • Street with bike lanes — 26
  • Street with signed bike route — 32
  • Major street with no bike facilities — 41
  • Minor street with no bike facilities — 59
  • Multi-use trail — 88
  • Off road/unpaved trail — 282
  • Sidewalk — 1026

  • Source: William E. Moritz, "Adult Bicyclists in the United States,"
    in Transportation Research Record 1636

Bicyclists are 25 times more likely to experience an accident when riding on a sidewalk than riding on a major street—even one that neither has a designated bike lane nor is designated as a bike route. And bicyclists are twice as likely to experience an accident on a multi-use trail than on an unmarked street.

Bicyclists are discouraged from riding on the sidewalk. Not only is there potential for a collision with a pedestrian. More importantly, motorists are not expecting a bicyclist, moving much more quickly than a pedestrian, to cross the street in a crosswalk. So, motorists often fail to detect bicyclists on sidewalks and strike the bicyclist in the crosswalk.

According to the concept of Effective Cycling developed by John Forester, "Cyclists fare best when they act and are treated as drivers of vehicles." America's leading bicycle education course, the League of American Bicyclists' BikeEd, is based on this concept.
  • Protect yourself using headlights, rear reflectors and rear flashing lights when dark , and a helmet at all times:

    According to the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute (BHSI), about 540,000 bicyclists visit emergency rooms with injuries every year. Of those, about 67,000 have head injuries, and about one in eight of these has a brain injury. Two-thirds of the deaths here are from traumatic brain injury.

    A very high percentage of cyclists' brain injuries, estimated at anywhere between 45 and 88 percent, can be prevented by wearing a helmet.

    The BHSI Web site provides a consumer's guide to buying a bicycle helmet and provides instructions on how to properly fit a bicycle helmet so that you "get all the protection you paid for." How to correctly fit and wear a helmet (photo instructions).

    While helmet use for bicyclists in Minnesota is not required by law, using lights on the front and rear of your bike IS. Front white headlight visible for 500 feet - approximately one city block. A red rear flashing light is recommended to increase visiblity.

  • Take responsibility by obeying traffic laws and signalling for turns and stops.

    Bicyclists have all rights/duties of any other vehicle driver. (M. S. Section 169.222, sub-section 1.) While this law is an essential one for bicyclists to use roadways, it does not recongnize that in the event of an accident, it is almost certain that the bicyclist will suffer any injury or loss of life that occurs as a result. Because of this, bicyclists inevitably must take greater caution to avoid accidents by obeying all traffic laws in the same manner as you would when driving a car.

    Nearly 40 percent of crashes occur when the bicyclist and motorist are at an intersection. Three-quarters of these crashes occur when either the bicyclist or the motorist fails to yield the right-of-way at an intersection. (Share the Road)

    The most severe crashes—those resulting in the death of the bicyclist—occur when the bicyclist and motorist are traveling in the same direction, however. Perhaps this is because the motorist is moving at a higher rate of speed than at an intersection. In about half of such crashes, the motorist overtakes the bicyclist from behind. In the other half, the bicyclist takes a right or a left turn into the path of the motorist. (Share the Road)

    In order to reduce accidents at both intersections and while continuing down roadways, be sure that you are communicating with motorists by using proper signalling when turning, switching lanes or stopping. Continuous arm signal required during last 100 feet prior to turn or lane change (unless arm needed to control bike) and while stopped waiting to turn. (8)

    For a more readable version of this law, see the MN Share the Road website
  • DRESS FOR THE WEATHER
    One of the barriers to bicycle-commuting year round, especially in certain climates, is the need to deal with weather elements in a much more direct way than driving or even taking the bus.

    Not only is there a need to dress for bicycling in general, there is also a need to dress for the weather. Many bicycle commuters who are dedicated to this lifestyle change clothes regardless of the weather. Ironically, it seems that the top two bicycle-commuter cities- Minneapolis and Portland – also have some of the most undesirable bicycling weather. Portland is notorious for long rainy seasons, and Minneapolis, with an average temperature of 45.4 degrees, isn't exactly an ideal spot for bicyclists much of the year. Regardless, these two cities claim the highest percentages of bicycle commuters as well as miles of bicycle routes (paths and bike lanes) throughout the city.

    The City of Minneapolis has a page on their website specifically dedicated to winter biking. What may surprise summer bikers is that 50 of the 60 miles of bike trails throughout the city get plowed just like city streets. Often these paths are some of the first to get plowed. Census data shows 4,800 residents of Minneapolis regularly commute to work on a bicycle. The number for the entire metropolitan area is 9,700 bikers. A local group called Transit for Livable Communities estimates one-third of those biking enthusiasts continue commuting to work during the winter.

    For more information about how to dress for the weather, winterize your bike and winter safty tips see here.

    GET UPDATED

    It is important to stay updated on the status of trails and bike paths. The City of Minneapolis provides an email updated service to local bicyclists, sign up here.

    If you see a problem with a bike path or road obstruction, put in a maintenance request to the City of Minneapolis here.

    what will be measured?

    KEY QUESTIONS

    QUANTITATIVE QUESTION: What percentage of transportation energy can be saved when commuting by bicycle?

    QUALITATIVE QUESTION: How does the experience of commuting to work by bicycle affect happiness, convenience, health, and cost?

    BASELINE WEEK TRACKING

    QUANTITATIVE
    During the baseline tracking week before the project begins, use the corresponding spreadsheet (T6_BASELINE) to track the mileage you currently commute by each mode (bike, walking, car, bus...) daily.

    QUALITATIVE


    Qualitative Scale

    Using the above scale as a visual, rate each of the following criteria on the spreadsheet (T6_BASELINE) as it relates to your current daily commute habits:

    • 1. SATISFACTION/HAPPINESS
      (Overall, how much enjoyment or dissatisfaction do you get out of doing and completing this behavior?)

    • 2. CONVENIENCE
      (How easy/difficult and accessible/inaccessible is this behavior for you to do and complete?)

    • 3. HEALTH
      (How healthy/unhealthy and safe/unsafe does this behavior make you feel?)

    • 4. COST
      (How much does this behavior cost? Use positive numbers for being above average and negative numbers for being below average and zero for being average.)

    IMPLEMENTATION PHASE TRACKING

    QUANTITATIVE
    Use the corresponding spreadsheet (T6_QUANTITATIVE) to track the miles traveled by bicycle in your commute each day.

    QUALITATIVE
    Part 1 - Ranking


    Qualitative Scale

    Using the above scale as a visual, rate each of the following criteria, every IMPLEMENTATION day on the spreadsheet (T6_QUALITATIVE) Your answers should not be rated in comparison to your baseline week, but in general as a reflection of how you are feeling.

    • 1. SATISFACTION/HAPPINESS
      (Overall, how much enjoyment or dissatisfaction do you get out of doing and completing this behavior?)

    • 2. CONVENIENCE
      (How easy/difficult and accessible/inaccessible is this behavior for you to do and complete?)

    • 3. HEALTH
      (How healthy/unhealthy and safe/unsafe does this behavior make you feel?)

    • 4. COST
      (How much does this behavior cost? Use positive numbers for being above average and negative numbers for being below average and zero for being average.)

    Part 2 - Blogging
    Keep a narrative log of your experiences changing this action in your life. Did you find your experience commuting by bicycle to be positive or negative? Why? What were some of the benefits? What were some of the struggles? How did this change your daily commuting experience?


    resources

    Department of Transportation-Bicycles

    City of Minneapolis-Bicycles

    Cold Weather biking tips
    ACTION SPREADSHEETS

    The spreadsheets referred to above can be found in the Excel file at the following link:

    T6_Bike Your Commute Spreadsheet

    If you prefer to enter your responses by hand, printable PDFs of each spreadsheet can be found at the following links (at the end of the project, all data will have to be entered into the Excel spreadsheet):

    T6_BASELINE
    T6_QUANTITATIVE
    T6_QUALITATIVE