Notes from Norway

Translation: Share the road. Seen while touring among farms and fjords in Inderoy.

Translation: Share the road. Seen while touring among farms and fjords in Inderoy.

I might have expected Trondheim, Norway to have lousy bike infrastructure. After all, its latitude is just shy of the Arctic Circle, it’s a city of only middling size, and Norway is a petro-state with a trillion-dollar sovereign wealth fund earned almost entirely from oil. But I would have been dead wrong.

I had the privilege of visiting Trondheim on a recent business trip and was glad to find a thriving, lovely haven for bikes as transportation. Anecdotally, there seemed to be more bikes on the roads than cars. The cycle path in front of my hotel headed straight to city center and was constantly busy. Across the street was a double-decker covered bike rack serving the residents of an adjacent apartment building. Strolling around the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, I found every entrance to every building surrounded by tremendous bike racks — and the racks were overflowing. Students pedaled. Businessmen pedaled. Grandmothers pedaled. Researchers attending the conference with me told stories about how much faster it is to get anywhere in Trondheim by biking than by driving, even despite the city’s steep hills.

For that matter, most of the people who weren’t biking seemed to be using public transportation. Trondheim has no subway, but the buses come constantly. Even buses to the airport, nearly an hour away, run once every eight minutes, with multiple stops in the city.

How does Trondheim do it? First, they have great infrastructure. I saw plenty of cycle paths, offering cyclists a place to ride that keeps cars on the other side of a curb. Where there weren’t cycle paths, there were bike lanes. Wide bike/pedestrian routes along the river and along the fjord offer quick, quiet, picturesque connections between city center and outlying neighborhoods. That said, by US standards, few neighborhoods are really “outlying”, which is Trondheim’s second secret. Though there are fewer than 200,000 residents, the population density feels to me like it’s similar to Boston or DC. Almost nowhere is too far to bike. Third, bike infrastructure is clearly planned and carefully maintained. Signs mark the way, a bike lift (sykkelheis in Norwegian) helps cyclists up the hills, and automated counters gather vital statistics about how many people travel by biking or walking. Finally, alternative transportation is incentivized. Gasoline sells for about three times as much in Norway as in the US (though the price is actually cheap by European standards). Moreover, according to one of the conference hosts, the Norwegian government taxes car purchases at roughly 200%, making bikes and buses into financial no-brainers. In many ways, Trondheim, Norway has chosen to build a society in which human-scale, human-powered transportation is comfortable, economical, and normal. That’s what really explains all the biking vikings.

I’ll take one minor point of exception to biking in Trondheim: the city’s bike share program is nowhere near as convenient or effective as Zagster right here in Rochester. City bikes in Trondheim cost about $10/day for tourists and require that the day start and end at the tourism office downtown, from which user cards are obtained. Zagster in Rochester costs just $1 per half-hour ride, with rides starting and any Zagster rack and ending at any Zagster rack. For an extra $1, you can even end your ride in Rochester anyplace within the city limits — it’s wonderfully convenient. (To learn more, see my earlier article about Zagster.)

Inconvenient city bikes notwithstanding, the main point is clear: Trondheim gives a tangible and unarguable example of a mid-sized, snowy city where human-scale transportation is the norm. Biking and walking and riding buses there are the easiest, most enjoyable ways to get almost anywhere in town, and nearly everybody uses them. The result is a healthier, more human, more sustainable city. Let’s keep working to bring the same quality of life to Rochester.

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Zagster rolling strong in Rochester

Seen those white cruiser bikes with blue signs and baskets rolling around neighborhoods in Rochester? So have I–lots of them! Zagster bike share is off to a strong start in Rochester, according to the update given by Aviva Manin, Rochester Account Director at Zagster, at last Thursday’s Rochester Cycling Alliance meeting. The bike share program was started in Rochester in mid-July as a public-private partnership coordinated by the City, owned and administered by Zagster, and supported by a large number of businesses, nonprofits, and government organizations. Using the program is simple: download the Zagster app to your smartphone, use it to unlock any of the 340 bikes at 46 stations around Rochester, and ride for up to half an hour between stations for $1. Even better, for $1 extra, you can end your ride at any bike rack anywhere in the city–Zagster will pick up the bike later.

Aviva showed up to the RCA meeting with a fat slide deck full of charts and figures showing the fast growth of bike share in Rochester–pretty electrifying for the audience, who are not only bike enthusiasts, but perennial data junkies. I learned a lot. Zagster has 7000 bikes on the ground in 160 cities, but Rochester’s system is their biggest. Already Zagster is expanding beyond the original 46 stations, due to large demand (you can see the current station map). Members have taken more than 6000 rides already, and the Rochester membership is growing steadily at about 800 members per week. Saturday and Sunday are peak days; midday and early evening are peak times. Given the fast growth, Aviva says Zagster is aiming to have 700 bikes in Rochester by spring 2018.

And though the ridership at most bike share programs is 65% male and just 35% female, in Rochester the demographics are 55% male and 45% female. Aviva told us that in surveys, women point to traffic safety concerns as the main issue that keeps them from riding, so the large numbers of women riding Zagster in Rochester is a testament to good, safe bike infrastructure in our city. If you’ve advocated for that bike infrastructure, give yourself a pat on the back–and let’s keep working to make it even better. Not sure how to get involved? Email the RCA! Always excited to have more bikes on the roads, we’re cheering for the success of Zagster and for the great things bikes and alternative transportation bring to our community.

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Kids tour Rochester by biking through parks

Riders from the Rush-Henrietta Care program at Seneca Park.

Riders from the Rush-Henrietta Care program at Seneca Park.

On July 25, 18 3rd-6th graders along with nine adults from the Rush-Henrietta Care Program enjoyed a 12-mile “Bike Your Parks” ride from Conkey Corner Park to Ontario Beach Park. The trip took the group down El Camino Trail where the participants admired Wall Therapy art along the way, through Seneca Park (bathroom break!!), across the Genesee on the pedestrian bridge, along Lake Avenue on the Riverway Trail where they saw the Kodak Campus and King’s Landing Cemetery, and finally through Turning Point Park over the boardwalk and on down to Lake Ontario. There were no flat tires, no breakdowns, no injuries and no laggards. The kids were amazed at their own endurance and strength and the adults were impressed with the kids’ discipline.

The kids were all super-proud of their accomplishments and are already thinking about what they can discover on the next bike trip. This was a wonderful way for them to learn about Rochester.

Riders from the Rush-Henrietta Care program at Lake Ontario.

Riders from the Rush-Henrietta Care program at Lake Ontario.

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Packed schedule for Bike Week 2017

Bike Week 2017 in Rochester officially runs 13-21 May, and the schedule is packed! The RCA calendar lists it all: You can learn about biking instead of driving at I pass gas: An event for the bikecurious, find good routes at Route planning HELP!, and learn maintenance at the Bike repair skill share. You can take a ride with the kids at Kidical Mass Pittsford, or take a ride with the ladies at the CycloFemme Mother’s Day ride, and another at the Full Moon Vista Ladies Ride. You can ride to school as part of any of seven local Bike to School Day events. You can advocate for safer streets on the Ride of Silence and the Light Up the Night Ride, then advocate for exploited children at the Ride for the Missing Children. You can cruise the 19th Ward on the Unity Ride, cruise the South Wedge on the Taco Tuesday ride, see Beechwood on the Beechwood Ride, roll through City Center in style on the Seersucker Social, and see the Wedge again on the Wednesday Night Cruise. Cap it off with a visit to the open house at Dream Bikes. Read more about the City’s facilities and events here, and see Bike Week on Facebook. Wow, what a week!

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Bike Lockers in City Garages

Lockers keep your bike safe and dry.

Lockers keep your bike safe and dry.

Now you can keep your bike safe, secure, and dry in a locker in downtown Rochester! Fully-enclosed lockers are free to use in the Mortimer Street Garage, across from the RTS Transit Center. You can also rent a locker in many other downtown garages: High Falls, Sister Cities, Court Street, South Avenue, Washington Square, and East End. Rentals are available for the full year, winter only, or for three seasons. Interested? More information is available on the City’s bike parking page. And don’t forget that City garages have free-to-use racks, too! Big thanks go to Bruce Wilbur for bringing lockers to the public. Send him a thank-you note and spread the word by distributing this flyer.

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Update from the National Bike Summit

by Scott MacRae, MD

Scott MacRae at the League of American Bicyclists National Bike Summit, March 2017.

Scott MacRae at the League of American Bicyclists National Bike Summit, March 2017.

I attended the League of American Cyclists National Bike Summit in Washington, DC, again this year, seeing old friends and meeting new ones with over 400 attendees. If you have never attended, it’s a fantastic opportunity to get more educated on the issues of our times as well as network with very sophisticated bike, walking, and transportation experts. This year was no exception. I attended sessions on fundraising, self driving vehicles, and other issues, but the best information came from my one-on-one discussions with participants.

First of all, federal funding won’t change remarkably in the near future since the bill signed last year was a five-year, $305 billion ($60 billion/year) program. The Republicans would need to go back and redo the bill which is not likely, at least for now, since they are busy with other things. It’s felt that the funding will be safe for a year or two, and there is a possibility that the funding might increase because many Republicans, many Democrats and President Trump like the idea of a $1 trillion infrastructure campaign. Whether this will ever happen is questionable since the funding source is unclear. Biking amd walking could benefit if they can keep a fraction of that investment.

On lobby day visited I visited the offices of five members of Congress: Rep. Louise Slaughter, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, Sen. Charles Schumer, and two others. Every visit was helpful. The meeting with Sen. Schumer’s transportation expert was very impressive. We spent an hour (that’s a lot!!) in Sen. Shumer’s main office, discussing in detail what needs to happen. She emphasized that the $1 trillion infrastructure bill needs to give cash rather than tax credits. Tax credits are more complicated, less direct and may not go directly to the intended project. She encouraged us to continue emphasizing in our public interviews and forums that we are in dire need of infrastructure improvements, including funding for smart streets, transit, biking and walking infrastructure.

During one luncheon, I sat at a topics table labeled “Biking and Transit”. After lunch I spent half an hour with the Active Transportation Manager from the State of Utah and described our hope for bike infrastructure on the new Main Street, as well as the potential conflict with buses turning onto Clinton Ave. She has designed lots of bike-bus conflicts in Salt Lake City and is essentially a neutral expert. A sharrow, with good markings discouraging cyclists from riding to the right of turning buses, was the solution she recommended. Preliminary discussions with the city indicate that they can probably use good National Association of City Transportation Officials design recommendations to make this happen. Very interesting to have a neutral third-party comment.

One of the most interesting presentations was from the Colorado’s City of Fort Collins Group by Jamie Gaskill–Fox. The group has created a 90-minute Bicycle Friendly Driver Program to educate transit, truck, fleet, and police drivers about best practices when dealing with bikes and pedestrians. This was music to my ears since local organizations like the Rochester Regional Transit Service the Rochester Police Department, and UPS could participate. We have been in discussions with the city encouraging them to hire a full time bike-ped coordinator, and this would be a perfect program for that person.

All in all it was a very productive two days and I’d strongly encourage you to attend next year’s National Bike Summit. It will be well worth your time, and it’s lots of fun!

Visiting and talking about bikes as transportation at the office of Sen. Charles Schumer.

Visiting and talking about bikes as transportation at the office of Sen. Charles Schumer.

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Success Stories at the South-Central PA Regional Bike Summit

Want to hear about the successes of like-minded promoters of cycling as transportation? Attend the South-Central PA Regional Bike Summit on Saturday, 18 March. The target audience includes on and off-road riders, bike club members, bike shop representatives, bicycle advocates, municipal planners, tourism promoters, health advocates, and more. The Summit will focus on how local communities were successful in adding bike lanes, trails and other cycling accommodations and how you can replicate their success in your community. The keynote speaker is Roy Gothie, PennDOT Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator. Experts from local, state and national organizations will be serving as presenters and will be available to answer questions. Don’t miss this opportunity to network with potential partners who are also interested in making your communities more bike friendly.

Want to carpool? Email us!

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Hudson Ave. bike share station is fully funded

In spring 2017, Rochester will get a bike share program, run by Zagster. Our friends at Reconnect Rochester wanted to make bike share broadly accessible to city residents, and in particular saw need for a bike share station on Hudson Ave. in the Upper Falls neighborhood, where no station had otherwise been planned. But there’s a cost: $9000 for the additional station.

That brings us to the good news. The Crowdrise campaign to raise the money was wildly successful, and the Hudson Ave. station is now fully funded. More than 140 people donated (read the full list), more than $1000 came from RCA members (woohoo!), and R Community Bikes gave matching donations. Not only will the Hudson Ave. station go forward, but because of the campaign, there will be 10 shared bikes at the Public Market, and another station on Adams Street in Corn Hill–special thanks for that one go to Laura Beth and Matthew Denker. Congratulations go to everybody who together made these good things happen!

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Main Street bike lane: Progress update

The City of Rochester will soon make substantial updates to Main Street, and RCA is among a coalition of citizens advocating for dedicated bike lanes on our new-and-improved Main Street. Read more about the project in the January RCA meeting minutes, available here.

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Notes from MassBike Advocacy Boot Camp

by Jesse Peers

Let me get this out of the way: I’m a relatively recent bicycle convert.

I grew up in a cul-de-sac neighborhood way out in the ‘burbs and had nowhere to cycle to as a kid. Seventeen years later living in the City, upon hearing me say it might be nice to have a bike again for some short trips, my uncle gave me a cheap mountain bike he wasn’t using (thanks Gary!). It wasn’t until I caught the excitement surrounding ROC Transit Day and took an urban cycling class at the Rochester Brainery (thanks Tracey!) that I got the confidence I needed to take to the streets and commute to work on a regular basis. When my car died in 2013, it didn’t matter as I had learned to live without one (why had I driven the mile and a half to work every day anyway? Besides, going from two cars to one did wonders for our finances). In 2014 I bought a decent commuting bike and cycling really became a part of my lifestyle. In 2015 I discovered the joy of group rides and started connecting with other cyclists, which led me to getting involved with the Rochester Cycling Alliance this year.

I’ve come to look forward to the third Thursday every month when we get together to talk cycling and brainstorm ways to foster the pedaling revolution in Rochester. I’ve learned a lot from seasoned cyclists and have gotten to meet fiery visiting speakers like Richard Fries. When Fries announced on Twitter in November that MassBike was putting together a Bicycle Advocacy Boot Camp in Boston this month, I knew I wanted to go. So I booked a Greyhound bus and showed up ready to learn December 17th.

The Boot Camp was a wonderful learning experience and each of the speakers had something to offer. When MassBike gets around to having Boot Camp 2.0 (possibly next year), I’d encourage anyone interested in cycling to make the trip. Here are some brief takeaways (some of which we’ll discuss in January’s meeting):

  • Rochester has a substantial biking community but the community is disparate. We’ve got a plethora of organizations and initiatives and we need to work closer together, know what each other is doing and present a united front to City officials. I can see why newcomers to the area or new cyclists are overwhelmed: We’ve got the Rochester Cycling Alliance, R Community Bikes, Reconnect Rochester, Rochester Bicycling Club, Conkey Cruisers, Unity Ride, Spokes & Folks, Spokes & Ink Festival, Kidical Mass Pittsford, Bike-In-Movies at the Market, Bicycle Film Fest, Rochester Bike Kids, City-sponsored Tuesday rides in the summer, not to mention the wonderful bike shops scattered throughout the area. (And that’s just the road bikers. Mountain bikers have their own niche).
  • Rochester’s comparably small size is an asset. Whereas it became apparent cyclists from the Brookline, Waltham, Somerville, Weymouth, Newton, Medford, and Mattapan areas around Boston all dealt with very different issues and had considerable and disconnected distance between them, Rochester’s a City where virtually everything is within five miles (a half-hour). If we work together, we can create the City we want and make cycling a normal, economically-freeing, viable, safe form of transportation for everybody.
  • For decades, bicycle advocacy has been geared toward older white males. This needs to change. The RCA needs people of color, women and young people to give us the inertia and representation we need. We all cycle for different reasons and we need to learn from your experiences.
  • As I have gotten involved with the RCA, I saw our mission as twofold: 1) Advocacy and 2) Fostering a cycling culture. MassBike’s boot camp woke me up to a 3rd role: Education. Politicians, citizens, drivers, cyclists – all have something to learn. (I also began to wonder what it would take to get local elementary schools to teach cycling skills and safety).
  • The overwhelming majority of boot camp attendees (it was Boston after all) were still reeling from the November election. One of the big questions for those passionate about cycling, new urbanism, safer streets, public transit and sustainability was what we can expect now at the Federal level. Though we’re certain to have our work cut out for us, we took heart that most decisions about transit, parking, development, zoning and infrastructure are made at the local level. Make your voice heard.
  • As Richard Fries told us, “Nothing in government moves without being pushed.” We need to be tactful and polite but ultimately relentless.

So this blog entry is an open invitation to get involved. Keep an eye on our calendar for upcoming meetings and events and please come to our monthly meetings. You’ve got a place at the table.

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