This image is massive, so it’s below the jump. Via Sullivan.

Biking And Health

UPDATE: I’ve deleted the link in response to a comment below. — Bruce

94 Replies to “Holiday Open Thread: Why Bike?”

  1. Since this is an open thread, and I asked this before, and didn’t received a single reply, being a couple days late on the last open thread. Figured I’ll ask this question again…

    Is Sound Transit building a Stub Tunnel at the new UW station, so they can run the moles from there North toward Northgate? Or are the Northlink moles just going to head South, and after they reach the UW station, reverse back out of the tunnel? I would think they’d need some sort of stub tunnel to be able to do it without causing interruptions at the station.

    1. If I recall correctly, it’s being done like Pine St, a stub tunnel with a vertical shaft for extraction. There should be no service interruption due to the breakthrough, I specifically asked that at an open house ages ago.

      1. You are suspicious of the thesis that exercise (through bicycling) reduces obesity?

        I forget, what contributes to lowered air quality in the West Coast North American cities apart from transportation?

      2. It’s a bit ironic that McArdle posted that, as she seems to be fond of repeating Reason Foundation (unrivalled masters of statistical abuse) talking points…

      3. [and I don’t mean to acuse McArdle of being dishonest, nor do I think she’s stupid—I think she’s simply kind of gullible.]

  2. “Portland’s huge investment in Biking…”

    Except that, compared to the money that has been spent on accommodating and encouraging the private internal-combustion-engined automobile, even just in the City of Portland, the “investment in Biking” has been a teeny-tiny pittance.

    Throw in the per capita share (of Portland residents) of the unbudgeted costs of the invasion of Iraq (which was about *nothing* except obtaining liquid fossil fuels), and unmeasured external-costs such as the nearly 5000 dead and tens of thousands maimed for life (and the care they will require), etc., and that “investment in Biking” becomes even smaller.

    1. What amount of “liquid fossil fuels” did the U.S. “obtain” from the invasion of Iraq?

      1. Norman, surely even you can recognize that our involvement in Middle East affairs is designed to keep oil flowing into the world economy. Witness the latest saber-rattling between Iran and the United States over the Straight of Hormuz. While we did not directly “obtain” oil from the invasion, we’re there to keep the oil moving, even if not directly to the United States. Are you going to try and convince us that we went into Iraq purely for the good of the Iraqi people?

      2. I thought the Fifth Fleet was based in Bahrain just because it’s a nice place to hang out.

      3. We have massive military based all around the world. Are you suggesting that we have troops in Korea and Europe to keep oil flowing?

        The Iraq war was a really stupid mistake, but it was not about oil. It was about “regime change” and “weapons of mass destruction.”

        Oil is always going to be kept flowing. You really think wealthy countries like Saudi Arabia are going to allow their oil exports to be disrupted? Oil exports is about the only income they have.

        This is just one of the terribly ignorant arguments by the car haters — that the U.S. military is stationed all over the world because of oil. That is patently absurd.

        That’s probably why the U.S. invaded Panama too, eh? To keep the supply of oil open?

      4. Norman,

        Ever heard of that transportation facility called the Panama Canal?

        You know, the place where John McCain was born? It hasn’t been a “part” of the USA since 1978, but the Post-Panamax era in shipping wasn’t really on the horizon in the late 1980’s.

        So it was very important to the USA for both military (naval) and oil supply who was controlling the Panama Canal at the time. Still is. If you want a rapidly deployable force…and can’t use the Suez canal for some reason.

      5. You’re right Norman, the fact that we have troops stationed in other parts of the world is proof that our military involvement in the Middle East since the mid-70’s has nothing to do with oil supply security.

      6. “You really think wealthy countries like Saudi Arabia are going to allow their oil exports to be disrupted?”

        You’re either baiting me or the most naive person on the planet to believe that Saudi Arabia could have repelled Saddam Hussein’s forces back in 1990. Either way, I’m done here…

    2. Not exactly obtaining liquid fossil fuels for the US, but getting control of the oil fields so that the profits would go to US/British oil companies rather than to Saddam. The US itself would continue to get most of its oil from its own hemisphere. But oil prices are based on the worldwide supply, so in that sense Iraqi oil affects the US.

      1. Velo, yes, the Iraq war was about oil but it was even more complex than that. It was about Petrodollars. That the trading of oil is denominated in US Dollars all around the world and as such creates demand for our currency and creates a desire to place such dollars in a safe haven such as… The United States. Our prosperity here was gained in part by this hocus pocus for several decades and it was when the former – now deceased – dictator of Iraq took steps to sell the oil from that country in a currency other than US Dollars (e.g. the attempted establishment of an Oil Bourse in Euros) that the United States acted. A similar rational is also prompting the United States to consider attacking Iran.

      2. And invading Iraq DECREASED Iraqi oil production and Iraqi oil exports, reducing world oil supply, and increasing the price of oil.

        So, what does that prove?

      3. Higher oil prices, more profit for oil companies, more US Dollars demanded to pay for it. More cash in Wall Street.

      4. “invading Iraq DECREASED Iraqi oil production … So, what does that prove?”

        Nothing. They miscalculated. They can’t be expected to know the future. But conversely, what happened later doesn’t erase their original motivation.

    3. And I guess you think we are in Afghanistan because of oil also, Zed? lol

      So, Zed, your “proof” that we invaded Iraq over oil is that “there is oil in Iraq, so that proves we invaded Iraq because of oil.”

      Very convincing.

      1. Right, because it couldn’t possibly be that there are different motives behind our military involvement in different regions of the world. Ignorance is bliss, isn’t it Norman?

      2. Yes. Different motives. As in “regime change” and “weapons of mass destruction” in Iraq. Ever heard of those, Zed?

        And, I assume Zed thinks we invaded Afghanistan to keep heroin flowing to the U.S., right, Zed?

      3. Yeah, it was all about securing Saddam’s huge stockpile of weapons of mass destruction and giving democracy to the Iraqis.

        I’ve got a bridge to sell you.

      4. Yes, regime change, which Bush the 2nd talked about BEFORE 9/11 and in general an illegal option. Bush LIED to get us into Iraq, he lied about WMD, about Iraq’s military capability and about the the connection to 9/11 e.g. there was none.

        As I stated up stream, the un-reported motive for the US attack on Iraq was the potential disruption of the US dollar regime in the trading of oil from a EURO denominated oil bourse that Saddam Hussein was setting up.

      5. Saddam was on Dubya’s hit list since he nationalized the foreign oil companies holdings in Iraq.

  3. I would like to see more BOD…Bike Oriented Development.

    So, start with a bike corridor like the Interurban, add transit and then commercial and residential areas. With bikes you do not need density, because a person can then easily travel 2 miles as 200 feet.

    1. This easily describes typical Japanese suburbs. For larger stations, typically there’s substantial high-density development right around train stations, but there’s also a much larger catchment area of lower-density single-famly housing and small apartments that’s served by bicycles and feeder bus lines. For smaller stations, there’s less of the former and more of the latter. It’s a pleasant and workable system, that gives people the flexibility to own a house while still enjoying good transit.

      Of course by “low density” I don’t mean nutcase-low-density like U.S.-style suburbs…

      1. p.s. — by “less of the former”, I mean “less very high-density housing” (around smaller stations), not less bicycles! For both larget and smaller stations there’s huge bicycle ridership (bigger suburban stations often have nearby bicycle parking facilities for many thousands of bicycles).

        Also of course (as Oran notes), walking is very much a reasonable option for many people (I live about a 10 minute walk from three different train stations serving 5 different train lines!).

      2. I think John’s thinking about East Hill, which is within 2 miles of Kent Station, the Interuban Trail, and the road to Southcenter. But you’re right that people farther out have to go more that two miles to reach anything other than maybe a Safeway.

    2. With bikes you do not need density, because a person can then easily travel 2 miles as 200 feet

      In typical American low density developments, you can travel 2 miles and not encounter any structure other than a single family house. There’s a difference between what’s considered low density in Sammammish, WA, and what’s considered low density in Japan.

      I fully support the concept, though.

    3. “Person”, of course, means able-bodied. My grandparents can hardly walk from their home to their car; biking would be beyond insane.

      More importantly, though, density (which does not mean crowding) is a good thing on its own. You’ve talked many times about your visits to Manhattan; do you really think it could possibly have any of the same magic if not for the high concentration of people everywhere you look?

      The problem with Seattle isn’t that it’s too dense; it’s that there simply isn’t enough space for human-scale street life. But there isn’t enough space for cars either (because in any decently-sized city, there can’t be). Thus, everyone feels overcrowded. The fix, of course, is simply to devote less space to cars, and more space to people.

      1. Or…do the opposite of what they are doing, which is to maintain a level of sparsity.

        Here’s what I don’t understand. People like the traditional Seattle architecture…the smallish house with a little yard. But outside of Seattle what do they build? Either gigantic homes with little or no yard in the exurbs, or towering condos, with no greenery whatsoever.

        When something is valuable you can do one of two things…raise the price, or make more of it.

        The first is what happened. The second would require that rather than doing what we’ve been doing — design patterns that no one really wants — we template the Seattle patters (Wallingford, Ballard) that people really do want and recreate them in the whole metro area.

        This seems so obvious to me, and yet, I guess the financial equation some how prevents it from being implemented (or even understood!)

      2. You’re getting closer, John. Except it’s not the cute little houses people like here (though they can be nice). It’s the jobs. The old downtown in Snohomish has cute little houses that look very Seattle-like. But they sell for about $200k. There just aren’t many jobs up there, so people have to drive down here.

      3. This seems so obvious to me, and yet, I guess the financial equation some how prevents it from being implemented (or even understood!)

        It’s not money — it’s zoning.

        In the most desirable residential areas of the most desirable cities (like New York, London, and Paris), one of the most common forms of housing is attached single-family, aka rowhouses. Depending on the size of these buildings, the width and frequency of the streets, and whether or not each floor is a separate home, you can get anywhere from 20-50 homes per acre — even though buildings are rarely taller than 3-4 stories.

        In contrast, outside of center city, most Seattle neighborhoods have on average between 5-10 homes per acre. And since the most common zoning designation is SF5000, it’s virtually impossible to do better. (In fact, Seattle didn’t allow rowhouses at all until April of this year!)

        If you want an 1800 sqft home, you could build a 3-story rowhouse on a 600 sqft lot… or you could build a 2-story house on a 5,000 sq ft lot.

        *That’s* why housing is so expensive.

        It’s only out of a silly fantasy for “open space” that density has come to be synonymous with height. We wouldn’t need all these towers if we weren’t building McMansions with 65% of the lot wasted (SF zones in Seattle allow for max 35% lot coverage).

    4. In many ways, BOD looks like old streetcar suburbs, especially if it’s integrated with longer-range transit. The Interurban is a great example — an abandoned trolley route that now serves as a bicycle feeder to transit centers in Auburn, Kent, and to a lesser extent Tukwila.

      Whether I drive or bike to the Sounder station, I leave home at the same time — 3 miles takes slightly longer by bike than by car on residential streets, but on a bike I don’t have to find parking then walk to the train from the parking lot.

  4. Have we all forgotten that Seattle has more hills than flat ground. Everytime people start talking about bikes here I yawn. Yes, for certain cases they can work, for most it will NEVER happen. Portland is mostly flat, most of the major European cities are mostly flat. Amsterdam is mostly flat. In all of these places bikes are a great idea. In Seattle they will never be that successful. Counter-intuitively they may be more successful in the suburbs.

    1. There are hills there as in Kent…but, if you do B.O.D. you zone and build along flat corridors and use trams to navigate up and down the hills.

      1. I love careening down Canyon Drive…and I will sometimes crawl back up using Reiten Road (which is the prescribed bike route on Google Maps) or else simply jump on a bus at Kent Station (always have the trusty ORCA card in the wallet!) from the climb.

      2. That’s what I did when I attended Cascadia CC for Running Start. I’d ride down hill from home to campus in the morning. Then take the bus back up in the afternoon. I love it because I can leave whenever I want and not wait for the infrequent bus and get there right before class started. The route was also mostly traffic free.

        I didn’t want to get up at 6 AM for the school bus just to sit at school waiting for a single 9 AM class, so I looked at alternatives. Metro bus service to my high school (Inglemoor in Kenmore) sucked and it was faster and more direct to bike, even with a big hill. After class, I’d glide down the hill as fast as the cars and continued my journey on the Burke-Gilman to the college.

    2. While there are a few neighborhoods where hills would make B.O.D. difficult, for example, Queen Anne, most of the city has gentle enough slopes to make bicycling easy if you have the appropriate infrastructure. Also, the maximum elevation in Seattle is, I believe only around 400 feet, so no hillclimb is going to be too terribly long.

      One thing to be remember, though, is the gearing on a bike makes a huge difference in how much effort it takes to get up a hill – lower gears make hill climbs much easier. If we ever have a bike-sharing program in Seattle, the city would do well to remember this – if we simply use whatever the “default” gearing is on the BikeShare bikes because it works well in flatter cities, we’re going to end up sharing bikes that won’t be useful for much beyond the Burke-Gilman trail.

      1. I always rode by bike in the top two gears, and if a hill steeper than 10th Ave E was unavoidable, I’d walk my bike up it. I just don’t see the point to spinning frantically fast to creep up a hill.

    3. I recommend heavy leg presses. Do enough of those and even the steepest hills seem laughably easy…

      1. Hills? Smills… I beat the bus riding up Pine every night.

        Seriously hills look like an impediment until you actually get on a bike, get in shape and ride a few.

        I admit riding everyday isn’t for everybody, but if you rode once a week on nice days, I bet within a year you’d be aching to ride everyday. It’s the most fun I get every day.

      1. I looked at your video on the bicycle lifts. I can’t speak for others, but I’d be really embarrassed to use one of those things, even if they did exist here. On a short hill that’s too steep to ride up, I’d rather just walk.

      2. Seriously, that thing seems much slower and more awkward than just walking! It seems like it might be a fun curiousity for a while, but it’s a little hard to believe it’s worth the cost…

      3. I can’t watch videos at work, but if you’re talking about the Trampe, they claim to have massively increased biking in Trondheim.

        I think it would be great for our steeper hills, like Queen Anne. Put it on one of the side streets off the Counterbalance with little car traffic – maybe up 2nd Ave W, from Roy to Highland.

      4. “much slower and more awkward than just walking” The issue with waking a bike up a steep hill is sweat. I can ride my bike to work in office clothes because it’s mostly downhill and I don’t have to worry about sweating. But for the ride home I’ve got to fully change into gym clothes and take a shower when I get home. Saving those two steps would save a significant amount of time.

        Of course another option would be gondolas.

    4. PARTS of Portland are flat. There are actually more and higher hills to deal with in Portland than in Seattle, depending on where you are commuting. If you live one side of the West Hills and work on another, like I do, you have to ride over a 900 foot high pass. And there are plenty of bike routes over the West Hills, as well as through the hilly areas of Southwest Portland, and East Multnomah County. Doesn’t seem to slow Portland down from continuing to develop its bicycling infrastructure, nor does it slow down Portland bike commuters.


    Here is a U.S. National Survey on emergency room visits in 2008.

    There were a total of about 124 million emergency room visits in 2008. 42 million visits were “injury-related.” The rest were from illness.

    Table 15 shows the major causes of the injury-related emergency room visits.

    Motor Vehicle Traffic injuries: 3,942,000

    Pedal cycle, non-traffic injuries: 442,000

    So, emergency room visits from motor vehicle traffic injuries were around 10 times as high as from bicycle injuries (not including bicycle injures from collisions with motor vehicles).

    If bicycles account for around 1 percent of all trips in the U.S., and motor vehicles (including buses, trucks, etc.) account for over 90 percent of all trips, that means that motor vehicles account for around 100 times more trips than bicycles in the U.S., but only about 10 times more emerengy room visits than bicycles.

    If you account for mileage, there is probably an even larger disparity, since the average trip by motor vehicle is likely a longer than the average trip by bicycle.

    At any rate, it seems pretty obvious that you are at least 10 times more likely to have an accident requiring a visit to an emergency room in the U.S. if you ride a bicycle than if you go by motor vehicle for the same number of miles per year. People are far safer in motor vehicles than on bikes.

      1. So, if you care about your children, don’t let them ride bicycles — take them on their trips in your car.

        And, that is right — by far the majority of accidents on bicycles which result in visits to emergency rooms have nothing to do with motor vehicles. Riding bicycles is just a dangerous thing to do.

      2. If we want to do something about these injuries, instead of simply dismissing bicycling as “inherently dangerous”, we should ask ourselves what we can do to make it safer. Many accidents in which people just fall over without colliding into anything are caused by going over discontinuities in the road at a bad angle, and in the Seattle area, the most likely cause of this is railroad tracks, especially the SLUT.

        Crossing the tracks on Stewart St. going into downtown is bad, in that the awkward angle of the crossing forces me to practically stop in the middle of an intersection on a green light to make it across the tracks safely.

        The dangers of bicycling around tracks is the big reason why I’m opposed to proposals to extend the SLUT train along Eastlake to the U-district. To avoid Westlake, you only have to detour a block; Eastlake, on the other hand, has no good detour and building a streetcar there would really be screwing cyclists over, especially those who live on Eastlake itself, who would have no alternate route to access their home. (While there *might* be enough room for a bike lane to the right of the streetcar tracks if you were willing to give up all on-street parking on Eastlake, I will simply say that I’m resigned to the fact that this would be a non-starter).

      3. Zed, how about doing something intellient, like adjusting that for miles traveled by auto vs miles traveled by bicycle?

        Too much work for you?

      4. Don’t forget to factor in the reduced chance of Type II diabetes, heart disease, and stoke that being in shape from riding gives you. When you factor those improvements to your health the increase chance of injury from bicycling vs driving and not exercising, bicycling looks a lot better.

    1. [ Shaking head ] Norman, your ability to make up numbers and make conclusion based on statistics continues to amaze me. I still wonder if you really believe your BS or if you’re just trying to get a reaction.

      1. There is no B.S. in my post whatsoever. The fact that you don’t even attempt to disprove my figures suggests to me that you can not.

        So, you just make childish little comments about me, and totally ignore the facts which I present.

      2. “The fact that you don’t even attempt to disprove my figures suggests to me that you can not.”

        Life is too short, Norman, to respond to all of your gibberish.

      1. A lot of fatal accident victimss visit the emergency room before they die. So, your post is nonsense.

    2. Here’s at least one source of your glaring failures in logic:
      You are comparing total injuries (apples) with percentage of trips (oranges).

      How much time is spent riding bicycles in the US that isn’t part of a “trip”? What study have you read that includes children just plain riding bicycles? I’ve never read any. And a significant amount of the lifetime hours I have on a bicycle comes from bicycling around my neighborhood as a child. What percent of Americans simply stopped bicycling after childhood?

      Is it dangerous to bicycle while being a child? Certainly. It’s also dangerous to be in a car while being a child. Or to use the stairs if you’re a child. Or to eat solid food if you’re a child. Lock your child in front of the TV, and they’ll be very safe. But I’m not convinced the goal of child raising should be to maximize safety above everything else.

    3. There’s also nothing in the statistics about severity of injury. You can visit the emergency room for a broken finger or because you’ve crushed your pelvis and lacerated all of your organs.

    4. Focusing on accidents ignores the majority of auto-related emergency room visits. Most of the ER visits attributable to cars are for heart attacks, strokes, diabetic incidents, etc.

      I care more when I die than how, so I prefer to look at all-cause mortality rather than accident-only mortality. By that measure, bicycle commuters have a 40% lower risk of premature death than car commuters.

      The slightly higher accident risk of bicycle commuting is offset 20-to-1 by reductions in diseases of a sedentary lifestyle.

  6. Portland leads major US cities, but not all cities. Many small cities around the US have a higher percentage. In Missoula, MT for example it is nearly 15%

      1. That sounds likely enough… but if that’s the case, it may suggest something: design patterns that look like college campuses, with significant density of residence and employment, lots of places primarily accessible by foot and bike, and without much parking, are great places to commute by bike!

      2. +1 to that. Probably the most fun I’ve had in life was in the college dorms. We were packed in 2 to a 10’x12′ room, 30 rooms to a floor, 12 floors tall. Now that’s density.

  7. AARP ran a piece in the Dec2011/Jan2012 issue with the graphic:

    From 2001 to 2009 the number of trips that Americans 50-plus took on public transportation went up 81%.

    Source claimed the, “SUMMARY OF TRAVEL TRENDS 2009 National Household Travel Survey“. I’m not finding supporting data on the NHTS website. In fact, the data seems to show a decrease in use of public transit almost across the board. One stat the I think needs to be turned around is average speed (Table 27). Private vehicle 28.87 mph vs 11.42 mph for transit and that doesn’t include the wait time or walking to the bus. Stop consolication improves speed once you get on the bus but that’s only part of the story. For example a friend that lives east of crossroads now has a 3/4 mile walk instead of what was a couple of blocks.

    1. Uugh. A new poll is out: three out of three drivers would flee the scene if they hit and killed a woman in a wheelchair.

      We all like to think we’d stop. But three out of three of us wouldn’t, apparently.

  8. I’ve been looking through the Downtown Association’s research library. Interesting facts:
    Only 22% of buildings downtown have bike racks
    4.3% of employees downtown commute by bike
    10M people visit Pike Place Market every year
    40.5% commute to work downtown by bus
    25% commute more than 20 miles one-way to work downtown
    56% of downtown workers live in Seattle
    5.6% of downtown workers that live out-of-state walk to work
    (ok, this last one probably had too small of a sample size to be accurate)

      1. I don’t know which number is right. It would take an amazing number of volunteers to come close to capture all bike trips in a bike count. Then again, self-reported data is often inflated toward the positive. The sample size is sure large – over 46,000 – so I can’t imagine a sample size issue for this data set.

        I don’t care much what the overall mode share for the US is. Even urban/rural isn’t a good comparison. We’re talking about the downtown core of a nicely bike-friendly city. Check out P. 461 of that report you linked to. It lists Portland’s downtown as 8.51%. With data like that, I’d tend to believe Seattle’s downtown bike share would be more like 4.3% and less like the bike count data. 4.3% might even be under-reported depending on when the survey was done (especially if it’s an end-of-year thing), since it asks about your most recent commute.

      2. [aw]’s right. I missed that. Strange, since the form tells people to only choose one mode. It would be nice if they also listed the data with the multiple mode answers excluded. Scaling down to a total of 100% gives us a bike mode share of 3.4%.

      3. Um, you can’t do that. If I drive to work three days a week, walk to work once a week, and bike to work once a week, the survey doesn’t give any information about how to scale the results if I tick SOV, walk, and bike on the questionaire.

      4. It lists Portland’s downtown as 8.51%

        I think that’s a misprint. It’s supposed to say Portlandia := Seriously, if mode share is 8% then at the typical intersection during peak commute there would be one bike for every 12 cars (OK, not quite since not everyone it on their way to/from work). The UW is somewhere around 8% for students and staff. Professors tend to live closer to campus than the typical American 12 mile commute, students are young, fit and poor and the campus is right on the Burke Gilman trail.

      5. [aw] Sure I can – I just did! I absolutely agree it would be far, far better if they used the real data, dumping the multiple responses.

        [Bernie] I’m just quoting data from the source you presented. I know you don’t believe it, but someone spent a lot of time and effort to do that study. Do you have another study that disputes it?

        My trips to Portland haven’t been at commute time, but I was certainly overwhelmed with the number of bikes I saw. Could 1/12 of the vehicles have been bikes? Sure. But keep in mind that just because biking is 8% of the mode share doesn’t mean cars are the other 92%! (man you have a car bias) So bikes would more likely be on the order of 1/6 of the vehicles on the road downtown during commute hours, if that study is true.

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