Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Deventer Day Three

Goudappel is a very international company. The last woman to ride my bicycle was from Uganda. She was working with the company doing a similar study: what can Uganda learn from the Netherlands?

Today I had the opportunity to chat with a student from the Kurdish region of Iraq. He is here doing a similar study for Iraq: what can Iraq learn from the Netherlands? I enjoyed discussing the similarities and differences between our transportation systems. There is a gender disparity in transit usage versus driving that isn't seen in the US. More women ride transit and fewer drive because it is still a male-dominated society. They have the same problem as us that shopping malls have been built outside of large cities, detracting from city centers. As they rebuild cities, they can require that buisnesses locate in the city center. Will the U.S. be able to implement such policies? They also share our issues with transportation as a status symbol. The wealthy are less likely to bicycle or use public transport because driving is a status symbol. Here's to buidling friendships between the U.S. and Iraq!

I knew that this internship would be an international experience, but I didn't realize to what extent.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Deventer Day Two


Today I went for a run from Diepenveen, where I am staying with the Boschs, back towards Deventer. I love roundabouts! I have heard concern about how to handle bikes and pedestrians in roundabout, but as far as I can tell it is unfounded. In the roundabouts here there is an inner lane for cars, then a colored bicycle lane or cycle track, and then the sidewalk. Here they use a line of triangles on the pavement to indicate that the road user must yield. Everything works if everyone watches out for each other, yields when they are supposed to, and tries not to run over anybody. They also have great wayfinding signage. The streets are far simpler here than they are in Amsterdam, nevertheless, it was because of the signage that I was able to find my way home without a map on my second day in town. Do the roundabouts in Bend have wayfinding signage? If not, they should.

After my run I went back to the city center to see more of the festival. My favorite was probably Generik Vapeur. They were like a French blue man group with two women and a lot of fireworks. A van carried the blue man band through the city center. The audience was lining the street at each stop in anticipation of the band's arrival, hanging out of windows and on patios, or walking along with the troupe from stop to stop as I was. This is a great way to bring art to people who are not willing to sit quietly in a seat and create a stage out of the built environment.

I also enjoyed the stiltwalkers on tall bikes and French bicycle/unicycle act on a trampoline with a track around the outside. They were like cats! They bounced and flipped and still they landed on their feet.

I am only slightly embarrased to say that I literally ran from a stiltwalking dragon. They were really scary! When the festivities ended, I found my way out of the center, again thanks to excellent wayfinding signage.

I noticed a traffic jam as I headed out of the area. The inner part of the city center is car-free, but there are several parking areas around the outside. I am pointing this out to show that the Netherlands is not a fairytale place where nobody drives. Next to the long line of cars, was a bicycle traffic jam, which seemed to be taking up less space. The cyclists also seemed to be getting through the light more quickly. There is an all-way green phase at that intersection for cyclists and pedestrians. I for one, was glad to be walking towards the bicycle that the Boschs lent me, which was parked near the first performance I had watched. This is bicycle number eleven that I have ridden on or in during my trip.

First Day in Deventer


I was welcomed to town by the Boschs and Richard, Spanish aerial dancers, and French street theatre. This weekend is one of Deventer's annual festivals. I think that my friend Dana went to Spain to study aerial dance. I will have to ask her if Delreves is the company you studied with. Tonny Bosch explained that the outdoor patio area where we were seated for lunch used to be car parking. It is only within the past 15 years that they have made the center carfree and started removing parking. They still have to fight battles every time they remove car parking. I look forward to seeing before and after pictures.

After lunch, Richard showed me around the center city. It is ringed by a canal, has narrow winding carfree streets in the center, cute shops and cafes, and was especially full of activity on account of the festival. Richard suggested that we could perhaps make streets like these in the US. Parts of Boston are already built this way. In Chattanooga, I could see parts of the southside developing this way first. Seeing as that Eugene's downtown is on rocky ground and the city recently created free parking I think it will be awhile before Eugene can attempt car-free streets again. I could see 13th Street near the University as a car-free street. Richard said that Dutch cities forbid the development of malls outside of the city center. I must admit I am envious. He said that there was an initiative to make modern developments in place of some of the old buildings in the center city. Fortunately, in our opinion, the city didn't have enough money at the time.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Amsterdam Study Abroad Day 2


Today we rode out to Ouderkerk. Again, as in Denmark, it’s great to have national bike routes to get from one city to the next. People of all ages were out enjoying the beautiful weather – on boat, by bike, walking, on motorized wheelchairs. Ouderkerk was quiet on a Sunday, but we enjoyed a picnic on the canal and a bit of exploration. There were some cute narrow streets some with shopping and some with residences.  On one street it seemed like you could nearly lean out of your window and hand your neighbor across the street a cup of sugar. Is this too close for comfort for Americans? Unlike some of the pedestrian zones I’ve seen on streets of this scale in other cities, it seemed that cars were allowed. Are tese streets any more heavily trafficked on a weekday?

For more pictures, check out my web album.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Lecture Day 2

Interviews: possible people to talk to > parents of kids getting to school, End of the work day
Signs are advisory; a predictable dance and rhythm develops
Fixing congestion often ranks as number 1 as a problem to solve on community opinion surveys > so we create strips that are anywhere USA
Classic slides to communicate what we do with our space. Amsterdam was built in a different era. There are already narrow roads and a limited right of way. They have to think about how to use the space efficiently. In the US most cities have a lot of space. The motivation to use our space efficiently isn’t really there. Our cities were built around the time of the automobile. Transportation technologies allowed people to live quite a distance from where they were.  On the upside, we have a lot of space to work with. We have three approaches: 1) we can build more capacity; 2) we can start pricing access to the space differently (congestion pricing) but how are the people who are priced out going to get through; 3)
Personal rapid transit, smart highways, way to solve congestion problems is through technology, oil and car companies.
Place is starting to become important again.
Ted - Disney 1961 video of the highway of the future.
T – It’s not just Americans. There are people in every city that want to move out of the city. They’re dirty. They have the “other”.
Sophie – Then why are cities so expensive?  We have this image of wanting community and thinking it takes place in the suburbs. I think community is more likely to take place in the city.
What do people want? What are their preferences of where they want to live? How do they get met? Mismatch between what the market provides and the type of environment that some people want. The planners are the problem via zoning. Land zoned to be single-family, low-density housing requiring a certain amount of housing.
People in Marc’s neighborhood get up in arms when multi-family housing is proposed for their neighborhood. The biggest complaint is that there isn’t enough parking for this housing and the residents will be cruising around looking for parking. They think parking requirements should be raised. People potentially living in that place wouldn’t have a voice because the place hasn’t been built yet. Local regulation is actually in the way.
There is always going to be a profit to be made in transportation. Companies just have to adapt.
Most profitable use in downtown Eugene right now is surface parking.
Images from Amsterdam. People in Chattanooga’s STAND survey said they wanted more parking downtown. Use these images to show them what that choice would look like for the downtown and then ask, is this really what you want?
Proposal to retrofit a section of downtown Eugene to match the type of space to fit current desires for commercial space. Chains like Whole Foods said they would come in. Community opposition sent the proposal down in flames.
In the US transportation is thought of as the top of the pyramid. Not  - we want to get places, so how does land use and policy support the places we want to go? Different paradigms.
Road diets – street was over-engineered, and bringing streets back into balance can actually improve vehicle throughput in order to
Ted – new law in Amsterdam, you have to step into street to gain right of way; huge push back.
Does the law need to be adjusted to correspond to how people behave? Reckless activity aside.  Idaho stops.
It is hard to envision something different than the way it is. Power to generate images is really powerful.
Bri – state-owned roads seem to be the major barriers
In the US we engineer so that if everyone just follows the rules it will save us from one another. British video of trucks navigating a narrow space and finding gaps. We design roads so that cars can pass each other in residential areas, but if you actually sit and observe, it’s rare that two cars have to pass each other from opposite directions.
how much does the lack of liability affect how we approach things? Is the city on the hook for anything design wise? How do you deal with insurance? Jason – how much is the city really on the line? It seems like a good excuse to be conservative
engineers design things knowing that they’re going to fail, but hoping that it will fail the least bad
High density next to commercial, but no way to connect from the housing to the shopping. High density is a buffer between single-family and commercial. Nico asked developers, city, architects why connections weren’t build. Answer: they didn’t think about it because it was suburbia and people don’t walk in suburbia. Nico surveyed residents and found that people were finding ways to cut through fences. It is the planners job to think about the whole area.
Marc’s Essential Truths about Transportation
1)      We travel because we want something (derived demand); it is a means to an end
2)      People, not vehicles, are core (mobility vs. accessibility); transportation should be about moving people; where is it that people want to get to in their daily lives, and how can we make that happen?
3)      We can’t build our way out of congestion, well we could but no one would want to live there (triple convergence theory)

Lecture Notes Day 1

Bicycle Transportation an Amsterdam Exploration

Check out Marc’s Resources -  Dutch design and policy, Copenhagen’s Ministry of Bikes, Dutch traffic laws
Agenda – How do we get more people on bikes back home? (How do we make a more sustainable environment? What is the status quo? How are transportation decisions made back home?)

Course Agenda –
·         Experience cycling in Amsterdam and neighboring cities (pay attention to details and big picture)
·         Learn basics of U.S. city development and transportation planning

Hear from local officials about city and transportation planning (how did communities decide to make the change from a car-choked city to a bicycle-oriented city? There is nothing inherent to this city compared to US cities that would cause them to make this decision when we did not. Ask speakers about culture, laws, policy, the tax structure)
Figure out what and how local decisions can transfer to US context

·         Individual decisions
·         Cultural norms (are you treated as an outlier?)
·         Policy regime of the place that you live

Assignments –
·         Journaling - How do your thoughts change? What subtleties do you pick up over time How can it work back home?
·         Interviews - Ask locals and tourists about biking? How do you like it? Do you bike back home if a tourist?

What arguments can we use for promoting biking back home?
·         Economic efficiency – bikes cost less (American value of choice, gas prices)
·         Infrastructure – here, no matter where you go, there is a place for you as a bike, if it’s a one way road against you, you can still ride on it as a bike (In Oregon we’re blessed that in the early 70s a law was passed that says that when any arterial is built or repaved, you have to put a bike lane on it)
·         Design – separate paths for bikes, grade change, signalization at tricky intersections
·         Land use – doesn’t make sense to bike if things are so spread out, on the other hand things are so spread out in America that biking might be the perfect transportation mode for our country, 2 – 4 mile bike ride might be perfect for our density (In the US transportation and land use policy don’t usually work together
·         Culture – there has to be a tipping point where biking isn’t a fringe activity, how do we get the culture to extend beyond college students and  (lower rate of bicycling comes from immigrating populations, because they don’t usually bike in their culture)
o   Park and bike system – if you park at this parking structure, you can get a free bike rental
o   Culture of fear – biking is not unsafe
o   Joyride – how do you work inside a city to change policy to improve bicycling? How do you get people to
·         Policy
·         Equipment and gear – how do we expect people to bike normally if they can’t get a bike that’s for normal traffic? (skirt guard, chain guard, upright, step-through, kickstand, lights built in, lock built in
·         The amount of money in racing bikes
Decision to bike
·         Initial Considerations
o   Family responsibility
o   Work requirements
o   Preferences
o   Distance
o   Time
If feasible
·         Trip barriers
o   Weather
o   Geography
o   Route feasibility
o   Route attractiveness
o   Traffic safety
If overcome
·         Destination barriers
o   Storage
o   Showers
o   Employer support
If overcome
Decision to Cycle
·         Courtesy of Kelly Clifton
Decision to drive
·         Initial Considerations
o   Family responsibility
o   Work requirements
o   Preferences
o   Distance
o   Time **
If feasible
·         Trip barriers
o   Weather
o   Geography
o   Route feasibility  **
o   Route attractiveness **
o   Traffic safety
If overcome
·         Destination barriers
o   Storage **
o   Showers
o   Employer support **
If overcome
Decision to Drive
·         Marc’s variation, inspired by being in Amsterdam

KK – big things that is missing from this is cost
Bri – in our group of friends it’s like you have to apologize if you drive
Marc – ultimately we should just bike because it’s reasonable, not to be part of the club
Kk – people need to be able to see themselves in the role of a cyclist
T – the info isn’t there – energy star rating, transportation rating
Marc – bicycling could be like recycling; it starts with educating students
Ted – training garden, fake city streets for kids to practice bicycling
American Transportation Paradigm (this has to change)
·         Congestion reduction (the problem to overcome)
o   Is congestion the problem? Good v. bad congestion. Good congestion due to immediate interesting place. Bad congestion due to far away place & no alternative mode.
·         Mobility (should be able to travel by car unimpeded; measured by vehicle throughput and speed)
o   Predominant congestion policy: mobility rules, build more; add lanes, build new freeways, build tollways
o   Empty corridor - No congestion! Great mobility!; this is the condition at first but it doesn’t last for long
o   Triple convergence theory (Downs 1992) & the Levine 2: 1) people switch the times of their trip; 1) you add capacity to a road so you can live a little further away now; 2) people switch their route 3) people switch modes; Levine 1) increased capacity stimulates new development patterns further away; 2) new trips > this is why new roads don’t fix the congestion problem
·         Need for space
·         Dance averse (dance being lots of people navigating a space, figuring out how not to crash into each other; we try to engineer out potential conflict)
·         Land use planning separate from transportation planning (this is where Portland has been brilliant in putting these two things together; where do things go, and how do you get between them – why aren’t these two things considered together?)
The traffic engineer is the one legally responsible.
They can be your best friend or your worst enemy.
Praise your traffic engineers for the risks they take.
Often transportation planners are intimidated by having to frame things in a way that the engineer will approve.
Engineers are problem solvers, don’t come to us with solutions.
Chloe – How do we take quality of life and quantitate it?