Wednesday 10 September 2014

Actual trips demonstrate the factors that enable cycling to maximise access and opportunity

Summary: Regarding transport, "abundant access" is achieved when people are able to reach as many destinations as possible as quickly as possible so they have as many real choices as possible and thus obtain "urban freedom". The concept's originator, Jarrett Walker, focuses on public transit but, for most able-bodied people, cycling is an excellent alternative and complement for maximising access to destinations and opportunities. In this post I'll accurately chart and record actual trips to my destinations to demonstrate the key factors that enable utility cycling to unlock and optimise destination access.

Flickr CC by 2.0 - Juancarlos Casas Gutierrez

Related Posts:
> See the "access and urban freedom" category of this blog.
Choose where to live based on walkability and bikeability
Common trips and the factors that make them easy to do by bike
Bikes are faster door-to-door than cars or public transport within 5-10km

1. About abundant access and urban freedom and why it's important
- Jarrett Walker, who writes the blog Human Transit, is the originator of this concept and explains it beautifully in this video: Jarrett Walker on "Abundant Access". Essentially, abundant access is his term for designing cities so that "as many people as possible are able to reach as many destinations as possible as quickly as possible so they have as many real choices as possible and are therefore truly free.”
Abundant access means the greatest possible number of jobs and other destinations are located within 30 minutes one way travel time of the greatest possible number of residents. Why 30 minutes? Because humans throughout history have tolerated about one hour of daily travel time.
For any individual, abundance of access can be visualized using a map of isochrones, like the travel time maps, which show the area you can get to within a fixed amount of time on some combination of transit and walking. Of course, any quantification of abundant access must consider not the area but the amount of stuff in it: jobs, retail, recreational opportunities, hospitals, all the things that form the universe of destinations.
Human Transit: "abundant access": a map of a community's transit choices, and a possible goal of transit
- Jarrett also argues passionately that what really matters for all urban residents is urban freedom - maximising their ability to access opportunities in urban areas that address their needs and wants (jobs, services like health and education, purchasing goods, connecting with family/friends, entertainment, recreation, etc).
Abundance of access is literally a quantification of freedom, in the sense that matters to us in transportation. Isochrone maps like Mapnificent's, show us our freedom in a very immediate way: here is where you are free to go, now. Abundant access measures the transportation element of opportunity of all kinds, which is one of the main reasons people have moved to cities since their invention.
Human Transit: "abundant access": a map of a community's transit choices, and a possible goal of transit
2. Choose where to live with both walking and cycling in mind as they complement each other
- Choosing where to live is the most critical factor in unlocking convenient, safe and enjoyable access to destinations by walking or cycling. For full details see: Choose where to live based on walkability and bikeability

- The important context for the below details on destination access by bike is that many of my shorter, local trips are actually completed by walking. In addition to walkability/bikeability location ratings, Walk Score provides a "Commute Time" tool that helps calculate commute distances by foot, bike, public transport or car. The diamond below is the area around my house Walk Score says a typical person can walk to in 10 minutes. In this diamond I have marked some of the actual destinations my girlfriend and I routinely walk to. This is what good walkability means in practice: regular destinations that are sufficiently close, safe and pleasant to walk to.

Walk Score - Fitzroy North: Commute Time = 10min walk from home

3. Figure out which of your trips are best suited to cycling and, where you have a choice, the most appropriate destinations to ride to
- Cycling for transport is done most successfully when trips and destinations are chosen judiciously. For example, it's often more convenient and practical for certain trips to walk, use public transport or utilise a vehicle (friend's car, taxi, car share, car pool, car rental, your own car). There are common, sensible factors that determine where cycling is most advantageous - distance, the need to carry stuff, whether travelling with others, weather, whether there is a safe enough route, etc. See: Common trips and the factors that make them easy to do by bike

- For some of the types of trips where cycling is advantageous you can often choose the most suitable destinations. For example, using a bike to get to places to eat or drink or meet with family/friends. You will naturally prefer destinations that have safe enough routes, are not too far away and are pleasant to ride to. E.g. A cafe 4km away that is reachable via off-road bike paths is far preferable to one 15km away which requires riding on busy roads lacking space for bikes. Wherever you have control or influence over destination choice, exercise it. People driving cars to the destination won't typically care as they are far less inconvenienced.

4. Mapping trips and trip metadata accurately using Strava and Google Maps Engine
-  Strava is an app for Android and iOS devices that is designed for recording cycling activity. Strava trips can be exported as .gpx files and converted to .kml files using Gpx2kml. These .kml files can then be imported to Google Maps Engine. To ensure the cycling trips I report are accurate I will simply record with Strava a representative journey for each trip type (typically one-way to make it easier to view) and import it to my Melbourne Grid map. The details (e.g. trip time) I relay in this post can then simply be direct screenshots of actual journey data.

5. The work commute by bike
Key enablers: quick, convenient, reliable, free daily exercise
- Given the trip snapshot below, it is clear that riding to work from my current home is a no-brainer. The 3.8km trip reliably takes only 10-13min, is convenient, direct, safe, enjoyable and a really simple way to get some exercise at the beginning and end of my work days. For me, cycling this trip is superior in every respect to all other transport modes, and this goes for all seasons, though winter is naturally less enjoyable. Of all of my common trips, the work commute is the one where cycling provides the greatest yearly benefits. See: My calculated benefits of cycling for transport

Home to Work (Treasury Place, East Melbourne)

- I would argue that commuting to work by bike for distances of 2-7km can be superior overall (based on time, convenience, cost, reliability, health) compared to other transport modes for many city residents if they have access to a safe-enough route and sort out the practical aspects (a suitable bike, secure bike parking, clothing, etc).

6. How far can you travel by bike in 30min and 45min from home?
-  Assuming commuting by bike is feasible the only key constraint on access is travel time. Jarrett Walker suggests 30min one-way is a reasonable benchmark. Using WalkScore one can calculate the area around a location that is reachable by bike within a 30min ride (presumably using Google's average bike speed). As you can see this is already quite a large area:

Walk Score - Fitzroy North: Commute Time = 30min cycle from home

- However, a quick review of this map tells me it isn't accurate enough. There are key cycling transport routes that are very efficient to travel significant distances on and this should create extended spines along them. E.g. St Georges Rd bike path heading north. I've found another mapping tool - How Far Can I Travel - which appears more precise. It also allows the exact average speed to be entered in drawing its boundaries. I entered 21km/hr as this is a little less than my average moving speed over more than 8,000km of riding.

- Though the How Far Can I Travel map is roughly accurate, I plan to use Strava trip recording and the Melbourne Grid map to map my 30min travel boundary along the key cycling arterial routes on my Grid map (e.g. the St Georges Rd bike path). I expect the actual extent of this cycling access to be quite surprising.

- Of course many people spend much more than 30min commuting one-way by car or public transport. Below is the reachable area for 45min at 21km/hr using bicycle routes. It is a very extensive area. It's clear from the 30min and 45min maps that cycling can provide excellent access to the majority of a person's destinations if there is a usable, connected grid of safe-enough cycling routes. See: Melbourne map of key cycling transport routes, infrastructure and destinations

7. How far from work can you live and commute by bike within 30min?
- For ensuring the feasibility of a work commute by bike, it is useful to create such travel time maps around your work location. Using the same tool, here is the 30min commutable area around my workplace (Treasury Place), which is at the east end of Melbourne's central business district. The exact boundaries are not the most interesting insight. What is important is how the extent of "abundant access" provided by cycling is dependent on the proximity to efficient cycling transport routes and the ability to avoid problematic obstacles (water, barriers, areas with dense intersections, getting caught up in traffic congestion).

How Far Can I Travel - Around workplace (Treasury Pl); 21km/hr; 30min; Bike mode

8. Maximising the extent of your cycling access range (typically ~30min one way)
- Cyclists often extend their cycling access range using time-saving measures such as:
(a) Filtering past cars wherever safe and feasible.
(b) Monitoring traffic lights and conditions and speeding up when necessary to avoid a wait.
(c) Nimbly avoiding obstructions and delays including taking shortcuts, weaving, getting off the bike, escaping to alternate routes.
(d) Riding at a faster pace when desirable and safe to do so.
(e) Leapfrogging slower cyclists and vehicles.
See: Bikes are faster door-to-door than cars or public transport within 5-10km

- Many cyclists also extend their access range by riding for longer than 30min one way. As many cyclists ride for exercise, to contribute to good health and because they enjoy it, they also may justify spending more than 30min getting to a destination because it isn't wasted time. Many cyclists with regular work commutes over 30min have come to willingly incorporate the time into their routine due to the inherent benefits they receive from cycling compared to the alternatives.

9. Trips I plan to record/map and explain how cycling facilitates destination access and maximum enjoyment of opportunities
- I plan to add examples of common urban trips to my Melbourne Grid map primarily to demonstrate the diversity of urban opportunities that cycling is the most satisfying way of getting to. In doing so, I also plan to identify the specific enablers, advantages and challenges relating to each trip. Some of the cycling trips planned for mapping are summarised below:

Trip; Location; DistanceExemplary reason why cycling has an access advantage
Aldi grocery store; Brunswick; 3kmNo efficient, east-west public transport
Fruit and vegetable market; Brunswick; 4kmCan be easily combined with another cycling destination (Aldi grocery store)
Friend's house; Northcote; 3kmIs the quickest way to get there on Australia's best cycling transport route (St Georges Rd bike path)
Football oval; Thornbury; 5kmIs the simplest way to get there on Australia's best cycling transport route (St Georges Rd bike path)
Brunch; Fitzroy; 2kmDozens more cafes (1-3km away) become "just around the corner" with a bike
Smith St restaurants; Collingwood; Extra 1kmAre not on the direct path home but my girlfriend and I (who both ride to work) can easily go the extra 1km to visit them on the way home
MCG sports ground; Richmond; 5km- Public transport takes longer and is jam packed. Car parking and getting in/out from such mass events is a nightmare.
- With a bike I get there quickest and can park right outside.
Indoor cricket; Northcote; 7kmIs is an isolated place I couldn't get to without a car. I wouldn't be able to participate unless I cycled.
Shopping; Melbourne CBD; 4kmCar parking in the city is expensive. Cycling is the quickest and simplest way to get there and get across the city to multiple destinations.
Open House Melbourne; Brunswick; 4km- A recreational weekend trip and wanted to enjoy the day outside. It would take much longer to walk.
- Cycling was very pleasant as the entire journey was off-road.
Taste of Melbourne food & wine festival; Albert Park; 8km- My friends drove but it was quicker and more enjoyable for me to ride.
- Having a fast and light bike and riding at a moving speed of 25km/hr made this trip very efficient.
Mordialloc food & wine festival; Mordialloc; 62km cycling, 21km on trainBeing able to easily combine using the train with cycling cut down the journey time significantly and opens up destinations far afield.
Airport; Tullamarine; 22kmA large part of the reason I prefer to ride is to get free, regular exercise. I could have saved 30min by using a taxi but preferred to get the exercise.
Wineries; Yarra Valley; 67km- Some friends used a hire car. The rest of us rode to Cog cafe and four wineries because it was simply more enjoyable.
- Careful planning of the route and selection of destinations enabled the route to be safe enough and the trip legs to be short enough.

10. Home to The Commons, Brunswick
Key enablers: Cycling is by far the quickest way to get to Brunswick. This is a classic case where public transport would require multiple connections and being very organised. Yet even the minimum public transport time is 300% longer than it took by bike, and that's just one way. This is a single leg trip with just one zig zag. Yet this one zig zag is enough to demonstrate a significant advantage of cycling over public transport. Note: Driving this route couldn't be done any quicker than cycling and parking is usually a hassle.

Public Transport Victoria - Journey planner from home to The Commons, Brunswick

- I was running late for a 5:30pm meeting at The Commons and cycling enabled me to leave at 5:18pm and still make it in time. I knew it would take only 15min at a normal pace. So I rode a bit quicker and got there right on time.

My Strava Activities: Home to The Commons, Brunswick

- You can see below how Melbourne's cycling grid worked beautifully for this trip - north from my home's residential street, then west on the off-road Capital City Trail, then north up a bike friendly route (inclusive of Truscott Ct which is one way for cars but two way for bikes), west again on a very efficient east-west route (Glenlyon/Dawson) and then north on the off-road Upfield bike path.

- It's also worth noting that when I last rode to The Commons it was with my girlfriend and we took the off-road Capital City Trail all the way west past Sydney Rd and then connected directly with the off-road Upfield bike path. This off-road route is much more pleasant and feels a lot safer, but it's less direct and riding speeds are lower. When riding on my own to destinations I usually take the most direct, safe-enough route on my grid.

- Finally be advised that I did ride through the red lights at the following intersections on this route:
(a) Where the Capital City Trail crosses Nicholson St as, when I'm in a hurry and there's no cars nearby, waiting here is a waste of time.
(b) Where the Upfield bike path crosses signalled intersections. The delay for pedestrians/cyclists at such crossings are ridiculous and they are very short and safe to cross if you simply slow down and look first. Most cyclists cross these intersections without waiting for a green light.

- In developing cycling cities, riding through red lights when perfectly safe to do so and inconveniencing no-one else is what experienced, regular cyclists do when confronted with time-wasting intersections.

Melbourne Grid Map - Trips: Home to The Commons, Brunswick

Further Info:
Human Transit (Jarrett Walker)
Jarrett Walker on "Abundant Access"
Human Transit: Abundant access

Gizmodo: This Map Shows You The Fastest Way to Get Anywhere In Your City

Free Map Tools
> How Far Can I Travel

Gpx2kml - Convert Gpx files (e.g. Strava) to Kml (Google Map Engine)