Our Ride With The New Director Of MassBike

When our Founder went to the sending off party for then Director of MassBike David Watson at Ride Studio Cafe, he did not expect to meet David's replacement, but that is exactly what happened. There behind the Ride Studio Cafe bar handing out drinks and chatting up the revelers stood the new Director of MassBike, Richard Fries. Our Founder being the mingler he is and possessing the desire to see Brockton and the Greater Brockton Area become a cycling mecca, took that opportunity to engage the new Director. During their conversation our Founder passed Richard his business card and asked him to come ride Brockton with him so that the new Director could understand the riding conditions Brockton cyclist face daily. A few weeks passed and then finally our Founder received an email from Richard asking to take that ride. Understandably our Founder was excited and emails flew back and forth trying to determine when their schedules were in alignment to hold the ride. Finally April 22nd was decided to be the day the ride was to take place. 

As April 22nd approached our Founder reached out to Brockton city officials and local cyclist to gather up people to join the ride and share their experiences riding Brockton with the new Director. The route selected was a small tour of Brockton taking the group through all the neighborhoods of the city for a good holistic understanding of riding conditions. The route included hills, highly trafficked roads, and rough riding conditions due to a lack of street maintenance. As the group rode Richard interacted with all participants, getting to know each one to understand their experience riding Brockton and what their desires were about improving cycling in the city. Our Founder and Richard discussed the issues of speeding, a lack for respect for cyclist on the road, and just the general all over attitude within the city and the Greater Brockton Area that bicycle do not belong on the roads. It was no surprise to our Founder after the ride Richard praised Brockton for being a city that could become a cycling hot spot. 

At the conclusion of the ride and arrival at 70 School St, Richard spoke with the Director and Assistant Director of the Old Colony Planning Council expressing his belief Brockton has the right stuff to be a bicycle city. From there we headed to Elvera's Cafe for some lunch and coffee and to speak further about Brockton's potential. The conversation was exciting and encouraging. Richard expressed his believe in Brockton and his amazement in the city. He spoke on how he could see high quality bicycle infrastructure could be implemented within the city due to its very wide roads and its urban density. He spoke further about ways he was looking to move MassBike forward and increase it available funding to advocate for more bicycle infrastructure and bicycle friendly policy throughout the Commonwealth. We then ended our lunch meeting back at the offices of the Old Colony Planning Council where he expressed his desire to form a South Shore chapter of MassBike. Our Founder suggested strongly that the seat of this new chapter reside in Brockton, and he feels Richard agreed. From there everyone said their good byes and off we all went.

Since this initial meeting our Founder has followed up with Richard expressing his desire to move the process of making Brockton a cycling mecca forward. We can say here with confidence that our Founder is going to be pushing for this South Shore chapter of MassBike to be established and for its seat of operation to be located in Brockton. This is only the beginning folks, its going to be an awesome ride. 


Bicycle Master Plan: Why we need one in the Greater Brockton Area


As many people that ride around Brockton and her suburbs might experience daily, there is a serious lack of adequate bicycle infrastructure. Part of the reason for this lack of bicycle infrastructure has to do with available funding, the other part has to do with the lack of a truly comprehensive Bicycle Master Plan for the area. For those that might not know what a bicycle master plan is, it is a document that guides local and Commonwealth government on how to go about developing bicycle infrastructure in a given area. Without a bicycle master plan for Brockton and her suburbs, no one knows where and how to start developing bicycle lanes and other bicycle related amenities. In order for the Greater Brockton Area to develop better cycling infrastructure,  we need our own Bicycle Master Plan. 

Now as you can see from the map above, some work has already been done by the Old Colony Planning Council in the way of measuring bicycle Level of Service on key roads in Brockton and other towns in their planning region. We are just using the Brockton map here due to it being the biggest city in the area. What you can gather from the map, Brockton, along with other towns in the region do not have very good bicycle Level of Service due to their lack of bicycle infrastructure. One of the first orders of business the cycling community should partake in, is forming bicycle advisory committees in their towns to raise awareness of the need for bicycle infrastructure.  

How do you form these bicycle committees you ask, simply contact your local Town or City officials and explain to them you would like to start a bicycle advisory committee. Our suggestion as to which department you should try first is your Town or City's Planning Department. If no Planning Department exist, or the Planning Department expresses no interest, then we recommend you speak to your City Council or Board of Selectmen concerning the matter. If these Town or City officials still express no interest, then I would recommend you speak with your Commonwealth Official from your district and contact Velo Urbano along with MassBike (your Commonwealth Bicycle Coalition) so that they and we may contact officials in your Town and City concerning establishing a bicycle advisory committee. 

If Town or City Officials question the need for a Bicycle Master Plan in your community, simply explain to them the benefits to having bicycle related infrastructure. Having bicycle related infrastructure will promote the safety and welfare of cyclist in the community. Bicycle infrastructure will spur more cycling in your Town or City, and cyclist tend to spend more than drivers at local businesses. Traveling by bicycle saves not only the cyclist money by not having to fuel a car or pay for parking, but it also saves the Town, City, and the Commonwealth money due to less wear and tear on Town, City, and Commonwealth roads. Bicycle transportation is also good for the environment and the health of the community. It is also the purview of the Commonwealth to see a mode shift of about 2% from automobile travel to bicycle transportation as was laid out by then Secretary of Transportation for the Commonwealth Richard Davey and the Deval Patrick administration, and is now supported by the new Baker administration.

Once the Town or City is on board with forming Bicycle Advisory Committees, the Committees should meet to discuss the over all vision of the Bicycle Master Plan. Once a vision for the plan has been determined, the committee should start selecting which roads should be apart of the Bicycle Master Plan and what cycling amenities they would like to see. Theses Bicycle Advisory Committees should determine if they want the bicycle transportation network to be more for recreational cycling purposes, cycling for transportation, or both. After deciding the purpose of the bicycle network, a selection process pertaining to which roads should be used in the Bicycle Master Plan should be developed. Roads could be selected based on their directness to certain destination in the Town or City, on volume of traffic, or the scenic nature of the road selected to be apart of the bicycle network. The Bicycle Advisory Committees should ask their Town or City for the necessary traffic data to help make these determination. If the Town or City does not have this data, it can be obtained through your Regional Planning Agency. 

After all the data has been gathered, roads selected, and cycling amenities determined, it is time for your Town or City to start drafting the language for the Bicycle Master Plan. Depending on the size of your Town or City, the breadth of your bicycle network, and available funding, it can take a few months to a year to complete the Bicycle Master Plan. Once the plan is completed, it will go out for public review and comment which is good for the document. By allowing the public to speak on what they like and do not about the Bicycle Master Plan will help craft a better plan for your community. 

Once the Bicycle Master Plan has been completed, public feed back heard and worked into the document, then the plan can be finalized and its implementation should embarked upon. It is paramount that the bicycle advisory committee continue to meet to make sure the plan gets rolled out by the City or Town and that plan as conceived is carried out. 

Only after recommendations from the Bicycle Master Plan have been implemented will your Town or City  see improvements for cyclist and see bicycle ridership grow. We encourage anyone reviewing this blog that might have questions to please reach out to us and we will answer them to the best of our ability or put you in contact with someone that can. We look forward to seeing bicycle committees form in the Greater Brockton Area and attending their meetings. 

Bike Trains: All aboard!

Some of you may be wondering after reading the title, what is a bike train, others might be assuming these are real passenger trains that allow bikes on. So let me break down for you what a bike train is. Bike trains are a group of bike commuters that meet up along different points of a defined route to achieve greater safety by riding in packs. Bike train usually have a leader which most bike train organizations call the conductor (sticking with the train theme), and this conductor leads the group along a route looking out for the other cyclist and making sure the group arrives at their stated time points to pick up other riders on schedule. There are many examples of bike trains throughout the Commonwealth and Nation, one example would be the bicycle convoys Boston Bikes talks about on their website and another example would be the bike trains written about a few issues back in Bicycling magazine that take place in Los Angeles California.  

Bike trains are usually formed in the communities they are in due to a need for greater cyclist safety. This desire for greater cyclist safety is what prompted the creator of Los Angeles' bike train network to develop her website and launch her cycling initiatives. The reasons she mentioned for starting the network are pretty much the reason people here in Brockton and her suburbs state to be the reasons they do not bike to work. The issues being the concern about riding in traffic, safety,  which streets are more conducive to cycling, how do I get from point A to B by bicycle, and what equipment do I need and what should I bring with me to make my bike commute a success. 

These issues here in Brockton and her suburbs are no different than those in Los Angeles, which means Brockton and her suburbs should have a bike train network and there is no reason it cannot be as successful as they are in Boston and Los Angeles. Now that I have made this statement, you are probably wondering along which roads and through which towns would these bike trains operate. If you follow the link below, you will view Velo Urbano's proposed bike train network : https://www.google.com/maps/d/edit?mid=z74_sxby72As.kVwh_UWPu0kM

My reasons for choosing the routes that you see in the map are due to those routes having lower traffic volumes in some cases, others having nice wide shoulders one could ride their bikes in, and another being that the selected path made the most sense in that particular town the route would travel through. The way these bike trains would work is that a group of people would form a bike train, time points would be set for the stops posted on the map, and people would jump on to the train as it rode by their location along the route. There could be one large single bike train group that would travel a particular bike train route, or their could be multiple groups traveling a particular route at different times of the day. This bike train network could also augment an individuals commuting mode. Lets say a person needed to take the train into Boston, however, this person does not live near a commuter rail station, this individual could link up with one of the bike train routes that goes by a commuter rail station. By utilizing the bike train network, this individual would be able to ride in comfort knowing he/she is safer due to riding in a group and would be saving money by not having to park his/her vehicle at the train station.

Bike trains are not just for the adult commuter. A special form of bike train geared towards school children, both High School and younger could be established to give students a fun alternative to walking or being driven to school. The benefits of having a school bike train is that it gets kids out riding their bikes giving them some exercise all a while helping alleviate the traffic congestion a lot of schools experience during the morning and afternoon child pick up periods. Now I understand parents reading this might be shocked at the idea of letting their children ride their bikes to school out of the concern for safety. However, safety is what bike trains are all about and bikes trains that have children in them tend to have a higher degree of safety built into them as they should be. The common practice with bike trains that have children in them, is that they not only have one train conductor, but they usually have two to three conductors. Bike trains with children in have one conductor leading the group and another conductor riding at the end of the group making sure the kids remain safe while riding and helping fix any mechanical problems they might have.  When a bike train involving kids has a third conductor, this is just one more additional person out there making sure the kids remain safe and that above all, the kids are having a great time riding their bikes to school.

Brockton and her suburbs need to have a good and effective bike train network people can utilize to get to work or school and back. Having a comprehensive bike train network will not only keep people that bike to work and school safe, but encourage people to commute to work by bike. Having more cyclist out on the roads will also be a boon for those that travel by other modes of transport, as it will help reduce car traffic since there will be less cars on the road, and help speed up travel times for those drivers and transit users since there will be less car traffic reducing travel speeds and causing delays. Lets also not forget the benefits to the local economy having more cyclist out on the road will bring due to an effective bike train network. Having more bike commuters out on the road will also bring local business more money since cyclist tend to spend more money at local establishments than automobile drivers. Have a bike train network will not only benefit those that choose to bike to work, but those that choose to travel to work by other means and to those business owners that these bike commuters will frequent. 

Protect Bike Lanes And The Need For Them In Brockton


For those of you that read our previous blog entry: Up & Coming Downtown Means Better Urban Cycling In Brockton, you can probably tell we are pretty gung ho about the future of Downtown Brockton and Brockton in general. As Brockton rises and we here at Velo Urbano wish to see it become a cycling mecca, we got to thinking on what Brockton needs to do to achieve this status. After some thought, we came up with a number of needed bicycle infrastructure investments, but there is one in particular we would like to talk about today - protected bike lanes. For the folks not familiar with protected bike lanes their concept is simple, they are a bike only lane with a width of 5' or greater utilizing a barrier of some sort to keep motorized vehicles out of the lane to eliminate conflict between bicycles and cars. An example of a protected bike can be viewed in the picture above. The picture above shows the Prospect Park protected bike lane in Brooklyn NY which utilizes parked cars as the physical barrier keeping cyclist safe from moving vehicles. 

With protected bike lanes on key routes throughout Brockton, the most timid of cyclist will be encouraged to ride due to the feeling of safety these specialized bike lanes provide. According to researched reviewed by City Lab, an online publication that speaks on city related issues, they found in their research review that cities which installed protected bike lanes saw ridership gains of  21 to 171% along the corridor in which the new protected bike lanes were installed, and 10% of those riders were new riders. 

Protected bike lanes, bike lanes in general, and other bicycle related infrastructure have been shown to be of economic benefit to the business in proximity to these investments. According to research conducted by the national bicycle advocacy group People For Bikes, it found in Portland Oregon that cyclist spent 24% more per month on average than those that traveled by car with similar findings in Toronto Canada and New Zealand. The reason for the higher per month average spending by those that traveled by bicycle rather than car is due to the fact that people that traveled by bike made more frequent visits than those that visited a local business by automobile during the same month. 

Protect bike lanes are also great for real estate investments too. It was found in the publication Protected Bike Lanes Mean Business: How 21st Century Transportation Networks Help New Urban Economies Boom, that for every quarter mile a home was near a bicycle trail in Minneapolis and St. Paul MN, its value increased by $510. Similar findings were also discovered in the state of Indiana. Homes that were located near Indiana's Monon Bike Trail sell for 11% more than homes further away from this trail. Available data also shows that community members value the investment a city makes in protected bike lanes. For example, 83% of residents located near Washing D.C.'s 15th Street protected bike lanes said the protected bike lanes was a valuable benefit to their neighborhood. 

Having protected bike lanes can also attract companies to setup shop in Brockton. As venture capital and knowledge base businesses increasingly seek to move into urban areas, they are ever increasingly looking at cities that have invested in things like cycling related infrastructure. According to interviews conducted by People For Bikes in their research for Protected Bike Lanes Mean Business: How 21st Century Transportation Networks Help New Urban Economies Boom, the companies interviewed stated protected bike lanes and bicycle related transportation investments were a big factor in choosing where to locate their organizations. These companies explained investment in bicycle related facilities were also key to attracting a highly skilled workforce as this workforce is increasing deciding were to live and work base on the availability of these type of facilities. As more workers demand these type of bicycle related assets be present in a city before they move there, it is key Brockton invest in this type of bicycle transportation facilities to ensure it has the right stuff to attract this type of highly skilled workforce and the companies that employ them.  

If Brockton were to invest in bicycle related transportation infrastructure like protected bike lanes, it could see the ridership gains along with the benefits to real estate and the business sector as was presented in the data findings mention here today. Velo Urbano believe in Brockton and its abilities to do the things we spoke about in this blog entry, because it makes sense to do them and we see the city being open to investments in bicycle related infrastructure. With a little gumption we believe Brockton can develop into this cyclist mecca we here at Velo Urbano would like to see it become. We encourage all reading this blog entry to reach out to their city councilors and ask them to have Brockton invest in bicycle related facilities like bike lanes and protected bike lanes. These investments will only make the city better, its people richer, and a great place to call home. 

Anderson, Michael  & Hall, Mary Lauran. Protected Bike Lanes Mean Business: How 21st Century Transportation Networks Help New Urban Economies Boom. Retrieved from https://www.deldot.gov/information/community_programs_and_services/bike/pdf/2014/Protected_Bike_Lanes.pdf

Clifton, Kelly J , Morrissey, Sara, & Ritter, Chloe. Business Cycles: Catering To The BIcycle Market, TR New 280. Retrieved from http://kellyjclifton.com/Research/EconImpactsofBicycling/TRN_280_CliftonMorrissey&Ritter_pp26-32.pdf