Differences Between Walking and Bicycling Over Time: Implications for Performance Measurement

Recent working paper:

Schoner, J., Lindsey, G., and Levinson, D. (2014) Differences Between Walking and Bicycling Over Time:  Implications for Performance Measurement

Walking and Biking Mode Shares in summer 2001 vs. 2010
Walking and Biking Mode Shares in summer 2001 vs. 2010
  • Transportation policies and plans encourage non-motorized transportation and the establishment of performance measures to assess progress towards multi-modal system goals. Challenges in fostering walking and bicycling include the lack of data for measuring rates of walking and bicycling over time and differences in pedestrians and bicyclists and the trips they make. This paper analyzes travel behavior inventories conducted by the Metropolitan Council in the Minneapolis-St. Paul Metropolitan Area in 2001 and 2010 to illuminate differences walking and bicycling over time and illustrate the implications for performance measurement. We focus on the who, what, where, when, and why of non-motorized transportation: who pedestrians and bicyclists are, where they go and why, when they travel, and what factors are associated with the trips they make. Measured by summer mode share, walking and bicycling both increased during the decade, but the differences between the modes overshadow their similarities. Using descriptive statistics, hypothesis testing, and multinomial logistic models, we show that walkers are different than bicyclists, that walking trips are shorter and made for different purposes, that walking and bicycling trips differ seasonally, and that different factors are associated with the likelihoods of walking or bicycling. While the increase in mode share was greater for walking than bicycling, the percentage increase relative to 2001 share was greater for bicycling than walking. Both walking and bicycling remain mainly urban transportation options. Older age reduces the likelihood of biking trips more than walking trips, and biking remains gendered while walking is not. These differences call into question the common practice of treating nonmotorized transportation as a single mode. Managers can use these results to develop performance measures for tracking progress towards system goals in a way that addresses the unique and different needs of pedestrians and bicyclists.

You don’t have to live like a refugee | streets.mn

Pedestrian refuge island, London, preceding the onslaught of the motorcar (via Flickr)
Pedestrian refuge island, London, preceding the onslaught of the motorcar (via Flickr)

Listen, it don’t really matter to me baby

You believe what you want to believe

You see you don’t have to live like a refugee (Don’t have to live like a refugee)

Yeah Somewhere, somehow, somebody

Must have kicked you around some

Tell me, why you wanna lay there

Revel in your abandon

It don’t make no difference to me baby

Everybody’s had to fight to be free

You see you don’t have to live like a refugee (Don’t have to live like a refugee)

Now baby you don’t have to live like a refugee (Don’t have to live like a refugee) No!

Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers – Refugee Lyrics | MetroLyrics

I think Tom Petty speaks not of the oppressed living in third world conditions, but rather his girlfriend. The lyrics however apply to the pedestrian trapped on refuge island between two stream of traffic (perhaps this post should be Islands in the Stream – nah)

The pedestrian refuge island allows the pedestrian to cross some of the lanes of a roadway without crossing all of the lanes of a roadway. If the lanes are going in two directions, this might decrease the travel time to cross the street, by increasing the likelihood of finding a safe gap in traffic (since you are more likely to find an acceptable gap in fewer lanes than more lanes) and reduce the number of objects the pedestrian is looking for.


The refuge island is presumably a safety improvement (the evidence is that all else equal, it is: See, e.g. Retting et al. (2003) for a review of this and other crash counter-measures). However pedestrians with pedestrian refuge islands may also be more aggressive and ignore traffic control devices since there is a refuge only a few lanes away. (I have observed this to happen almost daily), particularly when lights are timed with long cycles (e.g. resulting in waits > 50s). It also adds to the total crossing distance, and potentially time if there are no cars (remember most roads are empty most of the time). But these effects are smaller than the main  safety benefit.

So far, so good – safety first and all. However, the existence of the refuge island makes it possible for the traffic engineer, and worse the driver, to even further subjugate the needs and rights of pedestrians. It creates an environment where the pedestrian must seek refuge from oncoming traffic (which implicitly has the right-of-way, rather one where the motor vehicles must yield to pedestrians who seek to cross.

Charlotte Complete Streets-Rozzelles Ferry Road  Charlotte completely revamped Rozzelles Ferry Road. The streetscape was enhance by the addition of street trees and planting strips, while pedestrian crossing opportunities--as indicated by the crosswalk and corresponding refuge median--were added along the length of the road to make walking a breeze. The bike lanes facilitate cycling on road that previously unsuitable for riding. Photo: Charmeck.org (via Flickr, Creative Commons license)
Charlotte Complete Streets-Rozzelles Ferry Road
“Charlotte completely revamped Rozzelles Ferry Road. The streetscape was enhance by the addition of street trees and planting strips, while pedestrian crossing opportunities–as indicated by the crosswalk and corresponding refuge median–were added along the length of the road to make walking a breeze. The bike lanes facilitate cycling on road that previously unsuitable for riding.”
Photo: Charmeck.org (via Flickr, Creative Commons license)

This is a problem of first best and second best. In a second best world, where pedestrians have no rights, this is the literal life-jacket being thrown to them so they don’t sink in the traffic stream. In a first best world, there would be no stream in which to sink. Life should not be a game of Frogger.

cross-posted at streets.mn

Walking Distances


We often use 1/4 mile (400 meters for my SI-using allies) as the walk-shed for transit. This is too short. See e.g. these graphics from the Snelling Arterial BRT study, which draws radii around stops. 1/4 mile does not even get you from one end of Rosedale Mall (which isn’t even the biggest Mall in the Twin Cities) to the other, and many people make a full circuit, on two floors, inside the mall, on foot. If we have nice enough environments, we should expect people to walk a 1/2 mile to 1 mile with no problem, shopping mall developers do, and they are far more mercenary than the public sector.

Elements of Access: Transport Planning for Engineers, Transport Engineering for Planners. By David M. Levinson, Wes Marshall, Kay Axhausen.
Elements of Access: Transport Planning for Engineers, Transport Engineering for Planners. By David M. Levinson, Wes Marshall, Kay Axhausen.

A longer assumed walk-shed has many advantages. It allows us to increase spacing between stops, which increases running speed, which makes transit more attractive for those already on-board. We always trade-off running time for access time (higher access time for lower running time, e.g. when we space stops farther apart.)

Jarrett Walker at Human Transit, discusses the issue and notes that in many urban areas there is no need to walk farther than 400 m, so we don’t know what people would do. He also notes the difference between radiuses and network distances.

Schlossberg and Agrawal also discuss this in: How Far, By Which Route, and Why? A Spatial Analysis of Pedestrian Preference. They find the average pedestrian trip to a rail station was 0.47 miles (nearly 800 m). Guerra, Cervero, and Tischler ask “The Half-Mile Circle: Does It Best Represent Transit Station Catchments?” and argue it is useful (and a slightly better predictor) for the residence end of trips, though shorter distances (1/4 mile) at the work-end makes are slightly better predictors.

In short, I believe people will walk longer than we typically credit if we can make decent walkable urban environments, environments which lead people to under-estimate the actual time involved (as the saying goes: time flies when you are having fun) because their mind is not on how awful the walk is, but about how interesting the environment is.

Nobody walks to Saint Paul | streets.mn

Cross-posted at streets.mn I complain about pedestrian conditions in Nobody walks to Saint Paul :

“clearly the [sidewalk] network is less complete than the automobile street network. One could look on the bright side, and say this just means the city is trying to implement shared spaces, just unevenly, but that implies a progressive intentionality that I think we know is lacking.”

Nobody walks to Saint Paul

A Path to Desnoyer Park in St. PaulLet me tell you about two trips from my home, in Minneapolis, just three blocks from the St. Paul city line.The first was with my kids to use the Desnoyer Park Playground, which is (sadly) nicer than any walkable playground nearby in Minneapolis. The kids ask for it by name. Google Maps places it 1.1 miles away by walking. Normally we drive (it might be a stop on part of a longer shopping trip, and is a good place for the kids to get their “yahs” out), but on one of the few pleasant weekend days of 2013, we walked. We used this route (shown below). It was filled with broken glass, uneven railroad tracks, and lack of sidewalks. It’s somewhat industrial, so its lack of aesthetics was not surprising, but it is hard to see the nature of the unwalkability from the car. The walk will not be repeated. The reason for using this path is that the next shortest alternative crossed the Mn280 on and off-ramps, which were highly undesirable to walk on (see next paragraph). We walked back via East River Parkway, but the distance (1.3 miles) while seemingly not much different, is both 0.5 miles longer round trip, more complex, and hillier. Even East River Parkway does not have sidewalks on both sides of the road, though the grassy strip is ok in the late spring. Ideally there would be a pedestrian crossing of I-94 at Emerald or Bedford to St. Anthony Avenue, but I suspect pedestrian demand is too low to warrant such a crossing (certainly it would not be anyone’s highest priority).

A Path Along Franklin Avenue in St. Paul

The second was from my house to the Jimmy Johns subshop at University/Franklin and Pelham (0.6 miles). I took this route (2nd map). Believe it or not, the sidewalks on Franklin Avenue are not complete (photo via Google Street View). Just east of Curfew Street, you are forced into the street before you can walk on a grassy strip where a sidewalk should be. (This is across Franklin from the Court International building) I could have crossed Franklin Avenue (twice) to complete the trip on sidewalks, but that seemed stupid. There is also a really terrible pedestrian interface at the Mn280 Interchange, but at least it has crossing signals and sidewalks.

Franklin Avenue at Curfew in St. Paul

I don’t have an accurate map of all the sidewalks in the metro area (if anyone does, please share), but clearly the network is less complete than the automobile street network. One could look on the bright side, and say this just means the city is trying to implementshared spaces, just unevenly, but that implies a progressive intentionality that I think we know is lacking.

My conclusion from this is that (1) St. Paul hates (PC edit) is strongly indifferent to the bipedal mobility needs of the residents of Minneapolis and does not want any inter-municipal pedestrian travel, and/or (2) St. Paul doesn’t much like pedestrians.

Google Street View of Franklin Avenue in St. Paul



Arbor Lakes – A pedestrian explores the suburbs — streets.mn

Cross-posted from streets.mn:  Arbor Lakes – A pedestrian explores the suburbs

Arbor Lakes – A pedestrian explores the suburbs.

On a date night with my wife, we recently visited Arbor Lakes in Maple Grove (Map below). Maple Grove is a suburban area northeast of the interchange of I-94/I-694 and I-494. The areas abutting the freeway are devoted to retail. Beyond that is housing. Much of the area used to be quarry, some of it still is. This leaves lots of holes in the ground, which fill with water, which we call lakes, and Minnesotans like lakes, so these are considered a feature.Much of the shopping district is auto-oriented, a simple look at the aerial photos indicates a large share of this territory is parking lots and big boxes. There are however three pedestrian-friendly regions of this shopping complex. (Ignoring the insides of buildings, which are of course pedestrian-only zones).The first is Main Street. Main Street is abutted by 2-story buildings with shops and restaurants, and short blocks. There is some parallel parking on street, and the buildings back to more parking. The pedestrian oriented part of Main Street is just north of Elm Creek Boulevard and proceeds for five blocks. Some of the side streets even connect not-so-terribly to nearby big box centers (e.g. The Toys ‘R’ Us block) or local medium density housing. According to wikipedia, this was built from 1997-2001.

Main Street crosses Arbor Lakes Parkway near its North End and on one side of the street is even more retail, followed by a park. The other side is a modern, but awfully situated government building. The building is set back from the Street, has one entrance (on the far side of all the pedestrian traffic), and is otherwise unwelcoming to walk-up traffic. It needsdoors (Just north of the government center is a nice park area as well). I am sure there are historical reasons for the building giving its back to the street, (like lack of foresight by the designers, and post 9/11 security paranoia), but it results in an abrupt end to what could be a more lively street-face. Arbor Lakes Parkway is four lanes (flaring to five at the intersection), and is reasonably acceptable to cross on foot, though the crosswalks don’t land on the median (i.e. the median dies before the crosswalk), which is odd, though surely for the convenience of drivers making faster turns.

On the southern edge of this pedestrian area, Main Street tries to cross Elm Creek Boulevard. At the intersection, Elm Creek Boulevard flares to seven lanes. At this pedestrian actuated signal, the pedestrian light turns to red just as we completed crossing. On the one hand, this is maximally efficient timing. On the other hand, if I were just a bit slower, I would be stranded in the middle of the intersection. There is a pedestrian landing at the median here, but it is at the end of the second lane, so I don’t quite yet realize that I am going to be stuck with a red light in front of me as cars trying to cross have a green light. Nervous pedestrians might be tempted to run by the almost instantaneous switch to a flashing Don’t Walk (which really just means Don’t Start Walking).

Main Street does cross though, and I see two restaurants on the south side of this intersection, but they are oriented to their respective parking lots, not the sidewalk. And their parking lots are giants. Which is too bad, because I can see in the walkable distance (about 500m) another place I might want to walk. There is a movie theatre anchoring the west end of a pedestrian oriented shopping street, a lifestyle center in the jargon, an outdoor mall. So we walked there, past the parked cars.


And we reached a less interesting, but still viable center going by the name of The Shoppes at Arbor Lakes (opened 2003), which is like a smaller version of any of the Dales without a roof and without a “Dayton’s” Department Store. It also has the Maple Grove Transit Center (a Park and Ride ramp). It has seen recent change (its east anchor, Borders Books, recently went out of business). You are not however expected to continue going forever. Unlike the grid of the city which offers continuing potential of surprise, that something might happen if I walk to the end of the block and turn the corner, the East Anchor stops the center. You can drive down part of the middle of this outdoor Mall, but a pedestrian-only block (Arbor Park) prohibits through traffic. The middle of the mall is street like, but seems nameless. I will call it Fountains Way because that is the street that aligns with it on the East. This would annoy the developer however, as that is the name of the next shopping center.That the center stops is good, because on the other side of the building is a parking lot connected to a freeway entrance ramp via Hemlock Lane, and who wants to see that. It is bad, because on the other side of Hemlock (about 300m to the east of The Shoppes edge) is Fountains Drive, connected via Fountains Way, another shopping district, which is in fact walkable. But that section is only 2 blocks long. And behind it are large big box stores. The Fountains (c. 2007) is considered a hybrid-power center.

The Arbor Lakes Business Association identifies these three districts: Main Street, The Shoppes (by Cousins), and the Fountains, as three separate areas, and clearly we are the only people in the history of Arbor Lakes to have walked between the first two, much less the third.

The business association is correct, “Arbor Lakes has it all”. Unfortunately, it is all scattered about.

The lessons:

  1. Developers are capable of creating pleasant walkable places with fine grained streets.
  2. Contiguity is an important consideration. If everyone is driving everywhere, leapfrog development is not such a problem, there is a small fixed cost of getting in the car and a variable cost of driving. If you want people to walk, it is a problem, since the variable cost increases significantly with distance. How you accomplish this in a decentralized piecemeal development process (so it doesn’t take 30 years to complete) is not obvious, but is important. This is where some kind of planning is important, either on the part of the master developers who control everything, or the government, or a negotiated compact between the individual property owners. Suppose the individual developers pooled their land and the profits in a joint venture, would the planning outcome have been better?
  3. Suburban shopping centers are a place that most people will drive to, in order to walk around. Yet the developers seem to be selfishly irrational trying to keep their own center as a walled garden, rather than tying into adjacent centers. That is, it would have been just as easy for the Shoppes at Arbor Lakes to build its walkable center abutting Main Street on the West, so that people could and would have walked there from Main Street, as surrounding it on all sides with parking. Similarly, The Fountains could have put the Pedestrian Zone on Fountains Drive, tying it to the adjacent Shoppes better, so some customers of the Shoppes would walk to the Fountains (and vice versa). The Shoppes could also have been designed to connect to the Fountains. [Admittedly the Shoppes would need to be twice the size to reach both the Fountains and Main Street, so initially only one would be possible with the finite number of small stores. If the Big Box stores were also reoriented, something more could be done.]. Yes you might lose some business as people comparison shop in the next center over, but you also gain from the adjacent center, I am sure the net loss/gain is small. More importantly, there is a positive externality of creating a walking district where people come from other market-sheds to visit.
  4. The interface between pedestrian realms and automobile realms is generally ugly, and here it is really ugly because you have pedestrian only areas near auto only areas (freeways). I firmly believe in grade separations as a tool that should be considered where appropriate. Here the elevations don’t make it very easy or convenient. Pedestrians should not be forced to climb stairs or steep ramps for such crossings, while moving cars up or down is pricey. Yet pedestrians crossing Hemlock Lane or Elm Creek Boulevard in large numbers at grade is apparently seen as not practical by the authorities that be, hence the division into three zones in the first place. Transforming Hemlock Lane or Elm Creek Boulevard into pedestrian-friendly streets is Quixotic at best, and a drain of resources better applied elsewhere at worst.
  5. There is also the question of how much retail Maple Grove, or anywhere, could possibly need. I suspect we are at or near Peak Retail, so in 10 or 20 years time, much of this will be abandoned (some already is, witness Borders among others), and retrenchment and consolidation would be in order.
  6. Important parking lot rows really ought to be named streets. (Even if they legally are not dedicated). I can’t describe them adequately without resorting to a map, and the map doesn’t have names. This really hurts wayfinding.

[We went because my wife got a coupon to the restaurant Zushiya, which was cromulent, but not of itself worth the drive. I think my wife thought it was in Maplewood, which is closer to her work than Maple Grove]

The Elements of Vibe

What is vibe? Vibe is the vitality of street life, the feeling that there is something going on, of being where the action is. Successful places have vibe, dead places don’t. We don’t want vibe everywhere and probably can’t support it. But surely we could have more active places then we do now with a better location of activities.
We drive to places we can walk around, rather than walk around our own neighborhood, unless we happen to live in a place with vibe.
Why do we want to walk around? Because there are multiple things to do: find food, browse books, hear music, entice the intellect, stimulate the senses. This concentration of activities only happens because of the crowds around, and the crowds only gather because of the concentration. More begets more.
These are ‘economies of agglomeration’ as the economists might say or perhaps ‘network effects’. But they allow for the spontaneous walk-in business rather than the planned trip. Many businesses are unlikely to attract spontaneous walk-ins, for instance vacuum cleaner repairs, [I don’t normally walk around with a vacuum cleaner on the hope I will find a repair shop] and thus lose little by not being located in the center of action and save much on rent. Some restaurants are so good, they require a reservation, and thus there is little spill-in traffic. But other businesses, by saving on rent, are foregoing additional business.
Moreover, those businesses are denying potential spillover traffic to their would-be neighbors. It is a calculation that proprietors must do for themselves, but there is a coordination function that a good entrepreneur can serve, matching businesses that attract walk-ins with compatible stores, and maybe subsidizing (lowering the rent for) those that generate more spill-over traffic than they attract.
There are three seeds:
* A concentration of people (customers, though they need not be spending money, that helps)
* A concentration of stuff (suppliers, who need not be selling)
* An environment that encourages people to spend time doing stuff (marketplace)
People concentrate for a variety of reasons – to exploit the material resources of the earth, to have safety in numbers, to find a pool of potential mates, or simply because it is at the intersections of routes between two other places. These intersections (nodes in transportation lingo), create opportunities. In the streetcar era, people might change lines at a node, and those pedestrians would create the streetlife necessary to support new businesses. In the highway era the scale changed, and nodes are the interchanges of freeways. Businesses, and especially shopping malls, take advantage of these points of high accessibility. But the shopping mall is now clearly the destination, not a side-product of a transfer point in the same way street-car corners were.
Some further assertions about human nature:
People like pleasant climates – dry, not too hot, not too cold, clean air, not too loud.
People want to feel safe – they don’t want a car careening out of control disturbing their sidewalk café meal, they don’t want to think they will get run over crossing the street.
People are lazy – they don’t want to walk too far to get where they are going. If they are driving, they want easy convenient parking near their destination. They like to cross the street midblock and don’t want to have to walk to intersections.
People are cheap – they don’t want to pay for that easy convenient parking, they prefer lower to higher prices for the same good.
The last two be summarized by the idea that “People take the path of least resistance�?.
Observing cities around the world with an informed, but casual analysis leads me to assert some rules about the environment that lead to vibrancy.
Buildings on the sidewalk – vibrant areas have buildings that abut sidewalks with not large gaps between the building and the walk. The density of activity is necessarily reduced by space between building and path (and thus other buildings).
Sidewalks on the street – to have vibe, sidewalks must abut the street, or *be* he street in pedestrian only areas. Pedestrian only areas can work, and anyone who says otherwise has other interests at heart. This does not mean that they will work, but given the right environment, people would prefer to shop without having to look out for motorized vehicles.
Streets move slowly – fast streets make pedestrians feel unsafe, and thus reduces the benefits of being on the sidewalk. Ideally streets are moving at pedestrian speed in the pedestrian area. Of course streets leading to the pedestrian area move faster, or people could not get there.
Vehicle space on the street is minimal – wide streets increase the distance pedestrians must walk to reach other activities. Narrow streets give access to more stuff in less time. Hence the reason many enclosed shopping malls work better than many shopping streets is the density of stuff is fairly tight.
Street two way – One way streets may not be inherently problematic, but one-way streets are generally that way to move more vehicle traffic faster through the area, which is the opposite goal of moving pedestrians between buildings within the area.
Opportunities to explore just around the corner – hidden (pleasant) surprises are one of the things that make cities interesting to be in, if I go around this corner what will I discover. The same opportunities do not exist in an enclosed shopping mall, where everything is pre-mapped and tightly controlled, and I know each “block” ends at a parking ramp. Hidden unpleasant surprises however are one of the things that can kill a city, I don’t want to experience dread when I walk down an alley attached to my favorite shopping street.
This set of rules is by no means complete, but rules like these created streetlife in streetcar era places, and they create vibe in the better shopping malls.