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The first study comparing cargo bicycles and car ownership shows that most riders find their bikes superior

At least in Germany, where the study was held. Nonetheless, the cargo bicycle advantages are not merely theoretical. Researchers took 2,590 people who rode cargo bikes and surveyed their car ownership status along with their opinions comparing the two options. The results show not only that car ownership goes down when people ride cargo bikes, but respondents claimed that their bikes were superior by almost every metric.

You can read the full study here: “Can cargo bikes compete with cars? Cargo bike sharing users rate cargo bikes superior on most motives – Especially if they reduced car ownership.”

The data reveals that 18% of cargo bike riders either got rid of a car they already owned, or they had planned to buy a car but ultimately chose not to.

But that’s just part of the story. When participants rated how their bikes compared to cars, bikes won in most categories, especially in ones that they selected as more important.

Cargo bikes were rated superior in categories like: flexibility, low price, no stress, freedom, pleasure, social recognition, self-expression, and environmentally friendly. The only categories that cars won were, perhaps unsurprisingly: travel speed, comfort, weather-independence, and just barely traffic safety.

Ratings of cargo bikes and cars with regard to different motives.

Of course there may be a degree of selection bias. The study targeted people in Germany who already use cargo bikes. But I don’t believe that detracts from the main takeaway. Outside’s Velo made this observation:

“Duh,” you’re probably saying to yourself. “Of course someone using a cargo bike will cut down their car ownership! You don’t buy a cargo bike to not use it.”

What’s more interesting is that surveyed people agreed that cargo bikes are better than cars across nearly all aspects, regardless of whether the person was considered car-dependent or had reduced car ownership outright.

This is what makes the study significant. It challenges the conventional wisdom (at least in North America) that cars are naturally superior to all other modes of transportation. Our governments have capitalized on this belief to justify huge investments into single-use car infrastructure at the expense of every other mobility option, and usually at enormous deficits. The reality is that even a car-dependent person may find a bicycle superior to their car at times.

Looking beyond the car-versus-bicycle dichotomy, there’s another obvious truth this study reveals. Different people have different preferences for their transportation, and some people may enjoy choosing from many options. They can be “car-dependent” but still want the choice to ride a bike. This may seem self-evident, but even this is a radical idea in a culture that values car-superiority.

If it’s easy for us in North America to see these studies and say “that won’t work here,” then maybe now is the time for us to instead ask, why won’t we let it work here?

People Powered Movement reports on bicycle safety in Columbus Georgia

People Powered Movement, an organization that focuses on improving bicycle advocacy across the United States, just published a bicycle safety overview of Columbus Georgia. They summarize the state of our infrastructure, crash data, and the city’s progress so far.

You can read their report here. It’s a birds-eye view of all of the available public data. So while it does not make any new insights that Columbus residents probably haven’t seen before, it neatly organizes the information into one page.

Hopefully reports like this will help the city’s name get more traction with the larger bicycling culture, at least among anyone who follows this kind of reporting or who searches the web for them.

All of the ways you can follow the Bike Walk Life blog

Now that I’m back to writing for this blog, here’s how you can stay up-to-date with each new post.

Option 1: Web feed

The most basic and reliable way is to subscribe to this website’s feed. Just point your favorite feed reader app to this website and you should be good to go. If you need to configure your reader manually, the feed’s direct URL is here:

I think web feeds are a great bit of technology, even if they never quite hit the mainstream. Here is a quick primer for how feeds work.

Option 2: Email newsletter

If you aren’t using a feed reader app, then you can subscribe to my email newsletter version here. This newsletter is set up to automatically take the feed’s content and aggregate it into a weekly summary. The key difference between this and option 1 is that it only updates once a week. We all have too much in our inboxes already, so I consider that to be a feature.

Option 3: Social media (to an extent)

I have a couple of social media accounts I use in conjunction with this blog. They sort of mirror the feed too, except I haven’t gotten around to automating them.

My official accounts are:

Why only those and not whatever-other-social-media-app instead? The technical answer is that the Bridgy service works with those.

The longer answer is that they allow me to take any “likes,” “reposts,” etc. and display those on each page of this blog. You can see the bottom of my recent “I’m back” post for an example of how “likes” display.

Use whatever works for you

Just like bicycles, I like to keep my digital technology simple and elegant. Back when the word “blog” first appeared, in the olden days of the early 2000s, people followed them by just checking bookmarks regularly. If that still works for you, go for it.

Personally, I get exhausted by keeping up with the revolving door of new apps and services, since the good ol’ web still works fine for me. I hope that the options I provide here can empower you to keep reading however you enjoy.

Georgia Bikes policy initiatives banner.
Image credit: Georgia Bikes.

Georgia Bikes' three-year priorities

Georgia Bikes just shared their advocacy priorities for the next three years. And a bill for one of them, the “yield bill,” is already moving forward in the state house.

The bill HB978 would “authorize operators of bicycles to treat stop signs as yield signs” if passed. It was approved by the House Motor Vehicles Committee on February 6, thus clearing one of many hurdles it faces to eventually become law.

It’s great to have a statewide organization that not only advocates for bicycling but is transparent about its long-term plans. This helps set a model for local organizations, like my own city’s, to follow.

You can view the priorities in graphic form on their website here, but I’ve recreated the text below for better accessibility. All credit for its contents goes to Georgia Bikes.

State priorities

1. Vulnerable road user legislation

Protect VRUs with increased penalties for drivers who injure or kill a pedestrian, bicyclist, wheelchair user, or worker in the roadway.

2. Georgia yield legislation

Pass Georgia Yield legislation, allowing bicyclists to proceed through a stop sign without coming to a full stop when it is safe to do so.

3. Enforcement of three-foot law

Ensure effective enforcement of the three-foot passing law, fostering a culture of safety and adherence.

4. Safe speeds on Georgia roads

  • Simplify the process for local jurisdictions to lower speed limits.
  • Update the state’s “85th-percentile” rule for speed-limit setting

Local priorities

1. Complete streets approach

Increase number of communities implementing a complete streets approach (ex.: complete streets policy, vision zero plan, local bike/ped coordinator, traffic-calming program, etc.).

2. Planning & development patterns

Increase community walkability and bikeability through the use of comprehensive plans, zoning codes, metropolitan transportation plans, and other local and regional mechanisms.

3. Infrastructure funding

Work with cities and counties to dedicate local dollars and pursue federal and state match funding to build better bike/walk infrastructure.

I'm back

I took a hiatus following my car crash, but now I’m biking and blogging once again. With the chaos that occupied the last few months of my life finally subsiding, I can hopefully return to my previous rhythm.

My crash was ill-timed for the Bike Walk Life blog because there was a lot of bicycle news following it. Most notably for me was that I was elected president of Bicycle Columbus, my city’s nonprofit bicycle and pedestrian advocacy group. This position comes with some big shoes to fill, but I’m looking forward to leading the next chapter of bicycling in Columbus Georgia.

In statewide news, Georgia Bikes hosted their first in-person Bike Walk Summit in several years. I was unable to attend, but I’m eager to try some of the topics they covered, such as walking audits, here in Columbus. Georgia Bikes also released their 2023 impact report, which covers their accomplishments in education, advocacy, and more. You can view the impact report here.

In more recent news, our local TV station WTVM published a report on a pedestrian who was struck by a car in September and just died a couple of weeks ago. You can read it here. Most news stories on crashes and traffic deaths are dreadfully clinical at best and are victim-blaming at worst. This one focuses on the victim’s family and the emotional costs we all bear for these crashes.

“How can you be at fault if you’re in the crosswalk? It doesn’t make sense,” said Marcus.

The story doesn’t acknowledge the structural issues that enable these kinds of tragedies to continue, how we continue to build our streets to maximize vehicle speed at the expense of the safety of everyone else. But it also doesn’t try to normalize the tragedy or make excuses, which is better than most stories.

As for my own crash, it’s my hope that my healing will continue and all of that will be settled and behind me soon. Even though I wasn’t at fault, experiencing a crash first-hand has certainly given me a new perspective on what it means to be safe on the road. Be on the lookout for more from me about it in the coming year.

I was hit by a car while bicycling

Last week, a car crashed into me during my bike commute. This is a terrible situation, but I’m recovering and it could have been far worse. I often write about how our transportation system is dangerous by design, but it’s scary to personally become one of its victims.

The crash happened under innocuous circumstances. I had stopped at an intersection to wait for cross-traffic to clear. A car on the other street made a left turn, veered into the wrong lane, and collided with the front of my bicycle. The next thing I knew, I was over the handlebars, sliding across the car’s hood, and falling face-first onto the pavement.

A lot about this incident doesn’t fit the regular image of crashes. It happened in daylight on a relatively low-speed, low traffic, residential street, just across from a school and a block away from a park. This is one of the neighborhoods in my city where it’s common to see people biking and walking, and I usually ride on these streets because they’re safer and comfortable for cyclists. At least, they’re safe until the sudden, violent moment that they aren’t anymore.

This experience has made one thing crystal clear, which is how a crash can happen to anyone at any place. I could have been much less fortunate if the car had been moving faster, if the driver had left the scene, if a passerby had not stopped to help, and if I didn’t have my support network to help me through it.

Breaking the news to people has been interesting. There’s no graceful way to tell someone “I got hit by a car.” A lot of people here are suspicious of bicycling because they view it as dangerous, and part of me hates to confirm their fears.

But they’re right, it is dangerous. That’s because our streets as a whole are dangerous, as I regularly say on this blog. The most frustrating thing for me is that everyone knows our transportation system is dangerous but few people care about changing it. Even a seemingly-safe street is just one distracted driver away from disaster, which means it’s not really safe at all.

I may have more to write about this in the future, but for now my recovery is still ongoing. I look forward to when I can get back in the saddle.

Coffeeneuring challenge 2023 banner.
Image credit: Chasing Mailboxes.

International Coffee Outside Day and Coffeeneuring Challenge 2023

For you bicycle and coffee lovers, we’re getting two events back-to-back this year. International Coffee Outside Day is happening on Sunday, October first, and the Coffeeneuring Challenge kicks off one week later, on October seventh.

International Coffee Day is organized by the company RideWithGPS. You can join or host an official meetup for cyclists to drink coffee together, and it has sponsors and prizes. You can learn more about it on their official website

Coffeeneuring is a non-corporate challenge that runs from October 7 through November 20. Participants will each go on seven bike rides to drink coffee (or another fall-type beverage). It has a list of official rules, but the spirit of the challenge is laid back and fun. For the most part, as long as you ride a bike and drink a hot beverage, then you qualify. You can read all of the details on the Chasing Mailboxes blog.

I’ve participated in Coffeeneuring for several years now, some of which I documented on this blog:

I’m looking forward to joining again for 2023!

The linguistic origins of the term jaywalker

Jaywalker is a popular pejorative that also enjoys a legal definition. Most of us have heard the term, but we are unaware of its history or even what “jay” means.

The blog Grammarphobia has an article ‘on jays and jaywalkers’ which answers the questions you may have never thought to ask.

The word “jay” in this context does not refer to the bird, but rather an old-timey slang word for “a stupid, gullible, or contemptible fellow.” Anyone stupid enough to walk on the wrong side of the road was ridiculed as a jay.

Interestingly, the term “jaydriver” appeared around the same time as “jaywalker.” Drivers would also find themselves confused as to which side of the road they should use in those early days of auto transportation.

The Grammarphobia article notes this observation:

Merriam-Webster adds that it’s “unclear why jaywalker shifted its meaning and survived for more than a hundred years now, while jay-driver languishes in obscurity.”

I assume that “jaywalker” would have languished in the past as well had it not become enshrined in law books. Either way, we still hold contempt for people who dangerously walk across the street, but consider dangerous driving to be just a mistake anyone could make.

When our streets are dangerous by design, then often the only feasible option is to “jaywalk.” This reality is now fueling the movement to decriminalize crossing the street.

National Week Without Driving 2023 is October 2-8

National Week Without Driving is an annual challenge by Disability Rights Washington (DRW). For 2023, they’re taking it national for the first time. It runs through October 2-8.

You can get information about how to participate from Disability Rights Washington’s website, as well as America Walks.

If you can drive or afford a car, you may not understand what it’s like to rely on walking, rolling, transit and asking for rides. But for nearly a third of people living in the United States – people with disabilities, young people, seniors and people who can’t afford cars or gas – this is our every day.  We created the Week Without Driving challenge so that policy makers, elected leaders and transportation professionals can begin to understand the barriers nondrivers experience in accessing our communities.

As an individual, you can participate by not driving yourself by car for the week and taking note of how it affects your daily life. If someone drives you or you use a taxi, consider the monetary and personal cost, and think about how that would be sustainable.

DRW notes that, although this challenge is organized with the purpose of promoting disability rights, it is not a disability simulation or a contest to see who has the best driving alternatives. The point is to make yourself aware of the choices that a non-driver must cope with in your community.

And they don’t say this explicitly, but I presume that simply bike commuting would not be in the spirit of the challenge either, for those of us who do that regularly already.

A scan of the original 1935 article.
Image credit: Reader's Digest.

This 1935 Reader's Digest piece about traffic deaths remains relevant

I recently found an article from a 1935 Reader’s Digest which tries to raise awareness of deadly driving. Sadly, a lot of it still rings true today.

You can read the republished text here: “A Writer’s Desperate Plea Paints a Horrifying Picture of What Really Happens in a Car Crash”.

It’s worth reading in its entirety, but I especially appreciated this paragraph about the lives lost on our roads:

If ghosts could be put to a useful purpose, every bad stretch of road in the United States would greet the oncoming motorist with groans and screams and the educational spectacle of ten or a dozen corpses, all sizes, sexes, and ages, lying horribly still on the bloody grass.

Today, we no longer need to qualify that with only “bad” stretches of road. Every main street or thoroughfare, especially our “good” ones, can be found littered with crosses and other memorials for its victims.

Despite our many efforts to make cars safer over the past 90 years, the death toll keeps rising and our society has normalized these deaths more than ever.

Driving is far more expensive than most realize, and the government funds most of it

Harvard students have calculated the price of keeping cars running in Massachusetts: about $64.1 billion dollars annually, and more than half is paid by public funds. Per household, $14K is spent by the government and $12K is spent on personal car expenses every year.

You can read Harvard’s report about it here.

We tend to associate car transportation with individualism and low public cost. People assume that the price of other transportation options is why they can’t compete with cars. But this only holds if transportation is a real market, and if our enormous car infrastructure exists for free.

Once you factor in the massive amount of land that the government must consume (usually acquired from individuals) to fit ever-widening roads, the “free” parking lots that the government either provides or forces private businesses to provide, the nonstop construction and maintenance, the traffic policing, and the fact that every driver is only permitted on the road with a government license, then the costs quickly add up. This doesn’t even include the stress that our car infrastructure causes on public health, climate, or social fabric. Once you erase those from the equation, then cars seem cheap indeed.

But the real budget shows why we let cars dominate our communities: their massive government investment. If the government pays you $14K to drive and you only have to pay $12K personally, then it seems like you’re getting a great deal. If you choose to walk or bike, then you’re missing out that $14K of benefits. Sure, we can’t see the price tags directly, but we still love the “free” parking lots, widened lanes, law enforcement, and all of the other things we take for granted when we drive around. Without any of those seemingly-free services, a lot more people would be walking.

The Harvard study only looked at Massachusetts, but its authors hope that people can recreate it in other states as well.

In an era where every public agency has its budget scrutinized, our transportation system has so far evaded mainstream criticism. We need to better publicize the real monetary costs it imposes on the public, and we need more leaders willing to challenge it.

Research shows that walkable neighborhoods help adults socialize and foster community

In another case where science proves what common sense tells us, people who live in walkable neighborhoods are less lonely, less isolated, and have stronger communities. This has implications for not only our mental and social wellness, but also our physical health.

The University of California San Diego has the details here.

They highlight how this links walkability to our larger public health policies:

Loneliness and isolation can lead to: 29% increased risk of heart disease; 32% increased risk of stroke; 50% increased risk of developing dementia among older adults; and 60% increased risk of premature death.

And they quote James F. Sallis, Ph.D., one of the study’s authors:

“Transportation and land use policies across the U.S. have strongly prioritized car travel and suburban development, so millions of Americans live in neighborhoods where they must drive everywhere, usually alone, and have little or no chance to interact with their neighbors.”

This should come as no surprise to many of us, to whom the benefits of walkable neighborhoods seem obvious. But it’s always helpful to have scientific data with precise numbers to back us up.