E-bikes may be the key to increasing cycling in America

posted on Monday, February 20, 2017, 3:00pm PST

Despite efforts to get more people biking, North America still has low ridership numbers.

The problem? Biking is hard.

A new NITC report by John MacArthur of TREC offers a solution to that problem: e-bikes. 

Many people surveyed say that having to pedal up hills and arriving at their destination sweaty are major deterrents to commuting by bike, even when bike lanes and other facilities are there.

Researchers have put a lot of thought into ways to get more people riding bicycles by improving bicycle infrastructure, land use and public engagement. The efforts are largely due to concerns about congestion, climate change and public health.

Comparatively little research, however, has focused on the bicycle itself.

MacArthur and co-investigator Jennifer Dill teamed up with Drive Oregon, Metro and Kaiser Permanente Northwest to provide Kaiser employees with electric-assist bicycles (e-bikes) to use for a trial period of ten weeks. The goal was to see if e-bikes might help overcome some commonly cited barriers to cycling.

The study, Evaluation of Electric Bike Use at Three Kaiser Permanente NW Employment Centers in Portland Metro Region, took place in Portland, Oregon from April 2014 to September 2015. A total of 150 Kaiser employees participated in the study. Fewer than 10 percent of...

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A new NITC report offers a multimodal framework for transportation impact analysis – a welcome tool for professionals in many cities seeking more detailed data about non-drivers.

Improving Trip Generation Methods for Livable Communities, a research project headed by Kelly Clifton of Portland State University and Nico Larco of the University of Oregon, is the latest effort in an ongoing collaboration to create more open sourced, widely available data about non-motorized road users.

Over the last decades, cities have become more invested in fostering the conditions to support walking, biking and public transit.

The land development process presents a unique challenge.

Prior to a zoning change or new development, someone has to determine what its impact on the transportation system will be, and whether upgrades will be necessary to accommodate travelers to the new destination. Trip generation is the first step in the conventional transportation forecasting process.

Current trip generation methods used by engineers across the country tend to focus on motorized modes.

Without reliable trip generation rates for anyone but drivers, the transportation impact is difficult to predict. Certain land uses will draw far more walkers,...

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Better Block PDX, a nonprofit dedicated to revatilizing urban spaces, won a Spirit of Portland Award for work on projects including the Better Natio project. Better Naito, which repurposed a lane of Portland’s Natio Parkway to preserve bicycle and pedestrian access, grew out of a Portland State University engineering capstone project in 2015.

Gwen Shaw was then a senior at Portland State. Her work gained the attention of city leaders, with then-Commissioner Steve Novick singling out the quality of the project’s traffic control plan.

It began as a temporary demonstration project, but the city brought back Better Naito in 2016 and left the configuration in place for three months, as reported in BikePortland.

Shaw, who is still involved with Better Block PDX, the experience served as an introduction to transportation. “It’s the most educational experience you can get,” Shaw said.

“You’re meeting with the city traffic engineer and he stamps your report and asks you if you know what the MUTCD is,” she said. “It’s fun to get that experience.”

Shaw built that experience into a profession: she’s now a transportation analyst with Lancaster...

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Portland State doctoral student Patrick Singleton won the best presentation award for the Doctoral Research in Transport Modeling and Traveler Behavior session of the Transportation Research Board annual meeting in Washington, D.C. This marks the second year running that a Portland State student has won the award, after Steven Gehrke won in 2016.

Singleton presented “Exploring the Positive Utility of Travel and Mode Choice,” drawn from his dissertation research. Positive utility of travel is a concept that travel can provide benefits and be motivated by factors beyond reaching a destination.

The award will be formally presented during the Network Modeling Committee meeting at next year’s Transportation Research Board conference.

Singleton continues to rack up awards. He has been named the NITC university transportation center student of the year and has received Eno and Eisenhower fellowships, being named the top-ranked Eisenhower recipient at the 2015 TRB annual meeting. He was also named a NITC dissertation fellow in 2016.

He is a doctoral student in the Civil and Environmental Engineering department and is involved in several TREC research projects. His adviser is Prof....

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Proponents of advanced bikeways will point out a growing body of research on these facilities’ safety and benefits for cycling. They can now add another benefit: higher home values.

Research led by Jenny Liu of Portland State University looked at property around advanced bikeways in Portland, defined as bicycle boulevards, protected bike lanes and buffered bike lanes. She found positive effects on property values close to one of these bikeways and an even stronger effect where the network was denser.

Liu presents her research Wednesday at the annual meeting of the Transportation Research Board in Washington, D.C. Learn more or download the research paper.

For single family home sales, being a quarter mile closer to an advanced bikeway translated to a $686 premium, while increasing the density by a quarter mile represented a $4,039 premium. For multi-family homes, the effect of being close to a bikeway wasn’t statistically significant on sale price, but increasing the density of bikeways translated to $4,712 of value.

The research can inform policymakers who may question how much residents value bikeways and provide insight into siting decisions. “My results don’t...

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Saddling transit-oriented developments with parking requirements better suited to typical suburban developments can make housing and office space near transit scarce and overly expensive. That’s one implication of a NITC research report examining driving and parking at these centers.

It makes sense that transit-oriented developments—dense, walkable centers close to transit that combine residential, commercial and office uses—would generate fewer car trips and need less parking than other development types. But until now, no one has found out how much less parking.

NITC researcher Reid Ewing of the University of Utah took up the challenge and reveals the answer in a report: a lot less. The developments Ewing’s team studied generally generated less than half the driving, and required fewer than half the parking spaces, than standard guidebooks predict. They presented some of their findings Jan. 10 during the annual meeting of the Transportation Research Board in Washington, D.C. Learn more about the conference or download the paper.

Ewing’s team studied transit-oriented developments in five United States metropolitan areas and found the...

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Tara Goddard, a doctoral candidate in the Nohad A. Toulan School of Urban Studies and Planning at Portland State University, has been selected as the 2016 NITC university transportation center student of the year.

NITC takes pride in the development of tomorrow’s transportation leaders, involving students in research and supporting student transportation groups.

Goddard is the 11th student of the year since Portland State established its university transportation center in 2006. She is being recognized at the Council of University Transportation Centers 2017 Annual Awards Banquet in Washington, D.C., where she's also attending the Transportation Research Board annual meeting.

Goddard’s dissertation research explores drivers’ attitudes and behaviors toward bicyclists. This reflects her broader interest in the intersectionality between transportation and the social sciences, and how professionals in both disciplines can work together to improve upon public spaces and the ways that people interact within them.

This research focus comes with exciting opportunities for future work, a future which is still being determined: Goddard has applied for academic positions in different parts of the world and is waiting to hear what country she will be living in next year. Meanwhile, she is staying busy.

“I am vigorously trying to wrap up my PhD in the next two months, and...

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Pedestrians often have to wait longer than drivers for the light to change. Increased delay for pedestrians can lead to noncompliance, which can have a negative impact on safety.

Most planning efforts geared toward those on foot have tended to focus on safety, but pedestrian efficiency is also important.

NITC researchers will present on this topic at the annual meeting of the Transportation Research Board in Washington, D.C. Learn more and download our guide to the conference.

Sirisha Kothuri, a research associate in civil engineering at Portland State University, is the principal investigator on this NITC research project, an extension of her doctoral dissertation work.

Kothuri and co-investigator Edward Smaglik of Northern Arizona University will present their work Sunday, Jan. 8 in a workshop at the TRB conference. Their research looked at pedestrian strategies around the country to determine if they were primarily safety or efficiency measures.

“Generally, pedestrian strategies, if they exist at all, are safety based,” Kothuri said.

So the first task was to identify efficiency-based strategies for pedestrians. Then the research team undertook a...

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Seniors make up a large percentage of transit riders, yet their experience isn’t always comfortable or convenient. Researchers from the University of Oregon sought to address those problems from a product design perspective.

Their work was accepted for presentation at the annual meeting of the Transportation Research Board in Washington, D.C. Learn more and download our guide to the conference. 

The work stems from a NITC education project, Design for an Aging Population, led by product design assistant professor Trygve Faste. Faste's design studio course learned about problems that people with disabilities face using transit and developed design solutions. 

Working with the local Lane Transit District, Faste and the student researchers surveyed and interviewed bus riders, held focus groups, accompanied riders on trips and rode as observers. They found that older riders faced obstacles every step of the way: from reaching bus stops to finding seats and riding, to ending their rides. Those obstacles vary between riders and whether they use a walker or wheelchair or have sight, hearing or other disabilities.

Sometimes the needs of riders conflict, Faste pointed out. A wheelchair user may want...

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Portland State University has secured a five-year grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation for transportation research, education and outreach. Portland State’s Transportation Research and Education Center, TREC, will administer the grant, which is expected to total $15.6 million.

The grant names TREC's National Institute for Transportation and Communities program, or NITC, as one of five national university transportation centers. TREC will expand the NITC program and add new partners University of Arizona and University of Texas at Arlington. Existing partners University of Oregon, Oregon Institute of Technology and University of Utah remain partners in the Portland State-led program.

The NITC program will focus on four research areas: increasing access to opportunities; improving multi-modal planning and shared use of infrastructure; advancing innovation and smart cities; and developing data, models and tools. Among the 11 projects funded in the first year of the grant are:

  • A smart platform for connected vehicle infrastructure and signal control;
  • A multidisciplinary look at how the concept of walkability has left out disadvantaged neighborhoods and how to address those gaps;
  • Two innovative efforts to help transit connect people with jobs and opportunities;
  • An examination of the economic and business effects of converting infrastructure for nonmotorized...
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