Saturday, September 24, 2011

Cutting Corners

Shortest distance, two points, etc

Still sick, not riding, but wanted to just mention three things.

First, sometimes I wonder about path designers who do not put the path where it obviously needs to be. Where it needs to be is where people are going to walk or ride regardless of where you actually put it. Even if you put loose gravel down as an impediment. In Bicycling Science, I learned that type of surface, from hard smooth linoleum through deep mud or sand, can be the largest contributor to rolling resistance for a bicycle, so a designer knowing this might think that the loose gravel would stop us from cutting the corner. Nope. Similar to the stoplight designers who put those frigging directional lenses on stoplights so that you can't actually see what color they are until you are exactly where they want you to be (wtf), path designers putting in needless curves and extra right angle jogs should be corrected during the first design review: direct paths which follow the natural route, typically the shortest or on hills, the path of least difficulty, thanks.

Second, the LAB page alerted me to the release of the 2010 Census statistics on bicycle commuting. I exported it to a ODS spreadsheet so I could easily manipulate it in my favored spreadsheet program LibreOffice 3.4, and note just a few items which don't necessarily lead anywhere but just seemed interesting to me. 3576 out of 620,072 workers or 0.6% commute by bicycle in Phoenix, and  only 349 are female. Scottsdale is listed as having 0 female bicycle commuters which I happen to know is false, it has at least 2. Comparing the bicycle stats to some other PHX city stats, here's what I came up with:

  • Far more bicycle commuters in Phoenix than Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islanders (1766)
  • Far more bicycle commuters in Phoenix than people employed in Farming, fishing & forestry occupations (1555)
  • Far more bicycle commuters in Phoenix than people whose primary housing unit is a Boat, RV, van, etc (1107)
  • About the same number of bicycle commuters in Phoenix as number of people employed in Life, physical, & social science (3,595)
  • There are far more legal professionals than bicycle commuters (7,935)

Phoenix is one of the lowest bicycle commuting places of the top ten cities by population, but comes in ahead of the Texas metropolii. What's up Dallas? 820 bicycle commuters?? 

Last item, an article from the local paper about Arizona's easy-peasy driver's license standards being abused by outsiders. Quoting from the article, "Arizona has more permissive rules than any other state governing who can get a license, how they can get it and how long the license is valid before it expires." This item seems very relevant to me to give context to the venom spewed in the comments section of the article I mentioned in a previous post about the state bicycle safety plan intended to lower bicyclist fatalities. The impression that drivers in Arizona may not be that knowledgeable about the rules of the road in spite of having a license would seem to be supported by observation that people are flocking here from other places to get a license that is seen to be easy to obtain and lasts until you turn 65. I do feel that by scrupulously observing the rules of the road while riding my bicycle, I may be having some sort of marginal positive influence by both demonstrating the some cyclists actually do that, and also having a tiny "this is how it's done" influence on my motorists. But as a member of a .6% group in a big city, that influence is no doubt small. But safety is one place I do no advocate cutting corners.



  1. Of course the North Texas bike commute mode share would be low. When I lived in Seattle, it was ten miles to the far side of the city from my house. When I worked at Fort Worth Alliance Airport, it was 20 miles and I started 20 miles from Dallas. Phoenix has much the same problem only not so bad.

    Trivia item: did you know that DFW is the least densely populated major metropolis in the world and is almost as big as Holland (10k sq mi vs 16k)?

  2. Steve I'm diving into the Census 2010 commuting statistics, augmenting and checking into some of the implications of your comment! Thanks!

    Artur pointed out on Facebook that these shortest line paths are called "desire paths" which I don't think I heard of before. And "Desire Path" is so much better material for a blog post title, I chalk it up to being sick for missing that..check it out:

  3. hey John....good for you to analyze those data. i've looked at them myself (using SPSS) but unfortunately my city (Harrisburg) is too small to get its own estimates!

  4. Hey Ben, I did make some graphs in my next post based on the data. One thing I noticed is that many significant BFC places didn't make the population cut-off and so just aren't listed. Which cut me off from my thoughts of looking into possible connections between BFC rating and the census stats, when I realized that the census gathers information from specifically outlined entities and the LAB BFC program may use different geographical boundaries, in many cases, which means they don't necessarily overlap even when referred to by the same name, if even present.


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