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The Role of the Bicycle In Transit Oriented-Development

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[This is the first of four-part expert blog post by Mike Lydon, the founding Principal of The Street Plans Collaborative. Lydon's posts  are part of a series of expert blogs on TOD highlighting work and research that experts are doing in the field.]


Last month Kaid Benfield asked for more rigor when defining transit-oriented development—a term applied liberally to development merely served by transit, he says. In highlighting several design principles that make for authentic TOD, Benfield sensibly included “bicycle transfers” should be made easy.  Quite simply, this means that what you do with your bicycle upon arrival is as important as being able to get there safely on two wheels in the first place.

While few would disagree, and provisions for bicycle facilities are almost always included in TOD best practice guidelines, their implementation is often neglected, especially outside of the immediate station area.

In response, this four part blog series will focus on the techniques and benefits of better integrating world-class bicycle infrastructure into transit-oriented development.

The Bike Shed -- the distance from a transit stop easily accessible by bicycle

The Bicycle Shed

The type and quality of transit service aside, planners generally accept that the average person will walk up to ½ mile to transit if the environment is safe, convenient, and interesting. Indeed, this blog’s name references this principle, the so-called “pedestrian shed.” After this approximate radial limit is reached, however, it is assumed that transit’s ability to attract ridership decreases as distance from the station increases.

Yet, if one considers that the average bicyclist can move 3 times faster than the average pedestrian, then the formulation of nuanced “bicycle sheds” can greatly expand transit station catchment areas, while also improving the extent and utility of the regional bikeway network. Indeed, just as a 5 or 10-minute walk should be convenient and enjoyable for the pedestrian, so to should it be for the average bicyclist, who is able to cover much more ground with an equal outlay of time.

But if transit-centered bicycle sheds are to function properly, a myriad of physical and policy challenges must be overcome. The following three blog posts will detail what these are, and how Bicycling to TOD can exponentially improve accessibility to transit and the viability of any development oriented to it.

Part 1: The Role of the Bicycle In Transit Oriented-Development
Part 2: The Bikeway Network
Part 3: At the Station - Bicycle Parking
Part 4: Policy and Urban Design: How to Complete Bicycle Supportive Cities

With Andres Duany and Jeff Speck, Mike Lydon is the co-author of The Smart Growth Manual.