Bicycle Connectivity: A New Perspective

Cyclists enjoying the William C. O’Neill (South County) Bike Path, Rhode Island
image: State of Rhode Island Department of Transportation

Moving Beyond the Network

You could say that the author has some familiarity with the subject of bicycle connectivity; over the course of finishing his MLA degree at the University of Oregon, he pedaled over 6,500 miles in and around the city of Eugene.  The city is already well known for its bicycle friendly environment, but this did not stop the Colorado native from questioning how it can be made even better. His hope is to make cities and communities more hospitable places by creating innovative approaches to bicycle connectivity.  The author’s graduate research explores current thought on the subject then details a new, holistic approach to that goal.

Bicycles are becoming an increasingly important mode of transportation in the United States. Helping to fuel that growth is a large and growing body of research defining and validating the bicycle’s positive contributions to society. As populations rise, increased pressure is placed on transportation systems. It is clear that the bicycle will continue to play an increasingly important role in addressing that issue.

Bicycle connectivity is a qualitative assessment of how well our neighborhoods, cities, and regions are connected for bicycle use (commuting, exercise, recreation). It is also an important factor affecting how successful the bicycle can be as a transportation alternative to the automobile. Poor bicycle connectivity negatively affects public perceptions of the bicycle as a viable transportation mode. This undermines city, state, and national efforts to promote bicycles as a tool to combat some of our nation’s most pressing issues: traffic congestion, environmental pollution, and obesity (a near epidemic health concern). This research seeks to identify new ways bicycle connectivity systems can be improved, making bicycles more attractive as an alternative transportation mode to the automobile.

Proposed changes for bike lane improvements
image: Michael Weir

This research reviews current thinking in bicycle connectivity to establish an information datum. Next, bicycle master plans for ten bike-friendly cities in the United States are examined and dissected to understand current applications of bicycle connectivity. This overview reveals deficiencies that inform new ways of thinking about and approaching bicycle connectivity, which move beyond the traditional design checklist approach.

The result of this research is an expanded concept of bicycle connectivity that is applied to Springfield, OR, the real-world case study city. This city is in the midst of updating its 2002 Transportation System Plan, of which bicycles are a major component. Recommendations are made for the improvement of its bicycle connectivity system and conclusions are drawn about the capabilities of the new perspective on bicycle connectivity developed in this research paper.

The full research paper is currently available on line.

by Michael Weir, PMP, MLA, Associate ASLA

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