Infographic of the Month – September 2013

This month we have a bike-related infographic supplied by Online Masters in Public Health. Whether it's to improve health or save money, people seem to be hopping on their bikes more than ever. And cities and states are working to accommodate these increased demands for bicycle facilities. As the Infographic shows, one initiative experiencing great success throughout the U.S. is bike sharing.

An infographic by the team at Online Masters In Public Health

The Public Works Group tries to highlight at least one infographic a month related to any public works topic. So if you've got 'em, send 'em!


Infographic of the Month – July 2013

Several years back Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, started discussing the installation of a light rail transit system. Snapsort, a tech company based on that community, supported that proposal and came up with this infographic to help educate people about light rail transit. It's a good example of how agencies can use infographics to educate the public about proposed projects.

(If you want to learn more about the project, you can check out the Region of Waterloo's Rapid Transit Website.)


Waterloo Region rapid transit options
Snapsort's LRT for Dummies Infographic – See more at:



Balancing – the key to a successful bike sharing program

Bike Sharing Station in Denver ColoradoMost major cities have implemented some level of bike sharing programs in their community. And based on usage reports, these programs have shown to be well received by people in these communities. The idea behind the setup is fairly simple: install bike docking stations at key locations through a city and allow people to rent the bikes using self-pay kiosks. Users pick up the bikes from one station and deliver them to another near their destination. The result is a convenient and relatively low-cost transportation alternative that does not add to existing congestion levels. 

Setting up the program can be easier than planning and constructing more traditional infrastructure. They key is to determine station locations and number of docks/bikes per station depending on expected demand. Choosing a location where there is already room for a station such as along an existing sidewalk can also cut costs and installation times. For an optimum layout, it's also a good idea to plan stations in a manner similar to transit station layouts with a type of grid system that allows for pedestrian trips less than 10 to 15 minutes. All of this is probably fairly obvious to transportation professionals. But as with most public works services, the critical, and sometimes unforseen, component is in the operations. In bike sharing, the success of the service relies on the ability to manage the number of bikes at each station.

Bike sharing station in Charlotte, NC

The service level for users diminishes when no bikes are available to meet demands. And this is also true when users cannot find spaces to return bikes at stations near their destinations. This operational challenge has been studied in several papers. One more recently released paper, Dynamic vehicle redistribution and online price incentives in shared mobility systems indicates the main costs of operations, which have been reported at $1,200 to $1,944 per bike annually, are also dependent on this need to balance the number of bikes between stations. Following is an excerpt from the report:

"One of the major contributors to operational costs is the need to operate staffed trucks for manual relocation of bicycles, in order to balance the difference between supply and demand at various stations. If this effort were not made, the arrival and departure of customers would cause many stations to run full or empty, and the customer service rate would drop below acceptable levels."

So to run well throughout the day, the program relies on an operator and staff to constantly monitor the number of bikes at each station and pick up and deliver bikes as needed between them. Below is a photo showing a van peforming this pickup/delivery for the Divvy bike sharing system in Chicago (Source: Steven Vance, Flickr).

Divvy on launch day: Rebalancing;

And to cut costs, some studies have suggested offering incentives to riders for delivering bikes where they are most needed. This would seem simple to implement because many stations and systems are digitally monitored. So users can easily determine the number of bikes at a station using apps such as CycleFinder. Incentives could be offered once a station hits a certain level and then trigger the app to display an icon through these programs alerting users to the incentive. Some studies have suggested that incentives could eliminate the need to manually balance bikes on the weekend. However, during the week when there is heavy commuter use, manual balancing would still need to take place.


For those interested in learning more about bike sharing programs, here are some additional resources and information:


Global Bike Share Map, also showing real time usage

The Bike-Sharing World Map





Solar Roadways, Bike Paths, and Parking Lots

For the past few years, Solar Roadways has been working on developing solar panels as surface materials for roadways. Today the company posted the video below on their Facebook page. In it Scott Brusaw summarizes their work to date and looks ahead to the future. In the past, the company seemed to primarily focus on roads, but based on the video, it appears they are also considering other uses for their panels. A few of the applications suggested included bike paths, parking lots, sidewalks, cemeteries, airports, and even dance floors.

The benefits of this type of surface include the ability to generate electricity, charge electrical devices, convey messages through lighting in real time, embed cameras in the panel, eliminate the need for striping and snow removal, and alert maintenance crews to damaged panels. And I imagine traffic counts could be collected in real time. 

Some other ideas would be to allow emergency messages to be broadcast through lighting on the surface or perhaps even allow the posting of ads on bike paths or in parking lots. As you walk from your car to the supermarket, you could see messages of sales or other promotions displayed in front of you.




Using Social Media to Promote Safety Around Trains

Melbourne Metro, a transit service based in Australia, has been successfully using social media to educate the public about safety around trains. Last year they produced this video called Dumb Ways to Die starring a cast of cute little characters and a catchy tune.

And now Melbourne Metro has released a game related to the video's theme. You can download the game for free at iTunes here: Dumb Ways to Die App. These efforts provide a good example of how an agency or company can make use of social media to promote a serious message in a fun way that leads people to actually pay attention. Based on their success, I could easily see how this particular campaign could now be extended to offline formats such as t-shirts, coffee mugs, etc which helps to further promote their message to an even wider population.

You can check out more about their campaign on the Dumb Ways to Die website



In 2011 in Australia there were 33 rail fatalities reported and 66 injuries (one region not reporting). According to the Federal Railroad Administration, in 2011 there were 673 people (non-employees/contractors) killed in train-related casualities in the United States. That same year 3,567 people (non-employees/contractors) were injured. 


Using Social Media to Curate Information for Feasibility Studies

While I still enjoy books and love going to the library, I have come to favor using the Internet when researching a specific subject. Not only is it easy to find and collect and organize information, but the social media side of it allows me to also get the pulse of the public on that topic. And by using specific tools available online for curating information, it's easy to pull it all together for easy access and reference. I haven't really heard of any firms or agencies using this approach to develop feasibility studies, although I would think some out there are following this process. So I thought I'd lay out below the steps that could be taken to set this up for a specific study in case someone was not doing this and wanted to try it out. Because lately I've been focused on bike planning, design, and management, I will use that topic in my examples:

Collect Your Information

Set up a Twitter Feed

One of the first steps I take to collect information on a specific topic is to set up a Twitter Feed. You can see I added one on bikes to the right sidebar of this blog. Even though not every Tweet out there in the Twitterverse will be what I want, the format allows me to easily scan for what I do need. If you don't initially have a place to embed a widget like you see in the sidebar on this page, you can just visit the Twitter site and type #bikes in the search window at the top of the page. Here is the link to a search for the #bikes hashtag on Twitter.

Google Drive

Once you start getting information, you'll want a place to store links and ideas you have found. There are several tools out there to help you with this task. You might want to try a couple at first as a test until you settle on which one works best for you. One of the easiest is to just set up a Google document on Google Drive. Anyone with a Google account can access Google Drive by signing into their account and clicking the word "Drive" at the top of the screen. Once there, you can click the "create" button and choose what type of document you would like to use to store your information. I chose a "Document" which on Google is like a word processing page. The benefit of using Google Drive is it also lets you embed your documents on other sites. And you can share your document with others so everyone can work on it together. Here is what I have so far in my document about bicycle resources:


Shelfari is a site where you can collect books related to your topic into a digital bookshelf. Here is one I set up with a few books related to bicyle infrastructure:


Livebinders is another popular site for collecting and organizing links related to a specific topic. I created one to collect links to sites with information about bicycle infrastructure. You can access it by clicking the icon below:


Mind Maps are useful to display related information in a visual manner. There are several different Mind Map tools out there. For this example I used the free version of The beginning of a Bicycle Infrastructure MindMap is below:

Display Your Collections on a Website

You can also use a free website creation tool to set up your own site for collecting and displaying information about your topic. The benefit of actually setting up a site rather than just collecting links in a document or specific tool is that you can embed all tools used in one place. One example of a free website creation tool is Wix. I did not set up a site as an example because this blog serves this purpose for me. This option is best if you could not display everything you found in one of the tools above and you wanted to use different tools for different types of links and resources.

Analyze and discuss your information

Once you have collected and organized your research you can begin analyzing it and discussing it with others. If you are working as part of a team, having everything linked allows for easy access and sharing between members of the group. Social media tools can also support this part of the process.

The articles and comments on blogs are particularly useful for analyzing public opinion, experiences, and feedback. For example, if you follow the link to the article on the Seattle Bike Blog, you'll find a wealth of feedback related to protected bike lanes. In the original article, there is information shared from a traffic engineer. Then in the comments, bikers share their knowledge, experience, and information about the use of a specific type of protection for bike lanes. It would be difficult to get this amount of feedback at this level from any other source. Someone studying this type of bike lane protection could document the number of people commenting who had accidents because of this specific element. Ideas for improving on the design of this type of practice can also be found on the site.