Right hooks are just one of many issues that people on bike confront when trying to navigate city streets imperfectly designed for bicycle transportation and it seems that this is one area that autonomous vehicles don’t yet have an answer for, according to this article from the Guardian. If driverless cars only had to deal with other cars, then behavior and safety could be much more regulated, and in fact the vast safety savings anticipated from autonomous vehicles comes from a reduction in vehicle to vehicle, or even solo vehicle, crashes. But, cities are also made up of people who walk, bike, and roll, presenting different challenges due to speed, mobility, and the fact that the goal of walking, biking, or rolling is not always to maximize speed. And these other modes often have their own infrastructure that varies by block and intersection and part of town. For cycling, infrastructure ranges from simple bike lanes to protected bike lanes to no dedicated infrastructure at all, adding to the complexity. Figuring out how driverless vehicles will complement biking, especially as a worldwide resurgence in this sustainable and space saving form of transportation is taking place, will be especially important to get right for the sustainability of our cities.
Part of the promise of new technological opportunities within transportation is the opportunity to use space more efficiently. Connected and autonomous vehicles can travel closer together, ride-sharing can fill a portion of the staggering amount of empty vehicle seats on our streets and thus reduce some vehicles, and ride-hailing transportation may make it possible to reduce overall car ownership and the need for so much parking, freeing up space on streets and in our communities. Yet, one of the most efficient inventions humanity has ever created also happens to be a space-saving form of mobility – the bicycle. Cities of all shapes and sizes all over the world are “re-discovering” how space, efficiency, distance, economy, health, and sustainability can be addressed through investing in bicycle transportation. Along those lines, London just announced a massive investment in bicycle transportation, seeking to make it a rational option for both short and commute-distance trips. Our challenge now, is figuring out how to right-size each form of transportation, from walking to biking to carsharing to transit to AVs, throughout our cities and communities to maximize not only our ability to reach our desired destinations quickly, but also to maximize the efficient use of limited space, as well as addressing issues of equity, health, and the environment.
An analysis of DC Metro area bikeshare shows that a significantly larger share of trips start or end at stops within a quarter mile of the transit stations (compared to other stations in the system). The analysis postulates that this is due to a combination of typical local use AND trips to or from the nearby transit stop to these stations. First and last mile travel using bikeshare – and in the burbs no less.