Category Archives: Public Transportation

Hospitals: To Sprawl Or Not To Sprawl

The last few times I have visited my home state of Indiana, I have noticed a number of new hospitals recently opened or being constructed along the I-69 corridor in the Indianapolis and Fort Wayne regions.  Along I-69 north of I-465 in Indianapolis, it seems like new hospitals are rising from the cornfields at each interchange. IU Saxony Hospital, Community Hospital, and St. Vincent Hospital have all recently migrated to this corridor between Indianapolis and Anderson. The map below does not even include the pre-existing Riverview Hospital in Noblesville (just above the top of the map) or the two existing hospitals in Anderson (Community and Saint John’s) located about 10 miles to the east.

Granted, this area is growing very rapidly, but are all these satellite hospitals really necessary? Particularly in one narrow corridor? Indianapolis is not alone in this migration in Indiana. Below are multiple examples from Fort Wayne.

View of Parkview when it was under construction (I-69 in the foreground)

In Fort Wayne, both Lutheran-DuPont Hospital and Parkview Regional Medical Center have opened new facilities at the northern fringes of town at I-69 and DuPont Road (see photos above and below). Parkview’s campus is so large (just opened in March 2012) that a new interchange is being constructed to the north of the complex to accommodate the increased area traffic. On the southwest side of Fort Wayne,  Lutheran Hospital completed a large multi-structure campus several years ago at the corner of the I-69 and U.S. 24 interchange (see campus map below).

Lutheran Hospital campus map


Each of these new campus facilities have been followed quickly by a myriad of hotels, restaurants, apartments, medical office buildings, and other ancillary facilities, creating economic development boomlets at the interchanges. Being situated adjacent to freeway interchanges can provide speedy emergency access for these wealthy suburban areas (until gridlock develops there too) and the so-called “regional” reach of a hospital, but is promoting sprawl really beneficial to a community’s health? I doubt it.

And what about emergency services for inner city residents and the poor–doesn’t a suburban/exurban campus present the same reverse commuting difficulties that suburban employment centers do?

As a comparison, none of the major hospitals here in Greater Lansing have built suburban campuses in Mid-Michigan. SparrowMcClaren-Lansing, and Sparrow-St. Lawrence are all situated at midtown locations. Personally, I see this as a very positive health and land use planning attribute for Greater Lansing because:

  • The midtown locations help maintain the viability of the adjoining inner city neighborhoods.
  • Staying put at midtown locations lessons the potential for continued suburban sprawl.
  • Midtown locations are easier for the poor and disadvantaged to access by public transit, bicycle, or on foot.
  • Far-flung suburban and exurban locations do nothing to promote active transportation options for employees. Try bicycling to a campus off an interstate exit – usually not easy or safe.
  • The suburban/exurban locations promote greater use of automobiles thus contributing to greater pollution, more congestion, and poor sedentary lifestyles.
  • Remaining at midtown locations helps promote revitalization, redevelopment, social justice, and social equity.
  • A midtown location is more accessible regionally from all compass directions.

Rick Brown

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Money: Rust Belt suburb is the best place to live in the USA

Carmel Center for the Performing Arts










According to September 2012 issue of Money magazine and based on a variety of socio-economic, climatic, financial, and demographic attributes, Carmel, Indiana (just north of Indianapolis) is the best place to live in the United States in 2012. Eden Prairie, Minnesota (southwest of the Twin Cities) took third place in the annual barometer. Other Rust Belt communities included in Money magazine’s Top 100 include:

#11 Woodbury, Minnesota (Twin Cities)

#12 Fishers, Indiana (Indianapolis)

#14 Eagan, Minnesota (Twin Cities)

#19 Lakeville, Minnesota (Twin Cities)

#22 Maple Grove, Minnesota (Twin Cities)

#26 Troy, Michigan (Detroit)

#37 West Bloomfield, Michigan

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#39 O’Fallon, Missouri (St. Louis)

#48 Amherst, New York (Buffalo)

#53 Naperville, Illinois (Chicago)

#61 Bolingbrook, Illinois (Chicago)

#71 St. Charles, Missouri (St. Louis)

#72 West Hartford, Connecticut (Hartford)

#76 Florissant, Missouri (St. Louis)

#78 Shelby, Michigan (Detroit)

#80 Wheaton, Illinois (Chicago)

#81 West Des Moines, Iowa (Des Moines)

#84 Macomb, Michigan (Detroit)

#85 Bensalem, Pennsylvania (Philadelphia)

#88 Iowa City, Iowa

#90 Ames, Iowa (Des Moines)

#95 Millcreek, Pennsylvania (Erie)

#99 Waukesha, Wisconsin (Milwaukee)

#100 Ann Arbor, Michigan

Congratulations to all those Rust Belt communities that made the Top 100 in 2012.

– Rick Brown

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Despite Progress, Cleveland Falls Out of Top 50 in Cycling

In 2011 Cleveland graced Bicycling Magazines list of the 50 most bicycle-friendly cities, coming in at #39. Despite progress, including the opening of the Cleveland Bike Rack, the passage of the Complete and Green Streets Ordinance, and the addition of sharrows on a few streets, the city of Cleveland failed to make the list in 2012. While bicycling across Greater Cleveland continues to grow–in fact the number of people commuting to work by bicycle increased four-fold from 2000 to 2010–there are dozens of cities across the country that are progressing much more quickly than Cleveland.

The City of Cleveland needs to boldly prioritize bicycle infrastructure and get it implemented at a much faster pace to keep up with our peer cities. Other cities are significantly outpacing Cleveland in their efforts to positively transform themselves through bicycling and an embrace of a vision that provides direction towards a future city that is desired, rather than one that furthers the status quo. In Chicago, for example, Mayor Emanuel has made a commitment to install 100 miles of protected bike lanes and bike boulevards over the next four years. Just imagine what a commitment like that would do to increasing the number of people biking in our fair city–which currently has 8.5 miles of bike lanes.

With the Complete and Green Streets Ordinance, the City of Cleveland now requires street repaving and reconstructions projects to include bicycle facilities. But, like Chicago, we need to ensure these facilities are in line with what is being built across the country. Thinking beyond sharrows and reallocating our street space with separated bike lanes and cycle tracks will do wonders in encouraging more people to bike more often. With street infrastructure that is built for well over 1 million people, our streets can certainly handle less space for cars and more space for bicycles and pedestrians.

We also need to ensure the adoption, and enforcement, of policies that make our streets safe for all users. The Bicycle Transportation Safety Ordinance that Bike Cleveland worked with the City of Cleveland to adopt on June 4th includes some of the most progressive laws in the state to protect cyclists on the road, including a 3-foot passing requirement when cars pass a bicycle on the road. Through public awareness, Bike Cleveland is going to ensure the new laws are known and enforced. We will also be working with neighboring communities to introduce them to the bike-friendly policies and advocate for their adoption.

Over the next few issues of the Great Lakes Courier I will be providing you with updates and information about bike facilities and policies that our communities can support that will make our region more bicycle-friendly and explain how Bike Cleveland, with your support, can make them a reality. On that note, we cannot do it alone. Support Bike Cleveland by becoming a card-carrying member today: you can sign-up at With your support we will once again make Bicycling Magazine’s list of the 50 most bicycle-friendly cities in the nation.

This post was written by Jacob VanSickle, director of Bike Cleveland. It originally appeared in the Great Lakes Courier.

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A Growing "Quality of Life Gap" in America?

This post originally appeared on Streetsblog.

For a while it didn’t seem certain, but after a critical vote earlier this month, it looks like California’s on track to build high-speed rail. And, I’ll be the first to admit, California — with two large, global metros just a few hundred miles apart — is a great place for it.

Despite some reservations about the costs and feasibility of the plan, people all over the country who care about sustainable transportation were generally happy to see America moving forward. But in Wisconsin and Ohio and Florida, the news was bittersweet. James Rowen at Milwaukee-based blog the Political Environment again mourned the $810 million in federal passenger rail invested spurned by Governor Scott Walker. (Shortly after Walker’s decision, the LA Times gleefully wrote, “Thanks a billion, cheeseheads.”)

As great a day as it was for sustainable transportation, it also concerned me a little. Ohio and Wisconsin forfeiting billions for high speed rail to California is perhaps the clearest illustration yet of the growing divide between regions willing to invest in a livable future and those that are not.

It seems that America is on two divergent paths. Progressive cities are engaged in something of an arms race to design neighborhoods and build infrastructure to enhance the quality of life. In Portland, they have streetcars, light rail, and neighborhood greenways. In New York, expertly-planned public plazas are making the central business district more attractive and reclaiming neighborhood streets for pedestrians. Soon the city will add a world-class bike-sharing system to go with its growing network of protected bike lanes. Seeming to recognize how these projects help to attract talent and investment, Chicago jumped in the game last year, with newly-elected mayor Rahm Emanuel promising to build 100 miles of separated cycle tracks and moving quickly to improve the city’s bus network.

Meanwhile, Ohio and Wisconsin — where talent and investment are no less needed — seem to have chosen a different path. Their Luddite governors are responsible for the painful loss of rail funds. And while there are counterexamples — Cincinnati and its streetcar, or Madison and its bike-share system — these places are moving much more slowly to adopt the kind of infrastructure that’s making places like New York and San Francisco increasingly desirable.

The obstacles in these regions are many. At the top of the list, you have harmful political decisions — typified by the unilateral rejection of passenger rail by Walker and Ohio Governor John Kasich. And political resistance is reinforced when locals who prefer transit and walkability move away, as young, college-educated Midwesterners have been wont to do.


Even where there is political recognition of the desirability of bike and transit infrastructure, these places may not have the money to expand them. For example, Cleveland, where I live, does not own a machine that can alter the striping of city streets to, say, make room for bikeways. Detroit can barely afford to keep its bare-bones transit system operational.

It doesn’t get any easier to invest in things that make your city desirable if people are leaving your city. The danger is that, when it comes to giving people the option of safely getting around without driving, much of the country will simply get left behind.

You can see this pattern at work when you look at the level of support for transit operations in different regions. Yonah Freemark, a master’s student in planning and transportation at MIT who writes The Transport Politic, examined transit spending by region and compared it to median household income. He found the two — wealth and transit funding — are strongly correlated.

Freemark examined 15 metro areas, finding that wealthier ones were funding the operation of their transit systems at proportionally higher rates than their less affluent counterparts. A 50 percent increase in regional median income is associated with a 220 percent increase in transit spending, he found. The reason, he determined, is pretty simple: Areas that have more money can invest more money in transit.

Freemark’s conclusion was that funding transit operations at the local — rather than the national — level perpetuates inequality. Detroit’s poor transit forces lower income folks who can manage it to own cars, an enormous burden they might avoid in a wealthier metro with better transit. ”Regions that are already well-off are making themselves better off, while those that are poorer are reinforcing their economic problems,” Freemark concluded.

Giving states more control over bike and pedestrian funding, as the recently passed federal transportation bill will do, could have a similar effect on street safety. The new bill lets states forgo spending on these modes if they choose. That’s very likely more bad news for places like Ohio and Wisconsin.

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Improving Bicycle Safety in Traffic: Lessons from Michigan


I have long felt that bicycle commuting during the evening rush hour was more stressful and perilous than my morning ride. While motorists tend to be more wary in the morning due to the presence of school children and buses, the evening commute tends to feel a bit like a free-for-all, as if all motorists were trying to qualify for the Indianapolis 500 at the exact same time. Well…now I have definitive data to back my up my intuition. It turns out that 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m IS the most dangerous time period of the day to be a bicyclist out on the roadways.

On April 30, 2012, the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) released a detailed and comprehensive report on roadway safety that was prepared by T.Y. Lin International and Western Michigan University (WMU). Entitled, Sharing the Road: Optimizing Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety and Vehicle Mobility, the report with appendices is several hundred pages long, but contains a wealth of information from the 2005-2010 time period that is useful to bicycling advocates and others. Here are a few juicy tidbits pertaining to bicycling:

  • Youth (ages 5-15) involvement in bicycle crashes in Michigan is higher than national statistics: 32.4% compared to 26.8%.That means nearly one-third of all young people in Michigan are involved in a bicycle crash and one-forth of those (25.3%) are fatal/serious.
  • In all other age classifications, Michigan’s rate is lower than the national data, except for those 65-74 years old.
  • Men are involved in 81% of all fatal bicycle crashes in Michigan.
  • Bicycle crash locations are nearly evening spilt between intersections and non-intersections (49% to 51%).
  • Despite the perceived safety of a signalized intersection, almost half of all fatal and serious injury bicycle accidents (48.9%) took place at signalized intersections.
  • More than half of all fatal/serious injury bicycle accidents took place on two-lane roads (56.6%), followed by five-lane (13.8%); four-lane (12.9%) and three-lane (9.7%).
  • Together, 25 and 30 mph streets (neighborhood and downtown streets) accounted for 75.5% of all bicycle crashes, but the majority of fatal bicycle crashes took place on streets/roads with a speed limit of 45 mph or greater even though they comprised only 19% of the crashes.
  • Between 3:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m., 27.2% of fatal and serious bicycle crashes took place, followed by 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. (21.8%); and 12:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. (18.5%).
  • The day of the week made almost no difference for fatal and serious injury bicycle crashes in the 2005-2010 time frame, ranging between a low of 151 on Sundays to a high of 220 on Wednesdays. The average is 192 and the weekday average is 205.2.
  • More than two-thirds (71.2%) of all fatal and serious injury bicycle accidents took place during daylight hours and 89% where when the pavement was dry.
  • Alcohol was not involved for the motorist or bicyclist in 70% of the fatal and serious injury crashes.

Now that the sad and sorrowful crash data have been accumulated, what next? To MDOT’s credit the report also identified and studied many possible solutions at length. Some of the results of this analyses may be a bit disappointing, particularly for road diet advocates like myself. Among the improvements analyzed related to bicyclists at intersections were bulb-outs, roundabouts, bicycle signal detection, bike boxes, two-stage bike left turn, combined bike/turn lane, and bicycle signals. Along corridors, improvements considered included paved shoulders, road diets, raised medians, bike lanes, shared lane markings, buffered bike lanes, colored bike lanes, contra-flow bike panes, left side bike lanes, and cycle tracks.

  • Roundabouts showed an overall decrease in all types of crashes by 35%, injury crashes by 76% and fatal crashes by 89%. They also are one of the most expense improvements, costing between $250,000 and $500,000.
  • Road diets reduced all crash types anywhere from 14% to 49%.
  • Raised medians reduce all crashes by 40%, and by as much as 69% at unsignalized intersections.
  • Bike lanes can reduce bicycle crashes by 50% and are most appropriate on streets with average daily traffic volumes exceeding 3,000 and posted speeds between 25 and 35 mph.
  • Buffered bike lanes are preferable on roadways with speed limits exceeding 35 mph.
  • Shared lane marking (sharrows) were found to increase bicyclist visibility to motorists, reduce the occurrence of wrong-way riding, and riding on sidewalks.
  • Green, high-visibility bike lanes will be added to the next version of the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD).  Where tested, these have been shown to improve safety through a variety of measurements.

Unfortunately, specific numerical data for some of the options listed above were not provided (perhaps due to a low number of previous studies). Instead summary charts were utilized that rated improvements with terms such as “reduce,” “no difference,” “better,” and “worse.” A separate column rated the estimated cost for each from “low” to “high.” The review also did not appear to judge improvements in combination, but instead each on it’s own merits.

The preparers of the study did make a number of useful recommendations to MDOT and provided a terrific document entitled Best Design Practices for Walking and Bicycling in Michigan. Here is a list of the most bicycling-pertinent recommendations from the report (not as many as I had hoped for):

  • It is suggested that this could be the basis for a separate Michigan Design Guide chapter dedicated to accommodating bicycles (instead of under “Miscellaneous Structures”).
  • It is recommended that this guidance (shared lane markings) should be incorporated in the Michigan Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MMUTCD).
  • It is recommended that MDOT should permit the establishment of target speeds as a potential solution when conducting speed studies, using the ITE proposed recommended practice Context Sensitive Solutions in Designing Major Urban Thoroughfares for Walkable Communities.

All in all, the report is very comprehensive and does address most, if not all safety issues raised by bicyclists. At the same time, it would have been useful to include data on the effects of combined improvements and consider the mobility challenges that bicyclists and pedestrians face with same degree of importance that is given to motorist mobility. There always seems to be an inherent default towards the motorist, when in fact the term “transportation” is meant to apply all forms, not just cars.

by Rick Brown

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Is the Rust Belt Starting to "Get It" on Bicycling?

Photo: Flickr user DewCon, LaCrosse, Wisconsin

At the conclusion of this post is a list of Rust Belt metropolitan areas where clusters of bicycle-friendly organizations (communities, colleges, and businesses) have agglomerated. The numbers are based on those organizations which have been recognized as “bicycle-friendly” by the League of American Bicyclists. These clusters are important for several reasons:

  • The data shows that more places are “getting it,” not just “progressive” enclaves.
  • They show that coordinated efforts are taking place in a variety of metropolitan areas, and broadly within each metropolitan area, not just in lone islands of bike friendliness.
  • They show healthy participation by the public sector, private sector, and by non-profits.
  • The data shows that one smaller Rust Belt metropolitan area deserves extra special recognition for the extent of bicycle-friendly organizations in their community compared to much larger urban areas – La Crosse, Wisconsin. On a per capita basis, La Crosse is definitely the most bicycle-friendly metropolitan area in the Rust Belt and may be in the entire country.


If your Rust Belt metropolitan area is not included in the list, consider contacting your local public officials, area business leaders, and local educational institutions or non-profits and ask them if they have considered becoming a bicycle friendly organization. If not, then ask them why not?

There is a good possibility that those metropolitan areas that fail to act soon will be left in the proverbial wake of the active/non-motorized transportation revolution. We are at an important crossroads in the Rust Belt, working to remain competitive in the 21st century. Being left behind from a dynamic trend of active transportation could spell the difference between future economic growth or gradual economic decline. Fortunately, those cities listed below, such as La Crosse, Wisconsin have taken the important steps necessary to define their future in a positive (and healthy) manner.

Here is the list:

  • (29) Twin Cities, MN – two communities, one university, and 26 businesses
  • (18) Pittsburgh, PA – one community, one university, and 16 businesses
  • (15) Indianapolis, IN – three communities and 12 businesses
  • (15) Madison, WI
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    two communities, one university, and 12 businesses

  • (14) La Crosse, WI/MN – one community and 13 businesses
  • (11) Chicago, IL/IN/WI – three communities and eight businesses
  • (10) Philadelphia, PA/NJ/DE – two communities and eight businesses
  • (6) Bloomington, IN – one community, one university, and four businesses
  • (6) Cedar Rapids-Iowa City, IA – two communities and three businesses
  • (6) Columbus, OH – one community, one university, and four businesses
  • (5) Champaign-Urbana, IL – one community and four businesses
  • (5) Detroit-Ann Arbor-Flint, MI – one community, one university, and three businesses
  • (5) Grand Rapids, MI – one community and four businesses
  • (5) South Bend-Elkhart, IN/MI – two communities and three businesses
  • (4) Burlington, VT – one community, one university, and two businesses
  • (4) Greater Lansing, MI – one community, one university, and two businesses

Rick Brown

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"Bicycle Friendly Communities" of the Rust Belt


At the end of this post is a list of those communities in the Rust Belt that have been designated by the League of American Bicyclists as a “Bicycle Friendly Community” on its 2012 list. A total of 210 communities have received this honor nationwide, including 47 (22.4%) here in the Rust Belt.

Nine communities that are shown in italics were added to the list in the past year.  Another 11 communities in the Rust Belt where named honorable mentions. Please note the list does not include several communities in the Boston, New York City, and Washington, DC metropolitan areas. Some feel these cities should not be considered part of the Rust Belt.

More details about criteria and how your community can be designated a “Bicycle Friend Community” and are available through this weblink to the League of American Bicyclists website.  The five categories (or E’s) which are used for judging a community’s bike friendliness are:

  • Engineering
  • Education
  • Encouragement
  • Enforcement
  • Evaluation and Planning

Separate designations are possible for states, college campuses, and businesses.  Congratulations to all those communities so designated, especially to those in the Rust Belt.


  • None (only three communities nationwide – Boulder, CO; Davis, CA; and Portland, OR)

GOLD (2)

  • Madison, Wisconsin
  • Minneapolis, Minnesota


  • Ann Arbor, Michigan
  • Bloomington, Indiana
  • Burlington, Vermont
  • Chicago, Illinois
  • La Crosse, Wisconsin


  • Baltimore, Maryland
  • Brunswick, Maine
  • Carmel, Indiana
  • Cedar Falls, Iowa
  • Cedar Rapids, Iowa
  • Cincinnati, Ohio
  • Columbus, Indiana
  • Columbus, Ohio
  • Dayton, Ohio
  • Des Moines, Iowa
  • Eau Claire, Wisconsin
  • Fort Wayne, Indiana
  • Franklin, Pennsylvania
  • Goshen, Indiana
  • Grand Rapids, Michigan
  • Greater Mankato, Minnesota
  • Houghton, Michigan
  • Indianapolis/Marion County, Indiana
  • Iowa City, Iowa
  • Keene, New Hampshire
  • Lansing, Michigan
  • Marquette, Michigan
  • Morgantown, West Virginia
  • Naperville, Illinois
  • Newark, Delaware
  • Northampton, Massachusetts
  • Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
  • Portage, Michigan
  • Rochester, Minnesota
  • St. Louis, Missouri
  • St. Paul, Minnesota
  • Schaumburg, Illinois
  • Sheboygan County, Wisconsin
  • South Bend, Indiana
  • South Windsor, Connecticut
  • State College, Pennsylvania
  • Traverse City, Michigan
  • University Heights, Iowa
  • Urbana, Illinois


  • Detroit, Michigan
  • Dubuque, Iowa
  • Elmhurst, Illinois
  • Gahanna, Ohio
  • Hagerstown, Maryland
  • Huntington, West Virginia
  • Middleton, Wisconsin
  • Monroe County, Indiana
  • Portland, Maine
  • River Falls, Wisconsin
  • West Des Moines, Iowa

Rick Brown

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