Archived Articles

The NCBW Forum is one of the oldest, most trusted publications covering the field of bicycle and pedestrian design issues. First published in 1977 as Bicycle Forum, the quarterly newsletter changed its name in 2001 to become the NCBW Forum. This was done partially in response to the broadening focus of the organization; the content now explicitly includes pedestrian-related articles, references, and news items.

In September, 2003, the NCBW Forum moved from a print publication available via subscription only to an on-line publication open to all. The articles compendium is joined with an online message area where people can post comments about articles, start new discussions, and search for archived articles and posts. John Williams, the long-time editor of the print version of the NCBW Forum, remains at the helm of our NCBW Forum.

January 2004

Trails and High Speed Rail: Are they compatible?
BY MIA L. BIRK, Alta Planning + Design

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Rails with Trails, or multiuse trails located adjacent to active rail lines, have become increasingly common in the United States. While the idea of shared use corridors has gained acceptance, what of the idea of Rails with Trails with high speed trains?

Are these two uses compatible? Alta staff, through various field trials, concludes that at a distance of 30 feet, a train moving at 90 mph does not create significant negative impacts on trail users. These results only confirm the previous conclusions of the Federal Railroad Administration which conducted its own test, using an even higher testing speed (150 mph). Bottom line: the presence of high speed rail is not a legitimate reason for objecting to a rail with trails project.

The article concludes with several recommendations on what measures can be undertaken to create a safe and useful trail facility, without compromising train operations or safety.


January 2004

Review: Rationality & Power: Democracy in Practice
Bent Flyvbjerg, University of Chicago Press, 1998

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Is change best accomplished with power, or with persuasion? In his book "Rationality & Power" Bent Flyvbjerg comes up with his own version of Realpolitik which those in the pedestrian and bicycle community may find of interest.

The author tells the tale of a Danish city that attempted to reshape it downtown. Professor Flyvbjerg uses this detailed case study to explore his fundamental question: How does democracy happen? Other questions then follow, such as: How are ideas propagated and accepted — or rejected? How do some visions become realized, while others do not? How are projects reshaped in the crucible of political discussion and behind-the-scenes plotting? How is power created, nurtured and employed? Who has power, and why? And what is the relationship between rational argument and power?

In this review, Mr. Chauncey of the NCBW explores the author's answers to these questions, as well as offering an answer to the 'So what?' question that Flyvbjerg’s observations pose to the reader.


January 2004

Transportation That's Actually Good for the Soul

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Evidence continues to grow that our transportation choices are affecting our health. But while we typically think of these impacts in terms of air pollution alerts, increasing incidences of childhood asthma, the growing numbers of children and adults considered overweight and

obese—just to name a few—transportation's impact on mental health is often overlooked. This article examines the nexus between children’s health and transportation, and the significance of social connections to our health. The author presents research and anecdotal evidence from around the world about transportation’s connection to mental health—especially children’s mental health.

Here is a sample: “Slowing down and experiencing the moment is emphasized in stress management training as well as meditation techniques for spiritual development. Pleasant walking and cycling paths that lead to destinations that adults and children regularly travel would allow us to use these modes for transportation. And surely “Road Rage” is the antithesis of the compassionate society that we would wish for ourselves and our children?”


January 2004

(Review) Global City Blues
Daniel Solomon, Island Press, 2003

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Daniel Solomon (founding architect of the Congress for New Urbanism, leader in the New Urbanist movement) reviews, in this collection of essays, the past practices, and

current progress the field of urban planning has made towards realizing its ideal: livable places. His new book provides a fascinating and hopeful set of insights into the growing field of progressively integrated urban architecture and planning. It brims with interesting stories and inspiring leaders, architects, planners, and developers. The author concentrates on the land–use history of San Francisco, traces how the conflict between planners and traffic engineers shaped the city, and, in doing so, provides insight into the beginning of the freeway revolt movement.

This book is highly recommended “for all working to enhance the character of our cities.


December 2003

State DOT Scan: Phase II...Performance/Projects Assessments

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In March 2002, the NCBW issued its report, Are We There Yet? (AWTY) in which we considered the plans and policies of State DOTs. In most cases, the information reported was provided by the State DOT?s bike/ped

coordinator. The objective for this Phase II of our scan of State DOTs is to look at what the agencies are really doing to accommodate pedestrians and bicyclists in highway projects. We will accomplish this by encouraging local advocates, state bike-ped coordinators, APBP and ITE members, public health officials, and members of the general public to participate in an assessment of at least a sample of recent state projects, providing a tool and a methodology for conducting this post-project review and assessment, and encouraging meetings with appropriate State DOT staff to discuss their findings. Our hope is that this process will help improve both the policies and practices of the State DOTs with regard to highway design to accommodate all users.

Once you've completed a review of this document, please go to our onlne NCBW Forum to add your suggestions and comments to the dialog. The direct link to the DOT Scan review area is:


October 2003

Wauconda (IL) School Bans Bikes...and the schools' bicycle ban is on the wrong track!

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This topic comes (unfortunately) right out of today's headlines. While many in America struggle with the health problems tied to increasing numbers of children suffering from obesity,

some school systems are forbidding children to ride bicycles to school!

Here's a sample:  "It used to be that kids walked, biked or took the school bus. You only got a ride if you had a broken bone or a huge school project to carry– and it was raining. Now, in many places, more children arrive by car than any other means. Hurried parents drive their children, talk on their cell phones and eat fast-food breakfasts, but some consider this to be quality time with their children. Maybe this explains their terrible driving behavior– it's hard to focus on both your child and traffic at the same time."


October 2003

2nd Edition, Velo Quebec, 2003

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From our friends north of the border comes a handy, well-produced guide to bikeway design.

Review author Mia Layne Birk takes a look at the handbook, noting where it in some places offers treatments not found in the AASHTO Guide.

Here's a sample: "The 2nd edition of Vélo Québec?s Technical Handbook of Bikeway Design (2003) covers ground familiar to bikeway planning professionals. Nicely laid out, written, and illustrated, it is a good fi rst stop for bikeway planners and designers. It includesan overview of bicycling, types of bikeways, and planning. It succinctly covers the basics of geometric bikeway design, construction issues, multi-use trails, bike parking, bicycles and public transit, and maintenance/operation.


February 2003

Are We There Yet? Assessing the Performance of State Departments of Transportation on Accommodating Bicycles and Pedestrians
National Center for Bicycling & Walking, 2003

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From its Benchmarking Project, the NCBW produced this report which shows that only only 11 state departments of transportation (DOT) have bicycle and pedestrian plans, and routinely accommodate bicycles and pedestrians in state highway projects. In developing the report, the NCBW interviewed 49 state DOT bicycle/pedestrian coordinators and reviewed planning documents they provided. The study looked closely at four topics: statewide bicycle and pedestrian plans, accommodating bicycles in state highway projects, providing sidewalks for pedestrians in state highway projects located in urban areas, and implementing a statewide Safe Routes to School program. The NCBW reviewed federal legislation, regulations, polices, and guidance, as well as the policies and recommended practices of national organizations including the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) and the Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE). Using these sources, a set of benchmarks was identified and used to assess the current performance of each state DOT. A chart shows all 50 states and their positions on these benchmarks.

NCBW Forum
You can respond to these and other articles and topics at the NCBW Forum.