When you build for youngest, you build for everyone


A young boy on his bike waits for the red light to change on Logan Boulevard in Logan Square.

I’ve been participating in a design collaboration this summer called Moving Design: Call To Action. This year’s “Call To Action” is about bicycle safety in Chicago, focusing on Logan Square. The group comprises over 40 designers, and two urban planners, including myself.

My role has been to provide “policy insights” – read and see them on the Moving Design blog. Since I’ve been in Utah for last Wednesday’s and tonight’s meetings, I created videos. Think of them as a satellite feed of an actor giving their Oscar acceptance speech from the set of the movie they’re filming.

This video policy insight is about 8 to 80. I connect the concept of “designing biking facilities for all” to ways cyclists have been divided and then bring it around to a discussion last week between Adolfo Hernandez of Active Transportation Alliance and Rob Forbes, CEO of Public Bikes.

Watch the video after the jump. 


The following is the text I used to speak in the video. The text differs from what I ended up speaking. 

There are many ways to divide cyclists when it comes to figuring out how to plan for them. The first I heard about was ABC – Advanced, Beginner, Children, a designation the Federal Highway Administration and others used in the 1990s).

The City of Portland developed new categorizations in 2005. Strong and fearless, enthused and confident, interested but concerned, and “no way, no how.”

Then a study in 2010 of people in Ashland, Oregon, about bicycling divided respondents into the same four groups Portland created. The strong and fearless, at 0.5% of the sample, let nothing deter them from cycling. Enthused and confident are responding to the changes: new bikeways (including protected, buffered, and bike boulevards), and more bike racks (7% of sample). Sixty percent of the sample are interested but concerned – in other words, they’re curious but afraid. The remaining third are the “no way, no how.”

[The information above about the study deviates from the video; I discovered new information but could not find the original study, just the news reports. Roger Geller, the director of the Portland bicycle program, created the new classifications in 2005. Read the history of their support and development (PDF).]

This report concluded sensibly, “There appears to be a need to provide a multi-level cycling system that caters to multiple types of cyclists, if there is to be a significant change in shifting more people to cycling.”

But that is the old way of thinking. Some advocates are transitioning into a new way, adopted (or adapted) from European bicycle planning, is “8 to 80.”

“8-80” is really just a clever tagline, because we want 81 year olds to be biking as well.

You heard Adolfo talk about this last Monday. Instead of dividing cyclists we’re including ALL of them.

Adolfo: “When you build for the youngest, you build for everyone. When you build infrastructure to the level of an 8 YO, then you need less education. Education is still component, but much less important.”


Adolfo Hernandez and Rob Forbes talking about promoting cycling, selling bicycles, making safe infrastructure, redesigning cities, and changing our priorities. From Monday, August 15, 2011. 

Mikael Colville-Anderson of Copenhagenize Consulting and Copenhagen Cycle Chic said, about a recent visit to Barcelona, “Liveable City Requirement #1 really is being able to ride around the city with my nine-year-old on safe, separated infrastructure.” I met Mikael and his nine-year-old, Felix, in January, on my epic trip to Europe to experience bicycling in 4 countries and 6 cities (Milan was the only city I didn’t bike through, but I rode a bike in Como, to the north). Mikael took me on a small tour of Copenhagen to show me why its safe for Felix and everyone else to ride their bikes in town.

So be inclusive. Find fewer ways to divide people into groups and more ways to design and build in such a way that accommodates all people, whether they don’t know how to ride a bike yet, or have been biking for a 1 year or 10.

Read more policy insights from Steven Vance. 

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