3p Weekend: These City Projects Are a Cyclist’s Dream

With a busy week behind you and the weekend within reach, there’s no shame in taking things a bit easy on Friday afternoon. With this in mind, every Friday TriplePundit will give you a fun, easy read on a topic you care about. So, take a break from those endless email threads and spend five minutes catching up on the latest trends in sustainability and business.

More and more city-dwellers are shunning automobiles in favor of two-wheeled transport or walking in combination with public transit and ridesharing services like Lyft and Uber. As this trend continues around the world, the most valuable pieces of real estate are often not the flashy apartment buildings with the biggest parking lots, but rather units that offer seamless access to a city’s cycling and pedestrian infrastructure.

Picking up on the trend, late last month the Urban Land Institute released a report on a concept dubbed “trail-oriented development.” As part of the report, the nonprofit highlighted disruptive active-transportation infrastructure investments that support urban and real-estate development around the world.

Would you walk or cycle on these rad urban trails? Or did the Institute miss the hottest trail destination in your city? Tell us about it in the comments!

The Circuit Trails

Southeastern Pennsylvania and southern New Jersey, U.S.

The Schuylkill River Trail extends past Philadelphia’s historic art museum and into the heart of downtown.

The Circuit is a growing regional trail network that connects destinations across Greater Philadelphia. The vast network of paths link city centers, transit hubs, parks and recreational destinations across Philly and South Jersey, allowing pedestrians and bicyclists to traverse both cities and suburbs without a car.

The Circuit is emerging as a “key component” of the overall transportation system in Greater Philadelphia, the Institute reported. Around 300 miles of trail have already been completed, with a goal of a 750-mile Circuit by 2040. The U.S. Census shows that bicycle commuting in the Philadelphia region increased 151 percent from 2000 to 2009. In 2014, 1.9 percent of Philadelphia commuters traveled by bike — a rate 1.75 times that of New York City and over three times higher than that of the United States as a whole.

And the region is already reaping the benefits of this expansive pedestrian hub: Every year up to one million pedestrians and cyclists use the Philadelphia portion of the Schuylkill River Trail — a key route on the Circuit but only a small sub-section of the trail. And how about this? Properties within a quarter mile of the Radnor Trail, a suburban route on the Circuit, were valued on average $69,000 higher than other area properties, according to the Institute.

Read more about the trail in the Urban Land Institute report (PDF).

Cycle Superhighways

Copenhagen, Denmark


In 2012, the first of a planned network of 28 “cycle superhighways” opened in Copenhagen, with a second route opening in 2013. The so-called superhighways were planned to meet the needs of commuters in outlying parts of the city’s metro area by creating long-distance routes unimpeded by cars and crosswalks.

The plan had the lofty goal of enticing thousands of commuters out of their cars and onto a bicycle — with the aim of decreasing traffic congestion, carbon emissions and health care costs while increasing quality of city life.

And it seems the goal was successful. The Danish government boasts that there are more bicycles in Copenhagen than people, and an estimated 50 percent of Copenhagen residents commute to work by bike on a daily basis. The so-called “bike-bahn” routes only boosted these numbers: Thousands of residents use the 10.9-mile route from downtown Copenhagen to surrounding suburbs every day. Two superhighway routes have been completed, with nine more to be finalized by the end of 2018. The city predicts that completing a network of 28 superhighways will lead to an economic return of 19 percent for the region, the Institute reports.

Read more about the trails in the Urban Land Institute report (PDF).

Cycle Superhighways

London, U.K.

Much like the Copenhagen project, London’s planned network of cycle ‘superhighways’ will connect the city center to outlying suburbs with the aim of spurring more bicycle commuting.

London broke ground on two planned superhighways last year.

In addition to road safety benefits and more bicycle commuters, the US$240 million investment is spurring new residential and commercial development along the routes, the Institute reports.

But the project hasn’t come without its troubles. Four new cycling routes were completed as of last year, but they have been criticized for their lack of physical separation from motor vehicle traffic. Six bicyclists were killed on the route known as CS2 between 2011 and 2015.

Read more about the trails in the Urban Land Institute report (PDF).

Midtown Greenway

Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S.

Built in stages between 2000 and 2007, the Midtown Greenway provides automobile traffic–free connections between key destinations in south Minneapolis, as well as the heart of downtown through links with other bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure.

In a nod to the ‘bicycle highway’ model, the Greenway includes separate one-way paths for each direction of bicycle travel and a parallel two-way pedestrian path. The trail network has catalyzed more than $750 million worth of new residential development, according to the Institute, with future extensions still to come.

Read more about the trail in the Urban Land Institute report (PDF).

Bicycle Sharing

Paris, France; Montreal, Canada; Hangzhou, China

The Vlib’ bike-sharing program in Paris is one of the largest in the world on a per-capita basis.

Bike-sharing programs are nothing new, but they are on the rise. In 2004, there were just 13 large municipal bike-share systems worldwide. This figure increased to more than 800 as of 2015 — with over 200 in China alone. In its report, the Urban Land Institute highlighted three standout bike-sharing projects in France, Canada and China, and explained why the rest of the world can learn a thing or two from their unique models.

In 2007, Paris launched the Vlib’ bike-sharing program with 7,000 bikes. By 2008, municipal data showed a 70 percent increase in bike-riding and a 5 percent reduction in car use. As of 2013, Vlib’ had the highest market penetration of any bike-sharing system in the world, with one bike per 97 residents. By 2015, the number of available bikes had more than tripled, with 21,278 bicycles spread across over 1,800 docking stations throughout the city. The city generates an estimated US$32.49 million annually from Vlib’ user fees.

Montreal modeled its popular bike-share program, Bixi, after Paris’ stand-out success. Launched in 2009, Bixi was the first bike-sharing system in North America. By 2015, the system included 5,200 bikes across 460 stations. And both the city and property owners are reaping the rewards: Home values in Montreal saw an average increase of US$6,123.10 after Bixi came to town, according to the Institute.

Meanwhile, in Hangzhou, China, we’re catching a glimpse of bike-sharing on a massive scale. The city’s program, Hangzhou Public Bicycle, had 78,000 bikes and 3,131 stations last year, making it second only to Wuhan, China, in its scope. Three years after the program launched, more than 30 percent of Hangzhou commuters used bike-sharing as part of their commute. The city has plans to increase the number of bikes in its system to 175,000 by 2020.

Read more about the trail in the Urban Land Institute report (PDF).

Image credits: 1), 3), 4) and 5) courtesy of the Urban Land Institute; 2) Flickr/Montgomery County Planning Commission 6) Flickr/Mariordo59