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Volume 3, Number 7

World Cup Special Edition

OK, it’s FIFA World Cup time.  Jeff’s cards are on the table, and his bracket has the Netherlands playing Brazil in the final.  So far, he ranks in the top 978,536 people in the pool, having managed to only pick 9 of the teams that advanced past the group stage.  He also happily lost $20 to good friend Joel L. on a bet that the USA wouldn’t make it out of the first round.  If only Jeff had rushed to market his idea for limited edition Louis Suarez designer “Bite Me” t-shirts, he could have made it big.  For those of you reading this and thinking about what this has to do with The Third Mode, here are some key observations:


Having grown up playing soccer in suburban New Jersey, Jeff played his favorite team sport in complete obscurity.  He then managed to get his favorite job of all time working as a cocktail waiter for the NY Cosmos in the player’s club at Giants Stadium.  This was during glory days of the North American Soccer League, with stars including Pele, Beckenbauer, and Chinaglia.  But those days faded, and it has taken more than 40 years for this 2014 World Cup to transform the American audience.  The US has finally joined the rest of the world, and every match is being watched with an obsession worthy of the world’s #1 sport.  In part this due to the globalization of society  – previously unlikely sides like the USA, Costa Rica, Nigeria made it to the knockout round, while former powerhouses including Italy, England, Portugal, Spain left tournament early.

But there is an even more direct connection between the FIFA World Cup and TheThird Mode this year – the release of a very important document for making the world’s slums more bicycle friendly.  Jeff, Jason Reyes, and the Alta team helped develop the project in collaboration with EMBARQ Brazil, Bloomberg Philanthropies and the City of Rio de Janeiro.  The report, called the Manual of Projects and Programmes for Encouraging the Use of Bicycles in Communities was released in Portuguese last month in Rio. The manual was developed to help the favelas in Rio serve as a model for disadvantaged communities worldwide. The timing of the project was intended to capitalize on the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympic games in Brazil. As the world’s cities continue to grow, it is critical that mobility, health and safety be integrated as human rights – and the bicycle is a simple, cost effective solution for communities around the world. You can download the document here: http://www.embarqbrasil.org/node/1176.

There are so many critical issues in our world, and projects like this bring some hope to everyone who believes that we can make changes that benefit all people. During this World Cup season, please remember that there are millions of people who do not have access to safe drinking water, electricity or mobility. We know that creating walkable and bikeable communities is part of the solution…






A Day in the life of Rio, where physical activity is a way of life.

Email of the Month:

The email of the month comes from our friends at EMBARQ Brasil, a shining star in theThe Third Mode world – this is what we all work for:

Hello Jeff,
Thank you for your wishes! I take the opportunity to send you the link for the final version of our manual for bike use in favelas:
We launched it on May 20th in Rio (http://www.embarqbrasil.org/node/1176), and since then we are receiving really good feedback from cities all around Brazil!  Thank you for sharing your essential knowledge with us!! Hope to work in another successful publication with Alta Planning!

Upcoming Events

There will be break from the monthly Update in August, and we’ll be back for a Special Edition from the ProWalk/ProBike Conference in Pittsburgh – Jeff will be there onSeptember 9-10, along with many of his colleagues at Alta who will be presenting on topics ranging from a smartphone app created for Cycle Atlanta, to a presentation on "listening harder" when working in diverse communities. Hope to see you there!  



Volume 3, Number 6

Five Boro Tour on a CitiBike/1 yr Celebration of Bike Share in NYC

I’ve often said that the Five Boro Bike Tour is one of the best events in the world. There’s nothing like seeing more than 30,000 people enjoying NYC on bikes. This year, I had the great joy of riding the Tour on a Citi Bike with Jon Schulhof of REQX. We had an extraordinary ride – it was just amazing how many people cheered us on, chatted us up and genuinely enjoyed seeing a pair of Citi Bikes in the crowd. It was an especially rewarding day, since this month bike share celebrates its first birthday in New York City. More than 8 million rides have taken place on CitiBikes – it’s been a true game changer for urban mobility. Special thanks to Bike New York for their decades of support for bicycling, and for continuing to put on a great event every year.

New York for their decades of support for bicycling, and for continuing to put on a great event every year.

Image Left: Jeff with Bike New York director Ken Podziba at the start of this year’s tour.

Speaking of Great Events..

I’ve often quoted Bruce Springsteen in my presentations, and this month I had the opportunity to see the E Street Band again. I don’t count how many shows I’ve been to, and I’ve said that even the Boss can’t keep doing this forever.  From my teenage years in New Jersey, I’ve watched this band continue to defy expectations, as Bruce says, “night after night after night after night…”   They did it again this month in Albany, and I’m still smiling – especially after finally hearing the “Seaside Bar Song” played live in concert.  If rock and roll is supposed to make you feel 18 years old again, the E Street Band is the fountain of youth.

Reader Email: Team Billy Raises $1 Million for Cancer Research

Last month, we made a change to the email system for The Third Mode Update, and it generated a lot of great emails.  Here’s Jeff’s personal favorite:

In your calendar, should have had lead out the 10 mile ride for Team Billy!!!

Allow me to explain. For the past 15 years, the Saratoga Springs community has joined the family of Billy Grey in raising money for cancer research. Ken, Cherie and the entire Team Billy effort has been an amazing ride. With so many people we know dealing with cancer, this event is a chance to help solve the problem.

Jeff’s involvement goes back to the beginning of the fundraiser. At the time when young Billy lost his battle, his family decided to turn tragedy into a community effort. On a freezing winter day that year, Ken was asked to run the Olympic Torch into Saratoga Springs. Jeff, with his three kids bundled up in a Burley bike trailer, met the group at City Hall. Ken, impressed that Jeff turned out that morning, gave him the torch and said, “start running.” Jeff had the amazing (and totally unexpected) honor of running the Olympic Torch with his kids down Broadway. Afterwards, he told Ken he would help Team Billy do anything they needed in return. Ken and Cherie then asked Jeff to lead an all-ages 10-mile ride as part of the annual Team Billy event in May. It’s a bit like herding cats, with riders of all ages and abilities spread out along the course, but Jeff loves to do, especially for such an important cause. If you are interested, join us atwww.TeamBilly.org.

Bonus Shout Out to Dan Burden: Honored at the White House

Another great honor to Dan, the Johnny Appleseed of our movement. Jeff and so many have looked to him as a great pioneer, and this year the White House agreed. For more info, please go to:



Volume 3, Number 4

"USDOT Adopts “The ThirdMode” as National Safety Policy"

In a surprising move, the US Department of transportation has announced that federal safety funding will be re-invested based on the percentage of injuries and fatalities for all modes of transportation. This means that pedestrians and bicyclists, who make up more than 10% of traffic crashes, will now see billions of dollars invested in making America safer for everyone on our nation’s roads. “This is exactly why I wrote The ThirdMode,” said author Jeff Olson in a conference call with USDOT’s leadership. We are finally on our way towards a fully balanced approach to mobility.

Unfortunately, this is just an April Fools’ Day message. As it turns out, in 2012 Congress asked the USDOT to set national goals to guide federal, state and local investments for our country’s transportation system. On March 11, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) issued a "Notice of Proposed Rulemaking" that failed to include a specific performance measure for non-motorized transportation. This a big step in the wrong direction, and advocates are calling for FHWA to adopt a definitive goal that reduces the disproportionate amount of fatalities and injuries that pedestrians and bicyclists suffer in our country. If you want to help, go to the League of American Bicyclists Action Center and Tell US DOT: Bicyclists' Safety Counts.

Positive Signs of Life in the Universe - Downtown DC Walmart:

There are very few images that could possibly symbolize more of the change envisioned in TheThird Mode than this one:  the brand new, urban WalMart store on H Street in Washington DC. It occupies a very visible corner in the revitalized neighborhood near Union Station, and it has a Capital Bike Share rack right at the front door. If this doesn’t make you smile, check your pulse. 

Connections at Kaiser Permanente’s Center for Total Health

Thanks to an invitation from Ted Eytan of Kaiser, Jeff was invited to speak with a group of tech innovators at the Center for Total Health in DC this month. The Center occupies the main lobby of Kaiser’s building near Union Station, with a giant touchscreen display of how communities can become healthier and more physically active. The event included a grad student doing research on the health impact of Capital Bikeshare, and a software developer who created a Google Glass app that combines data from all modes of travel. It was amazing to be surrounded by so many creative people working to make The Third Modehappen.

For more info on the Kaiser Permanente Center for Total Health, please visit: www.centerfortotalhealth.org

One of the surprises of the event at Kaiser to meeting a former UAlbany student who is now a consultant in DC. His follow up email is The Third Mode message of the month:

It was great to see you last week at the Transportation + Health Meetup… speaking for my parents and other people in Plattsburgh (my hometown), I want to let you know that the work that you've done on the Saranac River Trail is much appreciated…my mom uses the trail to commute to her job at the local elementary school on a regular basis. I wanted to share two things with you that I know you will appreciate.

The first thing I'm sharing is a photo of a CitiBike I used to ride across the Brooklyn Bridge last June when I was in NYC for a short weekend visit. Since then, I've had the privilege of using bikeshare in Montreal, Chicago, and Columbus, in addition to CaBi here in DC. Every time I'm using a new system, I assume the role a bikeshare ambassador, teaching locals and tourists on how the system works. It's a rewarding experience to share (pun intended) with others something I enjoy so much. And for tourists, the bike really opens their eyes to much more of a city. They're not looking at things behind a windshield, at 50 mph, or crawling underground on the subway. It's transformative in so many ways.

The second thing I'm sharing is my presentation from your class at the University of Albany from five years ago in Spring 2008. My presentation was on successful bikeshare programs in Paris and Lyon, as well as the dawn of Bixi in Montreal. Little did I know how much bikeshare would change the world of transportation in the US just two years later. Glad to see that you and Alta Bikeshare took the ball and ran with it. And for that, I say thank you.  

RH, Washington DC

Jeff in this month's The City Fix blog with EMBARQ

Alta and EMBARQ (a sustainable transport initiative of the World Resources Institute) have collaborated on projects in Brazil, Mexico and other countries. This month, Jeff was featured in EMBARQ’s great on-line site The City Fix. Here is a link to the story:
“The wind at our backs”: An interview with Alta Bicycle Share co-founder Jeff Olson

And Speaking of Total Health… Ski 50 Days In Your 80’s!

Here’s a story to inspire us all: Jeff was lucky enough this month to spend time with friends in Stowe, VT, including 88-year-old Chuck G. Jeff and the group joined Chuck on his 51st and 52nd ski days of the season – an amazing accomplishment at any age. Chuck is an expert skier, and still gets first tracks in from the top of Stowe at speeds that make friends half his age struggle to keep up with him. Chuck lives independently, still works as a doctor, and knows how to start the day right: a healthy breakfast and a run down his favorite trail. Every once in a while, somebody raises the bar on what our long term quality of life can be if we keep living an active lifestyle every day. Thanks, Chuck, you are a hero.



Volume 3, Number 3

February marked one of the few months in recent years where I didn’t take a single airplane flight for business.  With all respect to my Star Alliance status, it really was a pleasure to be on the ground here in the great Northeast for 4 straight weeks.  Yes, I’m trying to reduce my carbon footprint, and at the same time rebalance my time to be at home more often.  Even so, it was another interesting month – I was in Rochester NY (twice), Philadelphia and NYC, taught the graduate studio at UAlbany, participated in a dozen conference calls, provided a Complete Streets webinar for the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, did a keynote for Empire State College in Saratoga, and enjoyed some great midwinter skiing.  Here are a few highlights of a month spent living regionally:

Dan Burden:

If you haven’t met the Johnny Appleseed of the walkable communities movement, you must not be in one of the more than 3,000 places that Dan Burden has worked in over the past decade.  He is a force of nature, a true visionary, and luckily for me a partner in crime on many projects over the years.  We recently had the chance to team up again on a DASH-NY workshop for public health professionals in Rochester.  I really can’t say enough about Dan, so click on the link below and let him say it himself in this recent TEDx Talk:

UAlbany Planning Studio 2014: 

A lot of people who know me well may not realize that since 1996 I’ve been teaching in the UAlbany Urban and Regional Planning Program.  My course, “Walking, Bicycling and Trails: Innovations in Transportation,” was the first of its kind in the U.S., and our Graduate Planning Studio program has developed a number of important projects.  More than 400 students will have graduated from my classes by the end of this year – and it’s great to hear from many of them as they’ve moved on to their own careers.  I never imagined that I’d be teaching for more 18 years – but it’s been a very rewarding experience, sometimes in surprising ways.  This year’s 2014 Planning Studio is working on a plan for the hamlet of Palenville, NY, a gateway to the historic Catskill Mountains.  It’s a small world, but Palenville is the place where my great-grandparents owned a hotel when they emigrated to this country in the early 1900’s.  At a public meeting for the Studio project, I met the woman who now owns the property, which was once the Olshansky family’s Arlington House hotel.  Thanks again for all the students who’ve inspired me for so many semesters.  Visit www.albany.edu/iHi for more info about the UAlbany Planning program.

Observations as a Parent - Touring Colleges: 

Yes, it’s that time again in the Olson household.  We’ve become great fans of UVM and Burlington VT with a daughter in college there, and now it’s time to visit schools with daughter #2.  As someone who works on a variety of community and campus projects, I have one special piece of advice for places of higher education:  there is nothing more informative about a community than what a parent learns on a campus tour with a prospective student.  This year, our family has looked at places including Savannah, Boston, and Philadelphia.  Each time I’ve thought about including a parent’s tour of campus as part of the scope of services for the planning work I’m involved in.  There may be no better way to learn about what the next generation thinks about the places they live and learn in.


Volume 3, Number 2

BIG NEWS: Alta Bicycle Share Named to Fast Company’s Top 50!

Alta Bicycle Share (ABS) was named as one of Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies for 2014. It is an incredible honor to be on the same list as Google, Netflix, Bloomberg Philanthropies, Nike, GE, GoPro, Square and other global leaders. Thanks to the entire Alta Team and all of our public and private sector partners for making this possible:


citi bike, alta bike share, bike share bike, new york city

Photo Above: Jeff and the ABS owners in New York City

Walking with Giants:

No, it’s not Jeff’s favorite NFL team, but in January and February, he has had the opportunity to work with Mark Fenton and Dan Burden, two of the giants of the livable communities movement.  Jeff, Mark, and Dan were co-collaborators on the Grand Canyon Greenway adventure in the 1990’s, and thanks to the DASH-NY (Designing a Strong and Healthy New York) Initiative, they are working together again to connect public health and public works. With support from the NY State Department of Health, The SUNY School of Public Health, and the NY Academy of Medicine, they are helping to lead a series of workshops in Albany, Syracuse and Rochester. Each session includes a walking audit, technical sessions on Complete Streets, and a focused action plan. Mark once said, “there are 3 kinds of people in the world: sinks, sources and neutrals – stay with the sources and you’ll have a great life.” Both Mark and Dan are definitely sources, and any time spent working with them is an honor.  For more info at DASH-NY, go to:


Photo Below: Walk Audit with Mark Fenton and DASH NY

Getting the Best of the Delta Blues:

After Jeff helped make the Mississippi River Trail (MRT) a nationally-recognized Millennium project a decade ago, he served on the board for several years. In January, he had the opportunity to travel with friends through the Delta from Memphis to New Orleans. It was a true adventure, from a visit with visionaries working to restore the Harahan Bridge across the River from Tennessee to Arkansas (www.harahanbridgeproject.com), to legendary roadhouses like Doe’s Eat Place in Greenville, the famous Crossroads in Clarksdale, the historic Vicksburg Battlefield, and along the Natchez Trace, it was an eye-opening trip through the American South. MRT, Inc. is working with National Geographic to promote the entire trail from Minnesota to the Gulf, for more info please visit:


Photo Below: The Harahan Bridge will be a major link in the MRT

st of the Delta Blues:

After Jeff helped make the Mississippi River Trail (MRT) a nationally-recognized Millennium project a decade ago, he served on the board for several years. In January, he had the opportunity to travel with friends through the Delta from Memphis to New Orleans. It was a true adventure, from a visit with visionaries working to restore the Harahan Bridge across the River from Tennessee to Arkansas (www.harahanbridgeproject.com), to legendary roadhouses like Doe’s Eat Place in Greenville, the famous Crossroads in Clarksdale, the historic Vicksburg Battlefield, and along the Natchez Trace, it was an eye-opening trip through the American South. MRT, Inc. is working with National Geographic to promote the entire trail from Minnesota to the Gulf, for more info please visit:


Photo Below: The Harahan Bridge will be a major link in the MRT


Volume 3, Number 2

BIG NEWS: Alta Bicycle Share Named to Fast Company’s Top 50!

Alta Bicycle Share (ABS) was named as one of Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies for 2014. It is an incredible honor to be on the same list as Google, Netflix, Bloomberg Philanthropies, Nike, GE, GoPro, Square and other global leaders. Thanks to the entire Alta Team and all of our public and private sector partners for making this possible:


citi bike, alta bike share, bike share bike, new york city

Photo Above: Jeff and the ABS owners in New York City

Walking with Giants:

No, it’s not Jeff’s favorite NFL team, but in January and February, he has had the opportunity to work with Mark Fenton and Dan Burden, two of the giants of the livable communities movement.  Jeff, Mark, and Dan were co-collaborators on the Grand Canyon Greenway adventure in the 1990’s, and thanks to the DASH-NY (Designing a Strong and Healthy New York) Initiative, they are working together again to connect public health and public works. With support from the NY State Department of Health, The SUNY School of Public Health, and the NY Academy of Medicine, they are helping to lead a series of workshops in Albany, Syracuse and Rochester. Each session includes a walking audit, technical sessions on Complete Streets, and a focused action plan. Mark once said, “there are 3 kinds of people in the world: sinks, sources and neutrals – stay with the sources and you’ll have a great life.” Both Mark and Dan are definitely sources, and any time spent working with them is an honor.  For more info at DASH-NY, go to:


Photo Below: Walk Audit with Mark Fenton and DASH NY

Getting the Best of the Delta Blues:

After Jeff helped make the Mississippi River Trail (MRT) a nationally-recognized Millennium project a decade ago, he served on the board for several years. In January, he had the opportunity to travel with friends through the Delta from Memphis to New Orleans. It was a true adventure, from a visit with visionaries working to restore the Harahan Bridge across the River from Tennessee to Arkansas (www.harahanbridgeproject.com), to legendary roadhouses like Doe’s Eat Place in Greenville, the famous Crossroads in Clarksdale, the historic Vicksburg Battlefield, and along the Natchez Trace, it was an eye-opening trip through the American South. MRT, Inc. is working with National Geographic to promote the entire trail from Minnesota to the Gulf, for more info please visit:


Photo Below: The Harahan Bridge will be a major link in the MRT




Volume 3, Number 1

It’s a new year, and we wish everyone a very happy, healthy and successful 2014.  The past year was an amazing experience for The Third Mode, ranging from a video keynote with Kathmandu, Nepal to seeing the Saratoga Springs Greenbelt Trail move forward in my home town. Since it’s that time of year, here is The Third Mode Top Nine for 2014:

1. Paul McCartney’s shout out to Citi Bike:  You know it’s been a good year when a BEATLE mentions your work during the opening sketch on Saturday Night Live… http://newsfeed.time.com/2013/12/22/watch-jimmy-fallon-duet-with-paul-mccartney-on-snls-christmas-show/.  This was literally priceless, thanks again to our sponsors at Mastercard.

2. Getting a Dog:  Our family welcomed Pierce, a golden-Pyrenees-shepherd rescue dog mix into our family this summer. Nothing makes you enjoy a walkable community more than walking a dog, and we’ve followed all the data that shows that people with dogs walk more every day.

3.  The Third Mode and ITE:  As an architect who has been a long-time member of the Institute of Transportation Engineers, it was a special honor for Jeff to see his book listed in the December issue of the ITE Journal. The Third Mode is now available for sale via the ITE bookstore:http://www.ite.org/emodules/scriptcontent/Orders/OrderSearchResults.cfm

4. Teaching at UAlbany:  After 17 years teaching America’s first university course on alternative transportation and the ups and downs of student quality over the years, 2013 ended with one of the best classes Jeff has ever had. Student projects included work from 5 different countries, a song performed live as final project (check out Walking and Biking by Tiffany Nicolella on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=tiffany+nicolella&sm=3) and a new magazine concept called Spandex.

5. Books:  Sales of The Third Mode have been a success, and I want to say a special thanks to three places (yes, there are still real stores selling real books) that hosted the book this year:  Skinny Skis in Jackson, Wyoming, Nightbird Books in Fayetteville, Arkansas and Northshire Books in Saratoga Springs, NY.  

6. Reader Comments:  There is simply nothing that makes an author happier than getting reader comments saying what this book means to them.  Please keep sending your emails, Facebook posts and other messages; they make our day every time.

7. The Places We’ve Been:  Another year on trail included such a wide range of travels:  New Orleans, Lima, Boston, Montreal, Chicago, Columbus, DC, Portland, Bentonville, Jackson Hole and so many other great places. The hospitality in every destination is greatly appreciated.

8. The Team at Alta.  It has been 10 years since Jeff joined Alta and what a decade it’s been. From a small group that could sit around one conference table, Alta Planning + Design now has more than 100 people in 24 offices, and Alta Bicycle Share has had more than 10 million rides on its systems. Special thanks to Sam Piper and Natalie Lozano for their help – and to the entire Alta team.

9.  2014.  Yes, this is a top 9 list, 3 x 3 for The Third Mode. The final item has to be 2014 – it’s great to end the year with so many great stories continuing to happen, and with time to enjoy friends, family and work in the new year. Happy 2014 to all…and keep thinking in the The Third Mode.


Volume 2, Number 12

By the time you read this, the news that Nelson Mandela has passed will be the world’s major story. There is nothing in the world more important. Our work matters, the projects we are creating will make a difference, but Mandela’s life puts everything in perspective. Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of South Africa, and everyone around the world who works for peace. Jeff’s visit to Johannesburg was one of the highlights of his year, especially the tour of the Mandela Museum in Soweto. The only thing we can say in this holiday season is to be thankful for the freedom we enjoy, and thanks to those great leaders who make it possible.

And we return to our regularly scheduled Update. Here are a few of Jeff’s stories and travels from the past month:

Fairfax, VA Summit:

Jeff provided a keynote at the Fairfax, VA Bike Summit on November 1st. This was an extraordinary event, and showed that even one of America’s most suburban counties can turn towards creating more walkable and bikeable places. Having grown up in the New Jersey suburbs, Jeff was inspired by the work going on in Northern Virginia to emphasize a new approach for the next generation of development. Local elected officials, planners, and citizens are rallying around major changes, including a new town center at the former Tyson’s mall and the new Silver Line extension of the DC Metro system. Alta’s Fionnuala Quinn and L.A.B.’s Andy Clarke were part of the program, which made it even more fun. For the icing on the cake, Jeff had a chance to test-ride the new Specialized Turbo Electric bike on the George Mason University campus. It’s an amazing machine, designed like a 2-wheeled Prius and further evidence that new technology can be a positive part of our lives in the near future.

Lima, Peru Sustainable Mobility Conference:

After just a few days at home, Jeff travel to Lima, Peru for the III EIMUS Congress on November 6-8.Jeff was part of the launch of a new book he co-authored with a global team called "Cyclists and Cycling Around the World: Creating Liveable and Bikeable Cities."










Image above:  Jeff with the co-authors of Cycling and Cyclists Around the World at the III EIMUS Congress in Lima, Peru.

Alta 2013 Leadership Meeting:

Back in the US after his second of three red-eye flights this month,  Jeff went toAlta’s HQ in Portland, Oregon the week of November 18th for the annual leadership meeting of Alta Planning + Design. It was great to see the team leaders from throughout the company’s 20+ offices. This year is Jeff’s 10th with Alta, and in a decade Alta Planning + Design has grown to more than 100 people, and Alta Bicycle Share now has more than tripled that amount. One of the highlights of the Alta summit was a keynote by Keith Carrato of Nike, who spoke about the power of Social Movements and the Nike Designed to Move initiative.  If you haven’t seen this video, check it out and see why Keith’s message applies so well to the work we are doing:  First Follower: Leadership Lessons from Dancing Guy - YouTube.

Reader Comment of the Month:

It was great to hear from Scott Robinson and the team in Bloomington, Indiana – one of the best college towns around and a place that Alta has been working in.  Scott asked to his community’s experience since Jeff’s last visit: 

Jeff, glad to see the updates every 3rd of the month. Things are finally progressing here thanks to Alta's groundwork…We are also launching a "Civil Streets" campaign as part of our infrastructure improvements… I think the key to this roll-out is doing improvements all within the existing rights of way - a huge challenge on many narrow streets. Many other US locations I have personally visited have the luxury of using a road-diet concept to accommodate new on-street bike facilities.  We don't have that opportunity here.   The benefits were quicker project delivery along with many lower cost improvements (signage and paint).  The challenge from our bicycle critics is the facilities are not the most protective for cyclists (e.g. we have many sharrows and no cycle tracks).  It is all about iterations and moving the bar in the right direction. This is what we are doing - patience folks...  Thanks for all your great work and Third Mode stories.

Best wishes to all for a very happy holiday season



Volume 2, Number 11

It really makes my day, week, and month when I hear the kind of comments about our work recently. In the past month I’ve heard from an author who influenced my career, a former student, and a new reader who all made me smile. As the leaves have fallen and Upstate NY enters the grey season, it’s moments like this that make me want to keep moving forward. So, here is this month’s Update:

Halloween: Just a reminder of the value of walkable communities: If people travel to your neighborhood to trick or treat, you live in a walkable community. If you have to leave your neighborhood to go somewhere safer with your kids on Halloween, chances are your WalkScore needs improvement.

Alert #1: Why I Enjoy Teaching

After teaching “Bicycling Walking and Trails: Innovations in Transportation” at UAlbany for 17 years, it never ceases to amaze me what our alumni go on to do.  It’s even better when I get a message like this from one of the 375 students who have taken my class over the years:

"Just wanted to let you know that I read the copy of The Third Mode that you sent me after last chatting at the World Bank in January.  I really enjoyed it!!  I feel inspired to get out there and get involved.  It’s kind of amazing to see how far we’ve come in the last twenty years, thanks to a lot of great third mode advocates like yourself.  I’ve also been encouraging a lot of my colleagues to read it.  There were so many stories that I could relate to, particularly the ones involving the internal government politics of transportation and frustrations with the State DOT over getting a pedestrian sign into the MUTCD.  I work closely with the DOT on a daily basis and there are no shortages of similar bizarre and illogical things that they do and say.  If it isn’t in the manual then they cannot be creative and find a way to make good ideas happen.  In fact, I still remember a few of the stories you told about the Millennium Trails project back when I had your class in 2002 or 2003."  ~ A.Z. – Fairfax, VA

Alert Reader #2: Kingston, NY Complete Streets

On October 29th, Jeff led a Complete Streets workshop sponsored by Cornell University’s Cooperative Extension program with funding from the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation. One participant said this:

“That was simply outstanding!  Delighted at the quality and the energy and the depth of knowledge laid out there.  I am reminded never to miss another opportunity to hear you present.  And bring some other people along for sure! …There's more... but this is just an FYI and a thanks for the very enjoyable presentation... love to have a 15 minute TED like presentation... (yes, you were that good :-)” ~ G.B. – Kingston, NY

kingston, New York,

Image: Participants at the Kingston NY Complete Streets workshop "walk the walk"

Alert Reader #3: The Greening of America

Talk about a phone call that makes your year…I recently spoke with Charles Reich, author of the landmark book The Greening of America. Charles is now in his 80’s, lives in San Francisco, and was given a copy ofThe Third Mode by a mutual friend. His book, first published in the 1970’s, was one of the keys that influenced my thinking as a college student. He was a law professor for both Bill and Hillary Clinton at Yale. The Greening of America is still on my bookshelf. When we talked, Charles told me, “it’s great that there are young people like you out there helping to move these ideas forward.” To have such a hero of the environmental movement say that meant the world to me, especially the part about being young.

Update from NW Arkansas

It was great to be in Northwest Arkansas the week of October 14th. The Alta Team hosted a series of meetings for the new regional bike/pedestrian/greenways plan.  Jeff had the honor of joining Chuck Flink, representatives of the Walton Family Foundation, and local leaders for a bike tour of the completed sections of the Razorback Greenway project. This project has exceeded the partnership’s expectations and has become a defining feature for the entire region. The Razorback is now generating development along the trail, including a new dorm built by the U of A in Fayetteville, two new mountain bike parks in Rogers and other projects.  While he was in the neighborhood, Jeff did a book signing to benefit a local non-profit at Nightbird Books in Fayetteville. The event featured live birds and draft beer. You really had to be there.

nightbird, book, books, the third mode, arkansas, fayetteville



Volume 2, Number 10

It’s hard to imagine the number of major events that keep happening each month, each week, and every day. In September, Jeff was in New York City for Alta Bicycle Share’s board meeting, Nike’s “Designed to Move” initiative and the 2013 GoGreen! conference. Here are some of this month’s observations and ideas:

Alta Bicycle Share 2013 Board Meeting:

Jeff had a great time in Brooklyn meeting with his business partners. Alta Bicycle Share has grown from an idea just a few years ago into the largest operator of bike share systems in the U.S. Jeff had the opportunity to ride with other board members throughout Manhattan and Brooklyn, including multiple trips across the Williamsburg Bridge. NYC’s bike culture has become a defining feature of the City. There is a wonderful new level of social connection between people on bikes – and seeing the amazing new mountain bike park in Williamsburg, the bike-related graffiti on the bridge and the sheer number of people riding is enough to make anyone smile. Bicycle sharing is still a new and emerging technology, but it has already become iconic in NYC.

If you don’t think this topic is trendy enough, you’ll love this: “Bikeshare Blue was announced at Fashion Week as the official color of 2014:

Color of springPantone picks the hue of Citi Bike, Facebook ...

Meanwhile, Jay-Z is filming a remake of Annie in Harlem, with a Citi Bike in the opening scene. The Miss Universe pageant has contestants riding bike share to promote traffic safety. Leonardo DeCaprio, Robin Williams and Kevin Bacon all were in the media riding Citi Bikes last week. For more about the world's best bike-sharing cities, please see:


Nike - Designed to Move:

Special thanks to NIKE for asking Jeff and Alta to be part of their new Designed to Move global physical activity initiative. Jeff attended a working meeting of leaders in NYC to develop a strategy that will involve mayors in cities around the world to help make communities more physically active. A key discussion thread at the meeting was the role of social movements in creating change. A participant from a major healthcare provider said that the physical activity movement has reached its tipping point – and bicycle sharing is a key part of the change. It is possible that we are at the same point that anti-smoking advocates reached in the 1970’s: the foundation of major change has been created, and the next 20 years will be implementing that change. If this is the case, we are at the top of a hill that we’ve been climbing for decades, and the future looks good for The Third Mode.

For more information about Designed to Move, please visit:


GoGreen! Conference NYC:

GoGreen! brought together hundreds of new mobility, sustainability and environmental business leaders on September 26-27. The conference was started in Alta’s home city of Portland, and is now expanding to multiple locations. Jeff was on a panel moderated by the MTA’s director of innovation, and he had the honor of meeting leaders including Hunter Lovins. A pre-conference reception was hosted at the National Arts Club on Gramercy Park, and the main event was at CUNY’s center on 5th Avenue. For more info about GoGreen!, please visit the link below: www.gogreenconference.net

Image Above: Su yunsheng of the China Green Building Council became on of the first readers of The Third Mode from China during the Design to Move meeting in NYC this month.










For the first time, Jeff was able to use The Third Mode as a text for his class at UAlbany this semester. When he asked students to write a short essay, there were some amazing responses, including:

“Honestly, before August 26, 2013 my awareness for this issue was literally zero to none.  In our first class, only being there an hour or so, I learned that this topic was really big and important for modern day America.”  G.S.

“It’s nice to see there are people out there that want to help this vision come into place.”  A.M.

“The Third Mode provided me with hope…I like the paradigm of the “third mode.”  It avoids all the pitfalls of the “us vs. them” approach to activism."  D.G.

These essays explain why Jeff keeps teaching after 17 years of teaching at UAlbany. Learn more about the UAlbany Urban Planning Program that Jeff teaches at here



Volume 2, Number 9

The end of summer means it’s been a year since we launched The Third Mode with a national webinar hosted by American Trails. I can’t begin to thank everyone who has read the book, shared their comments, and helped make change happen in our communities. We are all part of a major trend, and decades of effort are resulting in a continuous highlight video of successes. I've said many times this year that after so many years of people asking “why does The Third Mode matter?” the biggest question I’m hearing now is “how fast can we make this change happen?”.

ITE Annual Meeting

Jeff was in Boston for the Institute of Transportation Engineeers (ITE) Annual meeting on the 6th-7th including a wonderful tour of projects along Olmsted’s Emerald Necklace on a Hubway bikeshare bike. Phil Goff of Alta’s New England office provide a great plenary about our work to reconnect this historic example of green infrastructure, and it was great to tour the projects with dozens of ITE professionals on bikes. Special thanks to the Emerald Necklace Conservancy and ITE for making this happen, especially ITE Executive Director Tom Brahms for asking us to be part of the program. ITE is leading the engineering profession forward to develop a new generation of fully multi-modal engineers. This is a key to making The Third Mode possible. For more information, visit www.ite.org.

Iditaride 2013

On a more personal note, Jeff successfully completed the 2013 Iditaride (image right) -  a 75-mile road bike loop with more than 4,000 feet of climbing around Gore Mountain in the Adirondacks on August 11th.  It was impressive to see some new roadway designs along the route. NYSDOT has narrowed travel lanes in some key sections to provide a good paved shoulder for pedestrians and bicyclists, and is using a center-line rumble strip to improve safety. These may seem like small details, but it’s a big improvement over other states that have put rumble strips in the shoulder and make roads unsafe for bicyclists. The Adirondacks and upstate New York are not as well known as they should be as great places for bicycling. It’s simple changes like this that can make a big difference.  

NW Arkansas

Jeff was back in NW Arkansas to kick off their ambitious new Regional Bike/Pedestrian Master Plan. The project is being led by the Northwest Arkansas Regional Planning Commission (NWARPC) with Alta Planning + Design. It was truly amazing to see how fast this region is moving forward. The chapter in The Third Mode describes the tip of the iceberg. The Razorback Regional Greenway is under construction, new development projects are happening along the corridor, a new town center is being created by ‘daylighting’ a creek in Springdale, two new mountain bike parks are under construction, a regional Safe Routes to School program has started (including the purchase of 500 bikes for use in PE programs), the new 21c Museum Hotel is now open on the square, and a new coffee shop has taken over 2 former railroad buildings in Fayetteville – with outdoor dining along the greenway. The new Regional Plan will create a ‘greenprint’ for 25 walk/bike friendly communities the two-county region. It’s projects like this that really show the power of public-private-nonprofit partnerships to make The Third Mode happen. Special thanks to our friends at the Walton Family Foundation for being leaders in creating this new model in their home region.

Jackson Hole

As this edition goes out, the Town of Jackson has implemented an amazing new project: they have taken the NACTO Urban Bikeway Design Guide and put it down on their streets in a single project (image below). In one month, a new network of on-street bikeways has been created. New green bike lanes, intersection bike boxes, wayfinding signs and other treatments have been put in place. This is the ultimate ‘sign and stripe’ project. Thanks to Joe Gilpin of Alta and the team in Jackson for doing in one month what people have dreamed about for years.

Reader comment of the month:

"I started to read your book at bedtime last night, couldn't put it down, finished it and discovered that it was 4:30 AM ! Thank you so much for giving me the copy - and ruining a good night's sleep." F.S. – Fayetteville, Arkansas

Author’s note: 
When I first wrote the book, I worried it would put people to sleep, not keep them up all night reading…Jeff



Volume 2, Number 8

It’s August in Saratoga, and tonight is the return of the historic Floral Fete Parade featuring decorated non-motorized vehicles on Broadway to celebrate 150 years of horse racing. This is Third Mode in action, Saratoga Style. It’s been another fun month. Jeff was in Boston, NYC, Columbus and Pittsburgh. The northeast is beautiful in the summertime, and here are some of the highlights:

Cobleskill, NY

The first ever annual Schoharie County Trail Association meeting was held on July 24. This meeting took place at the new Cobleskill Creek Trail kiosk, and celebrated a beautiful rural trail that connects the local SUNY college with the high school. Jeff led the Alta master plan for this project and it led to one of his all-time favorite public meeting comments. In a public forum, a local resident stood up and said, ”Why would anyone ever want to build a project that puts high school kids and college students in the same place?”.


It was great to be in ColumbusOH for the launch of the new CoGo bike share system. Jeff had the honor of taking the first ride with Mayor Michael Coleman and local leaders. The Mayor said he wants Columbus to be known as “Bike City USA” and they are well on the way. As the parent of a current college student (and two future college students), Jeff was happy to see the following article about CoGo in Forbes - Reinventing America: What's Big With The College Kids? Bike Sharing>> http://www.forbes.com/sites/michelinemaynard/2013/07/30/whats-big-with-the-college-kids-bike-sharing/











Image: Columbus Mayor Coleman celebrates launch of CoGo bike share

New York City Bike Share

And of course, bike share continues to be a giant story, with almost constant media coverage. We may not be able to realize it now, but in three decades of work on non-motorized mobility, there probably has never been a bigger story. In NYC, more than 1.5 million trips have been taken on Citi Bikes. It’s been amazing to be a part of this historic change, and hopefully we’ll look back someday and realize how significant this really is. To try to put it all in perspective, take a look at this amazing graphic from The New Yorker. Some background - It’s been nearly two months since New York City rolled out its bike-sharing program. To see how it’s faring, we used live data, provided by Citi Bike, to map where people rode for one month. As the month progresses, the circles on the map grow or shrink according to the number of available bikes at each station. Viewed together, they show New Yorkers finding new ways to navigate through the city. Read more>> http://www.newyorker.com/sandbox/business/citi-bike.html

Looking ahead to August, Jeff will be in Boston for the ITE Annual meeting from the 6th to the 7th, riding in the Iditaride 75 mile loop around Gore Mountain in the Adirondacks on the 11th, taking some vacation time with the family, and then heading back to NW Arkansas to kick off their ambitious new Regional Bike/Pedestrian Master Plan…enjoy the ride.

Reader comment of the month:

I really appreciate your willingness to participate. It was the perfect keynote, and will resonate throughout our future efforts.” - TW, Kingston NY



Volume 2, Number 7

It’s summertime, so here’s a short version of the Update for this month:  Enjoy the Third Mode, Independence Day, and the rest of July!

Citi Bike Reaches 1 MILLION MILES in NYC

Another month, another major highlight: Citi Bike had more than 1,000,000 miles traveled on bikeshare in NYC in its first month. This is unbelievable, and the result of great team effort by Citibank, Mastercard, NYCDOT, Alta, PBSC, and others. It’s hard to sum this up, but the media frenzy speaks for itself. If you haven’t seen it yet, watch Jon Stewart on The Daily Show take on Dorothy Rabinowitz of the Wall Street Journal. Dorothy’s rant about the “all powerful bike lobby” is nothing less than extraordinary, and the Daily Show piece is priceless. 

Full Pedal Racket - Citi Bike - The Daily Show with Jon Stewart 06/06/13

Reader comment of the month:

Can you autograph my copy of The Third Mode? - From two readers, both with the Kindle Version…

Virginia Coalition Goes to DC – Get On The Bus

Jeff, Charlie Denney, and Fionnuala Quinn were invited to join a bus full of active transportation and recreation advocates from Virginia for a day with the Virginia Congressional delegation on Capitol Hill. The event was organized by the City of Richmond, which is hosting the 2015 World Cycling Championships. The group took a walking tour of Arlington (where Jeff lived during the Millennium Trails project) and saw firsthand how a community can be transformed by smart development combined with walking, bicycling, and transit. Jeff was asked to talk about The Third Mode on the group’s bus ride into DC – the second presentation he’s done while travelling backwards on a moving vehicle in the past month.  (The first was a tour of the Greenbelt Trail for the Saratoga Chamber of Commerce).  

Both of VA’s U.S. Senators hosted the group for lunch on the Hill, and the group took a cycling tour to see the CABI bikeshare system and meet with Majority Leader Eric Cantor.  Congressman Cantor stood on the steps of the Capitol and said "workable, livable communities are the future" and he talked about bicycling as a positive, simple solution to creating such communities. Here is a link describing the event:

It’s great to see advocacy reaching such a sophisticated level, and the team in Richmond is well on its way to making some big changes happen.

Photo right: Richmond leaders on their walking tour of Arlington’s success stories.


Wyoming Trails Summit

Jeff did a keynote at the first Wyoming Trails Summit in Casper, Wyoming on June 28-29. This event really set the standard for other states, and the tone was set right from the opening panel. The Directors of Wyoming’s Parks, Transportation and Health Departments provided a clear direction for the state to advance non-motorized transportation and recreation in powerful new ways. From Jackson Hole to Casper, Sheridan on dozens of other communities, the message was clear that a new era of leadership is in the statehouse. The conference was a great step forward, thanks to the hard work of organizers Tim Young of Wyoming Pathways and Angela Emery of the Platte River Trails Trust. Jeff’s keynote at the conference dinner was icing on the cake, and was followed by a memorable late night bike ride along the beautiful Platte River Greenway – along the same route as the historic Oregon, Mormon, California and Pony Express Trails.

Photo bottom left: Jeff with WYDOT Director John Cox at the summit




Volume 2, Number 6

This month was like watching the ESPN Top 10 and seeing all your friends in the highlights. I went back to Rome for the first time in almost 30 years (and celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary), attended the launch of the NYC bike share system, and was able to share copies of The Third Mode with the 200+ members of the U.S. Congressional Bike Caucus thanks to Congressman Earl Blumenauer. It really doesn’t get any better than that.

NYC Bike Share Launch

What can I say? On May 26, 2013, the Citi Bike bike share system was launched by Mayor Bloomberg in NYC. The story made the cover of The New Yorker and the front page of The New York Times. This is a major step for Alta Bicycle Share, and our team literally weathered the storm of software, hardware and Hurricane Sandy challenges to make this possible. The blue bikes are now a ‘transportation icon’ according to Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan. Personally, my first ride from the launch event to Penn Station was unforgettable. Citi Bike is being hailed as the first new transportation infrastructure for NYC in 75 years.  To see this happen along with the development of the NYC Greenways system is amazing. The only thing better would be riding one of the bikes to see the Giants play a home game in the 2014 Super Bowl…

Reader comments of the month:

Sometimes, the mountain of email contains a message that just makes your month – here is one I got after the NY Planning Federation Annual Conference:
Below are the comments from people who attended your “Third Mode” session Tuesday morning. As you can see, it was a huge hit:

  • A good speaker. Should have been for CM credit. Very applicable to many communities in NYS.
  • Excellent overviewof greenways. Attachment and direction to include in planning documents needed further discussion.
  • Humorous, excellent message. Great presentation/ability.
  • Informative, passionate, important. In a small town, the third mode also serves to promote community. Really important through an upstate winter.
  • Excellent evangelist for walking and biking access.
  • Very energetic speaker. Interesting topic and good stories.
  • Liked his realism and enthusiasm. Great examples, images and humor.
  • Inspirational! Thank you.
  • I’ve heard Jeff Olson speak before and he only gets better as his experience builds. Very much appreciate his commitment to bicycle/pedestrian issues. Very informative. Enjoyed his presentation style.
  • Good session, great speaker,fast-paced and very well delivered.
  • Cool! He showed real enthusiasm rather than paid consultant enthusiasm. Well done.
  • Awesome! Amazing perspective and examples of possible change in the US and around the world. Very inspirational and practical way of enhancing communities.

Again, thanks for making this one of our most successful conferences in recent years.  -  LL, in NY

Upcoming Event:  Wyoming Trail Summit

Jeff will be giving the keynote (along with good friend and partner in crime Bob Searns) at the first annual Wyoming Trail Summit in Casper, Wyoming on June 28-29.  This will be a really fun event and a chance to connect with people and projects from throughout the Rocky Mountain region. Info is available at this link: Wyoming Trail Summit 


Volume 2, Number 5


Jeff was in Pittsburgh for a public meetings on April 2-3. MOVEPGH is really moving forward, with a Bike/Pedestrian Master Plan and implementation of a new bikeshare system happening at the same time. This is a great example of philanthropy, business, and government working together - in fact, Pittsburgh is a model for the ideas in Chapter 10 of The Third Mode, “A New Way of Thinking.” The local developers of a project called Bakery Square have renovated the former NABISCO building into an urban village, moved in 600 Google employees, and have purchased the first 2 bikeshare stations for Pittsburgh. This is a city to watch and learn from.

NOLA / EPA Building Blocks

Alta is working with the EPA Building Blocks program to conduct workshops on bike sharing. New Orleans was the first of this series, and Jeff had the pleasure of seeing the Big Easy’s ongoing revival first-hand on April 10-11. It was great to see lines for restaurants, new riverfront parkland, and lots of progressive ideas happening in New Orleans.

GFLATS Rochester

The Greater Finger Lakes Active Transportation Summit 2103 was great. Jeff was part of the program on April 30, along with Congressman Earl Blumenauer from Portland, Danny Wegman, CEO of WesternNY’s porocherster, students, bike walkpular grocery chain, Rich Perrin of GTC MPO, and a great program of regional leaders. A real highlight was the 5th grade from RCCS charter school who studied bike friendly communities all year as their class project. The students had visitedAlta’s headquarters  in Portland, and their presentation earned a standing ovation. The next generation is taking over, and Rochester is on the right path.


Photo: RCCS six graders are leading the way in Rochester – the whole class received free copies of The Third Mode as a gift from Jeff.

WAMC / Times Union Pedestrian Safety Forum

Jeff was invited to join a panel on the Albany NPR station to discuss pedestrian safety on April 17. There have been a series of pedestrian fatalities recently along Central Avenue in between Albany and Schenectady, NY.  More info is linked below:

Times Union and WAMC forum on pedestrian safety | WAMC

NY Planning Federation Annual Conference

Jeff did a lunchtime presentation for the NYPF at the Gideon Putnam Hotel in Saratoga on April 23. He was able to ride his bike to the conference, and met his wife for lunch afterwards. It’s great when that happens…

WalkBike CT at Yale

bike, walk, ct, connecticut, sustainable walking and bikingThird Mode at CT Bike and Walk Summit. On April 27, Jeff made his parents proud and went to Yale (for the CT Bike and Walk Summit).  Jeff provided the keynote address and wowed the crowd of 125 advocates, consultants, and agency staff with anecdotes from The ThirdMode. Within 5 minutes after the end of his talk, all available copies of the book were sold for very reasonable $10, all of which was donated back to the CT Bike-Walk Alliance. After the talk, Holly Parker, Yale's director of Sustainable Transportation Systems, showed Jeff  the new bike share system on campus.

Reader comments of the month:
Jeff, your keynote address was wonderful - many people have commented on it. Your parents would have been so proud of your performance at Yale. You get an A+ from us!  PS: Should have ordered more books - they sold out!   MT, in CT



Volume 2, Number 4


Saratoga Greenbelt Trail, NY

I am having a great time working on a special project in my hometown. The proposed Saratoga Greenbelt Trail has been a dream for more than 20 years – and now we are working to make it come true. This project could be a subject of another book, and it photo public meeting held april 1st 2013 at empire state college for the saratoga greenbelt trail project plan with ualbany students presenting for the projectinvolves a complex series of challenges to connect three existing rail-trails into a complete loop around our city. The concept includes a bridge and tunnel over an interstate highway, a major series of wetlands, utility corridors and a variety of land uses. The project is supported by a collaboration of local organizations and leaders, and for the first time I am both leading a project for Alta and working with the UAlbany Planning Studio at the same time…this is fun. For more info, please go to: www.saratogagreenbelt.weebly.com


“Citi Bike,” NYC Bike Share

This isn’t another chapter - it’s another book! Alta Bicycle Share is part of the team working towards launching the largest bicycle share system in the U.S. This is a true game-changer, with the potential of millions of trips being made by bicycle in New York City. We are working with major corporate sponsors Citibank and Mastercard, Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan and NYCDOT, PBSC from Montreal, and our fantastic crew at Alta/Citi Bike. Keep your eyes open for more news about this story in the next month – and upcoming systems being launched in Chicago, Columbus, Portland, San Francisco, Vancouver, and others. Here is a link to the Citi Bike website to learn more:

citi bike new york city bike share bikeshare bikes parked in new york which is being launched by alta bicycle share a subsidiary of alta planning and design

Citi Bike | Your bike sharing system in New York City

Returning to Rome

In May, I will finally have chance to go back to Rome, where I was an architecture student at the RPI studio program in 1984. I’ve been to Italy a few times since then, but it’s taken me almost 30 years to get back to a place that really changed my thinking as a young student. I’ve always thought that Rome takes so much time to really enjoy and any trip there isn’t long enough. I guess I’ve waited too long, but it’s never too late for a trip like this. It’s good to know that some places are truly timeless, and that just being in a great city, going for a walk, and enjoying great food and drink are still inspiring things to do. Celebrating being married for 25 years is a great excuse for this trip…thanks to Margo and here’s to the next 25 years. 

Reader comments of the month:

“I've been reading The Third Mode and have really enjoyed reading about your experience with Millenium Trails Project - your experiences with the missed opportunities really spoke to me because of some similar experiences I'm having with the National Park Service.”   GS, Montana USA

“I was dreaming about the strong movement like that in my native city Omsk. Being in the city hall team planned to join the Velocity 2000 in Paris and bring the ideas to Russia, Siberia... God is providing the dreams come true.  Looking forward to getting the book and joining the web seminar. With deep respect.”   TA, Omsk Russia



Volume 2, Number 3

Have you noticed that we’re sending these update on the 3rd of each month? The Third Mode keeps creating interesting stories. This month I met my youngest reader (a 5th grader in Jackson, Wyoming). We hosted a webinar with Global Urban Development, and I had requests to speak at several more conferences. If you are interested in hosting an event, send us a message at www.thethirdmode.com. Here are February’s highlights: 

Jackson Hole, Wyoming Keeps Moving Forward

I just got back from another work (and fun) trip to Jackson Hole. As you can tell from that chapter in the book, this is one of my favorite communities. Last week, we met with a private foundation that is supporting non-motorized mobility, presented a new plan for on-road bikeways in the town center, discussed developing an integrated mobility plan, held a book benefit event for The Third Mode, and I facilitated the annual meeting of the local non-profit organization Friends of Pathways

The book event was held at Skinny Skis and was a benefit / fun-raiser for Friends of Pathways.  Attendees included “JB” Borstleman, the co-founder of Teton Valley Trails and Pathways (TVTAP) in Idaho, and Hannah Orcutt, the sister of Jon Orcutt, the NYCDOT policy director whom I’ve known for a long time. It really is a small world. I had a great time meeting a cross-section of the Jackson Hole community. A personal highlight was meeting Dylan, a 5th grader from Jackson who is reading The Third Mode as part of her school project about the benefits of pathways. It is great to see that a next generation of leaders is finding new ways to think about the future. 


In the next few months, Jackson Hole will break ground on one of the major projects outlined in the 2007 Pathways Master Plan, which is still one of my favorite Alta Planning + Design documents. The new 750-foot span bridge over the Snake River will be a cornerstone of an incredible network connecting the entire community. This is another ‘impossible’ project that is getting done. In less than a decade, most of the 25-year vision from the 2007 Plan will be completed. Jackson is becoming a model community for connecting people and nature. For more info, please visit www.friendsofpathways.org.
Image right: Participants at the Jackson Hole book event

Global Urban Development Webinar – February 26, 2013

This was a fun webinar, hosted by Marc Weiss and the advisory board of his organization, GUD. Marc and I first met during the Clinton administration, when Marc was an advisor to Vice President Al Gore and I was working on the White House Millennium program. GUD is involved in sustainable economic planning and development projects worldwide. Marc and I have enjoyed reconnecting several times in recent years, including an evening dinner at an outdoor café in Curitiba, Brazil during the 2010 International Conference of Innovative Cities. Free e-book copies of The Third Mode were provided to GUD’s advisors as part of the webinar, and some interesting connections were made as a result of the event. If you would like to collaborate on a similar Third Mode event for your organization, business or agency, please let us know.


Please consider adding your reviews to our on-line purchase sites, including Amazon and Smashwords. We appreciate your help with ratings for The Third Mode.




Volume 2, Number 2

It’s been another interesting month, and I continue to be inspired by readers’ comments and events that keep reminding me about why I wrote The Third Mode. Here are some recent anecdotes:

World Bank / EMBARQ Transforming Transportation 2013













Image - Alta Bicycle Share's CaBi bikes in front of the World Bank headquarters on Pennsylvania Avenue

Jeff was on the program for the 2013 EMBARQ Transforming Transportation Conference at the World Bank on January 17-18.  At this event the multinational banks and NGOs announced a $175 BILLION commitment to non-motorized transportation. More than 200 people from around the world attended. Key observations from the conference included:

  • NYC Mayor Bloomberg and World Bank President Dr. Jim Yong Kim led an inspiring plenary session - and talked about bike sharing, non-motorized transport, and the need for global investments in infrastructure that support safety, health, and quality of life. The Mayor's leadership of the "C40" alliance of global cities is a key to implementation.
  • Alta's connections with EMBARQ and ITDP have already positioned us as part of the efforts to implement these efforts - our projects in Brazil, Mexico, China, and South Africa were discussed at the conference, along with ways to expand these efforts. (Jeff will work with the Alta Global Group to advance this effort).
  • Bike Sharing, Greenways, and Complete streets are going global. For example, Wuhan, China now has a bikeshare system with 90,000 bikes and Gaungzou has 60,000. India has announced a national push to implement bike sharing. Jeff was on the bikesharing panel with speakers from EMBARQ, India, China and the Asian Development Bank. The session was standing room only. Our work on projects like the NACTO guide and other innovative best practices will provide opportunities to extend our reach globally.

Overall, this was an inspiring event, and the global leadership on non-motorized transport has never been stronger.  For more information about the conference please visit  EMBARQ's Transforming Transporation Page

Reader comment #1:

"Jeff - I'm almost finished with your book, The Third Mode, and it is terrific. The arguments are compelling and your stories provide a great context for the challenges active transportation advocates confront."   ~ SM, Rochester, NY

Reader Comment #2:

"Jeff Olson is a cycling advocate and consultant who I was fortunate enough to meet and have meetings with when he was in South Africa as part of a team to appointed to consult with the authorities on matters cycling. He has sent me his book The Third Mode. Though I am not yet finished reading it, he is talking about what I have been doing all my life ever since making the word THINK my motto -and modus- operandi. Yet philosophically, the book is far more than cycling and other NMT (Non-Motorised-Transport) being the third mode of transport in an ecologically sane world alongside motorized and (what he refers to as transit- basically rail). Important as this message is, the underlying message has broader significance That message is ...In all things, think outside- the- box. There is always a third–alternative- answer to all challenges. Things need not be either Right or Wrong, This or That, Or only auto or rail mass transport focus and finance appropriation"

~ RT, Johannesburg, South Africa


Please keep sending your comments and ideas, through the website, facebook or twitter, and post your reviews on Amazon or other points of purchase…it’s great to hear your ideas and I really appreciate the opportunity to make The Third Mode into an ongoing conversation.




Volume 2, Number 1

Since the Mayan calendar has now entered a new cycle and we are starting into 2013, here is the latest update for The Third Mode:

AASHTO Sends Copies to All 50 States – Thanks to John Horsley








-Jeff with then First Lady, Hillary Clinton, and ASSHTO Director, John Horsley

2013 will be a year of transition for the American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials (AASHTO).  John Horsley, who brought Jeff to DC to run the Millennium Trails program in 1998 and became AASHTO’s director that year, announced his retirement.  As a gift to honor John’s decades of leadership, copies of The Third Mode were sent to the DOT directors in all 50 states.  Jeff included the following message along with the copies of the book:

“This book is a gift in honor of our friend John Horsley as part of his legacy for our profession.  AAHTO has become a more powerful leader for multi-modal mobility during his term as Executive Director since 1998.  I am lucky to have worked with John and with many of your state DOTs. I hope that The Third Mode will be part of each state's toolbox, and that Bud Wright will help keep AASHTO and our country moving forward.”

Skidmore College Project:  “Can Literature Save the Environment?”

This fall, Professor Michael Marx, Director of the Skidmore College Environmental Studies Program, led an innovative class called “Can Literature Save the Environment?”  Two students, Alina Williams and Anna Sand, were part of the group that examined the connection between literature and environmental sustainability.  The class asked Jeff to provide some examples of environmental literature that have inspired him. Here is an excerpt for their work, and below, a link to the project:

As two freshmen at Skidmore College, we have spent the past semester examining the question, ‘Can Literature Save the Environment?’ We've read John Muir, Rachel Carson (Silent Spring), Edward Abbey (The Monkey Wrench Gang), and Dr. Suess (The Lorax), among others in an attempt to discover the possibilities that exist for saving the environment. As our final project, we interviewed Jeff Olson, a Saratoga local who works for Alta Planning and Design in the development of environmentally conscious or "green" trails, cities, and methods of transportation.”

For the full interview, please visit:
Can Literature Save the Environment

Kathmandu Clean Air Campaign – Jeff Olson Webinar on 12.21.12

It might be said that the world it getting ‘flat’, but not in Nepal, where developed areas in the Himalayas are confronting the kind of urban issues that have faced many U.S. cities.  Word about The Third Mode has begun to spread across borders, and Jeff was asked by the Kathmandu Clean Air Campaign to conduct a webinar for their Sustainable Urban Mobility Forum.  The webinar, set up via Skype, commenced at night on Thursday December 20th, and because of the time difference, was being viewed in Nepal on Friday morning the 21st.  It is amazing to think that The Third Mode is helping to make these kinds of connections around the world.  It is hard to believe that we conducted the presentation from the edge of the Adirondacks in coordination with a group working to help improve the environment in Nepal.  Maybe we don’t live in a flatter world, but in some ways a smaller one.  For additional information about the Kathmandu Clean Air Campaign, click here

Free e-books were sent to seminar attendees. One response was particularly inspiring:

'"Dear Mr. Olson,

Thanks a lot for the nice gift. I am just downloading the book now. My name is Niraj Sharma, and I am working as Deputy Project Director of the Kathmandu Sustainable Urban Transport Project. We will try to utilize the knowledge and benefit from your book. Again, thank you very much for the nice gift.

Merry Chirstmas and Happy New Year 2013"

Message from former UAlbany Student – “An Inspirational Read”

Its emails like this that keep me going…

“I just finished up reading your informative book on the Third Mode and how its integration into the way we think, the way we act, the way our policies are written can positively change and effect the way we live…Before I took your course, the realities of the danger and inability to simply walk and bike in our communities was never brought to life. The simple, historic notion of walking down a main street safely or taking a bike for a ride through the neighborhood, in the majority of American communities and cities, is a dangerous and now almost 'odd' thing to do. Taking your course lit a fire inside me to live in a world where my children and their children won't have to be prisoner to an auto-centric built environment. The stories in your book have given me hope that change actually can happen, that ideologies can shift, and that the built environment isn't as set in asphalt and concrete as we may think…Keep up the good fight, and thanks for the inspiration.”
Sincerely, RF

Just for Fun:
Lebron James Bikes to Work: If he can do it, so can more of us!




Volume 1, Number 3


Carsten Glenting of COWI, a teaming partner with Alta on the Johannesburg Bike Master Plan, in Denmark holding his e-version of The Third Mode: Towards a Green Society. Since our last update, I've had a few experiences that show why I wrote The Third Mode:

In a recent keynote at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, The Third Mode was the core topic of my presentation.  The event was part of the innovative Move PGH Planning process, where Alta is developing the bike/pedestrian element.  I was part of a program with leaders from Denver and Cincinnati, and was able to highlight the value of using The Third Mode to go beyond the back-and-forth decisions regarding highway and transit funding. 

Pittsburgh is considering new expansions of light rail, BRT and renovations of major bridges – very capital-intensive projects. In comparison, the bike/ped elements of the long-term transportation look very cost-effective – especially in Pittsburgh, which already has more than 11% mode share for walking to work, and 1.5% for bicycling. 


In a similar situation in North Carolina, Alta is the prime consultant leading the state-of-the art NC Statewide Bike/Ped Plan.  This is one of the most advanced plans of its kind in the U.S., thanks to the leadership of NCDOT Secretary Gene Conti and his team.  Gene is a unique DOT Secretary - he has served on the board of East Coast Greenway, and was key to the US Millennium Trails initiative when he was Deputy Secretary of USDOT.  Chapter 2 of The Third Mode explores the fundamental role that Gene played in this national initiative.

At a key meeting in Raleigh recently, there was considerable debate about the unmet funding needs for bike/ped/trail projects statewide.  When I asked how these needs compared to overall transportation spending projections, it turned out the all of the bike/ped projects were equal to just 1/400th of the projected transportation investment in North Carolina.  This is another reminder that if we ask these 'Third Mode' questions in the right context, it can provide answers that put into perspective the true costs of bike/ped infrastructure when compared to overall transportation expenditures. For more about the NCDOT plan, check out:

NCDOT: Statewide Pedestrian and Bicycle Plan

On the international front, this month I am working on a Bike Master Plan for Johannesburg, South Africa.  This project is supported by The World Bank, and Alta is working in collaboration with COWI and Gehl Associates from Denmark.  This has been an amazing year for travel, and my recent experiences have given me the opportunity to gain an international perspective on bike and ped planning. In the past 12 months I’ve been fortunate to work on projects in Copenhagen, Panama, Toronto, Tel Aviv, Rio and JoBurg.   I've added a few extra pages to my passport and look forward to more adventures in 2013. On December 18th, I'll be leading a Third Mode webinar for the board of Global Urban Development, the organization headed by Marc Weiss. For more information about GUD, go to:

Global Urban Development

Here is a great shot of the Johannesburg team!

Best wishes to all for a wonderful 2013.

- Jeff

~ ~ ~


Volume 1, Number 2

Just in time for election day, the print version of Jeff Olson’s new book, The Third Mode: Towards a Green Society, is now available. Profits from this week’s sales will be donated to the Hurricane Sandy relief effort.

In a time of environmental, public health, and economic challenges, we need to understand how individuals, organizations and communities can make change happen. The Third Mode explores how our society can create better connections between people, nature, and the built environment, and shows how simple solutions like walking and bicycling can help us move forward towards a green society. The kind of thinking required to integrate the third mode into our modern world represents a new perspective, one that can be used to solve other problems. This approach is called “The Third Mode,” and this book describes how it can lead to a more connected, healthy, and sustainable society.

Author Jeff Olson grew up in American suburbia, where he saw how quickly a landscape of open space could become a placeless sprawl and realized that better planning, design, and leadership were keys to a sustainable future. Jeff’s experiences in the nonprofit, public, and private sectors are fun stories to read and important lessons for leaders at any level. His vision of creating a better world will hopefully inspire a new generation.

My thoughts and prayers are with everyone who is trying to recover from Hurricane Sandy. Profit ts from sales of the Third Mode purchased this week will be donated to the relief effort. Please watch tonight's event on NBC, and contribute in any way you can. I hope Bruce Springsteen will play one of my favorite songs, “Sandy - 4th of July, Asbury Park”

- Jeff

~ ~ ~


Volume 1, Number 1

Welcome to the first edition of our monthly update for The Third Mode, Jeff Olson’s new book. The Third Mode was successfully launched on September 12, 2012. In keeping with the book’s theme, the Update will come out on the 3rd of each month. Here is the news from the first few weeks:

Launch Webinar Summary: More than 100 sites joined in for the book launch webinar event on September 12th. The event was hosted by American Trails, and a copy of the webinar is available on www.americantrails.org. Special thanks to Bob Searns and the American Trails Team for organizing the event, and to Andy Clarke, who joined us from the Pro-Walk Pro-Bike conference in California.

Upcoming Events: Jeff will be the keynote speaker for the IN-Motion Conference in Bloomington, Indiana on October 17. For more info, please visit: IN-Motion: 2012 Indiana MPO Conference. Other upcoming events include fun-raisers for two of Jeff’s favorite non-profits and a private session for a progressive marketing group in New York City (details in next month’s Update). If you are interested in having Jeff present to your organization, business or private event, he is available in person or via webinar. Please send your requests to info@thethirdmode.com.

Conference Updates: The American Metropolitan Planning Organizations (AMPO) annual meeting was a fun event. It was a rare opportunity – the launch of Jeff’s first book, in his home of Saratoga Springs, and with some of the nation’s top transportation officials in town. Jeff enjoyed some great conversations (and legal beverages) with attendees from Portland, Ft. Lauderdale, San Francisco, DC, Duluth, Boise and many other places. The conference session on Complete Streets was standing room only and demonstrated the growing interest in active mobility.

On September 21, Jeff was part of the closing plenary session for the Ontario Professional Planners Institute (OPPI) in Toronto. More than 350 people attended the event, which served as the showcase for a new Province-wide Active Transportation Initiative. Ontario now has a Walk Friendly and Bike Friendly Communities award program, similar to the programs in the U.S. Jeff’s session was chaired by Eleanor McMahon of the Share the Road Coalition. She was happy to find out that she is mentioned in The Third Mode in Chapter 6: Complete Streets – The Integration of Transportation.

Status of Print Edition: The final draft of the hardcopy version of The Third Mode is being reviewed this week, and it will be available soon. We will send a special version of the Update when the ‘real’ book is released.

Quotes from Readers: It has been fun to get so many great responses from people who are reading The Third Mode. Please share your stories, opinions and ideas with us via our Facebook page. Here are some recent examples:

Aloha Jeff, it’s been over three years since we met and shared dinner at the Vietnamese restaurant in DC, Bike summit 2009. The Third mode is a great read, thanks for sharing the stories, as they stick best, you know, Mark Fenton’s ‘stickiness factor’. The conversation like flow made it fun - I liked it, and want to send to many people.”  BC, in Hawaii

Wow! Jeff does it again! This will be a leadership book to parallel none other. I know it.” TE, in Arkansas

"Congratulations on your new book!!! You are knowledgeable, enthusiastic and have had a desire to contribute to improve communities all over. The partnership with American Trails on this webinar is also exciting as the organization has also many generous people dedicated to improve quality of life of all regardless of age, gender or background through creating great trails." GP, in Toronto