Views

Letter to my MP Barry Gardiner on the EU and Parliament

Vole O'Speed - 29 June, 2016 - 17:07
To Barry Gardiner MP, Member of Parliament for Brent North

Dear Barry,

Allow me to congratulate you on your appointment as Shadow Energy and Climate Change Secretary.

What I am writing to you about however is not primarily this, but the EU referendum result and the role of Parliament. It is not disconnected, however, to your portfolio, as you well know that the role of the EU in trying to reach global agreement on limiting emissions and climate change has been critical, and this role threatens being diluted by the prospect of UK disengagement from the EU.

Fundamentally, my points are these:
  • The referendum result was marginal: too marginal to be a mandate for such far-reaching change that will affect generations to come. We know that young people voted primarily to ‘remain’, and they will have to cope with the long-term consequences of a British exit from the EU. The marginal result needs to be taken with consideration that the very young, but of age, i.e. 16 and 17 year olds, were not allowed to vote, and that long-term EU foreign nationals resident in the UK, working and paying taxes here, were not allowed to vote on this measure, hugely important to their futures. This obviously includes a huge number of residents of Brent North.
  • Your constituents, and Londoners more widely, voted by a large majority to ‘remain’.
  • The ‘remain’ vote has already led to economic and financial instability, and more importantly, fear in many communities you represent, with an upsurge in racial harassment and racially-motivated crime across the country
  • The main planks of the 'Leave’ campaign were based on misleading information and false promises, already widely discredited and acknowledged as false by the leaders of the ‘Leave’ campaign, such as the promise that the UK could control migration from within the EU while retaining some kind of access to the Single Market, and the promise to send an extra £350 million on the Health Service
  • We know that many ‘Leave’ voters now regret their vote in the light of coming to understand the above
  • The referendum, in the light of the above, cannot be considered a reliable indication of the will of the British people, and its result is manifestly not in their long-term interest
  • The jobs of many of your constituents, particularly those working in the City and financial sector, are threatened by the prospect of the UK leaving the EU, and by the uncertainty that the referendum result has generated
  • The referendum was only advisory, and Parliament is not bound by the result. Parliament is sovereign and Members of Parliament must use their own best judgement to decide whether the UK should remain in or leave the EU – this is their duty
  • The present situation, with the leaders of the 'Leave’ campaign stating that they will negotiate a deal with the EU before formally beginning the Article 50 secession process laid down by the Treaty of Lisbon, and the leaders and officials of the EU stating clearly and unanimously that this is not possible, and that the UK must invoke Article 50 before negotiations commence, is a recipe for ongoing paralysis, vacuum of leadership, and economic and social instability
  • In any case, the type of deal that the leaders of the ‘Leave' campaign state is their goal is not possible, as all the leaders of the EU have said that there can be no access to the Single Market without full Free Movement of people – so, again, we face paralysis leading to long-term economic and social damage to the country
  • Parliament has it within its powers to solve this dreadful situation in the only way possible: by refusing to agree to the invoking of Article 50 and refusing to agree to the UK leaving the EU.
Therefore, I am calling on you to say that you will vote in any vote in Parliament to oppose any steps that may be taken to facilitate the UK leaving the European Union, and that you will work to persuade your colleagues to do the same.

Thank you very much.

Yours Sincerely,

Dr David Arditti

Edgware,
Middlesex
Categories: Views

Ride from Market to Market (5)

BicycleDutch - 27 June, 2016 - 23:01
For my fifth and last ride in the series “from Market to Market” I cycled to the Markt of Waalwijk. The starting point was again the Markt of ʼs-Hertogenbosch. This … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

Going bi-directional

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 23 June, 2016 - 17:09

The best of the new cycling infrastructure in London is almost entirely composed of bi-directional cycleways, placed on one side of the road. This includes pretty much the entirety of CS3 and CS6 – the former running from Parliament Square to Tower Hill, the latter from Elephant and Castle to just north of Ludgate Circus.

Bi-directional cycleways are often not the best design solution, but the decision to go with bi-directional cycleways is not an accident. Undoubtedly people at Transport for London have thought long and hard about the best way to implement cycling infrastructure given current UK constraints, and have plumped for two-way as the most sensible approach.

To be clear, bi-directional cycleways do have serious downsides – they can lead to more conflict at side roads as cycles will be coming from unexpected directions, and pedestrians in particular may find them harder to deal with. Head-on collisions with other people cycling are also more likely. On ‘conventional’ streets – one lane of motor traffic in each direction – uni-directional cycleways are clearly preferable, all other things being equal.

However, bi-directional cycleways do also have advantages, and one in particular that has probably swayed the decision-makers in London. It’s touched upon in this excellent summary of the advantages and disadvantages of bi-directional and uni-directional approaches by Paul James

Depending on the roadway in question you could have less junctions to deal with, if you have many turnings on one side of the road, running a bi-directional cycleway on the opposite side so as to save on conflicts might be a good idea.

This is clearly the reasoning behind putting a bi-directional cycleway on the ‘river’ side of the Embankment. There are no junctions to deal with, cycling in either direction, so even though people are cycling on the ‘wrong’ side of the road, heading east, that’s a lot safer (and also more convenient) than having to deal with all the side roads that do exist on the non-river side of the road.

Cycling on the ‘wrong’ side of the road, heading east. But no side roads to deal with, so safer, and more convenient.

But this isn’t the only type of conflict-avoidance that explains why bi-directional cycleways have been chosen in London. Bi-directional cycleways also reduce conflicts at junctions that have to be signalised, by ‘bundling up’ all the cycle flows on one side of the road. This is actually very important, thanks to the limitations of current UK rules, and it’s the subject of this post.

In all the countries in mainland Europe (and also in Canada and the United States) it is an accepted principle that motor traffic turning right (the equivalent of our left) with a green signal should yield to pedestrians (and people cycling) progressing ahead, also with a green signal. Here’s a typical example in Paris; the driver is turning off the main road, with a green signal, but pedestrians also have a green signal to cross at the same time. The driver should yield (and is).

Two ‘conflicting’ greens, circled

This approach actually makes junctions very straightforward, and efficient. A complete cycle of the traffic lights at a conventional crossroads requires only two stages to handle all the movements of people walking, cycling and driving. In the first, walking, cycling and driving all proceed north-south (with all ‘turning’ movements yielding to ‘straight on’ movements), and in the second, the same, but in the east-west direction.

Motor vehicles, red arrows; cycling, blue; pedestrians, green

Compare that with a typical UK junction, which will have three stages (if it takes account of pedestrians at all) and ignores cycling altogether, lumping it in with motor traffic. First, motor traffic (with cycling included in it) going north-south; then, motor traffic heading east-west; then pedestrians finally get a go on the third stage, with all other movements held.

Motor vehicles in red; pedestrians in green

This arrangement obviously doesn’t allow any turning conflicts (apart, of course, from motor vehicles crossing each other’s paths) – pedestrians don’t get to cross the road until all motor traffic is stopped, with an additional third stage. (This is, effectively, a ‘simultaneous green’ for pedestrians, although we are rarely generous to give pedestrians enough signal time to cross the junction on the diagonal).

And this gives us a clue to the problem when it comes to adding in cycling, when these kinds of turning conflicts aren’t allowed. You either have to add in stages where motor traffic is prevented from turning, or you have to stop pedestrians from crossing the road while cyclists are moving. Both of these approaches would add in a large amount of signal time, and would make for inefficient junctions.

One possible answer is including cycling in the ‘simultaneous green’ stage, but with sensible design – cycles moving from all arms of the junction at the same time as pedestrians have their green, and pedestrians crossing cycleways on zebra crossings. For whatever reason (from what I hear, DfT resistance) this kind of junction is still not appearing in the UK, forcing highway engineers to improvise within the constraints of the current rules. As Transport for London have done.

If we are trying to build uni-directional cycleways, those UK rules effectively mean we either have to ban turns for motor traffic, or we have to employ very large junctions indeed, to handle signalising different movements. Take the Cambridge Heath junction on Superhighway 2, which has to use three queuing lanes for motor traffic in each direction. One for the left turns (which have to be held while cyclists and motor traffic progress ahead), one for straight ahead, and one for right turns (which have to be separate from straight ahead movements, otherwise the junction will clog up).

That’s an awful lot of space when you add in the cycling infrastructure – space not many junctions in urban areas will have.

In an ideal world – and with sensible priority rules – these junctions could just be shrunk down to two queuing lanes in each direction. A left turning lane combined with a straight ahead lane, and a right turn lane. All these lanes would run at the same time as cycle traffic progressing ahead (as well as pedestrians), with the left turners yielding.

Unsurprisingly this is – of course – how the Dutch arrange this kind of junction.

A typical Dutch junction with separated cycling infrastructure (flipped for clarity). Motor traffic from this arm will have a green in all directions at the same time as cycling running in parallel.

This is much more compact than the kind of ‘Cambridge Heath’-style junction that we are forced to employ in Britain.

But, given that we unfortunately can’t do this, and that we rarely have the kind of space available that there is on Superhighway 2, bi-directional cycleways are the most obvious answer. As I hinted at in the introduction, this is why they’ve been used by Transport for London – they’re not stupid!

Let’s take one of the junctions on the North-South superhighway, at Ludgate Circus. Space here is much more limited than on CS2 – we can’t add in multiple turning lanes – so that means, given the constraints of UK rules, a bi-directional cycleway is the most sensible option.

‘Ahead’ movements running in parallel with ‘ahead’ movements for cycling. (Arranged with North at the top).

Only two queuing lanes for motor traffic are required, in each direction, making this arrangement much more compact. It helps, of course, that a bi-directional cycleway is more space-efficient than two uni-directional ones, but the main win here is the fact that all the potential conflicts are ‘bundled’ on one side of the road. That means motor traffic flowing south doesn’t have turning conflicts on the inside.

Clearly, as I’ve outlined early on in this post, bi-directional cycleways will, more often than not, be less desirable than uni-directional ones, in urban areas. But they are currently – thanks to UK rules – probably the best way of building inclusive cycling infrastructure when space is genuinely limited, as they are the simplest way of side-stepping around British priority rules. (An additional benefit is that they will typically only involve converting, at most, a single lane of motor traffic, which helps when it comes to persuading reluctant local authorities worried about retaining capacity for drivers.)

Perhaps the way forward is to continue building bi-directional cycleways, but keeping in mind the possibility of adapting bi-directional designs into uni-directional ones, if and when UK rules become more flexible, or if and when ‘simultaneous green’ arrangements start to appear.


Categories: Views

The Brexiters' dream is a post-Imperal delusion

Vole O'Speed - 21 June, 2016 - 21:35
As we draw to the end of this very unpleasant referendum campaign, it is worth, I think, recalling why we are where we are. It essentially goes back (as do so many things in modern Britain) to Mrs Thatcher. It was her volte-face on Europe that split the Conservative Party, the split that ultimately led this referendum to be called. After being strongly pro-European in the early part of her premiership, continuing the tradition of pervious Conservative leaders (including Edward Heath, who took the UK into the EEC, as it then was), including signing the Single European Act (the Luxembourg Treaty) in 1986, which gave the first real powers to the European parliament, she did a 180 degree turn on the subject for reasons best known to herself. Half the Conservative Party follwed her, and half continued allegiance to the older conservative pro-Europe line. The next leader, John Major, was bedevilled with this problem, and could not solve it, though he got the Maastricht Treaty, which created the modern EU, through. David Cameron's solution to this same, ongoing problem of the bitterly-divided Tory party was to call this referendum. The nation overall did not want it: it is important for our European friends to understand this.

The European Union was actually proposed by a British Conservative Prime minister in the first place: Winston Churchill. But it was always unclear whether he saw Britain as part of that future entity or not. Probably, he did not: he shared the romantic Victorian-Edwardian attachment to the dream of some future theoretical and impractical 're-union of the English-spaking peoples' (presumably including the USA, Canada, Australia and so on) that would then separate us from Europe. A similar transatlantic-gazing viewpoint is it the root of the views of many of the current Leavers: that we can somehow go on to exploit our cultural and economic attachments with those anglophone parts of the world more thoroughly if only we can leave the EU behind. Unfortunately, in the real world, as opposed to that of Rudyard Kipling's and Arthur Conan Doyle's fiction, we can't.

There are of course some on the radical left of UK political campaigning for 'Leave'. Some of these are people for I have great respect. Baroness Jones (Jenny Jones, former Green London Assembly Member) is one of these. I attended her leaving party at City Hall before the May election to congratulate her ( and her colleague Darren Johnson) on all they had done for cycling in their time at City Hall. Nevertheless, I'd like to take her to task on her pro-Brexit position (which is at odds with the majority opinion in her party). This essentially amounts to: 'THe EU is broken and undemocratic. There's no chance we can fix it, so we should leave'.

I find this a very strange position for anyone of an internationalist disposition to take. So if the EU is 'broken', we leave, and what? We leave 300 million people in a 'broken' institution, and we give up any influence in trying to improve it or reform it? That can't be right. I can only imagine the rationale is that she (and others like her) hope that the EU will simply fall apart in reaction to Brexit. I have to say I find this a deeply improbable proposition. The UK leaving the EU will not have that much effect on the citizens of the rest of the Union, or on their politicians. The EU will be able to adapt and continue. The supposed fragility of the EU and its institutions has been consistently overplayed by our media. We've heard nothing about the Euro (ever) except 'It's on the brink of collapse'. Except that it hasn't collapsed. It's had a rocky time, but basically, this project, to place under a monetry union the economically diverse and divergent nations from Portugal to Austria and Finland to Crete , this incredibly improbable and ambitious project, has succeeded. It's not going back.

Similarly, if the UK leaves, there's going to be no shortage of new nations wanting to accede to the EU, and there's going to be no domino effect of old members wanting to leave. The EU is going to continue, grow, and strengthen as an entity, without us. We'll have to negotiate a new deal with the EU over trade and labour movement, and it's going to have to have many of the characteristics of the deal we have now. If we cease to pay into the European budget we're going to lose all influence over how the rules are set up, but we're basically going to have to continue to abide by those rules to trade. There's not going to be the free lunch the Brexiters want. We're going to have to accept freedom of movement if we want to be within the trading block on anything like reasonably advantageous terms. Or, maybe we'll be offered a deal whereby we pay to be out of the agreement on freedom of movement but within the trading area. In either case, we're not going to get what the Brexiters claim we might get. The EU has to defend itself, ultimately, in response to  defection. It obviously can't offer an ex-member state a deal so advantageous that it might tempt others to secede. There has to be a punishment for leaving the club. That punishment will surely be felt in the purse of ever UK citizen in a Brexit world.

An anonymous cartoon gleaned off Twitter which crudely but effectively summarises the problem with the Brexit position
The world of science and the world of the arts both thrive on international co-operation, and their representative organisations are uniformly sending out the message that Brexit would be a scientific and cultural disaster: see for example the press release from the Royal Astronomical Society, or this piece by, extraordinarily, Jenny Jones's ex-GLA Green colleague, Darren Johnson and champion of cycling in Outer London (with whom I got drunk in a south London pub not long ago), now turned music journalist. The response of the Brexiters, that the EU is 'not a magic money tree' really doesn't cut it. It completely misunderstands what the experts in these fields are saying, what they know. As the RAS puts it:
Participation in trans-national programmes... has more impact than those carried out by single countries, even if they are funded at the same level. The coordination of projects across the European continent prevents duplication of effort, and allows scientists to more effectively share resources.Much the same goes for the arts, for which freedom of movement is hugely important. And anyway, the Brexiters aren't saying the money we would save from EU membership would be spent on science and the arts. They seem to have committed that money to building more hospitals. Or something. But we won't have the money for hospitals if our science base, on which our high-tech industries depend, collapses.

In fact the Leavers have no coherent economic plan, and little understanding of why the EU is there in the form that it is in the first place. It was a response to a Europe almost destroyed by a century of war between major powers (if you date that century back to the Franco Prussian War of the 1870). The EU has made the Europe that generated those wars an unimaginably remote history to all who are young today.

The 'democracy' arguments trotted out by the Bexit side make no sense. None of them seem to have noticed that the UK is still dominated by a monarchy and a hereditary aristocracy and that two-thirds of our law-making parliament is unelected. The European Parliament, elected by proportional representation, is the most democratic layer of government England (outside London, which has the GLA) has got. The Council of Ministers consists of people appointed by the Westminster government and its equivalents in the other member states. There is a huge range of public bodies in the UK that wield great influence over citizens' lives that are far less democratic. I don't hear the Brexiters in general talking about removing the undemocratic influence of mediaeval bodies within the UK like the Corporation of London, the Royal Parks Agency or the Verderers of the New Forest.

Of course the EU is deeply imperfect in its democratic structures. But it is misrepresented as some sort of monster developing it ins own way beyond the control of the citizens of its constituent states. Most of the nonsense claims of the Brexit side in this respect are simply knocked out by the observation that our government and parliament have had a veto over every significant change in the powers and operation of the EU over its history since we joined. We have agreed to it all: our Prime Ministers, cabinets and parliaments from Heath to Cameron have agreed to it all. We could have stopped anything we didn't want, and in fact we did stop lots of things. Other provisions, like the Shengen agreement on open borders, and monetary union, we opted-out of, for better or worse. The veto we had over treaty changes, plus the influence that being one of the biggest economies and biggest contributors made us, ensured that the UK influence in the development of the EU was always huge. We created the EU, with others. For us to leave it now would be like a person abandoning a house they had built, and into which they had sunk all our resources, with no realistic prospect of finding another remotely as comfortable or accommodating.

The EU is not a superstate, and is not heading to be one. There's a simple economic reason it can't be one. It's central administration takes only about 0.5% of the member nations' GDP. Its bureaucracy is on the scale of that of an English county council. I've seen it. I've been to Brussels to talk to the Transport Committee Chair of the European Parliament about cycling (who was then an English MEP). Such a small organisation with that level of funding can never take control of Europe in the manner of the Federal Government of the United States. It would take a massive change of policy on behalf of all the governments of the member states, acting unanimously, to start heading it in that direction. That ain't going to happen. And as for Ever closer union, that famous phrase, what doea it mean? I think it is correctly interpreted not as a vision of a superstate; I think it means rather an ever-closer spiritual and cultural union, an evolution towards a state of cooperation between the European peoples that makes conflict between them ever less conceivable. I believe this is what the founding fathers of the EU meant by that phrase. Then again, perhaps it doesn't mean anything at all.

I could go on and on on this subject, but I had better not. I haven't mentioned environmental legislation, worker's rights, so many other aspects of the story of why the EU is a worthwhile institution that has done the its peoples good. And I haven't touched on the how a UK vote to leave the EU will almost certainly herald the break up of the UK, through triggering another Scottish independence referendum, as Scotland will certainly vote to remain. Even more serious are the likely consequence for Northern Ireland and peace in the Island of Ireland, where the existing post Good Friday Agreement consensus, of devolved provincial government within a UK that is united with the Republic within the EU, will be broken. And, in case you are one of those worried by immigration (I'm not, like most people in London and other big cities who are used to everyone being immigrants from somewhere) I haven't touched on the fact also, that with less co-operation from EU member states and France in particular, we'll probably get more illegal immigration and asylum claims to deal with.
YouGov's map of voting intentions by local authority. Scotland will vote 'remain' and the UK cannot survive Brexit.For cycling, the usual topic of this blog, the freedom of movement we have enjoyed since EU accession I am convinced has contributed to the cultural and information-exchange process that has allowed us to reach the point of importing some of the best pro-cycling policies Europe has produced into at least some British cities. For example, if we hant't had freedom of movement, would the Hembrows have settled down in Assen and provided us with the information and cross-cultural Dutch translation that we needed for the Go Dutch campaign in London? Such questions are unanswerable, and I need to get this blogpost out in time to make, I hope, one or two undecided voters to think in some new ways.

England was deeply part of cultural Europe until the reign of Henry VIII, the break with Rome, and the destruction of most English art by his henchman Thomas Cromwell. Our focus was more on remote territories for the next four centuries, but our attention was forced back to Europe by the wars of the twentieth century and the loss of our empire. The accession to the EEC was an important, defining event for those of my generation, too young to vote in the 1977 referendum called by Harold Wilson (whose Labour cabinet was divided over Europe), but brought up, post-decimalisation and post-metrication to think, at least to some extent, of ourselves as European citizens, with our maroon European passports. I am a product of the wider Europe, coming from a family on my father's side of wandering, Sephardic Jews, traders between the Christian and Moslem worlds, who had come from Spain at the time of the Inquisition, and spread across Europe, North Africa and the Near East, to Morocco, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Israel, France, arriving in my great grandfather's time in England in 1898; while on my mother's side I am a descendent of  mid-european Catholics, inhabitants of a mountainous and fiercely independent region, the South Tyrol, fought over by Papal, Napoleonic, Hapsburg, and Italian armies for centuries, and still not really, comfortably settled into one of the states of modern Europe (though now forming a largely German-speaking Italian province with a high degree of autonomy from Rome).

I am one of those people whom Boris Johnson claims don't exit: who feel an 'underlying loyalty to the idea of Europe', that is, feels 'European'. I think there are a lot more of us. I think there may be enough of us to swing this divisive and dividing referendum against the old England post-Imperial delusionists on Thursday. We will see.
Categories: Views

Traffic lights in ’s-Hertogenbosch; an interview

BicycleDutch - 20 June, 2016 - 23:01
“We want people to believe our traffic signals are really helping them. Nobody likes to wait unnecessarily long at a red light. Signals are an aid and they should only … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

Drenthe: A beautiful province with exceptional conditions for recreational riding

A View from the Cycle Path - 18 June, 2016 - 16:00
Drenthe is one of only two Dutch provinces considered to be a five star cycling region. Read more below. One of the great things about living in the Dutch the province of Drenthe is that at any time we can get on our bikes, go out and ride, and make use of the wonderful network of recreational paths which zig-zag across the local countryside. On this blog and on the study tours I mostly David Hembrowhttps://plus.google.com/114578085331408050106noreply@blogger.com1http://www.aviewfromthecyclepath.com/2016/06/drenthe-beautiful-province-with.html
Categories: Views

The Oslo Standard - Next Level Bicycle Planning and Politics

Copenhagenize - 16 June, 2016 - 13:16


So there you are. A capital city in a European country wanting desperately to keep up with the cool kids. Wanting to improve city life, generally, but also focusing intensely on re-creating a bicycle-friendly city.

Oslo has grand plans. The news in October 2015 that the city council had voted to make the city centre free of private cars by 2019 - as well as many other plans - was a shot heard round the world and captured imaginations in many other cities.

The City of Oslo is gearing up for change, no doubt about it. At Copenhagenize Design Company, we’ve gone so far as to call the city “the next big thing” in bicycle urbanism. There are more people employed to make the city bicycle-friendly in Oslo than in almost any other city on the planet. Sure, they’re divided up in different, confusing departments, but they’re there. A group of vaguely focused landscape architect types in the city’s Bymiljøetaten (Agency of City Environment) and the City’s temporary Sykkelprojsektet - or Bicycle Agency - who are tasked with implementing the city’s bicycle strategy.

It is the latter who are orchestrating the show and who have a clear understanding of what is needed and how to do it. Yesterday, The Bicycle Agency released a long-awaited document clearly outlining their roadmap for bicycle infrastructure in the city. It is one of the most interesting and inspiring documents we’ve seen coming out of a municipality anywhere in the world.

The Oslo Standard. Remember that name.

All good, right? Off they go, you might think. Political will, money, loads of people ready to work. Unfortunately, it turns out that it’s not that easy. Which is exactly why The Oslo Standard for Bicycle Planning now exists. It is available in a public hearing version, in Norwegian, but an English version will be out later in the year.

Like many places, Oslo and other cities in Norway are under the thumb of a Road Directorate and the nature of such organisations is to be slow to change, keep a firm grip on outdated traffic engineering principles and generally be a pain in the ass of people who see a better vision for our cities.

Like many places, Norway has road design standards dictated by said road directorate. Traffic engineers would have you believe they are carved in stone and are second only to the Ten Commandments in their worth. Oslo, however, has fired up their jackhammer.

The Norwegian road design standards are, quite simply, the biggest hurdle to The Bicycle Agency implementing the City’s bicycle strategy. They are hopelessly outdated and include little in the way of modern, Best Practice bicycle infrastructure design.

It’s not a new story. In 2012, the National Transport Ministry was tired of getting the same old, same old answers from the Road Directorate and chose instead to ask someone new. Together with Civitas, Copenhagenize Design Company produced a huge feasibility study to help boost cycling in Norwegian cities. The report basically recommended Best Practice infrastructure across the board.


Norway and Oslo are no stranger to Best Practice. Aftenposten newspaper, in 1941, wrote about “Oslo’s First Bike Lane”, which was clearly inspired by Copenhagen. Indeed, a separated cycle track is called in professional circles a “dansk sykkelsti” - Danish Bike Lane.

You can see examples in the country’s best city for urban cycling, Trondheim, put in in the 90s. A bit narrow, but hey. Best Practice, at least. Ironically, bizarrely and sadly, the Road Directorate removed these designs from their standards.

This is where The Oslo Standard comes in. It is Oslo’s own standard for bicycle infrastructure design and it includes Best Practice solutions that are not included in the national road standards. The “dansk sykkelsti” is called “raised bicycle area”, in order to establish it in a new context.

This is Oslo saying, “If you won’t modernise, we’ll do it on our own”.

And they are. They have presented a clear vision for bicycle infrastructure design with their Oslo Standard and they are fine with stepping on the toes of the national road directorate. It is a planning document, but it is also a shot fired across the bow signalling a sea change in how Oslo wants to plan its streets for transport in the future. It has clear political signals, as well. Shoving is the new nudging. Shoving the road directorate into the new century.

Here is the introduction to the document:

The Oslo Standard for Bicycle Planning is one of the main initiatives in the City’s bicycle strategy. It translates the city’s goals for bicycle modal share, sense of safety, accessibility and traffic safety for cyclists into practical solutions for building bicycle infrastructure. Norway’s national bicycle strategy 2014-2023 includes a goal that 8% of all trips must be done by bike. This would mean that the modal share for bicycles in cities must be between 10-20%. The Bicycle Strategy for Oslo 2015-2025 has a declared goal that 16% of all weekday trips will be by bike before 2025. In 2013, the modal share was measured to be 8%.

In a comprehensive study in 2013, a majority of Oslo’s citizens say they don’t feel safe cycling in the city and that much of the bicycle infrastructure that is in place doesn’t satisfy the citizens’ needs or wishes. As the country’s capital, Oslo must lead by prioritising pedestrians and cyclists and use solutions that make it possible to reach both national and municipal cycling goals.


Clear, defined and with a “we’re going it alone” attitude. Refreshing.

Compared with similar, strategic documents, The Oslo Standard wholeheartedly embraces Best Practice. The American NACTO guide, for example, has some good stuff but it also includes leftovers of designs that were chucked out of Danish Best Practice two decades ago and it has an awkward, American engineering feel to it, even though it hopes to be a counterweight to the ASHTO guide. The Oslo Standard, however, nails it. They have done their research.


Here you can see a selection of screen grabs of the infrastructure designs. Reading through the document we were pleased to see that bidirectional infrastructure is reserved for off-street areas and stretches without many intersections to avoid conflicts. Here is why THAT is important.


All manner of designs are included, featuring every street typology possible in the city of Oslo and, indeed, in most cities on the planet. Lots of inspiration from Danish Best Practice and some from Holland. Oslo is clear on their focus. No sub-standard solutions. Certainly no center-running lanes, that's for sure.


While cycle tracks are the default, there are still plans for painted lanes - causing shivers down the spine of any professional bicycle planner worth their salt - but as long as we know that they GET IT and want to do the proper design where possible, we can let it slide just a little. They know that bike lanes should be along the sidewalk and NOT inbetween the door zone in a single-occupant vehicle society and moving traffic. So that helps us sleep at night.

While Oslo can muscle on and plans their streets with modern designs in the Oslo Standard, the road directorate still dictates signage. Which proves to be rather comical.


This isn't Norway in the photo but it's a pretty close to what the situation looks like when the road directorate are in charge.

So that is something that needs to be worked on. Then there is the bizarre bureaucracy inherent in the Oslo municipality.

But a foundation has been laid in Oslo. A vision is ready to be made into a reality. The Oslo Standard is the new darling for bicycle urbanism.

Let's hope that they can translate their vision into asphalt and boost transport in Oslo into the 21st century

Copenhagenize the planet. And have a lovely day.
Categories: Views

The 25 percenters

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 14 June, 2016 - 16:57

So I have to write a tedious blogpost about the story of a nonsense statistic, a statistic that appears in the Begg report covered in yesterday’s blog post.

Namely, the claim that Mayor Boris Johnson exacerbated the problem of congestion in London

by removing the western extension of the congestion zone and by reducing road capacity in central London by 25% on key routes through the introduction of cycle superhighways [my emphasis]

Elsewhere in the report [p.26] this claim is even wilder –

… by removing the western extension of the congestion zone and by reducing road capacity in central London by 25% through the introduction of cycle superhighways 

I’m not even going to bother with that one, because it’s so plainly ludicrous (at best only 3% of roads in central London have protected cycleways) and because it is most likely the result of a mistaken omission of ‘on key routes’.

But even the former claim is mysterious. Given that there are effectively just a handful of new superhighways in central London – CS5, CS6, CS3 and parts of CS2, how on earth has a figure of ‘reducing road capacity in central London on key routes by 25%’ been arrived at?

Charitably, we might interpret the claim as being a reduction in capacity on some key routes in central London by 25%. (This is an explanation some of those who have disseminated the statistic are desperately falling back on). But if that was the claim that was being made, why isn’t the word ‘some’ actually included, anywhere in the report where this claim is repeatedly made?

Further, in the context of the passage, the implication is quite clear – road capacity has been reduced on key routes by (allegedly) 25% overall, enough to justify comment. To put this another way, if road capacity had been reduced on just a handful of main roads, why on earth would that merit comment in a passage about London-wide congestion? This attempt at an explanation is incoherent.

We then come to the problem of ‘key routes’ themselves. Funnily enough TfL were careful to avoid ‘key routes’ for buses as much as possible when they build the E-W and N-S Superhighways, as you can see from this map of key bus routes, spotted by Jono Kenyon.

These high-profile interventions barely co-exist with these key bus routes, using routes where there is relatively little (or no) TfL bus activity. If there has been a reduction of 25% on ‘key routes’ it isn’t the ones buses are using. The Embankment, which has seen a reduction in the number of motor traffic lanes (a very different thing from capacity) from 4 to 3 (a potential source for a ‘25%’ claim) is very much not a key route for buses.

So where did this dubious statistic even come from in the first place? The answer (thanks to some digging by Carlton Reid and Peter Walker) appears to be from a Transport for London presentation made by Helen Cansick to the London Travel Watch board, on May the 12th last year.

… the 25 percent statistic is not as robust as it was portrayed in the bus report. For a start, it’s not from a written source. Professor Begg told BikeBiz:

“The statistic comes from Transport for London. Helen Canswick of TfL network management gave a presentation to London TravelWatch at which she was asked what the reduction traffic capacity would be as a result of roads modernisation. She told members they had modelled a reduction of network capacity in the central area of 25 percent.”

Extraordinarily Begg himself confirms here that “the statistic” is actually about reduction in capacity due to the road modernisation programmea programme that encompasses improvements for cycling, but also public realm schemes and improvements for walking and public transport – and, err, road schemes.

This much is plain when we look at the minutes of the meeting during which the Canswick presentation was made.

The Policy Officer asked what the total reduction in road capacity would be under the modernisation plan. Ms Cansick said that following completion in December 2016 there would be a reduction of road capacity for motor vehicles of 25% within the inner ring road.

Exactly the same statistic that Begg says he used (albeit erroneously). Who might this Policy Officer be?

@DaveHill @KristianCyc … Prof Begg told me he was told it by Vincent Stops who in turn was told it in a briefing from TfL.

— Peter Walker (@peterwalker99) June 13, 2016

Vincent Stops is of course a London TravelWatch policy officer, one who was present at that meeting, and clearly the person who passed the ‘25%’ statistic on to Professor Begg.

The only remaining question is at what point a figure about 25% reduction due to TfL’s overall road modernisation programme became converted into a 25% reduction due specifically to cycling infrastructure, as the claim appeared in Begg’s report.

 


Categories: Views

And now for something completely different

BicycleDutch - 13 June, 2016 - 23:01
“Do you seriously not have anything better to do today?” British comedian John Cleese was astonished when he saw the hundreds of people who had turned up in Eindhoven on … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

Class war

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 13 June, 2016 - 10:56

If by any chance you’ve missed it, do please read Paul Gannon’s forensic analysis of a report produced by David Begg for Greener Journeys, entitled ‘The Impact of Congestion on Bus Passengers’. I don’t really need to add much to what Paul has written; he has done a great job wading through the detail of a report that has some fairly odd things to say about cycling.

However, there is a curious case of repetition that bears further scrutiny. This paragraph appears on page 30 in the Begg report –

What is less well-known is how relatively affluent cyclists in London are compared with bus passengers. Transport for London describes the London cyclist as “typically white, under 40, male with medium to high household income”. A report by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine’s Transport & Health Group in 2011 describes cycling in London as disproportionately an activity of white, affluent men.

It’s a passage that corresponds closely to this one in a Dave Hill piece from October last year

study by academics at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) published in 2011, explores why in London “cycling is disproportionately an activity of affluent, white men” or, as Transport for London (TfL), has put it, why the London cyclist is “typically white, under 40, male, with medium to high household income.”

Exactly the same two sources on class, gender and ethnicity and, more tellingly, exactly the same two quoted passages, from those two sources. These are essentially two identical paragraphs, barring some shuffling and switching of words.

Coincidence? That seems extraordinarily unlikely, given a) the wealth of material out there on class and ethnicity, b) the age and relative obscurity of both of these sources, and c) the small chance of these two identical quotes being plucked from them. The blindingly obvious explanation is that exactly the same person has supplied exactly the same two sources to these two different parties, who have both parroted it uncritically.

This wouldn’t matter if the evidence being cited was convincing. However, (and sadly for both Hill and Begg) it isn’t.

As Paul points out, these sources are being used by Begg to present ‘cyclists’ as a more influential lobby than bus users by virtue of their class and wealth; to argue that they have more ‘power’ than bus users and are hence able to twist the urban transport agenda to their advantage more effectively than bus lobbyists. The section on cycling affluence in the Begg report follows closely after this assertion –

The more affluent and generally well-educated the traveller, the more vocal and powerful a lobby they form to be able to effect change that is advantageous to their choice of mode.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, given that they appear to be being fed exactly the same information, this is also a line of argument used by Hill.

@joelcacooney Middle class professionals dominate London cycling demographic. That's why they are listened to & bus users are ignored.

— DaveHill (@DaveHill) June 7, 2016

And this fairly explicit agenda was ‘recycled’ in an extraordinary TransportXtra piece that extends the class-based argument to Britain as a whole.

Unfortunately – at least as far as London is concerned – this ‘argument of power’ is far from persuasive. Even if we accept that the cycling demographic in the capital is ‘dominated’ by influential middle class professionals, the number of people cycling in London is still tiny relative to those taking the bus (a point that bus lobbyists are of course more than happy to point out). Around ten times more journeys are made by bus every day in London, compared to the number that are cycled. This means that the number of middle class professionals taking the bus in London will far outweigh the number of middle class professionals who cycle, given that ‘bus passengers are not primarily those on lower incomes, but are representative of the profile of Londoners.

What we are left with, then, is the deeply implausible assertion that the ‘influentialness’ of a middle class professional transport lobby flows not from its actual size but from the extent to which it ‘dominates’ its mode of transport. By this logic, if a town has just 100 cyclists (70 of whom are middle class professionals), and 1000 bus users (500 of whom are middle class professionals), its ‘cycle lobby’ will be more influential than its ‘bus lobby’. Make of that what you will.

We might also point out that ‘the London bus lobby’ isn’t simply composed of bus users; it’s also composed of large and relatively powerful bus companies – companies like Stagecoach (2015 revenue, £3.2bn; operating profit, £225m), Abellio (a subsidiary of the Dutch national railways group) and Arriva (a subsidiary of the German national railways group). By comparison, the London cycling lobby has… well, membership organisations like the London Cycling Campaign, and individual campaigners and bloggers. If this motley lot are more influential than bus companies, then I’m a Dutchman.

As for the evidence itself used to make the claims for the influential, well, they are unconvincing. As Paul observes in his piece, the statistic ‘only 1.5% of those living in households earning under £15,000 cycled compared with 2.2% of those living in households earning over £35,000’ doesn’t even appear in this study – it appears in another study (this one) that is merely referenced by the first LSTHM study. Paul points out how this statistic has been presented omitting the detail that, in households with an income of £15,000-£35,000, the cyclist percentage is virtually identical to that in households earning over £35,000 – 2.1%, compared to 2.2%. Even if we take these kinds of differences seriously, they really are negligible in the context of overall cycling share – see how these statistics look when they are presented as below.

A 0.1-0.6% difference between household income groups isn’t the issue.

Remember, it is actually being argued here that almost imperceptible differences between income groups at very low overall levels of cycling somehow makes the cycling lobby influential.

Cycling is not ‘disproportionately’ an activity of the affluent. Unfortunately, nor is it ‘disproportionately’ an activity of ‘whites’. More recent TfL research – from last year, not from 2011 – found that ‘cycling levels among BAME Londoners and white Londoners are very similar’ and that ‘there is also very little difference between white and BAME Londoners in frequency of cycling’.

From TfL Report, Travel in London: understanding our diverse communities, 2015

The evidence that cycling is ‘disproportionately’ the activity of allegedly more influential members of society is weak or absent, and even if were present, the theory of ‘cycling influence’ fails to explain how an allegedly powerful cycle lobby is so influential despite being so relatively tiny compared to the numbers of similarly influential people taking the bus.

So here’s the thing. If bus groups want to lobby for more bus priority, they should do exactly that. They should lobby for bus lanes at the expense of private motor traffic, not at the expense of cycling. Crucially, they should be arguing for these bus lanes alongside cycleways, rather than instead of them. If you are concerned about the flow of buses, bus lanes full of people cycling are not efficient, and if you are not providing cycleways, that is where the people cycling will be. They won’t disappear into thin air; they will be in your bus lanes, holding up your buses.

So I’d like to see a bus lobby that is arguing for the right things – a coherent, fast system of bus priority at the expense of private motor traffic, rather than at the expense of cycling. I don’t want to see a bus lobby that is relying on dubious sources to launch a misguided and counterproductive class war against other modes of transport.


Categories: Views

Fools and roads. Arrogance of Space in Moscow

Copenhagenize - 10 June, 2016 - 10:41


Fools & Roads - The Arrogance of Space in Moscow
By James Thoem / Copenhagenize Design Co.

After an unreal week of ribbon cuttings, bike parades and Russian saunas in our client city of Almetyevsk, Tatarstan, the Copenhagenize Design Co. team retreated to Moscow to see what Europe’s second largest city has to offer. Sure enough, there was no shortage of awesome sights, fantastic parties and delicious food.

But what hit us right away was the sheer scale of the city. Stalinist era administrative and residential building blocks taking cues from Viennese facades and neoclassical styles were blown out of proportion. Any one of Stalin’s gigantic ‘Seven Sisters’ skyscrapers always seemed to loom on the horizon. Most oppressive of all, however, were the roads. The roads! We’re talking about a network of roads 8 to 14 lanes wide stretching through the entire city. Uptown, downtown, suburbs and all. And of course, traffic never ceased to fill the city (Check out Taras Grescoe’s Straphanger for a more thorough account of Moscow transport). If you need any further proof of induced demand, visit Moscow.

While sitting for drinks on the O2 rooftop bar at the Ritz Carlton hotel, we couldn’t help but gawk at the size of the roads. Tverskaya lay below us in all it’s arrogance. Mockingly starting back up at us. And it wasn’t long before we started talking, as we do, about the arrogance of space. The outdated transport engineering concepts of last century live on in Moscow.

Back in our Copenhagen office, we turned to our Arrogance of Space methodology. Here it’s quite obvious that the city has been handed over to the automobile. An ocean of red (no pun intended) is wildly apparent. Pedestrians wishing to cross the street must walk to the nearest dingy pedestrian tunnel before continuing on their way. If stairs aren’t easy for you, good luck. There are even a few cars parked on the sidewalk, because hey, why would you park on the road? The road is for driving (facepalm).


Removing the underlying photo gives an even better idea of the blatant arrogance of the city's pornographic obsession with the automobile.


Then look at the space the cars are actually occupying. Plenty of opportunity.


And, finally, in the interest of equal representation here, we show the individuals using the space. A shocking amount of space used by so few individuals. Where is the rationality here?



There’s a old Russian proverb we learned during our stay: "There are only two problems in Russia: fools and roads". In the case of the modern Moscow, it’s quite obvious that it’s the fools who are planning the roads. Ignoring the Bull in society's china shop. It’s time to change the question, stop asking how many cars we can squeeze down the road, but how many people.

Graphics by Mark Werner/Copenhagenize Design Co.Copenhagenize the planet. And have a lovely day.
Categories: Views

Oslo - The Next Big Bicycle Thing?

Copenhagenize - 8 June, 2016 - 10:16
This is a translated version of an interview with Mikael published in the Norwegian newspaper Morgenbladet on 29 April 2016 by journalist Marius Lien. The photo used in the article is by Christian Belgaux.

The Great Road Choice
by Marius Lien for Morgenbladet - 29.04-05.05 2016

Oslo - one of Europe’s best bicycle cities? It sounds like a joke. But according to the Danish urban designer, Mikael Colville-Andersen, everything is in place for Oslo becoming the next great bicycle city.

“No city in the world is as exciting as Oslo right now”, says Colville-Andersen

He should know what he is talking about. As head of the Danish consulting company Copenhagenize Design Co., he has travelled over the past nine years from one global city to the next to share his knowledge with urban planners and politicians. Recently, he has spent a lot of time in Norway since he got a Norwegian girlfriend, and he tosses around anecdotes and bicycle urbanism experiments from every corner of the planet.

“Few, if any, cities in the world have so many people working with cycling as Oslo does”, he says, and focuses primarily on Sykkelprojsektet (The Bicycle Agency) and the City Environment Department (Bymiljøetaten).

“There are more here than in Copenhagen. You have a vision for a car-free city centre and that news travelled around the world. The rest of the plans from the city council are great, too”, says Colville-Andersen.

To go from 0% to 5% modal share for bikes is, according to Colville-Andersen, the most difficult challenge. To go from 5% to 15% - something he believes is within reach for Oslo - is a piece of cake.

“With the resources that are available there now, I can’t be anything but optimistic. I tell people around the world that Oslo will become the next big bicycle city. Boom”, he says.

Breaking the Rules
The problem is that the plans the city council have proposed have also be proposed before. Without result. Will anything happen this time?

“The main problem here in Norway is the engineers at the National Road Directorate (Statens Vegvesen), who have learned 1950s, American traffic engineering and who aren’t capable of thinking differently. When a city wants to become bike friendly, the politicians and transport department have to make it happen. But it also has to happen through a liberal traffic engineering environment”, says Colville-Andersen.

“I know the heads of most city bicycle offices in Norway. They share the same frustrations and they point their finger in the same direction. The primary problem is that they are never allowed to try anything new because of the Road Directorate’s guidebooks. If you want to make a new cycle track in Bergen, the answer is: ‘Nope, it’s not in our guidebooks. The engineers are the spanners in the works”, says Colville-Andersen.

These guidebooks contain all the rules for traffic planning in Norway. They highlight the road standards that politicians and others working with traffic must adhere to and they are unmovable. The main reason for Colville-Andersen’s Oslo optimism is the so-called Oslo Standard. A plan developed by the Bicycle Agency, which will be launched in May.

“I have seen the plan and it completely ignores the old-fashioned standards and rules upheld by the Road Directorate. They say: ‘We’d rather make our own standard’”, says Colville-Andersen.

It was exactly the same in the Netherlands in the 1970s, as described in Morgenbladet last summer. The country managed to stop the growth of private car ownership and become the most advanced bicycle nation in the world. A position they still maintain.

“More and more people are thinking: What if we ask someone else? Instead of the engineers? It’s often individuals who have been on holiday and seen something interesting, or who have read an article and want to try something out. Norway is the USA of Europe when it comes to traffic engineering. Not even Germany comes close. You have the most restrictive guidelines for roads in all of Western Europe”, says Colville-Andersen.

“Trondheim broke the rules in the 1990s and is now Norway’s best bicycle city”, he says.

Width
Rune Gjøs is the head of the Bicycle Agency (Sykkelprojsektet). What does he say about Colville-Andersen’s description of the rule breaking?

“It may be a stretch. We focus on work that is heavily anchored in the Bicycle Strategy that the city council has passed. The development of bicycle infrastructure adapted to Oslo is one of the most important parts. It is a higher standard than is normal in the rest of Norway”.

What do you mean? A higher standard for what?

“For everything, really. In the current road standards the maximum width for a bike lane is 1.8 metres. They can’t be wider. We have established a width of 2.2 metres. This goes against the standards but it’s not illegal. The national standards are adapted to an average. They don’t take into consideration that Oslo is the country’s largest city, with different conditions and more cyclists. A lot of our work is finding out where in the established guide we can put a higher standard in”.

Do you have more examples of how you work against the road standards?

“Intersections. We don’t think that the current solution with the bike lane on the same level as the car lane is good. We want a raised cycle track or a physical separation with a curb. That’s what you find in Denmark and it is mainstream in parts of the world that are banking on bicycles”, says Gjøs.

Scratch
He knows the story from the Netherlands.

“I have seen photos from Amsterdam in the 1970s and it is full of cars. It is inspiring that they were once in the same situation as we are now. We’re starting from scratch, like they did. It means it isn’t unattainable”, says Gjøs.

How would you describe the traffic engineers in the Road Directorate as partners?

“I worked in the Road Directorate for 16 years and I’m educated as a traffic engineer. So I’m throwing rocks in a glass house, haha. You can give them the blame and say that they created car-centric cities. But now the external assignment has changed. Now society wants to build cities that are good to live in. It has to be easier to walk or cycle. When I started in the Road Directorate in 1992, the pressure was on to build roads for cars”, says Gjøs, who nevertheless understands the criticism.

“It is a precise description of how it was and how it still is in many places. On a professional level, it is a culture that wasn’t used to being challenged by other professions. The criticism hurt a little. Now there is a willingness to listen to other professions. It’s easier to adapt to new trends”.

In Development
Marit Espeland, national bicycle coordinator in the Road Directorate, responds to Colville-Andersen’s criticism:

“Our solutions are based on research. We constantly look for documentation and then further develop our standards for safe traffic designs for cycling”.

Has the Road Directorate historically played a constructive role when bicycle offices and politicians want to improve the conditions for cyclists?

“Infrastructure for bicycles has developed in Norway. We are currently revising our road standards, which include bicycle infrastructure. We have also started a pilot project for bikes, where we have invited cities to provide ideas we can test. We are, I suppose, in development”.


Copenhagenize the planet. And have a lovely day.
Categories: Views

Maybe you didn’t notice, but you’ve had your investment already

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 7 June, 2016 - 09:11

If you read the headlines, you might hear that Transport for London are spending ONE BILLION POUNDS ON CYCLISTS. Or that they are spending FIFTY MILLION POUNDS ON ONE CYCLE ROUTE FOR CYCLISTS. Crazy, right? That’s a huge some of money to be spending on a cycle route. What have cyclists done to deserve all that cash?

One response is of course to point that these big, scary sums of money are actually quite trivial in terms of the overall transport spend in London. Ranty Highwayman has already done the sums, so I don’t have to go over the same ground, but to take just one example, just stopping the Hammersmith Flyover from falling down cost £100 million – basic road maintenance on an ageing bridge for motoring easily outstrips all the spending on cycling infrastructure in London, thus far.

But another way of approaching this issue is to place ‘spending on cycling’ in historical context. Let’s take, say, the Blackfriars Underpass, just one small part of the contemporary east-west Superhighway route. It was built in 1967, to facilitate the flow of motor traffic. As is apparent from the film below, the convenience, comfort and safety of anyone walking and cycling in the area did not feature in the scheme.

In ‘1967 money’ it cost £2.6m, which funnily enough is equivalent to around fifty million pounds today – more than the entire cost of the east-west Superhighway itself.

Or take the aforementioned Hammersmith Flyover, a structure designed purely to facilitate the flow of private motor traffic, built in 1960 at a cost of £1.3m, which in today’s money equates to around £27 million. For – effectively – an 800 metre bridge across a roundabout.

Or take Park Lane, widened at around the same time to six lanes, at the expense of 20 acres of Hyde Park and a number of buildings, at a cost, in contemporary terms, of roughly £21 million, again for a very short stretch of road.

Or the Westway and West Cross Route, part of the (aborted) inner London motorway box, built in the late 1960s at a total cost of £36.5m, or around half a billion pounds in today’s money.

I could of course go on, listing scheme after scheme just in London, without even touching on other major projects in other British towns and cities. In reality, the twentieth century was a period in which our entire road and street system was reshaped and rebuilt to favour motoring, at enormous expense, and at tremendous cost to cycling in particular, but also of course upon walking.

Leeds city centre. A colossal rebuilding of the urban environment, all for one mode of transport.

Roads did not spontaneously arrange themselves into the kinds of form shown in the picture above. Political decisions were taken to shape our towns and cities around the car, a programme that required vast sums of money to be spent. ‘The natural order of things’ that is today being challenged by a small number of cycling schemes on a tiny, tiny proportion of the overall road network is not ‘natural’ at all – it’s the outcome of political choices, made over several decades. Just because we’re living in that environment today without appreciating how it came into being doesn’t make those political choices any less real.

Another picture from “Carscapes”, of Leeds today. The war on the motorist in evidence pic.twitter.com/O2KUsvcU

— Mark Treasure (@AsEasyAsRiding) February 15, 2013

It’s also worth pointing out that, at the time many of these decisions were being made, the motor car was still very much a minority mode of transport.

At the time of the ‘Traffic in Towns’ report in 1963, there were only 6.4 million cars in Britain, for a population of 54 million people. Of course, car use was growing, and may have continued to grow, even without any of the changes to the built environment that were occurring both before and after the Buchanan report. But I think it’s reasonable to point out that, essentially, you end up with the kind of transport use that you plan for. If you build very big roads in your towns and cities that make it easy to drive about, and difficult or inconvenient (or even dangerous and intolerable) to walk and cycle about, then we shouldn’t be surprised which mode of transport people decide to use for short trips.

As well as undoing the twentieth century’s failure to consider existing, established modes of transport in road design, the investment in cycling infrastructure that is taking place in Britain (albeit barely scratching the surface in London and a handful of other cities, and non-existent pretty much everywhere else) is really just an attempt to tip the scales slightly back the other way, towards a mode of transport that has never seen investment in any significant way, and that was erased from our towns and cities by an enormous historical programme of investing in motoring that we don’t notice today because its effects upon our built environment are so ubiquitous.


Categories: Views

A ride from Market to Market (4)

BicycleDutch - 6 June, 2016 - 23:01
The Markt of the town of Boxtel is the starting point of my 4th ride from Market to Market. From that market square of Boxtel it is a 12.3 km … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

Klean Kanteen Insulated (591 ml/20 US fl oz)

Chester Cycling - 1 June, 2016 - 21:20

I first heard of Klean Kanteen via Lovely Bicycle. They are available here in the UK (including in a few bricks and mortar shops) but as they are made for the US market, their capacities are made to crazy US units, rather than sensible, rest-of-the-world metric.

Vacuum flasks are nothing new, but the majority of vacuum flasks on the market are aimed at people who want to carry hot, still drinks and are often sold with lids intended to double up as cups to drink from. Something I wanted for a long time is a vacuum flask for cold, possibly fizzy drinks and which I could drink from directly whilst on the go, rather than using a separate cup. One of my main aims was to reduce the number of cold drinks I purchased whilst out and about on warmer days, partly to save money and partly because of the tendency of many shops to use broken/ineffective drinks chillers (Boots and Superdrug, I am looking at you).

Eventually, I found out that Klean Kanteen made insulated versions of some of their bottle sizes. The size I bought (nominally 591 ml, 600 ml in practice) came with a loop carabiner lid, and I was not sure if the lid would be ok with fizzy drinks. However, I saw that a larger version of the same bottle (but with a swing-top lid) was being sold by Klean Kanteen as a growler* for carrying (fizzy) beer.

For a while I used the loop carabiner lid, but the seal on this did not do very well with carbonated drinks; the lid had to be screwed down very tight to prevent the pressure leaking out and when it was opened, a small part of the seal would often unseat before the rest, sometimes resulting in a highly directional spray (especially after riding the Brompton over cobbles). This happened in quite spectacular fashion as a sat in the quiet coach of a Virgin Pendolino to Edinburgh, spraying two fellow passengers with a fine mist of Pepsi Max. After this, I decided to give the Swing-top lid sold with the Klean Kanteen growlers a try instead. The addition of the swing-lock cap produces an ideal solution for keeping cold, fizzy drinks cold and fizzy for an extended period of time (6+ hours has been no problem). Occasionally, I have also had coffee in the bottle, which stays hot enough for me for at least four hours (and possibly a fair bit more too). A few times, I have even used it for beer.

Another feature of the flask which I like is that it is constructed from 18/8 stainless steel, inside and out. Whilst I suspect that the recent hysteria about BPA is overblown, I do not like the flavour-retention which happens with re-usable plastic bottles. Aluminium bottles can also have this problem, as they require lining and this lining is usually made of some sort of plastic. The advantage of stainless steel is that it does not retain or impart any flavour on the contents of the bottle and is resistant to corrosion from the sorts of things you are likely to store inside the bottle and also the sorts of conditions the outside is likely to be exposed to. It is also durable, I have dropped mine a few times and whilst it is dented, it still functions perfectly well.

This bottle really works well for me, I use it everyday. I even took it with me when I had to travel to Japan for work in early May, which allowed me to really maximise the benefit from the airport lounge access I got as a random bonus checking in.

*Growlers are vessels for transporting draught beer from a bar or brewery for later consumption elsewhere. I suspect that the name may be hindering their uptake in the UK somewhat.


Categories: Views

Space for mobility

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 31 May, 2016 - 08:32

One of the most remarkable things about the new cycling infrastructure in London is not just the numbers of people using it, already, but the way it is being used spontaneously, by a wide range of users. Not just by tourists hopping onto hire bikes –

but also by people using many different kinds of transport. Scooterists.

Rollerbladeists.

Skateboardists.


Hoverboardists.

This morning I shared my #cycle lane with a scooter, a skateboard, a hoverboard, and some rollerblades, anything to save 5 mins eh #London

— Laura Warrington (@themovingparade) May 24, 2016

Wheelchairists.

@CycleBath Segregated cycle infrastructure benefits so many people other than people on bikes! pic.twitter.com/AmhJalm0fg

— Adam Reynolds (@awjre) May 25, 2016

Mobility scooterists (even if they are let down by cycling infrastructure disappearing).

Handicapped mobility scooter suddenly has to merge w/ traffic bcos segregation disappears at Whitechapel market CS2 pic.twitter.com/zmkvPuDoIc

— Two Wheels Good blog (@TwoWheelsGoodUK) May 22, 2016

And even horseists.

Good to see London’s new parliament square cycle lane in action #space4riding #space4cycling horse with laughter pic.twitter.com/7Yn6oyXslV

— david dansky (@FixedFun) May 23, 2016

As well as, of course, the myriad types of cycling device that are starting to appear now that conditions are so much less hostile.

Try to imagine someone cycling their kids along the Embankment in a lane of motor traffic, trapped alongside parking bays

So although this is formally ‘cycling infrastructure’, it’s really more pragmatic to describe it as a bit of street space that’s useful for all those ways of getting about that aren’t motor vehicles, and aren’t walking.

It even makes sense for people to jog in these lanes, at quieter times – joggers are faster than people walking, and they can make their own decisions about when it is comfortable to use cycling infrastructure, and when it isn’t. Anecdotally, I think fewer people are jogging in them now they are busier (and indeed open!), but there’s no particular reason to get territorial. It’s space that can and should be used by modes of transport that don’t mix well (or safely) with motor traffic, and don’t mix well with people walking either.

So in a subtle way, this infrastructure is improving the pedestrian environment, by incentivising all these ‘awkward’ uses of footways into a much more appropriate space – including the obvious legal (and illegal) cycling on the footway, but also scootering, skateboarding and mobility scooters. If there’s cycling infrastructure alongside a footway you are walking on, you will only have to deal with other people walking.

It’s also showing that – despite the persistent stream of media noise about the alleged threat posed by speeding London cyclists – people are quite happy to share space with people cycling, in a way they plainly wouldn’t with motor traffic. People jogging, scooting, wheeling, skateboarding, and just travelling along a little bit faster than walking, all using  cycling ‘space’, is really objective proof that cycling does not present a huge amount of danger. If it was that terrifying, all these people would still be using the footways.

This isn’t road space reallocation ‘for cyclists’ – it really doesn’t make sense to frame it so narrowly. Rather, it’s more space for all those people who wanted to cycle (because frankly cycling is a brilliant way to get about) but were put off by frankly horrible conditions, and just as importantly, more space for anyone who wants to travel around in a way that doesn’t quite fit with walking. Simultaneously it therefore also represents a freeing up of pedestrian space.

It’s just better for everyone.


Categories: Views

A world tour of Drenthe: Cycling to England, America and Switzerland.

A View from the Cycle Path - 31 May, 2016 - 00:06
One of our first destinations was "America". May has been a packed month for us, with study tours, holidays to organise and lots of parcels to pack. However, Judy and I did also manage to find time to take a very short holiday on our bikes two weeks ago. We set off from home in Assen and took a route which made for a "world tour" around Drenthe, looping around between interesting places (David Hembrowhttps://plus.google.com/114578085331408050106noreply@blogger.com0http://www.aviewfromthecyclepath.com/2016/05/a-world-tour-of-drenthe-cycling-to.html
Categories: Views

The bicycle passage of the Amsterdam Rijksmuseum

BicycleDutch - 30 May, 2016 - 23:01
I’ve shown you the Amsterdam Rijksmuseum bicycle “tunnel” on my blog before. Already explaining that it is an underpass and not a tunnel. But is that even true? When you … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

Propensity to Cycle, and the importance of main roads

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 26 May, 2016 - 10:42

The National Propensity to Cycle Tool (PCT) is a powerful planning tool which shows existing commuting cycling trips (based on mapping the 2011 census), and then uses that data to illustrate where the main cycle flows are, or should be, and therefore where cycling infrastructure should be prioritised.

Importantly, it doesn’t just cover existing cycling flows; it can be updated to show what (commuter) cycling levels would be like if we had the same propensity to cycle as Dutch people (adjusted for hilliness), and where people would choose to cycle, based on directness.

The purpose of the route allocation is to see on which routes the most provision might be necessary as cycling grows rather than to show where people currently cycle. We recognise that many people currently choose longer routes to avoid busy roads. But for cycling to reach its potential safe direct routes are needed. The Route Network layer is therefore intended to show where (on which routes) investment is most needed rather than where people currently cycle.

I’ve been playing around with it over the last few days, based on the town of Horsham, and the results are quite instructive. Based on the census results, cycling to work levels are currently a fairly miserable 3% of all trips to work in the town centre.

I say ‘miserable’ because the town is flat and compact – only around 3 miles across, and with all trips (even from some surrounding villages) less than 2 miles from the centre.

Despite this favourable geography, the town (population around 60,000) is dominated by car commuting – between 40 and 50% of trips to work are driven.

The Propensity to Cycle Tool is great because it allows us to visualise alternative scenarios, and how to prioritise designing for them. We can plot the cycling trips currently being made from area to area (in the 2011 census) as straight lines.

Then (and here’s the clever bit) we can see how those trips would be made by the most direct routes, mapped onto the road network.

The levels of cycling can then be changed by shifting from the 2011 census to either the (unambitious) government target of doubling cycling levels, ‘gender equality’, ‘Go Dutch’, or ‘Ebikes’.

What is really interesting (but unsurprising) is that the routes being taken don’t change as the levels of cycling increase, as you can see from the ‘Go Dutch’ scenario shown above. It’s unsurprising, of course, because people will still choose the direct routes, regardless of whether they happen to be part of a small number of cycling commuters, or part of a town with mass cycling. Why would they change to less direct routes?

The great thing about this tool is that it shows exactly where interventions should be prioritised. I can see clearly from the map above that two of the most important routes (at least for commuting) in Horsham are the two roads north of the town centre – North Parade, and North Street.

It just so happens that these are two roads where there is plenty of space to incorporate high-quality cycling infrastructure, with only the loss of some grass, and central hatching – and the existing, poor, cycle lanes.

North Street

North Parade

So if, for instance, we were looking to prioritise where to invest in cycling infrastructure for the most benefit (rather than just looking to do tokenistic improvements ) these two roads would be among the main priorities. The PCT tool even allows you to click on the roads in question, to bring up helpful information. For instance, ‘Going Dutch’ would mean taking nearly 200 car commuters off this particular road.

If it wasn’t already clear, main roads are quite obviously where interventions are required, and where they will be most useful. They are main roads for a reason; they tend to form the most direct routes, and they also connect between the places people are coming from, and going to. The Propensity to Cycle Tool isn’t really showing the equivalent of back street, or ‘Quietway’, routes. The cycle flows are all on the major roads, or on the distributor roads that connect up residential streets.

What will make this tool really powerful is when it is released in ‘Version 2’ next year, because it will incorporate other journeys, not just commuting – because obviously only a minority of the trips we make are actually trips to and from work.

Version 2 will go beyond commuting data to incorporate other trip purposes, including education trips at route and area level and other non-commuting trips at area level.

Apparently commuting flows are actually a good approximation for travel flows in general, but incorporating trips for education, leisure and shopping will make the case for cycling even more powerful.


Categories: Views

A tale of two cities

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 24 May, 2016 - 03:10

I was in Leicester last week and (briefly) managed to look again at some of the cycling infrastructure the city has been building recently. There is an impressive-looking cycleway, complete with bus stop bypass, on Welford Road.

Like other new cycling infrastructure in the city, it has been built with distinctive, Dutch-style red asphalt, making it obvious that this isn’t part of the footway, and something that’s different from the road. The kerbs have also been designed well – low-level, and forgiving, meaning they can be ridden over without crashing, and also that the full width of the cycleway can be used, while retaining a height distinction from the footway, and the road.

This is something London hasn’t quite got right. The cycleways in London are of the same colour tarmac as the road, which has led to a number of incidents (presumably, mostly innocent) in which drivers have ended up using the cycleway, instead of the road. The kerbs alongside the new superhighways are also problematic, particularly on the section along the Embankment.

The height difference between the footway and the cycleway along here means that the effective width of the cycleway is reduced. At the narrower points of the superhighway here – around 3m wide – the usable width is reduced down to about 2.5m, which is pretty narrow for a two-way path, especially one that is only going to get a lot busier.

But unfortunately Leicester somehow manages to convert their beautiful cycleways, with their lovely kerbs, into a horrible mess at the junctions. Here is an exit-only side road from a residential street, that few drivers will be using.

That red tarmac comes to an end, merging into a shared use footway across an expanse of tactile paving, with no priority for walking or cycling across a minor side street. Not comfortable to cycle across; confusion and conflict with people walking, and loss of priority, and momentum.

I noticed that the same kind of problem appears at signalised junctions. Again, the answer in Leicester seems to be ‘give up’, and treat people cycling like pedestrians.

The red asphalt comes to an end, you merge onto a shared use footway, and cross the road on a toucan crossing.

It seems a little unfair to criticise Leicester here, because they are doing an awful lot more than most towns and cities across Britain, reallocating road space to build cycleways, and making a genuine effort to start prioritising cycling. But these kinds of junction designs just aren’t good enough.

Meanwhile London – while it might not be getting the designs of the cycleway kerbs and surfacing right – is doing precisely the right kind of thing at junctions, keeping cycling distinct from walking, and ensuring that cycling has clear priority.

Here an exit-only residential side street – very similar to Leicester – is treated in a very different way. There is no tactile, no giving up, no merging of walking and cycling. Both footway and cycleway continue clearly across the side road.

Nor is there any merging of walking and cycling together at signalised junctions. The two modes are designed for separately.

So London is getting some things exactly right, and other things a bit wrong, while Leicester is getting some things exactly right, and other things a bit wrong.

I suspect a large of the difference here probably flows from the starting premise. London is quite explicitly building roads for cycling, something that is obviously carriageway, designed and built like you would build roads for motor traffic. That’s good for junction design, less good for details like kerbs. Meanwhile Leicester appears to be building what amount to enhanced footways; cycling accommodated on the pavement, but in a well-designed and visually-distinct way. Until, that is, you encounter a junction, where that cycleway reveals its true colours as a bit of footway.

Two different approaches, both with mixed success, succeeding and failing in different ways. Really, London should just carry on doing what it is doing, but making sure that the cycleways are built slightly better, with higher quality kerbs, while Leicester should look to London to see how to design junctions. Combined, the two cities might actually be producing the genuinely excellent cycling infrastructure you see in cities like Utrecht.

Beautifully built, with good kerbing, visually distinct from the footway,, and with no loss of priority, or merging, at junctions.

So the question for Britain is whether this is really a sensible way to proceed. If two of the leading cycling cities in Britain – two places showing willingness to change their roads, and to experiment – are still managing to get things wrong, but in different ways, doesn’t that suggest a desperate need for some of kind of national pooling of design experience and expertise, so that both cities are arriving at the best possible outcomes, and – perhaps even more importantly, towns and cities across the country can get things right straight away, without making the same kinds of mistakes as the leading cities?

It’s admirable what Leicester and London are doing, but – particularly in the case of Leicester – a lot of what they’re doing simply isn’t up to standard. They’re fumbling towards the light, and if willing authorities are still struggling, the outlook for places with little or no interest or expertise in designing for cycling is desperately bleak.

It really doesn’t have to be this way. We know what works. We know the best ways to build cycling infrastructure, because we’re now actually getting it right in Britain, even if we’re not getting absolutely everything right in the same place. So rather than leaving local authorities to stumble upon it – and probably get a good deal of it wrong, even if they’re trying their best – why on earth are we not putting all the good stuff in one place? In some kind of easy-to-use manual, showing local authorities the absolute best ways to deal with side roads; to deal with signalised junctions; to build kerbs; and so on. All of the kinds of things that local authorities across the country are having to find out for themselves, in a ridiculous duplication of effort, with poor and wasteful outcomes.

‘Localism’ should really mean giving local authorities the freedom to build high quality cycling infrastructure, drawn from design elements included in Department for Transport-endorsed standards.  It certainly should not mean leaving local authorities to work it all out for themselves, one-by-one. Because that’s just idiotic.


Categories: Views

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