Views

Cycling through the heath

BicycleDutch - 17 September, 2014 - 23:01
Three years ago I showed you how I had cycled through the heath with all the heather in full bloom near Hilversum in North-Holland. That was also the last time … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

Devo max is not on the ballot paper

Vole O'Speed - 17 September, 2014 - 16:47
As the title indicates, this post is intended mostly for my Scottish readers. If there are any.

This post is not about cycling, except, in a way, it is related.

I've always thought that the general lack of progress on improving Britain's environment is bound up with a democratic and constitutional failure. It is notable that the most democratic countries in the world tend to have the best-manged environments, and the most dictatorial, the worst. The UK has always fallen somewhere inbetween, but not very close to the best.

I view the Scottish referendum as an opportunity to force some constitutional change on the UK establishment. I think the result of a 'yes' vote would, in the long run, probably, be a better, more modern and more democratic, Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland, that looked after their people and their environments better.

If, as looks likely, there is a narrow win for 'no', I expect little to change. Cyclists, more than most, will know how promises made by politicians at the point of an election disappear like Scotch mist after they have won. The 11th-hour commitment by the main Westminster parties to devo max in the event of a 'no' vote is deeply unconvincing. The British establishment is extraordinarily resistant to fundamental constitutional change that would break down its powers and privileges. We have been let down on this front by the Coalition, and in particular the Lib Dems, who did not use their bargaining power effectively to gain reform. We had a referendum on changing the voting system for Westminster, but that was meaningless as it did not offer the real reform of proportional representation that constitutional progressives want. The promise to reform the house of Lords has been broken. Promises of devo max I am certain will also be broken in the same way.

The party leaders in Westminster cannot deliver devo max because there would not be support amongst English MPs for an even more asymmetrical devolution arrangement that is even more unfair on England. There is no overall, final constitutional solution being proposed here, because the party leaders haven't been able to think of one that is in the least bit probable or stable. The 11th hour pledge is a transparent panic measure that has not been thought-through. It would, indeed, be the duty of English MPs to vote against some elements of the bribe that has been proposed to try to stave off the Scottish independence bandwagon.

The referendum debate should never have focused so relentlessly on the currency, which is actually not that fundamental an issue. Scots after independence could use the Pound, or the Euro, or their own unit, or whatever currency was found to be most convenient and beneficial for Scotland and all her main trading partners, including England, Ireland, and the rest of the EU,  through international negotiation, the results of which cannot be predicted before independence, because so much would change afterwards.

The focus should be on democracy, on representation, and on systems. If the parties in Westminster had been interested in a federal UK, they could have proposed one by now. But the problems are deep. England would be too dominant in a federation, if kept as a unitary governmental entity, yet England has been a united entity for so long that it cannot now be broken down in any obvious way into provinces that should appropriately have a similar level of devolution even to Wales, let alone Scotland.

My feeling is that the Union has served its purpose, a long and honourable and historical one, and it is time to move on, for Scotland (and indeed Northern Ireland as well, but that is an altogether knottier problem). We have so many international institutions that have an effect of partially pooling sovereignty that did not exist when the Union was founded: the EU pre-eminently, of course, but also the Commonwealth, the UN and NATO. Borders have effectively been broken down between all EU states now. The Union is a level of cross-border organisation that, though there was great justification for it between the 17th and 20th centuries, has now been rendered fairly surplus to requirements.

I think only a 'yes' vote by Scots will deliver the kick needed for real constitutional, democratic, change, leading to long-term social and environmental progress,  in any of the nations of the current UK. The next opportunity, should this one be missed, will be a long time coming.
Categories: Views

Exempting people cycling from signals, and how that can benefit people walking

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 17 September, 2014 - 08:15

By way of a follow-up to last week’s post about reducing the need to stop at traffic lights while cycling, I thought I’d take a look at exemptions to signals – how they work in the Netherlands, and how they could be transferred to the UK.

This is a bit of a hot topic (as far as hot topics go) in cycle infrastructure design, and also something that could offer benefits for pedestrians – pertinent, as we’ll see, to aspects of the Superhighway plans. just announced by Transport for London.

The basic Dutch principle is that if someone is making a right turn by bike (our left turn, obviously) at a signalised junction, they shouldn’t have to stop. Not only is this convenient, it’s also safer – people cycling, turning right, don’t need to go anywhere near the junction itself.

No need to worry about that HGV.

Amazingly the Dutch have been doing this for a very long time. Mark Wagenbuur (BicycleDutch) showed me this example dating from the 1960s, in the Overvecht area of Utrecht -

This signalised junction is completely bypassed if you wish to turn right by bike (much as it is if you were walking). Good design, even if it is clearly in need of renovation, being about fifty years old!

Here’s a more modern example of the same design, in Amsterdam -

Again, turning right here is easy, and doesn’t involve signals at all.

In fact, we actually do this already in Britain – but badly. We simply allow cycling on the footway. Either this is a simple footway conversion – ‘you can now cycle here, off you go’ – or it’s deliberate design, like (for instance) on Old Shoreham Road in Brighton, where you are allowed to cycle onto the pavement to make left turns.

It’s a nice idea, but it’s far from ideal, not just because it creates conflict and uncertainly between people walking and cycling, but also because there’s no continuity through the junction.

Happily it seems that moves are afoot to try and bring Dutch-style design to the UK, with cycle tracks, clearly separated from both footways and the carriageway, extending around the corners of signalised junctions, and remaining outside of signal control.

Here’s a detail from a presentation made at the latest LCC policy forum, by Transport for London’s Brian Deegan -

The full presentation is here.

It’s not quite perfect, but the principle are exactly right. Turning left is possible at any time, regardless of what the signals are doing. Likewise, the interactions with pedestrians are managed correctly, with pedestrians having priority across the track on zebras, on both arms of the junction – reaching a waiting island, and then crossing the carriageway with signals.

So this is how someone walking might move across this junction -

In more detail!

They can, of course, cross the ‘signalised’ bit whenever they want to, if the road is clear, because UK pedestrians don’t have to obey the red man.

Flipping a picture of a junction in Amsterdam, we can see how this might look in Britain.


The woman with the dog has crossed the ‘zebra’ bit over the cycle track, and is waiting for a green signal at the carriageway. Slightly confusingly, the Dutch use zebra markings across signalised pedestrian crossings too. (This is so that they can function with pedestrian priority at night, when traffic signals are turned off). But Brian’s example is how it might look in the UK.

Brian himself is pushing hard for an implementation of this kind of junction somewhere in London. His actual intention is for it to operate as a form of ‘simultaneous green’, with people able to cycle across the junction in any direction, at the same time, while all motor traffic is held – and pedestrians also able to cross at the same time, because the ‘signalled’ bit of the crossing doesn’t involve anyone cycling.

But it seems that some people in TfL are quite sniffy and sceptical about how this would actually work – Brian related how he had been told that the ‘zebra’ and the ‘signalised’ parts of the pedestrian crossing should be staggered, or offset, so that pedestrians don’t get confused into thinking that the whole crossing is a zebra. (Yes, seriously).

Funnily enough, I was in Bristol the other weekend, and, well, they are actually building something like this already.

This is the new cycle track along Baldwin Street, still under construction -

It will be bi-directional, which is less than ideal, but I think Bristol have actually pretty much nailed how this design approach should work. The cycle track passes behind the traffic signals, meaning there’s no need to stop. There’s even a hint at a Dutch protecting island on the corner, and the pedestrian and cyclist parts of the crossing (heading to the left) are clearly separated. Pedestrians cross the track on a hinted ‘zebra’, and then wait on an island, if they have to, for the signalled part of the crossing.

The ‘zebra’ has to be unofficial like this, because doing it officially would currently require Belisha beacons, and zig-zag markings – rendering something that should be quite simple very messy. So I think Bristol have taken the right approach – it’s quite obvious that it’s a crossing, even if it isn’t done by the letter.

Are people confused by this design? It would seem not.

I stood here for a while, and nobody appeared to feel the urge to march across the road, convinced that they had priority on a zebra, all the way across it. It’s really quite obvious what’s going on.

The rest of the track will, it seems, have this same kind of treatment at straightforward signalised pedestrian crossings.

A little hard to see, because it’s obviously still under construction, but pedestrians can cross the cycle track on this ‘zebra’, before waiting on an island at a signalised pedestrian crossing. Simple, and it means that people cycling along the road don’t have to worry about stopping for the signals; they just have to yield to pedestrians at the ‘zebra’.

The original plans marked this arrangement much like a ‘give way a footway’ -

From here.

This would not have been a bit messy, I think, and I’m pleased to see Bristol using the best approximation of a Dutch approach that they can manage.

So, can this be copied in London, and elsewhere in the UK? Definitely. Here’s a pedestrian crossing, from the new Superhighway proposals on Lower Thames Street.

The whole crossing is signalised. But why not do what Bristol are doing, and only signalise the bit across the road, with a zebra (or ‘zebra’) across the cycle track, at the top? (Note – this would have the added benefit of shorter pedestrian stages).

Likewise, just to the west of Blackfriars Bridge -

Do we really need to make people walking go out of their way, on a two-stage staggered crossing, just to get across a cycle track? Surely a simple ‘zebra’ marking would suffice. Why make our lives more difficult with all this staggering, when the cycle track could be crossed directly on zebras?

An array of ungainly, indirect pedestrian crossings

So I’d love to see all this unnecessary signalisation removed from these (very promising) plans, and replaced with zebra markings. It would make everyone’s lives much better. These plans would make a substantial improvement to the pedestrian environment as they stand, but i think they be even better.

It would also provide firm support for Brian Deegan’s attempts to implement his simultaneous green junction plans elsewhere in London, – as well as support for the sound principle of exempting people cycling left at junctions from signalisation.

Bristol are showing us how it can be done. Why over-complicate things?


Categories: Views

LED Busstops in Copenhagen

Copenhagenize - 15 September, 2014 - 19:34

Photo: City of Copenhagen/Rambøll

Here's a little story about some innovation soon to show up in Copenhagen. In a city with many busstops and cycle tracks, there is the question of coexistence. For a number of years, the City of Copenhagen has worked hard to establish islands at busstops for the bus passengers to use when disembarking. It really is the baseline for infrastructure and the City, by and large, prefers it over anything else. Since the City starting retrofitting busstops to provide islands, safety has increased dramatically across the city.

In 2015, The City of Copenhagen will establish LED bus islands at certain locations where there isn't space to build a proper island. When there is no bus, there will be a green strip along the curb. When a bus rolls up, the LED light show will expand across the cycle track to indicate to all traffic users that passengers have the priority. When the bus leaves, the LED lights revert to the green strip.

The Mayor for Traffic and Environment, Morten Kabell, said, "We know that tradtional bus islands are a good idea but don't have space everywhere for them because some streets are too narrow."

"Therefore it will be exciting to see that if a lighted busstop can create a better sense of safety for both parties, create a better flow on the cycle track and create space for bus passengers".

The pilot project will start next year, with a budget of $400,000.


This is an example of a standard bus island. The cycle track continues between the sidewalk and the island. In this instance, the law dictates that passengers have to wait for the cyclists to pass before crossing to or from the island.


There are, however, a number of locations where space is limited. This kind of situation will be perfect for the new pilot project. In locations like this, the law dicates that the bicycle users have to stop to allow the passengers to board and disembark the bus.

Generally, in detailed observations that Copenhagenize Design Co. have done, there is not a lot of drama at busstops. Things do get a bit tight in the rush hour, sometimes a bicycle user and a bus passenger will bump into each other. Generally, this LED solution will clearly mark out the territory for all parties involved. Many people aren't clear about the rules - or the fact that they differ between places with an island or without.

This solution is a positive addition to the traffic equation in Copenhagen.





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

The City of London needs to think again about the Superhighway proposals

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 15 September, 2014 - 00:47

I wouldn’t mind so much if the arguments being presented against the new Superhighway proposals in London were actually considered, and credible. But they’re not. In many cases, they’re ridiculous. Let’s examine the recent City of London response, which sadly is pretty much nonsense, from start to finish.

Michael Welbank, the City of London’s Planning Chairman, states that the City

support[s] the two routes in principle

Which sounds promising, until you consider that – from bitter UK experience – a ‘cycle route’ can mean absolutely anything. A bit of shared pavement, a useless  stripe on the road – take your pick.

Simply supporting the principle of a ‘route’, therefore, is meaningless, without any detail on the quality and nature of that route. And it is the nature of these Superhighways that the City of London are specifically objecting to. As Mark Boleas, City Policy Chairman, states in the same press release -

We support the concept of cycling superhighways but have considerable reservations about the current proposals

So not really ‘support’, at all – ‘considerable reservations’. Indeed, what ‘support’ the City are offering is merely for a ‘route’ of some description – the vague, undefined ‘concept of cycling superhighways’.

What form of ‘Superhighway’ do the City think TfL should be employing, instead of the current proposals? They don’t go into detail, but a clue is here -

Mr Welbank said the Square Mile’s dense street pattern meant pedestrians, cyclists and drivers all needed to share the space.

‘We’re trying to get all street-users to adapt constantly to each other and avoid a ‘It’s-my-space!’ mentality.’

Let’s pick this apart. The City of London – as far as I am aware – isn’t proposing to remove footways, and make pedestrians ‘share space’ with drivers. Indeed, pavements have been widened in many places in the City of London. More pedestrian-specific space has been created. How do the City’s public realm schemes fit with their own arguments about pedestrians and drivers ‘all needing to share space’? Are the City actually worried about pedestrians (and drivers travelling alongside the footways they are on) having an ‘it’s-my-space!’ mentality? I doubt it.

So the impression created by these comments from Welbank is that what the City of London is really objecting to is, specifically, the principle of protected space for cycling on the roads in question. Pedestrians and drivers are not ‘sharing’ anywhere in the city of London, nor will they be any time soon. The only ‘sharing’ the City is talking about is of a particular kind – mixing people cycling, with motor traffic. These two modes ‘adapting constantly to each other’.

Now, the charitable interpretation of these comments is that Welbank and the City of London haven’t actually worked out which roads are involved in this Superhighway scheme. That is – they’ve responded without examining where the Superhighway will run.

That sounds unbelievable, but note that Welbank is talking about a ‘dense street pattern’, which bears absolutely no relation to the roads on which the Superhighway will actually be built. Namely – very, very wide roads, carrying tens of thousands of motor vehicles a day.

The ‘dense street pattern’ of the City of London apparently means this space has to be shared by pedestrians, drivers and cyclists.

Likewise, this underpass has to be ‘shared’, rather than having cycle tracks, because of the City’s ‘dense street pattern’

The less charitable interpretation is that they do know which roads are involved, but haven’t got the first clue about how attractive this ‘sharing’ approach might be on them, or are simply advocating ‘sharing’ because they want to maintain the status quo.

Let’s take a look at the amount of motor traffic on the roads involved – the route in the pictures above. Lower Thames Street, which will form a large part of the East-West Superhighway through the City of London, carries 49,000 motor vehicles a day, including over 4000 HGVs, 8000 LGVs, and nearly 2000 buses and coaches.

The Embankment is scarcely any better, with 61,000 motor vehicles a day, including around 3000 HGVs, and 9000 LGVs. Upper Thames Street by Blackfriars station carries 40,000 motor vehicles a day, with around 10,000 HGVs and LGVs, in total. You can see these figures for yourself on the Department for Transport site.

So these are plainly very busy roads, that are wide, and fast. There might be some people cycling here already, ‘sharing’ and ‘constantly adapting’ to the motor traffic flowing around them, but to present ‘sharing’ as a realistic design approach for cycling on these roads is extremely fanciful.

Someone ‘sharing’ on Victoria Embankment. Picture by Crap Waltham Forest.

These roads are dangerous and hostile to the few people fit and brave enough to cycle on them. They include some of the most deadliest junctions in London, places where experienced cyclists are killed or seriously injured with horrible regularity, one of the most recent being Bart Chan, hit by an HGV on Upper Thames Street in May this year. These awful collisions will continue to happen if, instead of well-designed Superhighways that separate people cycling from HGVs, buses and motor traffic, we get the City’s apparently desired approach of ‘sharing’ and ‘constantly adapting’.

In addition, we have a vivid annual demonstration of how actual demand for cycling along the Thames is massively suppressed. 

For just one day of the year, thousands of people fight their way into central London – carrying bikes on cars, or walking or cycling on footways – to experience the joy of cycling on these roads.

Families cycling with young children on the Embankment

… And on Upper Thames Street

… And on Lower Thames Street.

Is ‘sharing’ with the tens of thousands of vehicles using these roads, per, day a realistic prospect for these kinds of people? And if it is, where are they for the rest of the year, when the roads in the last two pictures look like this?

From Google Streetview

From Google Streetview.

I don’t think the City of London are really thinking about these kinds of people, to be honest. They cannot seriously be advocating those young children ‘sharing’ with the HGVs you can see here.

So my impression is that they simply don’t like the idea of space being taken away, because they are worried about delays to motor traffic, and are proposing ‘sharing’ the City’s road network, not because they think it’s realistic or attractive for ordinary people, but because they want to maintain the status quo.

They can’t come out and say that, of course, so they instead have to employ these  arguments that don’t stand up to scrutiny. And there are other poor, weak or self-defeating arguments in that City of London press release. For instance -

more thought needs to be given to the knock-on effects on noise and air-pollution.

Really? We can’t make cycling – a mode of transport that doesn’t pollute, and is (virtually) silent – more attractive, because that might affect noise and air-pollution? Are the City of London seriously making this argument?

Likewise, the City have taken the deeply unhelpful approach of spinning these proposals as being hostile to pedestrians. The release starts -

Square Mile planners are urging pedestrians to have their say on plans for new east-west and north-south cycle ‘superhighways’

And states

Pedestrians tend not to lobby for their interests but this is a chance and I would encourage them to have their say before central section consultation closes on 19 Oct. Crossing times might a lot longer in places.

Is this true? Where has the City got this impression from?

The TfL summary of the proposals states that there would be

longer waits for pedestrians at some signalised crossings.

Which the City has presented as ‘a lot longer’ (I’m not sure how they’ve established this).

But it’s quite clear that, overall, these Superhighways would be hugely beneficial to pedestrians. Why?

For a start, as TfL state, they will involve

Increased distance between the footway and the road, creating a more pleasant pedestrian environment

Instead of walking a few feet from HGVs and buses travelling at 30mph, people will instead be walking a few feet from people cycling, at much lower speeds. Far more pleasant, as TfL argue (and, indeed, much safer).

Not just that. Because the vast majority of the space for these Superhighways is coming from what is currently motor traffic space, the distance across the road itself will be much shorter. That means shorter crossing times, not longer ones.

All the elements in these Superhighway proposals that will make life better for pedestrians probably merit a post in their own right, but here are just some examples.

Because Blackfriars Road is being narrowed by the cycle tracks – guess what, TfL can put in a ‘straight across’ pedestrian crossing, rather than a staggered one.

Better for pedestrians.

Pedestrians coming across Blackfriars Bridge currently have to negotiate two signalled crossings across two slip roads. Well, one of those crossings will now be bikes-only. Much easier to cross.

The scheme is dotted with bits of public realm improvement – wider footways, better public space. Here’s a couple.

‘Footway widened.’ ‘Footway increased’.

More widening, in the busy area where Westminster Bridge meets the Embankment.

Many other streets and roads involved in this scheme are being closed to motor traffic, or involve banned turns. Constitution Hill is being upgraded, separating people walking from people cycling. Parts of the Tower Hill gyratory are having private motor traffic completely removed. Horse Guards Road is being closed to all motor traffic, except official vehicles. I could go on (and will, in another post!).

Of course, there are some problems with these routes that I think could be ironed out, from a cycling and walking perspective. But the essential truth about these routes is that they will have a positive impact on the quality of the walking experience.

So, yes, like the City of London, I would urge pedestrians to ‘have their say’. But, unlike the City of London, who don’t seem to have looked at these plans in detail, and appear to have assumed them to be hostile to walking, I do so because they will make life for anyone walking in the centre of London much better, not worse.

Finally, let’s briefly return to those DfT figures for motor traffic levels on these roads. They’re quite interesting, if looked at over the last decade. Here’s the pattern on Upper Thames Street.

There’s a bit of noise here, because the counts are only carried out on one day. But clearly, motor traffic here has fallen, quite substantially. Over the last 3-4 years, its about two-thirds of the level it was in the early part of the 21st century.

Or, to look at this another way, motor traffic on Upper Thames Street – on the same road layout – was about fifty percent greater a decade ago. That same road layout could cope with those higher motor traffic levels, so why on earth will it not be able to cope, today, with the proposed reduction in capacity for these Superhighways, when the motor traffic flowing on it is much lower? 

And it’s even simpler than that. In broader terms, these Superhighways are really about making the most efficient use of the available space on London’s roads. Cycling, as a mode of transport, is extremely efficient, compared to motor traffic, so that means we should be making it as easy, safe and attractive as we can, for ordinary people, to free up space on the road network. More people cycling means that those essential uses of the road network – deliveries and so on – will be made easier. And – heaven forbid – in a modern, 21st century city, we really should be prioritising a mode of transport that will make a difference, in so many ways. Even if that does mean taking a lane away from four- or five-lane roads.

For all these reasons, the City of London need to reflect on what the Superhighways will offer London, get to grips with these proposals, and change their position.


Categories: Views

River crossing would be ‘discriminatory’ says councillor

At War With The Motorist - 12 September, 2014 - 13:19

A new bridge over the Thames in East London would only benefit ‘former Tory MPs’, a Newham councillor has claimed.

Councillor Airdrie Dalden is objecting to plans from Transport for London which include a bridge between the borough and the Royal Borough of Greenwich on the south of the river.

Quoting the example of journalist Matthew Parris, councillor Dalden said: “The vast majority of people currently crossing the Thames here are former Tory MPs in swimming trunks. Women of any ethnic group who wish to wear modest clothing, and I count myself in that category, are not going to put on a swimming costume and cross the Thames. Swimming is a discriminatory form of transport.”

Parris was criticised by the Port of London Authority in 2010 after writing about his experience of being swept a mile upriver when swimming across the busy commercial waterway at night.

Mayor Boris Johnson claims that the new Thames Gateway Bridge across the river would link the transport poor Thamesmead estate and Woolwich development area in Greenwich with residential and redevelopment areas around Beckton and the Royal Docks in Newham, creating opportunities for one of Britain’s most deprived boroughs.

But Councillor Dalden told AWWTM that the money Johnson proposes spending on the bridge would not “benefit every aspect of Newham, which is an ethnically diverse borough.”

“You look around and of the people who are crossing the Thames here, they do not belong to wider ethnic groups. The majority of swimmers are former Tory MPs like Matthew Parris and Boris Johnson. Fact.”

Transport for London are now considering a compromise solution which will involve building half a bridge.


Categories: Views

The Arrogance of Space - Paris, Calgary, Tokyo

Copenhagenize - 11 September, 2014 - 14:02

Yeah, so, there I was on summer holidays with the kids, standing atop the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Been there, done that many times before, but it's always a beautiful experience looking out over a beautiful city. If you're afraid of heights, the rule of thumb is "don't look down". When you work with liveable cities, transport and bicycle urbanism... it would seem that this rule applies as well. Don't look down.

I did, however. I looked down at the intersection on Quai Branly where it meets Pont d'Iéna over the Seine. This is a place with easily hundreds of thousands of visitors every year and more and more cyclists. It is also clearly a place dominated by The Arrogance of Space of last century traffic engineering. It is a museum for failed, car-centric traffic planning - sad and amusing all at once.

You may recall my earlier article about The Arrogance of Space in traffic planning. I talk a lot about it in my keynotes, this Arrogance of Space and I decided to revisit it.

I did a simple thing. I squared off the photo with (very roughly) one square metre squares. It's not totally exact and it doesn't really matter. Creating this grid, I gave the urban space colours based on who it is intended for. It's pretty self-explanatory above.

Worth noting, however, that while I reluctantly gave the goofy bike boxes the "space for bikes" colour, I refused adamantly to do so for the sharrows in the intersection. They are ridiculous and should never, ever, be classified as bicycle infrastructure.

With the colours you soon see how much space is allocated for motorised transport. Arrogantly so.


Removing the photo gives you an even better idea of the blatant injustice of space allocation.

In this version I roughly mapped out the actual space taken up by the motorised vehicles (dark red) and bicycles (dark purple). There were only two bicycle users and a pedicab with two passengers in the intersection at this moment. Yes, cars take up a lot of space, but man... look how much space they don't even occupy. Space that could easily be reallocated to a few hundred thousand pedestrians and many bicycle users.


When you actually count the number of individuals using the space the injustice becomes more and more apparent. The Arrogance morphs into pure mocking of the majority of citizens and visitors to the city. Pedestrians clustered together at crossings waiting for The Matrix to reluctantly grant permission to cross. Bicycles thrown to the hyenas into the middle of the Red Desert.



Clotilde, an urban planner here at Copenhagenize Design Company, gave me another photo. This one taken from the Montparnasse Tower in Paris. The intersection is Boulevard du Montparnasse around Place du 18 Juin 1940.

Here is the space allocated to motorised transport... including, it's worth noting, a number of buses.

Simplied further, there is an arrogant ocean of red and bits and pieces of painted bike lanes. Bikes heading to the right can use the bus lane on the Boulevard, which isn't exactly pleasant. I've tried it.


Here are the individuals using the space. Buses are great, of course, so let's count on 50+ people on board. But still a shocking amount of space for a few red dots. Only one bicycle user in the middle of nowhere safe. This photo was taken in 2011, by the way, so a lot of that "dead" space is probably repurposed.


For contrast, I found this photo taken from the Calgary Tower in my archives. The first Arrogance of Space article was based on Calgary, so let's revisit the city. Sure, I shot this photo facing south and that's the roof of a car park in the foreground, but let's add some colour.

Mars. The Red Planet.

I only marked out the space I could see, so sure... that sidewalk at middle right will continue to the left, but I couldn't see it.


In a liveable city you should be able to climb to a high place, look down at any given moment and see humans in the urban theatre. In this shot I could only see four human forms.


For contrast to the contrast, this is the view from my favourite hotel in Tokyo, overlooking the Shibuya crossing - which just may be the world's busiest crosswalk. I don't stay anywhere else when I'm in Tokyo simply because I love this view.


There are often bicycles in the crossing, as you can see in the film, above, that I shot a few years ago. There are probably more bikes in the bike parking areas around nearby Shibuya Station than in many countries.





Time for some colour. No bike infrastructure here but goodness me... look at that blue.

According to my EXIF info I took this on Friday, May 22, 2009 at around noon. Not so busy at this moment, but still great to see. Pedestrians here get their own signal in all directions, including diagonally.

If we want to change our failed traffic planning tradition from a previous century, it's time to change the question.

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

Utrecht straightens out a cycle route

BicycleDutch - 10 September, 2014 - 23:01
The cycle route that forms the main entrance to the Utrecht Science Park was recently updated. The whole “Road to Science” as it is called (Weg tot de Wetenschap) had … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

Light touch

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 9 September, 2014 - 08:58

I wrote a piece last month about the appropriate long-term response to people breaking the law while cycling – in short, it’s to fix the street they’re cycling on, so they’re not breaking the law anymore.

For instance – if people are cycling ‘the wrong way’ on a one-way street, well, the correct response is to make sure that two-way cycling is appropriately designed for on that street. If traffic is low enough, then that might amount to nothing more than just allowing it with a simple exemption. If there’s more traffic, then the solution will probably involve some engineering – or removal, or displacement, of that traffic – to make two-way cycling safe.

I also mentioned that – if there’s a problem with red light jumping – a proper long-term response is to look at how these signals are designed, and to assess whether they are even necessary.

Let me give a concrete example. In April this year, I made a short trip in the city of Utrecht.

This was a distance of just over a mile, right through the centre of the city. On a heavy Dutch bike, it took me about five and a half minutes, in total – including any stops. That’s a very respectable overall average speed of 11 mph, given that I was stationary for 40 seconds at one signal.

The reason I was able to make such good progress is because, as we’ll see in the video, I only had to make that one stop. There was just one traffic light I had to deal with on this journey. The rest of it didn’t involve any stopping or waiting at all, mainly because there aren’t any other traffic signals on this trip.

With so few traffic lights – guess what! – there isn’t very much red light jumping by people cycling. Misbehaviour just evaporates when the street conditions are adapted to favour walking and cycling.

By complete contrast, the very next day, I arrived back in London, getting a train into Liverpool Street from the ferry terminal. Here’s the journey I made by bike, to Victoria -

This trip was just three and a half miles – only about three times as long as my Utrecht trip – but it included 32 traffic signals. That’s a signal roughly every 175 metres, and I estimate that I had to stop at roughly half of them.

It was hugely frustrating, coming, as I did, straight off the ferry from a country where traffic signals are much, much rarer in urban areas. Even where they do exist in the Netherlands, they will almost always exempt cycling from right turns (the equivalent of our left turn).

So it is possible to deal with red light jumping, not by clamping down on it, but by creating conditions where people cycling simply don’t have to deal with lights at all.


Categories: Views

Does free car parking make people drive cars ? Certainly not when there is a better alternative

A View from the Cycle Path - 8 September, 2014 - 21:11
A supermarket in the centre of Assen in the 1970s. Note that the car-park is more than full. Conditions for cycling were not particularly pleasant at this time and it should be no surprise that cycling was in decline across the Netherlands when this photo was taken. It's not unusual to hear calls from cyclists, especially cycling campaigners, for an increase in the price of car parking. The David Hembrowhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/14543024940730663645noreply@blogger.com0http://www.aviewfromthecyclepath.com/2014/09/does-free-car-parking-make-people-drive.html
Categories: Views

The Copenhagenize Desire Lines Analysis Goes to Amsterdam

Copenhagenize - 5 September, 2014 - 21:46


Nine intersections. 19,500 cyclists. Nine hours. All in a city considered as a model for many urban planners. The Copenhagenize Design Company Desire Lines analysis tool headed south to Amsterdam to study bicycle user behaviour and how it interacts with - or is affected by - urban infrastructure.

In ca lose collaboration between Copenhagenize Design Co. and The University of Amsterdam in the guise of Marco te Brömmelstroet - and for the City of Amsterdam - nine intersections in the city were filmed during the morning rush hour in order to complete the world's largest study of bicycle user behaviour. We're pleased to reveal the results of our study and showcase some of the data, analyses and desire line maps. 
The bicycle infrastructure in the City of Amsterdam is rather different from the typology used in Copenhagen ,where we did the first anthropological studies of the cyclists - The Choregraphy of an Urban Intersection, and others. It was therefore interesting for us to observe the trajectories and behavioiur of Dutch cyclists crossing over-crowded intersections. The Desire Lines are more numerous and more complex, while in Copenhagen, the vast majority of bicycle users stick to the rules and react positively to the infrastructure which is more uniform and simplified. It has been fascinating for us to be able to compare the two cities, as well. Do we really have the World's Best Behaved Cyclists in Copenhagen or can the Dutch compete with that?


Monitored intersections in Amsterdam
The behaviour of Amsterdam cyclists is a recurring theme in public debate in that city. In many of these discussions, the majority of cyclists are deemed to display a strongly anarchistic attitude – e.g. ignoring red lights, cutting corners, etc. Our Desire Lines tool is the perfect way to figure out if these perceptions are true or false and to feed the debate with precise data. The study demonstrates how the cyclists respect the infrastructure as well as exploring whether or not the infrastructure fits the behaviour of the cyclists and whether there is room for improvement.
In our study we address the general research question: How do Amsterdam cyclists interact with design, each other and other road users and how do they experience it all? Nine intersections were allocated to a group of three first-year sociology students from the University of Amsterdam. They used our tried and tested methodology called the “Desire Lines Analysis Tool” and filmed the intersections. Then they went to work counting the cyclists and observing/studying the behaviour. In addition, the students conducted some interviews to gain insight into the experiences and emotions of cyclists at these intersections. Cyclists were classified as Conformists, Momentumists and Recklists - as they always are in our Desire Lines studies.
Here are the data collected at the intersection named Nassauplein (mapping of the trajectories of the cyclists + classification of the cyclists).
Behaviour of the cyclists at the intersection Nassauplein

To read about the eight other intersections, you're welcome to download the full report here - - it's a pdf and it is 10 mb. 
At the end of the analysis of the nine intersections, here are our conclusions:
Generally, the outcome of the Desire Lines Analysis suggest that the infrastructure at these crossings is under severe pressure by the sheer number of cyclists in peak hour traffic. As a result, the limitations of these infrastructure are challenged every day by the users.
Behaviour of the cyclists at the 9 intersections in Amsterdam
Although 87% of all 19,500 cyclists conform to all rules, there is a significant group that follows shortcuts, use sidewalks, adapts right-of-way rules or ignore traffic lights. Below, we also offer some more detailed reflections:
  • The nine intersections are very crowded. The video material is from February, so we expect even more cyclists in spring and summer
  • The general impression is that traffic is highly chaotic during rush hour but there were no serious conflicts observed
  • Most cyclists are used to this chaos, but many are also irritated by it. Even to the extent that they tend to avoid it by deviating from the existing infrastructure
  • The width of the cycle tracks does not fit the numbers of cyclists during rush hour. In most directions and on most crossings there is continuous ebb and flow
  • There is a significant lack of waiting space at the traffic lights. This is especially the case for left turning traffic
  • The large majority of cyclists are “conformists” but the number of “momentumists” and “reck­lists” are substantial. Most crossings have a large number of different Desire Lines:
- around the «vluchtheuvels» (small "islands" at each corner)
- in the middle of the intersection when the traffic light is green for left turning traffic
- on the sidewalks (to cut corners for right turning) or on islands and the space between the car and bike lanes
- cycling in a wrong direction down a bi-directional track to avoid waiting at the traffic light when there is a long line

Cyclists are more likely to bend traffic rules when the intersection is crowded. They are then almost “forced” to bend the rules. This rule bending behaviour often resolves apparent capacity problems or repairs ineffective right-of-way situations.


With this analysis we have developed a quite substantive set of systematised knowledge on cyclists’ behaviour in Amsterdam. There is a need to look at these crossings with these insights to develop design solutions that meet this new reality, in which cyclists are the dominant mode.

Despite the impressive level of bicycle infrastructure, cyclists - and pedestrians - are still subject to an all-dominant car-centric traffic planning culture inherited from the previous century. Even in the amazing bicycle city that is Amsterdam, cyclists are second-class citizens squeezed into another traffic culture and - like Copenhagen - not enough is being done to accommodate their mode of transport. A radical change of mentality in bicycle planning is long overdue.
Copenhagenize the planet. And have a lovely day.
Categories: Views

Mythology in the reporting of an injured cyclist

Road Danger Reduction Forum - 5 September, 2014 - 12:34

Here’s how to do a bit of reporting which is not just sloppy, but (no doubt unwittingly) contains important prejudices about cycling.

Here we go:

“SOARING”

A City worker who helped save the life of a seriously injured cyclist has called on people to sign up for “invaluable” first aid training as the number of similar accidents soars. “

Now, what is this “soaring”?

More than 4,600 people were injured last year — an increase of more than 20 per cent on the year before.”

Firstly, this includes the category known as “Slight Injuries” – which is a highly dubious category to use because of the high rate of non-reporting. Trying to assess a trend (what you need to do if “soaring has – or has not – occurred) involves using the category known as “Serious Injuries”. (Sometimes this “SI” category is called “KSI” to include the 5% or so of Killed and Seriously Injured that result in death before 30 days.)

And has this number “soared” when looked at over a period of years? And looked at in terms of the rise in cycling in London since 2000, has the RATE of Serious Injuries per distance, time or journey travelled “soared”? Actually, it has gone down.

 

The rate for the job?

Department of Transport figures reveal a huge increase in cycling injuries in London, which has the highest cycling casualty rate in Britain.

Er, no. Looked in terms of a rate which involves exposure (per journey, time travelled or distance covered) the cycling casualty rate has declined significantly since 2000 and is probably the LOWEST cycling casualty rate in Britain. So you have got it the wrong way round.

Is this important? Yes, it is – because this way of thinking is inherently biased against having more people cycling. As far as these characters are concerned, the Netherlands – with a cycling  casualty rate about half as high as the UK, but with far more cycling casualties because they have 15 – 25 times more cycling, has a WORSE casualty “rate” (per head of the population) than the Uk does!

 

Essential?

Gemma Tinson had done a St John Ambulance course months before coming to the rescue of the woman who fell off her bike in Richmond Park. ..: “It should be essential for cyclists in London to learn first aid” (my emphasis)

Now, no doubt obtaining First Aid knowledge can be a very socially responsible thing to do. For everybody. But why cyclists? Why not pedestrians (many of us have seen people collapsing in the street and requiring medical help when walking). Or motorists, who are involved in collisions where people get hurt in rather greater numbers than cyclists falling off their bikes, as in the case in this story?

I’m not nit picking here. It just seems that this story is redolent of the “cycling is dangerous” mythology. Remember:

  • Cycling is less dangerous to others than driving is – by a long chalk.
  • Cycling is not inherently hazardous.
  • A lot is needed to be done to reduce danger to cyclists – and other road users – by reducing danger at source, from motor vehicular traffic. But the casualty rate for cyclists in London is low, and has declined. Say so, if it has.

Getting danger reduced for cyclists – and others – should be the objective. This means understanding what is going on and not relying on common mythology.

“The community”

Another bit of mythology

Ashley Sweetland MBE, of the St John Ambulance cycle response unit, said: “We know the London cycling community looks out for each other, which is why we want to equip as many cyclists as possible with the first aid skills to help when the unexpected happens.

What is this “cycling community”? I’m proud to have been a member of cycling clubs and organisations for 35 years. It’s great. But it is largely a sporting or cycle touring community. If we want cycling to be normalised as a form of everyday transport, it will not be a “community” and more than there is a “walking community”.

 

POSTSCRIPT:

I haven’t actually given an analysis of the latest figures because I happen to be in a hurry today. But why don’t you have a look at the figures as gathered by transport for London? As the journalist should have done

 


Categories: Views

The E-W and N-S Superhighways – major change, that needs to be supported

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 5 September, 2014 - 10:18

So the big story this week is obviously the launch of the consultations on two new ‘Superhighway’ routes in London. One running from Elephant & Castle towards Kings Cross; the other from the Westway to Tower Hill.

Undeniably, there are problems with these plans.

The whole scheme is composed almost entirely of two-way tracks on one side of the road, which aren’t really appropriate, except in some locations – for instance, along the Embankment, and Constitution Hill. Two-way tracks present more danger with turning conflicts, and they are more inconvenient, as often the road will have to be crossed to make a simple left turn onto the tracks.

What Transport for London call ‘early start’ signals (but in reality are ‘always stop’ signals), as employed at Bow roundabout, feature in many places on these Superhighways, particularly around Parliament Square. This design still isn’t good enough, mainly because it’s inconvenient, and can be confusing.

Turns on and off the Superhighways appear to be being achieved through a formalisation of the ‘Copenhagen turn’, with turns being made in two steps. Again, this isn’t really good enough.

Making turns off the track, outside TfL’s headquarters, via a waiting area

And in many places the designs have been overcomplicated, with an excess of signals and markings that shouldn’t really be necessary. Parliament Square in particular looks very messy.

BUT (and it’s a big but) these plans are undeniably bold, and I think they should be strongly supported.

This is for a number of reasons.

As Rachel Aldred has argued in her excellent blog on these Superhighways -

the hard stuff is not digging up and remaking roads, not in a transport rich city like London. And even elsewhere resources appear if something’s a priority. The hard stuff’s the politics – getting support for change.

And this is change – big change. Although these routes are far from perfect, to me they represent a real attempt to actually prioritise cycling as a mode of transport, and on main roads too, something that we haven’t ever really seen anywhere in Britain. There are direct routes across junctions that are currently truly, truly horrible to cycle across, even for someone who is experienced, and familiar with cycling in London. Tower Gateway has a straight, segregated route across it, connecting with Superhighway 3, achieved by completely removing motor traffic from Shorter Street.

Likewise, the sliproad from Blackfriars Bridge to the Victoria Embankment is being turned into a bicycle-only route, which is fairly extraordinary, given the protests and arguments about this location, which fell on deaf ears for so long. The roads involved are the ones that I have been suggesting could easily accommodate cycling infrastructure, if the political will was there. And now that is happening.

In addition, as far as I can tell, every single bus stop in the these plans is bypassed, with the cycle track passing behind them. That means no interactions with buses, whatsoever – no fudged ‘wide bus lanes’ that are alleged to be suitable for sharing. This is hugely significant.

Indeed, overall, the impression given from the plans is that TfL been thinking hard about who they are designing for.

One of my pet moans, for a long time, has been the ‘dual network’ approach, that involves minimal change on the carriageway for those people already confident to cycle on busy roads, coupled with inadequate and inconvenient pavement cycling for those who aren’t. I think it’s fair to say that these Superhighway designs, whatever their flaws, are very different from that approach. There is clear intent to create something that is suitable for everyone, infrastructure that anyone on a bike would be happy to use, be they someone in lycra on a racing bike, or a very young and wobbly child.

And there are major benefits for pedestrians, too. Motor traffic will be further away from the footways, which means walking will be safer, quieter and more pleasant. The carriageways are being narrowed, too, which means shorter distances at crossings. And I strongly suspect that cycling on the footway will be a thing of the past along these routes – no more people cycling along the pavement on the Embankment, for instance, because they will have a much better alternative.

The problems with these designs can, and should be, ironed out. The ‘always stop’/’early start’ signalised junctions should be upgraded to full separate signalisation of bicycle and motor traffic movements, and I think this could be easily achieved at a later date, even if the designs go ahead as they stand. Likewise, most of these roads are so enormous that the two-way track approach could be adapted, with another track on the other side of the road, and the two-way track reverting to one-way.

And there are minor details that could be got right now. The tracks should be built properly, with shallow, forgiving angled kerbing to maximise effective width. Some of the signalisation simply doesn’t need to be there.

Do we really need stop lines, and the expense of signals here, for simple bicycle-only movements, when give way markings would work perfectly adequately?

These are comments that should be made in responses to the consultation.

But the overall scheme has to be supported. If these Superhighways are built, they will undoubtedly be tremendously popular. The kind of people you see cycling on the Embankment during Skyrides – absent for the rest of the year – will be able to do so, whenever they want.

These conditions will be embedded, permanently

These tracks would be just the start, of course. They will only cover a tiny, tiny fraction of the routes that people will actually want to use in central London. But they will drive change elsewhere. Roads that connect up to these Superhighways will be the next obvious targets. Even in this consultation TfL themselves state that their ‘wish is for segregation’ on Westminster Bridge – not part of this scheme, but an obvious connector to it.

And more broadly, the Superhighways will make the case for cycling elsewhere in London, and indeed across the rest of the country. They will show that it can be done, and that when you make conditions right, cycling is an obvious mode of ordinary people, and that it will make a tremendous difference to the quality of our roads and streets. That has to happen.


Categories: Views

Cycling in the rain

BicycleDutch - 3 September, 2014 - 23:01
That was asking for trouble, when I showed you the summer was hotter than usual this year. It started to rain from that very moment and it has rained for … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

‘Setting back’ cycling – why have the Transport Research Laboratory got junction design so wrong?

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 3 September, 2014 - 02:29

So the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL) have published their findings into the safety of cycle track design at junctions – or, more specifically, Trials of segregation set-back at side roads [pdf], to give the report (PPR703) its full title. This report was commissioned by TfL.

I’m going to go into some detail about it, but in short -

  • Good (Dutch) junction design is completely ignored by this trial.
  • Confusing give way markings are employed – Dutch markings, employed the wrong way round.
  • The report recommends ending cycling tracks, and ‘merging’ cyclists with motor traffic, some 20 metres from junctions on roads with higher speeds.
  • It then suggests that this ‘merging’ corresponds to Dutch design practice.

It’s worryingly bad.

From the report summary -

This report provides an overview and interpretation of the key findings from four trials carried out by TRL on behalf of Transport for London (TfL) to investigate the effects of ‘setting-back’ a kerb-segregated cycle track at different distances from a side-road junction.

What do TRL mean by “‘setting-back’ a kerb-segregated cycle track”? There is an explanation in one of the photographs in the report -

Explanation of ‘set-back distance’. (Note also the curious markings on the outside of the cycle lane)

Clearly, ‘set-back distance’ is being used to refer to the distance from the junction at which the cycle track becomes a cycle lane. So, this TRL report investigates the different consequences of different ‘set-back distances’ – i.e., how far from the junction the kerb separation ends.

And nothing else.

No other forms of junction design incorporating cycle tracks (designs we’ll come to in a moment) are investigated.

Why was this study so narrowly focused? The explanation comes in the summary -

A review of existing international guidance and research on approaches for taking cycle lanes across side-roads identified two distinct design strategies. Either:

• Cyclists are returned to the carriageway level at least 20m before the junction, so as to establish their presence in the traffic, or
• Segregation is brought right up to the junction (typically <=5m) and very tight geometry (and often raised crossings) used to keep turning speeds down and encourage vehicles to cross the cycle lane at close to 90 degrees. [my emphasis]

Amazingly, these two strategies – ending the segregation more than 20m from the junction, or ending it 5m or less from the junction – are the only two distinct design approaches TRL identify, and consequently the only ones they investigated.

Both these strategies involve turning a cycle track into a cycle lane at the junction. The only difference is the point at which that change occurs. Other design approaches – those commonly employed in the Netherlands at side roads – have been completely ignored. These include -

Continuing a cycle track through a junction, at the same raised level, alongside a continuous footway. Not investigated by TRL.

Setting back the cycle track from the carriageway, providing an area in which motorists can wait, both to enter the main road (without obstructing the cycle track) and also to pause, yielding to people cycling. Not investigated by TRL.

Cycle track set back from carriageway, without continuous footway

Set back cycle track, on a hump, with continuous footway.

This technique can also be employed with two-way tracks; again, set back from the carriageway, with a waiting area, and good visibility as cyclists and motorists cross perpendicularly. Not investigated by TRL.

To repeat (I can’t labour this enough) – these kinds of techniques are completely ignored by the authors of this TRL report. The only two ‘distinct design strategies’ investigated amount to nothing more than on-carriageway cycle lanes across junction mouths, with no investigation of designs that continue a cycle track through the junction at a raised level, with continuity, with or without ‘set back’ from the carriageway.

This despite the fact that Britain itself already has a few isolated examples of reasonably well-designed cycle tracks across junctions, that correspond approximately to Dutch design. One of them – this one – is only two miles from the Transport Research Laboratory!

With the proper use of ‘set-back distance’ helpfully included

I can’t begin to understand this oversight.

So the results of this trial are really very narrow in scope, and essentially amount to nothing more than discussion of where it is best to revert to an on-carriageway treatment on the approach to a junction.

The trial examined ending the physical segregation 30 metres from the junction, up to 5 metres from the junction, in 5 metres increments. The ‘tightest’ geometry still involved the cycle track ending 5 metres before the side road.

The study found that with the kerb divider continuing closer to the junction (but still 5 metres from it), drivers turned into the side road more slowly, and crossed the cycle lane (for this is what it is, and how it is described in the report) at an angle closer to perpendicular.

Surprisingly, perhaps, it seems that drivers in the trial actually preferred segregation that continued closer to the junction. This was even the case for drivers of goods vehicles who – you would think – would prefer a less tight geometry, to manoeuvre their larger vehicles.

The preferred set-back distance for 62% of the [goods vehicle] drivers (who expressed an opinion) was one that maximises segregation from cyclists on the approach to the junction

Yet -

cyclists were divided in preferences for short or long set-back distances. The differences reflect different views on the benefits of segregation, including cyclists’ concerns about being able to position themselves for passing the junction and that drivers wouldn’t give way when turning across their path.

‘Position themselves for passing the junction’ – i.e., compensate for poor design. These findings are reflected in this table -

While a clear majority of drivers preferred separation continuing as much as possible, a large number (nearly half) of the cyclists in this trial preferred to ‘join traffic’. The report comments

this suggests that cyclists may feel safer if the segregation ends before the junction so they can merge with the traffic before the turn.

So a large proportion of cyclists in this trial clearly like the idea of ‘merging’ with motor traffic before a junction. (At this point it is worth asking whether these cyclists are representative of the general population, or instead representative of a small subset of the population, namely the ‘traffic-tolerant’.)

However, on the other hand, the motorists in the trial didn’t really understand what on earth was going on with the concept of ‘merging’.

The purpose of the segregation set-back was not well understood [by motorists] – most believing it to be to make it easier for vehicles to turn [!], only a few referred to it providing space for cyclists and drivers to adjust to each other before the junction.

Could it be that the idea of ‘merging’ people cycling and driving isn’t all that intuitive?

This suggests that there is a lack of understanding amongst drivers of how cyclists will behave at the junction.

Well, quite.

Amazingly, however, this ‘merging’ technique is actually recommended by this TRL report on roads with higher speeds.

The findings from the off-street trials suggest that two different strategies can then be considered:

  1. Bring segregation very close to the turning (<5m), sufficient to reduce the turning radius and so reduce turning speeds and position turning vehicles at right angles to the path of cyclists (this is similar to the principles behind the use of ‘continental geometry’ at roundabouts). This approach would be most appropriate where geometry is already tight and vehicle speeds comparably low, or where other measures to achieve this will also be implemented.
  2. End the segregation at least 20 m from the junction, giving cyclists sufficient space to re-introduce themselves into the traffic flow and for drivers to adapt to their presence. This would be more suitable where traffic speeds are higher and tight turning geometry is not considered to be appropriate.

Before then stating

These two situations are consistent with the two distinct design approaches adopted in the design practice sin countries such as Denmark and the Netherlands

Well, I’m sorry, I have never seen anything like this in the Netherlands, especially not on roads with higher speeds. It’s just terrible design.

One of the recommended designs from this TRL study.

And we know that this is bad design, because Transport for London have built the junctions on Stratford High Street like this, with predictable consequences.

The final boggling issue are those markings! - which make no sense whatsoever. Here’s how the report describes them -

The surface of the cycle lane was coloured green throughout… additionally using triangular give-way markings to highlight the cycle lane for turning vehicles. These markings are not an approved road marking in the UK, however somewhat similar versions are used in the Netherlands as a ‘give way’ marking.

‘Somewhat similar’ – except completely the wrong way round.

The Dutch ‘Give Way’ marking in action.

The Dutch use ‘sharks teeth’ as a give way marking, but crucially with the ‘sharp’ bit of the teeth pointing at the people who should be giving way. This trial, however, has managed to get this completely wrong, with the ‘teeth’ pointing at the people on the cycle track. Is it any wonder people driving didn’t understand this marking?

This failure to get even the basics right is symptomatic of the general failure of this trial to assess proven Dutch junction design in a British context. How is it possible for the Transport Research Laboratory to have what seems to be absolutely no clue about how the Dutch design well at junctions?

What on earth is going on?


Categories: Views

It’s not 1934

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 2 September, 2014 - 10:50

Last year I wrote a long piece about (British) ideological opposition to cycle tracks alongside roads; opposition flowing from the notion that such provision represents a ‘surrender’ of the road network.

People making this argument claim a variety of things. They claim such an ‘abandonment’ of the road network would be bad policy. Motor vehicles would have won; driving will be easier, and we will have failed in our overall goal of attempting to reduce driving and increase cycling.

Or, they claim that drivers – once people cycling have separate provision – will behave with a greater sense of entitlement, seeing the road network as ‘theirs’. Or, they claim that drivers won’t be used to driving around people cycling, with similar negative consequences for the latter group.

These arguments don’t stand up to scrutiny, yet, as I wrote in that previous post,

opposition to cycle tracks in the UK, of this ideological form, persists. This opposition is not new; it has a long history, dating right back to the 1930s, a time when cycle tracks were, intermittently, being proposed alongside some arterial roads in Britain. Most strikingly, the arguments advanced at the time have hardly changed in the intervening eighty years.

One of  the oddities of these kinds of arguments is an acceptance that the motorway network is unsuitable, and unusable, by people cycling, yet the rest of the road network should be retained as being ‘for cycling’. That will often includes dual carriageways and busy inter-urban A-roads which present, to all intents and purposes, just as much danger to people cycling along them as the motorway network. Building cycle tracks alongside these roads would constitute a ‘surrender’.

The explanation for this difference in attitude lies in the fact that the motorway network was built explicitly for motorists, while the rest of the road network predates (for the most part) the motor age, even if it has been changed and upgraded out of all recognition, often closely resembling motorways. These are the roads that cannot be ‘surrendered’, especially as the motorway network (in the eyes of cycle campaigners of the era in which motorways started being built) was constructed to ‘take’ the motor traffic away from it.

Unfortunately these attitudes about the road network are fossils; they are relics of an earlier era, an era when the motor vehicle was only just starting to explode as a popular mode of transport. And yet they persist.

My petition calling for the introduction of Sustainable Safety on Britain’s roads – which will involve separate provision for cycling on main roads carrying traffic at 50mph, or higher – has attracted comments of this ilk.

Your proposal accepts the motor centric status quo and asks to remove active travelers from our road network which may not be feasible in many circumstances

And

I think volunteering to lose rights is a disastrous thing to do from a position of weakness. I absolutely don’t think that offering to get off roads will lead to the powers that be supplying a radical provision of adequate alternatives.

I also think that pushing the idea that cyclists don’t belong on (our) roads near motorists is asking for trouble when we will have to be near motors on most roads. Going along with getting cyclists out of what drivers may think is “their way” is a very dodgy thing to aim for.

The philosophy that lies behind these kinds of comments is that, one day, some day soon, the road network could become suitable for people cycling, if only we could get drivers to behave, or if only we could slow them down, or if only we would enforce the law properly, or if only we could reduce motor traffic.

In short – if only we got tough enough on driving. 

Typifying these attitudes, in a comment referring to this picture

of a father and daughter cycling alongside the main road into Gouda from the A12 motorway, David said

How much pollution and noise are the man and boy being exposed to cycling next to that busy main road? Progress would mean people in variety of human powered vehicles moving a varying speeds to a maximum of 20mph, perhaps a tram or other public transport vehicle parallel with the occasional less able-bodied person allowed in a car sharing the space as a ‘guest’

This kind of approach is plainly utopian. It imagines that a motor-centric society can somehow revert to being one in which motor vehicles barely exist; that we can restore the character of our roads, as they were in the early part of the 20th century.

Theoretically, it could be possible to achieve this. Maybe we could remove HGVs from our road network, displacing goods onto rail. Maybe we could persuade people to abandon their cars for long-distance trips, forcing them to travel at 20mph when they do.

But the chances of this happening are so remote it’s not even worth considering. We need to deal with reality. It is not 1934; it is 2014, and we need to start thinking about cycling and motoring as distinct modes of transport, with separate networks, sharing only in very limited circumstances, and under specific conditions.

That, of course, means town and city centres where motor traffic is largely removed, but it must also mean a different kind of separation on main roads, the roads that will inevitably continue to carry motor traffic. This needs to happen not just because mixing motor traffic and cycle traffic presents unnecessary danger, but also because doing so makes cycling far more attractive to ordinary people.

I find it perverse to justify opposition to cycle tracks alongside main roads, carrying significant volumes of motor traffic, in terms of ‘rights’. This ‘right’ is only being exercised by a tiny fraction of the tiny percentage of people who regularly ride bikes in Britain, and more importantly such a position denies other people their right to use the road network; those people who would like to cycle, but are currently prevented from doing so because of conditions. People like my partner, who will happily cycle along main roads and dual carriageways in the Netherlands, but would never dream of doing so in Britain – not in a million years – because there is no alternative, except cycling in the carriageway with motor traffic.

A major junction on the outskirts of Utrecht. We cycled here. This would never have happened if the road was our only option.

So I’m tired, really, of having these kinds of arguments. People have already been pushed off the road network, to all intents and purposes. We need sane policies that make that network attractive, for all potential users.

It’s time to get real.


Categories: Views

“Road Danger Reduction and Traffic Law Enforcement” Conference Novmeber 1st 2014

Road Danger Reduction Forum - 1 September, 2014 - 14:50
 “Road Danger Reduction and Traffic Law Enforcement A One Day Conference on Saturday Nov 1st 2014  If we are to achieve Safer Roads for All Road Users, what kind of Traffic Law Enforcement do we need?

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Organisers: RoadPeace; Road Danger Reduction Forum; CTC: the National Cyclists’ charity and London Cycling Campaign. Hosted by London Borough of Southwark.

Venue: Southwark Council

CHAIRS:

Lord Berkeley (President RDRF), a.m.; Baroness Jenny Jones MLA, p.m.

SPEAKERS:

Dr Robert Davis, Chair RDRF.

Amy Aeron-Thomas, RoadPeace.

Brenda Puech, Hackney Living Streets.

Charlie Lloyd, London Cycling Campaign.

Speaker from Transport for London.

Speaker from Metropolitan Police Service.

 More detail and publicity closer to the date
Categories: Views

Taking Matters into Our Own Hands - Nordre Frihavnsgade

Copenhagenize - 1 September, 2014 - 12:29

Sometimes you have to take matters into your own hands. Even in Copenhagen.

There is a street in a densely-populated neigbourhood in Copenhagen - Østerbro - without any cycle tracks. I know, I know... it's like a street in New York without honking taxis or a street in Paris without cafés populated by moody philosophy students. It's weird. Also because it's a long street in a thriving neighbourhood and it's one of the streets in the city with a far too high levels of incidents involving bicycles.

It's weird because it's a perfect street for cycle tracks. It's also weird because only 29% of households in Copenhagen even own a car but politicians and the City say that taking out car parking on this street would be "difficult".

A local politican, Jonas Bjørn Jensen, when campaigning for the last election decided to ask people in the neighbourhood if they wanted cycle tracks. Over 90% of the people he asked said, "yes".

Together with Ole Kassow from Purpose Makers and Thomas Lygum Sidelmann from Urban Action we at Copenhagenize Design Company decided to just do our own proposed street design. Enough talk. Let's get some imagery onto the table.

Above is the street as it looks now. Nordre Frihavnsgade (don't try to pronounce that please) is a central street in the Østerbro neighbourhood connecting Strandboulevarden, Trianglen and Østbanegade. It's an important shopping street and has a lively environment, with schools and shops and... life. There are 5800 bicycle users a day and 5300 cars. Ole Kassow, who lives nearby, has spoken with many locals and the general consensus is that the street doesn't feel safe. It's not nice to cycle on it. There are also many pedestrians crossing back and forth to the various shops and cafés and other destinations.

Bizarrely, the street is a 50 km/h zone, except at the narrowest section where it is "only" 40 km/h. One thing that Copenhagen sucks at is the fact that they haven't embraced the 30 km/h movement like the rest of Europe. If this street was in Amsterdam, Barcelona, Paris, Vienna, etc etc. it would be 30 km/h. Years ago.


Anyway, we decided to visualise what the street should look like. Our point of departure was that if cycle tracks are ooooh so difficult for the City of Copenhagen, then we will give them an easier, cheaper solution. The Dutch have their fietsstraat and while the Copenhagen Police have been vocal opponents of them - and most everything else that would improve cycling in the city - there is finally a pilot project on Vestergade in Copenhagen as we speak.

So we made the street a "cykelgade" - a bicycle street - dictating that cars are welcome as guests on the street but they have to drive at the tempo that the bicycle users dictate.

We designed a Danish version of the Dutch Fietsstraat signage, as well. Based on the Danish standards for pictograms and font.

Here is the street in it's full length. Our proposal would improve the street greatly. It would benefit local businesses, make pedestrians feel safer and it would be a new benchmark for neighbourhood planning in Copenhagen.

While there is nothing regarding bicycle infrastructure that we can learn from the Americans, the parklet concept is something that we can happily subscribe to. We included them in our designs to also plant this idea in the minds of Copenhageners. More of these would be fantastic.

It is vitally important to create visualisations. Talk is fine but when you design a visualisation, suddenly you have a whole group of different people who understand what you're on about. They are really powerful tools for change.

Cross your fingers for a positive development on this street.Copenhagenize the planet. And have a lovely day.
Categories: Views

“The Primary School Fights Back Against Parent-Jam!”

Road Danger Reduction Forum - 1 September, 2014 - 00:19

The following is a translation of an article in the German tabloid Bild which may be of use to colleagues working on School Travel as an indication of attitudes elsewhere in Europe. Note what the Germans – including the equivalent of the RAC or AA – see as the problem

Careful dear children – your parents drive here!

PARKING-CHAOS ENDANGERS CHILDREN Primary School Fights Back Against Parent-Jam! by G. ALTENHOFEN 30.08.2014

 An ordinary day at the Primary School in Düsseldorf- Niederkassel: Traffic-Chaos from Parents parking cars among School Children

Düsseldorf – With roaming 4x4s and over-parked Zebra Crossings, the Traffic-Chaos in front of schools is getting ever worse! Because so many of the town’s Parents bring their Children in cars, it’s getting dangerous in front of schools, for pupils and pre-schoolers.

NOW THE PRIMARY SCHOOL FIGHTS BACK AGAINST THE “PARENT-JAM”! ‘Careful, dear Children- your Parents drive here’, it says provocatively on the warning sign in front of the Niederkassel State Catholic Primary School -the sign put there by the School leadership.

 Headmistress Imke Hankammer by the “warning sign”.

Headmistress Imke Hankammer: “Because of the School Run, there are always dangerous situations for those children who come on foot. Cars are parked so ruthlessly that little ones cannot see at the crossing- or be seen. We’re very afraid of what might happen.” Valeria Liebermann, mother and chairman of the Parents’ Association, sees it the same way: “Parents mean well, when they bring their children, but they just thoughtlessly endanger other children.” The State also praises the initiative. Andrea Blome, Chief of the Traffic Management Office: ‘We support the request that children come to school on foot, escorted by adults to begin with. That way they learn independence'”.

 A 4×4 sits in the absolute no-parking zone in front of the zebra crossing.

 Headmistress Hankammer talks personally to the “Taxi-Parents”.

 

ADAC warns of incidents [ADAC=German equivalent of RAC] The ADAC also warns of “incalculable safety risks from Parent-taxis“, which present a double danger. Firstly in front of schools, and secondly, in other accidents- which according to ADAC involves more children in parents cars (10,363 in 2013) than when they are on foot. An ADAC survey of 750 primary schools in the region concludes: “The fewer the Parent-Taxis waiting outside Primary Schools, the safer the way to school.”

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Thanks to David Robjant for the translation: Some notes by him here:

‘Vorsicht’ carries the force and tone of ‘Beware!’, only there isn’t an obvious way of putting that into English without messing up the sentence, because you’d need an explicit ‘of’, and it’s precisely by playing sardonically with the identification of the monster that the German sentence communicates. You could have ‘Dear Children, Beware: your Parents drive here’, but I think that loses the special emphasis given to ‘dear’/’liebe’ in ‘Vorsicht liebe Kinder, hier fahren eure Eltern’. There’s a reproach contained in the way this placement of ‘liebe’ draws attention to the contrast between the parent’s stated attitudes (‘I love my child’) and the general upshot of their actions.  After all, the sign faces the street where the *Parents* can see it- it’s not really for communicating anything to the children!  All that needling of the parents is much better preserved in ‘Careful, dear Children – your Parents drive here‘.


Categories: Views

Comfort Testing The Cycle Tracks

Copenhagenize - 31 August, 2014 - 09:27

A car blocking the bike lane/cycle track. The source of much irritation and many social media photos. This photo, however, is from Denmark and that is a car that we WANT driving down the cycle track.

Cities like Copenhagen and Aarhus don't just build the necessary infrastructure to encourage cycling, keep people safe and help make people FEEL safe, they regularly measure the quality of the infrastructure.

Citizens always say in polls that the quality of the cycle tracks and bike lanes is of utmost importance to them when they are considering to commute by bicycle.

So, specially adapated cars like these are regularly sent down the cycle tracks to measure for bumps and smoothness, among other factors, using laser technology and recording the data.

There is a veritable armada of vehicles designed to operate on cycle tracks. Street sweepers, municipal garbage collection and, not least, snow clearance vehicles like those in our classic article: The Ultimate Snow Clearance Blogpost.

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

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