Views

“Motoring fanatics won’t give an inch for a better society”

Road Danger Reduction Forum - 20 April, 2014 - 20:59

In response to my letter in Local Tansport Today 643 , LTT published a letter (issue 644) from a particularly extreme motoring advocate. I politely responded as follows: “I am not sure that there is any possibility of meaningful, reasoned, debate with the more extreme car fanatics such as Mr Peat (Road Danger Reduction Forum can’t accept car-based reality, LTT 4 April), but he does question me and I was brought up to be courteous, so here’s a try.

 
Nothing operates without the private car now”. Oh dear. To take an example, London has about two thirds of its journeys not by private car. It is quite possible to have a functioning society with far more use of the non-car modes. In fact, the history of post-war transport in many European conurbations is often one of resisting the temptation to rip out traditional city centres and insert new roads and facilities for car use, going for walking, cycling and public transport instead. All this happens in fairly conventional capitalist, consumerist 20th and now 21st century societies on the same continent as us.

 
This does not mean that there should be no cars about anywhere; it just means we are aware of the problems associated with mass car use that I referred to in my letter, and try to address them. It is an interesting feature of car fanaticism that the slightest questioning of motorist privilege leads to a panic stricken assumption that nobody will ever be allowed to drive a car ever again. The fanatics really do need to stop equating their basic identity with the “right” to drive wherever and however they may want – while identifying themselves as an oppressed minority deserving of special treatment, subsidy and exemption from the law.

 
Similarly: “...how can roads carrying large, essential, fast-moving machinery ever be safe places to be?”. Oh dear, again. Never mind the “essential” – exactly who decides what is “essential”, and to whom? – again there are plenty of possibilities for increasing safety shown both here and abroad. It may surprise the extremists, but plenty of normal motorists are actually prepared to obey speed limits and – wait for it – as in large areas of Europe, actually have lower ones. Watching out for other road users and accepting your responsibilities towards them is often accepted by many motorists as a basic duty for them, although you may have to go other countries to see this manifested to a reasonable extent.

 
The issue is reducing danger (there will always be some) and making those responsible for it – whether individual drivers, or highway or vehicle engineers – accountable. To many of us that seems to be natural justice and a requirement of a civilised society, quite apart from addressing issues of noxious and greenhouse gas emissions, local environmental damage, loss of local community, the health disbenefits of driving etc.

 

Dr Robert Davis, Chair, Road Danger Reduction Forum

(NOTE: Writers of letters don’t choose the bylines they are given: although in this case it seems to be appropriate: RD)


Categories: Views

Bicycle-Friendly Cobblestones

Copenhagenize - 19 April, 2014 - 21:51

Ole Kassow from Purpose Makers - and brainchild behind the Cycling Without Age movement - gave us this great shot from a street in the Østerbro neighbourhood of Copenhagen. The City has a new thing they're doing. Replacing the old, bumpy cobblestones on certain streets with smooth ones. Just a strip, like down the middle on this one-way street - to make it a smoother ride for bicycle users. The city keeps a number of streets cobblestoned because of aesthetics and historical reasons. History can be a bumpy ride, though.

We like how the new cobblestones are elegantly woven into the existing ones.

On a street in the centre of Copenhagen, there are now smoother strips along the curbs for bicycle users to use. Above is a delegation from the City of Groningen, who we took on a Bicycle Urbanism tour of the city a few weeks ago. Apart from their fascination with the curb-separated cycle tracks (they filmed them in order to convince their engineers that they work... yes, they're from Groningen), these smooth cobblestone strips were an object of fascination and I had to drag them away in order to get to lunch in time.

I love how even established bicycle cities can continued to be inspired by each other. There is no complete bicycle city - yet.

Have a look at the street in the top photo again. It is a one way street but it's clear that the Arrogance of Space exists even in Copenhagen. Stupidly wide street and that means the sidewalks look like this. Cars are prioritised still - at the expense of the pedestrians and bicycle users and basically everyone in the city. And this in a neighbourhood with only just over 20% car ownership.Copenhagenize the planet. And have a lovely day.
Categories: Views

Films from Copenhagen in 1923, 1932, 1937, 1950s

Copenhagenize - 18 April, 2014 - 21:39

Copenhagen. 1932. Thanks to @laxbikeguy (James) on Twitter for the link.
"Cyclists in hundreds - thousands (millions it seemed to our cameraman!) throng the City of Copenhagen."


Here is Copenhagen in 1937.


Copenhagen in the 1950s.


Copenhagen in 1923.Copenhagenize the planet. And have a lovely day.
Categories: Views

Five minutes in Utrecht

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 17 April, 2014 - 12:18

On a sunny Wednesday afternoon, I was taking pictures outside a supermarket on Biltstraat in Utrecht – watching people coming and going by bike.

I’d estimate there are around forty to fifty bicycles parked outside the shop here; a steady turnover of people arriving and departing, mingling with those travelling past on the cycle track.

Then this pair appeared.


A dad, with his young daughter standing on the rear rack. Kids do this, rather than sitting down on the rack, because they can see where they’re going.

At the supermarket, they slowed, and stopped.

But just so the daughter could put some rubbish in the bin. They were quickly on their way again.

Looking down on some other children.

It’s a little hard to see, but I realised at this point that the Dad was now talking on his mobile phone (you can see his right elbow is bent, his hand off the handlebars).

This is all perfectly normal behaviour, if the environment is safe and attractive.

At the next side road, I spotted some children playing in the road, with water pistols.

It looked like they had just cycled home from sport, after school, and were now cooling off. They also cooled off the delivery driver who stopped to chat.

Back on the main road, a young boy is carrying a large box.

Followed by a lady in a wheelchair.A five minute window into street life in Utrecht.

 


Categories: Views

Five minutes in Utrecht

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 17 April, 2014 - 12:18

On a sunny Wednesday afternoon, I was taking pictures outside a supermarket on Biltstraat in Utrecht – watching people coming and going by bike.

I’d estimate there are around forty to fifty bicycles parked outside the shop here; a steady turnover of people arriving and departing, mingling with those travelling past on the cycle track.

Then this pair appeared.


A dad, with his young daughter standing on the rear rack. Kids do this, rather than sitting down on the rack, because they can see where they’re going.

At the supermarket, they slowed, and stopped.

But just so the daughter could put some rubbish in the bin. They were quickly on their way again.

Looking down on some other children.

It’s a little hard to see, but I realised at this point that the Dad was now talking on his mobile phone (you can see his right elbow is bent, his hand off the handlebars).

This is all perfectly normal behaviour, if the environment is safe and attractive.

At the next side road, I spotted some children playing in the road, with water pistols.

It looked like they had just cycled home from sport, after school, and were now cooling off. They also cooled off the delivery driver who stopped to chat.

Back on the main road, a young boy is carrying a large box.

Followed by a lady in a wheelchair.A five minute window into street life in Utrecht.

 


Categories: Views

International Cargo Bike Festival

BicycleDutch - 16 April, 2014 - 23:01
Last weekend the third edition of the International Cargo Bike Festival in Nijmegen in the Netherlands was a very successful event. With a conference on Saturday and a fair on … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

International Cargo Bike Festival

BicycleDutch - 16 April, 2014 - 23:01
Last weekend the third edition of the International Cargo Bike Festival in Nijmegen in the Netherlands was a very successful event. With a conference on Saturday and a fair on … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

The scandal of Osborne’s £22.5 billion giveaway to motorists

Road Danger Reduction Forum - 16 April, 2014 - 18:31

We have discussed this giveaway before, but it appears that we underestimated the extent of this additional subsidy to motoring. What makes it worse is the justification for this policy given by the Treasury (and HMRC) this week: Analysis of the dynamic effects of fuel duty reductions

This policy has been appalling for the prospects of sustainable transport in Britain. I list problems with  the report below:

 1. The justification is politically motivated, ideological, drivel.

I urge you to read Simon Jenkins (despite him being something of a petrolhead he does make some useful comments from time to time) in full, and present the main comments here:
On Monday, Osborne issued a revelatory document. It purported to show the success of his 2010 freeze on the fuel tax escalator, a device to raise the tax on petrol each year by inflation plus 1p per litre. The aim was to avoid the political unpopularity of raising it in each budget. Osborne reversed this objective and courted popularity by abolishing the escalator altogether. The cost over five years has been a staggering £22bn. He likewise began to reduce corporation tax from 28% to 21%. From an austere chancellor such giveaways to drivers and corporations were reckless.
Osborne now tries to rebut the charge by claiming his Treasury witches have stirred eye of newt and toe of frog – “behavioural economics and detailed modelling” – in the pot to prove the giveaways so boosted private spending that they earned enough in VAT and income tax to make up half the lost revenue. That gets back £11bn. This would give the economy a boost of up to 0.5% of GDP. These figures do not add up. They suggest that cutting petrol duty was indeed a big giveaway.”
Of course, “ Analysis of the dynamic effects of fuel duty reductions” states that “The model has been peer-reviewed by leading academics in the relevant field, who found that ‘The basic design of the HMRC model for the UK economy meets at large the key requirements for state-of-the-art applied tax policy analysis’. Well, they would say that, wouldn’t they? There is a central question raised that this kind of modelling, whether on fuel duty or corporation tax: is it not ideological and unscientific, produced by a political view on who should pay taxes and receive subsidy?

So let’s get detailed:

 

2. The language

The Government will have eased the burden (my emphasis) on motorists by £22.5 billion over this Parliament to 2015-16. “. We have commented before on the language used to portray motorists as victims . In fact, the costs of motoring have often declined over the last couple of decades (depending on which time scale is being looked at),. Certainly, in comparison to other costs recently – such as in more important areas like housing – motorists have had it easy

3. It is a hand-out from Government, not money back to it.

As Jenkins argues above, for all the waffle about (alleged) GDP increases due to “easing the burden on motorists”, this move is a hand-out, because there is a net loss to the Exchequer.

 

4. It impedes the prospects for more fuel-efficient motoring.

For all the discussion about elasticity, the report fails to consider how long-term increases in the cost of fuel could lead to more careful and more fuel-efficient driving techniques. More importantly, it misses out entirely on the question of the new generation (either already on the market or in prototype) of cars which are two or more times as fuel efficient as typical cars now. In fact, fuel prices would have to double in order to maintain current levels of revenue to the Exchequer and not make motoring even cheaper, were such cars to become the norm.

 

5. The “externalities” question.

When considering Cost-Benefit analysis, there is as serious moral concern about putting monetary values on the adverse effects of motorisation. How do you put a price on the loss of children’s independent mobility, disappearance of a much loved local environment, or any of the other myriad forms of damage caused by mass car use?

But since economists like doing this kind of thing, let’s look at what they call “externalities”.

 

6. When you do cost external costs.

In November 2009, the four relevant Government Departments (Health, Transport, Environment, Communities and Local Government) and the Cabinet Office published “ The wider costs of transport in English urban areas in 2009” The graph below indicates the supposed external costs of motring in urban areas.

All this indicates that motorists were already being subsidised – even before the Osborne “burden easing” . And that is assuming these costs can easily be monetised. Fore xample, if climate change threatens thew rold economy, the imperative is for a Government to make a genuine commitment to reducing emissions which will be convincing in the international processes required to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. If you sabotage the prospects of presenting a genuine commitment by proceeding in the opposite direction on motor transport emissions, then the costs are likely to be a lot more than “£1.2 – 3.7 billion per year”.

 

7. The Treasury model and externalities.

“Analysis of the dynamic effects of fuel duty reductions” says:
Externalities
3.25
Goods which when consumed impose costs on others (“negative externalities”) are over-consumed because households and firms fail to take these effects fully into account, since these costs are not reflected in the market price. Congestion and air pollution as a result of vehicle use are both examples of negative externalities. Taxes can be used to correct for these externalities by increasing the market price to reflect the cost of the damage caused by them. “

And also:
1.6
Fuel duty plays an important role in supporting sustainable public finances and internalising the externalities associated with road transport, in particular greenhouse gas emissions. “

But: “ There are studies that consider the effect of fuel duties on externalities. The CGE modelling presented below is not intended to capture the impact of a reduction in fuel duty through externalities

So apart from a reference to congestion, which is not expected to be affected by the giveaway, forget the external costs.
So much for “Analysis of the dynamic effects of fuel duty reductions” The policy it underpins is a disaster for the possibilities of sustainable transport. Public transport suffers by comparison, and despite the nominal commitment towards cycling, the necessary type of amount of money required (a good £600 million to kick off with) – trivial by comparison to.

It is therefore fascinating how nobody is saying much about it. While small bodies like Sustrans and the Campaign for Better Transport make objections, the supposed Parliamentary opposition is silent. (Of course, I may have missed some objections, but then they must have been pretty quiet ones). the £4.5 billion annually in the giveaway, let alone other subsidy – is absent.

(Thanks to Richard Hebditch for reminder of the 2009 report)

 

 

 

 


Categories: Views

The World's Best Behaved Cyclists are in Copenhagen

Copenhagenize - 16 April, 2014 - 12:25

As I highlight in this TED x Zurich talk of mine about Bicycle Culture by Design, Copenhagen has the world's best behaved cyclists. Bar none. I've cycled in close to 100 cities around the world and I've never seen anything that comes close.

Citizens in any city do not - contrary to popular perception - wander around all day looking for laws to break.

Wherever you happen to be reading this from, you're probably aware of the general perception of "those damned cyclists". Even here in Copenhagen, the perception persists, not least from the Copenhagen Police and their one-man wrecking crew. They - and he - continue to spread personal perceptions about cycling citizens. 52% of the citizens in Copenhagen ride each day and most of the others have bikes that they use regularly. We are dealing with basically the entire population of a European city. The police are out of their league when it comes to behaviour perception.

This perception is as old as the bicycle itself. One of Denmark's most loved satirists and cartoonists Storm P. (Robert Storm Petersen), a daily bicycle user, highlighted with great Danish irony the silliness of such perceptions in his piece A New Traffic Etiquette for Cyclists - in 1934. Things haven't changed. The whining minority still whines about the cycling majority. A sign that we need to change the paradigm of planning to prioritise intelligent forms of transport, instead of merely accepting the car-centric status quo that we inherited from a previous century.

Behaviour hasn't changed for over 100 years - and won't be changing anytime soon. Here's my baseline: We can't very well expect bicycle users to adhere to a traffic culture and traffic rules engineered to serve the automobile, now can we? It is like expecting badminton players to use the rules of squash.

Every single moment of every single day, the citizens of our cities are communicating with us. They are sending messages about the urban space they inhabit and it is of utmost importance that we listen to every communication. Unfortunately, planning and engineering are often too self-absorbed and arrogant to answer the calls of the citizens.

Desire Lines are democracy in action and democracy in motion. They are, however, more than merely the mobility patterns of our citizens. They are the physical manifestation of much of the communication from our tireless army of urban cartographers. I find them to be quite beautiful. Not to mention incredibly useful, especially in bicycle planning and even in a city like Copenhagen.

If you've been reading this blog for awhile, you'll know all too well our fondness for Desire Lines related to bicycle planning and research. What started with The Choreography of an Urban Intersection has morphed into numerous Desire Lines Analyses of other streets and intersections in Copenhagen and, most recently, Amsterdam. Together with the University of Amsterdam we are analysing behaviour and Desire Lines at ten intersections.

With The Choreography of an Urban Intersection back in 2012, Copenhagenize Design Co. decided to take things to the next level regarding bicycle user behaviour. A study of that size and scope had never been undertaken before. So much commentary about bicycle user behaviour has been based on perception for far too long. "Those damned cyclists" repeated ad nauseum in dozens of languages has made us forget that we don't actually know very much about their behaviour.

In most cities, the reason for what is percieved as "bad behaviour" is simply the fact that bicycle users haven't been given adequate infrastructure or, even worse, none at all.

The explempary behaviour of Copenhagen bicycle users is due to the fact that the bicycle infrastructure network is, largely, so well-designed. Best Practice has been achieved and, for the most part, it is implemented.

Nevertheless, if you ask certain uniformed civil servants who work for the Copenhagen Police, it is their personal perception that hits the headlines.

With The Choreography of an Urban Intersection we decided to get some numbers to show that the perceptions are coloured with emotion and lack data and fact.

As the graph at the top indicates, out of 16,631 bicycle users in the intersection Godthåbsvej/Nordre Fasanvej only 1% broke a serious traffic law. Running a red light or riding on the sidewalk. We called them Recklists. The Momentumists were a group that technically broke a Danish traffic law. We put these infractions in a different category. Basically, if it is legal in another city or country with respectable cycling levels, we are okay with it. The rest, the Conformists, did everything by the book.

The results are mirrored by the results in our other studies of other intersections. The vast majority are just playing by the rules.



You can see which rules are being bent in the above graph. What is incredibly important to consider is HOW the rules are being bent. What is the actual behaviour of the individual Momentumists when you study each one with detailed obversation?

In short, it is exemplary. It is quite beautiful. One of the primary findings was that when an individual entered a zone where a law was being bent, they were aware of it. The pattern was the same: they would change their physical form.

Generally, the individual would make themselves appear larger. Rising up from their normal cycling position in order to make themselves more visible to others in the urban theatre. Sometimes this was enough for them but many would also look around with a sweet, apologetic look - vaguely, not at anyone in particular - as though to say "sorry... I know, I know... bear with me". And when they hit the cycle track again, they would assume their usual cycling position.

Some would do the classic bicycle chameleon move, swinging their leg off and using the bicycle as a scooter. Again, always aware of their surroundings and the other users of the urban theatre. This subtle awareness of their surroundings was impressive. At no point in the 12 hours were there "cyclist-pedestrian conflicts" as they're called in Emerging Bicycle Cities. In that regard, it was like watching paint dry. The flow was constant, smooth and elegant. It was choreography.

Even the Recklists were heartwarmingly civilised in their behaviour, showing consideration for others. Only three bicycle users out of the 16,631 we tracked roared through a red light. They were all bike messengers. Do what you want with that.

Momentum is paramount when considering how to plan for bicycles. A smooth flow that eliminates the need to stop and get out of the saddle is the key. Simple measures like the railings and footrests in Copenhagen are a fine example. The Green Wave for cyclists on the main arteries leading to the city are another.

Understanding the basic anthropological transport needs of bicycle users - not to mention pedestrians - is the way to designing liveable streets. Bicycles are not cars and this has been the greatest mistake over the past 50 years in city planning... placing bicycles in the same category as motorised vehicles, both regarding traffic laws and the perception of bicycles as vehicles. We are still struggling to rid ourselves of this flawed categorisation all over the world.

Stopping and starting in a car involves pushing down on a couple of pedals. Effortless. Stopping and starting on a bicycle requires a bit more effort. Once momentum has been achieved, a bicycle user will try to maintain it. The countdown signals in the middle of this article are an example of someone out there understanding the needs of bicycle users.

Children understand the simple necessities of traffic planning. Unfortunately, the geekfest that is traffic engineering has all too often forgotten rationality. Campaigns that try to "improve" behaviour are a waste of money. Simply because the people who think them up haven't bothered to understand the differences between cyclists and motorists or pedestrians.

Change the paradigm.

Read more about the Choregraphy of an Urban Intersections, including all the findings, here. Or you can download the document as a pdf.



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

Not everything the Dutch do is transferable

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 15 April, 2014 - 19:47

Way back in 2011, I cycled out of the city of Utrecht with my partner, who was riding a bike for the first time in well over a decade. The trip was almost entirely painless, with no interactions with motor traffic, except on short stretches. One of these stretches was Prins Hendriklaan, to the east of the city,  where she felt the most nervous.

At that time, that street looked like this.

Wide (by British standards) cycle lanes, combined with humps and no centre line markings. This is not an especially busy road for motor traffic, but it is one of the main routes in and out of the city for people cycling, with over 14,000 people cycling along here every day. For me – used to British conditions – it was absolutely fine, or even good. But not so good for the more nervous.

Over the last year this street (and Platolaan – the eastern end of this same street) have been redesigned. The cycle lanes have gone, replaced with a fietsstraat (bicycle street) arrangement.

Essentially, the whole street now forms a cycle route, upon which motor vehicles can be driven ‘as guests’, in theory (although not necessarily in practice).

One of the essential characteristics of a fietsstraat is the dominance of cycle traffic. Fietsstraats will form main cycle routes, and motor traffic should be relatively low. As the CROW manual states

An important condition for designating a road section as a cycle street is that the bicycle traffic really has to dominate the streetscape. Although little experience has been gained with cycle streets, the dominant position of bicycle traffic appears to be sufficiently evident when there are twice as many cyclists as motorists on a road section. If this requirement is not met… the road authorities may try to reduce the intensity of motorised traffic to ensure that the intensity ratio is achieved.

A large number of cyclists have to be present – not only relatively speaking but also in absolute terms – to qualify the road as a main cycle route. … In order for a road section to qualify as a cycle street, it must carry at least 1,000 cyclists a day.

With 14,000 cyclists per day, Prins Hendriklaan quite obviously passes this threshold with ease. I am not aware of the figures for motor traffic along here, but on my visits to the street, motor traffic was clearly greatly outnumbered by cycle traffic.

However, an important issue, I think, is whether motor traffic is low enough along this street. Even with sky-high cycling intensities like those found here, the CROW manual recommends an absolute upper limit of 2000 PCUs (Passenger Car Units) per day. I suspect this limit might be broken on Prins Hendriklaan. At times, there were plenty of motor vehicles on the street, amongst the people cycling. [Update - the PCU figure has kindly been supplied by Ria Glas - around 2,700-3,300 PCUs per day in 2011. This appears to correspond with the traffic figures supplied for 2012, via bz2 in the comments.

 This is because, unlike many other fietsstraats I have seen, Prins Hendriklaan does not have any measures to cut out motor traffic travelling along it. It appears to form an access road for quite a large area of side streets.

The length of the new fietsstraat, in context. It is possible to drive ‘through’ this fietsstraat.

The whole bicycle street is about 1km long, and has no closures at either end, or diversions for motor traffic. This is quite different from those fietsstraats which are access-only for only a relatively small amount of properties.

So this kind of treatment is almost certainly not transferrable to Britain. It only ‘works’ because it has an extraordinarily large number of people cycling along this street already – it relies on good conditions elsewhere on the rest of the network, to generate these numbers, and to drown out the motor traffic using the street.

Indeed, to that extent, it is disputable how much of an improvement for cycling in Utrecht this kind of arrangement actually amounts to. The new surface is nice and smooth, and the way motor traffic is forced to cycle ‘in’ the cycle lanes seemed to have a distinct calming effect on traffic speeds. But beyond that, the fundamental issue of interaction with a relatively significant volume of motor traffic (by Dutch standards) has not been addressed.

What is absolutely clear is that simply relaying a street in red tarmac, and putting up signs, on a route carrying thousands of motor vehicles a day will not make a jot of difference to the quality of the cycling environment, when cycling levels are low, as they are in most places in Britain. The street will remain hostile and unattractive to the vast majority of people. Prins Hendriklaan cannot simply be transferred to Britain.

 


Categories: Views

Not everything the Dutch do is transferable

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 15 April, 2014 - 19:47

Way back in 2011, I cycled out of the city of Utrecht with my partner, who was riding a bike for the first time in well over a decade. The trip was almost entirely painless, with no interactions with motor traffic, except on short stretches. One of these stretches was Prins Hendriklaan, to the east of the city,  where she felt the most nervous.

At that time, that street looked like this.

Wide (by British standards) cycle lanes, combined with humps and no centre line markings. This is not an especially busy road for motor traffic, but it is one of the main routes in and out of the city for people cycling, with over 14,000 people cycling along here every day. For me – used to British conditions – it was absolutely fine, or even good. But not so good for the more nervous.

Over the last year this street (and Platolaan – the eastern end of this same street) have been redesigned. The cycle lanes have gone, replaced with a fietsstraat (bicycle street) arrangement.

Essentially, the whole street now forms a cycle route, upon which motor vehicles can be driven ‘as guests’, in theory (although not necessarily in practice).

One of the essential characteristics of a fietsstraat is the dominance of cycle traffic. Fietsstraats will form main cycle routes, and motor traffic should be relatively low. As the CROW manual states

An important condition for designating a road section as a cycle street is that the bicycle traffic really has to dominate the streetscape. Although little experience has been gained with cycle streets, the dominant position of bicycle traffic appears to be sufficiently evident when there are twice as many cyclists as motorists on a road section. If this requirement is not met… the road authorities may try to reduce the intensity of motorised traffic to ensure that the intensity ratio is achieved.

A large number of cyclists have to be present – not only relatively speaking but also in absolute terms – to qualify the road as a main cycle route. … In order for a road section to qualify as a cycle street, it must carry at least 1,000 cyclists a day.

With 14,000 cyclists per day, Prins Hendriklaan quite obviously passes this threshold with ease. I am not aware of the figures for motor traffic along here, but on my visits to the street, motor traffic was clearly greatly outnumbered by cycle traffic.

However, an important issue, I think, is whether motor traffic is low enough along this street. Even with sky-high cycling intensities like those found here, the CROW manual recommends an absolute upper limit of 2000 PCUs (Passenger Car Units) per day. I suspect this limit might be broken on Prins Hendriklaan. At times, there were plenty of motor vehicles on the street, amongst the people cycling.

 This is because, unlike many other fietsstraats I have seen, Prins Hendriklaan does not have any measures to cut out motor traffic travelling along it. It appears to form an access road for quite a large area of side streets.

The length of the new fietsstraat, in context. It is possible to drive ‘through’ this fietsstraat.

The whole bicycle street is about 1km long, and has no closures at either end, or diversions for motor traffic. This is quite different from those fietsstraats which are access-only for only a relatively small amount of properties.

So this kind of treatment is almost certainly not transferrable to Britain. It only ‘works’ because it has an extraordinarily large number of people cycling along this street already – it relies on good conditions elsewhere on the rest of the network, to generate these numbers, and to drown out the motor traffic using the street.

Indeed, to that extent, it is disputable how much of an improvement for cycling in Utrecht this kind of arrangement actually amounts to. The new surface is nice and smooth, and the way motor traffic is forced to cycle ‘in’ the cycle lanes seemed to have a distinct calming effect on traffic speeds. But beyond that, the fundamental issue of interaction with a relatively significant volume of motor traffic (by Dutch standards) has not been addressed.

What is absolutely clear is that simply relaying a street in red tarmac, and putting up signs, on a route carrying thousands of motor vehicles a day will not make a jot of difference to the quality of the cycling environment, when cycling levels are low, as they are in most places in Britain. The street will remain hostile and unattractive to the vast majority of people. Prins Hendriklaan cannot simply be transferred to Britain.

 


Categories: Views

Introducing the Black Tie Bicycle Test: does your city pass?

ibikelondon - 15 April, 2014 - 08:30

I was in Amsterdam over the weekend for a family trip.  It's the first time I've been to the city as a pedestrian and not ridden a bicycle whilst I was there, and walking the streets of the Dutch capital gave me a totally different perspective.




Amsterdam cyclists of all shapes and sizes, photographed on a trip in 2012
I've always felt that your perception of a city can be influenced by the speed you travel through it, for example a driver racing along an expressway in to a city centre car park is going to have a very different experience to a cyclist gliding through the backstreets.  The human eye is incredibly selective and only uploads to your brain elements of what you can see depending on how fast you are travelling and how much time there is available to sort through the "fine detail" we are taking in.  So whilst you might notice big advertising banners when you're behind the wheel of your car, you're less likely to see the little architectural details, historical plaques and local geographic indicators that you might experience when you are on your bike.

Walking through the city allows you to experience even more, and over the weekend in Amsterdam it was the cyclists riding around me that I noticed the most.

Everyone knows that Amsterdam is a cycling city, but it is only when you stop and stand on a busy street corner and watch the scene for a while that you really begin to appreciate just how much Amsterdammers use their bikes and how much, in turn, Amsterdam as a city relies on them.  In the city centre some 62% of all journeys are made by bicycle, whilst in the wider metropolitan region in  47% of all journeys were made by bicycle in 2008, up from 33% in 1991. (See the full stats on David Hembrow's engaging blog here)

With such a high level of all journeys being made on a bike there's naturally a wide range of cyclists undertaking different types of journey.  I saw small kids being ferried by cargo bike, older folk heading to the supermarket on stately upright bicycles, a few lycra-clad sports cyclists, college students riding in flocks to class, and children being taught how to ride on the city roads.  There were glorious glamazons dressed to the nines and drafting the city trams as they texted on their smartphones, pedalling along in high heels.  Businessmen with brief cases riding to client meetings.  Flustered Mums with clutches of kids flocking up and down their neighbourhood roads.  In short, every size, age and kind of cyclists perceivable were riding in an environment that safely accommodated them all.





You often hear how Mums on bikes are the canaries in the coal mine of a successful cycling culture, or that seeing older folk riding is a sure sign that you're doing things right.  But one cyclist that I saw in Amsterdam over the weekend is, I think, the new yard stick that all cities should be measuring their cycling progress with.

On Saturday evening all of Amsterdam was bathed in the glow of golden spring light.  It had been a warm day and the streets were packed with people out enjoying the sunshine.  I set off for dinner and as I turned on to Utrechtsestraat, there cycling slowly and extremely gently up the road was a young man in full formal evening wear; a smart black tuxedo and shiny patent leather shoes.

As any man who has worn a tuxedo knows, they can be exceptionally uncomfortable.  The jet black material traps the heat and makes you prone to overheating, the collar is invariably always too tight and seems to constrict your throat, whilst the primary purpose of a cummerbund appears to be to ride up your tummy.  In short, the most unsuitable cycling apparel you could think of.

But of course one dresses for the destination, not the journey, and if you're going to a black tie event in Amsterdam the chances are you'll be going by bicycle.  You'll be riding extremely slowly, extremely carefully and without rushing at any point, but you'll be riding none the less.  In short, you'll be riding in a sort of magnified and exaggerated style of all those cyclists who are considered key indicators of a successful cycling culture; women, older people and children.  Steady, gently, and very, very slowly. (Of course you could rush and race to your event but you'd be a mess when you got there)



 
In London I often feel I get a bit sweaty when I'm cycling on especially busy roads, and for a long time I thought I was just unfit.  It took me a long time to realise however that this is not the sweat of exertion but the sweat of anxiety.  I'm not sure how I would feel riding around the Elephant & Castle or Bow roundabout on an upright bike in an evening suit, and maybe that's where London is going wrong?
 
So when it comes to measuring how good your city is as a place to ride a bike, there's only one key performance indicator to use going forward.  Whether or not your city will accommodate the style of riding needed to successfully cycle in a tuxedo or not is the perfect sign of just what kind of cycling culture you have on your hands.  I'm calling it the Black Tie Bicycle Test.  From now on every city around the world should be asking if cyclists are being asked to keep up with traffic and ride like a motorised vehicle, or if they have the sort of environment where you can successful cycle in a tuxedo.

In London I think we've got a long way to go yet, but in Amsterdam nobody would even think twice about doing it.  The Black Tie Bicycle Test; how does your home town do?

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Categories: Views

The joy of cycling in the Netherlands

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 14 April, 2014 - 10:29

Last week I posted, quite deliberately, about the bad bits of my cycling experience around the Netherlands. The purpose there was to show that the Dutch still have difficulties to overcome, in particular locations, to make cycling attractive and safe, and also that many parts of the network simply haven’t been dealt with yet.

But those bad bits were, of course, the exception. In over 300 miles of cycling, those tens of examples are the only ones that stand out. 99% of my cycling experience was blissful – utterly stress-free. Everywhere I went, I was wafted along, on deliriously good infrastructure.

Across fields.
Through city centres.

Through towns.

Under motorways.


Across rivers.

Beside canals.

Under ring roads.

Through forests.

Alongside main roads.


Alongside country roads.

Under railways.


Through residential areas.

Through industrial areas.

Over bridges.

Around roundabouts.

Past junctions.

Past roundabouts (turbo ones).

Along main roads in cities.
Complete comfort, ease and safety, everywhere I went.

I didn’t seek this stuff out. This is simply what I saw as I cycled around, from city centre to city centre. To Dutch people, this is just background – utterly mundane. These photographs give a fair impression of my day-to-day experience.

This comfort and safety covers all routes; wherever you choose to cycle. In urban areas it can be created in different ways. Every single city and major town that I visited either excluded private motor traffic completely from its centre, or limited it to access only. Gouda -

Delft -

‘s-Hertogenbosch -

Nijmegen -

Wageningen -

Veenendaal -

And Utrecht.

Not one of these examples is ‘shared space’. They are all places where motor traffic is largely (or totally) excluded, with walking and cycling utterly dominant as a result. And that means the attractiveness of cycling on routes between towns and cities extends right to their very centres.

On a single day, travelling from one city centre to another city centre, I estimate that I had to deal with around 10-20 direct interactions with motor vehicles. That’s all. The quality of the Dutch cycling environment rests on this complete modal separation, wherever you cycle. It’s what makes it such a joyous experience.


Categories: Views

The joy of cycling in the Netherlands

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 14 April, 2014 - 10:29

Last week I posted, quite deliberately, about the bad bits of my cycling experience around the Netherlands. The purpose there was to show that the Dutch still have difficulties to overcome, in particular locations, to make cycling attractive and safe, and also that many parts of the network simply haven’t been dealt with yet.

But those bad bits were, of course, the exception. In over 300 miles of cycling, those tens of examples are the only ones that stand out. 99% of my cycling experience was blissful – utterly stress-free. Everywhere I went, I was wafted along, on deliriously good infrastructure.

Across fields.
Through city centres.

Through towns.

Under motorways.


Across rivers.

Beside canals.

Under ring roads.

Through forests.

Alongside main roads.


Alongside country roads.

Under railways.


Through residential areas.

Through industrial areas.

Over bridges.

Around roundabouts.

Past junctions.

Past roundabouts (turbo ones).

Along main roads in cities.
Complete comfort, ease and safety, everywhere I went.

I didn’t seek this stuff out. This is simply what I saw as I cycled around, from city centre to city centre. To Dutch people, this is just background – utterly mundane. These photographs give a fair impression of my day-to-day experience.

This comfort and safety covers all routes; wherever you choose to cycle. In urban areas it can be created in different ways. Every single city and major town that I visited either excluded private motor traffic completely from its centre, or limited it to access only. Gouda -

Delft -

‘s-Hertogenbosch -

Nijmegen -

Wageningen -

Veenendaal -

And Utrecht.

Not one of these examples is ‘shared space’. They are all places where motor traffic is largely (or totally) excluded, with walking and cycling utterly dominant as a result. And that means the attractiveness of cycling on routes between towns and cities extends right to their very centres.

On a single day, travelling from one city centre to another city centre, I estimate that I had to deal with around 10-20 direct interactions with motor vehicles. That’s all. The quality of the Dutch cycling environment rests on this complete modal separation, wherever you cycle. It’s what makes it such a joyous experience.


Categories: Views

All Quiet

Chester Cycling - 11 April, 2014 - 19:33

Yesterday, for the first time in almost two years I seriously considered buying another bike. I have yet to decide whether or not I will buy (yet) another bike, but I discovered something about my relationship with cycling in the process.

More astute readers may have noticed that the pace of posts on this site has slowed down somewhat. During this quiet time, cycling has remained my main mode of transport and I cycle approximately 9 miles every weekday as part of my commute, in addition to running errands at the weekend. Despite this, I have not felt the inspiration to post much of anything, or to ride much beyond what I need to do to get around. However, since I started to seriously entertain the possibility of acquiring another bike I have been feeling the call of the pedals and the desire to blog once more.

A scene from this evening’s commute home

It strikes me that a big part of my enthusiasm for cycling (and blogging about cycling) stemmed from a near-constant series of acquisitions of bicycles and bicycle-related stuff in the quest for the ‘perfect’ set-up. Once I had a set-up which worked well for me, the quest was over, or at least it slowed down. Whilst my ideal set-up will naturally change over the course of my life, the significant amount of research, trial and error required to get to what I have now was what kept this blog regularly updated for as long as it was. The problem with having a set-up which works well for your needs is that there is little left to discover, nothing to be researched into meticulously for hours on end. Nothing to blog about.

This realisation led me to notice a pattern. For example, during the time the blog has been quiet, I spent quite a lot of time researching kitchen stand-mixers, intended mainly for the benefit of Ms C’s baking. I wanted to make sure we got the best one that I could also service myself, have good spares availability for years to come at the best price point. Similar to bicycles, there is a surprising amount of information, opinion and even tribalism (Kenwood vs KitchenAid discussions can get just as heated as any obscure bicycle forum thread) surrounding stand mixers. That peculiar world, and many others like it held my attention for much longer than I would have expected them to. Once the stand mixer had been chosen, I ended up learning about bread making, flours grains and a similar series of events occurred all over again.

I suspect that my inspiration to write about bicycles and bicycle-related issues will wax and wane over time as the set-up I have becomes more or less suited to the situations life throws my way. Perhaps the simplest solution would be to turn this blog into one which discusses whatever it is that I’m trying enthusiastically to perfect at any given time.


Categories: Views

Shared Space revisited. The hype continues but in reality it still doesn't work.

A View from the Cycle Path - 11 April, 2014 - 07:52
Shared Space has been over-sold around the world. Claims have been made of a reduction of danger which I showed earlier this week doesn't seem to stand up to investigation. It is also often claimed that Shared Space creates a "place" where people feel safe, though many people see the reverse in practice. I first wrote about Shared Space in 2008, especially pointing out problems with the example David Hembrowhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/14543024940730663645noreply@blogger.com0http://www.aviewfromthecyclepath.com/2014/04/shared-space-revisited-hype-continues.html
Categories: Views

Nothing useful to say

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 10 April, 2014 - 22:12

Some comment on a detail from the recent inquest into the death of Venera Minakhmetova at Bow roundabout last November.

Coroner Mary Hassell

said she had “nothing useful” to say to Transport for London as the roundabout had since “been altered to such an extent that it’s very significantly safer for cyclists”.

Do I need to point out here that ‘significantly safer’ is not the same as safe enough?

It is true that the approach to the roundabout where Venera died has ‘been altered’, but only because prior to the arrival of the Superhighway Extension there was nothing in the way of cycle infrastructure at this location.

Westbound at Bow roundabout, 2012. Courtesy of Google Streetview. It was on this layout that Lana Tereschenko died in 2011.

But the central issue shouldn’t be whether improvements have been made, or whether the junction is a bit safer than the death trap it was before. Rather than a relative standard of safety, surely we should be looking at whether Bow roundabout meets objective criteria, good enough to ensure that the risk of further deaths, or serious injuries, at this location is as low as possible. ‘A bit better’ isn’t good enough, if what was there before was lethal.

The reported comment from the coroner may, of course, have been stripped from context, but taking it at face value, it appears that this issue has been ducked. Because the new layout at Bow roundabout is not good enough. It is a bad bodge. Effectively it amounts to nothing more than an Advanced Stop Line, with a confusing array of signals that attempt to stop people from entering it at the wrong time.

This video from @sw19cam – shot just two weeks before Venera died – shows just how confusing it can be. Because people cycling have to deal with two sets of lights simply to enter the junction, this chap appears to have interpreted the green signal to enter the ASL as a green signal to progress through the entire junction, with nearly disastrous results, as two lorries bear down on him.

Now the inquest appears to have established that the lorry that killed Venera passed through two green signals before turning left, and on that basis the ‘most likely’ explanation for the collision was that she had passed a red light to enter the ASL. Even if we accept this explanation, questions need to be asked about how easy it is end up doing this, in innocence. This picture from Charlie Lloyd shows the problem.

Picture by Charlie Lloyd

The red signal to stop people from entering the ASL (to the left) is drowned out by a sea of green signals which, combined with motor vehicles flowing through the junction, could all contribute to this signal being jumped inadvertently. Low-level cycle-specific signals have subsequently been added here, but the overall arrangement is still extraordinarily ambiguous.

What is desperately, desperately needed is clarity. No multiple lights just to enter an ASL, before waiting again – the ‘always stop’ junction. Instead, just one signal for cycles; one signal for left turning motor traffic; and one signal for straight ahead motor traffic.

A standard junction arrangement in the Netherlands (flipped). Absolutely clear who can go, and should stop.

This kind of arrangement would also allow pedestrians to cross Bow roundabout, on a green signal, at the same time that cycles and straight ahead motor traffic have a green signal. There are still no pedestrian crossings at this roundabout.

All the fiddles and bodges that have been implemented at Bow are a flawed compromise, intended to fit cycling in around the margins of motor traffic flow, rather than coherent design. It’s a great pity the inquest seems to have ignored the issue of whether it could be substantially better – good enough to eliminate future tragedies.


Categories: Views

Nothing useful to say

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 10 April, 2014 - 22:12

Some comment on a detail from the recent inquest into the death of Venera Minakhmetova at Bow roundabout last November.

Coroner Mary Hassell

said she had “nothing useful” to say to Transport for London as the roundabout had since “been altered to such an extent that it’s very significantly safer for cyclists”.

Do I need to point out here that ‘significantly safer’ is not the same as safe enough?

It is true that the approach to the roundabout where Venera died has ‘been altered’, but only because prior to the arrival of the Superhighway Extension there was nothing in the way of cycle infrastructure at this location.

Westbound at Bow roundabout, 2012. Courtesy of Google Streetview. It was on this layout that Lana Tereschenko died in 2011.

But the central issue shouldn’t be whether improvements have been made, or whether the junction is a bit safer than the death trap it was before. Rather than a relative standard of safety, surely we should be looking at whether Bow roundabout meets objective criteria, good enough to ensure that the risk of further deaths, or serious injuries, at this location is as low as possible. ‘A bit better’ isn’t good enough, if what was there before was lethal.

The reported comment from the coroner may, of course, have been stripped from context, but taking it at face value, it appears that this issue has been ducked. Because the new layout at Bow roundabout is not good enough. It is a bad bodge. Effectively it amounts to nothing more than an Advanced Stop Line, with a confusing array of signals that attempt to stop people from entering it at the wrong time.

This video from @sw19cam – shot just two weeks before Venera died – shows just how confusing it can be. Because people cycling have to deal with two sets of lights simply to enter the junction, this chap appears to have interpreted the green signal to enter the ASL as a green signal to progress through the entire junction, with nearly disastrous results, as two lorries bear down on him.

Now the inquest appears to have established that the lorry that killed Venera passed through two green signals before turning left, and on that basis the ‘most likely’ explanation for the collision was that she had passed a red light to enter the ASL. Even if we accept this explanation, questions need to be asked about how easy it is end up doing this, in innocence. This picture from Charlie Lloyd shows the problem.

Picture by Charlie Lloyd

The red signal to stop people from entering the ASL (to the left) is drowned out by a sea of green signals which, combined with motor vehicles flowing through the junction, could all contribute to this signal being jumped inadvertently. Low-level cycle-specific signals have subsequently been added here, but the overall arrangement is still extraordinarily ambiguous.

What is desperately, desperately needed is clarity. No multiple lights just to enter an ASL, before waiting again – the ‘always stop’ junction. Instead, just one signal for cycles; one signal for left turning motor traffic; and one signal for straight ahead motor traffic.

A standard junction arrangement in the Netherlands (flipped). Absolutely clear who can go, and should stop.

This kind of arrangement would also allow pedestrians to cross Bow roundabout, on a green signal, at the same time that cycles and straight ahead motor traffic have a green signal. There are still no pedestrian crossings at this roundabout.

All the fiddles and bodges that have been implemented at Bow are a flawed compromise, intended to fit cycling in around the margins of motor traffic flow, rather than coherent design. It’s a great pity the inquest seems to have ignored the issue of whether it could be substantially better – good enough to eliminate future tragedies.


Categories: Views

"Shared" no more. An Assen city centre street reclaimed for pedestrians and cyclists

A View from the Cycle Path - 10 April, 2014 - 19:28
When we moved to Assen, the Ceresplein had quite recently been converted into a de-facto Shared Space. This area accommodated pedestrians, cyclists and drivers mostly on the same surface and it looked like this: June 2009 image from Google Maps. The turn that the car is making in the image above was into a street which has been a cycle-path for some years now. However, there's more. Last year David Hembrowhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/14543024940730663645noreply@blogger.com0http://www.aviewfromthecyclepath.com/2014/04/shared-no-more-assen-city-centre-street.html
Categories: Views

The “Bicycle Apple”

BicycleDutch - 9 April, 2014 - 23:01
Bicycle parking facilities are not always the most attractive buildings, but there is a very interesting exception in the town of Alphen aan den Rijn: the Fietsappel or Bicycle Apple. … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

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