Views

From ring road to city boulevard

BicycleDutch - 5 December, 2016 - 23:01
Utrecht has changed part of its former city ring road. The 4-lane road has now become a 2×1 lane street which Utrecht calls a “city boulevard”. Drivers are discouraged to … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

Right and wrong solutions to urban congestion

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 30 November, 2016 - 13:34

When I arrived in St Albans on a Saturday morning earlier this month, I encountered a long, completely static queue of motor vehicles. It turned out they were all waiting to enter the Christopher Place car park in the city centre, which has 180 spaces, but was already full.

The queue snaked around the corner, winding for several hundred metres around the city centre streets.

As far as I could tell, this was completely normal for the drivers and passengers inside – nobody was getting angry, they were just patiently waiting for other people to leave the car park so they could move up one slot in the queue. The sort of thing that probably happens every Saturday. And of course they are paying for the privilege.

I rarely drive, but when I do what immediately hits me is the frustration of being ‘caught’ in this kind of situation – having to queue, having to wait, often so far back in the queue you have no idea what’s causing the hold up, and with no way of finding out. Driving in urban areas is frequently a dispiriting, painful experience, made so because everyone else is doing it.

Unfortunately, as far as I can tell, these kinds of problems are going to get worse. More and more of us are going to be living in towns and cities, a function of increasing population, and a continuing trend away from rural dwelling to urban dwelling. 53 million of us already live in urban areas. That is going to increase pressure on the existing road network, if we continue to travel around as we do now.

There are two long-term solutions to this pressure – the first is to ‘spread out’, to redesign our towns and cities to accommodate even more motoring. What could be called the ‘Milton Keynes’ solution, or perhaps the Lord Wolfson ‘flyover’ solution.

What designing a town for mass motoring looks like – Crawley town centre

If you don’t like the look of that, the only other solution is to change the way we move about in urban areas, to reduce pressure, by maximising the efficient use of road space. That means prioritising walking, cycling and public transport, policy that will require sustained investment in redesigning the way our existing roads are laid out, to make them safe and attractive enough for people to switch away from car travel for short urban trips.

Road space reorganised. This streets carries around 60,000 people a day, cycling and on public transport.

The reason I say our problems are going to get worse is that we aren’t prioritising these kinds of sensible solutions. The vast majority of the ‘investment’ announced by government continues to be spent on major road schemes that will worsen congestion in urban areas, by pumping more and more motor vehicles into them, instead of focusing that investment on solutions within them. Towns and cities will not cope, and congestion will be worsened, as a direct consequence of these policies.

Amazingly these kinds of announcements are presented as ‘benefiting’ ‘towns and cities across the country’, when quite the opposite is true. Building a massive road scheme between Oxford and Cambridge is not going to be helpful for congestion in either city, because it really isn’t very easy to drive around within these cities already – funnelling more cars into them is completely counterproductive.

In a nutshell. From here.

Energy and investment should instead be focused on enabling space-efficient alternatives within both of these cities, and on prioritising rail links between them, which can deliver large numbers of people right into the city centres in an efficient way. And these solutions are far more cost-effective than massive road building schemes.

We seem locked into repeating the mistakes of the past fifty years, assuming that people want to drive in vast numbers because so many of them are doing so already, when in fact these individual decisions are largely a function of the poor quality of the alternatives, and of the way that motoring has been prioritised by the way we have designed, built (and rebuilt) road space in urban areas. But worse than that, there is a curious failure to recognise that these ‘solutions’ will no longer work, not without urban rebuilding on a massive scale.

The people queueing to enter that car park in St Albans certainly do not need major road schemes pumping more cars into their city centre. They need sane alternatives within the towns they are travelling, alternatives that will allow them to make the same short trips they are making, but in a way that is more efficient, and that actually frees up road space for the people who will still need (or want) to drive.

A typical Dutch town – the kind of mobility we should be enabling

We need the kind of engagement on the actual issues shown by Northern Ireland’s Infrastructure Minister, Chris Hazzard

When looking at the economy… we continue to talk in the House and on the public airwaves about moving cars. We need to talk about moving people. Moving people in and out of Belfast city is good for business; moving cars is not.

What are we to do after York Street? Are we to bulldoze half of Great Victoria Street because we need two extra lanes in Great Victoria Street? Are we to demolish Belfast City Hall because we need a bigger roundabout at Belfast City Hall? We need to talk about moving people, not cars, in and out of Belfast.”

Exactly right – we aren’t going to solve our problems any other way.

 


Categories: Views

Drenthe, the world's cycling province. Now recognized as the first ever UCI Bike Region

A View from the Cycle Path - 29 November, 2016 - 15:00
Why we came here People occasionally ask us why we chose to live in Assen, capital of the rural province of Drenthe in the North of the Netherlands, when we could have made our home in one of the better known Dutch cities in the South. An extensive grid of quality cycling infrastructure. Not only within the city of Assen, also through the countryside. As we had our own business we were free David Hembrowhttps://plus.google.com/114578085331408050106noreply@blogger.com0http://www.aviewfromthecyclepath.com/2016/11/drenthe-worlds-cycling-province-now.html
Categories: Views

A bridge connecting ’s-Hertogenbosch and Wales

BicycleDutch - 28 November, 2016 - 23:01
“The Royal Welsh brug” is the name of a new bridge over the river Dieze in ’s-Hertogenbosch. With that name the city wants to honour the men of the 53rd … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

Hygge and the Firepit of Transport

Copenhagenize - 27 November, 2016 - 14:26


The concept of "hygge" is, by all accounts, all the rage this year. A slough of books about “how to hygge” are on the market in the UK alone this year. The Guardian even endevoured to produce a good longread about the whole shebang. All to the amusement of Danes for whom the word is more of a ingrained feeling than a concept requiring an instruction manual.

Hyg. Hygge. Hyggelig.  This simple Danish word has captured many imaginations. Other languages have a similar word - gemütlichkeit in German or gezellig in Dutch but in Danish the meaning is taken to the next level. It often gets translated as “cosy”, but that is sadly inadequate. I’m going to get to how or if hygge relates to transport, but I need to lay down a baseline first.

My standing example when I have to explain the concept to foreigners took place when I was in my 20s. A group of male friends and I met at a friend’s flat on a dark, November evening with pizza and beer to watch a Champion’s League match. Cue the usual boy banter and piss-taking. Until one of the guys looked around and said, “Lars… don’t you have any candles?” Lars had forgotten. He promptly hopped up to get them and light five or six of them, adding a “sorry” as he sat back down. A calm settled over the group and the football evening continued.

In the winter months, candles are the prerequisite hygge prop. Indeed, Danes burn more candles than anyone else in the world. The focus on hygge in the international press -  and a slough of glossy womens’ magazines - however, seems to be focused on baking cookies and moping under a duvet on the sofa whilst wearing slippers/wooly socks and sweatpants like a rejected character in Sex and the City. If that is the image we’re going to get slapped with in Denmark, we need to do some serious brand damage control.

I’ve been asking other Danes for a couple of decades how they define hygge and I went on an asking spree before writing this article. While the general concept of hygge is etched delicately into the nucleus of our every cell, there is a slight divide in the interpretation, which may be a recent development. The debate is about whether you can hyg by yourself or whether you need to be at least two people.

If you ask the older generation, most are adamant that it takes at least two to hygge tango. Many members of the younger generation, on the other hand, are fine with the idea of being able to hyg alone. If you told me that you were home alone last night and enjoyed a good book on the sofa with a cup of tea, I won’t ask if it was hyggeligt, although you might offer the comment that you hyggede with yourself. Yes. It’s a bit confusing. Personally, I find it most hyggelig when I spend time with one or more friends. At the end of it all, you can declare to each other “good to see you! It was hyggelig!” Home alone on the sofa, there is no one to say that to.



Right then. How does this apply to transport? Copenhageners, rumour has it, are predisposed to transport themselves in great numbers by bicycle each day. 56% of the citizens of the Danish capital, at last count. Urban cycling is certainly the most anthropologically-correct transport form for city dwellers. It provides independent mobility but still allows for interaction - conscious or sub-conscious - with the urban landscape and, not least, the other homo sapiens that inhabit it with you.

To be honest, I’ve never heard anyone say that it was hyggelig to ride a bike to work. That might just be because we don’t often associate such things with transport. Avid cyclists will preach that cycling is “fun” as their primary messaging aimed at encouraging others to join their tribe. While I might, if forced, admit that cycling each and every day in Copenhagen is enjoyable, I would never use “fun”. Indeed, I’ve declared here on this blog that “cycling isn’t fun, it’s transport”.

Let’s slip under the surface for a moment. I dare to assume that the sub-conscious interaction with one’s city is one of the key strengths to growing and/or maintaining cycling levels. I’ve been asked in all seriousness several times through the years if cyclists wave at each other in Copenhagen - like I suppose they do in other parts of world where they are a rarity on the streets. However cute that might be, what a monumental task - waving at thousands of people all day long. And none waving back. But the subliminal sense of togetherness - something few realise - is there. The simple urban anthropological contentment at sharing a city with other humans - in a human form on a bicycle as opposed to boxed in and invisible in a car - is everpresent.

To be honest, in the hundreds and hundreds of interviews I’ve done about cycling in Copenhagen, no journalist has ever asked if there was an element of hygge to it. Until last week... thanks to the current hyggepocalypse that is raging. Many, many journalists, however, have asked about the correlation between being consistently ranked as the world’s “happiest” nation and our cycling habits.

First of all, on THAT note, the actual question asked in the survey is “are you content with your life?” Not quite the same as “are you happy”, is it? It gets morphed into headline friendly “happy” after the fact. Look at the Top 10 happiest nations for 2016. Seven of them - including all the Nordics - are countries with a high standard of living, cradle to grave health care, six weeks of annual holiday and strong secular cultures. Cycling doesn’t have much to do with it.

Hygge is not exclusive to the Danes, however. It is merely an extension of the firepit. Besides serving an important role for security, warmth and preparation of food, the firepit was the adhesive that brought a tribe together. After a long day of hunting and gathering or warfaring, it was around the firepit that the tribe would gather. To eat, talk, tell stories. I suppose the television has replaced the firepit in many ways. Nevertheless, Danes just keep on firepitting in their own way. Seeking out the simplicity of togetherness.


"Conversation cycling"

So cycling in itself may not be regarded as hyggeligt, but there are still ample opportunities to enjoy the company of a friend as you cycle, with Best Practice infrastructure and what we call “conversation lanes” in Copenhagen. Whatever the season.


There can certainly be bicycle-related hygge, but the bicycle is merely a prop that makes it possible. Like chatting outside a bar in a cargo bike.


Cykelkokken at work.

Copenhagen's renowed Bicycle Chef - Cykelkokken - Morten serves up gourmet food from his cargo bike and my god it's hyggelig. Holding hands with someone you love while cycling is also hyggelig, but again... the bike is a mere prop.


Bring your own bbq.

I would argue that on some level, cycling is the firepit of transport. People gather at red lights. Not eating, talking or telling stories with each other, but they are elbow to elbow with other members of the urban tribe.

A long series of firepit moments in the morning rush hour.

Warming themselves with the tightly-woven urban fabric on a deep but important sub-conscious level.

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

The importance of centre line markings on two-way cycleways

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 25 November, 2016 - 12:06

As a general rule, cycleways in urban areas in the Netherlands are marked distinctively. If they are two-way, they will have a dashed centre line. If they are one-way, that centre line will obviously be absent.

Two-way cycleway, with clear dashed centre line

One-way cycleway. No markings required.

I think this is actually tremendously important – it lets you know exactly what to expect when you are cycling along a piece of infrastructure. You will know, from looking at it, whether to expect ‘traffic’ coming in an opposing direction. It also tells other people navigating these environments exactly what to expect – a dashed centre line will tell people walking that they should expect cycles from two directions. And the same is true for drivers, when they cross this infrastructure.

Unfortunately (and it is early days) we don’t seem to have the same level of consistency in Britain, as yet. While plenty of new two-way cycleways do have clear centre line markings –

The cycleway past the Houses of Parliament. Clearly marked as two-way.

Others don’t – even the on the same ‘route’.

Two-way cycleway on the Embankment. Markings are intermittent, or absent

I think this can cause problems for pedestrians in particular. The photograph above just looks like a one-way stretch of path, heading away from the camera. There isn’t anything to tell someone wanting to cross to expect cycling in an ‘unconventional’ direction, on the right hand side of the road. I suspect this lies behind the small number of minor collisions between people walking and cycling on this stretch of road – people are crossing without looking in the ‘wrong’ direction. This has nearly happened to me on a few occasions – I can clearly see pedestrians not looking for me as I approach.

No indication here for this  pedestrian to expect cycles from her left as she crosses.

No indication for people crossing to and from this bus stop island to expect people cycling from this direction.

A centre line marking would make it clear that this is two-way ‘road’, for cycles, and make it more likely that people will look in both directions. It won’t eliminate this inherent problem with two-way cycleways, but it will at least mitigate it.

I think the lack of centre line marking is also a problem for people cycling. There are no centre line markings in Blackfriars underpass, despite this being one of the narrower sections of new two-way cycling infrastructure in London, narrow enough to resemble a one-way cycleway.

This lack of marking may have been a contributory factor in the largest (and most serious) pile-up seen so far on new cycling infrastructure, captured on video by 4ChordsNoNet.

Just before the collision occurs we can see people overtaking well over onto the ‘wrong’ side of the cycleway. Because there is no centre line, there is no clear, constant visual reminder that, if you are overtaking, you may well be in a section of ‘cycle road’ where you should expect oncoming cycle traffic, which will result in complacency and the kind of incident seen in the video above; especially when people are cycling in the ‘conventional’ direction, on the left hand side of the road.

I suspect consistent centre line marking will also mitigate the problems experienced by people cycling against heavy tidal flow, where (without a centre line) people tend to spill well across the cycleway in the dominant direction. This can be intimidating for people heading in the opposite direction. A centre line would reduce this problem – people can still cross it to overtake, of course, but they would be reminded more clearly that they are going against the flow, rather than simply claiming more space for their direction of flow.

It’s not clear to me why centre lines are absent on so much of London’s new cycle infrastructure, but I think it’s an obvious mistake that is resulting in problems of understanding and (at the moment) minor collisions. The good news is that it would be very cheap and easy to remedy!


Categories: Views

A new dawn in policing to prevent danger to cyclists? The RDRF award to West Midlands Traffic Police

Road Danger Reduction Forum - 22 November, 2016 - 19:50

 

On November 15th there was a ground-breaking event: The Road Danger Reduction Forum gave its first ever award since inception in 1994. More importantly, the award – to West Midlands Police for their “Give Space: Be Safe” operation targeting close passing of cyclists by drivers – heralds (we hope) an exciting new approach by police services towards danger to cyclists. As well as WMTP, we heard from Camden Metropolitan Police Service on their operation based on the WMTP initiative. Both are characterised by recognising:

(a)  The fundamental difference in the effects on others of errant behaviour  by drivers on the one hand and cyclists on the other, and accordingly focusing on the driver misbehaviour.

(b)  That behaviour which is intimidatory and deters potential cyclists from cycling – in this case close passing/overtaking – is worth addressing even if it is not the biggest cause of Killed and Seriously Injured casualties.

In other words, both approaches take a “harm-reduction” – or as we would say, danger reduction – approach. The award event at the House of Lords was packed out by campaigners, transport professionals and police officers. Cycling UK have referred to “Give Space: Be Safe” as “the best cyclist safety initiative by any police force, ever”

Below I try to describe some of what seem to me to be the key features of a crowded two- hour event: the two policing initiatives and some of the points raised in discussion.

You can see the WMTP in action on this extract from “The One Show” (alert: you have Phil Collins being a prat at the end of the extract) and read accounts in the press of “Give Space: Be Safe” (GSBS) here  . You can read an account of the Camden MPS policing here . Also take a look at the in-depth discussion by Bez

 

Background and introduction

The RDRF has not given any awards before (apart from a virtual wooden spoon to West Sussex Gazette  for the story “Wisborough Green tree collision; Emergency services were called to Wisborough Green after a collision involving a car and a tree on Tuesday January 31.” in 2012.) It had been suggested that we react more positively when encouraging news comes through. Of course, that doesn’t happen often, but we heard of GSBS, and it seemed to be positive enough. We are not going to be like the other award events where awards are given come what may: we hope that the rarity of this event will give it the added value that something as encouraging as this deserves.

The evening was introduced by Baroness Jenny Jones. As a Member of the London Assembly she was behind the Mayor’s “London’s Lawless Roads” report as part of an initiative for more roads policing. She commended the West Midlands police on their achievement, remarking that in 3 years in the House of Lords she had found it hard to achieve anything. She called for much more road traffic law enforcement to reduce danger.

Dr. Robert Davis, RDRF; Baroness Jones; officers of West Midlands Police “Be Safe: Give Space”

(You can download the presentation here:  houseoflordspresentation) I borrow from Bez’ account in Singletrack below:

One crucial aspect of the conception of Operation Close Pass was careful consideration of evidence beforehand. WMP looked at the STATS19 data for the area and came to some interesting conclusions, which are summarised in a seminal blog post, “Junction Malfunction and a New Dawn”  (a fascinating read — as Bez says, “it is something of a tectonic shift in aligning the police’s view with a number of points that most cycling and walking campaigners have been making for many years”).

The basic point is that the evidence suggests that, in terms of public harm caused by cycling casualty collisions, little is due to environmental factors, little is due to the behaviour of people on bikes, and much is due to behaviour of people in cars. This is unsurprising when you consider the principle of road danger: the cause of it is not so much poor behaviour itself, but the combination of poor behaviour and a vehicle which allows that behaviour to pose great danger. It’s why we let children ride bikes but not drive cars.

The major casualty risk manifests itself at junctions by way of drivers’ failure to observe people on bikes. As PC Hudson says in his blog:

“75% of KSI RTCs involving cyclists in the West Midlands from 2010 to 2014 occurred within 20 metres of a junction, involving a cyclist and another vehicle. Further analysis (I won’t bore you with the figures, tables etc.) showed that the majority of KSI RTCs in the West Midlands involving cyclists occur when a car has pulled out of a junction in front of a cyclist that is mid- junction because the car driver has failed to spot the cyclist.”

(RTC – Road Traffic Collision. KSI – Killed or Seriously Injured – Ed.)

So why the focus on close passing?

One reason is that it is something which can, unlike poor observation at junctions, be detected and proven relatively easily (using video evidence) and without waiting for a collision to have occurred. Another is that it cements in drivers’ minds the need to look for people on bikes, which may well improve observation at junctions. The fact that this is a covert operation is important: WMP understand that the risk of being caught is the most powerful aspect of traffic enforcement in terms of behaviour change, and key to that is the feeling that being caught could happen anywhere. But the third reason is perhaps the most interesting.

If you ask anyone who cycles what they are most concerned about, the majority will say “close passes by drivers” (in the blog it is cited as “the most common complaint we receive from cyclists”). If you ask anyone who has given up cycling why they gave it up, many will say the same, as will many when asked why they never even started cycling. Certainly WMP seem to have found that to be the case, and this has influenced the prioritisation of the operation: a major part of the aim is to foster an environment in which more people feel able to cycle.

But how does this fall within the remit of the police, who are there primarily to reduce crime rates and reduce public harm? Even though it’s a commendable objective for all sorts of reasons that are in the wider public interest, getting more people on bikes may not be an obvious police goal.

PC Hodson’s explanation to Bez was that: the police should be involved in any situation where the general public feel unable to do certain things because of fear arising from the behaviour of others. To use a somewhat stereotyped analogy: if elderly people felt unable to walk to the local shops on their own because of groups of youths behaving threateningly, the police would apply the law to reduce the threatening behaviour and create an environment where people felt safe doing what they wanted to do. Tackling one group’s imposition of fear on others, inhibiting their ability to live their lives freely, is a community policing matter. The fact that it happens to involve the highway is really of no significance: it merely means a different piece of legislation is referred to when dealing with the threatening behaviour.

How the operation works

The operation, which has been deployed nine times so far, involves an officer cycling in plain clothes on a bike equipped with both front- and rear-facing cameras. When they experience a close pass, two uniformed officers further up the road (one on foot, one on a motorcycle) are notified, and will pull the driver over and explain why they’ve been stopped.

The explanation is not merely “a quick word”. It is a 15-minute demonstration of how and where people should cycle (i.e. well away from the kerb) and the dangers not just of close passes, but of passes at particularly problematic locations such as at pinch points, on pedestrian crossings and when approaching parked vehicles. In all, 130 drivers have so far been through this process, and WMP report that only one of those reacted negatively to it. (Note that the police frequently cite The Attitude Test: fail this and you’re suddenly rather more likely to be prosecuted than educated).

The explanation involves a few props, central among which is a mat which shows a road layout with distances marked on it. WMP were keen to point out that these distances are illustrative only, and that the discussion is really about more humanly recognisable metrics: the width of a car door and the length of an outstretched arm are both used to illustrate the discussion. It’s worth noting that the officers unanimously saw the idea of a distance-based passing law as actively disadvantageous, on the basis that it actually provides more opportunity to undermine a prosecution. Much mention was made of the standards expected in the driving test: drivers are, for instance, required to leave sufficient clearance for a fully open car door when passing stationary vehicles.

Driving that would fail the test is equated with failure to meet the standard that is “expected of a competent and careful driver”, as specified in the definition of careless driving.  This is, essentially, the yardstick: would you pass your test driving like that? The officers didn’t believe that the UK would ever introduce a legal minimum clearance when passing cyclists, but said that nonetheless it’s easy to prosecute close passers under the careless or inconsiderate driving law 88. This is what’s used against tailgaters and middle lane hogs on the motorway, so the level of danger that has to be proven is fairly small. (If, however, you do want to consider the issue of what exactly is shown by footage, this article here might help).

The operation has also brought numerous other offences to light, including several seatbelt violations and instances of mobile phone use, but also one of a driver who—even with his prescription glasses—could only read a number plate at 7.5 metres. This shows that the operational model is not excessively specific: it is a good way to catch a variety of dangerous behaviours. This can, of course, include people jumping red lights on bikes, or riding at night without lights. (Bez has discussed this here , and we have here  and here ).

 

Dr. Robert Davis, Chair Road Danger Reduction Forum; Lord Berkeley, President RDRF; PC Mark Hodson; PC Stephen Hudson.  Resourcing

One of the key operational features of the initiative is that it is cost-neutral. This is not to say that it is zero cost, but that it is simply a new area on which to focus existing resources: there is no additional spend on either materials or manpower, and no reduction in visible policing. The mat used for education was paid for by Birmingham Cycle Revolution. They also provide the lights given out by WMP to unlit cyclists; as  part of Birmingham City Council’s programme to get 10% of all journeys made by pedal cycle by 2033.

Not needing external funding gives officers more control. The question was raised from the audience that fines could fund the operation: however, the police officers here suggested that funding with fines results in claims that revenue-raising is the purpose of the operation.

However, it’s possible to adapt BSGS to reduced levels of resourcing. The approach taken by Sgt Nick Clarke in Camden is an example of that: it uses no mat, and it is deployed on a relatively opportunistic basis, at times when other demands on the officers on the street are low. It also serves as a demonstration that whilst an understanding of cycling is important, there is no specific need for traffic police: in Camden the work is done as community policing..

As PC Hodson remarked, the lowest-resource option would be for a plain clothes officer to cycle around with a pair of cameras on their bike, process the footage and then send out NIPs to anyone shown to be driving below the expected standard.

Of course, there is an even lower-resource option. There are plenty of ordinary people already cycling around with cameras on their bikes. WMP made some illuminating comments on this subject. The most notable was that everything they’d received via public video submissions was indeed evidence of prosecutable driving. The public, they said, appeared to use the same criterion that they did when considering whether to take action: simply, “was this obviously bad driving?”

Section 59

One point raised in the evening by an officer from the Greater Manchester Police was the use of Section 59 of the Road Traffic Act 2002 which can be applied to any driving “causing or likely to cause alarm, distress or annoyance to the public”.  Both WMP and Camden MPS thought that was an idea – and Camden MPS seem to have started using it already. Road.cc reported with rather dramatic headlines here:  .  As Sergeant Clarke said after the event and at his presentation – I borrow from the account by Laura Laker in road.cc:

I’m repeatedly told this is why people don’t get on a bike – that this is causing alarm and distress to other people.”

He said his officers will use a “graduated response” and only use prosecution at first on the worst cases of bad driving, such as “punishment passes”. “We don’t just come in with a sledgehammer,” said Sgt Clarke, “so just like the start of the close pass stuff we initially didn’t do any reporting, we were just explaining why we are doing this stuff, saying: ‘you could kill someone’.

Then we said: right, let’s start looking at people digging their heels in, and now we are at the point where we are reporting everyone.”

He said the same process will apply for s59 reports – only the worst cases will be reported during the initial education phase.

“When I hear the engine rev behind, and the person perhaps cuts me up I pull him or her over and they will be reported and will get a section 59 saying: if you do this again in your vehicle or anyone else’s, that vehicle will get crushed,” said Sgt Clarke.

After the initial warning from officers, Clarke said video evidence from a third party would be sufficient to take a driver to court under section 59.

Clarke has run the operation five times in the last month or so, with no additional budget. Clarke sends officers out on the roads for a couple of hours in the morning rush hour when most criminals aren’t operating. The Camden initiative involves a plain clothes officer on a bike, and several others at key points around a figure of eight loop. Officers target mobile phone driving as well as those who pass too close to the cyclist. Clarke says writing up evidence for driving misdemeanours also provides good training for newer officers.

 

Rolling it out

As said in my introduction to the evening, the RDRF’s aim is not just to give an award, but to generate good practice and get good examples taken up elsewhere. We’re pleased that a number of police services have shown interest to WMP. But why is only one London Borough MPS service acting at the moment?

Sergeant Simon Castle, from the Met’s Cycle Safety Team (officers on bicycles), said they had trialled the scheme, but with slow traffic speeds in London cyclists were overtaking traffic, rather than the other way round. It would be necessary for his superiors to allow an operation in outer London where there are faster motor vehicles speeds and more unpleasantness with close overtaking, but fewer cyclists KSIs.

This is the critical point for the road danger reduction movement – the absence of “sufficient” cyclist KSIs may mean there is no problem for officials using traditional “road safety” guidelines. For us, there are often fewer KSIs precisely because there is more danger or intimidation from motor traffic, so people are less likely to cycle in the first place. Even if there are other reasons for low amounts of cycling, the fact remains that there is a problem of road danger from close overtaking (and perhaps excessive speed) which needs to be tackled.

Sergeant Clarke, who runs his operation on Parkway in inner London, feels it is replicable by other ward sergeants, and that it can have wide-reaching effects on driver behaviour across London.

He said: “It can be replicated in London, it’s just the locations that you choose. While High Holborn, for example, has a high KSI rate (killed or seriously injured) it isn’t possible to run a close pass operation there. However, by targeting drivers on major roads into High Holborn, those drivers will still be looking out for cyclists when they reach dangerous junctions.”

They get to the point where there’s someone on a Boris Bike on High Holborn who’s at risk of collision; by targeting them three or four miles up the road you’re reducing the risk of that happening. The Think! campaign has a limited impact; people watching it aren’t the target audience. The fact you may have your car crushed is a powerful motivator for people to drive safely.”

 

Some reactions: where now?

The key points made by all the questioners in the audience were praise for both the initiatives described, and requests for similar types of police operation to occur elsewhere.

Roger Geffen, Cycling UK: “This is a fantastic initiative – there needs to be a formal process to spread the word on this kind of good practice. Good evidence of effectiveness would greatly help with this – perhaps another force could do some before and after monitoring of a similar operation. Has there been negative feedback?”

WM police: “About one negative response per two positive ones. 75% of the negative responses have no merit, and the other 25% are mostly claims about prosecuting marginal offences, or criticism that the police should be doing something more important. Overall, the response has been very positive, helped by Mark Hodson’s Blog.”

 David Maloney, TfL: “(1) Any plans to evaluate the operation? (2) Could a 3rd party do the driver education?”

WM police: “(1) Reduced KSIs are the most obvious indicator, but also increases in cycling and feedback from cyclists. (2) Yes – drivers reported by 3rd parties are invited to go on a commercially-run course. A police uniform is only needed to stop a driver.”

Martin Porter, solicitor, explained why his private prosecution of a driver who endangered him failed: he went for a more serious offence, requiring better evidence of incompetence, and convincing a jury. The defence was able to say that the offence couldn’t be that serious, as the police never bothered with it.

Sgt Nick Clarke of Camden: “This work needs to be brought to outer boroughs. Reports of bad driving can be lost in processing – cases that go to court must be watertight, so careless driving is a good option, as it’s easier to prove.”

WM police: “We got plenty of negative feedback – but we want to upset certain parts of the population, as that’s how behaviour change is achieved.”

 Mark Strong of Transport Initiatives: “The web reporting portal in Sussex works well, and drivers are visited if 3 complaints are logged against them. More co-operation and dissemination of good practice is needed – perhaps RDRF could help with this.”

 Duncan Dollimore (Cycling UK): “Some forces are considering or planning similar programmes, but there have been comments that it might not be appropriate elsewhere.” WM police: “The answer is to operate on quieter roads – the same rules apply, and safe overtaking is a matter of choice. We wouldn’t have been able to do the work if it was hard. Non-traffic officers could do similar work just with cameras.”

 Adam Coffman of the All-Party Parliamentary Cycling Group asked the WMP how they felt about the Road Safety Minister’s recent comment that “Road safety is about people taking responsibility for themselves”. I’m pleased that the WMP officer responding took the road danger reduction line in saying that he disagreed with him. Road danger reduction takes what we think is the basically civilised view that your responsibility is to reduce your danger towards others.

But not all was optimism. Amy Aeron-Thomas of Roadpeace said that we should comment on the London Police and Crime Review, a mayoral consultation document that contains little or nothing about traffic law enforcement. As Brenda Puech of RDRF added, London police have to follow the mayor’s policing priorities, so this document is important.

 

Conclusion

 

This is not about any kind of patronising initiative “for cyclists”. It is the implementation of road danger reduction – reducing danger at source from inappropriate driving. It is done through policing and education as part of achieving necessary cultural and behavioural shift. It was started by an individual police service, and is being taken up by others and road danger reduction campaigners (none of the “road safety” establishment seem to have shown any interest).

So where do we go from here? It’s quite likely that we will run a follow-up conference in a few months’ time – possibly to coincide with alerting London government to the need for a policing strategy which takes in to account the sort of anti-social behaviour targeted by WMP and Camden MPS. In the meantime do feel free to contact RDRF with any queries and information to help start a similar programme in your area.

 


Categories: Views

Asking the wrong questions

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 22 November, 2016 - 17:37

At the weekend I went along to the Cyclenation/Cycling UK Campaigners Conference in St Albans, where I was one of many people making presentations to a large audience. My one was on Sustainable Safety, and afterwards I chatted briefly to TfL’s Brian Deegan about the Dutch approach to road and street design. He mentioned in passing how he gets complaints about people cycling jumping lights, at certain junctions – the implication being that these ‘bad’ users need to start behaving, and need to be punished more, to make them behave.

But Brian’s response to the problem was, and is, completely different – he told me that he replies

‘If so many are jumping lights, what is wrong with the junction?’

This is a core element of Sustainable Safety – it seeks to tackle ‘bad behaviour’ not at a personal or individual level, but by seeking to understand what actually lies behind so many people breaking the rules, and then examining how the environment can be changed to reduce rule-breaking, or to eliminate it altogether. To take a ‘red light jumping’ example, it might be that people are having to wait two minutes to cross a simple junction. A sensible way to solve that problem would be to reduce wait times. It might also be the case that people are jumping lights to turn left, because they know they can do so safely. Again, a sensible solution to that ‘problem’ is to formalise and legalise this behaviour through design.

This doesn’t just apply to people cycling; it applies to all modes of transport. For instance, if lots of people are breaking a 20mph speed limit, then the long-term answer isn’t enforcement and punishment, but, instead, addressing the design of the road so that 20mph becomes the natural speed for the vast majority of drivers to travel at.

I don’t think this kind of approach has really taken hold in Britain, at all. We remain focused on individual actions and behaviour, and on ‘personal responsibility’, rather than taking a more systematic approach, one that is centred on the role of authorities in designing environments that keep us safe in the first place, even when some of us continue to behave badly. Just last week, the Secretary of State for Transport responded to a question about the rising toll of road deaths in Britain as follows

 A trend in the wrong direction is an unwelcome one. The Under-Secretary of State for Transport, my hon. Friend Andrew Jones, who is in his place alongside me, has responsibility for road safety. He is actively engaged, and will continue to be actively engaged, in looking at measures we could take that will improve things. We will look at different investment measures and different ways of educating motorists and those using the roads

And, more explicitly from the junior Minister –

“Road safety is about people taking responsibility for themselves” says @AJonesMP

— APPCG (@allpartycycling) November 2, 2016

This is what a primary focus on ‘education’ is really about – a shifting of responsibility for safety onto the people negotiating unsafe environments, by those responsible for the design and functioning of those environments. Simply looking at ‘different ways of educating’ all the people using the roads (which seems to carry with it an admission that current ‘education’ isn’t really working) avoids this fundamental responsibility to build safety into our road and street environment, by making them forgiving, predictable, and without exposing human beings to large differences in mass, speed and direction. ‘Education’ is not, and cannot ever be, a substitute for safe environments.

Safety built into the physical environment. Not much personal responsibility required here.

An unsafe cycling environment. Humans mixed with heavy vehicles travelling at high speed. Personal responsibility is not a solution here.

This failure to ask the right questions, and come up with the right solutions, is epitomised not just by a focus on ‘education’ but also on what I would call ‘trinkets’ – things like helmets, lights, reflectives, clothing, and so on. In much the same way as with ‘education’, the process involves shifting responsibility onto the user, and ignoring basic environmental problems. Instead of examining why Road X is unsafe to walk along in dark clothing, we urge people to wear  reflectives. Instead of examining why pedestrians wearing ordinary clothes can’t negotiate the streets in your urban area safely, we hand out lights to them.

We're handing out winter lights for walkers at 5.30pm outside Westminster City Hall, 64 Victoria St. Pick up a free one for Road Safety Week

— Westminster Council (@CityWestminster) November 21, 2016

Perhaps the most powerful example of trinket-based logic is the paper helmet which has recently hit the headlines, because it has won an award.

The man who awarded the award – James Dyson – says that this helmet

solves an “obvious problem in an incredibly elegant way”.

If the problem is ‘how do we make something that looks a bit like a cycling helmet, but is really cheap, folds down completely flat so it goes in your bag, and can then be thrown away’, then yes, this is a solution to that ‘obvious problem’.

But it clearly isn’t a solution to the actual problem of prevent people riding bikes from coming to harm or being seriously injured. How can it be? It’s some folded paper, loosely attached to the top third of the head.

If we really care about keeping people riding hire bikes safe ‘anywhere they go’, we need environmental solutions, infrastructure that keeps those people separated from fast and/or heavy moving motor traffic, wherever they choose to cycle. Not paper hats. And the same goes for handing out tiny reflective bits of plastic to children.

‘Keeping kids safe’

These are not structural solutions; they are not even actual solutions. They are a distraction. The wrong questions are being asked, and the wrong answers are being given.


Categories: Views

Twijnstraat transformation

BicycleDutch - 21 November, 2016 - 23:01
Yet another street in the Utrecht city centre has been reconstructed. The narrow Twijnstraat, already a shopping street in the 13th century, was designed for motor traffic. It has been … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

The Life-Sized City TV Series

Copenhagenize - 16 November, 2016 - 12:09
While Copenhagenize Design Co. focuses on working with client cities around the world, our CEO, Mikael Colville-Andersen, is embarking on an exciting new project in parallel with his work in our Copenhagen office. Shooting has begun on his new tv series The Life-Sized City. With his series, Mikael hopes to bring citizen urbanism into the living rooms of city dwellers all over the world. With rising urbanization, our cities are in focus more than ever. For the first time in almost a century, we are looking at the development of our urban centres in a new and exciting way.

For 7000 years, ever since cities were first formed, they have been fantastic theatres for human activity. Yet for the better part of the last 80 years, our perception of cities changed. They were suddenly regarded as a series of mathematical models that required engineering to make them function.

  Slowly but surely, we are once again focusing on cities as life-sized urban spaces. We are witnessing the re-emergence of cities that are attractive, healthy, interesting and efficient. Cities that do not leave us feeling awestruck and insignificant with their height and girth, but that rather inspire us at street level. They are, quite simply, Life-Sized Cities.

No city is perfect, of course. But some are farther advanced than others. Mikael will explore cities around the world and, instead of pointing fingers at their glaring flaws, we will seek out their pockets of life-sized goodness.

  The promotional teaser trailer for The Life-Sized City.

The title for the series was inspired by Mikael’s daughter, Lulu-Sophia, whom he calls The World’s Youngest Urbanist.  It was back in 2012 that Mikael started developing his idea together with his friend and executive producer, Nicolas Boucher, from production company DB Com Media in Montreal . Fittingly, over a bottle of red wine. After a couple of years of development, the series started to take form until financing for the first six episodes of Season 1 fell into place and shooting the first episode began in Medellin, Colombia in June 2016.

 “The Life-Sized City is, for me, a way to continue my work looking at how we can improve all aspects of urban life and, at the same time, transport my experiences into the living rooms of people all over the world”, says Mikael Colville-Andersen. “It is important to erase the borders between cities and to provide transferable inspiration that citizens can borrow freely from in their local community”.

The first six cities in Season 1 are Medellin, Toronto, Paris, Tokyo, Bangkok and Ljubljana. A mix of city sizes and styles that present a variety of challenges when seeking out life-sized elements on the urban landscape. The Life-Sized City will present a gallery of the best and the brightest minds and projects that are making our daily lives better in our cities - from bottom-up to top-down.

Canadian broadcasters TV Ontario and Knowledge Network will broadcast the first season in Canada starting in September 2017, with other countries and regions around the world following suit afterwards. DBCom Media, among other programmes, produces the Waterfront Cities series and Island Diaries.

Follow The Life-Sized City on Instagram.
Like The Life-Sized City on Facebook. Copenhagenize the planet. And have a lovely day.
Categories: Views

Network

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 16 November, 2016 - 09:28

Imagine if your town or city had just one suitable driving route across it, or just one suitable walking route – a line drawn on a map from A to B.

How many trips would be driven, or walked, in your town if this was the extent of the driving or walking network?

The answer is clearly ‘not very many’ – only those trips that happen to start or finish at some point along the line of the route, or reasonably close to it. A very small proportion of the overall number of existing or potential trips.

So we shouldn’t be at all surprised that that cycling levels remain low when the full extent of a ‘cycle network’ in a town or a city is this kind of line, drawn on a map. Even if the quality of the route is high (and very often it isn’t) the use of cycles will be limited because the vast majority of people simply can’t get anywhere near that route in safety, or in comfortable conditions.

So as impressive as the initial amount of use of the new cycling superhighways in London might appear, especially at peak times, the use of this cycling infrastructure is undoubtedly suppressed because there is so little of it. The people using it will mostly be the small minority of people already willing to cycle on the hostile roads and streets across the rest of the city, that need to be cycled on to access the superhighways.

This partly explains why use is relatively low outside of peak times. Non-commuting trips like, amongst others,

  • children cycling independently;
  • retired people cycling independently;
  • people going shopping;
  • cycling to social activity

will all rely to a much greater extent on a dense network that takes people from A to B in comfort and safety, and not on a specific commuter-focused route. In addition, these kinds of users – particularly, children and the elderly – are of course much more sensitive to hostile road conditions, the kind of conditions that will have to be tolerated to get onto ‘the superhighway’.

This explains the marked contrast in cycle use during the daytime on a typical cycleway in a Dutch city centre, compared to the superhighways in London.

1pm, in the centre of Gouda. The cycleways are still busy, but use is dominated by children, the elderly, and women. In short, by people who are are not at work.

Unlike London, Dutch cycleways will still see heavy use during the day. However, that use is dominated not by commuters, but instead (unsurprisingly) by all the people who aren’t at work. The reason for this is not some difference in Dutch character or behaviour; it’s because a typical Dutch city has a high quality network that connects up all the start and finish points of the journeys these people are making, not just one ‘route’ that goes from A to B.

This is why it is so important not get bogged down on drawing ‘a cycle route’ and agonising in great detail over where that ‘route’ should go, because the long-term goal has to be a dense network of routes that go everywhere.

I was reminded of this by some of the reaction to the news yesterday of the cancellation by Mayor Khan of the proposed route for the ‘East-West Superhighway’ extension, along the Westway, into west London. Much of the discussion focused on whether the Westway was actually the appropriate location for such a ‘route’; whether there might be better alternatives at ground level nearby; whether Kensington and Chelsea might be persuaded to allow protected cycleways to be built on parallel main roads within their borough.

My own view is that, if we are indeed focused on building ‘a route’, the Westway is (or was)  the best option, given Kensington and Chelsea’s intransigence in refusing to allow cycling infrastructure on its roads, and the generally poor quality of back-street ‘Quietway’ routes that have been delivered in London so far.

But this kind of discussion is really missing the bigger picture. There should be a ‘cycle route’ on the Westway and cycle routes everywhere else. Not one or the other.

Westway is 2km from High St Ken. TFL knows we need cycle tracks every 400m so deliver both routes. No excuse for cancelling pic.twitter.com/H5qjxSGKnL

— Tom Harrison (@TomBHarrison) November 15, 2016

Why should there just be one route into west London from central London? To take just one example, how many people will cycle from Hammersmith (in the bottom left of the map above) into central London if there are no cycle routes in Kensington and Chelsea apart from one on the Westway, some 2km or more north of the direct route? Quite plainly, there needs to be a cycle route on the Westway, and on Kensington High Street, and on Holland Park Avenue; and on all the roads that people will use to get from A to B.

This is why the logic of cancelling the Westway scheme, and coming up with an alternative somewhere else, is flawed. Not just because the Westway scheme had been consulted on, and was ready to go, and because devising an alternative route will inevitably result in years of delay. It’s because the Westway scheme is needed alongside many other east-west routes in Kensington and Chelsea, and alongside north-south routes. Everywhere.

The original plan for Delft’s cycle network. Routes that go everywhere. Not just one line on a map. Source.

So, regrettably, it appears that the Westway decision betrays a failure to understand how cycling should be planned for. Cycling doesn’t just require ‘a route’; it requires a network, of which the Westway should have been just one component.


Categories: Views

A roundabout bypass in Goes

BicycleDutch - 14 November, 2016 - 23:01
The town of Goes is one of many Dutch places with a raised roundabout for motor traffic, that can be bypassed when you are walking or cycling, on a lower … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

Massive Passenger Increase After Bikes Allowed Free on Trains

Copenhagenize - 14 November, 2016 - 14:36

So what exactly happens when you're a major train operator and you suddenly make it free for passengers to take bikes on your trains? We know that some rail operators in various parts of the world would have you believe that chaos would ensue and that they would lose passengers. Numbers from Greater Copenhagen and Danish State Railways (DSB), however, seem to indicate that the opposite is true.

The S-train network that serves Greater Copenhagen is arguably the most integral part of the public transport mix in the region. Buses, Metro and regional trains are vital parts of the network, but the red S-trains stretching out into Europe's third-largest urban sprawl are in many ways the backbone.

The S-train network - with 2 Metro lines at bottom right.

Bicycles were allowed on the trains for a fee, which was never prohibitive. Until 2010, that is. In that year, DSB announced that bicycles would be made free on all their trains. They announced it with pride and in style and launched a comprehensive awareness campaign with creative solutions.

DSB made the decision based simply on a business case model. They figured that more passengers - both commuters and users travelling in their free time - would take the train with their bikes if it were free. Six years later... how's THAT working out for them?


'Rather well' would be an understatement. The number of passengers taking a bike on board rose from 2.1 million to 9 million. A total, whoppping passenger increase of 20%. And it continues to rise.

The loss of income from ditching the bicycle ticket has been paid off several times over with the increased passenger numbers. It is estimated that almost 10% of passengers now take a bike with them.

Indeed, when asked in a survey, 91% of passengers were positive about the possibility to take bikes on the trains. 27% of the cyclists on board responded that they wouldn't have travelled by train if they couldn't take their bike with them. 8% even said that they travel more by train now that it is free.

In May 2009, before it was free, 188,000 bikes were taken on the S-Train network. A year later, after it was free, 630,000 bikes were taken on board. And that continued to rise.



In order to meet the demand, DSB redesign the compartments on all their trains and created so-called Flex Zones with fold up seats and bike racks beneath each seat. They adjusted the seating on all trains, as seen in the graphic, above, and now every train has a capacity for 60 bicycles.


The redesign also included a comprehensive reworking of pictograms and the implementation of a one-way system to ease conflicts when bikes are rolled on or off the train. The spacious bicycle compartments are located in the middle of the train set, since DSB research showed that the seating in the middle of the train was less popular with passengers.



Providing more bicycle parking at stations, especially the main stations in the Capital Region, remains a challenge. Nationally, bike parking at train stations is at a high capacity and on this point, Denmark lags behind cities in the Netherlands. Although Dutch national rail operator NS prefers having customers travel without their bikes and therefore parking at stations is more of an issue for them.

Nevertheless, Copenhagenize Design Co. has proposed 7550 bike parking spots behind Copenhagen Central Station with this design.


Continuing with their work to encourage bicycles on trains, DSB has toyed with the idea of putting bicycle pumps on board trains, but so far they have gone with bicycle foot pumps integrated with advertising facilities outside their stations.

A pragmatic approach coupled with a cool, business decision has paid off for DSB. The bicycle should and must be integrated at every step of peoples daily lives if a city is to be truly bicycle-friendly.

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

Sustainable Safety in action

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 8 November, 2016 - 01:18

The N470 is a main road that runs east from the Dutch city of Delft, connecting it with the city of Zoetermeer. It is 12 kilometres long between the junctions with the A13 motorway (bypassing Delft) and the A12 motorway (which runs between The Hague and Utrecht).

From Google Maps

As can be seen from the map above, it is, effectively, a bypass of the town of Pijnacker, bending south around it. Before this road was opened in 2007, a large proportion of the motor traffic running between Delft and Zoetermeer would have passed through the town. Now all that motor traffic is far away from human beings. This applies both at the large large scale – the way the road is built away from urban areas – and also at the scale of the road itself, where, as well shall see in this post, human beings are kept completely separated from it.

This modern road has been built according to the principles of Sustainable Safety, or Duurzaam Veiling – the Dutch approach to road safety. This programme was only developed in the mid 1990s, so it is relatively recent, but it completely underpins the way roads and streets in the Netherlands, both old and new, are designed and built to maximise the safety of human beings. The N470 is an excellent example of these principles in action, and this post will look at them in turn.

Functionality

Perhaps one of the most important principles of Sustainable Safety, ‘Functionality’ means that every road and street in the Netherlands should have a single function – mono-functionality – and that every region should classify their roads and streets accordingly, either as a

  • Through road – for fast traffic, travelling longer distances, in large volumes. Motorways, trunk roads, bypasses, and so on. Roads humans won’t ‘engage with’, by design.
  • Access road – the ‘end destination’ for journeys – places where people live, work, shop, relax, and so on.
  • Distributor road – the roads that connect up the through roads and access roads.

Quite clearly the N470 falls into the ‘through road’ category. It is a road for transporting people from A to B; it is most definitely not a road that people will be exposed to in any form. There is only one junction on the 12km length of the road between the two motorways, and that is a turbo roundabout which human beings cannot go anywhere near. There are absolutely no access points anywhere else along this road. It is effectively hermetically sealed away from the environment it is travelling through – walking and cycling are entirely separated, via underpasses, and even other roads are again grade-separated.

Here the N470 goes into an underpass to avoid any connection with a rural access road at ground level. From Streetview.

Homogeneity

This principle applies to the mass, speed and direction of road users. Heavy objects should not share space with light ones; fast objects should not share space with slow ones; and objects should be travelling in the same direction. Differences in mass, speed and direction should be minimised as much as possible.

We can see these principles clearly in operation in the design of the N470 road. Perhaps the most obvious application of homogeneity is that light objects – human beings – are completely designed out of this road. They go nowhere near it. In fact the photograph below is about the closest you can get.

The three junctions on this stretch of road – two at the end, and one in the middle – are all turbo roundabouts, and all have total separation between human beings and motor traffic.

The roundabout at the Delft end of the N470 has signs explicitly banning walking and cycling from the roundabout – but really nobody would choose to negotiate the roundabout at surface level on foot, because of a fast, convenient cycle road to the side, that bypasses it completely.

The roundabout in the middle is another turbo roundabout, again negotiated by an underpass – or, perhaps more specifically, where the road has been built up on an embankment with a bridge.

And the final roundabout at the Zoetermeer end is exactly the same, with two underpasses allowing people to negotiate the arms of the the roundabout, complete with noise barriers. As with the previous example the roads and roundabout have been built up high so that cycling remains at ground level, at the same level as buildings in the neighbourhood. These are bridges, more than underpasses.

I did manage to scramble up the bank here to take a photo of the roundabout – narrow lanes with hard physical dividers, combined with heavy, fast traffic, means that this is not somewhere you would want to be on a bike.

Especially when you can bypass it, completely oblivious to the traffic overhead.

But of course Sustainable Safety applies to all users of the road network, not just people cycling. The road is designed in a way to keep motorists safe too.

Perhaps most notable is the median between the two lanes, that prevents any attempts at overtaking. The speed limit on this road is 80kph (about 50mph) and that applies uniformly to all vehicles, from HGVs right down to small cars. Quite sensibly, if everyone is travelling at the same speed, there can be no justification for overtaking, and the design prevents people from even attempting to do so.

A couple of years ago the DfT raised the speed limit for HGVs on single carriageway roads from 40mph to 50mph, partially on the grounds that it would (allegedly) reduce the temptation on the part of some drivers to indulge in dangerous overtakes. But the Netherlands has solved this problem at a stroke by equalising the limit for all users at 80kph, and by simply banning overtaking altogether on this category of road (and physically preventing overtaking in new road design).

All Dutch roads of this type have a continuous solid line, forbidding overtaking, even if a median is not present – along with an equalised 80kph speed limit.

Overtaking presents an unacceptably high level of danger – it involves vehicles occupying the same space but travelling in completely the opposite direction, at great speed. The opposite of homogeneity! It is much safer to ban it, and to simply design it out of these roads altogether. On the N470 all vehicles are travelling in the same direction at all times, and at approximately the same speed. Overtaking conflicts have been removed, as have any turning conflicts, with no motor vehicles crossing the paths of other motor vehicles – because there are no junctions.

Another implication of the principle of homogeneity is that mopeds (which aren’t capable of travelling at 80kph in any case) are banned from these roads, and instead placed on the cycle path, alongside people walking, cycling and jogging. This makes sense according to the principle of homogeneity – their mass and speed is much closer to that of pedestrians and cyclists than it is to the vehicles on the road.

Forgivingness

Another principle of Sustainable Safety is ‘forgivingness’, which implies pretty much what you would expect from the title. Essentially, mistakes by road users should not result in death or serious injury. Road and street design should account for the fact that human beings are fallible, and will inevitably make mistakes.

We see this principle reflected in a number of aspects of the design of the N470 road. The road lanes themselves are narrow, to help ensure that people do not exceed the 80kph limit, but there are large overrun areas on either side of the road, composed of a concrete mesh.

Probably not very enjoyable to drive over, but if you do drift off the road, you won’t die.

Naturally, forgivingness also applies to people cycling. It lies behind the systematic removal of bollards from Dutch cycle paths, where at all possible. Bollards are not good things to crash into, and can cause serious injury and death. It is definitely preferable to have the occasional driver venturing (either mistakenly or deliberately) onto a cycle path than it is to have a permanent hazard on it, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It also means that kerbs and other elements of cycling infrastructure should allow mistakes to happen, without serious consequences.

New cycle infrastructure in the city of Delft, with a forgiving, essentially crash-proof, kerb

And, of course, at a higher level, the fact that there aren’t any human beings outside of motor vehicles on the N470 road, or even near it, means that cycling is very safe. The fact that Britain persists with accommodating cycling on busy 60 or even 70mph roads is extraordinary by objective comparison – the consequences of errors and mistakes when you have such enormous differences in mass and speed in the same space will be deadly.

Trucks travelling at 80kph on the right; a father with children in a cargo bike, far to the left. These two should not be combined, for very obvious reasons

Predictability

A better way of expressing ‘predictability’ would be ‘instantly recognisable road design’. The users of a road or a street should understand how they are expected to behave, from the appearance of that road or street. The design should be unambiguous. For instance, if you want motor vehicle users to travel at 20mph, the road or street should look like that, and it should make the majority of users travel at no more than that speed.

From the photographs in this post you won’t need me to tell you that the appearance of the N470 will obviously inform its users that it is a through road! There are no junctions; no interactions with non-motorised users; a median; and a design that suggests a speed of 50mph or so. As already mentioned, the design of the N470 should make users travel at or around this speed – the speed limit should be self-enforcing. Design should lead behaviour – we should not expect people to do unnatural things.

Conclusion

In a nutshell, Sustainable Safety is really about a strategic separation of fast, heavy objects from slower moving, lighter ones, across an entire country, both along roads like the N470, passing through rural areas, but also in urban areas. It is universal.

It is noteworthy that there are multiple cycle routes between Delft and Zoetermeer, all of them completely separate from the road network. Some parts of these are shown below. These cycle routes pass through the places where people actually live and work, while the motor traffic is shielded away from human beings. All these routes are more direct than the N470, or alternative driving routes on the motorways.

One of the cycle routes between Zoetermeer and Delft – this one the closest to the N470, as it passes through a Delft suburb. The path runs directly through, and is connected to, this residential area, providing quick and easy access to housing, and on into the city centre.

Another route between Delft and Zoetermeer, further to the north, as it passes under the A13 motorway. This is an access road for motor traffic for the properties along it, but it becomes cycle-only as it goes under the motorway. Note the noise barrier. This is a peaceful, safe neighbourhood, with a cycle route running through it.

And another route between Delft and Zoetermeer – this one an access road (connecting to a small number of properties) that only permits driving in one direction.

So despite the name, Sustainable Safety is not just about safety, but also about creating more attractive and more pleasant places for people to live, work, shop, and relax. People can still drive, of course, and with great ease, but their journeys will be separated to the greatest possible extent from human beings. It is a bold and ambitious project, but one that, despite only being a few decades old, has had dramatic and impressive consequences. We should be paying close attention.

 

You can read more about Sustainable Safety in a number of places –


Categories: Views

The Bartenbrug fiasco

BicycleDutch - 7 November, 2016 - 23:01
When it comes to building infrastructure, the Dutch do like to think that they are rather good at it. I’ve shown you a lot of examples on my blog that … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

The Bicycle Made for Cities

Copenhagenize - 7 November, 2016 - 14:51

If you lined up every bicycle ever built since the 1880s, the vast majority would look much like the one above. Easily 75%. It would probably be black, with three speeds, a chainguard and coaster brakes. Since the 1970s, bicycles designed for racing or touring or climbing hills have increased in popularity but when it comes to transport in cities and towns, nothing beats the upright bicycle. There are many reasons for why it became - by far - the most popular bicycle design in history. The simplest one is that it appeals to regular citizens and has been well-suited to urban life for over a century.



As the Danish author, Johannes Wulff, wrote in "Paa cykle" in 1930;
"One sits on it either straight-backed, as though you're at a festive dinner party, or hunched foward, as though you just failed an exam. All according to the situation, your inclination or your inborn characteristics."

For the purpose of this article, we're going to a festive dinner party. To explore, over cocktails, why upright bikes - the norm in mainstream bicycle cities like Amsterdam and Copenhagen - should be promoted more for city living. They have been sadly neglected for many years by a rather singular focus on cycling for sports or recreation. Now, however, bicycles are back as transport and bikes for the 99% are an important aspect of growing cycling levels. Brent Toderian and Chris Brunlett tackled this subject well in their recent joint article - In Praise of the Upright Bike.



Sitting up straight, like your mother taught you, can easily apply to transport and has distinct safety benefits. In an upright position, your centre of gravity is in much the same spot as it is when you are walking. Homo sapiens have been around for about 200,000 years and prior to that, other upright-walking species spent around 2 million years evolving this all-important centre of gravity to near-perfection. Our centre of gravity is quite handy in helping us get around. It is something that we use every single day in almost every move we make. We're quite good at it. In fact, science seems to indicate that sitting up straight is good for you.

A quick glance at the people on the bicycles in the montage, above, and you see that little distinguishes the cyclists from pedestrians. All the centres of gravity are pretty much the same. Remove the bicycles with questionable photoshop skills and very little changes, apart from oddly bent knees.

Compare this to the riding position on, for example, racing bikes. The upper body is pitched forward, which causes the centre of gravity to shift. In this position the point is dangling in mid-air somewhere over the crossbar. Just think about braking sharply. Your body must battle to keep the weight of your upper body from chucking you forward, which is unnatural for homo sapiens. In an upright position, your body knows how to re-adjust itself for this sudden stopping motion, much like when you stop suddenly when walking or jogging.

The racing position is great for people who... well... race or who like to go fast. Works perfectly for them, which is super. If you look at mainstream bicycle cities, the majority of people don't wish to adhere to this way of riding, prefering to merely use the bicycle as a quick and easy tool for getting around.


Acceleration on upright bicycles is also much easier, simply because your centre of gravity remains, largely, the same. You just stand up and assume even more of a walking posture - or at least leaning forward as you would when running - pulling on the handlebars as opposed to pushing down on them. As the young woman illustrates.


Much the same physics applies to the simple but important task of keeping an eye on what's around you, including traffic. Walking down the street and turning your head to see if the bus is coming is not far removed from sitting upright on a bicycle and turning your head to perform a shoulder check. Your balance is stable.

Try sitting at a table and lean over it, as though you were on a racing bicycle. Then try to perform a shoulder check. Odds are you'll be mostly checking your shoulder, as opposed to the traffic. If you want to get a clearer view, you'll have to shift your centre of gravity to the side. Rather unnatural for humans, not to mention unstable. Sure, you could look under your arm, like racing cyclists do, but then you're removing your vision almost completely from what's ahead of you. Not advisable.

While you're at the table, leaning over, try looking straight ahead. Your neck is not in a comfortable position the way you have to keep it lifted up. This isn't a problem you'll have when you're sitting up straight.

All of this is basic physics. A ten-year study of bicycle accidents featuring elderly cyclists in Sweden by Ulf Björnstig at Umeå University resulted in him advocating step-through frames and lower seat heights. April Streeter over at Treehugger did a piece about this: Swedes Conclude: Girls' Bikes Safer

Besides the safety aspects of the upright bicycle, the design encourages you to have a look around your city when you ride, instead of speeding off. You'll notice more on your daily ride and, indirectly, contribute to strengthening the weave in the urban fabric. An increased sense of community is not a bad added value.

Interesting, the rapid growth in sales of bicycles that feature "Easy Boarding", or a frame that makes it even easier to get on or off the bicycle, is an indication that the upright bicycle is experiencing yet another renaissance. Originally designed for the elderly, these easy boarding models are quickly going mainstream, thanks to their ultra low frame.


When you do it right, your city's cyclists are indistinguishable from pedestrians. A little taller, perhaps, a little quicker as they pass, but that's about it. If we are to grow cycling in cities, we need infrastructure, of course. But we also need societal mirrors held up for citizens. Seeing only sub-cultures whizzing about and sticking out like a sore thumb in their "uniforms" does little to encourage regular citizens to choose a bike for transport. Seeing people looking just like you, however, changes the perception of cycling in cities. It creates a springboard for people to leap elegantly into new transport habits. Habits that improve the quality of life in cities, keep people healthier and tighten the weave on the urban fabric.Copenhagenize the planet. And have a lovely day.
Categories: Views

The Car Empire Strikes Back - Complete Anthology

Copenhagenize - 6 November, 2016 - 12:59
We've been compiling a list of examples of how the automobile industry, since the bicycle returned to the public consciousness around 2006-2007, have been striking back. Using their advertising millions to ridicule not just bikes but public transport. It is the surest sign that they feel threatened by the return of serious competition. So threatened that they actively spend money on tackling it.

A few years ago we made a commercial - If Car Commercials Were Based on Fact, Not Fiction. Citroen did not like it at all and here's THAT fun story.

Here is a long list of examples of The Car Empire Strikes Back - dating from 2009 here on the blog. We'll add new ones here as they appear. And they will.

FORD - NOVEMBER 2016

Does he deserve the new Ford Mondeo? Oh yes. He does. He had to ride an elevator with a smelly, sub-cultural cyclist dude. So of course, he does.


Amusingly, here's the opposite side of the coin. A commercial from the Dutch TV and Film School. Smug motorists in an elevator. Announcement says first, "Attention, the blue Saab is being towed." Then followed by, "Attention, the yellow Lotus is rolling towards the Saab". Or something like that. Cue smug cyclist.

VOLVO - MARCH 2015

The latest piece in our ongoing series writes itself. This time it's Volvo doing its best to draw your attention to the fact that motorists kill obscene amounts of people - including themselves - by placing the responsibility on cyclists and pedestrians. It's a smoke screen and this time it's sprayed on. It is Ignoring the Bull in Society's China Shop taken to the next level.

Volvo Life Paint. Seriously. Life paint.

But hey... it's not for the 35,000+ people killed by or in cars in the EU alone by Volvo and their Big Auto homies (around the same in the US and 1.2 million worldwide - not to mention the tenfold more killed by pollution from cars and trucks or the hundreds and hundreds of thousands more injured...).

And no, it's not rational ideas like helmets for motorists or making motorists responsible by forcing them to have external airbags.

It's spray on paint.

No, not for cars, even though black cars are most likely to be involved in collisions. No, it's not rational stuff like reflective paint on cars or health warning legislation on all automobiles.

It's for you on foot or on a bicycle because you are an irritation to motorists. You are a squishy bug ruining their paint job. You are a threat to their mobility dominance. You must be ridiculed with calls for reflective vests/clothing and a variety of ways to hate on pedestrians. Now you have the gift of Big Auto paint to spray on your irritating person.

http://www.volvocarslifepaint.com/

I don't think we realise how slippery a slope it is we are on as a society when morons like this produce crap like this and actually get taken seriously.

Fortunately, we have a better idea for Volvo. Make Life Shine.

SMART - SEPTEMBER 2014


Yep. All this growing momemtum for liveable cities and civilised streets after almost a century of destructive, car-centric traffic engineering is really starting to irritate Big Auto. Smart is no exception. In an almost laughable direct extention of the automobile industry's invention of the concept of jaywalking (as highlighted in this TED talk), Smart decided to use "fun" and "gameification" in order to keep the sheep that are pedestrians down. Under the thumb. Under control. In the name, of course, of their kind of safety. They call it:


They are really grasping at straws, Big Auto. This generation is abandoning the automobile and so here comes the spin... new, smart generation... for loving the city. Those of us who love cities rarely have a love of the automobile. We're tired of death, injury, destruction. The new smart generation can see through Big Auto's attempts to spin things their way once again. "To hook them back to the car" as this former head designer at BMW actually told the crowd during his keynote.

So, funny dancing crossing lights to keep pedestrians "safe". Give me a break. 30 km/h zones like in over 120 European cities keep pedestrians and cyclists safe. Traffic calming does, too. External airbags on cars - placing the responsability on the potential murderers, too. Reducing the number of cars in cities is a no-brainer for the new, smart generation. Eliminating car ownership in cities altogether is actually a thing.

We who are new, smart and of this generation don't buy this blatant ignoring the bull. The paradigm is shifting. We are rejecting the car-centric streets that we inherited from the past century. Let the pedestrians dance wherever the hell they like in the Life-Sized City. It's the future of cities. It's back to the future, too. Seven thousand years of liveable cities will NOT be ruined by 90 odd years of deadly mistakes by traffic engineers and Big Auto, who have more deaths on their conscience that most dictators. The liveable city is rising once again, carried on the shoulders of a new, smart generation.

NISSAN - FEBRUARY 2014

Car companies are now intent on ridiculing other transport forms or lathering themselves up in a greenwashing frenzy.

It's usually a roll-your-eyes, comical experience. Nissan Denmark, however, have outdone themselves. They're banging the drums for their new Qashqai model here in Denmark. It started last year on September 4, 2013 when Nissan hosted a "café" in the centre of Copenhagen, letting people take the Qashqai for a test drive. In the middle of the day. In the City of Cyclists and near our many pedestrian streets and a main metro station.

Kieran Toms, who is interning with Copenhagenize Design Co. at the moment, reported from the front lines. He popped into the "café" with a friend. Kieran, being a modern young man from the UK, doesn't have a driving licence, but his friend took Nissan up on the offer of a test drive. The Nissanite who accompained him extoled the virtues of the car and especially the acceleration. Unfortuntely, they were paralysed in traffic - while hundreds and hundreds of bicycle users rolled part, oblivious to the wonders of last century mobility. Acceleration consisted of crawling ten metres at a time down the streets. Involuntary humour from Nissan.

Now Nissan are ramping up their campaign for their car. The film, above, starts with the classic car industry shot of a car alone on a road - like THAT ever happens in a city. The text fades in declaring the Qashqui to be The Ultimate Urban Experience. Which, in reality in Copenhagen, is staring out the window at the rear end of some other car whilst citizens ride bicycles or walk past you.

Then they declare they're "Unlocking Copenhagen" for a weekend in March and they've enlisted a minor Danish celebrity Mads Christensen (self-proclaimed biggest braggart in Denmark). He tells us that he'll be the keymaster for unlocking the city, driving around in a Qashqai and challenging the city. Something about all your questions will be answered as they "zig-zag" around the city in March. Totally vague.

The film features clips of Copenhagen, including loads of people riding their bicycles, unaffected by Nissan's marketing prowess. Yeah. Whatever. Remember to wave or ring your bell at Nissan and the Braggart when you see them stuck in traffic on the weekend of March 6-8, 2014. Compared to the other examples of Car Industry Strikes Back, this one is hilarious and rather lame.

MERCEDES - MAY 2013

Another day, another installment in our Car Industry Strikes Back series wherein the automobile industry, in their own quirky way, do what they can to ridicule the competition, be it bicycles or public transport.

This Mercedes commercial is - by car industry standards - just plain goofy. Let it be a sign that they're slipping up and getting a bit desperate. Two pro drivers, Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg, are cast in the roles of pro drivers who will never have careers as actors. The payoff at the end is classic Car Empire Strikes Back.

SMART - MAY 2013

Another fine example wherein we observe the desperate tactics of the car industry as they try to respond to rising cycling levels and public transport in their vain attempt to keep their dominant market share in this age of de-motorization.

This time it's Smart going for gold in this Portuguese commercial. Presenting us with worst-case scenarios from public transport and then having a young, hip-looking-ish man looking out the window at a Smart car rolling past - on an empty street at night. No traffic jams, nothing. Always amusing to see how car commercials try to get around showing traffic.

The tagline is SmartforTwo Public Transport. So now they're muscling in on the phrase Public Transport.

AUDI - DECEMBER 2012

Ahh. That most desperate of car brands, Audi. I think they are the car brand we've featured most in this series. They're at it again, this time in Finland.

It ends with the money shot, of course. The car in question flying along a road without any traffic. Free as a bird and at extremely high speeds. Everything preceeding the money shot is shots of poor bastards who don't have an Audi.

Including freezing public transport users at a bus stop (the leggy girl is clearly disenchanted with the guy for not having an Audi) and a man riding a thin-tired bicycle down a frozen road. Regarding the latter.... come on... the Finns know and they're not complete strangers to the bicycle. Any rural Finn worth their salt wouldn't ride THAT kind of bicycle in THAT kind of weather. This is the country that has the city of Oulu, for god's sake. Sure, it's not manipulation on the scale of BBC's War on Britain's Roads, but it's still bending the truth to serve an agenda.

A reader in Helsinki, Alexander, was kind enough to send us the head's up about this commercial, as well as to translate the titles:
"Talvi tulee taas" = Winter is coming again
"Älä taistele vastaan" = "Don't fight against [it]"
"Suomi. quattron koti" = "Finland. [the] quattro's home"

He also checked Shazam and found that the song used is "Prettiest World" by Daniel Nordgren. Prettiest world indeed. A world where walking is difficult, riding a bicycle is difficult, public transport is difficult and the only way to get around is in an Audi Quattro.

Desperate times for Audi. They're striking back.

LEXUS - DECEMBER 2012

Next up is Lexus. We've all heard that those pesky youngsters are driving less all around the western world. The demotorization of society is well under way. We know WHY they're not bothering to get driving licences. Damned social media. They can be sociable online instead of having to drive to the mall to hang out and suck on 40 gallon Cokes.

The car industry knows this all too well, too. So Lexus went for it. They want this to be a December to remember.

This December, remember: you can stay in and "Share" something or you can get out there with your friends and actually share something. This is the pursuit of perfection. 

Buy the Lexus and you'll get a leggy girl begging to be with you. You'll experience traffic-free streets in major urban centres. You won't have to "share" those streets with ANYONE. Lexus is striking back. And, like so many of these commercials, it seems desperate.

CHEVY & DISNEY - NOVEMBER 2012

It's not going so good for Big Auto. Those pesky kids aren't bothering getting driving licences anymore. The Demotoriszation of society is in full swing. What to do... what to do... they gotta hook those kids - and everyone else - back to the car - as former BMW designer Chris Bangle said - while keeping a straight face in Melbourne. But how to strike back? How to sell some PEM? (Personal Emotional Mobility)?

Ah! Disneyworld! There's the ticket! We'll call it Test Track!

Get revved up for the exciting, re-imagined Test Track Presented by Chevrolet—the exhilarating driving experience, now designed by YOU! You'll feel like you're part of the Chevrolet design studio as you create your own virtual custom-concept vehicle. Then, put your design through its paces (at speeds of up to 65 miles per hour) on the exciting hills, hairpin turns and straightaways of the Test Track circuit.

And that's just the beginning of your adventure! After your "test drive" is over, you can:

- See how well your car performed and then race it over changing terrains and extreme conditions on a digital driving table
- Produce and share a TV commercial starring your "dream ride"
- Explore a Chevrolet showroom, complete with shiny new cars on display

You won't want to miss this interactive experience when it reopens in December 2012!


Check out the website!


Another, desperate last-ditch attempt to try and thwart the declining brand that is automobile culture? It's an expensive investment, but money is still around at Big Auto apparently.


Good luck with this.


SIXT CAR RENTAL - JUNE 2012

Having just returned from working in Brazil and Norway, this was a fun addition to my inbox. It's from the German global car rental company, Sixt. They cut refreshingly to the chase with their text, making it easier for us:

"To all those pioneers, idealists, eco-heroes and saviors of the world: You don't have to ride bicycles anymore".

Yes, they just wrote that. In all seriousness. In 2012.

So, now a car rental company is feeling the pressure from the rising levels of bicycle traffic. Perhaps this is a response to the recent, German Nationaler Radverksplan 2020, which aims boldly at doubling bicycle traffic in German cities.

As ever, it is a sure sign that the bicycle is back, here to stay and making the transport competition run scared.

BMW - MAY 2012

BMW is at it again. Sporty cyclists featured in the background. The text "Grace vs Pace" is prominent. But which is which? Does the car have pace and the cyclists grace? Or vice versa? We're not sure.

But the point is clear. Joy wins. The joy of driving a BMW far exceeds riding a bicycle. And now their calling it Efficient Dynamics. Less emissions. More driving pleasure. Greenwashing supreme.

FORD - MAY 2012

Our reader, Krzysztof in Gdansk, Poland, spotted this advert for Ford Poland in the Gazeta Wyborcza newspaper. You're going to love this desperate attempt by Ford to sell some vans.

The main text at the top left reads, "Ford Transit - a machine for saving money"

Then, below, Ford tries to alter reality by writing; "Delivery bicycles do not exist. You don't need to switch to riding a bike to save money."

Yes. They just wrote that. Delivery Bicycles Don't Exist. In all seriousness. And then they paid to have it published in a newspaper. If Poland has an advertising standards commission, someone should let them about this advert. Lying, as far as I'm aware, isn't allowed in advertising.

The text continues with optimistic texts about how you can "Save on buying", "save on petrol", "save on service", etc. "The usual blah blah blah you'd expect from a commercial", as Krzysztof put it in his email to us.

He continues, "Now I know commercials go a far way to bend facts and I know delivery bikes are not popular in Poland (in fact I've seen just 1 or 2 in
Gdańsk so far) but come on... I felt like someone was lying while looking me straight in the eyes. This ad is something I just couldn't pass by."

When you live in Copenhagen, with 40,000 cargo bikes and you are involved with the Cyclelogistics project to promote cargo bike use in European cities, this advert is so stupid it's amusing. As ever with this Car Industry Strikes Back series, we can see that they're worried. That they see the bicycle as serious competition. And well they should. It's last century versus this century and we're winning it.


Cargo bike delivery in Paris.


Vintage Russian cargo bike delivering flowers.


Left to right: Supermarket delivery bike in Montreal.
Citizen Cyclist in Copenhagen carrying stuff.
Royal Danish post.
Rio de Janeiro and Rio, again. Two of 11,000 cargo bike deliveries in that city.



Left to right: Copenhagener moving stuff to a flea market.
The Fruit Bike, Copenhagen.
Ice Cream Bikes at Copenhagen Zoo.
The Coffee Bike by Espressomanden, Copenhagen.
Cargo bike in Amsterdam.

Left to right: Newspaper bike, Copenhagen.
Cargo in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Crêpes bike, Copenhagen.
Sushi bike, Copenhagen.
Bike repair bike, Copenhagen.

And so on, and so on. The Cargo Bike Culture photo set kind of thumbs its nose in the general direction of Ford.

VOLKSWAGON - DECEMBER 2011

Sandra from the always brilliant Classic Copenhagen blog spotted this here in Copenhagen. An installation commercial for the new Volkswagon Beetle. It translates as:

"Experience the wild animal" - or beast, perhaps - "on TheBeetle.dk".

As street ads go, I've seen better. And while this doesn't exactly fit into our Car Empire Strikes Back series, the 20-something creatives who thought this up and patted each other on the back afterwards have inadvertantly given us an image of our urban future.

Isn't this exactly what we're working towards? How we should finally - for the first time since the 1920's - stop ignoring the bull in society's china shop? Restricting the bull. Caging it. Taming it. Keeping it from killing, injuring and polluting. This campaign is anti-car without even meaning to be. Hilarious.

I'm happy to experience the beast on their (really quite cool) website. As long as they stay off our streets. And, for what it's worth, off our cycle tracks... that wide ass flatbed is sticking out over the track.

SKODA - DECEMBER 2011

Thanks to Cian for the link to yet another addition to our series, this time from Skoda. Short and sweet, it features two kids who are executing a rather badly-planned escape.

"We need more space, Billy", says the girl when Billy drops the suitcase.
"I need more time, too", says Billy, after longingly glancing at the Skoda.

Escape aborted due to indequate planning. Bicycles are for kids. Bicycles are impractical for carrying things. Message sent.

Um... Why don't they have backpacks? Why doesn't Billy use the rope in his bag to tie some of the gear onto the bicycle? Why isn't the girl helping carry stuff? Why doesn't the girl have a bicycle - what kind of family does SHE come from, for god's sake?

It's an advertising bureau who had to come up with a film to match the Great Escape slogan and they were having a rough day at the brainstorm. Weak dramaturgy.

If they have two bikes they would be long gone and wouldn't get stuck in traffic. Haven't these kids ever seen ET?!

Maybe this is a societal warning. Maybe the ad men are sending secret messages. Maybe they're our allies and are telling us that our children spend so much time in front of the television and computer that they have haven't been allowed to develop basic skills through play that would prepare them for Great Escapes. They've grown up in Bubble Wrap society of bike helmets, Thudguard "safety hats" and Buddy Bumper Balls and are hopeless at preparing even a simple run away from home. They've grown up with the automobile dominating their every movement and have not developed the imagination that would allow them to think differently.

My kid could figure out how to get all that stuff on his bike. His girlfriend would have her own bike and they would be able to coordinate an effective escape. Hopefully they won't feel the need to.


CHEVROLET COLOMBIA - DECEMBER 2011

On today's programme, we'll be travelling to Colombia, where Chevrolet desperately tries to reverse the tide of demotorisation and the rise of the bicycle.

If the 'oh so green' colour of the above graphics isn't cheesy enough, the text is:

"At the moment I ride a bicycle but with ChevyPlan I can now afford a car"

While Bogota's fame as a bicycle city from the early 90's is waning (police confiscating bicycles from cyclists who don't wear helmets, etc), the city is still more bicycle-friendly than many other places. A new bike share system has brought the bicycle back to the surface and this is how Chevrolet saw fit to react.

Offering citizens to bury themselves in debt, contribute to making the streets unsafe and adding to the emissions levels in Columbian cities. What a deal!

Here's the site for ChevyPlan Colombia. Be warned, ridiculous singing will blare out of your speakers. If you fancy letting them know that they're silly, here's a link to a contact form: http://www.chevyplan.com.co/Chevyplan/Chevyplan/paginas/documento.aspx?idr=1474

TOYOTA - NOVEMBER 2011

Here's the latest installment, this time from the land of the rising fun. Nippon.

Toyota, like the rest of the car industry, is worried about the increasingly negative perception of the automobile. After decades of transport dominance, the car industry is under threat, not least by bicycles as transport, but also public transport.

How to tackle it? Famous person. Ridicule. A slogan or two. A series of high-end commercials based on a much loved Japanese anime series.

Cue hapless (car-less) geeky guy on an outing with his girlfriend, using public transport. Enter cool guy with a Toyota who drives off with the girl. Geeky guy subservient in front of famous person character (Jean Reno as Doraemon) begging for four wheels.

TOYOTA. REBORN.
FUN TO DRIVE, AGAIN.

ZIPCAR - OCTOBER 2011


There is a car share company in the States called Zipcar. Car sharing is good. I use a car share programme here in Copenhagen - okay... only about 2 times a year, but hey. It's there when I need it. Once again, it's interesting to note and track the rising resistance of the car industry and related auto-centric industries to the rise of the bicycle in our cities. It comes as a bit of a surprise that Zipcar would go after bicycle culture in a campaign, but here they are, doing it. Zipcar is, of course, on Twitter, if anyone is interested.


It was Jym Dyer on Twitter who pointed us in the direction of Zipcar's "Sometimes you just need a Zipcar" campaign, pictured above in situ, from his photostream on Flickr. As he puts it:

"These people apparently live in a world where bike messengers don't exist, so nobody has figured out how to carry papers on a bicycle. Apparently baskets, racks, xtracycles, worktrikes, and bike trailers don't exist either, because you have to carry architectural models on your handlebars. The only alternative, apparently, is a 5-door car. Architects who can't envision carfree spaces are a big part of the problem.

Indeed. The campaign also has a Facebook page where you can add your own dialogue to the photo. I suggest everyone get in there and turn back the automobile tide with their wit. Because there are a whole lot of misconceptions in there.

Jym also pointed out that the architectural model the woman is holding - besides being butt ugly - has an entire ground floor dedicated to car parking. Sooooo last century.

So. How would these well-dressed - and shockingly visionless - architects get to their meeting? Zipcar obviously can't envision how the bicycle has been used for over a century in our cities. Let's help them out, shall we?


At left: Two lawyers outside the Copenhagen City Courts, carrying all manner of legal documents on their bicycles.
At right: A decent front rack - with or without a box - could make it simpler to transport the architectural model - and other things.


Front racks come in a variety of sizes - I even use it for transporting my kids' bikes from time to time. And everything else under the sun.


Here's an average load for me and the kids. Two plants, two metal cupboards, a doll and a bunch of other stuff on the Bullitt.


Like Jym said, what about bicycle messengers? Either a traditional cargo bike or a larger version, like La Petite Reine in Paris (pictured), or a variety of other versions.

Zipcar isn't just playing the anti-cycling card. They're slapping a whole bunch misconceptions out there.
Oh puhlease. Zipcar's advertising people really should get out more often.






Too easy.

Thankfully I've never experienced this cliché but the last two times I've moved flats, I did it on cargo bikes:

And you may remember this film of our friends moving flat in Barcelona by bicycle.

Transporting musical instruments by bicycle?

At left: A musician arriving at a café in Copenhagen for a gig. A couple of those Christiania bikes and those boys need not take the bus.
At right: A musician setting up to play on a square in Copenhagen with his cargo bike as transport.
Here's a Copenhagenize Flickr set about music, musical instruments and bicycles.

Okay, this one is, in a way, one of those things that's not like the others. To get to the lake/stream, you may want something more than a bicycle depending where it is. But why wouldn't that canoe fit on the subway? They could just stand up, pressing it against the ceiling. If they DID want to transport it by bike, it wouldn't be THAT difficult.

That yule tree is not that much shorter than the canoe and that sofa is certainly less handy - and heavier.


Now here's a question. Do Zipcars come with detachable bike racks as standard? Nah. Didn't think so. Every taxi in Denmark must be equipped with two bike racks. If you need a taxi and have a bicycle to transport, the driver gets out and takes out the rack from the trunk, sticking it into the standard holder on the back of the taxi. Wouldn't THAT be a good idea for Zipcar and other car share programmes?

How about just be a little bit forward-thinking and selling car share WITH bicycles? We blogged about a great little film from Dublin that promotes combining the two. The bike share programme Go Car teamed up with Bear Bicycles.

By the way, I've heard that Paris is getting a large-scale Zipcar-ish car share programme with electric cars. Don't Zipcars still run on oil? Sheesh. Isn't it 2011, or what?

GENERAL MOTORS - OCTOBER 2011


Addendum: Later in the day this post was written. After a bit of a Twitter storm, The Los Angeles Times reports that General Motors is withdrawing the bicycle portion of their campaign. Which is great news, although it's kind of like the rebels taking a minor city when Gaddafi stills controls Tripoli.

Thanks to the eagle eyes at the League of American Bicyclists, this General Motors campaign was spotted - and spanked accordingly. "Reality Sucks" is their campaign title. It offers discounts to college students who want to buy a car. This is another example of Copenhagenize's "Car Industry Strikes Back" series. Most instances of the car industry, or automobile insurance companies, are subtle and use imagery to underline their point that cycling is geeky, only for poor souls and can't compete with the sexed up car ownership world. This GM campaign spells it out, revealing the inner desires of the car industry faced with stiff and growing competition from bicycle traffic.

Stop Pedalling, Start Driving.

Yes. They're worried. Yes. They're desperately trying to cling on to a fast-changing market. No. They don't seem very capable of doing so. It would be amusing if it wasn't so pathetic. GM has a list of Environmental Principles on their website. This is prime material for The Daily Show.

As a responsible corporate citizen, General Motors is dedicated to protecting human health, natural resources and the global environment. This dedication reaches further than compliance with the law to encompass the integration of sound environmental practices into our business decisions.

We are committed to actions to restore and preserve the environment. (Meaning: We'll put tiny bandaids on the mass destruction we have caused over the past century in your cities and countryside. Oh, and the Great American Streetcar Scandal? No comment.)
We are committed to reducing waste and pollutants, conserving resources, and recycling materials at every stage of the product lifecycle. (Meaning: Because this will increase our profit margin)
We will continue to participate actively in educating the public regarding environmental conservation (Meaning: we'll do everything we can to manipulate people into staying in our cars and ridicule all other forms of transport).
We will continue to pursue vigorously the development and implementation of technologies for minimizing pollutant emissions. (Meaning: As long as it stills involves oil and we can still keep selling cars)
We will continue to work with all governmental entities for the development of technically sound and financially responsible environmental laws and regulations. (Meaning: We will spend outrageous amounts of money lobbying politicians to keep them on our side)


Be sure to read Bike League's piece on the GM campaign here.

Addendum: The next day after General Motors got caught in The Perfect Twitter Storm.
Giant bicycles produced this bicycle-friendly version of the ad.

NEW ZEALAND LOTTERY - SEPTEMBER 2011
Thanks to Su Yin, loyal reader in New Zealand, for sending us this advert for a lottery. Poor guy on the left. Relegated to riding a bicycle but if he wins the lottery, he can have CARS! This is not the Car Empire here, but it still underlines the perception of status of owning a car.

MAC - SOUTH AUSTRALIA CAR INSURANCE - AUGUST 2011
This is an actual campaign. Amazingly, it is from a governmental organisation in South Australia - MAC, or The Motor Accident Commission.

"The Motor Accident Commission (MAC) is South Australia’s Compulsory Third Party (CTP) insurer and provides $400 million each year in compensation to road crash victims.

MAC also manages the State Government’s road safety communications program and provides sponsorship funding for projects that aim to reduce the number and impact of road injuries and deaths."



This fits perfectly into series. It is so car-centric that you'd place your money on the car industry if you had to guess who produced this Lose Your Licence and You're Screwed campaign. Thanks to our reader, Tony, for sending this along to us.

What a brilliantly anti-bicycle campaign. A large sum of money was spent on hammering home the point to young people that bicycles are lame and that cars the only real, credible option for life in South Australia. We beg to differ:



They also produced a series of commercials for this campaign, like this one.


DUTCH CAR INSURANCE - JUNE 2011

Okay, calling this advert "striking back" is perhaps a bit of an exaggeration but as Marc from Amsterdamize points out, the auto-insurance company behind the film apparently thinks that driving on bike lanes and sidewalks is perfectly acceptable urban behaviour.

In other not-so-striking striking back news from auto-related people, we know that Cycle Chic has been a great inspiration to many over the years.

We find it, however, odd that we have inspired the website Be Car Chic, too. The site is a rather feeble attempt to brand automobiles as chic here in the Age of Demotorization.

If you look at the URL - becarchic - it looks like the name of one of the chemcials that cars emit in our cities. But I digress...

Sure, it's a tiny little website - more of a weak nipple flick than a 'striking back' but it shows the same tendency that we're seeing all over the world. All the focus on more liveable cities, bicycle transport and public transport has pushed the automobile industry and their disciples into a corner for the first time in two or three generations.

Let's face it, cars aren't chic. Some cars are cool, sure. My first car was a 1967 Ford Mustang and I have a thing for the BMW 2002 Alpin, but using a form of transport that pollutes our cities with emissions and noise, that scares our citizens and kills pedestrians and cyclists, that costs us billions in road maintenance and that takes up space that could be used for reestablishing liveable streets will never be chic.

What it is slowly becoming - once again for the first time since the first Anti-Automobile Age - is socially unacceptable. And that is both inevitable and perfectly acceptable.

AUSTRALIAN CAR INSURANCE - MARCH 2011

One of our readers, Stephen, sent us a link to this beauty on twitter. It's an advert from Australia. A company called NRMA who sell car insurance and provide roadside assistance, et al.

This is just fantastic. It says it all. All of this global focus on not only bicycles but public transport, pedestrianiam and other tools for re-building liveable cities are making these people nervous. So nervous that they made an advert trying to hard-sell urban automobile culture.

You may have noticed that this blog is rather bicycle-oriented so here's a photographic response - using photos from our archives - of how all the situations above can be solved with human-powered transport. Off we go...

Situation: The man with the table:


 

Situation: People in costumes at a busstop.

Nothing wrong with taking a bus, but at 0:58 of the City of Cyclists video there's a shot of kids in a cargo bike wearing costumes heading to a party.

Situation: Father and son going to rugby practice:

I had a load of other football training gear on my bicycle, too.

Situation: High heeled shoes:


Or the Bicycle & High Heels tag over at Copenhagen Cycle Chic.

Situation: Bus passengers:

Nothing wrong with public transport. But here's a photo of buses and a cargo bike.

Situation: Leaf blower:

The ad agency who developed this advert are already getting kind of desperate and they're only 14 seconds into their silly ad.

Situation: The man with the umbrella:

Apparently the NRMA advocate high-speed driving in urban areas as well as dangerous driving like buzzing the curb. Sooo last century.

There are loads more bicycle and umbrellas with this tag over at Cycle Chic. If we're sticking to the theme, here's a video of an umbrella getting blown the wrong way.

Situation: Science project falling.

Okay, it ain't a science project, but it could be. There are loads of cargo photos in the Copenhagenize Cargo Bike set on Flickr. (Boy, is this ever an easy blogpost.)

Situation: Shopping bag breaking with a dog.

Loads of shopping ... and a dog. Don't forget the "40 photographs of dogs and bicycles in 6 countries" over at Cycle Chic.

Situation: Man with the shopping cart carrying something.

Yep. Too easy. Once again, allow me to refer you to the Cargo Bike set on Flickr.

More Shopping on Bikes













HYUNDAI - FEBRUARY 2011

Copenhagenize is proud to present the most expensive bicycle advertisements ever made.

Produced by Hyundai, they show us once and for all how people need to 'snap out of it' and stop being hypnotised sheep just driving around our once liveable cities. These are not yet finished editing, however. The above film needs to have the title card reading 'BORING' removed in order for the message to be complete. All the films need insertion of a new pack shot at the end. Of a bicycle, of course.

Oh yeah, new voiceover:
"Snap out of it. The 125 year old bicycle. Think about it. "

Here's the shot from the storyboard that we're working on for the end of each commercial.

KIA CANADA - JANUARY 2011

Another interesting advert fra a car company. From KIA Canada.

"After all, we started out making bicycles. Sharing... that's how we can all drive change..."

Ford is suddenly advertising their origins as a bicycle manufacturer. It's the positive, penultimate message in the advert. Goodness me. Is the car industry accepting the reemergence of the bicycle? Are they trying to change motorist behaviour with their message?

Or are they just capitalising on a trend in order to look warm and understanding? Whatever the case, "share the road" is a lame slogan. "Build protected infrastructure now" is much more appropriate. Cars and bikes shouldn't share the same space.

CITRÖEN - 2010

A Citröen advert filmed in Copenhagen. Firstly, you don't see people on bicycles with Asian-style kleenex masks on their face, but hey.

After all the recent adverts from the car empire, this is a new angle.

It's cheesy, sure. People sucking in great lungfuls of clean air, revelling in the pure goodness of the Citröen. Embracing each other as they marvel at the car. Sheesh.

Let's just say it's refreshing not to be under attack from the car industry and be pleased that none of the cyclists hopped off their bike and into a car. At the end of the day the advert is quite positive. They're trying to show and tell that this car will - apparently - make the air in our cities cleaner and that is something that the people on bicycles (and everyone else) will benefit from.

MERCEDES - MARCH 2010

This is brilliant "Car Empire Strikes Back" marketing from Mercedes. After watching it if I had to choose between sitting in a Mercedes or riding all sub-cultural like that - give me the Mercedes anyday.

As I highlight in my lecture Marketing Bicycle Culture - Four Goals to Promote Urban Cycling the car industry learned everything they know about marketing their products from the bicycle industry, which pre-dated them.

They have spent a century perfecting the art of marketing and now that they are faced with real competition - the rebirth of urban cycling - they are tweaking their adverts accordingly.

The acting in the above advert is abysmal, but the point is clear. It reinforces the misconception of urban cycling as being a lawless, adrenaline-based and sub-cultural pursuit. The smug tone is brilliantly devised and executed. It's effective in the way it avoids featuring Citizen Cyclists and instead employs a caricature of a 'cyclist'.

I'd rather see a regular citizen. From the 99%.

Unless we start learning from the car industry's marketing brilliance, as they once learned from the bicycle industry, the battle is lost before the foot hits the pedal. Marketing urban cycling for regular citizens like we market every other product - positively. At every turn.

Begone fearmongerers and nanny-state PSAs. Let's sell this properly. For more liveable cities, for the public health, for The Common Good.

VOLKSWAGON - NOVEMBER 2009


The Car Empire strikes back again. My friend Troels found this Volkswagen advert in an glossy book about great advertising campaigns from around the world.

In it, Volkswagen are keen to show off various features on their cars. In this case, Energy-Absorbing Door Padding. To illustrate this exciting feature, they highlight one of the great irritations that motorists face in the urban environment, visible at just left of centre in the photo.

Fortunately for the motorist getting out of his fine vehicle he has invested in German engineering to reduce potential damage to his vehicle. Nevermind that he didn't bother to check his mirror before getting out or that the inattentive man on the bicycle risks injury from what we are led to assume will be an imminent collison. Energy-absorbing door padding will save the car from too much damage.

It's clearly 'ignoring the bull' and placing responsibility on the vulnerable traffic user, no doubt about it. Funny, if this happened in Denmark or Holland, the motorist would be at fault if a collison occured. Then again, the cyclist would have been provided with safe urban mobility on wide, separated bicycle infrastructure intelligently placed to the right of the car, with ample room for a door zone.

Here in Denmark, when driving with my kids, the mantra they most often hear when in a car is "watch out for bikes!" when we are parked and are getting out of the vehicle. If only I had 10 kroner for every time I've said it to my son over the past seven years... And we are rarely in cars.

As a result, he has learned to open the door a crack and peer out to see if the coast is clear of bikes before opening the door further. Volkswagen must despise people like us who don't wish to test doors against impact.

BMW - OCTOBER 2009

Here's an ad for BMW that gently caresses all the emotional heartstrings. Just listen to the speaker's manuscript:

"Joy is efficent, dynamic and... unstoppable." [meaning... we're not going anywhere, so don't get any funny ideas...]

"We realised a long time ago that what you make people feel is just as important as what you make."

"At BMW we don't just make cars... we make joy."

And on their website:
“On the back of this three-letter word, we built a company. We don’t just build cars. We are the creators of emotion. We are the guardians of ecstasy, the thrills and chills, and all the words that can’t be found in a dictionary. We are the Joy of Driving. No car company can rival our history, replicate our passion, our vision. Innovation is our backbone but joy is our heart. We will not stray from our three-letter purpose. This is the story of BMW. This is the story of joy.”

Not a single motoring helmet in sight in that advert. How odd.

If only cities and towns working towards increasing modal share for bicycles could learn from these basic marketing techniques that the auto industry have perfected. Hire a decent company to develop campaigns. Far too many municipal brochures/campaigns are too geeky to attract the attention and interest of the broader population.

If we're going to sell this urban cycling thing, we need to change our direction.

AUDI - OCTOBER 2009

This advert from Audi is a signal from the auto industry that they are under pressure AND that they are willing to fight back. This is where the entire Car Culture Strikes Back series started. With a bang.

In the lecture I'm travelling about with at the moment, I highlight how the auto industry learned all the tricks of postive marketing from the bicycle industry a century ago. They have fine-tuned the art form and they rarely make mistakes. They know exactly how to highlight the positives of their products. On the other hand, we have forgotten how to highlight the positives of urban cycling and we bizarrely ignore the overwhelming Good News in our efforts to sell the percieved negative sides of riding a bicycle. It's hardly surprising that the auto industry are among the more fervent advocates for helmet laws. They know competition when they see it and they go for the throat in branding cycling as dangerous. It sells, quite simply, cars.

From a marketing perspective the advert above is pure brilliance. It capitalizes on the general perception in western societies that 'environmentalists' are kooky, nerdy hippie types who eat raw organic beet root for breakfast.

The environmental lobby has had 40 years to brand themselves well and have failed horribly. While people are perhaps aware of the issues, very few people are actually doing anything about it. That's why this type of advert is so easy to invent. 30 seconds of pushing all the right buttons on their opponents and all the right buttons on the general population.

Amazingly, the Audi overtakes the hippie-mobile Volvo on a curve. Not exactly traffic safety conscious, are they?Copenhagenize the planet. And have a lovely day.
Categories: Views

Meteoric Rise in Bicycle Traffic in Copenhagen

Copenhagenize - 4 November, 2016 - 13:28

The news out of Copenhagen this week is good. Apart from an arsenal of over 20 permanent sensors dedicated to counting bicycle traffic, the City of Copenhagen also performs comprehensive bi-annual counts and the latest numbers, from September, are exceptional.

For the first time since the City starting counting traffic entering the city centre, there are more bikes than cars. Indeed, since last year, 35,080 more bikes were counted, bringing the total up to 265,700, as you can see on the graph, above.

It is a clear indication that continuous municipal policy and investment in Best Practice infrastructure pays off. The City has gone above and beyond over the past ten years. Investing 1 billion DKK (€134 million) extra in infrastructure, facilities and, not least, bicycle bridges to prioritise cycling as transport.


The City counts traffic in two places. Crossing the municipal border (into the orange from any direction on the map at left) and then entering the city centre itself  - illustrated at on the map at right. The numbers exclude the many bicycle trips across Copenhagen that don't cross one of the two lines and it doesn't include trips in Frederiksberg - that municipal "island" surrounded by Copenhagen. Nevertheless, it's how the City has counted twice a year since 1970. The importance of reliable data cannot be understated. It is paramount that every city records in detail, in order to convince sceptics, plan for the future expansion of the network and basically just know what the hell is going on.



Here is a selection of bicycle counting points around the city centre. Bryggebroen and Inderhavnsbroen are bicycle bridges (with pedestrian facilities, too) so there is no car count. On all the rest you compare the numbers of bikes and motor vehicles. Except for the main roads leading into and through the city, bicycles are dominant at most of the locations.


It's no secret that cycling for transport is down in Denmark on a whole. Widespread prosperity (the financial crisis didn't really register here) and the fact that buying a car is cheaper now than during the oil crises in the 1970s means that people are buying them, despite the (rather irrelevant) 180% tax on cars. They are, however, buying then outside the larger cities and often buying a second car for the family. Car ownership in Copenhagen is still low at 25%. Even though a resident's parking permit can be bought for a ridiculous €100 a year, it is clear that Copenhageners prefer bikes and public transport. Especially the former, as you can see on that spectacular blue line, above, shooting through the top of the chart.


Citizens with an address in the City of Copenhagen choose, in overwhelming numbers, the bicycle to get around. 56% in total. 20% choose public transport - buses, trains or metro. Only 14% choose to drive a car to work or education each day.



When you look at how people arrive at work or education in the City of Copenhagen - from the 22 surrounding municipalities and the City of Frederiksberg - the numbers are still impressive. 41% arrive on a bike. 27% arrive via public transport. 26% arrive in a car.

There are still challenges. The City has a policy that bicycle traffic and public transport usage must never fall below 30% and car traffic must never rise ABOVE 30%. Investment is sorely needed to improve public transport and make it more competitive against car traffic.

It is also very relevant to mention that the city is still rather difficult to drive around, what with the construction of 17 new metro stations. We have written about The Greatest Urban Experiment Right Now and the City still has to prepare for the future. The modal share for bikes has slipped already. We need to ensure that we maintain the rising numbers.

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

The Dutch supermarket

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 1 November, 2016 - 08:38

Pedalling into the Dutch city of Delft last Tuesday I went past a branch of Albert Heijn, which is (approximately) the Dutch version of Waitrose – or at least, a supermarket at the slightly higher end of the Dutch price scale.

The branch of Albert Heijn on Ruys de Beerenbrouckstraat, Delft – with the city centre Oude Kerk in the distance, about 1km away.

Naturally enough I stopped to have a look at was occurring, an easy thing to do given that the cycleway along this road runs right the supermarket entrance.

At about 10:30 in the morning, the front entrance was heaving with bikes – people shopping in ways that they would do in the UK, but loading their goods onto those bikes.

There was a mum loading a trolley full of goods (and her children) into her cargo bike.

And other people loading the contents of trolleys and baskets into their panniers.

What was fascinating to me was how all the space in front of the supermarket was completely dedicated to people arriving on foot, and by cycle. There was no parking for motor vehicles anywhere in sight.

But that, of course, isn’t quite the whole story! There is car parking at this supermarket. It’s just that it is hidden from view, on top of it, with an entrance around the back.

And it’s free, all day long.

Interestingly, the location of this supermarket is given as the minor road the car parking entrance is on, not the main road where people walking and cycling will gain access from.

This is despite this supermarket being in a city-centre location. There isn’t anything to stop you driving to it and parking above it, at no cost (save for your fuel).

So in many ways this supermarket is actually a microcosm of the Netherlands in general. You can still drive to the supermarket, with ease. There probably won’t be a queue to get in and out of the car park, because so many other people will be cycling to it. The parking itself will be free, even at peak times. In these respects driving in the Netherlands is actually easier and more ‘available’ than in Britain. If you wish to drive your car, your journey will be more attractive, and cheaper, simply because so many other people aren’t driving.

What does make the difference is the way that cycling to the supermarket is extremely painless. The people arriving here by bike will have started their journey on quiet, access-only streets, and then pedalled along the main road in comfort, safely separated from motor traffic.

Planning is also a factor here, in that the Dutch does not really have out of town supermarket shopping, which would clearly make cycling more inconvenient, adding distance to ordinary shopping trips, and making the car relatively more attractive. It also makes smaller (more cycle-friendly) shopping loads an easier prospect, if your supermarket is close at hand. Daily shopping, for instance, is much easier when your supermarket is not out of town. Dutch supermarkets have to be within urban areas – but at the same time that doesn’t stop them from offering free car parking to their customers.

Mainly, however, people choose to cycle in the Netherlands not because driving has been made inordinately difficult – it certainly hasn’t in the case of this supermarket – but because cycling has been designed for, has been made a safe and easy mode of transport, so much so that it naturally becomes an obvious choice. It’s simply easier and more convenient than driving, right down to the way you can arrive at the front door and park, rather than having to take your car around the back, and upstairs. It’s very much carrot, rather than stick.


Categories: Views

A cycleway that’s not as straightforward as it seems

BicycleDutch - 31 October, 2016 - 23:01
A four kilometre long cycle path – straight as a line – with priority at all but two of the 15 intersections with motor traffic. Does that sound too good … Continue reading →
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