Views

World's First Automated Underground Bike Parking

Copenhagenize - 25 February, 2015 - 19:00

The very best thing about my work is the people I meet. While working on a project in Amstedam's dystopian Zuidas area earlier this month, I met Arjan. That's him on the right, with his Dad on the left. He showed me some of the bicycle-related products that their company, LoMinck, make. Then he surprised me.

"We made the world's first automated, underground bicycle parking system."

"What about the Japanese?", I said, having seen the many films on YouTube about robotic underground silos for bike parking.

He just smiled. "We were first. Ten years ago."

I had to see it and we met the next day at the spot where the free ferries from Amsterdam Central Station arrive at Amsterdam Noord. I knew the non-descript little building where Arjan and his dad were waiting. I had no idea that it was, in effect, an important spot in bicycle history.


Down into the bowels of the beast we went. Which was a short ladder trip, basically. This bike parking facility isn't a silo but rather a horizontal room underground. If you look at the photo on the left, it extends from the building to the pole on the right.

We were in a simple room with 50 bikes hanging on hooks. It all looked so simple. Like good design should look. Up top, his Dad put an OV Fiets bike into the system and we watched as the machine gripped the front wheel and it descended, placed on a hook like a drycleaned suit. Then up again it went.

This modest facility was opened by the Dutch Minister of Transport in 2005. Subscribers pay €9 per month and LoMinck takes care of the remote monitoring, maintenance, customer service, breakdown service and subscription management. The city of Amsterdam pays an annual fee for this service.

It doesn't have to be underground. It can also be implemented above ground or into buildings. The minimum required width is 3,5m, the minimum required height is 2,75m. The length is variable and determines the capacity of the system; every additional meter creates 4 additional bike positions.





I asked Arjan and his Dad what they thought about the Japanese systems. Arjan translated the question for his Dad who just smiled and replied, "Overcomplicated".


But hey. There's more. Check this out. This is everything I believe in, in design. Simplicity and functionality. Stairs can be tricky with bikes. Most stairs in Denmark and the Netherlands have gutters to let you roll the bike up and down. How to improve the ease of use? Start with a broom.

Tasked by the City of Amsterdam to solve the issue of a particularly steep set of stairs that cyclists were avoiding, the Minck family went through some designs and then found a broom in the kitchen. They cut it in half. Stuck the bristles together. Presto.



Going up the stairs? How about a mini conveyor belt? Be still my designer heart.

Don't even get me started on the VelowUp bike racks.

Simple, functional design solutions. More of that, please.

Check out their stuff on the LoMinck website.

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

Top Ten Ways to Hate on Pedestrians

Copenhagenize - 25 February, 2015 - 12:54

So there you stand. The Gatekeeper. Tasked with defending the great bastion of Motordom and upholding a last-century codex about city planning and engineering. In your mind's eye you think you resemble THIS gatekeeper, but sorry... the fact is, you're more of the Keymaster type when you look in the mirror. But hey. Your job is important. Keeping the streets clear of irritating, squishy obstacles so that Motordom's armada can continue flowing freely. Don't worry about Ignoring the Bull. You ARE the bull and don't you forget it.

What tools are at your disposal? What are the most effective ways to reverse 7000 years of city life and keep pedestrians out of the way, under control, under your greasy thumb, Gatekeeper? We've compiled a list for you.

Adopt one or more of the following ideas in your city and declare proudly to the world that you are:
A: Completely unwilling to take traffic safety seriously
B: Ignorant of the existing Best Practice regarding traffic calming and lowering speed limits
C: A slave to an archaeic, last century mentality
D. Immune to the death and injury of millions
E: Incompetent

1. Pedestrian Buttons


It's important that pedestrians don't think they own the place. Nevermind the fact that for 7000 years, they actually did. With a simple installation, you can force these rogues of the urban landscape to apply for permission to cross a street. You can control them. Make them feel insignificant. Have fun with it, too. Install a speaker with a scolding, authoratative voice that speaks to them like they are children. Configure the system to rotate randomly through waiting times. On two-stage crossings, have a field day. Make them wait as long as you like in the middle, boxed in like animals.

2. Jaywalking
Anything else is un-American. Those Eurotrash types didn't get THIS memo and look at where THEY'RE at. Jaywalking is as American as apple pie, shooting beer cans in the desert and super-sized meals. It was a gift to America from the automobile industry, so you know it must be good.

Enforce it. A 7000 year old habit in cities CAN be eradicated if you really want it bad enough. Your cops will feel empowered and get valuable training for dealing with terrorists later. Back in the day, we used Boy Scouts to chastise jaywalkers. Now we get to do it with heavily-armed law enforcement officers. Don't be shy about a little collateral damage. It's for the common good.

The day we let pedestrians walk wherever they want is the day the terrorists have won.

3. Pedestrian Flags


"Because we pride ourselves in being a walkable and bikeable community, we need our citizens to feel safe on our roads and sidewalks, and pedestrian safety is of utmost importance.” Thus sayeth Mayor John Woods of Davidson, North Carolina. Print out a photo of him and others like him and make an altar in your engineering department. He understands. That's not him the photo. The lady on the left is Mayor of some other visionary town.

Install pedestrian flags at crosswalks - or Pedestrian Control Zones, as we like to call them - and force pedestrians to wave one high above their head in the hope that the fine, motoring citzens might notice. Send a clear message to them about their parasitical status in the transport hierarchy by making them feel so completely helpless and stupid all at once. Added value: It's hilarious to drive past a flag-waving pedestrian.

Do NOT refer to the Eurotrash-esque Berkeley types when they conclude "The use of the flags did not seem to have a significant effect on driver behavior.". Pedestrianism is socialism sneaking in the back door. Refer instead to other visionary communities who share your views.

4. Criminalize Walking
With simple legislation your community, too, can clamp down on humans moving unaided by fossil fuels through your paradisical motorised world. Follow the lead of this New Jersey town and ban texting while walking and reduce exponentially the irritating dents caused by human bones striking the smooth, elegant paint jobs of your citizens' cars. If only we had thought of this back when people walked around reading newspapers in cities. Damn.

At the same time, you can go all Spanish on your population's asses and ban Drunk Walking. Laugh in the face of those who suggest restricting cars or lowering speed limits in densely-populated nightlife districts and keep your police force fresh and battle-ready by enforcing this sensible law.

5. Tell 'Em What to Wear
These pedestrian types obviously need a lot of help so dictating their clothing is a no-brainer. Start condescending campaigns to ridicule them for not wearing brightly-coloured clothing and reflective vests, et al. Whatever you do, don't get any smart-ass ideas about doing the same for cars. You are The GATEKEEPER, for christ's sake.

Don't worry, you have "walking experts" on your side, pilgrim. "Be safe - be seen. It's only your life that depends on it. Night walking means taking extra care that cars can see you. For the best safety, your entire outline should be reflective and you should carry a light or wear a flasher."
Not to mention the Center for Disease Control. They have awesome parking facilities, by the way.

6. Lull Them With Distraction

Orwell, Shmorwell. Aldous Huxley understood our Brave New World. Want to control and distract people? Give them mindless entertainment distration. Distrantrainment. Enterstraction. Oh, whatever. Just control them. Big Auto will thank you. Your city engineers won't have to waste time worrying about safety and have more time to do important work.
Gameify it. Let these bums play Pong while they wait. Whatever keeps them out of the way of cars is a GOOD thing.

Make it even simpler. These people are morons, anyway. Just have a funny - like haha funny - dancing green man on the pedestrian signal. It's seriously that easy. The good people at Smart Car get it. They get it real good.

7. Instill Fear


Fear is your surest, sharpest weapon, Gatekeeper. Those pinko Berliners have their cutesy man in a hat, but protecting the bastion of Motordom requires vision and dedication. Get those pedestrians out of your way by scaring them.


Make them run. For their lives.

"Watch out"!, it reads in Danish. Yeah. You could trip on the sticker. That'll teach them. Sheesh, even the DANES get this.

8. Ridicule
It works so well. Good old fashioned ridicule. The City of Cologne knows this. The automobile industry knew this and that is how we got to where we are today, thank goodness. Put goofy mimes or clowns out there and guide pedestrians like the sheep they are.

9. Exploit Children

Kids are great. They are, after all, future motorists. We can plant all sorts of stuff in their head. We used them to ridicule jaywalkers back in the day, but we're not finished with them. Dress them up like clowns and throw them into the street to stop traffic.

10. Fake Your Concern


Okay. Fine. Once in awhile you actually have to pretend you care. Pay some people a bit of money to stand at crosswalks with flags equipped with a magical force field that will stop 2000 kg of steel and metal. Pretend you are "helping" and "doing something". It works in Sao Paulo.

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

Using a flexible mode of transport to break rules designed for an inflexible mode of transport

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 25 February, 2015 - 12:11

The other week I spotted a driver attempting to drive the wrong way down a one-way street in Horsham.

It’s tempting to do this, because it represents a big shortcut.

The one-way section marked in red.

Starting from point A, driving illegally (south) down the road marked in red means that getting to point B is only a distance of 0.3 miles. Driving the legal route is over twice as long, and also involves waiting at several sets of traffic lights, which don’t exist on the ‘illegal’ route.

Here he is, setting off the wrong way down this one-way street…

… only to meet a bus coming the other way.

With – literally – nowhere to go, the presumably chastened driver had to reverse back, all the way he had come.

This incident got me thinking about why ‘cyclists’ have a bad reputation for going the wrong way up one-way streets, and drivers don’t.

Often this is explained in terms of ‘cyclists’ being able to ‘get away with it’, because they’re apparently not identifiable, with number plates, or fluorescent jackets with their names printed on, or some other nonsense.

Of course, this ‘explanation’ fails to account for how drivers consistently break laws in vast numbers, despite having number plates.

But there is actually something to this explanation. It is hard to get away with driving a car up a one-way street – much harder than riding a bicycle up a one-way street. However, this isn’t because you’ve got a number plate on your car. It’s because it’s physically hard to drive a car up a one-way street. There’s a strong chance you’re going to meet a vehicle coming the other way, and if that happens, you’re pretty much screwed, as in the case of the driver in the example described above. It’s a big risk.

By contrast, when you cycle the wrong way up a one-way street, it’s relatively easy to negotiate your way out of difficulty. For a start, you’re only the width of a human being, so you can simply stop against the kerb. Or you can become a pedestrian.

I’d estimate that, every day, around 50-100 people cycle the wrong way down the street this driver got caught out on. However, none of them will have encountered the kind of problem he did. There are some examples (and more background explanation) at the start of this post here.

And here’s a chap on a Dutch bike, cycling the wrong way, at precisely the position the driver met the bus.

Yes, I am also cycling ‘the wrong way’ here.

Here’s another.

And here’s someone cycling the wrong way, and actually meeting a bus, at this same location. No problem; he just waits out of the way, for the bus to go past.

We’re all cycling the wrong way precisely because we can get away with it. We can stop, walk on the pavement, get out of the way, and so on. Drivers can’t do this, because they’re cocooned in a much bulkier vehicle that is much, much harder to manoeuvre out of the way.

So the apparent ‘lawlessness’ of cyclists isn’t related to a lack of a number plate, or identification, but instead to the fact they’re much more like pedestrians, than drivers are. On a bike, we’re nimble and flexible; in a car, we aren’t.

I will often take short cuts in Tube stations, down passages that are ‘one way’ for pedestrians. I would think twice about this, however, if I was carrying a very large six-foot-cubed cardboard box. Because there’s a strong chance I’m going to get into difficulty if people come the other way.

This basic human psychology also explains why ‘red light jumping’ is associated with cycling (even if drivers actually jump red lights in roughly similar proportions). Drivers tend to jump lights by ‘gambling’ – nipping through the junction after the signals have turned red, on the (often mistaken) assumption that they’ve got just enough time to do so before traffic emerges from other arms of the junction. Here’s a gamble from a lorry driver.

People cycling, however, engage in a form of jumping that you rarely see drivers engaging in; creeping into the junction, looking around, seeing if it is clear, and progressing carefully across in stages.

It’s quite obvious why drivers don’t engage in this kind of behaviour, and again, it’s not because of number plates (because, again, that fails to explain why they’re jumping lights in vast numbers already). It’s because it’s risky to get yourself into the middle of a junction in a big bulky object, leaving yourself nowhere to retreat to, if things go wrong. You’re going to end up causing an obstruction.

On a bike, however, you can move onto the pavement, or you can position yourself against an island, or simply dismount, if things start going wrong. You’re small, nimble, and flexible.

One-way streets and traffic lights only exist in our towns and cities to accommodate the flow of big, bulky objects that can’t easily negotiate past each other. By contrast, present-day streets that carry tens of thousands of people a day on bikes (with very few, or even none, in motor vehicles) do not require traffic signals, or one-way systems, to accommodate flow. They are far, far more efficient.

So should we really be surprised that people using a flexible and nimble mode of transport will often ignore rules put into place to ease the passage of bulky and inflexible modes of transport? It’s their very flexibility that allows them to bypass those rules, without getting into difficulty – rules that came about because the drivers of motor vehicles were getting into difficulty.

 


Categories: Views

Watching Copenhagen Bike Share Die

Copenhagenize - 24 February, 2015 - 12:43

Photo by Dennis Steinsiek from Dutch-it.eu

The news today out of Copenhagen is about the imminent failure of the city's new bike share system. Copenhageners are ignorning the bikes, few trips are being taken on them and they have become a tourist gimmick, not the commuter dream they hoped for.

It's a rare event that a bike share system fails. Only a very few systems around the world have folded. Melbourne was the poster child for failure thanks to their helmet laws, helmet promotion, lack of infrastructure and anti-cyclist laws. Now it looks like Copenhagen will step into the failure spotlight.

I am in two minds.

I have never been a fan of the bikes or the system and have done little to conceal that fact. I said it was doomed to failure back in 2013. I have wondered why Danish State Railways didn't just copy the decade-old OV-Fiets system from Dutch Railways instead of being seduced by useless, overcomplicated technology. You can read all about why I think the system was a massive fail from the beginning in this article.

While it is always great to be proven right, it is also sad when a project that puts more bikes in a city is on the cusp of failure. Especially sad when my tax money was used on it.

The Copenhagen bike share system was launched a year ago. Here are some relevant numbers.

The Cost
The average cost for a bike share bike in cities like London, Paris, etc is about $800. An OV Fiets bike costs about $400.

The Copenhagen bikes cost $3000 each. $10,000 each in total for purchase and maintenance over eight years. You read that right.

The Copenhagen Go-bikes aren't even free, like in most of the 650 cities around the world with bike share programmes.

It costs 25 kroner ($5.00) per hour to ride one. You can get a subscription for 70 kroner if you want, and that knocks the price down when you use it.

You can rent a bike for the entire day at Baisikeli for 60 kroner.

The City of Copenhagen has invested 40 million kroner ($7.5 million) in the project.

The Users
The biggest mistake in Copenhagen is a complete misunderstanding of how people think and of civic pride. The successful bike share systems in Barcelona and Seville, for example, are for locals only. You can't use them if you don't live there. They are something for the locals, not the tourists. An important distinction. Locals rarely want to resemble tourists in any city. The Copenhagen GoBikes are just like the Bycykler that Copenhagen launched in 1995 - they are already labelled as a touristy thing.

The goal for the new bikes was that each bike would be used 3 times a day by local commuters.
Since the launch they have been used 0.8 times a day - by tourists.

The Usage
800 people signed up for a subscription in the summer of 2014.
That number has now fallen to 256.

In the first half of December 2014, only 530 trips were registered.

The Fleet
The plan is that 1860 new bikes should be on the streets in Copenhagen. There are only 426.
There should be 105 docking stations. There are only 27.

One problem is that the German supplier, MIFA (Mitteldeutsche Fahrradwerke), went into recievership last autumn. Which doesn't say much for this product.

The Lame Excuses
The damage control spin coming out of City Hall from, among others, Mayor for the Technical and Environmental Administration Morten Kabell as well as people like Nikolaj Bøgh, head of the By- og Pendlercykel Fund is much the same. It's all "oh, but you see... we haven't even marketed the system yet!
Seriously? A product that is well-designed, intuitive and that actually serves a practical need will market itself. Failed design won't.
Viral? Not.
The Copenhagen bike share system was meant - in the mind of the Danish State Railways - to be so groovy that it would spread to other Danish cities. Turns out that ain't gonna happen. The second largest city in Denmark, Aarhus, just launched new bikes recently.

Exit Strategy
We can't keep pumping money into a system that isn't working. Who will get us out of this mess?
If we got out now, we'd still have money to implement a Dutch style OV-Fiets system that would work from the first ride.

More on the subject:
- The Bike Share System Copenhagen ALMOST Had
- The E-Bike Sceptic
- Bye-bye Bycyklen
- The Future of City Bikes or a Waste of Money?

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

Winter Cycling Congress 2015

BicycleDutch - 23 February, 2015 - 23:01
Earlier this February the Dutch city of Leeuwarden hosted the third international Winter Cycling Congress. Delegates of many countries gathered to talk about how you could make cycling in winter … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

Early Data Victory and other Vintage Goodness from Copenhagen

Copenhagenize - 23 February, 2015 - 19:54

We have covered the historical aspects of Danish bicycle infrastructure before here on our blog, including the first cycle track in the world in 1892 on Esplanaden in Copenhagen. There is always space for more lessons from history.

Above is a photo from Copenhagen in 1911. The streets along The Lakes in Copenhagen were the busiest for bicycles in the entire nation around the turn of the last century. The conditions for cyclists, however, left much to be desired.

The swarms of cyclists only had a narrow edge of a riding path to use. The Danish Cyclists' Federation, founded in 1905, demanded a cycle track on the route. The city's horse riders refused to relinquish space.

In an early example of the power of data related to traffic, a traffic count was done in 1909. It turned out that 9000 cyclists were counted each day, but only 18 horse riders. That changed the conversation. A three metre wide cycle track was put into place in 1911.


It was bi-directional, as you can see on the above two photos, but we hadn't yet figured out that bi-directional was a bad idea on streets. At the time, it was good. Now we know better.

I found the above photo in the City's archives a few years back. 1915 was scribbled on the back. I have been waiting for this calendar year to cycle out to the Østerbro neighbourhood to photograph the same spot. I did so last Sunday, on a quiet afternoon. Same spot as in 1915. This stretch features 20,000+ cyclists a day today.


This photo is from farther outside the city, in 1955. These cyclists in the morning rush hour are heading for the stretch in the previous photo, on the other side of the street. The need for a cycle track as obvious in 2015 as it was in 1955 and 1915.

While I was in the neighbourhood, I took a photo at the same spot as the photo, above. On Østerbrogade, next to The Lakes. Wider cycle track back in the 1930s, but not by much.


On the left is a map from 1916 of the bicycle infrastructure in Copenhagen and Frederiksberg. On the right is a map of the same from 1935. Compare this to Helsinki, which also had a great network of cycle tracks in 1937, like so many other cities.

We know that much bicycle infrastructure was removed in the urban planning brain fart that was the 1950s and 1960s. There isn't a lot of information about how much and where. We do know that the modal share for bicycles in Copenhagen plummeted from a high of 55% in 1949 to single digits in 1969.


This is a photo from Svanemøllen, north of Copenhagen, in 1899. What is interesting about this is that the sign at right reads "Cykelsti" - "Bike Lane". From the first dedicated facility for bicycles in 1892, it didn't take long to get official signage in place.

Another cycle track shot from the 1930s on Amagerbrogade.


It was near here that the city starting putting physically separated cycle tracks back in, in the early 1980s.


Finally, a photo of a bicycle school in Copenhagen in the late 1800s. Women learning the ropes of the freedom machine.

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

Secured by Design – ACPO’s blanket recommendation against permeability

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 23 February, 2015 - 09:55

I’ve been meaning to write a few words about ‘Secured by Design’, which is a national police project focused on reducing crime through the design of buildings and the built environment.

Established in 1989, Secured by Design (SBD) is owned by the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) and is the corporate title for a group of national police projects focusing on the design and security for new & refurbished homes, commercial premises and car parks as well as the acknowledgement of quality security products and crime prevention projects.

… Being inherently linked to the governments planning objective of creating secure, quality places where people wish to live and work, Secured by Design has been cited as a key model in the Office of Deputy Prime Minister’s guide ‘Safer Places – The Planning System & Crime Prevention’ and in the Home Office’s ‘Crime Reduction Strategy 2008-11′.

Their guidance on new housing development [pdf] came to my attention last year, when a developer took out the paths they had proposed in a local housing development from their plans, on police advice – referencing… Secure By Design.  These paths would have connected their development to surrounding cul-de-sacs.

And it’s surfaced again recently, with Avon and Somerset Police recommending against permeability for walking and cycling in a new development in Bristol.

Picture by @JonUsher

An explicit association is made here between walking and cycling routes, and crime – indeed, between ‘excessive permeability’ and crime.

Here’s another example, found at random, from an ACPO consultation for Lincolnshire Police, in response to a planning application – again referencing Secured by Design.

‘denial of Permeability’

‘Permeability is perhaps the greatest threat as it has the capacity to facilitate both Anti-Social Behaviour and act as a classic ‘attack and escape route’ for criminals’.

Permeability as ‘threat’.

What does Secure by Design actually have to say on this issue?

There are advantages in some road layout patterns over others especially where the pattern frustrates the searching behaviour of the criminal and his need to escape. Whilst it is accepted that through routes will be included within development layouts, the designer must ensure that the security of the development is not compromise by excessive permeability, for instance by allowing the criminal legitimate access to the rear or side boundaries of dwellings or by providing too many or unnecessary segregated footpaths (Note 3.1)

And Note 3.1 states

The Design Council’s/CABE’s Case Study 6 of 2012 states that: “Permeability can be achieved in a scheme without creating separate movement paths” and notes that “paths and pavements run as part of the street to the front of dwellings. This reinforces movement in the right places to keep streets animated and does not open up rear access to properties”.

The clear implication here is that movement by people walking and cycling in new developments should not involve ‘separate movement paths’ (i.e. stand-alone walking and cycling routes), but should instead be on routes that ‘run as part of the street’. That is, alongside routes for motor vehicles. Limiting walking and cycling to these routes  apparently ‘reinforces movement in the right places’.

The guidance goes on –

Cul-de-sacs that are short in length and not linked by footpaths can be very safe environments in which residents benefit from lower crime. Research shows that features that generate crime within cul-de-sacs invariably incorporate one or more of the following undesirable features:

  • backing onto open land, railway lines, canal towpaths etc, and/or
  • are very deep (long)
  •  linked to one another by footpaths

If any of the above features are present in a development additional security measures may be required. Footpaths linking cul-de-sacs to one another can be particularly problematic

Again, permeability between cul-de-sacs, exclusively for walking and cycling, is disparaged as ‘particularly problematic’.

From the perspective of anyone interested in reducing car dependence and in making walking and cycling attractive and obvious ways of getting about, this is really dreadful advice. Actually recommending cul-de-sacs without permeability is just about the worst kind of design imaginable, if you want to discourage walking and cycling.

To take an example, plucked at random. Here’s a residential area in the east of Horsham, composed of bog-standard 80s-90s detached housing, with one of the paths that is disparaged by Secured by Design.

This one – of course – has zig-zag barriers.

From this location, it’s possibly to walk to the main road, using this path – a distance of 360m.

But without this cut-through path, anyone walking or cycling would have to follow the driving route, which is nearly three times longer.

These kinds of distances are fine if you are driving – you’re not exerting any effort – but converting what should be very short walking and cycling trips into long ones is plainly bad policy.

The advantages of walking and cycling are that they are much less space-hungry modes of transport than driving; consequently trips by these modes should be made as direct as possible. Lumping them in with driving – using the design of cul-de-sacs to effectively keep walking out – is deeply unsympathetic. But that’s what this policy amounts to – keeping burglars on foot out by keeping everyone else out.

Lurking behind this ACPO advice appears to be the assumption that driving routes are used by everyone, while walking and cycling routes are used by barely no-one, meaning that they are attractive to criminals.

But a route is just as a route, whether it is carrying motor traffic, walking and cycling, or whether it caters only for walking and cycling. Limiting access to just one route in and out of developments works (or ‘works’) because it concentrates activity (and hence natural surveillance) on that route. But there’s no reason why walking and cycling routes can’t work in precisely the same way, even if motor traffic is excluded from those routes.

What matters in preventing crime is that natural surveillance and activity; that can surely be achieved, with good design, on walking and cycling routes. The answer cannot be just to block these routes off.

The Dutch new town of Houten near Utrecht has plenty of permeability for walking and cycling; walking and cycling routes go pretty much everywhere. Indeed, the spine of many of these routes runs along what might be seen by ACPO as ‘the rear’ of properties, while car access is at the front.

However, I can’t really see these routes being hotspots for crime, because they are almost certainly busier than the car access at the front. They are routes people want to use.

A route running by ‘the rear’ of properties in Houten.

It may be the case that there is a connection between design that involves acres of disconnected cul-de-sacs and lower rates of crime; and indeed a connection between higher rates of crime, and the presence paths connecting these cul-de-sacs, in Britain. But that’s almost certainly because we design permeability very badly in this country; we make these routes indirect, unattractive and/or intimidating, as I’ve written about here. Consequently they are not used in great numbers, and are seen as ‘crime hotspots’.

Not an attractive route.

But we don’t have to design like this; we can design routes that people want to use, that are naturally busy, and naturally safe, with good visibility.

More permeability in the form of a walking- and cycling-only route, in Zoetermeer

This is, seemingly, a distinction that the ACPO guidance is not picking up on, with its deeply unhelpful blanket recommendation against permeability, that doesn’t distinguish between crap routes that nobody wants to use, and busy walking and cycling routes that could actually serve to lower crime, by increasing eyes on the street. Instead, permeability is framed almost entirely as a network for criminals, with footpaths ‘generating crime’.

Is it time for a rewrite? I think so.


Categories: Views

“Cyclists stay back” stickers: the saga continues

Road Danger Reduction Forum - 20 February, 2015 - 12:54

Below we recount the story of the introduction of these stickers and the problems they’ve caused for cyclists. As an episode of incorrect and abused messaging, the issue is important – but not one of the major problems most would cite about cycling policy and its implementation in London or elsewhere. Writing the day after yet another cyclist is killed under the wheels of a tipper truck in London, obviously we see dealing with this problem by reducing danger at source (as explained below) as the priority. Yet for us the issue is revealing of problems with the transport establishment’s treatment of cycling.

Firstly, the problems have not yet been resolved: inappropriate stickers and (more important) stickers on vehicles they were never intended for are still there – even on TfL vehicles!

Secondly, it’s taken nearly two years after complaints were first made to get even the limited progress we can now see. Bureaucracies like TFL will always have problems in rectifying mistakes (which is a good reason to not make them in the first place). But the length of time involved, the difficulties TfL had in realising that mistakes had been made, as well as the fact that stickers on the wrong vehicles are still out there even on TfL’s FORS members’ vehicles lead to us a question:-

Is this story an indication that Transport for London simply doesn’t understand cycling and/or take it seriously in the way it might consider other forms of transport?

People who cycle in London, and many who ride elsewhere in the UK, were annoyed by the stickers that started appearing on the back of commercial vehicles nearly 2 years ago, telling cyclists to STAY BACK. Intended for (large) lorries and buses, they were applied with a lack of discrimination to all sorts of other vehicles – cars, vans, taxis, short and lighter lorries with perfectly adequate ability (through use of mirrors and direct vision) for their drivers to see cyclists and pedestrians in their vicinity.

Irresponsible vehicle operators now had official stickers telling cyclists to know their place and stay out of the way of their betters.

Timeline

I (CM) first complained to TfL about the stickers in Summer 2013. (The reasoning is described in a post here  written on December 18th 2013.)

Road Danger Reduction Forum then co-ordinated a complaint – with CTC (the National Cyclists’ Charity), the London Cycling Campaign, RoadPeace (the national road crash victims’ charity) and the Association of Bikeability Schemes – to Transport for London, saying that the wording was inappropriate and that stickers should anyway not be on vans, taxis, small lorries and cars for which they had not been intended. Carefully reasoned and constructive suggestions as to how these failings should be resolved were explained here on February 19th 2014 .TfL responded in a rather inadequate fashion  necessitating another co-ordinated response from the organisations on April 30th 2014. And then TfL chose to give yet another – let’s say “inadequate” again because we try to be polite – reply to press enquiries rather than replying to us directly. By now even seasoned campaigners were getting annoyed enough to say that we – road danger reduction and cycling groups – were being treated with contempt  on 30th May 2014.

The anger expressed seemed to have an effect, and on June 25th 2014 RDRF and the other organisations involved, plus representatives of the London Boroughs Cycling Officers Group, attended a meeting at Transport for London chaired by Lilli Matson, Head of Strategy and Outcome Planning, with nine other TfL officers concerned with safety, freight and fleet operations, buses, taxis, and marketing and communications. We were glad to say that the outcome was very positive. TfL agreed to reword stickers for larger lorries and buses, and 8 months later the reworded stickers are starting to outnumber the originals. (Lorry_BlindSpot_TakeCare and Bus_Caution_BusPullsInFrequently).

We understand that new stickers will be on all buses by mid-May 2015, and that some 5,000 stickers for HGVs have been distributed by TfL’s Fleet Operators Recognition Scheme, out of some 48,000 ordered (about 30,000 HGVs are on the roads in London daily).

At the time we concluded:

Of course, none of this deals with the core issue of properly engineering HGVs so that their drivers are aware of cyclists and pedestrians – why is there a “blind spot” in the first place? It does not deal with engineering out the amount of space between the vehicle and the road surface which is implicated in them being crushed; nor the issues of highway engineering which would minimise this kind of occurrence in the first place; nor issues of rule- and law-breaking which endanger other road users as well as cyclists and pedestrians.

Nevertheless, one part of this problem was the idea that while a “blind spot” exists it would be useful to advise cyclists how to correctly position themselves, and we were prepared to support this. Unfortunately the issue was mishandled for some time – now we hope the mistakes are being corrected.

Finally, we suggest that all this is happening because of a concerted and well-argued response by RDRF and our sister organisations. (A similarly positive outcome in June 2014 has come here). This suggests that watchfulness informing coordinated action by groups wanting road danger reduction is necessary. We look forward to the changes outlined at our meeting with TfL. Watch this space.(emphasis added)”

 

So where are we now?

Above I mention the changes to stickers for buses and HGVs and their imminent introduction – some two years after initial concerns were voiced. That’s the good part. But what about the real problems of stickers on vehicles for which they were never intended?

In Mayor’s Question Time answer 2014/4047 Mayor Johnson stated that “TfL has emailed 6,069 operators registered with the Fleet Operator Recognition Scheme (FORS), including all those working on TfL contracts, requesting that all safety stickers are removed from vehicles under 3.5 tonnes, including vans and cars, and that existing HGV stickers are replaced by the new ones.”

But this isn’t working. Either TfL hasn’t made the instructions clear enough, or operators are wilfully ignoring them – including parts of TfL itself! Here, are photos taken of London Underground and London Buses service vans with stickers taken in 2015:

    

 

 

 

And  Clear Channeloperating for London Buses” in 2015:

And  Initial working in association with London Underground” last year (note the off-side mirror):

 

Or how about black cabs – nominally regulated by TfL? Here are a couple photographed recently:

    

11th December 2014, Southwark Street               January 2015

 

And one also showing the use of a “Cycle Superhighway”:

If TfL can’t get it right, what chance is there of other operators doing so? Let’s take a look at some well-known members of FORS:

London Boroughs of:

Camden (2015)

Islington (2014)

Here are some recent pictures of other inappropriately used stickers by vehicles used by FORS members last year.They may have been taken off these vehicles since these photos were taken, in which case apologies, but stickers were recently seen on vehicles used by major contractors Murphy: 

  

And other FORS members recently spotted (again, apologies if stickers have been removed from these vans since the photos were taken):

     

VJ technology                                                        4 Rail                                                      Barhale                 Cappagh Group 2015) & Rexel (note warnings to pedestrians not to walk near van)       Brammer   &  Abbey Gate (amended stickers, wrong position, wrong vehicle)

 

HaveBike (Yes, Bicycle recovery…)                             UK Power Networks

Remember, this is just a selection of vehicles belonging to FORS members .

 

The virus spreads

Once the signs were out, not only did they appear on vehicles they had not been intended for, but in other positions (captions below photos):

Such as the side of an HGV belonging D Smith (FORS member) above…

cut into pieces and put in three places…

…on the side of a van belonging to Active Plant (FORS member)

 

…and (my favourite) on the front of a van.

 

Oh yes, there is this one on scaffolding in the City (HT Cyclists in the City). Then other signs started appearing:

including ones warning off motorcyclists and pedestrians – see Rexel above.

Sainsbury’s fitted new vehicles with a massive message trumpeting danger: as LCC pointed out, maybe this wouldn’t have been necessary with a better designed vehicle.

Or “We have done you and pedestrians a very big favour by being able to see around us, so that we can now see you if we feel like looking.” Errm, maybe “doing your bit” involves rather more than this?

And this one: perhaps just a more extreme expression of the basic message?

 

 

Non-FORS members

Naturally some of the worst cases of sticker wording, positioning, and use on the wrong vehicles, is not done by members of FORS. But if TfL in general, and FORS in particular, was clear about what was wrong in the first place, then it would be possible to :

  1. Notify such operators that FORS had changed its sticker wording.
  2. Become forceful in demanding that stickers are only on the correct vehicles
  3. Explain the reasons for doing so.
  4. Inform the operators that it would be desirable if they removed or changed offending stickers.

But there is no well-known website page which operators can be referred to.

In 2014 we asked TfL to publicise a web page which could (a) remind FORS members of what they are supposed to (not) do and (b) could be used by members of the public – or a TfL/FORS member of staff? – to inform non-FORS member operators about sticker (ab)use.

We have asked again, but as yet there has been no response.

 

Perhaps vehicles cold be leafleted, for example:

OPERATOR TO REMOVE THIS STICKER See Highway Code Rules 159, 161, 163, 169, 180, 182, 184, 202. See www…..   

 

Resistance

All of this has spawned pro-cyclist stickers, the most well-known of which is:

See it’s use here . But others have appeared on bicycles, such as these :

   

..with designs for posters to go on motor vehicles circulating:

 

And adaptations on existing stickers:

  

As well as a personal statement:

 

The HGV problem

We have been working on the safety issue for cyclists and pedestrians posed by HGVs, specifically in cities, since the early 1990s. There is a range of solutions which require implementing, namely:

Highway engineering which could eliminate potential collisions of all severities, and also do so with collisions involving all motor vehicles and create safer space. This is restricted to specific locations, and is less relevant for pedestrians, so attention is also needed to engineering HGVs so that drivers can be aware of who and what is around them. An absolutely critical factor is that HGVs should also be engineered so that it becomes far more difficult (or impossible) for pedestrians or cyclists to be crushed, by skirting HGVs or otherwise reducing the gap between road surface and the body of the vehicle. Safety standards on HGVs can also be enforced by the police. Swift and high quality post-crash investigation, and the threat of deterrent sentencing for unsafe HGV operation are required. Construction sites and operators can be subject to appropriate procurement procedures to push forward relevant measures. Additional technologies such as black box recorders and pedestrian/cyclist-activated vehicle braking systems should be introduced, not least for introduction on to other motor vehicles.

HGV driver training is necessary, although low down the list of priorities. We are believers in cycle training, but the essential issue is reducing danger at source – from HGVs (particularly construction industry HGVs) which are currently unfit for purpose in a city. Not all of the million people who sometimes cycle in London can be reached or – even if experienced and careful – expected to avoid HGVs that hit them from behind or overtake and turn left. Even where a cyclist or pedestrian is careless or ignorant (as we all are on occasion) they do not deserve a death or serious injury sentence. After all, motorists have their carelessness accommodated by highway and vehicle engineering – why shouldn’t cyclists or pedestrians?

Our analysis indicates that through the early 2000s a “Safety in Numbers” effect occurred as HGV drivers became more aware of the growing numbers of London cyclists – but this is by no means enough for us to rely on by itself. The measures above have to be implemented. This the real issue which need to be addressed, with the “Cyclists stay back” issue – in itself – of minor importance.

But sometimes these minor issues become important. The lack of understanding – or perhaps unwillingness to accept – what has been problematic about the messaging and (ab)use of the stickers by TfL is important to us. We think it indicates general problems in TfL‘s thinking and practice, which impede addressing the HGV and other issues for cycling and sustainable transport in London.

Sometimes minor issues are indicative of big problems.

This post written by Colin McKenzie as RDRF Committee member and Dr Robert Davis, RDRF Chair.

 

Hat tips to all who submitted photographs or whose photos I have used, including Bill Chidley, Cyclists in the City, The Ranty Highwayman, Jono Kenyon, Ken Peters and Alex Ingram, . Apologies to those we have missed out.

 

If any operators shown have since removed stickers, do feel free to notify us through submitting comments below.


Categories: Views

Learning From Historical Bicycle Posters

Copenhagenize - 19 February, 2015 - 15:50

Hey. You know what? We're on to a good thing. We have an amazing product. We have the most effective tool in our urban toolbox for rebuilding our liveable cities. It's right there in front of us. The humble bicycle is back.

After transforming society more quickly and more effectively than any other invention in human history for decades in the late 1800s and early 1900s, the bicycle is ready to do it all over again.

Nevertheless, many cities are struggling to get people to consider the bicycle as transport. As we have known for over a century, infrastructure is the key. Most certainly, too many cities are hopelessly behind in modernising themselves by creating safe cycling infrastructure. This article is about the other issue at hand, namely how to communicate cycling. Not sporty, sweaty, gear-based cycling for sport or recreation but just good old-fashioned urban cycling for the 99%.

This product we work with is produced by hundreds of manufacturers - most of them hopelessly unable to see the bigger picture of promoting cycling, instead focusing on their individual products. Then we have public bodies - be it transport or health, for example - who want to see a massive rise in the number of bicycles used for transport in cities for all the obvious, beneficial reasons to society. Likewise, they have proven ineffective at broadcasting the message in any effective way.

I have called environmentalism the greatest marketing flop in the history of homo sapiens. Just look at the past 40 odd years of focus on awareness and yet there are few people on the planet who are living the environmentalist dream. I lament that fact. It's not hard, however, to see why it happened and continues to happen. There are few humans who react positively to sanctimonious finger wagging from sub-cultural groups that look down their nose at anyone who doesn't adhere to their holy quest. Canadian writer Chris Turner describes it brilliantly in his book The Geography of Hope.

Unfortunately, so much bicycle advocacy seems to be inspired by the same messaging techniques. That whole goofy focus on "green", saving the planet, reducing emissions, blah blah blah. If this line of guilt tripping hasn't worked for the past 40+ years, it's hardly going to kick in now, is it? Look at the marketing that people are subjected to 24/7 on all media platforms. Shiny, positive, professional. The bike geeks should stay the hell away from any form of advertising. Their sub-cultural approach is a failed one.

The bicycle was one of the most successful products on the planet for DECADES - in every culture. It sold itself by just being an amazing product but you can not underestimate the massive value of the advertising that was used to sell bicycles and related products to the 99%.

Many of you will have seen examples of beautiful bicycle posters from back in the day. I've spent over four years studying them, analysing them and just enjoying them. I give keynotes about the subject. For some reason, I've never written it down in an article. So here we go.

Let's look at a long line of bicycle - and accessory - posters from the annals of history to see what worked so brilliantly back then and what we can learn about broadcasting the same message today. Time is of the essence. Urbanisation is rising rapidly. We need solutions. Wonderfully... ironically... this 19th century invention can solve 21st urban problems. If we sell it correctly and effectively.

First, let's look at sewing machines and vacuum cleaners.

The late 1800s were a pivotal age for so many reasons. Certain technology advances were seeds for so many inventions, not least the bicycle and... the sewing machine. The development of finer machinery opened the doors to so many important aspects of product design.

The first sewing machines were large and cumbersome and, generally, operated by strong men in factories. As technology progressed and made it possible to start making machinery that was finer and more delicate, the sewing machine was one of the first designs to become smaller.

Companies like Singer realised the potential early on. Family homes had a housewife who could do darning and repairs. Look at the three examples of early sewing machine adverts above. As well as the design of the early machines. All focused on mainstreaming the product by targeting the most obvious user group in that age. It was a success. Maybe not a sewing machine in every home, but certainly a monumental boom.

In the post-war era the sale of vacuum cleaners exploded, due to the development of compact, inexpensive models that were within reach of a wide swath of the population. Above, at bottom right, is an early vacuum cleaner. Not exactly something that would fit in your hall closet. Companies selling the new fangled machines targeted the obvious market at the time - the housewife.

Looking at the posters, above, we see clear similarities in tone, style and approach. It is safe to say that the vacuum cleaner is one of the most successful products in history. There is virtually one in every home.

If you compare the posters for sewing machines and vacuum cleaners and boil down the messaging used to sell the products to keywords, it looks like this:

- Liberating - it will change your life. Liberate you from whatever constrains you.
- Modern  - it's new and exciting and all the kids are doing it. Keep up with the Joneses.
- Elegant - You don't require anything else but the product. It's elegant and so are you.
- Effortless - it's so easy. Seriously.
- Social - It is sociable. Using the product will improve your sociability. More time with friends and loved ones.
- Convenient - It will improve your life with its ease-of-use by freeing up time for other activities.

All incredibly effective keywords for marketing any product.


1. Artist: Unknown. Year: c. 1878 / 2. No info / 3. No info

1869
This was an interesting year in history in many ways. Two inventions appeared that would end up in one of the most productive advertising collaborations in history, featuring a veritable army of artists and clients.

The first was colour lithography. A massive bucket of rainbow-coloured paint was splashed all over the world of both art and advertising. Before lithography, printing was primarily done by the relief process. Laboriously etching lines onto plates and inking them after which you slapped paper onto them in the hope that the carved motif would be transferred to the paper. Lithography was a chemical process that did away with... well... just about everything difficult about printing.

Lithography had been around since 1798 in a similar, but more complicated form developed by Aloys Senefelder. Colour lithography saw the light of day when Thomas Schotter Boys produced some architectural printwork in 1839, but nothing much happened after that until Jules Chéret started a printing company in Paris, in 1866. He wowed everyone with his colourful productions, using new techniques that allowed for an amazing array of shades. Some point to his poster for Bal Valentino from 1869 as the birth of the modern poster.

Chéret focused on the illustration. The artwork. He relegated text to mere supplementary information. He launched upon the world a brave new medium.

Artists scrambled to be a part of it. Everyone wanted a piece of the creative action. In 1869, something came along that would set the world alight. Two Englishmen, Reynolds & Mays, patented the Phantom prototype that replaced wooden spokes with thin, metal ones. Three years later, Smith & Starley produced the Ariel bicycle. It was not yet the classic diamond frame that Starley developed in 1885, with the production of the Safety Bicycle, but this "Ordinary" or "Penny Farthing" model sent shockwaves reverberating around the world. Welcome to the birth of a revolution.

What an extraordinary machine the bicycle was to the general population of the planet. In a flash, one's mobility radius was greatly expanded. Speeds previously unattainable by humans under their own steam were achieved.

Selling Cycling
Bicycles started out in a similar way to sewing machines and vacuum cleaners. The early versions were large, cumbersome and only appealed to a narrow demographic. Early sewing machines and vaccums were complicated machinery operated by men.

Early bicycles like the Ariel and all those variations that followed became popular very quickly, absolutely. A kind of pre-boom boom. They were, however, the exclusive domain of rich boys. Bicycles were very expensive to manufacture in, for example, 1880.  They cost between $300-$500. In 2014 dollars, that translates to $7,700 - $11,600 (according to the inflation calculator... I love the internet)

The market was small and, as a result, few posters for bicycles were produced between 1872-1890. Also due in no small part to French bicycle production stalling during the collapse of the Second Empire and the defeat in the Franco-Prussian war between 1871-1880.

Most marketing was done through elaborately designed catalogues that appealed to the wealthly, well-read customers, as well as advertisments in selected publications read by said customers. It was pointless to advertise to the masses since they didn't have a chance in hell of acquiring the products.

The artwork at the top of this section show that lithography was eagerly used but it was restricted to a tiny portion of the population.


1. Artist: Henri Thiriet. Year: c. 1895 / 2. Artist: PAL (Pseudonym for Jean de Paléologue. 1855-?) Year: c. 1900 / 3. Artist: Jules Chéret (1836-1933) Year: 1891 / 4. Magazine cover. Artist: Unknown. Year: 1896 / 


I can't possibly hope to show every amazing, historical bicycle poster. There are thousands and thousands of them. Many have also been lost forever (who saves billboards when they're taken down nowadays?). I've done my best to present some of the best of them in various, relevant themes, in order to hammer out a game plan that will apply to today.
Artists flocked to colour lithography. With the invention of the Safety Bicycle - the frame we still know today - the bicycle exploded onto society at large around the world. It was the hottest mainstream product on any market. The hottest media was colour lithography. It would prove to be a fruitful affair if those two hooked up, which they luckily did. 
The bicycle captured the imagination of anyone exposed to it. It was the future, progress, modernity. It was everything. The artists who started cranking out posters for the growing army of bicycle brands merely reflected their amazement at the product. The freedom provided by the bicycle was a major factor in advertising for decades to come. This is where it started.
Let's remember the keywords at the beginning of the article and have a look at liberation. 
The posters at the top of this section do not mess around. Look at the imagery and the message they are sending. Powerful images of liberation featuring strong characters. The third poster from the left is also the work of Jules Chéret. Like many of the leading artists of the age, he got into the bicycle game and with flair. It's a poster for a French bicycle brand whose name translates as French Banner. Patriotism was also a heady theme at the time. 
Chéret was also called the "father of the women's liberation" during his lifetime because of his works - and not just bicycle posters. (When you live in Scandinavia - in a region with excellent levels of gender equality - you don't bat an eyelash at the idea of women's lib having a father). Much has been written about the bicycle's role in women's liberation (although never enough has been written) and there are many inspiring quotes about it. 
What Chéret did was portray women in a new, refreshing and - for some (men) - radical way. What contemporary society in Paris saw upon viewing the posters was women who were happy, care-free, stylish and lively. It heralded an age in Paris where women could openly participate in activities like wearing low-cut dresses and smoking. The female caricatures even became known as Cherettes. It all went hand in hand with the liberating effect that bicycles were having on all aspects of society.
1. Artist: Unknown. Year: c. 1900 / 2. Cover of New York magazine "Truth". Artist: Unknown. Year: 22 August 1896 / 3. No info / 4. No info

All the metaphors and symbolism of the age were put to full use in the arsenal of the artists. Training as an artist required learning the classics, including historical and cultural symbolism. This transferred subliminally and naturally over to the genre of bicycle posters. Not least because this was a visual language familiar to potential customers.

The bicycle was often lifted aloft in reverence to and respect for it's power and transformational effect on society. The second artwork from the left, above, is not actually a poster but the cover of a magazine out of New York called Truth from 22 August 1896. The bicycle triumphant, lighting the way to a bright, new future. No text about content in this issue. Just the woman on her bicycle.

There was no limit to the possibilities of the bicycle and everyone knew it. Citizens in cities could travel quicker than ever across the urban landscape. In the countryside, people could extend their transport reach into a previously unheard of radius. We know now that the bicycle improved the gene pool. Nothing less. In the public records in towns, for example, in the UK surnames that had been pegged to towns or districts for centuries were suddenly appearing much farther afield. People started moving around like never before for work and for love.

It wouldn't be a stretch to suggest that people were having more sex after the invention of the bicycle. Or at least sex with new people. The inherent thrill about this welcome development may certainly be drawn between the lines in these posters.


1. Artist: Frederick Winthorp Ramsdell. Year: 1899 / 2. Artist: Henri Thiriet. Year: 1898 / 3. Artist: J. Cardona. Year: 1901 / 4. Artist: E. Célos. Year: 1901 /
Another theme I've noticed is fantastic hair, symbolizing youth and a care-free attitude. There are countless posters featuring flowers or various, symbolic branches.

I have always loved the overwhelming metaphorical gameplay in the second poster for Griffiths. So simple and yet so completely in your face. Young woman in white cycling with free-flowing hair from left to right (to the future) and casually tossing flowers as she goes. Roadside sits an old woman in a bed of flowerless thorns, staring right to left (towards the past). She isn't even looking at the cycling girl, as though resigned to the future passing her by.

At far right is a Canadian brand looking to make inroads into the French market. National markets were huge and incredibly competitive. The rise of the bicycle poster, however, heralded a truly international age. A poster could easily be created by a Romanian artist trained in England (like Jean de Paleologu who has two posters in this article) for a French printer selling Canadian bicycles for a local agent. As ever, art knew no borders.


1. Artist: Unknown. Year: c. 1900 / 2. Artist: PAL (Pseudonym for Jean de Paléologue. 1855-?) Year: c. 1895 / 3. Artist: Jean Carlu. Year: 1922 / 4. Artist: Unknown. Year: c. 1892 / 5. No info.

The most iconic posters of the day that are remembered most clearly even over a century later feature female protagonists. Many of the posters were famous in their own time, as well. In a modern optic it may appear that women were being gratuitously used in the artwork in order to sell bicycles. Nothing is farther from the truth. What Chéret started snowballed into a movement. A sea change in society. The freedom afforded by the bicycle carried with it women's liberation and liberation of the working classes into a bold, new future.

It all started with that powerful symbolism. When women started actually buying and hopping onto bicycles, the market expanded exponentially. The overwhelming dominance of female figures was symbolic of the poetic beauty of the bicycle and it's positivity and helped convince newcomers about the ease-of-use of the product. It all soon transformed into marketing to the female and male demographic all at once.

There are posters featuring men, of course, like Hercules Bicycles at far right, above. The posters featuring female figures, when you think about selling bicycles to women, were filled with a constant messaging about simplicity, elegance, freedom - and all while retaining your womanhood. In the heading days of the bicycle this was an effective marketing tactic that worked - it must be said -incredibly well.


1. Artist: Unknown. Year: 1905 / 2. Artist: Henri Gray. Year: c. 1890s / 3. Artist: Georges Massias. Year: c. 1895

Nudity was not unusual in artwork in France back then but with the advent of the bicycle poster, liberation came in many forms. So many beautiful posters featured nude or scantily clad women as a further extension of the liberation metaphor.

France in the late 19th century was certainly not North America in the same era. Most of the nudity in bicycle poster history was French. Most women featured on posters in other countries were clothed.

It is worth mentioning that France in the late 19th century wasn't America in 2009, either. An American winemaker uses the Cycles Gladiator artwork, at right, on their bottles and said bottles were banned in Alabama.


1. Artist: Unknown. Year: c. 1900 / 2. Artist: George Moore. Year: c. 1907 / 3. Artist: Unknown - Possibly Frode Hass. Year: c. 1900 / 4. Artist: Unknown. Year: c. 1895 / 

The bicycle, for all it's wonder in the minds of the public, was still a daunting machine. Especially women had to be convinced of its ease-of-use and great effort was put into portraying this in the artwork.

One very noticeable theme in historical bicycle posters is the position of the woman. There are countless examples of the woman cycling symbolically ahead of the man. "See? It's easy. No effort required." Plus, it's incredibly sociable. It's an activity you can do together.



The poster, above, from 1894 advertises a bicycle lesson facility with three tracks where people could learn to ride. Often officers or policemen would act as teachers - that air of authority didn't hurt sales - and it is clear that this poster is broadcasting ease-of-use (and handsome teachers) for the female demographic. Cycling with one hand, looking at us with a casual, confident expression, wearing a splendid outfit. It all screams how damn easy it is.

The above poster reminds me of an interesting fact and something that persists to this day. It's incredibly difficult to draw bicycles. Try asking a group of adults to draw a bicycle and be amazed and amused at how wrong most of them get it.

In all the artistic enthusiasm of the day for designing bicycle posters, the bicycles are often drawn simplistically. Even when the great Toulouse-Lautrec put his hand to bicycle posters, certain details missed the final cut. Looking through many of these posters you can clearly see that wheels were the trickiest. Rims are often forgotten and spokes are just a smattering of wispy lines - if they are even there at all.


1. Artist: Brynolf Wennerberg (1866-1950). Year: c. 1898 / 2. Artist: Poul Fischer. Year: 1896 /  3. Artist: Deville. Year: 1895 / 4. Artist: Fritz Rehm (1871-1928) Year: c. 1910 / 5. Artist: Daan Hoeksema (1879-?) Year: 1907 / 6. No info

It's easy. It's easy. It's easy. This message was repeated constantly for decades. On occasion, focus was placed on technical features. The first two posters, above, are selling chainless bicycles that instead featured a shaft drive. In the middle and at bottom right you can see early weight weenie culture budding, although it was messaging the female customers and not todays MAMILS.

As time progressed there is a clear sign that the focus started to widen. People were all on bicycles by around 1905. A market had been established. In the early days the focus was general. It was just about the big picture. The modern bicycle and all the good things it could do. As people become more familiar with them, the advertising started to talk about performance, weight and speed, like in the fourth poster, above. Upright bicycle, lovely dress but still keep metaphorical pace with a running dog.

1. Artist/Year: No info / 2. Artist: No info. Year: 1932 / 3. Artist/Year: No info / 4. Artist/Year: No info / 5. Artist: No info. Year: c. 1930s

As the 20th century started to roll past, more focus was placed on speed - Raleigh was famous for this theme - but also on quality. "The All-Steel Bicycle" was a Raleigh slogan for decades. What may be strange to us today was normal rhetoric in, at least, the UK in the 1930s, with Royal Enfield Bicycles proudly declaring on all their materials that their bicycles are "made like a gun". The Swedish poster at far right also declares that its bicycles - and parts - are made with rust-free steel.

1. Artist: Carsten Ravn. Year: 1897 / 2. Artist: Edward Penfield (1866–1925). Year: 1896 / 3. Publisher: Chambrelent, Paris. Year: c. 1890s 
The "effortless" angle has many visual themes to keep hammering home ease-of-use and no risk of losing elegance. There are many, many posters featuring cyclists with their legs up. It's one of the first things you do as a kid when you learn to ride a bike and it's daunting - especially when most bicycles had coaster brakes. So let's just keep showing how easy it is.


1. Artist: Georges Gaudy (1872-?) Year: 1898 / 2. Artist: Unknown. Year: c. 1900 / 3. No info / 4. Artist: Unknown. Year: c. 1900

You don't have to actually ride the bicycle to look good and be relaxed. At left, you can also just hang out looking all badass and send evil stares to those morons coming down the road in one of those new-fangled automobile contraptions.

Poise, grace, elegance and effortlessness. It's so easy that even a monkey can do it while looking badass in his cool threads. The poster at far right is interesting for the simple detail that she is looking back over her shoulder. Looking for her friends/husband (she's so speedy that she's ahead) and maybe simultaneously signalling that it's easy to take your eyes off the road.

If you learned to ride a bicycle you know that along with riding with no hands and riding with your feet up one of the first tricky things to learn is looking backwards without veering sharply on your bicycle.

My theory is that so many tiny details that people were wary of are featured in the details in many of these posters.

1. Artist: N. Vivien. Year: c. 1900 / 2. Artist: Paolo Henri. Year: c. 1900 / 3. Artist: Georges-Alfred Bottini (1873-1906) Year: 1897 / 

Hey, who needs bikes to sell bikes when you have birds and well-dressed people hanging on a street corner? A lot of early posters didn't feature bicycles because they were hard to draw but also because it was such a massive trend that you didn't need to. Just slap your company name (presuming it has Cycles at the beginning of it) and you're off. Notice who in the crowd on the middle poster is looking right at you. A woman. She is telling you something with her eyes. She's on board the bicycle wave.

Crap at drawing bicycles? Not to worry. Just draw a vague shape and squeeze it inbetween some well-dressed women - conveniently hiding the hard-to-draw bits like ... well... everything except the wheel and handlebars - behind a bright yellow dress.

1. Artist: Unknown. Year: c. 1913 / 2. Artist: No info. Year: 1952  / 3. Artist: F. Hart-Nibbrig. Year: c. 1912 / 4. No info. Product: Carlsberg Breweries

This sociable factor was all important in the early days. Many cyclists joined clubs with whom they headed out into the countryside on the weekends. These clubs were massive. Just look at this list of clubs in Copenhagen alone in the 1890s. It was a sociable thing to do and broadcasting that message was important, especially in the late 1800s. At right is a Carlsberg beer ad. Hurrah... that inn sells it!

The Simplex ad from the Netherlands doesn't look like much fun - the Calvinist influence at work - but they are, by god, heading out of the city for a bike ride. The first poster shows that everyone is doing it - and everyone CAN do it. Into the 1950s, the theme continues in the second poster from the UK. It's sociable and enjoyable.

1. Artist: Eugéne Ogé. Year: c. 1897 / 2. Artist: Unknown. Year: c. 1923 / 3. Artists: Behrmann & Bosshard. Year: 1938 / 4. Artist: Will H. Bradley (1868-1962). Year: 1899. 

It's quite remarkable the constant and consistent focus on how cycling is just a normal activity/transport form that would not require any effort or extra equipment. It lasted for decades. There are also examples of marketing focused specifically on sport but the examples, above, are focused on the mainstream. Although it is not really that remarkable as a marketing strategy. It was just standard advertising. Techniques that differed little from advertising every other product on the market at the time.

It was clear that cycling was cool if you look at the first poster, above. Dapper gent in spiffy threads riding a bicycle and sending a mocking look at the loser, lame-o wannabe on the sidewalk - overweight and with the red nose of a drunk. Design changes over time and we can see in the Schwalbe Bicycles ad from 1938 that a simpler style was all that was needed. A swallow. A bicycle. A text reading "It's a chic bicycle". Boom, baby.

Comparing the 1938 Schwalbe poster with the one to the right from 1899 is an interesting exercise if only to see how design had changed.

1. No info / 2. Artist: Decam. Year: 1897 / 3. Artist: C. M. Coolidge. Year: c. 1895 / 4. Producer: Dingley Brothers. Year:1918

In the ocean of bicycle posters throughout decades there is inevitably some flotsam. From the Twilight Zoney feel of the Victor Cycles poster on the left to the Pyscho Cycles poster on the far right - a poster that looks like it could advertise a bike polo event in Brooklyn last year.

The second poster is one that amuses me to no end. We know little about the artist Decam and little is known about the brand La Vélo Catémol. What we do know is that making a rock and roll sign with your fingers whilst casually sitting naked, chained to a well with a bicycle chain, was apparently a perfectly acceptable image for selling a product in 1897.

The Columbia Bicycle poster is another bizarre addition to the library of bicycle posters. Many of the same themes were in play on both sides of the Atlantic but one C. M. Coolidge was inspired - I shudder to think by what - to draw a monkey and a parrot whizzing down a hill. I don't know what that monkey is doing behind the parrot, but I'm guessing it's the monkey saying, "We are having a heavenly time" because the parrot doesn't look amused. The monkey's parrotofilia aside, his feet aren't on the pedals and they narrowly missed a rock. All very confusing and probably illegal in Alabama.

The bicycle as a powerful symbol of just about everything continued for a very long time. In the cartoon at left it was used to show how it could be a vehicle to lead America out of the Great Depression. Get out shopping on your bicycle and help kickstart the economy.

In the middle is a photo of gold-plated Cycling Girl, who has been standing astride her bicycle and surveying Copenhagen's City Hall square since 1936. She is one of two figures - the other is a gold-plated woman with an umbrella who is walking a dog. "Vejrpigerne" - The Weather Girls - rotated out onto a perch depending on the weather on the Richshuset building so passersby could see this weather prognosis, supplemented with a neon thermometer.

Designed by Einar Utzon-Frank (1888-1955), it is no surprise that the fairweather symbol was a "cykelpige" - Danish for "cycling girl". She is a veritable cultural icon and has been since the late 1800s. 

Indeed, in a thesis entitled "The Modest Democracy of Daily Life - An analysis of the bicycle as a symbol of Danishness" by Marie Kåstrup (who now works for the City of Copenhagen's Bicycle Office), the cycling girl is described as "A unique front figure for the democratic bike culture. She is, all at once, a modest, charming and everyday representation of Danishness."

Creating gold-plated statues in 1936 atop a new building on the primest of real estate was in no uncertain terms a symbol of prosperity.

The Canadian CCM Bicycles poster at right is a lesser example of using bicycles as a symbol of prosperity and borders on mocking. The cycling boy is bragging to poor Bill. He got good grades and his (presumably solvent) parents bought him a bicycle.

1. Artist: Hans Bendix (1898-1984) Year: 1938 - used on this poster in 1947. 2. Artist: No info. Year: 1947 / 3. Artist: Hans Bendix. Year: 1947 / 4. Book cover. "Boy of Denmark". Artist: No info. Year: 1947

The bicycle as a symbol of Danishness and national identity was always there, under the surface. Not as demonstrative as many early French posters but more just an accepted truth that didn't need a lot of fanfare.

In the late 1940s, a series of tourism posters were produced with a specific target group in mind. The British. They were one of two great cycling touring nations - the other being Germany, but they were busy rebuilding their bombed cities. The Brits liberated Denmark and it was hoped that this connection would encourage Brits to consider Denmark as The Country for Their Holiday. It was, after all, a Country of Smiles and Peace. Like cities? Try The Gay Spot of Europe and have a blast on a bicycle in Copenhagen. Poster 1 and 3 are by a legend in Danish poster art, Hans Bendix.

For the local market, books like The Boy of Denmark featured bicycle imagery and content for young readers.


As an aside, it would appear that there is a new Hans Bendix in town. Mads Berg is a respected graphic designer who is commissioned to do high profile posters for many clients. Not all of them feature bicycles, but here are some that do. A Copenhagen poster, a poster for the island of Bornholm and a poster for the yoghurt of a major dairy producer.

There was a noticeable post-war boom in bicycle-related imagery in many countries, not least Denmark. Once again, the bicycle was a symbol of freedom - personal and national - after the trials of a long, destructive war. It was still a metaphor for a bright promising future.

1. Danish magazine Familiejournal. Year: 1947 / 2. Advert for US Magazine Woman's Day. Year: c. 1950s

The cover of a Danish magazine Familiejournal from 1947 is quite simple in both its design and its messaging. Freedom. Joy. Future. At right, an American magazine, Woman's Day, advertised themselves with this kind of image in the 1950s. She's got to go out to get a copy and she does so - obviously - on a bicycle with her kid.

The 1950s saw urban planning changing rapidly to accommodate the automobile, which would soon replace the bicycle as the ultimate symbol of prosperity and freedom. The bicycle, after over 60 years of dominance of those keywords, was being pushed out. Not only out of our cities but also out of our advertising.

Bicycle posters in America started to disappear before they did in Europe. Here they lived on well into the 1960s, before the bicycle boom in the 1970s. Nevertheless, the bicycle was still a cool, glamourous thing and all manner of film stars were seen on them. The New Yorker has featured bicycles on many of their covers. The bicycle never really went away through the 1950s.

Even into the 1970s, bicycles were still used to symbolise freedom. When the last part of Orange County, California was developed - Mission Viejo - developers sold their 'hood with bicycles. Move to Mission Viejo and "ride your bike to Saturday night". Park the car and use bicycles in your city. How's that working out for you these days, Mission Viejo?

1. Artist: Raoul Vion. Year: c. 1925 / 2. Modern Sparta Advert. / 3. Artist: Mich. Year: c. 1920 / 

People understood what the bicycle meant to daily life and how to use it accordingly. Sanpene Bicycles, in 1925, showed how useful their product was by portraying a man shaving while cycling. It was not a crazy idea, it was just a normal portrayal of bicycles.

Interestingly, I found the ad in the middle a few years back. Sparta Bicycles, from the Netherlands, use very similar metaphors to sell their bikes. For the Dutch, it's a no brainer. They, like the Danes, get it. Associations are made and understood.

The poster at right for Hutchinson tires is one of many that show the utilitarian role of the bicycle in everyday life. It is from 1920, so the focus had shifted towards practical uses.



In this Dutch ad from a few years ago, there is another association that is natural for the Dutch. Buy a bicycle and get a free suit. It requires no stretch of the imagination for a mainstream bicycle culture to see themselves on a bicycle in a suit. Duh.

Interestingly, many tailors and shops offered "two-trouser suits" all over the world. Suits were made to last so you didn't buy one every year. But for cyclists, you could buy two pairs of trousers so the suit would last even longer.

Cyclists have managed fine in their regular clothes for well over a century, no matter what the people at Levis tell you with their "urban cycling trousers".


All of the poster and advertising examples I've been covering so far are focused on mainstream marketing techniques aimed at the 99%. The genre of posters and ads focused on sports and recreation is not as comprehensive and have little to do with this article.

Indeed, sports and recreation cycling still have nothing to do with urban cycling. They are two different worlds and, over the years, I have found few effective examples of sporty cycling used to inspire cycling for transport. It doesn't work. We've known this since the 1880s and it still applies today.

The keywords I presented at the beginning are key factors in any marketing approach, let alone getting people onto bicycles. They are, unfortunately, rarely present in much bicycle advocacy or in municipal campaigns. The fact is that the "avid cyclists" are doing all the talking and their inspiration is from environmentalism, whether they are aware of it or not.

Above, at left, is one of the few examples I've seen of sporty cycling used to promote normal, everyday cycling. It is from the City of Copenhagen in 1996. It features Jesper Skibby, a pro cyclist, who was a popular sports idol. He had just won some stages in the Vuelta Espana (it's a bike race) and his smiling mug was used in the context shown.

It's hard to cycle all around Spain. It's healthy to cycle all year round. Works better in Danish, but you get it. It's an interesting connection this one. Cyclesport is more culture than sport in Denmark. If the weather is good, 500,000 - 1,000,000 people will line the streets during the Tour of Denmark in August to watch the race. The Tour de France is a popular conversation topic even among people who have never sat on a racing bike. So this poster worked and served its purpose.

The fact remains that it is one of very few effective examples of combining two vastly different genres of cycling.

Still there are people who think that sport is the key to mainstream. A couple of years ago I was invited to speak to the president and top people at Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO), who organise the Tour de France, about advocacy. I told them that the more people that rode bicycles in French cities, the greater the chance France would get a new Tour winner. 

The president smiled and said that most of the riders were from the countryside. I told him that 80% of the Danish riders who have ever participated in the Tour were from cities. You should have seen his face.

Look at the photo on the right. Imagine if those people were advocates for walkable cities. That would be odd and yet we accept that the cycling version of these people are often the primary voice for promoting urban cycling. The keywords are often save the planet, green, no pollution, healthy, etc. All sanctimonious, fingerwagging crap.

We know why people cycle in Copenhagen and cities like Amsterdam. In Copenhagen, the city has asked its cycling citizens every two years since 1996 what their main reason for choosing the bicycle is. The results never vary. The vast majority ride because it's quick and convenient. It's simply the quickest way to get around, also when combining with public transport. A lesser amount say they ride for the health benefits. This isn't fitness. They just know that 30 minutes a day is said to be a good thing. There are single digit results for "it's inexpensive" and only 1% ride for environmental reasons.

Any advocacy that is focused on keywords borrowed from environmentalism is doomed to failure. In addition, advocacy is often based on the presumption that everyone is a cyclist... they just don't know it yet. How very sub-cultural. Avid cyclists drank the kool-aid and are trying to get everyone else to do it. The Danes, Dutch and Japanese - the Galapagos Islands of mainstream bicycle culture - have it figured it.

If you want to get people on to bikes, you just make the bicycle the fastest way from A to B, using Best Practice bicycle infrastructure which has been around for a century. It's really that simple. If we have to communicate, we should do it professionally and intelligently for a mainstream audience.

The automobile industry has excelled in marketing their products for a century, despite the overwhelming negative impact that cars have on cities. They learned the ropes from the early days of bicycle advertising and have spent decades perfecting the art. There are some connections with car racing, of course, but think about every car ad you have ever seen in your entire life and remember the keywords. They're all there.

People have expectations in marketing and advertising. They are bombarded with professional campaigns, just like people in 1895. Selling cycling based on these expectations is a sure-fire way to speed up the bicycle revolution.


Another parallel between the first bicycle boom over a century ago and today is the appearance of products aimed at capitalising on a trend. Back in the day there were countless examples of products aimed at these new cycling citizens. A shirt labelled suddenly as a "cyclist shirt". A basic corset branded as "bicycle wear".

Hey, it's a market economy. People can make and sell whatever they like. The products, above, disappeared quicker than they appeared. The bicycle planted itself firmly and quickly on society and people realised that all they needed was a damn bicycle. Looking at the current bicycle boom it is clear that the massive influx of "new" accessories and especially "cyclist clothes" is mirroring the failed profiteering phase of a century ago. A whole bunch of people are going to lose money.

Only a tiny handful of all the new products cluttering our internet and inboxes will survive. Those that do will serve a practical, functional purpose. Design that makes sense.

The defined challenge of messaging for a mainstream audience is still a massive one. For many years I've been highlighting an interesting difference of approach. Above is a screengrab from Raleigh's US website. Like the UK site, it is overwhelmingly testosterone-oriented. Cycling as an extreme sport. The Danish website for Raleigh bikes (it's a separate company) is rather different. The text reads, "Practical and convenient shopping experience in full comfort". Same internet. Same brand name. Different worlds.

With that said, I checked a week ago and, for the first time since I noticed this difference, both the UK and US website have now inserted a photo in their slider that is using imagery aimed at the 99%. A positive development. I just want more people to cycle. If that makes money for bike brands, great. Many big bike brands are corporate monsters and are slow to change. They're missing out on selling bikes to a huge, emerging market. Just look at the popularity of vintage bikes. It's amazing. Why is it happening? Because the bicycle industry in many countries has failed to adapt to a new market after only selling their stuff to a narrow demographic for several decades.

I have seriously heard a number of people tell me things like, "Oh, but Americans are different... they need a different approach to selling cycling and focusing on gear and sport is the best way to do it..." This would presuppose that Americans have evolved into some mutated sub-species of homo sapiens that are immune to the marketing techniques applied in the rest of the world.

I don't buy this brand of bullshit. Americans, of all people, are subject to the same positive tone in all the ads they see as the rest of us are. That should be exploited.

We know that using positive imagery is beneficial to any product. We even did a study to prove it. We know that successful marketing is based on presenting to the public an image of the product in a positive light. We've known it for a very long time. It's about time we started using it.

All of our primary keywords - liberation, effortlessness, modernity, elegance, sociable, convenience. They are all open-source. Freely available for use.

Not using them is stunting the growth of cycling as transport. Something that is detrimental to the work of all of those who are trying to make cities better and to the common good.

I'll leave you with the greatest commercial for cycling in America for forty years.


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

A Superhighway that isn’t

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 18 February, 2015 - 10:55

There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with ‘backstreets’ routes for cycling. Some of the highest quality routes I have cycled on in the Netherlands have been of this form, running away from main roads, passing through residential areas and parks.

A fietsstraat in Nijmegen

A fietsstraat in Utrecht

These routes are excellent because they are direct, continuous, and involve little or no stopping. This is, in fact, an advantage over routes on main roads, which because they will be accommodating more traffic tend to require traffic signals, which unnecessarily delay cycling. They also have filtering, either in the form of physical blocks to stop motor traffic (the street in Nijmegen is closed at the far end to motor traffic), or simple signed exclusions on motor traffic, as on the pictured section of the Utrecht fietsstraat. Motor traffic can drive on this fietsstraat up to this point, but must turn left at the junction. The purpose is to keep motor traffic levels low enough for cycling on fietsstraats to be a comfortable experience for everyone.

I haven’t had a great deal of time to look in detail at the newly-released proposals for Superhighway 1, but it is quite obviously ‘a backstreets route’, running away from the A10, the most direct, north-south route that Superhighway 1 parallels – and indeed the road that CS1 is in fact an the obvious and explicit substitute for. Some parts of it – especially in Haringey – appear to be desperately poor. Meandering through the backstreets, Superhighway 1 has to take a turn up this tiny alley to avoid the A10 –

This can’t really a route for a Superhighway, can it?

… and when it does run alongside the A10, it looks particularly shoddy, nothing more than a minor tidying of the existing (and deeply substandard) shared use arrangement on the footway.

That stuff on the western footway is apparently a ‘Superhighway’

The route in Hackney is a little better, but it is still meandering, it loses priority when it crosses major roads (a broader issue with Quietways), and, while there is some new modal filtering, it does not have a great deal of it. For instance, there is no filtering at all between the new closure where Pitfield Street meets Old Street, and Northchurch Terrace, a straight road of over a mile, open along its length to all motor traffic, in both directions. It’s not clear how quiet this route is actually going to be.

And of course there is the issue of whether this route even deserves to be called a ‘Superhighway’ at all. From the Mayor’s 2013 Vision for Cycling

We will offer two clear kinds of branded route: high capacity Superhighways, mostly on main roads, for fast commuters, and slightly slower but still direct Quietways on pleasant, low-traffic side streets for those wanting a more relaxed journey.

From this definition, Superhighway 1 is most definitely a Quietway, not a Superhighway. It runs on low-traffic side streets for almost its entire length, barring a short stretch on the footway of the A10 at Seven Sisters. It is not ‘mostly on main roads’.

I think this risks damaging the whole concept of Superhighways, and indeed opens the door to a return of the failed LCN+ approach of routing cycling onto wiggly backstreet routes that are less attractive than main roads, and (because of an absence of provision on main roads) don’t form part of a coherent network. Read this from David Arditti on the failures of LCN+, and it all starts to sound eerily familiar.

Since the LCN+ strategy was basically not about segregation, or even road-space reallocation, there was no coherent picture to put to councils, be they pro or anti-cycling, of what was supposed to be put in place on proposed main road routes like LCN+5 on the A5, and in the end it became a strategy just to spend the money somehow. The money for the A5 route just got spent on a few blue signs, cycle logos on the road, and speed tables on side-roads in Brent – none of which did anything to make cycling no the A5 any better.

For ‘A5′, substitute ‘A10′.

To repeat, there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with routes away from main roads. High quality routes on minor roads can make sense. But they certainly should not be used as a substitute for addressing barriers to cycling on what should be more attractive, direct routes. And this appears to be precisely what is happening with Superhighway 1 – it has been shunted onto backstreets because of political opposition (and probably because of opposition from within TfL) from running it on the A10.

I don’t think the distinction between Quietways and Superhighways is particularly helpful, in general, but if these terms are going to be used, then in its current form, this route through Hackney and Haringey simply shouldn’t be labelled a Superhighway. It should be called a Quietway, because that’s what it is.

Calling it a Superhighway opens the door to other boroughs putting ‘Superhighways’ on fiddly back streets routes as a convenient way of avoiding the barriers to cycling on their main roads – a return to the LCN+ strategy of avoiding hard choices. That’s really not acceptable.


Categories: Views

Dressing up for the occasion

BicycleDutch - 16 February, 2015 - 23:01
The Dutch don’t dress up for cycling, they dress up for the occasion. That doesn’t become much clearer than when they cycle to Carnival festivities. Carnival will still be going … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

In the way

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 16 February, 2015 - 11:39

What is it about cycling in front of motor vehicles that makes for an unpleasant experience?

This is a pertinent question in the light of a number of related issues – principally, how we should go about designing for cycling (and the design of the public realm in general), but also how we should train people to cycle, how cycling and motoring should work as distinct modes of transport, and how advances in car technology might affect cycling.

The last issue relates to driverless cars. Last week saw the release of an official Department for Transport review into this technology. This review was rumoured to contain suggestions that the Highway Code may need to be changed, rumours encapsulated by this rather strange Daily Telegraph article on Tuesday –

The Highway Code may need to be re-written to stop driverless cars from bringing Britain’s city centres to a halt, an official review will say.

Passing distances between cyclists and pedestrians may have to be changed to prevent robot vehicles clogging up roads across the country. Under the current Highway Code, drivers are expected to leave as much room as they would leave for a car when overtaking cyclists. There are fears driverless cars could be left crawling behind cyclists for miles as they wait for enough space to overtake if the rules are not changed.

The implication here being that driverless cars programmed to obey the rules set out in the Highway Code – and thus programmed to overtake in accordance with the Highway Code, moving entirely into the next lane to overtake, as per Rule 163 – will cause gridlock.

Rule 163

I’m not entirely sure whether this is true, of course. Opportunities to overtake properly do present themselves, and if they are absent (when traffic is that heavy), then issues of delay and inconvenience are probably being caused by an excess of motor traffic. In urban areas, being genuinely stuck behind someone cycling at 10-15 miles an hour might only amount to arriving at the next red light, or queue of motor traffic, slightly later.

But equally it may be true that motorists will be delayed in many instances, stuck behind people cycling – which isn’t particularly attractive for either mode, as will be discussed below.

As it turns out, the DfT Review itself didn’t contain any of this speculation, only the mild

The Highway Code may need to be updated in due course to take into account the use of highly automated vehicles on the roads. It may be necessary to wait until experience has been gained with these vehicles and possibly research has been conducted into the interactions between such vehicles and other road users.

… with no mention of gridlock, ‘clogging’, ‘crawling’, or overtaking.

Nevertheless, this issue of how driverless cars will behave does raise broader issues of policy, and about how cycling should be designed for. The discussion actually draws into focus the fact that something is already fundamentally wrong with the way our roads and streets accommodate cycling and driving, even with our current low levels of cycling. Putting cycling and driving in the same space on main roads simply makes no sense at a strategic level – both modes of transport will impede each other, in different ways.

For instance, if we are aiming for cycling to be a mode of transport accessible to anyone, this will inevitably mean that cycling will increasingly be dominated by people who are cycling more slowly than those who are cycling at present. Does it make sense to place these people in front of motor traffic, either from the perspective of the person driving, or of the person pedalling in front of them? Equally, does it make sense to place queues of motor traffic in the way of people cycling?

These are issues that are already emerging in relation to cycling in bus lanes. Tentative research suggests that with increasing cycling levels, putting buses and cycling in the same space simply won’t work, for either mode – a problem recognised by Transport for London themselves

with or without the Cycle Vision investment – population growth, increased cycling levels and increased traffic flows are likely to result in delays occurring for general traffic and buses in central London (if not mitigated). [my emphasis]

More research is obviously required, but even from a ‘common sense’ standpoint, it is plain that high cycling levels in bus lanes are incompatible with an efficient bus service. Buses should be travelling at smooth speeds between bus stops; that’s not going to be possible if bus lanes are clogged with people cycling at slower speeds. (This is to say nothing of the inconvenience and unpleasantness from the perspective of the person cycling).

I suspect that these kinds of issues – both cycling in bus lanes, and the broader issue of cycling with motor traffic – have not been addressed until now principally because cycling has been such a minority mode of transport – with so few people cycling – its impacts on other traffic didn’t need to be considered.

But equally it is likely that the issues have been ignored because our highway engineers have expected people cycling to behave like motor traffic, and also because our politicians, planners and engineers are seemingly happy to completely ignore the needs of those who are not willing or able to cycle like motor traffic – those people who aren’t cycling, but want to. Dishonesty about the fact that cycling and motoring are entirely different modes of transport is politically convenient. The ‘driverless car issue’ is exposing some of that dishonesty, even if the issues and problems are being exaggerated for journalistic effect.

I’ve already written about how the reactions to driverless car technology – both from cycling campaigners, and from those with an interest in driving – will be entirely different in the Netherlands, principally because this is a country that, sensibly, already treats cycling and driving as distinct modes of transport. Consistent application of the principles of sustainable safety – homogeneity of mass, speed and direction, in particular – means that it does not really make any difference who is driving motor vehicles, humans or computers. Cycling and driving are separated from each other where it matters, and only mixed where it doesn’t.

Cycling separated from motor traffic on through roads

… And only mixed with driving in low traffic areas, access roads where policy has limited or removed through traffic

In short, cycling is not in the way of driving, and driving is not in the way of cycling.

Consequently the issues that are provoking discussion in Britain are absent. With or without the presence of driverless cars, the Dutch system is one we should moving towards, simply because it makes sense. Not only does it make cycling (and indeed driving) considerably safer, it also makes both these modes of transport easier and more pleasant. In particular, from a cycling perspective, interactions with motor vehicles are minimised or even eliminated, and that makes a big difference to how enjoyable it is to cycle around.

The contrast with Britain could not be more stark, where something called the ‘primary position’ is official cycle training policy – a policy that explicitly involves cycling in front of motor vehicles, not because this is attractive or pleasant, but in an attempt to mitigate the consequences of bad road design.

To take just one of a million potential examples up and down the country, cycling in the ‘primary position’ on Pall Mall, below, is, thanks to a crappy new design, an absolute necessity. Failing to do so means you risk being squeezed against parked vehicles by overtaking traffic, and/or being ‘doored’. The only safe way to cycle here is to put yourself in front of drivers, deliberately stopping them from overtaking.

Cycling directly  in front of motor vehicles is the only safe strategy here.

This isn’t good for cycling, or for driving. Forcing people to cycle ‘in the way’ of people driving to keep themselves safe is not good policy.

This design on Pall Mall is probably only accidentally awful – I doubt whether the engineers seriously considered how cycling would even work on this street. Yet placing people in front of motor traffic on main roads continues to be a deliberate feature of new street design.

We have public realm designers –  in reference to designs that explicitly place motorists behind people cycling – describing those people cycling as ‘lock gates… effectively monitoring the speed of motor traffic.‘ That is – putting people in the way.

And, more recently, Urban Design London published guidance, suggesting that

Integrating cycling into narrower carriageways can encourage all road users to engage better with each other. This can also help retain a constant, but slower, traffic flow

Again, deliberately placing people in the way, to slow traffic.

There is some logic here – let’s put a slow mode of transport in front of a faster one, and attempt to prevent that faster one from overtaking the slower one, in order to slow down the faster one – but important issues appear to be being ducked completely. Mainly

  • whether this deliberate mixing approach is actually any safer than one that separates cycling from driving on main roads
  • how attractive it might be for the person cycling to be placed in front of motor traffic (and indeed what proportion of the population are even willing to cycle in this way)
  • how ethical it is to use people as a traffic calming device, rather than – say – physical measures
  • whether these kinds of designs actually foster frustration and resentment, instead of allowing people to ‘engage better’

I’ve already touched upon the Dutch approach of sustainable safety, which seeks to reduce the severity of collisions by aiming towards homogeneity (or uniformity) of mass and momentum (and direction). Fast objects, and heavy objects, should not be sharing the same road space as slower ones, or lighter ones. By contrast, ‘mixing’ cycling with objects that carry considerably greater mass and momentum can have disastrous consequences.

The unattractiveness of cycling directly in front of motor traffic rests not just with the innate uncomfortableness of being in front of a large heavy object that can do you harm. Psychologically, I don’t think anyone likes to be ‘in the way’ – causing inconvenience or delay to others. Just as it is natural to want to be able to make progress on foot, or on bike, or while driving, so the flip side of that coin, for empathetic human beings, is that it is natural to feel uncomfortable at obstructing the progress of others. Even if we could persuade the general population that it’s a good idea to cycle in front of motor traffic, it would be very hard to persuade them that it is actually enjoyable or pleasant, for these reasons.

We can already see this at play in those (allegedly) ‘shared space’ streets that function as through routes. Here, despite the obvious design intention of encouraging pedestrians to walk freely where they want, the subjective unpleasantness of walking in front of motor traffic, coupled presumably with an unwillingness to obstruct drivers, leads almost inevitably to streets that are not really shared at all – streets that function like conventional streets, albeit with pretty paving.

Not much sharing. It’s easier and more pleasant to walk where you are not in the way

People on foot, or on bike, do not take too kindly to being treated as traffic-calming devices. There are a whole host of measures we can employ to slow down motor traffic, that don’t involve placing people in the way of it, including

  • narrow carriageways;
  • removal of centre lines;
  • speed humps and speed tables;
  • cobbled or rough surfacing; 
  • small radius corners;
  • introducing corners, or bends;

And so on. Beyond these self-reinforcing measures, we can even employ enforcement of existing speed limits. These measures involve physical objects and design (and potential conflict with other motor vehicles) to slow drivers down, rather than potential conflict with soft, squishy and unprotected human beings.

Finally, there is the question of whether this kind of approach – deliberately placing people in the way – actually achieves the kind of harmony and good feeling it is purported to. Rather than creating a calm environment, having to trundle behind someone cycling ‘in the way’ could actually foster resentment and frustration, leading to hostile (and potentially dangerous) driving.

So for all these reasons, we should be endeavouring to treat cycling as a distinct mode of transport, with its own network, separate from a driving network, to reduce the extent to which these two modes of transport are ‘in the way’ of each other.

But unfortunately Britain has something of a problematic legacy among cycle campaigners, in that measures to separate out conflict between driving and cycling are framed as getting cycling out of the way of driving, or a ‘surrender’ of the road network. These issues have been covered before at length in that post, and also in this one by David Arditti. At root is an almost umbilical tethering of cycling as a mode of transport with the convenience of motoring; every kind of policy with regard to cycling is viewed through the prism of how it might affect driving.

But this is actually really quite unhelpful, especially when it results in a failure to focus clearly on the kinds of policies that would actually make cycling more attractive to ordinary people. Being ‘in the way’ of motoring is not attractive.

Nor does this kind of attitude make any kind of sense. We don’t think this way in relation to other modes of transport, beyond cycling. We don’t consider how to design for walking through the prism of how it might affect driving; we simply go about creating good routes that feel safe, are convenient, and attractive. The potential impacts on driving of these walking environments are neither here nor there, nor should they be. We don’t think about the fact that walking might be ‘out of the way’ of motoring, because that’s a nonsensical way of looking at things. Walking can be prioritised, even if it is ‘out of the way’.

And precisely the same is true of cycling. We are seeing, with the tremendous political battles to get the first major cycling routes built on main roads in central London, that separating cycling from driving on these roads is itself a way of prioritising cycling, even if this mode is ‘out of the way’ of driving. Not only is capacity for motor vehicles being reduced, but also cycling will become a smoother and more direct mode of transport, absent from conflict with motor traffic, and with reduced delay. No longer being ‘in the way’ is actually beneficial, even if we don’t consider the added benefits of greatly improved safety, and comfort.

The tremendous breakthrough represented by these routes in London is an emergence of designing for cycling in its own right; considering what intervention is required for cycling on each and every road or street to make cycling a viable mode of transport for everyone. On many streets (perhaps the great majority) this will involve changing their nature; turning them into access roads, rather than through roads. But on others – the roads that remain as through routes – it will inevitably involve separating cycling from driving. Treating cycling a distinct mode of transport isn’t anything to do with being in, or out of, the way.


Categories: Views

A timely reminder from Thames Valley Police

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 13 February, 2015 - 11:30

The tired stereotype that ‘cyclists’ are especially prone to lawbreaking really isn’t going to go away if public bodies like police forces persist in employing it.

Take this today from Thames Valley Police’s Roads Policing Twitter account –

Remember cyclists must obey all traffic signs and traffic lights just as other road users must #itsnotworththerisk P4031

— TVP Roads Policing (@tvprp) February 13, 2015

Would the same Twitter account post this (equivalent) piece of ‘public information’?

Remember motorists must obey all traffic signs and traffic lights just as other road users must #itsnotworththerisk P4031

No, because that would be nonsense. Someone driving doesn’t stand out from ‘other road users’  in failing to realise they must obey traffic signs and lights. They already know they have to obey them, and when they break speed limits, or jump red lights, or ignore parking restrictions, or talk on their mobile phone, they do so knowing that they are breaking rules, while hoping that they can get away with it. They are not breaking rules because they think they have some kind of special exemption as a ‘motorist’, a misconception upon which they need correcting by Thames Valley Police.

‘Ha! Those other road users are saps! They have to obey laws while I, as a motorist, have liberty to pick and choose which rules I obey!’ 

That, however, is the implication of  the tweet that @tvprp actually posted. That ‘cyclists’ think they have some kind of special exemption to break rules – that they believe themselves to be above the law, and that consequently they needed to be ‘reminded’ of their obligation to obey rules.

It’s total bollocks, of course, but nevertheless a revealing insight into the mindset of a copper who has obviously just seen someone trundling on the pavement, or through a red light, or up a one-way street, and then instead of thinking to themselves –

Oh look, there’s someone breaking the law, who happens to be on a bike. I’ll take a considered, rational assessment of the danger they were posing to themselves and other road users, and have a quiet word.

… instead thought –

Oh look, there’s another typical cyclist who thinks they are above the law, and doesn’t need to obey the rules, because they’re on two wheels. I’m going to post a sermon on Twitter about the behaviour of this entire group of road users.

As I’ve argued before, it’s preposterous to attribute characteristics to ‘cyclists’, because a ‘cyclist’ is an ordinary human being who happens to be using a particular mode of transport, at a given moment. At another moment, that same person could be a pedestrian, a motorist, a ‘train-ist’ or a ‘bus-ist’. Any propensity to lawbreaking, or a belief to be above road rules, cannot be an innate characteristic of ‘cyclists’, because such a group simply doesn’t exist, any more than ‘plane passengers’ can be described as having particular characteristics that distinguish themselves from other human beings.

The individual behind the Thames Valley Police Twitter account evidently thinks differently – that ‘cyclists’, unlike ‘other road users’, need to be reminded that laws must be obeyed.

Not only is this drivel, I think it’s actually very dangerous drivel, because it reinforces in the public mind the (stereotyped) notion that ‘cyclists’ are somehow less worthy of consideration because they are lawbreakers, because they are ‘self-righteous’ and consider themselves to be above rules. On a number of occasions I have had poor, inconsiderate and even dangerous driving around me justified (or ‘justified’) on the basis that ‘you’ (or ‘you lot’) jump red lights, or terrorise grannies on pavements (see the opening paragraphs here for just one of these instances).

I think it’s pretty shameful that a public body which should be aiming to keep all road users safe is actually serving to endorse these harmful attitudes.


Categories: Views

Street design hostile to cycling. Jan Fabriciusstraat in Assen is an example of a greater Dutch malaise

A View from the Cycle Path - 12 February, 2015 - 12:36
The enormous and extremely expensive Florijn As project is changing Assen. While there are many benefits for drivers due to the Florijn As project, there are few changes which are good for cycling. There is plenty of glossy publicity material available on the website of the project but actual detailed plans have not been easy to access. In this case, I had a chance to view the plan on the David Hembrowhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/14543024940730663645noreply@blogger.com0http://www.aviewfromthecyclepath.com/2015/02/street-design-hostile-to-cycling-jan.html
Categories: Views

Total inconsistency from the Royal Parks

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 11 February, 2015 - 11:19

I can’t really add much to Cyclists in the City’s excellent and thorough analysis of the problems facing the East-West Superhighway route through the Royal Parks – problems, it seems, that are entirely being caused by the Royal Parks themselves, as the Evening Standard reports.

But I would like to examine the apparent rationale the Royal Parks are advancing for blocking a separated route for cycling, on the existing carriageway – a route that would look like this, in the visualisation that Transport for London have already prepared.

How the route would look, if it wasn’t being blocked by the Royal Parks

As is clear from this visualisation, the route would run on existing road space, separated from motor traffic by what look like removable wands, visible on the right of the image.

It is very important to note here that the Royal Parks are not actually objecting to the principle of a Superhighway running through this area; their objection is specifically about the form cycling provision should take.

As the Superhighway comes down Constitution Hill, instead of running it on the road, the Royal Parks want the route to pass directly through this area of shared use, shown below, at the foot of Green Park.

The existing area of shared use at the south side of Green Park. This is where the Royal Parks want the Superhighway to go.

This is already a very busy area, heaving with pedestrians who are coming to and from the Palace, or making their way from Hyde Park into central London. I don’t think mixing cycling and walking here works at all, even at present – the numbers of people walking and cycling here are just too high.

Yet the Royal Parks are apparently proposing that this shared footway is appropriate for what will likely be one the busiest cycle routes in London, pushing more people cycling into this area.

It makes absolutely no sense whatsoever, especially when – just over that wall, visible in the picture above – there is an ocean of road space that could quite easily be used for a protected cycle route, without having any effect on motor traffic, while simultaneously keeping cycling and walking separated from each other at this very busy location.

The 2014 Parliamentary Bike Ride, passing along TfL’s preferred route for the Superhighway. As you can see, there is a vast expanse of tarmac here that can easily accommodate a cycling route.

Locating the cycling route here would therefore actually represent a considerable improvement for pedestrians, because cycling would no longer be mixed in with walking on the existing shared use footway. These issues are summarised very well by Andrew Gilligan in the early part of this BBC report from Tom Edwards.

So what is the reasoning the Royal Parks are employing for blocking a segregated track on the road, and insisting that the crap status quo should be maintained (and indeed worsened, through the addition of more cycle traffic into a shared use area)?

All we have to go on at present are the minutes of their Board meeting back in December, at which Andrew Gilligan and Transport for London representatives are present (thanks to Jon Stone, for uploading them) –

TfL set out the consultation concept designs for the east-west cycle superhighway within the Royal Parks. The Board agreed that TfL could undertake public consultation on the proposed road based scheme through Hyde Park. The proposals for St James and Green Parks were not satisfactory for safety, operational and aesthetic reasons. The Board asked TfL to look again at the concept design and come back with revisions and mitigations.

Unspecified ‘safety, operational and aesthetic reasons’.

I have to say is not especially clear why an expanse of tarmac is more aesthetically pleasing if it is entirely used for motor traffic – perhaps the Royal Parks could provide more explanation. The ‘operational’ reasons don’t make a great deal of sense either, as we’ve known for some time that the segregation at this location would have to be removable, for events.

As for ‘safety’, it makes absolutely no sense whatsoever to pretend that running a busy cycle route directly through an area of footway used by huge numbers of pedestrians is safer than separating that cycle route from those pedestrians, by using excess carriageway space.

The total inconsistency of the Royal Parks on this issue is betrayed by the fact that they are simultaneously insisting that it is not safe for the Superhighway to run along Rotten Row –

In response to Royal Parks Agency concerns about pedestrians, the superhighway will not run on Rotten Row

Because of… concerns about pedestrians!

How can the Royal Parks profess concern for conflict between walking and cycling in Hyde Park, while simultaneously blocking a Superhighway route by Buckingham Palace that would serve to remove that conflict?


Categories: Views

The end of free car parking in Assen and how this has caused problems for cyclists

A View from the Cycle Path - 10 February, 2015 - 09:58
Veemarktterrein a few years ago. Not full, but quite a lot of cars were parked here. For many years, the Veemarktterrein a few hundred metres east of Assen city centre offered free car parking. Anyone could park their car here for as long as they wanted free of charge. The attraction of free parking wasn't enough to make people drive when they had a better alternative so though it was free of David Hembrowhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/14543024940730663645noreply@blogger.com0http://www.aviewfromthecyclepath.com/2015/02/the-end-of-free-car-parking-in-assen.html
Categories: Views

Missing link completed in Den Bosch

BicycleDutch - 9 February, 2015 - 23:01
All over the Netherlands cities are working to get rid of missing links in their cycle grids. That is often done by building viaducts or underpasses, overpasses or bridges. But … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

Marginal gains

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 9 February, 2015 - 14:28

There was a anair bit of discussion last week about the value – or lack of value – of promotional marketing campaigns related to cycling. On the one hand, we had the view that any kind of policy, promotional or otherwise, that purports to increase cycling levels is a good thing. On the other, we had the view that these policies are largely pointless without the kinds of conditions on the ground to enable cycling; safe, convenient, attractive and direct routes.

Those who take the former view argue that every little thing helps. Therefore every little thing is good. The phrase ‘marginal gains’ is even employed, echoing Team Sky’s strategy of improving in all areas of performance, to extract maximum benefit. By this logic, glossy promotion is a ‘marginal gain’, a boost to cycling, alongside cycleways. This view, I think, is summarised below, in the words of Carlton Reid

Sir Dave Brailsford’s system of aggregating marginal gain is an example from cycle sport that demonstrates that great things can come from lots of little tweaks. I want brilliant, Dutch-style cycle infrastructure in the UK. I don’t want yet more ‘crap cycle lanes’. I’m not holding my breath. Nevertheless I will campaign long and hard for such infrastructure, as I have been doing for the best part of 30 years.

Rome wasn’t built in a day, and nor was Amsterdam’s cycle infrastructure. Before we get a UK version of the wonderful Dutch National Cycling Plan there are many smaller fixes that the UK Government and local authorities could do tomorrow.

By all means aim for the big stuff, but let’s not ignore lots and lots of the little stuff. That’s why I’ve started the Twitter hashtag #nudges4cycling Some great, simple fixes have already started arriving and I’ll compile a list of these to give to the Department for Transport and other relevant Departments.

Marketing presumably being one of these ‘nudges’.

However this ‘marginal gains’ analogy is deeply flawed. Team Sky are applying the aggregation of ‘marginal gains’ while their riders are using extremely expensive Pinarello bikes, honed in wind tunnel testing, and fitted with top-of-the-range components. It makes sense to apply ‘marginal gains’ when you already have fantastic equipment.

However, it would make very little sense for Team Sky to do so if they were equipped with secondhand 1990s Halfords Apollo ‘full suspension’ mountain bikes, with flat tyres and rusty chains.

Wear a skinsuit on this beast

You can hire the best sports psychologists and nutritionists; you can ferry your team about in the fanciest tour buses; put them up in the most expensive hotels; manage their sleep patterns; religiously organise their training programmes; clothe them in the lightest, most aerodynamic skinsuits.

But really, if your riders are bouncing around on creaky £90 specials while the rest of the peloton vanishes over the horizon, is there any point? Indeed, it could justifiably be argued that – while the equipment your riders are forced to use is so deeply sub-optimal – employing Steve Peters to help your riders find their ‘inner chimp’ is a total waste of money.

This is, unfortunately, analogous to the role of promotion with current conditions for cycling in Britain. The equivalent of the rusty mountain bikes is the conditions we expect people to ride in; and the equivalent of Steve Peters is the promotional activity that attempts to persuade people to ride in those conditions.

Go on. You know you want to. Will this picture of a pretty girl standing beside a bike help?

How about a picture of a granny in a park?

The very reason cycling has such a poor image in Britain is due to these hostile conditions. It is a marginal, fringe activity precisely because so few people are willing to cycle on our roads and streets, and those that are prepared to do so choose to wear equipment that they feel – rightly or wrongly – will mitigate that danger and hostility. The image problem flows from the physical environment.

This is why marketing has failed – and will continue to fail – as a strategy to enable cycling in Britain. The conditions need to come first, then promotion needs to follow, just as you need to go out and buy the Pinarellos, before employing Steve Peters. Don’t waste your money employing sports psychologists, when your equipment is so desperately below par.

Meanwhile, marketing remains a very convenient outlet for cycle spending for those authorities who don’t wish to address the unattractive conditions for cycling on their roads. I’m thinking here particularly of Kensington and Chelsea’s Bikeminded, a glossy EU-funded promotional scheme from a borough that continues to block cycleways on its main roads.

‘Always be at the front of the queue’, says RBKC promotional activity. That’s if you can squeeze your way through all the motor traffic clogging the borough’s roads.

Spending cycling money on marketing is uncontroversial, and allows many councils to pretend they’re actually doing something while failing to address the largest and most significant barrier to cycling; the unwillingness of the general public to share roadspace with motor traffic. Marketing needs to be employed when you have a product that’s actually worth selling; otherwise it amounts to polishing a turd.

Indeed, this essential point appears to have got lost in all the back-and-forth last week. Nobody is knocking the principle of marketing, any more than critics are knocking the principle of employing sports psychologists. There’s nothing wrong with either. The issue many campaigners have is one of ordering.

Just as you wouldn’t waste money on sports psychologists when your team is equipped with embarrassingly crap bikes, don’t waste money attempting to market a product you already know the public doesn’t want to buy. Develop a good one, then market that.

 

 

See also Joe Dunckley on the logic – or otherwise – of campaigning for marginal gains


Categories: Views

Cycling in Rotterdam 5 of 8

Pedestrianise London - 6 February, 2015 - 10:30

5. Tile cycleway surfaces (klinkers) are not the best thing for riding on when it’s wet and autumnal. Especially not on thin racing tyres.

— Paul James (@pauljames) November 4, 2014

The surfaces of the cycleways in Rotterdam are either smooth red asphalt or are made up street bricks.

Uni-directional cycleway tiled with street bricks, aka “klickers”.

Bi-directional cycleway surfaced with smooth asphalt.

The asphalt is amazing, but the bricks, when they’re uneven, or when it’s wet, then they’re “fun”. It’s a very uncertain surface.

Luckily, they’re gradually being phased out, hopefully before I end up on my arse one dark rainy night.

Categories: Views

The Village Idiot of Urban Innovation

Copenhagenize - 5 February, 2015 - 21:53

Where cities put their bicycles. Above ground. On street level. Woven into the urban fabric. Well...  not ALL cities.

I meet amazing, inspiring people when I travel the world with my work. I see a lot of things. Many of the things are good. Many are, however, strange and frustrating. Especially regarding infrastructure. It boggles my mind every time I - or worse, ride on - bike lanes on the wrong side of parked cars in between the door zone of primarily single-occupant vehicles and moving traffic in North American cities and I thumb my nose at every sharrow I see. That fakest of all fake bicycle infrastructure. That sheep in wolf's clothing.

Despite a century of Best Practice in bicycle infrastructure and tried and tested networks occupied by tens of thousands of daily cyclists in cities that "get it", there are still so many mistakes being made elsewhere. I see stuff slapped lazily into place by engineers and planners who don't ride bicycles in their city and who haven't even tried it. Mutant Frankeninfrastructure from the lab of a Marvel Comics nemesis' laboratory.

The streets of our cities were, for 7000 years since cities first were formed, the most democratic spaces in the history of homo sapiens. When the automobile appeared, the world's longest reigning urban dictatorship took over. Rest assured, there are signs of a Velvet Revolution (I tried to work velo into that... velovet... velo-vet... nevermind) forming. Passionate advocates for life-sized cities are meeting in earnest in the back rooms of coffee houses down the back streets. Recruiting more and more planners and even engineers - even though some of the latter group get strongarmed. Certain prominent figures are heard saying extraordinary things. Like the Mayor of Paris until last year, Bertrand Delanoë, who said, "The fact is that cars no longer have a place in the big cities of our time". He backed up his vision with action. Transforming Paris into something more beautiful in his 12 years at the helm. Not just bikes and infrastructure but traffic calming and lowering speed limits, among many other things.

Nevertheless, the motordom regime continues its rule. Erich Honecker has yet to be kissed. The transport wall remains for now.

Where there is hope, there is wackiness to make you roll your eyes, weep, utter expletives. Often all at once.  There is one in every crowd, they say. The kid in the class who isn't paying attention and disrupts everyone else with unruly behaviour and lame jokes that fall flat and do little to garner respect.

In the realm of modernising transport in our cities, it would seem that the kid is London.


What place is this that can offer up three massive conceptual projects that amaze with their stupidity and complete misunderstanding of both urban life in general and the bicycle's role in cities - now and for the past 125 years?

Above, the first act in this urban comedy (it might actually be a tragedy). Norm Foster's Skycycle. Putting cyclists on a shelf at the behest of Motordom. Keeping those rascals off the streets and offering them little access to things like... oh I don't know... shops, schools, cafés, restaurants, businesses, workplaces.

£220 million for a few miles? Like Marie Kåstrup from the City of Copenhagen said, even if Copenhagen had that kind of money they wouldn't build a Skycycle. It would take cyclists off the streets and remove them from the urban fabric and places they need to go.  I've written about The Ridiculous Skycycle by Norman Foster before. I let you read that. Onward.


The second act of our absurd vaudeville production is a floating cycleway on the River Thames. £600 million. That's 5,963,800,635.36 Danish kroner at today's rate, which makes it sound even more stupid. I don't even know where to start with this one. The rendering, above, doesn't even have any off ramps. Is it recreational? Who knows. Who cares. Another architect so far removed from the reality of life in cities. Take a number, pal.

I'll let CityLab tackle this one. They might be more diplomatic about it.


And then today. Act Three. The last thing I needed to see before heading out of the office. Once you see it, you can't unsee it. The London Underline. New York must be so insulted by that reference to their High Line.

Welcome to Watership Down for cyclists. THIS is what Fiver envisioned that scared him so much while at Sandlewood. If the Skycycle and the river thing seem inconvenient and out of touch with reality, words fail me for this one.

Sticking cyclists up in the sky, out on the water and now underground. Get these people away from AutoCAD. They are an embarassment to all the good people in London who UNDERSTAND. Who are working HARD to right so many urban wrongs.

Sorry to break this to you, but there is a companion film to this "concept".

Read more about it at The Guardian. They're a bit nicer about it.

Sure, there are tunnels for cyclists. Tunnels that serve a specific function on an A to B journey. Like in San Sebastian. Like the tunnel under the river in Rotterdam, built in the 1930s.  Much has been learned since then. The Dutch do an amazing job at underpasses and they keep them light and airy. The Danes pipe pleasant music into dark bike parking facilities to keep people comfortable - and generally avoid tunnels altogether, with only a few underpasses around. Keeping cyclists above ground is a design standard here.

Some people have likened the Bicycle Snake / Cykelslangen in Copenhagen to Norm's Skycycle. No. The Bicycle Snake is a BRIDGE. Solving a problem at one specific location. Not putting cyclists out of sight, out of mind. Apples and oranges. Arsenal and Tottenham.

If you look at innovation - real innovation - regarding bicycle infrastructure, you'll notice that it always prioritizes cyclists and serves a practical, logical function. The Bicycle Snake is a great example. The Floating Roundabout in Eindhoven? Same thing. The Green Wave for cyclists, rain sensors for cyclists, Or any of these things mentioned here.

You'll also notice that they are simple in nature. Simple, rational and functional. Based on an understanding of how bicycles in cities used to work, still work and can work.

We have everything we need. We know everything we need to know. What to shift people over to other modern, intelligent transport forms? This is all you need.

Innovation in cities is simple. Use 7000 years of experience. It's right there. It's free. It works. Truly smart cities don't overcomplicate.



Ah, but wait. After that three act debacle is there hope? A splendid new bridge in London, spanning the Thames, providing a new mobility link in a city that desperately needs them. Oh... wait. The celebrity who is drumming up support for this, her baby, won't allow bicycles on it.

The village idiot is at it again. Disrupting the class. Tokyo and Berlin are ignoring him. Copenhagen and Paris are plotting a wedgie at recess behind the bike shed. Buenos Aires, New York and Dublin are just pointing and laughing.

Samuel Johnson famously quipped that, "...when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life." That was 1777.  Nowadays, regarding urban innovation, when a person is tired of London, they give it one star on TripAdvisor, a scathing review and they hop on the Eurostar to Paris or fly to Berlin or Barcelona or Copenhagen or Amsterdam or... etc.Copenhagenize the planet. And have a lovely day.
Categories: Views

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