Views

The Urban Archipelago - Reclaiming Space and Revitalising the Harbour

Copenhagenize - 7 January, 2015 - 14:27

Living in Copenhagen, you're never far from the harbour or the sea. We're blessed with access to water and to fabulous beaches. Nevertheless, we feel that the harbour is currently underused. The ancient harbour of the Danish capital was decommercialised around 17 years ago and most shipping activity was moved to harbours to the north of the city, leaving a fantastic swath of urban space for the citizens. Freeing up the harbourfront led to an ongoing urban renewal, with 42 km of harbourfront to be developed.

Nevertheless, I've watched the development and wondered why the actual water seems so underused through the years. It seems to be accelerating a bit over the past two years or so, but given the fact that this is a rowing and sailing nation, I would love to see more opportunities for the citizens to use the water.


There are harbour baths in place now and the number of pleasure craft is rising. The Kalvebod Wave made a serious impact on harbourfront usage despite the City missing the mark regarding transport connections.. All great. It's brilliant that the water is now clean enough to swim in and that people do it at every opportunity - even at four in the morning.

Nevertheless, there is still room for improvement. There is a lack of sanctioned areas for bathing in the harbour (Copenhageners generally don't worry about those rules) and there is opportunity for creating viable and lively urban space with direct access to the water.



Enter Steve C. Montebello - designer and architect here at Copenhagenize Design Company. Hailing from Malta, Steve understands the need for access to the sea for citizens of a city. He developed The Urban Archipelago for his design project for the final year of his B.Sc. in The Built Environment. With our offices located on Paper Island, on the harbour in the heart of Copenhagen, we instantly saw how this brilliant idea could be applied virtually right outside our door, let alone at numerous locations along the harbour and elsewhere in Denmark.

Two factors inspired Steve to create the modular Urban Archipelago. One was the brilliant Sugata Mitra, who has brilliant TED talks about children and education. His Self-Organized Learning Environment (SOLE) concept got Steve thinking. The other factor was the eternal battle for urban space for the citizens.

Steve's idea, like all good ideas, is simple. Creating an off-shore activity area that provides access to the water - including jumping in from various heights YAY! - and that shields the users from any boat traffic that may be chugging past. Hang out, eat lunch, make out, doze, swim, play. Whatever you need to do, The Urban Archipelago system will help you out. It's the perfect addition to any Life-Sized City.



Of course, we did a rendering of what it would look like right outside our offices on Paper Island/Papirøen. Bring on the summer.


The modular unit can be tesselated, allowing for a large variety of arrangement possibilities. The layout of the individual is organic and changeable and can be adapated to user needs, user volume and specific location requirements.



The main intentions of Steve's design were to create floating modular units consisting of a square base which could be tessellated. These modular units will increase public space at the location they are anchored. Steve has even factored in free wifi. Nice.


The modular elements are connected by ropes and pre-existing pontoon elements. A separate module can be anchored off to the side, covered with solar panels that could power the wifi and any other electricity needs.



The modular units are constructed in a workshop. They will then be assembled as prefabricated elements on site, in whatever size and form is desired or required.

It's a brilliant, simple and effective idea. It also makes us miss summer badly. We decided at Copenhagenize Design Company to build more stuff in 2015. Maybe we should get started on this.







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

Desire Line Analysis in Copenhagen's City Centre

Copenhagenize - 7 January, 2015 - 11:11



Continuing in our series of Desire Line Analyses, we decided to cast our critical and curious eyes on yet another Copenhagen intersection, this time where Bremerholm meets Holmens Kanal.

We decided to be more specific and focus on one part of the intersection - a location that we know well and one with a specific congestion problem in rush hour. We filmed for one hour from 08:15-09:15.

Behaviour vs Design

With the massive numbers of bicycle users in the mornings in Copenhagen, bottlenecks occur at a number of locations, particularly where many bicycle users need to turn left. This is something that all of us at the company experience each morning so we decided to study it.

It was a November morning and it was party-cloudly, dry and 6 degrees C. The focus was to determine how bicycle users react to the sub-standard design of this location. How they react to having to battle with motorised traffic - something that is unusual in the city. Yep, even in Copenhagen, The Arrogance of Space is present at times.

With this study we look at how bicycle users react to the design of infrastructure at one specific location, their behaviour and adherance to traffic laws and how they interact with other traffic users, in particular cars. All in one tight, congested location.

As always, we apply Direct Observation and Revealed Preferences, as opposed to Declared Preferences in order to explore how to improve conditions for bicycle users in the interest of improving flow, capacity and safety.

For more Desire Line Analyses, see: copenhagenize.eu/projects.html#desire

Here is the map of the intersection in question.

You can check out the full report here. (LINK to full pdf)

This short analysis revealed quite a lot of interesting revelations in the behaviour of the bicycle users. We have established that Copenhagen has the world's best behaved bicycle users. We wondered if that track record would stand the test at an intersection that is far below the Copenhagen par in its design.

71% of all traffic in the observation period were bicycle users.

86% of all left-turning bicycle users observed performed the textbook Copenhagen Left. The majority of those who didn't were reacting to the congestion.

1:3 - For every vehicle there were three bicycle users. Imagine if they were all in cars. This might jog your memory.

1560 - This Desire Line analysis mapped the Desire Lines of 1560 cyclists on their way to work or education during morning rush hour at the Bremerholm - Holmens Kanal intersection.

Bremerholm - Holmens Kanal intersection: 1560 Cyclists (from 8:15am to 9:15)



During the morning rush hour, the intersection is characterised by congestion at the corner with bicycle users waiting for the green light. The traffic law dictates that the Copenhagen Left - or the box turn - is required. Bicycle users are not, however, required to wait for the light to turn green. They can cross if there is no traffic.

Two main behavioural patterns were observed. The first where bicycle users are turning left in great numbers and also how bicycle users coming down Bremerholm interact with motor vehicles upon reaching the light.  These two scenarios interacted with each other, and should not be considered to be mutually exclusive events.

Detailed Observations of cyclists waiting at Bremerholm


Here we see how bicycles and vehicles interact inside the same space. At this location, the bike lane ends before the intersection and bicycle users share the space with right-turning cars. This design was standard for a few years, but now pulling back the stop line for cars at intersections is the new design approach. The general rule of thumb is that whoever gets to the intersection first - be it a car or a bicycle user - can decide to hug the curb. Cars invariably hugged the curb, leaving - at this location - no space for bikes. Because of their expectations due to the uniformity of design elsewhere in the city, bicycle users invariably found a way of getting ahead of the cars at the red light.


Detailed Observations of cyclists waiting at Bremerholm doing the Copenhagen Left



It was interesting to observe how bicycle users waited at the light when turning left. It had little to do with the volume of bicycles but rather the behaviour of those who arrive first on the scene. The following bicycle users invariably followed their lead, either lining up across the intersection or bunching up behind them.

Further Data
Further data and observations were gathered from this Desire Line analysis.The data of each of the different forms of traffic was then broken down (shown below).


The observations of the cyclists.


Vehicular data was broken down.


Along with pedestrian data.


It was interesting to note the flow of traffic per traffic light turn and compare the flow of bicycles to cars. While the flow of vehicles remains rather constant at 9 cars per green light over the morning rush hour, the flow of bicycles varies greatly. This demonstrates that bicycles can get through an intersection quicker than vehicles do.


Copenhagenize Fixes
Finally we offer our recommendations for redesigning the intersection. When the vast majority of the users are on bicycles, democracy would indicate that there are easy redesigns available to prioritize them.


Read the full pdf from the Copenhagenize Design Company website.Copenhagenize the planet. And have a lovely day.
Categories: Views

Rush hour in the dark

BicycleDutch - 5 January, 2015 - 23:01
We are past the darkest time of the year again, the days are already slowly getting longer. But it will take a long time before we notice that it really … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

IJ Dock Amsterdam - New Urban Space

Copenhagenize - 5 January, 2015 - 12:39

On my recent visit to Amsterdam I decided to try a new hotel. The Room Mate Aitana Hotel located on IJDock, a short walk from Central Station. I'd heard about this newly redesigned quay from a friend and was thrilled to discover that it's open for business. To be frank, it was four days of architecture/urban design porn.


It's a dead-end island - one road in and out, although with another pedestrian/cyclist bridge for easier access - so it's not like they're fighting traffic. Nevertheless, looking down from my hotel room, it's clear that cars are told how much space they can use. No arrogance of space here. The allocated spots are outside the hotel entrance, for taxis and pickup/drop off. There is also an underground car parking garage on the island.


There is underground bike parking to be had as well. Clearly marked with a big pictogram and a lovely pictogram set in stone. I wandered in and it was virtually empty. But bikes were always parked up on the street... near the pictogram. You can see what I mean in the photo at the top of the page.

I parked on the sidewalk outside the Aitana hotel, where there is a weird abscence of bike racks, even though there were always loads of hotel bikes and rental bikes, including my OV Fiets. When you're working on the BiTiBi.eu Bike-Train-Bike project, you ride an OV Fiets bike share bike in Amsterdam. It would be rude not to. Plus it's just a brilliant system.


Here are some photos from inside the Aitana hotel. Loads of design details and goodness. Although I could live without the psychadelic hallways, but hey.


Outside the hotel, whichever way I looked at the architecture and design on the island, it looked amazing. In every light and even at night.




So many details to behold. The view of the river only added to the potpourri of images. A constant flow of ships and barges.


IJ Dock is mixed use. I could see life in some of the 56 luxury apartments and some shops and cafés were open (grab breakfast at Bagels and Beans instead of the hotel, which is otherwise a fantastic place to stay). It looks like there are still vacant offices in the various buildings, so the place is just heating up with activity. The Palace of Justice is at one end and a police station at the entrance, so this is not the place you'd want to engage in criminal activities.



The brown space, above, will be transformed to green as a vertical lawn once spring comes. A nice detail.

Bizarrely, it's tricky to find helpful information about the little island, despite the efforts to build such interesting buildings. There is a website, but it's only in Dutch - http://www.ijdock.nl/. Here's the location on Google maps.


Nevertheless, IJ Dock is a wild, weird and beautiful place. I've definately found my new home away from home when I'm in Amsterdam. Check it out if you're in town.

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

An avoidable tragedy

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 5 January, 2015 - 11:24

The appalling story of Victoria Lebrec – the young woman who was seriously injured by a left-turning lorry at the junction of St John Street and Clerkenwell in Islington in December last year – features in the Evening Standard today. She has lost her left leg, but as the article describes, she is very lucky to be alive. As Tom Konig states in the article -

Had she suffered her injuries two years ago, she wouldn’t have made it to hospital, which is a testament to the pre-hospital team that went to her.

What is remarkable is that if Victoria had been cycling through this junction at the same time last year, or even as late as July 2014, this collision would in all probability have not occurred.

Why is this? From September 26th 2013 until August 2014, St John Street was closed so that water mains could be repaired before the Crossrail machines tunnelled through the area. For nearly a year, in other words, St John Street had a form of ‘filtered permeability’, with no through traffic.

This was the state of affairs at the junction where Victoria was seriously injured in August 2014, just three months before her collision -

Streetview has captured a woman cycling westbound across the junction, towards Farringdon, just as Victoria was. The road into which the lorry turned left across her was, at this time, closed to through traffic, and had no HGV access.

Some argued that this closure should be retained once the works were completed, but the street was reopened to motor traffic in early August, meaning that people cycling were, once again, exposed to the danger of left-turning HGVs, on what is one of London’s busiest cycling routes. It’s not as if this kind of incident is exceptional – another woman was killed by a left-turning HGV at precisely the same location, just nine years ago. As the Evening Standard article describes, it is only advances in medical care that avoided the same outcome last December.

I’m not quite sure what rationale Islington employed in returning to the status quo after a whole eleven months with the road closed, but I wonder if they accounted for the likelihood of near-fatal collisions like this one, and their devastating consequences. Is it a price worth paying?


Categories: Views

Copenhagen's Traffic Playground for Kids - Renovated and Ready to Go

Copenhagenize - 5 January, 2015 - 10:55

In 1974, a Traffic Playground opened in Fælledparken, Copenhagen, giving children the opportunity to hone their skills riding bicycles and interacting with other traffic users. On November 29, 2014, the Traffic Playground reopened after being renovated, in time for the 40th anniversary.

Such traffic playgrounds have been commonplace in Denmark and the Netherlands since the 1950s and go hand in hand with the fact that the bicycle has been on the curriculum in Danish schools since 1947. Children recieve their first taste of bicycle “school” in the 3rd grade and, in the sixth grade, they complete a bicycle exam.

All the facilities at the Traffic Playground in Copenhagen were renovated. New asphalt was laid down and everything else was shined up. Safe traffic learning is really prioritized in Denmark and, of course, our kids deserve the best conditions.

The traffic playground is a public playground with a “kid-sized” traffic town where children learn to move in a safe environment. The playground is staffed during business hours and children can borrow go-carts, pedal vehicles with trailers and small bikes. The children are also welcome to bring their own bikes, roller skates and scooters.

For younger children (2-5 years), there is a small, fenced traffic lane where the little ones can borrow carts, tricycles and bicycles with trailers. Furthermore, the playground has a garage with go-carts, which are intended for children between 5 and 14 years. In the classroom, children can receive classroom teaching.

The traffic playground consists of small roads that wind in and out between lawns, shrubs and trees. Everything on the small rehearsal roads is reduced in size to match the children's perspective. There are mini signals, driveways, road markings, sidewalks, crosswalks, bike paths, a gas station, a roundabout, bus stops, traffic lights and even trash cans tilted towards the cyclists - just like in real life (you can see one here in this earlier article).

Every aspect of traffic in a city and a suburban area is present. Kids switch between being cyclists, motorists and pedestrians in order to learn from the different angles.

Living in a city like Copenhagen, it’s really useful for kids to be taught in how to interact and signal in traffic from a young age. By the age of six, many children ride to school, and therefore you can’t start the practicing soon enough. During our every day cycling in Copenhagen we see that the young ones excel at riding bicycles and interacting with car and motorcycle traffic. All cities can certainly learn something from that. A facility like this fits perfectly in our idea of what a truly life-sized city should be.

The traffic playground caters to schools and kindergartens, as well as other organised groups and parents are welcome to stop by with their kids.


Photo from the reopening - courtesy Traffic Playground and their Facebook page.

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

“Roads Were Not Built For Cars”, by Carlton Reid: A Review

Road Danger Reduction Forum - 4 January, 2015 - 22:40

It’s been a while coming, heralded by regular progress updates and advance extracts from the author, but here we are: 2014 saw the publication (in a variety of formats and eventually to be available free in extracts) of Carlton Reid’s magnum opus. Has the advance publicity by the author been justified?Yes, it has.

It is indeed packed full of references, anecdote, social history, facts and illustrations of interest to anyone concerned about the status of different forms of road transport. I could have done with reference to the work of John Adams, the 1990s Road Danger Reduction movement and, yes, my book, but you can’t have everything – particularly if you have a packed 300+ pages to start off with. This book is a lot more than a dry history of road building with a focus on the 20th century: it fascinates with a steady stream of revelatory contemporary views on who those roads were for. As such it is, above all, a contribution to the debates we should be having now on transport policy.

Take the example of segregation as the answer to the problems for cyclists. Carlton Reid shows that the pre-war attempts at cyclist segregation in the UK were far from the boon you might think from considering many modern advocates. The views of the cycling organisations at the time were justifiably sceptical or hostile not just because of the poor quality of the cycle tracks, or even the danger as cyclists were at increased risk when dumped into motor traffic at junctions. They realised that the official view was essentially one of cyclists being a problem to be marginalised, not least as revealed in the 1938 Alness Commission.

As such they were rightly suspicious of what would befall cyclists not just where the inadequate and dangerous new tracks were proposed, but elsewhere as well. After all, segregation elsewhere had been very obviously to the detriment of cyclists. In the most car-centred society in the world (with the possible exception of the USA), Nazi Germany, use of inferior cycle paths was mandatory for cyclists and part of a clearly anti-cycling agenda (p.253).

What numerous examples like this show is how, above all, roads are about the rights, freedom and power of different kinds of road user.  The discussion is therefore highly political: both in terms of the power exercised by different kinds of road user and the governments that support or undermine them.

And for the author, this has been a motivating factor in writing the book,  not least over the “I pay a tax for the road” mythology espoused by too many motorists. It is not only justifiable, but necessary, to counter this mythology. I don’t think it is overstating the case to say that this mythology impedes the possibilities of having a sustainable transport policy. It supports subsidising motoring – as well as road building for more motor traffic – at a time of austerity. It backs up a sense of motorist entitlement which facilitates rule- and law-breaking driving and threatens the safety of cyclists, as well as being a part of abuse and discrimination.

So Carlton Reid is a man with a justifiably righteous mission: showing motorists that roads were in fact not built for them and that they ought to realise that cyclists were there first.

My problem is: is that approach actually going to deal with the anti-cycling prejudice and motorist sense of entitlement? After all, any old bigot can say that even if roads were built for cyclists they just think they should now be there for motorists (in general and themselves in particular). After all, what does the fact that roads were not built for cars actually mean?

Carlton seems to me to be overly optimistic in hoping that this history will win over the Great British Motorist. Indeed, he goes a lot further by pushing the story of – as the subtitle states: How cyclists were the first to push for good roads and became the pioneers of motoring. Are cyclists supposed to be proud of this? Does it have a useful and positive relevance to the struggles ahead?

What it does achieve is a Foreword from the President of the Automobile Association, Mr King. In it he suggests that “It would be healthy for some of the Mr. Toads out there to read this book…” but getting some of the most bigoted to read a book isn’t going to make much, if any, positive difference. And King wants to tell us that “Motorists and cyclists are not two tribes” and that “Car v Cycle arguments” should be demolished. But this “We’re all in it together” type of argument will not get us further in the right direction.

In fact, it confuses the issue. Many cyclists (but by no means all) are indeed also motorists. But that tends to obscure the fact that when driving they are far more likely to endanger others on the road, as well as damage the global and local environment and have an adverse effect on public health. My view is that we need to emphasise that fact. Indeed “Car v. cycle arguments” which show that the former mode is far more of a problem to society than the latter are exactly what we need.

Take the key example of the “road tax” myth. In my view it is not enough to talk about when a specific “Road Tax” was abolished and what Vehicle Excise Duty is. More robust arguments are needed. I have tried to show how costs of motoring have fallen and that driving is subsidised.  There are dangerous pitfalls with cost benefit analysis, but if Edmund King could suggest to his members that motorists – compared to cyclists – do not pay their way we could get somewhere. There is nothing to suggest that he is going to object to the declining costs (to the motorist, that is) of motoring.

Nor is he likely to take a robust approach to law enforcement (too much of that and you start losing members of the AA). Or of the cuts in highway capacity for drivers that would be required if modern segregation for cyclists (unlike the 1930s type) is to work well; or the change in enforcement and culture to reduce danger from drivers to cyclists where there is no segregation.

Carlton Reid provides us with a splendid illustration of how the dominance of the motor vehicle has developed over a short period of time: the implication is that a more civilised and equitable relationship with the more benign forms of transport and the environment can obtain. The issue is how to make this happen.

 


Categories: Views

Cycling in Rotterdam 2 of 8

Pedestrianise London - 4 January, 2015 - 20:12

2. Everyone rides, people from every walk of life, but distances seem limited to 3km. Pedelecs increase this distance and are very popular.

— Paul James (@pauljames) November 4, 2014

Rotterdam is a pretty multicultural place, it’s arguably the most multicultural city in the Netherlands, according to Wikipedia, nearly half the population is non-Dutch, and yet it’s quite clear that all sorts of people cycle. Old, young, male, female, Dutch, non-Dutch, I would argue that there’s less middle aged people cycling, and less men than woman. To me, as a place, it totally destroys the old “the Dutch cycle because of culture” canard.

In the city centre, cycling is still the fastest and best way to get around. Even with the excellent tram network and the overall central district being quite small (London west-end sized), many people I know cycle to get around the city, and not just for getting to work, but for going shopping and visiting friends etc. too.

A 15 minute tram ride can be easily ridden by bike in 10 minutes, so as long as the wind and rain hold off, it’s usually the better choice. If you are travelling further, then it’s less clear cut for most people and more will instead elect for the tram and metro.

Living out of the city but commuting into the centre, you get the usual urban cyclists like you find in London, as well as students and high school children heading to local destinations.

But then you also get men and women in suits going into town, many on electric assist bikes. The winds can be strong and harsh, so if you’re lucky you can find a pedelec to draft behind and piggyback off of their motor.

Categories: Views

Reversing The Arrogance of Space in Copenhagen

Copenhagenize - 3 January, 2015 - 22:14

What you see in the above photo is a classic symptom of decades of car-centric planning. A wide, rounded corner that expedites the movment of cars, without jeopardising their speed. Wide sidewalks narrow at the corner, where bicycles are often parked. It is a prime example of The Arrogance of Space. It's the corner of Gammel Kongevej and Skt. Jørgens Allé.

It is possible that this corner was designed as such for the tramways of Copenhagen that operated in the city from 1884 to 1972, when one of the most destructive Lord Mayors in the history of Copenhagen (in an urban planning sense) - the ironically named Urban Hansen - killed them off. I've been unable to find out which tram route might have turned down this street at this intersection.

Nevertheless, this corner remained unchanged ever since. I know this spot well. It's always been an irritating bottleneck, especially when walking with a baby carriage, as I did often when Felix was a baby.

There is little need for this corner. As the green lines indicate, there is a considerable amount of space that is unused. There is a cycle track on the street running left to right - you can see a cyclist at bottom right. To be honest, it was a great corner for cyclists, too. Too much speed, however, coming around that corner wasn't good for pedestrians at the crosswalk.

For the twenty years I've lived in Copenhagen, this intersection remained unchanged. Until recently. Today, to my pleasant surprise, there has been an intervention at this location. The City of Copenhagen decided to right a wrong.

As you can see from this photo from today, the rounded corner has been sharpened off to a 90 degree angle. The usual, strict design guide regarding sidewalk design in the City was not adhered to in the built out section, but let's let than one slide. New curbstones were put in and the area was filled out with asphalt, widening the sidewalk nicely. Racks for 15 bicycles were put in, providing a further buffer against the traffic.

In addition, at bottom left there is a build out towards the traffic, narrowing the street further and creating another buffer. The cycle track was widened at the same time. Not as wide as in many spots in the city, but still enough for conversation cycling - two cyclists cycling and talking and room for another cyclist to overtake.

A simple solution. Reversing the Arrogance of Space in one location. It's not a complete painting, but it is a good stroke of colour. In my perfect world, however, pedestrians wouldn't be forced to do a dog's leg - instead moving the pedestrian crossing to the corner to allow them to continue along a straight desire line on this route to the city centre. The location is, however however, safer, slower and better.

Here are some other examples from Copenhagen of narrowing the road space for cars and adding bicycle racks.Copenhagenize the planet. And have a lovely day.
Categories: Views

What defines Dutch cycling? (2)

BicycleDutch - 1 January, 2015 - 23:01
When compared to other countries The Netherlands has a unique cycling ‘culture’. Three years ago I showed you some typically Dutch cycling traits. Mannerisms you certainly won’t see in countries … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

Letter to the BBC over 'I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue'

Vole O'Speed - 31 December, 2014 - 02:53
Dear Sir,

I am writing to complain about a joke that was made in the I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue broadcast on Saturday 27 December, near the beginning, between 1’33 and 1’48” on the iPlayer recording. Part of Jack Dee’s introduction, this attack on ‘cyclists’, implying they do not know the Highway Code, was offensive, cheap and unpleasant humour to me, and to many others who I know.

I am sure you will claim that Clue is an ‘irreverent’ programme where attacks or jibes are meted out without fear or favour to all sorts of groups. Yes, the jokes following this ‘got at’ steam railway enthusiasts and UKIP supporters. But the joke against cyclists was unpleasant in a way that these, and similar jokes in the show, are not. They do not have the hostile majority-minority power-play implied that the joke against ‘cyclists’ did.

The background to this is that around 120 cyclists are killed on the roads of the UK every year and about 3,000 seriously injured (a figure that has been increasing in recent years). This is a bad record by international standards – cycling on the UK's roads is at least twice as dangerous as in some neighbouring European countries. According to statistics of police analysis of these incidents, in most cases the killed or seriously injured cyclist was not at fault and was cycling correctly and legally, and therefore most of these cyclist deaths and injuries are due to bad, illegal, and dangerous driving: that is, drivers wantonly ignoring the Highway Code. Yes, there are infringements of the Highway Code by all user-groups, but motorists have far more power to do damage than cyclists, who will in general only put themselves at risk by behaving badly on the roads. The issue is therefore the dangerous and irresponsible behaviour by those in control of powerful motor vehicles.

Unfortunately our society normalises many aspects of this behaviour, particularly the crime of speeding, and there is a mentality amongst many motorists that they have superior rights to the road compared to non-motorised users, and a culture of victimising cyclists with socially-widespread and acceptable inaccurate, prejudiced claims about their behaviour. It is right into this trap that the Clue joke about the Highway Code fell.

This kind of humour would be totally unacceptable when applied against religious or racial minorities, or other groups, such as the disabled. Cyclists have to put up with it as normality. It helps to sustain a set of attitudes in the public and official bodies that result in cases, such as the recent one of Michael Mason, a cyclist killed by a motorist on Regent Street (very close to Broadcasting house) where the driver who killed him has received absolutely no punishment despite effectively admitting full guilt and responsibility. The mythology of blaming and victimisation of cyclists excuses these deaths to our society and makes acceptable the fact that no-one is held responsible for road deaths in cases such as these, or  if they are, they typically receive derisory punishment.

I expect many BBC employees cycle to work on Portland Place and Regent Street, where Michael Mason, an experienced and expert cyclist, was killed, through no fault of his own. I wonder if any cycling BBC employees had the ‘Highway Code’ joke run past them before it was broadcast. I expect the answer is no, as if it had been, the scriptwriters would have realised their error. This was an offensive joke and should not have been broadcast. This was a favourite Radio 4 programme of mine, but I expect I will not be able to enjoy it in the same way again.

I hope these thoughts have explained to you why the BBC should apologise to the cycling community, and cycling organisations, for this error of judgement.

Yours,

David Arditti
Categories: Views

A year of cycling; 2014 in Review

BicycleDutch - 30 December, 2014 - 23:01
WordPress was kind enough to send me an automated report of my blog for 2014. This is how it started: The Louvre Museum has 8.5 million visitors per year. This … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

The Michael Mason case, law enforcement and the Traffic Justice Alliance

Road Danger Reduction Forum - 30 December, 2014 - 16:07

There has been (in our view, justified) outrage about the case of Michael Mason who was run down and killed in central London in February 2014 (reported here and specifically on the inquest here by Martin Porter QC ) largely because the driver was not charged and prosecuted for any driving offence.  Issues have been raised about traffic law enforcement which coincide with our conference in November 2014  and the formation of the Traffic Justice Alliance which hopes to address them. Below is our take on the issues, including the response of the Mayor of London to this case.

 Michael Mason and his daughter Anna Tatton-Brown (Ross Lydall)

For us this indicates, above all, a critical and serious failure on the part of the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS). Other issues are raised, such as the discrimination against cyclists voiced in this case  (although, as commented on this post by chairrdrf, attitudes towards pedestrians are often as negative as those towards cyclists – and indeed an example is given in another comment to this effect here).

The central point is that there was no charge made by the MPS against the driver, despite the weight of evidence and the guidelines of the CPS , with the CPS not even consulted. This is why the Cyclists’ Defence Fund has decided to assist Mason’s family in the steps they may take to secure justice, with further protest from the London Cycling Campaign

The issue is addressed by one of the commenters on The Cycling Lawyer’s report

Anonymous 17 December 2014 at 19:59

Far be it from me to question a QC’s reporting ability but I can’t help but think there is something missing. As a police officer who served for 22 years this case should have been a walk through for a Due Care charge, and if, as I assume, the death was caused by the effects of the collision, then a charge of causing death by careless driving would have equally been a walk through. But the case was not taken through CPS and why not? CPS guidelines state that a decision on such a case must be taken by a senior representative but they weren’t even asked. As it is reported here, something stinks about this case. Still, as with all actions by the Met, the motto is “Never attribute to malice anything adequately explained by stupidity.” I do hope that someone commences a private prosecution, then at least the CPS might actually look at it. I don’t particularly want the driver punished, but she should be brought to account.

While it might seem obvious what is wrong here, it needs to be clearly stated. If an apparently obvious case of rule- and/or law-breaking driving results in someone (who has been behaving according to the rules) being killed, then a civilised society would expect somebody to be held accountable. This need not exclude methods to engineer vehicles or the highway to reduce the possibilities of such incidents, but as long as such possibilities exist – which they will, whatever forms of segregated or other cycle facility are introduced – then the relevant laws and rules should be applied.

Indeed, this is not simply of concern for cyclists, but for all road users at risk from careless or dangerous driving. The failure to take danger from drivers of motor vehicles seriously has always been an issue, but is even more obvious in an otherwise highly risk-averse culture. Nor is this something which should be seen as vindictive: trying to get a reasonable level of law enforcement with deterrent sentencing (which need not involve custodial sentencing except in extreme cases) is simply a requirement of living in a civilised society.

 

Questioning of the Mayor of London

Bear these issues in mind when we see how Mayor Johnson responds to questioning on this case by Jenny Jones MLA in this extract here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PVANkYv0csk:

Jenny Jones’ questioning…

While Jenny Jones has been (and continues to be) a good supporter of Road Danger Reduction, there are some points missed here:

  • This – the Michael Mason case – should not be seen as just a matter for cyclists. It is about whether there is law enforcement where drivers threaten other road users by running into them from behind when they should be able to see them and stop accordingly.
  • This is not just about cyclists being deterred by danger, but about the immorality of endangering others, particularly if there is illegality involved – which it appears to be.
  • Even if common prejudice in favour of rule- and law-breaking driving is manifested in court – which it might well have been – there is still no reason not to proceed with the case.
  • Mason was correctly illuminated according to all accounts. (Baroness Jones was wrong about Mason wearing a helmet – not that this should be relevant).
  • Above all, the Police did not consult CPS and act in accordance with guidelines, as Martin Porter QC has tweeted and blogged. Jenny Jones has pointed out the need for law enforcement in London for some years with London’s Lawless Roads and it’s follow-up  as well as support in our recent conference This is a key example of how and why traffic enforcement is needed.
…and Mayor Johnson’s response
  1. Johnson claims that we don’t know the precise circumstances of the Mason case – but we do know about the MPS behaviour in contradiction of CPS guidance.
  2. There are a number of issues about his claims about cycling being safer (by which he presumably means there are lower KSIs per journey):
  3. He uses the freak case of 1989 when there was an unusually high number of cyclist deaths as an indicator – basing an approach on a statistical “glitch” year.
  4. The KSI rate has come down because of what statisticians call “secular” trends – there are downwards movements anyway.
  5. People like myself and John Adams also talk about underlying trends to take less risk, particularly when there is an economic downturn, which there has been.
  6. There is much improved medical care, which turns deaths into the category classified as “Serious Injuries” (SIs)
  7. There has been a “Safety in Numbers” effect with increased numbers of cyclists making motorists more aware of cyclists and tending to watch out more.
  8. The death rate has gone down because of the particularly high role of HGVs in cyclists deaths. HGV drivers, as a small professional community, have made themselves more aware of the presence of cyclists and their need to behave more carefully. There have been some associated changes due to work by TfL, but the main effect has been from a “Safety in Numbers” effect on the small professional community of HGV drivers.
  9. Of course, claiming that cycling is “getting safer” anyway requires a proper way of measuring danger, as discussed on this site at length and particularly here
And: So what?

Even if we are witnessing reduced chances of cyclists being hurt and killed – and unlike some others, we believe it can be useful to point out the low chances of being seriously hurt or killed when cycling on London’s roads – what does this mean in the context of the Mason case?

In an assessment of TfL’s first Cycle Safety Action Plan, I have argued that reductions in cyclist casualty rates have little to do with TfL’s initiatives:

  1. There has been precious little change in terms of highway engineering which benefits cyclists
  2. Education through advertising and “Exchanging Places” type schemes is the least likely intervention to affect casualty rates – even most traditional “road safety” professionals will admit that.
  3. I doubt “Operation Safeway” can be said to have had benefits, and it was certainly discriminatory  ,with excessive concentration on cyclist misdemeanours.

But, anyway, none of this addresses what the purpose of initiatives by TfL and the MPS should be. It needs to be repeated that these initiatives should be based on road danger reduction or, as the MPS are now saying, “harm reduction” principles. Looking at traditional measures of “road safety” is inadequate at best. Even showing that an initiative has reduced cyclist casualty rates per journey made by bicycle is of limited use. Road users need to know that threats to their safety are seen as problems whether or not people have actually been hurt or killed by them: the current Near Miss project refers to behaviours that don’t result in injury but nevertheless intimidate.

One can go further. Ultimately the issue is an ethical one: it is about the morality of allowing some road users to endanger others. The Mason case shows that a key way of addressing this – through traffic law enforcement – is not happening.

Discriminatory policing?

The November 1st 2014 Road Danger Reduction and Enforcement conference has, I believe, been a key event in focusing attention on the need for high quality traffic law enforcement. The conference was called by organisers RDRF, RoadPeace, CTC and LCC because whatever highway infrastructure is in place, road users in general and cyclists and pedestrians in particular will still be at risk from inappropriately driven motor vehicles. Hosted by LB Southwark, the conference was notable in being booked out despite being held on a Saturday, with Councillors from seven Councils in London as well as transport and road safety professionals and campaigners. Before the Michael Mason case there has been a clear demand for enforcement as part of a programme of stigmatising and deterring behaviour which endangers others.

RDR and Enforcement conference, November 2014: The start of something?

In my presentation I raised the issue of whether the MPS – and other police forces in the UK – are biased in ways which do not allow for a non-discriminatory focus on harm reduction. Looking at policing in this way is not an attack on the police – quite the contrary. It is arguing, as Equal Opportunities culture (taken up the police as well local authorities) has propounded throughout its development, that discrimination occurs through failing to question background assumptions. It argues that discrimination happens when everyday beliefs are the basis for actions, whether intentionally or not.

This issue was raised at various times during the conference. Two important comments were made by Sgt Simon Castle (MPS), a long serving traffic police officer and currently working for the Cycle Task Force. On the question of whether there is excessive concern on cyclist misdemeanours compared to those of drivers, he commented that he had no problem dealing with cyclist law-breaking if motorist law-breaking was targeted as well he had no problem dealing with cyclist law breaking if motorist law breaking was as well.

But that’s what so many of us see as the central problem: we do not think that the numerous forms of rule and law breaking driver behaviour (whether as careless or dangerous driving or other offences) are addressed in a way which reflects their potential to threaten others.

The other comment was in response to my suggestion that a form of equal opportunities procedures should be used to deal with preconceptions of unacceptable road user behaviour. Sgt Castle’s comment indicated that police officers do indeed reflect the prejudices of the population as whole: “The police are the people and the people are the police”.  But if commonly held prejudices are indeed held by those charged with enforcing the law, that should be seen as the problem – and one we need to address as a priority. It should not be seen as an acceptable fact of life.

 The Traffic Justice Alliance

Those attending the conference demonstrated a massive desire to see the MPS developing a Traffic Law Enforcement Strategy and action plan based on a harm reduction (or road danger reduction) approach. Key asks were for:

  • Prioritising traffic policing on offences likely to harm others
  • Driving offences to be included in crime statistics
  • Collision and prosecution data to be linked
  • Stop talking about “road safety” and start talking about “road danger reduction”

 

In order to push this Road Danger Reduction and Traffic Law Enforcement agenda along, a Traffic Justice Alliance has been formed in London: so far organisations RoadPeace, Road Danger Reduction Forum, LCC and 20s Plenty, and Cllr Caroline Russell (LB Islington) and Brenda Puech (Disabilities consultant) are represented on its Committee. We’ll be publishing the formal Key Performance Indicators we would like TfL and MPS to employ; our involvement with local communities in matters such as achieving compliance in 20 mph areas; and reviews of what we see as the issues with regard to levels of law enforcement and traffic offences in London.

Watch this space…

 

Postscript: To help the family of Michael Mason you can make an online donation to the Cyclists’ Defence Fund to support its work on cycling and the law – such as challenging unduly lenient law-enforcement of dangerous drivers, unjust prosecutions of cyclists, and highway and planning decisions which disregard cyclists’ needs. Or see information on other ways to donate to CDF here

 

 

 


Categories: Views

The Arrogance of Space - Cape Town

Copenhagenize - 30 December, 2014 - 11:55

Another chapter in our ongoing series about The Arrogance of Space. This photo was taken by a friend flying to Cape Town. We are not familiar with the specifics of the location - probably near the airport - but that doesn't stop us from slapping our Arrogance of Space filter onto the photo. It's a badass intersection - the kind that makes old school traffic engineers feel all warm and fuzzy. It's a monster of extreme arrogance.

Let's face it... if you have space for vendors to stroll down the car lanes (top centre), your lanes are arrogantly wide.


Firstly, here is how the space is allocated. An ocean of car-centric red. Thin pedestrian crossings with fading paint. No bicycle infrastructure is present.

Take away the photo and it looks like this. Making the red all the more shocking.

There were a few pedestrians and vendors present when the photo was taken. A couple of mini-vans transporting people, but generally - like most places - just individuals in one car.

The sea of red is still expansive, despite marking off the actual space occupied by cars.

The great thing about this photo is that the cars do the work for us. On the photo at left, the whiteish areas rarely see any car tire action. In the photo at right, we just did a simple "colour replace", removing the darkened trajectories of the cars with a more noticeable colour. At right you can see clearly that it is a classic, textbook example of The Arrogance of Space.Copenhagenize the planet. And have a lovely day.
Categories: Views

The devastating effect of Shared Space on the blind.

A View from the Cycle Path - 27 December, 2014 - 11:02
Shared Space represents a return of "might is right" to roads which could instead have been transformed to favour cycling and walking. I've long been opposed to Shared Space because of its effect on all vulnerable road users. In 2008 I quoted the UK Guide Dog's association who said that "All of the participants reported greater difficulty" in Shared Space areas. The video below, produced in the David Hembrowhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/14543024940730663645noreply@blogger.com0http://www.aviewfromthecyclepath.com/2014/12/the-devastating-effect-of-shared-space.html
Categories: Views

Happy Holidays

BicycleDutch - 24 December, 2014 - 23:01
Just some cheerful random pictures that I found on the internet, to (once again) wish you all the best for the holidays. Enjoy!
Categories: Views

“Road Danger Reduction and Enforcement” Conference: Report and Presentations

Road Danger Reduction Forum - 24 December, 2014 - 16:03

 

This report summarises the talks and comments from the audience at the first of our annual conferences on Road Danger Reduction and Enforcement, with presentations and hand outs here

 


Categories: Views

The Cargo Cult of Cycling Culture

Chester Cycling - 19 December, 2014 - 10:46

Cycling culture is a term which is nebulous enough that it can mean significantly different things to different people.

To some, it will bring to mind images of hipsters and the fixed gear scene, or the likes of the counter-cultural Critical Mass movement. To others, it will invoke the BMX scene, or road cycling clubs, or people who live and breathe mountain biking. The one thing linking all of these ideas of cycling culture is that their members all take the bicycle and make it a significant part of their identities.

Because of this, I find it weird when “cycling culture” is discussed as a cause of cycling being a mainstream mode of transport in The Netherlands. The implication is that Dutch people are not choosing how to travel primarily based on their experience of their environment, but because of some sort of unique “cycling culture” which is a part of being Dutch. This implies that this ill-defined “cycling culture” would need to be somehow replicated in the UK in order to allow cycling to become a mainstream mode of transport here. Some people may make the further inference that replication of this Dutch “cycling culture” is sufficient in itself to allow cycling to become a mainstream mode of transport.

Also worth noting is that just because driving is the dominant mode of transport in the UK, it does not follow that the UK has an equivalent “car culture” which is a part of being British. Certainly there are car and motorsport enthusiasts who make the car part of their identities, but this is hardly typical of the average person in the UK. I also occasionally see arguments that the use of cars as status symbols in the UK produces a culture of driving and works against the cause of cycling as a mode of transport. Whilst there are also people who spend a lot of money on cars which they see as status symbols, these are also the kind of people who will spend money on other conspicuously expensive items in exactly the same way. It is the display of having the means to buy the car which is important, not the car itself (or the watch, clothes, house, boat, etc.). Again, I don’t see this being a major factor in the dominance of driving as a mode of transport in the UK. This kind of behaviour can also be seen in The Netherlands. Just owning a car is not in itself much of an indicator of socio-economic status nowadays.

The truth is that The Netherlands has no cycling culture and the UK has no car culture. What both countries have is people who choose how to get around by picking the path of least resistance, based on their own experience. Whereas for British people choosing the car is usually the path of least resistance, for Dutch people choosing the bike is often the path of least resistance. This is not due to a difference of culture, but an result of the differences in the built environment.

Certainly, there are also additional non-infrastructural factors increasing the attractiveness of cycling in The Netherlands, such as the provisions organisations and businesses make for people travelling by bicycle, but these are a reaction to the transport choices people make, not the main reason they make them. This reaction serves to reinforce the effect of the built environment on transport choice, as it does in the UK.

The argument that The Netherlands has a particular cycling culture which we would need to somehow replicate here for cycling to become a mainstream mode of transport is at its best cargo cult thinking, and at its worst, acts as an excuse for inaction and a quiet acceptance of the status quo.

Infrastructure is the foundation of cycling as a mainstream mode of transport. Nothing else will stand up if that foundation is not there first.


Categories: Views

Cycling in Rotterdam 1 of 8

Pedestrianise London - 18 December, 2014 - 19:57

About 6 weeks ago I did a series of tweets of my initial thoughts on cycling in Rotterdam. I want to spend a few minutes expanding on them.

1. You can cycle everywhere, the quality of the infrastructure varies but you can guarantee that it exists.

— Paul James (@pauljames) November 4, 2014

Rotterdam is not renowned within the Netherlands as a great place for cycling, but you have to remember that it’s got a lot of serious competition. First a quick history lesson.

In the Second World War, as a key position between Germany and Britain, Rotterdam was bombed completely flat by the Nazis in a bid to break the Dutch resistance and force the Netherlands to surrender. After a day of intense bombing, the entire city centre (2km square) was burned to the ground, the only medieval building to survive was the church of St Lawrence.

This meant the city had to be rebuilt, between the 1950’s and 70’s it was transformed into a modern US style city with large blocks and wide boulevards. Luckily, at this point the Dutch had already started down their path of building cycleways along main roads and so a comprehensive cycle network along the boulevards was also built.

The centre of the city has cycleways on each side of the main streets, they are 2+ metres wide, smooth and flat and meet at block corners with large traffic light controlled junctions. Due to the width of the cycleways and the streets in general (2 x tram lanes + 4-6 x traffic lanes + 2 x cycleways + 2 x footways), salmoning is common as there’s plenty of space to pass people coming the other way while crossing and then crossing back to get to a destination on the near side is much slower than going against the flow for a short distance.

Further out of the city centre, in the newer parts of town and along the Nieuwe Maas riverside, bi-directional cycleways are the norm as sideroads are fewer and further between and there’s more space between the main roadway and the cycleway reducing the problems when roadway and cycleway must cross.

Sometimes the cycleways do run out, but when they do you are either out of the city and have a quiet access road without through traffic, or there are still cycle lanes better than any in London. Some areas of the city are old and the bike infrastructure looks it, but motor traffic numbers are restricted or there are much better alternative parallel routes.

Although Rotterdam isn’t like the medieval streets of many European cities, I think there are many lessons for London and beyond to learn from it.

Categories: Views

Happy Holidays

BicycleDutch - 17 December, 2014 - 23:01
Now that the darkest time of the year is here, cities have brought out festive lights to make all that darkness a bit more bearable. Streets around the world have … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

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