Christmas photos

A View from the Cycle Path - 24 December, 2015 - 16:51
I've been very busy with other work lately so blog updates have had to take a back seat for a couple of months. Over the last few days I've taken a few photos of people in Assen, out and about, enjoying the traditional pre-Christmas activity of spending money. Daytime There was a continuous stream of people cycling past this spot yesterday. All ages, all demographics. All ages, all David Hembrow
Categories: Views

Happy Holidays!

BicycleDutch - 21 December, 2015 - 23:01
It’s almost Christmas and if it weren’t for the darkness and the light decorations everywhere you would hardly be able to tell. The weather doesn’t feel like winter at all. … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

The Gummer Test

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 17 December, 2015 - 10:29

A brand new section of road in Horsham – widened and rebuilt at the location of a new development – tells you everything you need to know about how ‘the highway design machine’ across the vast majority of this country still trundles along in its complacent way, taking no account of the needs of people who might want to cycle, or even those who are currently cycling.

The site of this development – Parsonage Road – has dreadful cycle lanes along it, barely 70cm wide.

Industrial units along this road mean that there is plenty of HGV traffic on it. The photograph above is a typical reflection of traffic levels at busier periods of the day.

The new development – which has seen the road being widened, at the expense of the greenery seen on the left in the photograph – should have been a perfect opportunity to build-in high quality cycling infrastructure for at least the short stretch of road being improved.

But evidently that was too difficult. The new road has cycle lanes that are exactly the same width as the dreadful pre-existing ones. 70cm wide.

The zig-zags are more generous.

A new verge has been created; the implication here is that grass is more important than the safety or comfort of anyone attempting to ride a bicycle down this road.

The road has been widened by around 50% – but only to make space for a turning lane for motor traffic, so that nobody is held up while driving. The cycle lanes are exactly the same width as they were before.

How this location looked back in 2012, courtesy of Google Streetview.

All the trees on the right have gone. The 2015 equivalent of those kids cycling on the footway will still be cycling on the footway today, rather than attempting to use a paltry 70cm strip right at the edge of a thunderous road.

Prior to this development going in, the local cycle forum had asked for protected cycleways as part of the highway changes, and subsequent to that had been promised 1.5m lanes.

Plainly, cycle campaigns and cycle forums shouldn’t even have to be doing this job. They shouldn’t have to chase up highway engineers and developers in their spare time in an attempt to persuade them not to build total crap. It just shouldn’t happen. Doing a proper job, in this instance, would have cost nothing extra, but institutional inertia within West Sussex County Council – that essentially amounts to not giving a toss about cycling as a mode of transport – means that the pre-existing crap is simply reinstated.

I’m not even jumping to conclusions here. Here is the actual defence that West Sussex County Council have produced in response to complaints about these cycle lanes.

A West Sussex County Council spokesman said: “These highway works are associated with a new residential development of 160 dwellings on the former Novartis Pharmaceuticals UK Limited site.

“The works are not yet fully complete. They involve adjusting the existing kerb lines to improve pedestrian facilities and refuge islands, and a new right turn lane access into the site.

“The designer has had to manage competing demands for road space. The advisory lanes are below the desirable 1.5m – however they were like that before the scheme was implemented and this is not out keeping with the advisory lines on the remainder of the marked advisory route (beyond the scope of these works).

The ‘competing demands for roadspace’ explanation is both glib and bogus. Glib because the finished product tells us plainly that the designer weighed up the ‘competing demand’ of removing potential minor inconvenience to motorists against the ‘competing demand’ of the safety and comfort of anyone cycling, and plumped for the former. And it’s bogus because high-standard cycle provision could have been included in this design anyway; it’s just that nobody bothered to do so.

More telling, however, is the spokesman’s comforting explanation that the cycle lanes ‘were like that before’.

Well, yes. They were. They were crap before, and they’re crap afterwards. (In fact, in context, they are slightly worse, given that pinch points in the form of crossing refuges have  now been added to the road). Quite plainly, West Sussex do not even think that this is a problem. They think that pre-existing crap cycle lanes, or crap cycle lanes elsewhere, mean it is perfectly acceptable to keep on doing the same terrible job.

So here’s what I’m proposing. I’m going to call it The Gummer Test, named in honour of the Minister of Agriculture who, at the height of the BSE crisis, attempted to feed a beef burger to his daughter.

The Gummer Test would involve highway engineers, council officers or developers involved in these kinds of decisions to put their young child on a bike, and letting them cycle independently on the ‘infrastructure’ they think it’s acceptable for ‘cyclists’ to use.

Not only would this quickly bring into sharp focus the shortcomings of a bit of paint 70cm from the kerb line on a main road, it would also change the mindset of these people before any design decisions are made. Complacent shrugs about something tokenistic for ‘cyclists’ would necessarily have to be replaced by hard thinking about genuine, safe, comfortable and inclusive design for all potential users.

Highway engineers, councillors and planners in the Netherlands would, I suspect, happily sit this kind of test – because they build cycling infrastructure that is suitable for all ages and abilities.

The failings of dreadful infrastructure like 70cm cycle lanes, bus lanes ‘for cyclists’, narrowed carriageways on busy roads, Advanced Stop Lines, ‘Quietways’ that really aren’t anything more than a bicycle symbol painted on the road, and so on, would quickly be exposed by The Gummer Test.

Is what you’ve designed ‘for cyclists’ also suitable for your daughter? Take The Gummer Test.

These various forms of rubbish are only tolerated because those responsible are not exposed to the consequences of their designs. They can put a bit of paint at the side of the road, safe in the knowledge that it’s exactly the same as it was before, and besides, isn’t this kind of thing that gets splashed down everywhere else?

A Gummer Test – or something like it – would rapidly change that attitude.

Categories: Views

Hoi An - Vietnam's Calm and Shining Pearl

Copenhagenize - 17 December, 2015 - 09:08

All photos by Liv Jorun Andenes

Pockets of life-sized goodness exist everywhere. Even in the transport chaos that defines Vietnam. Traffic crashes kill at least 9000 people a year. Indeed, it is estimated that official data about traffic deaths underestimates the number of traffic deaths by as much as 30%.

On a recent visit to Vietnam, our friend and colleague Liv Jorun Andenes from Oslo's Sykkelprosjektet visited a small city that bucks the fatal trend of letting motor vehicles - be it cars/trucks or motorbikes - dominate.

The city of Hoi An. The sign, above, gives you a pretty clear indication about what it's all about. The name Hoi An translates - appropriately - as "peaceful meeting place". Rumour has it that "Australia" is actually an old Dutch word for "stupid traffic engineers", but I digress.

Bicycles abound in Hoi An - as they did in Vietnam for many decades before the scourge of cars and scooters took over. Here, however, they remain dominant, thanks to a simple vision for a nicer, life-sized city from the municipality.

Classic rickshaws are a popular sight and the modus transportus for the lazier tourists

I don't need to bang on about the history of this once prominent port city when one click will lead you to a crowdsourced article on Wikipedia about Hoi An.

It's a city of canals, though, with intense bicycle traffic across the water on ferries.

The streets are traffic calmed and, with the absence of Captain Spandex types, the space is shared between pedestrians and slow moving cyclists.
Basically, if you go to Vietnam, make sure to pop by Hoi An to see what calm is possible in a chaotic world.Copenhagenize the planet. And have a lovely day.
Categories: Views

Arrogance of Parking Space - Copenhagen

Copenhagenize - 16 December, 2015 - 13:59

Even in Copenhagen there are examples of an ongoing Arrogance of Space. Bizarre but true. Even here we are still battling to reverse decades of destructive urban planning at the misconceptions that came along with it.

In Copenhagen, only 22% of households own a car. No, not because it's expensive and there is a high tax on cars. The rednecks in the provinces buy them all the time and both cars and gas are cheaper than in the 1970s during the oil crises. Only 10% of Copenhageners use a use a car to get around each day. 63% ride a bicycle. The rest take public transport or walk.

It costs 50,000 DKK (ca. $8000) to make a parking spot and maintain it. But a parking permit for residents only costs 720 DKK (ca. 110) per year. That is bad business. The non-motoring majority are basically subsidizing a destructive, archaeic transport form used by a old-fashioned minority.

Nevertheless, there are still three parking spots for every one car in Copenhagen. Despite the logic and the numbers. The current Lord Mayor Frank Jensen - in an attempt to appease the right-wing who only have car parking to fight for anymore in the City of Cyclists - insists on putting back in parking spots for phantom motorists.

In the graphic, above, you can see what it would look like if we took all the car parking spots in Copenhagen and Frederiksberg and slapped them together.

In this graphic, we can see roughly how much space a parking lot featuring all the parking spots would require - if we provided the necessary extra space for access and what not. You know, driving into the lot and finding a spot, etc.

Almost the entire city centre of Copenhagen would be paved over.

The news this morning in Copenhagen that the City is removing 80 car parking spots along the historic Frederiksholm Canal is great to wake up to. The City will be making a promenade along the canal to create better public space. Fantastic.

At the moment it feels like you are stuck in the mid-60s along this stretch so this improvement is much welcomed. Read more about the project - in Danish - on the City's website.

By and large, there are constant improvements for public space and bike infrastructure on the go in Copenhagen. Missing links are being fixed and small but effective examples of Reversing the Arrogance of Space are showing up on the streets of the city.

As we can see in the graphics at the top, however, there are more pressing issues that require bold, political leadership if we are seriously going to modernise for the next century of transport. Copenhagenize the planet. And have a lovely day.
Categories: Views

How to prevent rat running

BicycleDutch - 14 December, 2015 - 23:01
Bollards have a bad reputation. They are considered dangerous for cycling and indeed many people get injured when they hit one, but bollards also have a very good side. They … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

A new bridge in Zwolle – to remove some minor incovenience

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 10 December, 2015 - 23:56

A new cycling (and walking) bridge has recently been opened in the Dutch city of Zwolle. It’s an attractive structure, around 50m long and 7.5m wide – nothing particularly remarkable by Dutch standards.

Opening nw fietsbrug in de verbinding Kampen/Zwolle. Hard werken voor @BoermanBert en @filipvanas . Resultaat is Top

— johan witteveenCU (@johanwitteveen) December 7, 2015

Nieuwe fietsbrug zwolle kampen geopend door oa @filipvanas! En aanwinst voor onze fietsstad!

— Ilse Bloemhof (@IBloemhof) December 7, 2015

You can read an article about the opening here (albeit a slightly garbled Google translate of it.)

What is remarkable (to me at least) is the purpose of this bridge. It doesn’t cross a river, or a railway line, or some other physical barrier that couldn’t be crossed without it. It only crosses a road where there was already an existing (direct) singe-stage cycle crossing, which I used a number of times when I visited Zwolle in the summer earlier this year.

I didn’t find the delay particularly remarkable; perhaps only 30 seconds or so, each time I used it. In fact in the video I took (in the post, below), it so happens that I wasn’t delayed, at all.

You can see that crossing (and the road) on Streetview. Six lanes are crossed in one go.

Now that the bridge is open, it has taken this crossing completely out of the equation. The road is now crossed on the new cycle bridge, which runs approximately parallel to the railway bridge just visible in the background. The road can be crossed without any delay, and in complete safety. In essence, the purpose of this whole major construction project is simply… to remove a minor bit of inconvenience for people cycling.

Here is my video, taken using the route the bridge will replace. As you can see, it’s actually very good by British standards – but evidently not good enough. The bridge will remove the potential for any delay.

Now that the bridge is in place, the new developments to the north of Zwolle are connected to the city centre without any traffic lights at all. Another major road is crossed on another spectacular bridge, all part of this same route, allowing painless cycling, right into the city centre, in complete safety.

The reason I had been anticipating the new ‘yellow’ bridge appearing was because I had spotted the engineering works taking place while I cycled past them in the summer. Here is the view northbound, towards the road being crossed.

The earthworks on the right are for the new embankment, a gentle slope rising to meet the location for the new bridge, just to the left of the railway bridge.  The picture is taken on a new path, built because the old path (on the right) is too close to the earthworks and the embankment. (Typically for this area of the Netherlands, this cycleway is composed of very smooth concrete.)

This whole project exemplifies of the seriousness with which cycling is taken in the Netherlands. It’s a major engineering scheme, just for cycling, for a pretty minor benefit.

Cities like Zwolle and Utrecht, which already have very high levels of cycling, are pushing for more; not resting on their laurels, but building in extra convenience and safety where they can, even at tremendous expense. It’s amazing to see, and definitely something that Britain can – and should – aspire to.

Categories: Views

A question of legitimacy

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 8 December, 2015 - 12:26

Last weekend’s Sunday Politics on BBC One devoted a large segment of the programme to the subject of the new Superhighways in London.

A roving reporter had been duly despatched to examine Superhighway 5, running between Oval and Vauxhall Bridge Road. Besides asking drivers sitting in traffic what they thought of the new scheme (a ‘disaster’, unsurprisingly), the reporter managed to capture congestion on the road while the Superhighway was empty, the result of a broken down lorry blocking one of the lanes.

A casual observer would probably come to the conclusion that the Superhighways are therefore a waste of space, ‘causing’ congestion on the road network, for little or no benefit.

But note that the footway here is also empty. Nobody was walking along this road at the time this footage was taken. Is that a problem? Does that mean that under-used footways on both sides of this road – and indeed alongside other congested roads – are ‘causing’ congestion? Should they be trimmed, or even removed altogether?

Only two footists on that footway! Crazy TfL building footways no footists are using – causing gridlock! Remove ‘em

— Mark Treasure (@AsEasyAsRiding) November 26, 2015

Of course not – nobody thinks like this, because footways are an established part of highway design. Walking is a legitimate way of getting about towns and cities, and we don’t think twice about footways being provided for walking on both sides of the road, even if that is valuable space that could be used to ease congestion for motorists.

Parking of motor vehicles also takes up valuable space on main roads; space that again could ease congestion for motorists. If we look back in time to just last year, we can see that the exact same spot the BBC chose to film a ‘waste of space’ in the form of the new Superhighway, an awful lot of highway space is being ‘wasted’ in the form of on-carraigeway parking, on both sides of the road.

‘I tell you what, mate, all this on-street parking is a total disaster. It’s a disaster, and Boris has to go.’ Said nobody, ever.

If cycleways ’cause’ congestion, then surely the same is true for the on-street parking in the picture above, which reduced this road to effectively just one lane for motor vehicles at this point.

But again, clogging up through roads with parking in this manner is ‘legitimate’; it’s completely ordinary and background, and nobody bats an eyelid or attributes causality, even when they are stuck in a queue right beside parked vehicles taking up valuable highway space.

If Embankment such a critical through road, why aren’t taxis complaining abt its use as empty all day coach park?

— cyclistsinthecity (@citycyclists) December 5, 2015

Cycling, by contrast, isn’t ‘legitimate’. It’s not seen as an ordinary mode of transport for everyday people, and that’s why we are seeing these curious reactions to the repurposing of highway space. Unlike footways, bus lanes, and parking bays – all of which take away valuable road space that could be used for free flow for motorists – cycling isn’t taken seriously, even when these new, isolated pieces of infrastructure, that aren’t part of a coherent network of cycle routes, are shifting people more efficiently at peak times than a motor vehicle lane that takes up an equivalent amount of space.

This is also why the BBC Sunday Politics programme – which has never even glanced at the major difficulties people walking around London face on a day-to-day basis, managed to focus with a straight face on the difficulties the Superhighways present to pedestrians.

I doubt that one word has been spoken recently into a BBC camera about junctions in the city where there are no green signals for pedestrians; or junctions where there are no dropped kerbs; or pavements completely obstructed by parked motor vehicles; or awful pig-pen pedestrian fencing; or staggered crossings.

Yet as soon as some cycling infrastructure appears, suddenly previously absent concern for pedestrians materialises, with bus passengers apparently ‘stranded’ on bus stops, as a serious voiceover intones

While they have made the road better for cyclists, have Transport for London really just made it a worse place for pedestrians and people who want to use the bus?

Eye contact – man waves person cycling through.

This selective concern for pedestrian comfort again flows from legitimacy, and the established order. The established order has motor traffic flow at the top of the tree, with pedestrians waiting minutes just to cross the road, or corralled into zig-zag crossings, or prevented from crossing roads altogether. This passes without comment, because it is ordinary, and legitimate. We can’t imagine things any other way.

A typical London street scene. The road clogged with four rows of motor vehicles, pedestrians on tiny pavements, compromised further by utilities and street furniture, and no pedestrian crossings. But this isn’t a matter of concern, because it is legitimate and ordinary. 

We have systematically – over a period of several decades – made roads and streets in our urban areas very very bad indeed for pedestrians. In that context, asking whether some new cycling infrastructure has made things a bit worse for them is an absurd distortion of priorities, a perspective that only really makes sense against a background assumption that cycling is an ‘illegitimate’ mode of transport in urban areas, that doesn’t deserve serious consideration.

These are problems of perception that will be hard to shift, and perhaps will only be shifted once this new infrastructure -incomplete as it is – itself establishes new patterns of behaviour. Until then it’s worth reminding ourselves that these ‘issues’ with cycling infrastructure really flow from starting assumptions about legitimate uses of road and street space.

Categories: Views

Rush hour in the rain

BicycleDutch - 7 December, 2015 - 23:01
Even though it doesn’t rain quite so much as some people think, we do have rainy days in The Netherlands. So what do you do if you cycle on any … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

Pavement parking and weak campaigning

Vole O'Speed - 6 December, 2015 - 20:29
There's been legislative moves to try to change the absurd situation in the UK (outside London) that parking is generally legal on pavements, though driving is not. (So obviously all the cars parked on pavements must have landed there from the sky.) A Private Members Bill was proposed that would bring the law in England generally into line with that applying to London; that is, parking on pavements would be made illegal except where the Local Authority has put up signs and painted markings showing where it is permitted.
Typical legal pavement parking in the London Borough of Brent (Village Way, Neasden). It's OK because signs allow it on the right-hand side. But note the illegal double parking on the left-hand side, where the bays are marked on the road, but parking is doubled up on the pavement as well. This is typical of what happens when you erode the concept of the footway in this way.The Private Members Bill has now been withdrawn following a commitment from the Government to look at the issue Simon Hoare MP said:
Following detailed discussions, I have withdrawn the bill today following The Minister’s commitment to convene a round table and undertake a policy review. This response demonstrates the Government’s commitment to improving access for all pedestrians including disabled and vulnerable people. A government examination of the current issues gives us the best opportunity of securing Government backing for legislative change.Apparently the Govenment need to "undertake a policy review with stakeholders to examine the legal and financial implications of an alternative regime and the likely impact on local authorities".

This sounds rather fancy, when a simple-minded person like me might think it is absolutely clear that pavements are there for walking on and cars should not be parked on them.

A coalition of charities including Guide Dogs and Living Streets was backing Simon Hoare's bill. However, his bill in no way proposed a blanket ban on pavement parking, he said,
The bill will simply enable local authorities to deal with problem areas in an efficient way. It just provides another tool in the armoury for local government.The thing that strikes me about all this is how it's a classic example of weak campaigning. There's an extraordinary kow-towing to motordom here. The campaign should be to sweep away all parking on pavements, pure and simple. But no-one in the political mainstream or 'civil society' is saying this. Yes, these worthy organisations say, let's have Simon Hoare's feeble bill, or something even weaker the Government might come up with after a few years of consulting with 'stakeholders' (who will include such statutory loonies as the Alliance of British Drivers), in order to make the pavements of Burslem and Basildon just as delightful for walking as the cracked-up, routinely obstructed pavements of Brent. Plus ça change.

When I was a member of Camden Cycling Campaign, we had a clear line on pavement parking, which we held to in all discussions with Camden Council. This was that pavement parking is wrong: it messes up the environment, produces shabby streets, and obstructs pedestrians. If it was felt that there was insufficient parking for demands, and there was excess pavement (not common in Camden), then we said the Council should rebuild the kerbs to provide clear, dedicated parking bays that were not part of the pavement. This was the line that was repeatedly put to the councils Walking, Road Safety and Cycling Advisory Group, consisting of councillors and representatives of community organisations. The pedestrian campaigners and residents' associations seemed to back this line, and, as a result, Camden has to this day very little pavement parking. Faced with a choice between expensively rebuilding kerbs, and not giving in to the pressure to provide more parking, the council unsurprisingly tended to go with the latter option – which is why the kind of mess you see in the Brent street pictured above is uncommon in the neighbouring Borough of Camden.

There is something a bit attractive for cycle campaigning in the notion of pavement parking, because it means that on minor roads, such as the one pictured above,vo a clearer space on the road is created and cyclists are less likely to get squeezed and intimidated by car drivers trying to pass them. However, the real answer for streets like these is to follow the Dutch paradigm and remove them from the through-traffic network. When narrow, parked-up streets are no longer rat runs, and motor traffic is reduced to essential access only, the problem of 'squeezing' is largely eliminated, even with substantial permitted on-strteet parking. If there is still a problem of accommodating the parking, because the street is very narrow, it really should be made one-way for motor traffic (not for cycling). This won't work for cycling in the normal UK paradigm, where a lot of through-traffic is still allowed, indeed encouraged, on narrow one-way streets, but arranging the one-ways to eliminate through-traffic will create streets with adequate capacity for all that are spacious enough and have sufficiently little traffic to be an unthreatening cycling environment. Such streets can even be given a 'shared space', or home-zone home-zone type makeover, very appropriately, as is somewhat evidenced in the Dutch example below, with its on-carriageway trees.

A minor one-way road in Assen, NetherlandsIndeed this type of environment is also where the much-abused concept of Shared Space rightly belongs
An example of a 'home-zone' street in Groningen, NetherlandsDavid Hembrow has a blogpost with further pictures of how car parking is treated on Dutch residential streets, where it is often removed from the carraigeway, but given a distinct space that is not in the way of pedestrains and cannot damage the surface on which they walk. These Dutch designs do not look like the half-on, half-off, painted-lines-with-blue-signs London-type pavemenrt parking messes.
In the UK it seems the general thinking is that parking on the pavement is a legitimate part of a 'settlement' vis-a-vis motoring and walking whereby motorists are allowed to park on the pavements when they feel like it, or it appears to be necessary so as not to obstruct the flow of traffic, but pedestrians are always free to walk in the road, as we have no concept of 'jaywalking' in our law. This is obviously pretty unsatisfactory to anyone of limited mobility or particularly vulnerability, such as the blind, or the mother with a pushchair. It mirrors the attitude to cycling, which is to allow it everywhere on roads, except on motorways and in a few other places, but to accept that as sufficient 'payment' to cyclists and therefore exonerate the authorities from needing to provide for cycling properly as a mode in its own right. Both of these 'settlements', the walking one and the cycling one, short-change the vulnerable road users and cement the domination of the car, though they seem very free and fair, from a certain traditional anglo-saxon point of view. 'We don't need any of those fussy foreign rules about where you are allowed to walk and cycle, you're free here', said John Bull, maybe. Yes. Free to be run over anywhere.
I've linked a few times here to David Hembrow's blog on Dutch cycling, and he also has view about campaigning for the right things, and not those that seem like 'achievable goals' or a 'first step'. I've consistently advocated that UK cycle campaigners should not ask for inadequate solutions, but think big. This message seems to have got through, and cycle campaigners have been making much bigger demands than they used to, in the days when the earlier posts on this blog were written, around 2011, with striking success in some places. As my previous post about London's emerging segregated cycle network showed, we've started to get the ambitions things, that really make a difference, that we demanded, because of an adherence to clear principles and an unwillingness to compromise on the basics.
It seems to me that pedestrian campaigning is still at an earlier stage, the stage where cycle campaigning was decades ago. It's not political enough, not clear enough in its demands, it's too polite and too compromising, and not asking for the right things. For example, you'll search in vain on the Living Streets website for any reference to the inadequacies of UK traffic law and the Highway Code in relationship to the how pedestrians are treated at junctions. There's no campaign to bring the UK into line with the Vienna Convention on Road Traffic, the failure to apply which makes the difference between UK signalised crossroads, where any pedestrian attempting to cross without a specific signal risks getting run over (and blamed for it), and the equivalent in most of continental Europe, where the pedestrian automatically gets priority over turning traffic. Just to bring this into UK law and practice would far make more of a difference to walking in here than all Living Streets' favoured issues such as ice, the time zone, and 20mph.
The current pro-pedestrain campaigns won't make the real difference they needs to, like the weak cycle campaigns of yesteryear, with their reliance on asking for mutual respect and poor but uncontroversial infrastructure like Advanced Stop Lines. Pedestrian campaigning should be virtually one with the cycling movement in demanding a complete re-design of our physical transport environment and re-thinking of the balance of rights and responsibilities accorded to motorists and vulnerable road users. The pro-pedestrian, pro-cycling and 'urbanist' and 'better streets' campaigns should be virtually identical in their demands, and mutually supporting, and would be so much stronger if that were the case. But it is hard to see a transition to this situation when the largest part of this potential coalition is as reluctant to challenge the motor-centric status-quo as standard pedestrian campaigning in the UK still seems to be.
Categories: Views

Montreal - When Using Data Goes Wrong

Copenhagenize - 4 December, 2015 - 09:14

This article is a guest contribution from Bartek Komorowski. Bartek is an urban planner and currently Project Leader in Research and Consulting at Vélo Quebec in Montreal. He and his colleagues reacted to a compartive study published last month in Canada and we're pleased to bring his thoughts here. Data is of utmost importance. More often than not, cities simply don't have enough of it. Then you have professionals who taken existing data and completely abuse it. Which is what this piece is about.

By Bartek Komorowski

Last week, the Pembina Institute, a reputable clean energy think tank, released a comparative study on cycling in Canada’s five largest cities – Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Calgary, and Ottawa. The study compares a number of statistics on bicycle use, safety, and infrastructure. The authors spin a narrative about Montreal being a great cycling city, mentioning its presence on the Copenhagenize Index. Strangely, their report provides statistics that seem to suggest otherwise.

I work in Vélo Québec’s Research Department and my colleagues and I know a thing or two about Montreal’s cycling statistics. We publish a report called Bicycling in Quebec every five years, which includes a subsidiary report focusing on Montreal. We are currently collecting data for next edition of Bicycling in Quebec and Montreal’s cycling statistics are at the top of our minds.

While reading through Pembina’s report, we were struck by some major discrepancies between the data it presents and the data we have recently been poring over. We noticed the following:

Daily Bicycle Trips
The study says there are 40,000 daily bicycle trips on the Island of Montreal, citing data from 2008. Actually, there were 75,000 daily bicycle trips in 2008 according to that year's regional origin-destination survey. Results from the more recent 2013 origin-destination survey, which have been released to the media, show that 120,000 bicycle trips were daily in Montreal, representing a massive 54% increase compared to 2008.

Crash Rate
The authors calculated an annual crash rate for the Island of Montreal using a bicycle trip statistic supposedly from 2008 and a crash statistic that seems to be from 2013 (found here), which is methodologically unsound, particularly in the context of rapidly increasing bicycle trip rates. This error was compounded by the use of the faulty daily trip rate statistic explained above. They got a result of 6.6 crashes per 100,000 bicycle trips, a higher rate higher than all of the other cities. In fact, according to their results, the likelihood is of having a cycling accident in Montreal is an absurd 10 times greater than in Vancouver, whose crash rate is 0.67 per 100,000 trips.

Local media in Montreal zeroed in on this result, producing shock headlines such as this one. Needless to say, for cycling advocates, news reports about the supposed dangers of cycling in Montreal, backed up by seemingly credible research from a well-known think tank, are not helpful.

I redid the calculation for Montreal using the same method but plugging in the 2013 daily bicycle trip rate (which matches the year of the collision statistic). This yielded a crash rate of 2.3 per 100,000, lower than that of all cities except Vancouver.

Incidentally, the crash rate statistic for Vancouver strikes me as suspiciously low. This might have something to do with that city’s questionably high daily bicycle trip statistic. I have trouble believing that Vancouver, with roughly one-third the population of the Island of Montreal (603,500 vs 1,890,000), has almost three times more daily bicycle trips (106,500 vs 40,000). Can Vancouverites possibly be making eight times as many daily bicycle trips per capita as Montrealers? I doubt it.

Bicycle Network Size
The authors were sloppy in comparing the sizes of the cities' cycling networks. Some cities, like Toronto, count bicycle lane kilometres. This means that if there are bicycle lanes going in both directions along 1 km of street, they count as 2 km of bicycle lanes. Montreal counts street kilometres with bicycle lanes. In this case, bicycle lanes going in both directions along 1 km of street count as 1 km. If we applied Toronto's accounting method to Montreal's network, ours would appear to be almost twice the size of theirs.

Number of Bicycle Shops
The number of bicycle shops in a city is “an indicator of the prominence of cycling culture and access to bicycles,” say the authors. According to their findings, Montreal is poorly endowed in this department, with only 25 bicycle shops serving its 1.7M inhabitants. This is statistic is way off the mark: Vélo Québec's non-exhaustive listings contain 75 shops on the Island of Montreal, while a cursory search in the phone directory suggests there are well over 100. I can only speculate that this error is attributable to authors’ lack of knowledge of French and failure to use adequate search terms to find bicycle shops.

Other Minor Mix-ups
The study contains a number of other minor statistical mix-ups. The study cites the 2011 census population of the City of Montreal (1.65M) but cites the area (500 km2), the bicycle mode share (2.9%), and other statistics for the whole Island of Montreal, on which there are 14 other municipalities and 250,000 more residents. The City of Montreal has an area of 430 km2 and a bicycle mode share of 3.2%.

There are also some factual errors in the text about Montreal. For example, the authors say that the cycling network is planned at the borough level. In fact, the network is planned and financed by the City’s central administration. Boroughs do have scope to go above and beyond the City’s recently updated master plan (see picture below), putting bikeways on local streets under their jurisdiction. It is nonetheless incorrect to say that boroughs plan the network and the planning therefore has no coherence.

There may well be other errors but, as I’m less intimately acquainted with the cycling stats of the other cities, I cannot identify them as easily. I hope that the authors did a better job for the others than they did for Montreal. Due to the paucity of compilations of data on cycling in Canadian cities, it’s likely errors from this study will continue to circulate in the media and will be reproduced in other research, unless somebody sets the record straight.

My colleagues and I hope to provide a rich and accurate picture of the current state of cycling in Montreal, as well as its evolution over time, when we release the next edition of Bicycling in Quebec next June. Stay tuned.Copenhagenize the planet. And have a lovely day.
Categories: Views

Living in a high-visibility world

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 1 December, 2015 - 08:31

I recently rediscovered this sensible Telegraph article about cycling safety from earlier this year. It contains (amongst some useful statistics and comments, particularly from Rachel Aldred) this little anecdote –

There was a hope that the sheer weight of cyclists on the roads would force both drivers and local authorities to create a safer environment. But this has not happened.

One who knows to his cost is John Whiteley, 71, who has been cycling seriously for 55 years – much of it in the dramatic hills surrounding his Halifax home.

John Whiteley, 71, near his Halifax home (Photo: Paul Macnamara/Guzelian)

On January 2 this year, a clear day, he was out with a friend for a pleasure ride on the B6118, a country road that runs around Huddersfield up to the Emley Moor television aerial. As usual, he was wearing his fluorescent orange vest.

“It was about midday. And this Volvo estate came up from behind and the corner of his car hit me.” The impact broke his leg, and he went flying into the grass verge, spraining his ankle into the bargain.

A high visibility jacket in this instance was obviously useless; it failed to deal with the basic problem of a driver who either wasn’t looking, or who failed to overtake with sufficient clearance, at midday, on a bright, clear day.

Likewise it is unlikely that painting yellow stripes on Dartmoor ponies, and cows in the Cotswolds, will make the slightest bit of difference to the rate at which these animals are being killed by drivers.

Bloody hell, this new Chris Morris' Jam is even more surreal than the old stuff.

— JobRot (@job_rot) November 30, 2015

An earlier trial of reflective collars on cows in Gloucestershire apparently failed to stop road deaths; this has apparently prompted the shift to reflective paint, an idea that seems to have started in Finland, in an attempt to prevent reindeer deaths. 4,000 reindeer are killed every year on Finland’s roads.

A cursory search hasn’t revealed any news on whether these trials of reflective paint on Finnish reindeers have had any effect on the death rate. But that hasn’t stopped Volvo essentially borrowing this reflective paint and promoting it as a cycling safety product – ‘Life Paint’.

Life Paint is the brainchild of spin-doctors, not safety engineers.UK-based Grey London, Volvo’s global creative agency, spent a year developing the Life Paint idea. The paint comes from Swedish startup Albedo100. Prior to supplying its product to Volvo, Albedo100 made headlines by spraying its reflective product on Finnish reindeer, up to 4,000 of which reportedly die in traffic accidents ever year.

“Our job isn’t just to advertise our clients,” Grey London chairman Nils Leonard told Adweek regarding the Life Paint project. “It’s to help them make a positive impact on culture.”

Grey London—and its army of 30-plus people working on the campaign—moved the needle in a way that seat-belt technology and additional airbags don’t. Web stories ahead of free giveaways of a neat product help create real commotion and awareness about a serious, avoidable safety issue for cyclists: visibility.

There’s no evidence of effectiveness; Life Paint is explicitly a marketing gimmick that simultaneously allows Volvo to pretend it cares about ‘safety’ while simultaneously shifting the onus of responsibility onto the people that are being hit, and away from the people doing the hitting, all wrapped up in the issue of ‘visibility’.

What scientific evidence that does actually exist on the effectiveness of high-visibility clothing is mixed, patchy or non-existent. A 2006 Cochrane review found that, while it may improve driver detection during the day,

the effect of visibility aids on pedestrian and cyclist safety remains unknown… Whether visibility aids will make a worthwhile difference needs careful economic evaluation alongside research efforts to quantify their effect on pedestrian and cyclist safety.

In other words, it is not established whether simply being ‘more visible’ makes any difference to whether you actually end up being hit.

A recent literature review is more conclusive.

Wearing visible clothing or a helmet, or having more cycling experience did not reduce the risk of being involved in an accident. Better cyclist-driver awareness and more interaction between car driver and cyclists, and well maintained bicycle-specific infrastructure should improve bicycle safety.

Hi-visibility clothing seems like an obvious safety intervention, but there doesn’t appear to be any evidence that it makes a significant difference at the population level. With more and more people, animals and objects now apparently ripe targets for hi-visibility clothing or paint, this satirical article from 2007 comes ever closer to being reality.

Cyclists in Milton Keynes have reacted angrily to a decision by town planners to make buildings, trees, street furniture and the road itself much easier to see by painting them all luminous green.

… Cars, lorries and pedestrians will also be compelled to be repainted in high-visibility luminous yellow paint while cats, squirrels and urban foxes will also be made more visible, following a study that a number of accidents are caused by drivers swerving to avoid badly lit mammals that have strayed onto the highway.

But local cyclists are furious at the plan that has made them the same colour as their immediate surroundings. ‘We’ve all spent a fortune on these luminous jackets, trousers and cycle clips’ said local cyclist Mark Randle. ‘Suddenly our hi-visibility cycling gear has turned into the most effective camouflage available. Now we’re completely invisible.’

But a cycle shop in the town is cashing in on the crisis by advertising ‘normal clothes’ for cyclists to make them stand out.

Categories: Views

Amsterdam station area redesign

BicycleDutch - 30 November, 2015 - 23:01
Exiting Amsterdam Central Station will become a completely new experience in the coming years. Amsterdam is updating the street design on the so-called station island and the entire pedestrian route … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

Watching the Amsterdam ferries

BicycleDutch - 25 November, 2015 - 23:01
Earlier this week I published a post about the new tunnel in Amsterdam that leads people walking and cycling to the ferries to get across the river IJ to the … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

One Year in The Netherlands

Pedestrianise London - 24 November, 2015 - 21:38

It’s been just over a year since we left London to move to the Dutch city of Rotterdam after 10 years of living in the British capital. The reasons for our move were many, and although we miss the roots we put down in London, overall we’ve settled into life here very quickly and easily.

The first 6 months was mostly spent getting settled into a new rented flat (twice the size of our London maisonette) and looking for our new permanent home, which we quickly found out was going to be this old little farm house in the middle of the Zuid Holland countryside.

We spend the next 3 months doing up the farm house and getting it into a state we could live in. We’ve been in for about 3 months now, it makes quite a change from living in the city.

“But how do you get to the city to work?” I hear you ask, good question, glad you asked it. A few weeks ago I tweeted my journey to work, but here I have a little more space to expand on it.

Being a sitting behind a computer at a desk while interacting with real people kind of a professional, I need to get to the office in the city everyday, and so that was priority number one for me. I was used to cycling 8 miles for an hour or so each way in London, so this wasn’t something I was afraid of, but it needed to be a realistic prospect. It turns out we’re about 14km from Rotterdam centre, which although doable is a tough call for me twice a day, so I banked on going multi-modal and mixing in a train trip via Gouda, two stops on the Intercity service from Utrecht.

Gouda is famous for its cheese, and to make cheese you need lots of cows and thus lots of farms. So my morning commute starts me off on a road across the polders between the farms. The road is narrow, single track, with passing places for vehicles, approximately 4 metres wide with water on either side and is pretty straight. The straightness combined with the narrowness means that it’s quite comfortable to ride along, vehicles can see and be seen from a long way off so there’s never a nasty surprise around the corner.

Morning traffic is mostly children cycling to school and people heading out to work from the houses along the road. It’s a through road, but makes up two sides of a square with two provincial roads, so it doesn’t make any sense to use it unless you are accessing property along it.

After a kilometre or two I get to the cycleway across the fields.

It looks (and is signposted) just like a regular side road, but the entranceway is only 2.5 metres across and the big blue cycle sign shows everyone that this road is only for bikes. Warning markings on the road warn traffic of the potential danger of bikes turning in or exiting from the cycleway, although there is no actual road hump/table.

This action shot shows the cycleway. It runs alongside the fields across to the village of Gouderak, linking our road with the village.

To get to Gouderak by car you have to go a longer way around, in principle there’s nothing from stopping this cycleway from having been a fullsized road (in fact it’s used by tractors to access fields) but if it was it’d mean that motor traffic from this direction would have to travel through the residential areas of Gouderak and would have a negative effect on the residents.

Like many villages in the area, Gouderak sits behind the dyke that keeps the river from the polders below.

Once through the houses, you emerge onto the dyke road through the village. This is the main road through the village, it is narrow and twisty with bad sightlines, but as you’d expect for a village street it has a 30kph speed limit and a brick surface that helps calm traffic.

Leaving the village, the surface changes to smooth asphalt with suggestion lines and red asphalt shoulders.

The suggestion lines have the result of visually narrowing the roadway to look singletrack, this is a common treatment in the region for dyke roads that carry motor and bicycle traffic to the villages and where road width is limited by the width of the dyke.

At the end of the dyke road we reach the Gouda ringroad which has a bi-directional cycleway running alongside it.

We join the cycleway and cross the ringroad at the roundabout. Bi-directional cycleways are common on out of town main roads where the cycleway can be physically separated from the roadway by a metre or more of verge, and there are no side turnings and only major junctions (roundabouts or light controlled junctions) with other roads to deal with.

Then we’re off ringroad cycleway and onto the city streets proper. Suggestion lines again but this time in an urban setting.

Overall this section is fine due to the low volume of motor traffic but it’s the worst part of my journey and would be much nicer if separate cycleways were added to each side of the road.

Note that trucks are banned from this road but only overnight (10pm til 6am) presumably due to night time noise.

Finally we reach Gouda train station and hunt for somewhere to park in amongst the sea of parked bicycles.

The journey is just over half an hour all in.

Many people I see cycling to the station cycle much shorter distances from within Gouda or from Gouderak, but there are many high school children cycling as far as myself or further from the villages to the school in Gouda. It is possible to drive and park at the station (€5 per day with a train ticket) but you have to approach the station on the main road from the other direction, the town side of the station has a minimal amount of paid on street parking.

Categories: Views

Cycling needs a backlash

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 24 November, 2015 - 12:42

Almost all of what passes for ‘cycling infrastructure’ in Britain has never generated a backlash, for one simple reason. It has never represented a direct challenge to the way our roads and streets are designed to prioritise motor traffic flow, without giving time or space to cycling in a way that might impinge on that prioritisation of motor traffic. That ‘infrastructure’ has never reallocated road space in any meaningful sense.

The cycle lane in the picture above did not generate any controversy when it was painted, because it gives up at the point when things get a bit difficult. A decision was made to allocate the fixed amount of carriageway space on the approach to the roundabout in the distance entirely to motor traffic – two queuing lanes – and so the ‘cycling infrastructure’ had to end. There was no backlash against this painted bicycle symbol, because it didn’t impinge on motoring in the way a protected cycleway, replacing one of those lanes of motor traffic, would.

In much the same way, the old painted lanes on Tavistock Place in London, captured in this photograph from Paul Gannon, generated no backlash – meaningless blobs of paint at the side of the road are not something anyone is going to excited about.

This contrasts starkly with the situation today. Camden Council have reduced the amount of space for motor traffic on this street to just one lane, allocating the rest of it to cycling. The two-way protected track on the north side of the street is now a one-way track, with the westbound motor traffic lane converted to a mandatory cycle lane. This has generated a furious backlash from taxi drivers, in particular.

In places where there is competing demand for the use of road space – in urban areas currently dominated by motor traffic flow – these kinds of decisions about what that space should be used for are inherently political. Reallocating road space, or re-directing motor traffic away from what we think should be access roads onto  main roads, are effectively  statements about what modes of transport we think people should be using for certain kinds of trips, and about what our roads and streets should be for.

David Arditti has astutely observed that in these places of competing demand, effective measures to enable cycling should be generating a backlash. If there is no backlash, then whatever it is you are doing is unlikely to make any significant difference. If you are designing a Quietway, for instance, and nobody is moaning about it – that probably means you aren’t doing anything to reduce motor traffic levels on the route so that it is genuinely ‘quiet’, or, alternatively, it means you are sending it on a circuitous and indirect route in order to avoid difficult decisions.

If you are designing a route on a main road and there is no backlash, again, something has probably gone wrong. You aren’t reallocating space and time at junctions; you aren’t moving parking bays where they get in the way of your infrastructure; you aren’t dealing with bus stops; you aren’t repurposing motor traffic lanes for cycle traffic.

London is experiencing a significant backlash against cycling infrastructure because, for the very first time, that cycling infrastructure is itself significant. It is a visible and clear statement that cycling should play a role in the transport mix of the city, rather than being completely ignored – it is a challenge to the status quo, rather than being an accommodation with it, in the form of shared use footways, or discontinuous painted lanes. Or (most often) nothing at all.

Of course this backlash is using all the tired, contradictory and even downright confused arguments about cycling infrastructure.

  • that it will ’cause’ congestion;
  • that this isn’t the Netherlands, people won’t cycle because of winter/hills/culture;
  • that ‘cyclists’ are a minority who don’t deserve special treatment;
  • that nobody will use the cycling infrastructure

In London, LBC radio seems to have emerged as a mouthpiece for these kinds of arguments, getting particularly excited (for some reason) about the fact that some people aren’t using Superhighway 5.

One of their reporters, Theo Usherwood, stood by the road for half an hour on the bridge, apparently in an attempt to demonstrate that the new infrastructure is pointless because a majority of people cycling northbound aren’t using it.

This is not hard to explain. Heading north across Vauxhall Bridge from the western approach on the gyratory, you would have to bump up onto a shared use footway, then wait for a crossing to get across the road to enter the Superhighway –

… and then deal with a slightly confusing junction on the north side of the river to get back to the left hand side of the road, where you were originally, just a few hundred metres down the road.

Given that there is also a bus lane northbound on the bridge (which the LBC reporter himself mentions someone using), it’s not hard to explain why a good number of people are choosing not to add this inconvenience to their journey. If Usherwood had bothered to ask anyone why they were not using CS5, he would have found this out for himself. But instead he was happy to parrot his statistics in isolation, as they fit into a pre-constructed narrative about how apparently pointless cycling infrastructure is.

Really, the problem here is the discontinuous nature of the infrastructure. It’s only ‘pointless’ for some users because so little of it has been built, meaning that, from some directions, people have to go out their way, pointlessly crossing the road twice (to go to the other side, and back again) to use it for a few hundred metres. The people using the cycling infrastructure will have been arriving from the Oval direction; those not using it will have arrived from the south. It’s that simple.

Equally, if there was a northbound cycleway on the western side of the bridge, linking up with cycling infrastructure on Vauxhall gyratory (plans for which have just been announced today) then I guarantee everyone would be using it. Indeed, statistics for southbound use of the CS5 (which doesn’t add any inconvenience to journeys) would show that nearly everyone is using it. It’s hard to escape the conclusion that Andrew Gilligan comes to, in reference to an earlier ‘count’ Usherwood made –

I personally counted 750 cyclists using the Vauxhall Bridge track, more than 12 a minute, a figure which appeared in our press release. That, by the way, as the press release also stated, is a nearly 30% rise on the figure crossing the bridge before the track opened.

Why do you think Mr Usherwood made no mention of this, or of his earlier visit to the superhighway? Why, I wonder, did he hang around for several hours, until “just after lunch,” and until it had started raining, to begin his count and do his report? Could it be because he was trying to make the facts fit a pre-cooked agenda that there are no cyclists using the facility?

Usherwood also demonstrated a troubling willingness to strip passages from the emergency services’ responses to the Superhighways to imply they are opposed to them, when in fact they support them.

I’ve just dug out the the responses of all three emergency services to the Cycle Superhighway. The London Ambulance Service says the narrowing of the road could affect their – and I’m quoting here – ‘time critical lifesaving journeys’.

The Metropolitan Police is even more scathing Nick. It lists 14 separate concerns with the North-South route linking Elephant & Castle to Kings Cross. It says it will impact on response times, starting – and again I’m quoting – ‘increased congestion will result in longer travelling times for MPS officers coming into central London which will have an operational impact at times of prolonged public order demand.’ And it says that when it comes to transporting VVIPs like members of the royal family, or for that matter high risk suspects that need an armed guard – think terrorists here – it will have to close the opposite carriageway so that there is an escape route at all times for the Metropolitan Police convoy.

Clear enough, you might think – the emergency services are plainly up in arms about these schemes.

Except that if you refer to the document from which Usherwood stripped these quotes, it turns out that the Metropolitan Police, far from being ‘scathing’, actually support the North-South and East-West Superhighways.

Likewise the London Fire Brigade (not mentioned by Usherwood) also support this both Superhighways, and the City of London Police. The London Ambulance Service make no comment either in support or opposition of the Superhighway schemes, only voicing concerns about how it might affect their response times. Against this, all four of London’s major trauma centres; hospitals; and the London Air Ambulance service, have all voiced strong support for the Superhighway schemes.

So, far from being ‘scathing’, London’s emergency services actually support the Superhighways – but a listener to LBC would have gained precisely the opposite impression.

Of course, this kind of response – however misleading and incoherent it might be – is actually a sign that Transport for London is building cycling infrastructure that is effective, and that matters. It is making a statement that highway space shouldn’t just be solely for the flow of motor traffic; that cycling can and should be accommodated, for sound strategic reasons, set out by the Mayor himself.

With London’s population growing by 10,000 a month, there are only two ways to keep traffic moving – build more roads, which is for the most part physically impossible, or encourage the use of vehicles, such as bikes, which better use the space on the roads we’ve already got.

London – and other British cities – are starting to build something that people feel the need to oppose. That means something. Bring on the backlash.

Categories: Views

Amsterdam Central Station Tunnel

BicycleDutch - 23 November, 2015 - 23:01
For the first time since the Amsterdam Central Station was built in the 1880s there is now a tunnel to pass straight under it. Last Saturday, 21 November 2015, it … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

Cycling and Safety: change must take root in people’s minds

John Adams - 23 November, 2015 - 10:00


Last March I took part in a conference devoted to the promotion of cycling in Madrid. My presentation, in essay form, has now been published by World Transport: Policy and Practice. Herewith the abstract –

This essay is a response to an invitation to provide an overview of the current state of cycling in Britain, and more specifically London, for a conference in Madrid – a city, like London, striving to promote more cycling. The essay focuses on the importance of both the volume of motorised traffic and perceptions of safety as determinants, over time, of the volume of cycling. It notes the dramatic decline (over 95%) since 1950 in the road accident fatality rate in Britain as cyclists, pedestrians and motorists competed for the right to the use of limited road space and how, in selected areas of London, cyclists are in the process of regaining their right to the road.

And here is Figure 7 from the essay:

From 1950 to 1973 (the year of the energy crisis) the number of kilometres cycled in Britain plummeted – by about 80%. Over the same period the fatal risk of cycling, per kilometre, increased dramatically. The enormous increase in motoring was, physically, driving cyclists off the road. This displacement was officially sanctioned by what became known as the “predict and provide” policy underpinning transport planning. Forecasters were employed to predict future levels of car ownership and car use, and official policy was to provide sufficient road space to accommodate the forecasts. At public inquiries into road-building plans the problems of cyclists and pedestrians did not feature.

Their problems are only now beginning to be acknowledged as issues deserving of consideration alongside those of motorists stuck in traffic jams. Change does appear to be taking root in people’s minds.

The published paper can be found here (starting on page 10) –

Categories: Views

Copenhagenizing Paris

Copenhagenize - 20 November, 2015 - 09:00

I'll be speaking in Paris today - 21 November 2015 - about bicycle urbanism and lessons to be learned from Copenhagen.

Paris has declared that it aims to be the world's best bicycle city in the world by 2020. This is simply not possible with the current sub-standard understanding of Best Practice infrastructure. The current Mayor Anne Hildalgo, has some good ideas, which we've reviewed here, but until the City understands the basics of bicycle infrastructure,  not much is going to happen.

While there are good examples of the City employing Best Practice infrastructure (above left) there are still strange things imagined in the heads of engineers and planners who have little idea of how to do it. Like the weird bi-directional stuff you see like above, right.

Or using bus lanes as bicycle lanes on long boulevards where buses can get up to speed (above, left), or strange turn lanes like atabove, right.

Best Practice has been established. It's ridiculous to try and reinvent the wheel. Copy-paste. It's that simple.

If the iconic Champs-Élysées were to be done properly, it would look a bit like this. We would probably run a wide, green meridan down the middle to further reduce the traffic so it didn't keep on looking like a Robert Doisneau photograph from the 1950s:

It's all so simple. Paris should realise that.

We have covered The Arrogance of Space related to Paris in this article. Using as an example the intersection, above, below the Eiffel Tower. You can see the Arrogance of Space in that link. But what would it look like if proper infrastructure were applied?

Safer, better, more modern. A total redemocratisation of the urban space. Benefiting pedestrians and cyclists and taming the most destructive force in cities - the automobile. This is designed for humans. Not engineered for cars.

It's simple if Paris wants it to be. If they dare to do it. Without this kind of redesign, they will do little for modernising transport in the city.

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

A tour of London's emerging cycle network

Vole O'Speed - 20 November, 2015 - 01:19
This Sunday I will be leading a pre-emptive tour of some of the most promising cycle infrastructure currently under development in London. It's pre-emptive because much of it is not yet finished. Therefore it won't be as particularly pleasant ride because in parts we will have to cycle outside not-ye-open cycle lanes tussling with the motor traffic. However, I think it is worth seeing what is going on and assessing it at this stage. Some of it is open and can already be enjoyed.

There are three start points, starting from near my house and working in though Brent. They are:

11:00 am Kingsbury tube station
11:45 am Gladstone Park railway bridge (at the south end of Parkside NW2)
12:05 pm Queens Park Station car park

Under-construction segregated cycle tracks. Larger map here.This map shows approximately (not exactly) the recently-completed and under construction segregated cycle tracks in London. It also shows the location of Brent's not-yet-approved Carlton Vale scheme. This was the starting-point for planning the ride, to take in as many of these locations as possible. (But starting from the NW, it proved necessary to leave out Cycle Superhighway 3 and the east part of the East-West Superhighway).

There's no infrastructure to speak of on the ride before reaching Queens Park, though just past Gladstone Park a pile of stuff is encountered in Park Avenue North, which I suspect is the first sign of construction of Quietway 3 in Brent.

Quietway 3 will run from Regent's Park to Gladstone Park in its first phase, with hopefully an extension across the north Circular towards Wembley and Harrow later (though that will be in the lap of the next Mayor).

Near the final pick-up point at Queens Park Station we will pause to have a look at the Brent section of Carlton Vale, with a large and crumpled copy of the plans for semi-segregated cycle tracks that I have in my possession. These have not yet been put to public consultation, so this is a good stage to feed suggestions for improvement back to the designer.

The next stage of the ride is to look at the location of the future East-West Superhighway in Hyde Park. Unfortunately to get there is to try to pass through a terribly bike-impermeably part of London, through the need to cross the Westway, Grand Union Canal and Paddington railway corridor. There is no legal way through here north-south for cyclists between Royal Oak (Lord Hill's Bridge) and the Edgware Road, both of which are most unpleasant, a gap of 1km. If the East West Superhighway is extended to the A40, as planned, and if Westminster build their Quietway network, this barrier might one day be surmounted. But it is not clear to me how it will be, or if the planners of the grid have realised what problem this is.

The best that we can do on Sunday is to get off and walk. After passing through the pedestrain-only underpass at Porteus Road, we reach the next pedestrain-only bridge across the Grand Union Canal at the Paddington Central development.

That such a poor piece of pedestrian infrastructure was created so recently in such an important place is quite shocking. Forget about not being bale to cycle across it: how could a wheelchair user negotiate a corner like this?

Proceeding via the pedestrain-only waterside and primitively-cobbled path leading to London Road by Paddington Station, we will cycle to Hyde Park there we see signs of action.

The E-W superhighway will go via the West and South Carriage Drives, which we will follow. This routing is clearly intended to take pressure off the shared (separated) paths Rotten Row and Broad Walk, though I doubt how successful this strategy will be, as Broad Walk and North Carriage Drive will represent a shorter route. We will then follow an old London Cycle Network route, sadly under-engineered, which was originally known as the Ambassadors' Route when created in the early 1980s (it features prominently in this film). This takes us to Pimloco where we can discover what has been built of the north end of Cycle Superhighway 5 in Vauxhall Bridge Road. This is where things start to get impressive.

This sets the pattern for what we will see on the rest of the ride. Here we have a 4m wide two-way cycle track separated by low kerbs from both pavement and road, clearly set-out. We'll be able to observe how, for example, the pedestrian crossings like this one work. This continues to the crossing of Vauxhall Bridge.

On the south side of the river the passageway is clear and safe, though not always so wide, through the previously-notorious Vauxhall Gyratory system and under the railway. Segregation continues at the standard shown above to Kennington Oval, whereafter CS5 reverts to the old-style painted blue blobs. We, however, will turn left to join CS7 on Kennington Park Road. This is not particularly impressive until one gets near Elephant and Castle, where what appears to be a temporary arrangement takes us, very clearly signposted, through a churchyard and via some minor streets, on to the new CS 6 on St George's Road.

Though this is not the most direct route between Elephant and Castle and Blackfriars Road, the cycle track is again impressively implemented. It leads into similar engineering still being built on the west side oft Blackfriars Road, via a signalised crossing of the St George's Circus roundabout. We will be able to judge the efficiency of these junctions for cyclists. My impression was that they are good. By this stage in the ride we have already seem probably more of the low-level cycle signals than anybody else in the UK. These fantastically sensible features have only just been approved for use, and Transport for London are rolling them out on these tracks.

The track is not yet constructed on Blackfriars Bridge or the slip road off it, but we can see where it will be. The Thames was looking quite choppy when I took these photos on Wednesday.

We will find, I hope, that we can then cycle a substantial section of the Embankment Superhighway going westwards which is not yet officially open. Here are the works between Blackfriars and Waterloo Bridges.

And here is the section already in use, approaching Westminster Bridge, with the wide segregating island designed so that coach parties can congregate on it without spilling into the track, and chamfered kerb to minimise the chance of pedal-strike. This has already become an 'iconic' view of London, to those of us of a kerb-nerd disposition.

Parliament Square is as awful as always; work on the cycle crossings here has not yet started. We will head up now through the West End, as best we can, showing where another of the serious gaps in the infrastructure is that is in the City of Westminster's court to solve. Charing Cross Road is a disaster-area that desperately needs complete re-planning including Space for Cycling, or most of the traffic removed. It is a disaster equally for those on bikes as those stuck in the permanent queues in buses and taxis. It just doesn't work as it is.

We reach more civilised territory as soon as we cross the border into Camden. The Borough of Camden deserves huge credit for over the last twenty years rationally re-planning and upgrading its traffic network, particularly in the south of the borough, with an emphasis on removing traffic from residential (and some business) neighbourhoods, and facilitating cycling. I have covered the history of Camden's cycle network extensively on this blog. Particularly deserving of credit is the Camden Cabinet Member for the Environment, their roads supremo, Councillor Phil Jones, who has lead a serious expansion of the segregated cycle network in the borough (which was already the only one deserving the name in London), using the money made available by Transport for London under the Mayor Boris Johnson's cycling programme, and, particularly, has bitten the bullet and ordered the doubling of capacity of the East-West segregated cycle link through Bloomsbury (the old London Cycle Network route 0, or the Seven Stations link), so brining to the originally-intended standard the link planned and lobbied for by Paul Gannon, Paul Gasson, myself, and other members of Camden Cycling Campaign in the early 2000s. I need also to mention that the current members of CCC have campaigned energetically for this outcome.

We will see on our ride how this work is progressing. The original two-way cycle track on the north side of the road is being converted to a one-way track eastbound within the same width, and a new westbound track is being constructed using semi-segregating Orcas (already used in Waltham Forest and planned for use on Carlton Vale in Brent). Hence the cycle capacity of this incredibly popular link is being doubled, through a whole lane of motor traffic being removed and the whole of the corridor converting to one-way operation for motor traffic. Moreover, the motor flows are being opposed on opposite sides of Gower Street, so removing the corridor as a rat-run entirely. This is exactly how the Dutch so frequently use one-way working for motors in dense city centres to eliminate through traffic, and it is great to see a London borough applying this concept. The reduction in traffic on the corridor and simplification of the whole system should remove the junction problems that have existed on this route in its previous design. The separation of the east and westbound flows of cyclists will remove the risk of cycle-cycle collisions in the old confined space. Pedestrian facilities are being improved as well. It's a win all round.

There is a major backlash (mostly from the black cab lobby) against the scheme already and it is important that Camden Council recieves lots of support for the scheme. As Camden Cyclists state on their website,
If you like the scheme when you have tried it, tweet about it with #taviplace or send an e-mail to Camden Council: to help ensure that the supporting voices outweigh those of the objectors – who will undoubtedly be many. ‘Winning the peace’ also entails all who use the new scheme riding legally and courteously so as to maintain the respect of local residents.
Not everything Camden has done for cyclists in recent years has been quite so clever. After experiencing this (unfinished) project we head up to Kings Cross and St Pancras and on curious thing we experience is the Pancras Road tunnel under the railway (below) where the cycle lane is the bit bewtween the solid white line and the segregating island, coming into collision with the left-turning stream of traffic. The bit between the segregating island and the pavement is... wait for it... a taxi lane! And the taxi drivers have the nerve to be ungrateful to Camden now over Tavistock Place!

In the northern part of Pancras Road Camden are doing better, with new stepped cycle tracks, which we will also experience, before finding our way to the  northbound Royal College Street cycle track, which has had some subtle improvements since I last posted about it immediately it opened. We will then follow the route along Pratt Street and Delancey Street that will be going ahead for upgrade to two-way cycling in the next phase of Camden's Cycle Grid programme. From there the old LCN route on Gloucester Avenue and King Henry's Road takes us towards Swiss Cottage (this notorious gyratory also programmed to be reformed for the construction of CS11 up the Finchley Road next year) and thence back towards the side's tarting points in Brent.

I think the ride will give a good overview of how a proper cycle network for London is now starting to emerge,. For me, as I explained recently in a long, personal post, the story began in the late 1990s with the campaign in Camden for the original Royal College Street segregated cycle track (now replaced), a pioneering feature in London then, and then the campaign for the Seven Stations Link. These pieces of infrastructure established and demonstrated the principles that we are now seeing rolled out on a much larger scale in the new Superhighways. Boris Johnson recently in commented the London Assembly that 'Virtually every cabined member has ticked me off for the Cycle Superhighways', and I think this shows what a fundamentally unpopular course in the British political setup he has chosen to follow here, and how much credit he deserves for doing something really rather good, that will undoubtedly be the major legacy of his mayoralty. Also deserving of credit is his Cycling commissioner, Andrew Gilligan, for pushing recalcitrant officials and recalcitrant boroughs into action on the Mayor's programme. When he was appointed in 2013, many wondered if, as a journalist,  if he was appropriately-qualified for the job, but I commented at the time that his skills as a propagandist might just be those most needed in the role, and I think I was right.

It's a fragile legacy. The next mayor has it in his or her power to get on with the programmes, fill in the worst gaps (for example north-south across the West End), connect up all the segregated Superhighways, extend them into all the outer boroughs, build more mini-Hollands like the successful Walthamstow one, break the major barriers in Outer London like the North Circular, and enhance the quality of the Quietways. Or he or she has it in their the power to effectively abort the programme and leave the lovely pieces of engineering that we are now seeing in their glistening newness as sad stubs and monuments to what might have been, a transport revolution never delivered. As Cyclists in the City has recently commented, though the Green and Liberal Democrat candidates for Mayor in 2016 (who are not likely to win) seem highly committed to continuing the cycling programme, the commitment of the Conservative and Labour candidates, Zac Goldsmith and Sadiq Kahn is really not very clear from what either of them has said so far. It's going to be another close race for Mayor in 2016, and the vote of cyclists is going to make a difference. I invite the two of them to commit clearly now to completing the current programmes and thereafter to further major expansion of high-quality cycling infrastructure, maintaining at least the current level of expenditure on cycling in London.

In the shorter term, I invite you, if you casn make it, to my tour of London's developing cycle network on Sunday.

Categories: Views


Subscribe to Cycling Embassy of Great Britain aggregator - Views