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From the Bicycle Snake to Chinese Vanity Project

Copenhagenize - 25 October, 2016 - 11:33
Let's just get to it, shall we.

Cyclists are not random boxes of corn flakes that you store up on a shelf, out of sight - out of mind.

They are urban citizens contributing as much as the next - often more - to urban life. Like pedestrians and public transport users, they are best served at street level as integral threads woven into the rich urban fabric to contribute to the beautiful complexities of city life. Anthropologically, socially, financially.

For over a century we have understood the necessity of Best Practice infrastructure. We have tried and tested it with hundreds and hundreds of millions of people - and perfected it. We have measured and gauged it in order to understand it. We have regarded it as a beautiful, functional thing and designed it accordingly.

For 7000 years we have lived together in cities, on equal footing. In the splendid democracy of urban space. The streets were the most democratic spaces in the history of homo sapiens.


Super Bicycle Snake planned for Chinese city Xiamen.

Which makes this new project by Danish architecture bureau Dissing+Weitling for the city of Xiamen look completely ridiculous. An eight kilometer long shelf designed to place cyclists out of sight and out of mind. This is what happens when architecture gets drunk at the christmas party and sleeps with car-centric engineering, without listening to the wise advice of urban planning and anthropology.

British architect Norman Foster amused us back in 2014 with his plans to shelve cyclists in London with his ridiculous SkyCycle project. Other plans for bicycle "infrastructure" in London were equally amusing in this 2015 article.

It is nothing short of embarrassing when a Danish firm is so keen on producing "Magpie Architecture" and even tries to polish it shinier:

"Xiamen's broad boulevards are reserved for automobiles and they are life-threatening for cyclists. Therefore, the raised bicycle connection will be a welcome improvement of the city's infrastructure for cyclists", it says on the Dissing+Weitling website.

This is the firm that designed the renowned Cykelslangen - Bicycle Snake for the City of Copenhagen. - an solution that fulfills all the requirements of Danish Design - functional, practical and elegant.

The Bicycle Snake is a short, simple and brilliant solution to one unique location. There is nowhere else in Copenhagen where such a structure is needed. It is a perfect example of tactical, location-oriented design. And hey. Dissing+Weitling know bridges. They have been quite good at designing them - both for cars and for bikes/peds. Many are beautiful and their designs avoid the usual Squiggletecture we see emerging from the Photoshopped ideas of many others who don't understand bicycle urbanism.

Using the basic concept of the Bicycle Snake to erase cyclists from the cityscape, however, reveals the complete disconnect between our struggle for creating better cities and the seductive, ego-enhancement of mega-projects. Rationality falls off the back rack.

When designed infrastructure or, indeed, anything involving public space, do we not also bear an enormous responsibility on our shoulders for teaching about urban life and development? Is it a sell-out to just cash a paycheque from a Chinese city so completely intent on maintaining a car-centric paradigm?

"There is still a massive potential related to spreading the humanistic, user-oriented approach to design that we take for granted in our modern, Nordic design tradition. Foreign clients really listen when we present them with our complete, well thought out solutions that often show great consideration to the people who will use the solutions - and that also combine functional, Nordic architecture". So sayeth Steen Savery Trojaborg,  partner at Dissing+Weitling.

You want to know where the potential is? In understanding urban life. Understanding a urban, human journey across seven millenia - as well as promptly rejecting outright the past century of car-centric thought - and applying that to our established designs.


Visualisation of a Guangzhou street with Danish cycle tracks with curbs

Fortunately, other Danish influences in China are rational and based on user-friendly designs, as we wrote in this article back in 2011, about Danish consultant Troels Andersen and his work in the city of Guangzhou. The city is planning 1000 km of bicycle infrastructure and greenways, including Best Practice designs like the curb-separated infrastructure pictured above.

XIAMEN
We had a look at the city of Xiamen here at the Copenhagenize Design Co. office today. To gain some context.

According to the local media, the city is, like so many other Chinese cities, starting to take the bicycle seriously as transport once again. The city has 43 km of cycle track under construction around the lake - primarily recreational and therefore less relevant for transport. But as you can see on the map on the left, 107 km of bicycle infrastructure is planned in two phases on the island on which Xiamen is located. The proposed Bicycle Snake is highlighted in orange on the left and presented on its own on the right.

107 km is far from the 1000 km underway in Guangzhou or the proposed 3200 km (!) planned in Beijing by 2020 (!) but nonetheless positive. It really is what we're seeing all over the world.

It was difficult for our in-house Chinese architect to find any comprehensive information in Chinese about the proposed Bicycle Snake in Xiamen apart from this article. The only official comment about it, from the zoning commission, reads like this:

"The “Yunding Road” bike bridge is an attempt to popularize the bike life. In the future we would combine the needs of the citizens, gradually implementing cycle tracks and other facilities in and outside Xiamen Island".

So it reads a bit like a vanity project for the city. What an expensive route to take when your plan is allegedly to integrate the bicycle as transport properly "in the future". If, as Dissing+Weitling say, "Foreign clients really listen when we present them with our complete, well thought out solutions that often show great consideration to the people who will use the solutions" then get them to listen to rational ideas that actually make sense, benefit the citizens, the public health and expedite the transformation to a more liveable city where the bicycle is an equal partner in the traffic equation instead of designing Disneyland gimmicks for them.

On this local forum, there are positive comments about the "Air Bicycle Bridge", which is how the project name translates directly from Chinese.

- "If Xiamen succeeds, other cities will catch up, right? This is good news!"
- "Green transportation is being pushed everywhere. I hope we can do more for bicycle development."

There are, however, detractors. Giving us an insight into the background for this project.
- "Us cyclists need basic rights and a good environment, not just one or two vanity projects. Who will maintain this facility?"
- "Our government is rich and just wants to spend some money".

The Bicycle Snake in Copenhagen is a project of visionary, iconic proportions and serves a functional, practical purpose. An eight kilometer long version in Xiamen is merely a vanity project for everyone involved. 
"Vanity working on a weak head, produces every sort of mischief". Jane Austen.Copenhagenize the planet. And have a lovely day.
Categories: Views

A tribute to my father

BicycleDutch - 24 October, 2016 - 23:01
This is a personal post in honour of my dear father, who passed away in the evening of Friday the 21st of October 2016. Walter Wagenbuur was born in 1935 … Continue reading →
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Copenhagenize Slopes - Iconic Architectural Topography, Housing, and Public Space

Copenhagenize - 24 October, 2016 - 14:16

Copenhagenize Slopes 1,2,3. Reversing the Arrogance of Space on Hans Christian Andersen Boulevard in Copenhagen and re-demoractizing the space with 507 apartments of 50 m2, an urban park at street level, public space on 500 m of green roofs and bicycle parking for every resident and guest.

For all the talk of Copenhagen being “all that” in so many urban ways, challenges and problems persist in the Danish capital. Here at Copenhagenize Design Co. we channel our impatience with lack of political will in our own city into design and ideas. Lack of bicycle parking around Copenhagen Central Station led to this solution. A dreadfully planned street in the Østerbro neighbourhood led to this redesign.

Now we decided to tackle the biggest, smelliest elephant in the Copenhagen room. One that that has been demonstratively ignored by generations of politicians in this city. Denmark’s most famous writer, Hans Christian Andersen, would surely turn over in his grave if he knew that the nation’s most car-congested street was named after him.

Hans Christian Andersen Boulevard. Clockwise from bottom left: As it looks now; 1960s, 1905, 1970s

60,000 cars rumbling down the canyon-like swatch of asphalt that carves the city centre in two ain’t no fairytale, sunshine. Cities with attitude need grand boulevards, it would seem. What they do with them, however, in an excellent indicator of how a city is geared towards the future of mobility. On this front, Copenhagen lags behind so many other European cities by allowing H.C. Andersens Boulevard and Åboulevarden exist in their current form.

For at least a couple of decades there has been talk of putting the 60,000 cars into a tunnel underneath the existing road. Not a strange idea, considering that so many other European cities have been doing that for ages. When H.C. Andersen Boulevard crosses The Lakes, it changes name to Åboulevarden. Recently, a proposed project to dig up the stream that used to run along the surface before car-centric urban planning buried the stream into a pipe beneath the cars gained purchase in the imaginations of the citizens of the city.

Åboulevarden - clockwise from left: proposal for restoring the river, the river as it used to be, the current traffic each day on the road.

Great stuff. We don’t, however, have faith that City Hall is going to act on this. The discussion pops up every few years and then fades away. This city is, quite simply, afraid of reducing car traffic.



So here is our baseline. We need housing in Copenhagen, preferably affordable housing. We need it badly. We need more green roofs for biodiversity and more public space. We have a huge swath of urban space used primarily by what Italian traffic planners called parasites. People who don’t even live in the City of Copenhagen or Frederiksberg and who certainly don’t pay taxes here. We have such high pollution on this stretch that the European Union has subpoenaed the Danish government, wanting to take them to court over their inaction on reducing pollution on this road. The current, right-wing Danish government actually wanted to move the air quality measuring station farther away from the road in order to get better results - even though we all know that a reduction in car traffic can drastically reduce pollution - as proven here.

So, basically, if nobody is willing to bury the road, then let’s simply reallocate the space to more intelligent use. Let’s re-democratize it. I cycle along the boulevard every day. There are wide, safe cycle tracks to accommodate the over 25,000 daily bicycle users on the stretch, but it is bizarre to ride alongside 6-8 lanes of cars. It is Arrogance of Space ftw. For years I have envisioned a different solution and I have finally had the time to develop it. Together with Kan Chen 陈侃 from Copenhagenize Design Company.



Welcome to Copenhagen Slopes.

Three iconic buildings providing 507 apartments of 50 m2, three sections of green space below the structures, over 500 m of public space on the green roofs and slapping some seriously topography in the heart of the Danish capital.


Aerial view from the south-west.

This stretch of HC Andersen's Boulevard is rather lifeless and uninspiring from an urban planning and architectural point of view. Drab and uninviting. The Slopes will add life and dynamics and remove four car lanes - improving air quality and contributing to improving the public space.


View from the south, with City Hall in the foreground.

We ran the idea past an unsuspecting Copenhagen Mayor Morten Kabell, from the Technical & Environmental Dept..

“It’s a wild and creative idea! The small apartments are cool - we need them. We have to find out how to get rid of the many cars that currently use H.C. Andersen’s Boulevard. Tramways across the whole city would provide a necessary alternative for motorists - and it would be brilliant to get rid of the car lanes, like you suggest. The idea of getting up high and combining it with green areas is cool. I like that.”



Pedestrian and bike parking access at all six entry points to the three buildings. Ample bike parking - for cargo bikes, too.

This being Copenhagen, with a car ownership rate of only 22% - and this being 2016 - the building won't have any car parking spots - much like the Bicycle House in Malmø, Sweden. It will, however, have ample bike parking and access for all residents and guests - including cargo bikes. This is a city with 40,000 cargo bike, so that is a no-brainer.


The roofs of the three buildings are designated as public space. Challenging stairs to get the thighs burning - inspired by this Dutch bridge. With terraces/viewing platforms at peak locations on each building. We thought that a restaurant or two could be housed on the top floor, with outdoor seating.


Balconies are a must. Duh.


View from the north-west, with the city centre in the background.

Let's do this.


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Previous projects in the same vein from Copenhagenize Design Company:
Copenhagenize the planet. And have a lovely day.
Categories: Views

Copenhagenizing the City of Almetyevsk / Альме́тьевск

Copenhagenize - 21 October, 2016 - 13:08

A freshly paved cycle track in Almetyevsk along the city's main street, Lenina.

What a difference a year makes. In October 2015, Copenhagenize Design Company was hired by the City of Almetyevsk, in Tatarstan, Russia. We were no stranger to the task - developing bicycle strategies is one of our primary jobs. We didn’t realise at the time what kind of visionary client had hired us. In this earlier article we called it the Transformation of Almetyevsk. One year on, that title seems like an understatement.


The status quo in many Russian cities. No infrastructure. No protection for cyclists.

We were - and are - quite familiar with the state of cycling infrastructure in Russian cities. On a global scale, Russia has struggled to reestablish the bicycle as transport in its cities. What most often lacks is real political will in recognizing the bicycle as a legitimate mode of transportation. In Almetyevsk, however, that would prove to be the guiding strength.

Ayrat Khayrullin is the young, ambitious mayor who acknowledged the importance of a holistic bicycle strategy that values world-class facilities, constructive communication strategies and above all, dedicated cycle tracks. From the get-go, Khayrullin expressed one clear goal: to transform Almetyevsk into the most bicycle friendly city in Russia, one where he would feel confident sending his young year-old son off to school by bike.

From left: Almetyevsk Mayor Ayrat Khayrullin, Copenhagenize Design Co. CEO Mikael Colville-Andersen, Rosa our translator, James Thoem, Senior Planner with Copenhagenize. First site visit in 2015.


In our preliminary meetings with the city, we quickly agreed on the process and the goals. 200 km of bicycle infrastructure in a cohesive network of Best Practice infrastructure. Nothing less. Khayrullin had done his homework. He knew, for example, that on-street, bi-directional cycle tracks were a sub-standard solution. He understood the importance of a complete network and prioritizing cycling as a transport form. He was well-versed in the health benefits of having a cycling population. All he needed was someone to design it. To create the gold standard bicycle city in Russia.

The entire Copenhagenize Design Co. team went to work - not only our staff in our main office in Copenhagen, but with help from our offices in Brussels and Montreal, as well. Time was short. At our meetings in the city in Fall 2015, we were told that they wanted to get to work in Spring 2016. We divided up our work on the bicycle strategy into stages, in order to give the City a chance to plan and prepare their engineering department for the work. Their challenge was to figure out how to best use the roadworks season - from April to September - to create the first 50 km of hard infrastructure. The core network along the city’s main streets.


Selected photos of the new infrastructure and bicycle network in Almetyevsk. Best Practice design. One-way on both sides of the street. Complete with the bling of cyclist garbage cans, footrests and handrails and bicycle counters.

Альме́тьевск?
Yes, Almetyevsk. Let’s create some context for this place. It’s a city of 152,580 people located smack-dab in the middle of Tatarstan - a semi-independent republic in the Russian Federation. Our colleagues in Russia inform us, grudgingly, that Tatarstan is a place where things just get done in an urban development context. The capital city, Kazan, is the only Russian city to have built a subway system since the collapse of the Soviet Union, although they have done very little for bicycles as transport. As Almetyevsk is projected to grow by 30,000 new residents (many of them young workers and families) by 2030, the administration is looking to improve overall livability and attractiveness. Mayor Ayrat Khayrullin is keen to attract new residents with a life-sized city, as well as improve the quality of life of those who live there already.


Map of the street network of Almetyevsk.

The city’s built form is characterised by an arterial ring road framing the residential, cultural, and commercial centre along a grid-like street network, with Soviet-era roads so wide they make Salt Lake City's streets look like a back alley in Amsterdam. The city centre measures eight kilometres from east-to-west, four kilometres from north-to-south. In other words, the city’s relatively small footprint with dense network of medium and high-rise residential coupled with wide roads presents plenty of opportunity to accommodate the bicycle as a mode of transport.

When we first arrived in the city we were amazed at how many pedestrians there were - something you don’t often see in Russian cities. In addition, a thriving trolleybus system is a main transport form. As we know, these two elements are low-hanging fruits when designing for bikes. All the great bicycle cities in the world have excellent public transport and a strong pedestrian culture.

The financing of this €3.6 million phase of the project was a unique public-private partnership. Tatarstan’s national oil company TatNeft bought into the idea early on and their enthusiastic backing - both moral and financial - was key to the success. Their headquarters are in Almetyevsk, as well.

It only makes the storytelling better. A city in the heart of the Russian oilfields, with hard winters, decides to copenhagenize in two short years and the sixth largest oil company in Russia helps finance the visionary project.

Like many Russian cities, Almetyevsk had dabbled in bike infrastructure but, as is often the case, half steps and compromises have only led to conflicts. The city was quite open in admitting the shortcomings of their existing infrastructure. The shared pedestrian/bike spaces often resulted in confusion and conflicts, while the cycle tracks contained within a new development district didn’t connect to the greater city network. In fact, conflicts between pedestrians and cyclists in 2014 heightened the public discussion around the role of cyclists in Almetyevsk, prompting the mayor and his colleagues to look outwards for experienced help, rather than crack down on cyclist behaviour.


Pre-existing bicycle infrastructure in Almetyevsk. Bits and pieces and sub-standard bi-directional lanes.

After multiple site visits for consultation, documentation, and data collection, we returned to Copenhagen to begin analysis. Taking a detailed look at the city, with tried and true methodologies, we built up a thorough understanding of the city, developing an understanding of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats facing the development of a connected network of bicycle infrastructure. We analysed the connectivity of the network, the destinations and origins, intermodal linkages, road typologies, and beyond, gradually building up an understanding of how best practice bicycle infrastructure could fit into the city streets of Almetyevsk.

Perhaps one of the more transformative events of the whole process was welcoming the mayor and a small team to Copenhagen for a private Master Class . Through workshops, talks, guest speakers, and bicycle tours, we opened their eyes to how best practice infrastructure functions. Nothing beats watching as wide-eyed traffic engineers and planners wake up to the potential of the bicycle.



With a strong baseline understanding of Almetyevsk and a freshly inspired project team in Almetyevsk, we developed a vision for a not-so-distant future Almetyevsk: “A place where the young and old, rich and poor, can cycle alongside one another on a safe and connected network of best practice bicycle infrastructure.” Some more quantifiable goals will help in guiding this vision forward into the future.

- There will be 50 kilometres of protected bicycle network built within the first year
- Almetyevsk’s bicycle modal share will reach 10% within the next five years
- 20% of school children will be cycling to school within five years
- Cycling will be just as popular among women as men
- Cycling in Almetyevsk will be safer than ever before
- Winter maintenance will be prioritised

Working off our baseline insights study and a guiding vision, we worked alongside a project team in Almetyevsk to develop the city’s first Bicycle Strategy, one that guided the city forward in laying out 50 kilometres of bicycle infrastructure in 2016. Laying out an appropriate first phase network and addressing smaller design details appropriate for each identified street typology. Details such as bus stop treatments, major and minor intersection treatments, and appropriate bicycle parking solutions were explained. Complementing the physical infrastructure our strategy also laid out soft infrastructure strategies, turning towards communication campaigns to encourage cycling, school and workplace programming, public events, and future engagement campaigns aiming to get people on their bikes for the first time, a critical step in expanding ridership.


The network map by Copenhagenize Design Co. for the City of Almetyevsk. The first 50 km built in 2016.

Construction on the project began in late May, 2016, coinciding with Russia’s annual bicycle parade day and a ribbon cutting ceremony. Upon our arrival in the city on that visit, we did numerous site visits and saw how the foundations were already laid for several kilometres of bicycle infrastructure. It was an amazing sight.


On May 29, 2016, the Bicycle Network was launched. 

The next day, however, was unforgettable. Over 1000 residents on bikes came out for a bicycle parade through the city. We stopped at a location on the main Lenina Street where an asphalt machine was waiting. Copenhagenize Design Co, Mikael Colville-Andersen, together with Mayor Ayrat Khayrullin and former heavyweight boxing world champion - and current member of the national Duma - Nikolai Valuev, shovelled cement into the foundation for the first bicycle sign, spread asphalt on the first stretch of cycle track and watched as young activists pressed a large, red button to start the paving machines.


The City launched a massive communication campaign about the coming bicycle network.

Billboard campaigns for the city’s vision even hung above where the infrastructure would soon be rolled out - a part of the City's comprehensive communication campaign.



Implementing bicycle infrastructure and facilities in Russia had its challenges. There is nothing in Russian road standards about Best Practice bike infrastructure (there will be now), as the city engineers kept mentioning at the beginning before political leadership took the reins once and for all. The quality asphalt required for cycle tracks existed, but the city did nonetheless a series of outdoor tests to make sure they had selected the right one (they had). Along a piloting stretch of road, the Director of Transportation in Almetyevsk showed us the different materials, surface treatments, and signage they were trying out. They hadn’t had any luck finding a supplier of bicycle traffic signals in Russia. So what did they do? They made their own using vinyl stickers and traditional signals. They made bicycle railings and footrests and tilted garbage cans for cyclists as well. Taking their lessons from the Copenhagen Master Class, the director and his staff had begun experimenting and, as a result, pushing the boundaries of the status quo on Russian roads.


Selected renderings from Copenhagenize Design Company's Bicycle Strategy for the City of Almetyevsk. By Chris Noir.

There were hurdles to overcome along the way. While political leadership was key, traffic engineers still needed convincing. In order to perform studies about density, connectivity, space syntax analyses, etc, Copenhagenize Design Company needed local data, but Russian cities do not have the same data gathering culture as, for example, Scandinavian cities. In addition, a lot of the existing data was classified as secret - echoes of the Cold War persist. Nevertheless, the challenges were overcome.

At the end of the day, the City of Almetyevsk turned out to be the most amazing client. We would receive emails from the street, where asphalt machines were rumbling along, to double-check about how to proceed - followed by photos the next day showing what had been done. That kind of client relationship is like nothing we’ve ever dreamed of. Every night since May we knew that when we woke up in the morning, more metres of free asphalt in the form of Best Practice cycle track would be cooling off in the dry, Almetyevsk air and the quality of life in the city had improved.


Shamsinur - an urban park designed by Kazan design agency Evolution.

Mayor Ayrat Khayrullin hasn’t restricted himself to bicycle infrastructure either. In 2015, together with Kazan design agency Evolution, he created Shamsinur - an urban park that has become an amazing destination for the citizens. In 2016, a massive water park opened in the city as well. You can see photos of the other urban design projects in this gallery on Flickr.

By establishing themselves as first movers within Russia (and beyond), Almetyevsk has gathered attention from policy makers that may be weary of looking outside the federation for best practice. By seriously investing in a network of dedicated bicycle infrastructure, Almetyevsk has positioned themselves firmly as the gold standard of a bicycle friendly city in Russia, simply by learning from over 100 years of best practice infrastructure in Denmark. Knowledge transfer at its finest. And it doesn’t stop here, the city looks forward to building a total of more than 200 kilometres of infrastructure that will connect all neighbourhoods and beyond.


Completed infrastructure.

There is a centuries old saying in Russian that everyone knows. “There are only two problems in Russia: fools and roads”.

Copenhagenize Design Company and the City of Almetyevsk just might have finally solved the latter. It is a wild ride that continues into 2017 and beyond. Quite possibly the most exciting urban design project in the world at the moment.

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Here is a link to an abridged version of the Almetyevsk Bicycle Strategy by Copenhagenize Design Co. as a pdf.Copenhagenize the planet. And have a lovely day.
Categories: Views

Looking at cycling from a different angle

BicycleDutch - 17 October, 2016 - 23:01
Cycling is beautiful from any view-point, but seeing people sailing by on their bicycles from atop the magnificent cathedral of ʼs-Hertogenbosch brought that beauty to another level. It is possible … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

Bike Homes Spoil London Cyclists

Copenhagenize - 13 October, 2016 - 15:06

From the outlandish SkyCycle, to the more sensible bike share system Santander Bikes, bicycle infrastructure in London repeatedly manages to grab international headlines while attempting to make for a more life-sized city. But with all these headlines, all the hype around unconventional solutions to a very simple problem, designers often lose site of the end user, the bicycle rider. Rather than aiming for a headline, how can good design recognise the end user? Even better, how can design appreciatively spoil the everyday cyclists of London?

Here in Copenhagen, the city has a long tradition of spoiling everyday cyclists. From the red light footrests, to bicycle butlers, people travelling by bike are reminded that they’re appreciated, that they’re an important component of a life-sized city. Now Copenhagenize Design Company and White Arkitekter are taking this mindset to the London Borough of Southwark with the pop-up pilot project, ‘Bike Homes’. Together we saw an opportunity to work parallel to the existing programs that are under development across London by focusing on establishing more inhabitable bike infrastructure.



As a first mover within London, the borough of Southwark provides ample onstreet bicycle parking facilities. But in many cases the designated spaces lie in barren expanses of pavement, along inhospitable highways, beside trash bins, or in dark corners. We see bikes as more than just a tool, more than a vehicle, and certainly not a hinderance to life in the city. It's time we treat bikes the way they deserve to be; it's time to give them homes.

The ’Bike Home’ installation is a pop-up pilot project for bikes among the existing bicycle facilities. Creating brighter and friendlier areas, where the bicycle is celebrated and where people feel comfortable in public spaces that were previously neglected. Artistic “carpets” painted by local designers and artists in the local area will be put into place under the bike racks. As the program expands, lighting made out of bike components will add brightness, a feeling of safety and highlight how much people appreciate their bicycles. Street furniture will provide a space for resting and socialising and flora will contribute to softening and freshening up the public space.

“All too often, architects have a habit of neglecting the public space around their buildings, so working with White Architects on a bicycle-oriented project in the public space like this, is very rewarding”, says Copenhagenize Design Co. CEO Mikael Colville-Andersen

When working with the Borough of Southwark with our Master Class in 2015, it was interesting to hear the borough’s desire to create a bicycle-friendly environment for all the citizens. They even lamented the fact that they are a through-road for the fast and furious cyclists roaring past to get across the river. They expressed a wish for their borough to be calmed with not only 20mph zones but also criss-crossed by best practice infrastructure to allow citizens to make their short trips, as well as commutes, safely and comfortably. Bike Homes represent another step in this direction.
The pilot project was launched at the Transforming London Streets Conference on September 22 at Southwark Cathedral. Eventually, we expect to establish a chain of unique and permanent Bike Homes that spoil the cyclists while connecting with local artists. Stay tuned as Bike Homes continue to pop up throughout Southwark. Copenhagenize the planet. And have a lovely day.
Categories: Views

Plumbing the tabloid depths

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 13 October, 2016 - 12:55

In the wake of the Daily Mail publishing a series of photographs of cycleways with nobody using them at the moment the photograph was taken, and asserting that those cycleways are therefore ‘lunacy’ (apparently in the belief that doing so is any more meaningful than publishing a photograph of an empty road or footway and making conclusions about lunacy) the Guardian’s Dave Hill has evidently decided to join in the fun, publishing his own photograph of an empty cycle lane above an article that applies a thin veneer of earnest, chin-stroking consideration to precisely the same tabloid arguments.

Go on. Look at it. It’s empty.

This is at the same level of intellectual endeavour as publishing a photograph of an empty bus lane on the same road, before making questioning noises about how much bus lanes are being used, and whether the new mayor ought to consider using all that valuable road space for other modes of transport.

A quiet time of day for Super Busway 2 at Mile End.

Newsflash – a photograph of an empty bit of infrastructure is absolutely meaningless, and it remains meaningless if you attempt to garnish it – as Dave Hill does – with some anecdotes about how you hardly ever see anyone using that bit of infrastructure.

‘It is possible to look down at the east-west super roadway from the footbridge by Embankment station and never have more than one four-wheeled traveller, if that, within view.’

You might wonder at this point why any journalist who takes himself seriously is so eager to recycle the arguments of the Daily Mail.

Of course what actually matters is numbers and efficiency, and unfortunately for Dave Hill, all the evidence is pointing in the opposite direction. In his article he is happy to quote Transport for London’s Director of Road Space Management, Alan Bristow, when he commented that the speed of implementation of the latest superhighways was ‘suboptimal’, during the latest London Assembly Transport Committee session on congestion. But if Hill had listened to the session from the start, he would have heard Bristow saying this

‘we are committed to sustainable transport, and walking and cycling are one of the key parts of the mix that any city must have, for moving people around. And it’s actually a very efficient way of moving people. We’re seeing a lot of activity on the cycle superhighways, and we’re getting about 3,000 people an hour in the peaks, moving along the Embankment. We’re moving five percent more people.’

Get that? Bristow is quite explicitly stating that, even at current usage levels, the superhighways have made roads like the Embankment more efficient than they were before at moving people. This is hardly surprising – 3,000 people per hour in the equivalent of a single motor vehicle lane far exceeds the ability of such a lane to carry people in private motor vehicles.

You simply will not be able to move this many people through a junction in one go in motor vehicles. This is why cycling infrastructure makes so much sense.

So when it comes to ‘the matter of how much they are being used’, as Hill phrases it – well, let’s put it like this. If you think cycling infrastructure is a bad idea because the numbers of users fall away, outside of peak times, you are effectively arguing that roads should be made less efficient at times when that efficiency is most needed. No amount of anecdotes about how few people cycling you see outside peak times will change that blunt reality.

None of this should be surprising given Hill’s eagerness to distribute a discredited statistic about how much road space has been reallocated to cycling in London. Nor should it be surprising that Hill’s article also covers, again, other familiar territory, claiming that the new Deputy Mayor for Transport Val Shawcross believes ‘cycling policy should not only be about servicing the existing (and rather narrow) commuter and otherwise committed cyclist demographic but properly recognising others’ interests too’ – interpreting this to mean a

pointer to a broad, consensual approach, seeking to harmonise and give equal weight to the needs of cyclists and pedestrians and to introducing new infrastructure with the greatest possible consent.

But unfortunately this is a misreading of what Shawcross actually said.

“I’m really keen the cycling work we do isn’t just about the commuter cyclists, it’s about the little short journeys, not necessarily for work. It might be mums, it might be the retired, so the local communities get the benefits of this.”

In other words, designing for cycling shouldn’t just be about commuting, it should be about designing for all other kinds of cycling trips – cycling trips by mothers, and by elderly people, for instance. When Shawcross refers to policy ‘not just being about commuter cyclists’ she is explicitly talking about making cycling itself more inclusive, and not about watering down cycling policy to create ‘equal weight with pedestrians’, a spin Hill has added himself. (Note – ‘equal weight’ with pedestrians would actually mean cycling infrastructure on every main road, lowering the level of danger people cycling have to safe to an equivalent level to those who choose to walk).

Hill has evidently leapt on the ‘commuting cyclist’ term without pausing to look at what Shawcross actually said, which is unsuprising given his evident obsession with a desire to paint cycling in London as dominated by white middle class, middle-aged men, speeding to work, a conclusion not borne out by actual statistics.

The problem for Hill is that the very best way to enable cycling beyond the allegedly narrow demographic he repeatedly refers to – to enable cycling by women, by kids, by the elderly – is to build precisely the kind of infrastructure his own articles keep denigrating. This is the conclusion of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine report he keeps tediously linking to –

In cities where cycling uptake is low, the challenge for healthy public policy is perhaps to de-couple cycling from the rather narrow range of healthy associations it currently has, and provide an infrastructure in which anyone can cycle, rather than just those whose social identities are commensurate with being ‘a cyclist’.

Building cycleways is the very best way of achieving inclusivity. Not building them limits cycling to the people who are only prepared to cycle in hostile conditions on the road network.

Young asian kids cycling from the centre of London to Tower Hamlets on new cycling infrastructure

You might argue Hill’s position on cycling infrastructure is disingenuous. I couldn’t possibly comment.


Categories: Views

Doubling up

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 12 October, 2016 - 12:55

Queuing might be a word with a French origin, but the British have a reputation for it, particularly for doing it in an orderly fashion. But our passion for queuing is, perhaps surprisingly, a relatively recent development, arising out of industrialisation and poverty in the 19th century, and especially, rationing during World War II.

I have noticed that this ‘British’ approach to queuing is, sometimes, affecting behaviour on the new cycling infrastructure in London.

The most efficient behaviour while waiting at lights is, actually, to double up, even if this appears to involve ‘queue jumping’. It’s standard practice that you will see at any Dutch junction with separate cycling infrastructure.

Two neat rows of people, making the most efficient use of the space, and ensuring the maximum number of people get through the lights on green.

Generally, I do find exactly the same kind of behaviour at the lights on similar infrastructure in London – although maybe not quite as compact.

But there are exceptions. Very occasionally I will find a queue that isn’t ‘doubled’.

There’s a particularly good example in the @sw19cam video below, at the 5:05 mark, as he emerges out the other side from Blackfriars underpass, waiting at the lights to cross onto the Embankment.

Sensibly, he decides to go right to the front, in what might be seen by some as ‘skipping the queue’. I don’t think he is, at least not in this context. Everyone should be doing this,  especially at this particular location, where there is a notably short green phase.

The question, then, is why do people queue in single file, when it hampers your (and others’) ability to get through a junction? My guess is it might be partly out of politeness; partly out of a belief that, by moving over the right, you might be making a bold statement that you are ‘faster’ than riders on your left; or even that you are ‘queue jumping’.

But ‘doubling up’ really is the best way of ensuring everyone makes it through the lights in one go. Sitting at the back of a single-file queue, and adding to it, just means that you and the people behind you have got less change of making it through the lights.

So don’t be afraid to double up! You’re not being rude, you’re not pretending you’re faster, and you’re not queue jumping. You’re just helping everyone. If you don’t feel you are fast enough, you can just merge back to the left, and let everyone past as the queue disperses through the junction.


Categories: Views

Utrecht reclaims ever more space for people

BicycleDutch - 10 October, 2016 - 23:01
People were drinking champagne on the street and enjoying beautiful singing; not something you see every day. They were celebrating the opening of yet another reconstructed street in Utrecht; their … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

Driving bans and the Government consultation on driving offences

Road Danger Reduction Forum - 7 October, 2016 - 17:46

Below is a letter sent by road danger reduction, pedestrians”, cyclists’ and road crash victims’ groups including RDRF to the Government. It seems to us obvious that in a planned consultation on driving offences the role of driving bans should be key. It’s explained in our letter below:

Justice Minister Sam Gyimah

Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice

Ministry of Justice

102 Petty France
London
SW1H 9AJ

 6 October 2016

 Dear Minister,

 We welcomed your announcement last month that the consultation on driving offences will finally commence by the end of this year. And we were reassured to hear from Cycling UK, following their recent meeting with the MoJ, that the consultation will include a review of how careless driving is defined and the boundaries with dangerous driving. But we were disappointed to learn that the role of driving bans is not to be a key issue.  

As organisations representing victims, cyclists and walkers, and sustainable transport organisations, we are concerned that the consultation will miss a key chance to make our roads safer.

 We write now to request the consultation be extended to include the role of driving bans, and other non-custodial sentences, such as vehicle confiscation.

Driving bans are extremely underused and remain classified as an “ancillary penalty” by the Sentencing Guidelines. They are basically only being used where the Sentencing Guidelines say they are mandatory. But even in these circumstances they are not always used, with one in four drivers convicted of Causing Death by Careless Driving escaping a driving ban.

 We support the proposal that drivers caught using their mobile phones a second time will receive a ban, as less than 1% of those convicted at court in 2015 for using their mobile phone whilst driving received a ban. We believe there is strong support for the use of driving bans with the public, as it is a punishment which “fits the crime”.

 At the last meeting of DfT’s Justice for Vulnerable Road Users working group (and after the full review of driving offences had been announced in May 2014), Neil Stevenson raised the possibility of a meeting with the campaigners to explain how sentencing was changing. As sentencing has evolved since then, this meeting is even more needed.  We ask that you meet with us, ideally before the consultation is launched, to discuss sentencing, including the use of driving bans.

 Yours sincerely,

 Martin Key, Campaign Manager, British Cycling

Duncan Dollimore, Senior Road Safety and Legal Campaigner, Cycling UK

Tom Bogdanowicz, Senior Policy and Development Officer, London Cycling Campaign

Tom Platt, Head of Policy and Communication, Living Streets

Dr. Robert Davis, Chair, Road Danger Reduction Forum

Rod King, Founder and Director, 20’s Plenty for Us

Amy Aeron-Thomas, Advocacy and Justice Manager, RoadPeace

 

 

 

 

 

 


Categories: Views

New cycling infrastructure, repeating the mistakes of the past

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 7 October, 2016 - 12:20

Last week a group of tireless cycling campaigners in West Sussex organised a Cycling Summit, attended by councillors, officers and influential people within the county, to hear presentations on the importance of cycling and cycling infrastructure from Rachel Aldred, Phil Jones, Mark Strong and Ranty Highwayman – names that will almost certainly be familiar to you. (You can see their presentations on the website).

It seemed the message did sink in, as much as it could. Everyone stayed to the end of the summit, and the questions from the floor were, generally, informed, and showed interest. Whether it will lead to substantive change is another matter.

And the need for change in West Sussex is urgent. In a county with a population of close to a million people, living mostly in large towns that are rapidly expanding, there is essentially almost no urban cycling infrastructure to speak of – certainly nothing of high quality along main roads. Continuing to build for mass car use is simply storing up trouble for the future, given the limited capacity of our existing urban road network to accommodate increasing motor traffic.

In this context, one unfortunate tendency on the part of councillors and officers is to assume that we are a ‘rural’ county and that therefore priorities for cycling infrastructure should be in rural areas, connecting up villages and small towns. These kinds of routes are of course important in their own right, but focusing on them at the expense of the county’s many large urban areas betrays a failure to look at the most pressing problems, and where there is most potential for cycling gains.

It is also perhaps natural to focus on these kinds of ‘rural’ routes because they present the least political difficulty and are also (should be) the easiest to get right – there are fewer decisions to make about reallocation of space, and fewer junctions to negotiate.

But going by a video released by West Sussex, it seems that even these kinds of routes, ones that present the least difficulty, can’t be got right. Next year it plans to build a ‘missing section’ of National Cycle Network 2, between the towns of Bognor Regis and Littlehampton – a distance of about 3 miles – along the A259. This is an important path because at present there isn’t anything any cycling infrastructure at all on this stretch of NCN2– you have to cycle on a busy A road. And it’s an opportunity to get things right, because there are only a small number of problems to deal with on that 3 mile length of road.

Unfortunately, going by the video, it seems those problems haven’t been dealt with at all well. Here’s one of them, the crossing of Climping roundabout.

A shared use path, crossing multiple lanes of motor traffic, without any assistance, close to the perimeter of the roundabout. It’s obviously hard to tell from a visualisation, but the refuge in the middle doesn’t appear to be long enough to safely accommodate a cycle either. This is pretty dreadful design – the lack of priority isn’t necessarily the issue, but the hazards involved in crossing at this kind of design certainly are.

Here’s how this roundabout could and should be designed. Crossings of single lanes, with a suitable refuge, set a vehicle length back from a roundabout designed for slow speeds

The only other crossing of a road along this new section of route is also a big fail.

Should we really expect people walking and cycling to go so far out of their way?

People walking and cycling are expected to go some distance out of their way to use a crossing set some 50 metres back from the junction. Why? There’s already a very long slip road for drivers to come almost to a complete stop, separate from the flow of traffic on the major road; it would be very, very easy to put the crossing close to the junction itself, with tighter geometry to keep drivers’ speeds low. Note also that pedestrians who want to cross this road have to dash across four lanes of fast motor traffic.

As for the path itself, it will be ‘shared use’, which isn’t necessarily a problem on this kind of route between urban areas. Numbers will, I expect, be low enough that separation between the two modes isn’t required, provided that this path is designed like a cycleway which people can walk on, rather than a footway people are allowed to cycle one. It’s going to be the latter, of course – see how it gives up at a minor entrance –

But I worry that the path isn’t wide enough, and won’t have a good enough surface. The visualisation appears to imply it will be composed of what looks like a bonded gravel. A path like this really needs a smooth asphalt surface, just like the road it runs next to.

And the width will be a problem, especially at this (cough) bus stop bypass.

Apparently the path will be three metres wide, but it doesn’t look like that at the location above, and in other places the usable width will be reduced by the path running alongside walls and fencing.

Don’t get me wrong – it’s good that this path is being built, and that the council is (starting) to engage with design for cycling. The problem is that, going by the design of this path where it actually has to deal with difficulties – like crossing side roads, dealing with roundabouts, bus stops, and so on – there is a serious lack of knowledge and experience about best practice. This is largely the fault of central government, which continues to fail to lead on infrastructure, providing clear guidance to local authorities to West Sussex on how to design properly. It shouldn’t cost any more to do things properly, yet we continue to see the same mistakes.


Categories: Views

Electric Cars: Where Will the Energy Come From?

Copenhagenize - 6 October, 2016 - 13:11


Copenhagenize Design Company Guest Author, Jason Henderson, is Professor of Geography & Environment at San Francisco State University, visiting Copenhagen this Fall on a research sabbatical examining how culture, politics, and economics shapes transportation in Copenhagen. Jason is author of Street Fight: The Politics of Mobility in San Francisco (2013), and co-author of Low Car (bon) Communities: Inspiring Car-Free and Car Lite Urban Futures. He has published articles in International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, Antipode, Urban Geography, the Journal of Transport Geography and several book chapters in academic books on sustainable transportation and the politics of the automobile. He is a Master Class by Copenhagenize alumni, as well.

Electric Cars: Where Will the Energy Come From?
by Jason Henderson

Electric cars are often touted as a promising response to climate change, reducing air pollution, and bringing energy security. So it’s not surprising that the world’s climate policy leaders and largest car markets, like California, Germany, and China, are promoting public policies subsidizing mass electric motorization. Even the world’s greenest transport nations, like bikey Denmark and rail-rich Switzerland are joining the bandwagon, while the Netherlands seeks to nudge electric cars by banning the sale of conventional gasoline cars by 2025.

The allure of electric cars is that they’ll run entirely on renewable energy like solar and wind – if not now, then at some point in the future. This is where proclamations like “green cars,” “carbon neutral” and “zero emissions” comes from. But when deconstructing the energy situation as we know it, no one shows how this assumption adds-up. For example, if we scan the renewable energy horizon, there are existing legitimate claims on this renewable energy for greener homes and public transit. No one, and especially the electric car enthusiasts, seem to be accounting for these competing claims.

Before the world invests trillions of dollars and Euros, and unfathomable amounts of natural resources into transitioning to mass electric motorization, we need to ask more pointedly and critically: Where will the energy come from? And what will that look like?

Let’s start with the existing claims on renewable electricity. All over the world, from
California to Europe to China, it is hoped that homes will be running on renewable energy, and this is considered key to a more sustainable climate future. In Denmark, arguably coming the closest to this goal (but with only 5 ½ million people), wind turbines can light most homes on certain days.

This is really impressive, and on windy days Denmark has more electricity than it knows what to do with. But in the winter, coal, gas, and household garbage are burned for heat, and Denmark’s boastful wind program is not scaled for running cars. Some dismiss this concern by saying batteries (yet to be built) can store wind-generated electricity as backup for days when winds are down.

Yet shouldn’t this “stored wind” go to the homes and offices that don’t get the wind power when winds are calm? How is this battery scheme going to provide the same scale of car-mobility existing in Denmark (which is low compared to other motorized nations like Germany and the US)? And what about the electricity needed for fully electrifying Denmark’s railways and Copenhagen’s metro? Shouldn’t the wind go towards rail first?

In California, where air conditioned Mc Mansions sprawl across deserts, the newest utility-scale solar installation can power 140,000 homes on an optimal day. It cost over $2 billion with an 80% Federal subsidy. Now (doing back-of- the envelope math) build 87 more of those to supply existing 12-13 million homes in California, and an additional 40-50 or so for the 20 million additional Californians in 2050.

That’s a massive industrial outlay. We might decide it is necessary to sacrifice deserts, but let’s make sure to recognize this only accounts for California’s homes, not exports to less sunny regions of the US, nor California industry and offices – and certainly not a mass electric car fleet (today California has 24 million cars).

Now consider that California’s high speed rail program, currently under construction, claims 100 percent renewables in the future, and that Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, and Sacramento plan to expand electric rail in the next few decades –all purportedly carbon neutral.

Add this into the energy mix: California has a declining snowpack for hydropower, which now provides less than 7 percent of the state’s electricity (can you say drought?). Wind, which has expanded rapidly in the past 15 years, and provides 5 percent of California electricity when it is windy, might be reaching build-out. The windy coast range passes are covered in turbines, except in places like affluent, and notoriously NIMBY Marin County or Big Sur.

There’s offshore, but the real estate and tourism industry might balk at the view. The mighty Sierras could offer up some valleys if the locals and environmentalists agree. All of this is to say that California is possibly close to peak utility-scale wind, at least in the current land use politics regime.

Then there are the renewables themselves. As electric car enthusiasts envision it, both electric cars and the renewables propelling them are carbon neutral and fossil fuel-free. Not so. The batteries, both for the cars and for the extensive storage of wind and solar power, are manufactured from mined materials, like lithium, with many toxins and disposal problems. The battery factories, whether in China or Nevada, will not run on wind or solar (unless you divert wind and solar from households at a massive scale). The factories now, and in the future, will run on coal, gas, and oil.

The nanomaterials take massive amounts of energy to produce, and will emit greenhouse gases far more intensive than carbon. There are magnets and rare earth metals. There will be steel, produced from iron. Denmark might produce a “green” electricity surplus on certain days in windy Jutland, but the true carbon footprint is displaced to China, Germany, and other global steel, batter, and car manufacturing centers.


Electric cars will continue to have rubber tires – that is, petroleum – as well as plastics, lead, aluminum, and all kinds of chemicals that contribute to more intensive GHGS than carbon. There will be vehicle maintenance including replacement tires and electrical gadgets, and then disposal or recycling. All taking massive amounts of energy and resources – none of which show up in California or Denmark’s GHG budgets.

Solar, whether on the roof or in a desert array, also requires mining, conducted by fossil-fuel
equipment. Copper. Glass. Plastics. More aluminum. More intensive GHGs from plasma production equipment, more toxic waste, silicon wafers, various hydroxides, arsenic, lead, chromium, and more. Ditto for wind turbines – mining, fabrication, transporting, installation, land clearance, and carbon-intensive concrete to anchor and steady the towering turbines.

To truly scale-up to a global mass electric car system, entire deserts, sweeping plains, all of our shallow seas, and all of our mountain passes will need to be completely covered in silicon, steel, and plastic. An escalation of energy consumption of tremendous proportions.

Then there’s escalating mobility of the electric car. The driver will drive more thinking the car is green. Electric car/solar enthusiasts will resolve to cover their homes in panels to recharge home and car, straight out of the Whole Earth Catalogue, but this requires single-detached homes for optimal solarization– the formula for sprawl and more driving.

The electric car, as a thing in itself, might not be such a bad thing in isolation. But the dream of mass electric motorization replacing our existing system of automobility might be a nightmare. Maybe we should save our fossil fuels and GHG emissions for constructing high speed rail and electrification of mass transit, look to human-powered bicycles and compact, walkable cities, all the while using the wind and solar arrays for our more-efficient homes.

So here’s a challenge to the electric car industry and to anyone dreaming of an electric car future. Show us the numbers. Where will the energy come from, and what does that look like really?

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

Problem with ‘pavement cycling’? Blame the council

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 5 October, 2016 - 13:51

This tweet from Thames Valley Police in Windsor has attracted a fair amount of derision.

Out on #MaidenheadRoad enforcing cycling restrictions #cyclesafe #C6963 #C8005 pic.twitter.com/82c2HMSy0b

— TVP Windsor (@TVP_Windsor) September 28, 2016

Principally because what the police are ‘enforcing’ is, well, unenforceable – it’s simply an advisory dismount sign, rather than an actual restriction – but also because it’s not a particularly sensible use of resources. Lots of people complaining about something will obviously not necessarily equate to something that is an objectively high priority in terms of keeping people safe.

But the context of this ‘dismount’ sign is revealing (and thanks to @ChrisC_CFC for spotting the location). It’s Maidenhead Road in Windsor. What is immediately apparent is that all the footways along this road are shared use. The footway on the approach to the barrier where the policeman is standing is shared use –

The footway on the other approach to the other side of this section of footway is also shared use –

And the fairly narrow footway on the other side of the road is also shared use (although this appears to have recently been widened, perhaps in an attempt to ‘encourage’ people to cycle on the footway on this side of the road) –

… And, as far as I can tell, the footway between the barriers is also shared use, despite the signs advising people to dismount.

So, as usual, the picture is one of inconsistency. Councils are happy to lump cycling onto the pavement with pedestrians where they can get away with it – it’s a nice easy option that doesn’t involve making difficult choices about allocation of urban space. But of course that decision will also bring people walking and cycling into conflict with one another, particularly in busier locations.

The ‘solution’ here in Windsor seems to have been to put up some barriers and an advisory sign in the hope that people will get off and walk for two hundred metres. Obviously people won’t do that – why would they, when they have been legally cycling on footways either side – so naturally the police have been called out to ‘enforce’ dismounting ‘advise’ people to dismount.

All in all, it’s pretty dismal. If you push people walking and cycling into the same relatively small portion of urban space, you shouldn’t be surprised when conflict arises; nor should you be surprised that people are unwilling to choose to dismount on one section of footway when you have legalised it on other sections.

The responsibility for all these problems lies with the council. Looking at the photos of the road above, there really is an enormous amount of roadspace here that could be repurposed, if we were actually serious about prioritising walking and cycling, and reducing conflict between the two modes on a permanent basis.

It wouldn’t even have to be particularly expensive. The central hatching could be removed, the parking bays moved out by an equivalent distance, and – hey presto – a parking-protected cycle lane, separate from the footway, would spring into existence.

No more pavement cycling; no more dismount signs required; no more wasted police resources; no more embarrassing photo opportunities.

How about it?


Categories: Views

Cycling as the summer lingers on

BicycleDutch - 3 October, 2016 - 23:01
Many people decided to go cycling on the last Sunday in September. The recreational routes were so crowded that I heard one woman exclaim: “it’s busier than on the National … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

On Formula One drivers telling children to wear hi-viz

Road Danger Reduction Forum - 28 September, 2016 - 22:11

I have tweeted about the current campaign by the FIA (the international motorists’ organisation) using Formula One racing drivers to tell children to wear hi-viz clothing when walking. It’s had a lot of re-tweeting and comments, not least directed at practitioners with a road safety remit . For some of us, this is just a matter of sighing that “you couldn’t make it up”. Others have argued that there is no evidence that campaigns like this will actually protect children. For many this is just a seasonal irritation – or even a partially useful intervention – to be accepted while we try to get on with the business of real road safety – reducing danger at source.

But we believe that this kind of intervention tells us a lot about what is going wrong – and what needs to change – if we are to have a civilised approach to road safety.

Formula One racer Jenson Button

The politics of what I have called “the conspicuity con” is dealt with in Chapter 9 of my Death on the Streets: cars and the mythology of road safety” (1992)  . (Downloadable here/)

Here I discuss how this kind of “road safety” initiative is not just without an evidence base, but actually becomes part of the problem it is supposed to deal with.

Mikael Colville-Andersen gives an interesting account of how “road safety” personnel push hi-viz in his son’s school. Mikael rightly reports the lack of evidence to show actual reductions in casualty rates as a result of this kind of programme. There is one rather ropey Norwegian study referred to, but even the UK Department of Transport has indicated that there is a lack of evidence to justify hi-viz for cyclists. Mikael states – correctly – that people genuinely concerned with safety on the road should deal with what he calls “the bull in the china shop“, namely danger from motorised traffic, which they don’t.

But it is worse than that. I would argue that a key reason why motorists feel they can get away with bad driving is the “Sorry Mate I Didn’t See You” (SMIDSY) excuse. (See the CyclingUK  campaign against SMIDSY).And this excuse is facilitated by precisely the kind of campaigns which put the onus of responsibility to “Be Seen” on the least dangerous to others, rather than requiring those who are dangerous to others to watch out for their potential victims.

The most basic rule of safe driving, in the Highway Code and elsewhere, is to “Never drive in such a way that you cannot stop within visible distance“. But this is eroded, not just by failure to have proper speed limits and ensure compliance with them, but by the assumption that if motorists don’t “see” their victims, it is the victims’ fault. Whether by lengthening sight lines or other measures, the underlying belief system thrusts the onus of risk on to motorists’ actual or potential victims. It is not just a lack of speed control, or the failure to weed out motorists who can’t see where they are going. It is a general culture – promoted by the “road safety” industry – that you don’t have to fulfil a responsibility to properly watch out for those you may hurt or kill.

 

Looking, watching out – and then seeing

I emphasise “watching out for” because what is required is a thorough process where drivers consider the possible future positions of those they may drive into, think about their need to avoid doing so, and drive accordingly. The image of a pedestrian or cyclist on the retina of the driver is just the first part of this process. And the key element is searching – watching out or looking out – for these people in the first place. It is an active process which is far more effective than any amount of hi-viz, which may be irrelevant anyway. I am regularly told by motorists that they see plenty of cyclists without lights at night. Indeed: if they are driving properly (albeit in an urban area with street lighting) they will indeed see unlit cyclists.

Let me be quite clear about this. My argument is not just that this is rather unsavoury victim-blaming and morally objectionable. It is that it exacerbates the very problem it claims to address. In ten years or so these young people may become drivers, with the expectation that others should shoulder the responsibility that they as drivers have.

The official “road safety” response to this criticism is to avoid it. The typical answer is this: “Of course, motorists should watch where they are going, and we may have an advertising campaign to politely ask them to do so, but in the meantime wear hi-viz”. The problem with this is twofold: firstly, this “in the meantime” has been going on for over a century of motorists endangering, hurting and killing others, and that polite requests aren’t going to change anything. But the second point is the more important: the relentless shifting of responsibility away from those endangering others becomes part of the problem.

 

Why not use Formula One racing drivers positively?

There is a sense in which Formula One drivers could be usefully put to work for a safer road environment. They are role models for young men who are already driving, and a message could be got across that fast driving should be left for the race track. Simple messages such as “Don’t break the speed limit on the road – it’s there for a reason” could be widely disseminated at race meetings. The basic rule about never driving in such a way that you can’t stop within visible distance could be pushed. If there is to be a focus on children’s safety, the Formula One stars could visit schools and talk to the parents driving children to school.

In fact, there are quite a few ways in which these drivers could be used to address the problems of inappropriate driving. I understand that very often they are prepared to engage in campaigns without demanding fees. But in a crucial sense that is not the point. We have to ask: What is actually going on here?

 

The significance of these campaigns

The task of the road danger reduction movement includes deconstructing the basic cultural assumptions which most of us unwittingly accept. I argue that using people who are role models is an important way in which basic – often negative and dangerous – ideas are subtly inculcated into young minds. It is worth repeating that the young people being targeted will gradually come to assume that it is the task of people outside cars to “be seen”, whether or not drivers are capable of, willing to and actually looking where they are going and watching out for other road users.

This is not a conspiracy theory – it’s actually a sociological analysis (the opposite of such ways of looking at social phenomena). Although we might argue for the Formula One drivers to be used, for example, to challenge the overly fast driving of young motorists, that is only one aspect of this issue. We also need to analyse the widely held beliefs (including our own) which constitute the background assumptions about safety, and challenge them when necessary. None of this means that pedestrians and cyclists should wear camouflage. But we do need to critically consider the often unspoken beliefs which our society has, and challenge them where necessary.


Categories: Views

The Department for Transport needs to show leadership on safe junction design, instead of blaming victims

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 28 September, 2016 - 17:31

On Monday the Department for Transport’s Think! campaign launched an HGV ‘safety’ campaign that has been universally panned by cycling organisations and campaigners. There’s a very good summary of the reasons why here.

The intention of the video is apparently to show the risks of ‘undertaking’ HGVs when they are about turn. But the video itself is, frankly, a mess. It initially shows an implausible situation – a lorry travelling on the wrong side of the road on a 20mph street, with a cyclist somehow managing to travel even faster on their inside.

Why is the lorry right over on the wrong side of the road, so far from the junction? I can’t think of any reasonable explanation. Most likely the driver has started to overtake the person cycling, who has then implausibly  managed to accelerate and move ahead of the HGV.

This is followed by a shot, accompanied by tasteless clips of meat being chopped, of the HGV swerving across that cyclist’s path, with the cyclist still behind the HGV – which is implausible in the context of the speed difference in the (very odd) first clip.

So why is this video so implausible?

An instinctive explanation is that it is simply a cock-up, filmed by people who don’t really know how left hook incidents actually occur. The brief might have been

‘Go and make us a video of an idiot cyclist shooting up the inside of a turning HGV at speed.’

The result being this dog’s breakfast. But I think there’s more to it than that. A video that showed how left hooks actually occur would be embarrassing to the DfT. 

They don’t involve lorries travelling at speed on the wrong side of the road with someone apparently attempting to ‘undertake’ them.

Instead, they occur when a previously stationary HGV has just started to move off at a junction. When someone cycling is either positioned in front of, or to the side, of that HGV, typically on state-sanctioned paint, either in the form of a crap cycle-lane, or an advanced stop line (ASL). That cyclist is either stationary in that ASL, or is arriving at the junction on the cycle lane on the inside of that HGV.

Conveniently, the DfT video doesn’t look anything like this. It doesn’t show someone who has been lulled into a making a minor misjudgement with potentially fatal consequences, thanks to negligent road design. Instead it attempts to present a scenario in which blame lies with a cyclist being an idiot, ‘racing’ an HGV and trying to shoot up the inside of it as it turns.

I commented yesterday that this Cemex video – shot from a camera on the left hand side of the lorry cab – is far more instructive about how left hooks actually occur than the DfT’s video. It’s a real-life illustration of how a combination of dreadful road design, lethal vehicles and momentary inattention can lead to death and serious injury.

I’m grateful to Al__S for spotting the location of this video; it’s at a junction in Fulham.

The location of the Cemex incident, looking towards the arm of the junction where both cyclist and HGV approached

At the start of the video, we see the HGV is stationary as the man cycles past it, towards the junction.

Going by the position of the cab, adjacent to a metal post, the front of the lorry is approximately 50m or so from the junction, suggesting that there are at least five cars (or equivalent) ahead of it, waiting at a red light.

The approximate position of the lorry cab, with the same metal post on the left

The lorry driver isn’t indicating left at this point.

It might be foolish to start filtering up the inside of an HGV here, but a combination of the the fact that the traffic is stationary, that the HGV is some distance back from the lights, and the inviting cycle lane (combined with a lack of indication) all make it completely understandable.

However, as the cyclist draws level with the cab, the HGV moves off.
And then, about a second after moving off, the driver starts to indicate left.

It seems the cyclist, perhaps without even seeing the indicators, realises that he is suddenly in a precarious situation – you can see him accelerating to try and clear the HGV, to get to safety ahead of it. This is clearly not a wise decision; the best one would have been to a complete halt, to simply let the HGV go. But it’s an understandable human mistake.

The HGV driver is accelerating hard too, and soon the cyclist is back down the side of the HGV. From this point, given the speed of both parties and their intended directions, disaster is nearly inevitable.

Abruptly, the enormous lorry forms a curved barrier around the cyclist, leaving him with nowhere to go.

It is only thanks to both parties performing an emergency stop that the cyclist doesn’t end up under the wheels.

I hope it is clear that this real-life situation is rather more ambiguous than the one in the DfT video. Mistakes are made, but they are understandable ones. Particularly, can we expect people not to cycle up the inside of HGVs when there is a cycle lane there, and the HGV is stationary, some five or six cars back from the junction itself?

And much the same is true of incidents that are actually in the news at the moment, in the wake of the DfT’s campaign. Take the case of Louise Wright, killed in Nottingham in July 2014. She appears to have filtered up the inside of an HGV, and then waited at a red light, next to it. The driver failed to check his mirrors, and was convicted this week of causing death by careless driving – the same day that the DfT campaign launched.

Or, also in the courts this week, the case of Esther Hartsilver, again killed as a stationary HGV set off from traffic lights and turned across her.

Or the case of Ying Tao, again, killed a stationary HGV set off from traffic lights and turned across her.

From the Evening Standard

These cases simply do not resemble the DfT’s video. They take place almost in slow motion, the inevitable consequences of human beings making understandable mistakes in an environment why are exposed to unacceptable danger; an environment where those mistakes can, in a split second, lead to death and serious injury. Environments that even actually encourage them into danger.

We should be building environments that greatly reduce or even remove that danger. Environments that keep people cycling and HGVs separated from each other, and allow people to make mistakes without those mistakes resulting in death.

A Utrecht main road, where people cycling are insulated from lorry danger

Thankfully, we are starting to see this kind of approach in a small number of locations in London; new junctions where the risk of collision between HGVs and people has been greatly reduced by signal separation of movements.

The junction of Victoria Embankment and Blackfriars in London. Signal separation means little or no risk of left hooks; safe enough for young children.

But this is only a start, and in just one city.

I see little or no indication that the same Department for Transport that is producing these videos and adverts is taking any kind of lead on safe design. Where are the national standards, guidance and advice for local authorities, so that they can replicate good examples and best practice at a local level? Where is the investment required, to reshape our roads to protect people using the modes of transport we apparently want to encourage? Frankly, where is the leadership? It’s completely absent.

The simple message of the cases mentioned here, and countless others, is – do not mix very heavy, large vehicles with limited visibility with people on bikes. Keep them separated at all costs. But, again, I see no indication that the Department for Transport is taking that message on board. The issue of cycling death as a result of collisions with HGVs continues to be framed by those with responsibility for tackling it – as with this latest campaign – as one of human failing, one of mistakes that can be remedied through ‘education’ and ‘awareness’. A totally flawed approach given that human beings will always continue to make mistakes. It’s what we do.

Beyond adverts and tokenistic measures like extra mirrors, there is no noticeable action being taken at an institutional level within the DfT to deal with these predictable deaths, that keep occurring in the same way, over and over again. That’s why these adverts are so deeply insulting.

 


Categories: Views

PARK(ing) Day Tackles Bike Infrastructure

Copenhagenize - 27 September, 2016 - 10:13
Dozens of bicycles replace a former single car parking space, a common sight on Copenhagen streets.

Co-written by Sylvia Green and Copenhagenize Design Co.

The transition from summer to autumn brings life back to our cities, filling schools, offices, busses, cycle tracks, roads, and of course, parking spaces. While it’s exciting to feel the energy brought with this transition, it’s hard not to miss the elephant in the room, the bull in the china shop, the private automobile. One annual autumn event, PARK(ing) Day, has done an incredible job at questioning the dominance of the car in our urban spaces. On the third Friday of each September, PARK(ing) Day has everyday citizens transform street parking into public space of their own design.
PARK(ing) day began in San Francisco in 2005, when Rebar Design decided to convert a metered parking spot into a public park for a period of two hours. Since then, a movement has expanded globally, and now includes installations redefining local spaces to suit political, commercial, playful or aesthetic intentions.
In cities worldwide, car parking takes up a tremendous amount of space, is often heavily subsidized, and, despite the general strategic embrace away from high energy and heavily polluting transportation (ie cars), car parking is still seen to be a right in the eyes of planning officials. Even in bicycle-friendly Copenhagen, despite the low vehicular modal share of 22 percent within the city, there is over 3 square km dedicated to parking vehicles. Much of this is unmetered, all is heavily subsidized.
PARK(ing) day allows everyday people to re-imagine what the tremendous amount of public space could contain if cars were not the dominant force they are, and put their imagination into action. The day is also a part of the broader movement to reclaim space in densely populated city spaces. Many of the installations at this year’s PARK(ing) day event contained bicycle-related components. Here are a few of our favourites, to inspire you for next year’s event.
Berlin, Germany.
In Berlin, two installations nicely brought utilitarian cycling issues to the table. The bicycle advocacy group Volksentscheid Fahrrad redesigned a mobile trailer as a small park for hanging out and discussing the referendum movement, which switched spots regularly. One organizer, Maximillian Nawrath, explained, “I think it will raise awareness amongst citizens about how much space parked cars occupy and what we could use in their place. Additionally, I want to promote the referendum group Volksentscheid Fahrrad, because it's state election time in Berlin and we have to be in the minds of the people on election day! We invited lots of press and will be very present in local media, which is super important!”.
The second, Netzwerk Fahrradfreundliches Neukölln, set up an installation along Hermannplatz, an arterial characterised by heavy car traffic and very little bicycle infrastructure. There, temporary bicycle parking was created and bicycles were painted on the street to visualize the need for a protected bike lane instead of free parking space for cars. A representative from Netzwerk Fahrradfreundliches Neukölln explained, “[PARK(ing) Day] has relevance generally as many cities are growing and a battle has started over the public space. Cities need to re-think how to use it in the most sustainable and efficient way. Berlin is fast-growing and there is an increase of traffic and parking. Yet, cities and are for people and not for cars. A liveable city focusses on enough recreation zones, and space for traffic participants who do not emit fumes, CO2 and noise.”


Cambridge, USA
In Cambridge, Massachusetts, The Cambridge Bike Committee replaced car parking with a protected bike lane for PARK(ing) day. Megan, from the committee, explained the concept, “I suggested that instead of 1 spot to TALK about biking, that we take over a whole block to SHOW what biking should feel like and even better if it was a high profile street like Mass Ave in front of the busiest coffee shop, Flour, and employer, Novartis. Ms. Anne Marie jumped on the idea and gave it life within the committee. The amazing Cara Seiderman and Jennifer Lawrence scoped out the blocks on Mass Ave and determined that we could install a popup protected bikeways on BOTH sides of a very busy block! To create the barrier of protection, I suggested that kids paint a wall mural, which they loved. I talked to Katie who runs the summer camp program with Annika's school to see if the kids would be interested and if we could use the paint and she was excited to help make it happen.”
Megan hopes that this bike lane will help to change attitudes towards cycling infrastructure in Cambridge. “When you hear people say that ‘we don't have space’ for biking like The Netherlands, remember this picture and let them know that we do have space, but it's used for storing a car driven by typically 1 person. The Dutch didn't do it overnight - it took protesting moms and an oil crisis to jump start the movement in the 70s. We'll get there, too, but it takes a cocktail of passion, time, behavior change and political will."





Montreal, Canada
Turning to Montreal, our local Copenhagenize office made an installation to show the difference between existing painted lanes in Montreal and physically protected one-way cycle tracks. As Michael Wexler explains, “It is one thing to post articles online and look at maps and plans, but for the average person, whether or not they are used to riding a bicycle, seeing is believing.” Michael believes that pop-up bike lanes can dispel myths surrounding cycle tracks, show their versatility and allow users to understand how it feels to have protected infrastructure. “The event allowed us to put something on the ground and engage with people on and off bikes about how their city's streets should and could be better designed. It also didn't hurt that traffic was jammed up on the street while bikes used our cycle track and totally circumvented the gridlock. PARK(ing) day is a great event to show what is possible with so much of our city space that we allocate to storing giant metal boxes”. Michael believes that PARK(ing) day should be used to push the conversation forward in formal planning spaces, “There is so much potential for good design in a city like Montreal - where there is arguably the strongest urban cycling culture in North America.”



As a fun and engaging annual event, PARK(ing) Day does an excellent job of having everyday citizens draw to light the potential of the inefficient use of these highly valuable spaces. In some cases, such as San Francisco’s Parklet program, the movement has successfully inspired more formal and permanent installations expanding the public realm. Rather than subsidizing valuable urban land to accommodate big metal boxes it’s time for cities to wake up to the misconception of parking as an necessity and economic generator. Here’s to seeing PARK(ing) Day continue to question the status quo of our urban parking spaces.
For more information on organising your own PARK(ing) Day, click here.Copenhagenize the planet. And have a lovely day.
Categories: Views

Designing for people by erasing a car friendly past

BicycleDutch - 26 September, 2016 - 23:01
Utrecht has reconstructed a complicated five-arm junction. While it had been designed to suit the needs of the car for decades, it has now been reconstructed to be a place … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

When a Public Space Doesn't Want You - Kvæsthusmolen

Copenhagenize - 23 September, 2016 - 09:57

A late-summer evening in Copenhagen. Copenhagenize Design Company arranged for The Bicycle Chef - Cykelkokken to serve up a delicious snack for our guests from the City of Bordeaux, including Mayors from surrounding municipalities, who were visiting our city to learn about bicycle urbanism and public space.

Ole Kassow from Cycling Without Age was invited to spread his good word about his amazing project. Being urban designers, we thought it highly appropriate to exploit the potential of Copenhagen's newest public space - Kvæsthusmolen - a redevelopment of a quay in the heart of the Danish capital.

Summer is lingering this year, but the space was rather empty at 18:30, with only a few people enjoying the evening. We arranged for the Bicycle Chef to meet us at the "Kissing Steps" and set up for serving our guests from his converted Bullitt cargo bike.

It was going to be a classic Copenhagen arrangement. Or so we thought.



In all the material about the new, public urban space, grand descriptions are employed. "A space for cosy and quiet moments", they tell us. "A good urban space also invites people to linger". Indeed. The spot we chose - the Kissing Steps - is "a perfect place to share a moment in the sun." Not a dry eye in the house.

There is nothing in those descriptions to indicate that using the space would result in an angry employee from the Scandic Front hotel nearby storming out to us in the middle of the urban space and informing us in no uncertain terms - read: rude - that we had to move. That the space upon which we stood was private property and that we had to leave it immediately.

When we questioned this bizarre statement with comments about public space, we were informed by this man that it WASN'T public space - it was owned by The Royal Danish Theatre - also located nearby - and that the Scandic Front hotel pays "a lot of money" to rent it. Therefore we, as Copenhageners with international guests, were not allowed to have a private picnic.


Damn. There we were. Ready to experience a place for everything, a place for excitement and a place for US.




We were ready for a vibrant urban space and nine steps for kissing! As RealDania, the philanthropic fund who financed it says on the project website, the goal with the space was:

• creating an urban space which communicates the transition between Frederiksstaden and Holmen through a wide architectural “embrace” that extends the classical understanding of space in Frederiksstaden, staged through a sensual mixture of materials and a “fairy-tale” composition of lighting, which in itself makes the square enticing; both day and night

• to soften the transition between land and sea, e.g. with a stairway, and to enable a broad spectrum of recreational activities on and by the water


RealDania's declared mission is "To improve quality of life for the common good through the built environment".

What an amazing array of glossy, marketing texts about this new destination.


We were the only people in the space at that moment. The outdoor seating for the hotel was packed up for the evening - and probably the rest of the year. While Angry Hotel Man didn't seem very certain about his claims, we had distinguished guests arriving so we chose to avoid educating him in public space and, instead, roll over to the other area on Kvæsthusmolen, along the harbour, to begin our evening.


The World's Youngest Urbanist, The Lulu, helped Morten out preparing for our guests. Ole Kassow did his magic and all went well.



Kvæsthusmolen was designed by Danish architects Lundberg & Tranberg.

The question remains. Can you boldy proclaim "public space" and then try to kick people off of it? And in a city that prides itself on public space like few others? The lines between private and public are blurred here on Kvæsthusmolen. The Royal Danish Theatre even tries to brand the space as Ofelia Plads / Ofelia Square, complete with a website. Even though the official name is Kvæsthusmolen.

As Mayor Morten Kabell has said, "There is nothing called Ofelia Plads - except in the imagination of The Royal Theatre".

So maybe it's a free-for-all in this new urban space. Organisations can make up names for it. Hotels can kick you out of it - and, what's worse, hotels that only have a dismal 3.5 rating on Trip Advisor.

This may be routine in other cities in the world. This is not, however, fitting in the Copenhagen in which I choose to live and work.Copenhagenize the planet. And have a lovely day.
Categories: Views

News roundup: Children cycling to school, Walking bike championships, Self driving bus, Progress in Assen

A View from the Cycle Path - 22 September, 2016 - 10:52
Sometimes small items of news aren't quite enough for a blog post on their own so I've combined these: A Study Tour participant from Uppsala in Sweden just uploaded this video shot two years ago during the school run in Assen. This is an area within a suburb of Assen near local shops built between primary schools (age 5-11). The same thing happens every day. Parents accompany many younger David Hembrowhttps://plus.google.com/114578085331408050106noreply@blogger.com0http://www.aviewfromthecyclepath.com/2016/09/video-roundup-children-cycling-to.html
Categories: Views

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