Views

Cycling in middle England – going nowhere fast

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 17 March, 2015 - 12:46

At the Big Cycling Debate on the 2nd March, one of the most astute questions from the audience came from Ralph Smyth of the Campaign to Protect Rural England. He wanted to know what the three political parties who had been invited to the debate would do to improve cycling levels in ‘middle Britain’ – those areas of the country that are not covered by ‘Cycle City Ambition’ money, the latest tranche of which had (conveniently) been announced that very morning.

Unfortunately the current cycling minister Robert Goodwill chose not to engage with the question that had actually been asked, instead deciding to talk about cycling in rural areas, waffling on about potholes, cycle routes along roads in rural areas that nobody is using because it’s too remote (apparently), the Tour de France in Yorkshire, and ‘cyclists’ preferring to use roads in rural areas.

This wasn’t what Ralph Smyth’s question was about. It was about what political parties should be doing to drive cycling across the country as a whole, not just in the city pockets that are fortunate enough to be granted funding. By focusing entirely on ‘rural’ cycling in remote areas the question was ducked by Goodwill.

And this is a serious issue – tens of millions of British people do not live in cities (let alone in those few cities that are getting DfT funding). They live in large towns, across the country, as well as in more rural locations.

Yet the story in most of these areas is one of rock-bottom cycling levels, and no sign on the horizon that things are going to change any time soon.

These areas will typically be the responsibility of local authorities that have –

  • little or no willingness to engage with cycling as a serious mode of transport, choosing instead to accommodate existing built-in patterns of travel, including a high percentage of short car trips, and further (predicted) growth in car travel;
  • little or no money to spend on cycling infrastructure, beyond the intermittent handouts they might get from central government through a bidding process;
  • little or no expertise in building cycling infrastructure, which means that – without any decent cycle infrastructure standards – what little money that is being spent is frittered away on poor schemes of questionable merit.

Although many areas – places like Bristol, Brighton and Hove, Leicester, Cambridge, and other cities getting to grips with designing for cycling – are showing ambition and a willingness to do things differently, the story is frankly pretty bleak across the rest of Britain.

From West Sussex County Council’s ‘Local Transport Plan’.

One of these places is West Sussex. Although the County Council likes to imagine that the county is ‘largely rural’ (see right), the vast majority of West Sussex’s 800,000 residents actually live in urban areas, places like Crawley (population 107,000), Worthing (104,000), Horsham (55,000), Burgess Hill (28,000), Littlehampton (28,000), Chichester (27,000), East Grinstead (24,000), Bognor Regis (24,000), Haywards Heath (23,000), Shoreham (19,000), and other towns and large villages.

Yet cycling levels across this temperate, largely flat county are dismal. Cycling to work levels in the large towns to the south of Gatwick airport scrape to a 1-2% mode share –

And things aren’t much better in the towns along the south coast, with only pockets of Chichester and Worthing bucking the 1-2% cycling to work trend, reaching as high as 5%.

These cycling to work levels – which we should remember are likely to far outstrip general cycling mode share – have actually fallen in many West Sussex towns since 2001.

I’m told that West Sussex’s cycling capital expenditure – from the council’s own budget – amounts to only a few tens of thousands of pounds a year. The council’s sole cycling officer has been made redundant; there is no cycling plan (the West Sussex Cycle Forum were asked to draft one themselves) and what money the County Council does receive from central government for sustainable transport, in the form of the Local Sustainable Transport Fund (LSTF), has, and will, go to waste on poor schemes of questionable value. (To take just one example, over £100,000 of the £2.4m worth of LSTF ‘sustainable’ funding West Sussex won from the government has been spent in Horsham on… brand new traffic lights, specifically for motor traffic,  to reduce queues for vehicles and hence lower pollution.)

That waste of LSTF cash will be examined in a series of forthcoming posts. The subject here, however, is the latest source of transport funding from central government, one distributed through LEPs (Local Enterprise Partnerships). This new funding stream is, again, going to fail walking and cycling in West Sussex, unless there is radical change.

What follows will be long and probably a little boring, but I hope it will be valuable as an insight into the disastrous direction transport is heading in places where there is little or no engagement with modes of transport beyond the car, and indeed no apparent willingness to even think differently. I may not get all the details exactly right, but in my defence I am trying to make sense of quite a complex process.

Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) were set up by the current government in 2011.

Local enterprise partnerships are partnerships between local authorities and businesses. They decide what the priorities should be for investment in roads, buildings and facilities in the area.

From a transport perspective, they are therefore obviously hugely influential, given that they are essentially determining what money should be spent on.

There are 39 of these LEPs in England and Wales. The pertinent one in this post is the Coast to Capital (C2C) LEP, which covers all of West Sussex, Brighton and Hove, a large part of Surrey, and Croydon.

The Coast to Capital LEP region

As can be seen from the map, this a large and strategically significant area, covering the southern outskirts of London, as well as Gatwick Airport, several south coast towns and cities, and many major towns in Sussex and Surrey.

LEPs have no requirement for public involvement or democratic accountability. Here’s a select committee chairman, back in 2011 –

LEPs have a significant impact on their local community; they would be failing if they did not. Despite this, the ability for the local community to scrutinise their performance is patchy. If LEPs are to be held accountable for their performance, measureable indicators of that performance are needed. And they are needed in a format easily understood by local communities.

Four years later, in February this year, TransportXtra commented on ‘the lamentable efforts that most LEPs have made in opening themselves up to scrutiny’, pointing out that

the Campaign for Better Transport rightly criticised the LEPs last month, saying that decisions on the latest award of £1bn from the fund had been taken “behind closed doors”.

Funding is available from Coast to Capital for what they term ‘Sustainability and Resilience Schemes’ – a pot of £62.6 million, which was granted to C2C from central government, to be spent between 2015 and 2021. A list of current bids for portions of that funding is available here. Decisions will be made on who gets what on the 25th of March (i.e., next week) by the Local Transport Body – made up of these individuals. (The Local Transport Body’s role is to advise LEPs like Coast to Capital on what they think transport priorities should be).

I am going to look here at just one of those bids, put in by West Sussex – this is the West of Horsham Transport Package. This involves a substantial sum of money – well over £3m, to fund a £4m project. In essence it amounst to changes – major and minor – to four roundabouts on main roads to the west of Horsham.

These roundabouts –

The four roundabouts which this funding would be used to change. Horsham is to the east, only partly shown.

 

Three of these roundabouts – the larger ones – lie in a line on the town’s existing dual carriageway bypass, built in the late 1960s to divert the A24 (which runs from the south coast to London) away from the town centre.The other, smaller, roundabout – Five Oaks, to the west- lies on the main road towards Guildford, from the bypass.

The 14-page application form from West Sussex for this funding doesn’t provide a great deal of detail (not even any plans of these schemes!) so I’m going to run through the 62-page Supporting Document for this application for funding, prepared for West Sussex County Council by CH2MHill. Strangely, it does not appear to be available anywhere online (I’ve only seen a copy because a colleague emailed a West Sussex transport planner to specifically ask for detailed plans of the schemes), so I’ve uploaded it here.

Very early in the document, we are told the rationale for these ‘upgrades’ –

The Farthings Hill Interchange and Five Oaks schemes are linked to the wider delivery of the 2,000 home West of Horsham development

And…

The Great Daux Roundabout and Robin Hood Roundabout schemes are linked to the delivery of the 2,500 home North of Horsham development

That is, the two roundabouts to the south are linked to a large new housing development (currently under construction); the two roundabouts to the north are linked to another large (proposed) housing development, to the north of the town.

It is not clear why West Sussex are bidding for what amounts to funding from central government – through the Coast2Capital LEP – to mitigate the effects of increased motor traffic from these new developments. The developers are building (or are proposing to build) housing that is believed will generate more motor traffic, and yet it is the taxpayer that is being asked to cover the bulk of the costs of accommodating it. Indeed, 75% of the costs – the remaining 25% coming from Section 106 (developer) contributions.

In each case, 75% of the funding will come from the LEP. The remaining 25% from S106. (I’ve highlighted that the person preparing this bid for millions of pounds of funding can’t even use right word.)

In an ideal world, the costs of any necessary changes to these roundabouts should surely be covered by the developer themselves. But perhaps that’s too idealistic in 21st century Britain.

This also raises the question of what happens if this funding bid is rejected by the Coast2Capital LEP – West Sussex will have a £3m funding shortfall for these projects that are (apparently) necessary to accommodate motor traffic.

The supporting document then moves on to a presentation of the cost:benefit analysis for the four roundabouts. This is where things get very silly indeed.

Notice here that two of these roundabouts (the two that happen to be exclusively focused on easing congestion for motor traffic) have extraordinary cost-benefit ratios (BCR). These are the two ‘capacity’ schemes, listed at the bottom. The Robin Hood roundabout will cost £465,000, yet will apparently net £322 million in Present Value Benefits, meaning the benefit:cost ratio for this roundabout scheme is 693:1. The Great Daux roundabout is nearly as ludicrous at 506:1. This really is fantasy economics.

The other two roundabouts are termed ‘connectivity’ schemes, which purport to make walking and cycling more attractive (more on that later) and have negative cost benefit ratios.

The roundabout plans with the extraordinary alleged benefits do absolutely nothing at all for walking and cycling. The Robin Hood roundabout currently looks like this.

It’s a fairly straightforward crossing of a 70mph dual carriageway (running N-S), with the road to the west connecting with the village of Warnham, and the one on the right connecting to Horsham. There are (mostly) two lanes on entry and exit. Not much fun on a bike, or on foot, but the funding proposal aims to turn it into this monster.

Four lanes on entry, signalisation, and hint at a ‘turbo’ format.

A similar arrangement is proposed for the Great Daux roundabout, a kilometre to the north. Here the bypass meets the A24 at a T-junction roundabout.

This is to be replaced, again, by a signalised, turbo-ish roundabout with 3-4 lanes on entry. Again, no consideration of walking or cycling whatsoever.

Both these schemes could address existing severance issues for walking and cycling between Horsham and the villages to the west, and north-west. They don’t, however.

The justification for the massive expansion of both of these junctions is as follows –

The Horsham District Transport Study which assessed the impact of forecast strategic development and background traffic growth up to 2031 concluded that both junctions would require mitigation.

That is,

The truth is that motor traffic flows in and around Horsham are either steady or declining, over the last decade. Motor traffic in the town appears to be falling, at least on the three main roads with DfT count points.

And on the bypass itself – between these roundabouts – there has been very little change (perhaps even a slight decline) in motor traffic levels over the last decade.

That’s not to say that there might be a case for expanding these roundabouts. What’s scandalous, however, is that absolutely no account has been taken of walking and cycling connections in the plans that are on the table. It’s like these modes don’t even exist. And it is acknowledge in black and white -

The proposed scheme is on the strategic road network and is primarily aimed at providing journey time benefits to motorised vehicles, there are no sustainable transport benefits.

But of course there could, and should be. Roundabouts like this should have connections for walking and cycling built into them at the design stage. Grade separation, or at-grade crossings with minimal delay, should be an absolute necessity. But it seems you can get away with completely ignoring walking and cycling.

On to the extraordinary benefit:cost ratios presented in this bid. They are derived simply by adding up the value of time savings accruing to motorists over a 60 year period, using the DfT’s WebTAG. Also bear in mind that the DfT’s aforementioned traffic growth forecasts are lying behind this modelling. The comparison in time savings for motorists (between the scheme being built, and the existing layout) is built around the assumption of large increases in motor traffic –

Using the opening year 2023 and forecast year 2029 traffic flows, the difference in highway network performance between the base model and the ‘with scheme’ models forms the basis of the Cost Benefit Analysis (CBA).

The assumption being that these roundabouts will become completely ‘saturated’ (that is, clogged) without widening.

But here’s what the authors of the bid have to say –

It should be noted that using outputs from a junction model, as opposed to a strategic model, will overestimate journey time impacts because it is unable to account for traffic reassignment. In reality, a change to a junction is likely to either induce extra traffic to use it or divert traffic away depending on the nature of the scheme, thus diluting the predicted journey time impact. [my emphasis]

The dilution effect, however, will be offset by the economic, social, and environmental benefits that have not been included in the transport appraisal. On this basis, the proposed methodology is considered to be robust.

A methodology that produces Benefit:Cost Ratios of 700:1 for schemes that completely ignore walking and cycling is considered ‘robust.’

Yet, later in the document, it is again acknowledged that this ‘time saving’ comparison is fundamentally flawed –

In reality, the delay predicted by the junction models [without the schemes going ahead] would not occur due to traffic reassignment and peak spreading (people choosing to start their journeys earlier of later, outside of the peak hours). This, in addition to the manually assigned 2029 traffic flows means the journey time benefits of implementing the scheme would not be as high as predicted. It should also be noted that the junction modelling software will not be providing reliable analysis of journey delays once significantly over capacity.

These two roundabout schemes are being considered only in terms of motoring. This is made plain by the ‘Journey Quality’ assessments, shown below.

It’s all about motoring.

 

The ‘traveller stress’ of cycling across a four lane roundabout isn’t considered. ‘Traveller stress’ is framed only in terms of reducing drivers’ ‘frustration’ at delays and ‘fear of potential accidents’. Likewise ‘care’ for travellers is ‘explicitly for the motorised transport users’. If you’re not in a car – we don’t care.

The neglect of walking and cycling is completely unacceptable. These are not roundabouts in the middle of nowhere. I’ve set them into context, below.

The two roundabouts (framed in blue) lie between the Horsham and surrounding settlements, including a railway station on the line to London. These settlements are not any great distance from the town; Warnham to Horsham is 2 miles, as the crow flies. Likewise the railway station is just above the northern bypass, but essentially inaccessible if you are not in a car.

Moving on to the other two roundabout schemes, which purport to actually focus on sustainable travel. The Farthings Hill interchange is a grade-separated roundabout, sitting over the dual carriageway bypass.

It’s huge, scary, and fast, with slip roads onto and off the dual carriageway, and multiple junctions to the west, including another dual carriageway, a petrol station, and the entrance to Broadbridge Heath village itself. There is a path across the roundabout, skirting around the inside of the northern bridge, but you have to dash across two lanes of fast traffic on either side.

The proposals are to signalise this roundabout, entirely.

… providing toucan crossings and, erm, shared use footways.

 

While this will make the roundabout less lethal to cross on foot, or by bike, it’s hardly going to make it particularly convenient to cross. Whichever route you choose to take, you will have to wait at four separate toucan crossings.

With a bit of thought (and a willingness to actually prioritise walking and cycling) the number of crossings should really only be two - for instance, a bi-directional path on the northern edge of the roundabout, crossing only the two slip roads.

 

It’s worth adding that an extra third lane for motor traffic is being added to the slip lane entries onto the roundabout as part of this scheme, and also that the ‘shared use’ footpath will remain at a substandard width, below 3m in most locations. Furthermore there are no plans to connect these poor routes up with Horsham – the shared use footway simply ends on the main road into Horsham a few metres south of the roundabout, with (nonsensically) people expected to stop using the pavement, and join a busy main road, at an arbitrary point.

‘use carriageway beyond this point’

So really the alleged ‘sustainable’ benefits of this scheme are negligible indeed, only a by-product of a pre-existing decision to signalise the roundabout to increase capacity. The claim

For pedestrians and cyclists, the scheme will significantly improve connectivity and reduce severance between Broadbridge Heath and Horsham

is highly dubious.

Yet the reason this roundabout performs poorly on the Benefit:Cost Analysis (minus 15:1, compared to 500:1 and 700:1) is blamed on these toucan crossings.

The significant journey time dis-benefit is a result of traffic reassignment following the completion of the West of Horsham infrastructure and the introduction of the Toucan crossings.

There’s also this extraordinary admission –

A safer junction would encourage more trips using sustainable modes for commuting purposes (via the train stations) or for leisure trips.

It has not, however, been possible to quantify these benefits. Accordingly, they have not been considered as part of the BCR appraisal.

In other words, we don’t know how to quantify the benefits of people walking and cycling; so those benefits are not part of our analysis. Precisely the same admission is made for the final part of the scheme, the Five Oaks roundabout.

This roundabout is being downgraded, because a new dual carriageway road has been built further to the south, bypassing it.

As far as I am aware, the ‘old road’ is being closed to through-traffic.

The plan at the roundabout is principally to rearrange road arriving at the roundabout from the village. The existing junction, onto the roundabout, is being closed entirely, with the road being bent away to the east to a junction on the ‘old road.’ The intention is to increase the length of car trips through the village and hence to discourage ratrunning, which is a serious problem given that the village is (and remains) the most direct east-west route towards Guildford.

The new road in the darker grey, built to take the junction away from the roundabout.

Whether this will work or not, I don’t know, but again the arrangements for cycling are pitiful. There is a shared use pavement coming out of the village (which is ridiculous, given that through-traffic is supposed to be being removed) which then extends around the roundabout like a conventional footway, with the opportunity to dash across two lanes of motor traffic. Just as at Farthings Hill, there is no attempt to connect this alleged ‘cycle provision’ up with places people might actually want to go. Despite plentiful space in the area the diverted road is being built, there are no plans to build either a cycleway or footway along this road.

The current (and soon to be ‘old’) road. No plans to provide any walking or cycling infrastructure in this verge; only the diverted road

This failure is even more acute because the new road has been built without any cycling or walking provision.

No footpath, or cycle path. This is not the middle of nowhere – this road (as can be seen) runs through new housing.

These roads are the existing, and new, direct routes towards Horsham. Again, in context –

Both of these roads will be surrounded by existing and new housing, and both run directly towards the centre of Horsham. Yet nothing is being done for walking and cycling on either of them, either as part of the planned development, or indeed as part of bid for funding from the Coast 2 Capital LEP. It’s another wasted opportunity to reap the benefits of a blank slate on the part of West Sussex.

Now a new bridge has been provided over the bypass. But the old bridge simply had to be go, because the bypass is being widened to eight lanes as it runs through the new development. And the new bridge is a design failure.

With sets of barriers built into it, and wiggly ramps to access it in remote corners of car parks, far from natural desire lines, it’s hard to see how it could have been made less direct and attractive.

On top of these failures to build high quality cycling infrastructure into brand new development (or indeed any kind of cycling infrastructure), West Sussex are compounding their problems by hoovering up millions of pounds of LEP funding on road expansion projects that – again – take either absolutely no account of walking and cycling, or provide for it shabbily in piecemeal, tokenistic ways, around the fringes of existing road projects.

This is the state of cycling where I live. It’s getting worse, not better.


Categories: Views

Are we done with dreadful drivel from the dire Dugher?

Road Danger Reduction Forum - 16 March, 2015 - 23:08

We have already criticised Labour’s current shadow Secretary of State for Transport for his car-centrism. It seems that after a particularly lacklustre performance at the recent Times debate  on provision for cycling in the next Parliament, some of his advisers had a few words with him, and he was rather upbeat in his recent talk to the Campaign for Better Transport (CBT).

 So would a Labour Government make things radically different and better for walking and cycling? We analyse his talk below. But first there have been some more bits of nonsense since we last posted on Dugher. Regrettably, it looks like he is still bent on an agenda which sees motorists as an oppressed minority to be pandered to with additional subsidy, soft touch and minimal law enforcement. So here’s what looks like the face of Labour’s transport shadow again.

Yes, it’s the photo from The Mirror again…

 We debut with driver-dominated drivel…

Since our last post on Dugher, here are three episodes:

  1. Why don’t people drive less?

Quite a number of journeys that people make are less than a mile. There is a lot of evidence that if people switched a proportion of their journeys you’d have a huge influence in terms of environmental benefits” , he explains, “but there’s a whole bunch of reasons why people in those circumstances choose to use their cars. there’s got to be viable alternatives. You’re only going to do that if you’ve got a bus network market that isn’t broken, as it is at the moment. You’ll only cycle to the station if, when you leave your bike there, there is a  reasonable expectation that it will be still there when you return“.

Now, three RDRF committee members have spent a fair amount of time trying to get better cycle parking at stations. We think it is good and necessary. But is it the main reason why people don’t cycle to the station? Is it even in the top ten? Nor do people drive just because of problems with bus network efficiency (and we doubt that future Government is likely to massively change it).

2.  “Stealth cameras”

These utterances looked like they came straight from the Daily Mail, so let’s look at how they reported this. Basically, you have to be allowed to break the law except at limited locations (decided by the number of “accidents” that have occurred at their locations being high enough), and at those you have to be given the warning that you might be given a few points on your licence and a small fine (like Dugher)

Of course, if you really do want motorists to avoid paying, you could conceal cameras and have far more of them. Then drivers would know not to exceed speed limits anywhere, and not get fined.

 3. Transport policy in England is too heavily shaped by people who don’t drive cars.”

Transport policy in practice means: declining costs of driving – when austerity economic policy means higher housing costs, static or lower incomes, etc – road building for more cars, predict and provide forecasting, minimal levels of walking and cycling. + cancelling a rise in fuel duty despite a big fall in the oil price and the govt’s desperate need for more income And that is “too heavily” shaped by people who don’t drive cars? And who are these people?

One quote from this interview is: “Given that most people spend most of their time travelling by road – politicians spend most of their time taking to the minority of people who don’t.” Of course , most politicians – of whom Dugher is just one – assume the view of a motorist-as-victim, without even having to talk to them. They certainly don’t base their policies on those who don’t drive, even if they bother to talk to them. And of course, the people who “travel by road” might be walking or cycling, or going by bus. But for Dugher (although he did try to correct himself on this in a tweet afterwards) “going by road” means going by car.

Another: “The idea that I should be cycling from Westminster to Barnsley to show that I’m not anti-cyclist, it’s just bollocks!” . No, but you could go by train. And maybe even cycle to the station. A minor point, affected by precise details of origin and destination – but why is the “proud son of a railwayman” not doing the 2¾ hour journey by train from Barnsley to central London rather than driving the 185-mile journey – which would have be done at a 67 mph average to be as quick?

(By the way, Dugher does like saying “piss me off” and “bollocks” a lot. Does this make him a man of the people?)

…but do we now have a different Dugher ?

At a Campaign for Better Transport event, he said that .A Labour Government would “put cyclists and pedestrians at the top table of transport policy” with a cross-government Cyclist and Pedestrians’ Advisory Board to boost active travel, which would include ministers from across Whitehall, senior civil servants from the Departments for Transport, Education, and Health, and the Department for Communities and Local Government, as well as cycling and pedestrian representatives, and chaired by the Secretary of State. An active travel strategy would then be put in place by summer 2016.

Other key elements in the announcement were a stated commitment to:

* Ensuring “justice is done and seen to be done in cases where collisions lead to cyclist deaths and serious injuries.”

* An end to “stop-start funding” for cycling.

* an in-depth review of how all government departments, agencies, local government, LEPs and the private sector are currently investing in walking and cycling. This will help determine the scale, sources and distribution of per capita funding we need for the future.”

So what conclusions can we draw from this? Cross-departmental working is necessary, and a commitment to Ministerial direction is welcome. But significantly it does not include the Treasury (who always have a big say in expenditure).

That may seem pessimistic, but we have been here before. A key problem with Cycling England (the quango abolished by the coalition) was its failure to get sufficient funding for projects. And in the party political debate, while the Liberal Democrat spokesman gave a figure for the amount of money to be spent on cycling, Labour and the Conservatives would not.

And then we have the issue of what that money would be spent on. The blogosphere is alive with tales of money supposedly to be spent on cycling being misspent.

On sentencing, we note that the reference is to cases of death and serious injury. But addressing danger to cyclists and pedestrians means using law enforcement – not just sentencing – to deter people from endangering others. How does this sit with someone whose best-known other comments on traffic law enforcement are about the supposed unfairness of having speed cameras which are not painted in bright colours?

 

Fine words

Dugher’s stated intentions continue:

“…move cycling and walking from the margins to the mainstream – not only swelling the ranks of people cycling and walking to work, but giving people from all walks of life the confidence to ride a bike. We will ensure that we change how our streets are designed, improve traffic management and enforcement, and encourage people to change their travel behaviours.”

Encouragement: Some recent spring cleaning unearthed my delegate badge to the 1984 “Ways to Safer Cycling” conference, where the then Minister, Lynda Chalker, first stated Government intention to “encourage” cycling. The experience of the last 31 years does not breed confidence in Government’s effectiveness in encouraging cycling.

Lynda Chalker

Improve: Without specified amounts of funding, clear definition of what this will be spent on, “improvement” can mean very little in terms of change.

How our streets our designed: Again, we don’t know what this will mean in terms of design standards and how widespread any new design – or more important, re-design – would be. And cyclists and pedestrians use roads as well as streets.

 

Conclusion

The RDRF has always taken the view that cycling and walking cannot be assessed, let alone genuinely supported as forms of everyday transport, outside the context of wider society and its culture.

Whether in terms of road space re-allocation, general engineering of new and existing roads, engineering motor vehicles, law enforcement and sentencing, land use policy, parking standards etc., that requires changes in transport policy and its implementation which will have an actual (or perceived) impact on motoring.

But everything we have seen from Dugher indicates that he inhabits a car-centred culture bubble. In this bubble drivers are an oppressed minority who must suffer no possible impact on their easily bruised sensibilities, whether policies will have any real adverse effects on their rights or not.

Are we done with the driver-dominated depiction of our destiny from Dugher? As usual, time will tell. My view is that it doesn’t look good.


Categories: Views

New cycleway alongside a new canal

BicycleDutch - 16 March, 2015 - 23:01
It was very clear: hundreds of people had had the same idea: let’s try out the new cycleway alongside the new canal. So the first Sunday it was open, the … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

Killer trees? The meaning of the French programme of felling roadside trees for “road safety”

Road Danger Reduction Forum - 13 March, 2015 - 22:26

(Photo: AFP)

The French are to continue with their programme for felling trees to protect motorists who drive off the road. This story illuminates yet again how “road safety” (The Telegraph piece correctly uses inverted commas) ideology and practice inherently colludes with homicidal rule and law breaking by the motorised, rather than working to reduce danger at source.

This is an old story. In 2001 it was reported  that gangs of chainsaw-wielding motorcyclists (the “Anti-Plane Tree Commando”) were felling roadside trees in the name of “road safety”, and France has had a policy of felling such “obstacles” for some time.

What interest us are the arguments for and against the measure. Against the felling are conservation groups arguing for the beauty of the French countryside. While a noteworthy cause, that is not our principal concern. There is also an argument that shadows from roadside trees have a speed-reducing effect on drivers, and that the presence of trees can otherwise moderate driver carelessness. That’s more to the point, although not our main interest here.

The next argument is that there is no demonstrable effect (as seen through casualty statistics before and after felling) on casualty rates. That is a good point – and rarely comes up in discussion. But again, it is not the main point. After all, the history of “road safety” is history of measures being implemented regardless of the evidence on their success in reducing casualties.

The risk compensation question

Often this is because, as we have seen again and again, drivers adapt to their perceptions of danger (risk compensation) and the “road safety” intervention largely displaces the risk elsewhere. And what is really interesting is how this happens not just in the short term – as displayed in the (lack of) change in casualties – but in the long term. These long-term effects are the penetration of our culture by unstated ideas about what safety on the road is all about. And that is our main point in this piece.

For what we think is really revealing about this episode in the history of “road safety” is the acceptance of, and conniving and colluding with, rule-breaking and illegal driving. Even where drivers are forced off the road into trees by other drivers, the problem for us is essentially that of motor vehicles being driven off the road. This, for those who don’t know, is illegal.

There are two problems with this. In the short term, measures which idiot-proof motoring produce (or at least facilitate) idiot motoring. Whether it be idiot-proofing the vehicle environment (seat belts, crumple zones, side impact protection systems, collapsible steering columns, air bags or ABS brakes), or idiot-proofing the highway environment (anti-skid, longer sight lines, crash barriers, hatching and wider centre lines), the evidence shows a worsening of driver behaviour.

This is through changes which are generally slight enough not to be immediately noticeable, but sufficient to counter much if not all or more of the benefits. This consumption of the safety benefits as performance benefits – as the technical literature calls it – also shifts the danger on to other road users, usually those who are less dangerous to others and more vulnerable.

In the longer term it has less distinct, but crucial, effect in terms of altering general assumptions about what the problem of danger on the road actually is. The deleterious effects of “road safety” practice and beliefs are on our society’s culture. For what really counts is how the commentary on the tree-felling in France hardly ever mentions that motorists are not supposed to drive their vehicles off the road.

 

The Road Danger Reduction opposition

There are exceptions: Chantal Fauché, the president of the Association for the Protection of Road-side Trees, blames successive French governments for creating an anti-tree psychosis among road users. “The politicians prefer to cut down trees rather than take any real action against speeding and drinking, which are the real causes of deaths on the roads,” she said.

But there is hope.

In presentations for some years I have been referring to this school of “road safety” engineering. In a key text (Rattenbury and Gloyns, Traffic Engineering and Control , October 1992) cutting down roadside trees is described as “like putting insulating tape on electric cable”: tree stumps should also be removed “as these can still be aggressive”; fences are “a particularly aggressive form of man-made structure” . Faced with this sense of motorist entitlement – a world where “my way” extends not just to wherever the driver feels like going on the road, but off it as well – the audience reaction is fascinating.

The traditional highway engineers don’t understand what the problem might be. Some may stare at their shoes as gales of laughter sweep from the (few) members of the audience from sustainable transport, cyclist, pedestrian or other road danger reduction organisations. I can report that there is more laughter as the years go on. For whatever reason, a generation including some professionals and campaigners prepared to support road danger reduction as opposed to “road safety” has appeared.

 

CONCLUSION

Errant drivers don’t deserve the death penalty for their violent law breaking – but then neither do their actual or potential victims, particularly if they are using transport modes which pose less of a threat to others.

The decent and humane way of addressing the issue is to reduce danger at source – whether through vehicle or highway engineering, law enforcement or whatever – for the benefit of all road users’ safety. The precise technologies (if any) don’t really matter.

In addition, while violent driver rule and law breaking is not only tolerated but accommodated by this society, arguments which shift blame on to cyclists and pedestrians simply have no basis (See this episode , for example). If careless, reckless, criminally negligent – whatever – behaviour by drivers is accommodated, then it’s unjust to treat that by those with less lethality to others any differently.

What matters is that we understand what the problem is. Doing that means deconstructing the ideology behind roadside tree felling and replacing it with something civilised. It means opposing “road safety” and replacing it with road danger reduction.

 

 

 


Categories: Views

New Bicycle Bridge - Cirkelbroen - Is Coming

Copenhagenize - 12 March, 2015 - 10:24

This is exactly what you like to see on a spring morning in brilliant sunshine in Copenhagen. Yet another bicycle/pedestrian bridge being put into place on Copenhagen Harbour. The Circle Bridge - Cirkelbroen in Danish - is designed by Danish artist Olafur Eliasson and will fix a minor glitch in the mobility network in Copenhagen.


This beautiful but modest bridge will connect Christiansbro and Applebys Square. A subtle, but important link in making the entire harbourfront walkable and bikeable. On the above map you can see the new and coming bicycle bridges in this section of the harbour. Yes, pedestrians use them, too, but in Copenhagen they are referred to as bicycle bridges first and foremost.


The bridge is a gift to the City of Copenhagen from the Nordea Foundation (they're a bank) and it is 32 metres long. For a budget of 34 million kroner ($4.8 million) you get an artistic bridge designed by a famous artist. Interestingly, the entire Bicycle Snake had about the same budget.

But hey, it's a gift so who cares. The form of the bridge is rounded, with no straight line from shore to shore. Normally, the design of a bridge for bicycles involves a straight line. The artistic licence on this bridge creates an aesthetic obstacle course. At this location, it is not a problem. This is not a major bicycle route, nor will it ever be. The main focus in on the recreational use of the harbourfront and creating access. So an exception is totally permissable.


Olafur talks about his creative thoughts in this YouTube video, in Danish. The masts reflect the masts of the many ships in Christianshavn Canal. The bridge is a swing bridge, to allow access from the harbour to the canal and vice versa. The many canal tour boats plying their tourist trade will just scoot underneath.

The bridge was originally meant to be finished in 2012 but the same malady struck it as struck the Innner Harbour Bridge farther east. The company who was building them went bankrupt and things rolled to a halt. The locals in this area of Christianshavn are among the whiniest and least willing to see Copenhagen change, so there was also a delay as some of them tried their case against the bridge in the courts. All water under the bridge now.


Today, work is underway. The components are constructed and are being set into place. Spring is upon us. A new bridge is blossoming. Copenhagen just got a little bit cooler.

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

Danger from behind

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 10 March, 2015 - 10:37

There was an intriguing (and revealing) detail in the thinking behind Lord Scott of Foscote’s strange intervention during a question about cycling safety in the House of Lords last week.

Lord Jordan asked the Minister of State for transport, Baroness Kramer, about the Government’s assessment of a recent YouGov poll, carried out for the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents. Lord Scott saw this as the perfect opportunity to chip in, not with a helpful contribution to the debate, but instead with an evident personal bugbear – people cycling with headphones.

Does the Minister agree that a cyclist’s main protection should be his or her own eyes and ears? The eyes are there to warn against impending danger from the front and the ears ought to assist in identifying impending danger from behind. I cycle regularly from my flat in Camden to Westminster—it used to be Lincoln’s Inn, then it was the Royal Courts of Justice and now it is Westminster—and I am appalled by the number of cyclists who bicycle with earplugs in their ears listening to music. If they listen to music, they cannot possibly hear any danger approaching from behind. There are regulations to ensure the use of lights on bicycles in dark or dingy weather. Should there not also be a regulation to prevent the highly dangerous practice to which I have referred?

I say this is intriguing and revealing because of the form of the response to ‘danger from behind.’

Lord Scott of Foscote’s preferred approach to dealing with ‘danger from behind’ is to bring in legislation banning people from using headphones, so they will have a better chance of… hearing it coming. Great.

Worse still, the mere act of listening to music itself is described – apparently in all seriousness – as ‘highly dangerous’. By the same logic, someone who is deaf daring to cycle on London’s roads would be ‘highly dangerous’.

The misdirection is extraordinary. Listening to music while riding a bike is in no way dangerous, in and of itself. Indeed, I’ve compiled a picture post of all the things Dutch people do while riding bikes that aren’t the least bit dangerous.

But these are activities that, in the UK, are framed as somehow ‘dangerous’, thanks to our lovely way of loading blame onto the vulnerable road user.

What is actually dangerous isn’t a pair of headphones – it is, literally, the thing that’s coming ‘from behind’, be it an HGV, bus, van or car.

What’s dangerous here? Music, or thunderous motor traffic?

The proper response to that danger should either be to provide people cycling with their own parallel route, separate from those vehicles, or to limit the speed, volume and mass of that motor traffic on routes that are shared. This is called ‘Sustainable Safety’, and it explains why Dutch users of bicycles are far, far less likely to be killed or injured than their British counterparts, despite engaging in all kinds of allegedly ‘dangerous’ activity.

Rather than loading yet more responsibility onto the person most at risk, we need roads and streets that are designed to keep people safe, even when they’re engaging in harmless activities.


Categories: Views

My Stolen Bullitt

Copenhagenize - 10 March, 2015 - 08:55

Here we go again.

Out into the backyard this morning with The Lulu, heading for school and then off to work. Something was missing. It was big and red and quite gone. My Bullitt cargo bike was not where it should be. Locked with the mother of all chains in our bike shed. It was stolen.

The first thought was "Damn... my logistics this week are screwed." Second thought... "I liked that bike". You know you live in a mainstream bicycle culture when the thoughts occur in THAT order.

I walked around the backyard in vain hope. Then I noticed that another Bullitt wasn't parked in its normal spot. It was gone, too. Double Bullitt thieving in the dark of the night. In a secure, locked backyard.

Fun having to explain to The Lulu, aged 7, about why people do such things. She's no stranger to bike theft, but still, she was as upset as me, so we had to tackle the subject on the spot.


It's just a bike, I know. But it's a bike that we use alot. For transporting stuff like just two days ago at the recycling centre. For building snowmen. For just getting around town. For all our daily needs.


Someone is going to have to break the news to Tigger this evening. THAT ain't gonna be pretty.

This has happened before. Hey, it's a bicycle culture. Back in 2011: My Bike Was Stolen! Back then the story had a fairytale ending against all the odds and thanks to social media: My Bullitt is Found!

I even got my vintage Swedish bike back once, too.

While I don't harbour hopes of repeating those fairytales, you never know. There are loads and loads of Bullitts in Copenhagen now, compared to back in 2011 but anything could happen.

My bike has some unique markings. Sure, the first thing the bike thief does is remove them, but sometimes they just stick it in another backyard in another part of town for a while. There's a pattern to this cargo bike theft.

So, here are the things that make it recognizable:


- A little sticker on the front.
- A Copenhagenize.eu sticker on the front panel.
- A map of Copenhagen on the cargo bay.


- The handlebars are unlike many Bullitts in Copenhagen. My mother taught me to sit up straight, so they are not low and straight, but high and suitable for a gentleman.
- There is a GoPro base on the front of the bike and, down by the front wheel on the left, there is another GoPro solution. (not pictured)
- On the back fender there are white, reflective chevron stickers, just like on The Lulu's bike.

Sigh.

Hvis du ser cyklen et eller andet sted i København, sms eller ring på 26 25 97 26.

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

A bicycle roundabout that shouldn’t have been built

BicycleDutch - 9 March, 2015 - 23:01
Some weeks ago I cycled just 7 kilometres to the subject of this post. It was nice that going there didn’t involve a three-hour train journey first. Since I had … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

Eliminating the risk of "Dooring": Good cycle infrastructure design keeps cyclists out of the door zone and saves lives

A View from the Cycle Path - 9 March, 2015 - 20:15
Where Alberto Paulo died. Read more about the incident here and here. A few days ago on a road in Melbourne Australia a car door was opened. Alberto Paulo was cycling past the car at the time. He collided with the door, fell into the path of a truck and, sadly, he died. This tragedy could and should have been avoided. Injuries and deaths due to "dooring" incidents are common around the world.David Hembrowhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/14543024940730663645noreply@blogger.com0http://www.aviewfromthecyclepath.com/2015/03/eliminating-risk-of-dooring-good-cycle.html
Categories: Views

Women cycling: “Make it happen”

BicycleDutch - 7 March, 2015 - 23:01
“Celebrate women’s achievements. Call for greater equality. #Make it happen.” This is the theme of the International Women’s Day in 2015, that is celebrated today, 8 March. I always feel … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

Quietways are meaningless if they don’t deal with difficult junctions

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 5 March, 2015 - 19:32

Westminster Council recently announced plans for improvements to Cambridge Circus, at the heart of the West End. Unfortunately these proposals – which do amount to some benefits for people walking in the area – make cycling through this already hostile junction even worse.

The plans primarily involve the addition of a diagonal Oxford Circus-style crossing, across the middle of the junction. Presumably this will run at the same time as the four crossings on the four arms of the junction.

However, they also involve the complete closure of the junction with Moor Street, just to the north of the main junction, which at present is a very convenient (and safe) exit point in and out of Soho. It’s currently cycle-only, on exit.

The cycle-only exit of Moor Street, looking towards Cambridge Circus

This is all the more strange given that Westminster are marking the route of Quietway 19 on these plans. 

Red markings added by me. The proposed route of the Quietway is the red arrow; the Moor Street closure in the red rectangle

Westminster are proposing that the Quietway should take the route indicated in red, before going straight across Cambridge Circus, rather than using the logical cut-through of Moor Street, which will be entirely closed. In fact the diagonal markings represent bike stands, presumably a (futile) attempt to stop people cycling across this area. Rather than closing this road completely, it could of course be turned into an appropriately designed cycle-only cut through, with little detriment to the public space. It’s an easy road to cross, even now.

The current Moor Street crossing. I’m standing in the road to take this picture.

The road could be narrowed down to a cycle-only route, with a raised table, and even an informal zebra, to give pedestrians priority.

A complete closure, however, would mean people will have to cycle some distance up Charing Cross Road, which is hardly an attractive prospect.

Looking north up Charing Cross Road. You will have to cycle in this, on the ‘Quietway’.

Indeed, I cannot see this Quietway route being the least bit attractive for anyone, given that no substantive changes are proposed to the actual junction at Cambridge Circus. Coming from the south, the Quietway (again, indicated by the blue marking) involves crossing from Litchfield Street, onto Charing Cross Road.

Here you are simply dumped into two lanes of motor traffic. There is an ASL there, but good luck reaching it (and I would probably advise you not even attempting to do so).

Charing Cross Road, from Litchfield Street. Again, ‘Quietway’ users will have to cycle out into this traffic, and sit in it, to get through Cambridge Circus.

This is a really horrible junction, a place I can’t imagine the target market of Quietways – alleged novice/nervous cyclists – feeling the least bit comfortable cycling through. Even hardened users like me – used to cycling on these kinds of roads – find it unpleasant and intimidating. Yet the Quietway simply gives up here. It makes the Mayor’s Vision for Cycling description of Quietways sound rather hollow –

a network of direct back-street Quietways, with segregation and junction improvements over the hard parts [my emphasis]

And

Where directness demands the Quietway briefly join a main road, full segregation and direct crossing points will be provided, wherever possible, on that stretch[my emphasis]

Yet instead of ‘segregation and junction improvements over the hard parts’, Westminster don’t appear to be bothering to do anything at all here, simply dumping people cycling into the existing hostile junction, and indeed making their journeys more inconvenient and dangerous than even the current situation, by removing the Moor Street cycle-only route.

What hope is there for the Quietways programme if significant barriers on their routes – junctions like Cambridge Circus – are not being dealt with?


Categories: Views

“Cyclists stay back stickers”: Something you can do

Road Danger Reduction Forum - 5 March, 2015 - 14:48

You might think that a grown human being shouldn’t have to do this – and you would be right, in my opinion. However, since there has been a lot of interest in this issue, we have a duty to follow through. (And anyway life is often about doing things you shouldn’t have to do).

So here goes: We are showing how you can play a part in the removal of stickers that are on the wrong vehicles (or wrongly worded stickers on vehicles for which they were intended) belonging to members of Transport for London’s Fleet Operators Recognition Scheme (FORS).

And it should indicate to TfL that we can cooperate with it.

Vans – which were never intended to have these stickers on them – belonging to FORS members

So, firstly, do read the post here and the follow up UPDATE: “Cyclists stay back” stickers and HGV safety in London to remind yourself what the fuss is about (the detailed history of this episode is in posts referred to in those).

Now you’re up to speed, we remind you that we thought that FORS could have a web site available to refer non-FORS members to explain why it has changed the wording of stickers, and why stickers should not be on vehicles with good driver visibility (cars, minibuses, vans etc.).

FORS (or to be more precise, the organisation running FORS for TfL) don’t think they can do this. They have told us:

Stickers are issued to FORS operators and advice on how to display them is provided in the FORS Standard, through our FORS eNewsletters and on the back of the stickers themselves. Since taking on the concession we simply issue the new blind spot warning signage on behalf of TfL.

That’s a shame – hopefully TfL will try to be more forceful in getting the types of misuse we have referred to changed. We also think it should be able to influence non-FORS members – it wouldn’t take too much effort, and could be part of a campaign of recruitment for FORS

Instead, they’ve asked people to report sticker misuse to them:

 

Anyone who wishes to report the misuse of FORS stickers can do so via the FORS Helpline 08448 09 09 44 or enquiries@fors-online.org.uk. You do not have to be a FORS registered or accredited company to do this.

So this is how you can work with TfL to cut the abuse of stickers. Please remember the following:

  1. The vehicle has to belong to a FORS member. This is indicated by a FORS sticker, or else you can find out if the vehicle belongs to a FORS member here: http://www.fors-online.org.uk/memberslist.php There is no point in complaining otherwise.
  2. Stickers with any type of wording should NOT be on vehicles (belonging to the FORS member) other than the two heavier classes of HGV. They should NOT be on small, low cab lorries, minibuses, taxis, vans or cars. They were never intended for these types of vehicle.
  3. Buses are in the process of having their stickers changed – I would suggest not bothering about this. All bus stickers should have the “Caution: Bus pulls in frequently” wording by May 2015.
  4. Lorries should have the “Blind spot – take care” wording, and only on the rear near side – again, you might want to give operators time to change over to the new stickers.
  5. We raised the issue of “Cyclists stay back” stickers still being on Incident Response and other vehicles belonging to or working with London Underground and London Buses such as :    

   And 

 

FORS said:

“Any issues with London Buses, London Underground and any other parts of TfL should be directed to TfL.”

(We will try and get you a contact.)

Our suggestion is that there is enough to do for now under Number 2 above. Use a photo, date and location and the contact e-mail or phone number, and keep a record of what happens.

So, if you’re unhappy with stickers on the wrong kind of vehicle (albeit just on those of FORS members) here is something you can do about it.

 

Dr Robert Davis, Chai Road Danger Reduction Forum, March 5th 2015

 


Categories: Views

The Copenhagenize Current - Stormwater Management and Cycle Tracks

Copenhagenize - 4 March, 2015 - 13:40

Cloudburst in Copenhagen. July 4, 2011. Photo via DJ Ladze on Flickr. With permission.

Climate change challenges are clearly defined in Copenhagen and in Denmark. 1000 km of dikes protect many parts of the country from the sea, but the new threat is the water from within and from above. Our fate has become being inundated with torrential rain that floods entire neighbourhoods. The existing sewer system is completely inadequate to tackle the volume of water from cloudbursts.

It is something that is a reality for us living in Copenhagen and in many Danish cities and there is a great deal of political focus on it. Just have a look at this bad boy pdf featuring Copenhagen's Climate Adaptation Plan.



There are already many ideas and intiatives on the table in Copenhagen. Much is said and written about creating "Cloudburst Streets", like the one, above. Creating green space that becomes "blue" during cloudbursts and acts as a stormwater delay. Other streets may get a green strip down one side with the same effect.

Fantastic. An excellent excuse to greenify many areas of the city and a perfect way to avoid complaining about removing parking spots and whatnot from last-century minds.

Greenification of streets and creating reservoirs for overflow of rainwater are fantastic additions to the urban landscape. Exploiting the need for water runoff solutions to create more green space in cities is brilliant. Not every street in Copenhagen, however, has the space to accommodate wide, green reservoirs or green channels. What of the many other streets?

Urban space is affected greatly by the new climate reality in Danish cities. It is, however, urban space that can help solve the problem we face.

Which is why we are developing The Copenhagenize Current.


Like many ideas, it starts with personal experience. That's me, on the left, on Istedgade in the Vesterbro neighbourhood, during a cloudburst that flooded the whole 'hood. Farther down the street, there were people kayaking. Like many great ideas, it starts in the bathroom of a bar on a Saturday night. We had been discussing climate adaptation in the office at Copenhagenize Design Company. Standing there one night, I considered the existing, traditional system, attached to the wall and then noticed how space on the floor was being used for "excess water runoff" in case of spray or bad aim. A supplementary system that also assists during mopping and general cleaning.

Couldn't that simple idea be applied to streets? Including my own, where the businesses in the cellar were flooded beyond repair in 2011? What about using existing urban space to design a stormwater runoff system.


Like any good idea spawned in a nocturnal bathroom, you get your kids to help with a Lego model. We have existing space. Copenhagen's comprehensive network of cycle tracks on main streets are there and they're not going anywhere - thank goodness. Real estate that is in use and integral to city life. Bicycles, however, are lightweight vehicles that cause little wear and tear on the infrastructure. Therefore, I thought quite simply, why not create high-volume rainwater trenches underneath the cycle tracks?

That is what The Copenhagenize Current is all about. Using existing space for rainwater managment in extreme weather conditions and, while we’re at it, improving infrastruture for the city’s cyclists.


In a nutshell, The Copenhagenize Current involves digging trenches under existing cycle tracks, implementing precast, concrete containers and covering them with pre-fab, concrete slabs. It is a basic cut and cover operation. On streets without adequate space for wide medians that can be dug out and act as reservoirs for stormwater, the Copenhagenize Current can act as an incredibly efficient, high-volume system to expedite the drainage of streets and lead water away from vulnerable areas. Copenhagenize Design Co.s architect Steve Montebello has worked on the designs and calculations.

We have designed the Copenhagenize Current to lead high-volumes of water through vulnerable neighbourhoods. The Cities of Copenhagen and Frederiksberg have been discussing dredging one of the Lakes - Saint Jørgen's Lake - and lead stormwater to it from surrounding areas so it can act as a temporary reservoir.

This is what it might look like, complete with redesigned lakefront. The Copenhagenize Current can be used to lead water to such a lake reservoir solution.


Using pre-fabricated concrete slabs that can bear the weight of thousands of bicycles - and still allow for crossing motor vehicles at intersectionss - allows for implementation of a number of other features. LED lights can be built into the slabs to further visibility of the cycle track. In addition, heating coils can be embedded in the surface, under the final layer of asphalt, to melt snow and ice during the winter.

Having pre-fab slabs will also provide a smoother ride for cyclists, minimise the risk of potholes and make maintenence of the cycle tracks easier. So much goodness.


The design allows for a maximum amount of drainage grates so that all water at every point can easily fill into the concrete trenches. Grates on the surface will serve to drain water coming from the sidewalk onto the Current. The Current can also work independently of the existing sewer system or together with it, depending on need.


The water flow routes in Copenhagen. Most lead towards the harbour or the sea.

Added Value
Apart from the obvious benefits of the Current, namely the fast removal of stormwater from streets and protecting surrounding neighbourhoods and buildings from flooding, there are points that provide an added value to our design.

Improved Accessibility to Cables
Most cables related to urban life are buried beneath sidewalks and, to a lesser extent, roads. We have considered the idea of creating cable trays on the wall of the concrete trenches to provide easy access to certain types of cables.

Inspiration for Improvement
The design serves an important purpose - stormwater protection for cities. The design can also encourage municipalities that are reluctant about widening existing bicycle infrastructure on certain streets to finally do so by implementing the Current. Gammel Kongevej, with the narrowest cycle tracks in the capital, springs to mind.

Cost-Benefit
Maintenance costs on cycle tracks will fall due to the reduced need for repairing potholes. Better infrastructure encourages cycling, as well. The pre-fab slabs are easily replaced on an individual basis if need be.

Stormwater Fountain
We would love to see the Current end in a pipe that leads under Skt Jørgens Lake or in the harbour. The mouth of the pipe positioned above the surface. During a stormwater surge, the force of the water rushing to the destination will create a fountain. A spray of water - that can be designed - that will celebrate the rain - and the human solutions for tackling it.

Silvacells

Accommodation can be made for pipes leading off of the Current onto side streets or into parks where silva cells under trees and/or vegetation are located.



When the climate - or rather humans - throws you a curve ball, you have to think out of the box. Especially when your box is quickly filling up with water.



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

London. 42 years behind and counting

A View from the Cycle Path - 3 March, 2015 - 23:01
howfarahead("right"); Two years have now passed since London's cycling "czar" told the world that his city was 40 years behind Amsterdam. London's mayor, Boris Johnson, has now been in power for more time than it took to transform the entirety of the Netherlands for cycling, with no substantial progress occurring under his time in office. London's record on achieving press coverage is phenomenal.David Hembrowhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/14543024940730663645noreply@blogger.com0http://www.aviewfromthecyclepath.com/2015/03/london-42-years-behind-and-counting.html
Categories: Views

Picture post – Veenendaal

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 3 March, 2015 - 13:28

By British standards, the Dutch town of Veenendaal has some exceptional infrastructure, but this is really a rather quite unexceptional Dutch town, in many ways. When I mentioned to Dutch people that I intended to visit Veenendaal while I was in the country last year, they couldn’t understand why.

From a distance – through the haze of a Dutch spring morning – it looks rather Soviet.

Veenendaal is the equivalent of a British new town, expanding rapidly from a very small post-war settlement into the large town it is today, which accounts for the rather featureless architecture. It was, however, winner of the Fietsstad (best cycling city/town) award in 2000 – more detail (in Dutch) here.

As it happened, I couldn’t book accommodation in Veenendaal, so I stayed in the nearby town of Wageningen, and only briefly passed through Veenendaal on my way to Utrecht. Nevertheless I hope the pictures and video I managed to take convey a flavour of the town.

The approach from the countryside to the south east is typical. A quiet rural road merges into cycling infrastructure. Here the cycle track passes over a canal, then under the ring road, in one smooth transition.

This is how cycling through and around the town felt – seamless. The path alongside the ring road is of a similar standard.

As are the paths through and around the town.

The road pictured below is access-only for motor traffic – it ends at this point for drivers. Only cycles can progress further, either through the underpass on the right, or the cycle path on the left.

Paths through neighbourhoods are straight and direct, and without interruptions, with priority over roads, and with bridges and underpasses where they are are needed.

The railway station lies (literally) on one of these paths, which connects with it, and passes straight underneath the station platforms.

The town centre itself is a combination of bicycle-only streets (with rising bollards to allow deliveries) -

… and cycle streets, on which motor traffic is allowed to drive, but only for short stretches (and in one direction only) meaning those routes are only used for access by drivers, while forming straight, useful routes for cycling. (Notice the block, however, which has obviously been added because Dutch drivers were not obeying the ‘turn right’ sign).

Here’s a video flavour of this environment. It’s totally safe and inviting.

This really is a network that anyone can use, and would choose to use. When I passed through, at mid-morning, the people cycling in the town were all in normal clothes, going about their business as if they were casually walking. At this time of day, cycling was dominated by the elderly –

and by females, in particular.

It’s not uniformly excellent – some of the roads I cycle on in the town had no infrastructure at all, and felt distinctly British.

It may not be much to look at, but the town felt extraordinarily safe, friendly and peaceful. It’s a model of how the cycling infrastructure in our own new towns could have been constructed, with safe, direct and attractive routes everywhere you need to go, rather than discontinuous bits and bobs that abandon you unexpectedly.

Here’s a final video, showing the continuity of the infrastructure, from the railway station, right out into the countryside.

I’d like to go back to Veenendaal – I just need to persuade my partner it’s a suitable holiday destination…

 


Categories: Views

The Depressing Rise of Squiggletecture - and how to design a bicycle/ped bridge

Copenhagenize - 3 March, 2015 - 12:36
Architectural competitions are great. A flurry of designs emerge from Photoshopland that allow you to gauge the current mood, trends and ideas. If you're lucky, there are a few ooh and ahh moments. We were sitting here at the office looking at the many entries for the open competition for the Nine Elms to Pimlico Bridge in London. A pedestrian and bicycle bridge across the storied Thames. The NEP Bridge competition, on their website, declares they are looking for:

"...exceptional, inspiring designs for a new bridge at the centre of the world’s greatest city. The successful entry will have to win the hearts of Londoners who are tremendously proud of their river and its rich architectural heritage.

There are considerable challenges and engineering feats to overcome. The design must work alongside the cutting edge architecture emerging on the south bank as well as the elegant frontages on the north. The landing points on both sides must integrate sensitively with their surroundings and provide a smooth and safe experience for the pedestrian and cyclists who use it.

This bridge is also a badly needed and valuable piece of infrastructure for London. It has a very strong transport case, will support the city’s growth and has significant funding commitments already in place. Developing an inspiring, beautiful design will allow us to take the project to the next stage and ensure this project comes off the page into reality in a much shorter timeframe."
Ravi Govindia, Leader of Wandsworth Council and co-chair of the Nine Elms Vauxhall Partnership

Architecture and design is a question of taste. What I like might not be what you like. I'm not going to bother talking about which designs appeal to me. Here at the office we started looking at the bridge from the mobility perspective and, as is our lot, from the perspective of citizen cyclists who want to get around their city. Basing our focus on the many bicycle bridges in the Netherlands and Denmark. In particular, Copenhagen has seven new bicycle bridges either just openend or on the way. Leaving the personal taste up to the individual, we looked at pure mobility.

Like Ravi Govindia says, above, it's a badly needed and valuable piece of infrastructure with a strong transport case that will support the city's growth. It has to provide a smooth and safe experience for pedestrians and cyclists.

In the competition brief it says that:
- "...it must be inspiring, elegant and functional in its design and perfect in its execution."
- "Provide a safe and attractive link for pedestrians and cyclists crossign the river, encouraging movement between the two banks."

I'm not really a big fan of architects dabbling in urban planning. So few have the knack for it. So, with that in mind, what is the State of the Architectural Bridge Nation?

Welcome to the Weird World of Squiggletecture
What is up with these squiggles?! It's perfectly fine to think out of the box. Not much gets accomplished if you don't. But there is a clear, and perhaps, disturbing trend which I have hereby dubbed Squiggletecture. There is an alarming number of renderings that have discarded straight lines.

What is a bridge? Isn't it just a vital mobility link from one side of a body of water to another? Isn't that really the baseline for every decent bridge in history? Look at a map of Paris or any other city with bridges. They are straight. From one shore to the other. Providing no-nonsense A to B for the people using it. Only then do differences in design and aesthetics come into play.

Look at the selection of designs, above. A2Bism had a cement block chained to its feet and it was thrown into the river. It's sleeping with the fishes.

You wonder who thinks stuff like this up. Are they all former interns at Foster + Partners? Wherever they cut their teeth on Photoshop, it is clear that these are people who do not ride bicycles in a city - or who didn't even bother trying before they started doodling a bicycle and pedestrian bridge. Let alone people who walk very much on their urban landscape. These are all designs for meandering tourists licking ice cream on a Sunday afternoon. People with nowhere to go and nowhere to be. These aren't designs for a city in constant motion and citizens moving purposely about.

The ramps. Seriously. Look at all those squiggletecture ramps. Round and round we go, slowly descending to the river bank like a flower petal on a summer breeze. Not exactly what any human in a city wants, now is it? Then look at some of those sharp turns on the bicycle ramps. Best Practice for grade and curves on bicycle infrastructure has been around for almost a century. Would it have hurt to spend a little while on Google? Or on a bicycle? Unbelievable.

One of the designs has a fancy waterfall - bringing inspiration to London from.... 1980s Edmonton, Canada. But really, the water is a visual shield to disguise the Danteesque inferno in the middle that forces cyclists to descend to several levels of mobility hell.

Here's a thought. Is this pornographic obsession with ramps a subliminal product of decades of car-centric planning? Is there a little voice embedded in the minds of designers and architects that says, "hey... if you have get up or down from an elevation, use a winding ramp. That's what they do in car parking garages and on motorways..." Has car infrastructure dominated so thoroughly that it's hard to plan for other forms of transport?

Whatever. These designs would be great for a Bridge Over the River Why. London certainly doesn't need anymore of this.

It is apparently easy to draw a (curved) line between Illustrator's improvement of their Draw a Curve function and design renderings. There are only 30,000 hits on this how-to film, but I bet 10,000 are from people responsible for the all the photos about this point.

I can lament the fact that there is so little anthropology at play in architecture but assuming that anybody who walks or cycles in a city is a meanderthal shows a lack of understanding of human nature. Stop with these curves, already. It's Magpie Architecture, nothing more. Bling your badass bridge all you want, just don't force people to alter their urban trajectory because you learned a new trick in Illustrator.

There will always be exceptions to this. The new Circle Bridge in Copenhagen by Olafur Eliasson is one. It is not at a location, however, that is - or will be - a vital mobility link. It's just a modest connector bridge across a canal for cyclists and pedestrians. Any bridge that is expected to get a decent share of cyclists wouldn't be designed like this.

Ah, you might say. What about the Bicycle Snake/Cykelslangen in Copenhagen? Isn't that curvy and all that? It is, indeed.



Firstly, it has to navigate a 90 degree turn around the corner of a building. But you don't force cyclists to do 90 degree turns, so they swept it elegantly around the corner for comfort and safetly. The bridge slopes down to the harbour bridge and, with an expected 16,000 A to B cyclists a day, the graceful curvature nudges people ever so slightly to keep their speed in check on the descent.

The designs for the NEP Bridge, above, just curve for no particular reason. With no regard for getting people where they want to go. Instead, there seems to be a distinct focus on increasing travel times by creating a mobility obstacle course.

Speaking of obstacles, it was surprising to see that designs were actually sent in that just discarded the idea of ramps altogether and rolled their dice on... stairs. Big, fancy, modern bridge across the river of a major world city and you have to navigate stairs to get there. Although some designs feature elevators to further slow you down and one chucked in escalators for bikes.


One of the designs has a small box in the corner showing the Everest slope and upselling it by declaring the intention to implement "Place making across the bridge and its landing position". Just look at the place they imagine making. Ooh. Sticky.

If you want to create a bicycle and pedestrian bridge in 2015, can we agree that stairs and elevators should not be your point of departure?
A lot of the renderings only provide conceptual ideas and it's sometimes hard to see details. Nevertheless, it wasn't all squiggletecture, curve balls and epic climbing expeditions. There are designs that make sense. There seem to be some common denominators. One of them is that the designer/architect has probably actually tried to ride a bicycle in a city. Another is a clear separation between the two user groups.

The design at top left does so rather elegantly, with a cycle track down the middle. As does the design at bottom left. At bottom right is a design similar to what you see over the Brooklyn Bridge. Doesn't make it a good thing, but at least the designer was thinking about A2B and dividing space between cyclists and pedestrians.

I was going to start commenting on which design(s) I like, but then I remembered I said I wouldn't that at the beginning of the article. So nevermind.

What is going to work, regardless of design, is a bridge that provides an intelligent A2B without irritations or detours at either end. A bridge that understands pedestrians and their needs and expectations, absolutely, but also one that does the same for cyclists. Again, that's bascially almost every city bridge ever built prior to the dawn of automobile culture.

There is one sentence in the competition brief, mentioned above, that would benefit from being rearranged like this:

"...it must be functional in its design, perfect in its execution and also inspiring and elegant."

It's a modern lifeline across a river in a world city, not a coffee cup.

Functional design first or don't bother.Copenhagenize the planet. And have a lovely day.
Categories: Views

Winter Cycling Congress 2015 (2)

BicycleDutch - 2 March, 2015 - 23:01
Last week you could see my presentation at the Winter Cycling Congress in Leeuwarden, from 10 to 12 February last. In my post this week, I’d like to show you … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

UPDATE: “Cyclists stay back” stickers and HGV safety in London

Road Danger Reduction Forum - 2 March, 2015 - 18:44

Since our last post we have had our requested information from Transport for London about their Fleet Operators Recognition Scheme (FORS) and the (ab)use of warning stickers. We assess this response and analyse the new HGVs designed to be less dangerous to pedestrians and cyclists and showcased last week.

The TfL Response

We have been informed that:

  1. FORS have emailed operators to say that the regular audits of their compliance with FORS standards will include checking that they have not put stickers on the wrong vehicles. If they have, they could lose their FORS accreditation – which would stop them getting TfL contracts and have some other disadvantages. (We don’t know if this extends to replacing the old stickers with new ones on appropriate vehicles.)

Well, those audits haven’t swung into action yet. Along with the FORS members using stickers on vehicles which should never have had them (minibuses, short lorries with low cabs, taxis and cars) illustrated, a short period of time in inner London today (27/02/2015) reveals these FORS members with stickers on the wrong vehicles:

             

UK Power Network                             (positioning off-side wing mirror properly might help)

              

FloGas                                                                      London Borough of Brent

And this photo of a car belonging to FORS member Apex Lifts was sent to me:

We also have the problem of TfL’s own vehicles working for London Underground and London Buses (shown here):

       

TfL is not actually a member of their FORS, but should it be so difficult for someone in TfL to expect it to behave in accordance with the FORS criteria for stickers?

2. Our contact couldn’t give us a URL on FORS’ website to refer operators to. (Some people working for FORS members, most obviously transport planners/engineers working for London Boroughs, want to be able to refer colleagues in fleet management to the FORS criteria for stickers).

3. Our contact pointed out – as we knew already – that FORS has no jurisdiction over non-FORS members, who can buy stickers from other suppliers. (Incidentally, that’s a good reason for this issue to have not arisen in the first place). However, members of the public could refer operators to a FORS website explaining why FORS is now trying to make sure that no stickers should be on any vehicles other than buses or HGVs, and that even on those vehicles the appropriate wording should be used. Above all, the reasons for this – particularly not having stickers of any sort on minibuses, cars, and taxis – must be explained, as most freight operators won’t understand otherwise.

Our view is that if TfL is serious about cycling as a mode of transport, and the safety of road users near lorries, this should be done.

Meanwhile here are some non-FORS members spotted today in a short period of time in inner London with vehicles which should not have stickers:

A Tyrefix-UK van being tailgated by:

A Brandon Tool Hire lorry with apparently adequate nearside wing mirror and low cab, and a minibus. And some time ago one of my favourites (apologies if stickers have since been removed):

 ALS Environmental

 As stated in our previous post, this is not the main issue with regard to lorry safety in London – but it is indicative of Transport for London’s readiness – or lack of it – to tackle this and other safety issues for pedestrians and cyclists.

Safer construction industry vehicles?…

Last week a major exhibition showcased new lorry designs for the construction industry.  There is a particular problem with construction industry HGVs: vehicles like tipper trucks have been disproportionately involved in cyclist deaths compared to other HGVs, and TfL has taken some steps towards addressing this through support for CLOCS.

Below you can see just some of the vehicle designs which make it easier for lorry drivers to be able to see around them and – often less remarked on – smaller gaps between the vehicle body and the road surface, reducing the chances of pedestrians and cyclists being dragged under lorry wheels.

       

O’Donovan waste                                                                  Mercedes-Benz design

Smaller blind spots

So does this indicate that TfL are properly addressing the HGV safety problem? A lot of what was said is encouraging: Sir Peter Hendy (Commissioner of Transport for London) supported law enforcement to stop unfit drivers, “relentlessly hounding” bad operators, committing to reducing motor traffic capacity on new highway infrastructure for cyclists, looking at changing the concentration of freight in the morning rush hour (while aware of the problem that this can be a muck-shifting exercise which pushes freight on to people outside these hours), and above all:

TfL are working towards a point where we’ll say if you want to work on one of our sites it’s got to be one of these – we’re not very far away from this. We’ll do everything we can to make this happen.”

Other speakers showed an awareness of issues beyond the traditional highway authority thought envelope: moving the construction industry’s health and safety focus on to road risk, increased rigour in procurement criteria for freight operators, pushing for more sophisticated technology on vehicles, both new and for retro-fit, retiming lorry delivery, etc

All of which looks good: moves in the right direction prompted not least by the activities by our friends and partners Cynthia Barlow (Roadpeace) and Kate Cairns (See Me Save Me)  Unfortunately, there are important problems to be considered, and our duty is to do just that.

The first problem is specifically about construction industry vehicles (such as tipper trucks). When considering Sir Peter Hendy’s comments above, we have a commitment towards a requirement for the safest lorry design to be a feature of HGVs on construction sites operating for TfL sites: what about all the others in London? And when will this be required?

 

…and lorries in general

We also note that in the concluding comments to the conference by CLOCS chairman Brian Weatherly, he said, When will CLOCS’ work be completed? Volvo has Vision 2020 – no one will be killed by a Volvo HGV in 2020. It would be an excellent goal for everyone in CLOCS to adopt. If we could achieve that we would know CLOCS has done its job.”

Here at RDRF we have something of a general problem with Volvo. We point out the adverse effects on other road users of drivers feeling that they have to less to worry about because of increased crashworthiness of their vehicle. And Volvo have historically been synonymous with greater car crashworthiness.

But let’s just focus on events last year: for this sorry story of blocking the introduction of safer lorries read this in The Times. Essentially, under pressure from Renault and, yes, Volvo, the French and Swedish governments blocked manufacturers from implementing more aerodynamic lorry designs.

Such redesign also benefits cyclist and pedestrian safety by having lower cabs with more driver visibility, and skirting and/or lower vehicle and cab bodies to reduce chances of being dragged under lorry wheels.

Since these lorries won’t be on the roads now until after 2020, one does rather wonder about Volvo’s Vision 2020.

 

An aside: The recent history of lorry design

At this point I should refer to a meeting I had at Transport for London (with my colleague from the London Boroughs Cycling Officers Group). This was at a time (I think 2002) before The Times started pushing for cyclist safety, when we had to fight hard to get anybody to take notice of the HGVs/Cyclists issue. We were met by, among others, a freight industry representative, who explained the 10-year cycle of lorry design, manufacture, sale and use.

Now, it was a while ago, and I may have got the details wrong (and they may have been inaccurately conveyed to us) but my understanding was this: Lorry manufacturers take about ten years to design, implement and manufacture a model, and this will then be bought and used by operators for another ten years before they buy the next model. We were told – as I recall – that the next design/manufacture cycle would start in 2010. New models would come in then, and by 2020 almost all HGVs would have the safer and more aerodynamic characteristics shown above.

But they didn’t. The episode recounted above – where RDRF joined others to lobby the EU to allow (that is just allow, let alone make mandatory) safer lorry design – indicates that the cycle we are now in ignored all the evidence about the importance of lorry design for cyclist and pedestrian safety in the 1990s and early 2000s, as well as the desire of operators to have more fuel-efficient vehicles.

 

The HGV problem in context

We have to say something else about the HGV issue. There is a specific problem of safety posed by HGVs for other road users, and in urban areas this is a particular problem for pedestrians and cyclists. I have dealt with the various ways this problem should be addressed here as follows:

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

Highway engineering which could eliminate potential collisions of all severities, and also do so with collisions involving all motor vehicles and create safer space. This is restricted to specific locations, and is less relevant for pedestrians, so attention is also needed to engineering HGVs so that drivers can be aware of who and what is around them. HGVs should also be engineered so that it becomes far more difficult (or impossible) for pedestrians or cyclists to be crushed, by skirting HGVs or otherwise reducing the gap between road surface and the body of the vehicle. Safety standards on HGVs can also be enforced by the police. Swift and high quality post-crash investigation, and the threat of deterrent sentencing for unsafe HGV operation are required. Construction sites and operators can be subject to appropriate procurement procedures to push forward relevant measures. Additional technologies such as black box recorders and pedestrian/cyclist-activated vehicle braking systems should be introduced.

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

For further discussion see the post by Bill Chidley here  with RDRF comments below.

As at least half the cyclists killed in London are now killed in incidents where they go under the wheels of HGVs, plainly this is a specific issue for sustainable transport and road danger reduction in urban areas and London in particular. The relatively small number of vehicles, and the professional nature of their drivers, mean that there is less excuse for not dealing with this problem. However, it is worth remembering its place within the spectrum of problems, even specifically for cyclists.

The table is based on Table 1 of TfL’s current Cycle Safety Action Plan: Ratio of cyclist KSI (Killed and Serious Injury) injury and collision involvement by mode share (2010-12) Other vehicle involved Average yearly number of KSI collisions involving a cyclist (2010 to 2012) Ratio of involvement to mode share %age involvement Car 1140 0.9 72 Light Goods Vehicles 176 0.9 11.1 Taxi/ private hire 75 4 4.7 Medium and Heavy Goods Vehicles (over 3.5T) 74 1.4 4.7 Bus 72 2.3 4.5 Motorcycle 51 1.4 3.2 TOTAL KSIs on average per year 2010 – 2012 1588 Source: STATS19 and Department for Transport data

The fact is that less than 5% of cyclist KSIs (98% of which are not deaths) involve lorries. A similar fraction exists for slight injuries, and probably near misses. (The proportions for pedestrians are even lower). Lorry danger is therefore a highly visible iceberg tip of danger on the roads in London, to cyclists and to other road users. And of that, danger from tipper trucks – essentially industrial equipment primarily used off-road – is just a part.

 

Conclusion

Transport for London has made an important step forward in addressing lorry danger in London through its support for CLOCS. Our concern is that while impressive efforts can be made with high profile issues (the “big and shiny” syndrome), its bureaucracy can get wrong-footed on a more mundane and routine issue. While the issue of stickers on wrong types of vehicle is of little importance in itself – although the large numbers of inappropriately stickered vehicles on London streets do send an unhelpful message, especially to drivers – it has reminded us about more general problems TfL has on sustainable transport in particular and cyclist safety in general.

We have spent plenty of time on www.rdrf.org.uk drawing attention to TfL’s wrong and dangerous targets for road safety , its inability to measure danger on the road properly, and its poor record on cyclist safety apart from some work on lorry danger . Then we have all the usual transport establishment issues about the methods of cost-benefit analysis (see these useful comments)  ; bias in law enforcement  ; the inequitable costs (to the user) of motoring compared to other modes, particularly cycling; a failure to consider areas – such as adequately accessible bicycles, cycling equipment or secure and convenient home parking – which affect the take-up of cycling; and “ road safety” ideology which blurs the difference of rule-breaking between motorised and non-motorised road users.

Partially addressing the use of one type of the most threatening type of vehicle involved in half the cyclist deaths (but less than one in twenty injuries) is welcome.

But only a very small part of what needs to be done.

 

 

 


Categories: Views

World's First Automated Underground Bike Parking

Copenhagenize - 25 February, 2015 - 19:00

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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





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


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

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



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

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

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

Check out their stuff on the LoMinck website.

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

Top Ten Ways to Hate on Pedestrians

Copenhagenize - 25 February, 2015 - 12:54

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

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

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

1. Pedestrian Buttons


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

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

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

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

3. Pedestrian Flags


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

6. Lull Them With Distraction

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

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

7. Instill Fear


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


Make them run. For their lives.

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

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

9. Exploit Children

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

10. Fake Your Concern


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

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

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