Views

The Copenhagenize Desire Lines Analysis Goes to Amsterdam

Copenhagenize - 5 September, 2014 - 21:46


Nine intersections. 19,500 cyclists. Nine hours. All in a city considered as a model for many urban planners. The Copenhagenize Design Company Desire Lines analysis tool headed south to Amsterdam to study bicycle user behaviour and how it interacts with - or is affected by - urban infrastructure.

In ca lose collaboration between Copenhagenize Design Co. and The University of Amsterdam in the guise of Marco te Brömmelstroet - and for the City of Amsterdam - nine intersections in the city were filmed during the morning rush hour in order to complete the world's largest study of bicycle user behaviour. We're pleased to reveal the results of our study and showcase some of the data, analyses and desire line maps. 
The bicycle infrastructure in the City of Amsterdam is rather different from the typology used in Copenhagen ,where we did the first anthropological studies of the cyclists - The Choregraphy of an Urban Intersection, and others. It was therefore interesting for us to observe the trajectories and behavioiur of Dutch cyclists crossing over-crowded intersections. The Desire Lines are more numerous and more complex, while in Copenhagen, the vast majority of bicycle users stick to the rules and react positively to the infrastructure which is more uniform and simplified. It has been fascinating for us to be able to compare the two cities, as well. Do we really have the World's Best Behaved Cyclists in Copenhagen or can the Dutch compete with that?


Monitored intersections in Amsterdam
The behaviour of Amsterdam cyclists is a recurring theme in public debate in that city. In many of these discussions, the majority of cyclists are deemed to display a strongly anarchistic attitude – e.g. ignoring red lights, cutting corners, etc. Our Desire Lines tool is the perfect way to figure out if these perceptions are true or false and to feed the debate with precise data. The study demonstrates how the cyclists respect the infrastructure as well as exploring whether or not the infrastructure fits the behaviour of the cyclists and whether there is room for improvement.
In our study we address the general research question: How do Amsterdam cyclists interact with design, each other and other road users and how do they experience it all? Nine intersections were allocated to a group of three first-year sociology students from the University of Amsterdam. They used our tried and tested methodology called the “Desire Lines Analysis Tool” and filmed the intersections. Then they went to work counting the cyclists and observing/studying the behaviour. In addition, the students conducted some interviews to gain insight into the experiences and emotions of cyclists at these intersections. Cyclists were classified as Conformists, Momentumists and Recklists - as they always are in our Desire Lines studies.
Here are the data collected at the intersection named Nassauplein (mapping of the trajectories of the cyclists + classification of the cyclists).
Behaviour of the cyclists at the intersection Nassauplein

To read about the eight other intersections, you're welcome to download the full report here - - it's a pdf and it is 10 mb. 
At the end of the analysis of the nine intersections, here are our conclusions:
Generally, the outcome of the Desire Lines Analysis suggest that the infrastructure at these crossings is under severe pressure by the sheer number of cyclists in peak hour traffic. As a result, the limitations of these infrastructure are challenged every day by the users.
Behaviour of the cyclists at the 9 intersections in Amsterdam
Although 87% of all 19,500 cyclists conform to all rules, there is a significant group that follows shortcuts, use sidewalks, adapts right-of-way rules or ignore traffic lights. Below, we also offer some more detailed reflections:
  • The nine intersections are very crowded. The video material is from February, so we expect even more cyclists in spring and summer
  • The general impression is that traffic is highly chaotic during rush hour but there were no serious conflicts observed
  • Most cyclists are used to this chaos, but many are also irritated by it. Even to the extent that they tend to avoid it by deviating from the existing infrastructure
  • The width of the cycle tracks does not fit the numbers of cyclists during rush hour. In most directions and on most crossings there is continuous ebb and flow
  • There is a significant lack of waiting space at the traffic lights. This is especially the case for left turning traffic
  • The large majority of cyclists are “conformists” but the number of “momentumists” and “reck­lists” are substantial. Most crossings have a large number of different Desire Lines:
- around the «vluchtheuvels» (small "islands" at each corner)
- in the middle of the intersection when the traffic light is green for left turning traffic
- on the sidewalks (to cut corners for right turning) or on islands and the space between the car and bike lanes
- cycling in a wrong direction down a bi-directional track to avoid waiting at the traffic light when there is a long line

Cyclists are more likely to bend traffic rules when the intersection is crowded. They are then almost “forced” to bend the rules. This rule bending behaviour often resolves apparent capacity problems or repairs ineffective right-of-way situations.


With this analysis we have developed a quite substantive set of systematised knowledge on cyclists’ behaviour in Amsterdam. There is a need to look at these crossings with these insights to develop design solutions that meet this new reality, in which cyclists are the dominant mode.

Despite the impressive level of bicycle infrastructure, cyclists - and pedestrians - are still subject to an all-dominant car-centric traffic planning culture inherited from the previous century. Even in the amazing bicycle city that is Amsterdam, cyclists are second-class citizens squeezed into another traffic culture and - like Copenhagen - not enough is being done to accommodate their mode of transport. A radical change of mentality in bicycle planning is long overdue.
Copenhagenize the planet. And have a lovely day.
Categories: Views

Mythology in the reporting of an injured cyclist

Road Danger Reduction Forum - 5 September, 2014 - 12:34

Here’s how to do a bit of reporting which is not just sloppy, but (no doubt unwittingly) contains important prejudices about cycling.

Here we go:

“SOARING”

A City worker who helped save the life of a seriously injured cyclist has called on people to sign up for “invaluable” first aid training as the number of similar accidents soars. “

Now, what is this “soaring”?

More than 4,600 people were injured last year — an increase of more than 20 per cent on the year before.”

Firstly, this includes the category known as “Slight Injuries” – which is a highly dubious category to use because of the high rate of non-reporting. Trying to assess a trend (what you need to do if “soaring has – or has not – occurred) involves using the category known as “Serious Injuries”. (Sometimes this “SI” category is called “KSI” to include the 5% or so of Killed and Seriously Injured that result in death before 30 days.)

And has this number “soared” when looked at over a period of years? And looked at in terms of the rise in cycling in London since 2000, has the RATE of Serious Injuries per distance, time or journey travelled “soared”? Actually, it has gone down.

 

The rate for the job?

Department of Transport figures reveal a huge increase in cycling injuries in London, which has the highest cycling casualty rate in Britain.

Er, no. Looked in terms of a rate which involves exposure (per journey, time travelled or distance covered) the cycling casualty rate has declined significantly since 2000 and is probably the LOWEST cycling casualty rate in Britain. So you have got it the wrong way round.

Is this important? Yes, it is – because this way of thinking is inherently biased against having more people cycling. As far as these characters are concerned, the Netherlands – with a cycling  casualty rate about half as high as the UK, but with far more cycling casualties because they have 15 – 25 times more cycling, has a WORSE casualty “rate” (per head of the population) than the Uk does!

 

Essential?

Gemma Tinson had done a St John Ambulance course months before coming to the rescue of the woman who fell off her bike in Richmond Park. ..: “It should be essential for cyclists in London to learn first aid” (my emphasis)

Now, no doubt obtaining First Aid knowledge can be a very socially responsible thing to do. For everybody. But why cyclists? Why not pedestrians (many of us have seen people collapsing in the street and requiring medical help when walking). Or motorists, who are involved in collisions where people get hurt in rather greater numbers than cyclists falling off their bikes, as in the case in this story?

I’m not nit picking here. It just seems that this story is redolent of the “cycling is dangerous” mythology. Remember:

  • Cycling is less dangerous to others than driving is – by a long chalk.
  • Cycling is not inherently hazardous.
  • A lot is needed to be done to reduce danger to cyclists – and other road users – by reducing danger at source, from motor vehicular traffic. But the casualty rate for cyclists in London is low, and has declined. Say so, if it has.

Getting danger reduced for cyclists – and others – should be the objective. This means understanding what is going on and not relying on common mythology.

“The community”

Another bit of mythology

Ashley Sweetland MBE, of the St John Ambulance cycle response unit, said: “We know the London cycling community looks out for each other, which is why we want to equip as many cyclists as possible with the first aid skills to help when the unexpected happens.

What is this “cycling community”? I’m proud to have been a member of cycling clubs and organisations for 35 years. It’s great. But it is largely a sporting or cycle touring community. If we want cycling to be normalised as a form of everyday transport, it will not be a “community” and more than there is a “walking community”.

 

POSTSCRIPT:

I haven’t actually given an analysis of the latest figures because I happen to be in a hurry today. But why don’t you have a look at the figures as gathered by transport for London? As the journalist should have done

 


Categories: Views

The E-W and N-S Superhighways – major change, that needs to be supported

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 5 September, 2014 - 10:18

So the big story this week is obviously the launch of the consultations on two new ‘Superhighway’ routes in London. One running from Elephant & Castle towards Kings Cross; the other from the Westway to Tower Hill.

Undeniably, there are problems with these plans.

The whole scheme is composed almost entirely of two-way tracks on one side of the road, which aren’t really appropriate, except in some locations – for instance, along the Embankment, and Constitution Hill. Two-way tracks present more danger with turning conflicts, and they are more inconvenient, as often the road will have to be crossed to make a simple left turn onto the tracks.

What Transport for London call ‘early start’ signals (but in reality are ‘always stop’ signals), as employed at Bow roundabout, feature in many places on these Superhighways, particularly around Parliament Square. This design still isn’t good enough, mainly because it’s inconvenient, and can be confusing.

Turns on and off the Superhighways appear to be being achieved through a formalisation of the ‘Copenhagen turn’, with turns being made in two steps. Again, this isn’t really good enough.

Making turns off the track, outside TfL’s headquarters, via a waiting area

And in many places the designs have been overcomplicated, with an excess of signals and markings that shouldn’t really be necessary. Parliament Square in particular looks very messy.

BUT (and it’s a big but) these plans are undeniably bold, and I think they should be strongly supported.

This is for a number of reasons.

As Rachel Aldred has argued in her excellent blog on these Superhighways -

the hard stuff is not digging up and remaking roads, not in a transport rich city like London. And even elsewhere resources appear if something’s a priority. The hard stuff’s the politics – getting support for change.

And this is change – big change. Although these routes are far from perfect, to me they represent a real attempt to actually prioritise cycling as a mode of transport, and on main roads too, something that we haven’t ever really seen anywhere in Britain. There are direct routes across junctions that are currently truly, truly horrible to cycle across, even for someone who is experienced, and familiar with cycling in London. Tower Gateway has a straight, segregated route across it, connecting with Superhighway 3, achieved by completely removing motor traffic from Shorter Street.

Likewise, the sliproad from Blackfriars Bridge to the Victoria Embankment is being turned into a bicycle-only route, which is fairly extraordinary, given the protests and arguments about this location, which fell on deaf ears for so long. The roads involved are the ones that I have been suggesting could easily accommodate cycling infrastructure, if the political will was there. And now that is happening.

In addition, as far as I can tell, every single bus stop in the these plans is bypassed, with the cycle track passing behind them. That means no interactions with buses, whatsoever – no fudged ‘wide bus lanes’ that are alleged to be suitable for sharing. This is hugely significant.

Indeed, overall, the impression given from the plans is that TfL been thinking hard about who they are designing for.

One of my pet moans, for a long time, has been the ‘dual network’ approach, that involves minimal change on the carriageway for those people already confident to cycle on busy roads, coupled with inadequate and inconvenient pavement cycling for those who aren’t. I think it’s fair to say that these Superhighway designs, whatever their flaws, are very different from that approach. There is clear intent to create something that is suitable for everyone, infrastructure that anyone on a bike would be happy to use, be they someone in lycra on a racing bike, or a very young and wobbly child.

And there are major benefits for pedestrians, too. Motor traffic will be further away from the footways, which means walking will be safer, quieter and more pleasant. The carriageways are being narrowed, too, which means shorter distances at crossings. And I strongly suspect that cycling on the footway will be a thing of the past along these routes – no more people cycling along the pavement on the Embankment, for instance, because they will have a much better alternative.

The problems with these designs can, and should be, ironed out. The ‘always stop’/’early start’ signalised junctions should be upgraded to full separate signalisation of bicycle and motor traffic movements, and I think this could be easily achieved at a later date, even if the designs go ahead as they stand. Likewise, most of these roads are so enormous that the two-way track approach could be adapted, with another track on the other side of the road, and the two-way track reverting to one-way.

And there are minor details that could be got right now. The tracks should be built properly, with shallow, forgiving angled kerbing to maximise effective width. Some of the signalisation simply doesn’t need to be there.

Do we really need stop lines, and the expense of signals here, for simple bicycle-only movements, when give way markings would work perfectly adequately?

These are comments that should be made in responses to the consultation.

But the overall scheme has to be supported. If these Superhighways are built, they will undoubtedly be tremendously popular. The kind of people you see cycling on the Embankment during Skyrides – absent for the rest of the year – will be able to do so, whenever they want.

These conditions will be embedded, permanently

These tracks would be just the start, of course. They will only cover a tiny, tiny fraction of the routes that people will actually want to use in central London. But they will drive change elsewhere. Roads that connect up to these Superhighways will be the next obvious targets. Even in this consultation TfL themselves state that their ‘wish is for segregation’ on Westminster Bridge – not part of this scheme, but an obvious connector to it.

And more broadly, the Superhighways will make the case for cycling elsewhere in London, and indeed across the rest of the country. They will show that it can be done, and that when you make conditions right, cycling is an obvious mode of ordinary people, and that it will make a tremendous difference to the quality of our roads and streets. That has to happen.


Categories: Views

Cycling in the rain

BicycleDutch - 3 September, 2014 - 23:01
That was asking for trouble, when I showed you the summer was hotter than usual this year. It started to rain from that very moment and it has rained for … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

‘Setting back’ cycling – why have the Transport Research Laboratory got junction design so wrong?

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 3 September, 2014 - 02:29

So the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL) have published their findings into the safety of cycle track design at junctions – or, more specifically, Trials of segregation set-back at side roads [pdf], to give the report (PPR703) its full title. This report was commissioned by TfL.

I’m going to go into some detail about it, but in short -

  • Good (Dutch) junction design is completely ignored by this trial.
  • Confusing give way markings are employed – Dutch markings, employed the wrong way round.
  • The report recommends ending cycling tracks, and ‘merging’ cyclists with motor traffic, some 20 metres from junctions on roads with higher speeds.
  • It then suggests that this ‘merging’ corresponds to Dutch design practice.

It’s worryingly bad.

From the report summary -

This report provides an overview and interpretation of the key findings from four trials carried out by TRL on behalf of Transport for London (TfL) to investigate the effects of ‘setting-back’ a kerb-segregated cycle track at different distances from a side-road junction.

What do TRL mean by “‘setting-back’ a kerb-segregated cycle track”? There is an explanation in one of the photographs in the report -

Explanation of ‘set-back distance’. (Note also the curious markings on the outside of the cycle lane)

Clearly, ‘set-back distance’ is being used to refer to the distance from the junction at which the cycle track becomes a cycle lane. So, this TRL report investigates the different consequences of different ‘set-back distances’ – i.e., how far from the junction the kerb separation ends.

And nothing else.

No other forms of junction design incorporating cycle tracks (designs we’ll come to in a moment) are investigated.

Why was this study so narrowly focused? The explanation comes in the summary -

A review of existing international guidance and research on approaches for taking cycle lanes across side-roads identified two distinct design strategies. Either:

• Cyclists are returned to the carriageway level at least 20m before the junction, so as to establish their presence in the traffic, or
• Segregation is brought right up to the junction (typically <=5m) and very tight geometry (and often raised crossings) used to keep turning speeds down and encourage vehicles to cross the cycle lane at close to 90 degrees. [my emphasis]

Amazingly, these two strategies – ending the segregation more than 20m from the junction, or ending it 5m or less from the junction – are the only two distinct design approaches TRL identify, and consequently the only ones they investigated.

Both these strategies involve turning a cycle track into a cycle lane at the junction. The only difference is the point at which that change occurs. Other design approaches – those commonly employed in the Netherlands at side roads – have been completely ignored. These include -

Continuing a cycle track through a junction, at the same raised level, alongside a continuous footway. Not investigated by TRL.

Setting back the cycle track from the carriageway, providing an area in which motorists can wait, both to enter the main road (without obstructing the cycle track) and also to pause, yielding to people cycling. Not investigated by TRL.

Cycle track set back from carriageway, without continuous footway

Set back cycle track, on a hump, with continuous footway.

This technique can also be employed with two-way tracks; again, set back from the carriageway, with a waiting area, and good visibility as cyclists and motorists cross perpendicularly. Not investigated by TRL.

To repeat (I can’t labour this enough) – these kinds of techniques are completely ignored by the authors of this TRL report. The only two ‘distinct design strategies’ investigated amount to nothing more than on-carriageway cycle lanes across junction mouths, with no investigation of designs that continue a cycle track through the junction at a raised level, with continuity, with or without ‘set back’ from the carriageway.

This despite the fact that Britain itself already has a few isolated examples of reasonably well-designed cycle tracks across junctions, that correspond approximately to Dutch design. One of them – this one – is only two miles from the Transport Research Laboratory!

With the proper use of ‘set-back distance’ helpfully included

I can’t begin to understand this oversight.

So the results of this trial are really very narrow in scope, and essentially amount to nothing more than discussion of where it is best to revert to an on-carriageway treatment on the approach to a junction.

The trial examined ending the physical segregation 30 metres from the junction, up to 5 metres from the junction, in 5 metres increments. The ‘tightest’ geometry still involved the cycle track ending 5 metres before the side road.

The study found that with the kerb divider continuing closer to the junction (but still 5 metres from it), drivers turned into the side road more slowly, and crossed the cycle lane (for this is what it is, and how it is described in the report) at an angle closer to perpendicular.

Surprisingly, perhaps, it seems that drivers in the trial actually preferred segregation that continued closer to the junction. This was even the case for drivers of goods vehicles who – you would think – would prefer a less tight geometry, to manoeuvre their larger vehicles.

The preferred set-back distance for 62% of the [goods vehicle] drivers (who expressed an opinion) was one that maximises segregation from cyclists on the approach to the junction

Yet -

cyclists were divided in preferences for short or long set-back distances. The differences reflect different views on the benefits of segregation, including cyclists’ concerns about being able to position themselves for passing the junction and that drivers wouldn’t give way when turning across their path.

‘Position themselves for passing the junction’ – i.e., compensate for poor design. These findings are reflected in this table -

While a clear majority of drivers preferred separation continuing as much as possible, a large number (nearly half) of the cyclists in this trial preferred to ‘join traffic’. The report comments

this suggests that cyclists may feel safer if the segregation ends before the junction so they can merge with the traffic before the turn.

So a large proportion of cyclists in this trial clearly like the idea of ‘merging’ with motor traffic before a junction. (At this point it is worth asking whether these cyclists are representative of the general population, or instead representative of a small subset of the population, namely the ‘traffic-tolerant’.)

However, on the other hand, the motorists in the trial didn’t really understand what on earth was going on with the concept of ‘merging’.

The purpose of the segregation set-back was not well understood [by motorists] – most believing it to be to make it easier for vehicles to turn [!], only a few referred to it providing space for cyclists and drivers to adjust to each other before the junction.

Could it be that the idea of ‘merging’ people cycling and driving isn’t all that intuitive?

This suggests that there is a lack of understanding amongst drivers of how cyclists will behave at the junction.

Well, quite.

Amazingly, however, this ‘merging’ technique is actually recommended by this TRL report on roads with higher speeds.

The findings from the off-street trials suggest that two different strategies can then be considered:

  1. Bring segregation very close to the turning (<5m), sufficient to reduce the turning radius and so reduce turning speeds and position turning vehicles at right angles to the path of cyclists (this is similar to the principles behind the use of ‘continental geometry’ at roundabouts). This approach would be most appropriate where geometry is already tight and vehicle speeds comparably low, or where other measures to achieve this will also be implemented.
  2. End the segregation at least 20 m from the junction, giving cyclists sufficient space to re-introduce themselves into the traffic flow and for drivers to adapt to their presence. This would be more suitable where traffic speeds are higher and tight turning geometry is not considered to be appropriate.

Before then stating

These two situations are consistent with the two distinct design approaches adopted in the design practice sin countries such as Denmark and the Netherlands

Well, I’m sorry, I have never seen anything like this in the Netherlands, especially not on roads with higher speeds. It’s just terrible design.

One of the recommended designs from this TRL study.

And we know that this is bad design, because Transport for London have built the junctions on Stratford High Street like this, with predictable consequences.

The final boggling issue are those markings! - which make no sense whatsoever. Here’s how the report describes them -

The surface of the cycle lane was coloured green throughout… additionally using triangular give-way markings to highlight the cycle lane for turning vehicles. These markings are not an approved road marking in the UK, however somewhat similar versions are used in the Netherlands as a ‘give way’ marking.

‘Somewhat similar’ – except completely the wrong way round.

The Dutch ‘Give Way’ marking in action.

The Dutch use ‘sharks teeth’ as a give way marking, but crucially with the ‘sharp’ bit of the teeth pointing at the people who should be giving way. This trial, however, has managed to get this completely wrong, with the ‘teeth’ pointing at the people on the cycle track. Is it any wonder people driving didn’t understand this marking?

This failure to get even the basics right is symptomatic of the general failure of this trial to assess proven Dutch junction design in a British context. How is it possible for the Transport Research Laboratory to have what seems to be absolutely no clue about how the Dutch design well at junctions?

What on earth is going on?


Categories: Views

It’s not 1934

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 2 September, 2014 - 10:50

Last year I wrote a long piece about (British) ideological opposition to cycle tracks alongside roads; opposition flowing from the notion that such provision represents a ‘surrender’ of the road network.

People making this argument claim a variety of things. They claim such an ‘abandonment’ of the road network would be bad policy. Motor vehicles would have won; driving will be easier, and we will have failed in our overall goal of attempting to reduce driving and increase cycling.

Or, they claim that drivers – once people cycling have separate provision – will behave with a greater sense of entitlement, seeing the road network as ‘theirs’. Or, they claim that drivers won’t be used to driving around people cycling, with similar negative consequences for the latter group.

These arguments don’t stand up to scrutiny, yet, as I wrote in that previous post,

opposition to cycle tracks in the UK, of this ideological form, persists. This opposition is not new; it has a long history, dating right back to the 1930s, a time when cycle tracks were, intermittently, being proposed alongside some arterial roads in Britain. Most strikingly, the arguments advanced at the time have hardly changed in the intervening eighty years.

One of  the oddities of these kinds of arguments is an acceptance that the motorway network is unsuitable, and unusable, by people cycling, yet the rest of the road network should be retained as being ‘for cycling’. That will often includes dual carriageways and busy inter-urban A-roads which present, to all intents and purposes, just as much danger to people cycling along them as the motorway network. Building cycle tracks alongside these roads would constitute a ‘surrender’.

The explanation for this difference in attitude lies in the fact that the motorway network was built explicitly for motorists, while the rest of the road network predates (for the most part) the motor age, even if it has been changed and upgraded out of all recognition, often closely resembling motorways. These are the roads that cannot be ‘surrendered’, especially as the motorway network (in the eyes of cycle campaigners of the era in which motorways started being built) was constructed to ‘take’ the motor traffic away from it.

Unfortunately these attitudes about the road network are fossils; they are relics of an earlier era, an era when the motor vehicle was only just starting to explode as a popular mode of transport. And yet they persist.

My petition calling for the introduction of Sustainable Safety on Britain’s roads – which will involve separate provision for cycling on main roads carrying traffic at 50mph, or higher – has attracted comments of this ilk.

Your proposal accepts the motor centric status quo and asks to remove active travelers from our road network which may not be feasible in many circumstances

And

I think volunteering to lose rights is a disastrous thing to do from a position of weakness. I absolutely don’t think that offering to get off roads will lead to the powers that be supplying a radical provision of adequate alternatives.

I also think that pushing the idea that cyclists don’t belong on (our) roads near motorists is asking for trouble when we will have to be near motors on most roads. Going along with getting cyclists out of what drivers may think is “their way” is a very dodgy thing to aim for.

The philosophy that lies behind these kinds of comments is that, one day, some day soon, the road network could become suitable for people cycling, if only we could get drivers to behave, or if only we could slow them down, or if only we would enforce the law properly, or if only we could reduce motor traffic.

In short – if only we got tough enough on driving. 

Typifying these attitudes, in a comment referring to this picture

of a father and daughter cycling alongside the main road into Gouda from the A12 motorway, David said

How much pollution and noise are the man and boy being exposed to cycling next to that busy main road? Progress would mean people in variety of human powered vehicles moving a varying speeds to a maximum of 20mph, perhaps a tram or other public transport vehicle parallel with the occasional less able-bodied person allowed in a car sharing the space as a ‘guest’

This kind of approach is plainly utopian. It imagines that a motor-centric society can somehow revert to being one in which motor vehicles barely exist; that we can restore the character of our roads, as they were in the early part of the 20th century.

Theoretically, it could be possible to achieve this. Maybe we could remove HGVs from our road network, displacing goods onto rail. Maybe we could persuade people to abandon their cars for long-distance trips, forcing them to travel at 20mph when they do.

But the chances of this happening are so remote it’s not even worth considering. We need to deal with reality. It is not 1934; it is 2014, and we need to start thinking about cycling and motoring as distinct modes of transport, with separate networks, sharing only in very limited circumstances, and under specific conditions.

That, of course, means town and city centres where motor traffic is largely removed, but it must also mean a different kind of separation on main roads, the roads that will inevitably continue to carry motor traffic. This needs to happen not just because mixing motor traffic and cycle traffic presents unnecessary danger, but also because doing so makes cycling far more attractive to ordinary people.

I find it perverse to justify opposition to cycle tracks alongside main roads, carrying significant volumes of motor traffic, in terms of ‘rights’. This ‘right’ is only being exercised by a tiny fraction of the tiny percentage of people who regularly ride bikes in Britain, and more importantly such a position denies other people their right to use the road network; those people who would like to cycle, but are currently prevented from doing so because of conditions. People like my partner, who will happily cycle along main roads and dual carriageways in the Netherlands, but would never dream of doing so in Britain – not in a million years – because there is no alternative, except cycling in the carriageway with motor traffic.

A major junction on the outskirts of Utrecht. We cycled here. This would never have happened if the road was our only option.

So I’m tired, really, of having these kinds of arguments. People have already been pushed off the road network, to all intents and purposes. We need sane policies that make that network attractive, for all potential users.

It’s time to get real.


Categories: Views

“Road Danger Reduction and Traffic Law Enforcement” Conference Novmeber 1st 2014

Road Danger Reduction Forum - 1 September, 2014 - 14:50
 “Road Danger Reduction and Traffic Law Enforcement A One Day Conference on Saturday Nov 1st 2014  If we are to achieve Safer Roads for All Road Users, what kind of Traffic Law Enforcement do we need?

++++

Organisers: RoadPeace; Road Danger Reduction Forum; CTC: the National Cyclists’ charity and London Cycling Campaign. Hosted by London Borough of Southwark.

Venue: Southwark Council

CHAIRS:

Lord Berkeley (President RDRF), a.m.; Baroness Jenny Jones MLA, p.m.

SPEAKERS:

Dr Robert Davis, Chair RDRF.

Amy Aeron-Thomas, RoadPeace.

Brenda Puech, Hackney Living Streets.

Charlie Lloyd, London Cycling Campaign.

Speaker from Transport for London.

Speaker from Metropolitan Police Service.

 More detail and publicity closer to the date
Categories: Views

Taking Matters into Our Own Hands - Nordre Frihavnsgade

Copenhagenize - 1 September, 2014 - 12:29

Sometimes you have to take matters into your own hands. Even in Copenhagen.

There is a street in a densely-populated neigbourhood in Copenhagen - Østerbro - without any cycle tracks. I know, I know... it's like a street in New York without honking taxis or a street in Paris without cafés populated by moody philosophy students. It's weird. Also because it's a long street in a thriving neighbourhood and it's one of the streets in the city with a far too high levels of incidents involving bicycles.

It's weird because it's a perfect street for cycle tracks. It's also weird because only 29% of households in Copenhagen even own a car but politicians and the City say that taking out car parking on this street would be "difficult".

A local politican, Jonas Bjørn Jensen, when campaigning for the last election decided to ask people in the neighbourhood if they wanted cycle tracks. Over 90% of the people he asked said, "yes".

Together with Ole Kassow from Purpose Makers and Thomas Lygum Sidelmann from Urban Action we at Copenhagenize Design Company decided to just do our own proposed street design. Enough talk. Let's get some imagery onto the table.

Above is the street as it looks now. Nordre Frihavnsgade (don't try to pronounce that please) is a central street in the Østerbro neighbourhood connecting Strandboulevarden, Trianglen and Østbanegade. It's an important shopping street and has a lively environment, with schools and shops and... life. There are 5800 bicycle users a day and 5300 cars. Ole Kassow, who lives nearby, has spoken with many locals and the general consensus is that the street doesn't feel safe. It's not nice to cycle on it. There are also many pedestrians crossing back and forth to the various shops and cafés and other destinations.

Bizarrely, the street is a 50 km/h zone, except at the narrowest section where it is "only" 40 km/h. One thing that Copenhagen sucks at is the fact that they haven't embraced the 30 km/h movement like the rest of Europe. If this street was in Amsterdam, Barcelona, Paris, Vienna, etc etc. it would be 30 km/h. Years ago.


Anyway, we decided to visualise what the street should look like. Our point of departure was that if cycle tracks are ooooh so difficult for the City of Copenhagen, then we will give them an easier, cheaper solution. The Dutch have their fietsstraat and while the Copenhagen Police have been vocal opponents of them - and most everything else that would improve cycling in the city - there is finally a pilot project on Vestergade in Copenhagen as we speak.

So we made the street a "cykelgade" - a bicycle street - dictating that cars are welcome as guests on the street but they have to drive at the tempo that the bicycle users dictate.

We designed a Danish version of the Dutch Fietsstraat signage, as well. Based on the Danish standards for pictograms and font.

Here is the street in it's full length. Our proposal would improve the street greatly. It would benefit local businesses, make pedestrians feel safer and it would be a new benchmark for neighbourhood planning in Copenhagen.

While there is nothing regarding bicycle infrastructure that we can learn from the Americans, the parklet concept is something that we can happily subscribe to. We included them in our designs to also plant this idea in the minds of Copenhageners. More of these would be fantastic.

It is vitally important to create visualisations. Talk is fine but when you design a visualisation, suddenly you have a whole group of different people who understand what you're on about. They are really powerful tools for change.

Cross your fingers for a positive development on this street.Copenhagenize the planet. And have a lovely day.
Categories: Views

“The Primary School Fights Back Against Parent-Jam!”

Road Danger Reduction Forum - 1 September, 2014 - 00:19

The following is a translation of an article in the German tabloid Bild which may be of use to colleagues working on School Travel as an indication of attitudes elsewhere in Europe. Note what the Germans – including the equivalent of the RAC or AA – see as the problem

Careful dear children – your parents drive here!

PARKING-CHAOS ENDANGERS CHILDREN Primary School Fights Back Against Parent-Jam! by G. ALTENHOFEN 30.08.2014

 An ordinary day at the Primary School in Düsseldorf- Niederkassel: Traffic-Chaos from Parents parking cars among School Children

Düsseldorf – With roaming 4x4s and over-parked Zebra Crossings, the Traffic-Chaos in front of schools is getting ever worse! Because so many of the town’s Parents bring their Children in cars, it’s getting dangerous in front of schools, for pupils and pre-schoolers.

NOW THE PRIMARY SCHOOL FIGHTS BACK AGAINST THE “PARENT-JAM”! ‘Careful, dear Children- your Parents drive here’, it says provocatively on the warning sign in front of the Niederkassel State Catholic Primary School -the sign put there by the School leadership.

 Headmistress Imke Hankammer by the “warning sign”.

Headmistress Imke Hankammer: “Because of the School Run, there are always dangerous situations for those children who come on foot. Cars are parked so ruthlessly that little ones cannot see at the crossing- or be seen. We’re very afraid of what might happen.” Valeria Liebermann, mother and chairman of the Parents’ Association, sees it the same way: “Parents mean well, when they bring their children, but they just thoughtlessly endanger other children.” The State also praises the initiative. Andrea Blome, Chief of the Traffic Management Office: ‘We support the request that children come to school on foot, escorted by adults to begin with. That way they learn independence'”.

 A 4×4 sits in the absolute no-parking zone in front of the zebra crossing.

 Headmistress Hankammer talks personally to the “Taxi-Parents”.

 

ADAC warns of incidents [ADAC=German equivalent of RAC] The ADAC also warns of “incalculable safety risks from Parent-taxis“, which present a double danger. Firstly in front of schools, and secondly, in other accidents- which according to ADAC involves more children in parents cars (10,363 in 2013) than when they are on foot. An ADAC survey of 750 primary schools in the region concludes: “The fewer the Parent-Taxis waiting outside Primary Schools, the safer the way to school.”

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

 

Thanks to David Robjant for the translation: Some notes by him here:

‘Vorsicht’ carries the force and tone of ‘Beware!’, only there isn’t an obvious way of putting that into English without messing up the sentence, because you’d need an explicit ‘of’, and it’s precisely by playing sardonically with the identification of the monster that the German sentence communicates. You could have ‘Dear Children, Beware: your Parents drive here’, but I think that loses the special emphasis given to ‘dear’/’liebe’ in ‘Vorsicht liebe Kinder, hier fahren eure Eltern’. There’s a reproach contained in the way this placement of ‘liebe’ draws attention to the contrast between the parent’s stated attitudes (‘I love my child’) and the general upshot of their actions.  After all, the sign faces the street where the *Parents* can see it- it’s not really for communicating anything to the children!  All that needling of the parents is much better preserved in ‘Careful, dear Children – your Parents drive here‘.


Categories: Views

Comfort Testing The Cycle Tracks

Copenhagenize - 31 August, 2014 - 09:27

A car blocking the bike lane/cycle track. The source of much irritation and many social media photos. This photo, however, is from Denmark and that is a car that we WANT driving down the cycle track.

Cities like Copenhagen and Aarhus don't just build the necessary infrastructure to encourage cycling, keep people safe and help make people FEEL safe, they regularly measure the quality of the infrastructure.

Citizens always say in polls that the quality of the cycle tracks and bike lanes is of utmost importance to them when they are considering to commute by bicycle.

So, specially adapated cars like these are regularly sent down the cycle tracks to measure for bumps and smoothness, among other factors, using laser technology and recording the data.

There is a veritable armada of vehicles designed to operate on cycle tracks. Street sweepers, municipal garbage collection and, not least, snow clearance vehicles like those in our classic article: The Ultimate Snow Clearance Blogpost.

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

Taking pride in your cycling policies

BicycleDutch - 30 August, 2014 - 23:01
ʼs-Hertogenbosch was the acting “Best Cycling City of the Netherlands” from November 2011 until May 2014. During that time the city made a series of short videos and a very … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

Four more examples of how to preserve cycling routes during roadworks. Road Works vs. The Dutch Cyclist - Three more examples of

A View from the Cycle Path - 29 August, 2014 - 20:52
Road-works can seriously disrupt cycling. If cyclists are forced to dismount, to make longer journeys or to ride on roads full of motor vehicles then these inconveniences and dangers could cause people to stop cycling. Cycling is fragile. It doesn't take many bad experiences to make people give up. If people break the habit of cycling they may not return very quickly. That is why it is importantDavid Hembrowhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/14543024940730663645noreply@blogger.com0http://www.aviewfromthecyclepath.com/2014/08/four-more-examples-of-how-to-preserve.html
Categories: Views

The Lulu and Neighbourhood Wayfinding

Copenhagenize - 28 August, 2014 - 19:55

Quite out of the blue during dinner one evening, I asked my daughter, Lulu, aged 6 almost 7 (you may know her as the world's youngest urbanist...) if she thought she could find her way to the local swimming pool by herself. I was explaining directions to somewhere else to my son, Felix, aged 12, and I realised that all the references were visual. No street addresses or anything, just directions like "go down that street and when you see that shop, turn right...". To which he would reply, "is that the shop with the red door?" or "is that the shop across from that other shop with this or that recognizable feature?"

It all originates with this earlier article here on the blog: Wayfinding in a Liveable City.

So I wondered how much Lulu has registered in her daily, frequent journeys around our neighbourhood. So... I laid down the challenge to Lulu. Find your way to the swimming pool on foot. Felix and I would walk behind her but wouldn't offer any help.

At six, she finds it difficult to describe how to get to places. There is no "go to the end of this street and then turn left...". It is more vague and hard for me, an adult to understand. Try it with your own kids, or other peoples' kids, to see what I mean. 

So we just set out on her journey, letting her show us the way. I didn't know if she could pull it off. I literally had no idea. When she was younger she was pushed through the neighbourhood in a stroller, we walk and we cycle everywhere... but always with me or her mum leading the way. 

It was a fascinating exercise. Felix and I watched her finding her way, looking around and using visual references to guide her. Walking up to the end of the street and scouting left and right, remembering visual clues to send her in the next direction.

A couple of times I asked her, "why did you turn right here?" To which she replied, "Because that shop on the corner is where we turn right. Duh, Daddy..."

So... indeed... she was remembering visual clues like shops and trees and bushes and what not. She was pleased as punch when we ended up in front of the swimming pool.

Then I asked her to find our local ice cream shop. It would involved a totally different route than our normal A to B from home to ice cream. Again, she rocked it. Using the most logical way from where were standing, instead of taking us back home and then down to the ice cream. I was impressed.

Lulu is already looking forward to when she is eight and gets to walk to school alone. It's only 800 metres from our flat. But Felix did it for the first time at eight so Lulu has it in her mind to do it at that age, too. Really, though, there is no reason that she couldn't do it earlier. Now that I've figured out that she knows her way around like a boss.

Something that we often neglect to think about regarding our kids.Copenhagenize the planet. And have a lovely day.
Categories: Views

Intersection redesign in Utrecht

BicycleDutch - 27 August, 2014 - 23:01
It is one of my most viewed videos, the video in which I explain that common Dutch intersection design would not take up more space than typical US crossroads design. … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

Time for Sustainable Safety on Britain’s roads

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 27 August, 2014 - 13:51

As I’m sure most of you already know, the Department for Transport recently made a decision to increase the speed limit for HGVs on single carriageway roads in Britain to 50mph.

One of the arguments made for this policy was that of safety. The intention is to reduce the speed differential between HGVs and other motor traffic from 20 mph (the difference between 60 mph, and 40 mph – the previous limit for HGVs) to 10 mph. It is asserted that this will reduce the temptation to overtake HGVs in dangerous situations.

The Department for Transport states that

The change to the national speed limit on single carriageway roads will modernise an antiquated restriction, which is not matched in most other European countries, including some of the other leaders alongside the UK for road safety (eg the Netherlands and Norway)

It is true that this change will bring the UK more into line with the Netherlands, which has a higher speed limit for HGVs of 80km/h (~50mph) on single carriageway roads.

However, I would like to argue that this change – this reduction in speed differentials between HGVs and other motor traffic – should form just the start of a comprehensive approach to road safety that reduces danger for all road users, based on the Dutch system of Sustainable Safety, or Duurzaam Veilig. Rather than just one isolated measure, the UK should bring its entire road network, and the way it is designed, into line with the Netherlands.

Sustainable Safety is all about prevention - preventing crashing from occurring, and, secondarily, reducing the risk of serious injuries when collisions do occur.

One of the core principles of this approach is homogeneity – equalising, as much as possible, the mass, speed and direction of vehicles, to reduce collision risk. In particular, fast objects should not share space with slow ones; and vehicles travelling at speed should not be travelling in opposing directions, without separation. Likewise measures should be taken to separate bodies of unequal mass; for instance, heavy vehicles like buses and lorries should be not be sharing the same space as pedestrians and cyclists. The basis for this approach – and other Sustainable Safety measures – is that human beings are fallible, and that the environment we travel in should respond to that fallibility, rather than expecting us to not make mistakes, ever.

Although this approach is only a few decades old – launched in the early 1990s in the Netherlands – the Dutch have made great progress in applying Sustainable Safety to their road network. They have removed speed differentials, reclassified road types, and improved the forgivingness of their roads and streets. SWOV estimate that, from 1998 to 2007, Sustainable Safety measures had reduced the number of deaths on Dutch roads by 30%, compared to a situation in which these measures had not been implemented.

Meanwhile Britain languishes far behind, with a road network totally unsuitable for the few vulnerable users who are brave enough to venture onto it.

The contrast with the Dutch road network – open to all users, of all ages and abilities, regardless of their mode of transport – could not be more stark.

As it happens, in raising the HGV speed limit on single carriageway roads to 50mph, the DfT has, accidentally or otherwise, made a tiny, tentative step towards applying Sustainable Safety on Britain’s roads – the speed limit differential between HGVs and other motor traffic has been reduced.

But this is, plainly, nowhere near enough. Sustainable Safety principles  should instead be applied comprehensively and consistently across Britain’s road networks, ensuring that all road users are travelling at similar speeds, and that if they are not, that they are provided for separately.

What would this mean in policy terms?

  • Speed limit differentials between all forms of motor traffic should only exist where vehicles have an opportunity to overtake each other safely, without coming into conflict with oncoming traffic – on motorways and dual carriageways, or where specific overtaking locations are provided, with central reservations, or barriers. Overtaking should be performed in lanes with motor traffic travelling in a uniform direction, rather than in lanes which carry oncoming motor traffic.
  • On single-carriageway roads where the speed limit for HGVs will be raised to 50mph, sustainable safety dictates that all motor traffic should also be limited to 50mph – a reduction from the current 60mph limit.  This uniform lower speed limit should be accompanied by design features that encourage drivers of vans and cars to adhere to it. The risk of dangerous overtaking – cited as a justification for the increase in the HGV speed limit on these roads – would be reduced greatly by such a move, as all motor traffic would be subject to the same speed limit, and travelling at a more uniform speed.*
  • It is absolutely essential that this uniformity of speed of motor traffic on the road network is accompanied by the provision of high quality, separate routes for road users that travel at substantially lower speeds – people walking, cycling, and riding horses, as well as agricultural traffic. It is not at all appropriate for these users – generally travelling at no more than 20mph – to travel in the same space on single-carriageway roads as vehicles travelling 30mph faster or more; or indeed in the same space on dual carriageways, which have even higher speed limits.
  • Not only would the construction of these separate routes greatly increase the safety of these vulnerable road users, they would also serve to make the journeys of motorists safer, smoother and less stressful.
  • On roads where separate routes for slower users cannot be provided, or where it is not cost-effective or appropriate to do so, measures should be taken to reduce through motor-traffic, and to encourage motorists to use faster roads (roads where, as above, pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders will have separate provision.)
  • This universal 50mph limit should apply on main roads, with a 40mph limit elsewhere. As with the reasons set out above, this uniformity is on the grounds of homogeneity of speed, and again serves to reduce the temptation to overtake dangerously.

Naturally enough, I am coming at this issue from a cycling perspective, but I hope it is clear from the above proposals that these measures would benefit everyone who uses the road network, either on foot, on horseback, on bike, or at the wheel of any kind of motor vehicle.

It would make journeys by foot or by bike considerably safer, and far more pleasant, but just as importantly the same would apply for journeys being made by motor vehicle. The stress of having to deal with overtaking slow-moving agricultural traffic, or people cycling, would be removed. Journeys would be smoother, safer and more predictable. It would also genuinely reduce any (legal) incentive to overtake HGVs in situations where specific overtaking opportunities have not been provided – all motor traffic would be travelling at approximately the same speed on these roads. Only on roads designed with safe overtaking opportunities would different categories of motor vehicle have different speed limits.

We would have a humane road network, that is safe for all, rather than the current one that effectively excludes the vast majority of users who aren’t travelling in motor vehicles. In addition, it would make the journeys of people in motor vehicles safer, and more straightforward.

This needs to happen. That’s why I have started a petition calling on the Department for Transport to develop and implement these policies for Britain’s roads.

I hope you can sign it.

*In some limited circumstances, a 60mph limit for all motor traffic could be retained on single-carriageway roads (for instance, long distance routes where higher speeds might be justified), provided design measures have been put in place to eliminate the danger of head-on or crossing conflicts.


Categories: Views

Going to the Cycle Show and the Bike Biz awards? We've got the low down on what to do in Birmingham...

ibikelondon - 26 August, 2014 - 08:30

The national Cycle Show takes place in Birmingham next month, and promises to be bigger than ever.  Whether you ride a road bike or prefer a stately upright town bike, there's something for everyone, whatever your cycling fancy.  Getting to Birmingham, and making sure you see all the best bits, can be a bit of a logistical nightmare so our ibikelondon guide to the Bike Show is here to help you on your way....

 
What is it?

It's Britain's national Bike Show, taking place at the NEC in Birmingham from the 25th to the 28th September 2014.  The 25th is press and trade day, with the rest of the dates open to the general public.  It's a huge exhibition that shows off the latest offers from bike brands, and the newest bikes, as well as more cycling apparel and accessory providers you can shake a muddy wheel at.

How do I get to Birmingham?  Is that in Zone 5?!

Sadly, Birmingham is well out of the reach of your Oyster card and you'll be better off if you buy your train ticket in advance.  Look for tickets to Birmingham International Station, which serves the NEC.  If you're interested in taking your bike there's plenty of secure bicycle parking available for the week of the exhibition.  Andreas at London Cyclist blog has these top tips on cycling from London to Birmingham if you're really keen!

Where do I stay?

If you do ride you're going to need somewhere to stay overnight, and even if you go by train it is an approximately four hour round trip so you might want to consider making a night of it in Birmingham.  The NEC is a little out of town so you'll want to stay somewhere nearby and choose carefully.  The Crowne Plaza Birmingham NEC is just a few moments away and is also playing host to the BikeBiz Awards this year, so looks like the place to stay if you want to be in the thick of the cycling action.  Sam Pilgrim in action - see him and friends in action at the NEC.
What should I expect to see?

There's a test track to take the latest new bikes on offer for a test ride, a specially built indoor Mountain Biking range, and even a space where you can try out the latest city bikes and e-bikes.  A big screen will be showing the best of the Tour of Britain and the World Championships.  Dirt jumping supremo Sam Pilgrim has set up the biggest competition in the UK since 2007, and you can expect the best dirt jump riders from around the world to be competing over the 5 days of the exhibition, clearing some serious air on the range of ramps constructed just for the competition.  There's even a chance to meet 6 x Olympic and 11 x World Track Champion Sir Chris Hoy on the Friday of the expo.  In short, it's an end of summer cycling extravaganza!

Need some extra information?  The  lowdown is on the Bike Show website, including appearance schedules and exhibitor lists.  Tickets are £13 for adults, £11 for concessions and children up 14 accompanied by an adult are only £1.

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Categories: Views

Assen's best bicycle "tunnel" is a bridge. How a crossing of a main road can be almost invisible to cyclists.

A View from the Cycle Path - 25 August, 2014 - 13:09
The video has a short spoken introduction but I then shut up and let you hear for yourself how quiet and peaceful this area is for a place where we cross four lanes of motorized traffic. This is not peak bicycle traffic but an average level of traffic for mid morning. The video above shows the best "bicycle tunnel" in Assen. It's actually a bridge for cars. This deserves some explanation. David Hembrowhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/14543024940730663645noreply@blogger.com0http://www.aviewfromthecyclepath.com/2014/08/assens-best-tunnel-is-bridge-how.html
Categories: Views

Cycling with limited hearing or deafness

A View from the Cycle Path - 22 August, 2014 - 19:28
Floor has a hearing problem but that doesn't mean she can't cycle. A limited hearing sign warns people behind her not to rely upon being heard. A hearing problem or even a complete lack of hearing can cut people off from what is happening behind them. This is a potential problem when cycling because cyclists rely upon ringing a bell or their voice in order to communicate that they wish to passDavid Hembrowhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/14543024940730663645noreply@blogger.com0http://www.aviewfromthecyclepath.com/2014/08/cycling-with-limited-hearing-or-deafness.html
Categories: Views

Designing Bicycle Symbolism - Towards the Future

Copenhagenize - 22 August, 2014 - 09:00
The Bicycle as a symbol of progress, of renewal, of promising times ahead. This is not a new concept. Indeed it has been around since the invention of the bicycle. Many bicycle posters at end of the 19th century featured promising themes like liberation, progress, freedom. Here's an example:

In this beautiful poster, there is a lot of metaphorical gameplay. The young woman is riding a bicycle to the future. Dressed in white and seemingly casting fresh flowers as though leaving a trail for us to follow. The old woman is looking backwards to the past as she sits in a bed of thorns, almost resigned to the fact that the future - the bicycle - is passing her by.

When people in most cultures see art or photgraphy, our brain sees movement from left to right and interprets the piece based on that.

The German historian and psychologist Rudolf Arnheim who wrote, among other books, "Art and visual perception – A psychology of the creative eye" noticed that the way many cultures read - from left to right - has an influence on the way we look at art or photography.

‘Since a picture is “read” from left to right, pictorial movement toward the right is perceived as being easier, requiring less effort’.

Bicycles often look better when heading off to the right. In the photo shoots we've done for bicycle brands, we are always careful to shoot the right side of the bicycle wherever possible, so that the chainguard is visible. It just looks better with the chainguard in the shot, but it also looks better heading to the right.

Photo shoot for Velorbis catalogue.


Here are a couple of examples of  'reading' a photo.

At top left, the girl in the poncho looks like she is struggling into a snowblown headwind, which she was. At bottom left, by flipping the photo horizontally, she looks like she is sailing on a tailwind. The pedestrians, as well.

At top right, the bicycle users appear to have an easy go of it with a tailwind. Which they weren't. At bottom right they appear to be muscling into the snow and wind.

The flag at the top is the party flag for the Samajwadi political party in India. In 2012, their rising star, Akhilesh Yadav, won a landslide election in the Uttar Pradesh state elections. Yadav campaigned tirelessly and he rode hundreds of kilometres around the state on his bicycle and organised bicycle rides. Reuters has an article about his rise to power. He thrashed the heir-apparent in Indian politics, Rahul Ghandi by appealing to the working classes, sleeping in villagers huts and aligning himself with the demands of the regular citizens. And the man can even text and cycle at the same time. He's got our vote.

So a bicycle is a fitting symbol for the party. For any progressive party who aspire to be agents of change. I have no idea if the designer thought about the positioning of the bicycle on the flag at the top. Based on this Left to Right perception, the bicycle isn't heading away from us, carrying us to a better future and all the other metaphors you can think of.. The positioning of it - in our perception - suggests that it is going in the opposite direction. Going against the flow, or against the grain, as it were. Which can be symbolic in a positive sense for a political party wishing to embrace change and deconstruct the status quo, but that's far too subliminal. Interestingly, on the political party's Facebook group and elsewhere, there are versions of the flag reversed so it points left to right.

This started out as an article about Mr Yadav and his party's use of the bicycle as a symbol. A discussion started here at Copenhagenize Design Company, however, about how bicycles are positioned in signage and pictograms.

If we suppose that a bicycle heading from left to right is 'positive' symbolism for our sub-conscious perception, then surely bicycle pictograms and signage should feature this directional placement.

We all went over the window to look at the Danish standard on the cycle tracks outside and looked at other examples from around us in Copenhagen.



(Clockwise from top left) The Danish standard as dictacted by the Road Directorate is a bicycle heading from right to left, although the logo of the City of Copenhagen's Bicycle Office - "I Bike CPH" - features a bicycle in the 'positive' direction. The logo for The Green Wave in Copenhagen has the bicycle user in "metaphorical direction neutrality" - could be heading towards us or away from us. I've always percieved this as the bicycle heading towards me, come to think of it. While the standard for Danish signage is right to left, there are variations. Wayfinding for indicating routes on the national cycling network. On the bicycle seat belts on the train to Malmö, the bike heads right.

At bottom right is a vintage sign I cycle past each day, complete with chainguard, fenders and light. Nice. The Danish State Railways tend to use the standard symbol but they are happy to have the bicycle pointing to the right on variations of their signage.


Above are all the traffic signs in Denmark relating to cycling. At bottom left is the signage for bi-directional cycle tracks, which you don't see often for obvious design reasons. But it's there like a retro memory, like the man at bottom right sitting upright with a splendid hat - old Danish signage that we miss so very much. All in all, the pictograms are standardised to feature bicycles heading left.

The traffic engineer logic is that pointing a bicycle to the left indicates potential collision and serves, in their minds at least, to add a safety element to the road signage. Generally, there is a tendency to have the bicycle heading to the right if the signage indicates access or bicycle-friendly facilities, but this is not carved in stone, apparently.

"Bicycle Street - Cars are guests"

We chose, however, to aim the bicycle left to right in our proposal for signage for Bicycle Streets in Denmark. And, even more importantly, we were tired of all the boy bikes in all the pictograms we see around the world, so we made it a proper sit up and beg design with a ladies frame. We like the idea of the Dutch version of their Fietsstraat signs, featuring a cyclist heading towards you, in front of a car. The design, however, is clumsy and it looks hand-drawn. We developed the above proposal based on existing Danish signage. Interestingly, the Dutch signage isn't even official signage, but the Dutch put them up anyway and now people think they are. That's cool.

Farther afield, let's have a look through the Copenhagenize archives to see what's up in the bicycle pictogram world.



Looking from left to right, above, the bicycle symbols are right to left in Zurich, Rome, Ljubljana and Mexico City and then it points to the right in Ferrara. In Vienna, at far right, it's right to left but the crossing signal - one of the funkiest in the world - features a bicycle with casual-leaning cyclist looking right at us. Which sends positive connotations.



In Berlin we spotted what we assume is a vintage design, at left, featuring a chap wearing a suit and riding a normal bicycle. Citizen Cycling indeed. On street and on the parking sign, the bicycles are right to left.


Stockholm can't seem to figure out which way to go.


Nor can Trondheim. Even in Amsterdam they have some variations and varying directions.


In Barcelona, the signage is usually right to left, but left to right on the trains. Suggesting access - supported by the word "access" in three languages, just to be sure you get it.


The Finns work with the right to left concept, as does Antwerp - although they switch it around on the green sign. In Budapest, activists made their own pictogram and spraypainted it on streets all over the city. Great idea, although might have been symbolic to reverse the pictogram.


In Melbourne and on official signage in Riga (is that the world's shortest stretch of bicycle infrastructure?) it is right to left. The bike share in Riga, however is left to right, as is the sign on the door to the train station. The biggest warning on that sign tells you to watch out for the grates if you're wearing high heels. In Tokyo, right to left.


Brazil is a bit confused. At left is a somewhat standard pictogram in Sao Paulo showing the route for the Ciclofaixa each Sunday. The yellow symbol was made by activists - featuring an upright bike heading in the positive direction. On the second-last photo, the sign stating that Volkswagon sponsored the bike lane through a park has the bicycles heading left to right. And yes, we love that irony. The middle photo is from Rio de Janeiro with a rare example of a pictogram straight on. And the pictogram at the right is a newer version that I've seen in use in the city. Nice design, too.


It's a signage free for all in Canada, with different variations across the land. In the US - the only country to put plastic hats on their pictogram people, there is a general standard and it sends cyclists back out into traffic. In New York, this pathway has reversed them in order to show wayfinding.

The French are sending the bicycle backwards, then forwards to a progressive future and then back again. It's all very confusing, although their national standard is the white bike on green.

While some countries still need a national standard and there is an ocean of variations, there are still some people who get it hopelessly wrong. We spotted this, at left, in London in June 2014. It's hilarious. It's a Jackson Pollack interpretation of the British pictogram. At right, even the Copenhagen Metro can screw up. Lovely that it is a step-through frame, but seriously... how many things can you find wrong with that pictogram?

So, after all that, here's a crazy Copenhagenize idea.

Let's get all subliminal. Let's flip our bicycle pictograms on the streets and signage to send a sub-conscious message to all those who 'read' them. It's an inexpensive solution to influence perception of cycling. Think about it when planning your logo.

If, as we mentioned above, ‘since a picture is “read” from left to right, pictorial movement toward the right is perceived as being easier, requiring less effort’, THAT should be the general message on all bicycle pictograms. Send the bicycle from left to right - not only so we can see the damned chainguard - but to broadcast the symbolism of a progressive future.Copenhagenize the planet. And have a lovely day.
Categories: Views

Friday Throwback: how would you get around your city with no gasoline?

ibikelondon - 22 August, 2014 - 08:30

It's Friday, which can only mean one thing: time for our next Friday Throwback - the ongoing series exploring the best of the images from internet archives celebrating the bicycle.

This photo was taken in Oregon, USA, in 1974 when the energy crisis meant that petrol stations were only allocated so much fuel to sell each day. This station has shut up for the day having sold its reserve, and in the background a local is finding an alternative way of getting around.




The fuel crisis led to a renaissance for the bicycle, as we explored previously in this post about children "forced" to cycle to school.  There had been hopes the renaissance would be long-lived, but when the oil started flowing again and the streets filled with cars the bicycle boom was quickly over.

Today's image comes from the US National Archives' contribution to The Commons on Flickr.

Whatever your cycling plans this weekend, be sure never to miss another post from ibikelondon again! You can join the conversation on Twitter or follow our Facebook page.  Happy cycling!

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