Cycling in Rotterdam 5 of 8

Pedestrianise London - 6 February, 2015 - 10:30

5. Tile cycleway surfaces (klinkers) are not the best thing for riding on when it’s wet and autumnal. Especially not on thin racing tyres.

— Paul James (@pauljames) November 4, 2014

The surfaces of the cycleways in Rotterdam are either smooth red asphalt or are made up street bricks.

Uni-directional cycleway tiled with street bricks, aka “klickers”.

Bi-directional cycleway surfaced with smooth asphalt.

The asphalt is amazing, but the bricks, when they’re uneven, or when it’s wet, then they’re “fun”. It’s a very uncertain surface.

Luckily, they’re gradually being phased out, hopefully before I end up on my arse one dark rainy night.

Categories: Views

The Village Idiot of Urban Innovation

Copenhagenize - 5 February, 2015 - 21:53

Where cities put their bicycles. Above ground. On street level. Woven into the urban fabric. Well...  not ALL cities.

I meet amazing, inspiring people when I travel the world with my work. I see a lot of things. Many of the things are good. Many are, however, strange and frustrating. Especially regarding infrastructure. It boggles my mind every time I - or worse, ride on - bike lanes on the wrong side of parked cars in between the door zone of primarily single-occupant vehicles and moving traffic in North American cities and I thumb my nose at every sharrow I see. That fakest of all fake bicycle infrastructure. That sheep in wolf's clothing.

Despite a century of Best Practice in bicycle infrastructure and tried and tested networks occupied by tens of thousands of daily cyclists in cities that "get it", there are still so many mistakes being made elsewhere. I see stuff slapped lazily into place by engineers and planners who don't ride bicycles in their city and who haven't even tried it. Mutant Frankeninfrastructure from the lab of a Marvel Comics nemesis' laboratory.

The streets of our cities were, for 7000 years since cities first were formed, the most democratic spaces in the history of homo sapiens. When the automobile appeared, the world's longest reigning urban dictatorship took over. Rest assured, there are signs of a Velvet Revolution (I tried to work velo into that... velovet... velo-vet... nevermind) forming. Passionate advocates for life-sized cities are meeting in earnest in the back rooms of coffee houses down the back streets. Recruiting more and more planners and even engineers - even though some of the latter group get strongarmed. Certain prominent figures are heard saying extraordinary things. Like the Mayor of Paris until last year, Bertrand Delanoë, who said, "The fact is that cars no longer have a place in the big cities of our time". He backed up his vision with action. Transforming Paris into something more beautiful in his 12 years at the helm. Not just bikes and infrastructure but traffic calming and lowering speed limits, among many other things.

Nevertheless, the motordom regime continues its rule. Erich Honecker has yet to be kissed. The transport wall remains for now.

Where there is hope, there is wackiness to make you roll your eyes, weep, utter expletives. Often all at once.  There is one in every crowd, they say. The kid in the class who isn't paying attention and disrupts everyone else with unruly behaviour and lame jokes that fall flat and do little to garner respect.

In the realm of modernising transport in our cities, it would seem that the kid is London.

What place is this that can offer up three massive conceptual projects that amaze with their stupidity and complete misunderstanding of both urban life in general and the bicycle's role in cities - now and for the past 125 years?

Above, the first act in this urban comedy (it might actually be a tragedy). Norm Foster's Skycycle. Putting cyclists on a shelf at the behest of Motordom. Keeping those rascals off the streets and offering them little access to things like... oh I don't know... shops, schools, cafés, restaurants, businesses, workplaces.

£220 million for a few miles? Like Marie Kåstrup from the City of Copenhagen said, even if Copenhagen had that kind of money they wouldn't build a Skycycle. It would take cyclists off the streets and remove them from the urban fabric and places they need to go.  I've written about The Ridiculous Skycycle by Norman Foster before. I let you read that. Onward.

The second act of our absurd vaudeville production is a floating cycleway on the River Thames. £600 million. That's 5,963,800,635.36 Danish kroner at today's rate, which makes it sound even more stupid. I don't even know where to start with this one. The rendering, above, doesn't even have any off ramps. Is it recreational? Who knows. Who cares. Another architect so far removed from the reality of life in cities. Take a number, pal.

I'll let CityLab tackle this one. They might be more diplomatic about it.

And then today. Act Three. The last thing I needed to see before heading out of the office. Once you see it, you can't unsee it. The London Underline. New York must be so insulted by that reference to their High Line.

Welcome to Watership Down for cyclists. THIS is what Fiver envisioned that scared him so much while at Sandlewood. If the Skycycle and the river thing seem inconvenient and out of touch with reality, words fail me for this one.

Sticking cyclists up in the sky, out on the water and now underground. Get these people away from AutoCAD. They are an embarassment to all the good people in London who UNDERSTAND. Who are working HARD to right so many urban wrongs.

Sorry to break this to you, but there is a companion film to this "concept".

Read more about it at The Guardian. They're a bit nicer about it.

Sure, there are tunnels for cyclists. Tunnels that serve a specific function on an A to B journey. Like in San Sebastian. Like the tunnel under the river in Rotterdam, built in the 1930s.  Much has been learned since then. The Dutch do an amazing job at underpasses and they keep them light and airy. The Danes pipe pleasant music into dark bike parking facilities to keep people comfortable - and generally avoid tunnels altogether, with only a few underpasses around. Keeping cyclists above ground is a design standard here.

Some people have likened the Bicycle Snake / Cykelslangen in Copenhagen to Norm's Skycycle. No. The Bicycle Snake is a BRIDGE. Solving a problem at one specific location. Not putting cyclists out of sight, out of mind. Apples and oranges. Arsenal and Tottenham.

If you look at innovation - real innovation - regarding bicycle infrastructure, you'll notice that it always prioritizes cyclists and serves a practical, logical function. The Bicycle Snake is a great example. The Floating Roundabout in Eindhoven? Same thing. The Green Wave for cyclists, rain sensors for cyclists, Or any of these things mentioned here.

You'll also notice that they are simple in nature. Simple, rational and functional. Based on an understanding of how bicycles in cities used to work, still work and can work.

We have everything we need. We know everything we need to know. What to shift people over to other modern, intelligent transport forms? This is all you need.

Innovation in cities is simple. Use 7000 years of experience. It's right there. It's free. It works. Truly smart cities don't overcomplicate.

Ah, but wait. After that three act debacle is there hope? A splendid new bridge in London, spanning the Thames, providing a new mobility link in a city that desperately needs them. Oh... wait. The celebrity who is drumming up support for this, her baby, won't allow bicycles on it.

The village idiot is at it again. Disrupting the class. Tokyo and Berlin are ignoring him. Copenhagen and Paris are plotting a wedgie at recess behind the bike shed. Buenos Aires, New York and Dublin are just pointing and laughing.

Samuel Johnson famously quipped that, "...when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life." That was 1777.  Nowadays, regarding urban innovation, when a person is tired of London, they give it one star on TripAdvisor, a scathing review and they hop on the Eurostar to Paris or fly to Berlin or Barcelona or Copenhagen or Amsterdam or... etc.Copenhagenize the planet. And have a lovely day.
Categories: Views

World's Coolest Bus Commercials

Copenhagenize - 5 February, 2015 - 05:00

They've done it again. Danish M2 Film have produced a sequel to their earlier commercial for Midttrafik bus company, which did the rounds a couple of years ago. It's hilarious. Love the grumpy, old-fashioned motorist who is out of touch with reality.

Here's the first version from 2012. The Bus is Cool. It's epic cool. Sure, in other parts of the world it gets labelled as "Loser Cruiser" but in Denmark we see it differently.

Incidentally, back in 2012 Mary from here at Copenhagenize Design Company spoke in Bogota at an ITDP conference about Cycle Chic, marketing cycling and our work at the company. An interesting discussion arose about how it could be possible to use the cycle chic 'method' to promote public transport use. Films like these show the way.

Then there is this viral flash mob film featuring an unsuspecting bus driver, Mukhtar Adow Mohamed, from Arriva Denmark back in 2010. It was made in connection with their "Better Bus Trip / Bedre bustur" campaign.

Arriva also established red "Love Seats" on a number of their bus lines back in 2010. They wanted to "Shake up peoples' habits a bit and have more flirting and smiling in the bus. Maybe someone will find love. Others will maybe want to try ride the bus because they can flirt with a gorgeous guy", said Marianne Færch from Arriva when the seats were launched.

For more Scandinavian public transport ads, here's a Swedish one for bus passes for teenagers. Great humour. Thanks to the world's most epic Straphanger, Taras for this one.

And here's a fantastic Norwegian one we posted a while back. Netbuss - Whoever You Are. Today It's cool, too. Sure, it's not for busses in urban areas, but it shows what is possible for using advertising and positive messaging to promote bus use - or anything else. Like urban cycling, trains, you name it. And we love the ironic lyrics in the song used in the video.

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

Temporary bicycle parking facility in Tilburg

BicycleDutch - 2 February, 2015 - 23:01
The university city of Tilburg in the south of the Netherlands is one of the many Dutch cities in which the central station area is under extensive reconstruction. Because that … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

Sharing and caring

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 2 February, 2015 - 10:40

The website The American Conservative has published a deeply, deeply confused piece about road design, apparently inspired by the announcement the cycle ‘Superhighways’ in London will be going ahead.

The tone is set in the opening paragraphs.

toIt is perhaps the most iconic moment in urbanism: Robert Moses, the greatest power broker and central planner the American city had ever seen, squaring off against Jane Jacobs, the champion of the city’s community and author of the greatest book on urbanism ever written, over whether Jacobs’s beloved neighborhood of Greenwich Village would have one of Moses’s favored highways carved through it.

Jacobs eventually prevailed, protecting her community and signaling a shift against the city central planners who had dug up or flattened large swaths of American cities in the name of progress, urban renewal, and the automobile age. Jacobs’s victory against the urban highway is still spoken of in almost reverential tones by many committed to healthy cities and strong communities.

Until, that is, they were offered a highway for bikes.

… the effusive praise heaped on these cycle superhighways is strangely reminiscent of the rhetoric of 50 years ago used to coax cities into building the original highways urbanists so lament today.

The superficial logic here appears to be that – because highways were bad when Robert Moses attempted to drive them through Manhattan, knocking down buildings and any other structures that were in their way, any other kind of ‘highway’ must also be bad.

This is so silly it shouldn’t really merit discussion at all, but for the sake of argument let’s examine why. Moses’ highway plans involved destruction on a vast scale – it did, literally, involve flattening, along with community severance, noise, danger, sprawl, and the myriad other problems detailed in Jane Jacobs’ book.

Image from here.

But the ‘highways’ being planned in London don’t involve any destruction, whatsoever. They are merely a reallocation of existing road space, away from motor traffic, and towards the bicycle (and, to a lesser, extent, towards walking).

Stopping this project wouldn’t be any kind victory against ‘the highway’, because ‘the highway’ would still exist. It would be composed of four lanes of motor traffic, as it is now, instead of the proposed two or three, with more space for cycling and walking. To suggest that this kind of intervention has to be opposed by those ‘committed to healthy cities and strong communities’ on the grounds of consistency is utterly ludicrous.

Lurking behind this incoherent introduction, however, is a marginally more substantive argument – namely, that the way to get everyone to behave better, and to increase safety, is to mix everything up – to push all modes together, into the same space.

This is the broad brush argument against ‘segregation’, which makes little or no distinction between the kind of segregation employed by the motor traffic-fixated highway engineers and city planners, of the mid-20th century, and the kinds of segregation represented by London’s proposed cycle Superhighways – and indeed the Dutch and Danish national approach to urban design. (I’ve commented before on this tendency to lump in progressive attempts to separate motor traffic away from people with the ugly, hard and unpleasant designs that got people out of the way of motor traffic).

It is almost as simplistic as the argument that bicycle ‘highways’ must be bad in urban areas, because motorways in urban areas are bad. It suggests that separating walking, cycling and driving from each other is intrinsically bad, for much the same reason – because this was the philosophy of planners like Moses. 

So we find the author of this American Conservative piece, Jonathan Coppage, opining that

Urbanists rightly, and often, decry [the] auto-centric legacy that yielded the streets to one mode of traffic alone. But many are also fond of their bicycle, and can’t help but be tempted by the idea of cruising along smoothly, with no cars, no pedestrians, no dangers to worry about on their commute. That is exactly what is wrong with putting highways in cities in the first place.

City streets should be in a continual conversation with the buildings surrounding them, with the people flowing in and out.

To be consistent, anyone taking this position should oppose footways, as these are, of course, a yielding of the street to ‘one mode of traffic alone’. But this isn’t what is being argued. 

Instead a concurrent argument is made about ‘segregation’ being unsafe -

Segregated travel lanes make people feel comfortable by separating them. They make them feel safe. And that can make them especially dangerous… Exposure to all the dynamism around them can in fact keep them aware of their surroundings, and keep all the users of a street honest

Likewise, consistency here would involve arguing that footways make people feel safe, and that people walking should be exposed to the ‘dynamism around them’, to ‘keep them honest.’ But no. Apparently it is only bicycle traffic that doesn’t merit its own dedicated space on busy roads.

No sane author would attempt to suggest mingling pedestrians in with motor traffic on a road like the Embankment is appropriate, either on grounds of aesthetics or safety. Because it is a thunderous road carrying tens of thousands of motor vehicles a day, including coaches and lorries. Yet this is apparently the place for people on bicycles. 

People flowing in and out here?

This is the confused world of the ‘shared space’ advocate, who insists that the ‘correct’ approach is to mix cycle traffic with motor traffic, citing ‘powerful examples’ of shared space that aren’t in the least bit shared –

London already has powerful examples of the power of “shared space” on its busy Kensington High Street, which ripped out many of the protective barriers and warning signs as an aesthetic renovation that was subsequently followed by a drop in accidents. To give bicyclists their own carve-out would be a step backwards in the revitalization of the city, not forwards.

Unfortunately Kensington High Street has footways for pedestrians, kerbs, and a highly distinct road, for motor traffic.

Not shared.

And despite all the bleating about keeping people ‘alert’, and ensuring they don’t drift into complacency on busy streets, there is apparently is no consideration of how attractive it is to cycle on these roads mixed in with motor traffic, not just for the tiny minority people currently willing to do so, but (more importantly) for the vast majority of people who wouldn’t dream of doing so.

Would this family really be better off mixed in with motor traffic?

The ‘vision’ – such as it is – has no conception of broadening out cycling beyond the current 1-2% share of trips in cities like London. Instead it involves using existing cyclists as a form of sacrificial lamb, in a deluded attempt to keep drivers in check by putting hazards in their way.

It’s an approach to road safety and road design completely divorced from reality.

Categories: Views

The Left Hook Problem

Pedestrianise London - 1 February, 2015 - 10:30

So, one of the main argument against cycle tracks is that they place the cyclist into the “left hook zone” at junctions. A cyclist going straight on is in danger of being hit by a left turning motor as the road positioning of the cyclist can not block the path of the motor vehicle before it makes its turn unlike a cyclist in the primary position in the main carriageway can.

Cycle tracks are of course used successfully in other parts of the World, so lets look at how the Dutch solve these problems and how we can apply this learning to the UK. The devil is as always, in the details.

At junctions, between major and minor roads, when we don’t need anything beyond give way priority and we have space, we bend the cycleway away from the major roadway to create a turning space between the two.

View the Vine

If we’re talking about the junction between a major road and an access road or driveway, then we continue the cycleway onwards unabated along with the pavement and make the gateway to the access road be the one to yield and deviate.

Let’s say you have a road profile that looks like this, with a cycleway and a footway on each side of the street separated from the roadway by a buffer/lamp post/traffic sign/rubbish bin/whatever space:

Then when it comes to allowing access from the roadway across the cycleway and footway, this is the profile that the Dutch build: 

See this location on Google Streetview

The first thing to notice are the steep curbs that require cars to cross the cycleway and footway at a walking pace. First the curb up from the roadway onto the buffer space, secondly the curb up from the cycleway onto the footway, and finally the curb down from the footway into the access road.

Not only is the angle from the road into the gateway extremely tight, but the vertical deflection is uncomfortable at anything above walking speed. Combine these two factors together and you pretty much guarantee that motor traffic moves slowly across the cycleway and footway.

Next notice the buffer space. This is used along the length of the street for the following:

  • Tram/bus stops
  • Trees
  • Storage of miscellaneous street furniture
  • Car parking
  • Bike parking
  • Space for turning into side roads
  • Space for waiting to cross the road on foot/bike

Very useful, and multi-purpose, depending on the location along the street. The rule seems to be, if there’s nothing more important, throw in some space for parking.

So as you can see, this buffer space is supremely important to the makeup of the street.

In the UK, we often place the buffer space in the centre of the road between the traffic lanes. I guess the idea is that the most dangerous type of collision is the head on crash as the impact speed is potentially twice the speed limit, so if you can separate these vehicles you can lessen the likelihood of these occurring, when in fact what you do is encourage faster moving traffic.

Picture courtesy of Mark Treasure

Categories: Views


As Easy As Riding A Bike - 30 January, 2015 - 14:37

Last year, Stop the Killing held a protest at Elephant and Castle following the death of Abdelkhalak Lahyani, who had been killed in a collision with a left-turning HGV at the junction shown in the photograph below. Both he and the lorry were emerging from the junction at the bottom of the picture, and turning left.

The purpose of the demonstration was to illustrate that this collision need not have happened; a cycle track could have been constructed across the apex of the corner, allowing left turns to be made by people without coming anywhere near HGVs.

But the curious thing is that left turns by bike are already possible like this, at this junction – which remember is relatively new, only a few years old.

The short strip of cycle lane (or track) visible in the photograph above, which appears to end at the traffic signals, actually merges, ambiguously, into a large area of shared use, right around the corner. Of course, the only indication that this is ‘shared use’ is a small blue sign on a lamp column, as well as some tactile paving. That blue sign can just about be seen above; it’s clearer on Streetview.
This shared use ends around the corner. No cycling is allowed on the footway beyond this point. There’s a dropped kerb to allow people to rejoin the carriageway, and tactile paving, again, to denote the end of the area of shared use.

So it is entirely possible, and legal, to bypass the signals at this junction to turn left, and to avoid ‘hooking’ conflicts with HGVs.

However this is not entirely obvious to anyone waiting at the signals – the area just looks like a pavement, and not the sort of place someone should be cycling. Likewise, the entry point to the ‘shared use’ is via the short strip of cycle track on the footway; not particularly intuitive to enter, and once you remain on the carriageway, you can’t mount the kerb easily.

How obvious and/or accessible is that entry point?

This could have been designed properly; cycling legally around the corner could have been an explicit part of the design for this junction, rather than a vague bodge which isn’t easy to enter and exit, and puts people walking and cycling into conflict. Perhaps something like this arrangement in the city of Gouda, which I’ve flipped to a British left hand turn –

Notice there is a small child turning here,, at this busy junction.

If the Elephant and Castle junction had looked something like this, Abdelkhalak Lahyani would have been using this cycle bypass, and would not have come anywhere near the HGV that killed him. He could – of course – have used the pavement ‘bodge’, but if it doesn’t like somewhere people should be cycling, or cutting through, he – like many other people – waited at the lights, on the road, with fatal consequences.

It doesn’t make any sense to allow people cycling to behave in a way that will keep them safe, but then not make that option explicit. Why bodge it?

Categories: Views

As the LTDA goes to war with cyclists, we ask just who runs London? Is this a Cycle Superhighway Stich up?!

ibikelondon - 30 January, 2015 - 08:30
Unless you've been living under a rock it won't have escaped your attention that Mayor of London Boris Johnson announced on Tuesday his intention to proceed with ambitious plans to build a "Crossrail for Bikes"; two new segregated Cycle Superhighways across central London, running from north to south and east to west. But those plans are seriously threatened due to the self-serving actions of two business groups, who could jeapordise the democratic balance of Transport for London's Board in the process.

Johnson's announcement follows one of Transport for London's largest ever consultations on a project, with a staggering 21,500 responses. So many people wanted to respond, they extended the length of the consultation to allow everyone time to air their views. But the results are conclusive; even when you discount responses automatically generated by the London Cycling Campaign's website, some 73% support the more contentious east / west route running along the Embankment. 

This reflects a recent YouGov poll of Londoners of all backgrounds, the majority (64%) of which supported the cycleway plans even if it involved taking a lane away from traffic. It's also worth remembering of course that the consultation is not a referendum on the proposals; the scheme is the brain-child of our directly elected Conservative Mayor, who is mandated by the population of London to deliver his manifesto promises, of which the Cycle Superhighways were one. So far, so democratic, right?

Within minutes of the announcement on Tuesday, the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association let it be known they were furious that the Cycle Superhighways were going ahead and planned to lodge a Judicial Review. Here's what Steve McNamara, the LTDA's Secretary, had to tell Vanessa Feltz on her BBC London radio show on Tuesday morning
"It’s an abomination!... ...The ideal route would have been to run it along the Southbank, in front of the old LWT [London Weekend Television] building all the way along there, it would have been lovely, it would have been out of the way, it would have been ideal... ... We’re against it, lots of businesses are against it.  We are considering a Judicial Review against the scheme in conjunction with Canary Wharf and others." McNamara went on to give his opinions as to exactly why the Cycle Superhighways - which represent a tiny percentage of London's roads - were a BAD THING, especially if they benefit CYCLISTS:
"...they all try and tell you this myth, that it is wealthy people driving around in cars that we need to combat, and that it is the poor man on the cycle.  And of course it’s not.  What we’ve got now is this metropolitan elite who can afford to live in the centre of the city, afford to cycle a few hundred yards or half a mile to work, they’re the people campaigning for this.  The vast majority of Londoners, working Londoners, business Londoners – the majority of your listeners who are coming in from the suburbs and trying to move around this city – are going to be severely disadvantaged by this scheme...

..We’re the only people in London who can actually stand up for working Londoners, us and a few businesses who have come together.  As I say, Canary Wharf – a massive business that employs tens of thousands of people at the Wharf - they’re concerned about their people getting to work, we’re concerned about moving people around the city, lots of freight companies are very, very concerned about it, they’ve got to make deliveries.  London is a working city, it’s got to be able to work the 23 hours a day when them cyclists are not down on the Embankment – and they’re not.... .. it’s madness.  They must see it, and we’re hoping the Courts will see it."  [Click here for a full transcript of his interview]I think it is fair to say that the LTDA has gone to war against cyclists.  In November 2013 - the same month six London cyclists died on our roads in just two weeks - they gave the Evening Standard cooked up footage which claimed to show the majority of London cyclists run red lights.  
Then, in March 2014 their Director wrote this frankly bizarre editorial in their member's newsletter, claiming that cycling is "bringing this city to its knees":

And now, in 2015, they're coming out all guns blazing against the Cycle Superhighway project, threatening legal action and mouthing off to anyone who will listen.  But there's more to it than that, unfortunately.  I'll deal with McNamara's ridiculous assertions firstly, but please do read on to the end because what happens next is even more ridiculous...
The idea that the LTDA is a paragon of working class, salt-of-the-earth virtue is preposterous: this is an organisation that gives discounts to its members for country hotel leisure breaks, golf clubs and designer glasses. (And cheap legal representation to those facing driving bans who accumulated too many points on their license)  Most of their members will be earning around £60,000 a year (that's twice the national average).  
Let's contrast that with the 13 people who were killed cycling in London last year: two teachers, two students, a ventilation engineer, a conference organiser, a pharmacist, a hospital porter, a bus depot worker, a solicitor, an IT worker, one person unknown and a security guard. Hardly what I'd call a "metropolitan elite".
And were those who were killed cycling "a few hundred yards or half a mile to work"?  Of course not.  The majority of all cycle journeys in London originate in the fringes of zone 2 and 3 and make their way to the centre and back again. Commuting patterns like my own journey to and from work which is 10 miles, versus the city-wide average of 15 miles (That's 15 miles regardless of which mode of transport you use).
Proposals for Victoria Embankment
Taxis ferry about businessmen on expense accounts and unwitting tourists for the majority of the time, and are out of reach for most ordinary working Londoners.  The last time I took a taxi from Heathrow to central London it cost nearly £100 (an awful journey during which the driver stopped his car to scream obscenities at a woman on a pedestrian crossing and deigned to share with me his abhorrently racist views for the duration of the trip).  The Piccadilly Line can do the same journey - opinion free - for about a fiver.
As for sticking the Cycle Superhighway south of the river (presumably because Black Cab drivers don't go there) frankly, why should they?  For a starter the whole point of the project is to get people by bicycle to centres of work quickly and safely.  London's bridges are already a danger spots for cyclists, but to put it in language the LTDA would understand: around half of all the vehicles on Blackfriars Bridge during the peak hour are bicycles (that's one bike every two seconds) Are you sure putting more bikes on the bridges to get south of the river is such a good idea?
To put things in a clearer light, and to completely discredit McNamara's idea that cycle journeys are somehow unnecessary and get in the way of "working London", let's look at some actual statistics.  
 Via As Easy As Riding A Bike, with thanks.
According to Transport for London's latest data, taxis make up 2% of all inner London road users.  Bicycles make up 4%.  Cycle rates in the same area have doubled over the past 10 years, whilst journeys by car have consistently declined.  Across greater London there are approximately 650,000 cycle journeys every day - they can't all be Bradley Wiggins wannabes making laps of Richmond Park.
The LTDA's stance is astonishing.  That they'd channel so much effort and resource in to giving such a knee-jerk and provocative reaction to a scheme that will cover a tiny percentage of London's roads (whilst their members lose massive market share to credit-card accepting mini-cab firms and book-by-app discount drivers Uber) is sad to watch. If I was an LTDA member I'd be telling them to pick their battles.  As a cyclist I'd laugh if this wasn't so serious.
Uber take a pop at the LTDA's pre-historic attitude via their Twitter account @Uber_LDN
A Judicial Review could see the Cycle Superhighway project delayed by up to 14 weeks, and its TfL's fare-paying customers who will pick up the bill for fighting it (you know, ordinary working Londoners)  But the madness doesn't stop there.

The LTDA's McNamara said say they "are considering a Judicial Review against the scheme in conjunction with Canary Wharf." You'll remember that the Canary Wharf Group were behind an anonymous briefing filled with untruths about the Cycle Superhighways which was distributed to politicians and business leaders late last year.  They've also paid for a lobbyist to tour the political party conferences to try and drum up opposition to the scheme.  Their strategic adviser, Howard Dawber, has appeared on television and radio claiming the project would be bad for their business and has attended numerous stake holder planning meetings.

And this is where things get ridiculous.

If a Judicial Review doesn't materialise, next Wednesday the Board of Transport for London will meet to decide whether to fund the Cycle Superhighway project or not.  This is not just a case of rubber-stamping the Mayor's plans.  As Cyclists In The City points out, they've picked over cycling plans in minute detail before.
But two members of the Board have a direct conflict of interest, and it would be a democratic failure were they to be allowed to participate in the funding decision...
Peter Anderson sits on the Board, and is also the Finance Director for.. ..Canary Wharf Group. 
Bob Oddy sits on the Board, and is also the Deputy General Secretary of... ..the LTDA!  

The LTDA's Bob Oddy, above, and Canary Wharf Group's Peter Anderson, below
In the long term I would ask - considering there's more of us on the roads every day than there are of them - why taxi drivers are represented on TfL's Board when cyclists are not.  In the short term I'd ask this: what will the Mayor do to ensure that those whose employers have been actively lobbying against this scheme are totally excluded from the process which will decide its future?

London's cycling community has fought long and hard and waited for many years for this: just ONE safe segregated cycle route across our city.  This project cannot be scuppered by members of the Board who no longer have a right to be involved in it.  If Anderson and Oddy think they can turn up at the Board after all their companies have done they've got another thing coming.

Transport for London's Board meeting takes place at 10AM on Wednesday 4th Feb at City Hall, committee room 4.  It is open to the public and the Board papers are available online to review.

Categories: Views

Of six new bridges in Assen, three are only for cyclists and pedestrians. But they're not good enough. I'll only cheer about new infrastructure when it is an improvement.

A View from the Cycle Path - 28 January, 2015 - 22:15
Locations of the six new bridges In the past, Het Kanaal ("the canal") was an important trade route for barges which went close to the centre of Assen. It was cut off last century during the period when emphasis was on motor vehicles and much commercial shipping moved from the canals onto roads. The Blauwe As (Blue Axis) project in Assen seeks to re-open Het Kanaal for recreational use. Six David Hembrow
Categories: Views

Lulu - the Cycling Fearbuster

Copenhagenize - 28 January, 2015 - 14:39

Last autumn I was contacted by a writer, Lisa Abend from AFAR Magazine, who wanted to interview me in an article about cycling in Copenhagen. That in itself is not unusual. My life is a steady flow of interviews, which is great. Her angle, however, was unique. An American woman in her 40s who was frightened of cycling in the safe, bicycle city that is Copenhagen.

Her perception of cycling is a personal one, with its roots in an episode in her youth. Fair enough. Fear can be powerful and lengthy. She asked me to help her tackle it and get her up to speed in her new, adopted city.

She has penned a great article about it and it is well worth the read. Copenhagen: The Capital of Nordic Bike Cool. It will also be in their print version.

I'll let her do the talking - not least because she is a great writer - but I wanted to add some photo material to the article. I decided upon a three stage rocket for the interview. The middle stage was teaming Lisa up with an expert who could help her calm her fears.

I introduced her to The Lulu.

Who better than The Lulu to show how simple and easy cycling in Copenhagen can be. Lulu had just turned seven and was more than willing to help out. We started cycling around our neighbourhood, with Lulu in the lead. She was a bit shy at first, reluctant to share her knowledge and experience. After a while I decided that I was a third wheel.

On the grounds of Frederiksberg Hospital I told Lulu to take Lisa on a ride by herself while I waited on a bench. Off they went, riding up and down the streets of the grounds. After a while, I wondered where they had gotten to. Knowing The Lulu, I guessed correctly. A parking lot where she, too, had practiced getting on and off her bike when she was at the beginning of her learning curve.

I walked over and sure enough, there she was, her bike parked in the middle and Lulu acting as ringmaster as Lisa circled around her. Practicing riding with one hand. Practicing mounting the bicycle. Lulu running the show like an old pro.

Read Lisa's article. It's great.

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

Climaphobia & Vaccum-Packed Cities

Copenhagenize - 27 January, 2015 - 19:50
As I write this I'm in a vacuum-packed tube hurtling through the air high above the Canadian tundra, heading to Edmonton, Alberta to speak at the Winter Cities Shakeup conference. At this point I'm pleased to be vacuum-packed. That a few generations of designers and engineers have perfected the technology to allow me to avoid the -70 C temperature outside this Air Canada Airbus and to sip a coffee while writing this. I remain amazed that this is possible. Like Louis CK says, “You're sitting in a chair in the sky! You're like a Greek myth right now.

It's a unique and original angle for a conference, this Winter Cities Shakeup. Design and urbanism focused on life in winter cities. Loads of events during the three days of the conference. In a couple of weeks I'll be speaking at the Winter Cycling Conference in Leeuwarden, Netherlands. Another great, albeit more specific, angle for a conference.

I started thinking about the Winter Cities Shakeup last year, when they first invited me to speak. What I have been thinking is why conferences like these are even necessary. Where have we ended up in the development of our cities and societies that we find it necessary to discuss and inform about life in cities with extreme (ish) weather conditions. Battling a recent – in the history of cities - development regarding peoples' perception of weather conditions.

The chain of thoughts leading to Edmonton and Leeuwarden started in Bangkok last year, where my team and I were working on a project for a client. The project dictated that we were driven all over the city. Not only on work-related matters but also sightseeing thanks to the fantastic, endless hospitality of our hosts. We also spent a great deal of time outside and taking public transport. I soon noticed a pattern in our hosts' behaviour.

The minivan was airconditioned, as are the trains and every damn building we ventured into. Every time we entered an airconditioned space, our hosts would comment on how great it was to be out of the heat. Fanning themselves and exhaling through pursed lips in relief. Even a 20 metre dash from minivan to building entrance.

It was hot in Bangkok, sure. 30-35 C and muggy. This, however, is not unusual. It's basically been the same weather for the past few... millenia. At the very least. It is in these weather conditions that the ancestors of our friends in the country were born into and lived their lives in. Working, raising families. In the course of a few decades, as airconditioning units became widespread, the heat had become a reluctant antagonist, simply because it was there. People have been conditioned to fear the heat.

An inverted meteological condition affects cities northern cities like Edmonton and Calgary and many others. There, it is the cold – performing its standard seasonal routine – that has become the bogeyman. I grew up in Calgary, so I know well the icy rage of a Prairie winter. From fifth to ninth grade I commuted by myself to the other side of the city to go to a private school. 1.5 hours on a combination of buses and trains connected with walking. Many a winters day did I amuse myself by spitting on the glass of busstops when the temperature was -20 C or colder, watching my saliva freeze solid before it had a chance to ooze down the pane.

These are places where radio stations announce – almost with a sense of pride – how long it will take your exposed skin to freeze at certain temperatures. I never have to wear a ski hat anymore, so often did my ears get frostbitten. These are places where cars have an electrical cord dangling from the hood because people have to plug in their car at night so the motor block doesn't freeze.

At the risk of making myself feel old, I remember how it was growing up in the 70s and 80s in those winters. I remember playing hockey on outdoor rinks at -25 C. Simply because there was nothing else to do and I was an average young man with energy to burn. I walked to high school in highly unsuitable footwear – boat shoes were the thing at the time and socks in boat shoes were a no go. I hated hats and on mornings when I washed my hair and didn't have time to dry it, my hair froze to ice on the 20 minute walk to school. Which I always thought was kind of cool.

Was I a hard young man? No. I was just an average young man in a winter city. I do remember, at about the age of nine or so, discovering that the thermostat in the house went up to 30 C. It baffled me that my dad had it set at 22 C. Why 22 when 30 was possible?! I kept turning it up to 30 until he approached me and gruffly explained the concept of heating bills. I was promptly sent back to the “put a sweater on” culture into which my mother had introduced all of us kids. Maybe my doppelganger in some Thai city at that time was being told “fan yourself if you're too hot”. That 'suck it up, buttercup' school of parenting is something I am pleased I experienced and something that my kids have certainly been introduced to.

Something has changed. In Bangkok. In Calgary. In Edmonton. I laugh when fellow Copenhageners feel they have to buy a fan during heatwaves in the summer where temperatures skyrocket to … oh... about 30 C. But something has changed in Copenhagen, too. All over the world.

I decided to give it a name. Climaphobia. Fear of the weather. Not extreme weather like destructive hurricanes, but just the normal weather.

We have developed into climaphobes. We fear the weather as soon as it ventures out of our comfort zone at either end of the temperature scale. In Denmark, the comfort zone is narrow. After twenty years of living in Copenhagen I have noticed that the perfect temperature for the Danes is 25 C. At 24 they bitch about the lousy summer. At 26 they gasp theatrically for breath. When the temperature stays above 20 C at night, the Danish Meteological Institute declares it a “Tropical Night”. It is rarely accompanied by a happy tone, more of a dire warning.

My Dad is 88 this year. He grew up on a farm in Northern Jutland. He can tell you stories about the legendary winters that were the norm back then. 1940/41? THAT was a winter. He has lived in Calgary since 1953, so the winter temperatures are just a bit chillier than during his childhood. He smiles and almost chuckles when telling me of this or that coldsnap in Calgary. He is almost disappointed when winter days rise above zero – as I write this it is 15 C in Calgary on January 26th.

The shrug his generation reserved for adverse weather rubbed off on my generation but now Climaphobia has struck. Coupled with our sensationalist media culture, a cold winter becomes a Polar Vortex. El Nino and his bride La Nina have produced a cull of unruly children happily named in order to imprint them on an entertainment-hungry society. Nasty hurricanes deserve a name, but generally weather has been celebritized. Previously undramatic weather conditions are elevated to the status of reality show stars. These celebrities are always cast as the bad guy. (Just look at the hysterical reaction to Juno - the storm that "threatened" New York and the East Coast yesterday)

As a film, Climaphobia would be lame. If it was found on Sony's servers by hackers, they would have deleted it instead of distributing it as a torrent. The protagonist would be a regular person living a regular life, perhaps plagued by less than optimal blood circulation so their feet and fingers were often cold. The gallery of antagonists would hardly strike fear into our hearts. Who is the battle against? Henry Heatwave, Roger the Raindrop, Coldsnap Charlie. The hero would arm themselves with battery-operated fans, hair dryers, super umbrellas – depending on which sequel we're watching.

Climaphobia is a thing because we have spent obscene amounts of energy and money desperately trying to engineer the weather out of our lives. Attempting to create a world like this tube I'm sitting in at 10,000 metres above the Prairies.
Calgary is infamous for their Skywalk system. The Plus 15, as it was called when I was young and they started developing it. The skyscrapers in the downtown core are connected by vacuum-packed walkways above the street, allowing you to walk in shirt sleeves from A to B on a complicated and not very direct route. Below, cars roll unencumbered by bothersome pedestrians. Edmonton has a network like this, as well.

Let's face it. The Skywalk concept is a direct product of a car centric society. Keeping people out of the weather was an added bonus to keeping the streets clear for cars. It's a dystopian world. Sit in your warm house, with your car plugged in or standing in a heated garage. There are even remote control devices that start your car from your dining table. Letting it run and get warmed up before you make the 5 metre dash to it. Then you drive in a vaccum-packed bubble to the downtown core, entering a car park, dashing 5 metres to the elevator and into the building, where you spend the rest of your day until to retrace your (very few physical) steps. If Le Corbusier were alive, he wouldn't watch porn. He would google images of the Skywalk to get his kicks. To get YOUR kicks, you have see the satirical film about it, called WayDownTown. A great companion film to Radiant City - another must see mockumentary about sprawl. Both films are by Gary Burns.

The downtown cores in Edmonton and Calgary are, like so many other cities, doughnuts outside of working hours. Devoid of life after the workers head home. These cities effectively amputated their streetlife and replaced it with artificial limbs in the air. Calgary tried to funk it up by making a stretch of 8th Ave car-free back in 1970 and renaming it Stephen Ave. It has never really worked. Parts of it have been handed back to cars and the street is a poor cousin to so many other pedestrianized streets around the world.

The Skywalk system and other concepts like it are simply attempts to put streetlife – and people – on a shelf, out of the way. Like the ridiculous Skycycle idea by English architect Norman Foster. Let's agree from now on that anything with the word Sky in it is probably not conducive to city life.

A conference like Winter Cities Shake-up is the unsuspecting offspring of society's climaphobia. It's goal to get people to enjoy outdoor life – even in the winter. Something homo sapiens have been doing for 200 millenia. I'm looking forward to speaking there, no doubt about it. It's a great idea. I have just tried to identify the societal development leading to it.

Is it enough to merely try and communicate the fact that “Hey! Winter's okay!” and work to inspire citizens to “rediscover outdoor winter pleasures”? Especially when their perception has been warped by a generation of vacuum-packing?

No. It's not enough.

It's design and urbanism that must battle the bad guys. Lurking in the wings of our B-film is the kingpin. Eddie Engineering. Like most nemesises, it's not really his fault. He had a bad childhood, growing up in a neighbourhood built on last-century engineering traditions. The unloved bastard child of Le Corbusier and Robert Moses. In an age where it was thought that engineering alone would save the world. In a region that bought into it. (Just look at that landscape below me now. Prairie terrain carved up by roads as far as the eye can see.)

We are left with one of the greatest challenges facing the modernisation of our cities. Changing the perception of the citizens. Perception of life outside the bubble. Perception of how people can transport themselves around cities.

Telling is less effective than showing. In the information age where we are inundated with things to learn – more things than we can ever hope to understand – telling through communication is losing its effectiveness.

Showing creates a different conversation. Copenhagen's tradition for pilot projects allows for showing. Once something is on the ground and working, people will discuss it on a much more fruitful level. Look at bike share – and the bike share Whine-o-meter. Ask a population if a city should have bike share and the population will say no. Put it in and get it working and they will understand. If they are still opposed, at least their opposition is well thought out (generally).

67% of motorists in Copenhagen want more bicycle infrastructure. Why? Because we've shown them. If a motorist is sitting at a red light with five cars in front of them and 100 cyclists at the red light on the cycle track next to them, they can see it. “If those five schmucks were on bikes, I'd be the first car at the red light...” They get it.

Building bicycle infrastructure for year round use will show people. “Ah... I get it...” Narrowing car lanes to create space for cycle tracks or public transport... “Ah... I get it...” And so on.

Designing facilities that are proven to work and slapping them into place. It's really the only way forward. Be it pilot projects or permanent solutions.

If communication is to be used, it shouldn't be in the form of campaigns to “ride a bike!” or “save the planet!” Environmentalism is the greatest marketing flop in the history of homo sapiens and most bicycle advocacy – as well as a lot of advocacy for liveable cities - is based on the same haughty tone and communication techniques.

The same show starts every autumn on the social media. Strange conversations begin about “how to ride during the winter”. Overcomplicated articles appear, like this one, written by avid cyclists who mean well but who do little to inspire the 99%. Every autumn I link to photos of people cycling in the winter in Copenhagen. This year I just made a new blog, based on a hashtag I thought up last year. Copenhagen Viking Biking. Daily flashcard inspiration.

“People won't do THAT...”

Uh. Yes they will. They're doing it right now. Humans will always use the quickest way from A to B. Understanding this urban anthropology is important. Fundemental. Effective.

Design for a life-sized city first, communicate effectively second. Show and tell. Battle Climaphobia and vacuum-packed cities.Copenhagenize the planet. And have a lovely day.
Categories: Views

Boris gives green light to Cycle Superhighways to unlock central London for bikes

ibikelondon - 27 January, 2015 - 10:05
The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, today confirmed he will go ahead with his proposed "Crossrail for Bikes" Cycle Superhighways across central London, following one of the largest public consultations in the history of Transport for London.

The East / West Cycle Superhighway will form Europe's longest substantially segregated urban cycleway, stretching from Tower Hill in the east to Acton in the west. Intersecting with a new North / South Cycle Superhighway from King's Cross to Elephant and Castle, the new routes will form the flagship facility in Johnson's £913million 10-year cycle investment plan.

Boris Johnson rides the route of his future Cycle Superhighway on the Embankment with Olympic champion cyclist and campaigner Chris Boardman. Photo via Press Association with thanks.

The Mayor said: “We have done one of the biggest consultation exercises in TfL’s history. We have listened, and now we will act. Overwhelmingly, Londoners wanted these routes, and wanted them delivered to the high standard we promised. I intend to keep that promise."

Subject to approval by the Board of TfL next week, construction on the routes will begin as soon as March, with the first route complete and ready for riders by spring 2016. (It's worth pointing out that Johnson's term as Mayor concludes in May 2016)

The nine-week public consultation on the plans saw an overwhelming 21,500 responses from individuals and business organisations, with 84% in overall support of the plans. A YouGov opinion poll taken during the consultation found 73% of Londoners supported the Cycle Superhighways, even if it meant taking a lane of traffic away.

Coordinated by pop-up campaigning group CyclingWorks.London, over 170 businesses and organisations pledged their support for the Cycle Superhighways and called on the Mayor to construct them without delay, including key employers along the route such as Unilever, Orange, the Royal Bank of Scotland and Deloitte. 

Businessman and cyclist Chris Kenyon from CyclingWorks.London said:
“Rarely if ever has a scheme by TfL gathered so many CEO-level signatures of support. Surely that is the big story. The backers represent every major industry sector and show that Londoners are in it together and believe that it's time for kerb protected lanes in the heart of the city.” 

The original route along the Embankment, which will still incorporate Parliament Square, subject to modifications.

The original plans from Transport for London have been revised in response to concerns by the City of London, the taxi lobby and the Canary Wharf Group that building cycle tracks would cause too great a delay.

The lanes for other traffic on the Victoria Embankment were to be cut from two to three between the pinch points of Blackfriars underpass and Temple Station. By squeezing the cycle tracks at these points, the three lanes of traffic will be able to remain. 

The Mayor's Cycling Commissioner, Andrew Gilligan, believes delays will be cut by 60% on the original plans. The worst affected journey - from Limehouse Link to Hyde Park Corner - will now only take an additional 6 minutes, rather than 16 minutes under the original plans. The traffic models do not account for people switching to other types of journey (ie cycling) as Rachel Aldred explains in her blog about why we should not fear the worst case scenario.

These new routes will fundamentally change London. Currently we stand with our back to the Thames and the Embankment. What is currently a traffic-choked, noisy and dirty rat-run for the city will become the spine of London's safest cycling infrastructure, where cyclists of all ages and abilities - from roadies, to children - will be able to undertake their journeys in safety. 

Transport for London's rendering of the north / south Cycle Superhighway from King's Cross to Elephant and Castle.

Cycle use has already doubled across London over the past ten years, but these ambitious plans will see cycling levels rocket.  Sir Peter Hendy CBE, transport commissioner for London, said: 
“Cycling is clearly now a major transport option in London, with over 170,000 bike journeys now made across central London every single day... These projects will help transform cycling in London – making it safer and an option that more and more people can enjoy."

We should be clear that the Cycle Superhighway plans are not perfect: the width of the tracks being reduced to approximately 3 metres through the Blackfriars Underpass and at other pinch points on the Embankment is very much of concern.  Once built they must be monitored, and potentially dangerous sections must re-assessed.  Furthermore, the route through the Royal Parks is still not clear and will be consulted on at a later date, as explained by Danny over at Cyclists in the City.  Could the Royal Parks put a spoke in the wheel of the whole scheme?

And there's no guarantee that the Canary Wharf Group will back down in their opposition to the Cycle Superhighway plans, despite the reduction in delays.  You'll remember they employed a professional lobbyist, distributed an anonymous briefing paper full of dodgy statistics, and badgered politicians at party conferences over the scheme. The Canary Wharf Group's Finance Director is one Mr Peter Anderson.  He's also Chair of Transport for London's Finance and Policy Committee and a member of their board - and therefore will have a say next week over whether the plans will go ahead or not.

The City and Canary Wharf Group have always been keen to demonstrate that opinion is divided on these schemes, whereas it has been my impression throughout that the majority of Londoners want these changes, they need these changes and they must be allowed to go ahead.  Those who oppose these changes would do well to remember we are talking about a tiny fraction of London's streets, even though it could have a transformative effect for cyclists.  Johnson has now made a big promise in the run up to the elections, it is important that he sticks to it. 

If all goes well - and not withstanding skullduggery and backroom dealing - London has achieved something incredible with this announcement.  It was only a few years ago, in November 2011, that Danny Williams from Cyclists In The City and I organised the Tour du Danger an initial protest around London's most dangerous junctions for cyclists.  Since then there have been countless campaigns, protest rides (not least at Blackfriars Bridge) and of course, cyclist's deaths.  Now we have a major UK politician staking their reputation on their cycling dream, prepared to put up the cash, and even ready to take roadspace away from other traffic to achieve their aims.  This is in no part is down to all of you who've badgered your politicians, signed petitions, come on protests and responded to consultations.  Give yourself a pat on the back, London.  Let's make a date in our diaries for a celebratory ride on our city's beautiful new cycling infrastructure, coming soon to a road near you!

Share |
Categories: Views

Winter Cycling vs Summer Cycling

BicycleDutch - 26 January, 2015 - 23:01
The first snow of 2015 surprised us last Saturday. The day before, the weather services had predicted black ice and they even issued a weather alarm. But it wasn’t black … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

In defence of fair-weather cyclists: how do you keep a city cycling, even in the worst of winter?

ibikelondon - 26 January, 2015 - 08:30

One of the most persistent criticisms I hear levelled against investing in cycling is that as soon as the weather becomes inclement people stop riding, therefore making it an unreliable way of moving people in cities.

Cyclists in a recent rush hour snow storm in Copenhagen, via the Copenhagenize / Viking Biking Tumbr.

Whilst the difference between summer and winter cycling levels in London have been decreasing year on year, the number of cyclists on the road over the winter months is markedly lower than in the long, light and warmer summer days.

If a journey by bicycle is tolerated for the sake of convenience, rather than comfort, it is true that poor weather can serve to increase the perception of it being sketchy.  I personally dread cycling around Old Street roundabout or through Holborn Circus in heavy rain with reduced visability.  No matter how good your waterproofs, you'll still be soaked through with the sweat of anxiety by the end of your terrifying trip.

Cyclists in the snow, Bethnal Green, London, 2010

Of course, it is not the actual rain, snow or darkness that I fear but the chance that my fellow road users are not paying sufficient attention to the conditions, and do not modify their behaviour appropriately.

In successful cycling countries this problem is solved by separating cyclists from motorised traffic one way or another; perhaps with cycle tracks on main roads, or with closures, restrictions and one-way routes on lesser roads with lighter traffic.  But this in turn can pose its own problems: in the worst of the winter weather, how do you keep cyclists - and the city - moving?

When you have a high percentage of your population making their journey by bikes - as in Copenhagen or across the Netherlands - making sure that cycle routes are clear becomes a very serious consideration.  In another fascinating new post, video blogger Mark of Bicycle Dutch fame recently recorded how his home city of 'S-Hertogenbosch kept people moving through a recent snow storm, and made journeys by bicycle possible in challenging conditions.  

He explains: "On a cycle way the ‘gritters’ brush the surface first, and then it is sprayed with a mixture of salt and water. That film of salt water does cover the entire surface and that means most of the snow melts instantly on the entire street surface even without [passing cyclist's] tyres to disperse the salt. The difference between routes that were cleared and gritted and those that were not (yet) was huge."

I know what you're already thinking: here in the UK we don't deal with adverse weather well.  That we struggle to clear our roads and pavements, let alone cycle paths.  That we can't even build all-weather year-round cycle routes. 

Mud, mud, glorious mud! It's not Middle Earth, but all the same you shall not pass... Via As Easy As Riding A Bike.

Indeed, As Easy As Riding A Bike blog recently highlighted a Sussex cycle route which could provide a safe and convenient bypass to the busy A2 is impassable to all but those equipped with mountain bikes and wellington boots for much of the year.  It's never been laid properly due to concerns about an "urbanising effect" on the countryside, which clearly doesn't consider the same effect car journeys have that could easily be replaced by trips on this path, were it a viable route instead.  Making this journey on the path in its current form on a dark night in wet and windy weather would be reserved for all but the hardiest of thrill-seekers.

The heavy snow fall of 2010 caught London unprepared.  My street, seen here, remained uncleared for over a week.

But as the Dutch example demonstrates, winter weather need not be an insurmountable obstacle for successful cycling.  People always tell me that "there's no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes" but I'd argue that there's more to it than that... 

You can have all the fancy water proof kit in the world, but if you're having to fend off thundering lorries and itinerant taxi drivers in addition to trying to stay upright through wet and windy weather you're not going to be having a very nice time.  And you could have all the cycle infrastructure in the world (and I'm thinking in particularly of the separated lanes we should start to see being rolled out in London over the next few years) but if the authorities don't have a plan for keeping them clear of mud, snow and ice they'll be next to useless.  Keeping your city cycling, even in the worst of weather, shows the special care and consideration people on two wheels need.

Further reading:
Bicycle Dutch: how to make cycling in the snow possible
Copenhagenize: the ultimate bike lane snow clearance post!
As Easy As Riding a Bike: Natural Character
ibikelondon: Cycling through epic amounts of snow, retro Norway style

Categories: Views

Do you have a problem with ‘fast’ cyclists, or with bad design?

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 23 January, 2015 - 09:57

Fast cyclists, eh.

Whizzing around; speeding through; belting around corners; appearing out of nowhere; tearing along.

At twenty miles an hour, even. Sometimes.

Twenty miles an hour.

Hang on. Twenty miles an hour? Twenty miles an hour? Isn’t that the kind of speed society conventionally considers to be quite slow, at least when it comes to motor vehicles? Witness the frothing that presents itself any time a borough, town or city wants to lower a speed limit from 30mph to 20mph.

30mph is seen (rightly or wrongly) as a reasonable, normal urban speed; yet this is the kind of speed that ‘cyclists’ – even the fittest and most powerful – will struggle to attain under normal circumstances. Equally, 20mph for motor vehicles is seen as an acceptably slow speed, yet 20mph on the flat requires serious effort from someone cycling.

So is there really such a thing as a ‘fast cyclist’? How can it be the case that cyclists are considered ‘fast’, when they will almost always be travelling through areas dominated by motor vehicles travelling within the speed limit, yet at greater speed? (Sometimes much greater). What’s going on? Does it even make sense to refer to cyclists as ‘fast’ in this context? If cycling on the road at well under 20mph isn’t ‘too fast’, why should it be ‘too fast’ on cycle-specific infrastructure?

One of the most recent examples of the employment of ‘fast cyclists’ was in this press release from Sustrans about a new bridge in Bristol.

The project will coincide with the first installation of new lighting technology which is used in Copenhagen to encourage faster cyclists to slow their pace. The “green wave” lights will coordinate with the signals at the crossroads on Coronation Road so that cyclists flow more smoothly through the junction.

It turns out that the purpose of the lights is really just to pace people to the traffic signals (at what speed, it is not stated) rather than, specifically, to slow down ‘faster cyclists’ – so this is a poorly-phrased paragraph (and misleading about the purpose of this lighting in Copenhagen). But it fits with a general atmosphere in Britain of blaming people for cycling ‘too fast’ for a situation, attempting to slow them down, without any apparent assessment of why it makes objective sense, in urban areas, to slow down anyone cycling to a speed far below 20mph, when 20mph is the minimum speed limit for motor traffic.

What is really the issue is not speed; it’s poor design. It’s paths that are too narrow to safely accommodate pedestrians and cyclists, in the numbers that are using them. Witness the attempts to get people to ‘behave’ on the Bristol-Bath railway path – ‘anti-social’ issues that simply would not arise if the path was wide enough, and had a separate footway.

It’s poor sightlines, and pinch points, and sharp corners, that bring people into conflict, and necessitate the use of awful barriers and chicanes in an attempt to get people to moderate their speed.

A sadly all-too-typical example.

Rather than designing paths to accommodate a range of cycling speeds, paths in Britain are, sadly, often designed for walking speed, and then impediments and obstacles are put in people’s way once it turns out that the natural cycling speed of most people is much higher, and consequently problematic.

It’s awful, and it’s still happening. As I type this, a brand-new walking and cycling bridge is being installed over the A24, the bypass around Horsham. It will have TWO sets of slalom zig-zag gates on the ramp.

I am not going to enjoy cycling on this ramp.

Why is this? Simply because the bridge has not been designed properly; designed to accommodate people’s natural cycling speed. It will have a ridiculously tight, Alpe d-Huez series of mini hairpin bends at the bottom of the ramp.

Horsham has gained some hairpin bends. But not the exciting kind.

This ramp has come ready-made with obstacles attached to it, to slow people down, all because it has not been designed to accommodate normal cycling speeds in the first place. It’s as simple as that.

The vast majority of the people cycling in the Netherlands will not be getting near speeds of 20mph for everyday cycling. However, a minority will be (and may exceed that speed), and the infrastructure is designed in such a way as to accommodate those higher speeds, and to mitigate potential problems. I’ve set out in a previous post how this works; designing for the bicycle as a vehicle capable of speed.

More broadly, this is the kind of design that is good for cycling regardless of the speed at which people are travelling. The corners will be smooth, with sufficiently large radii, to make turns a pleasure, rather than an inconvenience. And conflict will be avoided, even at higher speeds.

Fast cycling down this ramp won’t be a problem, because there’s a footway, and the path is wide and open enough to make fast cycling safe.

It makes cycling a pleasurable experience; there aren’t obstacles in your way, corners are not sharp, and momentum is not lost. Journeys are smooth and easy, be they on the flat, uphill, or downhill.

By contrast, cycling in Britain  appears to continue being accommodated within pedestrian-specific infrastructure, and is then hobbled to reduce the speed of people cycling to walking speeds.

The problem, therefore, is not with ‘fast cyclists’, but with completely inadequate design.

Categories: Views

Never mind "cyclists stay back", what about "drivers, watch for cyclists"?

ibikelondon - 21 January, 2015 - 06:30

They're big, they're yellow, they're angry and they're everywhere.  "Cyclists! Stay back!" they shout, and they seem to be stuck on the back (or even the side) of just about every working vehicle in London.

The ubiquitous yellow safety stickers first appeared on lorries as a warning to cyclists that they had massive blind spots, and slipping down their sides was a potentially fatal thing to do. But when Transport for London began requiring every contracted vehicle to also sport the stickers, they began to appear on vehicles ranging from-mini buses to ordinary cars; vehicles which are hampered not by blind spots but by the driver's failure to look.  Peter Walker of the Guardian explains very well just why these stickers seem particularly impertinent to cyclists.

There was uproar last summer as the yellow menace spread, and Transport for London agreed to begin replacing the stickers with more gently worded warnings to "avoid passing this vehicle on the inside".  But I can only assume the replacement stickers are lost in the post somewhere as just last night I saw what looked to be brand new "stay back" stickers on the rear window of two different taxis.

Popular cycling website turned their hand to sticker making and came up with these "Cyclists! Stay Awesome!" stickers, and I can appreciate the humour: too often it seems that signs shouting at people on bikes lurk around every corner.  Cyclists! Stay Back! Cyclists! Dismount! Cyclists! Stop at red! Cyclists! Proceed directly to jail, do not pass go, do not collect £200!

So I was really happy to see the below sign on the exit gates of the Crossrail station construction site at Bond Street, which is busy with lorries day in and day out.  The message is bold, the message is simple, the message makes sense: "Drivers! Watch for cyclists!"

Maybe I bear a two-wheeled bias, but I'd like to see a lot more of these around town.  In fact, I have a proposal to make: I'll agree to anyone slapping a "Cyclists! Stay back!" marker on the back of their vehicle so long as they also agree to stick "Driver! Watch for cyclists!" on their steering wheel.  Seems like a fair deal to me, don't you think?

Share |
Categories: Views

Taking responsibility for social safety

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 20 January, 2015 - 13:06

Labour’s Shadow Transport Secretary, Michael Dugher, gave an interview with the Mirror in December, which attracted a fair bit of attention, principally because it resembles a transparent attempt to court the ‘motorist vote’ (whatever that may be) – presenting Labour as being on the side of ‘the motorist’. It included all the usual antique soundbites – ‘cash cows’, ‘war on the motorist’, and so on – as well as the miserably unambitious suggestion

If car drivers switched just one car journey a month

Switched not to walking or cycling, but to buses or coaches. Walking and cycling were entirely absent in this interview, as Caroline Russell pointed out in this excellent response piece.

But there was one detail in this piece that I confess I missed when it first appeared, and I’m grateful to Katja Leyendecker for pointing it out. Dugher argued -

When people demonise the motorist it’s ­offensive. Look at the huge increase in women drivers. That’s been a great thing. It’s about women’s independence and it’s about safety. Often women choose to drive when it’s dark because they feel safer.”

Now it is true that many women will opt for the car to make trips when it is dark, because they feel safer within a motor vehicle, than outside it. (Indeed, I suspect this is true for a number of men too).

But absent from this analysis is the role of government in designing, building, maintaining (and policing) environments in which people feel safe when they travel. The role of ministers like Michael Dugher. I don’t think it’s a ‘great thing’ that women who may not even want to drive are forced to do so because the streets on which they should be able to walk or cycle are socially unsafe. In fact I think that’s a pretty appalling thing.

To take an example, is it a surprise that many women might drive to and from Dorking railway station, when the pedestrian underpass beneath the A24 – connecting the station to the town – looks like this?

I wouldn’t go in there at night.

Is it a surprise that people might not want to cycle or walk through badly-designed underpasses like this one in Stevenage?

I’m sure there are countless examples across the towns and cities of Britain of walking and cycling routes like this – poorly-designed, barely used, not overlooked, and frankly scary. Not to mention the standard stingy walking paths between British housing developments, that almost seem an invitation to a mugging.

If people feel the need to drive because they don’t feel socially safe walking and cycling, that is a very bad thing, and certainly not something to be welcomed, especially by the people who should be responsible taking responsibility for addressing those issues. The social safety of the environments we walk and cycle in – how safe they feel to us is the responsibility of councils and government.

Social safety is recognised in the Netherlands as being an important element of whether or not people choose to walk or cycle, as this excellent post from David Hembrow explains.

For social safety:

  • You should always be able to see out of any tunnel as you enter it
  • Blind corners on paths are not acceptable
  • Cycle paths should be wide to allow cyclists to move out of the way of others
  • A low crime rate and a good conviction rate are needed. Cyclists should not feel that the police do not take their complaints seriously.
  • Cycle paths should be lit at night so that you can see potential muggers, obstacles on the path etc.
  • Areas that are clean, litter free, graffiti free, where grass is mowed and plants are not allowed to overhang the cycle path have a better feeling of social safety.

So the walking and cycling environment in the Netherlands is designed to feel safe. ‘Attractiveness’ – which covers social safety – is one of the five main elements considered in designing cycling infrastructure. That means that cycling infrastructure is built to a high standard, to ensure that wherever people are walking and cycling about, they feel safe, regardless of the context.

That means underpasses that are open and wide.

It also means that cycle routes should be well-lit, overlooked and (perhaps most importantly) good enough to be used in sufficiently high numbers.

If there are issues of social safety at night, enough to force people into driving cars for short trips, is that really something to be welcomed?

I’d like to think our Secretary of State for Transport would take action to address the root cause of the problem, not applaud people having to resort to a mode of transport that will often make absolutely no sense in urban areas, in order to ensure their own safety.

Categories: Views

Cycle Viaduct in Utrecht Overvecht

BicycleDutch - 19 January, 2015 - 23:01
Yet again, two policy makers in the Netherlands seized the opportunity to show how much they care about people’s well-being, the environment and cycling. On Friday 7 November last, the … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

Will Camden deliver the UK's best urban planning scheme (with HUGE benefits for cyclists)? 48hrs to tell them to DO IT!

ibikelondon - 19 January, 2015 - 08:30
Back in June we explored Camden Council's exciting plans to improve the Tottenham Court Road area with their West End Project.  The plans for cyclists have been made better following the public consultation. Now it is time for Camden's Cabinet to make a decision on what is ostensibly the boldest urban realm scheme proposed by a local authority in Britain today.  But not everyone is happy about the scheme, which is why it is important we tell them to "Just do it!".

Tottenham Court Road will become a primarily pedestrian route, with safer and easier crossing of the road, 20mph speeds and bus priority.  Cycle-specific provision will be supplied on parallel Gower Street.

So, what are the plans? Some £26million pounds will be spent removing the one-way gyratory which currently ensures speeds are much too high on Tottenham Court Road and condemns Gower Street (which should be one of London's finest Regency-era streets) to exist only as a traffic sewer filled with three lanes of buses and speeding vehicles. The area is currently described as one of the worst in the borough for collisions, with 259 casualties in total in the last three years, of which 36% involved pedestrians and 27% involved cyclists. 

You can view the amended plans in full here.

Categories: Views

Cycling in Rotterdam 4 of 8

Pedestrianise London - 18 January, 2015 - 19:03

4. Salmoning (going the wrong way) appears to be a common & an accepted thing, especially on the uni-directional paths on wide boulevards.

— Paul James (@pauljames) November 4, 2014

It’s a little surprising when you suddenly come face to face with a bike coming the wrong way along the cycleway and you have to duck back into the stream of bikes hopefully without cutting anyone up.

It actually turns out to be less of a problem than you’d think, the single direction cycleways on the wide boulevards that make up the city are wide enough for easy passing. Salmoners mostly seem to be taking shortcuts in places where they’d otherwise have to cross the road twice rather than travel a short distance the wrong way on the wrong path.

I fully expect that these salmoners know what they are doing, it’s quite hard to accidentally end up going the wrong way. Junctions always push you in the correct direction by using curved versus square corners, a square corner is just hard to turn around and so your subconscious knows that it’s not a correct way to go. Even when you get to the end of a bi-directional path, the centre white lines and the curbing stop you from accidentally turning into a salmon.

Categories: Views


Subscribe to Cycling Embassy of Great Britain aggregator - Views