Against shared use

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 19 November, 2015 - 12:35

One of the most baffling aspects of British cycling policy is the contrast between the periodic clampdowns on ‘pavement cycling’ (and the intolerance to this kind of activity in general) and the way cycling is actually designed for by most councils across the country – namely, with shared use footways, and shared paths.

Footway cycling is simultaneously something that people hate, and that the police expend resources on dealing with, while at exactly the same time councils are putting cycling on footways, and lumping cycling with walking on new paths, bridges and underpasses.

To take just one example – there are undoubtedly many – Reading’s cycling strategy has this to say.

… we recognise that cyclists have varying abilities and needs. As a result, we will consider providing off-carriageway facilities by officially re-designating a footway to permit cycling when there is a high proportion of inexperienced cyclists and children to cater for, and the alternative is a busy traffic distributor route or to improve route continuity.

What this really amounts to is a lack of willingness to design cycle-specific facilities that would be suitable for any user, whatever their abilities and needs. Shared use footways are the lazy, tick-box option; roads and streets already have footways alongside them, so just punting cycling onto the footway is an easy way of dealing with the problem of hostile roads that are too hostile to cycle on for the majority of the population.

This, of course, puts cycling into conflict with walking – which is annoying for pedestrians, and for people cycling, whether it is legal, or not, and which of course provokes the periodic ‘clampdowns’ on those stretches of footway where cycling isn’t legal. Meanwhile telling the difference between footways that allow cycling, and that don’t, is often rather difficult – this case is a typical example.

If we’re allowing cycling on some footways, it is completely incoherent that it should be illegal on identical footways a few hundred metres away, or even on the same stretch of footway. The incoherence exists because the footway is a convenient place to put cycling if you can’t be bothered to do a proper job where it gets difficult; blobs of footway cycling on an overall network of footways where cycling isn’t allowed are a natural result of a policy building ‘cycle routes’ that take the path of least resistance, from point A to point B. Councils are against footway cycling; except when it’s a convenient way of dealing with a problem.

Illegal here

Legal here

Cycling and walking are different modes of transport, and should be catered for separately.  Indeed, as Brian Deegan of Transport for London has rightly said, we should be building ‘roads for bikes’ – an excellent way of capturing the broad design philosophy required.

A ‘junction’ on Superhighway 5 in London, with a footway. Designed and marked like a road for motor vehicles would be – but for cycles.

When we drive around in motor vehicles, we don’t ever drive on footways (except to cross them to access private properties, or to cross in to minor side streets, in those rare places continuous footways exist). And precisely the same should be true for cycling. In the Netherlands you will never be cycling on a footway. You will cycling on roads for bikes, designed everywhere for this specific vehicular mode of transport.

A road for motor vehicles, with a road for cycles alongside it.

Naturally where people are walking in significant numbers, a footway, separated from the cycleway in much the same way you would build a footway alongside a road – is provided. This limits conflict between these two modes of transport. People walking can travel at their own pace, not worrying about possibly coming into conflict with people travelling faster on bicycles.

Footways aren’t provided everywhere, of course. In places where very few people are walking – out in the countryside, for instance – it doesn’t make a great deal of sense to build them alongside a cycleway.

People can walk on this ‘road’ for cycles; the volumes of people walking are low enough that conflict will not be a problem. Indeed, there is guidance in the Dutch CROW manual that states explicitly when footways should be provided. Above around 160-200 pedestrians per hour, per metre of width – which would mean, for instance, a 3m bi-directional cycleway like this one should have a footway for pedestrians if there are more than eight pedestrians, per minute, crossing a hypothetical perpendicular line across the cycleway.

By analogy, this is the same kind of situation as on a country lane, where we don’t build footways for pedestrians, because there aren’t very many of them to justify it, nor is motor traffic fast enough, or large enough in volume, to do so. This situation above amounts to a 3m ‘country lane’, used only by people cycling and walking – albeit one alongside a road for motor traffic.

This is a crucial distinction; the Dutch don’t cycle on ‘shared use footways’, but instead on roads for bikes, that people can walk on, where there wasn’t a need for a footway. This means that junctions are designed for cycling, not for walking, avoiding these kinds of ambiguous bodges you encounter on shared use footways in Britain.

A smooth and reasonably wide path – but what happens at junctions? Footway-style design.

Priorities clear with roads for bikes. (Notice how footway appears alongside ‘cycle road’ within town limits)

Lumping cycling in with walking ducks these crucial issues of cycle-specific design. It’s easy to put cycling on footways, but it presents significant design and safety problems at junctions, as well as storing up trouble for the future – shared use footways are not a place where large numbers of people cycling will mix easily with walking. They are a ‘solution’ (if they are even that) only for the current low-cycling status quo.

This issue extends beyond footways to paths, bridges, routes and tunnels. If we were starting from scratch, we wouldn’t combine walking and cycling on a busy 3-4m footway alongside a road – so it baffles me why we design the two modes together on brand new bridges and paths in areas that will have high footfall. The new shared bridge in Reading seems to me to be a recipe for conflict, especially if cycling levels increase.

‘Sharing’ in this kind of context makes cycling slow, and walking uncertain and less comfortable; precisely the same kind of difficulties we might expect on a shared use footway with equivalent numbers of pedestrians using it.

Problematically, some councils even see lumping walking and cycling together as a way of slowing cycling down. This effectively amounts to using pedestrians as mobile speed bumps, in much the same way people cycling are used as traffic calming on new road layouts with deliberately narrowed lanes, and it’s bad policy for much the same reasons. If you’re using humans to slow down other modes of transport, that means discomfort.

It’s far better for both modes to separate; to provide clear, dedicated space for walking and for cycling. That doesn’t mean dividing up inadequate space, of course, but providing adequate, separated, width for both parties. Two examples from Rotterdam, below – the first a small bridge on a path to a suburban hospital –

The second the main tunnel under the (enormous) Rotterdam Centraal train station.

In each case, conflict is removed – people walking can amble at their own pace, while people cycling have clear passage, travelling along with people moving at roughly the same speed as them.

Lumping cycling in with walking might be easy, and not require much thought, but it’s a bad solution for both modes of transport, and will become increasingly bad if cycling levels increase.

Categories: Views

Maastrichtseweg 5 years later

BicycleDutch - 16 November, 2015 - 23:01
We humans adapt so well to our environment that we quickly forget how different things sometimes were. In the last five years a lot of the (cycling) infrastructure in my … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

Public meeting: Presentation of RDRF Manifesto for London Mayoral Candidates (Hustings)

Road Danger Reduction Forum - 16 November, 2015 - 20:47
Hosted by London Borough of Lambeth Public meeting at 336 Brixton Road on Monday 23rd November Programme

6.15 Tea and biscuits

6.30 Opening statement from Lord Berkeley, President RDRF (Tony now can’t be with us, so his place as chair for the evening will be taken by RDRF founder member/ treasurer Ken Spence)

6.35 LB Lambeth Transport Portfolio holder, Cllr. Jennifer Braithwaite.

6.45 RDRF Mayoral candidates Manifesto, Introduction by RDRF Chair Dr Robert Davis

6.50 The Mayoral Candidates Manifesto and responses: EACH ITEM WILL START WITH A 5 – 10 MINUTE TALK BY RDRF COMMITTEE MEMBER OR SUPPORTER, FOLLOWED BY either RESPONSES BY REPRESENTATIVES OF CANDIDATES or READING OUT RESPONSES BY CANDIDATES THAT HAVE BEEN SENT IN. So far we have had 3 responses and have been promised responses by Labour and Conservative candidates.

  1. Law Enforcement Robert Davis
  2. Training of MPS personnel: Brenda Puech (Accessibility consultant and RDRF Committee)
  3. Measuring Danger Properly: Robert Davis
  4. Even Safer Lorries, Colin McKenzie, (Transport Planner, RDRF Committee)
  5. Safer Buses: Tom Kearney Tom has been campaigning for greater transparency – and for pedestrianising Oxford St, which is now agreed by all candidates – about TfL bus operations since being seriously injured while walking on Oxford St. footway
  6. Modal Shift: Caroline Russell, (Cllr at LB Islington, RDRF Committee))
  7. Post-crash investigation: Amy Aeron-Thomas, RoadPeace the National Road Crash Victims charity.

7.45 –  Discussion.


..and don’t forget our  Manifesto and replies received so far are here:

Categories: Views

New Elevated Cycle Track in Copenhagen - 65 metres high

Copenhagenize - 15 November, 2015 - 17:42

Copenhagen has built or is building seven new bicycle bridges. In Copenhagen, they're called bicycle bridges, but we assume that there will also be pedestrian access - and there always is. But in the City of Cyclists, our perception is that a bridge ain't functional if it isn't for bicycles. The news here is that yet another bridge has gotten the go ahead. If the elevated cycle track we call the Bicycle Snake / Cykelslangen captured our imagination, have a look at the new kid on the block, above. A covered bicycle and pedestrian walkway 65 metres above the harbour. Leading from one tower to another.

American architect Steven Holl won the competition for Marmormolen - or Marble Pier - back in 2008 but the financial crisis slowed stuff down in Denmark for a while. Now the project is green-lighted. This project is called LM Project.

The towers will be built at the head of the part of the harbour that houses the world's third-busiest cruise ship port. The height of the elevated facility is due to the massive size of most (horribly unsustainable) cruise ships.

At first glance one might think either "why bother" or "goofy gimmick", but the elevated cycle track and walkway wasn't an architect's whim. It was actually in the City of Copenhagen's tender material when the project was launched. A tower on each side connected by a bridge at least 65 m in the air.

The reason is logistics and city policy. There has to be maximum of 500 metres from any home in Copenhagen to public transport, be it a bus stop, train station or metro station. If you look at the map, above, you can see that the tower on the right, at the end of Langelinie pier, would be much farther away from Nordhavn train station and the coming metro station, at left. If you had to walk or ride a bike all the way around.

Therefore, with the elevated facility, people in the tower on the right will be within 500 metres of the stations and bus stops.

Personally, I think it's a bit wild, but I know that it is necessary to stick to the fine policy of access to public transport. It will never be a main route for any great number of cyclists or pedestrians but it will be an important connection as the city continues to grow.

It still adheres to the basic principles of Danish Design: Functional, Practical and Elegant. Okay, maybe it lacks thorough practicality - taking a large, bicycle-friendly elevator up to the clouds to cross a harbour head is not exactly a smooth, efficient transport flow. But the function as a link across the water is clear.

Construction of the buildings and elevated facility will commence in 2016.

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

Amsterdam City Council Agrees to Remove More Cars

Copenhagenize - 11 November, 2015 - 13:20

After all the buzz about Oslo going car-free a couple of weeks ago, yet another city is making the move to modernise.

The news out of Amsterdam today is that the city council has agreed to further limit car traffic in the city centre. Earlier this year, their agreed to establish a new design for the Muntplein square. With a recent traffic study of the city, it has been established that it is possible to improve the plans even more.

Through a car number plate analysis, it was possible to get a detailed picture of the traffic in the city centre. The study showed that traffic is atypical. There are many taxis, vans and visitors but there is no longer a pattern. 65% of the motorised traffic in the city city centre has no business there. 20% uses the roads to get to surrounding areas. 15% use the streets as a transit route on A to B journeys that have nothing to do with the city centre. 30% just drive around in circles - this is primarily taxis, especially at night, doing loops while waiting for customers, as well as people looking for parking.

The plans will direct this parasitical traffic to other roads outside the city centre, while keeping the area accessible to local traffic and deliveries. This will improve the flow and create more space for pedestrians and cyclists. The city is also looking at how to get taxis from driving aimlessly around at night.

Additional Measures
In the final design for Muntplein, cars will disappear at the end of Vijzelstraat and in an easterly direction along the Amstel River. On Singel, between Munt and Koningsplein, it will remain car-free. This is part of the City's Red Carpet programme. In order to make the end of Vijzelstraat and the last stretch of Singel completely car-free, one-way traffic will be implemented along the river between Muntplein and Blauwbrug. The municipality is in the process of working out the details and ensuring that there is still accessibility for goods delivery.

The accessibility paradigm for the City of Amsterdam.

Traffic impact
The primary goal is to reduce car traffic in the city centre by 30%. Even by rerouting traffic the city does not anticipate a deterioration in the traffic flow. Traffic coming from outside the ring still has good alternatives. Traffic on short urban trips (about 10% of journeys) will have to take frequent detours. Most of the extended travel time will be experienced by occasional visitors. The taxis of Amsterdam are the group that will experience extended travel times the most. Although it is calculated that they will spend only six more minutes of driving each week per vehicle. Residents and commercial vehicles will experience extended travel times of two and three minutes each week, respectively.

The plans are expected to be carried out in 2016 and the City Council will vote on it next year, but they have - until then - agreed on it.

Here is a recent article about how the city wants eight new parking garages in order to get cars off the streets and free up space for people.

It could be said that the City is a bit behind schedule. There were protests and a referendum in the city back in 1992 about halving the number of cars. Some measures were implemented, however, but five years later, it was called a farce.

Here is the original text from the City of Amsterdam.Copenhagenize the planet. And have a lovely day.
Categories: Views

Traffic lights have to make sense

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 11 November, 2015 - 10:37

There is a set of traffic lights in Utrecht that must be amongst the most widely ignored in the city. They are located on Vredenburg, a new road layout right in the centre.

You can stand at this junction, and the people who stop at a red light will be in a definite minority.

Yet on the opposite side of the road – literally, only a few feet away – I managed to take this picture of about 60 people waiting patiently at a red light. The difference in behaviour could not be more stark.

What accounts for this difference? It can’t be the people – they are all residents in the same city, making the same journeys on this same road. People stopping at the red light when heading west along Vredenburg – as in the photograph above – will often cycle through the red light in the opposite direction when they make the return journey.

The most likely explanation is that the red signal people are ignoring doesn’t make a great deal of sense. The side street that is being crossed is a dead end; a place where taxis wait in the evening, and that is barely used during the day. People cycling along here know that the chance of a motor vehicle entering or exiting this area on the right is very small indeed.

Traffic signals are designed to manage interactions that wouldn’t work as well if they weren’t there; pedestrians crossing a busy road, for instance, or allowing two opposing streams of motor traffic to cross each other’s path when traffic volumes are too high for this to work informally at a normal ‘priority’ junction.

But the interactions at the junction in the video are rarely happening; no motor vehicles are coming in and out of the side road, and it just feels pointless to wait at this red signal.

The queue on the other side, however, does make sense. It does feel right to wait there, because you have to cross a relatively busy junction, with lots of buses coming in and out of it. I’m sure a small minority of people might take a chance and skip across when the signals are red, but the great majority won’t. And many will be crossing diagonally across the junction once the lights go green, which of course isn’t something that you would attempt to do when the signals are red. You are having to deal with multiple potential risks – the two lanes going in and out of the side road, and the two lanes on the main road, and pedestrians crossing the road. It’s much better to wait for the green.

People cycling across this junction with a green signal – diagonally, and straight ahead. No interactions with motor traffic, so this feels very safe.

So what I am driving at here is that compliance with traffic signals largely flows from whether they make sense or not. Signals that can be seen to be easily ignored without risk will be ignored by a larger proportion of people than those waiting at signals where the lights are obviously serving some useful purpose – where the traffic lights are actually on your side.

This is something that was touched upon in BicycleDutch’s latest post on technology that might potentially help people cycling to arrive at green signal more often. Mark quotes the city’s alderman for traffic and the environment –

“Utrecht is growing and we try to let the growth happen within the boundaries of the current city. That means it gets busier. It is a challenge for the traffic light guys… to guide all road users safely through the intersection in a time that also makes them a bit happy, at least happy enough to keep obeying these lights.”

Here an explicit link is made between compliance and the way traffic signals work. ‘Happiness’ means not keeping people waiting; if people find that a particular junction has a ridiculously long wait for the next green, then they will get restless, and be more likely to chance a red, especially if there are minimal risks involved in doing so.

We can see this connection between happiness and compliance at another junction in Utrecht, a much bigger one. As I arrive at the junction, people are already waiting to cross. After the lights have been red for at least 90 seconds, a man on a scooter jumps the signals. Everyone else waits.

After the lights have been red for over two minutes, the man on the scooter (who had been obeying the red light, all this time) also jumps the lights, while a woman cycling does so from the opposite direction.

After the lights have been red over three minutes, a woman cycling also gives up, and jumps the red light.

The full video is below; I’ve kept it in real time so you can see how frustrating it is to be waiting for so long. I could almost feel the annoyance and incomprehension rising around me; people looking at each other, people pushing the button repeatedly, and others just giving up and using common sense to cross in the gaps of traffic.

People who were law-abiding (nobody just blasted through the red signals without waiting) were converted into law breakers, simply because they felt the traffic signals no longer made sense, and in the absence of those traffic signals making sense, the balance shifted in favour of their own judgement. Precisely the same is true of the (much smaller) junction in the video at the start of the post; the traffic signals don’t make sense, so people exercise their own judgement.

And we can apply these lessons to Britain. The main reason traffic signals are perceived to be obeyed by drivers of motor vehicles is because they make sense. They work in your favour, stopping flows of large vehicles that you would otherwise have to negotiate your way through.

Traffic lights are all out on A30 Great South-West Road at A312 The Parkway.

— TfL Traffic News (@TfLTrafficNews) April 21, 2015

And of course (as I’ve observed before) it’s actually quite hard to jump lights in a motor vehicle. More often than not, you will stuck in a queue, surrounded by other motor vehicles – you couldn’t jump the lights even if you wanted to. And of course trying to sneak through the junction when lights have been red for some time (I’m not talking about ‘amber gambling’, or even ‘red gambling’, which I would argue is endemic) carries big risks, if you are in a large, bulky vehicle.

People cycling engage in a form of jumping that you rarely see drivers engaging in; creeping into the junction, looking around, seeing if it is clear, and progressing carefully across in stages.

It’s quite obvious why drivers don’t engage in this kind of behaviour, and again, it’s not because of number plates (because, again, that fails to explain why they’re jumping lights in vast numbers already). It’s because it’s risky to get yourself into the middle of a junction in a big bulky object, leaving yourself nowhere to retreat to, if things go wrong. You’re going to end up causing an obstruction.

It really doesn’t make sense to jump lights in this way when you are in a car, unless there’s a genuine emergency. You will get stuck, or come to grief. But on a bicycle it will often make a great deal of sense to jump a light, even if it is illegal, because your mode of transport is small, and flexible, you are more connected with your surroundings, and you can bail out a of problematic situation quite easily.

So the kind of red light jumping by people cycling in Britain actually takes the form of ‘red light jumping’ that is accommodated, both through design and law, in the Netherlands. Going ahead across a T-junction, where you won’t come into conflict with motor traffic, for instance. Or Just turning left, around the corner.

Motor vehicles can’t turn right, but it doesn’t make sense to stop people cycling from turning right. So they can, at all times, thanks to the design of the junction.

These are the kinds of manoeuvres that it doesn’t make sense to stop people cycling from performing, and so the Dutch design for it. We shouldn’t be surprised that these are the kinds of things people cycling do in Britain, regardless of law, just like we shouldn’t be surprised when people jump lights in Utrecht.

The difference is that the Dutch appear to recognise human behaviour, and adapt junctions in accordance with it, to minimise law breaking. The response to my second video would be to realise that there is something clearly wrong with the signals. The waits are so long that law-breaking is occurring.

In other words, law-breaking represents a failure of design, not of human behaviour. Sadly, I don’t think this is true in Britain, where law-breaking by people cycling is bizarrely seen as some innate condition of being a ‘cyclist’, rather than as a symptom of road system that very often doesn’t make sense to those who happen to be behind handlebars, instead of behind a steering wheel.

Categories: Views

Your personal guide to catch the green light

BicycleDutch - 9 November, 2015 - 23:01
Cycling is best when you don’t have to stop. Stopping itself is not so hard, but to get going again, that takes a lot of extra power. So people prefer … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

Sharing the road

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 9 November, 2015 - 16:46

‘Sharing the road’ sounds like an unobjectionable and friendly concept – what’s so bad about sharing? But in practice, the message is ambiguous and unhelpful, and might actually stand in the way of genuine improvements to our roads and streets.

A large part of the problem is captured by this Bikeyface drawing.

People cycling see the ‘sharing’ message as a way of getting drivers to be nice to them; to be patient and to overtake properly. Meanwhile drivers – by complete contrast – interpret the message through the prism of people cycling ‘hogging’ the road, and not letting them past. For them, ‘sharing’ means being accommodating and getting out of the way of motor traffic.

Just another day cycling in London (from a friend of mine). How many times a day does this happen and go unreported?

— The Alternative DfT (@AlternativeDfT) August 10, 2015

This interpretation isn’t perhaps all that surprising, given the history of the ‘share the road’ message. The motor lobby promoted ‘share the road’ in what amounts to an early form of ‘smoothing the flow’ of motor traffic.

Through 1940, the five million claimed members of the Share the Road Club “are on the war path” against “heedless drivers and pedestrians” who “are a hazard – yes!” “Shell Research has discovered,” this 1940 version of the ad breathlessly proclaims, “that they take a lot out of the joy of motoring — add plenty to its cost — by causing 35% of Stop-and-Go driving!”

Of course, a commenter on the blog (justifiably) observes that

as far as i can tell the meaning of the phrase hasn’t changed….

In that ‘share the road’ today means ‘don’t take more than what I consider to be your fair share of it’ – effectively, a polite version of ‘get out of my way’.

‘Share the road’ also lives on in official road safety campaign messages in Britain –

Here ‘share the road’ manifests itself as insipid guff about how it would be nice if everyone could just get along and not lose their tempers, with the added implication of equal responsibility between people who pose very little risk, and those who pose a great deal of risk.

Our driver and cyclist tips and Share the Road adverts are also helping to give people the information they need to stay safe… By working together, we can make London’s roads safer for everyone.

This logic is made explicit by Brighton and Hove’s woeful Share the Road, Share the Responsibility campaign. Hey – if we’re asking people to share the road, we might as well pretend they share responsibility, right?

As Bez of Beyond the Kerb has astutely observed (with regard to Northern Ireland’s similarly woeful ‘share the road’ messaging) –

… “share the road” campaigns always fall into the same trap: the belief that if you’re sending a set of messages to one set of road users, you have to send an equivalent set of messages to another.

This campaign clearly implies that the journeys – made by the combination of the person and the vehicle – are equivalent, and thus by extension it implies that person-plus-car and person-plus-bicycle are equivalent. They are not. And this is, once more, the crucial failing. The authors of the messages wilfully blind themselves to the fundamental inequality of danger due to people’s choice of kinetic energy and base the whole campaign not on danger, but on diplomacy.

So, in the case of Brighton and Hove’s campaign, the set of messages sent to drivers have to be ‘balanced’ with another set of messages sent to people cycling. The end result is a campaign that tells people using a mode of transport that poses little risk to other users not to listen to music because it impairs hearing, while simultaneously having nothing to say about music reducing hearing for the users of modes of transport that pose much greater risk to others.

It’s almost as if ‘Don’t use headphones’ has been plucked out as a message in an attempt to balance out the ‘don’t squash pedestrians under your car’ message that has to be sent to drivers.

But perhaps what’s most problematic about ‘share the road’ isn’t the mixed message it sends out, or the way it gets misinterpreted and misused in road safety campaigns. It’s the low ambition of the message itself; that space for cycling can’t be provided, and that the only way cycling can be catered for on roads is by ‘sharing’, as an allegedly equal partner with motor traffic.

People don’t want to share roads with motor traffic. They want their own space, where they can cycle in comfort and safety; an environment where that comfort and safety isn’t conditional on the willingness (or otherwise) of motorists to ‘share’ with them.

‘Sharing’ really doesn’t work because fundamentally motor vehicles and cycles are very different modes of transport, with different requirements. This is why ‘share the road’ messages are doomed to failure; not because of any latent unwillingness, uncooperativeness, or hostility on the part of people driving or cycling, but because these two modes of transport don’t fit together at all well, something captured brilliantly by the Alternative Department for Transport’s series of photoshopped images. Cycling only seems to go well with driving because the cycling demographic has been eroded to a point where the only people ‘sharing’ are those who are able to attempt to cycle like motor vehicles.

Would this be ‘sharing’?

In the absence of footways alongside roads, a ‘share the road’ message aimed at pedestrians and drivers would be hopelessly ineffective. Why should we expect any different outcomes for cycling and driving?

Categories: Views

RDRF Chair on Top Gear

Road Danger Reduction Forum - 6 November, 2015 - 12:50

Should an advocate of Road Danger Reduction appear on Top Gear? Back in 1993 the programme was reasonably civilised and I was pleased to appear on it. So here is the current Chair of the Road Danger Reduction Forum explaining a basic point about the measurement of danger.

For more on the measurement of danger, see this

Categories: Views

Arrogance of Space: Barcelona

Copenhagenize - 5 November, 2015 - 14:02

This week, Barcelona's Mayor Ada Colau and the vice-mayor of the city will visit Copenhagen. Colau was elected in May 2015, for the alternative left and green coalition "Barcelona en Comú" - or Barcelona Together. We're sure there the Barcelonans will harvest a great deal of inspiration on their visit. Regarding bicycle urbanism in particular, there are specific things that they should be looking at, concentrating on and writing down.

I'm fond of Barcelona. I, myself, have spent much time in the city, not least on two summer holidays with my kids. We can, by and large, cycle around large parts of the city and feel safe now that some infrastructure and traffic calming has been put into place. I see Barcelona as a city with massive potential for increasing the modal share for bicycles and expanding on their leadership role since 2008. A fair ranking on The Copenhagenize Index also indicates that the city has done well compared to other large cities around the world. There is, however, lots of work to be done.

Together with the Copenhagenize Design Company team in Barcelona, Jordi Galí Manuel and Maria Elisa, we discussed what the city needs to do and what inspiration they need to take home from Copenhagen.

Infrastructure and Better Engineers
One thing that is bizarre about Barcelona is that despite the fact that Best Practice infrastructure has been around for a century, they've let their planners and engineers make stuff up. Making stuff up instead of using established and tested designs is not a wise use of taxpayer money.

One example is the bi-directional cycle tracks leading down the middle of the boulevards. Cyclists in the middle of the street - this is the last place you should be putting them. Having cycled extensively in the city, we don't see the value of making stuff like this up. In addition, the lights are timed so that you have to cycle at a fast pace to hit the wave. At each intersection, there is an ocean of asphalt to cross. Barcelona should plan for the 99% and adjust the wave to human speeds like 16-20 km/h.

The city defends these wacky designs by claiming that they avoid conflicts with bus stop, trash trucks and that they improve safety at intersections. They only made this stuff up recently, so I doubt there is much comparable data - compared to Best Practice infrastructure. Bus stops? Do they seriously think that there are no busses in other cities like Copenhagen? The 5A bus here is the busiest bus line in Northern Europe, with 60,000 passengers a day. There are solutions in place for bus stops and bicycle infrastructure. Copy/paste. Save money. Get the best results.

The city is also planning to make stuff up at a large roundabout. Nevermind the fact the Dutch have figured out best practice for roundabouts ages ago - let people make stuff up. It's only human lives you're playing around with.

In effect, the City has said that "we don't have as many cyclists as Copenhagen, so we don't need more than narrow lanes in the middle of six lanes of traffic". Rule number one: you are NEVER planning for the cyclists you have now, you are planning for the people who COULD be cycling. Who WOULD be cycling if you had bothered to build decent infrastructure for them at the beginning, instead of paying the double for doing it twice, with taxpayers money.

At the moment, the City doesn't have the engineering or planning expertise it needs to go the next level.

The City of Barcelona has some data but they really don't have enough. Copenhagen is beyond a doubt the best city in the world to gather data about all aspects of urban life. This is a massive takeaway for the Catalans during their visit to the city.

The Mayor would be much better prepared for arguing her case if she had reliable data to present to her opponents.

Bolder Goals
The City thinks it is planning for the people cycling now (even though nobody was cycling as recently as 2006) and they seem incredibly uninterested in increasing cycling rates that their official goal is to reach 2.5% modal share. For a city that has done so much for cycling, it's shocking that they can't be bothered to even aim for double digits.

Arrogance of Space

We decided to apply our Arrogance of Space tool to some random streets in the city. Here is a classic boulevard intersection on Carrer de la Marina. The classic form as laid out by Ildefons Cerdà back in in the late 1800s is apparent here. Cerdà planned for humans and sustainable transport but it is clear that the past few generations of Barcelonan politicians have put their money on the automobile and seen these intersections as massive parking lots and high-speed thoroughfares. Cerdà didn't make stuff up but others have since then.

If you apply the Arrogance of Space tool to the intersection, it becomes apparent how undemocratic the space is.

Removing the photo and the arrogance is completely and utterly clear. A few people in cars are given an ocean of red space to move around in. Pedestrians have half-decent facilities but when it comes to bicycle urbanism and modernising the infrastructure to accommodate for them, space has clearly not been provided.

In Cerdà's grid system, the easiest way to fix the problem is to get a ruler.  Barcelona prides itself on its public space so there is ample opportunity to improve on that. Make the corners 90 degrees and create public space on each corner. Implement Best Practice bicycle infrastructure along the curbs, where it belongs.

What a transformation that would be. Space for cars reduced to what they actually need and a massive win for pedestrians and public space. Cyclists would be afforded world-class infrastructure that would keep them safe and that would encourage more to to take to the wheel.

Another randomly chosen intersection on Avenida Diagnol. Cerdà would roll in his grave if he saw what had happened here.

Applying the colours and the same pattern appears.

Complete engineering arrogance. Cars eating steak and bread crumbs for the cyclists. Pedestrians, too, have to navigate a veritable labyrinth in order to get from A to B.

Barcelona has so many low-hanging fruits to work with. They have been brilliant at traffic calming their cosy streets in the old parts of the city. Cerdà laid the foundation for transport but Barcelona, at the moment, fails to see the potential in the wide boulevards and side streets.

It is all right there for the taking. With Best Practice infrastructure, intelligent design and a focus on anthropology related to transport, Barcelona could rock the world with intelligent change.

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

L’arrogància de l’espai: Barcelona - ara en català i espanyol

Copenhagenize - 5 November, 2015 - 14:00

Traducción española está en el fondo // Click here for English version 

Aquesta setmana , l'alcaldessa de Barcelona, Ada Colau i la tinent d’alcaldessa de la ciutat visitaran Copenhaguen. Colau, forma part de la coalició d'esquerra alternativa " Barcelona en comú " i va ser escollida al maig de 2015. Estem segurs que la seva visita serà una gran font d'inspiració per als barcelonins i barcelonines. Pel que fa a urbanisme i bicicleta en particular, hi ha coses específiques que han d'estudiar amb atenció i prendre nota.

Sóc un fan de Barcelona . Jo mateix he passat molt de temps a la ciutat, no menys de dues ocasions en vacances d'estiu amb els meus fills. En general vam poder pedalar al voltant de grans parts de la ciutat i sentir-nos segurs, ara que algunes infraestructures i el calmat del trànsit s'han posat al seu lloc. Veig Barcelona com una ciutat amb un enorme potencial per augmentar la quota modal dels desplaçaments en bicicleta i per maximitzar el seu lideratge des de 2008. Un rànquing just en l'índex The Copenhagenize Index també indica que la ciutat ha fet molt en comparació amb altres grans ciutats de tot el món. Tanmateix, hi ha molta feina per fer.

Hem parlat amb els arquitectes de l'equip de Copenhagenize Design Company a Barcelona, ​​Jordi Galí Manuel i Maria Elisa Ojeda, sobre el que la ciutat hauria de fer en matèria ciclista i sobre la inspiració que necessiten per endur-se a casa des de Copenhaguen.

Infraestructura y millors enginyers
Quelcom estrany sobre Barcelona és que tot i que les millors pràctiques en infraestructura ciclista han estat aquí des de fa al voltant d'un segle, han deixat als seus urbanistes i enginyers inventar-se coses. Inventar-se coses, en lloc d'utilitzar dissenys establerts i provats, no és un ús racional dels diners dels contribuents.

n exemple són els carrils bici bidireccionals ubicats en l'eix central dels passejos i avingudes. Ciclistes al mig del carrer, aquest és l'últim lloc en el qual haurien d'estar. Havent pedalat profusament per la ciutat, no s'entén el sentit d'inventar coses com aquesta. A més, les fases semafòriques estan coordinades perquè hagis de desplaçar-te a un ritme ràpid si vols atrapar l' ona verda. A cada intersecció, hi ha un oceà d'asfalt per creuar. Barcelona hauria de planificar per al 99% de la població i ajustar l'ona a velocitats humanes com de 16 a 20 km / h.

L'Ajuntament defensa aquests extravagants dissenys afirmant que eviten conflictes amb les parades d'autobusos i els camions d'escombraries i que milloren la seguretat a les interseccions. Fa poc que fan aquestes coses , així que dubto que hi hagi quantitat de dades comparables amb la millor pràctica en infraestructura ciclista. ¿Parades d'autobus ? ¿ De debò pensen que no hi ha busos en altres ciutats com Copenhaguen ? L'autobús 5A aquí, és la línia d'autobús més concorreguda al nord d'Europa, amb 60.000 passatgers al dia. Hi ha solucions per a les parades d'autobús i la infraestructura ciclista. Copiar, enganxar. Estalviar. Obtenir els millors resultats.

L'Ajuntament també està planificant i executant invents en les rotondes . No importa el fet que els holandesos han descobert la millor pràctica per rotondes fa anys - deixin a la gent inventar coses . Tan sols estan jugant amb vides humanes.

En efecte, l'Ajuntament ha dit que " no tenim tants ciclistes com Copenhaguen , de manera que no necessitem més que estrets carrils bici entremig de sis carrils de trànsit ". Regla número 1: MAI es planifica per als ciclistes que hi ha actualment, es planifica per a les persones que podrien arribar a ser usuaris de la bicicleta. Com seria el ciclisme urbà ara, si us haguéssiu molestat a construir una infraestructura decent des del principi, en lloc de pagar el doble per fer-ho dues vegades, amb els diners dels contribuents.

De moment, la ciutat no té prou experiència en enginyeria o en planificació per arribar al següent nivell.

L'Ajuntament de Barcelona té algunes dades , però en realitat no són suficients. Copenhaguen és sense cap dubte la millor ciutat del món per reunir dades sobre tots els aspectes de la vida urbana . Aquesta és una gran comanda per endur-se els catalans durant la visita a la ciutat.

L'alcaldessa tindrà millors arguments i estarà més preparada per defensar les seves idees si disposa de dades fiables per presentar a l'oposició.

Objectius més ambiciossos
L'Ajuntament creu que està planificant per als ciclistes ara (tot i que hi ha ciclistes fins fa tan poc com del 2006 ) i sembla molt interessat en l'augment del repartiment modal en bicicleta. El seu objectiu oficial és arribar al 2,5% de quota modal . Per a una ciutat que ha fet tant per al ciclisme urbà, és sorprenent que no s'atreveixin a ambicionar dos dígits.

L’arrogància de l’espai

Hem decidit aplicar la nostra eina sobre l'arrogància de l'espai en alguns carrers a l'atzar de la ciutat. Aquí hi ha una intersecció clàssica a l'avinguda de la Marina. La forma clàssica, com dictamina Ildefons Cerdà a finals de 1800, és evident. Cerdà va preveure espai per als éssers humans i el transport sostenible, però està clar que les últimes generacions de polítics barcelonins han posat els seus diners en l'automòbil i han vist aquestes interseccions com estacionaments massius i vies d'alta velocitat. Cerdà no va fer invents estranys però altres sí que ho han fet des de llavors.

Si apliquem l'eina de l'arrogància de l'espai a la intersecció, es fa evident la forma i l'ocupació antidemocràtica de l'espai.

Si traiem la foto original , l'arrogància és total i absolutament clara. A unes poques persones en els seus cotxes se'ls dóna un oceà d'espai de color vermell per moure’s. Els vianants tenen infraestructures mig decents, però quan es tracta d'urbanisme de la bicicleta i la modernització de la infraestructura per donar cabuda als ciclistes, l'espai no ha estat clarament proporcionat.

En el sistema de quadrícula de Cerdà , la forma més fàcil de solucionar el problema és aconseguir un governant.

Barcelona, ​​s'enorgulleix del seu espai públic, així que hi ha una gran oportunitat per millorar en això. Facin les cantonades a 90 graus i crein espai públic a cada cantonada . Implementin la millor pràctica en infraestructura ciclista contigua a les voreres, on ha d'estar.

Tremenda transformació suposaria això. L'espai per als cotxes reduït al que realment necessiten i una victòria pletòrica per als vianants i l'espai públic. Als ciclistes se'ls donaria una infraestructura de primer nivel mundial, mantenint-los segurs i incentivant encara més l'ús de la bicicleta.

Una altra intersecció escollida a l'atzar a l'Avinguda Diagonal . Cerdà es retorçaria en la seva tomba si veiés el que s'ha fet aquí.

Aplicant els colors apareix el mateix patró.

Enginyeria completament arrogant. Carn per als cotxes i pa ratllat per als ciclistes. Els vianants també han de navegar per un veritable laberint per arribar de A a B.

Barcelona té moltes oportunitats a l'abast de la mà per treballar. Han estat brillants calmant el trànsit als seus acollidors carrers de les zones antigues de la ciutat. Cerdà va establir les bases per al transport però Barcelona, de moment, no pot veure el potencial dels amplis passejos i carrers laterals.

Tot hi és a disposició. Amb les millors pràctiques en infraestructures ciclistes, un disseny intel·ligent i un enfocament en l'antropologia aplicada al transport, Barcelona podria sacsejar el món si fa un canvi intelligent.

Traducción Española

La arrogancia del espacio: Barcelona

Esta semana, la alcaldesa de Barcelona, Ada Colau y la teniente alcaldesa de la ciudad visitarán Copenhague.

Colau, forma parte de la coalición de izquierda alternativa " Barcelona en Comú " y fue elegida en mayo de 2015. Estamos seguros que su visita va a ser una gran fuente de inspiración para los barceloneses y barcelonesas. En cuanto a urbanismo y a bicicleta en particular se refiere, hay cosas específicas que deben estudiar con atención y tomar nota.

Soy un fan de Barcelona. Yo mismo he pasado mucho tiempo en la ciudad, no menos de dos ocasiones en vacaciones de verano con mis hijos. En general pudimos pedalear en torno a grandes partes de la ciudad y sentirnos seguros, ahora que algunas infraestructuras y el calmado del tráfico se han puesto en su lugar. Veo Barcelona como una ciudad con un enorme potencial para aumentar la cuota modal de los desplazamientos en bicicleta y para maximizar su liderazgo desde 2008. Un ranking justo en el índice The Copenhagenize Index también indica que la ciudad ha hecho mucho en comparación con otras grandes ciudades de todo el mundo. Sin embargo, hay mucho trabajo por hacer.

Hemos hablado con los arquitectos del equipo de Copenhagenize Design Company en Barcelona, ​​Jordi Galí Manuel y María Elisa Ojeda, sobre lo que la ciudad debería hacer y sobre la inspiración que necesitan para llevarse a casa desde Copenhague.

Infraestructura y mejores ingenieros
Algo extraño sobre Barcelona es que a pesar de que las mejores prácticas en infraestructura ciclista han estado ahí desde hace alrededor de un siglo, han dejado a sus urbanistas e ingenieros inventarse cosas. Inventarse cosas, en lugar de utilizar diseños establecidos y probados, no es un uso racional del dinero de los contribuyentes

Un ejemplo son los carriles bici bidireccionales ubicados en el eje central de los paseos y avenidas. Ciclistas en el medio de la calle, éste es el último lugar en el que deberían estar. Habiendo pedaleado profusamente por la ciudad, no se entiende el sentido de inventar cosas como ésta. Además, las fases semafóricas están coordinadas para que tengas que desplazarte a un ritmo rápido si quieres atrapar la onda verde. En cada intersección, hay un océano de asfalto para cruzar. Barcelona debería planificar para el 99% de la población y ajustar la onda a velocidades humanas como de 16 a 20 km / h.

El Ayuntamiento defiende estos extravagantes diseños afirmando que evitan conflictos con las paradas de autobuses y los camiones de basura y que mejoran la seguridad en las intersecciones. Hace poco que hacen estas cosas, así que dudo que haya cantidad de datos comparables con la mejor práctica en infraestructura ciclista. ¿Paradas de autobus? ¿En serio piensan que no hay buses en otras ciudades como Copenhague? El autobús 5A aquí, es la línea de autobús más concurrida en el norte de Europa, con 60.000 pasajeros al día. Hay soluciones para las paradas de autobús y la infraestructura ciclista. Copiar, pegar. Ahorrar. Obtener los mejores resultados.El Ayuntamiento también está planificando y ejecutando inventos en las rotondas. No importa el hecho de que los holandeses han descubierto la mejor práctica para rotondas hace años – dejen a la gente inventar cosas. Tan sólo están jugando con vidas humanas.

En efecto, el Ayuntamiento ha dicho que "no tenemos tantos ciclistas como Copenhague, por lo que no necesitamos más que estrechos carriles bici en medio de seis carriles de tráfico". Regla número uno: NUNCA se planifica para los ciclistas que existen actualmente, se planifica para las personas que podrían llegar a ser usuarios de la bicicleta.

¿Cómo sería el ciclismo urbano ahora, si os hubierais molestado en construir una infraestructura decente desde el principio, en lugar de pagar el doble para hacerlo dos veces, con el dinero de los contribuyentes.Por el momento, la ciudad no tiene suficiente experiencia en ingeniería o en planificación para llegar al siguiente nivel.

El Ayuntamiento de Barcelona tiene algunos datos, pero en realidad no son suficientes. Copenhague es sin lugar a dudas la mejor ciudad del mundo para reunir datos sobre todos los aspectos de la vida urbana. Esta es una gran encomienda para llevarse los catalanes durante su visita a la ciudad.

La alcaldesa tendrá mejores argumentos y estará más preparada para defender sus ideas si dispone de datos fiables para presentar a la oposición.

Objetivos más ambiciosos
El Ayuntamiento cree que está planificando para los ciclistas ahora (a pesar de que había ciclistas hasta hace tan poco cómo del 2006) y parece muy interesado en el aumento del reparto modal en bicicleta. Su objetivo oficial es llegar al 2,5 % de cuota modal. Para una ciudad que ha hecho tanto para el ciclismo urbano, es sorprendente que no se atrevan a ambicionar dos dígitos.

La arrogancia del espacio
Hemos decidido aplicar nuestra herramienta sobre la arrogancia del espacio en algunas calles al azar de la ciudad.

Aquí hay una intersección clásica en la avenida de la Marina. La forma clásica, según lo indicado por Ildefons Cerdà a finales de 1800, es evidente. Cerdà previó espacio para los seres humanos y el transporte sostenible, pero está claro que las últimas generaciones de políticos barceloneses han puesto su dinero en el automóvil y han visto estas intersecciones como estacionamientos masivos y vías de alta velocidad. Cerdà no hizo inventos raros pero otros sí lo han hecho desde entonces.


Si aplicamos la herramienta de la arrogancia del espacio a la intersección, se hace evidente la forma y la ocupación antidemocrática del espacio.


Si quitamos la foto original, la arrogancia es total y absolutamente clara. A unas pocas personas en sus coches se les da un océano de espacio de color rojo para moverse. Los peatones tienen infraestructuras medio decentes, pero cuando se trata de urbanismo de la bicicleta y la modernización de la infraestructura para dar cabida a los ciclistas, el espacio no ha sido claramente proporcionado.


En el sistema de cuadrícula de Cerdà, la forma más fácil de solucionar el problema es conseguir un gobernante.

Barcelona, ​​se enorgullece de su espacio público por lo que hay una gran oportunidad para mejorar en eso. Hagan las esquinas a 90 grados y creen espacio público en cada esquina. Implementen la mejor práctica en infraestructura ciclista contigua a las aceras, donde debe estar.

Tremenda transformación supondría eso. El espacio para los coches reducido a lo que realmente necesitan y una victoria pletórica para los peatones y el espacio público. A los ciclistas se les daría una infraestructura de primer nivel mundial, manteniéndolos seguros e incentivando aún más el uso de la bicicleta.


Otra intersección elegida al azar en la Avenida Diagonal. Cerdà se retorcería en su tumba si viera lo que se ha hecho aquí.


Aplicando los colores aparece el mismo patrón.


Ingeniería completamente arrogante. Carne para los coches y pan rallado para los ciclistas. Los peatones también tienen que navegar por un verdadero laberinto para llegar de A a B.

Barcelona tiene muchas oportunidades al alcance de la mano para trabajar. Han sido brillantes calmando el tráfico en sus acogedoras calles de las zonas antiguas de la ciudad. Cerdà sentó las bases para el transporte pero Barcelona, por el momento, no puede ver el potencial de los amplios paseos y calles laterales.

Todo está ahí a disposición. Con las mejores prácticas en infraestructuras ciclistas, un diseño inteligente y un enfoque en la antropología aplicada al transporte, Barcelona podría sacudir el mundo si hace un cambio inteligente.

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

Bus lanes are not cycling infrastructure

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 3 November, 2015 - 13:10

A fairly self-explanatory post, this one. Bus lanes are not cycling ndeednfrastructure.

There are lots of reasons why they shouldn’t be, which we’ll come to, but it might be worthwhile looking first at how we’ve ended up thinking that they are cycling infrastructure.

The main reason seems to be, in no particular order;

They’re better than nothing. Better than not being allowed in bus lanes at all, which is (bizarrely) the case in Crawley –

No cycling in this bus lane. Gatwick Road, Crawley

Better than cycling in general traffic lanes – rather than having to deal with buses, taxis and general traffic, you ‘only’ have to deal with buses and taxis.

And better than crap cycling infrastructure (for those people confident enough to cycle in bus lanes). This is indeed the position taken in LTN 2/08, Cycling Infrastructure Design –

Bus lanes form an important part of cycle route networks. They are often placed on primary transport routes, providing cyclists with direct routes to town centres and other important destinations. Bus lanes are generally popular with cyclists (Reid and Guthrie, 2004). They are often preferred over off­road facilities as a result of the advantage of remaining in the carriageway and therefore having priority at side roads (Pedler and Davies, 2000). Cyclists in bus lanes are able to avoid queues, and they value the separation from general traffic that these lanes afford

As Joe Dunckley has written about this passage

This is the guidance for providing for bicycles and it can not even imagine a world in which bicycles might have priority over turning vehicles… The authors of LTN 2/08 can’t imagine that world — can’t imagine that there could be any alternative to our might makes right of way world.

Bus lanes are only ‘an important part of cycle networks’ if you have very low horizons; that you can’t imagine any kind of ‘provision’ for cycling beyond a choice between crap off-road provision, general traffic lanes, and bus lanes.

It turns out – if you read the Reid and Guthrie report quoted in the passage in LTN 2/08 – that bus lanes are only ‘popular with cyclists’ because they’re less crap than the alternative of… ‘no bus lanes’.

The principle finding was that cycling in bus lanes was very popular with cyclists, compared with cycling in the typical traffic conditions of the area. [my emphasis]

This is a very weak basis for claiming that bus lanes are actually ‘popular’ – by analogy, it would be like suggesting swimming across a fast-flowing river is ‘popular’, because it’s less unpleasant than swimming across a fast-flowing river with crocodiles in it.

Indeed, this report – which attempts to make the case for cycling in bus lanes – actually reveals some rather fundamental problems with putting cycling in bus lanes –

On the negative side, bus drivers and cyclists appeared to have a generally low opinion of each other and it is recommended that efforts be made to address their mutual concerns. This may be achieved by reducing the opportunity for conflict, which appeared to be directly related to the narrowness of the bus lane, and by educating both classes of users as to each others’ needs.

Cycling in bus lanes creates antagonism, which is unsurprising given the different needs and requirements of these two modes of transport. Note that the only solutions proposed for reducing this antagonism are education, and widening the bus lane.


Buses are not usually as fast as other motorised traffic, although at times, they exceed what cyclists might consider to be a desirable speed.

Again, this is the ‘desirable speed’ in the opinion of cyclists, not the general public. A bus travelling at 20-30mph isn’t at all ‘desirable’ for the people who aren’t already willing to cycle with motor traffic.


cyclists feel more threatened by buses than they do by cars, probably because of their greater size… The acceptable passing distance for overtaking buses on the highway is, therefore, likely to be larger than the acceptable distance of overtaking cars.

The report considers that an in-lane overtake by a bus, within a 4.2m wide bus lane, ‘might be considered safe by 100%’ of cyclists, based on 1970s research about acceptable passing distances. Again, digging out that research reveals that this is based on a sample of just 25 cyclists, ‘most representative of the national cycling population’ – i.e. drawn from people already cycling on the roads in 1978, who were likely to have a much lower threshold of ‘acceptability’ in overtaking compared to people not cycling.

Acceptable for ‘cyclists’? Or for anyone else?

So the research and recommendations examined here are based around the preferences and value judgements of existing cyclists – not of the people who aren’t cycling at all, but might like to – and also framed around the relative benefits of cycling in bus lanes compared to general traffic lanes, not compared to the benefits of cycling in dedicated cycleways, separated from both buses and general traffic.

The report also reveals some fairly obvious problems with bus lanes – namely, bus stops.

From page 11 of the TRL report.

Most negative comments focused on problems at the bus stops, e.g. ‘bus stops in cycle lanes are dangerous for cyclists’, ‘They’re fine except for buses pulling into stops’ and ‘Dodgy at bus stops’. Other negative comments included, ‘They’re very unsafe as buses are inconsiderate and don’t heed cyclists’, ‘They are dangerous – a contest between cyclist and bus driver’.

Other revealing comments from users include the need for some form of separation of cycles from buses, for instance by means of a cycle lane –

Other comments included, ‘Saves buses and cyclists time, stops leapfrogging’… ‘Not logistically possible, would need to go round bus stops’ [not possible?] … ‘Need a kerb between buses and bikes’, ‘Wouldn’t feel under pressure to go faster if buses were behind’ … ‘I don’t like holding buses up, don’t like feeling buses behind me.’

And to be fair, the report does take this feedback on board, but only by suggesting bus lanes should be wide, and that advisory cycle lanes ‘should’ be provided inside 4m+ bus lanes, and that ‘more research is necessary into the optimum methods of resolving conflicts and delay to cyclists at bus stops’.

Overall, this is a very weak basis for trumpeting the benefits of bus lanes for cycling, and indeed for suggesting that they are an ‘important part of cycle route networks’, as LTN 2/08 goes on to do. This claim is only really justified on the basis of the alternatives being even more dismal; the research used actually shows that buses and cycling sharing the same space does not work well, at all, for either party.

This isn’t just about cycling; if we’re interested in greatly increasing cycling levels, and broadening the cycle demographic beyond the existing ‘traffic tolerant’ group, then that’s going to create serious problems for bus journeys. Putting young children and the elderly in bus lanes just means that buses will be trundling at very slow speeds.

Of course, even if we do theoretically manage to achieve this level of cycling in bus lanes, more generally putting large numbers of people cycling in them just won’t work. Buses would be swamped with people cycling swarming around them; journeys by bus would be painfully slow.

This is one of the main reasons cycling is not accommodated in bus lanes in the Netherlands. Buses are treated almost as more of a light rail mode of transport, with stops less close together, along high speed direct bus corridors, free from things that might slow the buses down.

And of course the other substantive reason why cycling is separated from bus lanes is safety. Buses are large, heavy objects that travel faster than people cycling, and have the potential to seriously injure, or kill. Sustainable Safety demands that these two modes of transport should be separated as much as is possible.

With all this in mind, it’s pretty disappointing that the message doesn’t seem to be coming across clearly and simply in UK cycle campaigning. Hearteningly, the London Cycling Campaign has adopted policy – described here by Rachel Aldred – making it fairly explicit that bus lanes are not cycling infrastructure.

Bus lanes are not ‘protected space’ so, regardless of their presence, we use our normal assessment of when protected space is needed. This threshold is over 20mph speeds or over 2000 Passenger Car Units, PCUs – for total two-way motor traffic flow, in all lanes. According to TfL a standard (non-bendy) bus is 2 Passenger Car Units.

… Too often decision-makers assume zero-sum trade-offs between sustainable modes. But separating buses and cycles at network or street level may provide benefits for both, such as time benefits. We believe decision-makers should consider wider benefits of providing well for cycling, such as better public realm, improved health, and increased mode choice.

And some of this clarity has started to filter through to road designs in London. The higher standard Superhighways now being in the capital do not (for the most part) lump cycling in with buses, but provide protected space for cycling, separated from general motor traffic and from bus flows.

But it seems that there is some unfortunate inertia in other areas of cycle campaigning. Sustrans’ recent Bike Life survey had this unhelpful graph included within it.

Not only are ‘bus lanes’ (along with shared pavements) described as ‘measures to encourage cycling’, but it is possible to draw the mistaken implication from this graph that 61% of people who do not ride bikes (but would like to) would be happy or willing to cycle in bus lanes. This isn’t the case; 61% of this group have merely said that bus lanes might help them start cycling, which is quite a vague statement.

And unfortunately the CTC aren’t particularly clear on bus lanes either. This December 2014 Cycling and Local Transport briefing is useful, but is unhelpfully woolly on whether bus lanes are acceptable –

On both residential streets and rural lanes, low traffic speeds should preferably be achieved through quality design, to make the street or lane feel like it is primarily for people not motor vehicles. Cruder forms of traffic calming, such as road humps and narrowings can be unpleasant and unsafe for cyclists. On busier urban roads, some form of dedicated space for cyclists should be provided. Alternatively, this may include use of decent width bus lanes or on carriageway cycle lanes, preferably with coloured surfacing. It may also include cycle lanes created from carriageway space involving physical segregation both from motor vehicles and pedestrians, where the relevant highway authority has the will to do this to a high standard. Where there is insufficient space for this, the aim must be to reduce traffic volumes and/or speeds, so that cyclists can share the road safely with the other traffic using it. [my emphasis]

Bus lanes might be okay for ‘cyclists’ – they’re marginally better than the alternative of cycling in general traffic lanes, and I must admit I do feel a slight easing of tension once one appears, knowing that I have slightly less to deal with.

But they’re not acceptable if we’re designing for all ages and abilities. Nor is putting cycling and buses in the same space acceptable for bus passengers, in the long term. There needs to be clarity that these are two very different kinds of transport, and that while fudging them together might be acceptable in the absence of any other alternatives, bus lanes are most definitely not cycling infrastructure, nor should they form any part of a serious modern cycle network.

Categories: Views

Bicycle Culture Mythbusting - The Complete Guide

Copenhagenize - 3 November, 2015 - 08:30

Article originally published on 19 November 2007. Revised November 2015.

Over the years we have realised that a large part of our work at Copenhagenize Design Co. in working towards bicycle-friendly cities is the simple art of mythbusting. While time-consuming and often frustrating, it still appears to a necessary part of the dialogue around the world.

It’s interesting how uniform the misconceptions about cycling are, regardless of where in the world we hear them. It’s equally interesting to hear them coming from people who cycle - not just people who don’t.

We know that every city in the world was bicycle-friendly for decades, not least until the 1950s when the urban planning paradigm shifted drastically and destructively and started to focus solely on automobiles.

People have short - or selective - memories it would seem. They look around their city and assume that it has always just been like that.

Civic pride seems to play a role as well. People in winter cities are proud of their winters and ridicule those cities that have a milder season. The same applies to cities with hot weather. People in topographically-challenged cities enjoy mocking cities with a flat landscape.

People won’t ride bicycles here. It’s too cold/hot/hilly/insert your excuse here”. More often than not, the people uttering these misconceptions are merely projecting their own personal opinion onto the population at large - without any experience or data to back up their claims. It is invariably one of two angles; “I won’t ride a bike here, so nobody will” or “I ride a bike here, I’m hardcore and not everyone is as badass hardcore as me”.

Yeah, whatever. When virtually every city on the planet has enjoyed high levels of cycling in it’s history, we know differently. Singapore? Too hot. Oh, really?

Or Australia? Too bloody hot, mate, and nobody has ever done that in Queensland, New South Wales, Canberra. Yeah, right. Vancouver? Rio de Janeiro? Los Angeles? Dublin?

We could go on.

Sure, things are different now. The number of cars has obviously increased in our cities since the 1940s. That’s where infrastructure comes into play. Best Practice infrastructure has been around for a century or so, so there are few excuses left. Designing streets instead of engineering them is key.

We know that infrastructure is the key to increasing cycling levels. We know that we as individuals do not dictate what other will or won’t do. If you make the bicycle the fastest way from A to B to C in a city, people will ride. Maybe never 63% of the population - like in Copenhagen - will ride in, say, San Francisco but 20% is certainly a respectable and achieveable target for any city.

Myth #1 - Hills
Damn you, Netherlands. Your flat little country is making our mythbusting hard. It’s got to be the primary lame excuse that we hear around the world. “But The Netherlands is flat”. Sometimes accompanied by, “and so is Denmark/Copenhagen”. Punctuated with demonstratively crossed arms as though the discussion is sooo over. It’s not.

Sure, the Netherlands is a flat country. It's a carpenter's dream. Do 26% of the population ride a bike each day because it’s flat? No. It helps, sure, but it’s the infrastructure. The bicycle is the fastest way from A to B. To work or school or that train station.

Copenhagen is also rather level. At least the Copenhagen that 95% of the tourists visit. They don’t cycle very far outside the city to the north, to the hills where the 2011 Cycling World Championships placed their finish line.

Looking around the rest of the nation - which nobody we talk to ever does - you see topography that is considerably more Rubenesque. In the Danish national anthem, the hills and valleys are proudly lauded. Some people google “highest point in Denmark” and use that to say, “See?!”. As though a rolling landscape and steep streets are not possible if you don’t have a Mont Blanc on your map. As a British friend discovered a few years ago, the hills will surprise you.

Indeed, if you ride around Denmark’s second-largest city, Aarhus, you’ll feel some burn in your thighs as you head home with groceries in your bike basket. And yet the city has 18% modal share for bicycles. Aarhus compares to Sydney, Seattle, Gothenburg or Oslo.

Looking back in history, we can see that cycling through the rolling English countryside over a century ago, was hardly an unusual transport option.

In the late 19th century, large numbers of women were already using bicycles to get to work, women office workers and shop assistants wending their way each weekday morning from the suburbs to the town. They found the bicycle a convenient form of transport for distances up to, say, ten miles”.
From John Woodeforde's book ”The Story of the Bicycle”, 1970

This was also in an age where bicycles were machines that we would regard as incredibly heavy to us today. In heavy dresses and thick fabrics to boot. Bicycles these days are considerably easier to ride that back in the late 19th century.

Looking at North America, two of the cities that are doing most to reestablish the bicycle as transport on the urban landscape are San Francisco and Vancouver. I have ridden bicycles in over 60 cities around the world. I rolled up and down the hills of San Francisco on a one-speed Biomega, together with friends on upright bikes. I was unimpressed. And I’m just a normal schmuck in normal clothes, not some Captain Spandex MAMIL. Living in Vancouver years ago, I rode from Lynn Valley to downtown each day.

Let’s cast a glance at Japan. The third-greatest cycling nation in the world with 15% modal share nationally. Tokyo, too, has 15% modal share and I can tell you from experience that there are hills. Like so many other cities where people used to cycle and are cycling again.

Of course, the e-bike industry uses hills as their primary fear factor to get people to buy their products and they are keen to erase all memory of bicycle-friendly cities over the past 130 years in order to do so. Their thick cloud of hype is focused on sales, not rationality or historical evidence. Follow the money.

Horizontal Hills
Hills are one thing, but it’s suprising that the wind is often left out of the equation. Not out of the equation in Denmark and the Netherlands, though, since we are constantly at the mercy of the blustery whims of the North Sea.

The Dutch pro cyclist Johnny Hoogerland has said what we all know in the Netherlands and Denmark. He compared riding in the wind-swept Netherlands to riding in the Pyrenees. A stiff headwind can be the same as a mountain climb, basically.

Indeed, we did some calculations at Copenhagenize Design Co.. We measure windspeed in metres per second in Denmark. We figured out that cycling in a headwind of 10 m/s is the equivalent to cycling up a 6% grade. That’s about 36 km/hour and that’s the low end of the average during the winter in Denmark. Welcome to our life for the next five months here in Copenhagen.

Hills end, the wind doesn’t. Believe me.

As cities around the world are improving conditions for cycling with infrastructure, this mythbusting lark is getting a bit less taxing. It’s so much easier now to point to cities that slap misconceptions firmly round the head.

Myth #2 - It’s so HOT! You can't ride when it's hot!
"People won’t ride here, you see. It’s too hot." Oh. Really? Get yourself a passport. Travel to… oh, let’s say… Seville? Go there in the summer. The city went from 0.2% on bike to 7% in under five years because of their implementation of an infrastructure network despite the blazing heat. What about one of South America’s best cycling cities, Rio de Janeiro? Or Barcelona? Or any number of muggy, hot places where the bicycle thrived and is thriving once again. Like it used to in tropical Cairns, Australia and other places in Queensland. Or in Singapore. Or everywhere else.

Myth #3 - But we have WINTER here!
Meteological circumstances are so often married to civic pride. Back in 2008, when I posted some photos here and on Copenhagen Cycle Chic of Copenhageners cycling in the snow,
men from - largely - Montreal and Minneapolis were quick to comment on the fact that THAT wasn’t winter. WE have winter. Adding links to Wikipedia about Denmark’s mild climate. Mild compared their theirs, of course. Weather as a phallus symbol, apparently.

The winters of 2009/10 and 2010/11 in Denmark, however, were far more lively with regards to weather. Long, hard winters the both of them. After I started posting photos of rush hours in snowstorms, it all went a bit quiet. The occasional peep about “real winter temperatures” was heard, but generally the photos hammered the point home. A large collection of them are now on Tumblr on our the Copenhagen Viking Biking blog and the VikingBiking hashtag.

So winter cycling is a thing, and has been since the bicycle was invented.

Vintage Winter Cycling in Denmark

Copenhagen’s climate change lot is that winters are milder now than they used to be (I have suffered through countless stories from my Dad about how winter in Denmark used to be REAL winter) but the fact remains that there are cities who are just getting on with it. So much so that there is now a Winter Cycling Conference each year.

It started in Oulu, Finland, a city of almost 200,000 people where 14% cycle all winter up there near the Arctic Circle. In 2016, it will take place in Minneapolis. A city which also appears on The Copenhagenize Index for 2015. But wait… you can’t cycle in the winter?! It’s all so confusing. Whatever you do, don’t tell the good people of Umeå, Sweden or any number of other cities....

In the winter vein, we have noticed through the years that the “hardcore” really want to show how badass they are. They make every effort to totally overcomplicate winter cycling and - in the process - make it inaccessible for the 99%.

The winter is an easy thing to tackle with infrastructure that is prioritized for snow clearance. There is, admittedly, larger challenges like Climaphobia and living in Vaccuum-packed Cities. But hey. Let’s start somewhere. Infrastructure. And keeping it clear of snow. In Copenhagen, the cycle tracks are cleared first. No discussion. Here is a map of the on-street cycle tracks in the city and next to it a map of the bicycle infrastructure (including off-street) that are prioritized first when it snows. Here is an article about how the City of Copenhagen does it.

With Best Practice infrastructure and maintenance of it you effectively make winter obsolete or, at least, tame it.

Myth #5: We have sprawl!
Many North American cities are, indeed, urban sprawls but we often get people commenting on the fact that American cities are WAY too big to ride in compared to European cities.

We’ve been here before with the Busting Urban Sprawl Myths article here on the blog.

Copenhagen has sprawl. The third-largest urban sprawl in Europe, actually. People commute for a hour and a half or more by car to get to the city, like many other places. Intermodality is the key. Riding your bicycle to the local train station - combining travel modes - helps increase bicycle share.

The main point here is that few people are going to ride long distances. Over a century of experience would dictate this. Sure, as quoted above, many “found the bicycle a convenient form of transport for distances up to, say, ten miles”. We know from years of data in Denmark and the Netherlands that the vast majority cycle up to 7 km. In fact, only 7% of the few hundred thousand cyclists in Copenhagen each day ride farther than that. It’s related to anthropology. Humans prefer 30 minutes as the maximum time they want to transport themselves under their own power. Many medieval cities, Copenhagen included, end up at about 20-30 minutes across on foot. 30 minutes is about 7 km for most regular citizens.

The low-hanging fruit is planning first for the majority. Add to that the fact that 50% of Americans live within 8 km (5 miles) of their workplace. That's a lot of Americans who we could plan infrastructure for before worrying about sprawl.

Myth #4: You can’t do THAT on a bike
In regions where the only cyclists seen on the streets are dressed up in lycra uniforms, it’s fair enough for others to think that bicycle load capacity is limited to a water bottle, on-board computer and an energy bar. Short memories apply here, too.

Nevertheless, there be myths to bust and we’ve done this a couple of times before. The Australian car insurance company NRMA tried to show the all-round malaise you will suffer in a life without a car. We presented counter claims based on what we’ve seen around Copenhagen.

The American car share company Zipcar used the same approach and, again, we battled back.

We know from daily experience in Copenhagen what is possible, especially with cargo bikes but let’s not forget the research from our Cyclelogistics project that showed that 51% of all goods moved by motorised vehicles in a city could be moved by bicycle or cargo bike.

Myth #5: The Danes and Dutch have always done it. It’s their culture.
Yes, they have. Well, except for the couple of decades when car-centric urban planning almost eradicated bicycle traffic. Fortunately, both nations started rebuilding their infrastructure in the 1970s and 1980s. Copenhagen wasn’t “Copenhagen” for a very long while.

They have always done it - but then so has everyone else. Bicycles as transport are not culture specific. Like we’ve said, virtually every city in the world had respectable levels of bicycle traffic for decades. The modal share for bikes in Los Angeles a century ago? 20%.

We don't call it "bicycle culture", you people do. We just call it transport. What the Danes and the Dutch have that is unique is that they have focused for more than a century on regular citizens cycling. Social inclusion, health benefits, etc. The Dutch even banned betting on cyclesports for a period in the 1920s in order to re-establish the focus on transport. In both countries there have always been NGOs for regular cycling that were separate from the sports organisations. This was the case in most countries early on, but countries like Sweden and Germany saw their two different types of cycling organisations merge and end up being dominated by the cycle sports angle.

This is changing, with cycling NGOs for The 99% gaining in influence and finding their focus once again.

Basically, whatever myth or misconception people can think up, there are people proving them wrong somewhere in the world at any given moment. Mythbusting is time-consuming and often frustrating but it is a necessity. For a while longer, at least.Copenhagenize the planet. And have a lovely day.
Categories: Views

Coeur Bike Utrecht, a cargo bike tour

BicycleDutch - 2 November, 2015 - 23:01
Three rental cargo bikes and a group of smiling people could be seen riding through Utrecht on a beautiful autumn day not so long ago. They were on a tour … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

Responses to our Manifesto for London Mayoral candidates

Road Danger Reduction Forum - 28 October, 2015 - 20:53


We have received responses to our London Mayoral candidates Manifesto from Caroline Pidgeon (Liberal Democrats) and Sian Berry (Green Party).  We show them below in the order received: in  orange (Caroline Pidgeon) and green (Sian Berry) fonts.

We hope to get responses from the Conservative and Labour candidates soon.

We ask the new Mayor to support our calls for reducing danger at source, for the safety of all road users as part of implementing a sustainable transport system:

  1. ENFORCEMENT: A substantial increase in law enforcement based on a harm reduction approach –targeting rule and law breaking known to endanger or intimidate other road users. Careless driving and driving offences in general should be treated as a priority by the Police. Behaviours such as close overtaking of cyclists (Highway Code Rule 163), not giving way to pedestrians (Rule 170), and car collisions not involving personal injury and speeding in 20 mph areas are typical examples of under-policed rule and law breaking. Driving offences should be properly treated as crimes and included in MPS and MOPAC crime statistics, strategies and community consultations.

I fully support this recommendation.

The Green Party in London is strongly committed to making road danger reduction and enforcement of traffic rules a much higher priority for the police, with an increase in resources to make this possible.

Close overtaking of cyclists is both terrifying and dangerous, the ignoring of rule 170 makes walking less attractive and adds to social isolation amongst older people, and the lack of reporting of all car collisions reduces our understanding of where dangers lie and leads to a sense of lawlessness on our roads. All the rules identified by the RDRF will therefore be prioritised for action. I would also extend 20mph speed limits to all TfL red routes and enforce speed limits rigorously.

Policing of traffic law would be a key performance indicator for the police with a Green Mayor, and this would mean recording of these statistics would be automatic and would help in making sure adequate resources were allocated


  1. TRAINING OF MPS and TfL PERSONNEL: Unconscious bias in officers’ attitudes, including victim-blaming and seeing driving offences as minor should be strongly challenged/ addressed. The MPS has confronted commonly held attitudes amongst officers with regard to gender, sexuality and disability – it should similarly change/ address/challenge attitudes which stem from a culture where driver misbehaviour is routine.

I fully support this recommendation.

You have rightly identified that unconscious bias amongst officers, whether in the form of victim-blaming or perceiving traffic offences to be minor, is a significant issue that has yet to be addressed. We agree that training is needed throughout TfL and the police at every level. As Mayor I would include representatives of walking and cycling groups on the TfL Board to help bring their perspective to many aspects of transport planning and policy, and we believe that training and attitudinal reform programmes should be devised in collaboration with these groups too.


  1. MEASURING DANGER PROPERLY: Road safety targets need to be set correctly indicating level of exposure to danger. Current road danger measurements use aggregate numbers for reported casualties, which can be low simply because of low levels of pedestrian, and particularly cyclist, traffic.

I fully support this recommendation.

This is a very important issue to have highlighted. Using a risk exposure model to measure safety is crucial for making our streets less dangerous and encouraging more people to get about our city under their own steam. Measures that discourage cycling and walking could otherwise be justified on safety grounds, and this is absolutely not the way to reach a sustainable transport system.


  1. EVEN SAFER LORRIES: The September 2015 requirements for HGVs in London by TfL should be upgraded by September 2016 to require full guards, infra-red sensors and design features such as transparent door panels retro-fitted on lorries, or else new design (low cab) lorries, and extend the CIRAS system to FORS fleets. While lorries are a small part of overall danger in London, reducing their danger at source can achieve demonstrable benefits for pedestrian and cyclist safety.

I fully support this recommendation, indeed I would like to see a real push to minimise the number of lorries on our roads, for example by making greater use of the River Thames to move construction materials.    I also believe we could reduce the number of HGVs on our roads during the day.   I support a trial of all HGVs being prohibited from central London at rush hour, although it is vital to ensure that the policy actually works and does not redistribute collisions during the day.

I completely agree with this. A heart-breaking number of deaths and injuries are being caused by the inability of drivers in large vehicles to see cyclists and pedestrians around them. All public vehicles should be replaced with low cab designs as quickly as possible, along with retrofitted safety measures on all vehicles entering the city. I would also specifically ensure that all TfL and GLA procurement specifies low cab lorries.

Through the London Plan the Mayor can also ensure that conditions on safe construction vehicles are put into all new planning agreements, and create an ambitious scheme of incentives and regulations for the freight industry, including freight consolidation and switching to smaller vehicles, as well as new designs for HGVs.  

The CIRAS confidential reporting system is at last being brought in for buses and would be very effective for freight too. I am very happy to commit to extending this to be included in FORS.


  1. SAFER BUSES: End TfL’s Bus performance contracts based on measurement of excess waiting time targets.

I would be reluctant to entirely end all performance targets for excess waiting times as a reliable bus service is important to ensuring bus travel is well used and provides practical alternative to many car journeys.   However it is vital that any targets do not have adverse effects on drivers’ behaviour.  I support a full investigation into this issue to ensure robust policies are in place.   In the meantime I welcome the recent publication of bus collision data.    I have supported for a long time the adoption of the Confidential Safety Reporting system for London’s bus fleet.

I agree that time pressures on drivers can be an important root cause of poor driving and we support the efforts of campaigners to highlight this discrepancy. Greens are committed to ending this practice and will work hard for this as Assembly Members or if I am elected Mayor.

As well as making sure such performance contracts on the buses end, and introducing safety requirements instead, we can do more to cut down on speed incentives of all kinds in London. For example, within the GLA, we can make sure that no contract we procure ever specifies time-based targets for driving on the roads, and we can also work with boroughs and other public authorities to reduce the practice there too and talk to the freight industry about more constructive ways to improve their performance by reducing traffic than by putting pressure on drivers.


  1. TRAFFIC REDUCTION AND MODAL SHIFT: TfL to set targets for reduced motor vehicular traffic throughout London in order to reduce danger, emissions and congestion, with local authorities required to show how shift to sustainable modes is to be achieved as a condition for Local Implementation Plan funding.

I not only support this recommendation, but advocate a number of policies that would help ensure there was a modal shift, such as the adoption of a workplace parking levy on employers who provide parking spaces in central London.   I also believe much further advances are necessary in the provision of segregated cycling lanes in London.  I also advocate the extension of the cycle hire scheme, especially further into Southwark and South East London.

For further information on my views on cycling I hope these articles on the London Cycling Campaign and Stop Killing Cyclist websites are useful: and

I further believe London should be made far more attractive for walking, such as through the provision of a pedestrian and cycling bridge linking Rotherhithe to Canary Wharf and through the pedestrianisation of Oxford Street.  I would also like to see London adopt from New York a series of Summer Streets traffic days in many parts of the capital, so that people can take ownership of their streets and look to pedestrianise more streets across the capital where appropriate, such as in parts of Soho.

TfL’s recent policies for more road building, particularly in planning new road crossings and prioritising driver time savings when planning junctions, have seemed more and more to be going back to outdated ‘predict and provide’ policies. It’s not that radical to talk about setting targets for traffic reduction, and I strongly support this call, and would aim to do it by taking more road space away from cars in London and prioritising investment for other ways to get around. In fact, traffic has fallen on most of London’s roads (inner and outer, and by about 10% on average) over the past decade. We need to work with this positive trend away from driving and car ownership among our citizens, putting infrastructure funds into more safe cycling routes not expensive road tunnels and bridges.

To help make this a reality London urgently needs to replace the creaking Congestion Charge (which first started 12 years ago) with something much more sophisticated, covering all of London not just a small central zone. As candidate for Mayor I am committed to start consultation on these plans straight after the election, and to develop a set of fair new charges based on three principles: how far you drive, how polluting your vehicle is and the time of day.


  1. RIGOROUS INVESTIGATION OF ROAD DEATHS AND INJURIES: A transparent, accountable and effective system to be implemented

I fully support this recommendation.

The Green Party in London and our leader Natalie Bennett are both on record supporting the introduction of presumed liability for drivers in cases where cyclists are killed and injured, and I fully support this change in the law. Within London, and within the Mayor’s powers, we can do much to improve things without waiting for this to happen.

Road collisions need to be investigated with the same attitude and – as much as possible – the same rigour as is devoted to rail and aviation incidents, where the emphasis is placed on learning quickly from mistakes and preventing future dangers, and lengthy judicial processes are not allowed to delay these investigations and implementation of what is learned.

My personal preference is for an independent London road safety investigation office to be created and suitably resourced, tasked with making recommendations for changes to streets, bus operations, policies and incentives for freight, cars and public transport vehicles  to highways authorities, the London Mayor and Assembly and Transport for London as quickly as possible after incidents occur. They should also be responsible for gathering information on ‘near misses’ and devising ways to improve safety pro-actively not merely in response to deaths and injuries that could have been foreseen.


In addition Caroline Pidgeon made the following  comments:

 I would also like to take this opportunity to say that I have long championed greater road safety in London and the need for London’s roads to be much safer and attractive for pedestrians and cyclists.  For example I took the lead on exposing the problem that many pedestrian crossings in London were not meeting the 2005 Department for Transport standard for the minimum time that should be granted to pedestrians when crossing the road at a traffic signal.   Following my intervention I am pleased to say all these standard crossings have been upgraded.

I have also championed the need for every pedestrian crossing to meet the 1995 Department for Transport standard for blind and visually impaired people.   All these sub-standard crossings will finally be upgraded by March 2016.

I hope these links are useful.

As part of my work on the London Assembly Transport Committee I also produced a report on how walking could be made safer and more attractive in London.   The report Walk This Way can be seen here:




Categories: Views

Oslo Reacts to New of a Better Future

Copenhagenize - 28 October, 2015 - 11:11

Oslo rocked onto the front pages around the world last week after the newly-elected city council announced modern plans for improving the quality of life in the city. The global headlines focused on one aspect of the new plans: making the city centre - within the Ring 1 - car-free by 2019. We covered the bigger picture here on, because it’s even more spectacular than a single headline.

What is also interesting is watching the reactions in Oslo to the news, something that doesn’t get covered after the headline gets bumped to below the scroll and enters “Related Link” land.

Globally, Norway is probably percieved as a progressive country with a cool capital - lumped together with the other Nordic capitals and The Scandinavian Way. One might assume that the local reactions would be suitably progressive and cool with an “of COURSE we’ll do this” undertone.

The reality is a little different, however, when you see the reactions in the week after the announcement.

As ever, there are two camps. One is the progressive group that supports this modernisation of the Norwegian capital. Regarding the news as a given and a natural upgrade to city life. This group, by and large, are informed and have done their research to confirm that a car-free city centre makes societal, financial and environmental sense. Data is in their back pocket.

The other camp is reacting in much the same way as their counterparts in other cities around the world. A lot of anger, arrogance, indignation, speculation - and not a lot of data to support their desperate position. They all appear to be people who don’t travel much or do much research. Similar things happening in other cities around the world are conveniently ignored in the attempt to grab headlines.

It’s all a classic scenario, as though the script for such urban dramas are recycled like so many soap operas.

You have to be able to read Norwegian to get the full scope of the debate and the humour involved but those who are interested can google translate the details.

Firstly, the newspaper Aftenposten looked at the global reactions and wrote an article about how “The World Praises a Car-free Oslo” - putting together a compilation of global press coverage. This is probably the best reaction to the local whining you can get.

One of the best articles I’ve read is heavy on sarcasm and humour, picking apart the politicians who have been voicing their dissatisfaction with the new plans. “Hallucinations in the Capital”. Here are some excerpts.

The Halloween Effect
The head of the traffic committee, Linda Hofstad Helleland (Høyre party), searched feverishly for a powerful enough metaphor and finally found it among the other ghoulish content: “The new city council wants to build a Berlin Wall around the city”, she said to VG newspaper.

Just when it couldn’t get funnier, secretary for Fremskrittspartiet (ultra-right wing), Jøran Kallmyr entered the competition with “With these politics you can’t even run a pub. I can’t see transporting beer on a bicycle”, he said to Nettavisen.

He should get a passport or at least an internet connection. Beer on bicycles? What about transporting goods by bicycle?

The article continues: “Siv Jensen, who is finance minister and therefore can’t be as cheeky and witty as a party secretary, announced to the people via Facebook that there will now be more chaos and bankrupt businesses in the capital.”

The writer goes on to ridicule the protesters by highlighting that similar plans are already in place in London and Lyon with reductions in car traffic of 30% and 20% respectively thanks to congestion charges. And Hamburg’s plans for a network of green spaces, pedestrian zones and bike infrastructure. Munich’s growing parking restrictions. Copenhagen’s car-free zones and bicycle infrastructure. Helsinki’s plans for car-free neighbourhoods. Madrid’s car-free zone that will grow in size.

Next up are more usual suspects. Oslo Handelsstands Forening (OHF) - the business development association in the city centre. In their rant entitled “Car-free City Centre is bad Environmental Policy”, they whine about Big Box stores in the suburbs killing off the city centre and the fall in pedestrians on the main streets. Presented in the classic way - claiming that more cars are required in the city centre in order to bring life back.

These people have no data to support their cause. They don’t understand that Oslo city centre must become a modern, attractive destination - which it isn’t really at the moment. The plans for a car-free city centre are a gold mine for commerce. Modern. Progressive. Profitable. Commerce and Bicycles, baby.

Like many business associations, they don’t know how people get to their shops. They just assume, blindly, that cars are the primary source. That is highly unlikely. Without concrete, neutral data, these people are not worth listening to.

In their rant they manipulate the truth - which is a nice way of saying that they’re lying - about a street redesign on Kirkegata in 2011. Saying the city added bike lanes illegally, which isn’t true. It was badly communicated and implemented, but not illegal. They claim that shops closed because of it. Which has never happened anywhere. Take a Google street view tour of the street.

The same old same old whining was heard back in the 1960s in Copenhagen, when the city made a main street into a pedestrian zone. Cries of “we are not Italians!” from the locals. We don’t want to walk! We want to drive! Cries that faded almost instantly after the pedestrian street, Strøget, was opened.

There is a great response to their statement by Olav Torvund on his blog, which gave them a good spanking.

In an age of wacky people thinking up new ways to hate on bicycle infrastructure - this woman in San Diego and this church in Washington, DC, Oslo doesn’t want to be left out. Some lawyers from a law firm called Arntzen de Besche declared in a right-wing newspaper that a car-free city centre in Oslo would be “illegal” and they banged their jungle drums about a massive court case by private citizens and owners of parking garages. They are obviously nothing more than ambulance chasers desperately looking for jobs.

It didn’t take long for another article to show up, by a law professor, debunking these lawyers’ claims as “nonsense” and completely out of left field and without any legal precedent in Norwegian law.

These lawyers say that it would be an attack on established rights that people are protected with in the constitution and the European Human Rights Court. It’s not true. There is no right regarding people being able to drive to their property.”

The Norwegian Automobile Association (NAF), not surprisingly, also commented on the plans in a right-wing newspaper, Nettavisen, that clearly has an anti-bike policy in their content. NAF says that the plans are “unwise” and that they fear that they can create more traffic and emissions.

They don’t bother backing up their claims with any reliable data, which is something we’re used to by now. They say it’s “unwise” when they don’t know the consequences. Which we do. From scores of cities around Europe. Typical fear mongering to support their car-centric view. People who need a passport and an internet connection.

Then there are surprises. The national Environment Minister, Tine Sundtoft from the right-wing Høyre party, was happy to contradict her fellow party members - like the Berlin Wall lady - by coming out in full support of the plans. She is “very positive” about the city centre being car-free for private vehicles. She encourages other cities in Norway to follow suit.

This is great quote from her: "It's clear that there are many advantages to restricting private car ownership. We also have to look at facts. In the core of the city centre today, 93% of people going to work do so in an environmentally-friendly way. Only 7% use a car to get to work in the centre of Oslo. Sometimes these debates are warped because you could get the impression that the numbers are reversed."

Data. Rationality. Modernity. Progressive mindset. Urban renewal.

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

The Life-Sized City vs The Cult of Big - TED x Münster

Copenhagenize - 27 October, 2015 - 15:02

This is a transcript of Mikael's latest TED x talk - in Münster, Germany in June 2015 - shown above.
Embedding was turned on but then it was turned off. Click on the above link if you can't see the video.

The Life-Sized City
I have a strange suspicion that we’ve been hacked. As people. As societies. We have been led to believe that big is best. That growth is good. For so many years that you can easily call it a century with the Cult of Big.

Certainly regarding the economy. You can’t mention the economy without mentioning growth. But I’m not an economist. I work in urbanism. In cities. And the same thing applies.

Cities have to be bigger. Wider. They have to sprawl into the distance as far as the eye can see. That is what makes a city great and good. Or so we’ve been told for many many years.

Buildings have to be taller, shinier. Reaching for the sky. Breaking world records. Monuments to engineering and, quite possibly, phallic symbols for the male dominated industries that design and build them.

Roads and motorways have to be longer, wider, go farther. More capacity, improved flow, reduced congestion. It's one of the saddest ironies of urban planning that the only thing we have learned from 100 years of traffic engineering is this: if you make more space for cars, more cars come. It's sad if you think about all the kabillions of dollars we've thrown at this for the past hundred years.

Megaprojects are all the rage. Never finished on time, always obscenely overbudget and yet they make up 8% of the global GDP. We're fascinated, obsessed by megaprojects.

We, the people, the consumers, are told to spend more. Buy more stuff. The more we buy the better it will be for the economy. For growth. Or so we have been told for a very long time.

Perhaps we’ve been hacked, but I believe that we still have the original code inside us. When you have been around for 200,000 years as homo sapiens, you possess that original code. The pure programming.

We can be rational when we want to be. Everyone knows, deep inside, which ice cream will be more enjoyable to eat when choosing between a single, delicious scoop or a monster pile of ice cream. Once in a while we can go crazy, but the single scoop will usually be the best experience. The same applies to food portions.

We’ve lived together in cities for 7000 years. We’re hard coded to understand the basics. Everyone of us who lives in a city knows what a good street should look like. It’s in our urban DNA to know that a human street that is friendly to pedestrians and cyclists and that has lots of green space is the best solution.

We know intuitively and instinctively as a species that size doesn’t matter.

Luckily, somewhere in there, in the dark shadow of the Cult of Big, behind the mountain of obsessive growth, there is a lovely little place I call the Life-Sized City. In the Life-Sized City, things are different.

The idea for the life-sized city came from a pint-sized person. Lulu-Sophia. Or just The Lulu as I call her. My daughter. I’ve written about her as The World’s Youngest Urbanist. The stuff she says is amazing. We were walking around our neighbourhood one day, holding hands. Waiting for the light to turn green at a crosswalk. She was quiet and she looked around and said, suddenly... "Daddy, when will my city fit me?"

She felt so small, as a kid, on the urban landscape. Everything is out of scale to her. I assured her that she would grow and she knew that. She just said “yeah”. But this made me think. Do I feel like my city fits ME? I live in Copenhagen, so in many places, yes. Riding my bike along 5 meter wide cycle tracks - one way - next to narrow car lanes across Queen Louises Bridge, my city fits me.

There are, however, other places in Copenhagen where it doesn’t. Wide cycle tracks, sure, but 8 lanes of cars and buildings that had no thought put into them. My city doesn’t fit me there. And that is the case in most cities in the world. But in the Life-Sized City, things are different.

Growth is also important in the Life-Sized City. It’s measured in centimeters and millimeters. Every new millimetre is greeted with a fist pump when a child measures their height. This is the important growth.

In the Life-Sized City we don’t need the failed sciences of traffic modelling and traffic engineering. We just need to apply logic and rationality. Using anthropology to develop traffic models. Mapping the desire lines of citizens and planning based on where they want to go.

Desire lines are democracy in movement. Democracy in motion. Every fraction of every moment of every day the citizens of our cities are sending us silent messages. They're telling us and showing us with their Desire Lines where they want to go and we should observe this and plan according to these mobility patterns that they are charting out for us.

Urban democracy is important in the Life-Sized City. In Montreal, people take matters into their own hands. A railway creates a barrier between two densely-populated neighbourhoods. Canadian Pacific Railways, who own the tracks, refuses to allow a level-crossing. So the citizens cut holes in the fence to get from A to B.

Canadian Pacific play cat and mouse, covering up the holes. The citizens, however, have a Facebook group to tell each other where the holes are. You cannot stop urban democracy.

In the Life-Sized City you don’t need to use car sales as a growth indicator. That is so last century. So old-fashioned. Instead, you measure your network of safe, cycle tracks. Your pollution levels. The distance from homes to green spaces. Accessibility.

This is how the citizens of Copenhagen get to work and education. 63% ride a bike. You measure this and you pump your fist when you see cycling and public transport levels rising.

You measure how much cyclists contribute to the city. In Copenhagen, citizen cyclists spend 2.34 billion dollars in shops in the city. A powerful force.

You measure bicycle friendly cities around the world using an academic ranking to measure how they are doing. Cities need to know how to measure their progress. This is important for the future of cities.

The bicycle is the chariot of the Life-Sized City.

Leading the armada of public transport and even car share vehicles. Bicycles aren’t like cars. They don’t get bigger. They remain largely constant. They are powerful, however. During the financial crisis, the Danish government said, “let’s build cycle tracks to get back on track". Imagine that.

Or like the Mayor of Paris - Betrand Delanoë - said... "The fact is that cars no longer have a place in the big cities of our time". When people like him say things like that, we know that the paradigm is shifting to something better.

In the Life-Sized City change can happen if quick if you want it to. If you change the question.

Cities struggle to reestablish the bicycle as transport. Lots of talk. Lots of baby steps. But then you have cities like Seville, Buenos Aires, Dublin, Paris - cities where there were no bicycles left just seven years ago. Now, in the course of short time, they are modernising and becoming bicycle friendly. With infrastructure and traffic calming and bike share systems. The holy trinity of bicycle urbanism.

For the better part of 100 years we’ve only asked one question of our traffic engineers. How many cars can we move down this street? Modern cities change the question. How many PEOPLE can we move down this street? Using all the transport forms available to us? How can we tackle urbanisation? Change the question.

You can still move stuff around the city. I was involved in research that shows that 51% of goods in cities can be transported by cargo bike. With a bit of creativity, you change the paradigm. Using barges and small terminals and cargo bikes to get goods to the people.

You hear people talk of Shrinking Cities or Declining Cities like its a worrisome thing. A problem. You know what? Maybe those cities are just scaling back to something good. They’re rebooting. Look at Detroit. Or Trieste in Italy.

Urban infill is many things. It can be large scale, but it can also be small scale. Like stuff like this my and my son Felix did. We found a hole in the wall across the street and decided our neighbourhood needed a cinema. So we built one out of Lego.

It’s all about people in the Life-Sized City. Like Felix. The Lulu. All sorts of people populate the Life-Sized City.

In the Life-Sized City someone like Lulu is not a consumer. A statistic. She is a little human. Do not measure her. Do not calculate how much money she will spend or how much profit the Cult of Big will earn off of her in her life. Design your city around her. Slow down the cars. Reduce pollution. Build cycle tracks so she can ride her bike for transport. Because that’s all she wants to do.

It’s time to hack it back. It’s time to rewrite the playbook. Cities will grow but we don’t have to be so completely obsessed with it that it clouds our logic.

Luckily, every city has pockets of life sized goodness. Seek them out. Create some more. Every day you move around your city you can choose to grow your urban landscape. Hack yourself back into your city. It’s time to go back to the future.Copenhagenize the planet. And have a lovely day.
Categories: Views

From on-street cycle lane to bi-directional cycleway

BicycleDutch - 26 October, 2015 - 23:01
Cycling infrastructure should not only be good on the main routes, you need to be able to cycle everywhere in a city. When the Dutch designate certain routes as main … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

From on-street cycle lane to bi-directional cycleway

BicycleDutch - 26 October, 2015 - 23:01
Cycling infrastructure should not only be good on the main routes, you need to be able to cycle everywhere in a city. When the Dutch designate certain routes as main … Continue reading →
Categories: Views


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