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Craft Brews on Craft Bikes

Copenhagenize - 18 January, 2014 - 13:47
The EU-funded CycleLogistics project has been up and running for a few years now, working to promote the use of cargo bikes for inner city goods transport. As part of the project, we here at Copenhagenize reach out to local shops and businesses and offer them a free cargo bike for a month. In that time, they use the bike as it fits their company needs and hopefully at the end of the trial period they'll realize all the amazing benefits and invest in one of their own.

Here in Copenhagen, and around the world, Mikkeller has been a pioneer of the craft beer scene. Their innovative brewing styles and flavors can be found around the world, and in Copenhagen these exciting beers are a welcome change of place for beer lovers craving something other than a Carlsberg. Needless to say, we were thrilled to hear that they wanted to try out a Bullitt cargo bike as part of the CycleLogistics project.



 










During the months of November and December, the guys and gals at Mikkeller rode the bike around town for a wide range of small deliveries. They had the extra benefit of a Bullitt with an electrical assist component, meaning this bike could really move. As Thomas Schøn, one of the bike's primary users at the micro-brewery put it, "I feel like Superman on this bike!"














In addition to its regular deliveries, Mikkeller has recently started a pilot brewing system a short distance from their flagship bar in the Vesterbro neighborhood of Copenhagen. This means that Thomas must cart kilo after kilo of malt, hops and other brewing ingredients back and forth between locations. He notes that while it's simply too far to walk with 40 kilos in tow, starting up a car to travel just a few blocks feel ridiculous. The cargo bike is the ideal solution to this all-too-common urban conundrum. While it's certainly true that in Copenhagen it's generally easier to move about by bike than by car, the use of cargo bikes continues to rise less-obvious cities both in Europe and around the world. Delivery services, small businesses and regular individuals and families continue to see the benefit of 2 (or 3!) wheeled transit. While the CycleLogistics project will come to a close later this year, you can bet that here at Copenhagenize we'll keep on promoting the limitless uses of the indomitable cargo bike.


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

Inadequate infrastructure causes injuries. Better infrastructure prevents them. Learning from two minor crashes.

A View from the Cycle Path - 17 January, 2014 - 15:41
My mother lives in Burnham-on-Sea in Somerset, England. Just before Christmas, my mum was involved in a crash while cycling. She had right of way when turning right on a mini roundabout. A driver coming from her left drove into her without seeing her. My mother was following the line shown in red. The crash happened at the blue cross. See it on Google Maps. The driver who hit my mother is notDavid Hembrowhttp://www.blogger.com/profile/14543024940730663645noreply@blogger.com0http://www.aviewfromthecyclepath.com/2014/01/inadequate-infrastructure-causes.html
Categories: Views

Our final Friday TED talk: Jason Roberts on how to build a Better Block

ibikelondon - 17 January, 2014 - 08:30
Great news! If you haven't yet got hold of tickets for next Thursday's presentation, film and panel discussion by Danish urban expert Jan Gehl, more tickets have just been released.  They might not be the best seats in the gorgeous Hackney Empire Theatre, but it means you will get in to see Professor Gehl present his film, The Human Scale, in person.  Tickets have been selling like hot cakes, and over 1,000 people will now attend this one off evening of all things streets, people, cities and cycling.

We've been counting down the weeks till next Thursday's film night with a different urban planning TED Talk, and this week it is the turn of transport campaigner, "Better Block" coordinator and Dallas resident Jason Roberts.


A parade in downtown Dallas,  circa 1900, from The Commons on Flickr
If you're like me when you think of Dallas you think of enormous highways, sprawling ranch mansions, stetson hats and, um, J.R Ewing.  I certainly don't think of good urban planning practise and streetcars.  So what can a a sprawling city in Texas teach London, I hear you ask?  Read on, and find out...

We've featured Jason Robert's TED Talks here on ibikelondon before, back in 2012, but it provoked such an incredible reaction last time that we thought it was a fitting conclusion to our Friday TED Talk series.  At the time, commenters wrote "This guy should be voted in as the next president", and "it makes you realise everything can be changed".  
Why?  Because Jason is the embodiment of "being the change you want to see", and he's not just changing his surroundings, but empowering people to do the same all across America, and indeed the world.

If that's not a lesson for every livability campaigner going, I don't know what is.
Tune in, and enjoy some lunch time learning...



Jason Roberts is the co-ordinator of the Better Block project - check out a map of their grass roots projects here and their instructions for a better city block here.

Why not check out our previous Friday TED Talks?

Jeff Speck lays out his vision for the walkable city
James Howard Kunstler on the ghastly tragedy of American suburbs
Sir Tim Berners-Lee on the year big data went global (and how cyclists were involved)
NYC transport commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan on New York's not so mean streets
Mia Birk on getting Portland Oregon to pedal more, and gaining health along the way.

Jan Gehl will present "The Human Scale" at Hackney Empire Theatre on January 23rd 2014 - buy your tickets online now
If you can't make it, the film is available to buy on DVD in the UK here

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Categories: Views

Desire Lines on Værnedamsvej - Part 01

Copenhagenize - 17 January, 2014 - 05:00

Copenhagenize Design Co. has once again put our Desire Line analysis tool to good use in studying the behaviour and trajectories of bicycle users crossing a major intersection. We started with our Choreography of an Urban Intersection and have also applied it to studying a shared pedestrian/cyclist space in Islands Brygge. Based on the analysis of these “Desire lines”, we study and then propose changes to create urban spaces tailored for humans – cyclists and pedestrians.Today we can present a new case: a lively, neighbourhood street with a name unpronouncable to foreigners (like most streets in Copenhagen): Værnedamsvej.
Værnedamsvej is a lovely little street lined with small shops and cafés/restaurants. These businesses and the French school, with around 800 students, create a bustling environment. Years ago the street was nicknamed Butchers Street (Slagtergade) because of the many meatmongers. Now, because of the French restaurants and the school, it's nicknamed The French Street. 





















One of the street's intrinsic features is that the border between the municipalities of Copenhagen and Frederiksberg zig zags down the street. Few people know where the border runs and it doesn't really matter to them - or to us. This municipal divide has been the reason, however, that the street hasn't been redesigned and modernised. There has been talk of it for a couple of decades, but the two municipalities haven't been able to figure it out. 

The street has a fantastic old-school neighbourhood feel but it is also a key route between the two municipalities. There are many cyclists using the street on their A to B journeys despite the lack of infrastructure. Regular bikes and cargo bikes. Also, the many pedestrians suffer from hopelessly narrow sidewalks. 
Here is a brief technical description of Værnedamsvej:
  • 190 meters long and 12 meters wide;
  • link between two main streets (Gammel Kongevej and Vesterbrogade – both are two-way streets with cycle tracks)
  • connected to the main street Frederiksberg Allé
  • a part of the street is one-way for cars and the other is two-way for cars
  • there is no dedicated infrastructures for bicycle users (no bike lane or even bike racks).
This street is one our favourites in the city and we've been looking at it for ages. Finally, the two municipalities have decided to do something about it and a redesign is in process. We thought we would analyse the street ourselves.

Redesigning the street is one thing. It works relatively well as it is. Bizarrely, it's a 50 km/h zone, but the many pedestrians and cyclists serve to slow it right down to a human speed. We have been looking at the street itself, but we quickly realised that whatever redesign ends up in place, it is completely and utterly irrelevant unless the two intersections at either are dealt with first.

The southern intersection is one of the biggest brain farts in Copenhagen. It's a nightmare and completely ignores the natural Desire Lines of cyclists and pedestrians. The intersection also straddles the municipal border, so that probably explains the fall of reason and the rise of half-hearted municipal comprimise.

At the corner of Værnedamsvej, Vesterbrogade and Frederiksberg Allé, cyclists simply cannot cross the intersection “legally”. They must use through a car lane with oncoming, turning cars or get off their bike (in principle) and pretend they are pedestrians, using the two-stage crossing.

















To redesign this street, Copenhagen and Frederiksberg municipalities need to work together. This street deserves it. It is a model of lively and meaningful urban atmosphere in a dense, residential district. It's a life-sized street, nestled in between two main boulevards. With a few rearrangements people would enjoy the urban life in even better conditions.
We're pleased that the two municipalities have finally agreed to act. We're all for it. In our point of view, however, the first thing to do to improve this street is to fix the intersections. er that, the street can be tackled. 

We tracked the Desire Lines of the bicycle users and mapped them and now we're going to proposed solutions based on these important factors.
The study is divided in 5 blogposts:
  • Part 1: Introduction
  • Part 2: The Desire Lines tool applied to an asymmetric intersection (Værnedamsvej , Gammel Kongevej, Svanholmsvej)
  • Part 3: The Desire Lines tool applied to a complex intersection (Værnedamsvej, Vesterbrogade, Frederiksberg Allé)
  • Part 4: The Copenhagenize Fixes - our proposals to make the intersections life-sized
  • Part 5: the Copenhagenize Fixes - our proposal for a redesign Værnedamsvej
Copenhagenize the planet. And have a lovely day.
Categories: Views

Spectacular Zoetermeer Cycle Bridge

BicycleDutch - 15 January, 2014 - 23:01
Never before was a picture re-tweeted, discussed and re-published so often as the one I took last Friday of the new cycle bridge in Zoetermeer near The Hague. I usually … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

Consistency on helmets

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 15 January, 2014 - 08:49

Note: some of what follows isn’t actually true. But only slightly.

In a move that has caused controversy in the pedestrian community, James Cracknell has come out in favour of a law to make it compulsory to wear a helmet when you walk across the road.

Speaking on the Sportlobster programme, he said

I was cycling down Route 66 in America, and a fuel truck hit me. His wing mirror hit the back of my head. The truck hit me at 70mph, and I would be dead without the helmet I was wearing.

But I’ve been thinking. What if I’d been hit hit by that truck while I was walking at the side of that road? Surely a helmet would have saved me in exactly the same way?

You know, we need to protect our heads when we’re on the road. Not just while cycling. But also while we’re walking. Use your head. Wear a helmet.

Cracknell admitted that, when it comes to helmets,

The pedestrian community is strangely ‘anti’ being told what to do. So you can’t have legislation that you should wear a helmet, because it’s an invasion of your rights to do what you want.

However, he was quick to point out that there’s no real downside to wearing a helmet for crossing the road.

But what’s the worst that can happen if you wear a helmet? There’s no downside, apart from maybe having slightly messy hair. That’s it. Whereas the upside is enormous.

And if you think it’s an invasion of your privacy, or someone telling you what to do, to wear a helmet when you walk across the road, imagine having someone wipe your arse for the rest of your life. That is the downside. Or not even surviving! The best thing that could happen is that someone has to wipe your arse for the rest of your life. I would choose to wear a helmet, and have slightly messy hair.

Actor Ralf Little – also appearing on the programme – was quickly won over by Cracknell’s faultless logic.

Why wouldn’t you wear a helmet for walking across the road? What’s the worst that can happen? You’re out walking anyway. Who cares what your hair looks like? It doesn’t matter.

Indeed. Messing up your hair is trivial, compared to the risk of suffering a catastrophic brain injury, if you get hit by a driver. He continued -

I follow James’s missus Bev, and she’s been tweeting over the last few days about Schumacher, and the need to wear a helmet when you cross the road. And the anger – this bizarre anger – from people, this response of going ‘how dare you’, this real vitriol she’s been getting… All she’s saying is, ‘listen, it would be a good idea if everyone was safe when you are on the road.’

Quite right. It would be a good idea if everyone was safe when they are on the road. Just protect your head. What kind of idiot would object to that?

Cracknell also pointed out the extra importance of wearing a helmet while walking across the public highway. Racing drivers wear helmets on racing tracks, where they are surrounded by drivers who are competent and know what they are doing. However -

On the road, you don’t know what anyone else is going to do.

Wise words. Racing drivers are highly trained, whereas drivers on the road are amateurs, and are more likely to crash into you when you walk across the road. They might not be wearing their glasses, and hit you on a pedestrian crossing, causing catastrophic head injuries. Or they might be travelling at 55mph in a 30mph zone, and hit you on a pedestrian crossing, causing catastrophic head injuries. You don’t know what anyone else is going to do. 

It’s simple, says Cracknell. What’s the downside? Wear a helmet when you cross the road.  How can anyone argue against something that will save your life? How?

Please do read Beyond the Kerb’s piece The Brick Wall, if you haven’t already


Categories: Views

Are you brave enough to ride the boards in London's Olympic velodrome? Less than 50 days until you can find out!

ibikelondon - 14 January, 2014 - 08:30

It's less than 50 days to go until you too can ride the boards on the London 2012 Olympic Velodrome, and race where Laura Trott, Sir Chris Hoy and Victoria Pendleton broke records and won medals on the fastest cycling track in the world.



Since the Olympic and Paralympic Games the affectionately dubbed "Pringle" has been in mothballs as the grounds around it are prepared for the visiting public.  The Olympic BMX course has been re-jigged to make it more suitable - and less back breaking - for mere cycling mortals, whilst a floodlit 1 mile road cycling loop has been built out from the Velodrome, across the river Lea on a new bridge and in to the heart of the Olympic park.   

 Developer's rendition of how the finished VeloPark should look (in less than 50 days!)
Meanwhile the neighbouring massive temporary structure that formed the basketball arena during the Games has been taken down, and the ground cleared.  Tucked away at the back of the velodrome - where catering trucks and dignitary's cars loitered during the Games - a landscaped mountain biking track is being put in place with the help of a few very large diggers to make flat old east London slightly more mountainous.  All this sits within the greater Lee Valley Park, which is stuffed with cycling routes and river towpaths for longer rides.

At the heart of the "Lee Valley VeloPark" (and how I wish they'd called it the Hoy Thigh Thunderdrome instead, but still...) the Velodrome itself is sure to be the star attraction.  This is where Team GB won 7 out of a possible 10 gold Olympic medals, plus one silver and one bronze, and the Paralympic track cycling team netted an additional 15 medals; 5 golds, 7 silver and 3 bronze.




The 1 mile cycling circuit under construction surrounding the Velodrome.
The 250 metre track, which banks at a vertigo-inducing 45 degrees, is surrounded by seating for 6,000 spectators.  The finish line is 5 metres further down the home straight than usual, meaning riders can power harder to the end, netting faster times as they go.  The track bed itself was constructed with 56km of Siberian pine, and is held in place with some 350,000 nails; designed by Ron Webb shortly before his retirement it was the fastest track he built after delivering the Dunc Gray Velodrome in Sydney for the 2000 Olympics, and the velodrome used for the 2004 Games in Athens.

Competitive track cycling returns to the Velodrome on March 14th for 3 days with the 5th round of the national Revolution Series taking place.  Some tickets are still available, but are shifting fast since Ed Clancy, Laura Trott and Jason Kenny confirmed they will race.  My experience of watching the Track Cycling World Cup here in 2012 makes me certain that the atmosphere will be electric throughout the competition.  (Though on a slightly more sour note I have no idea why tickets to the Revolution Series in London are a whopping £15 per adult MORE expensive than tickets to the Revolution Series events held in Manchester and Glasgow earlier this year)




Competition returns to the Velodrome on the 15th March - but the public can ride there from the 4th March onwards.
But before then, and for those who don't just want to watch the pros going round and round but would like to take to the track themselves, vouchers for one hour taster sessions are already available to buy (although again I note that an hour long adults taster session at the national track cycling centre in Manchester will set you back just £11 whereas the equivalent in London comes in almost three times more expensive at £30)  Financial quibbles aside, it will be a massive thrill to ride these boards, especially if you spent a certain two weeks in August 2012 glued to the television watching every track event that happened, not to mention that Keirin race.

I was passing through the Olympic park at the weekend and took the above photographs of the Velodrome and the new road cycling circuit under construction; tarmac was being laid, trees and shrubs planted and floodlights were being installed.  

Excited?  You bet I am.  Roll on the 4th of March!
Categories: Views

There is no ‘us’

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 13 January, 2014 - 12:32

A few months ago I had a bit of a near miss with a driver who, in essence, failed to expect me to come around a corner on a bicycle. Likewise, I failed to expect him to appear so suddenly – a function of the speed he was travelling at.

He was driving straight ahead into a parking space, and I was cycling straight ahead, in a path perpendicular to his. I had arrived at our point of conflict first, and he was going far too fast for the situation, but (fortunately) slow enough to be able to brake and avoid hitting me.

I instinctively yelled out as this occurred, principally, I think, out of genuine concern that I was about to be crashed into. Then, reasonably calmly, I remonstrated with the driver – a thick-set elderly man in a Jaguar – about being a bit more careful. This didn’t get the desired response – instead I was told to look where I was going, and given some abusive comments for good measure.

With hindsight, I probably should have just pedalled away at this point, but his abuse prompted me to ask whether he would talk like that to the elderly ladies who cycle on this bit of road – ladies he could well have encountered instead of me.

The conversation then took a bizarre twist. The man was parking up in front a shop (recently closed) which he had owned with his wife, and he saw fit to regale me with the number of times ‘elderly ladies’ had nearly been run down by cyclists on the pavement outside his shop. The implication was that I was somehow responsible, by association, because I was using the same mode of transport. That I was reckless and irresponsible by default.

But – quite obviously – this had absolutely nothing to do with me. I have never ridden past his shop on the pavement, nor have I terrified grannies.

Somebody else was responsible. Yet the conversation had switched from a discussion about the actual danger he had just posed to me, to a general one about how ‘cyclists’ behave. I was no longer an individual – I had become a manifestation of general cycling wrongdoing.

This isn’t the first time something like this happened. In another instance, a year or so earlier, I followed a driver into a car park to ask him to give  a little more space the next time he was overtaking someone, only to be told that ‘you jump red lights’.

A psychological explanation of these kinds of responses must lie in the fact that people who cycle are a minority – a very small minority – of the general population. It is much easier to stereotype people when they are a minority, and to lump them together into one homogeneous mass.

I’ve explored before how a Kurdish friend felt the need to write to national newspapers to explain that not all Kurds in the UK are like this man, who killed a girl on a zebra crossing, and left her to die. Rationally, it didn’t make any sense at all for her to have done this, because a calm examination of the facts would serve to demonstrate that Kurds in the UK are probably about as well-behaved as everyone else. But I can understand why she did it – the story was headline news for some time, and might have served to create the impression – in the heads of bigots – that all Kurds are like the man in question, especially when not many people in the UK are Kurds, and none of them is well-known.

The attitudes of the two men who responded to me with the misdeeds of other people who were riding bikes are essentially enabled by the fact that cycling is a minority mode of transport, and therefore a ripe target for those people cannot differentiate – or choose not to differentiate – between individuals. If I had been walking, and we had got into a discussion about how their driving had endangered me, it would have been obviously nonsensical for them to respond with the misdeeds of other people walking around – perhaps someone who had bumped into a granny, or someone who had knocked over a pram while walking along. It would have been laughable. But precisely the same form of response seemed acceptable and serious to these two, purely because I happened to be cycling, instead of walking.

It’s deeply odd, and probably worthy of being explored in more detail. But what is just as odd is that people who apparently seek to advance the cause of cycling as a mode of transport – people who cycle themselves, and want to see more of it – actually accept the logic of these kinds of arguments. They think that drivers have a poor attitude towards cycling precisely because some other people break the rules while cycling, and that, consequently, the way to address this is to attempt to stop people breaking rules while cycling.

These arguments will often in appear in the form ‘giving us a bad name’, or that ‘we’ (‘we’ being anyone who rides a bike) ‘can be our own worse enemy’. The logic is that cycling has a bad reputation – which manifests itself in bad driver behaviour around people cycling – and that this bad reputation flows from the fact that ‘we’ are quite badly behaved as a group. Superficially, it therefore seems obvious that to improve this situation we have to stop people on bikes from breaking the law.

The latest example of this kind of argument appeared in the Times in December, in a piece written by James Kennedy. He wrote

What I am arguing is that in the absence of exceptional circumstance we expect everyone to obey the laws of the road. I completely believe that were we to achieve this then cycling becomes safer and more popular in every sense of the word.

If they felt [cyclists] were “playing by the rules” all road users would be more likely to be considerate of cyclists’ needs – at the ground level drivers would be less angry with cyclists and would give them more space on the road on a day-to-day basis, and at the legislative level everyone would be a hell of a lot more amenable to cycle safety law changes if the popular consciousness wasn’t so pissed off with cyclists in the first place.

The re-categorisation of cyclists as being within the road rules and the weight of expectation of behaviour that comes with it is the only way that we will make sure everyone gets along, and we keep the eggs on the plate and off our hands.

Roads on which everyone gets along are safer roads. That will only happen when we’re all playing by the same rules.

Once again, we have the call for us to ‘get our house in order’, as a way of gaining respect, and as a way of ‘re-categorising’ ourselves as being law-abiding. To stop giving ourselves ‘a bad name’.

The basic, essential problem here is that there is no ‘us’. It might seem like that, because being a persecuted minority tends to push people together, but there really isn’t. We are all individuals. It is completely futile to expect ‘cyclists’ as a group to somehow behave perfectly, or even behave slightly better.

Human beings are miscreants. We get away with what we can get away with. The fact that some people pedal through red lights isn’t a function of them being a cyclists, it’s a function of them being a human being. All the rules, laws and guidance in the Highway Code are consistently broken by just about everybody, all the time, whether they are driving, walking, cycling or catching a bus. We break speed limits, we park in the wrong places, we pedal on pavements, we don’t look before we step into the road – in short, we do things badly, whatever mode of transport we are employing. Statistics consistently show that people cycling are no worse when it comes to law-breaking than anyone else.

Yet for some reason it is only the misdemeanours that people commit while they are cycling that contribute to a wider hatred of everyone who rides a bike.

So not only is it futile to expect ‘cyclists’ as a group to behave better than anyone else, we’re misdiagnosing the problem in the first place. You – an individual who happens to be cycling – are not hated and despised by a particular driver because they saw someone else on a bike doing something bad the other day, or last week, or last year. You are hated because they don’t understand you, because you are in their way, and because you are easy to stereotype. These issues of lack of understanding, conflict, annoyance and stereotyping will persist even if – by some holy miracle – we manage to ensure that no person on a bike ever jumps a ride light, anywhere.

When you exhort ‘us’ to stop jumping red lights, or to stop cycling antisocially, all you are really succeeding in doing is reinforcing the impression you are attempting to eradicate. You are engaging in precisely the same kind of stereotyping.


Categories: Views

Visiting Trondheim

Copenhagenize - 10 January, 2014 - 16:26

I travelled to Trondheim, Norway earlier this week, to give a keynote at the Tekna Kursdagene conference. This engineering "Course Days" conference has been held for over 50 years in the city. There are many categories for many branches of engineering, including urban development and - the category I was speaking at - traffic. I was, unfortunately, unable to take in other categories like "Fatigue of risers and pipelines - offshore" or "Lavkarbonbetong/Miljøbetong". Hey, you gotta stick to what you know.

While I was in the city, I simply had to have a look around. I've heard so much about Trondheim through the years. The number of trips by bicycle is pushing 10% and, by all accounts, it is one of the best bicycle cities in Norway. While Trondheim is trying to move forward, the rest of Norway is lagging behind and is like the USA of Europe with its focus on automobile infrastructure and unwillingness to embrace more intelligent transport forms.

So here's a little bicycle urbanism travel reportage from the oh so beautiful city of Trondheim one January day in 2014.

Allow me to get a bit excited about this pedestrian/cyclist bridge right off the bat. It's a great place to start. Nice design over the river with bold pictograms. Getting TO the bridge by bicycle wasn't at all intuitive. Bicycle users had few facilities on the approach and have to use the pedestrian crossing.

The bridge reminded me of another bicycle/pedestrian bridge in Trondheim and of one of the most brilliantly positive campaigns we've seen in the past six years. Read about THAT right here.


I love the flower boxes hanging on the side and would enjoy seeing them in full bloom in the spring and summer. Low and behold, in the middle of the bridge, was a text that warmed my heart. Directly inspired by Copenhagenize Design Company's communication template developed for the City of Copenhagen's Bicycle Office. It reads, simply, "Thank you for cycling" (Takk for at du sykler).

Nice.

One thing that put Trondheim on the bicycle urbanism map was their Bicycle Lift. We wrote about it back in 2007, with a little film. Now it was time to see it. Except, uh, it was closed for the winter. Oh well. As a few people said on Twitter, "Make sure you see the bicycle lift that nobody uses!". So I did. It was a great idea back in 1992 and has been useful for a whole lot of hype. But I can't see how this has been a game changer, apart from the branding value.

The bicycle lift was renovated a couple of years ago and a French company took over the production of them. I've seen these bicycle lifts exhibited at a number of conferences/fairs since 2009. Has anyone ever seen one implemented in a city since 1992?

Nah. Thought so.


It was, however, fun to see it. On the photo at right, a citizen is just muscling his way up the hill on a vintage upright bike, past the out of service bicycle lift.

On the way back from dinner, I saw something quite cool. A grade-separated cycle track. In NORWAY! Not very wide, but hey. It was there. My colleague with whom I was walking back to the hotel with commented that technically it was iillegal to ride on it. Apparently the State Road Directorate - Statens Vegvesen - still think it's 1961. In the handbook they publish (recently updated), such Best Practice infrastructure isn't allowed.

Indeed, in the Q&A at my session at the conference a woman from the Road Directorate said in no uncertain terms - responding to a question about why Best Practice isn't in the book - that "you can't just take ideas from other countries and import them to Norway."

She actually said that. So... Norway rejects Best Practice bicycle infrastructure based on a century of experience. Surprise, surprise... the country is one of the only ones in Europe where cycling levels are falling.

So these stretches in Trondheim, where the cycle track continued and was accompanied by a stretch of traffic buffering cobblestones, as well as skirting around a bus stop (at right) are subversive protests thumbing their nose at the Norwegian State Road Directorate. Activism in Asphalt. We approve.

The report that Copenhagenize Design Co. and Civitas produced for the Norwegian Transport Ministry in 2012 (pdf link) was commissioned by the Ministry simply because they were tired of hearing the same old, same old, last century, car-centric nonsense from the Road Directorate.


On to the old neighbourhood of Bakklandet. Quaint, wooden houses along the river. Cobblestones galore. But a couple of nice strips of pavement tiles for cycling down the street. It's in the details sometimes.


Peering through the open door to a back courtyard with both offices and homes, I spied the bicycle rack, at left. The weather was unseasonably warm when I was there. There were impressive numbers of people still riding bicycles all over the city, but it's clear that many have also hung up their wheels for a couple of months. At right, some lovely bicycles remain on the street, ready to go.


Some more infrastructure. Painted lanes, albeit with a reddish colour, are seen many places in the city. Most run along the sidewalk, like they should.

At left, however, is a bit of a brain fart. Here the bike lane forces bicycle users to act as a buffer to protect the parked cars on the right. Looking at the stretch of street, it really wouldn't have been so difficult to have continued the bike lane along the sidewalk, leaving the cars on the left. Protecting cyclists instead.
At right, another stretch of bike lane over a bridge. Reassuring.


The Clarion Hotel and Congress is a shiny new hotel on the harbour from 2012, designed by Norwegian architects Space Group. It is a splendid building from top to toe.

But...

What really frustrates me is how architects design a building in excruciating detail and then forget to plan for bicycle parking. The result? Someone who actually understands mobility needs has to put up a bike rack outside the excruciatingly designed building. Usually a bike rack that doesn't match the architectural integrity of the building, just one that works. Because they need it in a hurry.

There were two bike racks from Cyclehoop a couple of hundred metres away from the hotel. I love them but while they may not fit exactly the design of the Clarion, they would certainly look better out front.

It boggles the mind that so many architects - by and large city dwellers - fail to plan for the stuff that is going to end up in front of their building. In many cases, stuff they can control. Stuff that that is needed. Stuff that is going to end up there anyway. Like bike racks.

Where is the architect that plans for this eventuality and designs cool, practical bicycle parking in line with the total architectural vision to avoid unecessary ugliness in the form of cheap racks?


Then there's the new bridge over the railway by the central station. LOTS of stairs. And yet, no simple addition of a ramp for bicycles. In a city with almost 10% of trips by bike. It boggles the mind.

It's not rocket science. Build it in from the blueprint stage, or add it afterwards. Preferably option #1.

Last but not least, a couple of lovely Cyclelogistics encounters to calm me down. Two trailers, both used for advertising. A climbing center and a strip club. Hey, don't think Norway is boring. Copenhagenize the planet. And have a lovely day.
Categories: Views

Friday TED Talk: Mia Birk on riding bikes in Portland

ibikelondon - 10 January, 2014 - 08:30
Danish urbanist Jan Gehl is visiting London in two weeks to present his documentary film about streets, place and people "The Human Scale".  There are just a handful of tickets left for this exciting evening at the gorgeous Hackney Empire Theatre so you'd better be quick if you want a seat.



We've been counting down the weeks until his visit every Friday with a different cities, streets, planning, people and cycling themed TED Talk, and this week it is the turn of author, planner and one-time bicycle coordinator for the City of Portland, Mia Birk.  



Not only is it exceptionally refreshing to hear from a woman who works in cycle advocacy (a sadly all too rare thing, even today), but Mia presents her highly persuasive argument about the need for bikes in cities with a volley of facts, figures and statistics that are difficult to argue with.  She doesn't just know that more and more cycling would be a good thing for the cities in which she works; she's got the data to back it up too.

So strap yourself in for the ride, and enjoy some lunch time learning.

Mia Birk is the president of Alta Planning author of the book "Joy Ride; pedalling toward a healthier planet" which is now available as a Kindle e-book.

Why not check out our previous Friday TED Talks?

Jeff Speck lays out his vision for the walkable city
James Howard Kunstler on the ghastly tragedy of American suburbs
Sir Tim Berners-Lee on the year big data went global (and how cyclists were involved)
NYC transport commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan on New York's not so mean streets

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Categories: Views

Bike Share Systems and Public Cycling Policies

Copenhagenize - 9 January, 2014 - 19:50



The trend illustrated above has manifested itself with increasing consistency over the past few years, with bike share schemes having spread to over 500 cities worldwide. 2013 saw a large number of new bike-share schemes introduced across the world, from New York to Nea Smyrini, and 2014 is set to be no different.

Despite the increasingly widespread use and popularity of bike share schemes, studies comparing their use and impact across different cities aren't always easily available. One source we can use to get a sense of how bike share schemes can be used most effectively comes from a colloquium in Strasbourg, where cycling experts converged on the city to share experiences and discuss bike sharing systems and their role within wider cycling policy. We're going to have look at some of the conclusions the experts drew, which provide us valuable insight into the role that bicycle-share schemes can have in our cities:
Firstly let's take a moment to consider the evolution of cycling policy during the three last decades:
1990s: Cycling policies were focused on creating a continuous network of cycle paths and on finding solutions to avoid micro-obstacles and breaks in the network.=> Public bicycles were not a topic of interest.
2000s: Public policy became more global and began to take into account services for cyclists.There was a general trend of increased infrastructure, services and promotion of cycling. => The role of bike share systems became essential both as a service, and as a means of communicating the importance of cycling to the public.
2010s: During this decade, urban planners focused on calming traffic by using strategies such as reducing the speed of cars and creating pedestrian areas, as well as infrastructure. => The consequence of this policy was a significant increase in the number of cyclists in city-centres, with bike share systems becoming just one element within the wider cycling context.
The colloquium drew some interesting conclusions regarding the effect of bike share systems on the wider urban transportation system:First, (and unfortunately,) few car drivers have left their cars to switch to a public bike. Most of the users of bike-share bikes are former pedestrians and users of public transport. A few cyclists have stopped using their own bikes and instead have purchased bike sharing system subscriptions. 
Generally speaking, the creation of public bike sharing systems has coincided with a boom in the number of cyclists. But the experts have noticed that in the French cities (Lyon, Paris, Montpelier, Toulouse, Bordeaux, Strasbourg and Lille) that set up a bike sharing system, the number of cyclists had already begun to rise before the public bike arrived.
The table below shows the increase in the number of cyclists in French city centres:
City Period Increase Lille From 1998 to 2006 + 39% Lyon From 1995 to 2006 + 300% Strasbourg From 1997 to 2009 + 100,00% Bordeaux From 1998 to 2009 + 150%
Source : official survey about means of transport 
Evolution of the number of cyclists and the number of two-wheeled motorised vehicles:Source: Municipality of Paris
The experts discussed whether having a bike-share system is an effective means of transport or instead merely a good way to communicate about cycling. Indeed, bike sharing systems are fairly costly and cannot be set up in every urban area. The colloquium concluded that bike share schemes should not solely be seen as a means of transport but also as complementary to increased private bike use.This is because bike share schemes are also an effective method of communication and in several cities they are used as a public representation of pro-cycling policy. It makes cycling more visible for a city's inhabitants. It is the sign of a municipality that is trying to create a more bicycle-friendly environment. In some cities, the bike-share bike has even reached the level of a tourist attraction. For instance, the French Vélib' has gained an international reputation and tourists visiting Paris are increasingly considering it an attraction of the city that they must experience.
This conclusion therefore caused the gathered experts to wonder what the most effective way to spend public money is. When municipalities get a budget for cycling policy, is it more efficient to spend it on developing a bike sharing system, to develop services, to promote cycling or to create new infrastructures for cyclists?
In the current economic climate, where public funds are more limited, setting up a bike-sharing system must not be considered as a final goal, but rather as one component of a broad public cycling policy. Bike sharing systems are useful but not essential. Their costs have to be analysed in detail to make sure that public money is invested where it is most effectively able to develop an appropriate cycling policy. Private bicycle usage and public bike schemes are not opposed but complementary. 
The gathered experts in Strasbourg began to imagine the ideal context and set of policies for integrating bike-sharing schemes effectively with private cycling - in this ideal situation people would be ultimately encouraged to get (and use) private bikes. Cities would create room to park bikes (at home and in the street) and would develop a network of repair shops in the city. Renting a bike would be easy and convenient, with subscriptions covering several cities. 

It seems simple, and in so many ways it is. The example of the Dutch system of rental bikes,  OV-Fiet, available at multiple train stations across the country, was especially highlighted as a great example of this complementarity, and there is no reason why these findings from Strasbourg cannot be learnt from across the globe, to make sure that public bike share systems have the biggest and most positive impact possible.
Source: Frédéric HéranCentre lillois d’études et de recherches sociologiques et économiquesUMR 8019 Centre national de la recherche scientifiqueUniversité de Lille 1, Cité scientifique, 59655 Villeneuve d’Ascq
September 2012 Copenhagenize the planet. And have a lovely day.
Categories: Views

100 Cargo Bikes in Boulogne-Bilancourt

Copenhagenize - 9 January, 2014 - 12:35
Photes via: Michel & Augustin

We kick off another great year for cargo bikes with wonderful news from France. The City of Boulogne-Bliancourt, near Paris, is launching a project called 100 Triporteurs - 100 Cargo Bikes - in Boulogne-Bilancourt. It's a project that Copenhagenize Design Co. loves and it is perfect inspiration for our Cyclelogistics.eu project.
The company Michel & Augustin is known for both its creative marketing and its delicious cookies. They were looking for a new media to communicate through and that can contribute to a positive paradigm shift in urban life. Together with the Danish cargo bike brand, Nihola, they are launching a cargo bike project aimed at changing peoples perceptions about how to get around the city.
Thanks to this project, citizens in Boulogne-Bilancourt can buy a Nihola cargo bike for €1000, instead of €2600. They can also be a part of the new community of Citizen Cyclists who want to make some life changes and also take part in events organised by the funky company.
Michel & Augustin think an urban revolution is possible by using innovative means of transport. Not surprisingly, we at Copenhagenize Design Company feel the same way. Bikes and cargo bikes are fantastic tools for changing urban life for the better. Cargo bikes are a perfect means of transport for families and we our proud to be a part of the CycleLogistics.eu project.
Here is the video about the beginning of the paradigm shift in the Paris area.


100 triporteurs dans Boulogne-B from Michel et Augustin on Vimeo.
Copenhagenize the planet. And have a lovely day.
Categories: Views

The "streets" of London where bicycles are banned. Pedways; a warning from history

ibikelondon - 9 January, 2014 - 10:18

Earlier this week we took a comprehensive look at the modernist thinking behind Norman Foster's proposals for flying "skycycle" tracks in London, and the contentious relationship that the modernist movement has always had with people-friendly streets and the bicycle.

Thankfully the Mayor of London has kicked the proposals firmly in to touch, describing them as "fantastically expensive" in a radio interview, and saying that other initiatives to make all cyclists safe on existing roads should be a priority.

However, this is not the first time that plans have been made in London to elevate a single type of road user on to their own "deck" of infrastructure.  As we mentioned in our piece earlier in the week, the City of London  - the 'Square Mile' - adopted a post-war plan to reconstruct large sections of the city with pedestrian access on the first floor of buildings, elevated above the street by a series of "pedways" or walking decks.  





The bike-free walkways of the Barbican in the City of London, photographed by boneytongue on Flickr and re-produced here with many thanks.
A number of these pedways still exist, most obviously around London Wall and the Barbican estate.  In a strange twist of local byelaws, it is still illegal to even posses (let alone ride) a bicycle on these pedways.  In this strange and dystopian plan for the future, there just wasn't a place for the humble bike.  

Not only was it outlawed to "wilfully drop" any article from the City Walkways, or indeed to sit or climb upon the balustrades, it was also against the law to bring any vehicle (horses, asses and bicycles included) on to the walkways.  As mobility fashions changed, the bylaws were updated in 1990 to include roller skates and skateboards.  No wonder that places like the Barbican estate are so often described as lifeless and uninspiring.  

(See this PDF hosted by Ralph Smyth of the full relevant byelaws)
A fantastic new documentary by film maker Chris Bevan Lee looks at the City of London's Pedways in detail.  Beautifully shot, and with some fantastic interviews with the men who were involved in designing and building the Pedway plan, I thoroughly recommend it:

The Pedway: Elevating London (Documentary) from Chris Bevan Lee on Vimeo.


The lesson for people on bikes? Be wary of planners and engineers with no track record in providing working solutions for cyclists who come bearing "bright ideas".  That is to say, if you need help, be sure to ask the right people...


For details of an elevated cycleway that was actually built in California, see Carlton Reid's fascinating article on his Roads Were Not Built For Cars blog.
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Five years of filming anniversary: my daily commute

BicycleDutch - 8 January, 2014 - 23:01
“Longer distance commuting by bicycle is perceived impossible by many. Not so for the Dutch. A combination of public transport and a bicycle is easy and very common in the … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

The natural impulse to protect, and what it means for the school run

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 8 January, 2014 - 11:07

A couple of days ago I was sent this email circular from PTRC, a company that runs training courses for transport and planning. It’s by David Jilks, the PR manager for CILT (the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport).

Running away from the school run

Happy New Year! My son’s back at school this week. Forgive me for sounding like something from a Hovis ad, but when I were a lad we walked to school. At the grand age of seven I was dragging my duffel bag in one hand and five year old sister in t’other.

But now my lad’s ten and I still do that thing I know really mucks up traffic flows and – far from being smarter travel, is significantly dumber – I drive my kid to school.

Yes, it encourages bottlenecks, peak-period car travel and all those other things that make transport planners weep; of course I see that from a professional point of view. But there’s no bus, it’s over a mile away and he’s not cycling on those roads – not with all those frustrated drivers taking risks to get past the school traffic…

School runs are a tricky thing. They are complete folly, and kids ought to be getting the exercise. But you want, above all, to keep them safe.

The school run is the most pointless waste of resources ever to cause congestion. If transport planners can’t persuade someone who works in the industry, like me, to give it up, then that’s a problem, I confess. The main reason for owning a car, though, is to hopefully get your loved one safely to their destination. So is the school run just a natural impulse we should acknowledge and design into our schemes, rather than discouraging, or do we need to re-educate parents like me?

David Jinks

It’s a refreshingly honest piece and, consequently, a revealing one. It demonstrates that appeals to people’s better nature won’t really work when it comes to tackling school run problems, and the issue of getting people to shift to cycling from driving. Even a transport planning professional, who knows the ‘folly’ of the school run, about how it is a grotesque and ‘pointless waste of resources’, keeps doing it anyway.

And it is grotesque. Some facts and figures from the National Travel Survey -

    • 63% of all trips to primary school of 1-2 miles are driven (just 2% are cycled)
    • For primary school trips of 2-5 miles, 75% are driven
    • 43% of all primary school children are driven to school
    • 16% of all motor traffic on the road in urban areas in Britain between 8-9am on a weekday is formed of the school run
    • At 8:40am, 24% of all motor traffic in urban areas is formed of the school run

Considered in terms of the congestion and delay alone, that’s shocking, to say nothing of the effects on child health and wellbeing, air quality, and the dangers posed to other people from the presence of so many vehicles on the road. It doesn’t need to be like this.

But while David Jinks acknowledges the severity of the problem, and how silly it is that we all keep contributing to it, his response is slightly curious. He suggests that there is a choice between ‘designing in’ the school run (as currently configured) into new schemes, acknowledging that huge numbers of children will be driven to school, and designing accordingly, or ‘re-education’.

‘Re-education’ clearly isn’t going to make a jot of difference, if David himself continues to drive his child to his school, while knowing how bad it is for everyone to do this. Parents who drive the school run already know there are far better ways for their children to get there, and even if they don’t, telling them that they are awful people for driving is hardly likely to work, in and of itself. They are driving their children to school for a reason.

David Jinks has partly arrived at the answer when he refers to a ‘natural impulse’. The impulse of parents is to keep their children safe, and that explains why so many drive their children to school. It’s the best way to protect their children when so many other parents are also driving.

However, in acknowledging this natural impulse, he suggests that we accommodate it only in a certain set form – through driving. By implication, the only way to make the school run look and feel safe for parents is to continue facilitating driving, apparently the only way to ’get your loved one safely to their destination’.

But we know that it is entirely possible for children to get safely to school, without being driven, if the physical environment is designed appropriately. This is the reason why parents in the UK are often so reluctant to let their children walk or cycle to school – because of genuine physical danger.

The ‘natural impulse’ to protect children should be designed into our roads and streets, rather than leaving them so unattractive that the ‘natural impulse’ manifests itself in cocooning those children in vehicles, with deleterious consequences for those other children who aren’t so protected.

The natural impulse to protect, accommodated through the physical environment. A route to a primary school in Assen.

 

 

 

 

 

Another primary school in Assen, where the school run by bike is made attractive and easy. Children are protected, and safe.

Framing the problem of the school run as a hard choice between ‘a natural impulse to protect’ and ‘educating’ parents and children to expect, and deal, with risk is wrongheaded. That risk should be removed at source. We cannot expect parents to give up driving all by themselves when so many other parents will continue to do so, and consequently continuing to make the roads and streets around schools unattractive.

This piece from Sustrans is indicative of this mistaken approach, in which the onus is placed on the parents to push their children into cycling to school, even though it is desperately unattractive, as you can see in the video.

The Sustrans officer is quoted -

I made this video of Ethan riding to school as part instructional and part inspirational, so parents may gain courage and comfort in the fact that such things are possible.

Well, it is right to say that young children cycling to school in Britain is possible, but unfortunately that doesn’t get us very far when that option is far less feasible, safe and pleasant than simply pushing children into a car.

The school run in Stevenage. ‘Possible’ for a child to cycle on this road, but how many parents would let their their children do so, when the road is so hostile?

The video might be ‘inspirational’, but I can’t really seeing it inspiring many parents to let their young children out onto the roads on a bike. The impulse is to protect.

The school run is a Tragedy of the Commons, in that the problem is created by individuals acting rationally in their own self-interest, while simultaneously creating a disastrous overall outcome for the population as a whole. But these kinds of problems cannot be addressed by expecting individual people to act against their own self-interest. Without changing the physical environment, we are forced to rely upon people choosing to abandon cars spontaneously, but very few will be willing to do so when, in making that choice, they are put a disadvantage by the majority who do not.

Even if we manage to create an attractive school run by persuading a majority of people to abandon driving, that would be an inherently fragile solution, in that people are entirely free to start driving their children to school again in the future, posing risk and danger to those who don’t. Safe routes to school for walking and cycling need to designed and engineered, and made physically permanent. They won’t be achieved by stigmatising people, or appealing to their better nature, or expecting them to change their minds all by themselves.


Categories: Views

Different Worlds

Thinking about Cycling - 7 January, 2014 - 14:53

Most people don’t cycle, and it’s easy to assume they’re indifferent, even hostile to cycling. But that’s not true; even as they describe, explain and justify their car-locked lives, many people view cycling as something they’d love to do, just not in this world.

When people talk about driving and cycling they often talk about two quite different and separate worlds. There’s the world they know best, full of cars including theirs, the world they must – simply to function – learn, accept and deal with. This world is physical and psychological, ‘out there’ but also ‘in here’, and so taken-for-granted it’s negotiated almost without thinking. Bicycles occupy another world – slower-moving and sunnier, if confined in most people’s imaginations to leisure, holidays and wishful thinking. People struggle to fit the idea of themselves cycling into the first world, but easily can in the second. So interviews about cars and bicycles tend to slip between describing everyday car-based hustle and bustle and reflecting on the occasional or imagined delights of, for example, a weekend off-road ride in the countryside.

So what happens when you, the interviewer, introduce into the conversation the idea of utility cycling? Typically people express their unwillingness to cycle because it looks and feels too scary; next they mention how the cycling facilities they’ve seen don’t join up, and look unfit for purpose; but these ‘facts’ out the way, so long as you keep them in this ‘what if..?’ territory, interesting things happen. You get glimpses of a third world based more around bicycles than cars. You see this world in the injection of pace, the change in demeanour, the glint in the eye, the flash of a smile, and the burst of enthusiasm that emerge as someone briefly considers the prospect of more cycling – as what’s usually on the margins or just under the surface comes momentarily into view; it’s like sunshine bursting suddenly through the clouds, as someone savours a little taste of how life could be. Then reality reasserts itself, the gate slams shut, and that third world is gone. (Here we see how individual psychology mirrors dominant ideology as performed through governmental discourses – almost complete and unwavering commitment to the car cracked by little rhetorical tweets and policy gestures looking in a more bike-friendly direction.)

As the interviewer it’s hard to trust your senses here, and the cold ‘facts’ of the transcript don’t easily reveal what you witness – the optimism injected as someone momentarily dwells on individual and societal cycling futures (questionnaires might capture these inchoate dreams of a different life better than less structured interviews). But we know the appetite for this third world is there. A recent British Social Attitudes survey found

‘widespread support for the idea that everyone should be cutting down on their car use, and most people disagree that individual action is pointless. Two-thirds of drivers say they are willing to cut their car use and three in five would be able to shift from using the car on short journeys to cycling, walking, or taking the bus … the overall climate of public opinion can … be described as favourable towards a reduction in car use.’

(Stradling et al, 2008: 153)

Other surveys show people want 20 mph speed limits, and want cycling (and walking) prioritised over the car. That people want change is unsurprising – the car system structures their world and many are forced against their deepest desires and aspirations to drive. In a sensible discussion I’m sure almost everyone would agree Britain’s being choked by cars and wishes it could stop.

Utility cycling remains a remote but real possibility despite the twin, related processes of people feeling disempowered from doing it and urban space practically eliminating it; people are dreaming even now, even here, among all the cars, of being in a better, happier place, by bike. Change from cars to bicycles is closer than we think; it just needs to be triggered, if not in the ways we’re trying to trigger it. The biggest barrier is not lack of desire, it’s cynicism – dreaming of a cycling future’s one thing, getting there quite another; why get excited about something you can’t imagine happening?

People glimpse a better cycling future, but remain in perpetual fug over the driving present. The car contributes to a de-skilling and disembodiment of everyday life. People’s capacity to move through the world without a screen to protect them has been eroded, as has the relationship to their own bodies that develops through physical activity. Talking to people about their reliance on the car, you get the impression we’ve collectively sleep-walked into the current state of transport, and on pausing to think about it they momentarily awaken and slowly shake their heads, struggling to comprehend how the car’s taken over life. Even the most car-centric of people feels this; Jeremy Clarkson’s tremendous popularity is surely based on his ability temporarily to extinguish people’s growing ambivalence towards the car, so they can still sometimes bathe for a short sweet while in its unalloyed celebration.

So cycling sits in an alternative future even as current conditions occlude it. Cycling here is importantly symbolic. If in the present people have lost control of their bodies, homes and lives, in the cycling future they retake control of those bodies, take back those homes from the car, and reassert autonomy over those lives. The thought of cycling gives people a sense that things, and most importantly they themselves, could be different. Cycling’s power is as the pivot around which life rotates away from a darker towards a brighter future. But it’s unwise to show unambiguous support for something with such dodgy prospects, so enthusiasm for cycling is muted, constrained by the understandable (if also incorrect) sense that ‘things don’t change – driving’s what we do’. For now, people figure, we’re stuck with the car.

You might think this other world lying just beneath the cars is so clearly against vested interests, it will never happen. You might say it’s much easier for car-dependent people to romanticise cycling than it is to get them on a bike. But don’t those responses keep cynicism the biggest barrier to cycling? I think we should see the truth in people’s hesitant, halting visions of a better life, and make ways to encourage and convert them into action, though precisely how we do so is another question.

Another world is possible, and cycling is not just part of it, it’s a route to it. Cycling is repressed but barely; it lies close to the surface. This is why, as I tried to say in a recent post, I think we need to create more seductive visions of the cycling future, to help people get more than a glimpse – to help them get a sustained view – of the world that cycling, including their own cycling, will create.

Reference

Stradling, Stephen, Jillian Anable, Tracy Anderson and Alexandra Cronberg (2008): ‘Car Use and Climate Change: Do We Practise What We Preach?’, in Alison Park, John Curtice, Katarina Thomson, Miranda Phillips, Mark Johnson and Elizabeth Clery (eds), British Social Attitudes: The 24th Report, London: Sage, pp. 139-59.


Categories: Views

Pie in the Skycycle; modernism and the anti-street cycle track

ibikelondon - 6 January, 2014 - 08:30

Will Londoners on bikes soon be soaring over the city on elevated cycleways, unencumbered by motorised traffic snarling and clogging below them?   More than a year after it was first mooted by a small architectural firm keen for funding, the "Skycycle" concept is back in the news having received the backing of Britain's most prolific architect, Sir Norman Foster.  And how do the ideas of bike lanes in the sky stem directly from modernist thinking of the 20th century?

Skycycle proposal via the Fosters + Partners website
Foster's firm has given us buildings such as the Gherkin, Stansted airport, Wembley Stadium and London's City Hall.  Their engineering know-how has delivered projects including the Thames Millennium Bridge, the pedestrianisation of Trafalgar Square and Canary Wharf Underground Station, to name just a few.  When Foster gives his backing to an idea, the world listens, as evidenced by the renewed flurry of media interest in the Skycycle idea once again.

The "Skycycle" proposes to 'clip' cycle tracks above existing elevated train lines, giving commuters a high-speed two-wheeled option for getting in and out of the city, whilst negating the need to cope with traffic congestion or soaring train fares.  

Lord Foster - who told The Guardian newspaper that cycling is one of his great passions - describes the plan as “a lateral approach to finding space in a congested city.”

“By using the corridors above the suburban railways,” he said, “we could create a world-class network of safe, car-free cycle routes that are ideally located for commuters.”

The idea was first pitched to Mayor of London Boris Johnson in a City Hall elevator by the scheme's original proponents, Oli Clark and Sam Martin of Exterior Architecture.  Since then they've been working with Foster + Partners on developing the details of the scheme, meeting with Transport for London's cycling team and representatives from Network Rail, who manage the track bed on which the cycleway would be built.  The designers say their latest proposal is for over 220kms of car-free routes installed above 10 radial suburban rail lines, accessed at over 200 entrance points.  Each 'track' would be 15 metres wide, and could improve journey times with a capacity of 12,000 cyclists per hour.


Wandsworth Roundabout, London. No space for cycling here? Via As Easy As Riding a Bike blog.
My concern with the Skycycle is that it sets off from the point of believing that there is no room for cyclists on London's existing streets.  Mark at As Easy As Riding a Blog explored this argument in detail last year, and does a good job of finding holes in it.  He writes;

"You don’t need to knock buildings down to get a modal share [of 5%], let alone one of 30-40%, which is consistently achieved in Dutch cities, where, you won’t be surprised to hear, no buildings have been demolished, and no tracks for bicycles have been put up in the air when they could quite easily have been put on the ground.

It’s a simple question of priorities. The amount of motor traffic isn’t immutable (the experience of Games Lanes during the Olympics has shown us this). It will adapt and adjust to the amount of road space allocated to it. Prioritise cycling by giving it space and making it safe, pleasant and convenient, and plenty of those 50% of trips in London that are under 2 miles will switch from being made by car to being made by bike. That’s a sane solution to the traffic problem.."

Sanity is something often lacking in these sorts of Christmas silly season announcements, especially when you see that the designers predict a 6km route from Liverpool Street to Stratford is projected to cost £220 million and that the ten routes would take some twenty years to implement.

Still, the project should not be written off entirely.  Fortuitously timed pitches to the Mayor led to the construction of the essentially useless ArcelorMittal tower in the Olympic Park, and the splurging of £60 million of public money on the Emirates Cable Car in London Docklands from nowhere in particular to somewhere even less so (with panoramic views of a scrap metal yard along the way).

Most interesting of all is Foster's personal backing of the Skycycle plan.  As highlighted, his firm are responsible for some of the greatest contemporary buildings in the world, but Foster's background is distinctly modernist.  He took the best principals of architectural modernism and incorporated them in to his designs when the rest of the genre was descending in to 1970s boxy cliches or downright dangerous designs for collapsing tower blocks on sink estates in Newham.

 Le Corbusier's urban plan for re-building central Paris
But the modernist's approach to the cityscape has always been contentious.  Swiss / French architect Le Corbusier believed in the city as a machine, and each of its buildings as a city in itself.  His plans to bulldoze most of central Paris and replace it with rows of tower blocks set in city block-sized green spaces didn't come to fruition, but the ideas behind his planning ethos live on.  Corbusier frequently stated "We must destroy the street!", advocating separating out the movements of each transport form; with railways lines running below ground, cars and lorries at street level, with pedestrian plazas and walkways above this, and higher still "skyways" connecting adjoining towers.

His influence can be seen in the planned city of Brasilia (which Danish urbanist Jan Gehl describes as being the consequence of "bird shit architecture") where autonomous buildings stand apart from each other in lifeless and empty expanses of grass 'parkland' connected only by heavily congested roads. 

Closer to home, the City of London adopted a post-war plan to reconstruct large sections of the city with pedestrian space elevated above the roads.  Planning consent for new buildings in the city was dependant on the first floor being accessible to pedestrians in the hope this would help to create a network of "pedways".  Today, this is most evident within the still-contentious Barbican estate, and the primary entrance to the Museum of London is on the first floor above a large trafic roundabout.  Special City Byelaws outlaw the very possession of a bicycle on the pedways; there was simply no space for cycling in this vision of the future.


Plans for Oxford Street, London, in the 1963 Colin Buchanan report "Traffic in Towns".
In the 1963 seminal planning text Traffic in Towns, which led to the wholesale redevelopment and expansion of the UK's road network, the authors proposed demolishing London's famous Oxford Street shopping district, placing pedestrian and shopping movements on walkways above regional distributor roads and goods routes at street level.

It's from this planning tradition that Foster has emerged.  Whilst many of the elements of modernism he has incorporated in to his work - such as modular buildings, open plan workspace and the use of pre-formed and factory-produced construction elements - are to be applauded, the modernist's approach to the street is still problematic.  A cross section of the streetscape of Foster's emission-free "Masdar eco city" in Abu Dhabi is almost identical to 1913 proposals for "Cities of the Future" from early modernist thinker HW Corbett.

 "Cities of the Future", 1913, HW Corbett (left) Cross section of Masdar City streetscape, Foster + Partners, Abu Dhabi, 2008. (Click to enlarge)
Where in these proposals are cyclists supposed to fit?  On the pedestrian decks, where their progress will be impeded by wandering souls and where faster cycling is simply not practical?  Or down below, in the dark depths of the "street" where motorised traffic can move quickly, unimpeded as it is from having to look out for pedestrians and other irregularities.  Other than those behind wheels, what "eyes on the street" will exist down there, to ensure a mutual code of respect and safety is played out between competing transport priorities?  


Foster + Partners building street fronts in London; (above, via Google Maps) 10 Gresham Street in the City of London, and (below, detail via Flickr with thanks) More London pedestrian precinct by Tower Bridge.  Pleasant places in which to walk and cycle?

Foster's Skycycle proposal is simply a new 'layer'' in the stacked and separated city, but sets out to solve a problem that simply does not exist in the first instance.  There is more than enough space for pedestrians and cyclists in the centre of London (see here for yourself if you don't believe me).  What there is clearly not enough space for is everyone to drive a car in the centre who would like to; this is why London did not build more Westways and ring roads.  It's why it introduced a congestion charge.  The city knows that it has to limit the growth of motor traffic in the city in order for there to be sufficient space for everything else a city is supposed to do (like provide education and seats of learning, places of commerce and economic space, centres of connection and knowledge exchange etc)

The subjective experience of cycling should be a critical consideration for everyone involved in planning for more riding in an urban environment; what will it actually feel like to ride a bike is the key indicator as to whether more people will be prepared to do it or not.  Just as the pedways of the City of London were lambasted by critics for being wind-blown, soulless and dangerous feeling expanses of concrete in which to walk, so the Skycycle will attract similar concerns.  


A conducive environment for riding a bike?
What will it feel like to ride on a Skycycle so high above the streetscape?  How will the safety of participants be monitored?  How will emergency services access it in the case of incidents?  If lifts or escalators are broken, how will cyclists get on and off the track?  Will it wobble in the wind? How will exposure to noise and dust from the busy rail lines below be mitigated? 
How will it feel to ride alone, late at night?

In short, what will the physical experience of riding the Skycycle entail, and will it be pleasant enough to entice riders away from the existing routes and roads they are currently able to use for free? (Answer: I doubt it)  And will revenues from on-site advertising and pay-as-you-go usage offset the likely substantial constriction costs? (Answer: No.)

There are times and places where it makes good sense to separate cyclists, pedestrians and motorised traffic.  The Dutch example shows best how and when to mix modes and when to separate them out using design and infrastructure.  Cyclists can be kept away from traffic either by discouraging it, such as with filtered permeability, or with kerbs and side path cycle tracks in place of car lanes.  But unlike the Skycycle model, the separation is not happening in cities like Rotterdam in order to allow the traffic flow status quo to remain unchallenged, but to allow the city to make a choice that promotes the solution that is best for itself.  Namely, the cycle space in the centre of Dutch cities is there instead of using that space for storing and moving cars, as oppose to the side of it (or in the case of the Skycycle, up above it.)


Separating cyclists the Dutch way.
Like too many modernist plans that precede it, the Skycycle might look good on paper, but the finished reality of how it actually feels when you experience it shows why it should not be built.  The architectural principals that have shaped our cities for the past sixty years are clearly as prevalent as ever; indeed if we're turning to the proponents of these principals for ideas on how to make cycling safer and more attractive then I would argue that we are turning to the wrong people.  When it comes to coming up with ideas for a truly "cyclised city", London has a long way to go.

What are your views on the Skycycle?  Noble plan, on the right track, or big white elephant in the sky?  If you could build cycle infrastructure where you live what would you build first - safe streets or flying cycle tracks?

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Categories: Views

Copenhagen's Design Manual for Bicycle Infrastructure and Parking

Copenhagenize - 5 January, 2014 - 22:02

When you have been doing bicycle culture for a while, things tend to get easier and more straightforward. In a country where design is an integral part of daily life, things become even more functional and simplified.

The City of Copenhagen has a Design Manual that covers all aspects of the urban landscape. The document title, when translated, is Design Manual for Urban Spaces and Parks. It's in Danish, not suprisingly, and the pdf can be viewed/downloaded here. There is also a document entitled Design Policy for Urban Space in the City of Copenhagen (a pdf as well), which deals with identity and more overall philosophy regarding our urban spaces.

The aforementioned Design Manual is more concrete. It spells out, in no uncertain terms, the design guidelines for the city. From style of garbage cans and manholes to the construction of bicycle infrastructure.

On the subject of infrastructure, the Manual is refreshingly simple. You may recall that there are only four types of bicycle infrastructure in Denmark (and only four) so there isn't really a need for overcomplicating what is a simple concept - if you want it to be.



In this photo, cycle lanes are being marked out in about 1915 in Copenhagen. A century of experience lies behind the simplicity of the Manual.

It may be interesting to have a look at the material in the Manual regarding bicycle infrastructure and bike racks. With the continued rise in bicycles as transport in cities, there is still an enormous amount of overcomplication. Despite the fact that bicycles were normal in cities around the world for decades, many cities seem to have a short memory and are trying to reinvent the wheel.

It's much more simple than that. And in the interest of building a culture of Citizen Cyclists by providing them with the best solution possible from the word go, borrowing freely from a city that has been at it for a while - and that has made all the mistakes and fixed them - is not a bad idea. Not to mention the most cost-efficient way to do things. Important in cities with strained budgets.

We've translated the guidelines for bicycle infrastructure and bicycle parking below. There are variations and creative additions to the guidelines in the urban space here in Copenhagen regarding bicycle parking, but the infrastructure part is carved in stone, by and large.

Cycle tracks, lanes and routes (from page 10 in the Manual)

Cycle tracks along roadways must be fortified areas with asphalt. They must have a fall of 1/50 towards the sidewalk. A curb is placed on the roadway side (fas curb) as well as the sidewalk side (kløvet curb).


Cycle paths in parks and nature areas must be (if they are shared with pedestrian paths) constructed as a separate path and be fortified with black/grey OB surfacing.

Cycle lanes are marked with 30 cm wide, white striping in thermoplast. The bicycle symbol is placed at the beginning of the stretch and every 30 metres afterwards. In intersections where cyclists are especially vulnerable, the whole lane can be marked with blue thermoplast.


Bicycle routes are comprised of a connected network that continuously runs in its separate lane of at least 2.5 metres in width or along the car lane. The routes are fortified areas in asphalt.

Asphalt

Asphalt is used in traffic areas (cycle lanes and cycle tracks) in accordance with the positive list from the Technical and Environmental Department's Road Laboratory.

OB Surfacing
OB Surfacing is used on, among other things, shared pedestrian and bicycle paths in parks, where the surfacing must be corn coloured. When paths are more than four metres wide, a separate bicycle lane is implemented in black/grey OB surfacing.


Here is a cycle track being built.


Bicycle Parking (from pages 35-36 in the Manual)

Guidelines
Bicycle racks are placed in the public urban space for short term parking.

Placement of bike racks

Bike racks are placed close to shops, stations and other traffic nodes. The rack must be faced away from the the road or cycle track.


The bike racks can be placed on sidewalks in the inventary zones (city inventary like garbage cans, etc), along walls or on the roadway.


When the bike racks are placed on the roadway, the area must be striped with 10 cm wide frame. Bike racks must be equipped with reflectors. As protection against car traffic, a number of bollards with reflectors must be implemented.


When the bike racks are placed along walls, the rack can be mounted on the wall itself or placed in the sidewalk, for example with 90 or 45 degree parking.


When a housing collective or a shop owner applies for permission to put in bike racks, the Design Manuel's rules must be followed.

Products
1-2-3-4 Bike Rack, NO-series
The bike rack "NO Series" comes in modules of 2.5 metres in length. Single-sided versions have five parking spots and double-sided ones have ten.


The racks are set up in chains of max. four connected modules - 10 metres in total. There must be 1.6 metres distance to other city inventory. The rack is mounted on a bollard of either 0.6 metre or 0.8 metre in height. The bollard is placed in the ground.

The rack is used in galvanised steel due to durability. In the City Centre and other historical areas, one of the identity colours can be used out of consideration to architecture. In the NO Series, there is a circular version that can be adapated in size to the location.

Design of the racks: City Architect's Office (Stadsarkitektens kontor) Hjørring
Ginman, Harboe og Borup, 1988-89

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

Foster in the Sky with Lycra

The Lo Fidelity Bicycle Club - 3 January, 2014 - 14:12

London should be a wonderful place to get around by bicycle allowing tourist, resident and commuter alike the chance to enjoy its sumptuous mixture of architecture, culture and heritage at a civilised pace. The bicycle should reduce the pace of city life to a level that people can actually compute, and be able to hear their own thoughts. Lord Foster thinks the same way too, but a solution that he has come up with along with Landscape Consultants, Exterior Architecture Ltd and Transport Consultants, Space Syntax seems to misunderstand the problem somewhat and then come up with an extreme solution that manages to completely disengage bicycle riders from London by elevating them above it.

Here is Lord Foster’s quote from their Press Release..

“Cycling is one of my great passions – particularly with a group of friends. And I believe that cities where you can walk or cycle, rather than drive, are more congenial places in which to live. To improve the quality of life for all in London and to encourage a new generation of cyclists, we have to make it safe. However, the greatest barrier to segregating cars and cyclists is the physical constraint of London’s streets, where space is already at a premium. SkyCycle is a lateral approach to finding space in a congested city. By using the corridors above the suburban railways, we could create a world-class network of safe, car free cycle routes that are ideally located for commuters”.

There’s already a slight contradiction his statement. Cities are certainly more congenial places in which to live without as much motor traffic. But then, like an expert conjurer, he pulls out the old ‘but space is at a premium’ nugget from his sleeve and with the wave of his wand (or rendering) promptly makes bicycles vanish from the streetscape.

Here is a statement from Sam Martin & Oli Clark of Exterior Architecture Ltd, also from the Press Release..

“SkyCycle is an urban cycling solution for London. A cycling utopia, with no buses, no cars and no stress. We are incredibly excited at how together with Foster + Partners our idea has been developed and now more recently turned into a truly world changing scenario by Space Syntax for revolutionising cycling in London and possibly the world”.

The original idea to which they allude is when they originally touted it in 2012. Below is the original video.

Anyway, back to last month. Here is an image depicting the latest iteration

Image ©Foster + Partners

It certainly looks like the cycling Utopia that they describe, but two things immediately elevated into my mind on stilts when I saw this striking image;

Firstly, one must bear in mind that this is an architectural realisation. When the shared space scheme for Exhibition Road was first touted, there were equally Utopian images put forward such as this one..

It can actually look like this with the right mixture of Valium, Vodka and Lucozade

To be fair to the designer, they are trying to sell a positive concept and I’d be even more alarmed if they had presented to their client an image of a still traffic clogged street with some people huddled outside a new Wetherspoons whilst snouting a packet of Superkings.

My second thought was one of the 1950′s-1970′s when architecture was brutilising it’s cold concrete tentacles into the public realm through such luminaries as Sir Denys Lasdun, Basil Spence and Richard Siefert. Planners invisioned specific schemes for specific transport modes to be elevated for comfort and convenience, be it the [thankfully aborted] Pedways in Central London with the hoi polloi of smooth flowing traffic on dual carriageways below to elevated roads such as the Westway, part of the [thankfully aborted] Ringways Project, which is brilliantly covered in this short film by Jay Foreman..

 

 

I certainly get what they are trying to achieve and I like the fact that designers are trying to think laterally – indeed think about the bicycle at all. But the bicycle doesn’t need lateral or ‘out of the box’ thinking. It needs simple dedicated space as, along with walking, the bicycle doesn’t get simpler as a transport mode, which is why it is potentially such a great key to unlocking British towns and cities. Maybe that’s why this country has a fairly appalling record of dealing with it. We consistently make the complicated modes of transport simple and the simple modes more complicated. Another thing to consider is that the bicycle should never be treated in isolation with the urban realm. It is part of a far bigger and complex societal jigsaw and all the the other pieces stand to benefit.

On the plus side, the SkyCycle scheme could offer fast, continuous, direct routes from suburb to centre, it would indeed unlock space in the centre of London in an innovative way and could indeed be a prototype for other cities. It even allows cyclists to feel, not only the ‘Bradley Wiggins Effect’ but also the added advantage of ‘The Mary Poppins Effect’, as they waft through London. However it’s when I started to think of the negatives that it starts to stumble off its stilts. I started a rough list and please feel free to chip in with your own positives and negatives:

Access/Egress:
The land grab necessary for the 200 entrances and getting people up to that height.
Access/egress for emergency services should an accident/incident occur
You still have to get all the way up to the deck and that is going to take effort, and I am built more like Chris Biggins as opposed to Chris Hoy.

Transport Authorities:
Local/Metropolitan/National Transport Authorities will be tempted push cycling even further down the pecking order (if that’s possible) in streetscape design as they can now point schemes such as this.
It reaffirms the nonsense of ‘Dual Network’ where there’s different types of infrastructure for different types and abilities of rider, instead of just creating a decent coherent standard for all.
It will (whether the Designers deny it or not) divert precious funds from schemes that can work at ground level.

Policing:
The Police will need resourcing to patrol this new form of infrastructure (and does this fall under the jurisdiction of the British Transport Police?)

Anti-Social:
Vandalism/graffiti,
Security, particularly for more vulnerable sections of society and especially in the off-peak.

On the Street:
Motorists will pay even less attention  as they now expect cyclists to be a couple of storeys up in the air.
Anyone getting hit by an HGV in the shadow of this scheme will only have themselves to blame, in the eyes of a society that would see this as conveniently tidying cyclists away.
Local business on the street will not feel the benefits of the bicycle as this is in essence a massive bypass and, as a result, will probably scream for more car parking.

The British Weather:
The trains below will enjoy better protection from precipitation than the cyclists above who will also be particularly exposed to the wind,

Vertigo

In short, this really is a country that will do ANYTHING and pay any price to avoid designing a decent sodding junction.

The post Foster in the Sky with Lycra appeared first on Lo Fidelity Bicycle Club.

Categories: Views

One activity can have different forms

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 3 January, 2014 - 08:34

We use words to describe things. They are useful.

A small problem, however, is that there aren’t enough of them. Human beings can only remember a finite number of words, and that means, inevitably, that there aren’t enough words to describe all the things in the world. They are ambiguous.

One pertinent example for this blog is the simple word ‘cycling’, which is used to describe an extraordinarily diverse range of activities that happen to involve two wheels, or more, and pedalling. (The Dutch have a slight advantage over us in that they have two words for cyclingFietsen for ordinary day-to-day cycling, and wielrennen for riding a bike for speed.)

The same is true for other words. ‘Driving’ could involve trundling around a car park, or it could involve piloting a racing car at tremendous speeds around a track. ‘Sailing’ could mean a leisurely day out, or it could mean the frenetic action of the America’s Cup. ‘Skiing’ could mean sliding at low speed on gentle slopes, or hammering down a mountain at close to a hundred miles an hour. And so on.

This nuance seems to be lost on people who argue for mandatory helmet laws. They forget that the same apparent activity can carry different levels of risk, depending on circumstances.

‘Driving’ can be very dangerous, or very safe. It can be dangerous if you are driving in a race at over a hundred miles an hour, safe if you are just driving around a car park. Likewise ‘sailing’ can be very dangerous. People die. But it can also be a safe and pleasant day out. ‘Skiing’, as we have seen in recent days, can be dangerous, if you are travelling fast through an off-piste rock field. But it can also be safe, if you are on marked pistes, and aren’t taking risks.

And precisely the same is true for ‘cycling’. This

Picture courtesy of AP

is not the same as this -

Cycling on the Oudegracht in Utrecht

These enormous differences in danger and risk are effectively ignored by mandatory helmet law campaigners, who would force helmets onto the heads of three of the people in the above picture, but not on the other two.

For comedy value, try to imagine James Cracknell intoning into the ear of the woman travelling serenely the back of the bike, in his most serious, earnest voice,

My head was smashed into by a lorry travelling at seventy miles an hour. But I was lucky. I was wearing a helmet. If I hadn’t been, I’d be dead. Use your head. Wear a helmet.

It’s utterly absurd, but reflects only the absurdity of attempts to make wearing helmets compulsory, no matter what you are doing. (As an aside, there are many pedestrians who have had their heads smashed into by vehicles, but this would be a very poor basis for making pedestrian helmets compulsory).

I think there is perhaps a dim awareness of this absurdity, which manifests itself in the sort of crude emotional blackmail that quickly appears in the arguments of helmet law campaigners, typified by this passage in Beverley Turner’s piece -

if personal liberty matters to you, not being able to take yourself to the lavatory on waking will come as a real shock.

Again, picture her making this argument to the people in the picture in Utrecht for maximum comedy value. How dare you travel around like that! is about the level of sophistication of her argument.

‘You obviously care more about your hair than your ability to walk unaided!’ Beverley Turner hissed at them.

To be absolutely clear, I am not ‘against’ helmets. I wear one myself when I am on a racing bike, or when I am mountain biking, mainly because, when I’m exerting myself, I tend to take more risks, and also because the discomfort of a helmet doesn’t matter so much in these situations. But I am capable of understanding that there are different types of cycling, and I don’t wear a helmet every time I ride a bike, just as I wouldn’t wear a full face crash helmet when I drive a car into town, but probably would if I was on a racing track. 

What I am against is compulsion, precisely because it is a highly blunt instrument that utterly fails to take into account the diverse forms of an activity, and will have deleterious consequences at a population level. If you are genuinely concerned about head injuries, you should campaign for the kinds of conditions in the pictures that feature in this post, and here; conditions where the risk of a head injury is negligible. Prevention is better than cure, as this excellent piece argued yesterday. It can’t be stated more simply than that.


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