A meeting with Will Norman and Val Shawcross

Vole O'Speed - 25 February, 2017 - 19:40
It is nearly ten months since Sadiq Khan won the London mayoral election for Labour, defeating the Conservative candidate Zac Goldsmith. As readers are likely to know, he promised to meet the demands of the London Cycling Campaign, most importantly including building more cycle Superhighways to triple the provision of segregated space on London's roads in four years, and extending the mini-Holland programme to every borough. Since then, it's all been very quiet. There was no immediate replacement for the last Cycling Commissioner, Andrew Gilligan, and, other than an announcement that the (largely back-steet and non-segregated) extension of Superhighway 6 towards St Pancras planned under Gilligan would go ahead, there have been no announcements of any definite new plans for cycling. A new bridge across the Thames from Wapping to Rotherhithe, promised by Khan during the campaign, has been mentioned by him often (along with pedestrianisation of Oxford Street, the effects of which on cycling cannot yet be predicted), but other than that, cycling affairs seem to have been in deep-freeze. Of the other two Superhighway schemes consulted on just before the election, there have been non-commital statements on CS11 to Swiss Cottage, which received public approval in the consultation and so is a scheme that was 'ready to go', while the plans for CS 10, the extension to the East-West Superhighway from Lancaster Gate to West London have vanished without trace, with not even any report on the consultation ever published.
I've refrained from commenting on this hiatus, as the new Mayor needed time to get his feet under the desk, select his team and come up with his own strategy after assessing the results of  what the last mayor had done. However, it has been deeply frustrating seeing such a successful programme apparently grind to a halt. Even the work that needed to be completed on CS3, the East-West Superhighway from Parliament Square to Westbourne Grove that was already programmed, seemed to be taking for ever, with nothing new definitely in the pipeline. The Mayor announced a £770m budget for cycling for the next five years, but how could this possibly be spent?

So we had finally a development last week, when the new Walking and Cycling Commissioner, Will Norman, took up his post, having been appointed in November, and started making public pronouncements. When Andrew Gilligan became the first Cycling Commissioner in 2013, his views  were already quite well known to cycling campaigners due to his press articles, and he had also met many of us and asked our opinions before taking up the job. Not so with Will Norman, who came on this scene as a totally unknown quantity. No-one I have met had ever heard of him before he was given the job. We were told by the Mayor that:
Will specialises in increasing levels of physical activity and participation in sports around the world, working with a range of international organisations... [including the] UN, European Parliament, G8, World Health Organisation and International Olympic Committee... Will, who cycles every day in London, has a strong background of working with private and public partnerships, and a wealth of experience in getting people from a wide range of backgrounds active. Before joining Nike in 2013, Will set up a successful social research consultancy and was also Director of Research at The Young Foundation, where he was responsible for delivering multi-million pound European programmes and established a youth leadership organisation... At Nike, Will has spearheaded a programme to make physical activity a global policy priority... Among his work has been a partnership with UNESCO and the German Development Agency GIZ to successfully reform physical education in South Africa, bringing activity and sports to thousands of primary school children for the first time since the 1990s.Others who had applied for the job had been leaders in local government, campaigners, journalists, architects, planners and engineers. The choice of Will Norman was a surprising one, given a slight nebulosity of his connection to the subject in hand, that is, as I would characterise it, physically planning better walking and cycling conditions in London, and working politically to put such plans though the labyrinth of relevant controlling bodies. Still, Andrew Gilligan was perhaps no more obviously fitted to the role when he started, and yet he did achieve quite a lot.

So we were all very exited to hear that, soon after being appointed, Will would speak to a meeting at which we could attend and ask questions. Even better, he would do so with Val Shawcross, the Deputy Mayor for Transport. The meeting was part of the Street Talks programme, started by Bruce McVean and colleagues in a Holborn pub, and later taken over by Sustrans London. It took place last Wednesday at Look Mum, No Hands café. It was completely booked out, and I am sure a much larger venus could have been filled, such was the level of interest. Virtually everyone known for their interest in cycling in London was there, including Andrew Gilligan, the last commissioner, and another transport expert who many thought might get the Commissioner job, Christian Wolmar.

Such was the high level of interest in this meeting people were queueing in the street.In a packed Look Mum, No HandsIt was apparent really from the start of this meeting there was something of a mismatch between what Shawcross and Norman had come prepared to tell their audience, and the sort of information the audience wanted. The audience was a group of campaigners for walking and cycling. There was no need to explain to them the myriad social, economic and health benefits of getting more walking and cycling in cities. They had also mostly heard the vague talk of 'Healthy Streets' emanating recently from Transport for London spokespeople, and probably seen the cheerful-looking slides before. They wanted details. They wanted to know what this administration would actually do on the ground. They wanted to know why key projects the last Mayor had proposed, CS 10 and CS 11, were stalled, and what would come next. They wanted to know how the new mini-Holland programme (re-christened 'Heathy Town Centres') would look, and be rolled out, and what would happen to the largely failed Quietways programme. They did not get this information, and there was an increasing level of frustration palpable at being given 'motherhood and apple pie' recipes for the healthy city of the future. As Mark Treasure tweeted about 30 minutes into the meeting:
So far I've learned that cycling and walking is healthy and it would be good if more people walked and cycled #streettalksThe Healthy Streets slide you've probably seen beforeThe chair seemed to believe there would be some sort of debate in the room about the basic desirability of changing the city to enable higher levels of cycling and walking, which showed how out-of-place he was. (Apparently he was an employee of 'The Prince's Trust, whatever that is). It may be worth recalling that the first time Andrew Gilligan had addressed the public after his appointment, he already had a quite specific 'Vision' document he had written with the Mayor to show campaigners, and he was announcing brand-new and highly-ambitious schemes, such as 'Crossrail for the Bike' (which became CS3, and got built), a 'Bike Grid for Central London' (which did not really happen), better Superhighways (which happened at CS3, CS5 and CS6, but not CS1), a 'Jubilee Line Route' from the West End to Wembley (which did not happen), and 'Mini-Hollands in the suburbs" – three of which happened, though only one of which, the Waltham Forest one, is yet really impressive. So compared to all this promise in 2013, the Shawcross-Norman act at Look Mum, No Hands in 2017 was insubstantial indeed.

I asked Will Norman for some details. What schemes would he be bringing forward first? He said he wouldn't make announcements on the programme, as the was going to be a process of analysing where the most demand was in order to prioritise the next phase of cycle network development. He was prepared to say that CS 4 and CS 9 would be consulted on this year. This means that construction on those could begin in 2018. (It is widely believed that CS 9, an East-West Superhighway running through Houslow and Ealing, and Hammersmith & Fulham, will just have to stop at the boundary of Kensington & Chelsea, as the Royal Borough won't allow Cycle Superhighways on its streets.)
The sharpest interest from the audience was on the future of CS 11 and its proposed associated part-time gate closures at Regent's Park. A question on this received the reply from Val Shawcross that Regent's Park was a dangerous place for pedestrians, and so the solution for the Superhighway needed to take this into account. So, you would have thought, she would be jumping at the opportunity to remove rush-hour through-traffic from the park by selectively closing gates. But, no, bafflingly, she uttered these words:Gate closures will happen if that's what we need to do, but we are looking at alternatives for a safer park.What could that possibly mean? It seemed that she was considering a segregated track for cyclists. Now, I am one of the world's leading supporters of segregated cycle tracks, as the whole of this blog testifies, but I can't really see how one on the Outer Circle of Regent's Park would solve the problems there. It might reduce traffic speeds slightly, by restricting space for motor traffic, but it would not reduce traffic volume in the park as closing gates selectively would. Of itself it would not facilitate pedestrians crossing the roads. It would not provide the space that the sports cyclists need for their circuits; it would be a disaster for them, as they would be squeezed on to the narrowed road space. The only way to make a track wide enough to cater for utility, commuting and sports cyclists of all types would be to make it the width of the whole road (minus the car parking) – in other words, to go back to the idea of having an unsegregated road, with no through motor traffic on it.

The consulted plan for CS 11 with the proposed part-time gate-closuresNo-one campaigning for the implementation of CS 11 wants a cycle track solution in the park. The suggestion of it by Shawcross now might even be seen as a cynical attempt to split the pro-CS 11 lobby by driving a wedge between the utility cyclists, who would benefit from the track, and the sports cyclists, who would disbenefit. A track would do nothing for the pollution levels in the park, which would continue to be a taxi rat-run. Without the closure of Macclesfield Gate, there will still be too much traffic on Avenue Road between Swiss Cottage and the park for it to act as a safe or inclusive Cycle Superhighway. The whole scheme will be ruined. A cycle track on the Outer Circle is a non-starter. Why is Shawcross raising this possibility at all? Why not just get on with the already consulted plan? It makes no sense to say that the safety of park users is a top priority, and then keep the Outer Circle open as a rush-hour rat-run.

Other questions came on development issues such as the Olympic Park, where the cycle infrastructure built on this blank slate site has been highly disappointing, and Old Oak Common, which is another stalled mayoral development project. Again there were no details forthcoming. I don't suppose Norman has had time to look at any of this yet, so it is not surprising. But what I might have expected, reasonably, I think, from him and Shawcross was some more strategic indication of where they would be going in relationship to how cycling had been left by the last administration. What did they think of the facilities that have been built? What did they think had worked, what had failed, and why? What should be improved, what, specifically, are the next steps in making 'London a by-word for cycling', as Sadiq Khan has promised? We really didn't get this. We did get a statement from Shawcross that the Santander hire scheme (AKA Boris Bikes) would not be expanded, as it is too expensive to do so. We didn't get any commitment to review the rather modest target of achieving 1.5 million cycle journeys a day by 2021.

There were some stranger thing in the meeting. One questioner referred to the high-pollution days we have been experiencing in London, and asked, 'Rather than tell people not to go out and take exercise, why can't you tell people not to drive instead?' All the audience understood what this was about, having seen tweets along these lines from TfL, and applauded the question. But Shawcross bizarrely misunderstood, despite lots of people trying to should out to explain it to her. This was a question about messaging, but she interpreted as a question about closing roads locally, or more widely, for 'car free days'. She seemed to be quite against these, cv claiming that 'the science is not behind' trying to reduce pollution by closing roads. There was a ruckus. There was more disbelief in the audience when it transpired that the Chair didn't know what mini-hollands were. It was like being at a debate on medical ethics where the chair had never heard of stem cell research, or something like that.

Shawcross and Norman merely putting to the meeting a broad view on making streets better for cycling and walking, without any firm proposals for particular locations, might have been seen as fair enough, except that the problem was (and I have Shawcross more in my sights here than Norman, as she has been in post for much longer, and is an experienced politician) that they were talking as if they were starting from nothing, as if the last administration had not also had strategy on these things, and had not done quite a bit of good. They were not acknowledging this. They were talking as if an active travel agenda had to be created for the first time ever, and not as if the main issues had been gone into already, and many problems found, particularly with realising such a vision with the fragmentation of authority between the Mayor, the boroughs, the Corporation, the Royal Parks, the Canal and River Trust, other bodies, and opposition from powerful versed groups. They were not telling us how they hoped the new administration might overcome issues that the old one could not, such as the blockages caused by the critically-placed anti-cycling councils in Westminster and Kensington & Chelsea.

I had already asked Val Shawcross about CS10, the extension west of the E-W Superhighway, at a meeting last year. She had said then that TfL were 'looking at different options to decide a way forward'. We all know however there are no options other than the plan which was consulted on, to create a cycle track on the elevated Westway, as all the other roads west out of central London are, at least in part, controlled by the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea. We got no more information on this, leading one to suspect she  and TfL have no more clue about it. The Superhighway has now been built as far as Westbourne Terrace. This is where it was meant to join the Westway. It is now just going to end at the huge, awful junction of the A40 and Harrow Road, where cyclists will have n-where further to go. I am genuinely fearful about this. The Superhighway from the parks will attract many hire-bikes and tourists, who will end up at this point and be abandoned. I really fear bad things will happen at the end of the Superhighway at Westbourne Terrace. Coming up with no solution here is a dereliction of duty on the part of Sadiq Khan and Val Shawcross.
The existing plan for CS3 and CS10, the E-W Superhighway. It now ends in Westbourne TerraceNice new cycle tracks in Hyde Park will now deliver cyclists like here, Westbourne Bridge, where the Superhighway should have gone on to the flyover, but now will just run out.Will Norman, from my first brief engagement with him, came across as personable and able to talk to a crowd. He seemed like a nice guy, but I am worried he could become a fall-guy, the person angry meetings, of similar composition to the meeting at Look Mum, No Hands, shout at over the next three years at as the Mayor fails to deliver on his cycling promises, but who lacks the influence or political heft to do anything about it. The huge advantage that Andrew Gilligan had was that Boris Johnson did back him, and never undermined him, never put him out front to take the flack for decisions he wan't responsible for.

The Heathy Streets agenda that Shawcross and Norman were promoting sounds good in theory, but how will it collide with the political reality of the opposition they will get to any attempts at reallocating space on the roads or changing the functions of roads, demonstrated so clearly by the totally unreasonable opposition to CS 11 and the Regent's Park gate closures, and the numerous failed Quietway schemes around London, where councils didn't believe their residents would support the closing of streets to through motor traffic? It sounds as if the Healthy Streets initiative could easily descend into a programme of uncontroversial prettification. We could easily get the benches, more trees, nice paving, a few extra crossings, and no reduction in motor traffic, and no more high-quality space for cycling. Sadiq Khan has made a much bigger 'thing' than his predecessor of tacking the life-threatening air pollution we suffer from in London, in his speeches, at least. But what has he actually announced after 10 months in the job? He has announced a higher rate of congestion charge on a rather small number of the most polluting cars entering the very small area of the central charging zone. The response so far has not been in proportion to the problem, or the rhetoric, and Shawcross's comments on the undesirability of closing roads as 'Not supported by science' indicates such 'big talking' coupled with political timidity is likely to be the pattern for this administration.
The Quietway routes promised three years ago: only Waterloo to Greenwich has happened in any meaningful sense.A change from the previous Mayor's policies would be, Shawcross told us at the Look Mum, No Hands meeting, that there would henceforth be a 'hierarchy' of consideration for the streets. Pedestrians would be at the top of this, followed by people on bikes, followed by bus users, followed by taxi users, with private motorists last. I'm afraid I'm not impressed with this talk. I've been listening for a quarter of a century to statements along the line of 'It is the policy of the London borough of Brokenham to priorities the need to pedestrians and cyclists above those of motor traffic'. These empty 'hierarchy' promises are easy to make to rooms full of active travel experts and enthusiasts, and always have been, they but don't often translate into reality in terms of space and junction time allocated on the streets for pedestrians and cyclists. They don't prevent you having to press a button and then wait two minutes before you can cross the road, and they don't prevent cycle lanes being ruled impossible due to a 'need' for parking. In practice, for nearly every real decision about priorities on the streets taken in authorities which have these stated hierarchies, the hierarchy, when it meets other, sharper political realities, suddenly gives way to a need to 'take into account and balance the needs of all road-users'.
I am told, and someone can correct me if it is not true, that there is a room in Transport for London's headquarters (or maybe in City Hall), somewhere at the top of the building, were there are lots of screens and lots of controls. This is the traffic control neve-centre for London. For TfL controlled roads, operators are monitoring traffic and queues, and they are trying to optimise traffic flow. This means the flow of motor traffic, not the flow or pedestrians or cyclists. They are making adjustments to signal timing all the time to try to keep the motor traffic flowing. They are reducing timings for pedestrian crossings where they feel it is necessary to reduce queues of motor traffic. They are explicitly prioritising cars over people. If all this is true, then I expect Shawcross and Norman to go to these people, and tell them, in future, they are going to have to do something different. If they don't, or can't, I am afraid I think we are being told fairy stories about this Mayor's approach to transport.

Categories: Views

Malmö's Bicycle House is Open - Cykelhuset OhBoy

Copenhagenize - 21 February, 2017 - 14:24

Jennie Fasth is a cyclist, bicycle advocate and freelance writer based in Malmö, Sweden. She is currently a student at the University of Lund, studying geographic information systems. She is working towards her Masters degree in urban planning. This article of hers was first published on the Swedish website and is republished here on with permission.

OhBoy - The Swedish Bicycle House is Open
by Jennie Fasth

On 23 October 2015, the first sod was turned for what would become the first "cykelhus" - or "bicycle house" in Sweden. The development is named OhBoy and is located in the Western Harbour (Västerhamn)  of the City of Malmö. Tenants have now gradually started moving in. What does the Bicycle House look like? Who are the residents and what do they think about their new and unique building? I decided to find out.

All 55 apartments are rented out and there is no doubt that bike-minded people were among the first to move in. Not all moving vans have arrived just yet, but there is no shortage of bikes. Along the access walkways, there are many regular bikes and cargo bikes. The bicycle garage is a beehive of activity, as well.

There are bicycles on every floor and, unlike traditional apartment buildings, bikes are more than welcome on the access coridors. The railings are reinforced and extra space has been designed in, allowing for wider bikes to fit - without conflicting with fire regulations.

Bicycle Pool and Cargo Bikes

Although tenants start to arrive there remains a lot to do on the house. Three places to tinker with bikes, will be available shortly, two outdoor and one in the basement. These will be provided with tools for residents to borrow. Tenants will also have access to a bicycle pool and three of the custom-made bikes arrived just the other day - from Danish DIY cargo bikemakers XYZ Cargo.

The architecture bureau Hauschild + Siegel has designed, built and will manage the Bicycle House. They spent a great deal of time finding solutions to make the building as bicycle-friendly as possible. The bicycle pool is no exception. In order to maximize the comfort for residents living car-free, they have ordered bikes from XYZ Cargo in Copenhagen. In addition to the traditional three-wheeler cargo bike, residents can borrow both a kindergarten cargo bike with room for six children and a bicycle taxi with room for two passengers. Even some folding bikes have been ordered.

These cargo bikes will have a separate parking area under a roof and next to the car park and the bike washing facility. After consulting with a landscape architect, an environmentally-friendly system has been developed. The traditional oil separator will be replaced with plants that will act as a filter in the cleaning process. Environmental considerations are consistent in the vegetation, the environmentally-friendly building materials and solar panels.

Bikes - Access All Areas

The kindergarten bike and the bike taxi are extra wide, but the building is designed for them. All doors are 10 cm wider than normal, which makes it possible for the residents to take their bike anywhere in the building. Even right up to their apartment door if necessary. In addition, every door is equipped with a door opener for easier access.

The architects have also thought about that all important turning radius in stairwells. Wider than in traditional apartment buildings. The bikes also fit easily into the elevators, which are wider and deeper than normal.

It is easy to understand why the access walkways are teeming with cargo bikes. It is so easy to take them with you up to your apartment. The residents don't have to unload the bike and then carry everything up to the apartment. This ease-of-use could not be easier.

You don't need to stop at the front door. The apartments are designed so that bikes can be wheeled right to your fridge, if you so desire. The apartment doors are also 10 cm wider than the norm. The kitchens are designed by Finnish company Puustelli and consist of cabinet doors in glazed birch (gray and white in most apartments) and the countertops are Finnish granite. All units are fitted with induction stoves, convection ovens, dishwashers and a washing machine.

The open floor plan provides plenty of opportunities to decide for yourself how you want to design the accessibility in your apartment. Interestingly, the walls and ceilings are concrete and it is not allowed to paint them. Picture frams and curtain solutions are provided by the building administrators. You'll need permission to drill in the concrete walls.

Regardless of which door the residents use to enter the building, bikes are thought into the design. All doors are wider and the elevator opens at front and back so you never need to turn your bike around.

Post boxes are available at the entrance and accommodate both large and small post. The idea is that the residents can shop from home - as so many people do - but also to make it easy to recieve packages. In addition to the cargo bikes, there is also a car share program included in the apartment.

A Car-Free Life

It is totally possible to just wander around the entire building all day and study all the cycling options and details. There are small touches everywhere that are part of the big picture in a building designed for people who have chosen a car-free life. We were able to meet some of the residents to hear why they moved into Bicycle House.

Ola Fagerstrom is an avid cyclist with many bike kilometres behind him. He has a cargo bike, a cyclecross and a mountain bike in his collection. He worked for a year at Danish cargo bike brand Larry vs Harry in Copenhagen, so it's no surprise that a Bullitt cargo bike was the one he chose. You'll see Ola whizzing around on it in Malmö. He sold his car two years ago and hasn't any reason to buy a new one.

Moving to the Bicycle House has only been a positive experience. Ola's son, Malte, used to have t ride 10 km a day to get to school in Western Harbour, and now has a much shorter journey.  Ola enjoys the area's industrial feel and calm streets. He likes not having a building across the street and the view of Stapelbädds Park is harmonic, he says. Although there is still construction noise in the building, it is still very quiet. It is impossible to hear the local skate park or the traffic nearby.

Ola's bike expertise has been harnessed by the building's community and he has had the opportunity to take part in both the purchase of tools for the workshops and the bikes for the bicycle pool. Even though it has only been a few weeks since he moved in, Ola is thriving. He thinks it is fantastic to smoothly roll his fully-loaded Bullitt cargo bike into the elevator and park outside his front door.

The next resident we meet is Johanna Ekne. She lives and works in the building and will be responsible for the coming Bicycle Hotel and while the decision to move here was work-related, it was the design of the place that sold it to Johanna. Her family innovative thinking and a building dedicated to cycling felt right.

Moving boxes are not yet emptied and there is much to be done but Johanna loves it. The apartment is very different that the old house in Möllevången where she moved from, which had four flights of stairs and no lift. The family also had problems finding space for their bikes. Today, the bikes are parked outside their flat, which Johanna thinks is brilliant.

The family kept their car during the move but now have plans of selling it. Something Johanna looks forward to. "It will be great. Everything is easier by bike".

The family lives at the top of the building and the apartment has two levels. Each apartment on the 6th and 7th floor has a spacious terrace that will  eventually be fitted with green barriers and flower boxes to provide some privacy.

For the residents who don't have a large terrace, the view can be enjoyed from the roof terrace. An orangery is being built and all vegetation will be in place by April 2017.

The Bicycle Hotel

Moving boxes are still arriving in a steady flow and most residents are expected to move in by the time the Bicycle Hotel opens. March 1. 2017 is the date that the 32 apartments on the ground floor will be ready for guests.

Bedrooms and bathrooms are on the ground floor and a kitchen and living room with work area are located upstairs. Guests have their own entrance with a little garden outside and, during the stay, will have free access to bikes. The reception will be on the ground floor of the building but the idea is that hotel guests will check in on their own. A communal laundry will also be included at the reception.

The hotel apartments are aimed both at those who want to stay longer and those who are just looking for a short term accommodation for the purpose of, for example, looking for work. All apartments are equipped with a desk and chair and free internet access.

Many amazing things are happening in Malmö's Western Harbour related to urban cycling. Several property owners are trying to reduce the number of cars and promote cycling, as well as generally making life easier in the area without a car.

None of them, however, have gone to the lengths as Hauschild + Siegel and the Bicycle House Ohboy. This will hopefully be the start of an urban trend where expensive (to build) car parking can be replaced with investment in sustainable living and environmentally-friendly mobility.Copenhagenize the planet. And have a lovely day.
Categories: Views

Utrecht’s traffic lights hotline

BicycleDutch - 20 February, 2017 - 23:01
A proud tweet from the “Utrecht, we all cycle” department a little over a week ago. The city had become runner up in the Green Digital Charter Award in the … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

Bikes for refugees

A View from the Cycle Path - 16 February, 2017 - 22:58
I've not written much on this blog recently. This is a cycling blog and it's rare that I've strayed far from cycling subjects, but at this point in history there are other big issues which simply can't be ignored and I've not wanted to distract from them. Many of my readers are from the UK and USA and both countries have far greater problems at the moment than their lack of decent cycling David Hembrow
Categories: Views


As Easy As Riding A Bike - 14 February, 2017 - 21:56

Andrew Jones MP – the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Transport, with specific responsibility for cycling, spoke (and answered questions at an All Party Parliamentary Cycling Group meeting on Tuesday last week. A video of that meeting was recorded by the APPCG – you can see it here.

The full video is 36 minutes long, but at about the 4:45 mark, Jones has this to say –

One thing I think we do need to do, and that’s change some of the music around the whole sector. At the moment it is I think often quite negative. And I think we need to change that. In fact I am slightly puzzled by people who say that cycling is such fun always seem to have such a negative social profile. Social media sometimes lends itself to that. But we won’t encourage more people to making these choices unless it is a positive choice. And it is a positive choice. It is positive because it is fun. It is good for the environment. It is good for you. There aren’t that many things that are good for you and that are fun, but cycling is one of those things. It also helps tackle congestion within our streets. So the upsides of cycling and walking are just fantastic. So I want this to be a very positive moment. I want the Cycling and Walking Strategy publication to be a bit of a landmark, where we start to see more support going in, but we start to talk about things in a more positive way, and try to encourage people to make that trial if they haven’t been cycling for a while, or to make that switch to a more permanent choice.

These are curious comments. The implication is that if people who have enthusiasm about cycling as a mode of transport somehow fail to be ‘positive’, we won’t ‘encourage more people’ to cycle.

Now I wouldn’t be a cycle campaigner if I didn’t think cycling was a fantastic mode of transport – I am positive about it, in that sense. It’s a straightforward, cheap, fun,fast, and convenient way of getting about, almost certainly the fastest way of getting about in urban areas. It is an enabling mode of transport that will make our lives better.

This is what I want to see in Britain.

But that does not mean my enthusiasm will extend to cycling in any conditions; nor does it mean my enthusiasm has to extend to any initiative, from government or otherwise, that alleges to be ‘for’ cycling. Nor does my enthusiasm mean that I won’t be critical about policies that will have negligible effect, or will be useless, or actively harmful.

Equally, I resent the implication that being critical (or ‘negative’) will in some way keep anyone from cycling. There is an overwhelming body of evidence that the main barrier to cycling uptake in Britain is an absence of safe, attractive cycling environments; people do not want to cycle on motor-traffic dominated roads and streets. No amount of sunny ‘positivity’ is going to change this; likewise, no realism about the fact poor cycling environments are a serious barrier to cycling is going to stop people from cycling.

Positivity or negativity from cycle campaigners will have no effect on whether people choose to cycle in these kinds of environments

I am more than happy to be positive about policy that will genuinely enable cycling; to be positive about policy that does lead to changes to the way our roads and streets are designed, to allow anyone to cycle. But the blunt reality is that government has a consistent, long track record of failure in this regard, particularly when it comes to leading on the matter of design.

In this regard it is particularly noteworthy that, in the very same APPCG meeting, the Minister described the frankly woeful LTN 2/08 Cycle Infrastructure Design as ‘fit for purpose’. It is nothing of the kind –  instead it is out of date, filled with half-hearted (and often mistaken) advice, a document of low horizons and lazy compromises, one that has very little to offer in the way of inclusive design.

In the face of such complacency, negativity is precisely the right response.

Categories: Views

Koekoekstraat reconstruction

BicycleDutch - 13 February, 2017 - 23:01
Utrecht’s tiny Koekoekstraat (Cuckoo Street) is one of many places that has been transformed recently to give cycling more space. Yet another example that the city of Utrecht is serious … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

Some basic rules for journalists and broadcasters covering cycling

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 8 February, 2017 - 13:37

While there are plenty of honourable exceptions, I think it is fair to say that presenters, journalists and broadcasters in the UK do not do a particularly good job when it comes to covering cycling as a mode of transport.

Some of this might well be down to outright malice, but a large proportion of poor journalism and broadcasting is simply down to laziness and an unwillingness, or inability, to address these issues from someone else’s perspective, or even to think slightly differently.

With that in mind I’ve drawn up a fairly simple list of rules and advice for covering cycling in a sensible, constructive and fair way. There may be others – let me know in the comments – but I think if journalists, broadcasters and presenters are following these rules it’s more than likely they will be doing a good job.

1) Do not use them/they language

By this I mean referring to people who are using a mode of transport as ‘them’ or ‘they’, and everyone else as ‘us’. One example (and this from a BBC radio journalist) –

Who is ‘they’?

For starters, this kind of language is incoherent. It makes no sense to divide human beings up by mode of transport when we will all use different modes of transport on a daily basis.

Someone who is cycling at one moment will of course have been walking the same day, and will drive or use public transport. Someone who is on a train or a bus may well have cycled to the station, or to the bus stop. Human beings – all of them – are multi-modal. Referring to ‘cyclists’ in this way is exactly equivalent to asking what it is about ‘trainists’ or ‘busists’ that annoys your audience. If you think that would be deeply silly, then you should reflect on why you think it is acceptable to do so about another mode of transport. Your audience will not divide up neatly into ‘trainists’ and everyone else; nor will it divide up neatly into ‘cyclists’ and everyone else.

But much worse than this incoherence, using this kind of language is divisive and unpleasant. It contains the starting assumption that people cycling aren’t ‘us’; that your audience have some kind of grievance against ‘them’, and indeed that your audience isn’t composed of ‘them’. There is no ‘them’.


2) Do not engage in antagonism; focus on solutions to problems

This kind of antagonistic ‘journalism’ takes many forms when it comes to cycling. It might be of the form above – how do ‘they’ annoy ‘us’. This could be cycling on pavements, or cycling in ‘the middle of the road’, or breaking rules in general. Alternatively it might take the form of a ‘war on the roads’ or ‘who is to blame’ narrative.

As above, this is divisive and unpleasant, but perhaps even worse it is not constructive. Once you’ve written your piece about how cyclists annoy everyone else, or about how there’s ‘a war out there’, or once you’ve decided ‘who is to blame’, everything will carry on as before. Nothing has changed; the same problems still exist, and you’ve done nothing to solve them. In fact, you’ve probably made them even worse, because of the antagonistic way you have framed the debate.

Some examples –

  • Instead of focusing on whether ‘lorry drivers’ or ‘cyclists’ are at fault when deaths or serious injuries occur, take a broader view and examine structural solutions (like the way our roads and streets are designed) that will prevent these deaths and injuries from occurring in the first place.
  • Instead of simply echoing complaints and annoyances like pavement cycling, or the way people are cycling – again, try to examine what is giving rise to the conflict, and what might solve it.

In other words, focus on long-term solutions to problems, rather than the usual merry-go-round of antagonism.

An obvious way to prevent pavement cycling is to create safe, attractive conditions, separate from it

3) Empathise rather than demonise

This flows naturally from the previous two points of advice. Instead of focusing on the behaviour of ‘them’, become one of ‘them’ yourself to understand why people are behaving in a certain way. This might not even involve actually cycling; it merely involves trying to imagine what you would do if you were cycling in a specific context, or if someone you care about was trying to cycle.

What would you do if you had to cycle along a road like this? How would you react if a friend of yours was cycling here? Put yourself in their shoes and examine how you would behave.

4) Don’t generalise from anecdotes

Seeing someone on a bike doing something a bit silly is not a good basis for an entire article about people cycling in general. At all. People do silly things all the time, in all walks of life, using different modes of transport. What you saw was an individual being stupid, not something that was indicative of ‘cyclists” (whoever they are – see point 1) behaviour.

5) Focus on sources of danger, and how that danger should objectively be reduced

Not all road users are equivalent. They do not pose equal amounts of danger to others; consequently they do not share equal responsibility.

The young children on the left not equally responsible to the HGV drivers on the right

That doesn’t mean anyone cycling has no responsibility at all – rather, that the degree of risk posed by different forms of transport should be assessed objectively. This should also mean distinguishing between the degree of risk someone is posing to other people versus the risk someone might be posing to themselves.

If we start looking at risk objectively, then we will come up with constructive, long-term solutions to danger on our roads and streets. (See Point 2). If, for instance, it is allegedly ‘too dangerous’ to cycle around in ordinary clothes (or indeed to walk around in ordinary clothes), then start asking why that should be the case, rather than focusing on the people wearing ordinary clothes and how they are being ‘irresponsible’.

6) Finally, you don’t always need to provide ‘balance’

Not every article or piece about cycling has to present an opposing view. You just need to let the facts speak for themselves; you certainly don’t need to give airtime to an idiot arguing black is white just to ‘even things up’ in the face of those facts.


Categories: Views

Cycle Traffic and the Strategic Road Network – Junctions (2)

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 7 February, 2017 - 11:26

This post is the last in a series looking at the new Highways England standard on designing for cycling, Cycle Traffic and the Strategic Road Network, or IAN 195/16. The previous three posts can be found herehere and here.

As mentioned in my previous post, designing for cycling at junctions is important, and consequently junctions (rightly) occupy around half the length of the Cycle Traffic and the Strategic Road Network. I’ve split my coverage of junctions into two posts; this second post will look at roundabouts and ‘grade separation’, or in layman’s terms, ‘putting cycling at a different level from the road network’. That means bridges or underpasses – or a hybrid of both.

Given that this is a Highways England document, grade separation will naturally be particularly important, due to the type of most of the roads covered by the Highways England network – fast, busy roads where grade separation is likely to be the most appropriate option. As IAN 195/16 itself states –

Grade separation of cycle traffic from motor traffic is the preferred solution for the crossing of all high speed road links and junctions.

Referring back to Table 2.4.2 in the document (covered in the previous post) we can see that grade separation is the only option for crossing roads with a speed limit of 60mph or higher.

It is also the ‘preferred’ type of crossings of 40mph and 50mph lanes of traffic with over 10,000 vehicles per day (or crossing two or more lanes with >6,000 vehicles per day), and for 30mph roads (or single lanes) carrying more than 8,000 vehicles per day. As mentioned in the previous post, designers ‘shall’ use the ‘preferred’ type of crossing unless other options make more sense in terms of route continuity. So clearly grade separation is important (and required) in situations with fast and/or heavy flows of motor traffic.

Naturally the two types of grade separated crossings are underpasses and bridges, although this document describes them respectively as ‘underbridges’ and ‘overbridges’, which I think is an important reframing. Good underpasses will resemble bridges, in that the cycle traffic is passing under a bridge carrying the motor traffic above it.

Grade separation in the form of an underbridge in the Dutch city of Assen.

As in the photograph above, these ‘underbridges’ are clearly a much more attractive proposition than the kind of subterranean tunnels that ‘underpasses’ usually resemble in Britain. Explicitly framing this kind of grade separation as a ‘bridge’ is therefore very helpful. The photograph of an ‘underpass’ included in IAN 195/16 makes this obvious too.

The minimum width for cycle traffic through this kind of underbridge is set at 3m, with only a suggestion that designers should ‘consider’ increasing this dimension to increase natural light. I don’t think that’s good enough; it allows ‘boxy’ underpasses of this type –

A relatively new Highways England underpass, under the A23 near Handcross in West Sussex.

These are much less attractive than the Dutch stipulation that ‘walls should recede towards the top’. Here’s a path of equivalent width, but with sloping walls, in the Netherlands –

Much more open – so it would be good to have some stipulations about tunnel dimensions, beyond the 3m width recommendation.

We have similar width stipulations for overbridges – at least 3m, with 0.5m margin clearance at each side. There are useful recommendations on gradients; ramps approaching or departing grade separation should meet the design requirements set out earlier in IAN 195/16 –

It is recommended that the steepest part of a ramp (if it is unavoidable should be located at the start of the ramp, where people are likely to be carrying most speed. Given that this has been taken into account, it is slightly disappointing that IAN 195/16 does not have anything to say on the matter of overbridges versus underbridges in general.

Underbridges should generally be preferred, mainly because the speed anyone cycling carries into them (on the downslope) can be used on the upslope; this isn’t the case with overbridges. Underbridges should also be preferred because they require less slope in general; they only need to accommodate the height of a human being, rather than the height of the large vehicles a bridge has to pass over. This is missing from IAN 195/16.

At the rear of the document there are extensive ‘grade separation’ diagrams, showing the appropriate way to separate cycling and motoring at junctions, particularly those with slip roads, which present a major safety hazard. Here’s just one example, showing cycle traffic (the dark line) routed under the slip roads, and under the roundabout.

This kind of design removes any interaction with fast motor traffic altogether, something IAN 195/16 requires for 60mph+ speeds and for heavier flows of motor traffic. So we should expect to see this form of grade separation at new junctions being built by Highways England (but unfortunately not retrofitted to old junctions, as yet).

The one final ‘junction’ element covered by IAN 195/16 is roundabouts. Britain has a long history of failing to design for cycling altogether at roundabouts, and we still haven’t really managed to do so in the last few years, despite increasing design attention being paid to cycling. So the advice (and indeed requirements!) contained within IAN 195/16 is welcome, even if (unfortunately) there is very little UK good practice to draw upon.

Happily, on-carriageway perimeter cycle lanes on roundabouts are explicitly ruled out –

On-carriageway cycle lanes shall not be provided on the perimeter of the circulatory carriageway, as they encourage cyclists to take up a nearside position where they are vulnerable to being hit by vehicles exiting the roundabout.

The only options are a ‘compact’ (i.e. a continental-style) roundabout with no lanes or markings, combining cycling with motor traffic, or a ‘separate cycle track’ around the perimeter of either ‘compact’ or ‘normal’ roundabouts, with a recommendation that the latter is preferable ‘because most cyclists will prefer off-carriageway provision as they will perceive it to be safer and more comfortable.’ Indeed, off-carriageway cycle tracks ‘shall be provided’ once the total throughput on a compact roundabout exceeds 8,000 vehicles per day.

There are all the elements in place in IAN 195/16 for Dutch-equivalent design of cycleways around roundabouts; how wide cycleways should be, when (and when they shouldn’t) have priority over motor traffic when crossing the arms of the roundabout. Unfortunately all this good advice (and requirements), much of it covered in previous posts, does not appear in the form of a useful diagram. There are no illustrations on how to design for cycling at priority roundabouts (i.e. roundabouts that are not signal-controlled).

This isn’t too much of a problem for Highways England roads, where I doubt these kinds of designs would be used, but it is a design gap that needs filling, and this document could have provided design requirements and advice that local authorities could have copied.

As it is, we have some diagrams on how to design for cycling at signal-controlled roundabouts, including complete signal-separation, the use of holding exit motor traffic (the approach used at the ‘Dutch’ roundabout in Wandsworth) and the ‘cycle gate’ ASL (or ‘always stop’ ASL), favoured by Transport for London at a number of locations. IAN 195/16 has some useful suggestions on the appropriateness of each of these, in turn – pointing out, in particular, that the ‘cycle gate’ ASL

introduces a time penalty for cycle traffic and will therefore be less suitable for cycle traffic movements that pass through a number of signalised nodes

… but it is unfortunately hampered by the UK not doing any of this particularly well, anywhere. The only concrete example it can draw upon is the Wandsworth ‘Dutch’ roundabout, which is far from ideal.

And that’s pretty much it for IAN 195/16! I think this has been a fairly comprehensive overview. However, there may have been some elements or aspects of it that I have missed, and (in particular) I think there is some scope for examining how useful it might actually be in practice – so there is potential for a ‘summary’ post covering these kinds of issues, including those raised in the comments to all four posts.

Categories: Views

Filth does not look good on a cycle bridge

BicycleDutch - 6 February, 2017 - 23:01
It’s the “no post week” and by fate I had to be in Rotterdam again last week. This time for the sad occasion of the funeral ceremony of one of … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

Cycle Traffic and the Strategic Road Network – Junctions (1)

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 31 January, 2017 - 13:52

This post is part of a series looking at new Highways England standard on designing for cycling, Cycle Traffic and the Strategic Road Network, or IAN 195/16. The previous two posts can be found here and here.

This particular post will look at how junctions are covered in IAN 195/16. Junctions are important, and this is clearly recognised in the document – dealing with them accounts for around half of its 68 pages. For that reason I’m going to break up my assessment into two posts.

IAN 195/16 starts by giving an overview of the various design options that can be employed to minimise or eliminate the ‘significant conflict’ that can arise between motor traffic and cycling at junctions, ranging from grade separation and ‘unravelling’ (i.e. putting cycling onto completely different routes), right down to slowing motor traffic when turning on ‘low volume roads’. In other words, the full spectrum of approaches employed on Dutch cycle networks.

On page 32 we have this large, clear table of what kind of junction treatment is appropriate (and indeed required) for cycle traffic, given the speed and volume of motor traffic.

Some things immediately leap out from this table. If motor traffic is travelling at 60mph or above, any crossings of these roads have to be grade separated – i.e. in an underpass, or by means of a bridge.

The table also (importantly) stipulates the maximum number of lanes that should be crossed in one movement, again according to speed and volume. So for instance, above 6,000 motor vehicles per day on a 40-50mph road requires a refuge, allowing one lane to be crossed at a time.

The design options are split into ‘preferred’ and ‘other possible’ crossing types, with this stipulation –

Designers shall use the “preferred” option in Table 2.4.2 unless there is a need to provide continuity with other existing cycle route provision and where agreed with Highways England.

The word ‘shall’ being a requirement; ‘preferred’ options have to be used unless continuity is necessary.

The document then looks at the various types of crossing in turn. We’ll start with ‘signalised’ crossings. Unfortunately I immediately find something to disagree with!

Cycle traffic may be controlled by low and high level cycle signals at the cycle stop line. Secondary high level cycle signals should be considered where there is a risk for approaching cyclists of poor visibility of low level signals, or obscuration, due to layout constraints or high levels of demand.

I think this gets the importance of high and low level signals the wrong way round. Low level signals should not be the ‘primary’ signal, with high level signals an optional ‘secondary’ signal, something merely to be ‘considered.

Low level signals are essentially provided for convenience – for people waiting at lights to avoid having to look upwards. They should not be viewed as the ‘primary’ signal for reasons given in the paragraph – they can be obscured easily (by people waiting, for instance), and are smaller than high-level signals. Low-level signals are much harder to see on the approach to a junction, even if they are not obscured.

Low-level signals and high-level signals, both showing red. Which one is easier to see from a distance?

A low-level signal in isolation is not a good idea; it means people approaching the junction do not have an indication of whether they will have to stop until they are only a short distance from the junction – or no indication at all, if the low-level signal is obscured. For that reason the high-level signal should always be employed, with the low-level signal as the ‘optional’ extra. IAN 195/16 gets this the wrong way round.

IAN 195/16 does however suggest the use of cycle detectors on approaches, and synchronising lights so people cycling get smooth journeys through junctions, which are obviously sensible recommendations.

It also makes clear that the ‘default’ design option for cycling should be a single-stage crossing, ‘without the need for cycle traffic to wait on islands in the middle of signal controlled junctions’ – mainly because cycle traffic is faster than pedestrian traffic, and can cross junctions relatively quickly. There are clear stipulations for signal timings to ensure that slower-moving cyclists can safely clear a crossing, depending on its length and gradient. For instance, a 36m crossing of six lanes (2 x 3) on an uphill gradient requires 16 seconds, from a standing start.

IAN 195/16 is clear that ‘Toucan crossings’ (essentially, cycling bodged onto a pedestrian crossing) are inferior –

Toucan crossings are less comfortable for both pedestrians and cyclists than separate crossing facilities. They shall only be used where it is necessary to share the same space at the facility, for example where there is a shared path leading to the crossing or where there are complex off-carriageway pedestrian and cycle movements that are best accommodated in a shared use area.

… although I’m not quite sure this is clear enough to avoid them still being used as a bit of a lazy bodge, in combination with shared use.

Staggered crossings are essentially ruled out, unless they can accommodate the ‘cycle design vehicle’ (1.2m x 2.8m) on an appropriately-designed two-way cycle track.

The dimensions of refuges (which are very important for ‘priority’ types of crossing) are stipulated; they must be at least 3m long in the direction of travel for cycle traffic. Here’s an example of a 3m refuge at a Dutch roundabout on a rural main road.

Refuges should be able to comfortably accommodate cycles of all types in this kind of situation.

We then come to a longer section on priority junctions in general, and how cycle movements should be handled at these kinds of junctions.

‘On carriageway’ cycle provision – i.e. painted lanes, or simple ‘combined traffic’ is, as per earlier requirements in IAN 195/16, only appropriate on roads with 30mph limits and with traffic flows under 5,000 vehicles per day. Roads with traffic speeds of 40mph or over require cycle tracks. Given these constraints, there isn’t a great deal to say here, beyond ensuring that junction geometry is tight to ensure lower motor traffic speeds at the conflict point – although I’m not sure the reference to a minimum 10m corner radii in rural areas (Section 7.17 in TD 42/95) is appropriate.

IAN 195/16 does also stipulate that if slip roads are present under these speed/flow conditions, cycle traffic ‘shall be accommodated using off-carriageway facilities’, regardless of the lower speed limits and motor traffic volumes.

The aforementioned corner radii recommendation also means that IAN 195/16 is stipulating that any ‘physical separation’ of cycle lanes on these kinds of roads has to end a minimum of 20m from the junction, which is poor. It essentially leaves anyone cycling on these lanes feeling dreadfully exposed on the approach to, and at, the point of conflict, and won’t do anything to slow turning speeds. Just like these bad examples on the Leeds-Bradford ‘superhighway’, below.

Where ‘off-carriageway’ provision is employed (i.e. cycle tracks), IAN 195/16 gives us a choice between ‘bent out’ and ‘bent in’ crossings of side roads.

‘Bent in’ crossings are defined as –

‘bent in’ towards the major road so that cycle traffic crosses the mouth of the minor arm as a mandatory cycle lane

I have to say I have never seen this kind of design employed anywhere in the Netherlands – it essentially involves a cycleway, at distance from the road, moving onto it and becoming a cycle lane at the junction, as per the diagram in IAN 195/16.

Perhaps this kind of design has been used somewhere in the Netherlands, but it must be very rare and I think it is inferior to maintaining a cycleway across the junction, even if that cycleway is only a short distance from the give way line. Maintaining a cycle with visual continuity affords more comfort and safety than reintroducing people onto the road, on a painted lane.

With the caveat that this is a two-way track, this kind of design is clearly more appropriate than a cycle lane emerging onto the carriageway to cross the side road

The ‘bent out’ type of crossing recommended by IAN 195/16 is obviously far more familiar, and ubiquitous in the Netherlands, employed either with simple painted markings, as in the example below (which is a non-priority crossing for cycle traffic) –

… or with more ‘visual reinforcement’ – coloured asphalt continuity, and a hump, and give-way markings.

And it’s here that we hit a bit of a snag with IAN 195/16. It stipulates that this ‘priority’ form of crossing is only appropriate on roads with a 30mph limit, or below. (And the same applies for the less preferable ‘bent-in’ crossing).

That means that any main road with a 40mph limit or higher cannot have any priority crossings for cycle traffic along it. It will involve giving way at any side road, regardless of how well that side road has been designed, like the example above. All crossings in this context have to be ‘non priority’.

This might not be a particularly onerous problem for the kinds of roads that are – at present – covered by IAN 195/16. That is to say, trunk roads that mostly go through rural areas, with few side roads, and where having to yield isn’t too much of a problem. In my experience cycling along 80kph roads in rural areas in the Netherlands, non-priority crossings are reasonably common alongside priority ones, depending on context, and they are not noticeably frustrating. The photograph above of a non-priority crossings is fairly typical.

However I think this stipulation is too rigorous – simply applying a blanket ‘non-priority’ rule above 30mph quite obviously rules out priority anywhere alongside faster main roads, even where it can be designed for safely, or where it simply makes sense.

Another photograph of a priority crossing, this one next to a section of 60kph (40mph) road, so new it is still under construction! Note this crossing has nothing more than simple give-way markings for motor traffic. Finished crossing here

So overall, although there are good design recommendations (and requirements) in this part of IAN 195/16, I think it is one of the weaker sections of the document. Some of the design ideas (the ‘bent out’ crossing; the removal of separation 20m before junctions) are not really good enough, while other requirements are too severe. There is definitely room for improvement here.

We’ll wrap up this look at IAN 195/16 in the next post, with a look at other ways of dealing with cycle traffic at junctions!

Categories: Views

New cycle bridge near Berlicum

BicycleDutch - 30 January, 2017 - 23:01
A new cycle bridge has been opened near the village of Berlicum over the Zuid-Willemsvaart (South Willem’s Canal). It not only offers a shorter route to the nearby village of … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

Bike Helmets - Something Rotten in the State of Denmark

Copenhagenize - 30 January, 2017 - 12:21

I took part in a radio debate last week. Four guests and a journalist. In that forty-five minutes, I experienced a number of things including, but not limited to, the anti-intellectualisation of our society, emotional propaganda, alternative facts, manipulative and selective choice of facts, The Culture of Fear and the negative branding of cycling.

You might expect I was on American or Australian radio. Nope. I was a 12 minute bike ride from Copenhagenize Design Company’s Copenhagen office - at Denmark’s national broadcaster, DR, on their flagship radio channel P1 Debat.

The occasion was a debate about bike helmets. The week before, a Danish media personality, Mads Christensen, tossed out a remark on a television programme about how he let his kids decide for themselves, at the age of eight, if they wanted to wear a bike helmet or not. His comments were simply based on rationality about real or percieved dangers in society. Nevertheless, they generated a great deal of debate on social media. A journalist and radio host, Bente Dalsbæk (The Journalist), decided to allocate 45 minutes to the subject.

Mads Christensen (The Rationalist) was there, of course. Also invited were Klaus Bondam (The Bike Advocate), head of the Danish Cyclists’ Federation; Torben Lund Kudsk (The Motorist), head of the Danish car lobby NGO, FDM; and yours truly.

I don’t often engage in discussions about bike helmets in Denmark and try to avoid them in other regions. I feel that it distracts from our work at Copenhagenize Design Company in designing infrastructure for cities. Like Chris Boardman - former pro-cyclists and policy advisor at British Cycling has said on, "You're as safe riding a bike as you are walking," (a helmet is) "... not in the top 10 things you can do to keep safe."

I did this TED x talk in 2010 about The Culture of Fear related to bike helmets in order to NOT have to talk about it all the time.

This article by Howie Chong entitled Why it Makes Sense to Bike Without a Helmet is also well worth a read.

What has shocked me is that the debate about helmets is at such a primitive level in this country. Even in hard-core helmet promotion regions elsewhere in the world, I can engage in discussions at a much higher level. The hysterical social media reaction to comments like those by Mads Christensen would be balanced by people aware of science and practicing rationality. Not so here in Denmark. The reactions were overwhelmingly hysterical and ignorant. Not to mention completely unworthy of a well-educated nation like Denmark.

The 45 minute interview started with context, where The Rationalist explained his side of the story. He repeated his statement about rationality and risk assessment. When mountain biking the woods, he and his kids wear helmets. When cycling to the shops in the world’s safest bicycle nation or whatnot, he doesn’t and he allows his kids to make their own call. Sounds like an intelligent approach.

Like almost everywhere else, kids have a higher risk of head injury in cars and in playgrounds and for adults, cars pose the greatest risk followed by being a pedestrian, being at home, gardening, etc.

Yes, life remains dangerous, although we live in a safer society than at any other point in the history of homo sapiens. The Culture of Fear, however, is the bogeyman. We can still construct fear of anything - including cycling. And wherever we can scare people, there are products to be sold to them.

After The Rationalist outlined his point of view in the radio debate, The Journalist started to gather points of view, starting with The Bike Advocate. Klaus Bondam stated his organisation’s standard position. They strongly recommend helmets but are against legislation to make them mandatory. I pointed out that The Bike Advocate is the head of the only national bicycle NGO in Europe that actively promotes helmets.

It was then my turn to present my point of view. How science should be respected, how manipulating selective facts is fundamentally wrong. I did what I could with the short answering time allocated to me by The Journalist but I could see early on in the interview that it was rigged in favour of The Culture of Fear. Which made it a loooong 45 minutes.

All the strategy for one-sided debate was present. The Journalist threw out a statistic about how 60% of head injuries could be avoided with a helmet. No, not 60% of ALL head injuries - she only meant bike crashes. The Bike Advocate threw out another select statistic. With the looks on their faces when they did so, you really sensed that they felt they were nailing the debate.

The Journalist didn’t bothering questioning the statistic or the context of it in order to provide the listeners with a bigger picture. The Bike Advocate looked all pleased with himself at being able to quote a researcher name and the year of the study. While science is under fire in Trump’s America, there is another category that is equally detrimental to any debate. The One Study Argument. Just cast one study that produced one statistic into the debate and wham. You are portrayed as an expert. People who don’t know more about the subject have no response. Pity those poor fools. Let them bask in the glory of your One Study Argument greatness.

 That is not how science works, however. The bigger picture is more important.

Why is the debate at such a primitive level here in one of the world’s great cycling nations? The answer is simple. Lack of information - or rather a strictly controlled and manipulated information flow. In the Danish context, we must examine the tightly controlled information flow. Like you, wherever you are whilst reading this, we have a road safety NGO in Denmark. They call themselves The Danish Road Safety Council - Rådet for Sikker Trafik (The Safety Nannies).

Via Yehuda Moon -

This NGO is the puppet master controlling the flow of information about bike helmets. They have mastered the art. By doing so, they also contribute to the anti-intellectualisation of Danish society. They select one or two studies that adhere to their strict ideology and present it like the word of god to the masses. If individuals question it, the stats are merely repeated. The “60%” stat that The Journalist found and presented in the studio is their current one commandment carved in a stone tablet. It originates with the Norwegian Transport Economic Institute (TØI) and dates from 2004. It is perfect for them. It is a Scandinavian source from a fancy-sounding institute. Ironically, TØI has published other helmet-related studies since then and few would fit Sikker Trafik’s ideology. Better to ignore them and stick to the stat that works.

You don’t need to explain WHY climate change is a hoax. You just have to repeat it ad naseum. Much the same communication strategy as The Safety Nannies employ and hand off to lazy journalists and pundits. It is a sad, flawed strategy that only fans the flames of anti-intellectualisation in any society but if you look at it, it is a brilliant strategy from a communication point of view.

The Safety Nannies started their bike helmet promotion in the early 1990s in Denmark. Since then, cycling levels have continued to fall, which is what we have seen in many regions around the world. Danes are cycling more than 30% less today than in 1990. (If we got that 30% back, we could save over 1500 lives a year because of the health benefits of cycling, according to Professor Lars Bo Andersen of University of Southern Denmark, the most published academic about the health benefits of cycling)

The positive aspects of having a cycling population are rarely presented in the current debate in Denmark. They are not sensationalist enough for journalists, apparently. In the middle of the interview The Journalist held up a printed out photo that she harvested from Facebook of a woman with a head injury. It was like a image version of the One Study Argument. “See?! Look at THAT...” End of debate. Showing photos of tens of thousands of people lying in hospital beds suffering from lifestyle illnesses like diabetes, heart disease, etc, due to inactivity is considerably less glamorous and have no place in sensationalist journalism.

Another old chestnut was presented in the studio. 17,000 people visit a hospital each year as a result of a bike crash. I tried to put that number into context. The average in Denmark is 20,000, so I had calculated based on that number.

If 18% of the population of Denmark ride a bicycle to and from work or education each day, that is 1,008,000 trips a week, Monday to Friday. Multiply that by 300 work days a year and you get 302,400,000 trips by bike. We’re not even including the trips to the supermarket, cafe, cinema, etc.

If 20,000 trips end in a crash and a hospital visit, that means you have, in Denmark, a 0.0066138% chance of crashing and going to the hospital. The vast majority of those injuries are minor and the person in question is back on a bike in, at the most, a couple of days. Motorists, by the way, end up in hospitals much longer when they get injured in their preferred mode of transport.

According to the City of Copenhagen who endeavour to battle this Bicycle Misinformation War whenever they can, I have to cycle to work for 2800 YEARS before I get injured.

So where was The Bike Advocate during this onslaught of manipulation and alternative facts? Was he deftly and professionally countering all the arguments about cycling being dangerous? You would hope so. He was, however, all over the map, sending conflicting messages about cycling.

The Safety Nannies broadcast the number of 20,000 cyclists visiting hospitals to anyone who will listen. They are not content with that, however. They invented “mørketal” - or “dark numbers” as a way of further constructing fear about cycling. Cyclists also get hurt but DON’T visit the hospital and those dark numbers are an unknown. Yes. Cyclists who ARE OKAY and who have bandaids in their home after a minor mishap are now being used in the massive branding of cycling as an undesirable transport form.

The Bike Advocate presented the listeners with this concept of dark numbers. Instead of defending cycling from the onslaught, he helped polish the rifles and load the ammo. A little later, he threw in a mix of neutral and positive angles to confuse anyone who was listening. There was no clear agenda from Denmark’s national cycling NGO. They refuse to acknowledge what most other cycling NGOs in Europe know - that merely promoting helmets is detrimental to cycling levels.

Personally, I am sceptical when shopkeepers promote helmets. The Cyclists’ Federation has a bike shop. Several people in the industry cancelled their memberships back in the day when they opened a shop. The criticism was that an NGO for cycling should not promote one product over the other and remain neutral.

In another twist, we still have emails in our archives from late 2007 and early 2008 when The Safety Nannies started their hardcore, emotional propaganda about bike helmets. What tipped it for them was that they convinced the Cyclists’ Federation to get on board. Colleagues from our industry informed me that the latter were promised influence and access to future funding if they joined the helmet brigade. They continue to deny this to this day.

In Denmark, everything started with The Safety Nannies and their manipulated alternative facts are largely unchallenged by a society slowly dumbing down. Trump didn’t invent Trumpism, he just excels at it. Trump is merely a product of societal development. The same techniques are present everywhere. Interestingly, like Trump, The Safety Nannies in Denmark do not like being contradicted. They have actually spent time emailing journalists in Denmark and abroad about… me. Engaging in attempted character assassination with journalists and editors. Trying to discredit me. It is amusing. It only helps getting science printed and distributed. It also shows that their case is weak. You don’t go to all that effort if you are confident in what you are saying.

Current helmet wearing rates in Copenhagen are at 11%.

As we have come to expect, the debate also featured comments about “doctors and nurses say that...” Yet another technique in the debate. Who can doubt a medical professional?! They fail to realise that while those doctors and nurses excel at fixing people, they receive information about prevention from the same sources as everyone else. The one-way communication street from The Safety Nannies sends the same manipulated facts to doctors and nurses, too. Trust the medical professionals to make you better. Doubt the sources of their prevention advice. And notice that it is the trauma staff who get the best press. The doctors caring for those with lifestyle illnesses never get the same spotlight.

The debate wandered into cyclist behaviour and the others agreed readily that “something has happened… cyclists are behaving more badly than ever before”. This is as amusing as it is wrong. Cyclist behaviour is largely unchanged for at least 120 years. There are countless articles, letters to the editor and editorials about cyclist behaviour over the past century. Not least this satirical piece by Denmark’s most loved satirist, Storm P..

Perhaps it is time to realise that cyclist behaviour can only be changed if we stop forcing them to adhere to traffic rules and traffic culture designed to serve the automobile. We sending badminton players to play with ice hockey rules. It has never worked so it is time to think differently.

We have shown time and again with our Desire Line Analyses that behaviour among our cycling citizens is fine. Only 5% of cyclists smash through the traffic rulebook. Which is on a par with pedestrians and motorists.

A recent poll in Denmark outlined how ignorance of a topic can have dangerous consequences. This is a society where The Safety Nannies have a monopoly on the information about cycling. Danes were polled about whether they want a helmet law. A majority said yes. You don’t get that result in many places anymore due to the balance of information in the debate. Except in Denmark. The Safety Nannies and The Bike Advocate have been pushing helmets hard. Now they are under fire for not supporting a bike helmet law. They have shot themselves in the foot.

It was a tough room. Countering emotional propaganda with an arsenal of science and rationality is difficult. I was in the line of fire as the others did what they could to continue this branding of cycling in Denmark as dangerous, using all the techniques we know from around the world. I tried to highlight facts like the Australian government’s study about motoring helmets, but to no avail. I just hope some listeners got the point.

I didn’t get to industrial design, unfortunately. People have been led to believe that a bike helmet can withstand a meteor strike. They have never been informed that a helmet is designed to protect the head in non-life threatening, solo accidents under 20 km/h. Or that helmets are tested in simulations that resemble a pedestrian falling - which makes them perfect for… pedestrians and people in their home.

"A walking helmet is a good helmet"

Nor did I get to say that most serious head injuries are not a result of a lateral impact, but rather a rotational impact. Something bike helmets cannot deal with.


More people drown in Denmark each year than die in bicycle crashes. There is a missed financial opportunity there. Let’s pass laws making life vests mandatory within 2 metres of water. 35,000 Europeans die each year in cars. Think of the money to be made if we imported these from Australia (it is a real product).

It was a depressing debate session in that radio studio. Daily Mail tactics from The Journalist. Vague, conflicting and confusing messaging from The Bike Advocate. The Rationalist had his say, which helped, but at the end of the day, the sheeple will lean towards the strong-flowing current of misinformation from The Safety Nannies.

You may recall that The Motorist was in the room, too. He didn’t say much. He didn’t need to. Would you? You have a national radio program completely trashing your main competitor. Car sales are at a four year high in Denmark. Just stand there and let them do it.

I cycled back to the office and continued to work on our projects with cities who want to copenhagenize themselves. We’ll keep on keeping on. Designing their networks and infrastructure. Exporting the Copenhagen model. It is a good, transferable model. It is working to transform cities around the world. Embrace it. Everything else coming out of Denmark regarding negative branding, helmet promotion and The Culture of Fear… ignore it.

Go talk to the Dutch. Start with this article about Dutch Rationality Saving Childrens’ Lives.

In Denmark, we're heading down this road:

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

Cycle Traffic and the Strategic Road Network – Cycleway design

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 25 January, 2017 - 08:49

Earlier this week I blogged about a new Highways England standardCycle Traffic and the Strategic Road Network, or IAN 195/16. This is a 68 page document with plenty of detail, and for convenience I’m breaking it up into chunks.

That first post looked at the basics of ‘Cycle Traffic’ covered by IAN 195/16 – this post will look at what the document has to say about how cycleways should be designed, in particular, and what form they should take, according to context.

One of the first things we encounter in this section is a table of desirable and absolute minimum widths, according to the expected flow at peak times, and the nature of the cycleway.

As explained in the previous post, ‘absolute minimums’ can only be used where there are existing physical constraints. But even these ‘absolute minimums’ are reasonable generous – a two-way cycleway with a peak hour flow of over 150 cycles per hour (two-way) has to be at least 3.5m wide, and it can be that narrow for only 100m at a time. This is roughly equivalent to sections of the new superhighways in London, so a good standard, even for an absolute minimum.

The 4m wide cycleway on Blackfriars Bridge

Explicitly, these values also do not include the additional width required ‘to maintain effective width’ – i.e. the usable width of a cycleway with kerbs or vertical features beside it.

From this table, a cycleway with vertical kerbs requires an additional 20cm of width, while one with a feature like a railing or a parapet requires an additional 50cm of width. All very sensible stuff.

We also have guidance on how to improve social safety, including lighting, making sure the route is overlooked by passing people and traffic, ensuring good sight lines, and low vegetation. This is also refreshing –

Sign posts and lighting columns shall not be placed within the width of a cycle track, and shall have a minimum clearance of 500mm between the edge of the cycle facility and any parts of the sign or lighting assembly that are less than 2.3m in height.

The word ‘shall’ here is a requirement, not a recommendation.

IAN 195/16 recommends (throughout) separating pedestrians and cycle traffic, and is explicit that the difference between the footways and cycleways should be clear, either with verge separation, or with height separation. Forgiving ‘splayed’ kerbs are recommended –

Using splayed kerbs along the edges increases the effective width of the cycle track and helps to prevent collisions by reducing the risk of pedals striking the kerb.

Table 2.3.2 in the document is too large to include here, but is a very good summary of the potential , respectively, of using one-way or two-way cycleways, and the appropriate contexts for their use. Again, it’s all sensible stuff – for instance –

If cycle users persist in using one-way tracks the wrong way, this suggests that the facility may need to be made two-way.

This kind of behaviour suggests an obvious desire line, with people cycling not wishing to cross a road to cycle a short distance in the ‘wrong’ direction. Similarly –

In situations where there are one-way cycle tracks on links approaching junctions, designers should provide two-way cycle tracks within the junction if they offer a safer more direct way to negotiate the junction.

We also have an important table setting out the minimum requirements for horizontally separating a cycleway from a road, according to the speed of motor traffic on that road.

This table means that ‘stepped’ cycleways (or ‘hybrid’ cycle tracks) are only appropriate on roads with 30mph speed limits, or less.

While I agree with the height stipulation for stepped tracks (50mm above the road) I do not agree with this –

Stepped tracks shall return to the carriageway and become initially mandatory lanes before changing to Diagram 1010 (reference TSRGD) [15]2 markings through junctions.

My view is that stepped tracks should continue across side road junctions, unchanged – that visual priority is lost if the track ‘returns to the carriageway’ and becomes a mere painted lane (the dashed ‘1010’ marking), and indeed any advantage of having the cycleway raised above the road (which would slow drivers) is lost too. Old Shoreham Road is used as a photographic reference in IAN 195/16, yet the stepped tracks at side roads here (generally) continue unchanged across side roads.

This ‘continuous’ kind of arrangement also ensures the cycleway remains level, rather than bumping up and down at each side road, as would be the case with the IAN 195/16 stipulation.

There follows the familiar guidance on cycle lanes, which includes some advice on how to apply ‘light segregation’ features. I mentioned in the previous post that I think 30mph limits with 5000 vehicles per day is too weak for mere painted lanes, so applying light segregation in that context would remedy that weakness. IAN 195/16 mentions wands, ‘low height separators’ (presumably things like armadillos), and short sections of raised kerb – but doesn’t give any view or advice on which is superior or appropriate, according to context. My own view is that armadillos are pretty much a waste of time; the raised sections of kerbs or wands are much more effective (and indeed they appear to be being used by TfL for the diversion of CS3) and it would be good to see them being given greater weight here.

In this section we also have advice on dealing with cycling alongside buses, and bus lanes. It’s not explicitly stated, but the impression given is that designing for cycling in bus lanes should be avoided as much as possible. Where ‘sharing’ has to take place, it must be at 30mph or under, and the bus lane must be ‘no narrower than 4.5m wide’, ruling out sharing in conventional bus lanes in standard lane widths. I think this is still weak, however – IAN 195/16 would (for instance) still allow cycling in 4.5m, 30mph bus lanes with up to 5,000 buses a day (two-way flow). That’s not an environment I can envisage my other half cycling in.

The bus stop bypass recommendations are good, however, with an explicit requirement that bus stop islands are used –

The bus stop shall be placed so that users on the bus do not directly step down onto a cycle track when leaving the bus.

That is to say – ruling out the ‘Copenhagen’ style of bus stop where bus passengers step straight onto the cycleway from the bus, familiar from Royal College Street in Camden.

The final noteworthy element in this section is a similar, explicit rejection of all kinds of ‘access control’ on cycleways, except for bollards.

In most cases, a single bollard (reference Figure 2.3.8) is sufficient to prevent motor traffic from entering routes for cycle traffic. The gap between posts and other physical constraints shall be no less than 1.5m so as to prevent access by cars while retaining access by cycles. Bollards shall be aligned in such a way that enables a cycle design vehicle to approach them in a straight alignment.

A frame and K Frame type barriers, often used to prevent motorcycle access, shall not be used on cycle routes because they cannot be negotiated by the cycle design vehicle.

… the ‘cycle design vehicle’ being an (abstract) vehicle of fixed dimensions that, if designed for, would allow access by all types of cycles, including hand cycles, cargo bikes, adapted cycles, tandems, and so on.

So, all in all, there is more excellent stuff here, although it has to be said it is a little weak in places, and contains at least one requirement I don’t agree with. The next section to be covered is junctions, which I will examine in the next post.

Categories: Views

Bike Boulevards of Broken Dreams

Copenhagenize - 24 January, 2017 - 11:30

Guldbergsgade, Copenhagen, Denmark (MCA)

Bike Boulevards of Broken Dreams
by Holly Hixson

Holly Hixson has a background in Urban Planning and Psychology from the University of Oregon. She has interned in the Copenhagenize office in both Montreal and Copenhagen.

As an intern for the Danish urban design firm Copenhagenize Design Co., I’ve learned a lot about best practices in bike planning, about committing to those best practices rather than taking a half-step and calling it progress and about making bold moves toward a future you want for your city.
I’ve been able to ride on the best bicycle infrastructure in the world that is lively and overflowing with people, sheer proof that if you build it, and you build it correctly, bicycle users will come. Today’s reality on the streets of Copenhagen looks like what we want for the future of mobility in our cities. A future without hoverboards and flying cars but with regular people, using the bicycle as a tool, not because they are extraordinary humans but because they have things to do and want to get there quick. Simple.

My reality for the most part, looks a lot different than this. I’m from Portland, Oregon. I still get stuck places where a painted bike lane abruptly ends, I still feel unsafe, unsupported, even in what’s considered one of the most bike friendly cities in the U.S., growth is measured in half-steps; I know these streets weren't built for me. I’ve often found it most pleasant to resort to neighborhood streets elsewhere. Luckily, I live in a neighborhood that has made deliberate decisions about how these local streets should feel to a people on bikes.

Enter: the bicycle boulevard. Internationally, variations of this concept have existed since around 1980 when Germany began making bike priority streets - the fahrradstraße. Denmark, the Netherlands, and the UK have similar concepts, the cykelgade, fietsstraat, woonerfen among other bike priority streets incorporate traffic calming techniques have been great for filling in gaps in the bike networks. And let me stress: filling in the network. These quiet streets have been used as a tool to add to networks, not to create the backbone of them. Indeed, Copenhagen experimented with the idea in the early 90s and then promptly ditched them. Instead prioritizing bicycle infrastructure along the natural desire lines in the city - the streets leading to the city centre.

Netherlands (Herman Wouters, New York Times)

Esslingen, Germany (

Similar ideas have also been popping up (with varying levels of success) in North American cities such as Austin, Vancouver and Minneapolis. Often they are used as cheap and easy bicycle connections in lieu of real A-to-B infrastructure, but when designed properly, a bicycle boulevard that adds to a greater network can look like this:

Minneapolis, MN (

Berkeley, CA (Carrie Cizauskas) (
James Mayer (OregonLive) Portland, Oregon (above)

They contain elements such as chicanes - raised curbs that narrow streets in a serpentine pattern so that drivers have fewer stretches of wide open space. In some spots, the road is accessible to only bikes and by car only for residents. Scattered throughout are small roundabouts, landscaping and extended curbs at intersections. Clearly marked signs remind cars they are not the top priority on these streets, tell people on bikes what’s nearby and of course there are LOTS of speed bumps. These solutions are all pretty simple: design spaces that calm car traffic and ease bicycle traffic. And do it on purpose.

Vancouver BC Fundamentals of bicycle boulevard planning & design, PSU (above)

On the other hand, when done half-heartedly, a bike boulevard can look like this: Wide open space, no traffic calming devices, no priority, just paint declaring it a bicycle boulevard.

Thatcher Imboden ( Minneapolis, MN

This example, brings me to Montréal. Here I was, interning at Copenhagenize’s North American office and what I’ve gathered is that Montréal, like Portland, is familiar with taking half-steps in the direction of progress. Putting in the largest protected cycle track network in North America, to their credit, makes a statement about the kind of future the city aspires to.

However, a city that anticipates over 200 cm of snowfall annually can’t be taken seriously as a leader in bicycle urbanism internationally if most of those protected cycle tracks and significant bicycle parking are taken out for half of the year. It goes without saying that cars do not face the same forced hibernation in the presence of snow. There is evidence of a change in that attitude, with much improved steps being taken in local maintenance so far this winter.

Bartek Komorowski (Montreal)

To put my experience in context, as someone new to the city, I’ve found it fairly easy to navigate the streets by bike. Neighborhoods like the Plateau are dense with apartments and destinations; restaurants, cafes, bars, shopping, public space. The quiet, narrow streets don’t give me priority but they also don’t make me feel largely unsafe or too small for the space. This is true on neighbourhood streets and seems to be a popular opinion given that the city of Montréal as a whole only has about 3% of people commuting by bicycle, while the Plateau has over 10%. It would not take much to greatly affect how people on bikes feel in this space, to give them priority over cars and to do this by using design. Simply painting shared lane markings on the street and dubbing it bicycle infrastructure though, is not enough. We know now what we have long suspected. Sharrows don't work.

The newest additions to the Montréal bicycle network (currently being pursued as pilot projects) are two bicycle boulevards, or vélorues, on Rue de Mentana and Saint-André. Both are great opportunities to add to the network and indicate priority and commitment to actual change in how people are getting around the city. Mentana and Saint-André are fairly quiet and narrow, one-way streets with parking on either side. As of now, there are the occasional speed bumps, signs saying that trucks aren’t allowed to access these roads and painted sharrows (shared road symbols) on the street. However, the paint used is not long-lasting thermoplast paint, so after just a few weeks of snow and slush, the symbols are already tattered and faded. And now, after a few months of winter - almost non-existent.

Holly Hixson (Rue Saint-André) left & Michael Wexler (Rue Mentana) right

Both vélorues cross several perpendicular streets, including Saint-Joseph - a 6 lane residential boulevard and a high volume East-West connector for cars, especially during rush hour. Down the center of Saint-Joseph is a narrow median with room for pedestrians and bikes to wait so as not to cross two-way traffic at once, diverting cars from taking Mentana or Saint-André all the way through. This space existed before the bicycle boulevard project began, already offering traffic calming to the area and continues to be very tight for bicycles and pedestrians to feel fully comfortable.

Holly Hixson (Rue Saint-Joseph)

One significant change here is the addition of four signals installed at the crossing of Saint-Joseph and Rachel streets which give bikes and pedestrians safe passage on a green light. Despite this, there are not yet signs that say bikes have priority. There are no new pieces of infrastructure or signs that limit the speed for cars. There are no other new traffic calming elements present.

(Holly Hixson)

Drawing on past projects that Montréal has done and a desire to continuously make progress for bicycles in the city, a pilot project can be helpful in improving existing assets and gaining public support for new ideas. Sure, these streets are fairly comfortable to ride a bike on, but only as much as they ever have been.

If money is being invested in the creation of vélorues, if the City desires political praise for doing something for bikes, then new infrastructure (especially pilot projects) must really show their commitment to innovation. In order for Montréal’s pilot project to be successful, these aspects of real traffic calming - for example new diverters, planters, chicanes, signage, and solid public outreach - need to be present from the start. There are plenty of examples to draw inspiration from.

via Marc-André Gadoury (Montreal)

Looking forward, let us not conform to a substandard “good enough” attitude, let's look to best practices and replicate those, and redesign space to speak for itself. We must abandon half-step attempts and instead take bold strides in the direction of progress. We commend the City of Montréal on the announcement of new projects like the 3km stretch of Copenhagen-style cycle tracks to be implemented in 2017 (see above), but wish that efforts like the new vélorues aimed for the same level of commitment to innovation.Copenhagenize the planet. And have a lovely day.
Categories: Views

Rotterdam (encore)

BicycleDutch - 23 January, 2017 - 23:01
As announced, no ordinary big elaborate post this week. But… I happened to be in Rotterdam yet again last Saturday, this time for a family visit. On the prior visits … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

Cycle Traffic and the Strategic Road Network – Cycle Traffic

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 23 January, 2017 - 11:31

In October, without a huge amount of fanfare, a new Highways England ‘Standard’ was released, entitled ‘Cycle Traffic and the Strategic Road Network’.

Importantly, this is not merely cycling design ‘guidance’. It sets out, quite explicitly, requirements for how cycle traffic should be designed for when it travels along, or crosses, or engages with, the Strategic Road Network (SRN), the roads administered by Highways England. Over the course of this week I’m going to look at this document – which has the unglamorous reference title ‘Interim Advice Note 195/16’ – in a series of posts. It’s 68 pages long, and there’s a large amount of important detail in it, so it’s worth examining thoroughly. It’s not completely perfect, it isn’t sexy or exciting in appearance, but, crucially, I think it raises the bar massively in terms of design quality, and in terms of user consideration.

Although IAN 195/16 does contain recommendations, and design advice, much of it sets out minimum standards and requirements – in particular, things like gradients, design speeds, widths, and so on – and states that designers to have to apply for a ‘Departure from Standards’ where they feel they cannot (or choose not to) meet those requirements.

The following definitions are used –

  • “Must”: is used in this document to denote a statutory obligation.
  • “Shall”: is used in this document to denote a requirement.
  • “Should”: is used in this document to denote a recommendation.

So in the very first paragraph of section 2, entitled ‘Cycle Traffic’,we have the passage

Highways England and designers shall plan to acquire land to create the space to accommodate cycle traffic as part of new scheme designs (see Section 1.3) or when enhancing cycling provision for existing routes with NMU prohibitions.

… the ‘shall’ here denotes a requirement – this is something designers have to do – they have to plan land acquisition, alongside new road schemes, to create cycle provision. Likewise (shortly after) –

Infrastructure shall provide sufficient capacity to accommodate growth in volumes of cycle traffic.

… is a requirement that cycleways should be wide enough to deal with future demand, not just the existing (greatly suppressed) levels of use. IAN 195/16 states that designers shall use planning guidance to account for future cycle traffic.

We then, pleasingly, have reference to these familiar five principles, explicitly taken from Dutch design guidance.

Note again the repeated use of the word ‘shall’ (requirement) here, rather than ‘should’ (recommendation).

After this IAN 195/16 moves swiftly to ‘Facility Selection’, based around one of the most significant tables in the document – a speed/volume separation requirement.

This is what designers have to do for cycle traffic on the SRN, without applying for a ‘Departure from Standards’.

Any vehicle flow above 5,000 vehicles per day, regardless of speed limit, requires physical separation of cycle traffic from motor traffic; any speed limit above 30mph also requires physical separation. Painted lanes or ‘quiet streets’ are only appropriate at 30mph or below and with motor vehicles flows below 5000 per day. (The document also notes that if actual speeds are higher than the posted speed limit, then that is the category of provision that should be considered).

This doesn’t quite match with the Space for Cycling requirement of >2000PCU/day and speed limits of >20mph both requiring physical separation. I suspect that painted lanes on a road carrying 5,000 vehicles a day and with a 30mph limit are not genuinely inclusive. Nevertheless it is a very good foundation, especially given that these are minimum requirements. Sharing (or ‘combined traffic’) is not appropriate above 30mph; nor is it appropriate above 5,000 vehicles per day.

We also have the important provision that ‘if actual speeds are higher than a speed limit, and are unlikely to reduce through control measures, then consider the next highest category of speed’ – i.e. cycle facilities should be appropriate to the speed that people are actually driving at, not simply matched to a (potentially unrealistic) speed limit.

Speed is also crucial when we are considering how cycling itself should be designed for. We have this important requirement –

Cycle traffic shall be separated from pedestrian and equestrian traffic in order to allow cyclists to travel at the design speed.

No shared use footways, in other words. The design speed being 30kph, or 18mph, on the flat, and 40kph (25mph) on downhill gradients of 3% or more –

Absolute minimums are permitted only under specific circumstances.

The type of vehicle that is being designed for is hugely important too, and it is really encouraging to see this kind of document putting non-standard cycles front and centre – these are, after all, the kind of vehicles (and users) that will be excluded from the network if it is not designed properly.

A handcycle is the first image we come to in this section.

The ‘Cycle Design Vehicle’ – i.e. the standard unit size that designers must account for – has dimensions given as 2.8m long, by 1.2m wide, accommodating things like tandems, longer cargo bikes, and bikes with trailers, as well as wider cycles like hand cycles and trikes. There are diagrams giving dimensions for these vehicles.

It’s also good to see things visibility envelopes (for stopping distances) taking account of different potential users too.

Finally, for this ‘introductory’ design basics segment of the document, we have stipulations on horizontal and vertical alignment, and on gradients.

‘A good horizontal alignment will not include diversions or fragmented facilities’ is a clear, concise way of stating that cycle provision should not meander, and should be straightforward and continuous. Changes in direction should be provided by ‘simple curves’ – because that is how people change direction, not at sudden right angles! – according to the following dimensions.

Similarly for vertical alignment, we have a stipulation that gradients (just as with horizontal direction) should not change dramatically – ‘For comfort, there shall be a minimum sag K value of 5.0’, where ‘K’ is essentially an expression of how quickly gradient changes over horizontal distance – the smaller the ‘K’, the more quickly gradient is changing.

Finally, stipulations for gradient ensure that steep slopes are never encountered, and that steeper gradients are only encountered for short periods.

If these criteria cannot be met, then ‘earthworks shall be provided’ or the ‘horizontal alignment adjusted’ to bring the gradient into line.

That’s a good place to end for now. The impression created from these initial paragraphs is, clearly, that the title of this document is quite deliberate. Cycles are indeed ‘Traffic’ and should be designed for accordingly, with just as much care as for motor vehicles on the road network.

In the next post we will look at what ‘Cycle Traffic and the Strategic Road Network’ has to be say about cycle facilities in particular – how wide they should be, what form they should take, and the relationship they should have with the road network.

Categories: Views

Riding in the Rotterdam Rain

BicycleDutch - 16 January, 2017 - 23:01
In the morning, it will be clouded with possible rain. With a strong south-westerly wind, temperatures will reach circa 4 degrees (39F). Later in the day the rain is expected … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

Plotting a Dutch network onto a British town

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 16 January, 2017 - 11:02

An exercise I’ve been planning for a while is to categorise all the streets and roads of the town of Horsham. Some of this work had been started by Paul James of Pedestrianise London. A while back we had discussed a Sustainable Safety categorisation of the town, deciding which streets and roads should fall into which category of through, distributor, or access road, and Paul had started a base map of distributor roads.

With some free time over the weekend, I’ve managed to bite into this exercise even more, starting at the opposite end of the scale, and I’ll discuss my method and the outcomes here. I think it’s a useful thing to do for towns and cities in Britain, for a number of reasons. Firstly, it gets us thinking about which roads and streets require more expensive interventions like cycleways; which streets might require some kind of filtering; and which streets (actually the vast majority, in the case of Horsham) that don’t require any action at all. Secondly, it also helps to identify the ‘problem’ areas, those roads and streets that don’t fall immediately into an obvious distributor road category, but that will require some action.

The first step was to plot all the cul-de-sacs in the town. By my definiton ‘cul-de-sac’ I included every single road or street that has a single entry and exit point for motor traffic, regardless of length – in other words, every driver using one of these streets will have to leave via the point they entered.

This includes the obvious short cul-de-sacs –

… as well as some much longer sections of road.

I think it’s a reasonable assumption that all these cul-de-sacs are by definition ‘cycle friendly’, without any adaptation, or addition of cycling infrastructure. Even the largest – like the one above – will only include a hundred or so dwellings, meaning that traffic levels will still be reasonably low. The key point is that cul-de-sacs will have no ‘extraneous’ traffic, i.e. drivers going somewhere else. The only drivers on them will be using them to access dwellings or properties within the cul-de-sac itself, meaning even the largest ones will not have a great deal of motor traffic.

Once I’d finished plotting all of these streets, I could then take a look at the town overall. To my slight surprise, a very large percentage of  the town is composed of cul-de-sacs.

All the streets in green are essentially safe enough for anyone to cycle on – they will be quiet, low traffic streets, requiring little or no modification.

The map also shows a clear distinction between housing age. Houses built in the period before mass motoring tend to be on ‘open’ streets, like this late Victoria housing area to the east of the town centre.

This contrasts strongly with the areas of post-war housing – particularly that built from the 1960s and 1970s onwards – in the northern parts of the town, where nearly every single residential street is a cul-de-sac.

This is perhaps a consequence of the influence of Traffic in Towns, but it’s most likely a rational response to the increasingly pervasive influence of the motor car on society. In the Victorian era, there wasn’t any need to build ‘closed’ roads, because there wasn’t really a ‘traffic problem’. The cul-de-sac emerged as a design solution to that problem, allowing people to live on streets that were safe and quiet, not dominated by people driving somewhere else. The challenge, of course, is ‘converting’ the streets of the pre-motor car age into ‘virtual’ cul-de-sacs, creating those pleasant and safe residential environments that the majority of the town already enjoys, and this exercise reveals which particular streets will be an issue – something we will come to.

I then chose to ‘add on’ to this cul-de-sac layer those residential streets that have more than one entry and exit point, but will realistically still only be used for access. For instance, this network of residential streets to the east of the town.

Clearly, it’s possible to drive through and around these streets, but there’s no real reason to do this unless you are accessing properties on them – so they fall neatly into another category of streets that require little or no remedial action to make them ‘cycle friendly’. Some of this requires a degree of local judgement, and knowledge about the routes drivers might be taking as short cuts, but I’ve been quite conservative in the ‘open’ streets I added to this category.

Add these two layers together, and we can see that even more of the town becomes ‘green’.

I then wiped the slate clean, removing both these layers, and approached the town from the opposite end of the scale, adding the obvious through road (the town’s bypass), and what I consider to be the distributor roads – the roads that will remain ‘open’ to drivers, and that will therefore require cycling infrastructure to separate people cycling from these higher volumes of motor traffic.

There might be a case for adding more roads to this category, or removing some from it –  again, this is a matter for local judgement, and there is one road on this map that probably shouldn’t be in this category. (I’ll leave you to spot it!)

We can then add all the layers together to reveal the streets and the roads that haven’t fallen into any of these categories.

The good news is that there aren’t very many of them. Given the discussion above, they mostly lie, as expected, in the areas of the town built before the middle of the twentieth century – the 1930s housing to the west, and housing of similar age (or earlier) to the east).

Early 20th century housing to the west of the town centre. A fair number of ‘unclassified’ streets that will require some kind of action.

What kind of intervention is required is obviously a matter for local discussion – there might be an obvious (but naturally controversial) filter that could be applied in many of these locations, but on slightly wider streets painted lanes might suffice, given that motor traffic levels are not exceptionally high on any of these streets. Or there might be no need for action at all.

The final step – and one I haven’t started on yet! – is to add on the existing walking and cycling connections between these areas, and to highlight obvious connections for cycling that are not legal or need to be upgraded, or that simply don’t exist at present. One particular problem that has emerged from this exercise is railway line severance in the north east of the town – it would be good (albeit expensive) to get a walking and cycling underpass, under the railway line, connecting these large, otherwise isolated, residential areas.

Clearly, doing this kind of Google Map is only a first step. It’s easy enough to draw lines on a map; the harder part is actually getting the interventions in place. But it’s very helpful in focusing attention on precisely where those interventions are required. The main roads jump out; but also the more problematic roads in-between the obvious main roads and the quiet access streets, that remain white on my map, and will need some discussion at a local level.

Categories: Views

The effect of snow clearance from on-road cycle-lanes vs. off-road cycle-paths demonstrates why off-road paths are superior for cyclists

A View from the Cycle Path - 13 January, 2017 - 17:34
There are many disadvantages of on-road cycle-lanes vs. off-road cycle-paths. This was well illustrated today when cycling along a road with a cycle-lane on one side and a cycle-path on the other. Cyclists using the on-road lane suffered from that lane being halved in effective width from the usual 2.1 m to about 1 m due to swept snow filling half the lane. This pushed those cyclists closer to David Hembrow
Categories: Views

Sustainable or Systematic Safety

BicycleDutch - 9 January, 2017 - 23:01
Peter G. Furth, professor Civil and Environmental Engineering at Northeastern University in Boston, asked me to help him create a video to explain the Dutch system that aims to make … Continue reading →
Categories: Views


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