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Créer de l'espace pour tous dans les rues de Montréal [in French]

Copenhagenize - 22 September, 2017 - 21:51
par Charlotte Gagnon-Ferembach

Une réalité quotidienne pour beaucoup d'usagers vulnérables à Montreal







// Click here for a version in English //


Charlotte Gagnon-Ferembach a de l'expérience en design urbain qu'elle a étudié à l'Université du Québec à Montréal (UQÀM). Elle est actuellement stagiaire au bureau de Copenhagenize Design à Montréal.


Une automobile demeure stationnée en moyenne 95% du temps, monopolisant ainsi une part importante de l’espace urbain au détriment d’autres usages. Même dans des villes renommées comme Copenhague, les automobiles occupent une place disproportionnée en comparaison des autres activités urbaines malgré qu’une minorité seulement des résidents possède une voiture et qu’encore moins l’utilisent quotidiennement. La carte ci-dessous, de 2015, expose le volume que cela représente si l’on joignait les espaces de stationnement de Copenhague et de Frederiksberg: 3,23 km2. Espace qui pourraient être transformés en parcs, restaurants, jardins, habitations, etc. La liste des possibilités est infinie.p.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 11.0px Arial; color: #000000; -webkit-text-stroke: #000000} span.s1 {font-kerning: none} span.s2 {font: 7.3px Arial; font-kerning: none}



Ici, Montréal ne fait pas exception à la règle quand on parle de voies publiques accaparées par le stationnement. À l’image de nombreuses villes nord-américaines, la métropole est organisée selon un plan quadrillé qui facilite d’abord le transit tandis que le courant moderniste et l’arrivée de l’automobile ont laissé une forte marque dans l’espace urbain. Au-delà des enjeux typiques concernant la part modale dominante de l’automobile, l’immense part d’espace public dédié au stationnement, plutôt qu’à d’autres activités, pose problème. Cela encourage de plus en plus de résidents de Montréal, comme ailleurs dans le monde, à se réapproprier l’espace public et à se tourner vers des solutions qui remplacent l’automobile afin d’améliorer leur qualité de vie au quotidien.

La journée PARK(ing) Day, qui célèbre l’urbanisme tactique sur des espaces de stationnement, est une des actions issues de ce mouvement. Cette année encore, ce 22 septembre, Montréal, ainsi que 161 autres villes à travers le monde, a pris part à cet évènement. Pour l’occasion, Copenhagenize Design Co. a collaboré avec Piétons Québec, Vélo Fantôme Montréal, Les AmiEs du parc des Gorilles, la Coalition Vélo de Montréal et le Conseil Régional de l’Environnement de Montréal.
Le carrefour Beaubien/Saint-Urbain présentement




Le carrefour Beaubien Ouest/Saint-Urbain, au sein du quartier en pleine effervescence Marconi-Alexandra, qui témoigne notamment du retard de la ville de Montréal dans la gestion des voies publiques, a attiré l’attention du groupe.

L’intersection présente un fort achalandage routier impliquant de nombreux véhicules lourds de livraison. Cette circulation sera certainement amplifiée par la création du parc des Gorilles, adjacent l’intersection, et du nouveau campus de l’Université de Montréal et, d’une manière générale, par la densification du quartier. Les aménagements existants présentent néanmoins des lacunes quant à la gestion de ce trafic puisque l’intersection, telle qu’actuellement dessinée, engendre plusieurs risques de collisions, notamment pour les personnes les plus vulnérables, se déplaçant à pied ou à vélo.

Entre autres problèmes, notons l’absence de traverses piétonnes sécuritaires, la fin brutale de la piste cyclable des Carrières enclavée entre deux voies d’accès à des stationnements privés très fréquentés et qui se heurte à deux voies de circulation automobile de sens inverses, l’absence de signalisations et de mesures de ralentissement et les chaussées occupées par des voies de stationnement qui présentent un risque d’emportiérage pour les usagers de vélo. Un vidéo diffusé sur le site Youtube par Simon Van Vilet est à l’image d’une heure de pointe comme les autres.p.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 11.0px Arial; color: #000000; -webkit-text-stroke: #000000} p.p2 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 11.0px Arial; color: #000000; -webkit-text-stroke: #000000; min-height: 12.0px} p.p3 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 11.0px Arial; color: #000000; -webkit-text-stroke: #000000; background-color: #d9d9d9} span.s1 {font-kerning: none} p.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; text-align: justify; font: 11.0px Arial; color: #000000; -webkit-text-stroke: #000000} p.p2 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; text-align: justify; font: 11.0px Arial; color: #000000; -webkit-text-stroke: #000000; min-height: 12.0px} span.s1 {font-kerning: none}

Par une démarche visant à sensibiliser le public aux risques encourus par les usagers plus vulnérables de la route et aux potentiels d’utilisation de l’espace accordé au stationnement, le groupe de collaboration a donc requalifié cinq cases de stationnement, situées à cette intersection critiquée, en saillies éphémères peintes par l’artiste local et activiste Roadsworth.

Le carrefour Beaubien/Saint-Urbain pour la journée PARK(ing) Day



Roadsworth à l'oeuvre dans la rue
Le projet a naturellement piqué la curiosité des passants qui s’arrêtaient fréquemment pour observer l’artiste à l’oeuvre et s’intéressaient au développement de l’intersection. Cette chaude première journée d’automne aura donc été l’occasion de rassembler pour quelques heures des résidents ou travailleurs du quartier, des militants engagés pour une réappropriation urbaine des lieux sous-utilisés et des professionnels du milieu de l’aménagement qui souhaitent passer de la théorie à la pratique. Malgré le trafic incessant environnant, il aura été possible de créer un espace de vie et de rencontres, s’adressant à tous, qui n’aura créé, à notre grande surprise, aucun mécontentement, mais plutôt une scène de réflexion. Dans tous les cas, les discussions menaient à un appui considérable pour un réaménagement du lieu.
Des passants curieux et des partenaires qui travaillent
Au-delà de cette initiative éphémère, le groupe recommande à la ville des réaménagements pérennes et peu dispendieux concernant l’intersection visée pour améliorer la visibilité, la sécurité et la convivialité du lieu, mais aussi mieux partager la rue par une récupération de l’espace public dédié au stationnement automobile. Cette proposition prévoit l’ajout de pistes cyclables unidirectionnelles protégées, d’un accès plus sécuritaire à la piste cyclable, de marquages au sol, d’une turn box et d’une traverse piétonne menant au parc accompagnée de saillies de trottoir ; de même que le retrait de voies de stationnement. Le tout est réfléchi en tenant compte des itinéraires généralement empruntés et des meilleures pratiques mondiales en aménagement urbain alors que la proposition s’appuie sur l’intention de favoriser des modes de déplacements durables.p.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; text-align: justify; font: 11.0px Arial; color: #000000; -webkit-text-stroke: #000000} span.s1 {font-kerning: none} p.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; text-align: justify; font: 11.0px Arial; color: #000000; -webkit-text-stroke: #000000} span.s1 {font-kerning: none}

Une proposition d'aménagements pour le carrefour qui s'adresse à tous les usagers
La mort d’une énième personne en vélo, survenue la semaine dernière à Montréal, rend inévitable un débat public en vue de provoquer un changement immédiat des infrastructures routières de la part de la ville et d’atteindre la Vision Zéro qu’a adoptée Montréal en 2016. La ville a, certes, posé les bases d’un engagement vers la création de rues plus sûres pour les cyclistes avec le lancement du Plan-cadre vélo : sécurité, efficience, audace, mais sa Vision Zéro restera insuffisante si elle ne se traduit pas concrètement par des aménagements urbains sécurisants les usagers les plus vulnérables.
Dans les faits, cette campagne qui vise la sensibilisation du public à la sécurité routière pose problème dans l’usage même du mot « accident» de la formulation « Zéro accident mortel» présente dans le vidéo diffusé par la ville. Il n’y a pas d'événements imprévus, mais bien des infrastructures inadéquates et des comportements qui entraînent ces collisions, parfois, mortelles. Comme cela a été mentionné dans un autre article de notre blog, l'usage du terme accident est critiquable dans de telles circonstances dans la mesure où cela atténue la responsabilité des aménageurs et des conducteurs. Bref, la mairie de Montréal, à l’instar de bien d’autres villes dans le monde, a un rôle incontournable à jouer auprès de la population en éduquant les habitants en ce qui a trait à l’inévitable transformation de nos villes et en convainquant les sceptiques par des actions éclairées et conséquentes.

Une remise en question de l’espace alloué aux stationnements peut certainement faire partie de la solution afin de récupérer celui-ci pour des usages plus bénéfiques. En l'occurrence, des groupes, comme la fondation américaine Better Block qui revitalise des espaces vacants en lieux de rencontres et fait la promotion de bonnes pratiques de réhabilitation urbaine, ne manquent pas d’idées.p.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; text-align: justify; font: 11.0px Arial; color: #000000; -webkit-text-stroke: #000000} span.s1 {font-kerning: none; background-color: #ffffff} span.s2 {font-kerning: none}

Une intersection bonifiée en Ohio, É-U, par la fondation Better Block
Des initiatives de partout à travers le monde telles que celle de la rue cyclable et commerçante Nørrebrogade à Copenhague ont également de quoi inspirer n’importe quelle ville. Ce projet, qui était d’abord pilote, a acquis un titre permanent en 2008. Ainsi, cette grande artère de Copenhague est dorénavant réservée à la circulation de vélos et d’autobus tandis que les automobiles sont invitées à changer d’itinéraire. Le projet va plus loin: les feux de signalisation y sont coordonnés à 20km/h, une vitesse jugée normale chez un usager de vélo. Il en résulte une augmentation des déplacements en vélo, une diminution du trafic automobile et une meilleure ponctualité des autobus alors que la majorité des résidents appuie le projet.p.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; text-align: justify; font: 11.0px Arial; color: #000000; -webkit-text-stroke: #000000} span.s1 {font-kerning: none}

Le projet pilote sur Nørrebrogade à Copenhague en 2008
Copenhagenize Design Co. s’engage à promouvoir activement ces idées innovatrices qui changent le monde une intersection à la fois et à œuvrer auprès des villes qui sont prêtes à rétablir une échelle plus humaine, pour créer des villes agréables, où l’on peut se déplacer en toute sécurité.p.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; text-align: justify; font: 11.0px Arial; color: #000000; -webkit-text-stroke: #000000} span.s1 {font-kerning: none} Copenhagenize the planet. And have a lovely day.
Categories: Views

Superhighway users dodging infrastructure to avoid traffic lights

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 21 September, 2017 - 12:19

There’s a problem on the Superhighway in central London.

Users are dodging the infrastructure that was created specifically from them (and to keep them safe), simply in order to avoid traffic lights. It’s an all too common problem – should we even allow these people to do this? Do we need to pass a new law to force them to use their own infrastructure?

You won’t need me to tell you that I am of course talking about walkists. Or – to use the more conventional term – ‘pedestrians‘.

Near the Charing Cross bridge, the Walking Superfootway that runs along the Embankment – created specifically for pedestrians, and at great expense – crosses from the Thames side of the road, over to the pavement on the other side of the road. There’s even a detailed plan showing pedestrians exactly how this works. (So there’s no excuse for them not to use it).

From the Thames Tideway information sheet

Pedestrians should simply follow the yellow line, using the three pedestrian crossings – built specifically for them, for their own safety – to cross the road on one side, before using three pedestrian crossings to cross back again. Simple! They only have to wait several minutes to do so, hardly a great inconvenience compared to just walking along the river without any delay at all.

Yet despite this clear, obvious route for pedestrians to follow, many of them simply refuse to use the walking infrastructure provided for them, and instead choose to dangerously mix with cycling, on the cycle road.

Pedestrians are using this bit of cycle road, instead of using the specific Pedestrian Superfootway walking infrastructure.

What is wrong with these pedestrians?

Some people have argued that they are dodging the infrastructure built specifically for them because they want to avoid a lengthy series of traffic lights and a route that takes them out of their way.

But that can’t possibly be the explanation. These people are simply irrational. Either that, or they are making some kind of point – they’re militant, self-righteous pedestrians, deliberately trying to hold up cycle traffic, instead of using the perfectly good walking path that has been provided for them. Specifically. And at great expense.

Now here’s the thing. In an intriguing parallel, it seems that cyclists themselves are also dodging the infrastructure built for them at great expense – a Cycling Superhighway, if you will – simply in order to avoid some traffic lights. Just like the militant walkists.

Again, these people must be simply irrational. Or if not, they are self-righteous, militant cyclists, making some point or other, or deliberately holding up motor traffic because they derive some sadistic kind of personal satisfaction from doing so.

Clearly, the only way to deal with these problem walkists and cyclists is to pass a law to force them to behave rationally, instead of irrationally.

What we definitely shouldn’t do is –

  • attempt to understand their behaviour;
  • talk to them about what they’re doing, and why they’re doing it, to facilitate that understanding;
  • design our road environments so that convenience and safety is aligned, rather than forcing people to make a choice between convenience and safety.

All that would far too longwinded and time-consuming. Much, much easier to just create a new law to force all these irrational human beings to behave in the ways we want them to behave!

 

…. Naturally if Lord Adonis does want to talk to me about understanding behaviour and responding to it in a productive way, I’m more than happy to engage with him!


Categories: Views

Why are we still waiting?

BicycleDutch - 18 September, 2017 - 23:01
When you want to see a lot of people cycling at the same time, it’s always good to go to one of Utrecht’s conflict points. This time I went back … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

Future Fast Cycle Route Utrecht – Amersfoort

BicycleDutch - 11 September, 2017 - 23:01
The F28 Fast Cycle Route from Utrecht to Amersfoort is currently under investigation. In today’s post, I will show you what the possible route looks like now. That’s right, I … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

Business as usual by driving a "Green car" vs. actually using a genuinely clean and green mode of transport

A View from the Cycle Path - 9 September, 2017 - 19:03
In the late 80s I worked as a contract software engineer and lived as a sort of a self-propelled technological vagrant. I had never had an interest in cars and wouldn't learn to drive for several more years so all my travel was by public transport, by bicycle or by foot. Many people thought this an unusual choice, but I managed to make my way with an ancient laptop computer and portable stereo toDavid Hembrowhttps://plus.google.com/114578085331408050106noreply@blogger.com0http://www.aviewfromthecyclepath.com/2017/09/business-as-usual-by-driving-green-car.html
Categories: Views

The problematic philosophy of ‘shared use’ footways

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 8 September, 2017 - 14:59

An old post from Joe Dunkley that resurfaced yesterday in the wake of some comments about Christopher Chope – a former transport minister in the Thatcher government and helmet law enthusiast – has prompted me to reflect on some of the intrinsic problems with ‘shared use’ footways.

The history of ‘shared use’ is itself rather murky, as that post from Joe Dunckley explains.

I understand the “cycle tracks” — that is, crappy shared pavements — that [the Thatcher government] introduced in the 1980 Highways Act were not intended to encourage and enable cycling, but to improve road safety by getting cyclists out of harm’s way while the poor things saved up to buy a car of their own.

This is a good explanation of the background assumption behind the Act – namely, an assumption that cycling was an insignificant mode of transport, one that would either remain insignificant, or disappear completely. The intention of this 1980 Act – which allowed footways to be converted to ‘shared use’ – was clearly not to improve conditions for walking and cycling. Instead it rested on the belief that cycling was so negligible it didn’t deserve its own space, and could just be ‘added’ to the walking environment, presumably until it vanished out of existence.

Of course this brings us to the basic problem with ‘shared use’. It’s a design philosophy that is based around an assumption that cycling is, and will remain, a tiny mode of transport.

‘Shared use’ isn’t future-proof. Anywhere it is implemented in urban areas, in preference to designing for cycling in a space separated from walking (be that cycleways, or low-motor traffic streets) amounts to a prediction that negligible, current, cycling levels will remain negligible.

And indeed, it’s largely a self-fulfilling prophecy. The inconvenience of using shared use footways, coupled with the conflict with people walking that results, serves to actually suppress cycling levels – a point made in this post from New Zealand.

Shared paths are The Hunger Games of urban transport. Pedestrians and cyclists are thrown together in a hostile environment to fight over the breadcrumbs left by cars and see who survives. They are effectively a self-sabotaging form of infrastructure. The more popular shared paths become the worse the level of service gets for both modes, which then undermines uptake.

There’s – quite literally – no space for growth in cycling on shared use footways. To illustrate this, we can look at environments where cycling was formerly accommodated on a shared use footway, but now has its own space. For instance, on Lower Thames Street.

There ins’t a huge number of pedestrians walking here, but combining the current levels of cycle traffic – greatly increased following the construction of CS3 – and the current levels of walking on that footway would clearly be a recipe for enormous conflict. Only with sufficiently wide, separated space for each of these modes will we see any growth in cycling. ‘Shared use’, in an urban context, is self-suppressing.

In choosing to employ ‘shared use’, highway engineers and planners are assuming that cycling will remain a tiny mode of transport. It represents a continuation of that 1980s belief that cycling wasn’t worth bothering with, and indeed that 1980s hope that it actually disappears. Cycling needs its own space if suppressed demand for it is to be unlocked – ‘shared use’ certainly isn’t that space.


Categories: Views

Removing separation between walking and cycling does not reduce conflict

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 5 September, 2017 - 17:17

The Royal Parks agency in London has a bit of an issue with cycling. The actions it takes – whether it’s adding cobbled speed humps to popular cycling routes in Hyde Park, or attempting to remove a popular cycle route from that same park, or chasing after a cycle taxi service – give the impression of an organisation that views cycling as something a bit… undesirable. For the Royal Parks, cycling is a problem to be managed, rather than an opportunity, and it appears to be actively trying to discourage it.

What’s even more unfortunate is that the policies the Royal Parks are implementing to manage this ‘problem’ are actually making the Parks worse for everyone, whether they are cycling or not.

A sensible strategy for managing cycling on the existing routes in Hyde Park would be to separate walking and cycling from each other, and to give each mode plenty of space, so they are not coming into conflict with one another. Indeed, we can see this policy working well on a number of routes in and around Hyde Park, already.

We can see it on South Carriage Drive, where the new cycle ‘Superhighway’ runs alongside a footway.

Here people can walk and cycle, without getting in each other’s way. They have their own clear, distinct space.

Likewise on West Carriage Drive, where the same ‘Superhighway’ runs in parallel to walking provision.

People walking on the left; people cycling on the right. People walking can do so at leisure, knowing that anyone cycling will not be anywhere near them.

The situation is similar on Rotten Row, with separate walking and cycling space.

This is the route that the Royal Parks want to ban cycling on, following the construction of the ‘Superhighway’, but the evidence suggests – as in the photograph – that this is still a popular route for cycling, despite that new route.

There isn’t a great deal of conflict between walking and cycling here, but if there is, it should be addressed by creating wider, separate space for each mode, not by banning cycling altogether (which at the very least creates issues for people who use cycles as a mobility aid, depriving them of access).

We also see separation of walking and cycling on the (newly widened) Constitution Hill route.

Formerly, cycling and walking were crammed together (albeit separated by markings) on the path to the right. With the new path on the left, both modes have adequate space, and do not come into conflict with each other.

It’s notable that despite absolutely minimal distinction between these two paths, either in terms of signs, or markings (perhaps a deliberate Royal Parks policy), people are naturally opting to walk where other people are walking, and to cycle where other people are cycling. In other words, the natural choice of human beings is to avoid conflict, and to seek out space that is being used by people that are travelling in a similar way to them.

Yet the policy on the Broad Walk in Hyde Park stands directly in opposition to the way people naturally behave, and what they actually want. This path used to have a painted cycle route on one side of it – dating back to the 1980s – with a solid white line, and intermittent cycle symbols.

Broad Walk – image via Streetview

Far from perfect, certainly, but enough to make it reasonably clear to users that cycling and walking should be expected to use distinct parts of this path. If you are walking on the right hand side, you should be able to do so in peace, free from interactions with faster-moving people who are cycling.

All this has been undone, however, as a result of the Royal Parks’ misguided interventions. The distinction between walking and cycling has been removed, and on the remains of the cycle path, ‘Pedestrian Priority’ symbols have been added.

The result – an entirely predictable result – is that people are now cycling across the entire width of the Broad Walk.

By removing distinction between walking and cycling, the Royal Parks have converted what used to be cycle-free walking space into a space that has people cycling in it, entirely innocently.

Presumably the Royal Parks’ intention, with these measures, was to make walking more pleasant, by attempting to ‘control’ cycling. But, in my view, the exact opposite has been achieved. By removing distinctions between walking and cycling, they have created paths where pedestrians are having to deal with people cycling around them, in unpredictable ways. It’s surely the exact opposite of what anyone walking here would actually want.

I dearly hope the Royal Parks start paying attention to how cycling is designed for in some of the photographs at the start of this post; with wide paths, clearly separated from walking, to remove conflict. It simply doesn’t make sense to push the two modes together.


Categories: Views

When there is no such concept as ‘jaywalking’

BicycleDutch - 4 September, 2017 - 23:01
Questions about crossing the streets keep coming back in the comment section of my videos. Some people comment that they don’t understand the lack of crosswalks on the cycle paths. … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

Fixing a gap in the cycle network

BicycleDutch - 28 August, 2017 - 23:01
Improving cycling is not always about building big bridges or developing high tech innovations. Sometimes a missing link in the cycling network can be fixed by the simple removal of … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

The Alliston case: after the verdict

Road Danger Reduction Forum - 25 August, 2017 - 21:40

The previous post  has had more views than any other in our history. We have received significant support for its content in comments and on Twitter, and also – as one must expect in the age of social media – abuse and insult. Although readers will judge for themselves, it is striking how the insults have been based on a lack of evidence and – above all – misreading of what the piece was about.

So, to repudiate the insults, let’s clarify what the piece was – and more importantly was not – about. We can then move on to an assessment of where we are now after an extraordinary week.


The piece was written before the verdict in the trial of Mr Charles Alliston. This meant we could not legally comment on whether he was guilty of the offences he was charged with. One accusation made on twitter ( from Richard Williams‏ @richw1986 ) was that “Moreover – my point is more that by trying to defend a guy who doesn’t deserve it you’re not encouraging sympathy toward cyclists who do imo”. As I replied, “There is not one single thing in my piece which tries to defend him or his actions.”

 

What we said

The essence of the piece was as follows: along with other colleagues in the transport and road safety fields, we were struck by the way that a pedestrian death, unlike the 99.4% that don’t involve a cyclist, had caught the attention of the media and also a manslaughter charge. For some of our colleagues, like the officers in West Midlands Police

If only every road death had this much media coverage….our roads might be safer as a result.

I wanted to go further than voicing such a sentiment, by analysing why this has happened. My argument was, and is, that we see significant double standards applied here. Their use is based on a failure – or refusal – on the part of the media, the legal system, and our culture at large to recognise road danger as a serious social problem. Were it to do so, and apply the same focus to other pedestrian deaths as in the Alliston case, we would have:
• massive media concern,
• higher chances of prosecution,
• more serious charges brought,
• higher chances of securing guilty verdicts (with juries less likely to identify with errant drivers)
• and far more serious punishment
in the 99.4% of cases of pedestrian deaths where motorists and motorcyclists are involved.

The reason for stating this is not vindictiveness. Indeed, the point of drawing attention to the double standards is to focus on what happens before such deaths occur. Our aim is to move towards proper social concern for behaviour with a potential to endanger others, in order to avoid deaths and injuries. This is likely to involve far more law enforcement, and penalties of a minor nature for errant behaviour prior to crashes, as well as highway and vehicle engineering designed to protect the more vulnerable road users. But whatever the measures to be taken, the point is to return our attention to the principal source of danger on the road – and the fact that it has never really been taken with proper seriousness.

To a large extent this simply means viewing safety on the road with, to take a rough example, the sort of rigour to be found in places governed by Health and Safety at Work – hardly a very radical objective. But it would require a massive change in the dominant attitudes towards motor vehicle use, opposing the current acceptance of endemic rule and law breaking by drivers. Indeed, it is precisely because of this tolerance of what to us is intolerable that we have had the focus on the exceptional case of a cyclist causing a pedestrian death.

Only a bigot or anybody who hadn’t read the post could fail to see that argument and that we were in no way exempting Alliston from responsibility.

We also voiced a concern that cyclists as an “out-group” were being lumped together and targeted with negative stereotyping and stigma – with a dangerous propensity to increase already intolerable danger to them. Why – particularly when there had been no guilty verdict – should this mean we were excusing bad cycling or that we were supposedly and wrongly “speaking for cyclists”?

The widower of Kim Briggs, Mr Matthew Briggs, while calling for changes in the law to incorporate “causing death by dangerous cycling”, made it absolutely clear that he was not targeting all cyclists. Regrettably, numerous commentators (ab)using the tragedy of the loss of his wife were not so civilised. We have had the spectacle of abuse of all cyclists, from the convicted drink driver Andy Kershaw, through a grandstanding MP mouthing half-baked insults, to the extraordinary spectacle of the grotesque “Mr Loophole” attacking the “epidemic” of cycling.

The misconstruing of what we said is but a part of the wave of prejudice we have witnessed. Indeed, our prediction that this episode would be about diverting attention away from abuse of motor vehicles on to a vulnerable out group appears to have been at least partly fulfilled.

Finally, the disgusting suggestion was made that we had no sympathy for the loved ones of Mrs Briggs. Anybody aware of the work of myself as Chair and other members and supporters of Road Danger Reduction Forum know the work we have done, particularly in co-ordination with our friends in RoadPeace, to support road crash victims. Above all, our professional and voluntary work is based on making life safer for road users, particularly pedestrians.

Mr. Briggs, in his comments on his aims for the future, has talked about his objective of avoiding other families having to go what his has done. The obvious thrust of the previous post, and of all the work of the RDRF, is that we want incidents involving pedestrian death to be taken more seriously, and that the behaviours leading up to them are reduced, with those responsible for them held accountable.

This seems to us to be the best way to recognise the death of Mrs Briggs. It will work for others in her position to be protected from road danger, and for when it does result in injury or death, to be properly treated by society

After the verdict: what we do think

It’s worth reading this  analysis of the case, this piece  and in particular the detailed exposure of double standards involved here.

However, unlike in this last article, we don’t want to dwell on issues around the evidence on matters such as stopping distances. We accept the verdict and see it as our job to press ahead for reduced danger on the roads. When asked on BBC Radio London if we would accept cyclists coming under legislation relating to deaths caused by dangerous or careless driving, I said yes. We have always wanted all people endangering others to come under the operation of the law; however they are getting about (although we would be circumspect about potentially criminalising pedestrians with some sort of “jay walking” legislation).

So we support the statement by Cycling UK, which is worth reading carefully:

Ducan Dollimore, Cycling UK Head of Advocacy and Campaigns said:

Riding a fixed wheel bicycle on busy roads without a front brake is illegal, stupid, and endangers other road users especially pedestrians. Charlie Alliston’s actions had tragic consequences for Kim Briggs’ family, and it was entirely right that this led to his prosecution.

“The fact that he has been convicted of an offence dating back to legislation from 1861, drafted in archaic language, will doubtless lead some to argue that the laws on irresponsible cycling should be aligned with the laws on irresponsible driving. The reality is that the way in which the justice system deals with mistakes, carelessness, recklessness and deliberately dangerous behaviour by all road users has long been in need of review.

“In 2014 the Government acknowledged this when announcing a full review of all motoring offences and penalties, but then waited three years to launch a limited consultation last year which closed six months ago, with silence ever since.

“To ensure that there is consistency with charging decisions, and with how dangerous behaviour on or roads is dealt with, it is vital that the Government ends the delay, and gets on with the wide scale review that politicians from all sides, victims’ families and various roads safety organisations have tirelessly demanded.”

 

In a similar vein, LCC issued a statement:

So let’s note and celebrate that it’s the cycling organisations that are making a commitment towards reducing the danger presented to pedestrians. This involves pushing for a legal framework which will make it more likely that those responsible for road deaths (and injuries) are more likely to be charged, to be charged with an offence that reflects the seriousness of their behaviour, and to be more likely to found guilty and receive a sentence commensurate with the actual and potential damage that their actions have caused. We have been supporting the campaigning objectives that Cycling UK describe above, and see it as a key feature of road danger reduction.

By contrast, the official “road safety” industry has been conspicuous by its absence in the media storm of the last few days. Of course, so too have the official motoring organisations. (And anyway, can you imagine them being required to issue statements on the responsibilities of motorists after a road death caused by a driver?)

So we shouldn’t need to repeat this, but suspect we may have to, so here goes: The RDRF, along with the rest of the road danger reduction movement, is and has been working since its inception for a much enhanced system of enforcement and sentencing governing the behaviours of road users which potentially threaten others. The attentions of this system will include others such as cyclists, but because of their smaller numbers, and more importantly because of their lower weight and speed and thus destructive potential, will form a small part of its overall focus. This focus will prioritise those with the greatest lethal potential, namely the drivers and riders of motor vehicles.

To illustrate the task we have, let’s look again at a case which was heard in an adjacent court at the same time as when the Alliston case was heard.

 

The case of Jessica Wells   Photo: Daily Mail

According to the Daily Mail,22 year old Wells was riding her motorbike at 44 mph in a 30 mph area “weaving in and out of traffic”, overtaking a lorry and undertaking a learner driver moments before hitting and killing 80 year-old Ian Rose as he got off a bus. Ms Wells had noticed a speed camera and checked her dashboard in a way which distracted her at the moment of collision. (It may be of interest that both prosecution and the media report highlight this last fact, possibly implying that the speed camera was a problem. Maybe that is being too cynical.)

Wells was given a suspended sentence, with the judge pointing out that she had shown remorse, was aware that she taken a life (“a fact you will have to live with for the rest of your life”) and that it was “clear…that you are a sympathetic and compassionate young woman”.
Comparison with the Alliston case, which was being heard in an adjacent court at the same time, is instructive. Despite her behaviour being far more potentially lethal, there was a lower charge (causing death by careless driving as against manslaughter), what is likely to be a lower sentence, and – above all – far less media attention. Some of this can be put down to the contrast between the personalities involved, with one being sympathetic, the other (to put it mildly) unsympathetic. Some of it is due to a willingness to show remorse – although I’m not sure this should weigh that heavily when it comes to the severity of the collisions.

The point from this and many other comparisons is that double standards rule in a way which diminishes the prospects of serious commitment to tackle danger on the roads to the detriment of its actual and potential victims in the future.

 

Any hope?

All of this leaves us, as I concluded in the previous post, with an awareness of bleakness of the prospects facing people in the road danger reduction movement for a civilised approach to road danger.

Nevertheless, there are positive signs. There has been plenty of much needed mutual support voiced on social media. There have been thoughtful and well-crafted posts, threads and comments. (I modestly hope these pieces are part of that).

It also shows that safety on the road is not about abstract engineering or policing projects. It is about questioning the unquestioned, criticising an uncriticised status quo. It means addressing a culture where drivers are supported in the “rights” to drive where, when, why and above all how they want. That’s an important lesson to learn.

Since the early days of motoring – albeit with notable resistance from time to time – drivers have endangered others and largely got away with it. All we are seeing now is an outburst of the continued refusal to accept responsibility and deflect attention on to a (relatively) minor type of danger coming from a politically powerless out group. There is no reason to see the events of the last week as a particularly downward turn just because of a greater number than usual of bigots crawling out of the woodwork.

So we carry on. One last repetition: Carrying on the struggle seems to us the best way to recognise the death of Mrs Briggs. It will work for others in her position to be protected from road danger, and for when it does result in injury or death, to be properly treated by society.

 

 


Categories: Views

Punishment

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 25 August, 2017 - 11:37

A few days ago, I was descending a hill towards a t-junction – a hill steep enough for me to be cycling at over 20mph. I could see a queue of ten or so cars already waiting at the junction ahead of me, waiting to join the busy main road – a habitual queue at this particular junction. Just as I begin to think about applying the brakes as the tail-end of the queue approaches, a dark, large BMW SUV appears on my right hand side. I shake my head slightly at this pointless overtake, and tuck in behind it. But before I even have a chance to dwell on this irritating bit of driving, another car appears on my right hand side – a grey-ish VW Golf this time – and as well as being pointless, this overtake is actually dangerous, into overcoming traffic, so close that the driver is forced to chop sharply back to the left, before immediately applying the brakes to join the queue.

This kind of behaviour is so familiar, it even has a name, and an abbreviation – Must Get In Front, or MGIF, tunnel-vision on the part of drivers who feel they simply have to overtake regardless of the road context, and despite the fact the overtake actually serves no purpose at all.

Naturally enough, a matter of seconds later, I am sailing past these drivers on their right, filtering to the front of the queue. I slow slightly as I pass the driver of the Golf’s open window – a driver who turns out be a young man – to say ‘well, that was pointless.’ I know that comments like this are rarely constructive, and so it proved in this case. Almost without missing a beat, the driver yelled after me

‘You should be wearing a helmet!’

By this point I was approaching the main road, some distance away, and the stupidity of the comment really didn’t suggest it was worthwhile ‘engaging’ further. I went merrily on my way, dwelling on the thought process behind such an outburst, and a response I could have made. As is always the way, the perfect response arrived a few minutes later, on a quiet lane a mile away.

‘Oh? So you care about my safety?’

Laden with sarcasm, because of course this driver didn’t care about my safety – if he did, he wouldn’t have engaged in a lunatic piece of driving that put him, the oncoming driver and most of all me in danger, yet gained him absolutely nothing at all. So why did he tell me to wear a helmet?

Because I was in his way. Because he was fuming about me, and because he was angry at me, and when you don’t like someone and what they’re doing – in this case, riding a bike on a road, in front of a driver who wants to ‘make progress’ – you look for reasons to object to them, and what they are doing. A lack of helmet was the most obviously objectionable thing about me.

Doubtless if I had been wearing a helmet, this driver would have told me to ‘pay road tax’, or to have a number plate, or to wear a bright yellow tabard. But none of these demands is actually about safety. It’s about punishing people cycling around, in the hope that they’ll get out the way, or go away completely. However much safety equipment I wear, however much tax I pay, however trained and competent I am – even if I’m displaying a massive identification plate with my name and address on my back – I will still be a source of irritation, and people will still look for that next restriction or rule to lumber me with, in the hope that I eventually disappear.

I was already coming to this conclusion – this post was already half-formed in my drafts the day after this incident – when the deluge of reaction to the Charlie Alliston case arrived. Note that this prosecution hinged fairly straightforwardly on the absence of a front brake. The prosecution case was that (rightly or wrongly) Alliston would have been to avoid the collision with a front brake. But the absence of a front brake is something which is already illegal, and will remain illegal. There’s no need to pass a new law requiring the riders of fixed wheel bikes to have a front brake, because… that law already exists.

So, to put it charitably, this doesn’t immediately strike me as fertile ground for launching a whole series of new restrictions and rules on cycling. Yet that has been the reaction from many quarters, an unseemly pile-on to legislate against ‘them’ (and it is always ‘them’, never ‘us’). In the words of CityCyclists – opportunistic grandstanding.

Whether it’s compulsory training, compulsory insurance, compulsory hi-viz jackets, or compulsory helmets, the Alliston case has been the trigger for an outpouring of of grievance, all aimed at punishing cycling in general.

To be clear, this isn’t about safety at all. There has been no indication that any of these things would have prevented the fatal collision last year – instead they rest on a stereotype that cycling is ‘out of control’ and that, by loading it with restrictions, it can somehow be brought back under control, or better yet, restricted out of existence.

Although he is perhaps the most extreme example of this mindset, it’s instructive to look at the writings of Nick ‘Mr Loophole’ Freeman in the wake of the Alliston case.

 

 

Freeman has – consciously or otherwise – given the game away here in his choice of words. If we look up ‘epidemic’ we find –

Ah.

It’s therefore no surprise that if we examine Freeman’s witterings, they all involve loading restrictions onto cycling; restrictions that have absolutely nothing to do with the Alliston case.

Mr Freeman said due to widespread initiatives aimed at getting people out of their cars and using other forms of transport – coupled with rising fuel costs – there needs to be a change in legislation for cyclists.

In addition to abiding by all traffic signals, he said it should be made law for all cyclists to wear helmets and hi-visibility clothing.

Note that this is explicitly (and bizarrely) framed as a trade off – ‘my fuel costs are rising, therefore you should be punished too’. If we apply this to any other mode of transport the ludicrousness is transparent. Perhaps due to the rising cost of bus fares, there needs to be change in the law for motorists – that in addition to abiding by all traffic signals [hello ‘Mr Loophole’] it should be made law for all motorists to wear five-point safety harness and to coat their cars in hi-viz panelling.

These calls for ‘legislation’ make sense only in these terms – it’s an attempt to penalise someone else’s mode of transport, a mode of transport that is a source of resentment and jealousy (indeed, it’s notable that banning people from cycling past stationary traffic frequently crops up in these kinds of calls for legislation). It’s the crab mentality writ large – my mode of transport is frustrating, so your mode of transport should be too. Your mode of transport is increasingly taking up road space used by my mode of transport, so if we make it more onerous and unpleasant, that might even up the scales.

Just need to add some compulsory insurance, compulsory training, compulsory helmets and compulsory hi-viz jackets to even things up

These calls for legislation aren’t about safety at all. They’re about resentment and punishment, punishing a mode of transport that is unorthodox, that gets in the way of other modes of transport and is in conflict with them. We should see those calls for what they are.


Categories: Views

A postcard from Vienna

BicycleDutch - 21 August, 2017 - 23:01
Many people shared their holiday cycle impressions on social media all through the summer. I found it very interesting to see what people visiting the Netherlands showed to their home … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

The Charlie Alliston case: the real story

Road Danger Reduction Forum - 21 August, 2017 - 16:08

Over the last week there has been front page coverage of the case of one Charlie Alliston, who hit pedestrian Kim Briggs in central London in a collision resulting in her death. . Naturally it is unlawful and wrong to cycle with one rather than two effective braking systems, and we will accept the verdict of the court when it comes later today. But for me the real story here is not what happened on a central London street in February 2016.


The Karol Michta case

The week before the front page coverage I was reading page 11 of a local paper, the Ealing Gazette (July 21st 2017), to see “Driver spared jail despite killing man while speeding”. Here we learn:

A student who hit a pedestrian so hard with his sports car that the man was thrown 150 feet has been spared jail after the court was told he was suffering “survivor’s guilt”.

In this case:
• Student Karol Michta had pleaded guilty to causing death by dangerous driving while travelling at 61 mph within a 40 mph speed limit.
• His sentencing was adjourned for five months so that he could complete his degree.
• A psychiatrist had diagnosed him with post-traumatic stress disorder and moderate depression, described by his solicitor as “survivor’s guilt”.
• Michta had swerved into the middle lane from the fast lane , recorded travelling at 61 mph, trying to keep up with another car, with one witness saying at the time: “look how fast he’s driving: idiot”.
• The judge stated that Michta did not see Henrik Luszcz until just before the point of impact: if he had been travelling within the speed limit he would have been able to brake and take evasive action earlier.
Judge Anthony Morris gave Michta a suspended prison sentence (along with 250 hours unpaid work and a “20-day rehabilitation activity” and a fine)because of his age, his psychiatric problems (brought on by him having killed Luszcz) and “the circumstances of the accident”.

You may wish to consider whether “accident” in this case is an appropriate term. What the judge meant by this phrase was apparently that he thought the road layout was not ideal. “Mr Luscz cannot be criticised for doing so, but this was not a safe place to cross such a major road and some sort of steps ought to be taken to at least move the bus stop nearer the lights”.

I would make the following points about this case:
1. It receives coverage in a local newspaper as opposed to the front page national coverage in the Alliston case.
2. The charge relating to car driven at 61 mph in a 40 mph limit, as opposed to a bicycle at about 18 mph, is “causing death by dangerous driving” as opposed to manslaughter.
3. The behaviour involved – speeding – is commonplace, with about 40 – 50% of drivers breaking the 30 mph limit when conditions allow, and a majority admitting breaking the limit. Press coverage in the tabloids tends to be critical of measures to control speeds, particularly speed cameras, whereas cyclists – as a group with anybody who ever cycles included – will be subject to criticism.
4. The killer driver was excused custody because of:
(a) His age – although his age is that of a high risk driver group, namely the under 25s.
(b) His mental state, which was brought on by him having been responsible for the incident in the first place. You may wish to note the phrase “survivor’s guilt” used by his barrister. Historically this has been used for the survivors of disasters and wars. Here it is used to refer to someone traumatised by having killed someone through his violent behaviour .
(c) The road layout and the victim’s behaviour is highlighted. Although the judge states that “Mr Luszcz cannot be criticised”, in effect that is what happens – or at least the perpetrator has his responsibility further reduced.
5. The key issue for us is reducing danger on the roads, which means reducing the instances of driver behaviour such as that described in the case, essentially feeling the need to keep up with another speeding driver. Nothing is said about the other speeding driver in this case. Indeed, speeding behaviour can be seen on the roads as a matter of course. As pointed out above, it is illegal behaviour which has become largely – although not by all of us – socially acceptable. It could be controlled by cameras and/or on-board speed governors. It could be prevented, but it is not.

This is not a particularly unusual case. Above all, apart from what many of us would think was lenience towards the driver; we have the issue of lack of media concern compared to the Alliston case.

Let’s look briefly at two other recent court cases where the lesser charge of causing death through careless driving (never mind manslaughter) was brought.

 

Two other pedestrian deaths

Farnham, Surrey .
In this case the driver said that he only saw a person’s head above a line of parked cars (along Lower Weybourne Lane) but that it had never occurred to him that the individual would step out into the road in front of his vehicle.

Norwich In this case the driver commented “In the city people cross in front of you all the time. And 99 times out of 100 if they don’t have enough time they will stop.”

I find the stated views of the drivers (both driving for a living) interesting. In the first “it had never occurred” to the driver that someone on the pavement would want to cross the road. In the second case the minority of pedestrians (calculated at 1 in a 100) that don’t stop presumably deserve to be hit.

In both cases the drivers were found not guilty. So even with a much lesser charge, and potential penalties, than manslaughter, there are still issues about getting a guilty verdict.
These are two recent cases taken at random from the local press where they have received a small amount of coverage. They are not scientifically gathered, but do illustrate the relative lack of public concern with pedestrian deaths normally compared to the Alliston case.

One could go further. For example, last week I heard the case of a pedestrian death at inquest where my colleague assessed legal fault as likely to be with the driver of a motor vehicle – however the police had decided not to pass the papers on to the Crown Prosecution Service and bring the case to trial. Many cases do not involve a trial, even for the lowest charges, despite evidence to suggest at least an element of driver guilt.

With regard to the Metropolitan Police Service, we had the high profile case of the death of Michael Mason, where the MPS failed to pass papers on to the Crown prosecution Service despite the judge in the ensuing private prosecution saying that there was a case to be answered. Again, compare with the Alliston case.

Let’s get more scientific by looking at the overarching issue: what other road users are involved in collisions where pedestrians die?

 

How do pedestrians die?

Here I am indebted to Bez of Beyond the Kerb  for his analysis of the last eleven years for which we have figures. From 2005 to 2015 5525 pedestrians died on Britain’s roads in “road traffic collisions”. In these cases, where the sole other vehicle involved was a bicycle, 31 died:  0.561% of the total. These are the figures as officially collected. For example, if the pedestrian dies after one month, as is often the case, the death counts as “Serious Injury” instead. I have no reason to assume that cases where cyclists are involved are more or less likely to fall into this category. The figures on deaths are about the most reliable of all road traffic collision casualty figures, so I’ll go with them.

Now, it may be argued that in cases where bicyclists are involved, the cyclist is more likely to be legally responsible than the driver of a motor vehicle. The best way we can assess this is to look at in-depth analysis of court cases and verdicts. However these seem to have a great degree of variation in how verdicts are reached and certainly with severity of sentencing. We can look at Contributory Factors (CFs) listed by police attending the scene, which imply a degree of fault. In the cases of pedestrian deaths over the time period studies, we have 25/45 CFs (55%) being pedestrian fault. This analysis, although open to criticism, does not indicate that cyclists are more likely than drivers to be responsible for collisions where they are involved in hitting pedestrian who dies.

 

So – why…?

This has been a weird time for professionals working in the area of road safety. We find ourselves concerned with a daily toll of people killed on the roads with court cases receiving minor coverage in the press, particularly with pedestrians killed in typical road crashes. Of course, this is highly variable, with some of the more extreme cases – such as those with multiple deaths and extreme bad driving – gaining coverage. And some local papers such as the London Evening Standard have been covering road crashes more often.

But the dominant fact is that when drivers kill pedestrians in “normal” circumstances, we are presented with little coverage. We also see charges far lower than manslaughter (or none at all); we see acquittal often on spurious grounds; and we see low penalties when conviction is secured. But when a CYCLIST is involved…

And that for us is the real story behind the Alliston case. When we finally get public concern and outrage from the media it is for something which – whatever its specific circumstances and severity – is above all NOT what is involved in 99.4% of cases where pedestrians die in road crashes.

 

…and does it matter?

I think this matters a great deal. Some colleagues have simply argued that it would be good if we could get this kind of coverage for more typical crashes. As our colleagues in West Midlands Police tweeted:

 If only every road death had this much media coverage….our roads might be safer as a result.

I think there is a deep and important issue here. One commenter on social media has suggested that this is simply a “man bites dog” story: it is just a case of something so unusual that it merits unusual attention.

I don’t think it is. I think it is a case of a persistent and profound refusal of this society to take road danger seriously, and specifically to exonerate and accept danger from motor vehicles and those responsible for how they are used. While this road danger can and does involve engineers of highways and motor vehicles, and a transport industry and politicians responsible for how we get about in the first place, it necessarily involves – at least largely – the responsibilities of motor vehicle drivers.

So for the road danger reduction movement the media coverage of this case is a matter of deep interest and concern.

In the first instance there is all the negative stereotyping of cyclists beloved by all too many commentators. Focusing on one errant cyclist is a key to tarring all cyclists with a brush of danger. In a context where it can be easy for a typical, let alone a particularly bad, driver to endanger a cyclist, I think that such negative ideas have an all too destructive potential. (On this point you can read the chapter on cyclist hatred in Peter Walker’s book .)

More importantly, this is a manifestation of a culture where motor danger is simply not seen as the problem we in the road danger reduction movement think it is. We’ll comment further when the verdict is given. But for now the indicators from this episode for road danger reduction, and the prospects for a civilised society which takes road danger seriously, are not good.


Categories: Views

Another case of bias on BBC Radio 4

Road Danger Reduction Forum - 18 August, 2017 - 14:07

Earlier this month there was a fuss when the BBC was accused of bias over attempting to “achieve balance” by inviting a climate change sceptic to appear opposite a climate scientist  Today’s example on BBC Radio 4 World at One was, in my opinion, at least if not more egregious.


The so-called “debate” involved “motoring journalist” Quentin Willson, who fronts the “Fair Fuel” campaign with the road haulage association. This campaign has effectively pressured government to freeze the minimal increases in fuel tax through the fuel tax accelerator. Key features of this campaign are avoiding admitting the extent of what conventional economists call “external costs” of motoring, which exceed the amount of money raised through fuel and other forms of taxation. (For further discussion see this and how motoring has been getting cheaper while other costs of living have increased ).

The “debate” was based on the fact that the proportion of revenue raised by the government from motoring taxation – a tiny 5% – is forecast to decline with electric cars coming on stream. Willson kicked off with the ludicrous assertion that “the greens” are owning the debate on motoring taxation , and – even more bizarre – that London Mayor Sadiq Khan is planning to ban cars altogether. (This presumably refers to very vague suggestions in the draft Mayor’s Transport Strategy that road charging may be considered as an option for controlling congestion).

Now it is fair that Mr Willson should be allowed to give his views on this subject. But a supposed public service broadcaster should give an opposing view which would point out, for example, that drivers do not pay their way (insofar as costs of danger, pollution, and other numerous public health and environmental problems can be paid for). Surely someone could have been found to argue for a more robust approach to problems from current, let alone increased, levels of car use rather than the mild version of road pricing suggested by Willson?

But no. The opposition to Willson came from – wait for it – the extremist pro-more motoring Alliance of British Drivers!

I must admit to not bothering to listen to this person’s views in detail. I did catch a bit of the usual whinging about how all motoring “taxation” (I think it’s just paying a small amount towards covering the costs they incur) should be spent on more roads, presumably for more cars. I also caught what appeared to be a complaint that electronic tracking for road pricing might be used to track drivers travelling at illegal speeds, and he seemed to be worried about that.

But I really wasn’t listening. Because the point is that the BBC shouldn’t be having this ludicrous bias, and that’s the news that counts.


Categories: Views

The makings of a successful cycle street

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 16 August, 2017 - 13:28

The ‘cycle street’ concept is a familiar one to cycle campaigners – a street where, it is claimed, cycling has priority, and ‘cars are guests’, sometimes with added rules about ‘no overtaking’.

I think it’s easy for British campaigners to get excited about ‘cycle streets’ primarily because the concept corresponds largely to existing cycling behaviour on busy British roads. Wouldn’t it be great – they might think – to cycle along this road without drivers attempting to overtake, and with those drivers knowing that they are ‘guests’ on it.

But the most successful ‘cycle streets’ don’t have any of these kinds of rules. The key ingredient is simply ensuring that the street in question isn’t a through-route for motor traffic. Markings, rules and signs are largely superfluous – indeed unnecessary – when this key condition is met. In fact they often aren’t even ‘cycle streets’ in any formal sense.

This is Buitenwatersloot in Delft.

It’s a busy route in and out of the city centre, running westwards from it. From this photo it might look like a ‘cycle street’, but it is in fact just an ordinary Dutch street, with no specific road design – just a blank asphalt surface – and with no ‘cycle street’ related signs.

All we have here is a sign telling drivers it is a dead end after 200m, and telling people cycling it isn’t a dead end for them. It isn’t a dead end for buses either – there is a bus gate, which forms the barrier for private motor traffic after 200m.

Drivers can obviously still use this street – there’s one doing so in this photograph below – but they will only be accessing properties along it, and on the handful of side streets, not going anywhere else.

This road is just part of a small ‘cell’ for driving, shown in red, while forming a direct route for cycling in an east-west direction. The green arrows also show that this cell is permeable for cycling to the south.

This street forms a high-quality cycling environment not because of any road markings, signs, or instructions to drivers, but because it will only ever have very small numbers of drivers using it. It might be nice to mark this street as a ‘cycle street’, but it’s not necessary.

And indeed we should be wary of emphasising markings, signs or instructions to drivers, because they are very easy to implement without changing anything else. It’s very tempting for highway authorities to stick up signs and splash down some paint without addressing through-traffic problems (hello the Quietway programme). ‘Cycle streets’ and ‘Quietways’ can be created with signs and paint, but in reality, it’s the through-traffic issue alone that defines whether ‘cycle streets’ are comfortable, safe and attractive cycling environments.


Categories: Views

The biggest bicycle parking garage in the world

BicycleDutch - 14 August, 2017 - 23:01
Utrecht has opened –what will become– the largest bicycle parking facility in the world. The first 6,000 spaces can be used now, another 1,500 will become available by the end … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

Fighting over scraps

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 10 August, 2017 - 16:53

This week, it’s evidently the turn of ‘the joggists’ to be the folk devil in the media, helpfully standing in for ‘the cyclists’ who traditionally take on this popular and coveted role.

One isolated incident, in which a man committed what appears to be an unnecessary and unprovoked assault, has proven fertile territory for journalists and opinion columnists to veer off into stereotypes and ludicrous commentary, in much the same way they do following an incident involving someone on a bike. (It’s perhaps no surprise that it’s some familiar faces making precisely same kinds of arguments).

There was rich competition for the most absurd take, but a strong contender surely has to be Sky’s Adam Boulton, who weighed in with this gem –

With an inevitable dig at cyclists

Closely followed by Julie Bindel, who, on Radio 4’s Today Programme, implied that jogging on pavements in cities should be banned entirely, again with an inevitable dig at cyclists –

Webb: Julie Bindel, what’s your solution?

Bindel: Running tracks are great. I like watching runners on tracks, it makes me feel envious about how fit they are.

Webb: What, ban jogging on the pavements?

Bindel: Jogging on the pavements… It’s very different in the city, I think, to runners I’ve seen in the countryside, and of course not all runners are aggressive. But when people are out walking and somebody’s coming at you, at a speed, and showing their clear irritation that you’re in their way, it’s not right. It’s exactly like pedestrians on the pavement when cyclists decide that they’re going to take their bicycle off the road, where they should be. So I think that runners should have their designated spots, and we should give priority to that, and that we shouldn’t be pushed out of the way under any circumstances.

And finally Michelle Hanson, with an extended whinge about joggers in general –

Most joggers do seem mad keen to jog in a straight line and not stop for anyone or anything… most joggers tend to look rather miserable and tormented, as if beset by personal problems, which perhaps stops them from giving a toss about the other people passing by.

Oh, with an inevitable dig at cyclists too, before rambling on about how apparently ill-mannered we are on pavements nowadays, getting in each other’s way.

Not one of these opinions actually engages specifically with the incident in question. They’ve just used that incident as an opportunity to veer off into a moan about joggers in general, crowbarring in cycling at the same time for good measure.

And worse than that, they all deal in the easy currency of blaming individuals for conflict on our streets, rather than examining why people are coming into conflict in the first place, and how we might stop that conflict from occurring at all. (This is a familiar theme, as you might expect…)

A clue is provided in one of the Radio 4 ‘vox pops’ in the piece preceding the interview with Bindel, as a man describes how a jogger annoyed him –

There was a lorry parked on the pavement, and they were digging up the pavement, and there was only a narrow strip. And he kept running towards me. I’m visually impaired, registered blind. He bumped me. But he came off worse. I shoved him back.

The easy option is of course to blame the jogger. But hang on a second. The pavement is being dug up. There’s also a lorry parked on it. Human beings only left with a narrow strip. Would these two people have even collided in the first place if we didn’t treat pedestrians with such contempt?

Bloody joggists running directly towards me, no manners. It’s obviously their attitude that’s the problem, not minuscule pavements.

Might it be the case that joggers are annoying not because of who they are – some inevitable ‘joggist’ tendency – but because pavements are desperately narrow?

And by the same token, might it equally be the case that cyclists are annoying not because of who they are – insert some guff here about ‘lycra louts’, or ‘smug, or ‘self-righteous’ – but because cycling is legalised on these pavements by councils unwilling to reallocate road space, and happy for cycling and walking to come into conflict as a result?

Legal cycling

Or because hostile roads leave ordinary people withnowhere else to go?

Illegal cycling

In reality, all this bickering about cyclists and joggers being annoying and ill-mannered is spectacular point-missing. It’s utterly ludicrous to say that cycling and jogging ‘doesn’t fit’ in our cities and towns. You could only arrive at that conclusion if you think tiny pavements and roads without any cycling infrastructure are somehow god-given and immutable, rather than the product of decades of car-centric planning. Jogging and cycling can obviously fit in cities, and the only reason they come into conflict with walking is because of a failure to give appropriate space to these modes of transport.

How annoying would joggers be in the entirely pedestrianised city centre of ‘s-Hertogenbosch?

Complaining about joggers and cyclists amounts to nothing more than fighting over tiny scraps, the crumbs from the feast on the table. If you’re coming into conflict with them, try looking at the tiny pavement you’re forced to share with them, rather than instinctively stereotyping them.

Just for once, just for once, I’d like to see some engagement with these issues, some constructive criticism of the way our urban environment engenders conflict between human beings, rather than just lazy criticism of them.


Categories: Views

The garden bridge at night

BicycleDutch - 7 August, 2017 - 23:01
The first garden bridge of the Netherlands, the Paleisbrug (Palace bridge) of ʼs-Hertogenbosch, is well over two years old now. In these two years the garden has really developed impressively. … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

Tackling some Westway misconceptions

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 7 August, 2017 - 13:00

The routing of the extension of Superhighway 3 along the Westway has now been formally cancelled, as reported by Ross Lydall, confirming what had already appeared to be a certainty as long ago as last year.

The news has been greeted with the re-hashing of some misconceptions about that Westway route. Given this bit of (potential) cycling infrastructure is now destined to never appear, there is an element of ‘flogging a dead horse’ in tackling those misconceptions – but despite the cancellation, I think it’s valuable to look at them in turn, because they have relevance for cycling infrastructure in general. So here we go.

‘Cycling on the Westway would be unpleasant’

The Westway is undeniably a very busy road, and cycling in close proximity to dense flows of motor traffic on an overpass sounds, at face value, like a pretty unpromising experience. Indeed, the initial visualisations for this route were problematic, with people cycling on this section of CS3 separated from motor traffic by an armco barrier, and nothing else.

But later visualisations – and indeed design details – showed that the separation would be much more substantial, consisting of a concrete base and glass noise screen.

From the cross-section design detail, this barrier would have been higher than the height of someone cycling, as described in this post from last year, by Alex Ingram.

As it happens, I have some experience of cycling along an almost directly analogous cycle path – a relatively exposed cycleway, on a bridge over the Waal river, beside a very busy road, with precisely this kind of barrier between me and motor traffic.

I can report that it was definitely not an unpleasant or horrible experience. You are certainly aware of motor vehicles (including HGVs) whizzing towards you on the other side of the screen, and can hear them, but the noise is enormously reduced. You are essentially insulated from them, and I was free to enjoy the views across the river to the city of Nijmegen as I pedalled across. If the Westway route had been built like this, then it would have been absolutely fine, at least in terms of separation from motor traffic – certainly much more pleasant than, to take an example, the existing separation on CS3 along Upper Thames Street and Blackfriars Underpass.

A related criticism of the Westway route is that it would be socially unsafe due to the length of route without any entry or exit points – just under 2 miles between Westbourne Terrace and Wood Lane, all on the overpass. Again, the bridge shown in the above photograph is almost directly analogous, running for 2.7 km without any entry or exit points, with the exception of one pedestrian step access point, to a man-made island in the middle of the river.

I am, of course, a man, so not best placed to judge social safety, but on the times I’ve cycle across this bridge – including late in the evening, as in the photograph, it was far from my mind. The bridge was relatively busy with people cycling in both directions, and I suspect the same would be true for the Westway cycle route, had it ever been built. Given the total lack of safe routes into and out of central London from the north-west of the city, it would have been in demand, and I doubt it would have felt as isolated (and therefore as unsafe) as critics have implied.

‘The Westway isn’t the best route for CS3’

This is a slightly better objection – if we want to enable people to cycle from the Lancaster Gate area north of Hyde Park, over to White City, then surely there must be a better route – one on the surface – compared to sticking people up on a 1960s flyover?

Indeed, I’m inclined to agree – I would in all likelihood prefer to cycle on a genuine high-quality, Dutch-style cycleway (of the quality of CS3 and CS6) through Kensington and Chelsea. Likewise, I’m sure Transport for London were inclined to agree too – so why did this route end up on the Westway in the first place?

The simple answer is that the ‘Westway route’ runs entirely along roads controlled by Transport for London. They would therefore have had control over implementation, and wouldn’t be at the mercy of recalcitrant boroughs and their potential objections. The Westway route was chosen specifically because it allowed the cycleway to completely bypass the borough of Kensington and Chelsea, and roads controlled by that borough.

For context we should recall that Superhighway 9 – also running west, but on RBKC roads, has been completely canned in that borough because the council objected to protected cycleways of any form running along Kensington High Street. This doesn’t inspire confidence for any potential East-West superhighway route running through Kensington and Chelsea on borough-controlled roads, and largely explains why TfL opted to take an easier path and avoid the borough completely. This is confirmed by Andrew Gilligan.

Now, of course, it turns out that the newly-proposed alternative to the ‘Westway route’ is precisely on those RBKC roads – past Notting Hill Gate (where a recent ‘vision’ consultation failed to consider cycling altogether) and down Holland Park Avenue, before heading across the Shepherd’s Bush gyratory and up Wood Lane.

It is entirely possible that a high-quality scheme can be delivered along this route – these are, for the most part, very wide roads – but the history of RBKC and cycling infrastructure doesn’t do much to foster optimism.

The other problem with this objection – that the Westway isn’t the best route – is that the Westway clearly shouldn’t be the only ‘route’ in this part of London. Discussing where ‘the route’ should go misses the point that enabling cycling involves delivering networks, not just isolated routes from A to B. To that extent, the Westway should be just one route among many. All the main roads in this part of London should also have cycling infrastructure on them, and we shouldn’t be forced to choose between them. Putting a cycle route on the Westway doesn’t mean giving up on all other roads in the area. It should complement other ways of getting around this area, not be the sole way of doing so, and should therefore be considered on its own merits.

For instance, for people who live in and around White City, and who might want to head east towards Regents Park, Euston, and Bloomsbury, the Westway would obviously be a useful cycle route (and likewise for people heading in the opposite direction).

The new proposed ‘Superhighway’ route would be rather less convenient for these kids of trips, taking people south towards Shepherds Bush, before leaving this new ‘Superhighway’ route at a point of their choosing to head north again. There also remains the awkward question of what happens to people cycling north from Lancaster Gate on the existing stub of CS3, who will now arrive at a motorway-style junction with nowhere else to go.

So in answer to the objection that ‘the Westway isn’t the best route’, perhaps the best answer is that ‘the Westway should simply be one route among many, not the sole route’.

Or, given it isn’t going to be built now, would have been one route among many.

‘The Westway should be torn down, not have a cycleway put on it’

Maybe it should – it’s a ridiculous stub of motorway-centric planning, one of the small bits that actually ended up being built in central London. But as ‘tearing down’ doesn’t appear to be on the cards any time soon, the most immediate short-term choice is not between tearing the Westway down and keeping it up, it’s between having a Westway as it is now, or a Westway with less capacity for motor traffic and a useful cycle route on it.

Or, at least, that would have been the choice. In any case, the notion that putting a cycle route on the Westway is ‘bad’ because the Westway shouldn’t even exist in the first place is, frankly, deeply silly. (If anything, putting a cycle route on the Westway would partially strengthen a case for removal, by permanently reducing traffic capacity on it).

‘This was a route driven by ego, not by practicalities’

This is an objection that is almost entirely addressed by the ‘route-based’ point above.

The East-West Superhighway didn’t end up on the Westway because of ‘ego’, but because it was a route of last resort. While it did generate headlines, partly because of the symbolism of putting cycling infrastructure on central London’s most car-centric piece of infrastructure, this was actually the path of least resistance, the one least likely to generate difficulties and opposition. Indeed, almost the complete opposite of an ego-driven choice. By contrast, attempting to create a high-quality cycleway route on roads controlled by the London borough that – until now – has proven extremely hostile to high-quality cycleways on main roads is, on the face of it, extremely impractical.

I remain hopeful, of course, and I would absolutely love to see excellent cycling infrastructure come to fruition along these roads in Kensington and Chelsea (and in Hammersmith and Fulham). The Westway, however, would have formed a useful route in its own right, and could already have been under construction, in parallel to any proposed plans for roads in these boroughs.


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