A third big bicycle parking garage for Utrecht

BicycleDutch - 16 April, 2018 - 23:01
A third large new bicycle parking facility was opened last Thursday in Utrecht. It is also the third largest parking garage near the central railway station, with a capacity of … Continue reading →
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Ghent - Changing the Whole Circulation Plan Overnight: a Strong Political Decision

Copenhagenize - 12 April, 2018 - 11:27

When passengers get out of the train, they usually recognise a bicycle-friendly city by the number of bicycles parked by the entrance of the station. There is no need to say that Ghent is one of those.
Copenhagenize Design Co. works hard to analyse and showcase the Top 20 large bicycle-friendly cities in the world for the Copenhagenize Index. But some smaller cities, with less than 600,000 inhabitants deserve to be highlighted for their ambitious measures in favor of urban cycling. Ghent, a Belgian city of around 250,000 inhabitants is one of them.Clotilde and Cécile from Copenhagenize Design Co. cycled with Ghent’s Mobility Councillor, Filip Watteeuw to observe the positive impacts of the City’s new circulation plan.

New Circulation Plan Makes Space for Bicycle UsersThe new circulation plan, implemented in April 2017, was the outcome of a two-year process where the City of Ghent sought to strengthen an existing sustainable mobility policy and to give back the streets to people. The plan was inspired by the Van Der Berg traffic circulation plan implemented in Groningen, the Netherlands in the 1970s. The Groningen’s plan divided the city-centre into four sections, forcing  car drivers who travel from one section to another to take the city’s inner ring-road, instead of driving through the local streets. This measure aimed to make motorists’ circulation more complicated and to promote other modes of transportation, like cycling.

“A pro-bicycle plan must have some anti-car measures” - Filip Watteeuw Ghent took this approach a step further by enlarging the city’s pedestrian area and creating six distinct sections with no automobile accessibility between them without using the ring-road.
Ghent’s new circulation plan : the pedestrian area (dark purple) and the six areas.

Prior to the implementation of the plan, the City of Ghent recorded that 40% of its rush hour car traffic was due to through traffic – cars not even beginning or ending their journeys in Ghent, but merely passing through. The plan aims to controlling this traffic and thereby improve local streets and enhance  urban life.
“You can’t become a cycling city, if you don’t say something about cars. In order to increase the number of cyclists and develop a bicycle culture, it’s necessary to take some anti-car measures. If we get rid of the through traffic, you get fewer cars, more space for pedestrians and cyclists, and infrastructure gets an extra value” asserts Filip Watteeuw.
In 2018,  as a result of the circulation plan, the busiest cycle track located along the river will become a pedestrian path and the actual car lanes will be allocated to cyclists and a reduced number of cars.
Filip Watteeuw, Ghent’s Mobility Councillor and Clotilde Imbert from Copenhagenize Design Co.

25% more bicycle users vs. 12% less carsDespite clear goals for local quality of life, the implementation of this ambitious circulation plan has not been a smooth road. In the face of scathing critics, Councillor Watteuw stood firm, and does not regret this political choice to improve living conditions in his city. While leaders of local political parties and some inhabitants opposed to the plan complain about congestion in some streets, a survey conducted by the City revealed that many inhabitants living inside the ring-road consider the streets quieter, with more space for bicycles. People from 25 to 34 years old are the most satisfied.
A noticeable impact of this measure comes from some inhabitants who were quite reticent to this plan, but have already changed their routines by adopting new mobility habits. Generally speaking, 25% of Ghent inhabitants made a decision to change their mobility habits by purchasing an (e-)bike, subscribing to the local public transports or starting car-sharing.
The plan is already having significant impacts on transportation choices. In a year, the impacts of the plan are: 25% increase in bicycle users, 8% increase in public transportation ridership, 12% decrease in car traffic during the rush hour, even 29% less cars on the most important routes within the ring road and 58% in the residential streets. Moreover, 6 interviewed inhabitants out of 10 consider cycling as safer than before. This plan highlights that marketing and public engagement campaigns alone are not enough to make people change their transportation habits, but it is necessary to create the urban conditions which will incentivize changed behaviour.

Although some local shopkeepers worry about decreased revenue, the number of pedestrians in the city-centre did not decline since the adoption of the circulation plan. On the contrary, counters reveal a slight increase from 2% to 10% from August to October 2017 compared with 2016. In order to more accurately evaluate the impacts of this plan, the City has recently decided to increase the number of pedestrian counter locations. In addition to changes in pedestrian traffic, Ghent’s police found the number of traffic accidents have decreased by 25% in the city-centre since the plan implementation. Regarding the air quality, in February 2018 the results of a study will reveal the impacts of the new circulation plan.
4 million Euros were invested the past two years for the preparation and the implementation of the circulation plan, the massive communication related to it and the creation of two shuttles. For reference, a renewal of only one avenue would be more costly.

To activate the urban life, the City of Ghent arranged life-size places to seat and play.

Enhanced Park&Ride and even more bicycle infrastructure For people living in the outskirts of Ghent, the City is also enlarging their Park&Ride offer (from 800 parking spots in 2016 to 3,500 in 2018) in order to allow them to park for free and to switch to bicycles or a free shuttle which will lead them to the city-centre.
Where the car traffic has not been reduced and where cyclists and car drivers can’t share the space, the City knows a plan must still be conducted to improve the standard of cycling infrastructure. During the next six years, the City is going to improve cycling conditions beyond the ring-road.

In conclusion, Ghent’s circulation plan showcases that in a short period smart actions and a rather low budget can lead to positive impacts both in terms of mobility and quality of urban life.

Bicycle infrastructure in GhentVast waiting area for a two-step left turn.

Gently sloped ramps and underpasses allow bicycles to avoid busy car-centric intersections above.

Bicycle parking available at the edge of the city’s pedestrian-only  zone allows people to park for free in a safe and sheltered place.Removing space allocated to cars offers more for bicycle parking.

by Cécile Delannoy, Daniel J. M. Hilhorst, Clotilde ImbertCopenhagenize the planet. And have a lovely day.
Categories: Views

Intersection upgrade: a Banana and a Chips Cone

BicycleDutch - 9 April, 2018 - 23:02
Some of the Dutch cycleways are used so heavily, that they have reached their capacity. This means the authorities need to come up with innovative solutions to make cycling convenient … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

Improving the connections to a cycle bridge

BicycleDutch - 2 April, 2018 - 23:01
The cycle bridge near Berlicum was opened in December 2016. It shortened the ride to Den Dungen, but it didn’t really connect both villages very well yet. A strange detour … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

From the specific to the general

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 28 March, 2018 - 15:23

Imagine a grim, appalling, but unfortunately all-too-common scenario. A primary school is under attack from a deranged gunman. Shots have been fired, and the gunman stalks the school corridors, looking for children to kill. In one of the classrooms, a nine-year-old child is cowering under his desk with his teacher, both hearing the approaching footsteps of the gunman.

As the gunman opens the door to their classroom, we freeze time, and imagine two possible alternative scenarios. In the first, both teacher and pupil are unarmed and defenceless. In the second, the teacher has a firearm, which he has in a holster.

Given these specific circumstances, I’m sure most of us might consider it would be better – at that specific moment – for the teacher to be armed with a gun, than to be unarmed and defenceless. With a gun, he might, at least, be able to surprise the gunman, leaping up from his hiding place and firing several rounds at him, incapacitating him. That would certainly be better than the alternative of being effectively powerless as the gunman enters the classroom.

So, given these specific circumstances, we could reasonably think that is a good idea for a primary school teacher to be armed with a gun.

But would any of us then draw the conclusion that it is a good idea to arm primary school teachers in general? Just because our particular teacher might benefit from having a gun in the specific circumstances of a gunman approaching him down a school corridor, do we then think it makes sense to for all primary school teachers to be equipped with an easy-to-access handgun, throughout the school day?

That – to me at least – actually sounds like a pretty dangerous idea, even if I might have agreed that it would definitely be better for the teacher to have a gun, than to be unarmed, under the specific conditions of our thought experiment. I certainly wouldn’t be easily persuaded that the ubiquitous arming of primary school teachers is consequently a good idea, and I would also be resistant to accusations of being inconsistent.

This is because there are lots of reasons why arming primary school teachers is a bad idea. Those reasons don’t become any less compelling if a primary school teacher might benefit from a handgun in a classroom when the school and its pupils are actually under attack.

To make this even clearer, we could go further and imagine the nine-year-old child is alone in the classroom as the gunman approaches. Again, we might agree that the child having easy access to a handgun at that specific moment might be a good idea, while being appalled at the notion of all nine-year-olds arriving at schools equipped with handguns.

Anyone who is arguing that arming primary school teachers (or nine-year-old children) is a good idea in general, based on a specific, isolated scenario like the one outlined here is effectively performing something amounting to sleight of hand.


It’s a pleasingly simple argument that unfortunately misses out all the reasons why arming nine-year-olds with guns when they go to a school might not be a good idea (negatives), and that also misses out all the other ways we can potentially stop nine-year-olds from being shot (positives).

But of course many people in the United States do actually think like this, at least when it comes to arming teachers. Many schools think it’s a good idea for teachers to be armed. For these people, the potential negatives of teachers being armed aren’t being considered, or are outweighed by the persuasive argument that teachers would then be able to protect themselves once an attack is already underway, something they would not be able to do without a gun. Likewise one powerful way of reducing the likelihood of children being at risk of being shot at in the first place – gun control – is completely unthinkable for a large swathe of American society.

We wouldn’t employ this kind of logic in Britain, would we? Perhaps the closest analogy might be knife crime.


Unpersuasive, right? While we might agree that a teenager being attacked with a knife would – in those specific circumstances – benefit from a stab-proof vest, we wouldn’t think that all teenagers should therefore be walking around in stab-proof vests, or even just those teenagers in areas with particularly high knife-crime. The correct response would be to take positive steps to prevent teenagers from being stabbed in the first place, rather than fitting them all with cumbersome protective equipment – while also taking into account the direct negative consequences of having to wear that protective equipment.

The examples don’t even have to involve violence.


Just because we accept that a pedestrian directly under a falling brick would be better off with a hard hat, we shouldn’t then be compelled to accept that all pedestrians should therefore walk around wearing hard hats. We’ve missed out all the other potential ways we can stop bricks striking people on the head, and all the potential negatives of compelling people to walk around with hard hats on.

And yet. And yet. It is precisely this form of argument that is, unfortunately, extremely common in discussion and debate around cycling safety in Great Britain (and indeed across much of the world).


Certainly, if I was cycling along and I found myself confronted with a motor vehicle heading unavoidably towards me, I may think that – under those specific conditions – some polystyrene might lessen my chances of injury. But as with all these examples here, that would be a poor basis for arguing that anyone cycling around should always wear a helmet. Doing so misses out all the positive ways we can stop people being hit on the head by motor vehicles, and all the negative consequences of forcing people to wear helmets when they want to cycle somewhere.

The problem with all these forms of argument is what Jack Elder calls – in this excellent Twitter thread that inspired this postthe conflation of the specific with the general. (Click to expand the thread)


Possibly contentious assertion: the cycle helmet debate is unhelpful in exactly the same way as the gun control debate: because people confuse systemic effects with specific cases.

— Jack Elder (@jackelder) March 12, 2018

Something might be a good idea under specific, exceptional circumstances, but that’s not a sound basis for suggesting it’s therefore a good idea in general. The aforementioned sleight of hand involves removing that distinction.

This photograph from a recent academic conference on emergency medicine managed to attract 129 retweets, and was shared many more times, by doctors, nurses, students and paramedics, all agreeing with the expressed sentiment that cyclists should definitely wear helmets, at all times, on the basis of the statistics shown in the chart.

Doubtless, in the specific circumstances of people suffering an injury serious enough for them to be admitted to hospital, those injuries could well have been less severe if they had been wearing protective equipment. But is that a sound basis for arguing that all people should wear protective equipment at all times? It most certainly is not. It ignores all the sensible ways we should be preventing injuries from happening in the first place, and ignores all the negative consequences of compelling people to wear protective equipment at all times in an attempt to mitigate serious but rare injuries.

It would be reasonably easy to draw up a similar chart showing the proportion of people admitted to hospital after being injured by falling objects who suffered various forms of head injury, split between those people who happened to have been wearing a hard hat at the time of their injury, and those who weren’t. The ‘hard hat’ group would likely have suffered a smaller proportion of the listed injuries than those people who hadn’t been wearing hard hats. It would be ridiculous, however, to draw the conclusion from that chart that people in general should always wear hard hats. We would have made the mistake of  thinking that because personal protective equipment might reduce the chances of an injury occurring among the population of people who have already been admitted to hospital, personal protective equipment should therefore always be worn – without asking any reasonable questions about

  • how those injuries occurred,
  • how they could have been prevented,
  • whether compelling people to wear protective equipment might have negative unintended consequences,
  • or indeed whether compelling people to wear personal protective equipment has any effect on injury rates at a population level.

We can speculate about why it is helmet-wearing among people cycling that is repeatedly subject to this superficial level of argument. My hunch is that – among other possible explanations – it originates with a failure to conceive of ways in which we can prevent, or lessen the severity of, head injuries to people cycling around, beyond strapping helmets to them. We simply can’t imagine a world in which people cycling around don’t suffer the risks posed by motor traffic, or a world in which cycling could be a genuinely low-risk activity.

Consequently, if we think exposure to motor traffic danger is somehow inevitable, immutable, our responses to cycling injury are inevitably going to be limited to protective equipment. In this sense, our response is analogous to the gun control debate in the United States, where for some people the idea of reducing or even removing access to guns among the general population is effectively unthinkable. Consequently, for these people, guns and the danger posed by them are also inevitable, so much so that arming teachers becomes the only logical response. We shouldn’t be constrained by our failure to imagine alternatives.

Categories: Views

Spring cycling in ʼs-Hertogenbosch

BicycleDutch - 26 March, 2018 - 23:01
People were still ice skating earlier this month in the Netherlands, but now the first bulb flowers are in bloom! Many people went out cycling last Sunday to enjoy one … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

Putting inclusive cycling first in new infrastructure design

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 20 March, 2018 - 12:21

Between 2013 and 2015, a section of the bypass skirting the town of Horsham was widened from four lanes to eight lanes, to incorporate a system of slip roads for access to a new development.



This meant that the bridge I stood on to take the ‘before’ photograph had to be replaced – a new bridge with a wider span was required.

The old bridge was no great loss. Although it was ostensibly a ‘walking and cycling’ bridge, it was built at a time when nobody really thought about cycling, and consequently it was barely wide enough for two people to walk side-by-side, and obviously not sufficiently wide to accommodate cycling in a comfortable way.

So… we got a new bridge, with a longer span. Is it better?

The good news is that it is indeed wider, and has come fitted with dedicated street lighting, although unfortunately I doubt it will be wide enough to accommodate future demand, and it doesn’t separate walking and cycling.

The really bad news is that the bridge has come accompanied with a whole series of obstacles that either deliberately or accidentally make cycling inconvenient.

The deliberate measures are a series of slalom metal barriers, built into the bridge itself, presumably with the intention of slowing down people cycling on one of the access ramps.

In addition, rather than smoothly curving around to join level ground, the end of the ramp has a pair of tight zig-zag bends, designed to minimise the footprint of the bridge (and therefore – surprise surprise! – to avoid the loss of any car parking spaces). These bends are just as awkward to negotiate as the barriers.

Earlier this year, Horsham District Cycling Forum tried out a range of adapted cycles that West Sussex County Council provide for use on the nearby running track. It was an ideal opportunity for seeing just how difficult – or indeed impossible! – it might be to negotiate this bridge, and its obstacles, on non-standard cycles.

Before we starting using them, my instinct was that it may indeed be impossible to negotiate the bridge, especially with the Van Raam wheelchair transport bike, shown in the photograph above. The bends and the barriers would simply prove too tight.

However – and to my slight surprise – it did turn out to be possible. But only just. The turning cycle on the Van Raam is actually pretty good – the front wheels steer at the same time as the front part of the bike pivots, and that allowed me to steer around the bends, and through the barriers – although with only millimetres to spare. You can see my experience in the video below.

Both the bends and the barriers are extremely tight, requiring a great deal of precision to negotiate. Although it is just about possible, we really shouldn’t be making life so difficult for people who might be using non-standard cycles.

I was, of course, using the Van Raam without the weight of a passenger. Repeatedly having to come to a near stop to manoeuvre around the barriers and bends will make it pretty hard work for anyone with that extra weight, especially given the gradient of the ramp.

The start of the video also shows the difficulties presented to users of these cycles by conventional ‘shared use’ footways. These arrangements might be relatively easily negotiable (at least at slow speed) by people on standard cycles, but it was pretty tight for me on the Van Raam. The dropped kerbs, bumps, slopes and tactile paving – as well as the relatively narrow width, shared with pedestrians – all make for unnecessarily hard work. It’s an important reason why the ‘shared use footway’ approach isn’t particularly inclusive.

Designing properly for cycling should start with the basic assumption that it must be fully accessible for the full range of cycling vehicles that are available today. If we aren’t designing for that standard, then we risk making it extremely difficult or impossible for those users who are already at a disadvantage.

A cycling bridge – over a much smaller road – in the Dutch city of Den Bosch, that has a smooth gradient, and no barriers or unnecessary obstacles. It is possible.

Categories: Views

Get a green light quicker with Schwung

BicycleDutch - 19 March, 2018 - 23:01
In the future we will communicate with smart traffic lights, predicted the traffic light expert of my hometown ʼs-Hertogenbosch in an interview for my blog in 2016. “In some way … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

Testing cycle signage in a ‘Living Lab’

BicycleDutch - 12 March, 2018 - 23:01
Brand new cycle destination signs, reminding of metro-line information signs, were placed alongside a test route in Tilburg. That city and the province of North Brabant are testing this new … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

Using the Antwerp Bike Share System

BicycleDutch - 5 March, 2018 - 23:01
I cycled in another country again! On a recent visit to Antwerp, Belgium, I used the local completely automated bike share system. It was the first time I ever used … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

The ‘Tall Bridge’ of Maastricht

BicycleDutch - 26 February, 2018 - 23:01
The bridge for cycling and walking across the river Meuse (Maas) in Maastricht has become a modern icon for the city in the 15 years it has existed. The arch … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

Farewell Papirøen, hello Nordhavn!

Copenhagenize - 26 February, 2018 - 10:26
Park where you want outside our new Nordhavn office
For the last four years Copenhagenize Design Company has had the pleasure of calling Copenhagen’s Papirøen, or Paper Island, home. Alongside a handful of dynamic offices, studios, ateliers, galleries, and restaurants, we’ve watched as this tiny island smack dab in the middle of the city has grown from a collection of unassuming newsprint warehouses to a thriving destination. 
The transformation of the island was part of an innovative urban planning experiment exercised by the City to open the formerly closed off island before it is developed into a rich man’s ghetto/architectural gem (depending on how you look at it). Of course much of the success of Papirøen is owed to a relatively recent investment in a string of new bicycle bridges, stitching the areas of Christianshavn, Nyhavn, and Holmen together. 

The Island has served us well, hosting late night parties, international delegation visits, winter bathing sessions, impromptu meetings and drop-ins, harbour-front lunches, synchronized diving sessions (read fails), Master Class parties, not to mention a couple company milestones.
Participants from the 2017 Master Class enjoying life on Paper IslandBut as of this week, we’ve packed up all our gear and headed out to Nordhavn, a new corner of the city, with similar DIY, urban/maritime vibes that make Copenhagen such a fascinating city. And yes, the district is one giant urban development experiment with cutting edge sustainable energy solutions, mobility models, iconic wind farms, historic fortresses, and new urban spaces. Pretty much all an urbanism office could ask for.
Inside the halls of our new space on NordhavnHere’s to our future at Nordhavn, with new neighbours, landscapes, and of course, a rolling start to the forthcoming CPH Bike Hub. As always, our doors are open, so shoot us a line or drop by for a coffee, you can find us on the second floor of Sundkaj 7.p.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 11.0px 'Helvetica Neue'; color: #000000; -webkit-text-stroke: #000000} p.p2 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 11.0px 'Helvetica Neue'; color: #000000; -webkit-text-stroke: #000000; min-height: 12.0px} span.s1 {font-kerning: none}

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

A common urban intersection in the Netherlands

BicycleDutch - 19 February, 2018 - 23:01
Can urban intersections can be designed in such a way that motor traffic, cycling and walking flow smoothly and that the potential conflicts of these very different types of traffic … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

Reversing a 50-year-old cycle detour

BicycleDutch - 12 February, 2018 - 23:01
The city of Utrecht reversed a 50-year-old detour for cycling on a main route in the city centre. For all that time cycling had been diverted around the shortest motorway … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

A Waste of Space

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 8 February, 2018 - 13:43

In London yesterday evening, I approached Parliament Square along the cycleway at Great George Street.

Good job TfL.

In front of me was perhaps the classic stereotypical scene shared by taxi drivers, and other people hostile to new cycling infrastructure in London (and other British towns and cities). A large expanse of empty tarmac loomed in front of me, contrasting starkly with the clogged road on the right. You might say the cycleway is ‘causing’ congestion and pollution, if you were so inclined.

In the distance – on the ’empty’ tarmac – two cyclists (maybe three? who cares, really) are waiting at a red signal. On the right, frustrated drivers are needlessly spewing out fumes, and doubtless fuming themselves, at the waste of space on their left. Valuable space that – if it were used properly for important motor traffic, not for some silly hobby – would have sped them to their destination about half an hour ago.

Surely, a superficial observer might think, it would make a great deal of sense to ‘free up’ that tarmac, using it to move all those motor vehicles more efficiently. It’s just obvious, surely? The cycling infrastructure is just a waste of space.

But of course things aren’t that simple. How many people are actually waiting at the lights on bikes? It doesn’t look like many, but it turns out that when you get close there are… five. All tucked together in a small amount of space.

How about that queue of cars and taxis? How many people are waiting there? Must be loads, surely?

Well, one of the taxis in the queue – the white one, three from the front – is carrying… nobody at all.

The taxi at the front of the queue, waiting to enter Parliament Square is also carrying… nobody at all.

A further quick survey of the queue revealed that the other four vehicles in the queue – a Range Rover behind this black taxi, a red taxi behind the white one, the Ford people carrier, and the small hatchback, are all only carrying… one person. (the red taxi has one one passenger). So that means that in my original photograph –

 There are more people being moved somewhere on the cycleway (five), than on the road (four).

I think this is an extremely common way of misreading traffic flow, and hence misdiagnosing problems. Even I felt instinctively uneasy at what appeared to be a very long queue of motor traffic, apparently being ‘held up’ for the benefit of ‘just a few’ cyclists. It was only when I found out how many people cycling were actually waiting at the lights, and closely examined how many people were actually in the motor vehicles, that I got a objective answer that directly contradicted my instinctive impression. It’s such an easy mistake to make.

Motor traffic seems big, and important. All the noise, the size of the vehicles, the (occasional) speed – it seems like it’s conveying lots of people, and fast. But in reality it’s an extremely inefficient way of moving people around urban areas. Cars take up lots of space, and clog up roads, precisely because of this intrinsic inefficiency. It’s also why photographs are a very poor way of attempting to demonstrate that cycling infrastructure is pointless – it rarely manages to capture the genuine volumes of people being moved on it, relative to the road. What really matters are actual figures on flow, not photographs that are all to easy to misinterpret (or indeed photographs that are used to mislead).

Private motor traffic is the real waste of space. Not cycling infrastructure.

To repeat the ‘experiment’ of the first junction, I also stopped at the next two junctions at CS3, and counted vehicle occupants. Here’s ~20 people on the left, versus five on the right.

And again. Fifteen people on the right; six in the motor vehicles in the same length (and more width!) on the left

Categories: Views

“A mate doesn’t let a mate drink drive”: What’s wrong with this campaign?

Road Danger Reduction Forum - 6 February, 2018 - 20:45

The annual government drink-drive campaign had a slightly different approach this year, which I review below. But let’s take a wider analysis of what the annual ritual is about – and what could be wrong with it.The Christmas 2018 annual campaign is entitled “A mate doesn’t let a mate drink drive” and is described by the Department for Transport thus :

Our campaign is calling on friends to do what they do best – look out for each other. We’re specifically calling for mates not to let their mates drink drive, asking them to step in when necessary when a friend who is driving is drinking.

In Great Britain, in 2015, there were 170 young people between the ages of 17 and 24 who were killed or seriously injured in reported accidents when over the legal alcohol limit.

You can see one of the videos on Twitter  and it is described in (extracts from) an account by Road Safety Great Britain as follows :

The video shows a group of friends preventing their designated driver from drinking alcohol at the pub. The driver wants to have one pint, but his friends deliberately continue to spill his drinks – before buying him a non-alcoholic drink.

At the end, the group ‘cheers’ each other with the caption ‘knock it on the head’ – in reference to one of the ways they have prevented the driver from drinking. The video, which contains strong language and what might be considered by some as inappropriate behaviour, has been viewed 5.3m times on Facebook.

A second campaign video, ‘Party Time’, champions the designated driver, who in this case is Dr Ofori – an opinionated Uber Driver played by Michael Dapaah, an English rapper, actor and comedian. The video, which has been viewed more than 4m times, follows a group of mates on a night out with their Uber driver, who sticks to soft drinks while the others drink alcohol. On the journey home, the driver is forced to brake sharply to avoid a pedestrian on his mobile phone – with the driver highlighting his ‘ninja reflexes’ as a result of not having consumed any alcohol. The overarching 2017 THINK! festive campaign puts forward the premise that ‘a mate doesn’t let another mate drink drive’, and depicts celebrity friendships including Ant and Dec, Barack Obama and Joe Biden, and Rodney and Del Boy.

The video signals a move away from the traditional approach taken by the THINK! Campaign, which was outlined by Dawn Lauder, who heads up the marketing team at the DfT, at the National Road Safety Conference 2017. She told delegates that with road safety advertising becoming less noticed, it was time for a new approach to make THINK! more relevant at ‘moments that matter’ to young drivers and their passengers.

Essentially the change from previous campaigns is simply a shift towards social media to get the message over to young people, because that is a more appropriate medium to reach them than traditional media.

I am more interested in how the problem is defined, and how it fits into perceptions of what “road safety” is about.


What’s the problem?

The specification of the problem by the Department for Transport is as follows:

 The THINK! strategy for drink driving is to deter those most at risk — men aged 17 to 34 — from having a second drink.

We think it worth noting that “those most at risk” are the drivers who kill themselves, not their potential victims. While some of the official reports refer to the number of people hurt or killed in accidents (sic) where a driver was over the legal limit, much of the reference is to those (as above) killed in incidents when they were over the legal limit. Right from the start there is a blurring of the distinction between those who are judged to be at risk of hurting/killing themselves and hurting/killing other people.

At this point we should make the road danger reduction view clear: drink (or drug) driving is wrong because it increases the potential for those in charge of motor vehicles – which is there for all drivers to start off with – to hurt or kill other road users. It is rightly defined as criminal because of this and because it is something which drivers are aware of: it is easy to know that you have been consuming alcohol. Nevertheless, while there is, for example, no measurable indicator for levels of fatigue, a responsible driver will be aware of the fact that they are tired and are not safe to drive.

Drink-driving (and drug-driving, to which the same issues apply) is therefore something which should be stigmatised and condemned because it is one – but only one – of the numerous forms of rule and law breaking by those in charge of motor vehicles which increase danger to others.

That’s what the problem is. Putting a number on its extent is difficult. For example, it tends to occur at certain times such as evenings and early mornings at weekends rather than a fixed proportion of all driver journeys. It will be more common among certain age groups (hence the focus of the campaign). It gets recorded in some police stops, which are restricted to a very small proportion of driver journeys . Questionnaires suggest that approximately a million drivers drink before driving at any time in the year, but these may be underestimates because of the (justifiable) stigmatisation of drink-driving and associated unwillingness to admit to it.
On top of this, it is more than possible that drink-driving is implicated in many of the instances where drivers fail to stop (hit and run). Above all, discussion tends to be restricted to those incidents where death or injury has occurred and police investigate, particularly where death occurs and also where the drink-driver has hurt or killed themselves.

So, as a proportion of all the road danger that exists – that is to say danger to road users, which essentially comes from the (mis)use of motor vehicles – it is difficult to say how much comes from drink/drug driving. However, a good rough estimate would seem to be about 10 -15%. In other words the vast majority of road danger – more specifically rule and law breaking by those in charge of motor vehicles – comes from sober drivers.


The lightning conductor issue

Some years ago an RDRF supporter who worked as a driving instructor (yes, a driving instructor can be a supporter of road danger reduction!) was chatting to me about his pet road danger hates. One of his favourites was drivers who would tell him that they were a “good driver” (aren’t all drivers “good drivers”?) because they didn’t drink and drive. Obviously he wasn’t excusing drink driving: his point was that it was being used as diversion from the vast majority of bad driver behaviours.

Sociology, anthropology and cultural studies are full of examples of stigmatised, deviant and outlier behaviours which function to stabilise and validate the mainstream and non-deviant. Our concern here is that drink-driving functions in public consciousness as a means of shifting attention away from most of the endangering behaviour in the road environment. (At this point see the discussion in a wider context in Chapter 12 here :although the data is now 25 years old, the main argument still applies).

After all, when we are under the influence of alcohol, we are “not ourselves”. Thus drink-driving is something bad, but in essence not what normal, typical drivers do.
But what normal, typical drivers do is what is responsible for the vast majority of rule and law breaking behaviour which endangers others.


The “mates” issue

The one new development in the campaign is the relentless stress on the responsibility, not of the drink driver, but of their friends. It’s all about the “mate”…What does this tell us about how safety on the road is viewed by the government body responsible for “road safety”?

1. The driver as pathetic.

Young men are more likely to be inexperienced as drinkers, and inexperienced as drivers. Young men have always been higher-level risk takers. Nevertheless, they are deemed legally old enough both to drive and to drink alcohol. Everybody knows that it is illegal to be in charge of a motor vehicle when under the influence of alcohol.

But this is not accepted by the campaign. We are presented with a driver – in at least one case – who is the “designated driver”, selected to be sober when driving his friends. He must know that he is driving a motor vehicle. He must know that the liquid served at the pub or party is alcoholic – it’s why there is a designated driver in the first place.

But the picture painted is of someone old enough to drive and know what alcohol is, who somehow is just too unintelligent (in which case one wonders: why is he driving a car in the first place?) to remember that he is the designated driver. The person concerned is someone who is just too hopeless to be considered responsible. This brings us to:

2. The driver as requiring others to take control.

Because of this level of irresponsibility, the drink driver has to be controlled by his mate(s). He is so incapable of making the correct choice on the most basic decision – whether to drive under the influence of alcohol or not – that someone else has to make this choice for him. In this case, the person(s) required to do so will also, somewhat strangely, be a young man under the influence of alcohol. The point is that the driver requires someone else to make the most basic decision for him.

Indeed, much of the message of “road safety” over its 100-year history is about assuming that drivers are incompetent. The thrust of engineering has been to make vehicles more crashworthy, and of the highway environment to be easier to drive in and more “forgiving” to rule and law breaking drivers. It is all about assuming that ordinary drivers will be either unable or unwilling to drive properly. This directly contradicts the core of motorist identity – which is that a motorist is someone who is properly in charge.

So we have the idea that a driver cannot be criticised for their driving, but that they should be controlled when it comes to breaking a well-known and basic law.

3. The driver should be controlled by his “mate”.

The person endowed with this special responsibility has to be a “mate”. And remember that this appears to be restricted to drink-driving and not, for example, speeding.

At this point I should confess to a personal experience. Although this has the limitations of all anecdotes, you may find some resonances with your own experience. Some years ago I (quite mildly) remarked to a man in our group at a pub that he was going to be driven home by his wife, who was just over the legal limit for alcohol consumption, and that this was wrong. This person was a “driving instructor”.

In the ensuing blast of outrage from him – fortunately he was too stunned by this bit of taboo-breaking to progress beyond verbal violence – one remark sticks in my memory:

“You’re not even a friend of mine!” he shouted.

4. Driving behaviour is the personal choice of a driver

The requirement for a friend to be the agent of control is a key element of car culture and “road safety” mythology: the behaviour of the driver is essentially a personal matter for the driver. As such, intervention is to be carried out by someone who has been selected by the driver, namely their “mate”. My suggestion is that appeals for mates to become involved may not have much success: the persistence in thinking that driving is the personal business of the driver is resistant to intervention. But that’s a secondary point. The main point is the reiteration of the notion that even basic law-breaking is a matter for the motorist to decide upon.

This echoes the message we often get in court cases where killer drivers are seen as victims (“s/he will have to live with this for the rest of their life”) rather than perpetrators of an offence. Indeed, the DfT campaign, under the heading “The consequences” refers to potential problems for the convicted drink driver, rather than the effect on other members of society. Obviously it makes sense to direct a potential offender’s attention to adverse consequences for them, as well as the anti-social nature of the offence. The point I am making is that the DfT and “road safety” industry approach is based very much on the notion of driving as being a personal matter which is up to them and possibly a close friend, rather than something which is dangerous law-breaking.



This can all be seen in the context of the current uproar from motorist organisations against the suggestion by the UK’s top traffic police officer that police should actually enforce road traffic law.  Driving illegally is still seen as the prerogative of the driver rather than a crime. Even the outlier of drink driving is viewed as a personal matter: control should be exerted, but by personal friends only.

Now, it may be that the winter 2017/2018 campaign has managed to stop some in the target audience from drink-driving, or letting their “mates” drink drive, although the effect of advertising and publicity is notoriously difficult to assess. My point is that we need to look at it both as an example of the lightning conductor effect, and as a public health message which situates it as a problem for the driver and his intimate friends.

I suggest that if we are to properly situate rule and law breaking driving as the anti-social activity it is, our culture must produce very different messages in official campaigns against road danger.

Categories: Views

Cycling rush hours in the dark

BicycleDutch - 5 February, 2018 - 23:01
Although it is now rapidly changing for the better, we are still in the dark season. From early November to late February the hours of daylight are so few, that … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

New underground bicycle parking facility in Maastricht

BicycleDutch - 29 January, 2018 - 23:01
The league of Dutch cities with a huge underground bicycle parking facility near their main train stations has grown again. Maastricht opened the latest bike parking garage on the first … Continue reading →
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A spontaneous cycle trip from Rotterdam to Delft

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 24 January, 2018 - 13:50

BicycleDutch’s post yesterday about his unexpected 55km cycling journey reminded me that I had also made an unplanned cycle trip in the Netherlands, due to a railway being out of action. Unlike his journey, however – which was long, and in the dark, and in the aftermath of a storm – mine was a good deal shorter, and took place on what turned out to be a glorious, hot, sunny day.

Last summer, I was heading home from the VeloCity conference in Arnhem and Nijmegen. My initial plan was to cycle towards Arnhem on the fast cycle route from Nijmegen, and then spend the day cycling around in Utrecht and Rotterdam, before finally catching the the train (with my bike) to the evening ferry crossing back to the UK.

The initial part went to plan – I cycled towards Arnhem, before getting on a train at Elst (about two-thirds of the way between Nijmegen and Arnhem). This was a typically impressive new station, with a cycling underpass directly under the tracks (although I was a little bit surprised there was no walking-specific provision here).

A change at Arnhem took me and my bike quickly to Utrecht, where I discovered a problem. All the trains to Hoek van Holland (where the ferry departs) were not running, because the train tracks were being dug up and replaced. As I saw for myself when I arrived, some time later.

I hadn’t spotted this when I arrived in the Netherlands, because I had cycled directly off the ferry towards Rotterdam and Gouda.

So I decided to change my plan, aborting my visit to Utrecht, and heading straight to Rotterdam, from where I could at least think about the best way of getting to the ferry terminal (either by cycling, or by public transport).

Rotterdam Centraal station – and the area in front of it – is tremendously impressive, and I spent some time here taking photographs of the hordes of people cycling and walking to and from, and past, the station. The area is dominated by active travel and public transport, with the only sounds being conversation, the dinging bells of passing trams, and the occasional motor vehicle using the access road, some distance away.

As I was doing this, and still musing about what to do, I spotted the standard Dutch cycling signposts beside the cycle path in the photograph above, which indicated that the city of Delft was only 15km away (about 9 miles). I’d never cycled between Rotterdam and Delft, but I had cycled between Delft and the ferry terminal many times, a journey of about fifteen miles. Adding the two together and I’d have a journey of about 24 miles, with the first part being completely unfamiliar.

Without really knowing what I would encounter, and with the added problem of no data roaming on my phone – but trusting that the infrastructure would be of a good standard – I quickly decided to head off in a northwesterly direction, cycling towards Delft, straight under the railway station through the cycling and walking tunnel, under the platforms.

This brought me out on the north side of the station, an area which has also undergone tremendous change. When I last visited these streets in 2011, the road here only had painted cycle lanes, but there was now a wide two-way cycleway, running beside the station, with a wide kerb and parking protecting you from traffic, and new trees that will offer shade and shelter.

You can read more about how this area is changing – with improvements for cycling – on Mark’s blog.

I followed this route as it wound northwards, with priority over side roads.

A quick check of the signs at the next junction (remember, I had no real idea where I was going!) and I found myself on a low-traffic service road next to the main road. Although there are plenty of parked cars here – both accessing the supermarket on the right, and presumably belonging to residents – this felt very safe.

My route then took my beside one of the main roads heading out of the city centre, towards the A20 motorway, which skirts Rotterdam. I encountered a woman riding a horse along the road here, in the suburbs of the city.

As I cycled further and further out of Rotterdam, the environment became increasingly dominated by motor traffic, but the conditions for cycling remained entirely safe and attractive. A petrol station beside a major road was completely bypassed by the cycleway.

I then came across an enormous ‘Spaghetti Junction’-style mess of roads and slip roads layered upon each other.

This turned out to be where two motorways meet, the A20 and the A13 (which connects Rotterdam and Delft). Needless to say my passage through this area involved absolutely no interaction with motor traffic whatsoever – a network of cycleways passed under (and over) all these roads, and with clear signposting was a breeze to negotiate.

This area was a vivid reminder that while the Netherlands does have high cycling levels, it also builds roads on a massive scale, with a dense motorway network connecting the major towns and cities.

A cycle path then took me through a wooded area – note the street lights for social safety –

… before I emerged in a suburb of Rotterdam.

Navigation would now be very easy, because I would be following the motorway (the A13) all the way to Delft. You can see that it is shielded behind noise barriers here, in an attempt to mitigate noise pollution.

Although this was direct, and easy – cycling on a very low-traffic service road, next to the motorway – it quickly became quite boring.

It was also pretty hot now, with the sun beating down, so I was quite relieved when two women on e-bikes overtook me. With a little bit of effort, I was able to get into their slipstream, and draft them all the way to the outskirts of Delft, some five miles away.

This would have been quite relentless without being able to coast along behind them, so this was a real blessing. (And I definitely don’t think it counts as cheating if the people I’m slipstreaming have power assistance!)

If I had planned my route between the cities, instead of just heading out spontaneously, I’m sure there would have been more attractive routes available, rather than just plodding along beside the motorway – as safe as this was. Perhaps that’s something for the future. In any case I soon came across an underpass, back under the motorway, that I had used before in Delft.

This path leads to Delft University, and from there it is only five minutes or so, right into the picturesque city centre, where I was able to cool off and get some refreshment!

Here’s my map of the route – just under ten miles, from city centre to city centre.

My trip may not have been anywhere near as hard as Mark’s (the weather was certainly far better, although perhaps a little too hot!) but it does demonstrate, in a similar way, that it is possible to spontaneously set off and cycle from one Dutch city to another with minimal planning, without worrying about traffic conditions or other difficulties.

Categories: Views

Why are we still waiting? Regent’s Park needs action NOW

At War With The Motorist - 24 January, 2018 - 07:30

Westminster Council have been playing games with the mayor, putting improvements for walking, cycling, public transport and one of our greatest parks in jeopardy. It’s time for Sadiq Khan to get a grip and deliver, before it’s too late.

In December 2016, Sadiq Khan announced construction of CS11, from Swiss Cottage to the West End, would start in 2017. Since then, nothing has happened — and now the whole project is in danger.

CS11, for those unfamiliar, should provide some desperately needed improvements to north London neighbourhoods in Swiss Cottage and Primrose Hill, and even more so to Regent’s Park. Nominally a “Cycle Superhighway” scheme, most of the improvements it makes are somewhat mediocre for cycling — like “semi-segregated” cycle lanes on Avenue Road, and cycle tracks on Portland Place that would probably prove too narrow and soon need upgrading.

Really, CS11 is a set of important improvements to the general environment of the places and neighbourhoods along the route, and that’s where its value lies.

In Swiss Cottage it will remove the vast gyratory of speeding traffic that severs neighbourhoods and suppresses the potential of this local hub. It will transform the public transport interchange here, and provide bus priority to cut journey times on most of the bus routes.

In Primrose Hill and St John’s Wood it will halt the otherwise relentlessly rising tide of ratrunning traffic that is taking over residential streets.

And most importantly of all, in Regent’s Park it closes the gates on the habitually speeding motorists that race through this place of recreation, destroying the peace and polluting the haven of our parkland.

This is a scheme which has huge benefits for residents, park users, public transport passengers and cyclists — for everyone except the drivers who think they should be able to take a short-cut through parks and residential streets. Which is why so many people supported it in the first place, during the consultation stage.

Time is running out and Sadiq Khan needs to get a grip

I have no party allegiances. I’m not anti-Sadiq. He got my (second preference) vote. I like a lot of what he says. And he’s not even the villain here.

The Conservatives of Westminster City Council are the villains. They’ve been playing games with CS11 — and playing games with the Mayor. They’re causing trouble, muddying water, in order to introduce delays until time runs out on the project.

Westminster have introduced an alternative proposal for Regents Park, watering down the changes to the point where they become entirely useless. They suggest closing a token couple of gates for token couple of hours a day, leaving it no less full of speeding traffic and pollution.*

Their proposal is a wrecking amendment: it is obviously useless, and therefore obviously unacceptable to all the other stakeholder organisations at the table. But it will tie everybody up arguing about details it until it’s too late.

Because it seems the rest of the route is now on hold until the park question is resolved. And I’m told that if work doesn’t start on the northern sections of the route soon, it will be too late to complete it before other major construction works are scheduled to begin nearby. Fixing the ever-growing problems blighting the people of Swiss Cottage and Primrose Hill will be off the cards for years.

A walkover in the park

But on this important issue, it’s Sadiq Khan who is not delivering on his pledges and not showing the leadership of the mayor of a great city.

Closing the gates and restoring Regent’s Park should be such an easy, quick win. It’s popular. It’s cheap. It needs no lengthy or disruptive construction or preparation. It has already been consulted on and received wide support. The gates are shut from midnight to 7am every night anyway — it is literally more effort to open them every day than to keep them shut. If a leader can’t deliver this, what can they deliver?

A clean park, a fresh air haven in the centre of the city, could have been a fantastic, highly visible signal from an incoming Mayor that he’s taking air pollution seriously and leading with practical action.

Instead we’re nearly half way through this Mayoral term with nothing to show for it.

Sadiq Khan criticised his predecessor for his cavalier style, for pushing schemes forward without doing enough to address all the concerns raised by everybody affected. The professed approach of Khan, and his deputy for transport Val Shawcross, is to “take more time” and work through problems to make sure everybody’s happy.

Westminster’s Tory councillors have seen this and they have walked right over him.

Westminster are taking the piss, and eventually a leader has to stand up to that and not allow themselves to be played so easily.

A beast is stirring

Half way through Boris Johnson’s first term, people started getting tired of his bluster. Johnson made grandiose promises about the scale of his cycling programme which were visibly lacking in substance on the ground. He thought the constituency of people who cared strongly about this stuff was small.

Then some things started happening.

It began on Blackfriars Bridge. It was the tiniest of things really. A plan to revert a 20mph speed restriction, and replace a mandatory cycle lane with an advisory one, upon completion of the new Blackfriars Station.

A mediocre speed limit change and a rubbish bit of paint. Hardly quality infrastructure worth fighting for. But symbolic of a mayor who was so ineffective that he was letting things slide backwards — even the things that should have been so ludicrously easy to achieve.

It turned out there were a lot of people who cared. Thousands turned up to flashrides and rallies, and began making their voices heard.

It ended five years later, with that junction at Blackfriars transformed beyond recognition.

The people who got angry, and got organised, at Boris Johnson were placated when he finally delivered, and when Sadiq Khan was elected with a pledge to continue — and accelerate — the progress.

But once again, we’re half way through a mayoral term. Once again there has been a lot of talk and not much to show for it.

I feel the beast is getting restless.

*To really take the piss, and really slow things down, they even propose an entirely new change — to make Hanover Gate entry only — which nobody yet seems to have noticed is another one of those turning restrictions which actually facilitate increased motor traffic throughput. Dressed up and paid for as a cycling project of course.

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