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2016 in Review

Copenhagenize - 31 December, 2016 - 15:50


Here on the cusp of a new year, Copenhagenize Design Company looks back on our activities in 2016. All of our offices have been busy and we are, in retrospect, thrilled and humbled by the past 12 months.
Our offices in Copenhagen and France - the latter being the HQ for all our work in French speaking countries - have experienced an unprecedented level of work for client cities. Our new office in Barcelona is gearing up and our most recent new office, in Montreal, hit the ground running.
Here is a summary of our work in 2016.
Bicycle Planning and Coaching
Planning and coaching for client cities is, of course, still our primary focus and core competence at Copenhagenize Design Company. It is also in this area that we are experiencing an exponential growth in our client base.
City of Almetyevsk, Tatarstan, Russia



Starting with the City of Almetyevsk is obvious for us. It is simply the most exciting project we are involved in - and wilder than our wildest dreams. We were hired by the city after an email exchange back in October 2015, to develop a bicycle infrastructure network and strategy for this city of 150,000. We were no stranger to the task but we didn’t quite realise what kind of visionary client had hired us at the time.
Ayrat Khayrullin is the young, ambitious mayor who acknowledged the importance of a holistic bicycle strategy that values Best Practice, world-class facilities, constructive communication strategies and above all, dedicated cycle tracks. From the get-go, Khayrullin expressed one clear goal: to transform Almetyevsk into the most bicycle friendly city in Russia, one where he would feel confident sending his young year-old son off to school by bike.
In our preliminary meetings with the city, we quickly agreed on the process and the goals. 200 km of bicycle infrastructure in a cohesive network of Best Practice infrastructure. Nothing less. At our meetings in the city in Fall 2015, we were told that they wanted to get to work on construction in Spring 2016.
We developed a vision for a not-so-distant future Almetyevsk: “A place where the young and old, rich and poor, can cycle alongside one another on a safe and connected network of best practice bicycle infrastructure.” Some more quantifiable goals will help in guiding this vision forward into the future.
Construction on the project began in late May, 2016, coinciding with Russia’s annual bicycle parade day and a ribbon cutting ceremony, celebrating the first 50 km of Best Practice, separated bicycle infrastructure in a cohesive network.
Read more about the Almetyevsk project here.
City of Long Beach, California


With a large bicycle sculpture mounted on the side of their City Hall, the City of Long Beach has quite literally seized the title of “America’s most bicycle friendly city”. This year they’ve continued to champion the bicycle as a legitimate mode of transportation by bringing Copenhagenize Design Co. on board with two separate projects. The first has us advising the City not only on collecting new data on the who, where, why and hows of cycling in Long Beach, but ensuring the newfound data will be presented to the public in an accessible and informative manner. We’ve also been working with Long Beach’s endlessly impressive Department of Public Works, coaching them through more difficult infrastructure solutions from a bicycle user’s perspective.
The bicycle urbanism future in Long Beach is as bright as the sun that shines down on it.
City of Detroit


In the American city synonymous with the automotive industry, the bicycle is returning to the urban landscape. In a big way. Copenhagenize Design Co. has been brought onboard to develop a network strategy for Detroit’s greater downtown. Connecting the downtown core with surrounding universities, hospitals, cultural destinations and surrounding neighbourhoods, the project aims to introduce a network of protected, connected bicycle infrastructure. Accompanying the infrastructure plan will be public education campaigns presents cycling in a normative, accessible, and affirmative tone.
We are thrilled by the energy and drive coming out of the planning department and City Hall about remodelling Detroit into a city of the future.
City of Paris - Bike Share


The City of Paris has plans to upgrade and expand their much lauded bike share programme, Velib, farther into the Greater Paris area. Paris was one of the first major cities to launch a large-scale bike-share scheme in 2007. Almost 10 years later, the contract with the bike share provider had to be renewed and the City of Paris hired the French consulting firm Inddigo and Copenhagenize Design Co. to assist in defining the future of the scheme and the expansion into the suburbs of Greater Paris. Copenhagenize brought our focus on user-friendliness and an international benchmark of qualitative bike share programmes to the table. We presented new services and technology that have been developed to meet users’ expectations.
City of Paris – Cycling Superhighway

All the cool kids are thinking about bicycle superhighways as a transport solution and Paris is no exception. Copenhagenize Design Co. was hired by the City of Paris to provide a study on the current cycling climate and the upcoming plans for a network of protected cycle tracks throughout the city. Copenhagenize profiled cyclists and analysed seven intersections with our Desire Line Analysis Tool in order to provide the city with a comprehensive understanding of cycling conditions before turning the main boulevards into a network of safe infrastructure for bicycle users. In addition, we provided them with a range of international best practices to manage intersections that will allow the city to upgrade the current cycling climate in the city.
City of Bordeaux

The City of Bordeaux employed Copenhagenize Design Co. to organise workshops, an inspirational keynote and a study trip to Copenhagen - The City of Cyclists.
Before setting up an action plan for improving cycling conditions of their territory, Bordeaux Métropole asked us to provide advice and inspiration based on the Danish bicycle urbanism model. After attending a keynote in Bordeaux and participating in a study trip to Copenhagen, the politicians unanimously voted for an ambitious Cycling Strategy for the next four years in order to make cycling a comfortable and competitive means of transportation in the Greater Bordeaux area. Moreover, Bordeaux Métropole is working on developing bicycle-friendly areas which will be used to set up a new standard of both qualitative infrastructure and services for cyclists.
City of Strasbourg


Copenhagenize Design Co. and our partner, Inddigo, were hired by Strasbourg Eurométropole to advise the local authority on all topics related to cycling for the next four years. It’s exciting for us to work in a city where political will to develop cycling infrastructure has been consistent for many years. In 2016, this partnership started by the creation of a visual identity and a new wayfinding for the well-structured cycling superhighway network, VéloStras, running through the whole metropolitan area. We look forward to the next four years of work with Strasbourg.
City of Amsterdam
After working with the City of Amsterdam on Desire Line Analyses, we were tasked with designing urban solutions and ideas for how the city could inspire local cyclists and provide them with facilities that would both make them feel welcome and benefit safety.
Keynotes and Presentations

Regarding keynotes and presentations, we continued where we left off in inspiring cities and local stakeholder about the possibilities of taking the bicycle seriously as transport once again. Our CEO, Mikael Colville-Andersen, continues to do his renowned keynotes around the world, as he has done for the past eight years. Now, with our growing team in our international offices, we are reaching out to a broader range of audiences and sharing our experience, expertise and core philosophies. Between Mikael, James Thoem (Copenhagen), Clotilde Imbert (Brussels), Jordi & Marie Elisa (Barcelona) and Michael Wexler (Montreal) we have spoken at conferences in, among other cities, Berlin, Rome, Graz, Oslo, Salt Lake City, Barcelona, Denver, Cairo, Vancouver, Montreal, Bordeaux and Moscow.
Delegations and Study Tours

It’s one thing telling the story to audiences around the world. It’s quite another hosting delegations right here in Copenhagen. It is inspiring for us to be able to show Copenhagen for what it is, cycling around with groups from all over the world. There is no shortage of study groups and delegations making the journey to Copenhagen and Copenhagenize Design Co. is a primary choice for foreign engineers, planners, policymakers and student groups looking to decode the Danish bicycle urbanism model. In 2016 we hosted delegations from eight countries, with a total of over 250 participants.
The Master Class by Copenhagenize

Again this year we cast ourselves headlong into the Master Class fray in June. Twenty participants from four continents were selected to attend our three day, total immersion Master Class in the City of Cyclists. Sharing concepts, thoughts, and ideas with such an amazing group of participants remains one of our educational highlights year after year.
Exhibitions

This year saw an increase in the number of exhibitions that featured our work. - Bikeology Cycling Exhibition, Museum of Applied Arts, in Budapest, Hungary.- Bike To The Future, Design Museum Ghent, in Belgium.- Mutations Urbaines: la ville est à nous!, Cité des sciences & de l’industrie in Paris, France.
After such an inspiring year, all the crew at Copenhagenize Design Co. around the world are looking forward to 2017. Thanks to all our clients for making 2016 so brilliant. Copenhagenize the planet. And have a lovely day.
Categories: Views

A video review of my 2016 posts and videos

BicycleDutch - 19 December, 2016 - 23:01
To review 2016 I made a video that includes short clips of every video I published this year. It is a good tradition to look back at all that you’ve … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

The myth of the blameless cyclist

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 16 December, 2016 - 19:01

One thing shown into sharp relief by the news that Transport Secretary Chris Grayling ‘doored’ someone cycling back in October is that there is simply nothing you can do to make yourself blameless when you are riding a bike.

From the video it is clear that the victim wasn’t riding fast; he was wearing a hi-visibility jacket; he was wearing a helmet. And, in moving between the kerb and stationary traffic, he simply wasn’t doing anything wrong. The blame lies entirely with the person who opened the car door without checking, and with the driver of that vehicle, for failing to check it was safe for the passenger to open his door (and for failing to move to the kerb to safely allow his passenger to exit the vehicle).

Yet this incident has led to the predictable ‘whose side are you on?’, ‘whose fault is it?’ media nonsense that inevitably follows video footage of this form going viral.

The inevitable Daily Mail

Even the BBC – who really should be above this kind of behaviour – are apparently happy to wallow in the same swamp of antagonism.

… And the sadly just-as-inevitable BBC take

This follows a similar incident that made the national press a few days ago, in which a man cycling on a marked cycleway (albeit one just painted on a footway) was taken out by a driver who simply failed to look as he turned into his own driveway. Again, this particular cyclist had a helmet on, had bright lights, but of course he slipped up by not wearing yellow clothes, leaving the door open for blame –

Tony is now warning other motorists to be vigilant when it comes to the ‘hidden’ cycle lane. He said the biker was not wearing high visibility clothing and he did not see him due to the darkness and bright lights of on coming traffic.

We have, apparently, similar blame-shifting from Grayling, who seems to have claimed that the cyclist he injured was ‘going too fast’. We only have the victim’s word on this, but it seems entirely plausible. Many years ago I was sent flying over the bonnet of a driver’s car as he pulled out of a side road onto Oxford High Street when I was only a few feet away from him. He drove away without even getting out of his car, only muttering that I was ‘going too fast’, that familiar refrain from someone who simply failed to look.

The point is that there is simply nothing you can do to avoid this blame-shifting. Your blamelessness is irrelevant. Some minor fault will be found with your behaviour, and even if it isn’t, facts don’t matter. The law will be interpreted according to the rule that the cyclist must have been something wrong, it stands to reason, doesn’t it, bloody undertakers, going up the inside, going up the outside, hogging the middle of the lane in front of me, going too fast, going too slow, suicidal maniacs, all of them.

Why do we have these curious attitudes? The most plausible answer is that ‘cyclists’ are of course an outgroup.  See these comments from Dr Ian Walker, worth quoting in full –

… there’s some classic social psychology at work here – cyclists represent an outgroup such that the usual outgroup effects are seen, particularly overgeneralisation of negative behaviour and attributes – ‘They all ride through red lights all the time’. It’s hard to escape the conclusion that something of this sort is going on.

However, there has to be more to it than just this. For a long time I wondered if the outgroup status of cyclists was compounded by two other known social psychological factors: norms and majority vs. minority groups. Not only are cyclists an outgroup, they’re also a minority outgroup. Moreover, they are engaging in an activity that is deemed slightly inappropriate in a culture that views driving as normative and desirable and, arguably, views cycling as anti-conventional and possibly even infantile.

But even adding these factors into the mix does not explain all the anger that cyclists experience. It’s easy to identify other minority outgroups whose behaviour similarly challenges social norms but who do not get verbally and physically attacked like cyclists do: vegetarians, for example. So there’s clearly one or more important variables that we’ve not identified yet. Any social psychologists looking for a challenge are very welcome to wade into this.

And we can see this explanation at play in the Grayling incident. Added to the background societal generalisations about ‘cyclists’ and their behaviour, we have a person engaging in an activity that very few people will actually engage in, and indeed that very few people would regard as normal. That is to say, cycling on roads in the centre of a city. And not just a mere minority pursuit, but one that is seen as odd and incomprehensible.

The vast majority of the public has absolutely no experience of cycling on busy roads full of stationary or slow motor traffic. They will not identify with anyone doing this. They will not understand or empathise with the problems and dangers they are facing, even to the extent of blaming them for even having the temerity to enter such a dangerous environment in the first place.  They won’t understand undertaking versus overtaking, or even the concept of filtering altogether, because it is something that they simply cannot even imagine doing themselves. It is incomprehensible altogether.

Conversely, the vast majority of the public has plenty of experience of driving, or being driven, in these kinds of situations, and of opening car doors. This means they will find it very easy to identify with the door opener, and not with the person being hit by the door. The blame-shifting reasoning is consequently easy to understand.

‘The person being hit with the door should have been more careful’. ‘They should have been expecting me to open my car door’. ‘They shouldn’t be cycling past my stationary car’. ‘They shouldn’t have been passing my car on that side’. ‘They were going too fast’. ‘They came out of nowhere’. ‘They were in the blind spot’. ‘They weren’t wearing enough hi-viz’. ‘Their hi-viz was the wrong colour’. ‘They weren’t using lights’. ‘They shouldn’t even be on these kinds of roads in the first place’.

The list of potential faults is essentially endless; all flowing from a background assumption that the victim must be in the wrong somehow, because he is not like me, he is doing something that I would never do and can’t ever imagine doing.

I suspect the only realistic way of challenging these attitudes is to create environments that allow anyone to cycle; safe, attractive and comfortable environments that remove antagonism between different modes of transport, and more pertinently will convert cycling – particularly cycling in urban environments – from an odd, minority pursuit into an ordinary activity that the vast majority of the public will engage in themselves. Or to put it another way, these attitudes will disappear only when cycling is something that we do, and not what they do.

 


Categories: Views

Ride from Grubbenvorst to Venlo

BicycleDutch - 12 December, 2016 - 23:01
You can ride just about anywhere in the countryside of the Netherlands in a relatively safe and convenient way. But the quality of the cycle infrastructure is very different from … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

Negotiating a large Dutch motorway junction

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 9 December, 2016 - 13:24

The Dutch are of course famous for their cycling, but this does not mean they don’t build roads. Far from it – the Dutch build roads on a vast scale, and seem just as addicted to it, if not more so, than the British. If you cycle between Dutch towns and cities you will frequently encounter enormous motorways and roads. Although the crucial difference is how you encounter them.

One example I have cycled through a couple of times now is a very large motorway/main road junction between the New Town of Zoetermeer and the city of Gouda. The most prominent aspect of it is this distinctive, open, cycling/walking underpass.

However, we can see from an aerial view that this is actually only one small part of the way cycling has been designed for at this junction. Circled in red, it is only one of a series number of underpasses here, in this (huge) roadbuilding scheme.

The main underpass is just the middle one of three, passing under a slip road off the A12 motorway. There is an underpass under the motorway itself, to the north, and under the intercity railway line to the south. The photograph below shows this a little more clearly, with a train in view, and the motorway underpass just visible in the background.

And of course there are underpasses running in all directions at this location, allowing people making everyday walking and cycling trips to pass painlessly through and across this area, without interacting with motor traffic at all.

To illustrate this, I shot a video of me cycling the route shown below, from top middle, through the junction, then east towards the city of Gouda.

This is a route through the junction that I suspect only a few hundred people might make a day, if that – this is a sparsely populated area, dominated by farming. Yet these underpasses are an integral part of the junction design, and allow anyone to serenely negotiate this very hostile environment.

As you can see, I only meet one other person on this short trip. These are not high-volume cycle paths. But they are essential. Whatever your views on large-scale roadbuilding, the presence of these paths maintains directness and safety for people walking and cycling; it is effectively as if the motorway and its assorted paraphernalia is not there. This even extends to insulating people from the road and the motorway, especially where people live close to it – for instance, the noise barrier that can be seen at the start of the video.

I could clearly hear people talking to each other in the yard of the house to the right as I took this photograph, thanks to the clear barrier that separated me (and the house) from the road visible in the background.

The Dutch have these kinds of massive roads and motorways across the country, but, crucially, they do not form barriers to people walking and cycling, nor do they even have to be engaged with. They will almost always be crossed in this way, either through underpasses, or over bridges, all part of the design process.

I don’t particularly like big roads, but it is certainly impressive to see how cycling has been integrated into these large engineering schemes, and how people of all kinds can go about their daily business in comfort and safety.

 


Categories: Views

Top Ten Design Elements That Make Copenhagen Bicycle-Friendly

Copenhagenize - 8 December, 2016 - 17:54
Episode 01 - The Big Picture

Copenhagenize Design Company produced these short clips a couple of years back, filmed and edited by Ivan Conte, who was working with us at the time. They still get hits from various corners of the internet, so we thought we'd slap them together in one place. The Top Ten Design Elements that make Copenhagen a bicycle-friendly city.

Episode 02 - The Green Wave for Cyclists


Episode 03 - Intermodality


Episode 04 - Safety Details


Episode 05 - Nørrebrogade


Episode 06 - Macro Design


Episode 07 - Micro Design


Episode 08 - Cargo Bikes


Episode 09 - Desire Lines


Episode 10 - Political Will
Copenhagenize the planet. And have a lovely day.
Categories: Views

From ring road to city boulevard

BicycleDutch - 5 December, 2016 - 23:01
Utrecht has changed part of its former city ring road. The 4-lane road has now become a 2×1 lane street which Utrecht calls a “city boulevard”. Drivers are discouraged to … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

Right and wrong solutions to urban congestion

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 30 November, 2016 - 13:34

When I arrived in St Albans on a Saturday morning earlier this month, I encountered a long, completely static queue of motor vehicles. It turned out they were all waiting to enter the Christopher Place car park in the city centre, which has 180 spaces, but was already full.

The queue snaked around the corner, winding for several hundred metres around the city centre streets.

As far as I could tell, this was completely normal for the drivers and passengers inside – nobody was getting angry, they were just patiently waiting for other people to leave the car park so they could move up one slot in the queue. The sort of thing that probably happens every Saturday. And of course they are paying for the privilege.

I rarely drive, but when I do what immediately hits me is the frustration of being ‘caught’ in this kind of situation – having to queue, having to wait, often so far back in the queue you have no idea what’s causing the hold up, and with no way of finding out. Driving in urban areas is frequently a dispiriting, painful experience, made so because everyone else is doing it.

Unfortunately, as far as I can tell, these kinds of problems are going to get worse. More and more of us are going to be living in towns and cities, a function of increasing population, and a continuing trend away from rural dwelling to urban dwelling. 53 million of us already live in urban areas. That is going to increase pressure on the existing road network, if we continue to travel around as we do now.

There are two long-term solutions to this pressure – the first is to ‘spread out’, to redesign our towns and cities to accommodate even more motoring. What could be called the ‘Milton Keynes’ solution, or perhaps the Lord Wolfson ‘flyover’ solution.

What designing a town for mass motoring looks like – Crawley town centre

If you don’t like the look of that, the only other solution is to change the way we move about in urban areas, to reduce pressure, by maximising the efficient use of road space. That means prioritising walking, cycling and public transport, policy that will require sustained investment in redesigning the way our existing roads are laid out, to make them safe and attractive enough for people to switch away from car travel for short urban trips.

Road space reorganised. This streets carries around 60,000 people a day, cycling and on public transport.

The reason I say our problems are going to get worse is that we aren’t prioritising these kinds of sensible solutions. The vast majority of the ‘investment’ announced by government continues to be spent on major road schemes that will worsen congestion in urban areas, by pumping more and more motor vehicles into them, instead of focusing that investment on solutions within them. Towns and cities will not cope, and congestion will be worsened, as a direct consequence of these policies.

Amazingly these kinds of announcements are presented as ‘benefiting’ ‘towns and cities across the country’, when quite the opposite is true. Building a massive road scheme between Oxford and Cambridge is not going to be helpful for congestion in either city, because it really isn’t very easy to drive around within these cities already – funnelling more cars into them is completely counterproductive.

In a nutshell. From here.

Energy and investment should instead be focused on enabling space-efficient alternatives within both of these cities, and on prioritising rail links between them, which can deliver large numbers of people right into the city centres in an efficient way. And these solutions are far more cost-effective than massive road building schemes.

We seem locked into repeating the mistakes of the past fifty years, assuming that people want to drive in vast numbers because so many of them are doing so already, when in fact these individual decisions are largely a function of the poor quality of the alternatives, and of the way that motoring has been prioritised by the way we have designed, built (and rebuilt) road space in urban areas. But worse than that, there is a curious failure to recognise that these ‘solutions’ will no longer work, not without urban rebuilding on a massive scale.

The people queueing to enter that car park in St Albans certainly do not need major road schemes pumping more cars into their city centre. They need sane alternatives within the towns they are travelling, alternatives that will allow them to make the same short trips they are making, but in a way that is more efficient, and that actually frees up road space for the people who will still need (or want) to drive.

A typical Dutch town – the kind of mobility we should be enabling

We need the kind of engagement on the actual issues shown by Northern Ireland’s Infrastructure Minister, Chris Hazzard

When looking at the economy… we continue to talk in the House and on the public airwaves about moving cars. We need to talk about moving people. Moving people in and out of Belfast city is good for business; moving cars is not.

What are we to do after York Street? Are we to bulldoze half of Great Victoria Street because we need two extra lanes in Great Victoria Street? Are we to demolish Belfast City Hall because we need a bigger roundabout at Belfast City Hall? We need to talk about moving people, not cars, in and out of Belfast.”

Exactly right – we aren’t going to solve our problems any other way.

 


Categories: Views

Drenthe, the world's cycling province. Now recognized as the first ever UCI Bike Region

A View from the Cycle Path - 29 November, 2016 - 15:00
Why we came here People occasionally ask us why we chose to live in Assen, capital of the rural province of Drenthe in the North of the Netherlands, when we could have made our home in one of the better known Dutch cities in the South. An extensive grid of quality cycling infrastructure. Not only within the city of Assen, also through the countryside. As we had our own business we were free David Hembrowhttps://plus.google.com/114578085331408050106noreply@blogger.com0http://www.aviewfromthecyclepath.com/2016/11/drenthe-worlds-cycling-province-now.html
Categories: Views

A bridge connecting ’s-Hertogenbosch and Wales

BicycleDutch - 28 November, 2016 - 23:01
“The Royal Welsh brug” is the name of a new bridge over the river Dieze in ’s-Hertogenbosch. With that name the city wants to honour the men of the 53rd … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

Hygge and the Firepit of Transport

Copenhagenize - 27 November, 2016 - 14:26


The concept of "hygge" is, by all accounts, all the rage this year. A slough of books about “how to hygge” are on the market in the UK alone this year. The Guardian even endevoured to produce a good longread about the whole shebang. All to the amusement of Danes for whom the word is more of a ingrained feeling than a concept requiring an instruction manual.

Hyg. Hygge. Hyggelig.  This simple Danish word has captured many imaginations. Other languages have a similar word - gemütlichkeit in German or gezellig in Dutch but in Danish the meaning is taken to the next level. It often gets translated as “cosy”, but that is sadly inadequate. I’m going to get to how or if hygge relates to transport, but I need to lay down a baseline first.

My standing example when I have to explain the concept to foreigners took place when I was in my 20s. A group of male friends and I met at a friend’s flat on a dark, November evening with pizza and beer to watch a Champion’s League match. Cue the usual boy banter and piss-taking. Until one of the guys looked around and said, “Lars… don’t you have any candles?” Lars had forgotten. He promptly hopped up to get them and light five or six of them, adding a “sorry” as he sat back down. A calm settled over the group and the football evening continued.

In the winter months, candles are the prerequisite hygge prop. Indeed, Danes burn more candles than anyone else in the world. The focus on hygge in the international press -  and a slough of glossy womens’ magazines - however, seems to be focused on baking cookies and moping under a duvet on the sofa whilst wearing slippers/wooly socks and sweatpants like a rejected character in Sex and the City. If that is the image we’re going to get slapped with in Denmark, we need to do some serious brand damage control.

I’ve been asking other Danes for a couple of decades how they define hygge and I went on an asking spree before writing this article. While the general concept of hygge is etched delicately into the nucleus of our every cell, there is a slight divide in the interpretation, which may be a recent development. The debate is about whether you can hyg by yourself or whether you need to be at least two people.

If you ask the older generation, most are adamant that it takes at least two to hygge tango. Many members of the younger generation, on the other hand, are fine with the idea of being able to hyg alone. If you told me that you were home alone last night and enjoyed a good book on the sofa with a cup of tea, I won’t ask if it was hyggeligt, although you might offer the comment that you hyggede with yourself. Yes. It’s a bit confusing. Personally, I find it most hyggelig when I spend time with one or more friends. At the end of it all, you can declare to each other “good to see you! It was hyggelig!” Home alone on the sofa, there is no one to say that to.



Right then. How does this apply to transport? Copenhageners, rumour has it, are predisposed to transport themselves in great numbers by bicycle each day. 56% of the citizens of the Danish capital, at last count. Urban cycling is certainly the most anthropologically-correct transport form for city dwellers. It provides independent mobility but still allows for interaction - conscious or sub-conscious - with the urban landscape and, not least, the other homo sapiens that inhabit it with you.

To be honest, I’ve never heard anyone say that it was hyggelig to ride a bike to work. That might just be because we don’t often associate such things with transport. Avid cyclists will preach that cycling is “fun” as their primary messaging aimed at encouraging others to join their tribe. While I might, if forced, admit that cycling each and every day in Copenhagen is enjoyable, I would never use “fun”. Indeed, I’ve declared here on this blog that “cycling isn’t fun, it’s transport”.

Let’s slip under the surface for a moment. I dare to assume that the sub-conscious interaction with one’s city is one of the key strengths to growing and/or maintaining cycling levels. I’ve been asked in all seriousness several times through the years if cyclists wave at each other in Copenhagen - like I suppose they do in other parts of world where they are a rarity on the streets. However cute that might be, what a monumental task - waving at thousands of people all day long. And none waving back. But the subliminal sense of togetherness - something few realise - is there. The simple urban anthropological contentment at sharing a city with other humans - in a human form on a bicycle as opposed to boxed in and invisible in a car - is everpresent.

To be honest, in the hundreds and hundreds of interviews I’ve done about cycling in Copenhagen, no journalist has ever asked if there was an element of hygge to it. Until last week... thanks to the current hyggepocalypse that is raging. Many, many journalists, however, have asked about the correlation between being consistently ranked as the world’s “happiest” nation and our cycling habits.

First of all, on THAT note, the actual question asked in the survey is “are you content with your life?” Not quite the same as “are you happy”, is it? It gets morphed into headline friendly “happy” after the fact. Look at the Top 10 happiest nations for 2016. Seven of them - including all the Nordics - are countries with a high standard of living, cradle to grave health care, six weeks of annual holiday and strong secular cultures. Cycling doesn’t have much to do with it.

Hygge is not exclusive to the Danes, however. It is merely an extension of the firepit. Besides serving an important role for security, warmth and preparation of food, the firepit was the adhesive that brought a tribe together. After a long day of hunting and gathering or warfaring, it was around the firepit that the tribe would gather. To eat, talk, tell stories. I suppose the television has replaced the firepit in many ways. Nevertheless, Danes just keep on firepitting in their own way. Seeking out the simplicity of togetherness.


"Conversation cycling"

So cycling in itself may not be regarded as hyggeligt, but there are still ample opportunities to enjoy the company of a friend as you cycle, with Best Practice infrastructure and what we call “conversation lanes” in Copenhagen. Whatever the season.


There can certainly be bicycle-related hygge, but the bicycle is merely a prop that makes it possible. Like chatting outside a bar in a cargo bike.


Cykelkokken at work.

Copenhagen's renowed Bicycle Chef - Cykelkokken - Morten serves up gourmet food from his cargo bike and my god it's hyggelig. Holding hands with someone you love while cycling is also hyggelig, but again... the bike is a mere prop.


Bring your own bbq.

I would argue that on some level, cycling is the firepit of transport. People gather at red lights. Not eating, talking or telling stories with each other, but they are elbow to elbow with other members of the urban tribe.

A long series of firepit moments in the morning rush hour.

Warming themselves with the tightly-woven urban fabric on a deep but important sub-conscious level.

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

The importance of centre line markings on two-way cycleways

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 25 November, 2016 - 12:06

As a general rule, cycleways in urban areas in the Netherlands are marked distinctively. If they are two-way, they will have a dashed centre line. If they are one-way, that centre line will obviously be absent.

Two-way cycleway, with clear dashed centre line

One-way cycleway. No markings required.

I think this is actually tremendously important – it lets you know exactly what to expect when you are cycling along a piece of infrastructure. You will know, from looking at it, whether to expect ‘traffic’ coming in an opposing direction. It also tells other people navigating these environments exactly what to expect – a dashed centre line will tell people walking that they should expect cycles from two directions. And the same is true for drivers, when they cross this infrastructure.

Unfortunately (and it is early days) we don’t seem to have the same level of consistency in Britain, as yet. While plenty of new two-way cycleways do have clear centre line markings –

The cycleway past the Houses of Parliament. Clearly marked as two-way.

Others don’t – even the on the same ‘route’.

Two-way cycleway on the Embankment. Markings are intermittent, or absent

I think this can cause problems for pedestrians in particular. The photograph above just looks like a one-way stretch of path, heading away from the camera. There isn’t anything to tell someone wanting to cross to expect cycling in an ‘unconventional’ direction, on the right hand side of the road. I suspect this lies behind the small number of minor collisions between people walking and cycling on this stretch of road – people are crossing without looking in the ‘wrong’ direction. This has nearly happened to me on a few occasions – I can clearly see pedestrians not looking for me as I approach.

No indication here for this  pedestrian to expect cycles from her left as she crosses.

No indication for people crossing to and from this bus stop island to expect people cycling from this direction.

A centre line marking would make it clear that this is two-way ‘road’, for cycles, and make it more likely that people will look in both directions. It won’t eliminate this inherent problem with two-way cycleways, but it will at least mitigate it.

I think the lack of centre line marking is also a problem for people cycling. There are no centre line markings in Blackfriars underpass, despite this being one of the narrower sections of new two-way cycling infrastructure in London, narrow enough to resemble a one-way cycleway.

This lack of marking may have been a contributory factor in the largest (and most serious) pile-up seen so far on new cycling infrastructure, captured on video by 4ChordsNoNet.

Just before the collision occurs we can see people overtaking well over onto the ‘wrong’ side of the cycleway. Because there is no centre line, there is no clear, constant visual reminder that, if you are overtaking, you may well be in a section of ‘cycle road’ where you should expect oncoming cycle traffic, which will result in complacency and the kind of incident seen in the video above; especially when people are cycling in the ‘conventional’ direction, on the left hand side of the road.

I suspect consistent centre line marking will also mitigate the problems experienced by people cycling against heavy tidal flow, where (without a centre line) people tend to spill well across the cycleway in the dominant direction. This can be intimidating for people heading in the opposite direction. A centre line would reduce this problem – people can still cross it to overtake, of course, but they would be reminded more clearly that they are going against the flow, rather than simply claiming more space for their direction of flow.

It’s not clear to me why centre lines are absent on so much of London’s new cycle infrastructure, but I think it’s an obvious mistake that is resulting in problems of understanding and (at the moment) minor collisions. The good news is that it would be very cheap and easy to remedy!


Categories: Views

A new dawn in policing to prevent danger to cyclists? The RDRF award to West Midlands Traffic Police

Road Danger Reduction Forum - 22 November, 2016 - 19:50

 

On November 15th there was a ground-breaking event: The Road Danger Reduction Forum gave its first ever award since inception in 1994. More importantly, the award – to West Midlands Police for their “Give Space: Be Safe” operation targeting close passing of cyclists by drivers – heralds (we hope) an exciting new approach by police services towards danger to cyclists. As well as WMTP, we heard from Camden Metropolitan Police Service on their operation based on the WMTP initiative. Both are characterised by recognising:

(a)  The fundamental difference in the effects on others of errant behaviour  by drivers on the one hand and cyclists on the other, and accordingly focusing on the driver misbehaviour.

(b)  That behaviour which is intimidatory and deters potential cyclists from cycling – in this case close passing/overtaking – is worth addressing even if it is not the biggest cause of Killed and Seriously Injured casualties.

In other words, both approaches take a “harm-reduction” – or as we would say, danger reduction – approach. The award event at the House of Lords was packed out by campaigners, transport professionals and police officers. Cycling UK have referred to “Give Space: Be Safe” as “the best cyclist safety initiative by any police force, ever”

Below I try to describe some of what seem to me to be the key features of a crowded two- hour event: the two policing initiatives and some of the points raised in discussion.

You can see the WMTP in action on this extract from “The One Show” (alert: you have Phil Collins being a prat at the end of the extract) and read accounts in the press of “Give Space: Be Safe” (GSBS) here  . You can read an account of the Camden MPS policing here . Also take a look at the in-depth discussion by Bez

 

Background and introduction

The RDRF has not given any awards before (apart from a virtual wooden spoon to West Sussex Gazette  for the story “Wisborough Green tree collision; Emergency services were called to Wisborough Green after a collision involving a car and a tree on Tuesday January 31.” in 2012.) It had been suggested that we react more positively when encouraging news comes through. Of course, that doesn’t happen often, but we heard of GSBS, and it seemed to be positive enough. We are not going to be like the other award events where awards are given come what may: we hope that the rarity of this event will give it the added value that something as encouraging as this deserves.

The evening was introduced by Baroness Jenny Jones. As a Member of the London Assembly she was behind the Mayor’s “London’s Lawless Roads” report as part of an initiative for more roads policing. She commended the West Midlands police on their achievement, remarking that in 3 years in the House of Lords she had found it hard to achieve anything. She called for much more road traffic law enforcement to reduce danger.

Dr. Robert Davis, RDRF; Baroness Jones; officers of West Midlands Police “Be Safe: Give Space”

(You can download the presentation here:  houseoflordspresentation) I borrow from Bez’ account in Singletrack below:

One crucial aspect of the conception of Operation Close Pass was careful consideration of evidence beforehand. WMP looked at the STATS19 data for the area and came to some interesting conclusions, which are summarised in a seminal blog post, “Junction Malfunction and a New Dawn”  (a fascinating read — as Bez says, “it is something of a tectonic shift in aligning the police’s view with a number of points that most cycling and walking campaigners have been making for many years”).

The basic point is that the evidence suggests that, in terms of public harm caused by cycling casualty collisions, little is due to environmental factors, little is due to the behaviour of people on bikes, and much is due to behaviour of people in cars. This is unsurprising when you consider the principle of road danger: the cause of it is not so much poor behaviour itself, but the combination of poor behaviour and a vehicle which allows that behaviour to pose great danger. It’s why we let children ride bikes but not drive cars.

The major casualty risk manifests itself at junctions by way of drivers’ failure to observe people on bikes. As PC Hudson says in his blog:

“75% of KSI RTCs involving cyclists in the West Midlands from 2010 to 2014 occurred within 20 metres of a junction, involving a cyclist and another vehicle. Further analysis (I won’t bore you with the figures, tables etc.) showed that the majority of KSI RTCs in the West Midlands involving cyclists occur when a car has pulled out of a junction in front of a cyclist that is mid- junction because the car driver has failed to spot the cyclist.”

(RTC – Road Traffic Collision. KSI – Killed or Seriously Injured – Ed.)

So why the focus on close passing?

One reason is that it is something which can, unlike poor observation at junctions, be detected and proven relatively easily (using video evidence) and without waiting for a collision to have occurred. Another is that it cements in drivers’ minds the need to look for people on bikes, which may well improve observation at junctions. The fact that this is a covert operation is important: WMP understand that the risk of being caught is the most powerful aspect of traffic enforcement in terms of behaviour change, and key to that is the feeling that being caught could happen anywhere. But the third reason is perhaps the most interesting.

If you ask anyone who cycles what they are most concerned about, the majority will say “close passes by drivers” (in the blog it is cited as “the most common complaint we receive from cyclists”). If you ask anyone who has given up cycling why they gave it up, many will say the same, as will many when asked why they never even started cycling. Certainly WMP seem to have found that to be the case, and this has influenced the prioritisation of the operation: a major part of the aim is to foster an environment in which more people feel able to cycle.

But how does this fall within the remit of the police, who are there primarily to reduce crime rates and reduce public harm? Even though it’s a commendable objective for all sorts of reasons that are in the wider public interest, getting more people on bikes may not be an obvious police goal.

PC Hodson’s explanation to Bez was that: the police should be involved in any situation where the general public feel unable to do certain things because of fear arising from the behaviour of others. To use a somewhat stereotyped analogy: if elderly people felt unable to walk to the local shops on their own because of groups of youths behaving threateningly, the police would apply the law to reduce the threatening behaviour and create an environment where people felt safe doing what they wanted to do. Tackling one group’s imposition of fear on others, inhibiting their ability to live their lives freely, is a community policing matter. The fact that it happens to involve the highway is really of no significance: it merely means a different piece of legislation is referred to when dealing with the threatening behaviour.

How the operation works

The operation, which has been deployed nine times so far, involves an officer cycling in plain clothes on a bike equipped with both front- and rear-facing cameras. When they experience a close pass, two uniformed officers further up the road (one on foot, one on a motorcycle) are notified, and will pull the driver over and explain why they’ve been stopped.

The explanation is not merely “a quick word”. It is a 15-minute demonstration of how and where people should cycle (i.e. well away from the kerb) and the dangers not just of close passes, but of passes at particularly problematic locations such as at pinch points, on pedestrian crossings and when approaching parked vehicles. In all, 130 drivers have so far been through this process, and WMP report that only one of those reacted negatively to it. (Note that the police frequently cite The Attitude Test: fail this and you’re suddenly rather more likely to be prosecuted than educated).

The explanation involves a few props, central among which is a mat which shows a road layout with distances marked on it. WMP were keen to point out that these distances are illustrative only, and that the discussion is really about more humanly recognisable metrics: the width of a car door and the length of an outstretched arm are both used to illustrate the discussion. It’s worth noting that the officers unanimously saw the idea of a distance-based passing law as actively disadvantageous, on the basis that it actually provides more opportunity to undermine a prosecution. Much mention was made of the standards expected in the driving test: drivers are, for instance, required to leave sufficient clearance for a fully open car door when passing stationary vehicles.

Driving that would fail the test is equated with failure to meet the standard that is “expected of a competent and careful driver”, as specified in the definition of careless driving.  This is, essentially, the yardstick: would you pass your test driving like that? The officers didn’t believe that the UK would ever introduce a legal minimum clearance when passing cyclists, but said that nonetheless it’s easy to prosecute close passers under the careless or inconsiderate driving law 88. This is what’s used against tailgaters and middle lane hogs on the motorway, so the level of danger that has to be proven is fairly small. (If, however, you do want to consider the issue of what exactly is shown by footage, this article here might help).

The operation has also brought numerous other offences to light, including several seatbelt violations and instances of mobile phone use, but also one of a driver who—even with his prescription glasses—could only read a number plate at 7.5 metres. This shows that the operational model is not excessively specific: it is a good way to catch a variety of dangerous behaviours. This can, of course, include people jumping red lights on bikes, or riding at night without lights. (Bez has discussed this here , and we have here  and here ).

 

Dr. Robert Davis, Chair Road Danger Reduction Forum; Lord Berkeley, President RDRF; PC Mark Hodson; PC Stephen Hudson.  Resourcing

One of the key operational features of the initiative is that it is cost-neutral. This is not to say that it is zero cost, but that it is simply a new area on which to focus existing resources: there is no additional spend on either materials or manpower, and no reduction in visible policing. The mat used for education was paid for by Birmingham Cycle Revolution. They also provide the lights given out by WMP to unlit cyclists; as  part of Birmingham City Council’s programme to get 10% of all journeys made by pedal cycle by 2033.

Not needing external funding gives officers more control. The question was raised from the audience that fines could fund the operation: however, the police officers here suggested that funding with fines results in claims that revenue-raising is the purpose of the operation.

However, it’s possible to adapt BSGS to reduced levels of resourcing. The approach taken by Sgt Nick Clarke in Camden is an example of that: it uses no mat, and it is deployed on a relatively opportunistic basis, at times when other demands on the officers on the street are low. It also serves as a demonstration that whilst an understanding of cycling is important, there is no specific need for traffic police: in Camden the work is done as community policing..

As PC Hodson remarked, the lowest-resource option would be for a plain clothes officer to cycle around with a pair of cameras on their bike, process the footage and then send out NIPs to anyone shown to be driving below the expected standard.

Of course, there is an even lower-resource option. There are plenty of ordinary people already cycling around with cameras on their bikes. WMP made some illuminating comments on this subject. The most notable was that everything they’d received via public video submissions was indeed evidence of prosecutable driving. The public, they said, appeared to use the same criterion that they did when considering whether to take action: simply, “was this obviously bad driving?”

Section 59

One point raised in the evening by an officer from the Greater Manchester Police was the use of Section 59 of the Road Traffic Act 2002 which can be applied to any driving “causing or likely to cause alarm, distress or annoyance to the public”.  Both WMP and Camden MPS thought that was an idea – and Camden MPS seem to have started using it already. Road.cc reported with rather dramatic headlines here:  .  As Sergeant Clarke said after the event and at his presentation – I borrow from the account by Laura Laker in road.cc:

I’m repeatedly told this is why people don’t get on a bike – that this is causing alarm and distress to other people.”

He said his officers will use a “graduated response” and only use prosecution at first on the worst cases of bad driving, such as “punishment passes”. “We don’t just come in with a sledgehammer,” said Sgt Clarke, “so just like the start of the close pass stuff we initially didn’t do any reporting, we were just explaining why we are doing this stuff, saying: ‘you could kill someone’.

Then we said: right, let’s start looking at people digging their heels in, and now we are at the point where we are reporting everyone.”

He said the same process will apply for s59 reports – only the worst cases will be reported during the initial education phase.

“When I hear the engine rev behind, and the person perhaps cuts me up I pull him or her over and they will be reported and will get a section 59 saying: if you do this again in your vehicle or anyone else’s, that vehicle will get crushed,” said Sgt Clarke.

After the initial warning from officers, Clarke said video evidence from a third party would be sufficient to take a driver to court under section 59.

Clarke has run the operation five times in the last month or so, with no additional budget. Clarke sends officers out on the roads for a couple of hours in the morning rush hour when most criminals aren’t operating. The Camden initiative involves a plain clothes officer on a bike, and several others at key points around a figure of eight loop. Officers target mobile phone driving as well as those who pass too close to the cyclist. Clarke says writing up evidence for driving misdemeanours also provides good training for newer officers.

 

Rolling it out

As said in my introduction to the evening, the RDRF’s aim is not just to give an award, but to generate good practice and get good examples taken up elsewhere. We’re pleased that a number of police services have shown interest to WMP. But why is only one London Borough MPS service acting at the moment?

Sergeant Simon Castle, from the Met’s Cycle Safety Team (officers on bicycles), said they had trialled the scheme, but with slow traffic speeds in London cyclists were overtaking traffic, rather than the other way round. It would be necessary for his superiors to allow an operation in outer London where there are faster motor vehicles speeds and more unpleasantness with close overtaking, but fewer cyclists KSIs.

This is the critical point for the road danger reduction movement – the absence of “sufficient” cyclist KSIs may mean there is no problem for officials using traditional “road safety” guidelines. For us, there are often fewer KSIs precisely because there is more danger or intimidation from motor traffic, so people are less likely to cycle in the first place. Even if there are other reasons for low amounts of cycling, the fact remains that there is a problem of road danger from close overtaking (and perhaps excessive speed) which needs to be tackled.

Sergeant Clarke, who runs his operation on Parkway in inner London, feels it is replicable by other ward sergeants, and that it can have wide-reaching effects on driver behaviour across London.

He said: “It can be replicated in London, it’s just the locations that you choose. While High Holborn, for example, has a high KSI rate (killed or seriously injured) it isn’t possible to run a close pass operation there. However, by targeting drivers on major roads into High Holborn, those drivers will still be looking out for cyclists when they reach dangerous junctions.”

They get to the point where there’s someone on a Boris Bike on High Holborn who’s at risk of collision; by targeting them three or four miles up the road you’re reducing the risk of that happening. The Think! campaign has a limited impact; people watching it aren’t the target audience. The fact you may have your car crushed is a powerful motivator for people to drive safely.”

 

Some reactions: where now?

The key points made by all the questioners in the audience were praise for both the initiatives described, and requests for similar types of police operation to occur elsewhere.

Roger Geffen, Cycling UK: “This is a fantastic initiative – there needs to be a formal process to spread the word on this kind of good practice. Good evidence of effectiveness would greatly help with this – perhaps another force could do some before and after monitoring of a similar operation. Has there been negative feedback?”

WM police: “About one negative response per two positive ones. 75% of the negative responses have no merit, and the other 25% are mostly claims about prosecuting marginal offences, or criticism that the police should be doing something more important. Overall, the response has been very positive, helped by Mark Hodson’s Blog.”

 David Maloney, TfL: “(1) Any plans to evaluate the operation? (2) Could a 3rd party do the driver education?”

WM police: “(1) Reduced KSIs are the most obvious indicator, but also increases in cycling and feedback from cyclists. (2) Yes – drivers reported by 3rd parties are invited to go on a commercially-run course. A police uniform is only needed to stop a driver.”

Martin Porter, solicitor, explained why his private prosecution of a driver who endangered him failed: he went for a more serious offence, requiring better evidence of incompetence, and convincing a jury. The defence was able to say that the offence couldn’t be that serious, as the police never bothered with it.

Sgt Nick Clarke of Camden: “This work needs to be brought to outer boroughs. Reports of bad driving can be lost in processing – cases that go to court must be watertight, so careless driving is a good option, as it’s easier to prove.”

WM police: “We got plenty of negative feedback – but we want to upset certain parts of the population, as that’s how behaviour change is achieved.”

 Mark Strong of Transport Initiatives: “The web reporting portal in Sussex works well, and drivers are visited if 3 complaints are logged against them. More co-operation and dissemination of good practice is needed – perhaps RDRF could help with this.”

 Duncan Dollimore (Cycling UK): “Some forces are considering or planning similar programmes, but there have been comments that it might not be appropriate elsewhere.” WM police: “The answer is to operate on quieter roads – the same rules apply, and safe overtaking is a matter of choice. We wouldn’t have been able to do the work if it was hard. Non-traffic officers could do similar work just with cameras.”

 Adam Coffman of the All-Party Parliamentary Cycling Group asked the WMP how they felt about the Road Safety Minister’s recent comment that “Road safety is about people taking responsibility for themselves”. I’m pleased that the WMP officer responding took the road danger reduction line in saying that he disagreed with him. Road danger reduction takes what we think is the basically civilised view that your responsibility is to reduce your danger towards others.

But not all was optimism. Amy Aeron-Thomas of Roadpeace said that we should comment on the London Police and Crime Review, a mayoral consultation document that contains little or nothing about traffic law enforcement. As Brenda Puech of RDRF added, London police have to follow the mayor’s policing priorities, so this document is important.

 

Conclusion

 

This is not about any kind of patronising initiative “for cyclists”. It is the implementation of road danger reduction – reducing danger at source from inappropriate driving. It is done through policing and education as part of achieving necessary cultural and behavioural shift. It was started by an individual police service, and is being taken up by others and road danger reduction campaigners (none of the “road safety” establishment seem to have shown any interest).

So where do we go from here? It’s quite likely that we will run a follow-up conference in a few months’ time – possibly to coincide with alerting London government to the need for a policing strategy which takes in to account the sort of anti-social behaviour targeted by WMP and Camden MPS. In the meantime do feel free to contact RDRF with any queries and information to help start a similar programme in your area.

 


Categories: Views

Asking the wrong questions

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 22 November, 2016 - 17:37

At the weekend I went along to the Cyclenation/Cycling UK Campaigners Conference in St Albans, where I was one of many people making presentations to a large audience. My one was on Sustainable Safety, and afterwards I chatted briefly to TfL’s Brian Deegan about the Dutch approach to road and street design. He mentioned in passing how he gets complaints about people cycling jumping lights, at certain junctions – the implication being that these ‘bad’ users need to start behaving, and need to be punished more, to make them behave.

But Brian’s response to the problem was, and is, completely different – he told me that he replies

‘If so many are jumping lights, what is wrong with the junction?’

This is a core element of Sustainable Safety – it seeks to tackle ‘bad behaviour’ not at a personal or individual level, but by seeking to understand what actually lies behind so many people breaking the rules, and then examining how the environment can be changed to reduce rule-breaking, or to eliminate it altogether. To take a ‘red light jumping’ example, it might be that people are having to wait two minutes to cross a simple junction. A sensible way to solve that problem would be to reduce wait times. It might also be the case that people are jumping lights to turn left, because they know they can do so safely. Again, a sensible solution to that ‘problem’ is to formalise and legalise this behaviour through design.

This doesn’t just apply to people cycling; it applies to all modes of transport. For instance, if lots of people are breaking a 20mph speed limit, then the long-term answer isn’t enforcement and punishment, but, instead, addressing the design of the road so that 20mph becomes the natural speed for the vast majority of drivers to travel at.

I don’t think this kind of approach has really taken hold in Britain, at all. We remain focused on individual actions and behaviour, and on ‘personal responsibility’, rather than taking a more systematic approach, one that is centred on the role of authorities in designing environments that keep us safe in the first place, even when some of us continue to behave badly. Just last week, the Secretary of State for Transport responded to a question about the rising toll of road deaths in Britain as follows

 A trend in the wrong direction is an unwelcome one. The Under-Secretary of State for Transport, my hon. Friend Andrew Jones, who is in his place alongside me, has responsibility for road safety. He is actively engaged, and will continue to be actively engaged, in looking at measures we could take that will improve things. We will look at different investment measures and different ways of educating motorists and those using the roads

And, more explicitly from the junior Minister –

“Road safety is about people taking responsibility for themselves” says @AJonesMP

— APPCG (@allpartycycling) November 2, 2016

This is what a primary focus on ‘education’ is really about – a shifting of responsibility for safety onto the people negotiating unsafe environments, by those responsible for the design and functioning of those environments. Simply looking at ‘different ways of educating’ all the people using the roads (which seems to carry with it an admission that current ‘education’ isn’t really working) avoids this fundamental responsibility to build safety into our road and street environment, by making them forgiving, predictable, and without exposing human beings to large differences in mass, speed and direction. ‘Education’ is not, and cannot ever be, a substitute for safe environments.

Safety built into the physical environment. Not much personal responsibility required here.

An unsafe cycling environment. Humans mixed with heavy vehicles travelling at high speed. Personal responsibility is not a solution here.

This failure to ask the right questions, and come up with the right solutions, is epitomised not just by a focus on ‘education’ but also on what I would call ‘trinkets’ – things like helmets, lights, reflectives, clothing, and so on. In much the same way as with ‘education’, the process involves shifting responsibility onto the user, and ignoring basic environmental problems. Instead of examining why Road X is unsafe to walk along in dark clothing, we urge people to wear  reflectives. Instead of examining why pedestrians wearing ordinary clothes can’t negotiate the streets in your urban area safely, we hand out lights to them.

We're handing out winter lights for walkers at 5.30pm outside Westminster City Hall, 64 Victoria St. Pick up a free one for Road Safety Week

— Westminster Council (@CityWestminster) November 21, 2016

Perhaps the most powerful example of trinket-based logic is the paper helmet which has recently hit the headlines, because it has won an award.

The man who awarded the award – James Dyson – says that this helmet

solves an “obvious problem in an incredibly elegant way”.

If the problem is ‘how do we make something that looks a bit like a cycling helmet, but is really cheap, folds down completely flat so it goes in your bag, and can then be thrown away’, then yes, this is a solution to that ‘obvious problem’.

But it clearly isn’t a solution to the actual problem of prevent people riding bikes from coming to harm or being seriously injured. How can it be? It’s some folded paper, loosely attached to the top third of the head.

If we really care about keeping people riding hire bikes safe ‘anywhere they go’, we need environmental solutions, infrastructure that keeps those people separated from fast and/or heavy moving motor traffic, wherever they choose to cycle. Not paper hats. And the same goes for handing out tiny reflective bits of plastic to children.

‘Keeping kids safe’

These are not structural solutions; they are not even actual solutions. They are a distraction. The wrong questions are being asked, and the wrong answers are being given.


Categories: Views

Twijnstraat transformation

BicycleDutch - 21 November, 2016 - 23:01
Yet another street in the Utrecht city centre has been reconstructed. The narrow Twijnstraat, already a shopping street in the 13th century, was designed for motor traffic. It has been … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

The Life-Sized City TV Series

Copenhagenize - 16 November, 2016 - 12:09
While Copenhagenize Design Co. focuses on working with client cities around the world, our CEO, Mikael Colville-Andersen, is embarking on an exciting new project in parallel with his work in our Copenhagen office. Shooting has begun on his new tv series The Life-Sized City. With his series, Mikael hopes to bring citizen urbanism into the living rooms of city dwellers all over the world. With rising urbanization, our cities are in focus more than ever. For the first time in almost a century, we are looking at the development of our urban centres in a new and exciting way.

For 7000 years, ever since cities were first formed, they have been fantastic theatres for human activity. Yet for the better part of the last 80 years, our perception of cities changed. They were suddenly regarded as a series of mathematical models that required engineering to make them function.

  Slowly but surely, we are once again focusing on cities as life-sized urban spaces. We are witnessing the re-emergence of cities that are attractive, healthy, interesting and efficient. Cities that do not leave us feeling awestruck and insignificant with their height and girth, but that rather inspire us at street level. They are, quite simply, Life-Sized Cities.

No city is perfect, of course. But some are farther advanced than others. Mikael will explore cities around the world and, instead of pointing fingers at their glaring flaws, we will seek out their pockets of life-sized goodness.

  The promotional teaser trailer for The Life-Sized City.

The title for the series was inspired by Mikael’s daughter, Lulu-Sophia, whom he calls The World’s Youngest Urbanist.  It was back in 2012 that Mikael started developing his idea together with his friend and executive producer, Nicolas Boucher, from production company DB Com Media in Montreal . Fittingly, over a bottle of red wine. After a couple of years of development, the series started to take form until financing for the first six episodes of Season 1 fell into place and shooting the first episode began in Medellin, Colombia in June 2016.

 “The Life-Sized City is, for me, a way to continue my work looking at how we can improve all aspects of urban life and, at the same time, transport my experiences into the living rooms of people all over the world”, says Mikael Colville-Andersen. “It is important to erase the borders between cities and to provide transferable inspiration that citizens can borrow freely from in their local community”.

The first six cities in Season 1 are Medellin, Toronto, Paris, Tokyo, Bangkok and Ljubljana. A mix of city sizes and styles that present a variety of challenges when seeking out life-sized elements on the urban landscape. The Life-Sized City will present a gallery of the best and the brightest minds and projects that are making our daily lives better in our cities - from bottom-up to top-down.

Canadian broadcasters TV Ontario and Knowledge Network will broadcast the first season in Canada starting in September 2017, with other countries and regions around the world following suit afterwards. DBCom Media, among other programmes, produces the Waterfront Cities series and Island Diaries.

Follow The Life-Sized City on Instagram.
Like The Life-Sized City on Facebook. Copenhagenize the planet. And have a lovely day.
Categories: Views

Network

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 16 November, 2016 - 09:28

Imagine if your town or city had just one suitable driving route across it, or just one suitable walking route – a line drawn on a map from A to B.

How many trips would be driven, or walked, in your town if this was the extent of the driving or walking network?

The answer is clearly ‘not very many’ – only those trips that happen to start or finish at some point along the line of the route, or reasonably close to it. A very small proportion of the overall number of existing or potential trips.

So we shouldn’t be at all surprised that that cycling levels remain low when the full extent of a ‘cycle network’ in a town or a city is this kind of line, drawn on a map. Even if the quality of the route is high (and very often it isn’t) the use of cycles will be limited because the vast majority of people simply can’t get anywhere near that route in safety, or in comfortable conditions.

So as impressive as the initial amount of use of the new cycling superhighways in London might appear, especially at peak times, the use of this cycling infrastructure is undoubtedly suppressed because there is so little of it. The people using it will mostly be the small minority of people already willing to cycle on the hostile roads and streets across the rest of the city, that need to be cycled on to access the superhighways.

This partly explains why use is relatively low outside of peak times. Non-commuting trips like, amongst others,

  • children cycling independently;
  • retired people cycling independently;
  • people going shopping;
  • cycling to social activity

will all rely to a much greater extent on a dense network that takes people from A to B in comfort and safety, and not on a specific commuter-focused route. In addition, these kinds of users – particularly, children and the elderly – are of course much more sensitive to hostile road conditions, the kind of conditions that will have to be tolerated to get onto ‘the superhighway’.

This explains the marked contrast in cycle use during the daytime on a typical cycleway in a Dutch city centre, compared to the superhighways in London.

1pm, in the centre of Gouda. The cycleways are still busy, but use is dominated by children, the elderly, and women. In short, by people who are are not at work.

Unlike London, Dutch cycleways will still see heavy use during the day. However, that use is dominated not by commuters, but instead (unsurprisingly) by all the people who aren’t at work. The reason for this is not some difference in Dutch character or behaviour; it’s because a typical Dutch city has a high quality network that connects up all the start and finish points of the journeys these people are making, not just one ‘route’ that goes from A to B.

This is why it is so important not get bogged down on drawing ‘a cycle route’ and agonising in great detail over where that ‘route’ should go, because the long-term goal has to be a dense network of routes that go everywhere.

I was reminded of this by some of the reaction to the news yesterday of the cancellation by Mayor Khan of the proposed route for the ‘East-West Superhighway’ extension, along the Westway, into west London. Much of the discussion focused on whether the Westway was actually the appropriate location for such a ‘route’; whether there might be better alternatives at ground level nearby; whether Kensington and Chelsea might be persuaded to allow protected cycleways to be built on parallel main roads within their borough.

My own view is that, if we are indeed focused on building ‘a route’, the Westway is (or was)  the best option, given Kensington and Chelsea’s intransigence in refusing to allow cycling infrastructure on its roads, and the generally poor quality of back-street ‘Quietway’ routes that have been delivered in London so far.

But this kind of discussion is really missing the bigger picture. There should be a ‘cycle route’ on the Westway and cycle routes everywhere else. Not one or the other.

Westway is 2km from High St Ken. TFL knows we need cycle tracks every 400m so deliver both routes. No excuse for cancelling pic.twitter.com/H5qjxSGKnL

— Tom Harrison (@TomBHarrison) November 15, 2016

Why should there just be one route into west London from central London? To take just one example, how many people will cycle from Hammersmith (in the bottom left of the map above) into central London if there are no cycle routes in Kensington and Chelsea apart from one on the Westway, some 2km or more north of the direct route? Quite plainly, there needs to be a cycle route on the Westway, and on Kensington High Street, and on Holland Park Avenue; and on all the roads that people will use to get from A to B.

This is why the logic of cancelling the Westway scheme, and coming up with an alternative somewhere else, is flawed. Not just because the Westway scheme had been consulted on, and was ready to go, and because devising an alternative route will inevitably result in years of delay. It’s because the Westway scheme is needed alongside many other east-west routes in Kensington and Chelsea, and alongside north-south routes. Everywhere.

The original plan for Delft’s cycle network. Routes that go everywhere. Not just one line on a map. Source.

So, regrettably, it appears that the Westway decision betrays a failure to understand how cycling should be planned for. Cycling doesn’t just require ‘a route’; it requires a network, of which the Westway should have been just one component.


Categories: Views

A roundabout bypass in Goes

BicycleDutch - 14 November, 2016 - 23:01
The town of Goes is one of many Dutch places with a raised roundabout for motor traffic, that can be bypassed when you are walking or cycling, on a lower … Continue reading →
Categories: Views

Massive Passenger Increase After Bikes Allowed Free on Trains

Copenhagenize - 14 November, 2016 - 14:36

So what exactly happens when you're a major train operator and you suddenly make it free for passengers to take bikes on your trains? We know that some rail operators in various parts of the world would have you believe that chaos would ensue and that they would lose passengers. Numbers from Greater Copenhagen and Danish State Railways (DSB), however, seem to indicate that the opposite is true.

The S-train network that serves Greater Copenhagen is arguably the most integral part of the public transport mix in the region. Buses, Metro and regional trains are vital parts of the network, but the red S-trains stretching out into Europe's third-largest urban sprawl are in many ways the backbone.

The S-train network - with 2 Metro lines at bottom right.

Bicycles were allowed on the trains for a fee, which was never prohibitive. Until 2010, that is. In that year, DSB announced that bicycles would be made free on all their trains. They announced it with pride and in style and launched a comprehensive awareness campaign with creative solutions.

DSB made the decision based simply on a business case model. They figured that more passengers - both commuters and users travelling in their free time - would take the train with their bikes if it were free. Six years later... how's THAT working out for them?


'Rather well' would be an understatement. The number of passengers taking a bike on board rose from 2.1 million to 9 million. A total, whoppping passenger increase of 20%. And it continues to rise.

The loss of income from ditching the bicycle ticket has been paid off several times over with the increased passenger numbers. It is estimated that almost 10% of passengers now take a bike with them.

Indeed, when asked in a survey, 91% of passengers were positive about the possibility to take bikes on the trains. 27% of the cyclists on board responded that they wouldn't have travelled by train if they couldn't take their bike with them. 8% even said that they travel more by train now that it is free.

In May 2009, before it was free, 188,000 bikes were taken on the S-Train network. A year later, after it was free, 630,000 bikes were taken on board. And that continued to rise.



In order to meet the demand, DSB redesign the compartments on all their trains and created so-called Flex Zones with fold up seats and bike racks beneath each seat. They adjusted the seating on all trains, as seen in the graphic, above, and now every train has a capacity for 60 bicycles.


The redesign also included a comprehensive reworking of pictograms and the implementation of a one-way system to ease conflicts when bikes are rolled on or off the train. The spacious bicycle compartments are located in the middle of the train set, since DSB research showed that the seating in the middle of the train was less popular with passengers.



Providing more bicycle parking at stations, especially the main stations in the Capital Region, remains a challenge. Nationally, bike parking at train stations is at a high capacity and on this point, Denmark lags behind cities in the Netherlands. Although Dutch national rail operator NS prefers having customers travel without their bikes and therefore parking at stations is more of an issue for them.

Nevertheless, Copenhagenize Design Co. has proposed 7550 bike parking spots behind Copenhagen Central Station with this design.


Continuing with their work to encourage bicycles on trains, DSB has toyed with the idea of putting bicycle pumps on board trains, but so far they have gone with bicycle foot pumps integrated with advertising facilities outside their stations.

A pragmatic approach coupled with a cool, business decision has paid off for DSB. The bicycle should and must be integrated at every step of peoples daily lives if a city is to be truly bicycle-friendly.

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

Sustainable Safety in action

As Easy As Riding A Bike - 8 November, 2016 - 01:18

The N470 is a main road that runs east from the Dutch city of Delft, connecting it with the city of Zoetermeer. It is 12 kilometres long between the junctions with the A13 motorway (bypassing Delft) and the A12 motorway (which runs between The Hague and Utrecht).

From Google Maps

As can be seen from the map above, it is, effectively, a bypass of the town of Pijnacker, bending south around it. Before this road was opened in 2007, a large proportion of the motor traffic running between Delft and Zoetermeer would have passed through the town. Now all that motor traffic is far away from human beings. This applies both at the large large scale – the way the road is built away from urban areas – and also at the scale of the road itself, where, as well shall see in this post, human beings are kept completely separated from it.

This modern road has been built according to the principles of Sustainable Safety, or Duurzaam Veiling – the Dutch approach to road safety. This programme was only developed in the mid 1990s, so it is relatively recent, but it completely underpins the way roads and streets in the Netherlands, both old and new, are designed and built to maximise the safety of human beings. The N470 is an excellent example of these principles in action, and this post will look at them in turn.

Functionality

Perhaps one of the most important principles of Sustainable Safety, ‘Functionality’ means that every road and street in the Netherlands should have a single function – mono-functionality – and that every region should classify their roads and streets accordingly, either as a

  • Through road – for fast traffic, travelling longer distances, in large volumes. Motorways, trunk roads, bypasses, and so on. Roads humans won’t ‘engage with’, by design.
  • Access road – the ‘end destination’ for journeys – places where people live, work, shop, relax, and so on.
  • Distributor road – the roads that connect up the through roads and access roads.

Quite clearly the N470 falls into the ‘through road’ category. It is a road for transporting people from A to B; it is most definitely not a road that people will be exposed to in any form. There is only one junction on the 12km length of the road between the two motorways, and that is a turbo roundabout which human beings cannot go anywhere near. There are absolutely no access points anywhere else along this road. It is effectively hermetically sealed away from the environment it is travelling through – walking and cycling are entirely separated, via underpasses, and even other roads are again grade-separated.

Here the N470 goes into an underpass to avoid any connection with a rural access road at ground level. From Streetview.

Homogeneity

This principle applies to the mass, speed and direction of road users. Heavy objects should not share space with light ones; fast objects should not share space with slow ones; and objects should be travelling in the same direction. Differences in mass, speed and direction should be minimised as much as possible.

We can see these principles clearly in operation in the design of the N470 road. Perhaps the most obvious application of homogeneity is that light objects – human beings – are completely designed out of this road. They go nowhere near it. In fact the photograph below is about the closest you can get.

The three junctions on this stretch of road – two at the end, and one in the middle – are all turbo roundabouts, and all have total separation between human beings and motor traffic.

The roundabout at the Delft end of the N470 has signs explicitly banning walking and cycling from the roundabout – but really nobody would choose to negotiate the roundabout at surface level on foot, because of a fast, convenient cycle road to the side, that bypasses it completely.

The roundabout in the middle is another turbo roundabout, again negotiated by an underpass – or, perhaps more specifically, where the road has been built up on an embankment with a bridge.

And the final roundabout at the Zoetermeer end is exactly the same, with two underpasses allowing people to negotiate the arms of the the roundabout, complete with noise barriers. As with the previous example the roads and roundabout have been built up high so that cycling remains at ground level, at the same level as buildings in the neighbourhood. These are bridges, more than underpasses.

I did manage to scramble up the bank here to take a photo of the roundabout – narrow lanes with hard physical dividers, combined with heavy, fast traffic, means that this is not somewhere you would want to be on a bike.

Especially when you can bypass it, completely oblivious to the traffic overhead.

But of course Sustainable Safety applies to all users of the road network, not just people cycling. The road is designed in a way to keep motorists safe too.

Perhaps most notable is the median between the two lanes, that prevents any attempts at overtaking. The speed limit on this road is 80kph (about 50mph) and that applies uniformly to all vehicles, from HGVs right down to small cars. Quite sensibly, if everyone is travelling at the same speed, there can be no justification for overtaking, and the design prevents people from even attempting to do so.

A couple of years ago the DfT raised the speed limit for HGVs on single carriageway roads from 40mph to 50mph, partially on the grounds that it would (allegedly) reduce the temptation on the part of some drivers to indulge in dangerous overtakes. But the Netherlands has solved this problem at a stroke by equalising the limit for all users at 80kph, and by simply banning overtaking altogether on this category of road (and physically preventing overtaking in new road design).

All Dutch roads of this type have a continuous solid line, forbidding overtaking, even if a median is not present – along with an equalised 80kph speed limit.

Overtaking presents an unacceptably high level of danger – it involves vehicles occupying the same space but travelling in completely the opposite direction, at great speed. The opposite of homogeneity! It is much safer to ban it, and to simply design it out of these roads altogether. On the N470 all vehicles are travelling in the same direction at all times, and at approximately the same speed. Overtaking conflicts have been removed, as have any turning conflicts, with no motor vehicles crossing the paths of other motor vehicles – because there are no junctions.

Another implication of the principle of homogeneity is that mopeds (which aren’t capable of travelling at 80kph in any case) are banned from these roads, and instead placed on the cycle path, alongside people walking, cycling and jogging. This makes sense according to the principle of homogeneity – their mass and speed is much closer to that of pedestrians and cyclists than it is to the vehicles on the road.

Forgivingness

Another principle of Sustainable Safety is ‘forgivingness’, which implies pretty much what you would expect from the title. Essentially, mistakes by road users should not result in death or serious injury. Road and street design should account for the fact that human beings are fallible, and will inevitably make mistakes.

We see this principle reflected in a number of aspects of the design of the N470 road. The road lanes themselves are narrow, to help ensure that people do not exceed the 80kph limit, but there are large overrun areas on either side of the road, composed of a concrete mesh.

Probably not very enjoyable to drive over, but if you do drift off the road, you won’t die.

Naturally, forgivingness also applies to people cycling. It lies behind the systematic removal of bollards from Dutch cycle paths, where at all possible. Bollards are not good things to crash into, and can cause serious injury and death. It is definitely preferable to have the occasional driver venturing (either mistakenly or deliberately) onto a cycle path than it is to have a permanent hazard on it, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It also means that kerbs and other elements of cycling infrastructure should allow mistakes to happen, without serious consequences.

New cycle infrastructure in the city of Delft, with a forgiving, essentially crash-proof, kerb

And, of course, at a higher level, the fact that there aren’t any human beings outside of motor vehicles on the N470 road, or even near it, means that cycling is very safe. The fact that Britain persists with accommodating cycling on busy 60 or even 70mph roads is extraordinary by objective comparison – the consequences of errors and mistakes when you have such enormous differences in mass and speed in the same space will be deadly.

Trucks travelling at 80kph on the right; a father with children in a cargo bike, far to the left. These two should not be combined, for very obvious reasons

Predictability

A better way of expressing ‘predictability’ would be ‘instantly recognisable road design’. The users of a road or a street should understand how they are expected to behave, from the appearance of that road or street. The design should be unambiguous. For instance, if you want motor vehicle users to travel at 20mph, the road or street should look like that, and it should make the majority of users travel at no more than that speed.

From the photographs in this post you won’t need me to tell you that the appearance of the N470 will obviously inform its users that it is a through road! There are no junctions; no interactions with non-motorised users; a median; and a design that suggests a speed of 50mph or so. As already mentioned, the design of the N470 should make users travel at or around this speed – the speed limit should be self-enforcing. Design should lead behaviour – we should not expect people to do unnatural things.

Conclusion

In a nutshell, Sustainable Safety is really about a strategic separation of fast, heavy objects from slower moving, lighter ones, across an entire country, both along roads like the N470, passing through rural areas, but also in urban areas. It is universal.

It is noteworthy that there are multiple cycle routes between Delft and Zoetermeer, all of them completely separate from the road network. Some parts of these are shown below. These cycle routes pass through the places where people actually live and work, while the motor traffic is shielded away from human beings. All these routes are more direct than the N470, or alternative driving routes on the motorways.

One of the cycle routes between Zoetermeer and Delft – this one the closest to the N470, as it passes through a Delft suburb. The path runs directly through, and is connected to, this residential area, providing quick and easy access to housing, and on into the city centre.

Another route between Delft and Zoetermeer, further to the north, as it passes under the A13 motorway. This is an access road for motor traffic for the properties along it, but it becomes cycle-only as it goes under the motorway. Note the noise barrier. This is a peaceful, safe neighbourhood, with a cycle route running through it.

And another route between Delft and Zoetermeer – this one an access road (connecting to a small number of properties) that only permits driving in one direction.

So despite the name, Sustainable Safety is not just about safety, but also about creating more attractive and more pleasant places for people to live, work, shop, and relax. People can still drive, of course, and with great ease, but their journeys will be separated to the greatest possible extent from human beings. It is a bold and ambitious project, but one that, despite only being a few decades old, has had dramatic and impressive consequences. We should be paying close attention.

 

You can read more about Sustainable Safety in a number of places –


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