...and a walking city, and a transit city? The bike paths of Amsterdam and Copenhagen get a lot of praise for their role in making biking in the city so easy, and of course, that is entirely true. But do people bike because they want to? Do they bike because its the best thing ever? (Of course, it is the best thing ever!) Is owning a car so much less convenient than say in North America? So much less convenient that the bike becomes the defacto choice, or walking or transit for that matter.
They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. While that may not be the actual definition of insanity, it is quite applicable to the use of trip rates in traffic engineering. To rephrase... Approving the same type of development with the same amount of parking with the same type of road improvements, and expecting more people to walk, bike or take transit, might not be insane, but its certainly not smart!
A 30 minute train ride from the centre of Copenhagen drops you in the Centre of Malmo, Sweden, across the other side of the Oresund Strait. Malmo is another city that has been recognized for its cycling infrastructure. Lets see how it compares during a short walkabout.
The grey bike lanes are everywhere! Boring grey bike lanes! Does that sound like a insult? It's not! Copenhagen's bike infrastructure is simple, its everywhere, and in summary, a complete network is far more important than planters along bike routes. There is of course more to it, read on for a few more insights...
As cities around the world are implementing high quality bicycle infrastructure, Edinburgh seems to have stalled for the last couple of decades. Anyway, before we get started, first an intro to this series of posts.
This summers vacation included varying amounts of time in Edinburgh, Copenhagen and Malmo, with the purpose of visiting my parents and a few friends back in Scotland, visiting Copenhagen as its frequently considered the number one cycling city in the world, and Malmo because its just a short train ride over the water from Copenhagen, and also well regarded with respect to cycling infrastructure. Read on for Part 1, my thoughts on transportation in Edinburgh and a few other places around Scotland. Other two cities to follow in due course.
This tweet deserves to stand on its own, watch the mode shift from all those cars to one bus and some bikes for an excellent demonstration of how much space we could save by getting more people on other modes of transportation.
I've been thinking a lot about how autonomous vehicles (AV's) will change how we plan our roads lately. In the back of my mind, there is always the broad thought that AV's will change the world for the better, but will they? I'm starting to have my doubts...
8 spaces for every car, it sounds absurd! Listen to the parking guru Donald Shoup talk about the high cost of free parking, or read more here https://www.vox.com/videos/2017/7/19/15993936/high-cost-of-free-parking
Every time a person riding a bike is knocked off, seriously injured, or killed, by another person driving an automobile, the first thing the police and press seem to comment on is whether the person riding the bike was wearing a helmet or not. Whether they did or not is largely irrelevant to the cause of the collision which must always be the focus of such reports! The helmets (apart from the prototype automobile deflection shield equipped one pictured above) have zero ability to prevent a collision.
This blog post started out as a series of tweets as I was going through the new Transportation Association of Canada (TAC) Geometric Design Guide (GDG) for Canadian Roads, Chapter 5 - Bicycle Integrated Design. While the tweets become nested and confusing to follow, I figured it was worth recreating here. So read on for a quick overview of the new guidelines for bicycle infrastructure in Canada.
Three times in the past month I have experienced the joy of the close pass. Time for a little rant... Three drivers have squeezed by me whilst I’m riding my bike, sufficiently close to make me feel my life was endangered. The first in a wide shared lane with the driver either not paying attention or understanding how close he was to me, the second on a two lane roadway with parked cars either side, that despite what I would have thought, apparently is wide enough for two cars to pass each other and me riding a bike at the same time, and the most recent, a narrow shared lane with everyone’s favourite bicycle infrastructure “the Sharrow”, travelling downhill, not slowly, someone felt the need to pass me closely at speed, then for some reason give me the finger! I soon caught up at the next light.
The joy is of course mostly sarcastic! It's not remotely enjoyable, although I might not even call it scary, the exact moment usually passes too quickly! It is almost a relief when it happens, because by the time you're aware of it, you’re thankful it was a close pass and not worse! Were it not a close pass, well, you'd likely be sitting at the side of the road bruised, broken, or dead!
The relief is often quickly replaced with anger! There's a reason you see people riding bikes getting angry at car drivers! It’s not a joy to have your life endangered just so that a person driving a car can get to the next traffic signal a smidge quicker. In the grand scheme of driving along a road, cyclists don’t hold car drivers up, other car drivers and traffic signals hold car drivers up!
[Insert demand for better education, enforcement, and infrastructure here...]
I highly doubt this will reach the intended audience of distracted, impatient, don’t give a damn, close passing car drivers… I’ll console myself with the fact that these “lucky” encounters were joyful close passes and nothing worse!
You wait all this time for urban road design guidelines and two come along at the same time. The Global Street Design Guide was just released online for free (see previous post), and now the 18 year old TAC Geometric Design Guide for Canadian Roads is being updated (unfortunately its not free). The TAC Guide while being a "guide" is often treated as the "bible" of road design in Canada, with practitioners fearful of straying from it for fear of designing something not to standard. Many of the details in the current 1999 version are considered out of date or just missing, particularly for urban roads and active transportation. Other guides such as the NACTO guidelines are frequently considered more relevant and practical but they're not TAC. Therefore, its great to see the big changes to the TAC Guide focusing on urban road design. There has been a huge shift in the design of urban roads in the past 10 years, never mind the past 18, thus these changes will be welcomed by many who are trying to address urban transportation challenges. Watch the video providing a high level overview of the changes here. But to sum up, it's acceptable to use narrower lane widths than may have been previously preferred, and on roads with a speed of 50 km/h the recommended bicycle facilities are protected lanes or separate paths. Other finer details such as the inappropriateness of clear zones in urban areas and targets speeds rather than design speeds are discussed, and a process for design exceptions is also included and should allow greater freedom with appropriate supporting evidence.
Its too hilly to cycle here is a common reason provided for not cycling in hilly locations. North Vancouver in my case, is a good example where hills can be problematic to encouraging more people to cycle. But could we use our hills to our advantage? The Grouse Grind is often referred to as mother nature's stair master and attracts a huge following, could our hilly streets become something similar? Can we challenge drivers to get out and cycle them? Encourage people to use them as a way to improve their health? Could the be an opportunity and asset rather than a barrier? Would such road markings suggest the road is an amenity for cyclists rather than a space for cars? Is this just wishful thinking? Is this something only a regular cyclist would think is a good thing?
Almost every community planning document stresses the need to achieve a mode-shift away from the private automobile towards a more sustainable and equitable transportation network. That's easy if you're starting from scratch, but in established locations less so. With endless money, and no regard for neighbouring residents, its also easy, but how do we go about de-prioritizing the car, with little money, without changing the road footprint. Here are two concepts close to my home along with some notes...