Thursday, 4 December 2014

Group Think

We have economic, health, climate, energy and environmental issues and need solutions that will help us work very quickly to a carbon negative, more equal society before we go into climate or 3rd world resource war meltdown and the inevitable human race extinction that will follow. The maths of exponential growth and change, mean things are going to change dramatically.  The only thing we can choose is in which direction things go dramatically.

Often people tell me that technology will solve these problems but there are sustainable solutions out there and cycling is one of the blatantly obvious ones.  It is a proven technology that has many lifestyle, health, time, space, cost, equality, efficiency and environmental benefits. It is a golden bullet that is also fun. All we have to do is facilitate it using tried and tested established real world models and professional published public domain knowledge.

Unfortunately there seams to be some kind of human Group Think dynamics which leave us helpless and paralysed in the business as usual model. If we can not get urban transport right quickly facilitating the cycling golden bullet what chance do we have of dealing with complex problems associated with the economy, deforestation, energy, immigration etc...

Every time I try to explain to someone outside cycling why it is important to facilitate cycling in urban spaces as an option for normal people I have to hear:

"- we all have to behave it is a culture problem.
- who will pay for it.
- cyclist do not obey the law.
- helmets / dangerous / red lights...
- the Greens.
- the MaHü......
.... it is normal you and can not change it."

The following Video is not going to maintain complex life on this planet on it own but it could be a start.  It is an attempt to show different perspectives and that creating conflict with the current road designs and expecting road users to work it out amongst themselves is not going to increase cycling into the main stream and create enough modal shift towards cycling to make any difference worth bothering with.  It is a gentle respectful suggestion that cyclists need to be taken more seriously and not used as human powered traffic calming devices. I think Bernhard of the City Cycling School did a great job of trying to build bridges between the groups, or at least point out that the conflict between them on this bridge is a direct result of the road design.



It and some good work from local activists together with local politicians and planners who listened to concerns has resulted in a solution:






They put up a warning sign.....

OK it is a quick temporary response but it is NOT a long term solution, and not even a solution of any kind other than an acknowledgement of a problem but at least it did not make things worse.

Looking to the longer term (ie. before we cook ourselves on the only planet we have) Vienna has developed ambitions targets with vague meaningless words that are open to interpretation compromise and the same old business as usual model approach.  It all sounds good but what does it really mean?  Is it the low hanging fruit of mobility where every new road modification is used to implement Dutch quality cycling infrastructure?  I worry that "miteinander mobil" means more human powered traffic calming like this un-workable result of group think from the cycle lobby.

The cycle lobby is determined to keep trying to change the behavior of other groups as a solution to their problem.
The media enjoy escalating the conflict between groups to attract more audience.
The politicians tell each group what they want to hear.
The planners follow their guides which based on 30 year old knowledge.
The Police try to enforce incomprehensible laws.
The world keeps turning and getting hotter.

If we are so stupid that we remain trapped in our man made systems of group think then at some point not too far away we will see change forced upon us at a rate that will make us realize that the word "sustainable" really means "not all going to die in the foreseeable future".

Friday, 5 September 2014

Rennweg/Ungargasse/Fasangasse

If ever there was a junction that was a total mess it is this junction.  It has recently been redesigned to Vienna best practice to accommodate cycling.

It is part of the Vienna main cycle route network (solid red lines) which goes diagonally across it.  However there are gaps (to put in nicely) so getting across here involved illegal and creative use of the road and footpath.  It was interesting to see all the junction free-styling that went on here because every time I thought I knew all possible ways of coping with this junction someone would surprise me with a new way...


It was an appalling design for cycling and the new design seams to be no more than basically painted on guides for some of the free-style moves.  The new design will not stop illegal behaviour because cyclists will go with the first green light to get diagonally across the two stage stop diagonal crossing.  So this means half the time they will go anti-clockwise (sort of legal) and half the time anticlockwise (illegal) around.  The new design is confusing and creates dangerous conflict merge point just after the junction on Rennweg in both directions. 

Lets remember that Vienna is a city that wants to half motor car use and promote cycling. If we areto take these claims seriously then we need more than confusing conflict inducing paint.

What I would like to do is explain why I think this mess was created and how I would try to pragmatically solve the issues better in a cost effective way.  I am sure there are many many solutions and I would love to post some options here from others if they propose them.

How did this mess happen.

If a city does not have the political strength to put separate quality cycle paths on main roads you end up with a separate network for cycling using quiet roads and back streets.  This can work if the routes are direct and where people want to go.  You can tell which routes people want to go because these routes become main roads...  However the separate route (the red cycling network) is not too bad but it has to cross (in this case diagonally) the main roads.  This creates very complicated junctions. So you need a solution for this.  Unfortunately Vienna does not even have a good solution for simple main road junctions let alone very complex ones.  Their best practice paint on version of the Copenhagen left hook or a bike box (ASL) are at best a "coping strategies".

In order maximize the motor traffic capacity of a junction it is common for right turning motor traffic to have a green light at the same time a pedestrians get a green light to cross the road that the motor traffic is turning into.  This is a bit dangerous but speeds are low and it does increase the motor traffic capacity of the junction if pedestrian numbers are low.  However on a junction like this where there are a lot of pedestrians the turning motor traffic can not turn and is blocked by a stream of pedestrians.  This means that extra queueing lanes are required going into the junction so that straight ahead motor traffic does not get blocked by the right turning traffic that is blocked by a stream of pedestrians it can not force it's way through.  The requirement for as many queueing lanes into a junction means that all space available is consumed by queuing traffic lanes, (in this case up to 3 lanes!)

Through traffic is restricted in its turning movements on the junction to minimise left turning conflict with the trams and to further increase the capacity of the junction for motor traffic by using the surrounding small streets.  This means that we end up with the ridicules through road Jacquingasse.  This is a though road that has motor traffic funnelled on to it, It is unrestricted along its length with traffic lights and to slow down this rat run there are at least 2 large speed bumps.  If you have thought traffic and speed bumps then you should realise something is very wrong.

How would the Dutch fix this mess?

One of the basics of Sustainable Safety is road classification.  We will apply this and keep the through roads (Rennweg, Ungargasse and Fasangasse) as through roads.  The other road will be access roads. We will allow vehicle turns in all directions on the Junction to facilitate movements and mean we cut out the rat running.  This will also make our junction simple and manageable.

We will use traffic control separation (traffic lights) to separate out the modes. Each mode (trams, motor traffic, cycles and pedestrians) have their own lights anyway.  We will have an all green for cycles and pedestrians to make the diagonal crossing in one phase and to stop the turning right motor traffic blocking straight head flows.  This removes the requirements for many queueing lanes and frees up lots of space.

I simple North-South and East-West light phase with simultaneous green for pedestians and cyclists in all directions and a weighted priory (on the modes with the most users) will allow the timing to be optimised to increase the people movements through the junction (at different times of day...). I suspect this will increase its people capacity even if the metal box capacity is reduced slightly.  This can be optimised with the help of computer models but that is beyond the scope of this blog.

Rather than a roundabout I will stick to the classic Dutch protected intersection which is similar to the current layout an does not require expensive tram track changes.

I will also connect the current cycle network put proper cycle paths along Rennweg where they are desperately missing especially towards the centre.

Here is a basic sketch of my cycle infrastructure layout.


The only traffic lights are on the junction.  This removes the one at Jacquingasse. 

The bi directional path across the junction is maybe not needed with the all green light for cyclists and pedestrians.  I have drawn it to help indicate desire lines more than anything. 

The detailed curb layout would be like the protected intersection which explains this well. You probably do not need the tracks across the junction with a proper all green design.

Jacquingasse turns into a proper Fahradstrasse with no though traffic.  This would help create a bike route up to the Sud Bahnhof that is motor traffic free but the other end needs sorting out too...  However it means Fasangasse can remain the way it is if this is done well.

The above is very basic and needs a lot of detailed work but I hope it shows that:

 - Road Function and traffic routing are very very important.
 - There is always space for cycling infrastructure if we have the balls to rethink junction capacity.

Have a go yourself.



If you send me (doug at culnane dot net) your version I would love to publish it here too.  Lets have a competition.  First prize is a bucket of useless paint.  Second prize is 2 buckets of useless paint.


Update 2014.09.10
It is clear that some people do not really see the problem with this Junction.  It is true that by Vienna standards it is not particularly bad but I thought it might help to do a couple of very amateur videos to try and communicate why it is not particularly good either.









Update 2014-09-12
I got a nice illustration from Roland about the allocation of space (inspired by Copenhagenize)


Tuesday, 8 July 2014

The definitive history of Viennese cycling infrastructure

This is NOT the definitive history of Viennese cycling infrastructure and I do not know the full story but here are two great films and my understanding of the context.




Back in 1969 the city was full of cars!  The City realised this was not going to be a future-proof solution. What Vienna needed was an underground network and so they built one.  Vienna now has the best Public Transport in the world (my world at least).

The focus on public transport, the dismantling of cycle infrastructure and the cultural aspirations of motor car ownership meant bikes were bullied off the road.



Then came the 70s and the problems of car use and oil dependence reignited the mobility discussion.  By then there was 0.01 % modal share for bikes and those that rode used illegal routes and survival tactics.

Since then the City has had some good initiatives to accommodate cycling with some very good bits of cycle path and some very nice cycling environments.  However these initiatives are like the current network, half hearted, disconnected and do not really join up or have any consistency or quality.

Cycling is back in fashion across the developed world as more and more realise the mobility potential cycling brings to urban spaces.  Vienna has marketed cycling well and modal share is at about 5%.  There have been some pathetic attempts to improve the cycling infrastructure and to connect up the network which fail as soon as there is any resistance due to a lost parking space.

Cyclists that have coped with and perfected cycling in the Vienna cycling environment are resistant to more poor quality cycling infrastructure which often disadvantages them compared to riding on the road.

Pedestrians and cyclists fight for space on the once illegal survival routes but now official cycle/foot paths. 

Austrian traffic planners are influenced by German Cycle planning which is very orientated to deigning roads for cars and footpaths for pedestrians and no understanding of human factors or their Dutch neighbour's solutions.

Austrian political cock blocking and the 23 Vienna district micro politics creates an environment that is very resistant to change.

Again the City is at a turning point as it considers mobility for the future. It realises that the city is truly saturated with cars there is nothing it can do to accommodate more, so it hopes to half the number of cars in 15 years.  That leaves public transport, cycling and walking as the only realistic mobility options.

Public transport costs billions but Vienna is very good at it and the politics for public transport are very well established and unquestionable.  Cycling is nothing but problems and conflict but it is very cheap, promotes health, inclusive.... bla bla bla...

If you were Mayor what would you do?  Invest in public transport help your friends and profit from established relationships and structures or tackle the cycling mess and make a real difference with a coherent connected quality network despite resistance from all groups (even cyclists!)?

So it looks like we will get the U5.  Vienna has underground lines from U1 to U6 but the U5 never got built.  When it does we will have to find a new joke to play on tourists who ask "how do I get to ....". "You take the U5".

If Vienna really wants to half the car use and improve mobility it will have to invest heavily in public transport and cycling infrastructure and combine them to provide multi modal solutions.  I believe cycling levels will increase (across Europe) but it seems that they will have to be increased as a result of individual sacrifice and determination rather than political leadership and technical expertise.

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Build it and they will park their bike on it.

They have a few put more bike racks at the Vienna Middle Station and normal behavior has changed! 

Originally they totally forgot or ignored bike parking and there were many problems with badly parked bikes.  This creative freestyle bike parking was normal behavior.

Now it is normal behavior to lock your bike to the excellent Vienna Bike racks.  Here is a very bad video to illustrate the current situation.


The capacity of bike parking is already nearly full so if the city want to encourage more people to cycle and to park their bike responsibly they will have to double the parking capacity again, otherwise they will end up with lots of behavior arguments etc...

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Lenaugasse

There is plenty to get frustrated about in Vienna but the summer is here and there are many cyclists enjoying the sunshine. So here is a positive blog post for a change.

Lenaugasse is a road came across by accident and it is wonderfully well designed residential access road.  No through traffic and design that encourages a sense of place rather than a sense of get through here as quick as possible.  It is officially a Wohnstrasse but they did more than put up a sign to make this space work.


It shows that they can get residential access roads right in the middle of Vienna if they try.

Saturday, 24 May 2014

The corner Czapkagasse and Gärtnergasse

The layout at the corner Czapkagasse and Gärtnergasse and in particular the slight lines are really really bad. Bikes can not see the cars coming down Czapkagasse and the cars can not see the bikes coming from Landstrasse to Marxegasse.  This gets particularly bad when parked high sided vans are on the corner.
 

In this video you see a cars swinging round the corner and then a second that stops to look properly but only looked right and so I had to emergency stop.  It was after they started to turn left that I got eye contact.



I cycle this route most working days and have so many conflicts here with cars.  I have also seen a cyclists sat on the curb with their beading head in their hands.  This clearly needs a proper solution.

The main problem is that cars have to give way but the only indication is a triangle sign off to the side above parked cars.One third of drivers seam totally un-aware of this give way sign. Some kind of simple who has right of way system would  help enormasly...http://crowize-vienna.blogspot.co.at/2012/07/sharks-teeth.html and this would indicate to the cars they have to give way.  The triangle sign is totally useless and so are sharks teeth unless the implementation is consistent...

The line the cars have to drive if they turn left is also a problem. The diagonal parked cars make the road very narrow and also force turning cars to queeze in close to the parked cars on the left. The diagonally parked cars need to be removed to make the turn left more open.  However the turn radius needs to remain tight to reduce speed.  Bringing out the curb in to the road would help pedestrians too.

These turning cars have really really bad slight lines.  They can not see bikes coming until they are already turning and then it is too late. Bike parking racks on the corner would stop vans parking there and improve the sight lines a lot.  A raised junction like the one at Marxegasse and Gärtnergasse would help to reduce speed of cars.

This route is again used as a rat run and it is a main route for cyclists.  This conflict of function multiples the design problem conflicts.

In my opinion there is a general problem that bikes are used in 30kmph  zones as traffic calming devices.  This might work for most drivers who drive carefully in these unclear road mazes.  However it does not create a good cycling environment if your role as a cyclists is to slow the aggressive drivers and you have to put your body in the way of their badly driven speeding cars.

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

The Dooring debate continures.

The standard modern best practice in Vienna is to paint narrow cycle lanes along side of parked cars forcing bikes into the door zone and induing very stressful and unpleasant conflict with overtaking cars.  The debate about this kind of infrastructure continues in Vienna but in my mind there is no debate and this kind of infrastructure is nothing but total crap.

If they are painted wide enough with buffer zones either side they require more space than other proper solutions.  If they are not wide enough they induce danger and conflict.They get parked in and provide a stressful experience to all cyclists and frustrate car drivers.

Maybe Peter Bals has a solution:





The  Radwegbauprogramm 2014 consists mainly of this total crap so we can expect more doorings more conflict and increasing frustration and anger on the roads of Vienna for years to come.