Saturday, 21 July 2012

Pedestrian Cyclist Conflict.

The conflict in Vienna between pedestrians and cyclists is a huge problem.

Firstly it is important to recognise that nearly everyone is a pedestrian, so this is an issue that has huge relevance.  If you walk along the path and get buzzed by a cyclist or even worse nearly collide with one then you will quite rightly take a poor view of that cyclist.  It is human nature to put people in groups and suddenly nearly all of us have a poor view of cyclists.

A cyclist that is forced to use really poor quality cycle paths that are full of pedestrians will, after a while, give up and just slalom through them at speed.  This may be wrong but it is normal human behavior.

I believe there is no point in making the distinction between legal and illegal behavior. It is true that if everyone obeyed the law exactly then there would be a lot less conflict.  However this is just not realistic, when most people do not really understand all the laws and it is human nature to take the path of least resistance, make mistakes, not concentrate and take short cuts.

When a cyclist ends up riding on the footpath is it often because the cycle network does not have 100% converge and so cyclists have to freestyle over the gaps.  If they are not riding on the road it is maybe because they do not feel comfortable riding on it. Often pedestrians do not realise that they are standing or walking in the middle of a cycle path.  Shared pedestrian and cyclist paths are common and so this conflict becomes normal behaviour.

In some cases there are clearly design problems as with the picture below where the pedestrians are walking on the cycle path. If you walk straight along this road then you have to cross the cycle path to get to the zebra crossing.  Why not put the zebra crossing where the pedestrians walk rather than platting the cycle path and footpath.  This is clearly designed to create conflict and it is working.

It would be naive to think that this problem can be solved 100% but I believe it can be improved by understanding and applying Dutch infrastructure design.  My initial thoughts were that the consistent implementation of red tarmac (especially with curbs and a white dotted line down the middle to make it look like a road) for cycle space would solve a lot of these problems, like this picture:

I tried to look for similar situations in Vienna and Holland to show how the cycle space and pedestrian space is clearly separated.  However I struggled until I realized that I had misunderstood the power of the Sustainable Safety's road function definitions.

It is hard to find cycle paths mixing with large numbers of pedestrians because on Access roads cycle traffic is on the road. Separate cycle paths tend to be on Through roads where there are very few pedestrians.  So you tend to have separate cycle paths and Through roads with no pedestrians or Access roads with very low motor traffic and on road cycling. Of course the in between District access roads are a bit of both, but pedestrian numbers tend to be low for these types of road. This is further explained here.

Lets compare some Street Views.

Vienna Holland
Pedestrians waiting (a long time) to cross a Through road and some of them totally un-aware they are on a cycle path.
Through road with clearly defined cycle path.
On road cycling.
Separate cycle path curb division and wide foot path.
Nice public space.
Nice public space inviting cycling and defining a route.

It seams clear that private car traffic needs to be reduced and the space reallocated to create space for good pedestrian and cycling conditions. Clear red tarmac and curbs will help but the main issue is still the allocation of space from cars to people.  Conflict between cyclists and pedestrians turns allies into enemies and of course the cyclist looses because nearly all of us are pedestrians.

Further reading:
- Reducing conflict between bicycle riders and pedestrians
- Pedestrian-Cyclist Conflict Minimisation on Shared Paths and Footpaths

Big thanks to the Radfahren in Wien group and Street View for the pictures.

1 comment:

  1. Great post here about: "How does a Dutch environment work for pedestrians?"