Monday 10 December 2012

Share the Cycle Path

Pedestrians belong and have a right to walk on the footpath.  The problem of Conflict between Pedestrians and Cyclists can be easily solved if there is a Vienna wide walking pace speed limit for cyclist that is strictly enforced by the Police with hefty fines. Cyclists need to change their attitude and be more patient with other users of the public space.

The above may sound logical to little old ladies who are angry by the young cyclist that whizzed past them on the  Cycle / Pedestrian shared use path. However most cyclists (I hope) will find this ridicules and oppressive of their rights and needs.

However a lot of cyclists seam to think the same about the solution to the car and cyclist conflict.  Why on earth should a car driver be patient with cyclists when those cyclists are not prepared to be patient with them once they get out their car and become a pedestrian?  Is a modern city a city that has cars limited to bike speed or bikes limited to pedestrians speed, or is this one group trying to oppress others?

Behavior is extremely important and we all have to be patient and tolerant of others but when others ignore you and impose their needs on you that is not sharing it is dominating which results in conflict.  Now it is fair to say that cars have dominated and imposed their needs on the public space unfairly for the last 50 years.  But now it is time for pedestrians and cyclist to win some space back.  We will not do this trying to oppress others into unnatural behavior.

We need road design that understands the needs of the users and incorporates this into the engineering. Yes lets share the road when traffic volume is low and speed is below 30kmph.  But on Main through roads there will only be conflict if cyclists (perhaps rightly) claim their space in the way of fast moving cars.  Yes we need space which can come from parking or traffic lanes but mixing will not work if there is large amounts of fast moving motor traffic.

So rather than trying to control others behavior lets look at road design and engineering strategies that  remove conflict and make a safe and pleasant environment for cyclists pedestrians and motorists.


  1. There is conflict in every known design: Nobody has the money to disentangle the traffic modes at crossings, junctions and parking lot outlets.
    (by tunnels, bridges or whatever).

    The very major point is: the crossings (not the straight lanes) are the centers of conflicts.
    Most accidents and especially major accidents happen on crossings. And it is simply proven, that accidents get worse, if motorized traffic can hardly see cyclist anymore, which is the case for many separate cycle path designs.

    Therefore the ideal of cycling traffic separation is flawed by a misconception. Let's try to be honest: traffic separation was invented to have ruddy slow cyclists out of the way of cars.

    In the other way: I'm used to ride in normal traffic. This is usually no more scary than riding near pedestrians. The speed diffs in a city are not very high and cars are way more predictable than pedestrians with dogs or kids around my way. Sometimes a single nuthead starts honking. But this doesn't harm me, the guy still has seen me on his way.

  2. Thanks for your comment fra orolo.

    You do not need to separate at every junction but where you do you can use space or time separate traffic modes at junctions. Time means traffic lights that stop all motor traffic while pedestrians and bikes proceed. Space means tunnels, bridges or separate routes. The dutch spend 25 euros per person per year on cycle infrastructure and that pays for this. We spend about 500 euros per person per year on car infrastructure so this is very cheap by comparison.

    You will always have conflict but the idea of sustainable safety is to match vehicle types. so conflict is between bike and between cars for example. Or you lover speed so that the speed difference is small and less lethal for vulnerable road users.

    Please read where I try to explain this more.

    If motorized traffic can hardly see a cyclist and both are competing for the same space then this is a very badly designed junction. The studies you mention prove that badly designed junctions are dangerous but do not investigate well designed junctions.

    Your honest statement "traffic separation was invented to have ruddy slow cyclists out of the way of cars." I would agree with when it applies to the Vienna cycle infrastructure but this is NOT Dutch quality cycling infrastructure.

    I ride in motor traffic too but I do not find it pleasant when nutheads honk / drive at you / to punishment passes etc.. and it is not very inviting for non-cyclists. This UK perspective I think is reliant to Vienna too:

  3. Bicycles are vehicles. Like Cars. Pedestrians are not vehicles. The speed gradient between cyclists and pedestrians is much greater than between cars and cyclists. And even worse: Pedestrians walk on cycle paths, they don't shoulder check when they change lanes, they don't signal either. As a cyclist, going more than 10 km/h on shared path is reckless. So you would like to see the speed of cyclists restricted to 10 km/h, while motorized traffic is allowed 50 km/h on the adjacent road? What kind of advocacy is this?

  4. Thanks for your Comment A1++.

    I would not like to see cyclists restricted to 10 km/h that would be totally stupid. The point I was asking motor traffic to be restricted to cycle friendly speed on all roads is also stupid. Both are unreasonable demands seen from other perspectives.

    What I am advocating is a complex mix of traffic calming / routing / zoning / planning / road categorization / bikes mixing on some roads with no infrastructure / bikes on quality pedestrian free cycle paths on busy main roads.... It is complex but I believe it will work because it has worked in other very similar countries.