Thursday, 30 May 2013

Burgtor: 3rd time lucky?

The original Burgtor crossing was a pedestrian slalom disaster.

This got redesigned and made much much worse:


This has now been redesigned again and now looks like this:


As the IGF Blog points out the desire line of pedestrinas and cyclists has been totally ignored.  The rediculasly wide road with low traffic has not been questioned or addressed and unnatural behavior of pedestrains expected.

At least the turning cars now have stacking space and do not have to worry about getting rammed by a tram as they negotiate through the pedestrians, but that is the only improvement.

This is what I think the Dutch would do:


However "Wien ist Anders".  Why do the Vienna planners need to create so much conflict between road users, when it is not necessary?  This whole story would be funny if it was not such an embarrassing mess that creates so much conflict and resentment between groups.  This is just one crossing at one junction...

I belive people will choose to cycle if it is the quickest, most convenient and a safe way to get from A to B.  If the city really want to increase cycling modal share then they need to understand that this level of planning is not good enough.  Back to the drawing board or are we expected to put up with this crap.

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Congestion

Safety is a big argument that can bring about dramatic change in the way we design roads and lead to better infrastructure for cyclists.  However the unwritten rule amongst cycling advocates (but often electronically posted comment) is that we do not talk about safety because it discourages cycling (unless talking about cycle paths off course).

Congestion is another issue that I think motivates people for change and to rethink how we travel.  I ride my bike for many reasons but mainly becuase it is the fasted way to get where I want to go.  I know that when I sit in a traffic jam I am ready to consider anything as an alternative (often suicide seams like an option).  Maybe technology is the answer and we now have the navigation software that re-routes based on traffic congestion data.  This is wonderful but we still have traffic jams and millions of lost hours per year due to congestion.  No one cares unless it happens to them and when it does there is not much they can do about it apart form suicide which just creates even more congestion for others.

R. J. Smeed, noted that at some minimum speed, motorists would simply choose not to drive. If speeds fell below 9 mph (15.5 kmph), then drivers would keep away; as speeds rose above this limit, it would draw more drivers out until the roads became congested again.

Is Smeed right?  Is the speed of a chicken the best car infrastructure can ever hope to archive in an urban environment?  Are people interested in alternatives?

Lets look at the most congested Cities in Europe:

Lets compare these cities to the Copenhagenize Index of Bicycle Friendly Cities.


Is it fair to conclude that the top bicycle cities are dealing with congestion better than the cities that build more roads and have no space for cycling infrastructure? Does modal shift provide a real alternative to congestion in our ever crowded cities?  Is this more complicated and there is no relationship at all; in which case allocating space away from cars to cyclists does not have any effect on congestion?

Maybe this is something to consider the next time you loose an hour of your life with people around you that are too afraid to cycle so drive their kids to school before driving to work themselves.  Maybe those kids could enjoy cycling to school on their own?  Maybe this is something to consider as a powerful argument that will communicate the benifits of cycling to a main stream and get support.

If only this (and other benefits) could be communicated in one simple info graphic.


Maybe cycling advocates have a golden bullet to get main stream support for Dutch cycling infrastructure! 

BUT

There is something cycling advocates also have to recongnise about congestion.  When there is no congestion, people in cars drive faster than a chicken.  Normal people on bikes do not like cyclinging around motor vechicles that are trying to travel faster than them or chickens.  The stop start nature of congestion is not the same as the flowing dynamic of bikes even thought they have very similar averages speeds. As congestion decreases this problem gets worse as less cars drive faster.  Removing cars from the road speeds traffic and leads to an unpleasant cycling environment.  So less cars is not the answer to cycling problems with cars. The roads need to change which is why the Dutch do not expect less cars in general to be the solution for cycle infrastructure and people to use bikes for no reason at all.

The solution to congestion is a viable alternative to the car that has its own separate space and restricts fast moving cars and congestion to it self limiting space.  If you "need to use a car" you can but if you need to get from A to B you can choose the best option only if you have options.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Radwege are Dangerous Bullshit.

I have heard that "Radwege are Dangerous" from  Rad lobbies, District Representatives, Politicians, the Cycle Agency and countless 25 year old male cyclists in Vienna. These comments are backed up with references to studies  showing that junctions are problematical when cycle paths meet motor traffic.  Therefore we should "Share the Road" which seams to be a large part of the policy focus in Vienna, probably because it is cheap and politically easy to implement.

Firstly the studies often do not take into account the quality of the Junctions design.  They are often mis-translated and misused using absolute numbers of accidents, ignoring the dramatic increase in numbers of cyclists that occurs when separate cycle paths are built.  Anyone that pretends there is absolute proof about this is just a lair or a brain washed member of the Vehicular Cyclist Sect.

The Dutch have an excellent safety record for cyclists despite a wide range of ages cycling and many supposedly dangerous cycle paths.  This is often explained  away as being a Safety in Numbers effect.  However this shows either a blatant ignorance of Sustainable Safety principles or a dishonest distortion of the truth.  For sure these are complex themes with many contributing many factors but I think the basic conclusion that Radwege are dangerous shows nothing but arrogance, ignorance and dishonesty.

If  you mention that cycling on busy roads is dangerous then you get quickly shot down for dangerzing cycling and discouraging it by the exact same group who tell you Radwege are Dangerous.

This image seams to be the best statistical safety comparison between the UK and The Netherlands.

The UK has a mix strategy (or no strategy) and the Dutch use Sustainable Safety to engineer their streets which is largely a strategy of conflict reduction and separation of different traffic modes and road functions.

So either there is a safety in numbers effect or mixing cycle traffic on busy roads is dangerous.  Lets ignore the traffic planning and routing, the different junctions designs and road types, the fault tolerance of these designs and all the work that the Dutch have done over 40 years funded by a 30 Euro per person per year budget and say that has had no effect of safety in any way (as some members of the Sect would like you to believe).  Lets just say it is all because of Safety in Numbers.  So how do we get the numbers?

Either we can copy the UK which has a third of Austria's modal share for bikes or we can copy The Netherlands which has 3 times Austria's cycle modal share.  I would suggest that the Dutch have been better at maintaining or increasing the number of cyclists than the British. 

Either way (safety in numbers magic fairy dust or 40 years of cycle friendly road design development) lets please copy the Dutch strategy because it works for some reason.  To do this we need public support and to most people you loose that support instantly when you tell them them cycle paths are dangerous and for beginners and scared old people or children.  No one wants to be in the inferior group and most normal people are not comportable cycling on busy roads, so it is a hard sell.

Today a big important announcement was made that would be perfect if the following sentence was not in it.

"Radwege sind besonders wichtig, um weniger Ge├╝bte, Kinder, Seniorinnen und Senioren zum Radfahren einzuladen"

Translated this means: "Cycle paths are only useful for inferior cyclists that are not good enough to cycle on the road so we will allow you to cycling on footpaths if there is space."

I really hope I have misunderstood and mis-translated that but I worry that I have not, and that the "cyclists belong on the road" V. C. Sect will combine with weak politics to create a city with footpaths built for pedestrians and roads built for cars.  The hope that the "Kultur des Miteinanders" will happen by magic (or  advertising campaign) and mean cyclists will be tolerated in both environments.  This will not work and so we can expect a lot more conflict in the press and on the roads, as people struggle to cope with an environment that ignores their needs.  It is time to stop listening to cyclists.

Friday, 17 May 2013

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Painting over the problem.

The vice mayor announced a bold plan to paint all the cycling lanes a uniform colour to clearly indicate to pedestrians and car drivers where cyclists will ride.  A clear consistent marking of the cycle space is a great idea but....

Of course the traditional (in Vienna) Red cycle paths will now be Painted Green.  Red cycle paths built by the Red Socialists will be painted Green by the Green Party.  This will no doubt lead to huge discussion of which colour to use rather than a discussion about the problem which they are attempting to solve.

London and New York are used as examples where this has been successful.  If the London Super Highways are to be described as a an example we should aspire to I despair.

Red marking will be used to mark the danger zones!  Why not design out the danger zones and fix them?

Painting the existing cycle path (Option 2 of 7) was the 4th most popular option in the Ring Radweg Options survey.  It is seen as an improvement but it is not a fix of the fundamental problem we have on the Ring:

According to the experts:
"Vienna has many large roads running right into the city centre with many lanes. These high volumes of cars
cause problems in the city: not only large streets with many lanes to cross but also fewer space for cyclists and pedestrians. AND all the cars on one street go to other streets where they also ask for space and may cause traffic jams etc. If it would be possible to replace part of the car traffic by bicycle it would result in more “space” in the whole system. One lane of 3,5m can carry about 2000 cars per hour. The same lane can carry about 15.000 cyclists. This is 7 times more efficient. By bicycles many more people can move in the city than if they would go by car. Here is the great advantage of cycling for the city."

Painting a poor solution will not fix it or ease the pressure of space that pedestrians and cyclist have due the over consumption of space by car infrastructure.

The Door Zone problem will not be fixed by painting these terrible lanes.

The incomprehensible rights of way will not be solved by paint alone.

The ENDE problems will not be solved by paint alone.

The lack of usable junctions design for bikes will not be solved by paint alone.

Paint is slippy when worn and wet.  It maybe cheap but it is easily damaged (especially by snow clearing) and needs constant repainting.  It is not what the Dutch do they use Red Tarmac. In Burgenland (Austria) they can get this right.


I would really like to support any initiative that makes consistent cycling infrastructure clearly marked.  In principle clearly delimiting the space with colour is a good idea but it does not change where that space is and that the space is poorly designed. Lets not get distracted be the which colour debate and try and get some competent mobility planning rather than politicians painting over their problems and mistakes while they argue about which colour..

Monday, 13 May 2013

To Mix or Separate that is the Question?


Should bicycle traffic be mixed with other Motorized traffic?  The CROW Design Manual for Bicycle Traffic has an answer summarized by Paul James in his cheat sheet: It is complicated but the clear principle is the busier and faster the road the more separated different modes of transport should be.

In Austria the same principle is applied to produce the following guide.

This is a promising start but in Vienna 95% of the roads are at least 30 kmph (30kmph limit does not mean average speed is less than 30). So with the known traffic volume the Austria planner has the advised solution of combined traffic, paint on the roads or separate cycle path.  The divisions are dotted just in case this advice is too restrictive...  This leads to a lot of inconsistency in the type of solution applied to similar locations.

Separate Cycle paths solutions only work well if they are designed to benefit cyclists and do more than get bikes off the busy roads and out the way of cars.

Combined traffic solutions only work if there is no conflict of road function.

- If you mix with motor traffic that is trying to get through the area (rat running) or you will have conflict.
- If you mix with a queue of motor traffic that is stuck you will have conflict as you filter though it.


Combined solutions should be for the roads you live in where you just need access with motor vehicles.  You should feel comfortable walking in the road and then people will feel comfortable cycling along it or living / socializing / playing / shopping in it.  These roads need to feel like nice places to be for people without the threat of motor cars bulling people away.  The cars need to be separated out of these roads.

There will be some roads where this is not possible because they have a mix of functions.  These roads are problems to design for because they involve a compromise.  I believe one of the main problems in Vienna is that the fist principle of sustainable safety is not applied.  Each road is a compromise rather than having a clear function, so the solution becomes a compromise and there is conflict as a result.  I believe this conflict and the danger associated with it is why a lot of people do not cycle in Vienna.

Sustainable Safety is clearly not understood by planners or politicians in Vienna who try to put behavior laws, or media campaigns in place to cope with the unpredictable or aggressive behavior that results from stressful, conflict situations.  I worry that this will not be a very effective strategy to make Vienna an even better place to live.

Often cycle activists  in Vienna are religiously anti separation.  I have some sympathy with them as they have had years of roads that they used to ride happy a long turned in to door zones and or pedestrian slaloms.  However not all cycle infrastructure is bad and very few people felt comfortable riding along the roads before cycle infrastructure was built.  These two minor points seam to get lost or ignored in the anti infrastructure religion.  There views manifest into a advocacy for mix strategies where cyclists are used as traffic calming devices.  This strategy is not going to create a pleasant cycling environment for anyone and will increase the car / pedestrian / cyclists conflict that is getting so much attention in the media right now.

I want to answer the Mix or Not question in a simple way. If you want to design roads for bikes you must ALWAYS SEPARATE.  Either you have a separate route, separate cycle path or you separate motor traffic out of the street.

Dutch Cycling Embassy: ThinkBike report workshops Vienna Januari 2013

The Dutch Cycling Embassy were in Vienna earlier this year and have produced a very interesting report: here.