Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Landstraße Hauptstraße Options

Most working days I commute to work along Landstraße Hauptstraße which is a busy shopping street, bus route, 50kmph through road with short term parking on both sides. It is a busy compressed space so as usual in Vienna the cycle infrastructure solution is narrow Mehrzweckstreifen forcing bikes into the Door Zone. The road markings were recently repainted and have introduced even more (slightly wider) Mehrzweckstreifen at the Northern end. I was so disappointed that I raised a complaint with the RadKummerKasten.

I was very happy to get a reply but the reply basically said the Door Zone was not a problem (it is), I am breaking the law if I try to protect myself by riding out of the door zone of death (debatable but I would rather be fined than seriously injured), cycle paths are dangerous (only if designed poorly) and this paint on solution is the result of 10 years work so do not expect change soon (10 years!).  There is too much in the response to get really angry about in just one blog post so this is maybe part 2 of a series...  However there was one fair point in the reply that stated my proposal to paint car doors in the Door Zone lane and not bikes was cynical and not constructive.

Despite being not the only person to get really frustrated with such terrible cycling infrastructure. I shall try to be constructive.

The problem with Landstrasse from a cycle traffic perspective is that it is a District Access Road which are very difficult roads to get right.  These types of roads have many functions and a clear strategy is not always obvious.

Here is a typical problem section of Landstraße Hauptstraße.  There is Parking both sides narrow  Mehrzweckstreifen and busy footpaths.  These Parking bays are short term so that means the car doors open a lot.  There are also many cars performing parking manoeuvres reversing into spaces and blocking bike and motor traffic.  There are many small trucks and vans delivering goods to the many shops and the local market. There is excellent public transport on this street with the U3 Underground running underneath and buses along the road.  At the North end of the Street is the new Wien Mitte railway station.

The road plan looks like this:

I think this road has a 50kmph speed limit but the road is so busy that it is hard to drive very fast.  Average speed for cars (despite some efforts to drive at well over 50kmph) is about the same as fast bikes here except in rush hour when it is a lot slower.  I cope with this road by riding very fast and aggressively but this is not pleasant, safe or something normal people will want to adopt as a daily routine. So the first obvious thing to do would be to lower the speed limit to 30kmph. This would greatly reduce the conflict with bikes and increase the safety of the many pedestrians without really affecting the average speed of motor traffic. 

This is also one of the main routes for district traffic.  Motor traffic reduction is the next obvious thing to do to make this a more pleasant shopping street.  This would maybe involve a one way system and modifying the surrounding streets.

There are many pedestrians and so the footpaths should not be any smaller. This is the main high street for the 3rd district and should be a nice place for people, with cafes, market and shops so the pedestrians should not lose space.

So how do you do a cater for bike traffic, pedestrians, 2 way 50kmph motor traffic and parking, on a shopping high street?  What would the Dutch Do?

You can  have a separated 2 way bike lane protected with bollards to stop it being used as a unloading/parking lane. This would reduce parking capacity although the other side of the road could become diagonal parking bays.  It creates a clear protected cycle path without door zone or taking space from pedestrians, However Junctions would be complex and very difficult. This option is a compromise that could work but it means all road users would have to compromise a bit.

The parking could be removed completely and one way cycle lanes put in. This would maintain the motor traffic capacity and allow the foot path to be made wider in some places and reduced in others.  It would make junction easier to design but Bus stops and loading bays are very problematical.

You could squeeze the cycle paths to the pedestrian side of the car parking.  This reduces dooring problems because most cars only have one occupant (the driver) who opens the door on the motor traffic side (so they probably look first because suddenly they are the vulnerable road user).  If a cyclist hits a passenger side car door they get thrown in front of pedestrians instead of 50kmph motor traffic, so serious injury is very possible but death is unlikely.

I can only conclude that separate cycle paths on this road are only possible with the reduction of parking, and even then they are not ideal.  I think a solution can only be a complex mix of dramatic traffic reduction, 30kmph speed limit, enforced with traffic calming structures and environment, parking space reduction and few loading bays for deliveries.  If this is done well then cycling along this road would be much more pleasant and this would be a step towards nice road to shop and be on.

So to answer my questions:

Q: How do you do a compromise and cater for bike traffic, pedestrians, 2 way 50kmph motor traffic and parking on a shopping street?
A: You can not.

Q: How would the Dutch compromise and cater for bike traffic, pedestrians, 2 way 50kmph motor traffic and parking on a shopping street?
A: They would not.  A shopping street is for shopping.

A quick Google search for shopping streets and StreetView yields:

The city of Vienna has a similar road design disaster problem with the biggest shopping street in Vienna Mariahilferstrasse.  This street is so busy that it has to close to motor traffic every December due to the number of Christmas shopping pedestrians that can not fit on the footpaths.  Next year it will finally be changed from a bidirectional main road with door zone cycle infrastrucutre and parking on boths sides to a proper shopping street so maybe there is hope.  Does Landstraße Hauptstraße have to wait for the situation to get so bad that 4 lanes of motor traffic space are reduced to zero, will this street become even more dis-functional as everyone takes the U3 a few stops to Mariahilfe to do their shopping, or do the local politicians have the courage to realize that they are there to represent local  people and businesses not motor cars?

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.

Monday, 3 December 2012

The Future of Cycling Advocacy: Stop listening to cyclists.

People who cycle now in low modal share cities to not understand non-cyclists.  They have developed strategies to cope with the road environment but do not understand why these strategies are not attractive to others.

We need to make our cities better, but not for existing cyclists. We need to make them better for the non-cyclists.  The kids who get driven to school, the drivers that waste hours each week in traffic jams, the unfit or overweight people who are not able to fit regular exercise in their daily routine, the road accident victims and their families, the people with poor health due to poor of air quality, the pedestrians who are scared by cyclists on the foot path, and the pedestrians who can not get across the road.

This blog post from the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain is a perfect example of a person that would benefit from good quality cycling infrastructure.  Rational, practical and inclusive, rather than religious and elitist.

A non-cyclist's view of cycle campaigning

There is a shift in cycle campaigning that is gaining momentum by not focusing on cycling but people friendly modern cities. These guys are well worth listening too.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Door Zone

The Door_zone wiki page suggests that 12% of injuries and 3% of fatalities are a result of the Door Zone "accidents". It is common advice to cyclists that you should cycle outside the door zone.

Vienna has 51 km of Mehrzweckstreifen which are normally narrow and along the side park cars, and many cyclists have a dooring or near miss dooring story to tell.

Cyclists develop strategies to cope with these uncomfortable types of road. My strategy is to ride out away from parked cars for 2 reasons. One I try to give myself space to react to pedestrians who step out or opening car doors. The other reason is to slow overtaking traffic down so that they have to do a proper overtake rather than speed on past with no reaction time to my obstacle avoiding swerves. This technique is not understood or very appreciated by some drivers who use their horn and punishment passes to bully me out the way. It is also of questionable legality although cyclists do have the right to leave a safe distance to dangerous objects which is what I am trying to do.

I do use these zones to filter through stationary traffic but I do so at very low speed to give me reaction time. The faster I ride the further out I ride, and I try not to swerve in and out as parking bays change as that can confuse car drivers. This judgement comes with age and is easier if your ride fast to minimise the inconvenience to potentially overtaking cars.

Here is a video of a cyclist in Vienna using these kind of Mehrzweckstreifen (or rather not being able to use these kind of Mehrzweckstreifen.  Note that the diagonally parked cars do not have the door problem but there is still a danger from pedestrians stepping out.)

Certainly being doored or worried about being doored does not contribute to the pleasant, convenient and comfortable design criteria for good quality cycling infrastructure.  As cycling becomes a more common and important part of mobility in developed urban countries the Door Zone problem needs to be solved.

This is the Austrian non-solution:

The Americans are developing solutions:

How would the Dutch Solve this issue?

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Proper CROWizing.

It seems cycle campaigning is gaining momentum in London and this conference is evidance that things are started to get professional.

One presentation that I really like was a proper Dutch engineer doing some CROWize London Consultancy.

Presentation can be downloaded here.

I really hope the day comes when this CROWize Vienna Blog is replaced by proper consultants and quality design and implementation.

Monday, 5 November 2012

Welcome to the age of the bike.

As a Brit living Vienna I was very excited about The Times Cycling Campaign when if first was made public because it was a big sign that Cycling in Britain Goes Mainstream.  Their 8 points were nice but focused on symptoms without really understanding the problem.  For example fitting mirrors to trucks is a good idea but will not really make it pleasant for a 10 year old cyclists to share the road with them.  However the Times have stuck at it and are relaunching their initiative and if this article is anything to go by they are really on the right track.

Austria did a better job with its 10 point manifesto, and in terms of Cycle usage and  infrastructure is well in front of the UK.  However Vienna is way behind where it could be potentially.

This all just confirms to me that the world is changing and the bike is a big part of the answer for the foreseeable future of urban mobility.  So I hope the focus in Vienna also changes to infrastructure quality because that is where I see the biggest barrier to utility cycling by a large proportion of the population.

So please to check out and support  The Times Cycling Campaign and lets hope this political realisation is contagious.

Monday, 22 October 2012


Radwegebenützungspflicht is the compulsory use of cycle infrastructure. It is a law in Austria that cyclists must use the cycle infrastructure if there is some near by (or something like that but it is a bit unclear...).

Some cyclists oppose this law for various reasons but here are some that are plausible arguments IMHO:

- It was introduced to get bikes out of the way of cars.
- Cyclists should have the right to ride fast on the road and not be forced to use the slow poor quality dangerous cycle paths with all the pedestrians, "beginner" cyclists and hazards.
- It re-enforces the cultural opinion that bikes have no right to be on the road.

Statements like these demonstrate these attitudes:

"Schnelle Radler können im Verkehr mitschwimmen und Langsamere oder Ängstliche haben es am Radweg gemütlicher."

One thing I am 100% sure of, if this law is dropped then overnight absolutely nothing will change for 99% of road users. The road environment will still be the same aggressive environment and the cycling infrastructure will still be of poor quality. 8 year old children will not suddenly start riding to school mixing with the 50kmph cars. A few cyclists can run will the bulls with the legal right to be there and can feel superior to all the afraid beginners, but the environment that would enable high levels of cycling will not be any closer.

I personally like adrenalin and going fast. I race extreme sailing boats and ride my mountain bike down hill faster than I really know how too, but I would like to think I can make the differentiation between sport and practical, responsible mobility.

So lets get rid of the Radwegebenützungspflicht so cycle campaigners can focus on the important stuff.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Neuer Radweganschluss zwischen Favoriten und Landstraße

There is a "Neuer Radweganschluss zwischen Favoriten und Landstraße" so I thought I would check it out.

First lets put this in context:
Vienna Central Station is a redevelopment of Wien Südbahnhof. I say redevelopment but I went past this one day and was amazed by the size of the massive hole in the ground 10 meters deep and the size of blue area on the map above. Lets just say this is a hugely important massive Vienna mobility project (judging by the size of that hole it can be nothing else). The red line is a not too bad cycle path to the technical university and Ring. There are also good train, tram, U-bahn, road and bus links. So this is a huge modern mobility hub no doubt about it.

The redevelopment is very far from finished but some things are taking shape and the cycle path has been advertised so lets take a look at it.

A wonderful wide cycle path right in front of the train station (when its built) defining bikes as part of the future mobility plan for Vienna. Great stuff.

Lets look at this in detail. Here is the ride from East to West:

Not bad but lets get into the details more.

This cycle path is wide and great but there is no huge train station spilling out thousands of pedestrians yet. Will the cycle path be clear or will it look like more footpath?  Maybe some red tarmac could have been in the budget for this project?

Trying to go further East along the Gürtel is really bad, just try it. I did it once and I am not going to do it again.

There is an option to turn North at Südtirolaplatz (a sign posted Rad Route!) but you get greated by this door zone of death along Favoritenstrasse (A thought road). No thanks.

I did not go further West or South so I am not sure how it connects up to the districts there. However in the video you will see many junctions with traffic lights. No one likes traffic lights unless they are green.

It is no wonder that such an important hub will have a lot of traffic in and out of it but the important junction of Argentinierstrasse (red line on the map above) is really a problem.  Maybe this is work in progress but this junctions says one thing to a cyclist "JUMP the RED light".  (Note: I did not jump the red light in the video someone else did who kindly volunteered to take this video for me).  I promise you that regular bike commuters will develop elaborate timed traffic island hopping techniques to get across this junction.  These techniques will be mostly illegal but individual solutions to cope with poor design.

Watch this and ask yourself if this is modern mobility for thousands of people a day or is it just a bunch of cars in a traffic jam and loads of red lights that are hard to take seriously ? (note i could not be bothered to wait for them to go green and then red so add time....... to the beginning of this video.)

It is not just my video cyclist, but also this trained stunt cyclist woman also jumped lights here:

I approached this from the centre of town up Argentinierstrasse. This will be important as it links the north/south cycle path to the new east/west cycle path. On the approach I cycled past this:

and found myself here:
when I should legally ended up here:

Clearly this is not clear and needs some work. You could easily remove this Door Zone of Death

and add a meter to the Cycle path at the junction. This would lead to a clear (if red tarmacked) bidirectional crossing,  rather than a freestyle Frogger crossing.

There is also a ENDE of the cycle path that spits you out into the path (East to west video @3:37) of a bus exit to the Gurtel.  It will be interesting how the bike bus conflict is resolved.  Should bikes stay right or left or are buses going to weave in between (or over the top of) the confused cyclists?

So this development has potential but the devil is in the detail. How will this mobility hub be connected up with the rest of Vienna. At the moment it looks like this will be done with public transport but not cycling. There is nothing wrong with public transport and in Vienna there is a hell of a lot that is right, but if you spend a few Euros on this magic mobility hub please lets have some kind of cycle solution that is more than paint and pavement.

Monday, 8 October 2012

Velo-city 2013: The Sound of Cycling – Urban Cycling Cultures

You know when you have bad cycle infrastructure when you start talking about culture.

Cycling should be really boring like Vacuum cleaning culture.  However in Vienna it is not quite main stream yet.  Vienna will host the Velo-city conference and it's marketing draws the link between cycling and Vienna's  great music culture.  It is true that Vienna has a great culture for music and theater.  This culture did not evolve by accident it was engineered by patrons, talented individuals and governmental investment. Big expensive high quality infrastructure was financed, like this, this, this etc.....

I think Velo-city should be about the boring technical infrastructure that makes cycling a mundane practical choice (explained here) rather than some culture phenomenon that happened by accident.  Culture grows out of the environmental conditions that are engineered.

Having said that if you like quirky cycling sub culture Vienna is a really great place to enjoy.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Rasen am Ring 2012: Ring Rad Weg Options Survey.

As part of the Rasen am Ring 2012 event (where part of the Ring is turned into a car free zone and 1000 sqm of grass turf is laid down on the central main road), I did a Ring Rad Weg Options survey in cooperation with and help from Argus and IGF.

I was not really prepared for how difficult this would actually be. Getting people to take part in surveys is a hard job and I was annoyed by the amount of people who answered in English "Sorry I do not Speak German" and walked off.  Bloody foreigners.

However I employed some child labour and Max and Tony did a fantastic job explaining traffic concepts to passers by and collecting their votes.

We tried to get a fair cross section of the population but I have to confess cyclists where much more interested in the Ring Rad Weg and the cyclist / pedestrian conflict problems. However we had tourists / residents / pedestrians and some interesting responses and discussions...  Due to the nature of this survey you did have to have a conversation with people for between 5 mins and 40 mins to get a response.  However I was totally surprised about how positive each respondent was and how interested they were in the solutions.

The question was:

"Zur Zeit gibt es große Konflikte zwischen den Verkehrsteilnehmern am Ring. Wie sollte man den öffentlichen Raum “Ring” gestalten?"
(There is a lot of conflict between road users on the Ring. How should the Ring public space be used?)

Here are the results:

Option 1:
1 Vote.
Die Ist-situation soll bleiben.
(Current design.)

Option 2:
10 Votes.
Der jetzige Radweg soll mit roter Farbe klar markiert werden.
(Clearly marked cycle path.)

Option 3:
42 Votes. 
Es soll einen durchgehenden Radweg auf der Nebenfahrbahn geben.
(Cycle path on the side streets.)

Option 4:
6 Votes.
Es soll einen durchgehenden Radweg auf einer Fahrbahn des Ringes geben.
(A bidirectional cycle path on the main road.)

Option 5:
4 Votes.
Der Ring soll in beide Richtungen befahrbar sein.
(One direction cycle paths on main road.)

Option 6:
11 Votes.
Die verkehrsberuhigte Nebenfahrbahn soll auch für Radfahere benützbar sein.
(Integration of bicycle traffic with traffic reduced and calmed side roads.)

Option 7:
84 Votes.
Der Ring soll autofrei sein - wie die Prater Hauptallee.
(Car free zone like the Prater Hauptallee).

At the end of a long conversation the one person who voted for the current situation admitted he was not too happy with it but did not know which was the best solution.  The rest 157 voted for change.  A lot of people would have liked 2 votes.  One for what the want (often option 7) and one vote for what they thought was realistic. 

I am very happy because the result of this survey is that 158 people realized that pedestrian / cyclist conflict is not just a problem of behavior it is also a design problem to some extent.  Even new and improved designs are unsatisfactory. 

I think you will never remove 100% of conflict but it is maybe time for the City of Vienna to concentrate of the quality of the road infrastructure for all users.

A big thanks goes to everyone that took the time to answer this survey and the help I got setting it up.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Ring Rad Weg: Heldentor: Again...

A quick stop at the now infamous junction on the way home and some really good discussion on the web  leads me to this Heldentor design revision. In my original there was no way to cross the Ring to the outer side. So how would the Dutch design such a crossing?

Here is a plan view of the current situation followed by my attempt at guessing how this would be handled in Holland:

There are many option for solving this and a lot depends on the chosen concept of the Ring Rad Weg but I will go for a solution that is as close to what is there now as possible without the shared high density pedestrian and bicycle footpath.

A quick observation of the traffic here  reveals that the overriding dominant road user here is the pedestrian.  There is little crossing cycle traffic and not much turning motor traffic.  Going with an Option 3 solution would mean integrating the Cycle path with the junction is very difficult.  However due to the very low amount of cycle traffic trying to cross the central road here the cycle crossing can be a small bidirectional cycle path.  There is huge amounts of room here so this could be totally away from the dominant pedestrian crossing traffic.  The fast moving 3 lane motor traffic just needs to be moved back a few meters and bikes can cross on their red light phase in front of them.

Speed bump type traffic calming and road norrowing could be used to slow and calm the traffic on the inner side and outer side streets to a level where the light regulated crossings could be removed.  Then you would only need traffic light control to allow the taxis, horse drawn carridges and tourist coaches to join the 3 lane central motorway.  Giving them stacking space to do this without constant conflict from bikes and pedestrians would make this task easier and lead to less mistakes and the resulting injuries.  On this motorway red phase, pedestrains and cyclists could cross without having to conflict with each other.

I hope the above concept could reduce the conflict for all road users and be for more convenient to use, but frankly anything would be better than the new and improved design.

UPDATE 1.10.2012

I am very happy to announce that the city of Vienna will review this junction so I have tidied up my sketch above to hopefully make it a bit clearer. The above is what I think the Dutch would do but it is far from a finished design.  I hope it is enough to indicate how this junction could be designed if pedestrians and cyclists are treated as road users. I hope they do not listen to me but someone qualified from Holland that has some experience creating good solutions, because until they do I have a feeling I will be writing a lot more about this junction.

It has also been pointed out that there is no such thing as Heldentor the correct name is Burgtor.  Sorry for confusion.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Ring Rad Weg: Heldentor: New and improved?

I wrote about the Heldentor Junction in an earlier post.  Maybe the City of Vienna read this blog and have redesigned and changed this junction at great expense to Austrian the tax payer.

The Key problems (as I see them) with the old version pictured below are:

"The not very visible painted on cycle path swings into the pedestrian crossing in order to share the traffic light. The pedestrians normally have no idea they are on a cycle path until a bike slaloms through them.  The red light is not very well respected and often jumped because a lot of the time it is frankly not worth taking seriously."

My suggestion was a road narrowing and large central island combined with un-bundling the conflict at the junction and providing stacking space for motor vehicles to enter and leave, and the removal of the traffic light.  This is my guess at what the Dutch would do.  So what did Vienna do?

They have done the opposite for reasons I do not understand.

How well does this work reducing the pedestrian / cyclist conflict and improving the sight lines for car drivers?

You decide while I have a little cry.

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Ring Rad Weg Options

The Ring Rad Weg is a very busy road for pedestrians, cyclists, public transport and motorists.  There are huge pedestrian / cyclist conflict problems and a lot of cyclists are unsatisfied with the current slalom through living gate poles.  There is a growing realisation that design change is needed and public opinion is growing in support of relocation of space from cars to people.

Here is my attempt to propose some Ring design concepts and to start the discussion of the pros and cons for each.  You can vote for your preferred choice in the poll and please leave any comments you have.

I have taken a typical section of the Ring (Burgring - Opernring) that illustrates the kind of side street and 3 lane pedestrian configuration that is common.  I am only attempting to illustrate the basic concept here not the detail of each junction or section.

Option 1: Current design.

Option 2: Clearly marked cycle path.

Option 3: Cycle path on the side streets.

Option 4: A bidirectional cycle path on the main road.

Option 5: One direction cycle paths on main road.

Option 6: Integration of bicycle traffic with traffic reduced and calmed side roads.

Option 7: Car free zone (like the Prater Hauptallee).

Friday, 7 September 2012

How to CROWize Burggasse

There have been some alterations to the junction of Burggasse by the MQ.  There are calls for a bike box to be installed however there is no way an 8 year old child should be encouraged to cycle in the middle of this junction.  Even confident adult cyclists would not find this in any way a pleasant experience.

Assuming we can not provide separate route for bikes or change the traffic patterns and we must have a solution for bikes here what would it look like if the Dutch did it?

We have a big junction with through roads and tram lines running through the middle of it.  Separation with traffic control or grade separation is required for this type of situation. Using traffic control lights would fit best here as they are already installed and it would require minimal changes and space compared to grade separation.  The junction could look something like this.

This does not remove any pedestrian or car space but uses the existing space as per the explanation in this video.

The Traffic lights can be used to TCS (Traffic Control Separate) so that conflict is minimal. The sequence could look like this.

Where the lines cross there is conflict.  So pedestrians and bikes have some conflict. Right turning cars also have some conflict with bikes and pedestrians.  By increasing the number of light phases this conflict can be eliminated but this also reduces the capacity of the junction. So a compromise is needed. This is just a simple 2 phase sequence that does not allow some motor traffic turns.  More complex sequences and traffic routing would have to be used to optimise this but I hope this is enough to demonstrate the principle.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Toad Culture

I had an interesting chat last week about promoting bike culture and borrowing techniques from car culture advertising. It got me thinking.

Here is a short film from my childhood that explains car culture.

I think we should be honest and agree that most of us can identify with Toad to some extent.  A fast car driven at speed on the open road is fun.  You may crash and kill someone but that only happens to others (1.3 million others each year).  We also have to be honest and ask if our daily commute really matches this dream?  Cars are sold on a the basis of a dream that just does not exist in cities.  The reality for most city drivers is a slow, frustrating, boring, expensive, unreliable, stressful nightmare, but they still do it every day.

Bikes are cool, fast and fun. There are plenty positive reasons and data to support the promotion of bikes, however more people choose to sit in a car and add to the traffic congestion.  Do we need to sell and promote bikes more or just create an environment where cyclists can ride fast and are protected from the Toads in cars?

I think we need to do both.  I think we also need to recognize that a Toad on a bike can do a lot less damage than a Toad in a car, so we should not get too upset when a cyclist behaves like a Toad.  Until proper cycling infrastructure that makes it clear how Toads should behave is built and cycling becomes a mainstream normal activity you will see a lot of Toads on bikes in sub cultures.

Vienna is just moving out of the sub culture zone with nearly 6% modal split so how do you sell bikes to the main stream?  When it comes to marketing rational arguments do not work as well as fear and emotions.  So maybe pointing out how stupid Toad looks in his huge SUV stuck in a traffic jam looking for a parking space and late to work for a job he hates but has to keep so he can afford the repayments on the ridiculously expensive easily scratched over-sized military truck would work better.

We ended this chat agreeing that I should stick to trying to uderstand the technical cycling infrastructure problems.

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.