Friday 21 June 2013

Space Man

There is limited space in cities and towns and that space if often consumed by cars. Cars are so ridiculously space inefficient they take up as much space as you give them. This reality often leaves people thinking that there is no space for cycling infrastructure or bigger pedestrian areas and dismiss the idea as implausible. But if there is limited space surely there is no space for ridiculously space inefficient forms of mobility?

What would be the consequence of  reallocation of space to people?  Lets take Time Square for example.

A waste of all that space that "could be used for a for a car dealership or a parking lot, or something"?  Here are some less emotional and more numerical effects of this kind of people friendly urban planing in New York.

According to Wikipedia New York City population density is 10,630/km² and Vienna is 4,002/km². So Vienna has lots more space. It is truly a ridiculous argument to say that Vienna does not have enough space for cycle infrastructure the real question is does it have space for car infrastructure?

Wednesday 19 June 2013

Another View of Vienna Cycle Infrastrucure.

Dave Horton how thinks a lot about cycling says:
... "although there are many good bits of cycling infrastructure, elsewhere Vienna feels like a city which has been badly damaged by the car, and that damage goes on. And the impression you get, riding around, is that cycling is being squeezed in. Instead of using cycling to start fundamentally restructuring the city away from the car, cycling continues to be seen – and added – as an extra."

Tuesday 18 June 2013

2 important lessons I learned from the Dutch Cycle Brunch.

The Dutch Cycle Brunch was very interesting and I learned 2 very significant lessons taking to the guys from Artgineering that I think are well worth sharing.

Lesson 1: Context.

I am extremely frustrated at the lack of basic quality of the cycling infrastructure in Vienna.  I have zero professional or education experience or interest in urban traffic planning but I realize that there are some fundamental problems with cycling infrastructure in Vienna that are being ignored deliberately. In The Netherlands they have gone through the process of developing solutions that actually work. I am very pleased that I am not the only one that sees the real issues clearly but at times it seams like no one in Vienna agrees with me and if they do they believe the solutions are not remotely politically realistic.

From my understanding Artgineering are trying to make better urban spaces that incorporate the bicycle as a modern form of mobility.  The technical issues are of no interest because they are known and clear.  What is often missing in infrastructure projects is attention to the spacial / social / experience  and other basic architectural factors.

When I meet Stefan it quickly became clear that we were not understanding each other at all.  He had no interest in the technical detail planning of cycle paths and I had no interest in the cultural or historical reliance of a space.  I just want to know how the hell normal people on bikes could get from this side of the junction to the other side without having a fight or an accident.  He wanted to know why would they want to go there anyway....  There was a definite clash of 2 worlds and totally different contexts.

So lesson 1 is know the context. The Dutch Consultants that come to Vienna and see strange behavior and interesting bike culture should realize that is because the cycling infrastructure is basically crap.  Cycle advocates that talk to Dutch consultants should realize that they really have no idea that there could be even a discussion about whether people want to cycling in the middle of a busy main road.

I am really grateful that Stefan took the time to talk me out of my frustration into trying to look at the bigger picture.  When he gave his presentation the light bulb went on and I understood lesson 2.

Lesson 2: Do not build the bike infrastructure purely in the image of a space efficient car.

In Stefan's presentation he showed an artists impression of a state of the art high speed cycle super highway that really was a super highway.  There was no possibility for cars or pedestrians to get in the way and there was no way you could be slowed. It had entry and and exit lanes and ramps.  I presume on busy sections you would have multiple lanes and maybe a barrier in the middle just like a car motorway.  I saw the artist impression and thought yes that is exactly what we need to reduce the conflict and make the bike network clear consistent and efficient.

However then the light bulb went on and I thought why the hell would I would to actually use the superhighway to cycle on and be disconnected from the world like I am in my car. Why not just get in the car and drive like all the other Zombies?

For the Dutch the technical understanding is known and it is easy for them to implement great quality mobility in urban spaces.  Their congested cities have invested in the bike and they use the CROW Design Manual for Bicycle Traffic as a guide.  If they really want to go one step better and make really great cities and Urban spaces then they need to look at the architecture and experience of traveling in the space.  This is cycling infrastructure the next steps and it seams that Artgineering at least are trying to get the Dutch to develop new ideas along these lines.

There is a world of difference between the Dutch standard technical level and the rest of the world.  There is such a divide that it is really hard to understand them. If Dutch consultants want to work in places like Vienna they need to go back 40 years with their level of discussion and try to press it forward fast.  If advocates, politicians or planners deal with Dutch consultants they have to realize that it takes time to understand.

Vehicular cyclists have failed miserably to integrate cylcing on the roads. The Dutch have used traffic engineering and developed good quality technical design to make cycling main stream.  The dammage that  Vechicular Cyling advocates still do needs to be eliminated and the Dutch model understood and implemented properly if cycling is to become main stream and cities are to benefit from it.  However we "Go Dutch"  advocates need to be careful that (if people ever actually listen to us) we do not use our understanding of quality car infrastructure to advocate building the same rubbish car experience on a  bike.  This is all very complicated and difficult to get right but I think we have to try.

Sunday 16 June 2013

The highlight of Velocity 2013.

This interview with Mikael Coville-Andersen communicates exactly why this Blog is here.

Vienna will probably ignore you but the quality of life of its citizens will suffer until it gets competent planners that understand the basic technical criteria for good infrastructure and it chooses better urban planning. I hope there are some politicians somewhere that will see the huge opportunity Vienna has if they concentrate on the quality of the infrastructure as well as just marketing. They will have to be brave to take on city departments and question the dominance of cars but it will happen the only question is when.

Thank you so much Mikael for your informed no bullshit words.

Monday 10 June 2013

Operngasse and Herrengasse Traffic Data and Radwegbenutungsbullshit.

I sat at Radlager Palazzo which is in the middle of Operngasse and counted traffic.  This is to provide a bit of background information for the Dutch Cycle Brunch.  This is not an accurate picture of the traffic it is just a random sample.

Friday 7.6.2013
16:00 - 16:30  (30 mins. of counting)
Not rush hour but quite busy time of a sunny day.

Bus: 4
Motorbikes: 33
Cars: 538
Bikes in the Bus / Taxi Lane 10
Bikes on the cycle path travelling South: 72
Bikes on the cycle path travelling North: 46
Total number of bikes: 128
To be honest I was very surprised by this.  I expected there to be no one cycling on the busy 3 lane road in the bus, taxi and bike lane but there were a surprisingly (to me) large number of people doing this.

I think it is fair to say that on this day at this time 1 in 7 cyclists chose the road (only counting North to South Traffic).  The use of the road here is thanks to the groundbreaking new relaxation of the Radwegebenutzungspflicht on this one street

Is this an example of a real change for cyclists that will help Vienna reach its target of 10% modal share for bikes by 2015?

Would the 1 in 7 cyclists cycle anyway?

Would new cyclists be tempted out of their cars to use the road rather than the cyclepath?

Does this improve the conditions and give lots more space to the majority of cyclists?

Does this reduce the traffic light wait time and improve the light synchronization for the majority of cyclists?

Lets look at the whole population in terms of 4 cyclist groups.

Vienna has 6.2% modal share for bikes.  So does this look like the 1% of the population (Strong and Fearless) advocating what they want and ignoring the 67%?  Are the enthused cyclists the other 7% on the cylepath?  How do we get a significant proportion of the "Interested but Concerned" 60% to choose a bike for transport?

Maybe we should copy the Dutch and make the bike a convenient, quick, safe and pleasant option? Or maybe we should listen to the 1% and scrap the cycle paths and share the road?

My view of the Radwegbenutungsflicht is that it is the biggest waste of energy and time to fight street for street for something that people who will cycle anyway feel they are entitled to after years of repression.  They maybe have a point but only 1% of the population cares.  The other 99% want to get from AtoB preferably with less conflict and congestion.  Surely it is time to  focus on the important stuff and design better roads and urban spaces that cater for the needs of the whole population?

Sunday 2 June 2013

Feedback requested on Operngasse and Herrengasse for Dutch Bicycle Brunch.

As part of the VeloCity Week there will be a "Dutch Bicycle Brunch" on the 15th of June at the fahrRADhaus in cooperation with the Radlobby Ă–sterreich. The full invitation is available here.

Artgineering are Dutch Planning Consultants that will look at Operngasse and Herrengasse through some Dutch eyes and discuss the space.  This workshop has nothing to do with this blog but I was volunteered to help them with the organisation of the event.  I have taken 2 videos of the route and suggested what I see as the main problem areas.  However it would be really great to get get feedback from other local cyclists so that they have more feedback than my cynical rants.

Here are the videos of the route.  Please excuse my bad language / bad German / riducule of existing infrastructure and traffic law violations...

I think it is really important to get local feedback about this route so that the Workshop can be as informed and accurate as possible.  So please get involved and post your comments in German or English below, or email me: doug at culnane dot net.

I will compile and translate the feedback and I really look forward to the results.  The workshop is open to members of the public so please do also come along if you are interested.