23 October 2014

New York Journalist Covers Cycling in Denmark and Scandinavia

This just in... hot off the presses. As always, Copenhagenize has its finger on the pulse of breaking news.

A roving New York reporter covers cycling in Scandinavia.

"If for nothing else the bicycle is blessed in Scandinavia because it saves time."

"No other country has done more for the pleasure and comfort of its wheelmen than Denmark..."

"The construction of pavements takes in consideration what best can serve the interests of cyclists, and cycle paths are provided near all cities, in some instances leading miles away from town into the country."

"...ride to market on their bicycles with baskets strapped to their backs, and other baskets dangling from the handle-bars of the wheel. ... they seldom come to grief, and manage to keep their equilibrium to their journey's end."

From the New York Sun. 19 February 1897. 42,979 days ago (based on today's date)
(The Sun was a New York newspaper that was published from 1833 until 1950. It was considered a serious paper, like the city's two more successful broadsheets The New York Times and the New York Herald Tribune. The Sun was the most politically conservative of the three.)

22 October 2014

Anniversary of the Modern Copenhagen Cycle Track

Happy Birthday Copenhagen Bike Lanes! 25 years of cycling safety
I made the above graphic back in 2008 to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the return of Copenhagen's separated cycle tracks.

Now it's 31 years on, but the anniversary is timeless.
Building Bike Lanes
It was in June 1983 that the Copenhagen cycle track returned to Copenhagen. Meaning cycle tracks separated from cars on one side and pedestrians on the other by curbs.

For the record, there were cycle tracks prior to this. Historically, separated cycle tracks criss-crossed Copenhagen but many were removed during the brain fart that was the 50s and 60s where planners decided the car was a good horse to back.

Marking Bike Lanes ca 1915
Here are the first bike lanes being marked out back in... 1915.

Building Bike Lanes in the 1930's
Here is a cycle track being constructed back in ... 1930.

But the return of the physically-separated cycle track in the modern era is a landmark. The City of Copenhagen made a visonary choice in implementing them. Cycling levels plummeted through the 50s and 60s from a peak in the late 1940s. By the late 60s, the modal share hit 9% after a high of 55%. Due... you guessed it... to infrastructure being removed to make space for cars.

Through the 1970s, the focus returned to the bicycle as a solution to transport problems. In 1983, the foundation was laid - in stone - for a return to rationality. Jens Kramer Mikkelsen, head of the traffic department (and later Lord Mayor) was responsible for the paradigm shift. A shift which continued unabated until today, where 41% of people arriving in the City of Copenhagen at work or education do so on bicycles. Of the citizens of Copenhagen municipality, the number is 55% who cycle every day. Only 12% drive cars.

On June 4, 1983 the Danish Cyclists' Union, at a large bicycle demonstration, gave a "Cyclist Award" to Mikkelsen in the form of a two metre long curb to symbolise the physical separation from traffic.

The cycle track was placed on the bike lane on Amagerbrogade at the corner of Hollænderdybet - just after Amagerboulevard - a sacred shrine for bike culture if anyone wants to start a'pilgrimage-ing.


The photo features the Cyclist Award and the two chaps who made it - stone mason Uffe Mohr [right] and his apprentice Egon Albertsen [left].

14 October 2014

Nantes: A City Getting it Right

Cours des 50 otages - Pistes cyclables

A French translation of this article follows the English text.

The city of Nantes in France will host the global bicycle conference Velo-City in June 2015. Before showing up, Copenhagenize Design Company decided to do a scouting tour.

Nantes and its 600,000 inhabitants - including the immediate suburbs - is one of the French cities that decided to implement an ambitious cycling policy. They dared to innovate and to make strong political decisions. We find that inspiring.

To begin with, watch the Velo-City 2015 promotional clip. In this video, Nantes demonstrates that they understand that creating a bicycle-friendly city is not just about building infrastructure but it's most of all about developing a life-sized city where bicycles are merely one of the tools to create an active, creative and liveable city - albeit one of the most important tools. Nantes presents in the video its inhabitants, its urban spaces and its activities.

We have to admit that we have been impressed by the diversity of features included in the bicycle policy. Far from being only focused on building infrastructure, Nantes expands the initiatives to include everything that can support rebuilding a bike-friendly city; services for cyclists; parking; a bike share programme; long and short term rental bikes; collaboration with the local associations, etc.

Bicloo Zone à Trafic Limité

The implementation of their policy has been a success if you consider the fact that the number of cyclists has increased and the modal share rose from 2% to 4.5% between 2008 and 2012 (5.3% in the city-centre). Most importantly, the bicycle users in the city are largely Citizen Cyclists and not hard-core "avid cyclists" dressed in racing gear.

First step - Reducing the Number of Parasites
During rush hour, many streets are still highly congested but when it comes to traffic regulation within the city-centre, Nantes has made a crucial decision: the through traffic has been completely removed from the heart of the city thanks to the creation of a Limited Traffic Area.

The main boulevard running through the city is now only accessible to bicycles, public transport and authorised vehicles (taxis, delivery trucks, shopkeepers), meaning that most cars and motorcycles are no longer welcome. On this boulevard, just like on a pedestal, cyclists ride a 4 meter wide cycle track, slightly elevated. Even if we can criticise the fact that the cycle track is very different from the others (bi-directional, in the middle of the street, elevated), we notice that the Municipality has decided to showcase to the inhabitants that the cyclists are very welcome in Nantes - and prioritized. In addition, the city continues transforming symbolic car-centric places into pedestrian areas (such as the Royale square and the Graslin square). Nantes is Copenhagenizing and modernising itself.

Place Graslin


Building Several Kilometres of Bicycle Infrastructure
In addition to their wider focus, Nantes has, bien sur, built numerous kilometres of separated bike lanes. The colour chosen for the bike lanes is a very light orange. At the intersections, this colour communicates clearly that the space is dedicated to cyclists and orange stripes along the lanes strenghten this communication in some areas.

But let's look at the infrasturcture in detail because it is the backbone of any cycling city. The lanes are wide enough to host the current number of cyclists (3 meters wide for the bi-directional lanes). But when the modal share will really increase, will it be sufficient to cope with the user's flow and capacity? Is the infrastructure capable of evolving and expanding? We're not sure.

Piste cyclable 

Piste cyclable

Piste cyclable bi-directionelle Piste cyclable

A Clear Strategy Can Still Suffer from Drawbacks
We must mention that one clear drawback and that is a lack of homogeneity in the bicycle network. The diversity the design of the infrastruture is such that without a strong knowledge of the city, you can easily lose track of the network. For instance, bicycle lanes are randomly designed. They are in the middle of the street, on the right of car traffic, on the right or left of the tram, shared with buses or pedestrians suddenly for a few metres, first monodirectional then bidirectional. It's a guessing game at times.


Despite the consistency of the orange colour and the creation of two main routes - north-south and east-west- the network remains very complex and not at all intuitive. It makes it quite difficult to get a clear mind map of the bike route you’ll be riding. Moreover, the bi-directional bike lanes already show some limits as this infrastructure is too narrow to host the cyclists at the intersections during rush hour.

The physical complexity of the bike infrastructure has two main impacts. First, the speed of the cyclists is reduced, which turns cycling into a less competitive solution compared to other means of transport (12 km/h in Nantes vs. 15,5 in Copenhagen and 20 km/h on the “Green Wave Routes”). We know for a fact that a bicycle user wants to ride from A to B as quick as possible.


Secondly, the difficulty to visualise a clear cycling itinerary can become a serious deterrent to getting new cyclists onto the infrastructure. This might challenge the ambition of the city to increase the modal share. Can Nantes really reach their declared target of 15% model share for cyclists without making cycling the most practical and easiest choice? Not likely, as it is now.

This challenge is common in many French cities that, on the one hand, develop ambitious cycling networks but, on the other hand, make them too inconsistent when it comes to the type of infrastructure.

Increase the 
Diversity of Services
Like so many French cities, Nantes implemented a bike share scheme – the Bicloo – relying on user-friendly stations (880 bikes and 102 stations). But the city also offers the commuters the opportunity to combine bicycle and train through the development of a bike-train-bike concept (similar to the BiTiBi project). Indeed, let's imagine that an inhabitant of Nantes Métropole cycles from home to a nearby suburban train station, he/she can park the bike under a shelter (or, even better, in a secure bike parking facility at the main train station in Nantes). Then, he/she gets on the train and upon arriving in the city-centre, he/she can rent a bike for a day and return it to the same place before taking the train home.  The City of Nantes has also developed secure bike parking, long term rentals and air pumps and they allow folding bike on the trams – the Cyclotan - as well as offering citizens €300 euros subsidy for buying a cargo bike. allowance when buying a cargo-bike.

Bicloo - station


Bord de l'Erdre

Le Lieu Unique


Important information for our followers attending Vélo-City 2015 - we have already found the Copenhagenize HQ  - near the conference venue. A lovely place on the Erdre river. See you there in June 2015.


VERSION EN FRANÇAIS

Nantes – Une ville qui a compris !


La Ville de Nantes (France) accueillera en Juin 2105 la conférence mondiale Vélo-City. Avant de venir y participer, Copenhagenize a décidé d'aller y faire un petit repérage.

Nantes, 600.000 habitants à l'échelle de l'agglomération, est l'une des villes françaises qui a mis en place une ambitieuse politique cyclable et qui n'a pas hésité à innover en la matière et prendre des décisions politiques fortes. De quoi inspirer.

Pour commencer, visionnage de son clip de présentation de Vélo-City 2015, où Nantes montre qu'elle a compris que créer une ville cyclable c'était avant tout créer une ville humaine où les vélos ne sont finalement qu'un des éléments d'une ville active et agréable à vivre. Nantes y présente majoritairement ses habitants, ses espaces publics, ses activités urbaines.

Ensuite, il faut bien avouer que nous avons été impressionné sur la diversité des éléments de sa politique cyclable. Loin de s'être uniquement focalisée sur la construction de pistes cyclables, Nantes a élargi ses initiatives concernant le vélo sur tous les fronts : services aux cyclistes, parkings, vélos publics, travail avec les associations locales...

Résultat, la part modale du vélo est passée de 2 % à 4,5 % entre 2008 et 2012 (5,3% dans le centre-ville), mais surtout les cyclistes sont des usagers de la rue comme les autres et non des hard-core du vélo, de vrais « Citizen Cyclists » (cf. le blogpost sur Copenhagen Cycle Chic).

Deuxièmement, des kilomètres d'infrastructures cyclables
Nantes a construit des kilomètres de pistes cyclables complètement séparées de la circulation automobile. Orange pâle, c'est la couleur choisie pour marquer les pistes cyclables. Aux carrefours, cette couleur affirme la place des cyclistes et des bandes peintes le long des pistes vient parfois judicieusement renforcer la lisibilité du réseau.

Les pistes sont actuellement assez larges pour accueillir les cyclistes (3 mètres de large mais en bi-directionnelle), mais qu'en sera-t-il quand le nombre de cyclistes augmentera véritablement. Toutes ces infrastructures seront-elles adaptables?


Une ombre au tableau
Toutefois, il faut tout de même signaler un bémol : le manque d'homogénéité du réseau cyclable. La diversité du type de pistes cyclables est telle que sans être un fin connaisseur de la ville, on en perd très vite la lisibilité. La piste cyclable se situe parfois au centre de la rue, parfois à droite des voitures, à droite ou à gauche du tram, partagée sur quels mètres avec les piétons ou les bus, elle peut-être mono- ou bi-directionnelle...
Le réseau est trop complexe et malgré la signalisation des axes majeurs nord/sud et est/ouest, difficile d'avoir une carte mentale claire de son itinéraire. Par ailleurs, les pistes cyclables bi-directionnelles montrent déjà leur limite aux heures de pointes, les endroits d'attente aux intersections autant rapidement saturés.

La complexité physique du parcours alternant entre différents types de pistes cyclables à deux impacts majeurs. Il réduit la vitesse des cyclistes et rend ainsi ce mode de déplacement moins compétitif face aux autres modes de transport (12km/h à Nantes contre 15,5 à Copenhague et 20km/h sur les « Green Waves »). On le sait, un cycliste utilise son vélo principalement parce que c'est rapide et pratique. Par ailleurs, la complexité de lecture du réseau peut dissuader certains usagers à se déplacer à vélo et limite l'augmentation de la part modale. Est-ce ainsi possible d'atteindre 15% de cyclistes ?

Cette remarque est en fait la principale critique que l'on puisse faire aux villes françaises de manière générale. Elles innovent mais complexifient leur réseau.


Une diversité de services 
Comme des dizaines d'autres villes en France, Nantes dispose d'un service de vélos partagés – le Bicloo – et de bornes facilement accessibles (800 vélos et 102 stations). Mais elle permet également la combinaison de transport – vélo-train-vélo (cf. le projet européen BiTiBi). En effet, imaginons qu'un habitant de la région nantaise se rende de son domicile à sa gare locale à vélo, il trouve – à défaut d'un parking sécurisé – un abris à vélo. Il prend ensuite le train et une fois arrivé à la gare de Nantes, il empreinte pour la journée un vélo public et le retourne à la gare lorsqu'il vient reprendre son train.

La Ville de Nantes a développé également des parkings sécurisés disponibles sur la voie public, des pompes à vélo, un vélo pliant autorisé dans le tram – le Cyclotan -, une aide à
de 300 euros à l'achat d'un vélo-cargo, un vélo à disposition des étudiants...


Information à tous nos lecteurs participants à Vélo-City 2015, nous avons déjà trouvé notre QG à deux pas de la salle de congrès, un lieu unique au bord de l'Erdre où nous aurons plaisir à vous retrouver.

13 October 2014

Swiss Family Cargo Bike


No big bicycle urbanist article this time. Just a simple tale of what happens when you loan out your cargo bike. During the summer, a Swiss family from Lausanne checked into my Airbnb room. I have had only wonderful experiences with being an Airbnb host. Half of my guests know my work through the company or through this blog or had the link sent by someone who does, so I get to meet many likeminded people. The other half just like the look of the place so I get to meet fascinating strangers and welcome them into our home.

The Swiss family were cool. They kind of just rocked into Copenhagen without any definitive plan. They just wanted to come here to see this cool, bicycle-friendly city. They even brought their kids' bikes with them on the plane. They had vague ideas of renting a cargo bike - preferably a Bullitt - and riding around the region but were disappointed to discover that Bullitts couldn't be rented and the other places that rent three-wheelers were booked. I was using my own Bullitt at the time, so they enquired about the Triobike three-wheeler I have in the backyard. I said that it probably wasn't THAT great to ride on longer trips, what with the wind and whatnot, but they just shrugged and smiled. They were up for anything. And off they went.

They cycled up the coast north of Copenhagen to the north coast of the island of Sjælland that Copenhagen is on. Then back down again. Then over to Malmö in Sweden to ride around the region. The kids rode their bikes and when one got tired - they were four and six - they just put the bike and kid in the cargo bay and continued.

I heard about their journey but I just received the photos in my inbox. It was, by all accounts, an amazing, epic journey. There are, of course, cycle tracks criss-crossing the nation - especially the island of Sjælland - so THAT was no problem, but respect for doing a few hundred kilometres as a family on a three wheeler, two small kids' bikes and one extra adult bike.

Pit stop at a gas station. Not for gas, obviously.

Heading north from Copenhagen. Stopping at Charlottenlund.

They had camping gear with them, too.

Always fun with some off-roading.

Ooh. And picnics.

Lakeside camping with pre-requisite Danish beer.

Old building-visiting.

Off to Sweden.

A break back in Copenhagen at Baisikeli's café.

Thanks to Simon and Sonia for the photos so I can see what they got up to on my bike!



22 September 2014

Car Industry Strikes Back - Smart Hates Peds


Here is (yet) another piece to fit nicely in our ongoing Car Industry Strikes Back series.

Yep. All this growing momemtum for liveable cities, civilised streets after almost a century of destructive, car-centric traffic engineering is really starting to irritate Big Auto. Smart is no exception. In an almost laughable direct extention of the automobile industry's invention of the concept of jaywalking (as highlighted in this TED talk), Smart decided to use "fun" and "gameification" in order to keep the sheep that are pedestrians down. Under the thumb. Under control. In the name, of course, of their kind of safety. They call it:


They are really grasping at straws, Big Auto. This generation is abandoning the automobile and so here comes the spin... new, smart generation... for loving the city. Those of us who love cities rarely have a love of the automobile. We're tired of death, injury, destruction. The new smart generation can see through Big Auto's attempts to spin things their way once again. "To hook them back to the car" as this former head designer at BMW actually told the crowd during his keynote.

So, funny dancing crossing lights to keep pedestrians "safe". Give me a break. 30 km/h zones like in over 120 European cities keep pedestrians and cyclists safe. Traffic calming does, too. External airbags on cars - placing the responsability on the potential murderers, too. Reducing the number of cars in cities is a no-brainer for the new, smart generation. Eliminating car ownership in cities altogether is actually a thing.

We who are new, smart and of this generation don't buy this blatant ignoring the bull. The paradigm is shifting. We are rejecting the car-centric streets that we inherited from the past century. Let the pedestrians dance wherever the hell they like in the Life-Sized City. It's the future of cities. It's back to the future, too. Seven thousand years of liveable cities will NOT be ruined by 90 odd years of deadly mistakes by traffic engineers and Big Auto, who have more deaths on their conscience that most dictators. The liveable city is rising once again, carried on the shoulders of a new, smart generation.


15 September 2014

LED Busstops in Copenhagen


Photo: City of Copenhagen/Rambøll

Here's a little story about some innovation soon to show up in Copenhagen. In a city with many busstops and cycle tracks, there is the question of coexistence. For a number of years, the City of Copenhagen has worked hard to establish islands at busstops for the bus passengers to use when disembarking. It really is the baseline for infrastructure and the City, by and large, prefers it over anything else. Since the City starting retrofitting busstops to provide islands, safety has increased dramatically across the city.

In 2015, The City of Copenhagen will establish LED bus islands at certain locations where there isn't space to build a proper island. When there is no bus, there will be a green strip along the curb. When a bus rolls up, the LED light show will expand across the cycle track to indicate to all traffic users that passengers have the priority. When the bus leaves, the LED lights revert to the green strip.

The Mayor for Traffic and Environment, Morten Kabell, said, "We know that tradtional bus islands are a good idea but don't have space everywhere for them because some streets are too narrow."

"Therefore it will be exciting to see that if a lighted busstop can create a better sense of safety for both parties, create a better flow on the cycle track and create space for bus passengers".

The pilot project will start next year, with a budget of $400,000.

Bus Waiting
This is an example of a standard bus island. The cycle track continues between the sidewalk and the island. In this instance, the law dictates that passengers have to wait for the cyclists to pass before crossing to or from the island.

Frederiksberg Fail
There are, however, a number of locations where space is limited. This kind of situation will be perfect for the new pilot project. In locations like this, the law dicates that the bicycle users have to stop to allow the passengers to board and disembark the bus.

Generally, in detailed observations that Copenhagenize Design Co. have done, there is not a lot of drama at busstops. Things do get a bit tight in the rush hour, sometimes a bicycle user and a bus passenger will bump into each other. Generally, this LED solution will clearly mark out the territory for all parties involved. Many people aren't clear about the rules - or the fact that they differ between places with an island or without.

This solution is a positive addition to the traffic equation in Copenhagen.





11 September 2014

The Arrogance of Space - Paris, Calgary, Tokyo

The Arrogance of Space Paris - Eiffel Tower 001
Yeah, so, there I was on summer holidays with the kids, standing atop the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Been there, done that many times before, but it's always a beautiful experience looking out over a beautiful city. If you're afraid of heights, the rule of thumb is "don't look down". When you work with liveable cities, transport and bicycle urbanism... it would seem that this rule applies as well. Don't look down.

I did, however. I looked down at the intersection on Quai Branly where it meets Pont d'Iéna over the Seine. This is a place with easily hundreds of thousands of visitors every year and more and more cyclists. It is also clearly a place dominated by The Arrogance of Space of last century traffic engineering. It is a museum for failed, car-centric traffic planning - sad and amusing all at once.

You may recall my earlier article about The Arrogance of Space in traffic planning. I talk a lot about it in my keynotes, this Arrogance of Space and I decided to revisit it.
The Arrogance of Space Paris - Eiffel Tower 002
I did a simple thing. I squared off the photo with (very roughly) one square metre squares. It's not totally exact and it doesn't really matter. Creating this grid, I gave the urban space colours based on who it is intended for. It's pretty self-explanatory above.

Worth noting, however, that while I reluctantly gave the goofy bike boxes the "space for bikes" colour, I refused adamantly to do so for the sharrows in the intersection. They are ridiculous and should never, ever, be classified as bicycle infrastructure.

With the colours you soon see how much space is allocated for motorised transport. Arrogantly so.

The Arrogance of Space Paris - Eiffel Tower 003
Removing the photo gives you an even better idea of the blatant injustice of space allocation.
The Arrogance of Space Paris - Eiffel Tower 004
In this version I roughly mapped out the actual space taken up by the motorised vehicles (dark red) and bicycles (dark purple). There were only two bicycle users and a pedicab with two passengers in the intersection at this moment. Yes, cars take up a lot of space, but man... look how much space they don't even occupy. Space that could easily be reallocated to a few hundred thousand pedestrians and many bicycle users.
The Arrogance of Space Paris - Eiffel Tower 005

When you actually count the number of individuals using the space the injustice becomes more and more apparent. The Arrogance morphs into pure mocking of the majority of citizens and visitors to the city. Pedestrians clustered together at crossings waiting for The Matrix to reluctantly grant permission to cross. Bicycles thrown to the hyenas into the middle of the Red Desert.


The Arrogance of Space - Paris Montparnasse 001
Clotilde, an urban planner here at Copenhagenize Design Company, gave me another photo. This one taken from the Montparnasse Tower in Paris. The intersection is Boulevard du Montparnasse around Place du 18 Juin 1940.
The Arrogance of Space - Paris Montparnasse 002
Here is the space allocated to motorised transport... including, it's worth noting, a number of buses.
The Arrogance of Space - Paris Montparnasse 003
Simplied further, there is an arrogant ocean of red and bits and pieces of painted bike lanes. Bikes heading to the right can use the bus lane on the Boulevard, which isn't exactly pleasant. I've tried it.
The Arrogance of Space - Paris Montparnasse 004

Here are the individuals using the space. Buses are great, of course, so let's count on 50+ people on board. But still a shocking amount of space for a few red dots. Only one bicycle user in the middle of nowhere safe. This photo was taken in 2011, by the way, so a lot of that "dead" space is probably repurposed.

The Arrogance of Space - Calgary 001
For contrast, I found this photo taken from the Calgary Tower in my archives. The first Arrogance of Space article was based on Calgary, so let's revisit the city. Sure, I shot this photo facing south and that's the roof of a car park in the foreground, but let's add some colour.
The Arrogance of Space - Calgary 002
Mars. The Red Planet.
The Arrogance of Space - Calgary 003
I only marked out the space I could see, so sure... that sidewalk at middle right will continue to the left, but I couldn't see it.
The Arrogance of Space - Calgary 004

In a liveable city you should be able to climb to a high place, look down at any given moment and see humans in the urban theatre. In this shot I could only see four human forms.

The Arrogance of Space Shibuya Tokyo 001
For contrast to the contrast, this is the view from my favourite hotel in Tokyo, overlooking the Shibuya crossing - which just may be the world's busiest crosswalk. I don't stay anywhere else when I'm in Tokyo simply because I love this view.


There are often bicycles in the crossing, as you can see in the film, above, that I shot a few years ago. There are probably more bikes in the bike parking areas around nearby Shibuya Station than in many countries.
Shibuya Parking - one of the many bike parking areas near the station.

The Arrogance of Space Shibuya Tokyo 002

The Arrogance of Space Shibuya Tokyo 003
Time for some colour. No bike infrastructure here but goodness me... look at that blue.
The Arrogance of Space Shibuya Tokyo 004
According to my EXIF info I took this on Friday, May 22, 2009 at around noon. Not so busy at this moment, but still great to see. Pedestrians here get their own signal in all directions, including diagonally.

If we want to change our failed traffic planning tradition from a previous century, it's time to change the question.

05 September 2014

The Copenhagenize Desire Lines Analysis Goes to Amsterdam

Cover Page Graphic

Nine intersections. 19,500 cyclists. Nine hours. All in a city considered as a model for many urban planners. The Copenhagenize Design Company Desire Lines analysis tool headed south to Amsterdam to study bicycle user behaviour and how it interacts with - or is affected by - urban infrastructure.

In ca lose collaboration between Copenhagenize Design Co. and The University of Amsterdam in the guise of Marco te Brömmelstroet - and for the City of Amsterdam - nine intersections in the city were filmed during the morning rush hour in order to complete the world's largest study of bicycle user behaviour. We're pleased to reveal the results of our study and showcase some of the data, analyses and desire line maps. 

The bicycle infrastructure in the City of Amsterdam is rather different from the typology used in Copenhagen ,where we did the first anthropological studies of the cyclists - The Choregraphy of an Urban Intersection, and others. It was therefore interesting for us to observe the trajectories and behavioiur of Dutch cyclists crossing over-crowded intersections. The Desire Lines are more numerous and more complex, while in Copenhagen, the vast majority of bicycle users stick to the rules and react positively to the infrastructure which is more uniform and simplified. It has been fascinating for us to be able to compare the two cities, as well. Do we really have the World's Best Behaved Cyclists in Copenhagen or can the Dutch compete with that?


Monitored intersections in Amsterdam

The behaviour of Amsterdam cyclists is a recurring theme in public debate in that city. In many of these discussions, the majority of cyclists are deemed to display a strongly anarchistic attitude – e.g. ignoring red lights, cutting corners, etc. Our Desire Lines tool is the perfect way to figure out if these perceptions are true or false and to feed the debate with precise data. The study demonstrates how the cyclists respect the infrastructure as well as exploring whether or not the infrastructure fits the behaviour of the cyclists and whether there is room for improvement.

In our study we address the general research question: How do Amsterdam cyclists interact with design, each other and other road users and how do they experience it all? Nine intersections were allocated to a group of three first-year sociology students from the University of Amsterdam. They used our tried and tested methodology called the “Desire Lines Analysis Tool” and filmed the intersections. Then they went to work counting the cyclists and observing/studying the behaviour. In addition, the students conducted some interviews to gain insight into the experiences and emotions of cyclists at these intersections. Cyclists were classified as Conformists, Momentumists and Recklists - as they always are in our Desire Lines studies.

Here are the data collected at the intersection named Nassauplein (mapping of the trajectories of the cyclists + classification of the cyclists).
Print Print
Behaviour of the cyclists at the intersection Nassauplein


To read about the eight other intersections, you're welcome to download the full report here - - it's a pdf and it is 10 mb. 

At the end of the analysis of the nine intersections, here are our conclusions:

Generally, the outcome of the Desire Lines Analysis suggest that the infrastructure at these crossings is under severe pressure by the sheer number of cyclists in peak hour traffic. As a result, the limitations of these infrastructure are challenged every day by the users.

Behaviour of the cyclists at the 9 intersections in Amsterdam

Although 87% of all 19,500 cyclists conform to all rules, there is a significant group that follows shortcuts, use sidewalks, adapts right-of-way rules or ignore traffic lights. Below, we also offer some more detailed reflections:
  • The nine intersections are very crowded. The video material is from February, so we expect even more cyclists in spring and summer
  • The general impression is that traffic is highly chaotic during rush hour but there were no serious conflicts observed
  • Most cyclists are used to this chaos, but many are also irritated by it. Even to the extent that they tend to avoid it by deviating from the existing infrastructure
  • The width of the cycle tracks does not fit the numbers of cyclists during rush hour. In most directions and on most crossings there is continuous ebb and flow
  • There is a significant lack of waiting space at the traffic lights. This is especially the case for left turning traffic
  • The large majority of cyclists are “conformists” but the number of “momentumists” and “reck­lists” are substantial. Most crossings have a large number of different Desire Lines:
- around the «vluchtheuvels» (small "islands" at each corner)
- in the middle of the intersection when the traffic light is green for left turning traffic
- on the sidewalks (to cut corners for right turning) or on islands and the space between the car and bike lanes
- cycling in a wrong direction down a bi-directional track to avoid waiting at the traffic light when there is a long line

Cyclists are more likely to bend traffic rules when the intersection is crowded. They are then almost “forced” to bend the rules. This rule bending behaviour often resolves apparent capacity problems or repairs ineffective right-of-way situations.


With this analysis we have developed a quite substantive set of systematised knowledge on cyclists’ behaviour in Amsterdam. There is a need to look at these crossings with these insights to develop design solutions that meet this new reality, in which cyclists are the dominant mode.

Despite the impressive level of bicycle infrastructure, cyclists - and pedestrians - are still subject to an all-dominant car-centric traffic planning culture inherited from the previous century. Even in the amazing bicycle city that is Amsterdam, cyclists are second-class citizens squeezed into another traffic culture and - like Copenhagen - not enough is being done to accommodate their mode of transport. A radical change of mentality in bicycle planning is long overdue.