31 January 2010

Manholes for Bicycles

Manhole Bicycle Ramp
I noticed this tiny detail on the urban landscape the other day. Outside the new university buildings on Karen Blixens Vej. I noticed it because I was heading up onto the sidewalk to park.

Scanning the curb for the lowest point while cycling is one of those tiny bits and pieces of behavourial wayfinding that we never give much thought. On certain stretches on my regular routes I know exactly where the lowest point is so I can life the front wheel and bounce onto the sidewalk. Outside our corner shop, for example.

Anyway, my subconscious scan revealed this ramped manhole and I used it. Seconds later, still rolling towards the bike racks, I realised that it wasn't a flaw. The streets are quite new outside these rather newish buildings. Yes, we still cobblestone wherever we can. Charm, character, tradition.

I parked and went back to the manhole. It was simply designed this way in order for bicycles to get up onto the sidewalk more easily.

Once again, it's in the details. Master planning is great. Designing new initatives for bicycles is great. But this one little manhole on this one little street. It was tilted for bicycle wheels.

Left me wondering. Was this a detail that was funnelled down all the way from the planners or was it the men who laid the cobblestones and slabs and curb who made an inspired impromptu decision? The slabs had to be cut to fit and that's usually done on the spot. Urban mysteries.

Let's not omit the possibility that it was shoddy workmanship that turned into a coincedental bonus for cycling citizens.

Bike Ramp Cosiness
Like this little bike ramp I spotted in a courtyard in the city centre. Some flats but mostly offices. A long line of bike racks with this little curb in the middle. Someone went to the trouble of screwing a bit of metal into the stone merely to make a fraction of time in peoples' day a little bit easier. It's only ten centimetres. Easily hoppable, but no, no. A ramp.

Splendid. And this is a private courtyard so someone - a resident? an employee? - got the idea and passed it along. Presto.

Back to manholes, when the hell am I ever going to get the chance to wangle an a propos about manholes and give my excuse to blog my manhole photos?! It ain't everyday.
Danish Manhole
Like this one. Telling the story of The Steadfast Tin Soldier, the Hans Christian Andersen fairytale. As seen out at Amager Beach.


Erik Sandblom said...

Very interesting post!

It's interesting how bicycle paths in most countries are incomplete because of competing jurisdictions. For example I heard about a pothole not being fixed for years, because it was close to the train station and so the local authority expected the train company to fix it.

These problems don't seem to happen so much to pedestrian facilities. Staircases are just about always well-maintained, railings are always installed and in a state of good repair. Somehow it all just works!

hamish wilson said...

Sigh - another beam me over moment - as in North Americar, specifically Caronto, we have difficulty putting the drain in to function as seen here http://takethetooker.ca/ - a big project on one of our "premier" streets (Bloor). But they didn't manage to think of bike safety anyways eg. no bike lanes and some merchants don't like bikes so the "green" city ok'ed the removal of batches of bike parking. Maybe this water feature is how we "green" our streets...

Matthew said...

That might work well until it rains and you get to slip on the manhole cover. That's the problem I have to deal with most frequently--manhole covers that are placed right in the middle of the best line around a corner.

Dennis Laidler said...

Motorcyclists have exactly the same problems with getting up pavements and also having slippery manhole covers on the best line around the corner. Treacherous in wet weather.

Frits B said...

I don't remember ever having seen drain covers this shape anywhere in Holland, but what we do have all over the place are lowered kerb bands, about 3 feet long, to allow wheelchairs, prams and yes, bikes, easy access. To be found mostly where people tend to cross the street, so on corners but also in many other places. Always thought this was the logical thing to do ...

Mikael said...

there are almost always lowered curbs and ramps for bicycles. it's the rule.

i just thought that this manhole was a unique twist.