07 January 2011

Wake Up, Ottawa!

I think a re-post of the above Streetfilm is in order. The City of Ottawa, Canada is planning an inaugural stretch of separated bicycle lane. A bold step, albeit one that is perhaps a little late in coming. But better late than never.

Following in the footsteps of scores of cities around the world - including Montreal and Vancouver in their own country, Ottawa is moving towards creating a safe - and profitable - environment for Citizen Cyclists in their city. Even Toronto, as I saw on Twitter today, is planning similar 'cycle tracks'. Read Physically Separated Bicycle Lanes Coming to Toronto.

But hey, Ottawa, have a look at the above film. Featuring a slough of bicycle advocates from your neck of the woods letting you know that what your city is doing is a good thing. In no uncertain terms. A whopping eleven representatives from Ottawa and Gatineau attended the Velo-City Conference in Copenhagen this past summer. What did they get out of it? Inspiration. Like what Mia Birk of Alta Planning says in this interview:

"Portland’s already enlightened traffic engineer, Rob Burchfield, said the week he spent in Amsterdam and Copenhagen was the equivalent of 15 years worth of conferences and trainings. He already was on board conceptually, but experiencing it in real life made it real for him."

Here's the Mayor of Gatineau on my bike - :-)
Mayor of Gatineau

So, you're on the right track, Ottawa. But why am I writing this little serenade to you? Well, I can understand that there is some resistance to the physically-separated bicycle infrastructure your city planners are proposing.

Some of it is coming from the Bank Street BIA (Business Improvement Area). From what I understand they banned the rainbow flags associated with the gay and lesbian community in their area and now they're battling the bike lane(s). Perhaps it's time to tell them that We're Here, We're Geared, Get Used to It.

Bizarrely, the BIA is claiming "safety concerns" as a reason for being a stick in the mud.

"The BIA raised safety concerns as well. Citing a study that looks at accidents between cyclists and vehicles in Copenhagen after segregated bike lanes were implemented, the BIA pointed out that there was a 129-per-cent increase in accidents involving right-turning cars — cars cutting across the paths of cyclists who were proceeding straight through intersections in their dedicated lanes"

Oh, my. THAT sounds familiar. All too familiar. No trouble tracing the source of the BIA's 'research'. It originates with the man behind www.vehicularcyclist.com, continuing the Vehicular Cyclists' (VC) desperate attempt to block the bicycle infrastructure we see all over the world. Infrastructure that increases cycling, makes cyclists safer and benefits the public health, reduction of pollution, etc etc.

Nevermind the fact that the above statement is wrong - segregated infrastructure dates from the turn of the last century and there were no studies about it back then and cycling levels exploded when newer segregated lanes were implemented (and where on earth did that 129% number come from?!) - the BIA have had the wool pulled over their eyes.

Without really knowing any about the effects of implemention of bicycle infrastructure on cities - or commerce - they grasped at the only straw presented to them. One held by a tiny sub-culture intent on preserving cycling for themselves and restricting access to safe cycling to the general public. A radical little sub-culture with their own Creationist Theory who base their ideology on gross manipulation of one single study from Copenhagen.

Here's what you should do, Ottawans: Ask the BIA what happened AFTER the publication of the study the BIA is quoting. What was the result? What actions did the City of Copenhagen take - and continue to take - to gently tweak the bicycle infrastructure to make it even safer? THAT is how the story ends. Not with a feeble, misinformed quote.

You know what? The BIA - or the "Responsible Cycling Coalition" (old wine in new bottles) started by the same chap behind the VC website above - won't be able to tell you. They don't have a clue. Which isn't very credible at all.

This Responsible Cycling Coalition made a little film which is not only spooky, but really spells out of the folly of how the BIA have been manipulated.
Carry on in Copenhagen
I suggest the BIA contact like-minded organisations in cities that have enjoyed success with bicycle infrastructure (which is virtually all of them). They'll quickly learn the vast benefits of bicycle infrastructure. It's not just safer, there's money in it!

Bicycle infrastructure increases not only the number of Citizen Cyclists, but the number of pedestrians on the sidewalks. This, of course, increases sales.

Bicycle infrastructure increases real estate value.

Infrastructure also serves as a kind of traffic calming measure. Cars driving slower increases the attractiveness of any street.

People on bicycles make better shoppers. They spend, on average, more money when shopping.

Jan Gehl has replied, when faced with statements about how bicycle lanes are bad for business, "Bullshit."

I concur.

Come on, Ottawa. Wake up and smell the bicycle culture.
Shopalicious Bikeness

The BIA's shockingly uninformed position paper is available as a .pdf here.


bikeolounger said...

So much sense in having dedicated cycle paths!

I'd love to see them in Louisville Kentucky, but the economic reality is that we lack the funds to do it all, especially to fight the backlash from the anti-bike crowd (you'd think people worship their cars or something...).

You may have started something, though, with the "We're Here, We're Geared, Get Used to It." May I spread the expression around?

Mikael said...

Feel free to spread that slogan around. :-) I got plenty more where that came from... :-)

Taliesin said...

Vehicularists who claim segregation is so dangerous seem to ignore the fact that the Dutch and Danes are much less at risk of serious injury or death while cycling than there UK, US, Australian, fellows. This is despite all the cycling that is done in Denmark and The Netherlands on segregated infrastructure.

When pushed on this, some VC advocates have claimed to me that they'd be even safer without the segregation because their roads are safer. At which point you can only shrug and give up. Like you say, a they're s sect.

Hobbes vs Boyle said...

Maybe the argument about increased right-hooks on bike facilities come from this study:


Hardly 129%, but it is not a bad idea to remind cyclists that segregated bike paths do come with the risk of right hooks. In my former home town Berlin, almost all cycling fatalities happened in this manner, usually involving a right-turning truck.

lagatta à montréal said...

Hobbes, both Mikael (Copenhagenize) and Marc (Amsterdamize) have addressed the peril of dead angles, right hooks or whatever, and discussed awareness campaigns about it.

It also exists where there is no such infrastructure. And doesn't just concern cyclists. Pedestrians and even people in small cars fall victim to it.

I have family in Gatineau and Ottawa and an old 3-speed bicycle that lives there. I often shop along old Bank Street with it. It is precisely the type of old shopping street that stands to benefit from more cyclists and more pedestrians.

At first, some of us had positive feelings towards the "vehicular cyclist", as like us, he opposed helmet compulsion and silly dayglo clothes. That didn't last long. Not only is it a sect, it is a macho, "ablist" sect. They want only cyclists who can ride as fast and boldly as cars on the road. None of these sweet gramps and grannies we see at Copenhagize and Amsterdamize, none of the smaller children, nobody with a slight disability (all of whom benefit in many ways from cycling).

I know a lot of cyclists who'd be cycling in our current mild winter weather if only there were dedicated bicycle paths. (It is a bit below freezing, and there is some snow and ice, but cycling is very comfy).

And the disgusting homophobia is a red flag. We're here, we're in gear, and some of us are queer (and the rest of us have friends who are)!!!!

Mtler said...

We still have a long way to go here in Canada. Even Montreal's much praised bicycling infrastructure becomes a joke once winter comes. Of the few lanes that are supposed to be left open from December to April, none really are; motorists just see parking space anyway. And then it feels like the whole city is throwing its crap at you when you ride on the road -- we are told we don't belong, there being snow and everything. I tell you, it's hard to keep on being courteous.

Bikes will remain a seasonal hobby for most Canadians until they realize that winter cyclists aren't crazier or braver that the average Joe (at least in the big southern cities). It's just that we tried it... Pictures of well-dressed Danish people riding in Copenhagen through heavy snow should be pasted on every gas pump around the country.

James said...

Hey, This is slowly being done in Australia. Im moving to Wollongong for university and the cycle paths were one of the things that sold it. That and the fact that the cars travel essentially at 30 kph due to traffic. They even have a dedicated bicycle and pedestrian bridge!!!

behoovingmoving said...

Okay, I'm guilty of feeling bullied by Copenhagenites, and lashing out. But watching that video, what has been done there is just so compelling. Little bio: in 1995 I quite my job designing high rise apartments in Singapore, in response to a lecture I'd heard by Jan Gehl. I wanted to make a difference for cyclists, so completed a doctorate. Only I got sidetracked with an alternative topic. Am back on track now! Awesome video, of awesome results.

Lim Soo 林蘇 said...

Hong Kong has started to have campaign on building cycle track right in the city. Hope this dream will come alive one day; there is one bikeride campaign coming. Its link in Facebook is as follows:


Hearing Aids said...

I really appreciate your post and you explain each and every point very well.Thanks for sharing this information.And I’ll love to read your next post too.

shuichi said...

I am amazed watching the movie. How many people do ride bicycles on the "bike lanes". I think Japanese people ride bicycles as often as people in Copenhagen. But there are not so many bike lanes in Japan as in Copenhagen. Anyway, someone like BIA might claim the safety concern for the segregation when Ottawa starts an action like the one of Copenhagen. But I just want to say there was a similar history in Japan.

Japanese people used to ride bicycles on the road (not on the sidewalk) a long time ago. But in 1970, when I was born, we could ride bicycles on the sidewalk. In these days there were many accidents involving cars and bicycles on the road, so over 16,000 people, the highest number in history, had died in traffic accidents in 1970. The government had to settle the issue, so we started allowing bicycles to ride on the sidewalk beginning in 1970. Now we always ride bicycles on the sidewalk in Japan....

Anonymous said...

Look on the bright side Mikael, at least Avery Burdett agrees with you on helmet usage... ;-)

todd said...

I had some fun with the creepy propaganda video linked above. You can edit these things! Go, make, do! Julie & Jim talk correct vehicular protocol

Kim said...

The problem is really one of political will. Bicycle lanes by them selves are not a solution, they need to be part of a package of measures, such as speed reduction, strict liability, giving priority to those going ahead over those turning major to minor i.e. left (or right if you are in one of those places which rides on the wrong side of the road), etc.

Mikael, will no doubt tell us that the separated cycle lanes came first in Copenhagen and all the rest came later. But that was over 40 years ago, there were far few cars about then. In the here and now, if the problems of modern cities are to be solved a package on measures is need so that people can see that it is safer and feel safer. Unless people feel safe they won't use them.

The classic example of this is Milton Keynes, England. Built as a new town, which has separated cycle lanes which are not well used because the cyclist do not have priority where at minor road crosses the cycle lane. In Denmark and The Netherlands, cyclist on the cycle lane have priority over motor vehicle turning major to minor, and there is a law of strict liability to leave the motorist in no doubt who is to blame in the event of a collision! This is an important factor in making segregated infrastructure work.

BG said...

Totally agree, of course.

I think it's worth pointing out, though, that in the Streetfilms vid Mikael himself talks approvingly about bike education for schoolchildren. Infrastructure is great, but people actually do need to know how to use it. Without that element, the VCers are right: bike lanes and paths actually do lead to more conflicts and more injuries. That's what we've been getting here in North America, unfortunately. So, we need to build it -- but we also need to get mandatory bike ed into the schools. I, for one, wish I had had a couple weeks of on-road bike training in 8th-grade gym class -- it'd have made a refreshing break from sadistic bullying and crab soccer.

Martin Ginkel said...

Well Mikael, I like most of your posts, but you still ignore facts. In fact you ignore Facts from studies in Denmark:

Ole Bach, Ole Rosbach, Else Jørgensen: Cyclestier i byer - den sikkerhedsmæssige effekt, Hg. Vejdirektoratet, Næstved/Dänemark, 1985

compares cycle accidents at roads before and after creating bike lanes. It finds an increase of risk by 30%.
The same findings are found in different studies in Germany.

Merlin said...

Amusingly, I was just in Ottawa a few days ago, walking down Bank Street and thinking how wonderful it would be if the city removed all street parking from the Rideau River bridge to Parliament Hill, and replaced it with separated bicycle paths... Even better if it was closed to personal automobiles altogether -- that would take care of the "right hook" problem.

Shane R. said...

Nice Todd, I did a little editing too- starts at about a minute in (after Julie's diatribe):


ibikelondon said...

Mikael; your new interpretation of "We're here, we're geared, get used to it" has just about made my week - one to remember next time I'm riding through Soho :o)

On a more serious note, Business Improvement Associations or, more commonly Business Improvement Districts are easily knobbled by special interest groups and I seem them as a threat to mass cycling, and lead to the over-privatistion of huge swathes of our cities. Here in London we've had one instigate a ban on cycling along the Southbank of the River Thames on grounds of 'danger to pedestrians' (without any stats to back up their assertions), and another in Holborn which has sought to portray cyclists as a danger and a nuisance in need of laws and policing of their own (see a previous post I did on this before:

Caveat emptor indeed!

David said...

@ibikelondon (and Mikael)

I won't comment on BIAs being hijacked generally, but I can assure you that in this case the Bank Street Promenade BIA has not been hijacked or knobbled or had the wool pulled over their eyes by a VC SIG. They oppose bike lanes due to the loss of onstreet parking and loading areas and they would oppose them with or without a VC group being around. Other BIAs representing some of the streets that had been considered earlier in the process were doing the exact same thing before this VC group showed up. The VC group just handed them some more ammunition of a different sort that they were all too willing to use.

ibikelondon said...

@David Ah, I see. So they've not been 'nobbled', but they do see bike lanes as a threat to their business, and parking spaces as the opposite. And their plan for bringing about mass cycling is....?

My point, more generally and leaving the VC issue aside for a moment, is that I find the notion that a group of businesses can pay to 'control' the public realm in order to suit their business agenda leaves a somewhat unpleasant taste in my mouth. Everyone who cares about a lively and diverse public realm should be aware of these BID groups. Here in London they move on homeless people, ban public gatherings and demonstrations and seek to portray cyclists as the enemy of the masses (as oppose to say, just people out and about on bikes, or even customers!). Tables and chairs outside Starbucks are of course allowed...

Zakkalicious said...

the "Responsible Cycling Coalition" (old wine in new bottles) started by the same chap behind the VC website above

Mikael, the RCC was not started by Forester. Do some fact checking or some editing.

Anonymous said...

@Zakkalicious "Mikael, the RCC was not started by Forester. Do some fact checking or some editing".
Umm, you should do some fact checking yourself. RCC was set up by Avery Burdett (with others) who is the person behind www.vehicularcyclist.com
Check the contacts page for proof

Mr. Burdett is very actively against cycling infrastructure in Ottawa. He is not a fan of Sit-up and beg granny bikes or Copenhagen or Mikael who he refers to as a Danish Al Gore.

trikebum said...

Sorry I don't want to be walled off from the road. When I ride I integrate with traffic and can make safe left turns when I need to. I see a real prob with segregation.

Nick said...

I live in Ottawa. There is nothing especially unusual about the BIAs response. Here in Ottawa the standard process for introducing any new transport infrastructure other than 6-lane arterials is this:

1. Visionary group makes a suggestion
2. Council nominates a committee to consider
3. Committee makes a radical proposal
4. BIAs protest (for whatever reason)
5. Council adjusts proposal or waters it down
6. BIAs protest
7. Council approves the watered-down plan
8. New mayor gets elected and cancels the whole thing
9. start again at #2.

Ottawa has been trying to build a light-rail system for about 20 years. This city is simply too incompetent.

@Merlin: Did you notice that the shopping stretch along Bank St. is called the "Promenade"? Wouldn't that be nice?

hamish wilson said...

It's so wonderfully helpful to have the examples of Copenhagen shared with those of us in North Americar, and the thoughtful linked comments.
While this post is of Ottawa, here in Caronto we're also wrestling with a set of obstacles to bike-friendliness and some of us are suspicious of the recent proposals for separated bike lanes, as the first one approved still isn't built yet - funding...
We tend to put the bike facilities in places that are less needed, and we also don't do well with winter clearing - so much so, that at times just wider curb lanes perhaps are the best "fix", given how "carrupt" we all seem to be...
But we have Euro eg.s to look at - and that's like sunshine - thanks!

Clarence Eckerson Jr. said...

thanks for the re-post!

now our 3rd most watched vid of all time. Someday to reach #1 and pass the 200K views of Ciclovia. Someday, that film has a 3 year head start. :)

kfg said...

"I find the notion that a group of businesses can pay to 'control' the public realm in order to suit their business agenda leaves a somewhat unpleasant taste in my mouth."

Some old Italian guy once coined an F word for that. I wonder whatever happened to him?