19 June 2012

Helsinki's Baana Bicycle Corridor

Helsinki Bicycle Life_Rail to Trail2
Last time I was in Helsinki I took this photo of this century old railway corridor that was used for freight trains. I can heard that it was being converted to a pedestrian and bicycle path and it turns out that it has opened recently.

Photo via HBL.fi by Tor Wennström. Martti Tulenheimo from the European Cyclist’s Federation and designer and bicycle user, Arto Sivonen
Helsinki's new "Low Line" (as opposed to NYC's High Line) opened on June 12, 2012, providing pedestrians and cyclists with a 1.3 km long connector between the Western Harbour area to Kamppi and Töölö Bay. It's called the Baana.

It runs through the city centre, providing a safe bicycle route to many points in the city. There four ramps along the way to get back to surface level, as well as entry points at each end. On average, the Baana is 15 m wide, with 34 m the widest point. There are also facilities along the way like basketball, table tennis and petanque and lights and benches have also been placed there.

So... a nice addition to the city. There was a gorge carving through the centre so why not put it to good use? Cheaper than filling it in I suppose. Not much light in this gorge in such a northern city for outdoor activities 8 months out of the year, but hey. The Finns will figure it out.

It's an impressive project, costing between €4 and €5 million, although calling it a "superhighway" may be a slight exaggeration. It's no cycling tunnel like in San Sebastian, but it ain't all that bad.

Let's hope, however, that it is a one-off. Cyclists in Helsinki in the 1930s had safe, separated, Copenhagen-style cycle tracks and there were daily cyclist counts of 10,000 on some of the main arteries, like we can see on these maps from 1937.

The Baana is cool, but it's time for the city to get back on track with separated, roadside cycle tracks in order to meet the goal of the Charter of Brussels, signed by the city in 2009 at Velo-City in Brussels, of 15% modal share for bicycles by 2020.

Will the Baana help reach that goal? Sure. A bit. But it's all about well-designed, Best Practice infrastructure now, if the city - any city - wishes to make a serious effort to return the bicycle to the urban landscape.

18 June 2012

The Big Hit & Run Killer

As Sergeant Joe Friday puts it:

"How much difference, for example, as far as moral guilt is concerned, is there between the following: #1 the man who plans a killing, takes up a gun, finds his victim and shoots him to death. And #2 the man who thinks he has to look out for no one’s welfare but his own, gets behind the wheel of a car, disregards the ordinary rules of safety and proceeds to commit homicide with a motor vehicle. Often times the crime masquerades under the guise of an accident. Morally, no matter how you spell it, it adds up to murder just as surely as if the person had taken a gun and shot his victim down."

First episode of Dragnet, March 18, 1954:
"An old lady and her grandson are hit and killed in a crosswalk. The owner of the truck desperately tries to convince Friday and Smith of his innocence."

Imagine. Look at how much air time was given to a hit & run. Things have certainly changed. Maybe lucrative car commercials ended up weeding out bad branding like this storyline.

The Big Hit & Run Killer Part 1

The Big Hit & Run Killer Part 2

The Big Hit & Run Killer Part 3

The Big Hit & Run Killer Part 4

The Big Hit & Run Killer Part 5

Thanks to Erik for the link.
Oh, and I just discovered that I should hat-tip this blog for investigative work to find the quote. :-)

Culture of Fear Sale!

It's amazing the stuff you find at the supermarket. Lookie here. Found this an hour ago at my local Netto.

The profiteering inherent in a Culture of Fear in one cheap and cheesy reflective triangle. 25 kroner. 5 bucks.

The text in the middle of the warning triangle reads "children in the street"

As an added bonus I also got a "child's birthday in the area" warning sign, as well. You could just leave that one out permanently - there must be a birthday going on every day of the week.

I'm sure we'll all agree that children should be able to play in the street in residential areas. As they have done for the entire 7000 year history of cities - oh, except for the past 80 years since traffic engineers starting bowing at the alter of the automobile.

And I'm sure that many of you would love to slap a whole forest of these signs up on your local street. Great if you did.

My point about the Culture of Fear is that we are seeing all manner of products appearing out of the blue. Capitalising on all this constructed fear that society is experiencing.

Products like this sign are perhaps also a reaction to the inability - and unwillingness - of traffic engineers and planners in our cities to curb the pestilence of the automobile. Citizens have to do it for themselves. Which we are seeing all over the world over the past few years. Citizens painting bicycle lanes, closing off blocks for liveable streets days, etc.

On the other hand, organisations like the Danish Road Safety Council - Rodet for Sikker Panik must hate signs like these. They go against their immoveable doctrine that cars must rule our streets. They are busy recommending - among other nonsensical ideas - that traffic calming trees along country roads be cut down. Cars must go faster and trees will only get people to slow down.

So... goofy sign bought cheap at Copenhagen supermarket... loads of interpretations.

16 June 2012

Cycle Tracks in Vitória, Brazil

Vitoria Cycle Track_1
Some photos of bicycle infrastructure in the city of Vitória, Brazil from a recent trip I made there. No, it's not Best Practice, but even so it is brilliant to see that the idea with the design is right. Physically separated and on the correct side of the cars.

This is an interesting design in that there are curbs on both sides of the cycle track, with an extra buffer against the traffic.

Can you believe that there are still traffic engineers elsewhere putting painted bike lanes on the LEFT side of parked cars and not along the sidewalk? Actually getting paid to design them like that? It boggles the mind that these people aren't relieved of their duties. 100 years of cycle track experience. You'd think that they would know better.

Vitoria Dorissima_2
In Vitória there were also bi-directional cycle tracks on various stretches. Not optimal, but they weren't along city streets but along the beach and through parks.

Victoria Cycle Tracks
A couple of places had Barcelona style tracks down the wide median. Only to provide links and not for any great length.
Vitoria Cycle Track
And the markings were bold and big. Symbols and symbolism is important.

Vitoria Surf and Pull
On the beach stretch this was an interesting variation on the theme. Riding with a surfboard is hardly strange in Brazil, but towing the boy with the rope is cool!

Vitoria cycle Chic_1
Cycle tracks rule. And rock and rule.

15 June 2012

Copenhagenizing Vancouverism

I'm looking forward to speaking in Vancouver in a couple of weeks. It'll be at Simon Fraser University, Goldcorp Centre for the Arts.

SFU and Urban Systems are hosting the event. Cool.

June 28, 2012
7:30 PM
3200 Goldcorp Centre for the Arts
149 West Hastings, V6B 1H4
Tickets are free, but you have to sign up here.

That's the Thursday evening... and on Friday the 29th June we are pleased to be hosting a Cycle Chic party with Vancouver Cycle Chic.

You can get your tickets on the address on this graphic:

13 June 2012

Car Industry Strikes Back - Sixt

Having just returned from working in Brazil and Norway, this was a fun addition to my inbox. Nothing like a new addition to the Car Industry Strikes Back series here on Copenhagenize.

Thanks to Tim from urbanophil.net for this one.

It's from the German global car rental company, Sixt. They cut refreshingly to the chase with their text, making it easier for us:

"To all those pioneers, idealists, eco-heroes and saviors of the world: You don't have to ride bicycles anymore".

Yes, they just wrote that. In all seriousness. In 2012.

So, now a car rental company is feeling the pressure from the rising levels of bicycle traffic. Perhaps this is a response to the recent, German Nationaler Radverksplan 2020, which aims boldly at doubling bicycle traffic in German cities.

As ever, it is a sure sign that the bicycle is back, here to stay and making the transport competition run scared.

12 June 2012

Let's Talk Numbers

Slow Paced Rush Hour
This post is by one of Copenhagenize's finest, Rachel.  She's been involved in quite a few of our projects, including the next Copenhagenize Index for bicycle-friendly cities.

By now we all know (or have at least heard) that cycling is beneficial for cities, and the benefits range from improving health to decreasing congestion. For those who aren’t on board yet, some of the findings we developed here at Copenhagenize should help change your mind.

We can talk on and on about the various benefits that come with bikes, but when it comes to municipalities actually implementing policies and infrastructure, the conversation will inevitably turn to numbers. How do the real costs of driving a car compare with the costs of riding a bike? We believe we have developed a comprehensive cost analysis to properly compare these modes of transport.

With Christine Grant spearheading this effort, we were able to come up with a cost analysis that incorporated typical factors such as travel time, vehicle and road maintenance, health, and carbon emissions. However, we also made sure to include several other factors that would represent the real costs of driving and cycling rather than just the face value costs we often encounter that only account for gas prices and carbon emissions. These factors include noise pollution, the impact of oil leaking from vehicles on water quality, parking and a city’s branding/tourism.

Population, modal share, average household income, and the cost of a gallon of gasoline are city-specific values that can easily be changed for each city, but in order to provide a concrete example, we looked at numbers for Christine’s hometown – Seattle, Washington.

Basic Stats:
Population: 563,374
Average Household Income: $45,736
Cost of 1 Gallon of Gasoline: $4.15
Total Trips (all modes) Annually: 5.9 million

Modal Share:
Bicycle: 2%
Pedestrian: 7%
Public Transit: 18%
Car: 73%

For calculating the costs of maintaining and operating a car and a bicycle, we took not only internal but also external costs into consideration.
Internal costs include:
  • Travel time
  • Vehicle/bike usage (gas, tires, maintenance)
  • Health
  • Parking Fees
External costs include:
  • Air, noise and stormwater (i.e. from oil runoff) pollution
  • Road deterioration
  • Parking Infrastructure
  • Branding/tourism
  • Climate change
  • Congestion
Out of these costs, there were two particularly interesting comparisons. The internal time cost for cyclists is $0.33/km and $0.16/km for motorists, which is a $0.17 difference between the two. Based solely on these numbers, it seems like cyclists are paying twice the amount of motorists to get somewhere, but this is where a crucial cost comes in: maintenance and operation. Cyclists pay a meager $0.03/km but motorists are paying $0.71/km (hello, peak oil!). At this point, cyclists are paying $0.36/km and motorists are paying $0.87/km (a $0.51/km difference). The margin, however, gets even wider as we factor in all the external costs, and we conclude that cycling actually results in a profit of $0.46/km ($0.73/mi) whereas cars cost $1.13/km ($1.82/mi). The total cost difference is $1.59/km ($2.55/mi) between cars and bikes!

Now that the financial benefits of cycling over driving are clear, what would happen to a city if there were a modal shift of just 1% of drivers becoming cyclists? In order to have this modal shift, there would need to be approximately 8,300 drivers becoming cyclists to have a 50.5 million km decrease in Vehicle Kilometers Traveled (VKT) and a 32.4 million km increase in Bicycle Kilometers Traveled (BKT) per year.

So by this point, we’ve been crunching a lot of numbers and our brains are running at full speed and as a result, we’ve got some compelling figures to prove the bicycle victorious over the car once again. By shifting 1% of drivers to become cyclists, $57.2 million is saved from reducing the goal VKT and $14.7 million is profited by increasing the goal BKT for a total benefit of $71.9 million.

So there you go. Are you convinced?