19 November 2012

Now and Then You Get Surprised

Godthåbsvej Then and Now
Godthåbsvej Then and Now
Erik Griswold, one of our team members here at Copenhagenize, found some retro photos of Copenhagen. More specifically, Frederiksberg. Even more specifically, my front door.

I promptly went out and took photos from the same angle. The couple of steps at the bottom right of the 1960s photo, below, are the main door to my building. Interesting to learn that back then I would have had the penthouse flat, because since then someone added some floors.

What I find most interesting is the comparison of the two photos. While it is certainly true that road space and parking for cars were removed in Copenhagen to reestablish the bicycle infrastructure back in the early 1980s, it's plain to see that space - on certain streets - was reclaimed from other sources, as well.

Look at the paving stones outside my door in the modern photo, at right. There's some asphalt and then two rows of paving stones. In the vintage photo, the sidewalk is four paving stones wide, narrowing a bit in the distance because of car parking.

Nevertheless, the sidewalks were much wider. As a daily user of this sidewalk, I'd like that width back, please.

You can see that the space for the cycle track was taken from a combination of the sidewalk space and the car parking.

Shrinking sidewalks are hardly an unusual phenomenon. They shrunk all over the world with the advent of car culture. Space was needed and sidewalks were traditionally, in many cities, very wide. In my city, there are places where they are now obscenely narrow, as we wrote about recently.

Although it's harder to see, it does however look like the sidewalk on the left side of the street is about the same. Doesn't mean it wasn't expropriated for car space - just means it was probably done earlier.

It would be brilliant if those trams were still rolling up and down the street, though. But despite the fact that cities all over Europe are establishing or reestablishing tramway networks, no politician in Copenhagen is in that modern loop.

Godthåbsvej Then and Now
Godthåbsvej Then and Now
Here's the opposite corner. Nothing startling to report here. Except that cycle tracks now occupy the space taken up by those piles of snow. And they are kept clear of snow, of course.


Chris Walker said...

I don't think that building has had a floor added to it. Quite the opposite, I think it's been demolished! Where there are three buildings in the 1960s photo, there now seem to be only two.

I've had a quick look on Google Street View, and it looks like there's an extra lane of road on Nordre Fasanvej where the building used to be.

Poprawiacz said...

Think Chris is right. Look at the buildings with slant corners on both sides of the street - in the old photo they're much farther than in the contemporary one.

Lars Barfred said...

I agree, in almost all old photos from Copenhagen I´ve seen. If there is now a bike lane, it was carved out of the sidewalk, not the car lanes.

Rui said...

It is happening all over the world. Bike lanes are/were made from space stolen from the pedestrians.

Examples that I know personally:

- Amsterdam
- Leipzig
- Würzburg
- Lisbon

I'm afraid that the bicycle is gaining space, but not taking it from the automobiles as one should expect and want.

That is one reason why I am against the construction of bike lanes inside cities, unless there still is a fast lane.

Thomas said...

Keep in mind that in some (maybe most) cities of the U.S., the most realistic way to gain support for bike lanes like those in Copenhagen (elevated, protecting the rider with a curb) is to take at least part of the sidewalk. As much as a reduction in car traffic, and thus reducing the need for car lanes, would be a better way, it's just not realistic. So what if you can walk five people next to each other down the sidewalk? I'd rather have capacity for three people side by side and apply the excess space toward a bike lane (and take a small portion from the car lane). To me, that's the most viable scenario in the U.S., and I'm sure other places as well.

M Stoss said...

Mikael, whilst I'm a regular and happy user of trams here in Berlin, I must admit, that trams have some disadvantages as well. First and foremost, they need tracks which is very uncomfortable for cyclists if they need to share the same lane.

Second, trams are more difficult to brake and thus they make up for some of the traffic deads in our city, last year 6 out of 54 (though more in the region 3-4 in the years before).

Third, and that is what I think is the most important point: They get stuck in traffic jams as well as the cars and buses are, even more so, since they can not drive around obstacles. As a consequence, the company running the trams would argue in favour of establishing separate tracks (which is limiting the track issue for cyclists again), quite similar to the separate bus lanes. If you build separate lanes for cars-buses/trams/cyclists/pedestrians, then again you need much space and this is normally taken from cyclists and pedestrians.

I'm not saying, that trams are a bad idea. I prefer a tram to a bus any time. Getting used to the tracks is normally no real problem, even if you easily get stuck in it with a three wheeler cargo bike, fx) and the braking issue can be taken care of by reducing the speed. I just want to point to the real world commercial interests which say, time is money. Speeding up things is always dangerous and space hungry, in that respect, trams make no real difference to the car. If trams would run on separate lanes and the space would be taken from the car lanes, I would say trams are an effective and charming means of transport.

Chris Walker said...

Edinburgh city centre was recently dug up in order to install new tram lines. On Princes Street, the main shopping street, the council apparently considered adding cycling infrastructure. Ultimately they decided against it, because it would have meant reducing the width of the pavements (sidewalks). Princes Street's pavements are very wide, but are often full to capacity with pedestrians.

Removing car space and handing it over to cyclists isn't an option, because cars are already banned from Princes Street. But the street is an extremely busy bus route, and the road space is necessary for the functioning of the city's public transport system.

Unfortunately, cyclists are now in the position where they have to move into the tram lane to pass stationary buses, and this leads to wheels being caught in the rails, which is a very dangerous situation. The trams aren't running in Edinburgh yet, and won't until 2014, but they're already causing accidents. The head of British Cycling, Shane Sutton, recently described Manchester's tram lines as a death trap for cyclists.

The tram project isn't popular in Edinburgh, except among the politicians. It's caused a vast amount of disruption and cost a huge amount of money, for something that replaces a single bus route. And it's made cycling more difficult and dangerous in a city that prides itself on being the best in Scotland for cycling (although that's not saying much). Maybe the trams' current unpopularity will abate once they are running and people are actually using them.

I don't know what the solution is. Maybe one day, the tram network will be extensive enough that buses won't be necessary, and one lane of Princes Street can be handed over to cyclists. But I fear that it will meet the same fate as the Glasgow motorway network - destined never to be extended due to unpopularity.

Joe Dunckley said...

Judging from the kink in the cycle track a little after the start, which allows the road space for motor vehicles to be wider at the junction than away from the junction, is the loss of footway not more to do with junction capacity for motors?