23 March 2013

Busting Urban Sprawl Myths

Urban Sprawl Comparison - Calgary
With my work I travel a lot and that means I meet loads of interesting people and learn a whole bunch of new things all the time. Sometimes you hear the same things over and over when you're dealing with the same subject matter. Often it's no problem. All part of the game. Sometimes, however, you hear certain things in loop. Things that you wonder about.

One of them is that North American cities are just bigger. On a recent visit to Calgary a couple of weeks ago I must have heard it a dozen times. It's often a (not so) secret code for "we're not really committed to taking the bicycle seriously as transport." As though trying to brush off comparisons with urban cycling in Copenhagen and other Euro-filth concepts. No matter how often I highlight the fact that Copenhagen has the third largest urban sprawl in Europe and most of Copenhagen outside the medieval city centre is a 20th century invention. Nope. "Ain't gonna work here, bubba. Now git off ma lawn."

So I opened up Google Earth. Zoomed out to about 60 km. Highlighted Calgary, above, in yellow. The rough line of the city limits. Very rough... it was late and I was drinking wine.

Then I did the same for Copenhagen.
Urban Sprawl Comparison - Calgary and Copenhagen
The rough line of Greater Copenhagen is in blue. I slapped Calgary onto Copenhagen, tilting it to make it fit nicer, and there you have it.

I didn't include the cities in the region that are bedroom cities for Copenhagen or Calgary. Just drew up the rough line around the urban sprawl. Calgary has about 1 million people and Greater Copenhagen about 1.9 million.

Urban Sprawl Comparison - Calgary and Copenhagen and Melbourne
Here's both cities slapped onto Melbourne. Their metro area has about 4 million people. So they're bigger. Duh.

Urban Sprawl Comparison - Calgary and Copenhagen and Amsterdam
And here's Amsterdam, with Calgary and Copenhagen laid on top. It was tougher to see what was sprawl and what was farmland on the Amsterdam map, but it's still not far off.

So with that aside, I am well and truly tired of hearing about many cities and their perception of size. Time to move on.

22 March 2013

Gothersgade and the Two-Way Cycle Track

One way streets. Where do bicycles fit into this ever-present downtown street model? A common question, and [from a car culture kinda perspective] understandably so. The City of Copenhagen answers that question, punctuated with an exclamation point - making Gothersgade a prime example of how to plan for cyclists and pedestrians in one-way situations.

A main street in the historic city centre, Gothersgade runs past Rosenborg Castle and the Kings Gardens at a hasty 50 km/h. One segment of it, leading away from Nyhavn and toward the Kings Gardens, is a three-lane one-way stretch of traffic lined by boutiques, bodegas, and cafes.
gothersgade st. 15
Google Maps view looking east on Gothersgade.
The one-way segment, up until the redesign, had a skinny mini sidewalk and three lanes for automobiles which fluctuate between parking and driving lanes.

Enter the road diet. Now we've got one lane for traffic, widened sidewalks, and cycle tracks going in on both sides.

One-way streets across town are slowly transforming into two way streets for cyclists (in addition to maintaining one lane for automobiles). Whether it's with a painted bicycle lane, or a separated cycle track (depending on road speed and traffic volume), the desire lines of cyclists are being made both the fastest and safest routes. Previously, in The Arrogance of Space, we saw how only slightly narrowing lanes allows plenty of room for proper bicycle infrastructure.
gothersgade
The [almost] finished cycle tracks of Gothersgade.
The cycle tracks of Gothersgade are still under construction and, it being my 'hood, I take lots of pride in observing their progress, and the reactions of citizens. The track above is similarly still under construction, but that hasn't stopped cyclists from rounding those bright orange cones and carrying on. Note the tilted trash bin for cyclists too. The city's really going all out with this one.
It looks like they even widened the opening for those of us who are more likely to make a granny shot than a slam dunk..

Once it's all built and done, the simple two-way tracks will actually be part of a much larger scheme. Not only will they save Copenhageners time from wiggling around a delightful maze of small city centre streets, but they'll be a main link to the new pedestrian/cyclist bridges over the harbour.
The conceptual design for the new harbour bicycle bridge, which is currently under construction.
The final answer: one way street + two way cycle tracks = win win win. No need to complicate traffic flow with bi-directional bike lanes, just standard infrastructure on both sides.

21 March 2013

The Arrogance of Space

The Arrogance of Space
We have a tendency to give cities human character traits when we describe them. It's a friendly city. A dynamic city. A boring city. Perhaps then a city can be arrogant. Arrogant, for example, with it's distribution of space.

I've been working a lot in North America the past year and I've become quite obsessed with the obscenely unbalanced distribution of space. I see this arrogance everywhere I go. I see the insanely wide car lanes and the vehicles sailing back and forth in them like inebriated hippopotami. I was just in Calgary for five days and from my balcony at the hotel I watched the traffic below on 12th Ave. A one-way street that was never really busy at all.

From above, the arrogance of space was very apparent. Even more so than in a car driving down the lanes. The photo, above, is the car lines divided up with their actual width. Watching for five days - okay, not 24/7 ... I have a life after all - I didn't really see  any vehicles that filled out the whole lane with their girth.

So, in a very unscientific way, I decided to take a bit of each lane away.

The Arrogance of Space
Narrowing the lanes slightly, space was created. Obviously. Duh. And there was still ample space for the vehicles - including the big trucks and SUVs.

We know that narrowing lane width improves safety. Just like tree-lined streets - or streets with utility poles, etc - make drivers slow down and concentrate, narrower travel lanes have the same positive effect. There were posters all around Calgary with the catchy headline "Crotches Kill". I can understand why texting is deemed easy when motorists are given so much space.

So, narrowing lane widths is safer. But what to do with that extra space?
The Arrogance of Space
On so many streets I've looked at in North American cities, even a two-lane street can cough up enough space for a Copenhagen-style cycle track.

Addendum: It's not possible to see it on these photos but the car parking at the bottom is an indentation in the curb in front of the hotel, so the cycle track runs along the curb, as it should.

I tire of hearing the incessant "we don't have space for bicycles" whine, especially in North American cities. The space is right there if you want it to be there. Removing car lanes to create cycle tracks is, of course, doable. So many cities are doing it. Not making cycle tracks for those who cycle now, but for the many who COULD be cycling if it was made safe.

However, when you live in an arrogant city, space is readily available. Often not even involving removing lanes or parking. It's right there. If you want it.
The Arrogance of Space
Another example from Calgary. Memorial Drive. A cyclist off to the right on this 60 km/h stretch. The motorist gave him a wide berth, exposing the arrogance of space for us.
The Arrogance of Space
Here's what could be possible.

I can hear the traffic engineers complaining already. This, of course, messes with every computer model they have. It's not, however, about them anymore. They've had their century of trial and error - mostly error. We're moving on now. We'll redesign our cities and tell them what to do and how to help us - based on human observation, rationality and logic. They're brilliant problem solvers. We'll just be telling them what problems to solve.

This quote by Andres Duany is appropriate:
"The problem with planning is that it has been overtaken by mathematical models - traffic, density, impact assessment, public costs etc. discarding common sense and empirical observation."

Ironically, I was reading a copy of The New Republic - found a copy at an airport - and saw the above snippet. The writer, one Tim Wu, clearly has time to ponder when he's sitting in traffic. He noticed the wide car lanes as well. His solution, however, was to promote narrower cars and increase the number of lanes - thereby creating "the first real drop in traffic congestion in decades", he claims. Note the tagline at the top right: "A more perfect world". This company is even producing narrower cars and their website makes the same claim: "This doubling of lane capacity can solve traffic congestion.

Unfortunately, the myth persists. The sum of our knowledge after 100 years of traffic engineering is that if you create more space for cars, more cars will come. Period. Again, time to move on. A more perfect world is within our reach, once we get a flock of misconception monkeys off our backs.

Montrealer Music
Another street, this one in Montreal. Wasted space on the right, arrogance of space on the left.

Take a look at the streets around you. This all applies to a great many of them. The space is right there for the taking.

19 March 2013

Bicycle Malmö 2012

Bicycle Malmö 2012 from Martin Lang on Vimeo.

A lovely little film about our neighbours in Malmö, across the bridge from Copenhagen.

12 March 2013

Closing Streets to Cars - for Good

The neverending story of car dependency:

(c) Todd Litman, 2013. "Smart Congestion Relief - Comprehensive Analysis of Traffic Congestion Costs and Congestion Reduction Benefits". Victoria Transport Policy Institute.
FUD - Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt. This is the general feeling when drivers know that the street they usually drive on, may soon be closed to vehicular traffic. This feeling has, to some degree, been used by those who decide to build new roads. In other words, we still live according to Henry Ford's motto, “With mobility comes freedom and progress”. As someone who works with urban planning this can be viewed as when the ends actually justify the means – cities scratched by black tar marks, roads planned and built with eyes closed.

Now, the results of unconsidered planning are here - we feel these impacts on a daily basis.

Currently, that paradigm is slowly shifting to a new one. In a rather considerable number of cities, city centres, as well as many other streets, are being closed to cars.

Nevertheless, there remains constant misconception about closing streets to cars: chaos and congestion are imminent. All those cars will just end up somewhere else. On other streets, in other neighbourhoods.  Although considering that some cities have already implemented car-free streets for quite a while now, it's possible to observe the impacts.

The Braess's Paradox is a statistical theorem that determines that when a road network is already jammed with vehicles, adding new streets can make traffic flow even worse. Overall, it encompasses the (wrong) idea that more roads will improve traffic. According to this paradox, extending a road network may result in even longer commuting times.

“Ok, but that's on paper. Usually it doesn't happen in real life.” You might say.

In New York, when the City's Transportation Commissioner decided to close 42nd Street during the Earth Day celebration, a “doomsday” was predicted due to the expected generated traffic chaos. We're not talking about any street – it's the same 42nd street that intersects Time Square and runs past Grand Central Station. This anticipated doomsday couldn't be further from what really happened: traffic flow actually improved. A real world example of the Braess's paradox.

Born to Fit
Calming Times Square.
This paradox also came up in an article citing a research paper titled “The Price of Anarchy in Transportation Networks: Efficiency and Optimality Control”. In this article, one of the interesting conclusions was, "...simply blocking certain streets can partially improve the traffic conditions." Dietrich Braess must be proud.

But let's look at a few other examples. In Kajani, Finland, a proposal to close traffic through the main square was brought to the table when the daily traffic was 13,000 vehicles per day. After the authorities closed it to car traffic, the streets nearby had a slight increase right after the closing and, after that, the overall traffic had decreased with hints of “evaporation”.

Patient
Post-pedestrianisation in Copenhagen's City Centre.
Another common concern when closing streets to traffic is commercial activity. In the same city, a survey of retailers found that 52% felt that the decision to close the streets down to cars had improved local commerce or will improve it in the future.

In Wolverhampton, UK, the “evaporation” of traffic also happened - after closing down the city centre to cars, 14% of the overall traffic was reduced in the nearby streets. Also in the UK, in Vauxhall Cross, a simulation predicted an increase of 267% in traffic queueing. The results, of course, were quite different: traffic queues were shorter than before and there was an overall reduction of 2-8% of traffic. Ugh, talk about cities ruled by computers instead of people.

In Strasbourg, right before the decision to close down streets to cars in the city centre, the daily traffic was 240,000 vehicles/day. Ten years later, instead of having the same amount of traffic in nearby streets, the volume fell by 16%. Predictions were that if this implementation was not considered, there would have been a traffic increase of 25% in the city centre by the year 2000. You can check more of these facts here.

Spring Sunshine 04
Nørrebrogade at rush hour.
There's a great example in Copenhagen as well. In 2008, Nørrebrogade was closed to cars. In 2009, a study was performed to assess the overall impacts of closing that street to cars - which had immediate interesting results. The latest results (2012) show that Nørrebrogade had a:
  • 20% increase in cyclists,
  • decrease of 45% in accidents,
  • 60% increase in pedestrians,
when compared to 2008's levels. Although a part of the traffic has been redirected to nearby streets, just one year after closing down Nørrebrogade to car traffic, the overall traffic was reduced by 10.7%, which means 19,000 fewer cars/day.

SF Bike Lane Niceness
San Francisco Streets.
In San Francisco, the parking space is restricted to a maximum of seven percent of a building's square footage. Despite the fact that employment has increased in the area, traffic congestion is in decline – people are looking for alternatives, like cycling and walking.

Ok, now that we demystified the expected chaos of closing streets to cars, let's see what happens when the opposite occurs, i.e. creating more traffic lanes (or more infrastructure) to deal with congestion problems.

For decades, roadways have been expanded with the idea that it could solve problems. This is also a common misconception. Rather than in writing, Todd Litman explains this in a beautiful way:

(c) Todd Litman, 2009. "Generated Traffic and Induced Traffic". Victoria Transport Policy Institute.
In a few words, the more lanes you create, the more traffic volume you will get. It's also interesting to note the difference from the projected traffic growth and the actual generated traffic.

Tokyo Traffic Jam
Traditional Traffic Planning in Tokyo.
There are also more than a few issues attached to traditional traffic planning (which includes creating more lanes). According to a 2013 study called “Smart Congestion Relief – Comprehensive Analysis of Traffic Congestion Costs and Congestion Reduction Benefits”, there's a whole set of ignored impacts when analysing traffic congestion. For instance, congestion intensity is often assessed instead of its costs, thus ignoring the savings created by commuters who shifted mode or reduced car usage. Moreover, several other factors like downstream congestion, traffic accidents, energy consumption, pollution emissions among others, are often ignored. Cost values of generated traffic congestion, traffic accidents, energy consumption, and pollution emissions to name a few have been underestimated and ignored.

Additional benefits can come from closing streets to cars. For instance, street life. Every summer, for three straight days, approximately 11 km of New York's city streets are closed to cars and open for everything else. In 2012, 250,000+ people enjoyed car-free streets under that initiative.

Thus it's possible to conclude that immediately after closing the streets to cars, there is a slight increase of traffic in the nearby streets. I guess that's expected. But traffic adapts and the overall number of cars decreases. After a few years, people just choose public transportation and/or non-motorised vehicles. The number of non-essential trips also declines – yes, it may even reduce drivers' laziness.

Overall, two main points can be extracted from this article: 1) building more roads doesn't mean alleviating traffic flow but instead could even make congestion worse; 2) closing a street down to cars improves pedestrian and cycling share and the overall number of cars will be reduced, thus less congestion throughout the city.

Mathematicians first said that it's alright to close streets. Reality proved they were right.

06 March 2013

Cyclist Detection System on Volvo Cars


Volvo have announced a cyclist and pedestrian detection system in their cars. When a cyclist heading in the same direction swerves in front of the car, the system brings the car to a full stop.

A step in the right direction placing the responsibility on the motorist instead of the pedestrians and the cyclists. Combined with the Dutch external airbags on cars, we might be getting somewhere.

How about a simple addition? A speed sensor. When the car enters a 30 km/h zone, the car is rendered incapable of exceeding 30 km/h. Or 50 km/h. Or whatever the speed limit may be.

05 March 2013

Win Win Winnipeg

Winnipeg Cycle Track
We were in Winnipeg, Canada late last year, for The Kickstand Sessions. One evening before the Sessions began, we walked from our hotel to a restaurant (saw two other pedestrians!) along Pembina Highway. Our host with the most, Anders Swanson, asked if we wanted to see a cycle track solution by a bus stop.

Sorry, but when I'm in North American cities and someone wants to show me bicycle infrastructure, I've learned not to get too excited. Seen one crappy painted lane too narrow for a bicycle user to overtake another and mostly used for unenforced car parking and you've seen them all. If it's a painted on on the LEFT side of parked cars instead of along the curb, I'll politely decline and blame jetlag - that's not bicycle infrastructure, that's the work of people who shouldn't be working on bicycle infrastructure. If it's sharrows... I'd rather poke myself in the eye with a burned stick.

Winnipeg Cycle Track Winnipeg Cycle Track
I was pleasantly surprised when we happened upon the cycle track in question. A decent width - not Best Practice but better than other stuff I've seen around the world. Running along the curb. And there was the bus stop. Who knew? Right there in Winnipeg, Manitoba was a cycle track that skirted around a bus stop island. I felt like I was at home in Copenhagen.

What is this place? This Winnipeg? What on earth possessed the engineer responsible to be inspired by established best practice instead of the last-century, car-centric "guidelines" for bicycle "infrastructure" written by people who couldn't bicycle plan their way out of a wet paper bag? Is the Louis Riel spirit alive and well in the Manitoban capital?

When you see a lot of crap in cities around the world, something like this warms your heart on a frigid prairie night.

Hey, let's be realistic. Winnipeg is not Montreal or Minneapolis - the two premier bicycle cities in North America. They're starting out on their journey. But while the rest of the continent - not to mention cities in the same region - are still lacing up their booties and ordering feasibility studies about the possibilities of perhaps considering taking their first baby steps by contemplating a single cycle track to nowhere, Winnipeg is toddling onwards.

It's a cycle track with a sensible bus stop solution on a road south of the downtown. Sure. It's not part of a complete network. Nowhere near. Let me tell you though, that this little cycle track bus stop strip is a beacon of light in a world of nonsense.
Winnipeg Cycle Track Winnipeg Cycle Track
The cycle track is new. And it's Winnipeg and they have winter. They call themselves Winterpeg. Winter cycling is "no longer weird in the city" but there is still a learning curve ahead. The cycle track wasn't totally snowploughed, but my god they had tried. Again, better than most cities.

If I can get excited about all of this, it's probably going to get better. Copenhagenize Design Co. recently won a bid - together with our partners - for Winnipeg's Pedestrian & Cycling Strategies. Working with a city that is ahead of game will be a pleasure.

Winnipeg Garbage Can for Cyclists
On the way from one bar to the next one night, along the river, we ceremoniously tilted a garbage bin into a Copenhagenize cyclist-friendly garbage bin. They also have beer in Winnipeg.

The Kickstand Sessions are a master class for planners, engineers, health, transit, architects, etc. in bicycle planning for North American cities based on Dutch and Danish best practice.

At the end of the sessions - after two days of bicycle planning and infrastructure work - we wrap up with communications. How would the participants communicate their vision for the city? They're not in marketing, but they're professionals/citizens/consumers with a vision. Developing a common language is important, especially when you're in a room with people from so many different professions. It's a great way to round off the master classes.

The teams develop each their own slogan and everyone votes for the one they like the best. Then we whip up a quick and dirty poster with their text. Here's what the 40 participants ended up with:


Your bike looks better on the street. Winnipeg. Powered by People.


Indeed. Powered by, among others, these people. The Kickstand Sessions participants. Not everyone was from Winnipeg - some participants came in from Portage la Prairie and even Thompson - but people power they all surely possess.

04 March 2013

Culture of Fear Meets Science on the Pistes

Gressoney La Trinité:  Orange
We got sent a link to a page from the Danish Consumer Council (Forbrugerrådet)about ski helmets. It was interesting reading because of a confusing mix of Culture of Fear (for profit) and the science of helmets. And much of it is a mirror of the rhetoric about bicycle helmets. Ski and bicycle helmets are even compared.

The article starts with the standard emotional propaganda in the first few lines:

Ski helmets can reduce the number of injuries by up to 60%, BUT roughly half of adults ski without head protection.
Would you ride 40 km/h on a scooter without a helmet? If you answer no, then why ski 60 km/h down a piste without a helmet?


Right there we can see the ideology shining bright. Go for the emotional juggler. Project fear and guilt onto the reader so that their perception is manipulated for the rest of the text.

Usually, the rest of the text continues in the same vein - you've all read this kind of stuff before. This article, however, embarrasses itself involuntarily.

According to statistics, head injuries are not the typical reason that a ski holiday ends up in a hospital. Concussions made up 9% of all reported injuries last season. This is a rise of 5-6% from the year before.

So... head injuries are not typical injuries. Um. Okay. But head injuries are up? From the season before last to last season, there was little dramatic increase in the number of helmet wearers, and yet head injuries are up? Boy, that sounds like Risk Compensation at play. Are people feeling protected so they go just a bit faster?

According to statistics from Denmark's Ski Union, the total number of injuries are two per 1000 ski days for skiiers. Head injuries make up about 15%. In other words, the risk of a head injury is one per 3000 ski days - or one head injury every 400 years if someone skiis for one week each year.


So I have to ski for 400 years? Personally, I've probably skied about 400-500 days in my life. While I love the thought of skiing for 400 years, I don't know many people who will.

The potentially dangerous brain injuries make up one injury for every 14,000 ski days and 94% of them are concussions.


Okay. This is rare information. Normally, the phrase "brain injury" is happily chucked around in the rhetoric without any differentiation in order to scare and confuse. Yes, a serious concussion can be life-threatening and dangerous. Most aren't. I've had several in my life. None whilst skiing or cycling, but hey, that's just me. This article that started out with a scary paragraph is turning out to be rather informative.

Snowboarders have a bit higher risk of head injury than alpine skiers and children under 18 have more than double the risk.

Does that mean kids have to ski for 200 years - before they're 18?
Skiis
The Helmet protects partially
Ski helmets aren't built to withstand direct impacts in speeds over 20 km/h. Measurements at several destinations have shown that the average speed on the easier pistes is around 30 km/h - and much higher on the medium and difficult pistes. If a head hits a tree, rock, other skiers or chairlift poles at high speeds, the helmet offers no protection.


Hang on... rewind to the first paragraph. I thought they were fingerpointedly telling me that I needed a ski helmet at 60 km/h. Now they're telling me that it won't really do anything for me. I'm so confused. Interestingly, as I'm sure you all know, the same limitations apply to bicycle helmets. No direct impacts and keep it under 20 km/h.

The helmet's benefits are limited to minor head lesions like scratches and cuts on the scalp and minor concussions.


Sounds like a bicycle helmet again. Actually, it sounds like something everyone should wear in the home and certainly in the car. But hey... they were throwing around all manner of confusing stats on "brain injuries" and concussions, weren't they? Again... I'm confused.

In all collisions, the helmet protects in glancing collisions and protects against getting hit by ski edges and other loose objects, just like it protects when your head hits a hard snow surface and when you tumble off a t-bar lift.

Which, we assume, means it protects against hitting your head against the cupboard door or if you slip in the shower. Or if you're out gardening. Good to know.

The Ski Union recommends helmets
The International Ski Union - FIS - recommended a couple of years ago that all skiiers and snowboarders use a helmet. FIS based their recommendation on a Norwegian study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The study showed that using a helmet reduces head injuries by 60%.


But isn't the FIS a sports organisation? You know, professionals going super fast in order to win medals? A far cry from Citizen Skiers. Kind of like the forms you have to fill out in America to ride through a park at low speeds. Based on this logic, why doesn't the company behind Formula 1 car racing recommend motorist helmets? FIS based their recommendations on one study. Were there others? What was the collective result of the different studies? Why base it on just one? Here the information dries up.

FIS also deals with cross-country skiing. You'd think that these athletes would be better off wearing helmets if they protect against tumbling onto the ground and getting a glancing blow by a ski or other object.

Also, is the FIS sponsored by a helmet company? Duh. Of course they are.

The helmet's strength is a compromise between strength and comfort. If ski and bicycle helmets had the same strength as motorcycle helmets, nobody would bother wearing them.

So a motorcycle helmet is better since a ski or bicycle helmet is just a question of comfort more than protection?

Every second adult skis without a helmet
Here in Denmark, experts used to only recommend helmets for kids and other risk groups like young men with an aggressive skiing style.
Denmark's Ski Union recommends helmet use, especially by kids and youths and if you participate in high-risk snow sport competitions and training in the snowboard park and off-piste, but the Ski Union doesn't support a helmet law.

Yes, you said that bit about every second adult up at the top. Just slapping in another guilt trip for good measure, are we? Interestingly, the Danish Ski Union has an entire page telling people how safe skiing is. "It's dangerous!... Uh... no it isn't..."

No law yet...
A law can be a reality in the future. Both in Italy and Austria children under 15 have to wear them. In Northern Europe there is no law, but many places let children use the lifts free if they're wearing a helmet. Therefore, it's rare to see a child without a ski helmet in Norway or Sweden.

And yet the children are transported helmetless in automobiles on winter roads without helmets. Odd logic.

Dealers that the Consumer Council have spoken with think that half of all adult skiers ski with head protection and for children the number is close to 100%. The reasons include the fact that the pistes are groomed for high speeds, so that even weaker skiers can ski faster. And many people traverse the busy pistes. Conditions that increase the risk of collision.

Traversing a piste? Isn't that just called skiing? And the risk of collision... the article told us all about that farther up.

Ski with care
Collisions on the pistes cannot be avoided if everyone wears protective gear, but by showing responsibility for yourself and others. Respect your technical level, be aware, adjust your speed to the conditions and keep your distance from other skiers.

THAT took us by surprise. We were totally expecting the whole article to end where it started, not with this sensible, rational advice.

While the article DID start out with the usual verbal diarrhea from the safety slash profit crowd, we are left wishing that all "advice" about skiing - or cycling - provided the reader with rational facts and statistics so that the individual was able to make up their own mind instead of merely being subjected to fear rants.

It's a hard slog at this point in our society, we know that. The Culture of Fear has a firm grip. Sitting in the café at a small Swedish ski resort - with five or six measly, ten turn pistes - an hour and a half from Copenhagen, I was amazed to see so many people sitting there with their jackets off and their backs protected with Terminator-like back shields, like they were characters in a wintry Call of Duty-Black Ops 2 level. Having bought into the fabricated gear myth presented to them at every turn.

What you can mine from this article is the fact that if you put a helmet on your kids when skiing - to get those free lift tickets - you can just use their bicycle helmet if they have one of those. Save some money right there. Just don't let them use them at the ice rink, because bicycle helmets (and ski helmets we figure) aren't allowed at some ice rinks... Yes. We're confused, too.

03 March 2013

Dublin is Planning for the Future

Dublin Cycle Track_1
We've got a thing for Dublin at Copenhagenize Design Co.. Not least because we're involved - together with local partners - in three bicycle infrastructure projects in the city. Now we're loving them just a little bit more.

Dublin has been doing traffic counts of people crossing the Cordon Canal towards the city's centre since the 1980s. The counts are done between 07:00 and 10:00 am and the Dublin Transportation Office has been collecting the data since 1997, releasing results on a yearly basis.

The whole starting point of this analysis was to predict the evolution of modal share and to then compare it to the expected population growth. Thus, I wanted to correlate the population numbers evolution with the growth or reduction of three different types of transportation: walking, cycling and by car.  First of all, this is the expected population growth for 2020 in Dublin.

Dublin's expected population growth 2002 - 2020.

In the upper left-hand corner we can see that the expected population in 2020 is almost 180,000 inhabitants, whereas the population for 2002 was close to 100,000. Thus, two particularly important dates are withdrawn from these data: 2002 and 2020.

If curiosity killed the cat, then data drove the analyst insane...ly happy. In other words, I needed more facts and had questions that needed answers. For instance, how will the modal share evolve considering the population is expected to grow as much as 80,000 in 18 years? Is increasing the number of roads towards cities' centres a future-oriented solution?

Dublin is extremely proficient in collecting data that helped with the answers. Perhaps, in some other cities in the world, if the population is expected to grow, more car infrastructure will be priortised. In this case, however, the city opted for the implementation of a great bicycle share programme - one of the most successful in the world - and a countless number of other pro-cycling policies.

But let's keep calm and geek on.

Considering those two important dates – 2002 and 2020 - I've assembled the numbers for walking, cycling and cars entering the city centre based on the existing data. Then, I created a trend line (also known as linear regression) to help understand where are the numbers going after 2012 (the last public data).

Dublin's modal share (sources 1 & 2) and trend lines.


The thick solid lines represent existing data and the dashed ones represent the trending lines. As you can see, the number of cars entering the city centre has been decreasing in the past few years. Thus, the dashed lined represents the future trend – increasingly lower throughout the years. However, the same is happening for pedestrians which could be read as a warning for future policies.

Cycling however, has been booming: according to the Report on trends in mode share of people crossing the Canal Cordon 2006-2011 the number of cyclists entering Dublin City increased 42% between 2006 and 2011. This report goes on to present this number as a result of the implementation of several cycling policies and the success of the city's own bike share scheme, Dublinbike. Indeed, a successful and worthy case study.

Generally, one of the most common actions taken to tackle population growth in city centres is a hopelessly old-fashioned one. Building more roads for cars, increasing the number of parking spaces and enhancing pro-car policies. The new city has no money for that, or the space or the time. Dublin is showing everyone how to be a future-oriented city by doing it as you read this – and even long before this article was written.


And then we have current Copenhagen case. The City of Copenhagen is also expecting a rapid population growth. 100,000 extra inhabitants by 2025. How has Copenhagen been planning to deal with this population growth? Cancelling a proposed congestion charge - despite hard evidence from many cities that it would work - and planning a monstrous and expensive new tunnel for motorised vehicles that will increase the number of cars entering the city centre. Furthermore, they continue to ignore the 6-8 lane expressway - Hans Christian Andersen's Boulevard - that slices through the city centre and the current Lord Mayor, Frank Jensen, is putting back in car parking spots after many years of removing them. And so on.

It's more than two steps back, considering this is the city of cyclists. But like we've said before... welcome to the New Copenhagen.

Which is why looking at a modern, visionary city like Dublin is refreshing and optimistic. Not to mention inspirational.

I've not yet had the chance to visit the city of Dublin but I love it already. As a data geek but also as a bicycle user and an urbanite.

01 March 2013

Crisis Averted. I'm a Bicycle girl.

Most of us international Copenhagenizers end up spending a chunk of our evenings learning to pronounce Danish words and names like "Oehlenschlagersgade" and "rødspættefiletter." Not so much for getting around, but more as a way of showing gratitude for the very-accommodating-English-speaking-Copenhageners, and an appreciation of Danish culture. Enter a monotonous list of books for adults learning Danish as a second language.

One quickly learned point with these books, is that not many have a good ending. Or a good beginning, for that matter. So much for encouraging us newcomers' love affair with Denmark.

But that's beside the point.

The point is that many of these books feature bicycles. A normal part of culture in Copenhagen, why wouldn't the simple bicycle be mentioned in 90% of the books I've picked up over two years of Danish lessons? The most recent however, had a fantastic addition to the bicycle's many uses. One we hadn't yet considered.

The protagonist of the book, Camilla, is caught in a bit of a situation with a suitor one evening after he's taken her out for dinner. He's sweet, definitely handsome, a police officer, and yet she doesn't like him enough for him to take her home. Jump to (roughly translated) stream of conscious writing as Camilla talks herself through the minutes following their exit from the restaurant...

This is why I'm a bicycle girl. All I do is hop on my bike and go. No awkward goodbye, no uncomfortable 'who's going home with who'. Crisis averted. Deep breath. I'll just hop on my bike, wave, and say thank you for dinner. Suddenly, I'm gone. Cruising home alone. Thank goodness I'm a bicycle girl.

Thank goodness for bicycle culture - preventing awkward encounters one bicycle at a time.