23 October 2013

San Francisco Launched its Bike Share

SF - Bike Share

San Francisco is doing a great job to increase the space allocated to cyclists in the streets of the city by the bay. The Municipality is driven by the SF Bike Coalition which does amazing work to make sure cyclists find a place in this so unique urban place.

At the end of August, the Municipality of San Francisco launched a bike sharing system named Bay Area Bike Share (BABS).
SF - Bike Share

The bike station network does not cover all the city yet. The stations are mostly installed along Market Street, in Downtown and SoMa. They are also set up in several cities of the Silicon Valley : Redwood City, Palo Alto, Mountain View and San Jose. The idea is to co-locate train and bike stations to offer to the Caltrain users a way to finish their journey by bike. BABS is still a small-scale pilot program; 700 bikes are available, half of which are located in San Francisco. But articles and statements from the Municipality indicate that the project has plans to expand into more neighborhoods in order to better serve commuters. We know from past experience that several bike share projects have started as a test and their network has grown after a while once all the benefits of the system can be seen and experienced. We wish to BABS a lot of success!

The system set up in the Bay Area is created by the same company as those in Washington D.C., New York City, and Minneapolis. It's an efficient, easy to use system and the bike is pleasant to ride for short journeys.

SF - Bike Share

We could imagine that one day, a common subscription would be valid in all these cities. Meaning that, when you travel from one city to another you keep on using the same system to rent a bike. This idea would require that cities work together and harmonize their pricing policy. It won't be easy to achieve, but city officials should keep it in mind as they expand their individual systems, as it could facilitate more bicycle commuting across the country.

Coming back to the BABS, it is a bike share system created mainly for the local people. Since the network covers a limited part of the city, it is clear that the system was not designed primarily for tourists. So far, it's most useful for employees who work in SoMa or Downtown. San Francisco should really develop the network to make this bike-share work more efficiently. For instance, expanding the network in districts like Mission, Castro, Hayes Valley would definitely allow greater access for more users.

Generally speaking, engineers are installing bike share stations wherever they can find a free spot within the public domain. Ideally, these locations could be better matched to fit the needs and interests of cyclists. In San Francisco, some bike stations are located as close as possible to the pavement but others are in the middle of the public space and not next to the bike lane.



I also want to use this blog post to highlight the amazing work being done by the SF Bike Coalition for the city and its cyclists. They educate riders, lobby the Municipality to develop more bike infrastructure and organize dedicated events. They also work to create a strong urban cycling culture in SF, turning this hilly town into a city for cyclists.

SF Bike Coalition - Sunday street

21 October 2013

Bicycle Map of Montreal 1897

Just got this from a reader. Bicycle Map of Montreal from... 1897. From an insurance company (follow the money) but still brilliant to see the bicycle infrastructure back then.

Reminds us of the maps we got from Helsinki from 1937 showing cyclist counts on certain streets. Up to 10,000 cyclists on some streets back then.

Blaming Victims and Dictating Clothing

Friday Night Crowd
If you have been reading this blog for a while, you'll know all too well about what we call "Ignoring the Bull". How in this car-centric society, non-motorised victim blaming is the norm. The status quo.

You may also know the media tendency - mostly in non-cycling countries - to report about cyclists killed or injured in collisions with motorised traffic. "Hit by a truck/fast moving vehicle.... wasn't wearing a helmet." Written by journalists who are hopelessly uninformed (and perhaps uninterested) about a helmet's limited industrial design capability in collisions with vehicles. They never seem to write "Man fell from 3rd floor. Wasn't wearing a helmet." You get the point.

What we're seeing lately is how the everpresent Culture of Fear is encroaching on our lives in a new(ish) way. The safety nannies and their lackies are now desperately trying to dictate what you, the citizen, wears. They are trying to make fashion choices for you in the name of their holy, car-centric "safety".

Even here in Denmark.

Last night a young woman was killed in central Copenhagen. Run down by a taxi. By all accounts, she was crossing against the light. A young life snuffed out.

What we noticed in the articles about it was that it was really her own damn fault.

"The woman was dressed in black and it was therefore difficult for the taxi, which had the green light, to see her. The taxi driver was questioned and released. He is charged with manslaughter. According to the preliminary investigation, the driver was driving at 60 km/h when he hit the woman."

Firstly, if you live in one of over 120 European cities, you'll be stunned that there are 60 km/h zones in the heart of a densely populated European capital like Copenhagen. The 30 km/h zone movement is over 25 years young and has had an amazing effect on traffic safety in our cities. Just not in Denmark. Because the Danish police enjoy a veto regarding an issue they know nothing about. Namely traffic safety. There is a political majority in favour of 30 km/h zones in Copenhagen, but the police just shrug and say no. They are not even obliged to say WHY they're saying no. Even though they have admitted to being completely ignorant on the subject of traffic safety.

The death of the young woman comes a day after one of the police departments in Denmark - Vestegns Politi - tweeted: "Do you and your child light up in the dark? Reflectors = 70% fewer accidents for pedestrians." Seriously.

The Culture of Fear is a nasty bitch. Destructive to our societies. It is, however, rather easy to trace where messages come from. In this case, it's the darling of the automobiile industry, The Danish Road Safety Council - Rådet for Sikker Trafik. They're campaigning like it's 1952 and nobody seems to be able to stop them. That 70% figure? One study. From Norway. Hardly empirical evidence. (Their pornographic obsession with bicycle helmets also quotes only one study that fits their ideology, not the body of science available to the rational souls among us.) They've also been pushing their Fear Pornography for years here in Denmark, despite their complete lack of respect for A. liveable cities and B. science.

Basically, if you feel the need to advertise reflective clothing for pedestrians and cyclists, you are advertising your complete ineptitude about building safe and liveable cities. You are shouting to the world that you believe cars are king and everyone else is at their mercy.

That the Danish police allow a 60 km/h zone in the heart of the city is as old-fashioned as it is disgusting. There is massive evidence that 30 km/h zones save lives and reduce injury. We've even published a study highlighting the facts. There is good reason that over 120 cities in Europe have implemented them. The Danish Road Safety Council is silent on the subject. It messes with their car centric heads, apparently. In fact, this blog is the only voice for 30 km/h zones in Copenhagen - and other Danish cities - in the wilderness. Oh, and this Facebook group.

If there was a 30 km/h zone on that street last night, that girl would have had a spectacular chance of surviving. Whoever has been standing in the way of 30 km/h zones has her blood - and the blood of many others, like this 10 year old girl - on their hands.

Ignoring the Bull. And getting away with it. Both the Danish Road Safety Council and the Danish police. At the expense of human life and suffering. Without any legal implication whatsoever. Is this democracy? No. A young woman is dead, even though she could have survived.

If there was some sort of safety nanny balance in the messaging, it might (okay not really) make it a bit better. We know, for example, that black cars are more likely to be involved in accidents. Because you can't see them at night - or even during the day. Are the Danish Police or The Danish Road Safety Council tweeting about putting reflective tape on cars to increase visibility? Nah. That would be rational and intelligent. Are they campaigning for motorist helmets based on Australian government studies? Nah. Don't mess with cars.

We've proposed health warning for cars, in line with those on cigarette packs. We've exposed car-centric nonsense from the Copenhagen Police here and from the Danish Road Safety Council here and here and here, as well as a philospher's call for having them shut down.

I trust the police to take care of police business. Do what they're trained to do and what they're knowledgeable about. Traffic safety is not one of those things. Get off my streets.

17 October 2013

The Importance of the Right Inspiration

When you come from Copenhagen, cycling in Amsterdam is like coming home. To a different kind of home, sure, but still home. An eclectic home filled with books piled up in no particular order, funky art on the walls, maybe dirty dishes in the sink but cool music on the stereo. Different from home with clean lines, white floors and carefully placed furniture and minmalistic art on the walls.

I love cycling in Amsterdam. It's a wonderfully human experience. You meet the eyes of strangers all day long because of the layout of the city and the constantly changing infrastructure.

I've often said that Amsterdam cyclists resemble swarming bees whereas in Copenhagen they are more like marching ants. This difference is largely due to the layout of the cities. In Amsterdam the streets are curvy and confusing and you perform many left and right turns in the course of a day. In Copenhagen, there are primarily long, straight stretches. Most of Copenhagen outside the medival city centre is a 20th century invention and, back in the day, planning streets was unencumbered by canals or rivers.

It's interesting to consider the differences in cycling in these two massive cycling cities. It is, largely, a question of personal taste as to what you prefer. A century ago you wouldn't have noticed any difference between riding a bicycle in the two cities. The differences that are now apparent are merely evolutionary, based on city layout and planning, as well as infrastructure.

Which brings me to an observation I've made. The root of it is based in comments I've heard from dozens and dozens of planners, engineers and participants on our study tours of Copenhagen. Many come from abroad and make pilgrimage stops in Amsterdam - perhaps Utrecht or Rotterdam if they have time - and then Copenhagen - perhaps Malmö if they have time. For some reason, most overseas visitors end up going to the Netherlands first, flying home from Denmark. What I always hear is that Amsterdam and cities like Utrecht are a rush. A big bicycle smile. Wonderful to experience. And rightly so.

Upon arrival in Copenhagen, things change. It's a giggle, as well, for foreign visitors who come here to study bicycle planning, infrastructure and facilities. The difference is that when in Copenhagen, our visitors remark that it's easier to see how bicycle infrastructure would work in their city back home. Squint your eyes a bit and you'll be able to superimpose a Copenhagen street onto a similar street in your home city. When a city resembles other cities it is easier to envision change. Amsterdam is a glorious place but there is only one Amsterdam and there will never be another.

Cities that have recently begun the journey to create a more bicycle-friendly environment after a century of failed traffic engineering are - or should be - looking for easy to implement designs and infrastructure networks. A fluid and functional design is paramount when beginning from scratch.

I stay at the same hotel when in Amsterdam and I've been there a lot over the past year and a half. I ride the same route to drop off my bike near the Central Station, a route that by and large bypasses the old city centre and follows larger roads. Despite the relative directness of the route, I have noticed that it is less straightforward regarding bicycle infrastructure. I decided to compare the route with a similar one in Copenhagen. To compare the design of the infrastructure, wayfinding and experience.

The route in Amsterdam is here on Google Maps. From the Lloyd Hotel to Het Zwarte Fietsenplan bike shop and rental location.

Amsterdam 01 Infrastructure Surface Amsterdam 02 Surface
The route starts out well. A separated cycle track with a smooth surface and the reddish colour typical in many Dutch cities. Near the first intersection, the surface suddenly changes to paving tiles of varying colours. Still noticably different in style compared to the left and the right of the cycle track, but odd that it changed. Especially as this section was recently renovated.

Amsterdam 03 Infrastructure Amsterdam 04 Button
From riding on a one-way cycle track I turn onto a bi-directional track. Nice and wide and safe, sure, but already here the intuition of the journey is jeopardised. At the first light on this stretch I meet the first crossing button. Having to apply for permission from a computer model to cross a street on my bicycle is a foreign concept for a Copenhagener. I couldn't reach it, due to road works, but the workman pressed it for me with a smile. Nice.

Amsterdam 05 Button Amsterdam 06 Infrastructure
Then, because I was turning left, another button presented itself to me just across the intersection. I had to wait. Car volume on this stretch is high and their signals were prioritised. (It's much better in many other locations, don't worry). Finally, permission was granted by the traffic engineering gods and I headed off. This time on a wide, one-way bike lane surfaced with asphalt the same as the road, but one that was only separated by a painted line. Yes, this is Amsterdam. Motorists and cyclists enjoy a symbiotic relationship but I wonder what foreign planners think when they see this. The car volume and speed was largely unchanged, but the infrastructure was different. Uniformity is of paramount importance in design.

Amsterdam 07 Infrastructure  Amsterdam 08 Surface
I continued on. More buttons to cross streets along the way and then suddenly I was back on a bi-directional cycle track. I couldn't really figure out why. But I was back on the classic, red Dutch cycle track surfacing. Well, not for long. Tiles appeared suddenly beneath my cargo bike again.

Amsterdam 09 Surface Amsterdam 10 Button
After the tiles I was back on a one-way cycle track, this time separated from traffic with the barrier you see, above. Now, it's a bridge, so a lightweight barrier makes more sense here. Farther along, another of those damned buttons.

Amsterdam 10 Infrastructure Amsterdam 11 Button
This was a nice stretch. A wide buffer from the motorised traffic and separated from the pedestrians by the unique red-coloured surface. Oh. Then another button. If you're new to cycling in Amsterdam, you may not notice it.

Amsterdam 12 Infrastructure Amsterdam 13 Button Amsterdam 14 Infrastructure
The button is meant to send me across this intersection, which it did after a wait. Into the arms of another button. Which was sending me on a left turn. Which was strange, because I just wanted to go straight.

Amsterdam 15 Infrastructure Amsterdam 16 Surface
So then I found myself on the LEFT side of the street, on yet another bi-directional cycle track. Never a dull moment. My Desire Lines, at this point, had just rolled their eyes and left the building. A minor change of surface - this time cobblestones instead of tiles - as I crossed this smaller street. I shuddered at the feel of those cobblestones after three days in Utrecht. My vibrating organs went into shock.

Amsterdam 17 Infrastructure Amsterdam 18 Infrastructure Surface
The bi-directional cycle track continued for a ways, although it did morph into a split cycle track for a while. Then, after a left turn off a bi-directional track that had me looking in eight different directions instead of two, I was back in the ol' school. Makes you understand why on-street bi-directional cycle tracks have disappeared from Danish bicycle planning. Anyway, I found myself sharing the street on a low-speed street. (Well, kind of, cars were moving pretty quick, given all that space.)

Amsterdam 19 Infrastructure
The last stretch up to my destination was a narrow, painted lane.

I got from my A to B safely, calmly and without too much stress in a fantastic bicycle city. I did, however, experience a change in surface about 9 times. I experienced a half dozen different types of bicycle infrastructure and I had to push a button to cross a street 6 times. That's not including the 3 or 4 other ones where I managed to catch the light.

I've finally figured out this route, after several visits. I know which direction to go in, but the variety of infrastructure solutions has little regard for my Desire Lines or my human intuition. Which goes for most of Amsterdam. I have friends who have lived in the city for decades and yet who can still spend ten minutes discussing which route is the best to get to that bar. This route should be pretty straightforward, however.

Back in Copenhagen, I decided to cycle a similiar-ish route to compare. I rode from Langelinie to Vesterbro, and the route is viewable here on Google Maps. There is a much more direct route for this A to B, but I took some turns and skirted around the city centre to make more of a comparison.

Copenhagen 01 Infrastucture Copenhagen 02 Surface
The route started out nice. A low-speed, low car volume street where separated infrastructure isn't needed. There was Utrecht-style cobblestones as a traffic calming measure by a pedestrian crossing in this normally pedestrian-heavy area.

Copenhagen 03 Infrastructure Copenhagen 04 Infrastructure
A little roundabout and then a stretch along the same calmed street.

Copenhagen 05 Infrastructure Copenhagen 06 Infrastructure
Before long, I was on a one-way, separated cycle track for a long stretch. Turning left towards the city centre, the infrastructure became a wide, painted lane. I was also on a Green Wave route, where the lights are coordinated for bicycle users in this direction during the morning rush hour.Cycle 20 km/h and you hit green all the way in to the city centre.

Copenhagen 08 Infrastructure Copenhagen 07 Infrastructure
The painted lane continued. Some right turns later, including a couple of car-free turns, and the lane narrowed in because of Metro construction. This is normally curb-separated but this is a temporary solution. That bus was hardly moving because of traffic. We all zipped right by.

Copenhagen 09 Infrastructure Copenhagen 10 Infrastructure

Still on separated one-way cycle tracks, I passed busstops. The solution on the right is the City's preferred one, where space allows. But the solution on the left works fine, too.

Copenhagen 11 Surface Copenhagen 12 Infrastructure
Entering the last street, Utrechtian cobblestones signal a change of speed and streetstyle. Only a narrow strip, fortunately. The last stretch was on a calm, low-speed street lined with small shops and cafés.

Apart from a few hundred metres at the beginning and the end, the entire journey was on one-way cycle tracks. About 70% was on the standard, physically-separated, one-way variety. We don't send pedestrians criss-crossing back and forth on their A to B journeys. They have sidewalks on both sides of the street. The same comfort, ease-of-use and intuitive wayfinding should always be applied to bicycle users, as well. No on-street bi-directional cycle tracks to navigate on the route, either. Nor were there any American-style buttons to press to be allowed to cross intersections. The entire journey, apart from two narrow stretches of traffic-calming cobblestones was on one smooth surface type.

As we've highlighted with the Copenhagenize Guide to Bicycle Planning, a uniform bicycle infrastructure design makes sense

Let there be no doubt. Let us all look to the Netherlands for inspiration. For their national policy - their tradition and desire, even - to plan cities for people. I invoke "Dutch" in our work at Copenhagenize Design Co. very, very often. I push for Dutch-style solutions here in Copenhagen. The Netherlands is a pocket of visionary urban planning goodness that shines brighter than any other beacon on the planet.

What I'm saying is this. We work, primarily, with larger cities. We work with planners and engineers around the world who are still trying to figure this whole "bicycle as transport" thing out. Many are "getting it" but then there's those who are still allowed to put in bike lanes between parked cars and moving traffic, or sharrows, without even getting fired.

Uniform design is paramount. A city-wide, copy/paste solution saves money, guarantees results and is a wise, financial move for cities with ever-dwindling budgets. An interesting but confusing (to anyone but the locals) selection of solutions is risky. Plug and play is the key.

If you get off a train in a Danish city you've never been to before, you'll quickly find the bicycle infrastructure. It looks like the infrastruture in the last city you were in. It takes you where you want to go safely and quickly. Get off the train in a Dutch city you've never been to before and you spend your first few hours trying to follow the zig-zagging, criss-crossing, ever-changing infrastructure.

I, like everyone else who has tried it, has stood with a stupid smile on my face in Utrecht and Amsterdam. (Although DAMN your cobblestones, Utrecht!) I am inspired by the Netherlands and, wherever possible, do everything I can to reject this Bicycle Nationalism that has emerged over the past few years. That's why Copenhagenize Design Co. teamed up with Dutch company Mobycon for our Kickstand Sessions - a series of master classes combining Danish and Dutch practices. To bring the best of BOTH countries to the rest of the world.

Dutch cities, unfortunately, don't resemble many other cities in the world. If you plan on building a new version of Amsterdam in the desert somewhere, copy them. As it stands right now, most cities in the world don't resemble most cute Dutch cities.

What's interesting, is how many study trips are now heading to Rotterdam. Green Lane Project, among many others, are focusing on Rotterdam and Copenhagen for their study trips. The rest of the Netherlands may mock Rotterdam for having the lowest modal share among Dutch cities, but let's face it. When you're from North America, 20% modal share doesn't look THAT much different from 35%. If you squint your eyes in Rotterdam, like in Copenhagen, you can envision your home city with bicycle infrastructure.

There is much inspiration out there. Let's inspire the world in the right places and in the right ways. Let's focus on uniform design solutions that provide bicycle users in Emerging Bicycle Cities with ease-of-use and simplfied wayfinding, in order to plant the right seeds.

Then we can move on to big, stupid grin solutions once the forest starts to grow.

16 October 2013

The Cycle Track Association of 1897

Cykelstiforeningen 1897
I found this letter regarding the founding of a new cyclist organisation in the City of Copenhagen's archives. I love the name of the association.

The Cycle Track Association.

The association, it says on the letter, was founded on 18 May, 1897.

"At a public cyclist meeting on the 18th of this month it was agreed to form an association with the name The Cycle Track Association (Cykelstiforeningen). The goal of the association being lobbying for better conditions for road cycling in Copenhagen and surrounding area. The association will also work towards establishing cycle tracks, especially along Strandvejen (the coast road north of Copenhagen). It is also under consideration to establish, for use only by members, air pumps and repair equipment along the roads in the vicinity of Copenhagen."

The fee was anything you like, as long as it was at least 2 kroner.

So don't go thinking this quest for safe infrastructure for Citizen Cyclists in our cities is some new-fangled thing. The first separated infrastructure for cyclists in the world was created in 1892 in Copenhagen.

We've written previously about the countless bicycle clubs and associations formed in the heady days of Bicycle Culture 1.0 and you can see many of them here - Bicycle Club Names in the 1890s.

The Copenhagenize Guide to Liveable Cities

Copenhagenize Guide to Liveable Cities
It's simple if you want it to be.

Copenhagenize Design Co.

A Short History of Traffic Engineering Copenhagenize Traffic Planning Guide The Copenhagenize Bicycle Planning Guide Don't Be a Square Motorists Dismount