Part 1- Værnedamsvej
Copenhagenize Design Co. has once again put our Desire Line analysis tool to good use in studying the behaviour and trajectories of bicycle users crossing a major intersection. We started with our Choreography of an Urban Intersection and have also applied it to studying a shared pedestrian/cyclist space in Islands Brygge. Based on the analysis of these “Desire lines”, we study and then propose changes to create urban spaces tailored for humans – cyclists and pedestrians.
One of the street's intrinsic features is that the border between the municipalities of Copenhagen and Frederiksberg zig zags down the street. Few people know where the border runs and it doesn't really matter to them - or to us. This municipal divide has been the reason, however, that the street hasn't been redesigned and modernised. There has been talk of it for a couple of decades, but the two municipalities haven't been able to figure it out.
The street has a fantastic old-school neighbourhood feel but it is also a key route between the two municipalities. There are many cyclists using the street on their A to B journeys despite the lack of infrastructure. Regular bikes and cargo bikes. Also, the many pedestrians suffer from hopelessly narrow sidewalks.
- 190 meters long and 12 meters wide;
- link between two main streets (Gammel Kongevej and Vesterbrogade – both are two-way streets with cycle tracks)
- connected to the main street Frederiksberg Allé
- a part of the street is one-way for cars and the other is two-way for cars
- there is no dedicated infrastructures for bicycle users (no bike lane or even bike racks).
Redesigning the street is one thing. It works relatively well as it is. Bizarrely, it's a 50 km/h zone, but the many pedestrians and cyclists serve to slow it right down to a human speed. We have been looking at the street itself, but we quickly realised that whatever redesign ends up in place, it is completely and utterly irrelevant unless the two intersections at either are dealt with first.
The southern intersection is one of the biggest brain farts in Copenhagen. It's a nightmare and completely ignores the natural Desire Lines of cyclists and pedestrians. The intersection also straddles the municipal border, so that probably explains the fall of reason and the rise of half-hearted municipal comprimise.
At the corner of Værnedamsvej, Vesterbrogade and Frederiksberg Allé, cyclists simply cannot cross the intersection “legally”. They must use through a car lane with oncoming, turning cars or get off their bike (in principle) and pretend they are pedestrians, using the two-stage crossing.
To redesign this street, Copenhagen and Frederiksberg municipalities need to work together. This street deserves it. It is a model of lively and meaningful urban atmosphere in a dense, residential district. It's a life-sized street, nestled in between two main boulevards. With a few rearrangements people would enjoy the urban life in even better conditions.
We tracked the Desire Lines of the bicycle users and mapped them and now we're going to proposed solutions based on these important factors.
Part 2: The Desire Lines tool applied to an asymmetric intersection (Værnedamsvej, Gammel Kongevej, Svanholmsvej)
- heading straight down Svanholmsvej
- making a left turn up Gammel Kongevej
- making a right turn down Gammel Kongevej.
At this location, because of the crooked design of the streets, Vœrnedamsvej isn't on a direct axis to Svanholmsvej, bicycle users avoid the unnecessary detour and make a direct turn. 64% of all people turning left aim for the corner of the street, which is the direct line (L3).
This seems like the most logical route to take, except that the bicycle users end up crossing the flow of car traffic. There is nothing at the intersection to communicate with the motorised vehicle drivers - like blue bike lanes on the ground.
- right turn from Gammel Kongevej
- straight across from Svanholmsvej
- right turn from Gammel Kongevej
It is not an official waiting area for cyclists doing the Copenhagen Left, which is obviously an oversight by the City of Frederiksberg. Because the sidewalk is extended here, and the street is narrow, there is not a lot of space for waiting bicycle users. Also, there is no traffic light for bicycle users wishing to go down Værnedamsvej. This lack of space causes a conflict between the waiting bicycle users and cars entering Svanholmsvej. It is unclear to all traffic users what the hierarchy is here, with no clear markings.
Turning left from Gammel Kongevej
Part 3: The Desire Lines tool applied to a complex intersection (Værnedamsvej, Vesterbrogade, Frederiksberg Allé)
Here we get to focus on a major abberration in the street layout of Copenhagen. An intersection where bicycle users - and basically everyone else - have no normal way to cross the intersection. Indeed, the junction Værnedamsvej, Vesterbrogade and Frederiksberg Allé, is complex and not completely regulated by traffic lights. Generally, it's a bit weird.
What contributes to the confusion is the fact the municipal border between Copenhagen and Frederiksberg zig zags bizarrely through the area. It is also worth noting that ALL the bicycle infrastructure in place is on the Copenhagen side of the intersection. Frederiksberg hasn't bothered to do much at all. Except for seemingly wishing to priortize cars.
Southern intersection - Heading out Værnedamsvej
The 183 bicycle users observed headed to four different directions:
- turned left on Vesterbrogade (41%)
- turned right on Vesterbrogade (17%)
- headed straight across to Oehlenschlægersgade (36%)
- turned right on Frederiksberg Alle (7%) – this last Desire Line doesn't require any comment as it is the simplest one.
You can see the complexity of the intersection on the map. No clear, straight lines are in place. The majority of the bicycle users leaving Værnedamsvej turn left on Vesterbrogade (41%) - heading for the city centre. They cannot, however, reach the traffic light without using the crossing or cycling against traffic. That’s why 80% of these bicycle users bike or walk their bike on the sidewalk in order to reach the pedestrian crossing further down Vesterbrogade. Indeed, they try to follow the shortest trajectory and head normally towards the direction they want to reach without making a detour. Classic Desire Line behaviour.
29% use the pedestrian crossing, completely or partially. Some of them get off their bike but a majority cycles. 18% take the shorter but also less safe trajectories, cycling against the car traffic.
Bicycle users continuing straight on to reach Oehlenschlægersgade have the same problem as the ones turning left or right on Vesterbrogade: how on earth do you get to the traffic light? In this situation, almost half of them cycle through the car lane.
For the bicycle users heading into Værnedamsvej the situation is clearly different since specific bicycle infrastructure has been designed for them. We noticed that the number of Desire Lines is less numerous (11 vs. 8). Most of all, we noticed that when bicycle infrastructure is well thought out, a clear, primary trajectory appears. One or two other minor lines are followed by a few bicycle users. It can be bicycle users using the pedestrian crossing to avoid to wait the red light or a small number of “Recklists”.
Part 4 - The Copenhagenize Fixes - The Intersections
Here, on Værnedamsvej, without questioning the classic and specific way to turn left at an intersection, we prefer to accept the fact that bicycle users turn directly. Indeed, based on our observations, 0% of cyclists make the two-stage turn. Moreover, we noticed that bicycle users have a tendency not to wait on the right side on the street, since they know that no cars can turn in the street. So they wait at the traffic light in the middle of street ready to turn left.
In order to improve the relation between the cars and the bikes, we suggest to create a bike box in front of the traffic light. We're not a big fan of bike boxes, but this is one situation where it will work. Bicycle users will have the priority over the cars and will start turning at the intersection before them. This infrastructure is not usual in the streets of Copenhagen except at some T-intersections, but here it a way to replace the two-stage left turn.
Currently, they use the pedestrian signals on the other side of the street to figure out when they can cross the intersection. It's a bit of a dodgy situation. Creating a cycle track heading north to south on Svanholmsvej is a solution. This would involve removing the car parking on the left side of the street and it must be analysed at the scale of the district.
At the intersection between Værnedamsvej, Vesterbrogade, Frederiksberg Allé, it is atypical that so many cyclists use the cross walk and the sidewalk. We can consider this behaviour as a sign pointing out that this intersection does not meet cyclists' needs.
Actually, the Desire Lines' observation shows that this intersection is not at all designed for cyclists leaving Værnedamsvej. The main issue is to design an intersection that allows the cyclists turning right on Vesterbrogade and crossing it.
To fix this abnormality in the City of Cyclists, here are our suggestions:
- Moving back the traffic light for the cars
- Making space for the bicycle users in front of the cars
- Reducing the width of the pedestrian crossing
- Setting up a traffic light for bikes at the end of Værnedamsvej and another one at the end of Frederiksberg Allé. These traffic lights will turn green for the cyclists in the same time as the light dedicate to the cyclists on Vesterbrogade, when all the traffic lights for the cars are red.
Because of the complexity of this intersection a temporary solution tested during a few months while Municipalities analyse the behaviour of the cyclists, pedestrians and car drivers may be required.
- Creating a 30 km/hour zone in order to increase the safety of the bicycle users and pedestrians
- Turning the entire street into one-way for cars
- Creating a designated, contraflow bike lane for the bicycle users heading against the one way
- Creating parklets and parking zones alternating between both sides of the street, resulting in a curving car lane that forces motorists to slow down. The parking zones for cars are located only along the car lane. In front of the school, instead of a parklet, the pavement is extend in order to create space for the children hanging out after school.
This rearrangement is quite similar to the layout the Copenhagen Municipality made in Elmegade in Nørrebro. Moreover, another solution would be to turn the street into a bike street, giving to the cyclists the priority towards the cars - who are in the minority on this street.