18 June 2014

Copenhageners Test-Drive The Bicycle Snake

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The long-due first elevated cycle track of Copenhagen is not finished yet but already used and appreciated by bicycle users... and pedestrians.

The new bicycle infrastructure named "the snake" is still under construction but every day but, when workers are gone, citizens find a way to test it and most of all to benefit from the shortcut to reach their destination. They avoid doing a detour all around the boring shopping mall. Actually, due to the works, the former space used by the cyclists under the new bridge is closed. This is clearly confirming the need for this almost-fixed missing link between Bryggebroen and Dybbølsbro. Users are impatient to get back their shortcut, blocked during the works. So they push aside fences and squeeze themselves and their bicycles through the narrow gaps.

Generally speaking, developing a good network for the cyclists is a lot about creating the relevant shortcuts thought the city. In general, Danes respect the road signs, but when it comes to forcing them to make a more than 800 m. detour on their daily commute for over 2 months, the bicycle users disagree.

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After a first ride on the newly orange surface, I can say that cycling on this infrastructure is a new kind of urban experience. Coming from Dybbølsbro after turning right and then waving through the buildings, the view opens up on the Copenhagen harbor: an urban landscape made up of glass, water and sun reflections.

We're looking forward to getting this bridge definitely open and to see how the Municipality will rearranged the connections around this infrastructure. While waiting for it, you can have a look at the Copenhagenize's suggestions.

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17 June 2014

Bike-Train-Bike - Connecting Bicycles and Trains in Europe

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Copenhagenize Design Co.'s team, all the partners involved in BiTiBi - Bike-Train-Bike – and the European Commission are glad to launch today our new EU project.

BiTiBi is an EU-funded, three year project to promote the intermodal use of bicycles and public transit in urban commuting throughout Europe. Indeed, the future of urban mobility is a return to a tried and tested combination of bicycles and trains. Combining the two most energy efficient modes of transportation, the bicycle and the train, provides a seamless door-to-door transport connection. The project aims at improving the livability of European cities and improving the energy efficiency of our transport.

It is not realistic to expect everyone to bicycle 15km to and from the office, but to cycle a few kilometers each way and hop on the train for the bulk of the trip could dramatically provide countless economic, social and environmental benefits for urban regions. From 2014 to 2017, BiTiBi will work with partner municipalities, train operators, bike share schemes and other actors involved in achieving a more energy efficient commute throughout several European cities.

Innovative pilot projects will be implemented in the regions of Barcelona, Milan, Liverpool and in Belgium with the help of ten partners, in order to inspire all European cities to consider a modern, multimodal approach to transport.

5.5_BiTiBi_project_website_banner_CIZE_20140604_yyy2In the Netherlands, the OV-fiets public bike system is available at the train stations. It will be used as the model inspiring the development of the pilots in the other cities. Indeed, BiTiBi services will use the Dutch model in general as inspiration in promoting the bike-train-bike modal merger over cars and the combination of cars and trains. The project aims to solve the typical issues such as lack of parking for bikes at stations; no last mile solution when taking the train; ineffective fare integration or worse, none at all; bike services not corresponding to user needs; no bicycle friendly access to train stations; lack of knowledge about the available services and cultural barriers to use a train-bike-train combination.

In cities of Spain, England, Italy and Belgium commuters will find in the coming years an efficient way to reach every morning the train station and then their final destination.

In three years, in the scope of the pilots, safe and convenient bike parking facilities at train stations will be implemented, public bikes and integrate payment system of bike and rail services will be provided. During all these years, partners will communication the advantages for combining bicycles and trains and share the results of these intermodal experiences.

You will be able to follow all the news concerning BiTiBi on the dedicated website. Moreover, the Facebook page /biketrainbike – and the Twitter @biketrainbike will allow to keep in touch with the newly launched project.

Discover the BiTiBi Vimeo channel and the Instagram #BiTiBi.

Please find on the website, the presentation of BiTiBi in Catalan, Dutch, English, French, Italian, and Spanish.
We're looking forward to sharing with you all along the three years interesting news about how Europe in moving forward regarding combining bike and train.

03 June 2014

Explaining the Bi-directional Cycle Track Folly

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If this was 2007, I'd expect some confusion and misinterpretation regarding Best Practice for bicycle infrastructure. It was a brave, new world back then. This blog was a lone voice in the wilderness regarding bicycles as transport in cities, with only testosterone-driven, frothing at the mouth sports and recreational cycling blogs for company in the woods. Now, there is a chorus and the voices are getting louder and more harmonious day by day.

Many, many people know better now. Knowledge has spread and the message is more unified.

One thing that baffles me, however, is why on-street, bi-directional cycle tracks are actually being promoted and implemented.

For clarity, when I saw "on-street, bi-directional" I mean the creation of one lane for bicycles separated by a line, allowing for two-way traffic - on city streets. I am not referring to a two-way path through a park or other areas free of motorised vehicles.

In Denmark, the on-street, bi-directional facility was removed from Best Practice for bicycle infrastructure over two decades ago. That in itself might be an alarm bell to anyone paying attention. These two way cycle tracks were found to be more dangerous than one-way cycle tracks on each side of the roadway. There is a certain paradigm in cities... I'm not saying it's GOOD, but it's there. Traffic users all know which way to look when moving about the city. Having bicycles coming from two directions at once was an inferior design.

This was in an established bicycle culture, too. The thought of putting such cycle tracks into cities that are only now putting the bicycles back - cities populated by citizens who aren't use to bicycle traffic makes my toes curl.

There are bi-directional cycle tracks in Copenhagen. They are through parks and down greenways, separated from motorised traffic, and on occasion they are on streets with no cross streets on one side. At all times they are placed where they actually make sense, to eliminate the risk of collision with cars and trucks. Cycle tracks are like sidewalks... you put them on either side of the street, except you keep them one way.

Sure, Denmark has developed an incredibly uniform design for bicycle infrastructure, with only four types of infrastructure for bicycles that creates uniformity, easy wayfinding and, most importantly, optimal safety.

You hear the same excuses in emerging bicycle nations and cities... "But I saw them in the Netherlands?!"

Yes, you might have. But I asked Theo Zeegers at the Dutch national cycling organisation, Fietsersbond, about this issue and he said,

"Bi-directional cycle tracks have a much higher risk to the cyclists than two, one-directional ones. The difference on crossings is about a factor 2. So, especially in areas with lots of crossings (ie. builtup areas), one-directional lanes are preferred. Not all municipalities get this message, however."

Fortunately, the Dutch are used to a constant flow of cycling. They're not new at this. They also have space issues in many of their small city centres that few other cities on the planet have. The bi-directional tracks you may see there are sub-optimal solutions.

The City of Ottawa installed some bidirectional cycle tracks against the best advice of their Dutch consultants. CBC looked into it and found that the City chose the "least safe" option and are now suffering cyclist injuries.

In the recently published OECD report about Cycling Health and Safety you can read much of the same. Bi-directional are not recommended for on-street placement. One way cycle tracks on either side are the Best Practice that should be chosen.

It's really not a newsflash all this.

Indeed, it's not even a new thing. In this pdf document of recommendations for urban cycling in Italy, dating from 1999 it states that bidirectional cycle tracks are not recommended.

Imagine removing a sidewalk on one side of the street and forcing pedestrians to share a narrow sidewalk on only one side of the street. You wouldn't do that to pedestrians (sure, stupid examples exist but hey) so why on earth would you do it to cyclists?

The bi-directional cycle tracks we see in emerging bicycle cities can't possibly be put there by people who know what they're doing or who understand the needs of bicycle users or who really want cycling to boom. You can also see that in the width that many of them have. Incredibly narrow, making passing oncoming cyclists a lip-biting experience and making passing cyclists heading in the same direction a bit too hair-raising.

Another excuse oft heard is, "Well... it's better than nothing" - often spoken in a defensive tone. It is a flawed argument, lacking vision, commitment and experience.

This isn't about building stuff out of asphalt. We are planting seeds in the hopes that lush gardens will grow. We have the seeds we need. They are fertile, natural and ready to grow with minimal maintenence. Instead, people are choosing bags of GMO seeds from traffic planning's Wal-Mart. Limited fertility, modified for the simple needs of visionless gardeners. Potted plants instead of gardens.

If someone advocates infrastructure like this and actually believes it is good, they probably shouldn't be advocating bicycle infrastructure.