16 June 2016

The Oslo Standard - Next Level Bicycle Planning and Politics

The Oslo Standard for Bicycle Planning / Oslostandarden for sykkeltilrettelegging

So there you are. A capital city in a European country wanting desperately to keep up with the cool kids. Wanting to improve city life, generally, but also focusing intensely on re-creating a bicycle-friendly city.

Oslo has grand plans. The news in October 2015 that the city council had voted to make the city centre free of private cars by 2019 - as well as many other plans - was a shot heard round the world and captured imaginations in many other cities.

The City of Oslo is gearing up for change, no doubt about it. At Copenhagenize Design Company, we’ve gone so far as to call the city “the next big thing” in bicycle urbanism. There are more people employed to make the city bicycle-friendly in Oslo than in almost any other city on the planet. Sure, they’re divided up in different, confusing departments, but they’re there. A group of vaguely focused landscape architect types in the city’s Bymiljøetaten (Agency of City Environment) and the City’s temporary Sykkelprojsektet - or Bicycle Agency - who are tasked with implementing the city’s bicycle strategy.

It is the latter who are orchestrating the show and who have a clear understanding of what is needed and how to do it. Yesterday, The Bicycle Agency released a long-awaited document clearly outlining their roadmap for bicycle infrastructure in the city. It is one of the most interesting and inspiring documents we’ve seen coming out of a municipality anywhere in the world.

The Oslo Standard. Remember that name.

All good, right? Off they go, you might think. Political will, money, loads of people ready to work. Unfortunately, it turns out that it’s not that easy. Which is exactly why The Oslo Standard for Bicycle Planning now exists. It is available in a public hearing version, in Norwegian, but an English version will be out later in the year.

Like many places, Oslo and other cities in Norway are under the thumb of a Road Directorate and the nature of such organisations is to be slow to change, keep a firm grip on outdated traffic engineering principles and generally be a pain in the ass of people who see a better vision for our cities.

Like many places, Norway has road design standards dictated by said road directorate. Traffic engineers would have you believe they are carved in stone and are second only to the Ten Commandments in their worth. Oslo, however, has fired up their jackhammer.

The Norwegian road design standards are, quite simply, the biggest hurdle to The Bicycle Agency implementing the City’s bicycle strategy. They are hopelessly outdated and include little in the way of modern, Best Practice bicycle infrastructure design.

It’s not a new story. In 2012, the National Transport Ministry was tired of getting the same old, same old answers from the Road Directorate and chose instead to ask someone new. Together with Civitas, Copenhagenize Design Company produced a huge feasibility study to help boost cycling in Norwegian cities. The report basically recommended Best Practice infrastructure across the board.

Oslo's First Cycle Track
Norway and Oslo are no stranger to Best Practice. Aftenposten newspaper, in 1941, wrote about “Oslo’s First Bike Lane”, which was clearly inspired by Copenhagen. Indeed, a separated cycle track is called in professional circles a “dansk sykkelsti” - Danish Bike Lane.
Trondheim Bicycle Infrastructure
You can see examples in the country’s best city for urban cycling, Trondheim, put in in the 90s. A bit narrow, but hey. Best Practice, at least. Ironically, bizarrely and sadly, the Road Directorate removed these designs from their standards.

This is where The Oslo Standard comes in. It is Oslo’s own standard for bicycle infrastructure design and it includes Best Practice solutions that are not included in the national road standards. The “dansk sykkelsti” is called “raised bicycle area”, in order to establish it in a new context.

This is Oslo saying, “If you won’t modernise, we’ll do it on our own”.

And they are. They have presented a clear vision for bicycle infrastructure design with their Oslo Standard and they are fine with stepping on the toes of the national road directorate. It is a planning document, but it is also a shot fired across the bow signalling a sea change in how Oslo wants to plan its streets for transport in the future. It has clear political signals, as well. Shoving is the new nudging. Shoving the road directorate into the new century.

Here is the introduction to the document:

The Oslo Standard for Bicycle Planning is one of the main initiatives in the City’s bicycle strategy. It translates the city’s goals for bicycle modal share, sense of safety, accessibility and traffic safety for cyclists into practical solutions for building bicycle infrastructure. Norway’s national bicycle strategy 2014-2023 includes a goal that 8% of all trips must be done by bike. This would mean that the modal share for bicycles in cities must be between 10-20%. The Bicycle Strategy for Oslo 2015-2025 has a declared goal that 16% of all weekday trips will be by bike before 2025. In 2013, the modal share was measured to be 8%.

In a comprehensive study in 2013, a majority of Oslo’s citizens say they don’t feel safe cycling in the city and that much of the bicycle infrastructure that is in place doesn’t satisfy the citizens’ needs or wishes. As the country’s capital, Oslo must lead by prioritising pedestrians and cyclists and use solutions that make it possible to reach both national and municipal cycling goals.


Clear, defined and with a “we’re going it alone” attitude. Refreshing.

Compared with similar, strategic documents, The Oslo Standard wholeheartedly embraces Best Practice. The American NACTO guide, for example, has some good stuff but it also includes leftovers of designs that were chucked out of Danish Best Practice two decades ago and it has an awkward, American engineering feel to it, even though it hopes to be a counterweight to the ASHTO guide. The Oslo Standard, however, nails it. They have done their research.

The Oslo Standard for Bicycle Planning / Oslostandarden for sykkeltilrettelegging
Here you can see a selection of screen grabs of the infrastructure designs. Reading through the document we were pleased to see that bidirectional infrastructure is reserved for off-street areas and stretches without many intersections to avoid conflicts. Here is why THAT is important.

The Oslo Standard for Bicycle Planning / Oslostandarden for sykkeltilrettelegging
All manner of designs are included, featuring every street typology possible in the city of Oslo and, indeed, in most cities on the planet. Lots of inspiration from Danish Best Practice and some from Holland. Oslo is clear on their focus. No sub-standard solutions. Certainly no center-running lanes, that's for sure.

The Oslo Standard for Bicycle Planning / Oslostandarden for sykkeltilrettelegging
While cycle tracks are the default, there are still plans for painted lanes - causing shivers down the spine of any professional bicycle planner worth their salt - but as long as we know that they GET IT and want to do the proper design where possible, we can let it slide just a little. They know that bike lanes should be along the sidewalk and NOT inbetween the door zone in a single-occupant vehicle society and moving traffic. So that helps us sleep at night.

While Oslo can muscle on and plans their streets with modern designs in the Oslo Standard, the road directorate still dictates signage. Which proves to be rather comical.


This isn't Norway in the photo but it's a pretty close to what the situation looks like when the road directorate are in charge.

So that is something that needs to be worked on. Then there is the bizarre bureaucracy inherent in the Oslo municipality.

But a foundation has been laid in Oslo. A vision is ready to be made into a reality. The Oslo Standard is the new darling for bicycle urbanism.

Let's hope that they can translate their vision into asphalt and boost transport in Oslo into the 21st century

10 June 2016

Fools and roads. Arrogance of Space in Moscow

Arrogance of Space Moscow 001

Fools & Roads - The Arrogance of Space in Moscow
By James Thoem / Copenhagenize Design Co.

After an unreal week of ribbon cuttings, bike parades and Russian saunas in our client city of Almetyevsk, Tatarstan, the Copenhagenize Design Co. team retreated to Moscow to see what Europe’s second largest city has to offer. Sure enough, there was no shortage of awesome sights, fantastic parties and delicious food.

But what hit us right away was the sheer scale of the city. Stalinist era administrative and residential building blocks taking cues from Viennese facades and neoclassical styles were blown out of proportion. Any one of Stalin’s gigantic ‘Seven Sisters’ skyscrapers always seemed to loom on the horizon. Most oppressive of all, however, were the roads. The roads! We’re talking about a network of roads 8 to 14 lanes wide stretching through the entire city. Uptown, downtown, suburbs and all. And of course, traffic never ceased to fill the city (Check out Taras Grescoe’s Straphanger for a more thorough account of Moscow transport). If you need any further proof of induced demand, visit Moscow.

While sitting for drinks on the O2 rooftop bar at the Ritz Carlton hotel, we couldn’t help but gawk at the size of the roads. Tverskaya lay below us in all it’s arrogance. Mockingly starting back up at us. And it wasn’t long before we started talking, as we do, about the arrogance of space. The outdated transport engineering concepts of last century live on in Moscow.

Back in our Copenhagen office, we turned to our Arrogance of Space methodology. Here it’s quite obvious that the city has been handed over to the automobile. An ocean of red (no pun intended) is wildly apparent. Pedestrians wishing to cross the street must walk to the nearest dingy pedestrian tunnel before continuing on their way. If stairs aren’t easy for you, good luck. There are even a few cars parked on the sidewalk, because hey, why would you park on the road? The road is for driving (facepalm).

Arrogance of Space Moscow 002
Removing the underlying photo gives an even better idea of the blatant arrogance of the city's pornographic obsession with the automobile.

Arrogance of Space Moscow 003
Then look at the space the cars are actually occupying. Plenty of opportunity.

Arrogance of Space Moscow 005
And, finally, in the interest of equal representation here, we show the individuals using the space. A shocking amount of space used by so few individuals. Where is the rationality here?

Arrogance of Space Moscow 004

There’s a old Russian proverb we learned during our stay: "There are only two problems in Russia: fools and roads". In the case of the modern Moscow, it’s quite obvious that it’s the fools who are planning the roads. Ignoring the Bull in society's china shop. It’s time to change the question, stop asking how many cars we can squeeze down the road, but how many people.

Graphics by Mark Werner/Copenhagenize Design Co.

Дураки и дороги. Дорожное обжорство в Москве


Arrogance of Space Moscow 001

После фантастической недели перерезания ленточек, велопарадов и русской бани в Альметьевске команда Copenhagenize Design Co. вернулась в Москву посмотреть, что может предложить второй по величине город Европы. Будьте уверены, мы не испытывали недостатка в удивительных достопримечательностях, замечательных вечеринках и изысканных блюдах.

Но что нас поразило сразу, это масштаб города. Пропорции административных зданий и жилых домов сталинской эпохи невероятно раздуты. «Сталинские высотки» возвышаются над горизонтом повсюду. Но самое гнетущее — это дороги. Дороги! Сеть дорог, имеющих по 8—14 полос, покрывает весь город. В центре, в жилых районах, в пригороде — везде. И, конечно же, по этим полосам 24 часа в сутки ездят транспортные средства (загляните в книгу «Пассажир» Тараса Греско, чтобы лучше узнать про московский транспорт). Если вам нужны какие-нибудь ещё доказательства, что индуцированный спрос — не вымысел, просто съездите в Москву.


Сидя в баре O2 на крыше отеля Ритц Карлтон, мы не переставали поражаться размерам дорог. Тверская лежала под нами во всей своей заносчивости. Словно бы с издёвкой глядя на нас. Всоре мы уже говорили на одну из наших «любимых тем»: пространственные излишества (на самом деле это даже не излишества, а настоящее дорожное обжорство). Москва живет устаревшими транспортными концепциями прошлого века.



По возвращении в копенгагенский офис мы обратились к нашей методике выявления пространственных излишеств. Совершенно очевидно что Москва отдана на откуп автомобилям. На дорогах бесконтрольно раскинулся океан красного (я тут не подразумевал никаких двусмысленностей). Пешеходы, чтобы пересечь улицу, должны дойти до ближайшего обшарпанного подземного перехода. Если подъем по лестницам даётся вам нелегко, то вы держитесь. Несколько машин припарковано даже на тротуаре. Ну конечно, с чего бы люди стали парковаться на дороге? Ведь дорога — чтобы по ней ехать (рукалицо).

Arrogance of Space Moscow 002

Если убрать подложку, картина практически порнографической одержимости города автомобилями станет более явной.

Arrogance of Space Moscow 003

Теперь посмотрите на пространство, которое на самом деле занимают автомобили. Просто море потенциальных возможностей.

Arrogance of Space Moscow 005

И, наконец, чтобы иллюстрация была справедливой, оставим только людей, занимающих это пространство. Потрясающе огромное пространство используется таким небольшим количеством людей. Где здравый смысл?

Arrogance of Space Moscow 004

Есть одна старая русская поговорка, которую мы тут узнали: «В России только две беды: дураки и дороги». Применительно к современной Москве совершенно очевидно, что это те дураки, которые планируют дороги. Не замечая, что выступают в роли слона в в посудной лавке, которой является город. Пришло время изменить парадигму, перестать руководствоваться тем, сколько автомобилей мы можем пропустить по дороге, и начать говорить о людях.

Иллюстрации: Марк Вернер (Mark Werner), Copenhagenize Design Co.

08 June 2016

Oslo - The Next Big Bicycle Thing?

This is a translated version of an interview with Mikael published in the Norwegian newspaper Morgenbladet on 29 April 2016 by journalist Marius Lien. The photo used in the article is by Christian Belgaux.

The Great Road Choice
by Marius Lien for Morgenbladet - 29.04-05.05 2016

Oslo - one of Europe’s best bicycle cities? It sounds like a joke. But according to the Danish urban designer, Mikael Colville-Andersen, everything is in place for Oslo becoming the next great bicycle city.

“No city in the world is as exciting as Oslo right now”, says Colville-Andersen

He should know what he is talking about. As head of the Danish consulting company Copenhagenize Design Co., he has travelled over the past nine years from one global city to the next to share his knowledge with urban planners and politicians. Recently, he has spent a lot of time in Norway since he got a Norwegian girlfriend, and he tosses around anecdotes and bicycle urbanism experiments from every corner of the planet.

“Few, if any, cities in the world have so many people working with cycling as Oslo does”, he says, and focuses primarily on Sykkelprojsektet (The Bicycle Agency) and the City Environment Department (Bymiljøetaten).

“There are more here than in Copenhagen. You have a vision for a car-free city centre and that news travelled around the world. The rest of the plans from the city council are great, too”, says Colville-Andersen.

To go from 0% to 5% modal share for bikes is, according to Colville-Andersen, the most difficult challenge. To go from 5% to 15% - something he believes is within reach for Oslo - is a piece of cake.

“With the resources that are available there now, I can’t be anything but optimistic. I tell people around the world that Oslo will become the next big bicycle city. Boom”, he says.

Breaking the Rules
The problem is that the plans the city council have proposed have also be proposed before. Without result. Will anything happen this time?

“The main problem here in Norway is the engineers at the National Road Directorate (Statens Vegvesen), who have learned 1950s, American traffic engineering and who aren’t capable of thinking differently. When a city wants to become bike friendly, the politicians and transport department have to make it happen. But it also has to happen through a liberal traffic engineering environment”, says Colville-Andersen.

“I know the heads of most city bicycle offices in Norway. They share the same frustrations and they point their finger in the same direction. The primary problem is that they are never allowed to try anything new because of the Road Directorate’s guidebooks. If you want to make a new cycle track in Bergen, the answer is: ‘Nope, it’s not in our guidebooks. The engineers are the spanners in the works”, says Colville-Andersen.

These guidebooks contain all the rules for traffic planning in Norway. They highlight the road standards that politicians and others working with traffic must adhere to and they are unmovable. The main reason for Colville-Andersen’s Oslo optimism is the so-called Oslo Standard. A plan developed by the Bicycle Agency, which will be launched in May.

“I have seen the plan and it completely ignores the old-fashioned standards and rules upheld by the Road Directorate. They say: ‘We’d rather make our own standard’”, says Colville-Andersen.

It was exactly the same in the Netherlands in the 1970s, as described in Morgenbladet last summer. The country managed to stop the growth of private car ownership and become the most advanced bicycle nation in the world. A position they still maintain.

“More and more people are thinking: What if we ask someone else? Instead of the engineers? It’s often individuals who have been on holiday and seen something interesting, or who have read an article and want to try something out. Norway is the USA of Europe when it comes to traffic engineering. Not even Germany comes close. You have the most restrictive guidelines for roads in all of Western Europe”, says Colville-Andersen.

“Trondheim broke the rules in the 1990s and is now Norway’s best bicycle city”, he says.

Width
Rune Gjøs is the head of the Bicycle Agency (Sykkelprojsektet). What does he say about Colville-Andersen’s description of the rule breaking?

“It may be a stretch. We focus on work that is heavily anchored in the Bicycle Strategy that the city council has passed. The development of bicycle infrastructure adapted to Oslo is one of the most important parts. It is a higher standard than is normal in the rest of Norway”.

What do you mean? A higher standard for what?

“For everything, really. In the current road standards the maximum width for a bike lane is 1.8 metres. They can’t be wider. We have established a width of 2.2 metres. This goes against the standards but it’s not illegal. The national standards are adapted to an average. They don’t take into consideration that Oslo is the country’s largest city, with different conditions and more cyclists. A lot of our work is finding out where in the established guide we can put a higher standard in”.

Do you have more examples of how you work against the road standards?

“Intersections. We don’t think that the current solution with the bike lane on the same level as the car lane is good. We want a raised cycle track or a physical separation with a curb. That’s what you find in Denmark and it is mainstream in parts of the world that are banking on bicycles”, says Gjøs.

Scratch
He knows the story from the Netherlands.

“I have seen photos from Amsterdam in the 1970s and it is full of cars. It is inspiring that they were once in the same situation as we are now. We’re starting from scratch, like they did. It means it isn’t unattainable”, says Gjøs.

How would you describe the traffic engineers in the Road Directorate as partners?

“I worked in the Road Directorate for 16 years and I’m educated as a traffic engineer. So I’m throwing rocks in a glass house, haha. You can give them the blame and say that they created car-centric cities. But now the external assignment has changed. Now society wants to build cities that are good to live in. It has to be easier to walk or cycle. When I started in the Road Directorate in 1992, the pressure was on to build roads for cars”, says Gjøs, who nevertheless understands the criticism.

“It is a precise description of how it was and how it still is in many places. On a professional level, it is a culture that wasn’t used to being challenged by other professions. The criticism hurt a little. Now there is a willingness to listen to other professions. It’s easier to adapt to new trends”.

In Development
Marit Espeland, national bicycle coordinator in the Road Directorate, responds to Colville-Andersen’s criticism:

“Our solutions are based on research. We constantly look for documentation and then further develop our standards for safe traffic designs for cycling”.

Has the Road Directorate historically played a constructive role when bicycle offices and politicians want to improve the conditions for cyclists?

“Infrastructure for bicycles has developed in Norway. We are currently revising our road standards, which include bicycle infrastructure. We have also started a pilot project for bikes, where we have invited cities to provide ideas we can test. We are, I suppose, in development”.