Oct 06 2014

Sunday Train: Cyclists Clamoring for Segregation

(4 pm. – promoted by ek hornbeck)

While browsing around reading transport cycling news, I ran across a blog post from the UK from the second half of September: Bas’ Blog: Coming to London: cycle paths fully separated from other traffic (vote!) 23 September 2014:

This morning in my inbox:

I am writing to let you know that Transport for London, in partnership with the boroughs of Southwark, Camden, Islington and the City of London, would like your views on proposals for a new Cycle Superhighway between Elephant & Castle and King’s Cross.

Yes please! TFL is asking for comments on the plans in a public consultation. More information on the plans can be found here (East-West route) and here (North-South route), you can leave comments here (E-W) and here (N-S).

,,, and when I looked around, stories about segregated “cycle paths” or “cycle tracks” or “cycleways” were not that hard to find. Join me below the fold for a look.

Untangling a Dangerous Gyratory in Vauxhall (UK)

The above was not the first news this year about a segregated cycleway in the UK. In early July, the official post was Transport for London: New segregated Cycle Superhighway plans published, 9 July 2014:

A continuous two-way and separated east-west track will be built from Kennington Oval to Pimlico, through the gyratory and across Vauxhall Bridge, breaking one of the most significant barriers to cycling in the capital.

This was covered the next day as: London Evening Standard: New segregated cycle routes to beat Vauxhall’s ‘nastiest’ gyratory, 10 July 2014:

Cyclists will no longer have to negotiate a notorious gyratory system at which a rider was killed. The Vauxhall gyratory in London has been described by cycling commissioner Andrew Gilligan as the “nastiest” in the capital.

… note that a gyratory is the expressive term that the English use for the tangled mess which America’s would normally downplay by referring to it as an “interchange …

The scheme creates space for new protected north-south routes through the gyratory, the first of which will be installed later in 2015. There will also be more space for pedestrians. Mayor Boris Johnson said: “In my cycling vision, I promised that the worst and most dangerous junctions would be made safe for cyclists. Vauxhall is the first.”

So it would seem that this news in September may be the next phase in an ongoing program.

Suppose that you consider roads to be public right of way that should serve all legitimate users. In that case, then once you have decided to devote the space to putting the connections between intersecting road onto a curve to allow cars to maintain their speed, that same speed combined with the resulting sprawl of the intersection across the landscape ought to make dedicated and effective cycle and pedestrian paths through the system mandatory to protect pedestrians and cyclists from the motorists focused on maintaining their speed through the intersection.

Its tragic when it takes the death of a cyclist attempting to navigate a road where the design has been that badly mangled in order to inspire an intervention to correct the earlier tunnel vision which designed the gyratory for cars, and for cars alone … but it would have been even more cruel to allow the mangled design to stand even after it cost the life of a cyclist.


Separated Vs Protected Cycleways in Toronto

One story that I saw, once I started looking, involved Toronto: New bike lanes open on Richmond, Adelaide, Toronto Sun, 30 July 2014.

Crews are completing a separated eastbound bike lane along the south side of Adelaide St. from Bathurst St. to Simcoe St. and westbound bike lane on the north side of Richmond St. from York St. to Bathurst St. Both streets have been reduced from four lanes to three lanes to make room for the bike lanes which are separated by painted lines on the road rather than a physical barrier.

Steve Buckley, general manager of transportation services for the city, said the lanes will provide an east-west connection to the “highest concentration of cycling commuters in the city.”

“That area sort of to the west of downtown, you have cycling rates for commuting of 10%, 15%, 20%,” Buckley told the Sun. “This here is a critical connection and provides them a safe route … we expect it will be heavily utilized.”

However, the decision to simply indicate the separation with paint when the paths where opened attracted criticism, since as recounted in New bike lanes will be getting separated barriers after much criticism directed at the city, National Post, 12 August 2014, this was not the direction from Council:

Council directed city staff to build bike lanes “separated from adjacent traffic lanes by a painted buffer and flexi-posts.” But no physical barriers have been added along the Richmond-Adelaide cycle tracks, which opened in late July.

Daniel Egan, manager of cycling infrastructure, previously told the National Post “if we discover that there is no incursion without flexi-posts, then we may not need them.” Cycling advocacy group Cycle Toronto slammed the city’s approach in an Aug. 6 press release, calling city staff’s reluctance to install the flexi-posts “dangerous, ineffective, and counter to council direction.”

Now, the city is saying it always planned to install flexi-posts in the form of bollards along the track, but that it was first simply looking to evaluate the effectiveness of the painted lane on its own as part of the city’s pilot project. It also said that not all flexi-posts needed for the project were in stock when it began in early July. “In order to get an effectiveness measurement for the bollards, we need to know what happens without them as well as what happens after they go in,” said Mr. Egan, calling confusion in the past weeks a matter of a miscommunication.

Mind, if cyclists who were faced with cars blocking the cycleway or had been struck or suffered near misses from cars had been told at the outset, “we intend to install them, but first we want to use you as Guinea Pigs for a while to collect data on how things go without them” … I’m not actually entirely positive that clearing up the confusion would have actually eliminated upset.

Indeed, installing flexible bollards is going a bit softly on motorists who are demonstrably unable to drive within the painted lines if they cross over them to strike the bollard … in some parts of the world, the bollards are more in the nature of concrete and steel, to have a bit more persuasive impact on wayward motorists.

Toronto is not the only city in Canada making headway, since I also see on the City of Calgary site: The City of Calgary: Cycle Track Pilot Project, (c) 2014

The cycle track network will be built to include new routes on 5 Street (from 3 Avenue S.W. to 17 Avenue S.W.), 12 Avenue (from 11 Street S.W. to 4 Street S.E.), and 8 Avenue / 9 Avenue (from 11 Street S.W. to 3 Street S.W. and Macleod Trail to 4 Street S.E.) as part of a yearlong pilot project. As part of the pilot, bicycling will be allowed on Stephen Avenue from 3 Street S.W. to 1 Street S.E. during off-peak times, although no physical track will be built.

A cycle track is a bike lane protected by a physical barrier from moving cars, parked cars and sidewalks. It provides a predictable space and minimizes potential conflicts between people who walk, bicycle, and drive.

The significance of these cycle tracks are that 5th Avenue is a fairly centrally located North/South street, connecting to a bikeway into downtown Calgary, 12th avenue is an East/West street south of the East/West rail corridor through downtown, and the combination of 8th and 9th Avenues connected by the (unprotected, off-peak) Stephens Avenue forms an East/West route north of the rail corridor through downtown, and connected at the east to an existing bikeway into downtown.

These are plans at the moment, rather than actual roll-outs, and the details are still being worked out in community consultation, so it may be a year or two before we get to read stories like those from Toronto about the gap between proposal and what is rolled out … but better late than never, I guess.


Cycleways Down Under

Next I’m going to head down to the Antipodes, since I also saw stories from Auckland, New Zealand, and the State of Victoria in Australia.

In Auckland, New separated cycleways coming to Wynyard Quarter!. According to Auckland Transport

Increasingly, more people are choosing to cycle to work or for fun. The creation of cycle paths through Wynyard Quarter supports this and makes it easier to get around.

The vision is to provide a world-class facility connecting the North Shore (via SkyPath), Herne Bay, and Ponsonby, with the CBD and Tamaki Drive.

Separated cycle paths will go along Beaumont Street and Madden Street.

A shared pedestrian and cycle path will go along Westhaven Drive and the western end of Gaunt Street to Daldy Street, where it will connect with the Daldy Street Linear Park.

… and the folks writing at Cycle Action Auckland seem to like what they see in the plan, as they solicit input from the Auckland cycling community:

Auckland is suddenly starting to experiment with all sorts of new cycle infrastructure. In a few years, we will have examples of various kinds all over the place, and we are confident separated cycle facilities will rank pretty highly, and will eventually end up standard practice here too!

CAA is meeting with AT and other stakeholders in a few days – so if you have something to add that you would like us to discuss with them about cycling in Wynyard Quarter, now’s a good time to sing out!

Over in Australia, in Victoria, Port Phillip is looking at a proposal for a separated cycleway on the busy St. Kilda Road: $12m plan for St Kilda Rd will extend bike lanes the length of the boulevard:

Under the plan, a 2m-wide Copenhagen-style bike lane would be built in each of the service roads in the space currently used for ­parking. Parking would be moved to one of the vehicle lanes on each side, but the lanes would become available for traffic during peak times.

Melbourne City Council copped a backlash from motorists last year when it removed a city-bound car lane on Princes Bridge to create a dedicated bike lane. But cyclist and ­Monash University academic Prof­essor Greg Bamber said action was urgently needed on St Kilda Rd to protect riders. “I cycle up here daily and I’ve had lots of near misses,” he said.

Port Phillip Mayor and keen cyclist Amanda Stevens said there were 117 reported bike crashes along St Kilda Rd from 2008-12.

Of course, when we see a proposal to use the space on the public right of way presently given as a gift to motorists in the form of on road parking, it is a reminder that parking is never free, whether or not a fee is being charged. Parking always comes with establishment and maintenance costs as well as opportunity costs in the form of other uses.

But on the other hand, having bribed people into relying on cars, that reliance on cars means that denying parking through the course of the business day will drive businesses away from busy roads like St. Kilda’s, and turn the side of the road into something more like the barren, lifeless stretches of an urban expressway.

Given that the demand for the road space by cars on a busy commuting artery like St. Kilda’s is greatest during peak commute, it may be that converting a traffic lane to off-peak parking in order to free the space presently dedicated to parking for a cycleway is a reasonable compromise.

The other story in which Victoria features is more ambitious than a $12m cycleway: Consortium pushes Melbourne plan for elevated cycle ‘freeway’ to keep bikes and cars separate:

The 1.7km Melbourne Veloway would hover 10m above six busy intersections from Princes Bridge to Southern Cross Station, separating cyclists from vehicle traffic and pedestrians walking along the Yarra River. Costing up to $25 million, it would be made of lightweight but high-strength materials, with the bike way “clipped” on to the existing rail viaduct on Flinders St for most of the route.

“The current thinking which seems to begin and end with bike lanes and painting lines on roads is demonstrably not good enough. As a congested city we have to make life easier for motorists, taxis, delivery drivers and cyclists.”

It seems that some of the impetus may come from motorists who want to get cyclists off of crowded urban streets. However, its not the cyclists that cause the crowding … its the cars, which are far less space efficient than walking or cycling … or taking the train or the tram or the bus.

As an expressway, its an interesting idea … but the following reaction does not seem to have thought things through:

Committee for Melbourne CEO Kate Roffey welcomed the proposal because “cars, bikes and pedestrians just don’t mix well”. “This would solve the problem of separating cars and cyclist moving east-west across the city, and pedestrians can go under or over roads,” she said.

I hate to rain on her parade … but if the cycle expressway is effective in making biking cross-town substantially easier than it is at present, the result is going to be more people cycling into downtown Melbourne …

… and the result of that will be more bikes on the streets of Melbourne, as those cyclists complete their journeys. Those cyclists might be more patient, having saved so much time on the expressway … but they also might be spoiled by the easy ride on the cycle expressway (as motorists are when they are pandered to by a dedicated auto expressway) and be less patient with the oversized death cages and the sometimes oversized death cagers inside, controlling them.

As a means to allow cars to avoid cyclists … it doesn’t seem like it would be the tool for that particular job. Of course, that is not a failing from my perspective, since I have no particular interest in helping cars evade their responsibility to share the public right of way. And as a means to allow cyclists to avoid cars for much of a cross-town trip, it could well be an effective solution.

And sometimes, you have to go over … because going at ground level is not an option … which brings us back to Northern Europe, but a bit further east than the UK.


A Strait Runs Under It

Atlantic CityLab asks: Would You Ride a Bicycle Across Europe’s 2nd Longest Bridge?

The bridge in question is the Øresund Bridge, over the Øresund Straits that separate Copenhagen in Denmark from Malmo in Sweden. This bridge has already helped merge these two cities into one of the larger metropolitan areas of Northern Europe, with 30,000 workers crossing the international border daily, as part of their commute.

And the proposal to add another tier of weather protected cycleway above the automobile level is quite ambitious … in part because the bridge does not go all the way. It descends to an artificial island on the Danish side and goes through on a tunnel, to maintain a bridge free section of the Straits for shipping.

So not only would this involve a sheltered cycleway threaded in above the roadway on the second longest bridge in Europe … but it would also involve a dedicated cycle subway tube to complete the connection to Copenhagen.

This wouldn’t be cheap … but would mostly be funded by bridge toll revenue, so it could well be do-able. And perhaps it is that kind of ambition when it comes to thinking about cycling infrastructure that has led to Copenhagen having the second highest rate of cycling use among European cities and to Australian politicians describing separated cycleways as “Copenhagen-style” bike lanes.


A local perspective

Looking around locally …

… well, that is a bit different, since your intrepid reporter is now located in Beijing, and Beijing is seeing cycling come down to levels that most cycling advocates in the US would look on as long term aspirational goals.

In my recent mile (or maybe more, I can’t find the scale on the map) walk to the Olympic Park, I saw separated cycleways for almost the entire length. Sometimes the separation is the raised sidewalk, with the road on one side and the cycleway on the other. Sometimes the separation is a narrow raised curb with “traffic furniture” to prevent incursions, with the sidewalk on the inside of the cycleway.

But with the rise of automobile traffic in Beijing … and with the aggressive style of driving which seems to be required to get anywhere in the crowded streets of Beijing … many of the same problems with car interference with bike lanes experienced in many Western countries are also experienced in Beijing. Just as in downtown New York, pedestrians using the cycleway as a sidewalk is an issue. Just as experienced in Toronto, blockages of the cycleway by cars seeing an opportunity to park where they shouldn’t ought to be parking is an issue.

And one issue that cyclists have to cope with in Beijing that are not so common in American cities are the “silent assassins”, the electric motor scooters, which zoom down the cycleways at high speed, but much more quietly than gas powered mopeds and motorcycles, so that they can take both the pedestrians and the cyclists on the cycleways by surprise.

So Beijing, while provided with quite a substantial amount of separated cycleways and with very high rate of cycling by American standard, is another city that could think about improving cycle transit on its cycleways as a strategy for coping with automobile traffic congestion.

It may be that the Beijing subway could prove an ally in this fight. The Beijing subway is rapidly expanding, having substantially accelerated its reach in advance of the 2008 Olympics and continuing its expansion since then (and, indeed, the area of Beijing I am located in will be getting an extended subway line late this year or early next). With nearly half of Beijing’s residents now taking the rapidly expanding Beijing subway system on a regular weekday, and with subway stations having nothing like the car parking in American “suburban commuter” rail systems, it seems likely that a number of people living within effective cycling distance of a subway station will hold onto their bikes … because once you get to the subway station, it opens up almost all of the city.

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