As part of ‘snark week’ at streets.mn, I write about my pilgrimage to the world’s first glow in the dark bike path in Holland.
Over at streets.mn, I’ve started a three part series focusing on the use of paint to create/enhance cycling facilities, Problems with making green (bike lanes) the new red (carpet).
Utilitarian cycling is exceptional in Copenhagen for a variety of reasons. The global cycling community has rightfully adopted their many of their innovations. But I am mostly intrigued in how the cycling community has accepted the Copenhagen “trademarking” in common nomenclature. We have:
Copenhagen bike lanes. [Has this term slight fallen out of favor, being replaced with "cycle tracks?"]
Are each of these indeed invented in Copenhagen? Is there a “machine” behind their naming? At what point in having other communities adopt such practices should they no longer have the “Copenhagen” label?
At streets.mn, I have the following post: Diminishing returns of off-street bicycle facilities.
“Some attention to my previous post seemed to stem from the incredulity of implying anything negative about the Midtown Greenway—one of America’s most beloved darlings of a bike path […]“
As part of an interesting FIVE part series focusing on different considerations in the paths that people take for travel (i.e., why is it not always the shortest?), the Transportationist discusses our bicycle route choice experiment.
This past weekend I visited the “the Eternal City,” Roma, Italy. The Romans thought that no matter what happened to the world, no matter how many other empires might rise and fall, their city would be everlasting. Most cities have ups and downs; their transportation corridors, usually, are another story; most have eternal lives. Once a transportation corridor is cemented (pun partially intended), it has a staying power rivaled by few inventions or fabrications in the world. Some of original paths worn by the Etruscans outside my apartment in Bologna today continue to serve as main conduits of economic activity for the region. Gravity has determined the outcome of most original Roman structures, but their roads are also still widespread throughout parts of Europe, Africa and Asia. Even the canals in northern Europe, built by the Roman empire for irrigation, later helped the British pioneer the industrial revolution; these canals y are still carrying barges, albeit leisure ones. The transportation function along any corridors rarely exists in its original form. Technologies change. Types of economic activities change. Fashions change. This largely explains why you don’t see many donkeys filling the streets in Israel anymore. Outside of the nostalgic horse and carriage for tourists and weddings in Paris, there are not many of them on the streets either. The streetcars employed in hundreds of cities across the US have been torn up for car only use.
The transportation future of cities will continue to be surface-based, with cars and existing roads playing prominent roles. But over time, the nature and character of select corridors change to better serve the needs and demands for other modes. More overall space will be made available for bikes—a contentious topic but one whose writing is largely on the wall. A sticking point is where to find the space for this change, a proposition that will require altering the nature of many transportation corridors in cities.
With urban areas built up, cities largely have four options before them to find more space. They can: (a) extend in another dimension, aerially or subterranean, (b) find new right-of-way space, (c) widen existing right-of-way space. These first three options are either technologically difficult, involve displacing people (rarely a good idea) or are prohibitively expensive.
A fourth option requires cities to reconfigure existing space by altering the use patterns along it. Changing the nature of the transportation services along a corridor. In most cases, this option involves scaling back car use in one way or another. This is analogous to taking candy away from a child (taking space away from cars). And, its trouble points are primarily political (not financial or logistical as identified in the prior solutions).
Many corridors in urban areas already have initiatives that are rethinking the role that the car has played in the past half-century. These initiatives range from charging for or banning car use during certain times, reducing capacity by removing a travel lane, reducing capacity by reducing speed (via narrower travel lanes), removing on-street parking or all together, turning a street over to other modes. These are all steps in the same direction. Cycling’s ability to realize these gains rests in its ability to better leverage these types of initiatives by downsizing existing facilities and gently expanding alternative networks. But not all roads. Just select ones.
Where is the low hanging fruit and what criteria can help cities reinvent corridors for cycling?
- Communities first need to identify stretches of road that have “proven” themselves from a cycling perspective. These places might connect key origin-destination pairs. They might be currently serving cyclists who are experiencing hardship conditions. Then there are two synergistic interventions.
- The second step is scaling back car use. Addressing the fact that high vehicular speeds are the largest culprit to unfriendly bike environments is key. Harnessing cars to speeds below 40 km/h is necessary. If a community accompany such speed limits with reductions in the widths of vehicular travel lanes–or even the removal of some of them—all the better. (Pushing such a proposal through the political process likely involves a gentle nod to address how alternative corridors might be able to better absorb some mild enhancements to vehicular capacity via intersection design, signal timing, or on-street parking modifications.)
- Building up cycling facilities. Designated cycling corridors, at a minimum, deserve on-street delineation of cycling routes. This might start with a marked lane, a buffered lane (with paint), a raised path, or even physical barriers from adjacent traffic. Furthermore, intersection treatments go a long way.
Transportation corridors have amazing staying power. Cities can and should work with their existing bones to further cycling; they don’t necessarily need to search endlessly for new corridors. But there is nothing to suggest that the existing roads cannot be downsized for car use or more generally, have their purpose altered along select routes.
-Gathering data from 1,400 people who have been injured is impressive.
-That pedestrians are most vulnerable in crosswalks is not surprising; it is where the pedestrians are–the whole “exposure” aspect.
-But now, we finally have a partial silver lining to the obesity epidemic in the US: excessive weight may prove a boon for pedestrians in a collision. Victims with an above-normal body mass index were found to have less severe injuries than their counterparts. “It is not implausible that a greater proportion of torso and extremity fat may protect against injury”
Further evidence on the difficulty of implementing avant-garde treatments for bicycle treatments; the NYTimes is now offering editorials on how to react to and “read” different treatments.