Thanks for those thoughts and experiences Eric.
There are two aspects which my experiences in Europe but also here in
Australia have led me to pursue and if not promote, then at least try to
get others to quietly but seriously consider.
1. Convenience is as important as safety if not more important:
first this seems completely wrong but in fact if safety is pursued, in
most cases, practice shows that convenience is reduced, often to the
point where a barrier is created for some if not most. So it may be that
in some circumstances where a proposal is made to improve the safety of
cyclists or pedestrians that a trade-off for increased convenience and
reduced safety may be needed.
But have a look at points #1-5 below and it becomes more clear that
reducing the danger while improving (or not reducing) the convenience
while highly desirable, is not essential. It is maintaining and improving
convenience which is both achievable and feasible ... and essential ...
albeit not by itself. Improved safety is a likely if not inevitable
outcome as can be seen from the following point and other points
2. Reclaiming the streets (or reclaiming street space) is not about
banning motor vehicles:
The 30/20/10 (preferably in km/h NOT mph?)
illustrates that there is no need to reclaim street space IF motor
vehicles are much less of a problem or threat. More to the point, the
speed advantages of motor vehicles are so reduced (ie the
"convenience" of motoring is so reduced) that other modes (and
what better than cycling?) are then much more likely to be preferred. And
when that occurs as it does in many many places world-wide, it becomes
obvious that there is no need to "ban" motorists as is implied
by "car free" campaigns. Indeed why ban motorists may well be
one way to consider this in detail in order to see how other strategies
can, and do, work to achieve better outcomes.
Of course these and the five below are inter-related but the issue is
about getting support for rather getting support against. So why ban
motorists if that isn't necessary ie if the desired outcomes can be
achieved by sharing the roads/streets?
It may come as a bit of a shock to some traffic planners and advocates
but there is barely a street, road or freeway on the planet that isn't
convenient to use for cyclists so why try to build a separate network
other than to allow business as usual in the adjacent road
Of course it is never quite as simple as that and nothing is ever
perfect. Indeed one idea that doesn't get much promotion is the idea of
CYCLIST AND PEDESTRIAN PRIORITY on roads and streets. It simply reverses
the legal onus and responsibility in favour of peds and cyclists rather
So if like the hierarchy that places pedestrians first, cyclists second,
etc etc, we argue consistently that in principle, urban roads are the
spaces for cyclists, as well as for motorists and pedestrians, to share,
then solutions such as those in much of Europe but also many places
elsewhere become rather self-obvious ... and those that oppose these
ideas, more obvious in their motives also. Both good
Put another way, there is very little needs be done or money spent on the
roads. And what is done can be implemented incrementally ... although the
bigger the area, the better because consistency matters.
The effort and money is needed to change how we have allowed roads (in
particular urban roads) to be used.
Indeed the emphasis on changing the roads, being so costly, is almost
inevitably counter-productive. We provide reasons for NOT changing how
the roads are or could be used.
This might still result in some necessary changes to the roads.
But then lets not so quickly forget the lessons we learned from Hans
Monderman which if applied to cyclists may well necessitate removing some
of those comfortable and reliable old "separation" techniques
such as separate paths and bike lanes in favour of "sharing the
At 02:57 AM 16/03/2009, you wrote:
The following commentary was made yesterday in response to a discussion
www.LivableStreets.com looking at different approaches to providing
cycle paths and other forms of street architecture modifications, major
and minor, to protect the cyclist. The discussants were partially looking
at this in the context of New York's ongoing vigorous efforts to develop
a major cycling program after many years of neglect.
Lessons learned in Europe
Editor, World Streets
International experience at the leading edge, mainly in European cities
that are doing the job, put some interesting lessons on the table.
For starters, letâs make sure that we do not allow ourselves to get too
comfortable too fast. By that I mean I am not at all sure that the best
approach to safe cycling is to start by shopping around for the most
attractive cycle path designs to be put in your city's streets here or
there. I can understand the temptation but we have here a systemic
problem which requires more than occasional attractive street
Safe cycling is based on the existence of networks which provide a safe
travel environment over the areas and routes most taken by cyclists. By
which I mean to say that a lovely cycle facility here and there does not
by itself promote safe cycling (in fact conceivably it can make cycling
even more dangerous). What is needed from the beginning is without
letting up to drive toward that basic network. To accomplish this, it
means targeting a solution set that is pretty pervasive, far more so than
most plans today even dare aim for.
What do you do when what you need to do definitely outstrips the
resources, approaches and plans that are traditionally available to you?
The only way to do this is to change the rules. That happens in five main
1. Speed reductions: ("Don ât leave home without
The first pillar of new mobility policy is to slow down the traffic on
EVERY street in the city. I do not say this lightly and I understand the
extent to which this runs against long-standing practices and what people
regard as their fair interest. But there is no longer any mystery about
this at the leading edge. I do not imagine that there is a competent
(note the word) traffic planner today who will argue for top speeds in
excess of 30 mph in the city. 30 mph is terrific, and though too fast for
safe cycling is something which we can reasonably target for the Main
Avenue's and thoroughfares. For the rest a policy of 10/20/30 is
feasible, fair and do-able. Once you get over the shock.
2. Reclaim street space:
The second prong of the strategy is that the creation of a safe network
requires taking over at least portions of a quite large number of streets
in the city. This is accomplished in two ways, the first being the
alteration of the street architecture, taking over lanes for fully
protected cycling. The most popular, parking lane out/bike lane in, often
works very nicely when the cycle lanes work against the flow of
traffic. The second prong of street reclaiming is the hard edge of speed
reductions. In these cases top speeds on the side streets drop to
something like 10 to 15 mph, with 10 leading better than 15. Again for
most cross-town traffic in Manhattan this should not be a problem.
3. "Occuper le terrain": (French for safety in numbers.
You are seeing that in New York already, though I have to guess you are
not yet at the tipping point on that. But the more people you get out on
the street on their bicycles every day, the more that everybody involved
moves up a couple of notches day after day in the learning process. The
cyclists learn how to behave better to protect themselves in traffic,
drivers get accustomed to looking out for those small wavering frail
figures, the police learn how to play their part in this learning
process, and the system they have today learns and adapts.
4. "Street code":
The Highway Code, a
collection of laws, advice and best practice for all road users, which
mainly functions as a written basis for learning to drive as well as
stipulating the letter of the law (licensing, required safety equipment,
default rules, etc.) In Europe this happens at a national level, with
room in some places for stricter local ordinances. In the US mainly a
I understand that you are looking into this for New York. Many European
cities are advancing on the idea of establishing a far tougher
"street codes" specifically adapted to the special and more
demanding conditions of driving in city traffic. This is becoming
especially important as we start to see a much greater mix of vehicles,
speeds and people on the street. The idea is works is that culpability
for any accident on street, sidewalk or public space, is automatically
assigned to the heavier faster vehicle. This means that the driver who
hits a cyclist has to prove his innocence, as opposed to today where the
cyclist must prove the driver's guilt (not always very easy to do). This
is not quite as good as John Adams' magnificent 1995 formulation whereby
every steering wheel of every car , truck and bus would be equipped with
a large sharp nail aimed directly at the driverâs heart-- but it can at
least help getting things moving in the right direction.
5. It's a Learning System:
Once you start to break the ice to the point where provision of cycling
facilities even starts to be an issue, it is probably best to think of
the city and the street network as a learning system. And learning of
course takes place over time, and if you are lucky leads to a continuous
stream of adjustments as you go along. There may be a bit of comfort in
that, if you are patient enough, because what it definitely means is that
any cycling improvements you can conceivably come up with today has to be
thought of not as a solution but as the start of the path. This is very
definitely process oriented planning.
* * *
So we really do know what to do, and we do know that it requires a
combination of foresight, originality, guile and pragmatic planning from
the beginning. Fortunately there is plenty of international experience
which backs this up.
Paris is an example of one that I live with and cycle in every day over a
decades-long period of steady adaptation and change. It is definitely not
Copenhagen or Amsterdam. It is work in progress. Only a few years ago
Paris was a city that was planning almost exclusively for cars and yet
over the past decade has gradually began to build up a network for safe
cycling. Perhaps not so much safe as safer, and the role of the planners
here is to use the full cookbook of approaches in a dynamic organic
manner so that each day things get a little bit better. Because all this
has become part of the culture, the mainstream culture, it is no longer a
big deal and so do the good works are able to go on every day.
Of course if cycling is your game it would be great to be able to import
whole hog those terrific physical infrastructures that are found in Dutch
and Danish cities. But this takes decades and I do not see it happening
overnight in most US cities, New York among them. What is interesting
about the Paris example, and we are certainly not the only one, is the
manner in which safe cycling infrastructure is being built up step by
step and day by day. We are not yet at the point at which we can feel
comfortable with Gil Penalosa's "8 to 80 rule", remember, where
cycling is safe for your eight-year-old daughter and your eighty-year-old
grandfather. But give us a time and we will get there - and I hope you
Posted By ericbritton to
World Streets at 3/13/2009 05:52:00 PM
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