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25Short report on International Bicycle Planning Conference, Amsterdam, 18 to 23 june 2000

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  • Eric Britton
    Jul 3, 2000
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      VÉLO MONDIAL 2000
      International Bicycle Planning Conference
      Amsterdam, The Netherlands
      18 to 23 june 2000

      The versatile approach


      This conference belongs to the VELO-CITY series that is aimed at presenting
      researches, planning methods, facilities, promotion activities as far as
      the bicycle is concerned. The previous one was held in Graz, Austria and
      Maribor, Slovenia, in 1999. This year a world ambition was meant by the
      title, as the venue was in Amsterdam that wants to be the capital city of
      urban cycling.

      Nearly 45 countries were present, with of course a strong participation
      from the Dutch, but also from other North European countries, in particular
      the United Kingdom, that will host in 2001 the next conference in Glasgow
      and Edinburgh. This issue was also marked by numerous delegates coming from
      the United States, as well as Canada and Australia. Central Europe, Latin
      Europe, Latin America (Brazil, Colombia...), Africa (Uganda, Tanzania,
      South Africa...), and to a lesser extend, Asia (Japan, India...) were also
      present. The absence of China must be regretted, as this country represents
      over one half of the whole world bicycle mobility.

      The bicycle problematics is very different in the different parts of the
      world.

      In the Netherlands, everything as been done, or almost so. Nearly all urban
      and non urban roads are fitted with cycling facilities. These facilities
      form a continuous network, with very narrow meshes.

      In cities, high quality roadways for the exclusive use of cyclists have
      been built, but parallel roads are also dealed with cycling lanes or paths.
      All junctions have provision for cyclists, including special signals. No
      curb hinders the movement of cyclists. Bicycle parking is everywhere. In
      railway stations, there are guarded parking facilities, and repair
      workshops.

      Outside cities, motorway bridges or tunnels across main waterways include
      cycling paths. Interurban trunk roads are doubled with wide carriageways
      for cyclists and local access, separated by a planted strip or a ditch.
      Trains and boats are accessible by cyclists with a small fare. Signs
      indicate the way to neighbouring or remote towns for cyclists. National
      East-West or North-South routes are signed.

      But the most remarquable feature is the level of bicycle traffic: it
      represents 28% of all trips nationwide. During the weekend, rural routes
      are followed by families. During weekday peak hours, some queues built up
      at junctions. In attractive locations (markets, railway stations...) it may
      be very difficult to park a bike, since the demand is so high.

      Beyond cycling congestion (that remains minor compared to automobile
      congestion) some other drawbacks may be noticed. Concrete cobbles in urban
      areas do not allow a smooth and quick movement of cyclists. Bicycle theft
      is a real problem. The presence of numerous abandonned or poor condition
      bikes make people paranoid. Motorist are less tolerant towards cyclists
      outside cycling facilities. The bicycle path network is a maze, and in
      spite of extensive signing, one gets easily lost. As there are many
      waterways, long detours may be needed to find the next crossing if a
      cyclist is trapped on the wrong side of a waterway.

      The government has projects to improve the situation. Bicycle theft is a
      priority item on the agenda, with technological solutions such as
      electronic chips to follow up bicycles. To improve interurban routes,
      cycling expressways are planned, in particular between Amsterdam and
      Utrecht, with a good surface, a good width, a direct lay-out, and a clear
      signing.

      Now, urban planning already takes bicycles into account to a large extent,
      with compulsary bicycle parking for new houses and good bicycle access. New
      towns do more. In a new peripheral development in Rotterdam, bicycle and
      bus access is fulfilled before car access [Ettienne Westbroek]. In Houten,
      (site visited during the technical tour) car traffic is limited to the
      access to neighbourhoods, and movements between neighbourhoods are detered
      as they must use the ring road. On the contrary, bicycle and pedestrian
      networks cover the city, and are separated from motor traffic. Busses can
      get through the city by remote controlling gates. Thus, new developments do
      not aim any more at integrating cyclists in a roadway designed for cars,
      but at integrating cars in a roadway designed for cyclists.

      A prospective work has been made to imagine the desired transport system in
      2030 [Rita Kwakkestein]. To achieve greenhouse gases reductions, more use
      of non motorized modes is needed, as well as a reduction of car use, which
      can be done for instance with tradable CO2 emission permits. Such a modal
      report would not have major economic impact, but would yield great social
      benefits [Karst Geurs].

      Thus, the present bicycle friendly situation in the Netherlands is the
      result of an early attention for this transport means. In the 1960's, as
      in the rest of Europe, the bicycle image and use have declined, and efforts
      were about the car. But, as soon as 1975, the Dutch have again included the
      bicycle in the transport policy, so that it is now an ordinary way of
      travelling [Adri Albert de la Bruheze].

      Other developped countries, in particular France, have of course some delay
      compared with the Dutch experience. It would be pretentious for the
      technicians of these countries to try to re-invent everything, without the
      help of the knowledge corpus that already exists. In this respect, the
      Dutch organize training courses, that could prevent the engineers of our
      cities to make more costly errors. Cost-benefit assessment methods of
      cycling policies have been implemented in four cities in four continents
      [Jeroen Buis].

      Other North European countries are close to the Dutch situation, with a
      multimodal transport planning. In Antwerp (Belgium), the situation is less
      ordered than in the Netherlands (which is enjoyed by the Dutch tourists),
      but the city center is given back to pedestrians and cyclists, and cycling
      routes link the suburbs [Kris Peeters]. In Finland, a survey has enabled
      the integration of cycling factors in a transport model [Matti Keränen]. In
      the United-Kingdom, the Safe Routes to Schools project aims at favouring
      children walking or cycling to school [Paul Osborne]; action towards
      employers is at the core of Green Commuter Plans [Johanna Cleary].

      The United Stztes, Canada or Australia are more concerned with leisure
      cycling, when the transport system is designed for the automobile. In
      Quebec (Canada) in sprawled suburbs, housing locations are distant from
      activity locations. A survey on cyclist mobility has been done [Nathalie
      Noël].

      Japan is an original case: bicycle use is high (16% of trips), but not
      planned. Cyclists must use sidewalks, which leads to conflicts with
      pedestrians [Masaru Kiyota et al.]. Another problem is bicycle parking
      around railway stations, where bicycles are considered to be a form of
      pollution. Official promotion of cycling only begins, for example in
      Utsunomiya [Hirotaka Koike & Akinori Moritomo].

      In developping countries, the bicycle relates to other stakes. It is not a
      leisure item, but a means of dramatically improving productivity.

      In rural Africa, for example in Uganda, 69% of the population depends on
      walking. Carrying water (the well is 2 kilometres away), or wood and food
      (the market is 5 kilometres away) is the work of women. The bicycle can
      liberate them from this load. Transporting a ill person on a stretcher to
      the nearest hospital (20 kilometres away) needs four men during an entire
      day. By building a tricycle ambulance, one man can do the same job in half
      the time [Christine Mwebesa]. In Morogoro (Tanzania) micro projects
      (footbridges over small rivers, pedestrian crossings) can dramatically
      improve the condition of non motorized users. Meanwhile, surfacing the
      central part of a previously poor road worsens it by easing the speeding of
      motor vehicles. But the latter projects are generally prefered by the road
      administration [R. Tembele].

      In Delhi (India), the bicycle handles 1.5 million trips per day. It is the
      only means of commuting for the poor that cannot afford bus fares. Road
      planning is only designed for motorized traffic. Yet, specific facilities
      for non motorized vehicles, that anyhow are present, would largely improve
      the traffic fluidity [Geetam Tiwari].

      In Bogota (Colombia) the car free day on the 24th February 2000 has been a
      great success. It only hindered the minority that usually travels by car.
      But the majority of the population could enjoy the freedom of moving
      without danger, by walking or cycling [Andrès Pacheco].

      The situation of China, represented only in photographs, should have
      focused more attention in this conference. The bicycle reached a historical
      maximum in 1995, with half of all urban trips. From that date, bicycle
      sales have fallen by one half, while motor vehicles, especially motorcycle
      have boomed, and the cyclists' death toll has doubled in 12 years. In spite
      of a desirable huge increase of public transport provision that remains
      unsufficient, the bicycle will remain, for a long period, a cornerstone of
      mobility in this country.

      Thus, the small number of quoted presentations and many other interesting
      ones give a good insight on bicycle problems in different countries, by
      dealing with many aspects: transport policy, data and modelling,
      facilities, bicycle promotion, urban planning, health, economy,
      environment. But, as it can be guessed, the interest of this conference was
      not only inside the conference centre, but also outside, where, for the
      first time, reality was ahead of speeches.

      Francis PAPON

      Francis Papon, chargé de recherche mailto:francis.papon@...
      INRETS/DEST/EEM, fax +33145475606
      2, av. du Général Malleret-Joinville, F-94114 Arcueil France
      http://www.inrets.fr/infos/centres/inrets/velo_arcueil.html




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