subjective safety

Slow Down

Speed kills (and may make you fearful of letting your children out of the house).

Speed kills (and may make you fearful of letting your children out of the house).

A long time ago, I drafted this blog post but never officially published it. It was a story I picked up from the local community newspaper. Two mothers were concerned that cars on the residential street they lived on, were traveling in excess of 80kph. The speed limit is 50kph and the street is in a school zone.

“They fly through here. I don’t let my girls play out the front – I won’t even let them go to the letter box”. The street is used as a ‘rat run’. The women were planning to approach Auckland Transport to see if there was anything that could be done. I think the street has had speed bumps installed since then. I wonder if that made a difference.

At the time of writing it initially, I was not confident enough in my convictions to publish it. That’s since changed. I think it is no longer heresy to suggest that it will be demand and traffic calming rather than design and bike lanes that will make the biggest contribution to getting more people riding bicycles. Below, is the remainder of the original post. I have left it as I originally wrote it (apart from the inclusion of a link to a recent Wheeled Pedestrian post). Why? Because I have being going through the site’s archives recently to see if I have strayed from my original intentions. And I must say that I have been pleasantly surprised to see that my original observations and beliefs still hold true. However, being confident in my convictions is one thing. Convincing others of the merit of these convictions is a completely different matter. When you are in a hurry, progress is a relative thing.


It went like this…

A similar scenario plays out throughout Auckland and the rest of New Zealand. The Death Star, revealed in all its glory. And in the context of promoting cycling as a serious transport form, it should be clear by now, that cycling will remain the preserve of the ‘brave and fearless’ while this dominant car culture remains unchallenged. These mothers won’t let their children out on the front lawn, let alone ride a bike.

So while quality separated cycle lanes is what’s required to get people riding bikes, it is not going to make any significant difference until the issues of speed, that these two mothers are concerned about, are addressed fully. In fact, I would be so bold as to suggest that addressing the issues of speed need to take place before the introduction of cycle infrastructure. Or at least they need to happen in tandem. Because regardless of the quality of a cycle lane, it is the element of subjective safety that will determine whether individual members of the public will feel safe to use the infrastructure.

That’s why the ‘build it and they will come’ approach needs to be taken at face value. Any quality infrastructure needs to be matched with a high provision of subjective safety. A significant reduction in speed will go someway to addressing that. In The Netherlands, the ‘Stop the Child Murder’ Campaign was the precursor to the bicycle infrastructure and culture that the country is now renowned for. Until something similar happens in New Zealand, our dreams of a cycling revolution will remain only dreams. If cycle lanes are built, they will remain largely empty.

‘Cycling’ is sport and recreation. ‘Riding a bicycle’ is everyday activity. No sweat. As easy as walking, but faster.

Get involved via: Twitter, FacebookFlickrVine or Instagram.

The Death Star

The Death Star casts a long shadow.

The Death Star casts a long shadow.

“The Death Star is the codename of an unspeakably powerful and horrific weapon. A weapon capable of destroying entire planets. The Death Star is an instrument of terror, meant to cow treasonous worlds with the threat of annihilation.”

The reign of the ‘Death Star’ continues. Unrestrained, unscathed, and as deadly as ever.

A range of strategies are going to be needed if we are to ever disempower the ‘Death Star’. Strategies that will discourage driving and encouraging people to take public transport or ride bicycles. Strategies that will increase the demand for traffic calming. Issues such as speed, urban sprawl, parking and infrastructure will all need to be brought to the public domain.

Responsibility for the obscenely high number of traffic deaths and injuries also needs to be placed firmly where it belongs. There real economic and social costs that driving has on our communities needs to be on the agenda. I suggest we copy the anti-smoking lobby and start by placing health warning labels on all cars and trucks.

E003111

Lethal weapon

To grow cycling numbers to a significant extent, the ‘Death Star’ needs to be defeated. Every journey starts with one step. Who is prepared to take on this noble cause? Who will take on the responsibility of reclaiming our cities from the tyranny of the motor vehicle?

‘Cycling’ is sport and recreation. ‘Riding a bicycle’ is everyday activity. No sweat. As easy as walking, but faster.

Get involved via: Twitter, FacebookFlickrVine or Instagram.

A time of reckoning is near.

Seeing a brighter future

Orpheus Drive as it is now.

The remediation project on Orpheus Drive is nearing completion. A new shoreline has been created with a focus on passive recreation.

Orpheus Drive is a section of the bikeway that runs parallel to the southern motorway from Mangere Bridge to Mt Roskill. The Mt Roskill section will be completed when the new motorway gets built. The Hendry Ave section gives the term bikeway a bad name.

A new shared-use path is being installed along Orpheus Drive, apparently. I hope it is more user-friendly than this section. Before the construction started, it was pretty much a ‘rat run’. So apart from having to share it with the construction crew, it has been a fairly pleasant stretch of bikeway for the duration.

Cars will be returning shortly. That’s for sure. A big car park is currently being built. But does Orpheus Drive need to return to to being a ‘rat run’? Motorists have survived without it for the last couple of years so now would be a good time to engineer in some features to deter that from happening.

Will some thought be given to slowing motorists down in order to improve the safety (real and subjective) of the non-motoring users? The speed bumps that are currently there, do little to deter speeding motorists.

For me, the upgraded Orpheus Drive will be a test of how far we have come at putting people before cars.

Hendry Ave

Unsatiated: eight lanes is not enough.

 

The sign says it's a bikeway.

The sign says that Hendry Ave is a ‘bikeway’.

‘Cycling’ is sport and recreation. ‘Riding a bicycle’ is everyday activity. No sweat.

Get involved via: Twitter, FacebookFlickrVine or Instagram.

The casualness of driving.

Bathed in light

Bathed in light.

It was a day like any other. I was heading home after another day at the chalk face. Slowly. The sun was still high enough in the sky to make its presence felt. The benefits of slow cycling far outweigh the few extra minutes added to my journey time. I could hear a single car coming up from behind. I glanced over my shoulder to confirm. The car came up beside me. It was close enough to touch. The driver had his eyes fixed on the screen of his mobile phone. I saw red.

The driver probably thought I had been in the sun too long. He told me that he wasn’t ‘that’ close. I don’t know how he could determine that; his eyes and attention were on the screen of his phone. And besides, he wasn’t texting, as I had suggested. He was ‘just’ reading a map.

He seemed genuinely puzzled by my reaction to his overtaking manoeuvre. I wasn’t puzzled. I witness this casualness towards driving everyday; whether I’m riding a bicycle, walking or driving. It’s a cultural thing. Sadly, there seems to be very little awareness of the issue or interest in addressing it.

There’s a ‘slow food’ and a ‘slow cycling’ community. It must be about time to set up a ‘slow driving’ community?

‘Cycling’ is sport and recreation. ‘Riding a bicycle’ is everyday activity. No sweat.

Get involved via: Twitter, FacebookFlickrVine or Instagram.

Submission to the ‘Safer Journeys for People who Cycle’ draft report.

SaferJourneysReport_01

 

Back in 2014 I made a submission to the ‘Safer Journeys for People who Cycle’ consultation. This blog post reflects what I tried to convey in my submission. It still represents my view on how I think we need to approach the task of getting more people using bicycles as a form of transport – equal measures of infrastructure, policy and marketing. How are we doing since then, I wonder?

I support the draft recommendations proposed by the Cycling Safety Panel and its desire to achieve a transport landscape that allows for the safe movement of people on bicycles. I am encouraged by the panel’s acknowledgement and understanding of the benefits that cycling brings and the barriers to making that happen, as detailed below:-

1. Participation in cycling and cycling safety are inextricably linked.
2. Increases in cycling participation will bring safety benefits to individuals and to the wider community alike.
3. Economic and societal benefits of investing in cycling are irrefutable.
4. Riding a bicycle is inherently safe and the prevention of crashes with motor vehicles is the issue that needs to be addressed.

However, I am concerned that the panel’s recommendations lack the necessary clarity and boldness. Without any clearly stated cycling mode share targets set, there is a risk that the reports recommendations will not achieve its stated goals.

Infrastructure

In New Zealand’s current transport landscape, cyclists are catered for as though they are two-wheeled motor vehicles. This is problematic because cycling is more akin to walking than driving. If we are to be successful in encouraging more people to cycle, this reality needs to be addressed. In New Zealand we rely on campaigns such as ‘Share the road’ which suggest that all road users have equal responsibility to stay safe. Whereas the Dutch have set the standard for best practice in this area. It is called ‘Sustainable Safety‘. As the draft report acknowledges, riding a bicycle is inherently safe. It is being hit by a fast moving vehicle that makes it unsafe. The current environment is far from equal.

Quality infrastructure is the critical factor in creating a transport environment that encourages people to choose to ride a bicycle on a daily basis for transport purposes. This infrastructure comes in a variety of forms. The creation of  ‘mobility environments‘ has changed the way road transport is approached. Infrastructure is designed to cater for all road users. Safety is designed into the infrastructure.

A well designed transport/mobility environment:-

  • makes cycling irresistible,
  • is built for the 99% who aren’t cycling now but who could be cycling,
  • follows ‘desire lines’ and goes where people want to go,
  • recognises cyclists are just fast-moving pedestrians and does not try to treat them as cars,
  • has infrastructure that will take cyclists to common destinations such as jobs, shops, businesses and schools.

Policy

Creating a cyclised city will not happen in isolation. Transport policies that promote cars ahead of other forms of transport will make it less likely for people to choose to switch to riding a bicycle. The way a city is designed will impact on the rate of cycling uptake. Instead of encouraging sprawl, housing needs to be built around transport hubs and multi-modal transport needs to be encouraged and supported.

A well designed city is one in which people live in an environment that allows them to work and play in close proximity. It’s about reducing travel demand and creating opportunities for short journeys to be achieved by bicycle. Minimum car parking requirements need to be removed from city planning laws to enable this transition to alternative transport to happen.

Cities that have high rates of everyday cycling also have the following features in common:-

  • reduced speed limits,
  • well developed road behaviour social contracts,
  • freedom to choose to wear a bicycle helmet,
  • bike share programmes.

Marketing 

The ‘normalised’ culture of cycling that we need does not come about by accident. It comes about as a result of a range of deliberate strategic interventions. The need for quality infrastructure and supportive transport policies have already been mentioned. But there is also a role for high quality marketing that promotes the value of everyday cycling. The value of cycling needs to be ‘sold’ to the public in order to build the political will that is essential to encourage a shift away from our present car-centric transport policies towards socially and economically sustainable transport options.

The word ‘cycling’ needs to become synonymous with meaning ‘short trips in normal clothes on a comfortable bike for people between the age of 8-80, male or female.

The dominant perception of cycling at the moment is that it is for sports and recreational purposes; for the fit, brave or foolhardy. That’s a massive barrier to overcome, if we are to get the 99% of people who aren’t cycling now, to consider giving cycling a go. Like issues of real safety are dealt with by building quality infrastructure, issues of perceived safety need to be taken seriously too and addressed by implementing quality marketing.

Currently, cycling promotion focuses on safety by making it look dangerous. It focuses on the wearing of helmets and hi-viz. This kind of scare mongering plays into the fears of non-cyclists by reinforcing their current misplaced beliefs. Even the word ‘cycling’ creates misconceptions. That is why you will see the phrase ‘wheeled pedestrian cycling’ or ‘riding a bicycle’ now being used instead.

The full implementation of the above key strategies of infrastructure, policy and marketing will be needed to bring about the success that the ‘Safer Journeys for People who Cycle’ report says that it desires. Underpinning this success will be a sufficient level of funding. A level of funding that reflects the value and contribution a city full of people on bicycles brings.

‘Cycling’ is sport and recreation. ‘Riding a bicycle’ is everyday activity. No sweat. As easy as walking, but faster.

Get involved via: Twitter, FacebookFlickr.

Or, enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Make road safety sustainable and beneficial to everyone.

Where's the sustainable safety?

It’s a high price to pay for being human and fallible.

Although the message behind this ‘road safety’ campaign is one of, ‘we all need to take care on our roads’, the image leaves you in no doubt that it is the pedestrian that is being targeted for special mention. It was surely devised by people who have little or no understanding of the subtleties of human psychology and its relevance to road safety. Old school traffic engineers have got their fingerprints all over this. Thankfully this campaign is not being used any longer. But that’s not to say that our roads have become safer. Priority is still given to moving as many cars through the city as quickly as possible.

The transport environment in its current physical and cultural form is very hostile. Particularly to those who choose to walk or ride a bicycle.

In the above scenario we are encouraged to believe that all ‘road users’, whether they be motorists, pedestrians, young or old, male or female, are required to take more care. The responsibility to take care is shared equitably. But in reality, it is the pedestrian who pays with his/her life or a lifetime of disability and the motorist who suffers a lifetime of remorse. Typically. The major flaw in this kind of thinking is the major imbalance in the relationship. The imbalance being referred to is that of the massive steel killing machine that motorists cocoon themselves in when it comes in contact with a human being.

So the incentive being offered to pedestrians for taking care is the improved odds of not being killed by a motorist. That can not be described as an effective strategy for reducing the number of people killed or maimed as a result of traffic ‘accidents’. But to avoid pissing off the motorist, it is a safer option to publicly share the blame and responsibility for road deaths equally on motorists and pedestrians alike. (There is an uncanny resemblance to one of those bloody awful ‘share the road’ opinion pieces that people on bicycles have to endure).

But there is some good news. There are cities around the world that have gone beyond this cautionary/punitive approach and are successfully reducing car v people conflicts. (Euphemism intended). It probably comes as no surprise that these cities are also full of people riding bicycles for daily use. Nor will it come as a surprise to hear that it is the Dutch who are the world leaders at this.

The Dutch have taken the issue of human fallibility to heart and worked out how a city’s roads need to be designed and operated. This approach means the issue of human fallibility is completely removed from the issue of road safety. It’s called ‘Sustainable Safety’. Transport infrastructure and policies are designed around the needs of the most vulnerable. Sustainable safety is about preventing those mistakes from occurring; not about punishing people for making mistakes. It’s about taking all the risk and potential for error out of the environment. If motorists are having to brake aggressively for an inattentive pedestrian, it is an issue of speed or road design that needs to be addressed, not inattentive (read – ‘bloody’) pedestrians.

A city will be a better place, economically and socially, if it is a place where people are treated as the hosts and motorists as the invited guests who abide by specific rules and guidelines on how to behave.

So while cities try to deal with road safety by focusing on stuff like making the wearing of bicycle helmets compulsory, offering cycle safety training, encouraging the use of hi-viz clothing and producing valueless road safety campaigns, all the changes that would make a significant improvement continue to be overlooked. The motor industry is playing with our collective minds and we don’t even realise it.

Sustainable safety has the potential to become a guiding principle of road design in our cities. To make our roads safer and more user friendly for all road users. It has the makings of an excellent campaign initiative. Rather than focusing narrowly on campaigning for the construction of separated cycle paths for a narrow interest group like cyclists, why not focus on something that has the potential to open up the issue of road safety to everyone? Campaigning for ‘Sustainable Safety’ has more chance of getting mass support because it would have a positive impact on all citizens rather than just cyclists.

‘Cycling’ is sport and recreation. ‘Riding a bicycle’ is everyday activity. No sweat. As easy as walking, but faster.

Get involved via: Twitter, FacebookFlickrVine or Instagram.

Or, enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

The killing roads: why our car culture is not sustainable.

Speed Kills

Suburban residents awoke to this scene.

A 14-year-old boy died when a car he was in crashed into a power pole on Te Atatu Peninsula. He died at the scene. The driver and front-seat passenger, both 16-years old, suffered moderate injuries and were taken to Auckland Hospital. Police said early indications were that speed was a factor. Enquiries were underway to determine whether alcohol was also involved, Sergeant Shaun Palmer of Waitakere police said.

“We now have a family who are devastated, they’ve received news this morning that will change their lives forever, and we have a community that is grieving.

“This is the awful reality of the combination of youth, cars and speed and our thoughts are with the boys’ family.”

And what’s even more tragic about this event is that it hasn’t prompted a widespread call to address the consequences of our deadly car-culture. It’s going to be impossible to create a civilised, cyclised, people-focussed city until we take this ugly car culture seriously. Cars are dangerous. They are a health hazard. They are like tobacco. Enough is enough. For everyone’s sake. This culture is not sustainable.

I fear that the crew at Bike Te Atatu are going to struggle to convince significant numbers of parents and their children to ditch the car in favour of walking and cycling. That’s for the simple reason that cars project an envelope of danger.

Just the thought or the sound of a speeding car is enough to put parents off letting their children ride to school independently.

Children don’t need to be taught how to ride a bicycle or how to wear a helmet. Experience tells me that that’s the easy part. But they do need to be protected from the danger of speeding cars. That’s where we, the adults, come in.

Arrogance of space: wide roads are invitation to speed.

Scene of the crash: all that space devoted to moving cars.

I would suggest that, in suburban environments like Te Atatu, addressing issues of speed need to take place before the introduction of cycle infrastructure. Or at least they need to happen in tandem. Because regardless of the quality of a cycle lane, it is the element of subjective safety that will determine whether individual members of the public will feel safe to use the infrastructure.

That’s why the ‘build it and they will come’ approach needs to be taken at face value. Any quality infrastructure needs to be matched with a high provision of subjective safety. A significant reduction in speed will go someway to addressing that.

Smoking used to be socially acceptable. Thankfully, that’s changed. But it didn’t change by accident. The way we view cars and the unsustainable culture that has developed over the decades also needs to change. That can start with strong community leadership, to gain support amongst the local community and in turn, put pressure on the local transport authorities and relevant agencies, to take this issue seriously.

After all, it’s an issue critical to all citizens, not just cyclists.

‘Cycling’ is sport and recreation. ‘Riding a bicycle’ is everyday activity. No sweat. As easy as walking, but faster.

Get involved via: Twitter, FacebookFlickrVine or Instagram.

Or, enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Driving transport inequality.

check before you step

Damn straight – check before you step.

Stories on the topic of road safety find their way into the community paper occasionally. These stories all run to a familiar theme,

1. A local person reflects on a personal, life threatening encounter with a speeding car and the impact speeding traffic has on their community.

2. The issue is referred to the local transport agency. (Sometimes a community board politician will intervene before referring it to the transport agency).

3. Everything continues as if nothing happened.

I kid you not. Check out how the local Transport Authority responded to one such ‘incident’,

In the last five years there have been two rear-end crashes recorded close to the crossing. Nobody has been injured in these crashes.

There have not been any cases of pedestrians being hit, reported to the Transport Authority.

So in effect, the Transport Authority is saying that the lack of a fatality is a sufficient indicator that a road is safe for all road users.  Safety is as much about perception as it is about reality. It’s a feeling. Because “cars project an envelope of danger by their very presence”.

I think the local citizen who generated this latest tale of road unsafety to the local paper deserves a medal for speaking the truth for us all.

I’ve got lots of clients who don’t let their children walk to school because they have to cross here and it’s too dangerous.

In the meanwhile, our very own Auckland Transport offers us their Travelwise programme. The one that teaches children how to identify ‘sneaky driveways’ and how to put their helmets on correctly. Sheesh.

So, while it is encouraging to see people speak up about these safety issues, it still feels like there is a long way to go before we will see some systemic change. The people who are questioning the status-quo need to be reassured that their instincts are correct. Priority on our streets has been given over to moving mass volumes of vehicles at high speed. We live in communities that are dominated by cars, at the expense of people. And it’s the people at the extreme ends of the 8-80 age group that are the most vulnerable. Transport inequality.

Needless to say, it’s not only cyclists who will benefit when a city manages to deal with its car addiction. The next step is to build a united voice of advocacy; to question and challenge, to provoke change amongst the decision makers. That would be fun.

‘Cycling’ is sport and recreation. ‘Riding a bicycle’ is everyday activity. No sweat. As easy as walking, but faster.

Get involved via: Twitter, FacebookFlickr.

Or, enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

The trouble with cycling.

No cyclist here; just a person on a bicycle.

No cyclist here; just a person on a bicycle, on a bridge.

Roads are for everyone and road rules were made for all road users.

Then modern cities arrived and urban sprawl was born. And along with a house in the ‘burbs came the promise of fast and cheap car commutes and demands for affordable parking. So even though the road rules have remained the same, the urban landscape looks and operates very differently. Cars are the norm. They dominate our cities.

But things are changing. Although most of our politicians seem to have misplaced the memo, cars are not turning out to be the panacea that they were once intended to be. Increasingly, there is talk of – climate change, active transport, ‘urban density done-well’. Demands for alternatives to the long-haul car commute will continue to get louder. Happy people live close to where they work and play, apparently. We are starting to witness a ‘conflict’ of ideas. How do we want our cities of the future to be? Is the current model sustainable, resilient or desirable?

And it’s important to reiterate that it’s not actually all about the cycling or being anti-car even; it’s about making cities for people the top priority. And just because we can’t imagine our cities being fully functioning without the car being centre stage, that doesn’t mean it isn’t possible or that changes shouldn’t be made. That’s why it’s so important to be taking inspiration and ideas from cities around the World that have already made the transition.

Within a context of cities being designed for cars and motoring being made so accessible and privileged, it’s easy to see how the bicycle has come to be the fall guy. Bicycles, as a transport form, don’t cut the mustard. In the current inCARnation of our cities, bicycles were never going to be able to (nor should they have been expected to) compete with cars or public transport over longer travel distances.

Some people have managed to make the switch from the car to the bicycle for their long distance commute. However, the failure of cycling to be seen as a serious transport option, is evidenced in the lack of people willing to take on this brave, but ultimately fear-inducing form of transport. At the same time, the role of the bicycle as the perfect tool for short, local trips (the wheeled pedestrian variety – e.g. from home to a nearby train or bus station) has been largely overlooked.

Bicycles exist in a kind of twilight zone.

So the road rules clearly state the expectation that bicycles are to be treated like two-wheeled motorists. They are entitled to claim the lane and must also follow all the road rules that motorists are obliged to follow.  But apart from the few brave souls already mentioned, the remainder of the population (if they choose to ride a bicycle for transport at all) is more likely to ride a bicycle at a slow, comfortable speed over much shorter distances. (Cycling to school comes to mind).

But in reality, cyclists are neither cars or pedestrians.  The road rules are also very clear in that people on bicycles are not allowed to be on the footpath. That is the domain of the pedestrian. It always amuses me how pedestrians and cyclists will fight it out for some scraps of space on the side of the road, while the motorist remains largely ignorant of the conflict going on on the periphery. (Full disclosure: I will always defer to the safety of slow riding on the footpath if my real or perceived safety feels compromised).

Cyclists as ‘outliers’.

So, while motorists rule the roost and pedestrians are accorded a modicum of space and respect (which may be due to the fact that all motorists are pedestrians – but not all motorists are cyclists), cyclists live in a parallel World. Unsure, uncategorised and not particularly welcomed anywhere. This phenomenon is witnessed daily – on the roads and in the media. Fortunately for us, the hard work in understanding this situation has been done for us.

Transport psychologist Dr Ian Walker says,

Not only are cyclists an outgroup, they’re also a minority outgroup. Moreover, they are engaging in an activity that is deemed slightly inappropriate in a culture that views driving as normative and desirable and, arguably, views cycling as anti-conventional and possibly even infantile.

With cyclists being a readily identifiable minority group, this leads to the tendency of drivers to attribute behavior to personality or disposition, rather than a situation or environment. It’s called fundamental attribution error. The conversation goes like this,

A. “I just saw a cyclist go through a red light”.

B. “Yeah. Bloody cyclists! They always do that”.

The outlier status of cyclists means that drivers will tend to blame poor behaviour of some cyclists on all cyclists. Further to that, and speaking from personal experience, cyclists are more likely to be making (what is perceived to be) poor decisions or breaking the road rules in order to keep themselves safe. Because you have to remember, our cities have been built for cars, not people or people on bicycles. And according to the surveys, a healthy majority of people say they would ride a bicycle “if it was safe to do so”.

So while the research is unequivocal; cycling is a worthwhile activity and should be encouraged, there is still limited impetus to take it too seriously as a form of transport. We are still too conflicted. The car still dominates transport policies and budgets. Sprawl is still being provided as the solution to a housing shortage.

In the meanwhile, we continue to focus on training cyclists to stay safe around cars and encouraging obedience to the road rules. Back to Dr Ian Walker, on the issue of  “all cyclists should wear hi-viz” argument. (You know, the argument favoured by the New Zealand coroner).

…there are other reasons to be suspicious of high-visibility gear, not least that it transfers responsibility from the driver of the metal box that creates the danger to the victim of that danger.

Instead, we need to be,

  • seeking a consensus that supports prioritising the moving of people safely ahead of the moving of high car volumes.
  • designing our city streets and promoting transport policies that are people and bicycle friendly.
  • promoting cycling in a way that makes cyclists less an unpredictable “out group” and more an integral part of the urban transportation fabric.

Anything less is merely tinkering around the edges.

‘Cycling’ is sport and recreation. ‘Riding a bicycle’ is everyday activity. No sweat. As easy as walking, but faster.

Get involved via: Twitter, FacebookFlickr.

Or, enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

 

Catering for people on bicycles can increase property values.

Blah blah blah

It’s just a sign.

This small, unobtrusive bicycle sign can be found throughout parts of Mt Eden and Sandringham, Auckland. It indicates the existence of ‘cycleways’ that run parallel to Dominion Rd through residential suburbs. I refer to them tentatively as ‘cycleways’ because at present, you see more motorists on this network of roads than people on bicycles. During peak travel times, they become ‘rat runs’ for motorists. But according to Auckland Transport, this is all set to change.

The routes are designed to make cycling an attractive, easy, and safe transport and recreation option for communities around the Dominion Road corridor and will provide local connections to schools and parks. The new routes will cover about 12 kilometres on roads and through parks, passing 16 schools serving 12,000 pupils. New safe cycle crossings will be constructed on Balmoral Road and Mt Albert Road.

The PR goes on to suggest that these routes could also be used as a route to the city. Dream on! That is patently false. Apart from being excruciatingly circuitous, there is no decent cycling-friendly infrastructure from where these ‘cycleways’ end, into the city centre. It also needs to be noted that Auckland Transport opted out of providing separated cycle paths on Dominion Rd when the original upgrade was first proposed. ‘Too expensive’ was the call, I think.

So, what does this all mean? What can we expect to see along this ‘cycleway’ when all the construction crew have finally departed?

Although this kind of thing seems rather new and innovative to us here in ‘Godzone’, this kind of mobility environment has been in existence for some time in other cities around the world. In some cities they are called ‘cycling boulevards’ and in others, they are called ‘neighbourhood greenways’. Whatever you call them, if they are done well, they have the potential to bring major benefits to the local community. Of course, like all good urban transport designs, they are based on the Woonerf concept from the Netherlands.

They are used as a way of providing alternative transport options for short, local trips and making residential environments safer and more pleasant. Evidence indicates that the reduced vehicular traffic and access to this kind of facility increases property values and social connections along that corridor. All that’s required is a reduction in the speed limit to 30 km/hr, some traffic-calming barriers to prevent rat running, removal of some stop signs to permit the free flow of bicycle traffic, some signage and the possible addition of traffic signals to allow cyclists to get across the busier arterial roads.

Nor are the routes designated as only for people on bicycles. These mobility corridors can be used by residents from all walks of life and of all ages. Whether they are walking the dog, skateboarding, socialising with neighbours, or simply kicking a ball on the street. Here’s a video for you to watch to give you an idea of how they have been introduced into some cities in the U.S.A and Canada.

But will people in Auckland make the shift to bikes and use these greenways/mobility corridors?

Well, the disconnection at Burnley Tce doesn’t help. And the jury is out as to whether Auckland Transport’s traffic engineering interventions will:-

  • reduce the flow of non-resident motorists using these mobility corridors as through routes,
  • reduce the speed of motorists travelling on these mobility corridors.

Aside from the physical safety factors, these mobility environments need to feel like safe and pleasant places to be on because we know that cars ‘project an envelope of danger’. In order for this project to be a success, dealing with the issue of subjective safety is as critical as dealing with the issue of real safety.  Statistics show that riding a bicycle is an incredibly safe and health giving activity. But this fact runs counter to the perception of cycling among the non-bicycle riding public. And the economic return on investment for projects like this is huge.

There is also a question mark over Auckland Transport’s ability to sell this project to a sceptical and fearful public. It’s going to be a tough gig because we live in a culture that worships the car and the right to drive anywhere, anytime. But it is an issue that needs to be grasped if we are to make this city a place for people to flourish. There will be residents who will resent losing on-street parking. There will be residents who are not familiar with the potential to ride a bicycle to their local shops. There will be lots of barriers and misconceptions to deal with. Normalising the perception of riding a bicycle; making it appear as normal as driving a car will require a range of social engineering strategies to be employed.

Assuming that sufficient traffic engineering interventions have been implemented, how will we know if Auckland Transport is serious about making this project a success?

Data! Strategy! Action!

  • Engage with the local residents.
  • Find out how many people are using these mobility corridors – upon completion and again in 6 months, 12 months, 24 months time, 5 years.
  • Find out who is using these mobility corridors, and when, where, how they are being used?
  • Set aspirational mode share targets (% of people on bikes relative to people in cars), and time frames.
  • Enact strategies to achieve these targets. Working with 16 local schools, 12,000 students and local residents would be a priority.

Watch this space!

 

‘Cycling’ is sport and recreation. ‘Riding a bicycle’ is everyday activity. No sweat. As easy as walking, but faster.

Get involved via: Twitter, FacebookFlickrVine or Instagram.

Or, enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.