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        Showing posts with label research. Show all posts
        Showing posts with label research. Show all posts

        04 October 2019

        Bikes Beat Metro in Copenhagen

        Originally published on April 4, 2014

        Like anyone interested in city life, we like to keep our eyes on the street life of our city. Currently however, the City of Copenhagen is planning to take some away from the street, by forcing people underground, with the 'M3 Cityringen' expansion of the Metro. Instead of investing in the reestablishment of our tram network - so rudely removed by the ironically-named mayor Urban Hansen in the 1970s - Copenhagen seems keen to get people off the street.

        This doesn’t come cheap: €3 billion gets you an additional 17 stations added to the existing Metro network. Some of the cost can be explained by the fact that It is not easy to build a Metro in Copenhagen, a city that is on the whole scarcely above sea level, and with a dense urban fabric too.  It's due for completion in 2018, but that's later than the initial estimate and with the date still some way off who knows whether it will actually be ready by then - just ask the planners in Amsterdam, where a new metro line has been under construction since 2002 and is still not finished, although it was supposed to have been operating for several years by now. As well as that, Amsterdam's costs more than doubled from initial estimates.

        But this article is not only about the Metro extension in Copenhagen; it deals with the question of which kinds of transportation are needed to support cities in becoming more liveable. We realise that we won't be stopping the Metro, but we are keen to highlight - even years before it's finished - that it ain't "all that".

        The projections for the Metro also have an alarming statistic buried in the paperwork. Cycling levels in Copenhagen are expected to drop by an estimated 2.8%. That is a lot of cyclists we'll be losing. 

        We know what people want. We want to move fast, safe and cheap from A to B. Also, the transportation system has to be sustainable, namely environmentally friendly, at a reasonable cost to society and it should not exclude anyone.

        We decided to just test it ourselves. We were curious how the different transport modes score compared to each other and especially how the bike performs against trains, buses and the new Metro.

        What we did was simple. For some days we tracked all our journeys from our homes to the Copenhagenize office (and vice versa) or other routes with the GPS-based App Endomondo. A great app - also because it includes Cycling - Transport as an option. Not surprisingly, it's a Danish app. Sometimes we came by public transport, most often by bike.

        Since the new metro is not operating yet, we had to be a bit creative when comparing it to the bike. We built scenarios to challenge the totally unrealistic times which are published on the project website of the Metro extension. If false advertising is a thing, the Metro are guilty of it. "7 minutes from N?rrebro Runddel to Enghave Plads!", they declare, without anyone bothering to check if it's true. Until now.

        To be clear about that point: It is probably very realistic that the time you will need to spend on the metro carriage itself between the future stations N?rrebro Runddel and Enghave Plads is seven minutes. The unrealistic part about that is that nobody lives or works in those stations.

        To have a realistic Home to Work scenario with which we could compare travel times with the bicycle, we took addresses in potential residential areas in a range of less than one kilometre to a future Metro station and tracked the time it takes to walk from the address to the future station. We then added the two minutes that it takes to get down to the train and wait for it. (We actually timed this at a number of stations and worked out an average. We like details.)

        And then comes the time you actually spend in the train, followed by the fact that it will take another minute (again, on average based on our timings) to get off the Metro and reach the street level again. Lastly we added the walking time from the station to an address in a potential working area, again in a range of less than one kilometre to the Metro station. As you can imagine, a trip incorporating the journey from N?rrebro Runddel and Enghave Plads doesn't take seven minutes any more.

        Here you can see the results of our Bike vs. Metro study.  
        TIME bike vs. future metro - copie copie
        TIME bike vs. future metro - 2nd map - copie copieFor the bike trips we assumed that we were travelling at an average speed of 16kph, which is the average pace people cycle in Copenhagen. Very relaxed, without having to sweat, and doable for all cyclists. We also added two minutes to unlock, park and lock the bike. The results are impressive: in three out of five scenarios the bike is faster door to door than the Cityringen line will ever be.

        In one scenario there is a tie between Metro and bike and in only one instance is the Metro slightly faster. The longer you have to walk to and from the station (last mile) the higher are the chances that the bike will be faster. From our data we see that 700m can be seen as a threshold: if you take the metro to work and have to walk more than 700m (about 10 minutes) on the way from door to door, you almost certainly would have been faster by bike.

        We're asking why the City of Copenhagen and the Danish government put so much money into something which does not bring a significant advantage to the people in the city? We're not saying that a Metro never makes sense. There are cities where the Metro is an indispensable element in the transportation system, carrying millions of people a day, like in London, Paris or New York. But does it make sense in cities like Copenhagen or Amsterdam, where you can reach almost everything in the centre within 20 minutes on a bike?

        Of course, we understand that not everybody is able to ride a bike. And we definitely want a transport system which does not exclude anybody.

        So, where is your tram, Copenhagen?

        Imagine what a fantastic tram network we could have for €3 billion. Look at France, where new tram systems are popping up like mushrooms. Also, there would be plenty of money left to further improve the cycling infrastructure within the city. What we get now is a new line with 17 stations which runs in a circle and only connects to other lines at two points. It doesn't seem like the main effect of this project will be to make Copenhagen more liveable. The City of Copenhagen is clearly afraid of reducing car traffic. Despite the goodness in the city, they still are intent on maintaining the car-centric status quo.

        Back to the competition: What about our commuting trips we tracked? Also in those cases the bicycle is highly competitive as you can see in the graphics below.  
        TIME bike vs.bus - Map 1
        TIME bike vs.bus - Map 2 - copie copie
        On trips less than ten kilometres the bike is usually the fastest option. The longer the trips are, for example from Frederiksberg to the Airport at Kastrup or from Glostrup to the new Copenhagenize office on Papir?en (Paper Island on the Harbour), the better public transport scores. That makes sense and it is also in line with the fact that cycling drops significantly for trips longer than eight kilometres.

        But we also have to mention that we set the average speed for cyclists even on the longer commuter trips to 16kph. It can be assumed however, that commuters who cycle everyday between 10 and 15 kilometres to work are faster than that. The bicycle superhighway network for greater Copenhagen for instance is designed for an average speed of 20kph. And then, the bicycle is even very competitive up to distances around 15 kilometres.

        So, what’s the message of our short study about getting from A to B in Copenhagen? First: there's no obvious need to invest billions in mega projects if the effect is as small as in Copenhagen’s current Metro extension project. Secondly: Invest the money instead in cycling infrastructure.

        Our little experiment has shown again that the bicycle is the best mean of transport to get from A to B in a city. And thirdly: Invest in public transport solutions which cover a larger geographical area at a lower cost. Like trams or light rail.

        And lastly, you might wonder why we did not include the car in our comparison. Well, because a car wouldn't make sense at all for daily trips in a city and because only 14% of Copenhageners transport themselves by car each day. 

        04 December 2015

        Montreal - When Using Data Goes Wrong

        This article is a guest contribution from Bartek Komorowski. Bartek is an urban planner and currently Project Leader in Research and Consulting at Vélo Quebec in Montreal. He and his colleagues reacted to a compartive study published last month in Canada and we're pleased to bring his thoughts here. Data is of utmost importance. More often than not, cities simply don't have enough of it. Then you have professionals who taken existing data and completely abuse it. Which is what this piece is about.

        By Bartek Komorowski

        Last week, the Pembina Institute, a reputable clean energy think tank, released a comparative study on cycling in Canada’s five largest cities – Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Calgary, and Ottawa. The study compares a number of statistics on bicycle use, safety, and infrastructure. The authors spin a narrative about Montreal being a great cycling city, mentioning its presence on the Copenhagenize Index. Strangely, their report provides statistics that seem to suggest otherwise.

        I work in Vélo Québec’s Research Department and my colleagues and I know a thing or two about Montreal’s cycling statistics. We publish a report called Bicycling in Quebec every five years, which includes a subsidiary report focusing on Montreal. We are currently collecting data for next edition of Bicycling in Quebec and Montreal’s cycling statistics are at the top of our minds.

        While reading through Pembina’s report, we were struck by some major discrepancies between the data it presents and the data we have recently been poring over. We noticed the following:

        Daily Bicycle Trips
        The study says there are 40,000 daily bicycle trips on the Island of Montreal, citing data from 2008. Actually, there were 75,000 daily bicycle trips in 2008 according to that year's regional origin-destination survey. Results from the more recent 2013 origin-destination survey, which have been released to the media, show that 120,000 bicycle trips were daily in Montreal, representing a massive 54% increase compared to 2008.

        Crash Rate
        The authors calculated an annual crash rate for the Island of Montreal using a bicycle trip statistic supposedly from 2008 and a crash statistic that seems to be from 2013 (found here), which is methodologically unsound, particularly in the context of rapidly increasing bicycle trip rates. This error was compounded by the use of the faulty daily trip rate statistic explained above. They got a result of 6.6 crashes per 100,000 bicycle trips, a higher rate higher than all of the other cities. In fact, according to their results, the likelihood is of having a cycling accident in Montreal is an absurd 10 times greater than in Vancouver, whose crash rate is 0.67 per 100,000 trips.

        Local media in Montreal zeroed in on this result, producing shock headlines such as this one. Needless to say, for cycling advocates, news reports about the supposed dangers of cycling in Montreal, backed up by seemingly credible research from a well-known think tank, are not helpful.

        I redid the calculation for Montreal using the same method but plugging in the 2013 daily bicycle trip rate (which matches the year of the collision statistic). This yielded a crash rate of 2.3 per 100,000, lower than that of all cities except Vancouver.

        Incidentally, the crash rate statistic for Vancouver strikes me as suspiciously low. This might have something to do with that city’s questionably high daily bicycle trip statistic. I have trouble believing that Vancouver, with roughly one-third the population of the Island of Montreal (603,500 vs 1,890,000), has almost three times more daily bicycle trips (106,500 vs 40,000). Can Vancouverites possibly be making eight times as many daily bicycle trips per capita as Montrealers? I doubt it.

        Bicycle Network Size
        The authors were sloppy in comparing the sizes of the cities' cycling networks. Some cities, like Toronto, count bicycle lane kilometres. This means that if there are bicycle lanes going in both directions along 1 km of street, they count as 2 km of bicycle lanes. Montreal counts street kilometres with bicycle lanes. In this case, bicycle lanes going in both directions along 1 km of street count as 1 km. If we applied Toronto's accounting method to Montreal's network, ours would appear to be almost twice the size of theirs.

        Number of Bicycle Shops
        The number of bicycle shops in a city is “an indicator of the prominence of cycling culture and access to bicycles,” say the authors. According to their findings, Montreal is poorly endowed in this department, with only 25 bicycle shops serving its 1.7M inhabitants. This is statistic is way off the mark: Vélo Québec's non-exhaustive listings contain 75 shops on the Island of Montreal, while a cursory search in the phone directory suggests there are well over 100. I can only speculate that this error is attributable to authors’ lack of knowledge of French and failure to use adequate search terms to find bicycle shops.

        Other Minor Mix-ups
        The study contains a number of other minor statistical mix-ups. The study cites the 2011 census population of the City of Montreal (1.65M) but cites the area (500 km2), the bicycle mode share (2.9%), and other statistics for the whole Island of Montreal, on which there are 14 other municipalities and 250,000 more residents. The City of Montreal has an area of 430 km2 and a bicycle mode share of 3.2%.

        There are also some factual errors in the text about Montreal. For example, the authors say that the cycling network is planned at the borough level. In fact, the network is planned and financed by the City’s central administration. Boroughs do have scope to go above and beyond the City’s recently updated master plan (see picture below), putting bikeways on local streets under their jurisdiction. It is nonetheless incorrect to say that boroughs plan the network and the planning therefore has no coherence.

        There may well be other errors but, as I’m less intimately acquainted with the cycling stats of the other cities, I cannot identify them as easily. I hope that the authors did a better job for the others than they did for Montreal. Due to the paucity of compilations of data on cycling in Canadian cities, it’s likely errors from this study will continue to circulate in the media and will be reproduced in other research, unless somebody sets the record straight.

        My colleagues and I hope to provide a rich and accurate picture of the current state of cycling in Montreal, as well as its evolution over time, when we release the next edition of Bicycling in Quebec next June. Stay tuned.

        30 May 2015

        Hacking a German "Safety" Campaign with Rationality

        Nice with a bit of activism and rationality on a Saturday. Thanks to our reader Jochen, who sent us some photos from the streets of Germany in reaction to a campaign from the German Ministry of Transport, above. Next to a photo of Darth Vader the text reads: "The saga continues, thanks to the helmet. Works in every galaxy. And on the bicycle."

        This set cyclists and activists to task.

        Billboard in Bonn: "Now I'm single... thanks, helmet."
        Photo: Jochen 

        In a country where only about 10% of cyclists wear plastic hats, the Ministry of Transport decided to chuck some taxpayer money into a campaign. A lazy move from politicans whose ignorance about the importance of encouraging cycling, building infrastructure and the health benefits of a cycling population has now been broadcast to the planet. They are basically using taxpayer money to advertise how ignorant they are. There's the first problem with their campaign.

        The choice of Darth Vader is as strange as it is awkward - for the Germans. World War II Nazi helmets were the direct inspiration for Vader's helmet, as you can read here:

        "Costume designer John Mollo took it from there, fusing elements of various real-life uniforms associated with war and evil. To design Vader’s infamous black helmet, Mollo looked to the black, shiny headgear Nazis wore during WWII."

        One might argue that Mr Vader is not exactly an appropriate role model. One of the first things his mentor, Mr Hitler, did when assuming power was make Germany's largest cyclist organisation illegal. (they were also socialists, which was handy).

        The Ministry also willfully ignores the advice of the European Council of Ministers of Transport in 2004 - which included the German Minister of Transport at the time - in a report entitled National Policies to Promote Cycling:

        "[...] from the point of view of restrictiveness, even the official promotion of helmets may have negative consequences for bicycle use, and that to prevent helmets having a negative effect on the use of bicycles, the best approach is to leave the promotion of helmet wear to manufacturers and shopkeepers. The report entitled 'Head Injuries and Helmet Law for Cyclists' by Dorothy L. Robinson, Bicycle Research report No. 81 (March 1997) shows that the main effect of the introduction of the general helmet law for cyclists in Australia was a drop in bicycle use."

        Even research from the German Hannelore Kohl Stiftung was happily swept under the rug:

        Be sure to check www.motoringhelmet.com for more reasons why driving with a helmet is a good idea. It links to our blog articles about the subject.

        Imagine. The Ministry of Transport in Europe's largest country completely and utterly Ignoring the Bull in Society's China Shop.

        But hey. Shortly after appearing, billboards around Germany that featured the Darth Vader campaign began to feature added text. The Force is strong within the rational Jedi fighting for liveable cities...

        The saga continues in Bonn. This billboard now reads: "I have dandruff. Thank you, helmet."
        Photo: Jochen

        Bonn: "I am a monster. Thanks, helmet."
        Photo: Jochen 

        And from Frankfurt: "Works in every galaxy. And on stairs."
        Photo: Heppo

        Frankfurt: "Works in every galaxy. And in the shower."
        Photo: A friend of Jochen Erdelmeier

        Frankfurt: "Works in every galaxy. And while doing housework."
        Photo: Heppo

        Frankfurt: "Works in every galaxy. And in cars."
        Photo: Heppo

        Frankfurt: "Works in every galaxy. And while walking."
        Photo: Heppo

        16 January 2015

        Is Copenhagen Finally up To Speed on 30km/h Zones?

        If Copenhagen was Paris or Barcelona, they would be doing this. Based on population density, this is where 30 km/h should be standard.

        Yeah, so I woke up to some promising news this morning here in Copenhagen. For all the modern liveable city goodness in the Danish capital, we are in the Bronze Age regarding speed limits in cities.

        It's been lonely being one of the only people broadcasting the need for 30 km/h zones in Danish cities. Discovering that modernisation may be on the way is fantastic. The first 30 km/h zone was implemented in 1983 in Buxtehude, Germany. Over 150 cities in Europe have made 30 km/h the default speed in urban areas.

        It is shocking that most of densely-populated Copenhagen isn't already a 30 km/h zone.

        Buxtehude, Germany. 1983.

        In Denmark, the Ministry of Justice published a document back in 1985 with the sexy name Justitsministeriets cirkul?re nr. 72 af 5. juli 1985 making it possible for municipalities to adjust local speed limits. If "speed is a major cause of accident or risk on the stretch in question".

        While that sounds like a good thing, they stated that it had to be proven that a reduction in speed would make dangerous stretches safer. Proving it has been a difficult task and the proof had to be in the form of complicated mathematical calculations. Weird to require calculations in order to save human lives, reduce injuries and make cities nicer. The next challenge was convincing the police to allow it. As we've written about before, the Danish police have bizarre powers and veto rights regarding traffic and they are not obliged to provide proof to support their veto.

        The police in Copenhagen wouldn't even agree to 40 km/h zones, let alone the European Union standard of 30.

        Today, however, the Ministry of Justice has announced that they are working on making it easier for municipalities to reduce speed limits. Let's hope they don't overcomplicate it and that they complete ignore the police on the subject. Until it's time to enforce the new speed limits. THEN they can move in and do their job.

        We have written at length about 30 km/h zones here on the blog and we started a little Facebook group called 30 kbh (kbh is the short form for K?benhavn - Copenhagen in Danish).

        You can read 30 km/h Zones Work.

        We also made an analysis of the effectiveness of 30 km/h zones that is freely downloadable and sharable.  But here's the gist of it all:

        30 zones reduce injury and death
        A study carried out in London concluded that there was a 42% reduction in injuries after the implementation of 30 km/h zones. Younger children were the group with the most significant reduction in KSI’s (Killed & Seriously Injured). A 27% reduction was measured in Barcelona, which led to the city rolling out massive 30 km/h zones across the urban landscape.

        The numbers are pretty clear here. If you get hit by a car doing 30 km/h your chance of dying is only 5%. At 50 km/h it is 50%.

        As your speed increases in a car, your peripheral vision decreases drastically.

        There is no cheaper or more effective way to save lives and reduce injury in cities. Period.

        30 zones improve congestion
        With slower speeds, the amount of stop-starts is reduced – if not eliminated – which improves flow and helps easy congestion.

        30 zones are inexpensive
        Changing speed limit signs is inexpensive while building out sidewalks and narrowing lane widths is more expensive. Nevertheless, it is cost efficient. In Switzerland, the annual savings on health costs due to 30 zones is €120 - €130 million.

        30 zones reduce noise pollution
        By reducing the speed by 10 km/h, a noise reduction of 2-3 dB is achieved. That is far cheaper than noise reducing asphalt. Read more in the article Noisy Danish Speed Demons.
        Also, the noise of five cars at 50 km/h is the same as ten cars at 30 km/h. The noise of one large truck equals as much noise as 15 cars.

        30 zones improve air quality
        In an overall analysis of pollutants, 30 km/h zones reduce CO2 emissions by 15%, NOX emissions by 40% and CO emissions by 45%. Only hydrocarbons will increase, by 4%.

        30 zones improve fuel efficiency
        Since they improve flow, motorists will save on fuel and reduce C02 emissions.

        30 zones improve local business
        The traffic calming effect that 30 km/h zones have on neighbourhoods is remarkable. Pedestrians and cyclists increase and, since pedestrians and cyclists spend more money in shops, local business benefits. A study in the UK showed that people who walked to town centres spent an average of £91 (around €115) per week, while motorists would spent £64 (around €80) per week. Cyclists, too, are proven to spend more money in shops than motorists.

        07 January 2015

        Desire Line Analysis in Copenhagen's City Centre

        Continuing in our series of Desire Line Analyses, we decided to cast our critical and curious eyes on yet another Copenhagen intersection, this time where Bremerholm meets Holmens Kanal.

        We decided to be more specific and focus on one part of the intersection - a location that we know well and one with a specific congestion problem in rush hour. We filmed for one hour from 08:15-09:15.

        Behaviour vs Design

        With the massive numbers of bicycle users in the mornings in Copenhagen, bottlenecks occur at a number of locations, particularly where many bicycle users need to turn left. This is something that all of us at the company experience each morning so we decided to study it.

        It was a November morning and it was party-cloudly, dry and 6 degrees C. The focus was to determine how bicycle users react to the sub-standard design of this location. How they react to having to battle with motorised traffic - something that is unusual in the city. Yep, even in Copenhagen, The Arrogance of Space is present at times.

        With this study we look at how bicycle users react to the design of infrastructure at one specific location, their behaviour and adherance to traffic laws and how they interact with other traffic users, in particular cars. All in one tight, congested location.

        As always, we apply Direct Observation and Revealed Preferences, as opposed to Declared Preferences in order to explore how to improve conditions for bicycle users in the interest of improving flow, capacity and safety.

        For more Desire Line Analyses, see: copenhagenize.eu/projects.html#desire

        Here is the map of the intersection in question.

        You can check out the full report here.

        This short analysis revealed quite a lot of interesting revelations in the behaviour of the bicycle users. We have established that Copenhagen has the world's best behaved bicycle users. We wondered if that track record would stand the test at an intersection that is far below the Copenhagen par in its design.

        71% of all traffic in the observation period were bicycle users.

        86% of all left-turning bicycle users observed performed the textbook Copenhagen Left. The majority of those who didn't were reacting to the congestion.

        1:3 - For every vehicle there were three bicycle users. Imagine if they were all in cars. This might jog your memory.

        1560 - This Desire Line analysis mapped the Desire Lines of 1560 cyclists on their way to work or education during morning rush hour at the Bremerholm - Holmens Kanal intersection.

        Bremerholm - Holmens Kanal intersection: 1560 Cyclists (from 8:15am to 9:15)

        During the morning rush hour, the intersection is characterised by congestion at the corner with bicycle users waiting for the green light. The traffic law dictates that the Copenhagen Left - or the box turn - is required. Bicycle users are not, however, required to wait for the light to turn green. They can cross if there is no traffic.

        Two main behavioural patterns were observed. The first where bicycle users are turning left in great numbers and also how bicycle users coming down Bremerholm interact with motor vehicles upon reaching the light.  These two scenarios interacted with each other, and should not be considered to be mutually exclusive events.

        Detailed Observations of cyclists waiting at Bremerholm

        Here we see how bicycles and vehicles interact inside the same space. At this location, the bike lane ends before the intersection and bicycle users share the space with right-turning cars. This design was standard for a few years, but now pulling back the stop line for cars at intersections is the new design approach. The general rule of thumb is that whoever gets to the intersection first - be it a car or a bicycle user - can decide to hug the curb. Cars invariably hugged the curb, leaving - at this location - no space for bikes. Because of their expectations due to the uniformity of design elsewhere in the city, bicycle users invariably found a way of getting ahead of the cars at the red light.

        Detailed Observations of cyclists waiting at Bremerholm doing the Copenhagen Left

        It was interesting to observe how bicycle users waited at the light when turning left. It had little to do with the volume of bicycles but rather the behaviour of those who arrive first on the scene. The following bicycle users invariably followed their lead, either lining up across the intersection or bunching up behind them.

        Further Data
        Further data and observations were gathered from this Desire Line analysis.The data of each of the different forms of traffic was then broken down (shown below).

        The observations of the cyclists.

        Vehicular data was broken down.

        Along with pedestrian data.

        It was interesting to note the flow of traffic per traffic light turn and compare the flow of bicycles to cars. While the flow of vehicles remains rather constant at 9 cars per green light over the morning rush hour, the flow of bicycles varies greatly. This demonstrates that bicycles can get through an intersection quicker than vehicles do.

        Copenhagenize Fixes
        Finally we offer our recommendations for redesigning the intersection. When the vast majority of the users are on bicycles, democracy would indicate that there are easy redesigns available to prioritize them.

        Read the full pdf from the Copenhagenize Design Company website.

        16 April 2014

        The World's Best Behaved Cyclists are in Copenhagen

        As I highlight in this TED x Zurich talk of mine about Bicycle Culture by Design, Copenhagen has the world's best behaved cyclists. Bar none. I've cycled in close to 100 cities around the world and I've never seen anything that comes close.

        Citizens in any city do not - contrary to popular perception - wander around all day looking for laws to break.

        Wherever you happen to be reading this from, you're probably aware of the general perception of "those damned cyclists". Even here in Copenhagen, the perception persists, not least from the Copenhagen Police and their one-man wrecking crew. They - and he - continue to spread personal perceptions about cycling citizens. 52% of the citizens in Copenhagen ride each day and most of the others have bikes that they use regularly. We are dealing with basically the entire population of a European city. The police are out of their league when it comes to behaviour perception.

        This perception is as old as the bicycle itself. One of Denmark's most loved satirists and cartoonists Storm P. (Robert Storm Petersen), a daily bicycle user, highlighted with great Danish irony the silliness of such perceptions in his piece A New Traffic Etiquette for Cyclists - in 1934. Things haven't changed. The whining minority still whines about the cycling majority. A sign that we need to change the paradigm of planning to prioritise intelligent forms of transport, instead of merely accepting the car-centric status quo that we inherited from a previous century.

        Behaviour hasn't changed for over 100 years - and won't be changing anytime soon. Here's my baseline: We can't very well expect bicycle users to adhere to a traffic culture and traffic rules engineered to serve the automobile, now can we? It is like expecting badminton players to use the rules of squash.

        Every single moment of every single day, the citizens of our cities are communicating with us. They are sending messages about the urban space they inhabit and it is of utmost importance that we listen to every communication. Unfortunately, planning and engineering are often too self-absorbed and arrogant to answer the calls of the citizens.

        Desire Lines are democracy in action and democracy in motion. They are, however, more than merely the mobility patterns of our citizens. They are the physical manifestation of much of the communication from our tireless army of urban cartographers. I find them to be quite beautiful. Not to mention incredibly useful, especially in bicycle planning and even in a city like Copenhagen.

        If you've been reading this blog for awhile, you'll know all too well our fondness for Desire Lines related to bicycle planning and research. What started with The Choreography of an Urban Intersection has morphed into numerous Desire Lines Analyses of other streets and intersections in Copenhagen and, most recently, Amsterdam. Together with the University of Amsterdam we are analysing behaviour and Desire Lines at ten intersections.

        With The Choreography of an Urban Intersection back in 2012, Copenhagenize Design Co. decided to take things to the next level regarding bicycle user behaviour. A study of that size and scope had never been undertaken before. So much commentary about bicycle user behaviour has been based on perception for far too long. "Those damned cyclists" repeated ad nauseum in dozens of languages has made us forget that we don't actually know very much about their behaviour.

        In most cities, the reason for what is percieved as "bad behaviour" is simply the fact that bicycle users haven't been given adequate infrastructure or, even worse, none at all.

        The explempary behaviour of Copenhagen bicycle users is due to the fact that the bicycle infrastructure network is, largely, so well-designed. Best Practice has been achieved and, for the most part, it is implemented.

        Nevertheless, if you ask certain uniformed civil servants who work for the Copenhagen Police, it is their personal perception that hits the headlines.

        With The Choreography of an Urban Intersection we decided to get some numbers to show that the perceptions are coloured with emotion and lack data and fact.

        As the graph at the top indicates, out of 16,631 bicycle users in the intersection Godth?bsvej/Nordre Fasanvej only 1% broke a serious traffic law. Running a red light or riding on the sidewalk. We called them Recklists. The Momentumists were a group that technically broke a Danish traffic law. We put these infractions in a different category. Basically, if it is legal in another city or country with respectable cycling levels, we are okay with it. The rest, the Conformists, did everything by the book.

        The results are mirrored by the results in our other studies of other intersections. The vast majority are just playing by the rules.

        You can see which rules are being bent in the above graph. What is incredibly important to consider is HOW the rules are being bent. What is the actual behaviour of the individual Momentumists when you study each one with detailed obversation?

        In short, it is exemplary. It is quite beautiful. One of the primary findings was that when an individual entered a zone where a law was being bent, they were aware of it. The pattern was the same: they would change their physical form.

        Generally, the individual would make themselves appear larger. Rising up from their normal cycling position in order to make themselves more visible to others in the urban theatre. Sometimes this was enough for them but many would also look around with a sweet, apologetic look - vaguely, not at anyone in particular - as though to say "sorry... I know, I know... bear with me". And when they hit the cycle track again, they would assume their usual cycling position.

        Some would do the classic bicycle chameleon move, swinging their leg off and using the bicycle as a scooter. Again, always aware of their surroundings and the other users of the urban theatre. This subtle awareness of their surroundings was impressive. At no point in the 12 hours were there "cyclist-pedestrian conflicts" as they're called in Emerging Bicycle Cities. In that regard, it was like watching paint dry. The flow was constant, smooth and elegant. It was choreography.

        Even the Recklists were heartwarmingly civilised in their behaviour, showing consideration for others. Only three bicycle users out of the 16,631 we tracked roared through a red light. They were all bike messengers. Do what you want with that.

        Momentum is paramount when considering how to plan for bicycles. A smooth flow that eliminates the need to stop and get out of the saddle is the key. Simple measures like the railings and footrests in Copenhagen are a fine example. The Green Wave for cyclists on the main arteries leading to the city are another.

        Understanding the basic anthropological transport needs of bicycle users - not to mention pedestrians - is the way to designing liveable streets. Bicycles are not cars and this has been the greatest mistake over the past 50 years in city planning... placing bicycles in the same category as motorised vehicles, both regarding traffic laws and the perception of bicycles as vehicles. We are still struggling to rid ourselves of this flawed categorisation all over the world.

        Stopping and starting in a car involves pushing down on a couple of pedals. Effortless. Stopping and starting on a bicycle requires a bit more effort. Once momentum has been achieved, a bicycle user will try to maintain it. The countdown signals in the middle of this article are an example of someone out there understanding the needs of bicycle users.

        Children understand the simple necessities of traffic planning. Unfortunately, the geekfest that is traffic engineering has all too often forgotten rationality. Campaigns that try to "improve" behaviour are a waste of money. Simply because the people who think them up haven't bothered to understand the differences between cyclists and motorists or pedestrians.

        Change the paradigm.

        Read more about the Choregraphy of an Urban Intersections, including all the findings, here. Or you can download the document as a pdf.

        24 February 2014

        Peak Travel and Outdated Projections

        I had the pleasure of speaking at the Eco.ch conference in Basel last Friday. The theme was "Nature & Mobility - Increasing Mobility with Reduced Traffic". I gave a version of my Bicycle Urbanism by Design talk.

        One of the other speakers was particularly great to listen to. Adam Millard-Ball from the University of Santa Cruz spoke about Peak Traffic and the future of traffic demand.

        Future patterns of travel demand have enormous implications for energy supply and the environment. How far will we travel in the future, and by what modes? Has travel in the industrialized world ceased to grow – "peak travel"? Are developing countries likely to follow the high-travel, high-emissions path of the United States, or will their travel patterns look more like Europe or Japan?

        He highlighted how engineers and traffic modellers insist on using the same old same old techniques for predicting future travel demand patterns. Despite the fact that they are hopelessly wrong almost every time.

        The slide, at top, really says it all. He uses two examples. One is projections from the Department for Transport in the UK (at left) and from Washington State. It's a very intuitive slide. Actual traffic growth on both graphs is in black. The wild coloured lines shooting for the stars are the projections. Millard-Ball said that this is a tendency around the world.

        Reality is quite different from the computer models still employed by transport departments. Models that produce projections that influence politicians and impact the lives of millions. Models that are wrong and hopelessly out of date.

        As I describe in this TED talk about Bicycle Culture by Design, traffic engineering is an outdated science in its current form. Although that current form is largely unchanged for decades, so it's not really current at all. It's prehistoric. Take the 85th Percentile folly that still controls speed limits in cities. It's standard stuff at universities. Bizarre.

        Traffic engineering has too much influence on the lives of our citizens. Nobody has bothered to dig just a little deeper and realise that it's quite hopeless and that we need innovation and new thinking to reverse the damage it has caused.

        29 January 2014

        Trying to Take the Bicycle Seriously. Ish.

        The Human League concert today at Danish Parliament

        Today saw the final conference of the three year Bikeability research project in Denmark. Or Slutkonference, in Danish, which would make you wonder if you had the right room if you didn't speak Danish. But I digress. On the second sentence... which might explain alot.

        Bascially, bicycle planning in the Kingdom of Denmark coasted to an internal hub brake stop today. 230 of the nation's planners, advocates - and others in pursuit of a free lunch - gathered at the Danish parliament (all the Borgen fans just started paying attention...) to hear the results of the research project.

        Conference title: Take the Bicycle Seriously - The future of bicycle planning. Boom. Sounds good. Promising. Inspiring.

        That's why I went along. I have a sincere personal and professional desire and hope to be inspired and learn about new research findings. I even went on my birthday, so eager for inspiration am I.

        Bike Ride Science
        Back in 2010, I went for a bike ride to launch this project, with the likes of former Science Minister Helge Sander, Brian Holm and others. Today was the culmination of the project.

        Basically, 16.5 million kroner ($3 million USD) was pumped into the project from government funding and the list of partners is long. University of Copenhagen, Danish Technical University, University of Southern Denmark, Aalborg University, Danish Cancer Society, Danish Cyclists' Federation, Delft University of Technology and I-CE (Interface for Cycling Expertise, Netherlands)

        My hopes were high.

        Which meant there was a long way to fall.

        The conference was interesting. It's also interesting listen to old Human League records, even though you've heard them before many times. There was, however, nothing new under the cycling sun today.

        Here's the one minute version of the conference:

        - New research confirmed older research.
        - Cycling is good for the public health. (repeat 43 times)
        - The Netherlands are way ahead of Denmark on national cycling levels.
        - Density in cities is good for walking and cycling.
        - Cycling levels are increasing in larger cities, falling in the provinces.
        - People just want to get from A to B fast.
        - Infrastructure increases cycling and therefore public health.
        - Accidents happen in intersections.

        The lunch was great, though. The coffee less so.

        16.5 million kroner for a Human League record.

        At lunch I asked ten random colleagues the same question: "So, what do you think? Anything new?" To which they all replied, "no, not really." But the meatballs were delicious.

        I remember remarking three years ago when I heard that cycling was heading into an over-complicated, over-academicised project that for 16.5 million kroner we could just build some infrastructure and launch positive campaigns to encourage cycling and that branded car-culture as being old-fashioned and unwanted in our cities. That a project like this was seemingly a waste of time and money. It might not be a waste - reconfirming existing research is always nice - but the fact that the target was completely off is a concern.

        During the conference all the things that we know about cycling were repeated ad nauseum. What was completely and utterly ignored was the elephant in the societal room. The automobile. For THAT kind of money, you'd think they would have tackled the present and immediate problem - reducing car traffic in our cities. Making driving more difficult. More expensive. Taking away space from cars and handing it to bicycle users and public transport.

        Instead of wasting 16.5 million kroner, everyone could have stared at this poster until their eyes crossed, then went out and actually did it:

        Copenhagenize Traffic Planning Guide

        The poster took me an hour. The idea for it popped up in my head in an instant back in 2008. It is free.

        Give the 16.5 million to a team of young marketing students and urban planning students - or a third grade class - and you would see results. In less than three years. Without having to heard that same old record over and over again.

        I don't like being disappointed. It's frustrating and unpleasant. But the chain fell off this project and the bike shops are closed. We should expect more from one of the great cycling nations of the world.

        09 January 2014

        Bike Share Systems and Public Cycling Policies

        Paris Bike Culture - Vive la Vélib'

        The trend illustrated above has manifested itself with increasing consistency over the past few years, with bike share schemes having spread to over 500 cities worldwide. 2013 saw a large number of new bike-share schemes introduced across the world, from New York to Nea Smyrini, and 2014 is set to be no different.

        Despite the increasingly widespread use and popularity of bike share schemes, studies comparing their use and impact across different cities aren't always easily available. When Copenhagenize Design Co. was in Lausanne recently, we had a discussion with colleagues about bike sharing. 

        One source that was mentioned about how we can get a sense of how bike share schemes can be used most effectively comes from a colloquium in Strasbourg, where cycling experts converged on the city to share experiences and discuss bike sharing systems and their role within wider cycling policy. We're going to have look at some of the conclusions the experts drew, which provide us valuable insight into the role that bicycle-share schemes can have in our cities:

        Firstly let's take a moment to consider the evolution of cycling policy during the three last decades:

        1990s: Cycling policies were focused on creating a continuous network of cycle paths and on finding solutions to avoid micro-obstacles and breaks in the network.
        => Public bicycles were not a topic of interest.

        2000s: Public policy became more global and began to take into account services for cyclists.
        There was a general trend of increased infrastructure, services and promotion of cycling.
        => The role of bike share systems became essential both as a service, and as a means of communicating the importance of cycling to the public.

        2010s: During this decade, urban planners focused on calming traffic by using strategies such as reducing the speed of cars and creating pedestrian areas, as well as infrastructure.
        => The consequence of this policy was a significant increase in the number of cyclists in city-centres, with bike share systems becoming just one element within the wider cycling context.

        The colloquium drew some interesting conclusions regarding the effect of bike share systems on the wider urban transportation system:
        First, (and unfortunately,) few car drivers have left their cars to switch to a public bike. Most of the users of bike-share bikes are former pedestrians and users of public transport. A few cyclists have stopped using their own bikes and instead have purchased bike sharing system subscriptions. 

        Generally speaking, the creation of public bike sharing systems has coincided with a boom in the number of cyclists. But the experts have noticed that in the French cities (Lyon, Paris, Montpelier, Toulouse, Bordeaux, Strasbourg and Lille) that set up a bike sharing system, the number of cyclists had already begun to rise before the public bike arrived.

        The table below shows the increase in the number of cyclists in French city centres:
        From 1998 to 2006
        + 39%
        From 1995 to 2006
        + 300%
        From 1997 to 2009
        + 100,00%
        From 1998 to 2009
        + 150%
        Source : official survey about means of transport 

        Evolution of the number of cyclists and the number of two-wheeled motorised vehicles:
        Source: Municipality of Paris

        The experts discussed whether having a bike-share system is an effective means of transport or instead merely a good way to communicate about cycling. Indeed, bike sharing systems are fairly costly and cannot be set up in every urban area. The colloquium concluded that bike share schemes should not solely be seen as a means of transport but also as complementary to increased private bike use.
        This is because bike share schemes are also an effective method of communication and in several cities they are used as a public representation of pro-cycling policy. It makes cycling more visible for a city's inhabitants. It is the sign of a municipality that is trying to create a more bicycle-friendly environment. In some cities, the bike-share bike has even reached the level of a tourist attraction. For instance, the French Vélib' has gained an international reputation and tourists visiting Paris are increasingly considering it an attraction of the city that they must experience.

        This conclusion therefore caused the gathered experts to wonder what the most effective way to spend public money is. When municipalities get a budget for cycling policy, is it more efficient to spend it on developing a bike sharing system, to develop services, to promote cycling or to create new infrastructures for cyclists?

        In the current economic climate, where public funds are more limited, setting up a bike-sharing system must not be considered as a final goal, but rather as one component of a broad public cycling policy. Bike sharing systems are useful but not essential. Their costs have to be analysed in detail to make sure that public money is invested where it is most effectively able to develop an appropriate cycling policy. Private bicycle usage and public bike schemes are not opposed but complementary. 

        The gathered experts in Strasbourg began to imagine the ideal context and set of policies for integrating bike-sharing schemes effectively with private cycling - in this ideal situation people would be ultimately encouraged to get (and use) private bikes. Cities would create room to park bikes (at home and in the street) and would develop a network of repair shops in the city. Renting a bike would be easy and convenient, with subscriptions covering several cities. 

        It seems simple, and in so many ways it is. The example of the Dutch system of rental bikes,  OV-Fiet, available at multiple train stations across the country, was especially highlighted as a great example of this complementarity, and there is no reason why these findings from Strasbourg cannot be learnt from across the globe, to make sure that public bike share systems have the biggest and most positive impact possible.

        Thanks to Tamara Bozovic in Lausanne for the link to this study:  
        Frédéric Héran -Centre lillois d’études et de recherches sociologiques et économiques
        UMR 8019 Centre national de la recherche scientifique
        Université de Lille 1, Cité scientifique, 59655 Villeneuve d’Ascq
        September 2012
        The Bike Share Whine-o-meter

        01 January 2014

        Risk Compensation Observations in Copenhagen

        It's no secret that I spend some of my time talking about how to promote cycling positively and built into that is, of course, the discussion of helmets. Those of you who have read this blog for a while are well versed in my opinions. And it's times like this I happily link to the first TED talk I've done.

        One of the points of in the discussion is risk compensation. The idea that if we have this perception of protection we become less risk adverse and push ourselves a little bit harder. It's a tough nut to crack. I've had discussions with intelligent friends were I've highlighted how most head injuries happen inside of cars - even with airbags and seat belts. I explain how an Australian government study suggested that motorists be made to wear head protection and I happily find photos of the motorist helmet developed by the University of Adelaide and Monash University on my smartphone to show them. More often than not, the people I speak with or interested and inquisitive which leads to an interesting discussion. There are those, however, who leave the rationality at the door and wax on about their airbags in their fancy new car. Pulling all of their faith in their survival as Homo sapiens in these devices.

        Regarding risk compensation and cycling, it is said that if cyclists put a helmet on, they will be given a false sense of security and the result will be that they ride a bit faster and perhaps a bit wilder. Cycling past the limits of their abilities without really realising it.

        It is the subject of a great deal of research done by people with greater expertise than I but I find it fascinating.

        Last year, in 2012, I decided to embark on a little experiment of my own. A little bit of documentation and research. The numbers of people wearing helmets in Copenhagen has increased, not least since 2008 when the Danish Road Safety Council - the nation's greatest unofficial automobile lobby organisation - decided to go all out with an emotional propaganda campaign unleashed on an unsuspecting population - in one of the safest countries for cycling in the world. They obviously haven't read Frank Furedi's book Culture of Fear.

        What we see is a lot of people who have been riding bicycles in Danish cities their entire lives now wearing helmets. By and large, these are the same citizen cyclists as ever, they are just wearing plastic hats. According to our research at Copenhagenize Design Company 17% wear helmets.

        I was curious to see if I could register a difference in behaviour between those who are wearing helmets and those who are not on my daily cycling trips around the city. I have spent the last 18 months quietly and patiently counting. If you know anything about me you know that I am not a rock 'n' roll speed demon on my bicycle in Copenhagen. I do, apparently, tend to cycle a little bit faster than average. I can see through the journeys that I have tracked through the Endomondo app ("cycling as transport" is an option, which is why I use it) that my average speed is a bit over 20 km/h. The average speed for cyclists in Copenhagen is 16 km/h. I've noticed for years that I overtake other bicycle users much more often than I am overtaken.

        I also noticed that since more and more people are wearing helmets in Copenhagen, the people that generally overtake me are wearing them. Indeed, a vast majority. I decided to to document the numbers with some private research. Counting how many people are wearing plastic hats among those who overtake me on the cycle tracks of the city.

        Let it be said that I haven't cycled dozens and dozens of kilometres every single day, clicking a little counter religiously. I just started counting how many people were overtaking me and how many people or helmets and I wrote down the results everytime I got home. The nature of my journeys around the city vary greatly, so some days only a couple of bicycle users were counted and other days there were many more. If I rode down one of the many busy bicycle routes during rush hour each and every day, it probably wouldn't have taken so long. The data would have been different though.

        Copenhagenize Design Company
        noticed in our Choreography of an Urban Intersection study that there are more bicycle users wearing helmets during the rush-hour then there are during the rest of the day. Especially the morning rush-hour has a different tempo and intensity to it than cycling through the city in other periods, and even the afternoon rush hour. As a result, my private data gathering expedition had a broad spectrum of bicycle users involved. On the journeys where my speed was higher – late for something – or slower – riding with my kids or having a conversation with a friend – I didn't do any counts. I only counted when I was rolling along at my average speed, in the interest of consistency.

        I decided to set a ceiling at the beginning. A nice big number that would give me some credible and reliable data. I thought about 1000 but then decided to go for 3000. I was in no hurry. Finally, last week, I rounded 3000 bicycle users overtaking me and so it is time to share the results.

        If I average out the 3000 bicycle users who overtook me since June 2012, it works out to be 5.48 each day.

        Basically, 12.5% were not wearing a helmet and 87.5% were wearing a helmet.

        You can decide yourself what you want to do with the results of this study. It does indicate that there is a clear difference in behaviour between the bicycle users in Copenhagen who wear a helmet and who do not. Also, considering the fact that a bicycle helmet is only designed to protect your head at speeds of 20 km/h or lower, these bicycle users were cycling at speeds that exceeded that.

        These are the hard numbers. I can add to this a general idea of my other observations over the past year and a half. For example, it was mostly men passing me by - but not such a high number as I anticipated when I started. I didn't record the exact numbers but my qualified guess is 70% male.

        I live on a main street leading to and from the city and I have noticed that most of the women who passed me did so in the late afternoon when they were heading home from work. The style of the bicycles also indicated to me that they were commuters were heading a bit farther than the majority in the city. So, yeah, they would tend to cycle a little bit faster than average. I have caught myself doing the same thing when cycling home from various jobs on similar routes in the past. Fair enough. It remains interesting though that was during this period that most women overtook me.

        As virtually every other bicycle user in Copenhagen will tell you, the high-speed overtaking serves little purpose in the densely populated neighbourhoods. As a rule you roll up beside them at a red light 200 m farther along. All that agressive bell ringing for nothing.

        This entire study was for my own personal edification. The data I gathered can perhaps be interesting to some others. Great if it can. I just noticed a pattern and I wanted to document it. Also because nobody has done it before and given the fact that helmets are a new thing in Copenhagen this is an interesting and unique location trying document such behaviour.

        It has been an interesting and fascinating task but to be honest I'm quite pleased that it is over and I can once again happily cycle through my city without having to do mental counts several times a day.

        15 October 2013

        The Massive Potential of Shifting Trips from Car to Bike

        As the graphic above indicates, the potential for switching to bicycles and cargo bikes in European cities is impressive, according to a Cyclelogistics.eu baseline study. 51% of all motorised trips related to goods transport could realistically be done on bikes and cargo bikes.

        This is a good thing.

        Copenhagenize Design Company have been involved with the brilliant Cyclelogistics.eu project for two and a half years now. The project is aimed at promoting the use of cargo bikes in European cities.

        We've recently posted about our Shop by Bike campaign here in Copenhagen and for the past two and half years there have been great initiatives in all of our partner cities.

        Our partner in Graz, Austria - FGM Amor - have spearheaded a Cyclelogistics baseline study about how much of the the goods transport in a city could realistically be switched to cargo bikes and bicycles.

        In the above graphic you can see what the transport equation looks like in European cities.

        The composition of trips in European cities looks like this, above.

        Here we outline the shift potential.
        All logistics have the potential to shift to bikes, but shopping has the greatest potential for reducing car use.
        In addition, Cyclelogistics did a campaign in Graz and Vienna, in collaboration with the SPAR supermarket chain.
        The campaign revealed why the particpants didn't shop by bike.
        After participating in the campaign, there were pleasant results. The expectations of the participants were exceeded in every category. A whole lot of mythbusting busted a whole lot of myths. All by getting people out of their perception bubble and onto the bicycle infrastructure to try it for themselves.
        There were, of course, areas that the participants thought needed improvement. Not suprisingly, safe infrastructure for cycling was the main one. Parking and incentives were close behind.
        Participants were asked what they thought about potential services that could be provided for them.

        The results were positive. Beyond our own expectations.

        You can read the whole baseline study from Cyclelogistics - as a pdf - from the Cyclelogistics.eu website.

        Follow Cyclelogistics on Facebook and on Twitter.