Greening New York: Bicycle safety and infrastructure (Australian perspectives)

On Behalf Of Michael Yeates
Sent: Monday, March 16, 2009 6:13 AM
Subject: World Streets] Greening New York: Bicycle safety and infrastructure (Europea…

Thanks for those thoughts and experiences Eric.

There are two aspects which my experiences in Europe but also here in Australia have led me to pursue and if not promote, then at least try to get others to quietly but seriously consider.

1. Convenience is as important as safety if not more important: At first this seems completely wrong but in fact if safety is pursued, in most cases, practice shows that convenience is reduced, often to the point where a barrier is created for some if not most. So it may be that in some circumstances where a proposal is made to improve the safety of cyclists or pedestrians that a trade-off for increased convenience and reduced safety may be needed.

But have a look at points #1-5 below and it becomes more clear that reducing the danger while improving (or not reducing) the convenience while highly desirable, is not essential. It is maintaining and improving convenience which is both achievable and feasible … and essential … albeit not by itself. Improved safety is a likely if not inevitable outcome as can be seen from the following point and other points below.

2. Reclaiming the streets (or reclaiming street space) is not about banning motor vehicles: The 30/20/10 (preferably in km/h NOT mph?) illustrates that there is no need to reclaim street space IF motor vehicles are much less of a problem or threat. More to the point, the speed advantages of motor vehicles are so reduced (ie the “convenience” of motoring is so reduced) that other modes (and what better than cycling?) are then much more likely to be preferred. And when that occurs as it does in many many places world-wide, it becomes obvious that there is no need to “ban” motorists as is implied by “car free” campaigns. Indeed why ban motorists may well be one way to consider this in detail in order to see how other strategies can, and do, work to achieve better outcomes.

Of course these and the five below are inter-related but the issue is about getting support for rather getting support against. So why ban motorists if that isn’t necessary ie if the desired outcomes can be achieved by sharing the roads/streets?

It may come as a bit of a shock to some traffic planners and advocates but there is barely a street, road or freeway on the planet that isn’t convenient to use for cyclists so why try to build a separate network other than to allow business as usual in the adjacent road space?

Of course it is never quite as simple as that and nothing is ever perfect. Indeed one idea that doesn’t get much promotion is the idea of CYCLIST AND PEDESTRIAN PRIORITY on roads and streets. It simply reverses the legal onus and responsibility in favour of peds and cyclists rather than motorists.

So if like the hierarchy that places pedestrians first, cyclists second, etc etc, we argue consistently that in principle, urban roads are the spaces for cyclists, as well as for motorists and pedestrians, to share, then solutions such as those in much of Europe but also many places elsewhere become rather self-obvious … and those that oppose these ideas, more obvious in their motives also. Both good outcomes….!

Put another way, there is very little needs be done or money spent on the roads. And what is done can be implemented incrementally … although the bigger the area, the better because consistency matters.

The effort and money is needed to change how we have allowed roads (in particular urban roads) to be used.

Indeed the emphasis on changing the roads, being so costly, is almost inevitably counter-productive. We provide reasons for NOT changing how the roads are or could be used.

This might still result in some necessary changes to the roads.

But then lets not so quickly forget the lessons we learned from Hans Monderman which if applied to cyclists may well necessitate removing some of those comfortable and reliable old “separation” techniques such as separate paths and bike lanes in favour of “sharing the road”?

Michael Yeates

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Click to for article to which the author refers here.

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