Here’s a really thought provoking and very funny talk by Mikael Colville-Andersen, who tweets as @copenhagenize. It looks initially at how cycling has a potentially very significant role in achieving improved liveability – which after all is the vision of the Auckland Plan – before going on to analyse how a ‘culture of fear’ undermines trying to achieve these goals:
I think it’s pretty clear there’s a step-change happening at the moment in the way we think about cycling – as shown by the various responses to the tragic death on Stanley Street earlier this year, not all of it good of course, but even the thoughtless reactions were indeed that; reactions, which is new for cycling in Auckland. This Listener editorial is fairly typical of a number of media articles in recent times:
First, we must aggressively add cycle lanes to the main thoroughfares of our cities and complete the half-finished ones we have. The gold standard in cycle-lane design comes from Copenhagen. Lanes should be bidirectional, separated from cars and inside parking spaces, so as not to have cyclists fall prey to cars pulling out or doors being opened unawares. Narrow or convert car lanes, move parking spaces to side roads, slim those wide centre strips. Take out berms if you have to. The faster the vehicle speed limit, the better the separation needed, through painted lanes, grade-differentiation or dividers on slower streets to full-on median barriers for motorways. Bus lanes are not bike lanes: the two do not mix.
The key point here seems to be a growing recognition that cars and cycling don’t mix – especially not if we want to get more than a tiny fraction of the population cycling. We need to tackle the ‘culture of fear’ around cycling by making it safe and by making it feel safe. People need to feel like they could let their kids go for a bike in the local area, people need to feel safe and comfortable cycling around in their normal clothes, people need to feel that cycling is something easy to do – not something that you need to attend a myriad of “courses” in order to participate. Clearly this means, more than anything else, a big investment in infrastructure is required. Not just green paint on a road, but the proper cycling infrastructure described in the Listener editorial.
But not only that but also that it is clear that for the good of all of society this is something we must do. The advantages for us all in the bike-able city are countless. In many ways the degree to which a place is rideable is synonymous with its liveability. Cycling is the canary in the coal mine of city building.
Fortunately, a charitable interpretation of the Mayor’s appearance on Campbell Live last week could be that he sees the need for around $30 million a year in spending on cycling – compared to the current $10 million that would be a gigantic improvement. But there will also need to be tough decisions around the allocation of street space – as referred to by the Listener. If Auckland wants to take cycling seriously that means in places we will lose median strips, it means we will lose on-street parking, it means we will have to narrow lanes.
Analysis published in the The Journal of Transport Studies on cycling rates across all cultures, geographies, and weather patterns concludes with this simple summary:
“The presence of off-road and on-street bike lanes are, by far, the biggest determinant of cycling rates in cities.”
As they have a handy knack for, Generation Zero sums up the required step-change that’s becoming increasingly clear in a single image:
For small selection of previous discussions of what’s holding Auckland back from this urgent and relatively inexpensive improvement see these posts on Tamaki Drive, Ponsonby Rd, and the Harbour Bridge.
Late addition: This article showing that US business is now behind the cycling revolution because it adds more value than auto-dependency:
“Cities are driving the US economic recovery, and as they do, Americans are getting on their bikes. In 85 of the 100 largest metro areas cycling is increasing. All part of a deeply healthy – and profitable – reshaping of urban economies.”