Andreas Røhl describes his experience as the City of Copenhagen’s Bicycle Programme manager. Andreas manages Copenhagen’s Bicycle Programme and recently joined Urban Systems Ltd. for a temporary term in their Metro Vancouver office. He is participating in a range of active transportation projects throughout Western Canada, including the development of an Active Transportation Master Plan for the City of Vancouver.
With the City of Copenhagen, Andreas focused on bicycle policies and strategies to improve conditions for cycling, and recently led the completion of the Copenhagen’s Cycling Strategy as well as the City’s Design Guidelines to Great Cycle Roads. In addition to his in-depth knowledge of cycling infrastructure, Andreas has extensive experience with cost-benefit analysis, cycling education, and promotional campaigns.
In general, a perfect climate or geography does not always mean an increase in cycling. San Luis Obispo, for example, has very steep hills along main corridors. Copenhagen and Amsterdam, are very cold. All of these locations, however, have a high cycling mode share. Some important factors for cyclists, beyond infrastructure, are the presence of a supportive bike culture and bike education. Even in a city like Davis, which is flat, has a good climate, and has many biking facilities, bike mode share went down for a number of years until a concerted bike campaign effort was put into place.
I was also surprised to find—because it often seems dangerous—that people generally prefer to use bike lanes on major roads. People are also willing to walk and bike longer than planners generally assume. While aesthetics along a route sometimes get more focus from planners, they are actually secondary considerations for everyday users.
These findings show that in places of high biking and walking mode share, people use these modes just as they would use cars in a high car mode share area. Distance to key destinations, connection and lack of barriers matter the most for everyday users. These are the main issues planners need to address to increase biking and walking.
London provides two good example of this shift. On February 1st Exhibition Road, a landmark street near many of the city’s museums, is being formally reopened after a three-year construction project to turn it into something that transport engineers like to call a “shared space”. Kerbs have been stripped out, along with the usual road markings, to create a thoroughfare that is designed to be shared by cyclists, pedestrians and cars alike. The idea, adopted from continental Europe, is to create an area which is not just more pleasant for people on foot but also safer because it encourages drivers to pay closer attention to their surroundings.
Less experimentally, big improvements have already been made to Oxford Circus, one of the city’s busiest intersections. The junction between Oxford Street and Regent Street sees as many as 40,000 people pass through every hour, and only 2,000 vehicles. Until 2009, however, pedestrians came well down the pecking order. In the language of planners, pedestrians were unable to follow their desire lines, the paths they want to take as opposed to the ones they are meant to. At Oxford Circus, giving rein to people’s desire lines has meant ripping out guard railings that hemmed pedestrians in and allowing people to cross the junction diagonally as well as from side to side (a feature known as a pedestrian scramble).
New research from Southern California has found that residents of neighborhoods with a central core of shops and services – a pattern typically found in older, traditional communities – walk nearly three times more often than do residents of neighborhoods whose nearest shops and services lie along a major arterial roadway, a pattern typically found in newer suburban development. Residents of traditionally styled and centered neighborhoods also drive less than their counterparts residing in the newer pattern.
This is true even when the data are controlled for individual and household economic and demographic characteristics.
Notably, the residents of the centered neighborhoods were found to take shorter trips, suggesting that walkable proximity – both closeness and a safe, direct walking route – to shops and services is also important. It may not do much to encourage walking, for example, if the dry cleaner’s is a quarter mile away as the crow flies but you have to travel two or three times that far navigating busy roads around the subdivision to get there.
"Every additional trip we take on foot, on a bicycle or by public transit frees up significant space for drivers, since the “footprints” of these other modes are so much smaller. The cyclist beside you is not the car in front of you; the bicycle locked to a ring at curbside means one less parking space is taken. Driver, cyclist and pedestrian are complementary rather than mutually exclusive categories. Most of us are all of these at different times. What’s crucial is the proportion of time we use each mode, and creating communities where the car is needed for only certain types of trips. For other trips, we can make more efficient choices."
A key paragraph from a recent Globe & Mail article, ’Drivers, want more space on the roads? Push for bike lanes’. Co-written by urban planners Ken Greenberg and Trent Lethco, the article explains why increasing walking, cycling and transit use are central to improving the efficiency and sustainability of our urban transportation systems. It also serves as a great compliment to an iconic image from Muenster, Germany showing the amount of urban space occupied by different modes of transport.