Friday, February 10, 2017

Raised priority crossings

Priority crossings of side streets are essential for off-road cycle tracks along arterial roads. Without the priority for cyclists the traffic on the minor side streets impact significantly on the safety and delay for cyclists using the cycle track. More confident cyclists will tend to ride on road and avoid using the cycle track, and all other cyclists risk their safety every time they have to cross the side streets.

The Cycle Track guideline (Technical Note TN128) issued by the Department of Transport and Main Roads gives good guidance on priority crossings for cycle tracks. Here are some examples I have seen delivered around the state.
 Brisbane Road on the Sunshine Coast

Entrance to theme parks and studios off Entertainment Drive, Gold Coast (photo from Google StreetView) - not the raised crossing on the slip lane.
Brassal Bikeway in Ipswich.

Brisbane has multiple locations where priority crossings are required on V1 Veloway. My pet hates are:
  • along O'Keefe Street with the crossing of Carl Street (Council did a half hearted upgrade in 2016 that did not address the issue at all)
  • along Bapaume Road and Birdwood Road
Stage E of the Veloway upgrade will hopefully provide a priority route for cyclists through this dangerous section of the V1. But unfortunately it may not address the issue for school kids cycling to Holland Park High which is just off the V1 along Bapaume Road. This is a personal issue for me as my daughter has just started high school there and our house is ideally located for her to use the V1 to cycle to school. However the multiple crossings of slip lanes, side roads and driveways make me very nervous for her safety.

Hopefully the upgrade to the V1 will also consider the needs of school kids needing to access Holland Park High. The upgrade does not appear to be funded yet so I dont know if it will get upgraded soon enough for my kids to use it to get to school. An interim intervention to improve this section would definately be welcome for commuters and school children using this dangerouse section of the V1. I have some ideas for improvements, if anyone would be interested.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Bicycle deflection rail removal

Thank you to the Brisbane City Council for deciding to remove the bicycle deflection rails (banana bars) on the network. These have been hated by cyclists for quite some time - especially on busy cycle links.
I have already seen the benefit on my cycle route via the V1. The hazardous banana bars on the entrance to the bikeway from O'Keefe Street were recently removed. This is a significant safety improvement.
The purpose of the banana bars in this location were never really clear as it is extremely unlikely that a car will access the path as there is a fence along O'Keefe Street.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Active cities

The Transportation Research Board (USA) recently issued a guide for city leaders on improving how cities support active lifestyles. I love the way the USA makes guidelines, statistics and research publicly available for free. They have some brilliant resources. Although they tend to be focused on the USA they are often more applicable in Australia than similar European research and guidance.

I love this quote from the report:
'Cities that make physical activity a priority, convert existing spaces into active spaces, and design environments for people to be active will create a legacy of physical activity. These active cities will be better off by almost every possible measure.'
The report has some great statistics and info-graphics. Not all the research is from the USA as the guideline is aiming to show a broad base of evidence of the benefits of active cities. In fact Adelaide is mentioned as an example of a city that is doing well at supporting activity.

The guideline gives simple and practical advice on supporting the development of an active city related to:
  • open spaces and parks
  • urban design and land use
  • transport
  • schools
  • building design and work spaces
It then gives policy interventions that will deliver positive outcomes - including 'quick wins'. And then it also provides links to a wealth of tools and resources. This guideline is a valuable resource that is aimed at the non-technical leader / decision makers in cities. It would be good to get more awareness of it amongst transport planning professionals and public figures.

Brisbane is doing many of these interventions and that is one of the reasons I love living here. Wouldn't it be great if these principles could be completely embraced by our cities.  

Monday, August 3, 2015

Economic benefits of active transport

The U.S. Department of Transportation recently published a white paper on evaluating the economic benefits of non-motorised transport. It provides a short review of available economic analysis tools, and recommendations on how they may be used. The comparison table of tools in Appendix A provides a useful comparison of what the tools can tell you, their data needs and usefulness.

Although it is a very brief paper, it provides an extensive list of reference works that provide some interesting data snippets from the USA and the UK.

Some interesting snippets of facts cited in the report:

Project specific economic benefits in New York:

  • 49% increase in retail sales near the protected bike lanes on 8th and 9th Avenues in Manhattan (compared to a 3% increase borough-wide)
  • 49% fewer commercial vacancies near the reconfigured pedestrian plaza at Union Square North (compared to 5% more borough-wide)
  • 172% increase in retail sales at Pearl Street in Brooklyn, where an underused parking area was converted to a pedestrian plaza (compared to an 18% increase borough-wide).
  • 58% decrease in injuries to all street users on 9th Avenue in Manhattan where a protected bike lane was installed
Macro-economic benefits: Vermont
  • Vermont hosted over 40 running and cycling events in 2009, which attracted over 16,000 participants spending over $6 million in the state. The running- and cycling-related spending from these events supported an estimated 160 workers;
  • A business survey found that bicycle- and pedestrian-oriented businesses in Vermont generated $37.8 million in output and directly employed 820 workers with $18.0 million in labor earnings

Friday, July 10, 2015

Making walking and cycling safer

The European Transport Safety Council has recently released an interesting report called Making Walking and Cycling of Europe's Roads Safer. It makes for interesting reading. The variation in safety is significant across Europe with countries like Romania and Latvia having average annual pedestrian deaths over 7 times those of the best performers like the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden.

There are some strange statistics. Such as the gender of pedestrians killed on the roads. Why is there a greater proportion of men than women pedestrians killed in the UK, while Switzerland has roughly even number of male and female pedestrians killed over the last three years.

The breakdown in cyclist deaths by age category is interesting. Generally older people appear to be more at risk than younger people. Since the statistics are based on deaths per population the figures are skewed to show poor performance in countries with large numbers of people cycling (like the Netherlands).

What is interesting is the discussion on what is needed to make roads in Europe safer for pedestrians and cyclists. The interventions are obvious:

  • improve urban road design characteristics to be safer for cycling and walking - it will also help address congestion
  • reduce traffic speeds to 30km/h on residential roads and those in business districts
  • change the design of cars and trucks to reduce the risk if pedestrians and cyclists are hit by a car 
  • Change truck design to improve visibility of cyclists
  • have automatic/passive measures to reduce the risk of driver inattention 
  • behavioural changes for cyclists and pedestrians to reduce risk

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

People are driving less

The US has just released an interesting report on the surprising reduction in fuel consumption that has been observed since 2005. This is contrary to the models that predicted in 2003 that there would be a significant increase in fuel consumption due to increasing economic conditions in the USA. The data shows that the bulk of the reduced fuel use is due to people driving less (see below from the report).
This trend is despite increasing real disposable income per capita, shown in the figure below from the report.

The report notes that there is limited research to explain this 'surprise'. Some potential reasons given include:

  • an aging population drives less
  • 'millennials' drive later and less
  • the internet is reducing the need to drive
  • the real cost of fuel has risen in the USA
Interestingly, there was no mention of how supportive land use, improved public transport or active transport infrastructure may be contributing to the reduced need for people to drive a car.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Personal safety

A while back I visited a friend who teaches underprivileged children in Phnom-Pehn, Cambodia. If you have visited Cambodia you will know the chaos on the roads. Pedestrians, vendor carts, bicycles, motorbikes galore and motor cars, buses and trucks compete for space in a seemingly lawless free-for-all on the road and footpath.

When our friend first moved to Cambodia several years ago she got around by bicycle because she could not afford a car. I asked her about how safe she felt cycling in the chaos. Interestingly she didn't talk about road safety, she spoke of her fears for her personal safety when cycling at night.

As soon as she could scrape together enough money she got herself a car so that she could feel safe leaving home after dark.  Having a car made life far more expensive and difficult. Finding parking on the street she lived in was impossible and caused huge conflict with her neighbours. Traffic jams are a continual frustration and her commute by car often takes longer and is less reliable than cycling was. The cost of running a car is more than she can really afford. But the peace of mind afforded to her of being cocooned in her little car, protected from predators made the pain and frustration of driving a car worthwhile. 

This got me thinking about how perceptions of personal safety/security can influence ones choice of mode. Here in Brisbane the threat of muggers, rapists and human traffickers is comparatively zero, yet for a large portion of the population (as much as 50%?) it can have a major influence on their choice of mode or route. 

A few years back Gayle (my wife) was working a late shift at a business in the Valley. Because of the issues of finding parking she decided to try cycling to work. Although the cycle network into the Valley is not great she found the afternoon cycle into work quite pleasant. However at around 10pm I got a rather concerned phone call from Gayle. She had successfully cycled out of the city on the bikeway but now found herself just south of Buranda where the bikeway goes along the creek corridor. This was before lights were installed on this section and she did not feel safe cycling through deserted parklands. She felt far safer cycling on road the rest of the way because the perceived threat to her personal safety of cycling through a dark and deserted park was greater than the road safety risk of sharing a road with no cycle lanes. 

A friend cycles to work at the PA hospital. Despite having access to a bikeway just down the road she cycles the first section on road because she does not feel safe riding through Tooheys forest on her own at any time of the day. 

Because of this it is always important to remember to consider personal safety/security when planning and designing cycle networks. The CPTED guidelines are useful as a tool for informing route option assessment and design. However it can also sometimes be a hindrance to delivering some excellent network outcomes due to concerns about sending cyclists down hidden corridors behind noise barriers and back fences of properties, or through woodland areas. Even with lighting these places can seem very threatening at night, particularly in certain areas or on parts of the network where there are few users. 

I think however that CPTED issues should rarely be a reason not to deliver an off-road cycle link that has clear network benefit. A route identified through a CPTED assessment as having a risk to personal security should have appropriate design treatments to reduce the perceived and actual risk. And if possible it would also be good to provide a on-road alternative to allow for greater route choice. That way cyclists can make a choice of route based on the perceived risk. By having an integrated network of on-road and off-road cycle routes we can serve a larger cross section of user needs, and hence make cycling a more attractive proposition for a greater proportion of the population.