Sunday, August 19, 2018

Bikes on trains

Today I am catching regional rail between Italy and Switzerland.
One thing that is plainly obvious is that anyone in a wheelchair, or even a slight mobility challenge, cannot use the regional trains in Italy. The step up from the platform is too high, or the old double-decker trains have no provision.
It was however good to see provision for cycling on the new intercity trains.
One was a nice idea, but poorly executed. The rim buckling low hoops are not good. In fact someone climbed on the train with a bicycle and didn't bother to use the 2 bike 'parking' spaces.

The second looks far more viable with a retractable belt for securing the rear wheel of the bike into a vertical slot. Not that good for mud guards though. With 4 parking spaces per carriage there is sufficient space for people to store luggage of bikes.
The third is the best I believe, with hangers to allow for vertical storage of 6 bikes per carriage. Even though the area was full of luggage a bike still fitted in. The hangers work well.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Bike-share in Rome and Florence, Italy

I am currently on holiday in Italy and have been interested to see the bike-share systems here in full force.
Rome has the OBike system - which would appear to be a massive failure. I never saw anyone on the bikes - but did see lots of wrecked bikes scattered around. In fact, I don't think I saw one bike that was not wrecked.

Florence on the other hand has the MoBike system, and it is doing very well. You see people using the bikes everywhere - from tourists to local commuters.
One of the factors supporting MoBike in Florence would be their network of separated cycle ways and a tight grid of low traffic streets. The network is very flawed in places (changing sides of the road without warning, abruptly ending, being full of pedestrians) but provides reasonable access. Central Rome does not appear to have this.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Pedestrian facility selection tool

In April this year Austroads published their Australasian Pedestrian Facility Selection Tool. This is a valuable addition to your active transport planning arsenal - even if it has its flaws.

http://www.austroads.com.au/images/network-management/AP-R472A-18_User_Guide_Pedestrian_Facility_Selection_Tool.pdf
The tool provides guidance on the appropriate pedestrian facilities required for crossing mid-block or at intersections and takes into account the traffic volumes and speeds, pedestrian demand and nature (percentage of sensitive users - including elderly, sight or mobility impaired and children), crash history (if available).

The tool checks against standards and warrants for all states/territories in Australia as well as New Zealand to advise on the feasible options. The tool can test mid-block and intersection treatments. I was a little unsure how to use it to test a roundabout as the tool does not allow for the selection of intersection type. The guide provides no direction on testing crossings at roundabouts. So instead I selected the traffic flow as uninterrupted and indicated that the pedestrian visibility distance is the separation to the circulating traffic.

The tool calculates delay to pedestrians at the crossing (if you capture signal cycle time) and the predicted crash rate based on standard unit rates per intersection type (which you can adjust). If you have the infrastructure cost it can even calculate the cost benefit ratio taking account of pedestrian time savings, vehicle delay cost and safety improvement.

The item I found very useful was an assessment of the perception of pedestrians in regards delay, safety and level of service. This is a very simple and easily understood measure to inform decision makers.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Our Future State

The State government has released their plan for advancing the state's priorities. Reading through them it is very clear that investment in active travel can help contribute to the achievement of the objectives.
https://www.ourfuture.qld.gov.au/gov-objectives.aspx

Here are some of the areas investment in active travel can help:
  • Create jobs: active travel has been shown to be good for local economies, supporting improved property values, increasing sales, and creating places people want to go to. Investment in quality rail trails and active recreation facilities in regional centres creates active tourism jobs and brings income into regional centres where jobs are scarce. Derby in Tasmania is a great case-study. Research in Victoria from 2003 showed that for every day on rail trails in Victoria, visitors spent an average of $51 (or around $70 in 2018 taking inflation into account). So if a rail trail attracts just 100 users a weekend, it generates over $360,000 per annum for the local economy - that is at least 3 full time jobs.
  • Keep Queensland's healthy: a very effective strategy to increase the physical activity of children and adults so that we address the obesity epidemic is to get them out of their cars and make active travel choices. This not only improves physical health, it also improves mental health - helping to address suicides. But to do this there is a need for supportive infrastructure - the benefit of which exceeds the costs.
  • Protect the Great Barrier Reef: Active transport emits negligible levels of greenhouse gasses. The Great Barrier Reef can be protected if more people are walking and cycling instead of driving.
  • Keeping communities safe: Over the last few days there has been much talk about safety in our cities due to the horrific murder of a young woman in Melbourne. I have not however seen much discussion on how the design and management of active travel infrastructure can contribute to community safety. Investing in quality active travel infrastructure can reduce the safety risks for everyone. The more people out and about on foot and bike, the less risk there is to users of the network.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Four types of potential bicycle riders

I think most of us have come across the research undertaken by Roger Geller on the four types of transportation cyclists in Portland, Oregon. I have seen it referenced in multiple reports, but have also heard many questions about its applicability across geographies.

Recently I came across some research undertaken under the Transportation Research Board in the USA that aimed to expand the model to assess other cities in the USA. You can purchase the research report by Jennifer Dill on the TRB site here. I found this very useful slide presentation from 2015 on the LinkedIn Slideshare that summarises the outcomes of the research report.


Four Types of Cyclists: A National Look from TREC at PSU

Now  we just need some similar research in Australian cities. I am quite certain that the Australian population will have a similar profile of potential bicycle riders, but local research is always more pwerful to reference.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Hostile vehicles and crowded places

Since the recent terrorist attacks where vehicles have been used to attack crowds many cities have been installing temporary concrete bollards around locations vulnerable to terrorist attack using a vehicle. Unfortunately these are generally rather ugly and in many cases they significantly impact on the pedestrian capacity through the area.

Sometimes the temporary barriers have been installed despite existing bollards being in place. This is probably because the existing bollards are not strong enough to stop a determined driver in a heavy hostile vehicle.


In mid-September I was in Melbourne for the AITPM conference and noticed this example in the Bourke Street Mall. The temporary bollards are completely ineffective since a vehicle can quite easily access the mall using the tram tracks.


The Australian Government recently launched their Strategy for Protecting Crowded Places from Terrorism. As well as the strategy, the website includes some valuable tools that active transport and public space planners and engineers need to make themselves aware of when planning and designing crowded places. Crowded places could include outdoor dining areas, commercial hubs and CBDs, shopping centres, hotels, stadiums or special events. Relevant tools include:
The Hostile Vehicle Guideline for Crowded Places has some valuable guidance for planners and engineers. Some of the things that stand out for me are:
  • Early intervention during planning provides the greatest opportunity for success and the cost of including security interventions increases as the project progresses through design to completed infrastructure
  • Security should be proportionate to the threat and appropriate for the space
  • Sculptures, bicycle parking, fountains and stairs can be effective security measures that add to the amenity of a crowded place. This blog post provides a nice discussion on some design ideas for beautiful bollards.
  • To be effective, the maximum clearance between barriers cannot be wider than 1.2m
  • The angle of the vehicle entry to the space can significantly impact on the cost of barriers
  • Speed bumps and the like are ineffective in deterring or slowing down a hostile vehicle.
The guideline was prepared by the Designing Out Crime Research Centre who have done some interesting work in the use of design innovation to resolve complex crime issues and social problems.

So, does this mean the death of the 'naked streets' concept? I don't believe so, it just makes it an inappropriate design solution in areas where there are crowds that gather.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Trends in cycling - a little old, but good

This interactive web page developed by Allianz is a great resource summarising some of the census and other data sources on cycling.

https://www.allianz.com.au/life-insurance/news/cycling-in-australia

Good on you Allianz for doing your bit to provide information and promote cycling.

It would be great if all cities and states provided this sort of update on an annual basis. It provides a fantastic barometer on how we are doing in supporting active transport.

Portland, Oregon regularly publishes a short report on cycling in the city on key corridors. It provides a great snap shot of cycling trends in the city. The National Cycling Participation Survey is great, but the information could be presented in a far more accessible format than a PDF report.