Drivers Need to Learn to Share

Bicycles are an amazingly fast way to get around cities and countries, as a cyclist I often roll past cars idling in bumper to bumper traffic. The cars (and their single occupants) aren’t getting anywhere anytime soon yet drivers as a group demand more and more infrastructure when really they should learn to share.

In the Globe and Mail, it’s argued that drivers shouldn’t be so selfish and support things like public transit, bike lanes, and other initiatives that actually help people get around. The car as an individual transportation solution needs to go away.

The truth is there’s no immediate solution to traffic congestion. We can wait for trillion-dollar infrastructure projects to get completed. We can wait for a new subway line or bike lane. We can wait for autonomous cars to make better use of the available road space. But until then, we’re going to have to learn to better share the space we’ve got.

Roads are for moving cars as quickly as possible. Pedestrians are a danger and cyclists are barely tolerated. But what if, as drivers, we changed the way we thought about roads? If they’re public space – a quarter of Toronto’s total area – then shouldn’t they be for moving as many people as fast as possible? Sometimes that will mean prioritizing automobiles. Sometimes that will mean giving up a lane to cyclists. Sometimes that will mean giving up a lane to buses.

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Supporting Bicycles is a Good Idea for Cities

Torontoist is a blog focused on, you guessed it, Toronto and they recently ran a series of posts about bike lanes. It’s not all about Toronto as they pull data from New York and tout Strasbourg as an inspiration that Toronto ought to follow.

The success of cycling infrastructure in Strasbourg is a result of partnerships between the city and other transportation agencies. Parcus, the city’s arms-length parking authority, manages parking lots throughout Strasbourg and incorporates bike parking as part of its facilities. Parcus provides free, supervised bike parking at five different parking lots across the city. Parking attendants are even equipped with repair kits and bike pumps.

In another recent post, Torontoist provides a look at three myths about bike lanes that people (for some reason) believe. The first myth is that bike lanes block people from commuting from the suburbs. The response to the myth is pretty great:

The myth here is that cycling infrastructure will cause congestion to the point of excessive traffic delays. Bike lanes don’t always add to traffic congestion, and really need to be analyzed on a case by case basis. Except for rush hour, Bloor Street is already occupied by parking spaces on either side of the road, and, in turn, narrows a four-lane street down to two lanes. Bike lanes will remove parking spaces, sure, but in turn will leave the two-lane situation in the same condition it was prior to the installation of the bike lanes. If bike lanes do in fact cause minor inconveniences, these inconveniences are nothing in comparison to on-street parking used practically around the clock. Here’s an 808 page book on why that’s bad public policy.

Lastly, the site outlined why bicycle infrastructure is part of a larger movement to make streets good for all commuters. Having a multimodal approach to urban transportation is always a good form of planning rather than a monolithic approach focused on one mode of getting around.

The study of the improvements made to Richmond and Adelaide streets, which included the addition of a cycle track separated from vehicle traffic by flexi-posts and planter boxes, concluded that the upgrades resulted in an increased number of cyclists using the roadways and reduced travel times for drivers. During off-peak hours, a motorist’s trip was 30 per cent faster after the cycle track was installed and 12 per cent faster during peak hours.

In the study, both cyclists and drivers reported that they felt safer using the street once it had been upgraded. The report did not, however, mention how incorrect usage of the roadway, such as drivers and delivery trucks parking in the bike lane, can render it less safe since cyclists usually have to merge with traffic.

In Stockholm You May Get Paid To Ride A Bike

Stockholm was plagued with horrible traffic congestion that limited the ability of anything to really happen in the city. Cities designed for cars tend to have these traffic problems. As a result, Stockholm instituted a congestion charge which has been a huge success. Even with the charge to drive in the city, traffic is still bad.

The next step Stockholm is thinking about to get more people out of the cars is to get them on bicycles. Even if that means paying people to ride a bike.

The proposal addresses an important next step in weaning the Stockholm region off cars. While the city proper has become increasingly bike-, public transit-, and pedestrian-friendly, the wider suburbs are still lagging behind. This is understandable, given that densities are lower and that longer distances to the city center make cycling there a less casual undertaking. Providing active encouragement to residents outside the current congestion zone to pedal into the city could help tip the balance.

Other proposals suggested by the institute could also help, including allowing bikes on trains and creating broader two-lane cycle highways that heighten a rider’s sense of safety.

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Thanks to Mike!

Germany Opens Its First Bike Highway

Germany knows that their autobahns, which are famous for not having a speed limit, can only handle so much traffic. To alleviate pressure put on their highways they have built a highway just for bikes! The 100km long bike path runs through 10 cities.

The bike path is fully lit, cleared of debris, and even has overtaking lanes for cyclists. It’s just like any major road for cars but built for environmentally friendly and healthy transportation: a bicycle.

The RS1 cuts through the Ruhr region in North West Germany, close to the border with the Netherlands, and runs mostly along former railway tracks. The bike paths are 13 feet wide, have overtaking lanes, and according to the AFP are lit, and cleared of snow and other debris, just like regular roads. The inspiration for the RS1 comes from the cycle ways of the Netherlands, and also from London’s bike superhighways, and the route usually crosses other roads via over-and-underpasses.

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More Cities Ditching Cars to Increase Transportation Speed

Cities that are designed for cars now have the problem of switching from the traffic-causing polluting machines. Most places can’t build more roads so they need to use what they have more effiencetly. This means repurposing some roads or only having roads used for efficient transit solutions instead of old-school inefficient automobiles. Here are nine cities that are in the process of getting rid of cars.

1. MADRID, SPAIN

THE PLANThe boundaries of Madrid’s current car-free zone are continuously expanding outwards, reaching a square mile earlier this year. While those who live within the zone are allowed to take their cars inside, those who don’t have a guaranteed parking space can expect a hefty fine. New smart parking meters throughout the city can also gauge vehicles’ fuel-efficiency, so gas-guzzler owners will have to pay more at the meter.
ECO-BONUS: As a greener alternative, Madrid’s new bike share program supplies 1,500 bikes stationed at 120 different locations throughout the city.

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