Since roughly WWII we’ve been designing roads and streets for only one purpose: the automobile. Before the 20th century roads were designed to move people around efficiently, today roads are incredibly dangerous for people who are outside of metal containers. Australians are starting to do something about this lack of safety on streets already and are looking for was to make how we navigate our roadways even safer.
The next step is to respond in ways that keep returning attention to the facts from best evidence. To repeat, whether you’re a driver, occupant, pedestrian or cyclist, roughly 90% of what causes death on Australia’s roads is driver behaviour.
For cyclists, the root cause of deadly harm is aggression and inattention. Drivers should be held to account and be pushed to change their behaviour and attitudes.
Simple inexpensive changes in the law have been found to have dramatic effects on driver behaviour. These changes also work with existing infrastructure, technology, road conditions and our cultural expressions of human nature
Another welcome measure is a recent initiative to reduce urban speed limits to 30km/h. This has just been implemented in one of Melbourne’s inner urban areas without too much fuss. According to the research behind it, you’re twice as likely to survive being hit at 30km/h as at 40km/h.
Since it’s summer you might not be thinking of winter bicycling. Why not though? If you’re like most people, you’ll be out on a bicycle a few times during the nice weather this summer and you’ll feel how nice it is to ride. Remember that feeling! In the winter you really should be out riding your bike too, it’s still safe and it keeps you warm. Presently, some cities around the world encourage winter cycling but we should see even more winter cyclists every year as riding gains popularity.
Most assumptions about winter cycling are based on the same myths no matter where you are from. Those -30C days do happen in Winnipeg, but they are pretty uncommon; yet we allow the deep freeze days to characterise an entire winter. We also conveniently forget that cycling keeps you warm – comfortably so. In an urban environment, the risk of being harmed by the weather while cycling is reduced to nil with a basic scarf and jacket. We assume that winter cycling is dangerous but somehow we forget that vehicle speeds are the real issue, and that they drop in the winter. It shouldn’t be surprising when a study shows that cycling in the winter months with steady conditions is relatively safe compared to cycling in June.
When we wonder out loud “why anyone would ever want to spend more than a few minutes outside in a place like this”, we forget about its beauty. Winter is a glorious spectacle of glittering fractals complete with a soundscape and atmosphere entirely its own. Some of us have forgotten the bright side of winter: the simplicity, the efficiency, the pragmatism. In transportation terms, winter is all smooth, clean lines and quiet sounds. Bikes fit right in. Perhaps sitting in cars has dulled our senses.
Depending on where you live you may think streets are for people or for cars. The correct answer is that streets are for moving people and not built for the need of inanimate objects. In an interesting series of videos the Toronto Star’s Christopher Hume examines the different urban design decisions between suburban and urban neighbourhoods. The urban areas that promote cycling and walking are understandably the most vibrant, interesting, and productive (economically and culturally). The impact non-car uses can have on streets is evident and something that every city can benefit from.
Unsurprisingly, Toronto’s most vibrant streets — Queen, College, Bloor — are generally narrow car-slowing thoroughfares lined with unspectacular buildings between two and six storeys tall — hardly the stuff of vehicular convenience. The major interruptions in these mostly intact streetscapes are largely the result of clumsy modern interventions beginning in the 1950s and ’60s. Decades later in what’s now Vertical City, we still have difficulty making buildings work at street level. Architects are slowly learning, but have yet to master the skills of contextualism. They prefer the silence of the vacuum and ignore the public realm whenever possible.
Read and see more.
NYC Streets Metamorphosis from STREETFILMS on Vimeo.
New York City might be famous for its cabs, but in the future it might be famous for its bikes. The city has seen a big push for sustainable and fast transit in the last decade and everyone agrees: bike lanes are the solution. The city’s commitment to supporting bikes through infrastructure as made the streets faster, cleaner, safer, and more productive.
With luck, the cultural influence of New York will impact cities like Toronto (where ignoramuses claim all we need is more space for drivers) and other places where more bike lanes are needed.
We succeeded in building as many bike lanes after the bikelash as before it. The number of riders doubled from 2007 to 2013, representing a fourfold increase measured over a decade. We launched Citi Bike in the final months of our time in office. The system is in the process of doubling in size and has surpassed 25 million rides in less than three years, part of a quadrupling in bike ridership citywide since 2000. New York now has more than 1,000 miles of bike lanes, and Bicycling magazine named us the nation’s best biking city for the first time ever.
None of the bike-lane opponents’ predictions has come to pass. City streets have never been safer, more economically thriving, or offered more transportation options than they do today. My successor as Transportation commissioner is greatly expanding the network of bike paths and doubling the size of the city’s bike-share system.
There is a strong and powerful myth in North America that car drivers spend more and will always require parking. That is a myth. It turns out that nearly every study done on bike lanes as proven that cyclists are the transportation class cities should cater to because drivers don’t need all those useless parking spaces and drivers aren’t richer than others. (They have to waste all their money on gas and repairs anyway.)
A neighborhood survey of 420 people on First and Second avenues in Manhattan’s East Village, home to protected bike lanes, found that aggregate spending by non-drivers accounted for 95 percent of all retail spending in the area. That’s not too surprising in New York, given the great transit infrastructure, but the figures remain impressive. Cyclists spent about $163 per week on average, compared to $143 among drivers.