How Oslo Builds for a Sustainable Transit Future

Oslo: The Journey to Car-free from STREETFILMS on Vimeo.

Oslo’s transition from car-focussed to people focussed transportation is well underway and is causing ripples around the world. Other cities are noting how the scandinavian city works with locals to get them out of their cars and onto the streets. Last year we saw how they started to ban cars downtown and it benefited everyone. Oslo is now full tilt into supporting bicycles by providing infrastructure to encourage cycling in hopes to get people out of cars and fully packed trams. If Oslo can support year-round cycling then there’s no reason other northern cities can’t do the same.

In addition to population pressures, environmental concerns are also driving the city’s newfound commitment to bikes. Norway may be famous for its pristine fjords and forests—it doesn’t take long for Aas and I ride to hit Oslo’s thick pine-tree edge as we ride along the water—but air quality in its cities can be remarkably poor, thanks to winter temperature inversions. According to the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, air pollution causes 185 premature deaths in Oslo alone each year. Transport accounts for more than 60 percent of the city’s greenhouse gas emissions. Replacing more car trips with bikes would help clean that up, and in other cities too. This is why Norway is endeavoring nationally to reduce car use and fossil fuel consumption, with huge incentives for electric vehicles and a nearly $1 billion investment in bike highways around the country.

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Cyclists Obey the Law More Than Drivers

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Cyclists are law disobeying maniacs! At least that’s a common and all too nasty rumour in North American cities. It turns out that car drivers are the maniacs according to a study fresh out of Florida. The study, the largest of it’s kind, put sensors on cyclists which monitored their behaviour and that of cars near them. The drivers didn’t respect the space around cyclists while the cyclists obeyed the law nearly 90% of the time. What’s more, the study points out, is that the consequences of a driver disobeying traffic laws is far more dangerous than a cyclist.

Good on cyclists for being respectful road users and doing what they can to be safe!

If you drive a car please pay attention to what you’re doing and obey the rules of the road.

In the end, the results indicated that cyclists were compliant with the law 88 percent of the time during the day and 87 percent of the time after dark. The same study determined that drivers who interacted with the study subjects complied with the law 85 percent of the time. In other words, drivers were slightly naughtier than the cyclists—even without measuring speeding or distracted driving.

There was only one crash during the study period, and that too was caused by a negligent driver. In that case, a motorist rear-ended a cyclist as she waited to make a left turn. In the published study, researchers noted, “The driver was impatient and tried to pass at a relatively high speed since the oncoming traffic was about to stop for the bicyclist to turn.”

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Blossoming Bikelanes in Berlin

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Berlin continues to impress environmentalists around the globe with the city’s efforts to adjust to the reality of the 21st century. Last year Berlin got attention for being a “sponge city” and this year will see the start of a bike lane network that rivals other cities. With car traffic snarling nearly every city on the planet most are turning to bike lanes to alleviate some of the pressure on roads, and Berlin is no exception.

By 2025, the city will also create 100,000 new bike parking spots, some of them in three multi-floor parking garages located at key commuter hubs. Meanwhile, the city’s existing bike-lane network—already extensive, but not always well segregated from car traffic—will be more rigorously protected by bollards. This more modest network of roadside lanes (as opposed to long-discussed specially constructed superhighways) will also be expanded to cover one-third of all city streets, a considerable expansion on its current total of 18 percent. Viewed from cities where it’s a struggle to introduce even basic bike infrastructure, Berlin’s plans seem inspiring, even utopian.

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Bike Share Parking More Efficient Than Car Parking

Bike share programs have taken the world by storm, more cities than ever before are using bike sharing systems as part of their transit solutions. Bike sharing allows for a mixture of bicycle rides mixed with mass transit. The popularity of bike sharing amongst commuters is also on the rise, to capture how popular the system is one enterprising individual set up a camera right beside a bike sharing station in New York. Notice how many people are utilizing the bike share parking versus the cars that stay stationary.

Luke Ohlson recently recorded the mad rush in time lapse at 5 p.m. on a weekday to make a point about transit in New York. “Parking takes up 150,000 acres of New York City street space, yet a majority of New Yorkers do not drive or use cars,” says Ohlson, a senior organizer at Transportation Alternatives, an activist group that promotes biking, walking, and public transit. “If we use some of the public space that is currently allocated to parking differently, the whole neighborhood can benefit.”

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Bike Lanes Save Lives of Non-Cyclists

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Cities can improve the health and well being of everyone by simply adding bike lanes. That’s right, drivers not only benefit from faster traffic flow they also benefit from increased health when cities install bike lanes. As Bloomberg reports, cities around the world are catching on and adding bike lanes to benefit all citizens.

There’s math to show how cost-effective the strategy could be for public health. When New York spent about $8 million in 2015 on bike lane expansion, the cost per additional “quality-adjusted life year,” or QALY, was about $1,300, according to the Mailman paper.
A QALY, pronounced “qually,” is a standard measure of cost-benefit analysis. It takes into account the number of people who benefit from an intervention, how many years of extra life they can expect to get, and how healthy they will be during the extra years.
As it turns out, when you apply this to bike lanes, it makes them more economical per added QALY than, say, kidney dialysis, which costs over $100,000 per QALY—although not quite as cost-effective as standard vaccines, which cost in the low hundreds of dollars per QALY, Mohit said.

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