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.

Pedestrians In Paris To Get 50% Of Street Space

Paris has had decades of extremely bad traffic and there’s no obvious solution: other than get rid the traffic. Infrastructure that encourages car use makes traffic worse while also debilitating cities as a whole. So Paris is doing what most places are afraid to try: giving the streets back to people.

“Parisians are finding out that what were once admirable squares of theirs are now just intersections,” says Jean Macheras, the Paris delegate of the French Transportation Users Assocation.

The shift started with the Place de la République—until 2013, it was also a busy road, but now it’s a pedestrian plaza planted with trees, lined with benches, and filled with people. The transformation was so popular that the city decided to keep going.

Each of the new designs give pedestrians at least 50% of the space in the square, taking away lanes of traffic even though each of the streets is a major route in the city. At the Place de la Bastille, the square will reconnect with a curb on one side, creating a new green space for people to sit. At the Place de la Madeleine, trees will mark off more pedestrian space and a new weekly market will be added.

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Change The City, Not Your Fashion

vision zero

Toronto runs ad campaigns that blame victims for being hit by car drivers, the campaign is so bizarre because it says it comes to pedestrian fashion choice. You’d think the city would learn that blaming victims because of what they wear is a bad idea (see Slut Walk for a previous example of this). To be clear, drivers are at fault in the vast majority of collisions.

Blaming the victims never works because they aren’t the people causing problems. So what Toronto should do is change the actual layout of the city. The Vision Zero Initiative is all about ways cities can modify policy and infrastructure to ensure that pedestrian deaths equal zero every year. And it works. The graph above is from Stockholm’s success and now other cities are using Vision Zero to reduce the number of people needlessly murdered by car drivers.

[S]everal studies have proven that so-called high-visibility clothing does not, in fact, help drivers pay attention to pedestrians and cyclists. A 2014 study by the University of Bath tested the impact on a wide range of cyclist outfits—including one that said POLICE—on driver behavior for 5,690 passing vehicles.


In fact, the only thing that is proven to make pedestrians safer is better street design.

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20-mph Speed Limit Coming To Edinburgh

Drivers often argue for higher speed limits thinking that it will allow them to get around faster. Unfortunately that logic usually isn’t true and when speed limits are increased then more people die. High speed limits are even more dangerous in urban settings since collisions in cities involve drivers hitting cyclists and pedestrians.

It’s often argued that speed limits should be as low as possible in urban centres since it has little impact on traffic and a huge influence on collisions with pedestrians. The city of Edinburgh has made the smart decision to lower their speed limit in order to protect road users from drives.

The speed limit change is an explicit move to encourage walking and biking, especially in the city center. “Edinburgh’s move also syncs with the Scottish government’s 2010 Cycling Action Plan, which aimed for 10 percent of all journeys to be taken by bike by 2020. When the plan was updated in 2013, urban areas were encouraged to introduce more 20 mph streets.”

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The Century of the Car Was a Mistake, Let’s Move on

North America was built around the car instead of people and that was mistake that needs to be acknowledged. In some places it is. The insane support the automobile gets in urban centres is starting to change, we’re seeing more bike lanes and places for people to walk. In order to make changse last and make postive movement forward the first thing we must do is acknowledge the mistakes of the past.

Good public transport coupled with fast, safe, pleasant walking and bicycling can easily meet the need for movement within our cities. It is true that buses and streetcars do intrude on the main streets to an appreciable degree, but many streets will be entirely free of this annoyance. In the ideal case, public transport systems are constructed underground. (Ideally, transport systems should never be elevated, because of the ugliness, intrusion and noise that that causes.) This will not be practical in many existing cities because of the cost, and some burden of street traffic will have to be endured.

A more serious objection to the car-free city is the movement of freight. When building a city, it is a simple matter to arrange delivery of shipping containers to the places they are needed without impinging on streets. In existing cities, freight delivery systems will have to be arranged on a case-by-case basis. Amsterdam could, with little difficulty, deliver freight using its canal network. Cities that adopt streetcars for passenger service can use the same infrastructure to deliver freight at night.

Removing vehicles from our streets would make urban life cheaper, safer, quieter and more pleasant. Repurposed parking spaces and, in some cases, travel lanes would provide ample land for walking and cycling, plus any essential street-running public services, such as light rail, trash collection and emergency services. The surplus land can be devoted to public purposes — imagine Manhattan with sidewalks 15 feet wider and room for sidewalk cafes.

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