Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Some additonal photos

The beautiful main train station in Bristol, England which is about 1 1/2 hours west of London.

Colored bike lanes in Bristol.

The ubiquitous bike box that we saw in use in every country.

Pedestrian wayfinding signs in London.

A pedestrian crossing in London (the yellow globes on top of the post flash)

Some Final Thoughts

As I think back over the two weeks of the scan tour, there are a few things that stand out. In all the countries we visited, bicycling and walking are considered to be components of larger initiatives such as sustainability, traffic safety, addressing climate change and creating a high quality of life for citizens and visitors. In general, there was a mindset that when traffic congestion was getting to be too great, the solution was not to add more capacity for motor vehicles, but to seek solutions to reduce the traffic. These solutions included increased costs for parking in city centers, bolstering public transportation and doing more to make bicycling and walking safe, comfortable and efficient ways to move around. We heard of the U.K. road user hierarchy that puts the various modes in this order: pedestrians, bicyclists, public transit, service vehicles, private vehicles. This kind of model leads to very livable downtowns based on people, not cars.

At our final team meeting, we sought to gain consensus on our "top ten" list to bring back to the U.S. for implementation. As we had hoped, we ended up with a mix of policy, education and infrastructure ideas that all fit under the traditional 4 E's of Education, Encouragement, Enforcement and Engineering.

It is clear that it takes both political will and targeted investment to raise bicycling, walking and public transit to the levels we observed during our trip. Clearly, we are at a time where many external factors and challenges point to bicycling and walking as key components to solve some of our pressing issues like climate change, energy independence, obesity epidemic and the decreased role of public life in our communities. Hopefully, with the inspiration of what we observed over the two weeks and some direction from a new administration in Washington, we are poised in the U.S. to begin a transportation revolution that will bring economic development and a more people-centered transport system to our citizens.

I look forward to working on achieving this over the coming years.

Change is a process, not an event.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

London and Bristol

We met with officials from the national Department of Transport and then from the City of London. London is very busy with 7 million residents and another 2 million that commute in. They have established congestion pricing so that it costs more to enter the city during peak periods. This is an attempt to encourage the use of public transportation, biking and walking. The traffic here is more like an American city and biking is a small but growing percentage of the mode share. They have some innovative programs around teaching kids including one where professional actors come to a school, work with kids on traffic issues and then put on a play about safety issues. This has been well received and thought to be effective.

They have a great data collection and reporting system and are very careful to evaluate the effectiveness of projects as well as any educational campaigns. Their main bike facility is on-road bike lanes.

Bristol is about an hour and a half out of London by train and is a city of 400,000. Bristol has recently been selected as a cycling city in the U.K., which is a program like our non-motorized pilot program. The premise is whether they can double the amount of biking by investing heavily in promotion, education and infrastructure that supports it. They are just at the beginning of this program which will run through 2011. They are working on critical links in their biking network but all of the city staff and elected officials seem very supportive of the idea. In a brief chat with a City councilor, she said that the program fit well with several initiatives they already had going, like things to address congestion, climate change, better health for citizens and maintaining a high quality of life for citizens. This is a theme we have heard throughout our trip. Bicycling and walking and public transit are key components of efforts to address many of the worlds largest social problems. It's not just about biking and walking, but about establishing a more sustainable lifestyle that will benefit all.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Winterthur, Switzerland

Due to our busy schedule, I've gotten a little behind on doing these. We travelled by train from Bern to Winterthur. The Swiss trains and transit are amazing. You can literally set your watch by the trains. If the schedule says they will leave at 7:52, they mean it!! The train is comfortable, smooth and fast. Winterthur is a former industrial city with a beautiful historic city center like many of the places we have been to. They are emphasizing walking, bicycling and public transit over cars to solve their traffic congestion problems. There is great public space and it is very well used.

The City just culminated a year long public involvement process with a successful vote (70% approved it) on a master plan and the funding to implement it to construct a project that will put a roadway under ground, build a pedestrian and bike plaza between the city center and a former industrial area. They anticipate that private developers will then be attracted to fill in some of the vacant lots with new business. This model has already worked in the City and they now have many good businesses providing jobs and money to the local economy. Some of the attractiveness is the high quality of life offered in the city center.
The two photos are of a public market on one of the car free streets in the city center and a plaque on a new environmentally sustainable building that includes a readout of how much energy the building is producing with solar cells on the roof.

Monday, May 18, 2009

A shared space street in Bern, allowing only bikes, pedestrians and transit.

A roundabout in Bern.
A view of the Alps from a bridge crossing in Bern.

Ernie Blias, Vermont FHWA administrator near an old section of the Berlin Wall in Potsdam.

Bicycle route signing in Potsdam.

Photos from Germany

Above is a traffic calmed street in Potsdam. The Brandenburg Gate in Berlin

The ubiquitous pedstrian refuge in Berlin. Colored bike lanes through an intersection.

The cathedral in Berlin.

Bern, Switzerland

Bern is the capital of Switzerland with about 130,000 citizens in the main center of the city. It is truly beautiful with views of the Alps in the distance as you cross one of the many bridges in the city. Like many of the places we have visited, they have great public transit with trams and busses going all over and coming every few minutes. Unlike some of the other places we have visited, there are some hills here and the surrounding countryside looks much like Vermont. Their government structure is very much like ours with a Federal Transport department, then the canton (state) level and then the local level.

Bicycling, walking and public transit are key components of their transportation investments and strategies. The head of their federal Human Powered Mobility section stated that when the roads were getting congested, the solution was not to add more capacity, but to increase the options that people had to get around, including biking, walking and transit. This is something that the public demanded and the government had policies and funding to support it.

We have seen many things here that we have seen in other places, especially many bike lanes, traffic calmed streets, roundabouts and streets in the historic center of the city that are for pedestrians, bikes and transit only. They have the main train station right in the center of the city in the midst of a historic square surrounded by beautiful buildings. There used to be a major through street running right through the center of the square, leaving little room for pedestrians or bikes. They initiated a project to build a roof/shelter over the square so that transit users could be protected from the elements. During the one year that this was under construction, traffic was banned from the square and people liked it so much, that they suggested it be a permanent change. The square is now all for people and sees 150,000 pedestrians and 4000 bikes a day with about 18,000 cars a day.

We think we have problems with historic structures. The whole old part of Bern is a World Heritage Site and they have to get projects approved by a commission that oversees these. However, they were able to get the roof project approved and everyone seems very happy with it.

Here is the quote of the day:

When reviewing a new bike/ped bridge being built over a trunk road that is being built to connect into the city, the bike/ped planner for the state said that when people asked, "Is it worth the money to build this?", his response was that was the wrong question. Cars and their infrastructure were pushing bikes off the road so they appropriately are being asked to pay the cost for infrastructure to maintain bike and ped mobility and safety.

These are two bicycle and pedestrian bridges in Copehagen. They were quite costly but made critical links in their non-motorized network.

More photos

One of the scan co-chairs discussing a treatment with one of our hosts in Copenhagen.

Potsdam, Germany - Part 2

One of the things that the officials in Potsdam emphasized was the importance of educating the public about traffic and city planning concepts. When they make a road improvement, they provide public information about why the changes were made.

A key component of their program is a Traffic Accident Commission that includes representatives from Traffic Design, the police and those responsible for construction and maintenance. They analyze high traffic locations or what they call "black spots" and review the crash site in the field for deficiencies. As with road safety audit reviews, they look for short, medium and long-term solutions. Once the solutions have been implemented, they continue to monitor the site to ensure that the problem has been fixed. This may be for a year or more after the improvements are made.

Sunday, May 17, 2009


Potsdam, Germany - Part 1

Our group visited Potsdam on Friday, 5/15/09. Potsdam is a city in the state of Berlin and has around 150,000 people. They monitor travel behavior regularly and have around 20% of trips taken by bike, 23% by walking, 20% by transit and 37% by car. Much better rates than the U.S., but they still aspire to increase them. They estimate around 80,000 bike trips every day.

One of their measures to make it easier to walk and bike is to install wayfinding signs for both bicyclists and pedestrians. As with some of the other communities, they have the planning concept that new residential areas should be within biking distance of the town center.

A university professor gave us a presentation about the use of road safety audits, which he recommended for all new roads and reconstructed roads. These are done by an independent team at different stages of project development to identify areas to be modified to improve safety.

His second topic was on the concept of shared space, which is an idea where all road users share the same area, without many signs or pavement markings. He made the point that this concept only works in certain situations, such as low speeds, relatively equal volumes between modes and places where there is good visibility between the different users.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Berlin, Germany

Our visit to Berlin was on Thursday, 5-14-09

Berlin is quite a large city with about 3.8 million people. It is quite a mix of old architecture, new buildings and the former communist state controlled buildings, which are quite unattractive. As with some other places we have visited, there is a combined view of bicycling, walking and public transit as "green" ways to move around the city. There is a very robust public transit system here with subways and on-street trams or what we would call light rail. They make the system very easy to use and encourage the combination of bicycling and public transit by allowing bikes on all trains with no exceptions and providing bike parking at major transit stops.

Although they are providing some bike facilities, their system is still in development. They are focusing on on-street bike lanes because the city government is quite poor based on some lingering effects of the reunification of east and west Germany. They also believe that bike lanes put bicyclists in a place on the road where they are more likely to be seen by motorists and therefore more safe. It is for this same reason that contra-flow bike lanes (2 way bike facilities on one way streets) are well excepted here. It is felt that it puts bicyclists directly in motorists line of sight.

The City has bike parking as a requirement of all new development with standards for the number of spaces and their placement.

One tool they provide to encourage cycling is a web based route planner for cyclists where they can choose what type of road they want to ride on - low volume, scenic, most direct, etc. and it will help them choose the best fit between A and B.

Like some other European cities, they have a city bike program with about 1500 bikes located around the city. To take one, you call a number that is on the bike, give the number of the bike and they provide a code to unlock it. You must register ahead and then it costs 8 cents a minute or you can pay a flat rate for a whole year. They are combining this program with transit passes to further encourage the combination of these two modes.

For pedestrians, they have a program around marking crosswalks. There is some debate about the value of adding crosswalk markings. They usually provide a median refuge and narrow the street in advance of the crossing whether or not the mark it and feel these measures add to the safety.

One innovative school based initiative they have done is to get student input on a map of the area around a school. Kids tell them where it is dangerous to walk, where they like to walk and where certain attractions like ice cream shops, are located. They plan to expand this program to other schools in the future.

Nakskov, Denmark

Our trip on Wednesday, 5/13 was to the small town of Nakskov. This small coastal community used to have a large shipyard but has now turned to producing wind turbines. As we came in on our bus, there were dozens of the long sweeping turbine blades on racks on the ground, ready to be shipped. Denmark is really taking green energy seriously and because of the flat landscape and abundance of wind, there are turbines all over. This community is also trying to do things to accomodate bicyclists, liking putting in contra flow bike lanes on one way streets. They have many small streets that are more like alleys that lead from the waterfront to the town center. We also visited a very small coastal community that was devasted by a flood fairly recently. Rather than giving up, they are trying to rebuild by an installing an innovative system of dikes, algae ponds and wind energy. They then hope to promote eco-tourism, including attracting bicyclists to the area. Off to Germany the next day.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009


Copenhagen has a population of about 500,000.

Today's visit was with officials from the City of Copenhagen which has a goal of being the best bicycling city in the world and they are well on their way there. All of the City's efforts are under two overall guiding visions. One is that it become an Eco-Metropolis with many green initiatives that address climate change and other issues. The second is to be a metropolis for people. By this, they mean that people living and working here should have an exceptional quality of life and that there be a robust public life. 59% of the trips in the city are by bicycling and walking and only 21% by single occupant vehicle. This is evident when you observe the morning rush hour and there easily as many bikes as cars. Long queues of bikes line up at traffic signals next to cars. There are traffic signals specifically for bikes and at some intersections, cyclists are given a few seconds head start over the cars. One reason that non-motorized trips are so prevalent is that they have made parking in the city very expensive. The closer you are to the city center, the more you have to pay.

They survey cyclists every 2 years to find out if they feel safe or not and base some planning/design on the responses. In addition to normal evaluations of cycling, they have calculated the savings in health care costs, reduced number of sick days and how many extra years you will live if you ride a bike.

One innovative thing they have done is called the "green wave" where the traffic signals are time for a bicyclist going about 12 mph. If you stay at that speed, you will catch all green lights going into the city in the morning rush hour. These signals also work well for busses which travel the same speed given stops and starts.

Although helmet use among all bicyclists is much lower here than in the U.S., they are recognizing that many injuries would be less severe with helmets and have initiated campaigns to increase helmet use. It is on the rise and is at about 20%.

They are just starting a more formalized safe routes to school program, but there has been a national program that families can sign up for called the Children's Traffic Club where families receive age-appropriate information every 6 months. They also have a program where police officers go to 5th grades and do some education around bicycling, give students a test and then check over their bikes. Any mechanical problems are noted and a message given to parents. The city just committed $15Million over 3 years for education and infrastructure efforts at schools.

They have many innovative facilities for bikes and try to accomodate them along major routes with cycle tracks, which are like a wide bike lane, but raised up about 3 or 4 inches from the adjacent road with a curb. Then there is another 3 inch rise to the sidewalk. Where there are crossings with significant conflicts, they will mark the road with blue and a bicycle symbol to reinforce the fact that bikes will be traveliing in that area. We visited one road that had been narrowed down to include on-street parkin and a narrow painted median to shorten the crossing distance for pedestrians.

Although pedestrians fare pretty well, they are starting a new effort to increase pedestrian traffic and to focus on their needs. Tomorrow, we visit a smaller municipality in Denmark and then travel to Berlin, Germany for another country's perspective.

I still have not figured out my photo problem, but hope to soon.

A couple more thoughts about Sweden

A couple of things I didn't mention about Sweden. When they get snow, the priority of maintenance is given to the bike ways and transit routes. Regular car routes are last. A general observation about both Sweden and Denmark is the size of the cars-SMALL. Not just the micro cars, but basically the majority of cars are smaller versions of what you see in the U.S. And while many of the companies are ones you don't see in the US, like Citroen or Fiat, there are Toyotas that we don't have - they have one that is smaller than the Yaris, and I saw some Fords that were especially small. What does this have to do with accommodating bikes and peds? Well, the smaller cars mean parking lanes and travel lanes can be smaller, allowing more street space for the other modes. Why car manufacturers can't offer these in the U.S., I don't know. I think the whole time we have been here, I have only seen one full size pick up truck and one SUV. More on our visit to Copenhagen, where 60% of the trips are made by bicycling and walking, tomorrow. We visit a smaller town in Denmark tomorrow, then off to Germany.


Monday was our first official day and was spent in Malmo and Lund, Sweden. These two cities have a friendly competition to see which one is the most bicycle friendly. They are both doing many things to make bicycling a top transportation priority. Malmo has been working on an extensive network of bike paths adjacent to streets. Where paths and pedestrian crossings meet major streets, they almost always put a speed hump in advance of the crossing since their research has shown that slowing cars is critical to making the crossings safe. This is done at the many roundabouts as well. They have instituted a campaign called "No ridiculuous car trips" that has reduced vehicle trips by something like 20%. Where major bike paths have to cross major streets, they have built a couple of bike underpasses or tunnels, but with much care going into the design to make sure they have good sight lines, plenty of width and are not intimidating to use. They have automatic bike counters on a couple of major paths and they show a real time digital display of how many cyclists have passed. One path sees 10,000 cyclists a day!! They have a Friendly Ways to School program that is much like our Safe Routes to School effort and they work on educating parents with a focus on kids ages 6-8. The City of Malmo just purchased a fleet of around 40 bikes for their employees to use to go to other city offices during the work day so that they aren't forced to drive.
Lund is a big university town with about 30,000 students. They just reconstructed a major shopping street to a "shared speed" street with no curbing between sidewalk and the area where cars and bikes share a very narrow space. The concept is that all users essentially are forced to travel no faster than a slow bike and it works well. The majority of traffic was bicyclists and pedestrians. Lund has a major transit center where city busses and trains to both Malmo and Stockholm and also to Copenhagen depart. This transit center has bicycle parking for 3,300 bicycles, including a building with two floors of roll in bike spaces where you can also get air for your tires and bike maps and other information. In both cities, there is a real emphasis of integrating bicycle and pedestrian needs with City planning and all levels of traffic safety work. For example, in Lund, development is focused within a 4km radius of the city center, which they consider bicycling distance. If you can't develop there, then the next priority is to develop along routes that have good public transit. This ensures that most development will not generate as much new car traffic. Our meeting and site visits today are in Copenhagen.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

First impressions

Wow!! I have only been here a few hours and taken one short self-guided walk and seen many impressive things. Tons of bikes and a beautiful pedestrian street along a canel in Copenhagen. Overflowing bike parking at subway station, postal worker using a bike to deliver mail and just everyday folks using bikes to get around. I'm having some technical difficulties with photos but I will get that worked out.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Scan Tour members

The following are the other representatives I will be joining on this scan tour:

Edward L. Fischer (AASHTO Co-Chair)

State Traffic Engineer

State Roadway Engineer

Oregon Department of Transportation

Gabe K. Rousseau (FHWA Co-Chair)

U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) and Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) Bicycle and Pedestrian Program Manager

Shawn M. Turner (Report Facilitator)

Research Engineer

Texas Transportation Institute (TTI)

Ernie Blais

Division Administrator

Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), Vermont Division

Cindy L. Engelhart

Bicycle Pedestrian Transportation Engineer

Northern Virginia District

Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT)

David R. Henderson

Bicycle/Pedestrian Coordinator

Miami-Dade County (Florida) Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO)

Kit Keller

Executive Director

Association of Pedestrian & Bicycle Professionals (APBP)

James D. Mackay

Project Engineer

City of Denver (Colorado)

Priscilla A. Tobias

State Safety Engineer

Illinois Department of Transportation

Diane E. Wigle

Division Chief

Safety Countermeasures Division

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)

Charlie V. Zegeer

Associate Director

The University of North Carolina (UNC) Highway Safety Research Center

Friday, May 1, 2009

Innovations in the U.S.

I am hoping that we see some innovative bike treatments like this one that I saw in Boulder, Colorado.

The trip

This international scan tour, as they are known, is sponsored by AASHTO (the American Association of Highway and Transportation Officials), FHWA (Federal Highway Administration) and NCHRP (the National Cooperative Highway Research Program). We will be visiting Denmark, Sweden, Switzerland, Germany and the U.K. These countries were selected based on their exemplary bicycle and pedestrian safety records and their notoriety as having progressive policies and infrastructure for pedestrians and bicyclists. The tour members represent state DOTs, FHWA, AASHTO, city/regional government and the professional association for those involved in improving conditions for bicyclists and pedestrians - APBP (Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals).