Wednesday, May 27, 2009
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
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
Monday, May 18, 2009
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.
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
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 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.
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
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.
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
Saturday, May 2, 2009
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)
Texas Transportation Institute (TTI)
Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), Vermont Division
Cindy L. Engelhart
Bicycle Pedestrian Transportation Engineer
Northern Virginia District
Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT)
David R. Henderson
Miami-Dade County (Florida) Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO)
Association of Pedestrian & Bicycle Professionals (APBP)
James D. Mackay
City of Denver (Colorado)
Priscilla A. Tobias
State Safety Engineer
Illinois Department of Transportation
Diane E. Wigle
Safety Countermeasures Division
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)
Charlie V. Zegeer
The University of North Carolina (UNC) Highway Safety Research Center