Transportation infrastructure is for more than transportation’s sake

Transportation infrastructure should be designed for more than carrying people through places. It also needs to be about carrying people to places, because transportation is for moving people as much for commerce as it is for being social.

The Dutch consider “social safety” when designing and redesigning streets (they’re constantly upgrading streets, roads, and entire neighborhoods to standards that seem to be frequently updated).

Mark Waagenbuur posted a new video this week showing a new tunnel under Amsterdam Centraal, the main train station in Amsterdam, and he highlighted several of its social safety features.

The screen grab I embedded above – and posted on Twitter where it got a lot of shares and likes – shows an aspect that’s common across all cycling facilities in built-up areas: it’s wide enough to ride side by side with your friend, mother, or lover, with still enough room on your left for people to pass you in the same lane.

Another aspect of this tunnel is that it has sound-absorbing panels. Often tunnels have a disturbing echo that inhibit comfortable communication – my new home office has an echo and it makes it hard to have conversations on the phone here because I hear an annoying feedback. The communication is important to be able to hear people cycling with you, but also to hear what other people are doing.

The tunnel has a final feature that supports social safety: clear, wide, and open sight lines. Not just from end to end, but also to the sides. It’s hard to hide around the corner because the breadth of vision is so wide that you would see someone lurking in the corner.

For Chicagoans who use one of the many old tunnels under Lake Shore Drive connecting the “mainland” to the nation’s most popular trail along Lake Michigan, the feeling of claustrophobia and invisibility of what’s around the bend is too common. New tunnels, which I prefer to bridges because you go downhill first, should be a priority when the State of Illinois rebuilds Lake Shore Drive north of Grand Avenue in the next decade. This is what those tunnels look like; sometimes they have mirrors.

We can sell ads on the Lakefront Trail underpasses, but they're still shitty to walk through

Comparing how bikes and buses interact

A photo from Los Angeles, filling in for a lot of North American cities (less Montréal):

Photo by Metro Los Angeles. 

A photo from Amsterdam, filling in for a lot of European cities:

Photo by Boudewijn Deurvorst. 

Where would you rather bike?

See more photos of bikes and transit in the eponymous Flickr group.

It snowed in Amsterdam

And as we like to say in Chicago, Amsterdammers also said “it was no big deal”.

I love what you see happening in this photo. A person cycling across the intersection is looking back at a white van and a streetcar that seem like they’re going to collide. But no one will hit each other. The Netherlands has the lowest crash rate in the world.

Curb connoisseur

My sometimes traveling companion Brandon makes fun of me thinking I only travel to check out the curbs in every city. It started when we visited Portland together and yes, my camera was often aimed towards the ground. Here is a roundup of what curbs look like in other cities – I could only find these five photos that really focus on the kerb. :)

Starting in Chicago, Illinois

A curb and ADA-accessible ramp in Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago, Illinois. The City of Chicago, as part of a lawsuit, agreed to renovate thousands of curb cuts across town that did not meet the standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1993. This particular location was more involved than others because of the real brick crosswalk. It had to be removed and then replaced after the level of the street was raised.

Moving west to Portland, Oregon

In a long walking tour of Portland, Oregon, with PBOT worker Greg Raisman, we came across my first ever mountable curb. It’s a raised part of the street and motorists in small vehicles will probably avoid driving on it. It was installed because this is part of a truck route and it’s easy for truck drivers to roll on top of it without driving on the sidewalk.

Jumping south to Tucson, Arizona

A typical bumpout or curb extension, as seen in Tucson, Arizona. This design is not unique to Tucson, but I point it out because this one comes with accompanying signage telling people bicycling and driving that they must stop when they see a person trying to cross the street.

Taking the train over to San Francisco, California

An atypical situation in San Francisco, California, (not the tracks, but the way the tracks terminate in a mound of danger) that I hope gets corrected right away. In downtown San Francisco, there are very wide crosswalks made with colored stone that sets it apart from the rest of the roadway. But the sidewalk ramps are still very narrow. Also, granite curbs are more slippery than concrete. This all just seems like a bad situation, but it looks pretty.

Flying the long way to Milan, Italy

I have it on good authority that Julius Caesar was at the curb dedication ceremony here in Milan, Italy, and saw far into the future people chatting about bicycles on the sidewalk.

Crawling a little north to Amsterdam, Netherlands

Curbs in Amsterdam, Netherlands, play a vital role in a calm and managed all-mode transportation system. Here the curb is a ramp up onto the sidewalk and separated bike lane that leads into a neighborhood street. Mounting the curb should signal to the driver that they are entering a different space that has different rules and responsibilities.

Welcome to Amsterdam

The coolest city in Europe. And probably where I spent most of the time bicycling around town. I carried my GPS tracker with me at all times in Europe. I had to edit the routes to exclude my train trip to Utrecht and back. In the end, I biked about 134 kilometers / 83 miles (see my map).

My rental bike on the docklands in the ‘t IJ looking towards Centraal Station. The cruise ship passenger terminal is on the left. The bike is a Gazelle Superieur Special. I paid €5 per day and a €50 deposit. Thanks to Álvaro for the recommendation of Recycled Rentals.

One of the free ferries, this one to IJ-Buurtveer. I took this one instead, to Buiksloterwegveer (Amsterdam Nord).

Amsterdam can be boiled down to a few things: Bikes, beer, and water. This post is heavy on water, and light on bikes. A beautifully yellow tugboat owned by the Port of Amsterdam.

Amsterdam has trains going everywhere, from Centraal Station, every few minutes. 32 trains every hour. An additional 18 trains daily. The Thalys has service to Brussels, Belgium, and Paris, France, nine times per day. I arrived in the station from Wuppertal, Germany (via Venlo and Eindhoven). I left the station to get to Utrecht for a day trip and then I left the station on the DB CityNightLine to Copenhagen (a magical 15-hour journey).

Houseboats in the canals and Amstel river are quite common. A Flickr commenter describes a little more about it (click on the photo to read it).

Not everyone has a purpose-built cargo bike in Amsterdam, but more exist here than anywhere else (except perhaps Copenhagen). Just tote your stuff under your arm, including a sheet of plywood. You might want to try out the WorkCycles Fr8 – a locally designed cargo bike.

And a gratuitous shot of me bicycling towards the docklands. I should have been smiling – as I was having such a wonderful time, but maybe I’m not because it was kind of cold.

View the 60 other photos I’ve uploaded of Amsterdam. If you want to visit, let me help you plan your trip.

The first thing I see in Amsterdam

I got off the final train of a 4 hour trip from Wuppertal, Germany, to Amsterdam Centraal Station via Venlo and Eindhoven and the first thing I see is parking for about 7,000 bicycles. WOW!

7,000 is just the quantity at the front of the station. There’s additional parking in the rear along a major “bike highway” going east-west (on two defunct barges in the river IJ) and underground (guarded) parking as well. In all there “officially” 10,000 parking spaces for bicycles – and it’s not enough. During construction of the new north-south subway, bicycle parking and station access by bike will be reconfigured. Some people say that when the additional bike parking comes online, it will again be insufficient.

Since you read this blog, you know I have a passion for bicycle parking. Just like planning for automobile storage, bicycle storage requires similar attention and infrastructure.

I’ve uploaded more photos of bike parking in Europe (so far just 16 photos), including the fancy underground garage at Amsterdam Zuid Station, with its own escalator! For more sweet bicycle parking in Netherlands, check out the Fietsappel on Daniel Sparing’s blog, Railzone.nl.

Europe trip recap: List of cities I visited

All links lead to a photo or photoset of that city. More links will be added as I upload more photos. Cities are in the order I traveled through Europe, over 18 days.

All blogs about this trip are under the tag, Europe trip.

A bike “jam” – everyone in the photo is performing a “Copenhagen left” or box turn.

The Schwebebahn is the world’s oldest operating monorail that operates daily in the North Rhine-Westphalia city of Wuppertal, Germany.

Wildly different priorities

The people of the Netherlands show how they place priority on a multitude of transportation modes on every block.

Take for example this Hard Rock Cafe in Amsterdam, a restaurant known around the world – there’s always one in each country’s largest cities.

The only way to arrive is by foot or by bicycle! There’s no car drop off or parking lot. The rear of the restaurant has patio seating along the canal so it might even be possible to dock your boat here!

What is your goal for your city?

I have two favorite photo categories from Amsterdamize’s photostream*: the first is people riding side saddle as passengers on someone else’s bike and “borrowing” someone else’s energy. It’s borrowing because they’ll eventually return the favor, to the original lender, or to a friend of their own.

The second, and the one that is more important, is photos of older people riding bikes.

These photos, and the older folks’ running errands on their bikes, help make cycling look like the most normal and sensible thing that anyone could be doing right now. And that’s what my goal is for my city.

*Amsterdamize is Marc van Woudenberg, an Amsterdammer (you know, from The Netherlands?).

Typical morning commute in Amsterdam

William Hsu, a staffer at the San Francisco bike shop, My Dutch Bike, took this video in Amsterdam, Netherlands, to show how the Dutch flow through intersections – read William’s words. Taken at the corner of Marnixstraat and Elandsgracht (map).

Marc at Amsterdamized has the full story.

© 2015 Steven Can Plan

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