TagDutch

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

Dutch biking is better than all other kinds

Yonah Freemark, famous person behind The Transport Politic and now a semi-famous person at Metropolitan Planning Council (shut down the Illiana, Yonah!), needed a ride from the Damen Blue Line station for a special Vancetour of the Bloomingdale Trail. The Dutch way of biking is extremely social, both because of the way bicycles are built and the way the infrastructure is built. That style is rare in America, and even downright anti-social and hostile in many places. For starters, there’s not enough room to ride side-by-side (in Chicago it’s illegal outside of too-narrow bike lanes).

The WorkCycles Fr8, my main bicycle, is built like a tank. Some may call it the Mercedes G-Class SUV of bicycles. I called it a Cadillac to some guy outside City Hall – referring to how comfortably it rides – and he said “They suck, it’s a Mercedes.” (He was German and I don’t think either of us knew any Dutch car manufacturers.)

Thank you, Ryan Lakes, for the photos.

ThinkBike tidbits

The entirety of bicycling in the Netherlands, as learned from the ThinkBike workshop, in bullet form.

HH is Hans Heinsbroek, Consul General, Chicago, Illinois

HV is Hans Voerknecht, policy expert at Fietsberaad, Dutch bike research center

  • 13,000 km of dedicated paths constructed with red-brown asphalt (dyed, not painted) -HH
  • 10x more distance in bike paths than highways -HH
  • 80% of Dutch people ride a bike more than one time per week -HV
  • In NL, there are 18.5 million bikes for 16.5 million people. -HV
  • Girls 12-16 cycle 7km daily. -HV
  • 40% of Nederlandse Spoorwegen (NS) customers arrive by bike (NS is national railway operator, used for cross-country and rush hour transit). -HV
  • 80% of Dutch ride bike more than once per week -HV
  • 18.5 million bikes for 16.5 million residents -HV
  • We focus on bike safety education for young people because, at least until they turn 18, it is and will be their primary mode of transportation -HV

ThinkBike – Arjen Jaarsma’s comments

Arjen Jaarsma is a consultant in sustainable mobility with Balancia in Amsterdam.

He talked little about bicycling. This is all he said about it before he moved on to talk about making cities sustainable:

  • Electric bicycles go up to 25km/h
  • “You’ll notice that helmets are not worn – cycling is normal and safe”
  • In the Netherlands, for vehicles that travel 25-40km/h, riders must wear helmets

We’re in the age of sustainability – the current generation of young people is more likely to read their news online, travel by train instead of plane.

Arjen has an interest in the low carbon city with net zero emissions (emissions are compensated within the city’s own boundaries).

He believes that living with no collisions [sometimes called “vision zero”] and without traffic congestion is possible.

Amsterdam has many strategies in play that will help it become a low carbon city: use of solar power, bicycling, and rising popularity of electric vehicles.

Also of note is Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco City and Masdar City.

Arjen forecasts: In 2090, 90% of people will live in low-carbon city.


Masdar City, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Photo by 350.org climate campaign.

Passenger is the new cargo

Did you know that people carry their kids, friends, spouses, and parents on bikes?

I carried my first passenger in April 2010 on my trip to Portland. I test rode a Yuba Mundo from Joe Bike in the SE Hawthorne neighborhood. But this photo shows a friend carrying ME on the bike.

I really want to carry someone. I told my sister that when I get a new cargo bike this year (either the Yuba Mundo or the WorkCycles Fr8) I will pick her up from her apartment and take her to school. It will be the most joyous occasion of 2010. Mikael at Copenhagenize talks about throwing his son’s bike on the front rack of his Velorbis when he goes to pick him up, so his son can ride home on his own.

This photo is so much fun, I printed it out and posted it on my refrigerator.

Passengers: the ultimate bike accessory. Want to see more photos? Marc at Amsterdamize has 260+ photos and videos in his Side Saddle set. Check the blog post about riding side saddle to get some tips.

Tucson has every kind of bikeway

A bicyclist rides north on the “Highland Avenue” separated bike path on the University of Arizona campus in Tucson, Arizona.

(This is the second post about Tucson, and the fifth about my December 2009 trip to Arizona.)

I had heard that Tucson was a bicycle friendly town. I didn’t know just how friendly until my dad and I rode our bikes around town and  happened onto one of the many bike-only separated paths. You can see the campus bike map (PDF).

There are probably 10 different names for this kind of path. It’s not a separated path because there’s no adjacent roadway accessible to automobiles. You could call it a multi-use trail, but it’s not really a trail. The path is part of the city’s street grid; some streets “dead end” into the entrance so bicyclists don’t have to turn onto another street to go straight, they simply enter this bicycle only path. In some places, the path is grade separated and travels under a shared street.

I like this kind of bikeway a lot. I know they are standard fare in the Netherlands, and it’s nice to know they are standard fare somewhere in North America.

See the full photoset of bikeways in Tucson.

Riding under Speedway Boulevard on the “Warren Avenue” bike path.

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.

Fietsen in Nederland (bicycling in the Netherlands)

If you and I have chatted about bicycling in the past six months, I’ve probably mentioned the Dutch in our conversation.

Why?

I want a Dutch bicycle. Explaining this one will take another blog post – compiling all my reasons takes a long time. But in addition to cool bikes, here’re a couple other things they do:

  • They (the Dutch) make bicycling better (safer and easier). More people ride their bikes than drive cars for a majority of trips. They have the lowest cycling injury and fatality rate.
  • They build bicycling infrastructure beyond what I can imagine. Bike highways connect small towns and big cities. 4,000 space parking garages.

I started reading a blog called “A view from the cycle path” written by Briton David Hembrow living in The Netherlands. He writes about bicycling history in the country, posts ridership statistics, discusses his commute, and sends readers to more information about it all.

I also read Marc van Woudenberg’s blog, Amsterdamize. I found it either via Flickr, or via web search, when I looked for other WorkCycles Fr8 owners and users. I want the Fr8 bike (pictured below). I can get one from the local WorkCycles (build their own bikes and sell other manufacturers’) dealer, Dutch Bike Chicago.

Remind me to post my paper and presentation about the past, present and future of bicycle planning in The Netherlands I will submit for my Sustainable Development Techniques class at UIC.

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