Join 3,512 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Cities for People
June 27, 2011 7:38 AM   Subscribe

Danish architect Jan Gehl on making cities safe for people, the art and science of designing good cities for walking, and how to plan good cities for bicycling.
posted by parudox (39 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite

 
An interesting insight into city planning; I've often wondered about how these processes get decided. Many of the measures illustrated in the third article have already been implemented in my city; makes getting around a great deal easier.

Had a brief laugh from the first article, though:

The principle of having bicyclists bike outside a lane of parked cars does not solve many safety and security problems. It does help to protect the parked cars, however!

It is good to know my sacrifice will not be in vain.
posted by malusmoriendumest at 7:42 AM on June 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Considering that it is apparently "ride your bike at street-speeds on the sidewalk except without the lighting reflexes and finesse of delivery guys" season in my neighborhood, I can add "my personal safety as a guy walking on the fucking sidewalk" as yet another reason to look forward to a bike-friendly Brooklyn.

One day I will yawn and stretch and someone is getting an inadvertant faceful of fist I swear to god.
posted by griphus at 7:44 AM on June 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Here's a two-minute video clip (from a 2006 event) of Jan Gehl speaking about Copenhagen's transformation into a bike-friendly city, ending with a funny anecdote.
posted by mark7570 at 7:51 AM on June 27, 2011


It is too cold and icy for bicycles in some areas,

I ride my bicycle to and from my office year round. "Too cold and icy" are not words we use (in any language) in Stockholm.

How to plan good cities for bicycling? Make driving as difficult as cycling, cycling as easy as driving, and the rest will sort itself out.
posted by three blind mice at 7:53 AM on June 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


The dedicated bike lanes, with curbs to protect them from traffic and parked cars, were a joy when I was in Holland. The only thing you had to look out for were tourists who obliviously would walk in or cross those lanes without looking.
posted by 1adam12 at 8:03 AM on June 27, 2011


These are great, thanks for posting.
posted by Apropos of Something at 8:04 AM on June 27, 2011


"Too cold and icy" are not words we use (in any language) in Stockholm.
I always assumed that places like Stockholm and Copenhagen would be really, really cold, but where I live is actually colder. The average low in Stockholm in February, the coldest month there, is -6C. The average low in my town in January, the coldest month here, is -11. Also, as people note in the comments to the bike article, the average trip in North American cities is longer, so I'm riding further in colder weather than your average person in Stockholm would be. I ride my bike in the winter, too, but it is really fucking cold, and I don't blame people who don't want to do it. And there are actually lots of places in North America that are colder than where I live.
posted by craichead at 8:12 AM on June 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Sort of on topic article in the NY Times today re how Europeans are intentionally making their cities car-hostile.

Europe Stifles Drivers in Favor of Alternatives

*jealous*
posted by longdaysjourney at 8:17 AM on June 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


On most streets, the network consists of bicycle paths along the sidewalks, typically using the curbstones as dividers toward the sidewalk, as well as parking and driving lanes. In some places bike lanes are not delimited by curbstones, but rather marked with painted stripes inside a row of parked cars, so that the cars protect the bicycles from motorized traffic. In fact, this system is known as “Copenhagen-style bicycle lanes.”

This is why architects should not define bike policy. Traffic engineers with bicycle experience need to be doing this. Car people think the problem is that bikes and cars mixing are the problem. Not so. The problem is that drivers (and their policymakers) aren't treating bicycles as an equal transportation system. Cars need to be more aware of bikes, not less aware of them hidden behind a row of parked cars.

The facts are simple. Cyclists are far more likely to be hit on the sidewalk, where cars are less aware of them. The data is irrefutable.

John Forster is the most systematic bicycle traffic engineer. Author of the much-reprinted Effective Cycling, his list of what's wrong with the system is succinct:
Cycling advocacy is for cyclists. Bicycle advocacy is not cycling advocacy.

Bikeways neither make cycling much safer nor reduce the skill required. They probably do the reverse. Government knows that bikeways don't make cycling safer, but it uses the public superstition that they do
.
The government's bicycle program is designed by superstition for the convenience of motorists. Cyclists react to the government's bicycle and bikeway programs.

The government's bicycle design standard encourages riding at night without lights. The government's bicycle design standard is based on engineering incompetence.

Proper traffic laws treat cyclists as drivers of vehicles. Government bike planners mix cyclists with pedestrians.

Effective Cycling is safer, faster, and better. Teaching Effective Cycling to all ages.
Forster's page is here:http://www.johnforester.com/
posted by Ironmouth at 8:57 AM on June 27, 2011


Tl; dr - anything in there that goes beyond Monderman?
posted by progosk at 9:07 AM on June 27, 2011


Tl; dr

You'd better smile when you say that...
posted by hermitosis at 9:11 AM on June 27, 2011


tl;-)dr
posted by progosk at 9:12 AM on June 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Cyclists are far more likely to be hit on the sidewalk, where cars are less aware of them.

What the heck are these cars doing on the sidewalk anyway? That seems like a bigger problem.
posted by scrowdid at 9:16 AM on June 27, 2011


Cyclists are far more likely to be hit on the sidewalk, where cars are less aware of them.

What the heck are these cars doing on the sidewalk anyway? That seems like a bigger problem.


Driveways and crosswalks. These intersect sidewalks once ever 50 feet. Especially an issue in commercial districts. Bicycles belong on the street with the cars.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:23 AM on June 27, 2011


Ironmouth - There is a difference between riding on the sidewalk and riding on a cycle track that takes priority at intersections. High-quality separated cycling infrastructure has been shown to be safer. Moreover, that infrastructure and attention to real and perceived safety is how the Netherlands has achieved the highest cycling rate and safest record for cycling in the world. Vehicular cycling hasn't gotten North America cycling - if we want to get more people riding instead of driving, we should look to the places that have managed to achieve that.
posted by parudox at 9:31 AM on June 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


High-quality separated cycling infrastructure has been shown to be safer

I am left wondering if a sample size of six streets in montreal is a big enough sample size.

Forster looks at much larger, national US numbers. He's got half a dozen books on cycling.

Here's his take on those paths you discuss:
Bicycle sidepaths (think of them as superior sidewalks) have proved so dangerous that even the US government instructs that they be used in only the few locations where their dangers are insignificant. The problem is not just pedestrians; urban sidepaths cause difficult and dangerous car-bike conflicts at every driveway and intersection. Bikeway advocates like to point to cities in Holland, Denmark, and Germany, as places where sidepath systems are prevalent and are used by many cyclists at, supposedly, low accident rates. Those nations require cyclists to use the bikeways, so there's no free choice, and they often prohibit left turns by cyclists. Those nations have installed elaborate traffic signals that hold back cyclists while cars are allowed to move, to separate the dangerous conflicting movements created by sidepath design. In short, these European sidepath designs restrict and delay cyclists because of the dangers that such designs create.

Nobody has demonstrated that sidepath systems reduce the level of skill required. At those intersections where the fully developed traffic signals exist, obeying the signals may require less than normal skill, but in those intersections where there are no signals, or only conventional signals, the traffic movements are so complicated that a far greater than normal level of traffic skill and understanding is required.

European bicycle riders put up with these systems for a mix of reasons, largely revolving around the fact that motoring in those cities is so slow and difficult. In short, bicycle use in these systems is considered to be slightly faster walking (rolling pedestrians) rather than a vehicular means of faster travel.
I can understand why bikeways seem like cyclists are being paid attention to--but it is designed to delay cyclists and it doesn't help in strip-mall America where people routinely drive two blocks and there are so many more parking lots and places where bike -car interactions take place along the length of the path. The solution is share the road.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:49 AM on June 27, 2011


In short, these European sidepath designs restrict and delay cyclists because of the dangers that such designs create.
And yet in those cities, about a third of all trips are taken on bikes, whereas it's considered an amazing accomplishment if 5% of all trips in a North American city are on a bicycle. He's going to have to do more to convince me that Copenhagen is a big failure when it comes to designing bike infrastructure.
posted by craichead at 9:52 AM on June 27, 2011


Not to mention, slowing down is part of the design. I would love to be able to cruise around without feeling like I have to speed up and ride defensively.

Bicycle traffic changes character dramatically in the process. When there are many bicycles and many children and seniors among them, the tempo is more stately and safe for all parties. Racing bicycles and Tour de France gear is replaced by more comfortable family bicycles and ordinary clothing. Cycling moves from being a sport and test of survival to being a practical way to get around town — for everyone.

This shift in culture from fast slalom bicycle trips between cars and many infringements of traffic regulations to a law-abiding stream of children, young people and seniors bicycling in a well-defined bicycle network has a big impact on society’s perception of bicycle traffic as a genuine alternative and reasonable supplement to other forms of transport. The shift in culture also brings bicycles more in line with pedestrians and city life in general, and is one more reason that bicycles have a natural place in this book about city life.

posted by mandymanwasregistered at 9:55 AM on June 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


He's going to have to do more to convince me that Copenhagen is a big failure when it comes to designing bike infrastructure.

The best criticism of Copenhagen cycling infrastructure comes, of course, from the Netherlands.
posted by parudox at 9:58 AM on June 27, 2011


Well, sure. But that blog post argues for even more separated bike infrustructure, and for it to be more separated. So it's just an even bigger argument against the vehicular cycling purists.
posted by craichead at 10:03 AM on June 27, 2011


I studied city planning in Sweden, and learned a lot about utopian solutions to living (and traveling) together. American suburbia is what would happen if you were to take such a course and decide to do everything wrong.
posted by kozad at 10:16 AM on June 27, 2011 [4 favorites]


Drempels
posted by humboldt32 at 10:30 AM on June 27, 2011


I only read the third article, but we're trying the "copenhagen-style" bike lanes where I live (US) and the anecdotal responses I've heard so far is that it's kind of scary. People on the sidewalks tend to wander into them (especially at crosswalks), and there is no place to avoid those pedestrians, since you're boxed in by parked cars and a curb. Cars taking right-hand turns now have to watch for both pedestrians and bikes (different speeds!) that are on the other side of parked cars - that's just too much information to process when the driver's brain is stuck on "green = go; why are you idiots in my way"? Cool part of the article I never really internalized before was that in most US cities, right turns on red are often allowed, which encourages the driver to wander into the right-hand cycling lane to make the turn.

It's little infrastructure things like that which most of the dogmatic cycling advocates ignore - we can't just follow some other city's model if drivers have vastly different expectations as to what they will encounter on the road. If we had a few good engineers working in every city on shifting the car's role from "alpha male" of the streets, instead encouraging drivers to be more conscious of their surroundings, we'd start to see a change. The secret is to reduce the autonomy and responsibility that drivers have - see the turning on red example above. If it wasn't an option, then drivers don't have to think about the other things that go into that decision (are there cyclists in my lane, are any peds in the crosswalk of the intersection I'm pulling into, does oncoming traffic have a turn arrow, etc.).

I'm glad the article touched on the "critical mass" (not to be confused with "bikes take over the streets" hippy rides) aspect of cycling - if only a few people are using the infrastructure, drivers are less likely to acknowledge and respect the presence of a cyclist. I feel much safer biking in my city thanks to the increased ridership now that cycling is more visibly encouraged. Since cyclists are given leeway wrt lights, there are always going to be those assholes who push the limits too far (and exacerbate the road rage of drivers).
posted by antonymous at 10:53 AM on June 27, 2011


Regarding "too cold and icy": some people who disagree.
posted by alexei at 11:10 AM on June 27, 2011


Also, as people note in the comments to the bike article, the average trip in North American cities is longer, so I'm riding further in colder weather than your average person in Stockholm would be. I ride my bike in the winter, too, but it is really fucking cold, and I don't blame people who don't want to do it. And there are actually lots of places in North America that are colder than where I live.
posted by craichead at 8:12 AM on June 27 Other [1/3]: ·≡»


Sure it's longer, at this time, because we waste so much space in cities for car infrastructure (parking). Imagine how much more residential and work space we could infill if parking was substantially reduced or eliminated.

I know winter cold & ice can be an obstacle to bike riding (although I note that bikes never get dead batteries due to cold), but I really think summer heat/humidity/rain is even more of an obstacle, due to workplaces not having showers, having to carry a change of clothing, and a general U.S.-ian hostility to sweating.
posted by toodleydoodley at 11:15 AM on June 27, 2011


Proper traffic laws treat cyclists as drivers of vehicles. Government bike planners mix cyclists with pedestrians.

A bicycle is a few pounds of metal, propelled by a human being which produces a few tenths of a horsepower. An automobile is some thousands of pounds of metal, propelled by an engine which produces anywhere from a few dozen to a few hundred horsepower. The only things these vehicles have in common are the rubber tires.

Do "proper traffic laws" also treat kids on scooters as drivers of vehicles? What about people wearing roller skates? If a bicycle is a "vehicle" which ought to travel on the road, why is a baby stroller not also a "vehicle" which ought to travel on the road? It has four wheels, after all! Kids in little red wagons? What about Segways, which actually have motors? Or skateboards, since they have four wheels too?

These "government bike planners" are entirely right to mix cyclists with pedestrians and all other forms of human-powered transportation, as they are all indistinguishably tiny, lightweight, slow-moving, and low-powered compared to even the cheapest, wimpiest automobile. (My car idles about as fast as the average cyclist seems to travel.)

Maybe someday in the far future "cars" will mostly be flimsy little carbon-fiber bubbles you can put up on a shelf when you get home, and bicyclists will all be genetically-engineered supermen roaring around on massive curb-jumping behemoths, and then we can talk about treating bicycles the same as cars.
posted by Mars Saxman at 11:31 AM on June 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


...and, for what it's worth, I'm not trying to argue for car-centric cities here! I'd love it if we had more human-power-only streets and maybe a real transit system instead of a bunch of crappy buses. I like walking. It'd be great to be able to ride a bike. I just think that "share the road" is physics-oblivious madness.
posted by Mars Saxman at 11:38 AM on June 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Heh, personally, I'd never trust anyone with a design like Foresters.

Joke aside; he's living in a completely different universe. Also, he doesn't know anything about European cycling. But it is probably true that the process of convincing people to bike more in the US will be completely different than here. Even though Jan Gehl claims "the cars had taken over the streets" in the early 70's, there were still thousands of cyclists, and I'd guess a far larger percentage of children rode bikes around the city back then than now. A huge difference back then was that most children played in the streets (rather than at the planned activities they are in now), so when one was 12, and allowed to ride a bike without supervision, one would roam the city all afternoon. We often went both 10 and 15 km out into the woods or to the beaches, as my own kids do now, and bike-lanes were already well established on those routes, as they had been since the 1920's.
Then and now, Danes have few cars compared to other populations, and in Copenhagen there are even fewer - many adults can’t even drive.

The Dutch blogger is using old data, and for a large part, he is using them wrong. First of all, we did have a bike congestion problem, which has now been worked on for the last 4-5 years. So now we have fast tracks away from the shopping streets for commuters, green-waves that ensure a 20 km/h speed on the main streets (a leisurely family-oriented speed level), much wider bike paths and sidewalks, and much worse conditions for cars.
In the area where I live, the main street is practically inaccessible for private cars, leaving a good space for busses and bike and pedestrians. The side streets are organized in a complex web of one-way streets, making it really difficult for outsiders to navigate through them, and easy for pedestrians and bicyclists to see if there are cars.
They are creating a new shared-space plaza in front of the school, and yes, most kids ride their bikes around the neighborhood. Mine without helmets, but that is a religious debate.

The municipality of Copenhagen is not the same as greater Copenhagen. We are about 500.000 people. And in many streets in the old parts of the city, it is impossible to build dedicated bike lanes. So some of those are reserved for bikes and pedestrians and some have "shared space" solutions, where cars can drive slowly. Any city in Denmark at the size of Assen, the blogger's hometown, or Groningen, will have bike lanes wherever it is necessary (not much), central areas closed to cars, and all children and most adults riding bikes. Again - we don't have many cars.
In greater Copenhagen this is especially true. Some places they have even desegregated the traffic, because those high-speed green bike-lanes were too dark and scary at night.

And yeah, ice and snow. I could have been on that video Alexei showed, if I hadn't broken my ankle a few weeks before, when someone persuaded me I shouldn't ride my bike home, but take the bus. I fell at the bus-stop.
posted by mumimor at 11:53 AM on June 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


@antonymous

we're trying the "copenhagen-style" bike lanes where I live (US)

Where in the US? Its a big place. I heard Long Beach was going to attempt them?

I live in Los Angeles near the Culver Boulevard median bike lane.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Culver_Boulevard_Median_bicycle_path

I bicycle twelve miles a day round trip commuting, all vehicular cycling. Yet I love the separated bike path! I take it every time I can. Being away from the cars is very liberating. Yes, occasionally I have to slow, or yesterday even stop, due to pedestrians. I don't mind. I wish they would close down half of Venice Boulevard and turn it into a green way for cyclists and busses. Do we really need a 10 lane road paralleling the freeway? (6 travel lanes, 2 large bicycle lanes, and 2 large car parking lanes). The 10 freeway has 10 actual travel lanes as well.
posted by GregorWill at 11:55 AM on June 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Maybe someday in the far future "cars" will mostly be flimsy little carbon-fiber bubbles you can put up on a shelf when you get home, and bicyclists will all be genetically-engineered supermen roaring around on massive curb-jumping behemoths, and then we can talk about treating bicycles the same as cars.

Nobody is talking about treating two different objects as one object. We are talking about the best way to integrate two different modes of transportation given a limited amount of space.

Lacking appropriate accommodations, bicyclists will use the street. Period. This is the case in many parts of my city. I take a lane, and I travel at my speed. You may not like this or think it is appropriate, which is all the more reason for drivers like you to push for better bicycle infrastructure. It is in the best interest of my safety and your liability. (If you hit a bicyclist with your car, you'd better kill him. Otherwise you'll be taken to the cleaner's.)
posted by weinbot at 12:05 PM on June 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


weinbot, most roads in my city already have a wide strip down either side reserved exclusively for human-powered transportation: that is, the sidewalk. Why should the bicycle be different from the other modes of human-powered transportation we have already integrated onto the sidewalk?

People complain about bicyclists on the sidewalk, which is why I don't ride a bike anymore, but the difference between a bicyclist and a pedestrian is far, far smaller than the difference between a bicycle and an automobile. It is far easier to design systems to "share the sidewalk" than it will ever be to "share the road".

Again, I'm not trying to advocate for car-oriented cities here. We should expand the sidewalks at the expense of the roads, to the point of completely closing off roads whenever we can, and the bike lanes should be features of the sidewalks. Shunting tiny, flimsy, slow-moving human vehicles into traffic with massive steel gas-burners is madness.
posted by Mars Saxman at 12:25 PM on June 27, 2011


GregorWill, I'm in Minneapolis (I didn't make that clear), and am referring to our downtown area. On a street parallel to where the parked-cars-as-shield solution was implemented, we have a wider lane on the right-hand side with a green strip painted (about 4 feet wide) that is visible to cars, though the lane is not quite wide enough for the car to safely pass a cyclist, though the wide lane gives cyclists enough room to navigate around buses and right-turning cars. This is the one I prefer because of the flexibility to react to situations, despite the new addition of left-turn arrows (which peds ignore, so the turner inevitably ends up blocking traffic).

We also have a bus + bike only road through the heart of downtown - the mere presence of cars is intimidating enough for some people. This is where I see lots of the ride-sharing bikes that we've rolled out over the last couple of years.

It's about creating options for different types of people. People will gravitate towards whatever they are most comfortable with, and it works pretty well here.
posted by antonymous at 12:33 PM on June 27, 2011


Why should the bicycle be different from the other modes of human-powered transportation we have already integrated onto the sidewalk?


Because the statistics show that you are far more likely to be hit by a car while riding a bicycle on the sidewalk.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:42 PM on June 27, 2011 [2 favorites]


Mars Saxman: "Again, I'm not trying to advocate for car-oriented cities here. We should expand the sidewalks at the expense of the roads, to the point of completely closing off roads whenever we can, and the bike lanes should be features of the sidewalks. Shunting tiny, flimsy, slow-moving human vehicles into traffic with massive steel gas-burners is madness"

Well, that might happen in a few decades, and only if lots of people start biking. What do you think we should do in the meantime? Not bike? Whatever mode you choose, they still meet at the intersections. Either you make a system where people are responsible for controlling their vehicles so as not to kill anyone, or you resign yourself to driving anytime you want to go down to the store.
posted by alexei at 1:10 PM on June 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Some places in Germany they have bike-lanes on the sidewalk. To me, they feel unsafe in many ways. You can see on the picture how narrow they are, it's impossible to ride fast and as a pedestrian, it's easy to get pushed onto the track if there are many people walking and the cars can't really see you coming. I can see why dedicated cyclists wouldn't like those. Also, I feel they don't really inspire more biking, because they aren't functional.
posted by mumimor at 1:46 PM on June 27, 2011


Minneapolis is what you get when the people of an average American city elect a serious cyclist for mayor. You can bike most places in the city without more than a handful of intersections with city streets -- the bike trail network is that good. There's a centerpiece $30 million bike bridge that flies over freeways in the middle of the city, and the first large bike-sharing system in the US.

It's an awesome experiment, but sadly it's underutilized. The fact that still only about 2% of Minneapolitans commute by bike in the summer has convinced me that improving infrastructure encourages people to bike a little bit, but there are still major social and economic challenges that will keep the majority of Americans from biking to work for a long time to come.
posted by miyabo at 2:39 PM on June 27, 2011


What do you think we should do in the meantime? Not bike?

That's what I've chosen, but I don't particularly like it. What I think we should do is stop building unsafe, easily-blocked bike lanes like this and start turning them into safe, useful, pleasant bike lanes like this.

The same lanes in the same right-of-way would be vastly improved if we stopped thinking of bikes as miniature cars and started thinking of them as fast pedestrians. We need to put the bike lane on the other side of the parking strip, or otherwise ensure that there is a physical barrier between the cars and the bikes, and have bikes travel in the crosswalks at intersections.

Whatever mode you choose, they still meet at the intersections.

Sure, but somehow that still works out OK for pedestrians.
posted by Mars Saxman at 2:43 PM on June 27, 2011


Mars Saxman: "What do you think we should do in the meantime? Not bike?

That's what I've chosen, but I don't particularly like it. What I think we should do is stop building unsafe, easily-blocked bike lanes like this and start turning them into safe, useful, pleasant bike lanes like this.

The same lanes in the same right-of-way would be vastly improved if we stopped thinking of bikes as miniature cars and started thinking of them as fast pedestrians. We need to put the bike lane on the other side of the parking strip, or otherwise ensure that there is a physical barrier between the cars and the bikes, and have bikes travel in the crosswalks at intersections.
"

I don't think that your "pleasant bike lane" is a bad thing. But a few caveats: one, there are few or no driveways on that street. If there were driveways, it would still be easily blocked, and you'd have to constantly be on the lookout for drivers pulling in--made all the worse by the parked cars which block the view in both directions. Yes, it's a low-probability event, but it makes up for it with high damage potential. Likewise, how do you deal with right-hooks? Separate light cycles for through-traffic and turns may work, but requires traffic lights at every intersection.

Additionally, it's a major multilane street, while 2nd Ave. has only a single, one-way traffic lane.

However, I don't really like that 2nd street lane. I'd prefer "sharrows", or the "bicycle boulevard" model. As it is, the layout causes problems when someone inevitably blocks the bike lane, and when drivers who see the lanes figure "it doesn't matter how fast I drive as long as I'm on this side of the line. Instead, it should be a "local access" street, on which cars are allowed for deliveries, parking, etc., but where the speed limit--both legal and practical--is around 15 mph. Using it as a shortcut through town should be strongly discouraged (if necessary, with physical elements like raised pedestrian crossings or forced turns). In addition, law enforcement is a key part of the equation. Particularly on such a street, striking a cyclist with a car should be prima facie evidence of criminally negligent driving. Once it's generally understood that, as a driver, you have full responsibility for control of your vehicle compliance will be much better.

In any case, people need to get to all sorts of destinations, and right now the idea of building an extensive network of bicycle-exclusive lanes is a fantasy.

"Whatever mode you choose, they still meet at the intersections.

Sure, but somehow that still works out OK for pedestrians"

Does it? More than a third of pedestrians killed are killed at intersections. Pedestrian safety in many places seems to begin and end with "don't be a pedestrian".

And I'm not at all convinced that the best way to look at bicycles is as "fast pedestrians". On your typical (ie, non-highway) street, the speed difference between cars and bikes is smaller than the speed difference between bikes and pedestrians. Unlike bikes and cars, pedestrians stop and turn on a dime.
posted by alexei at 7:39 PM on June 27, 2011


Some places in Germany they have bike-lanes on the sidewalk. To me, they feel unsafe in many ways. You can see on the picture how narrow they are, it's impossible to ride fast and as a pedestrian, it's easy to get pushed onto the track if there are many people walking and the cars can't really see you coming. I can see why dedicated cyclists wouldn't like those. Also, I feel they don't really inspire more biking, because they aren't functional.

I ride in those cycling lanes every day (although in my city, they are often wide enough for two cyclists to comfortably pass one another) and they are much safer than riding in a bike lane on the street. Sometimes tourists will wander into them, but drivers are taught from their first lesson to crane their necks around when they turn at an intersection that has crossing bike traffic, so as long as the cyclist pays attention to who has right of way, everything works out well. Compared to riding in a bike lane on the street, where an inattentive driver might drift a little too close to comfort, or block the lane entirely, they're great.
posted by cmonkey at 9:30 PM on June 27, 2011


« Older Johann Hari laments the decline of real books...  |  Camera shoots 1080p HDR video ... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments