Welcome back to Sunday reading! Here’s a neat post with detailed drawings highlighting the differences between Amsterdam and Copenhagen’s cycleways. It concludes with an appropriate dig on the designs in the UK. Amsterdam vs Copenhagen (part 2), “Amsterdam vs Copenhagen (part 2)“, Nicer cities, liveable places.

6. Oh… and then there’s the UK…

So to finish. Here’s what a standard level of support for cycling looks like in the UK. The same can be seen in many other countries. I’ve fitted four lanes of traffic into this space – it is exactly the same space as shown on the main junction designs for the Netherlands and Copenhagen that I drew above.

The standard infrastructure ignores (or almost ignores) cycling. People on bicycles have to mix with the other vehicles.

Of course there are exceptions. There are a few places in the UK where some (relatively) good designs have been built. But they are very few and there is no typical design. Even where there is some provision for cycling it is different in every city, and on every junction within a city. And often whatever is there is only just worth having at all.

In the UK we tend to strive for every possible road to be allowed to carry as much traffic as possible.

Here’s an interesting survey on what people think of the mandatory helmet law in Australia.  “Bicycle Network lifts the lid on helmet survey“, Bicycle Network.

A survey of almost 20,000 people has found that nearly two-thirds don’t believe you should have to wear a helmet every time you ride a bike in Australia.

It also found that if current mandatory helmet laws change to allow Australians to ride a bike without wearing a helmet, more than 30% of people would ride a bike more often.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan has delivered a Draft London Plan (PDF) that appears as ambitious as the transport manifesto on which he was elected. Feargus O’Sullivan, “London’s Future: More People, Fewer Cars“, The Atlantic.

The London of 2029 will hold more people, have fewer cars, and boast better public transit. It should also be easier to find a place to lock your bike or get a pint of lager—and harder to hit up a fast-food joint after school. That, at least, is the vision set out in London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s new Draft London Plan, which sets out a vision of how Britain’s capital will change over the ten years following 2019.

The most eye-catching feature of the report is a near-blanket ban on new parking across much of the city. In Central London and in a constellation of new development zones grouped around outer transit hubs, new car parking spaces will be forbidden altogether. In the few, less central areas of inner London where new parking will be permitted, it will be at a rate of no more than 0.25 spaces per new housing unit.

This zero-tolerance policy may sound strict to future motorists, but it’s also part of a wholesale reimagining of London as a city where the automobile is an endangered species. (Already, private cars no longer dominate city streets.) There are major new transit links on the way, mentioned in the London Plan although not introduced by it. Beyond Crossrail 1— a major east-west heavy rail link due to start service next year—the plan predicts the approval of Crossrail 2, a new north-south counterpart that will ease access to central London from the suburbs and exurbs. Meanwhile, an extension of the existing Bakerloo tube line out to southeast London is also in the cards.

Big, fast growing cities are increasingly adopting new ways to move people and goods around the city. Here’s a look at a parcel delivery trial in London. David Williams, “Parcel delivery firm UPS trials environmentally-friendly bike trailers to replace diesel trucks in central London“, The Evening Standard.

Delivery giant UPS is aiming to fight congestion and harmful emissions by using fleets of electric-powered bicycle trailers in central London.

The first prototype goes on trial in Camden today, taking parcels from the company’s Kentish Town depot.

If the experiment is successful, UPS says the fleets could be rolled out across the capital and to cities such as Paris, Tokyo and Beijing.

The battle over housing issues in “single-family” neighbourhoods rages on across North American cities. Conor Dougerty, “The Great American Single Family Home Problem“, New York Times.

Whatever the specifics, what is happening in Berkeley may be coming to a neighborhood near you. Around the country, many fast-growing metropolitan areas are facing a brutal shortage of affordable places to live, leaving to gentrification, homelessness, even disease. As cities struggle to keep up with demand, they have remade their skylines with condominium and apartment towers – but single-family neighborhoods, where low-density living is treated as sacrosanct, have rarely been part of the equation.

For centuries cities have served as ‘engines of prosperity, but that may have be changing now that housing costs are so high in fast-growing cities. Here are a coupe of articles on why people aren’t moving to cities as much, and what the means for people’s opportunities.

Alana Semuels, “The Barriers Stopping Poor People From Moving to Better Jobs“, The Atlantic

“But over the past 30 years, that regional income convergence has slowed. Economists say that is happening because net migration—the tendency of large numbers of people to move to a specific place—is waning, meaning that the supply of workers isn’t increasing fast enough in the rich areas to bring wages down, and isn’t falling fast enough in the poor areas to bring wages up. Why is this? Why have people stopped moving? The reason, economists believe, is that while there are good wages in economically vibrant cities like New York and San Francisco, housing prices are so high that they outweigh any gains people stand to make in earnings. As a result, high-income cities are still appealing to many workers, but only highly skilled workers who can command salaries high enough to make it worthwhile to move. Low-income workers will end up spending much of their incomes on housing if they move, and so stay put.

This is the conclusion of Ganong and Daniel Shoag, a professor at Harvard and Case Western Reserve University, in a recent working paper. They find that though janitors still earn more in the tri-state area than in the Deep South, the move no longer presents an obvious opportunity because the costs of living in New York have gotten so high. Janitors in the New York area now spend on average 52 percent of their incomes on housing, the authors find, compared to lawyers, who spend just 21 percent of their incomes on rent. Their research finds that because of these factors, the migration patterns for low-income households are beginning to diverge from the migration patterns from high-income households for the first time in American history. High-skill workers are still moving to places that offer them high incomes, but now, low-skill workers are moving away from places where average wages are high.

Emily Badger, “What Happened to the American Boomtown?“, The New York Times.

The places that are booming in size aren’t the economic boomtowns — the regions with the greatest prosperity and highest productivity. In theory, we’d expect those metros, like the Bay Area, Boston and New York, to be rapidly expanding, as people move from regions with high unemployment and meager wages to those with high salaries and strong job markets.

That we’re not seeing such a pattern suggests that something is fundamentally amiss. The magnets aren’t working.

Some people aren’t moving into wealthy regions because they’re stuck in struggling ones. They have houses they can’t sell or government benefits they don’t want to lose. But the larger problem is that they’re blocked from moving to prosperous places by the shortage and cost of housing there. And that’s a deliberate decision these wealthy regions have made in opposing more housing construction, a prerequisite to make room for more 

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25 comments

    1. .. and once again confusing the effects of wearing a helmet in a crash with the effects of making it mandatory to do so – one’s an individual health issue and one’s a population health issue.

      It’s a bit like encouraging people to wear a hat and sunscreen in the sun (a good thing) but also agreeing that it’s counter-productive to legally insist that everyone must wear sunscreen and hat before they can step outside.

    2. [Echoing GlenK’s comments above]

      Few have ever claimed otherwise that for an individual adult, helmet wearing is likely a practical safety move. Especially on the kinds of roads we have down this part of the world and UK as compared to countries like The Nederlands and Denmark.

      But to make it mandatory for adults in every situation as we and Australia have?
      Note: We’re not talking about kids mandatory wearing of helmets here, just adults.

      It’s true there are plenty of anecdotes around of how people believe a “bike helmet saved my life”. Often despite the lack of any counter factual of actually how much their helmet really did its job.

      I can drop my bike helmet on the kerb and it breaks in half – would it have saved my life if my head was in it? I will never know, but I’d doubt it, given that example.

      Of course every Neurosurgeon you ask will quote you a story of how they believe someone avoided death or serious injury from wearing a bike helmet.

      But I also understand that a lot of people who have bike accidents, whether wearing helmets or not, also suffer from a lot more neck/spinal injuries than head injuries. Same goes for those in car accidents too.

      Yet your average NeuroSurgeon never treats those types of neck and spinal injuries – as that’s for another medical speciality. So the Nerosurgeons have an inbuilt confirmation bias. And are guilty of generalising the population health, from the few specific cases they see.

      As for every one of those head injury avoided/minimised by helmet cases, there are probably a dozen stories that the cardiac or lung surgeon or the orthopaedic surgeon in the same hospital could quote back of examples how other individuals have suffered early death, degraded health or loss of use limbs from not engaging in sufficient active activities like cycling or walking – often due to the perceived danger of those activities.

      A perception which, mandatory bike helmet wearing laws only enforces in the population as a whole.

      In some case like the quoted example of a wing mirror from a truck hitting your head at 70 mph [~110 km/hr], it is debatable how much actual protection your average – flimsy or otherwise, bike helmet really offers.

      I can’t imagine any helmet short of a top line motorcycle or F1 helmet that would truly offer protection from head injuries at that kind of closing speed.

      Maybe all it did/could do in this case was take a glancing blow and push the riders head down enough to allow it to slip under the truck mirror as it flew by. Anything hitting any bike helmet at 70 mph means the helmet is not going to really offer much protection. You could also imagine an outcome where the helmet then snagged on the underside of the mirror causing fatal injuries, so its not just “better outcomes, all the time, with bike helmets”.

      Maybe the rider in that case should actually thank their lucky stars, at truly how lucky they were, and simply stop assuming the bike helmet is all thats needed for “safety” and lobby for some decent cycle facilities that don’t needlessly juxtapose cyclists and 70 mph traffic.

      And is it selfish of you, as claimed in that story, to not want to, as an adult, wear your bike helmet everywhere, in all situations? I don’t really think it is.

      At worst, its really no more so than your average unlicensed and/or drinking and/or texting/cellphone using and/or speeding, non seat belt using car driver and we seem to have droves of those these on the roads these days as evidenced from our road toll statistics.

      Or those who fail to provide and wear correctly sized life-jackets when going out in small boats.

      But I don’t see too many “doctors” or other health professionals proclaiming in the news how specifically selfish it is to do all those other “anti-social” things while driving/boating.

      Yet some of their colleagues do go on and on about adults not wearing bike helmets as being “selfish”. Yeah! Right!

      However, for all that – mandatory helmet wearing when taken as a population health measure, as all the statistics here, in Australia and overseas show, it has been an absolute public health disaster.

      For every life believed “saved” by a helmet, dozens of lives are worsened and many more premature deaths result from its insidious “second hand smoke”-type side effects.

      And it has let many organisations, who can, and should be, doing better like AT and NZTA off the hook for decades, from providing better cycling facilities the “you can share the bus lanes” approach to cycle safety.

      So I just ask that instead of having more debate on helmet laws…

      …that Instead, amongst the many bits of legislation to be passed between now and parliament rising for the Christmas break, that we are told need to be passed by then & under urgency.

      That the Government ministers simply insert a one clause amendment to one of those “Omnibus” bills, amending the Compulsory Helmet laws making it optional for adults to wear them.

      If done that way, then that law change would get about as much scrutiny, [and likely a whole lot more] by being passed under urgency like that, than the original helmet law did when it was passed in all 3 stages, late one night, under urgency.

      That would be a fitting end to this part of the law and a suitable Christmas present to the entire country.

      I think given we’ve been brave enough for years to let same sex couples legally marry – that we couldn’t also be brave once more and do the same for choice about adult bike helmet wearing.
      i.e. leave it up to the adult to decide if they want to or not.

      Now that the Aussies will have legal same sex marriage from this week, we need to do something else to be “one up” on the Aussies again – and optional adult helmet laws this side of the Tasman? Yep that is any easy way to achieve that, and it might encourage a few of those newly married same sex couples to come over for a helmet-less cycling holiday.

      To do in little old NZ, what they still can’t legally do back home.

      And it will pay our health system dividends in public health benefits for decades down the track to boot. So whats not to like?

      So whadya say, PM Ardern, Transport Minister, Associate Ministers Hon Phil Twyford, Hon Julie Anne Genter, Hon Shane Jones and Minister of Health Hon David Clark?

      Optional, adult bike helmet wearing – fully legal by Christmas?

      Yes! Lets! Do! This!

    3. Shouldn’t people walking also be forced to wear helmets to protect them from people driving cars? How many lives would have been saved if the people walking down the street who were run over by people in cars had been wearing helmets?
      Actually, shouldn’t people be wearing them around the house too? Aren’t household accidents a big part of ACC costs, how many deaths or serious injuries would have been avoided if people had to wear helmets around the home too?

  1. On your first link, you missed the most important part (which the article mentions is the most imnportant part that is often overlooked!) (point 5)

    “So you thought that this post was all going to be about fancy junction designs like those above? Actually these fancy designs could distract you from what I think is really important”

    “Firstly take note that I’ve not drawn any moving motor vehicles. The streets are arranged – in particular with the one-way system – so as to make them useless for through traffic. A network of such streets is often bounded – where it meets main roads with two way traffic – by junctions with continuous footway (with or without a cycle track) as in section 3 above. This means that the roads are quiet (in all senses).”

    Until a city removes the needs to vehicles to be on a street then you’re just mitigating, rather than removing risks.

  2. Agreed; people get very focused on the separated cycleways of the Netherlands and the like, and fail to notice that a far larger component of their cycle-friendly network are their local streets where the speed limit is 30km/h and through-traffic is strongly discouraged. We’re starting to develop these, with “neighbourhood greenways” and “local paths” networks (a bit of misnomer seeing as they’re largely on-street routes), but it’s still a bit of a blind spot – https://viastrada.nz/pub/what-can-new-zealand-learn-cycling-europe

    1. Good link, thanks. I like the “unravelling” concept, such as “Traffic volumes could also be further reduced on many streets relatively easily by making more use of short one-way restrictions or by “breaking” some in half with simple closures.” How do we encourage AT to start being bold with 30 km/h limits, road closures (to general traffic), one-way systems?

      1. Don’t just ask the motorists “do you want lower speeds and more restrictions”; ask the people who actually live and work there and the people who have to walk and cycle there. Chances are you will get a different response. Also work harder to sell the benefits for locals; nicer, quieter streets; easier for them to walk/cycle to places; likely to improve property values. That’s the trade-off for slightly less mobility to get to their place.

  3. Thanks for some great links. On Amsterdam vs Copenhagen, it is not just bicycles and not just those cities. There is a revolution in urban road design going on in Europe now. Design standards are getting changed to recognise higher priority to active transport and public transport, and deliberately reducing road space and design speed for cars. EU guidelines are being written in English too. The Dutch CRO road design guidelines are excellent. There is a French one here (in english) too:
    http://www.certu-catalogue.fr/the-cross-section-a-sharing-tool-for-urban-roads.html

    Not that they have rules like minimum footpath widths, maximum road widths for pedestrian crossings that can be crossed without a refuge, and maximum traffic volumes before protected cycle lanes must be provided. All thes erules are absent from Austroads. I think these are great steps forward for urban streets and roads.

  4. Comparing UK cities in general with Copenhagen and Amsterdam seems a bit pointless to me. Both of those cities are a bit different to other places. They both have high value jobs available as well as a big service and tourist industry to provide lots of low skilled jobs. You could do almost anything in those two cities and they will still work. If you don’t think about how to get people and goods around most UK cities then you end up with very high unemployment, London excepted. Copenhagen has high value industries like big pharma, although they don’t manufacture in the centre of Copenhagen. Saying cycleways at the expense of other capacity works in these places is like saying monorails work in Disneyland. It doesn’t mean you can do the same elsewhere without affecting incomes.

    1. I suspect the availability of high value jobs and the big service and tourist industry in Copenhagen and Amsterdam (compared with UK) might be a result of the same longer-term, more people-focused mindset that also produces people-friendly transport infrastructure.

      1. Probably not the only reason Heidi. Both Copenhagen and Amsterdam were trading capitals. Both made a fortune out of world trade which at the time included the Atlantic slave trade. The money was repatriated and spent building streets and buildings that other cities could never have afforded. The profits from that trade in humans has lingered and been reinvested into corporations that other places envy. Wealthy European families are very very good at keeping and expanding their wealth. Both the Danish West India Company and the Dutch West India company are long gone but the capital has lived on in those cities just as the poverty on the slave coast has lived on. I see your twee city and I raise you a moral dilemma.

        1. However, the UK is no different. Jane Austen’s heroes generally enjoyed 10 or 15 thousand pounds a year from ‘overseas interests’, which generally meant business based on the use of slaves in some fashion. Nor were the Opium Wars Britain’s finest moment. I think the difference between the UK and the Dutch and Danish has been in how the ill-gotten gains have been invested. As a different example, the Finns weren’t a nation of colonisers nor slave traders, and were greatly impoverished by being annexed alternately by Sweden and Russia, then by multiple wars ending in The Continuation War. So their current cycling infrastructure has come about because the country invested in the needs of their people, not because of wealth from international exploitation.

          I see your moral dilemma and raise you a despondent quandary: Why do NZers travel to Europe to bask in the glory of past exploitation and privileged excess, when they could be creating a just and beautiful world here with their money and access to fossil fuels instead?

          1. I agree and go further. The Brits were a hell of a lot worse. Their wealth came from slaves in Virginia, slaves in the sugar plantations of the West Indies and also from their exploitation of Ireland. As well as the Opium you mention and the subjugation of the people of India who they forced to grow it. That wealth is exactly what you see in London Bristol and Liverpool. There are still a few families there who live off that sorry history. But the biggest difference is the UK Governments squandered their national wealth or Battleships prior to 1914 and then on two world wars. Neither of which achieved the original aims. (Germany remained a threat to peace, and Poland was not free in 1945).
            Like Copenhagen and Amsterdam the UK got a few twee cities. I am not sure those types of cities have much to teach us about how to prosper when a lot of people don’t have much money, can’t afford a house and some can barely afford breakfast.

        2. “Probably not the only reason Heidi. Both Copenhagen and Amsterdam were trading capitals. Both made a fortune out of world trade which at the time included the Atlantic slave trade. The money was repatriated and spent building streets and buildings that other cities could never have afforded.”

          So I guess that only London, Liverpool, Manchester, Southampton, Portsmouth, Bristol, and Newcastle are suited to this sort of treatment then. Such a shame that only 60% of England’s population qualify, may as well not build anything, huh.

          1. Maybe just don’t inflict a cycleway and a blocked traffic lane on towns that need to move things to make a living.

          2. And the kids, mfwic? Do we just say ‘be fat, be car dependent, have no independence or accessibility, and fight it out with the trucks’ to the kids in those towns? Who is inflicting what? Tweeless Helsinki moves stuff around and has cyclelanes.

          3. Rotterdam is the largest port in Europe; full of cycle lanes. I think you’re talking out of your ass miffy.

      1. No Glen more a ‘they are different’ issue. Comparing working cities with a couple of quaint old imperial capitals doesn’t make much sense. Working towns have used road as a cheap substitute for higher cost public transport systems. It has enabled them to have jobs they might not have had. It is like saying you prefer Vienna to Sunderland or Hull.

        1. Those capitals are still very much working cities today, with people living and working and trying to get around in their daily life. Also, do you think the Netherlands only puts cycle lanes in Amsterdam?

  5. Thanks Kent.
    I enjoyed the streetscapes and particularly the northern European architecture (mostly) – the consistent four or five storey buildings, the general uniformity of the roof-line and the absence of the saw-tooth effect we get with over-tall skyscrapers, every bit as much as the detail on superior street design.

  6. Well building for cycling is far cheaper than building for cars, so surely those cities would be even better off if they invested in cycling (ignoring the bullshit idea that encouraging everyone to drive is cheaper than building PT).

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