15 September 2018

Road design

Various people comment that pedestrian and public transit city design with a side of cycling is much safer; various other people comment that much existing cycling infrastructure in Anglo NorAm looks for all the world as though it was designed to kill cyclists.

Well, yes it is in sober truth of fact meant to kill cyclists.

I don't understand how this can be considered a question.  Long-standing -- from the 1970s burst of cycling enthusiasm -- cycling infrastructure invariably has features meant to slow you down or to force you to dismount more or less as often as it can; any time the cycling path might cross a road or go under a bridge or interact with a pedestrian path.

These bits of infrastructure generally take two forms; a heavy metal gate, or a speed bump.  The heavy metal gate is invariably set a height to throw you off the bicycle forward on to your head if you hit it; just hitting the heavy metal barrier at speed might well kill you, and it's not like the things are signed at all.  It's not hard to go down a hill round a corner and get a surprise.  The speed bump is invariably carefully narrower and more steep (and thus cheaper, for requiring less material) than a car speed bump.  Also sometimes taller, and equally it functions to throw you off your bicycle into traffic.

The purpose of a system is what it does; the bicycle infrastructure is set up with a clear "get off the bicycle or we'll kill you" message.

Pretty much all cycling infrastructure in AngloNorAm is set up this way; it's created to minimize inconvenience to car traffic and to minimize startlement to pedestrians.  It thereby exists to make you get off the bike, and if you won't get off the bike, it'll kill you.

That's what it's for.


Jeff Stana said...

Nursing an owie are you? Hope you're better soon.
- fellow cyclist

Graydon said...

+Jeff Stana Not at the moment! (Hit by cars twice so far.) Encountered one too many "but why would an accredited urban designer sign off on this?" articles today, is all.

Moz from Oztraya said...

So much this. It's very hard sometimes when in meetings with "transport designers" who only understand motor vehicles* not to display my lack of regard for their efforts or abilities. They often say stuff like "I've very experienced" or "highly qualified" to which the obvious answer is "yes, but are you any good at it?"

The old saw about "they've got one years experience, ten times" is all too often truthful.

Favourite trick here is to jam "traffic calming" gates across a bike path then turn the shared path into a pedestrian crossing where it crosses a road. The NSW cops just love that, because riding a bicycle on a pedestrian crossing is a specific offence with a ~$300 fine. And it's one of those things you're not going to win in court, because the term "pedestrian crossing" primes people to think about little old ladies crossing a shopping strip road, not about a slip lane on a giant 8-lane intersection at the offramp of a motorway.

That said I have been lucky enough to be around campaigns long enough to see the culture change happen after enough small victories. We fight and fight for years and year with no real change to cycling rates, then suddenly we pass a threshold and cycling takes off.

* charitably, I don't use the things so don't have a basis to evaluate their skills