| | |

Slow down urban traffic to 30 km/hr and let a new age begin!


I've been a cyclist on and off for 45 years and have spent time doing the standard cycling things like commuting and touring. In my current incarnation as a person who prefers to scoot or kick rather than peddle I have developed an idiosyncratic POV about pushing two wheels forward.

Despite my experience -- or maybe because of it -- I nonetheless think cycling is an activity thwart with dangers.

In an earlier post, the threat to life and limb of the current cycling boom in Australia was addressed. I've also discussed  here a few issues related to commuting by bike but like the Australian fear of snakes and sharks I nonetheless seem to have missed the nub of the angst.

As a scooter-er many of these road issues are resolved for me because I scoot as much on footpaths as I do on roads. Mounting and dismounting  kickbikes and scooters is as simple as stepping off. They are skateboards with wheels. so being on or off road is easy.

But  the notion of mixing it with God Traffic in full peak hour flow scares the beejeebers out of me.

Why? It's simple:
Paul Barclay, 10 March 2010, Australia Talks: ABC Radio National
As our cities become more congested and we are encouraged to reduce our carbon footprint, more Australians are riding bicycles. In Melbourne alone, the number of cyclists on the cities' roads has soared by up to 50 per cent during peak hour in the past year. But each year, on average, 35 cyclists are killed in Australia, and more than 2,500 are seriously injured on our roads. Many more incidents go unreported. Is enough being done to safely accommodate the growing number of cyclists on the roads?
No matter which way you try to slice it, car drivers do not see cyclists and even when they do, they come too close..and at very fast speeds..

While the option of developing cycle paths makes a lot of political, ecological and physiological sense, bicycle paths present a safety and transit  paradox :
...in cities without cycle paths the cyclist usually is the fastest form of transport. Any rational person wishing to make a journey would obviously choose a bicycle as the optimum mode of transport. Not only is the bicycle the most economically-viable mode of transport it is the quickest. Why then are not 99% of all journeys in cities on bikes? One obvious answer is the traffic. The bike might be quicker and cheaper, but one does have to be a bit brave to cycle in a city like New York. By building separate cycle paths you increase the feeling of safety, which means that more people dare to cycle--but segregating the cyclists reduces the amount of space a cyclist has to move on. This increases the actual distance needed to travel and therefor the door-to-door travel time. At the same time this allows the motorised traffic to travel faster by getting the "terrible" cyclists out of the way. Suddenly the time-pressed city dweller finds that the car is the fastest way to get there.
This paradox is much broader than that. The British geographer, John Whitelegg, has many sharp observations to his name that debunk  some core urban myths about time and transport motion. In one short essay, Time Pollution, he captures these contradictions in a pithy analog.
Although time-savings provide the principal economic justification for new road schemes, the expansion of the road network and the increase in traffic does not seem to have given people more free time. This is because pedestrian time is not evaluated, because cars are deceptively time-consuming, and because people tend to use what time savings they do gain to travel further.
In fact the research is brutally conclusive, as Whitelegg points out in an interview with ABC Radio :
John Whitelegg: I argue that it's very, very strong indeed, and that's on the basis of actual case studies, actual places where anyone can visit, anyone can have a look and by observation and by looking at the data, can actually inspect the evidence and arrive at their own view. And the starting point, I suppose, is that in Germany there are tens of thousands of what they call, in German, 'Tempo Dreizig', which just means it's a 30 kilometre per hour speed limit. And in those areas the Germans are quite meticulous in monitoring what happens. The rate of walking, the level of walking and cycling goes up dramatically in areas which are carefully speed-limited at that level. The city of Graz, in Austria, and moving out of Germany, has been totally 30 kilometre per hour for at least ten years and some of the highest levels of walking and cycling in Europe. And there's a lot of anecdotal evidence as well as scientific evidence that once people are convinced that the roads are safer, crossing the road is safer, getting on your bicycle and not doing the tango with a large lorry or truck is safer, the evidence is there that people will actually get on their bikes and walk a lot more than they will when they fear that they're actually going to be in conflict with heavy volumes of often aggressively driven - but certainly vehicles driven too fast. And they react accordingly and they switch from the car to walking and cycling.
So there are two phenomena here:
  1. More haste, less speed. (Latin: Festina lente.)
  2. Less speed is safer
...........for cyclists, walkers and drivers. 

The speed conundrum

This contradiction delights me as in choosing the scooter option my speed is lower (but my effort more) than peddling a bike. By default, maybe organically, I've come to an ab hoc  solution by taking myself off the road when I can because it's no good pretending that there aren't problems in traffic -- problems that will not go away; which will only grow as the number of riders  increase (which of course they are doing sharply)..

  • Slow down the other traffic with a blanket speed limit of 30kmh (20mph) in all urban areas. Other speeds can be allowed but as an exception. If there's no sign, it's 30kmh, simple as that.
  • The 30kmh rule has the side effect of reducing overall journey time by car, so it is important to actively focus on the travel time ratio for bikes over cars by reducing car access to places. It is enough to be able to reach every part of a city by car; it doesn't have to be easy or fast.
  • Remove on-street parking for cars; this is an incredible waste of urban space, and those car door are sharp.
  • Get rid of all the junk. Pavements, traffic signs, pedestrian crossings, traffic lights and everything else that has the function of regulating the interactions between road users. This forces people to look, think, and communicate with each other in traffic.
That car speed times are regulated down approaches the commute conundrum that , despite the cityscape  accommodation to upping speed thresholds,
Given the range of speeds listed above, it is unlikely that any major Australian city would have an average in-car speed of more than 40 km/h. None of the speeds quoted above include speeds in car parks, petrol stations, driveways, laneways and culs-de-sac, most of which feature in the normal driving patterns of city drivers [Effective Speeds: Car Costs are Slowing Us Down
by Paul J. Tranter]
.
This table summarizes generic  aspects of the  the conundrum (4 car models compared to bus and bike transport --  Source: Tranter):

0 comments:

Post a Comment