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Posts from the Denmark Category


To Become a Great Biking City, SF Needs to Stop Crawling and Start Running

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Our Streetfilm from 2010 documented the experience of North American transportation officials and advocates in Copenhagen during the latest Velo-City conference.

San Francisco doesn’t have to “reinvent the wheel” to become a bike-friendly place — the city need look no further than peers like Copenhagen, widely considered one of the world’s best cycling cities.

So said David Chiu, president of the SF Board of Supervisors, at a forum yesterday evening with the chief of Copenhagen’s Bicycle Program, Andreas Røhl. “We know what needs to get done,” said Chiu. “The answers are there — from segregated cycle tracks, to bike signaling, to more bike parking, to more bike safety, to bike anti-theft measures, to more bike education — these are the pillars of what have worked in other cities.”

Since Copenhagen’s political leadership began implementing measures like physically protected bike lanes and traffic-calmed streets in the 1970s, the amount of bicycling has steadily increased, and today it accounts for 36 percent of work trips in the metro area (and 50 percent within the city proper). Bicycling to virtually any destination is now so safe and convenient, the average citizen does it without thinking twice.

To reach that point, Copenhagen’s leaders overcame many of the same barriers that San Francisco currently faces. Most importantly, they mustered the political will to remove traffic lanes and car parking to make way for safe bike lanes, and they made bike infrastructure a funding priority.

To make bicycling easy and comfortable enough for everyone, said Røhl, a city must provide continuous, safe bicycling conditions on every route — “From point A to point B, even where it hurts.”

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Is This the Best Transit Ad Ever?

SF editor’s note: I can personally vouch for the speed, reliability and comfort of Midttrafik, as I relied on it during my semester in Denmark. 

The idea of investing in transit is popular with Americans, even among those who don’t depend on it. But trains and buses, buses in particular, have always had an image problem. U.S. transit providers could take a cue from this Danish ad, which makes light of the mundane nature of bus travel (free handles!) in a way that actually makes transit look “cool.” Turn on the captions for the full effect.

Hat tip to Dani Simons.


Cutting Down a Protected Bike Lane on Portola: An Improvement for Whom?

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Portola at Glenview Drive, where a section of protected bike lane was replaced with an extended narrow dashed lane treatment. Photo: Streetsblog reader Mike

A section of the post-separated bike lanes on Portola Drive was removed last week and replaced with a design which the SF Municipal Transportation Agency says should be safer and easier for people on bikes to navigate. But at least one commuter who uses the lanes said the change is anything but safe.

The section of bike lane in question, which runs eastbound Portola from Glenview Drive approaching Burnett Avenue and Clipper Street, transitions from a wide bike lane separated by soft-hit posts to a narrow, dashed bike lane squeezed between a traffic lane on the left and a right-turn lane on the right. The argument typically made for such a configuration is that it eliminates the possibility of a “right-hook” at intersections, in which a driver makes a right turn in front of a bicyclist without seeing her. At this intersection on Portola, the right-turn lane leads to a “slip” lane, which allows motor traffic to make the right turn onto Clipper without stopping. That apparently prevents the bike lane from continuing along the curb, forcing it to shift to the left side of the slip lane. It’s also worth noting that there is a bus stop for the 48 and 52 Muni lines along the slip lane.

Last Friday, the SFMTA removed some soft-hit posts and more than doubled the length of the dashed section to “allow bicycles to merge into the bicycle lane to the left of the right turn pocket at the point of highest speed” and “simplify and improve the merging movements approaching Diamond Heights Blvd.,” said SFMTA spokesperson Paul Rose. “We routinely do observations after implementing, and sometimes find that field adjustments are necessary,” he said.

But very few people feel safe riding in a narrow dashed lane, uphill, sandwiched between moving motor vehicles. And planners in other cities have engineered protected bike lanes that minimize right-turn collisions by slowing turning drivers down and making bicyclists visible to them, or by using bicycle traffic signals to create separate phases for cyclists and turning drivers.

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Learning From Other Cities, Planners Shop Early Visions for Market Street

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Image: Better Market Street

Planners presented early concepts for a new Market Street to the public yesterday, moving the discussion forward on revitalizing San Francisco’s grand boulevard with features like car-free zones, raised bike lanes, faster transit, and more inviting public spaces.

The ideas and visualizations, which are available on the Better Market Street website, were presented by planners as starting points to explore. Many of the concepts are hallmarks of the world’s greatest streets, and planners in the multi-agency effort are aiming to adapt them to Market using a swath of survey data about how the street is used.

The increasingly popular idea of removing private autos from lower Market could come in various forms, ranging from additional forced turns for cars in both directions, to a car-free zone near the Powell Street cable car turnaround, to a full ban on cars as far west as Octavia Boulevard.

Staff fielding public feedback said the proposals have met mostly with support, with concerns focused largely on how to best implement car prohibitions in ways that are enforceable and don’t shift traffic congestion problems to other streets.

Similar experiments have proven successful on New York City’s Broadway and Copenhagen’s Nørrebrogade, said Jeff Risom, a planner on the project with the Copenhagen-based Gehl Architects. Like Market’s forced turns at eastbound Sixth and Tenth Streets, officials in those two cities used pilot projects to find the best fit for car restrictions.

In the summer of 2009, the NYC Department of Transportation (with the help of Gehl Architects) removed cars from a section of Broadway in Times Square, turning it into a pedestrian plaza. As a result, Times Square became more of a public destination, increasing pedestrian usage and simplifying the flow of vehicle traffic in Midtown Manhattan. NYC now plans to construct a permanent redesign for the plaza.

A key similarity between Market and Broadway is that they both cut diagonally through a dense street grid.

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What 20 Percent of Trips by Bike Looks Like in Aarhus, Denmark

It can be hard to imagine what San Francisco’s streets would look like if the city reaches its official goal of having 20 percent of trips by bike by 2020. As SF begins rolling out protected bike lanes like the one on JFK Drive, there’s some skepticism out there as to whether the dream of bicycling as a widely accessible, mainstream mode of transport could materialize here.

As it happens, I spent the spring of 2010 living in a city that has a 20 percent bike mode split. Aarhus, Denmark’s second-largest city, with formidable hills and about 315,000 residents (1.2 million in the greater area), has been rolling out protected bike lanes over the past few decades and continues to promote bicycling through a campaign called “8,000 Reasons to Cycle.”

Like San Francisco, Aarhus is improving its bike infrastructure to catch up with the most successful cycling cities, like nearby Copenhagen, which has a citywide bicycling rate of 37 percent (and is shooting for 50 percent by 2015). You can check out Aarhus’s three-year Cycling Action Plan here [PDF].

The Aarhus campaign video provides a nice glimpse of what the “20 percent” vision would look like: groups of cyclists, young and old, using dignified, dedicated bicycle infrastructure everywhere you go. It also lists a few of the “8,000 reasons to cycle” (in case you’re wondering, “8000” is the Aarhus postal code). Here are the translations from Danish:

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Hopenhagen or Carbonhagen, We’ll Still be Cycling Regardless

chic_cyclist_brown_3792.jpgCycling chic in Copenhagen, and this is a cold day in December!

I caught Mikael Colville-Andersen's inspiring talk on urban cycling from the Copenhagen context at San Francisco's SPUR on the last Friday of October. I suggested we could do an interview when I came to Copenhagen in December and he graciously agreed, stepping outside into the drizzling snow at a December 10 awards ceremony he was hosting. (The title of this post is a quote from him when he was on stage at the ceremony, and is a new tag line on his blog too.) They were handing out prizes for the best new designs for the next generation of Copenhagen's bikeshare program. He is well known for his blogging at Copenhagenize and Copenhagen Cycling Chic. The photos throughout were taken by me in Copenhagen during the last couple of weeks there.

Chris Carlsson: What was your experience in San Francisco? Did you have a good time there?

Mikael Colville-Andersen: I had a brilliant time. I just blogged a film with three of my friends, about Critical Mass.

C: Did you get in to the Halloween Critical Mass?

M: Oh yeah, all the way!

C: I saw you wrote some vaguely critical comments about Critical Mass in general.

M: I have done… it’s just that marketing thing. You’re not selling it if you’re pissing people off. Riding around… I didn’t see any bad behavior. There were so many people at that Critical Mass that it was more tame?


Another Model of Convivial Spaces

buchanan_street_crowds_8827.jpgCrowds stretch down Glasgow, Scotland's Buchanan Street pedestrian-only zone.

In Glasgow, Scotland a few weeks ago I had the opportunity to reacquaint myself with a lovely feature of many European cities: broad central city streets converted to pedestrian only. In Glasgow it's on Sauchiehall Street and makes a grand turn onto Buchanan, covering over 20 city blocks. Mostly lined with stores and offices, the landscape created can be "read" as an extended shopping mall, but outdoors, with storefronts opening onto a real street, now converted into a pedestrian and bicycling oasis. The zone is crowded with walkers and shoppers at any given time. (Similar zones that I've visited are the Strøget in Copenhagen, Denmark and Istiklal Caddesi in Beyoglu in Istanbul, Turkey.)


Market/Octavia Debate: Safety by Numbers or Safety in Numbers?

2792852796_3914807463.jpgA blue bike lane in Copenhagen.
Though Superior Court Judge Peter J. Busch ruled the MTA will not get an immediate exemption to the bike injunction to remove the eastbound segment of the bike lane at Market and Octavia because he didn’t think an “adequate case has been made that there's a public safety crisis,” when the hold on the bike plan is lifted as early as this spring, the agency will likely try to remove the lane anyway.  

So will the changes improve safety for bicyclists?  That answer depends on how you look at it and highlights a recurring international debate among transportation engineers and cycling advocacy groups: Are segregated bicycle lanes safer for cyclists than shared lanes?

The MTA argues its plan will increase safety, citing among other examples a report from Copenhagen, Denmark, which details equivalent lane markings to the current Market/Octavia design and the proposed design (PDF, pg 30):
One type continues all the way up to the intersection, the other type stops at a distance from the intersection. Experience shows that the shortened type of cycle track results in the fewest casualties, whereas cyclists feel more secure on the type that continues all the way up to the intersection. Both types may be supplemented with a blue marked crossing, which significantly improves safety.