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Topic: Bicycling (Read 22543 times)

Re: Bicycling

Reply #50
This video details probably the main reason we don't live in America.
Because of a bad experience on a 800 m walk in Houston?


Even before I had visited USA, I had heard about lack of sidewalks there. Of course the true significance of this hit me on my first actual visit.

In USA there are some accidentally walkable little towns, for example Pitman, NJ. Granted, if you want to live in such a nice town, you also have to find a train line away from there to a nearby big city where all the livelihood is, shops and schools and jobs etc.

Even some big cities are eminently walkable, such as NYC, particularly now after the redesign of Times Square.



But NYC is unpleasant in many other ways - overcrowded and expensive, with poverty and luxury side by side in plain sight at every step. Yup, those are negatives, not positives. Moreover, car-centricity in USA has set a bad example that the entire Latin America is eager to emulate, so there is no attractive place to move to there either.

Re: Bicycling

Reply #51
Because of a bad experience on a 800 m walk in Houston?
Houston might be exceptionally bad and I've never been there, but that's basically just how all of America is. For example, in Arlington Heights (Chicagoland) the nearest grocery store wasn't very far, just a kilometer or so, but there didn't realistically seem to be a way to cross the 6 lane stroad. They did seem to have sidewalks everywhere (?) though. The car-centric design felt incredibly oppressive, unpleasant and restricting your liberty in a way even the worst places here in Belgium[1] just don't.

Not to mention the place visually feels like a communist unity sausage dystopia.
Moreover, car-centricity in USA has set a bad example that the entire Latin America is eager to emulate, so there is no attractive place to move to there either.
I understand China's also emulating the bad example.
Which can be quite bad. Some parts of Flanders are starting to reach the Dutch '80s though. The Netherlands realized this whole car thing wasn't working by the '70s, Flanders in the 2000s.

Re: Bicycling

Reply #52
Due to my experience with people in the area of city planning I have concluded that tolerable cities are roughly 50/50 the result of urban planning and also of non-planning. Often enough a city or neighbourhood remains tolerable when it escapes the visions of urban planners and becomes tolerable when it is left behind in development.

For example in Tallinn the iron goal of the mairie is arrested development. The priorities are:
 - service and cargo traffic (e.g. trucks/vans that provide for shops etc., ambulance and fire trucks, road construction and repair machinery,...)
 - public transit (the heaviest mass of it being buses)
 - pedestrians

(probably in this exact order)

It does not mean that bicyclists are not considered at all. It means that solutions for bicyclists are considered only after the priorities have been fully considered first. As a result, the solutions for bicyclists are half-assed, untested, only intermittently workable. When pressed, the official answer is always, "It's a temporary solution considering the current resources available."

The mairie may print publications and statements called "long-term plan" and "vision" with pretty pictures, but the reality is determined by the yearly budget of the road and transportation department and the particular priorities of the department (as listed). The envisioned kilometrage for bicycle traffic is most handily achieved by paving bicycle roads in parks just outside the city, i.e. by leading bicyclists away to nowhere, rather than enabling them to move in the centre.

Therefore towns that do not have a layer of bureaucrats with any sort of priorities or a budget to enforce priorities have occasionally a better chance to remain relatively car-free in the centre. There may be a few enlightened urban planners in the country, but none of them has swayed the road and transport department of their city. Yet we definitely have plenty of unenlightened urban planners who have managed to screw up formerly decent neighbourhoods.

And also, apart from urban planning (or non-planning), restrictions on car ownership can make a difference. In the 70's and 80's, Estonia was the most car-infested corner of USSR, but that was nothing compared to now, when anybody can own any number of cars, anybody can liberally drive anybody else's car (if the car is not reported as stolen, then no problem), anybody can squeeze out any speed they like (the police can stop and fine you, but not confiscate the car - funny that at the same time wrong parking is punished much harsher), etc. Back in good old days it was easily and safely possible to walk and bicycle on roads, even though the roads were ostensibly designed for cars. The cars were simply not there in too significant numbers because a car cost about a decade's salary and often enough you had to wait in car-purchase queue for a decade (to get your licence to purchase a car), you could buy just one (new) car a lifetime, and for serious infractions such as multiple speeding the car was confiscated.


Just prior to my first visit to USA I looked at the map and thought, "Only a few kilometres from the airport to the bus stop. I can walk." Then I landed and the road from the airport to the bus stop looked like this https://tinyurl.com/8a6bsjm7 (Google Maps). This is truly unwalkable and there's no way around it, unless one is willing to climb a few three-metre fences with luggage. I have examined the area time and again in Google Earth over several years - still no go. To arrive at such a situation has required some careful and thorough urban planning, I'd say.

Re: Bicycling

Reply #53
Back in good old days it was easily and safely possible to walk and bicycle on roads, even though the roads were ostensibly designed for cars. The cars were simply not there in too significant numbers because a car cost about a decade's salary and often enough you had to wait in car-purchase queue for a decade (to get your licence to purchase a car), you could buy just one (new) car a lifetime, and for serious infractions such as multiple speeding the car was confiscated.
That's more or less how it was in the Netherlands in the 1950s. The roads were designed and built for cars but most people didn't own cars yet, so in a sense it was not dissimilar to the situation purposefully designed since the '80s. Most people biked and walked. But since the '30s things had definitely been built around the dream of the car, and by the late '60s when car ownership skyrocketed it quickly turned into a nightmare. It did so everywhere of course, so I'm not really sure why the Netherlands and Denmark more or less uniquely sought to actually do something about it. And America was a decade ahead of Europe because of the war…

Re: Bicycling

Reply #54
For example, in Arlington Heights (Chicagoland) the nearest grocery store wasn't very far, just a kilometer or so, but there didn't realistically seem to be a way to cross the 6 lane stroad. They did seem to have sidewalks everywhere (?) though.
There, N Vista Rd in Arlington Heights, IL, has no sidewalks https://tinyurl.com/y3zdpjsj [1]
The northmost tip has it but then the sidewalks stop. I ran into situations like this every time when I ventured or was forced to take a longer walk. Everywhere, except NYC.
By the way, has Google Maps really removed their short url option or am I just not able to find it? I mean in Street View. Ah, found it finally! Hopefully it will be there also next time I look.

Re: Bicycling

Reply #55
Oh sure, but I meant next to a stroad like Dundee.

 

Re: Bicycling

Reply #56
Le Monde is doing a little series about city traffic https://www.lemonde.fr/un-quart-d-heure-en-ville/

Not particularly insightful, but okay to practise the French of some of you. The bicycle episode mentions a mayor of a smaller city implementing four (4) carrefours à la hollandaise. There are usually big problems with a bits-and-pieces approach when trying to improve cyclability: Okay, you will build four bicycle-friendly crossroads, but what about the way for the bicyclists to get to the crossroads? Are you sure your understanding of carrefours à la hollandaise is not accidentally omitting some vital elements that make it work? And, a question to the nationwide planners: If it is allegedly workable, would it not be workable in a city of any size?

In Tallinn, the mayor says that the currently implemented bicycle infrastructure in the city centre (which consists of some painted gutters with insane sudden breaks every now and then) is perfect according to standards and best practices known to him. And they are getting most of their impressive mileage (quantity) for bicycle infrastructure outside the centre, building bicycle roads in and between suburban parks and towards forests outside the city (basically indicating: Bicyclists, get out!). The city planners have the idea that bicycling is mainly for exercise, not for living the everyday life like going to work, a restaurant, shopping or visiting a friend.

In Soviet times, the so-called car-centred planning was not a problem in Estonia. Despite being the most car-dense corner in the entire USSR, the density of cars was very very far from what it is now. Car-only roads (speedways or motorways) did not exist. They do not exist even now.[1] Despite no special attention given to walkability or cyclability in street/road infrastructure, the result was decent because the density of cars was so low that roads were honestly available for everyone (not at all wheelchair-friendly though).

After USSR collapsed, the density of cars changed by a few orders of magnitude for the worse. As the number of accidents became alarming, city planners began taking special measures to impede bicyclists and pedestrians starting with the most dangerous crossings first. This has resulted in random obstacles here and there along most densely walked routes in the city that are completely unexpected for tourists. Similarly, current modern redesign attempts are equally random and haphazard. There are only rare spotty improvements.

My conclusion is that non-planning is better when it comes to street and road infrastructure. Competent city planners do not exist in this part of the world and overall they are far and few between. Now, I have happened to see really splendid bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly street infrastructure in some West European cities, but the funny thing is that at its very best the result resembles the completely unplanned countryside where I grew up.
This is the closest we have to a motorway in Estonia, but see the ample room for a possible bicyclist or pedestrian on the side, and yes, it is legal to walk there. There are no "end of sidewalk" signs there.

Re: Bicycling

Reply #57
There are usually big problems with a bits-and-pieces approach when trying to improve cyclability: Okay, you will build four bicycle-friendly crossroads, but what about the way for the bicyclists to get to the crossroads?
You have to start somewhere, or you'll get nowhere. I think it's okay to update infrastructure as it naturally approaches its end of life. But keep in mind you can do some easy things to existing infrastructure without upending it completely. That does require an actual plan to extend it, of course. I guess you're implying they have the absurd impression that the work is done?

That's how we did it in the Netherlands. In the '70s it was as car infested as anywhere else. When you look at the Netherlands in the 2020s what you see is the result of four decades of mostly naturally improving things as they needed renovations anyway. It didn't happen overnight. As soon as you start, within a decade you'll see massive improvements. The Netherlands that I grew up in in the '90s was somewhat similar to Belgium (or at least Flanders) today in 2022.

is not accidentally omitting some vital elements that make it work?
One thing they are very much omitting in Belgium despite building fairly properly nowadays, perhaps because it's not so much visible as experienced, is that the traffic lights themselves are programmed differently — of course I mean better. Regardless whether you're driving, cycling or walking, it's just significantly more pleasant in the Netherlands. Here they're more stupid timer-based affairs rather than having '80s-level intelligence.[1]

In the Netherlands, the traffic lights will let you go as soon as it makes sense. You rarely feel like you're waiting for nothing. That's particularly true for pedestrians and cyclists compared to many a country that doesn't seem to have given traffic light programming any thought at all, but by car it's also significantly nicer than elsewhere. For some reason people don't seem to realize that when street design is actually given some thought driving is a million times better too.

Btw, the third article is entitled Comment les piétons investissent les villes. My father likes to tell the anecdote of how back when he did his high school exam in, what was it, '55 I think, one of the assignments was a text about piétons. One of his classmates had written about how if a python wants to cross the street, first he should look left and right, and so forth.

My conclusion is that non-planning is better when it comes to street and road infrastructure. Competent city planners do not exist in this part of the world and overall they are far and few between. Now, I have happened to see really splendid bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly street infrastructure in some West European cities, but the funny thing is that at its very best the result resembles the completely unplanned countryside where I grew up.
I'm not convinced. The '50s through '80s Belgian infrastructure was borderline unplanned and as far as I'm concerned it's atrocious. Though I suppose it was still more or less planned by the local municipalities rather than by the people living in the street. But those needn't be opposites. The municipality can act as an enabler, like it mostly does in the Netherlands.
It's possible that they're even better today in the 2020s but that's neither here nor there.


Re: Bicycling

Reply #59
I guess you're implying they have the absurd impression that the work is done?
Of course they do not want their work (i.e. income stream) to end. But they see their work as consisting in doing what either promises most lucrative rewards or avoids most painful punishment. Bicycling infrastructure will never be done, because they are doing it only very reluctantly.

That's how we did it in the Netherlands. In the '70s it was as car infested as anywhere else. When you look at the Netherlands in the 2020s what you see is the result of four decades of mostly naturally improving things as they needed renovations anyway. It didn't happen overnight. As soon as you start, within a decade you'll see massive improvements. The Netherlands that I grew up in in the '90s was somewhat similar to Belgium (or at least Flanders) today in 2022.
I can hardly relate to a culture that when planners step in, things get better, even if bit by bit. Instead there have been multiple occasions with recent reworkings where things got significantly worse, such as the train station next to my workplace. The train station (a stop really) used to be severely underdeveloped, outright primitive, and it was possible to walk freely in any random direction after stepping off the train. Now some goddamn city planners rebuilt it so that *two trainfuls of people* (it has rails in each direction and in rush hours it happens that arrivals from both directions stop at the same time or close) are directed to a single three metres wide spot to leave the station and then to a sidewalk which is narrowed by a bus stop to a 40 cm wide (!) walkable space. For safety (??) the possible alternative routes that used to be there have been walled off with high fences.

Not just bad planning, but decidedly anti-human planning. There is no way it is unintentional. This is my experience with planners. Life used to be so much better without planners. There was so much more space for walking and bicycling. I'm not saying that this is a universal experience. Just that it is how it is where I live.

In the Netherlands, the traffic lights will let you go as soon as it makes sense. You rarely feel like you're waiting for nothing.
I also feel that in the West (Finland or Sweden) the traffic lights go faster or at least smoother. In Estonia, my instinct is first to look left and right and calculate if I can make it over the road without getting hit by a car. If I cannot, I'll wait for the lights. Traffic lights for pedestrians over here are still not halfway as bad as in USA though. You cannot speedstep over any American city-highway.

Also see this tweet: https://twitter.com/curious_founder/status/1569729070216220673
Well, not a picture that applied to Estonia most of the time last century. There may have been isolated exceptions like Olympics 1980 (the sailing events were held in Tallinn).

Re: Bicycling

Reply #60
Traffic lights for pedestrians over here are still not halfway as bad as in USA though.
Oh yes, in the US they're completely absurd. Here's a video about it, but I've experienced it firsthand. They had a sign saying something like "wait for cars to turn right before crossing." The first time I did that… and never was able to cross. The second time, I stepped in front of the cars as if I was in Italy.[1]

I determined that the made up nonsense of "jaywalking" (what we call "walking") was probably the safest method of crossing the street, because you can simply do it when there are no cars, whereas the traffic light where you're supposed to cross is:

a. horribly far
b. significantly less safe

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ByEBjf9ktY
Meaning ready to jump back but pretending not to.