Myth versus the reality of cycle tracks: calm comfort in Holland


This video, made by David Hembrow, a British citizen in The Netherlands, shows the growing chasm between the critiques of "vehicular cyclists" and the reality of cycling infrastructure, particularly when we can see the best in the world. Many of their critiques are only relevant to the poor bike paths built in certain locales such as California in the 1970s. And the relevant critiques such as the risk of intersections have been addressed in different ways to create the safest cycling cities in the world.

A video that I got via TCAT from markenlei goes into greater detail on how the Dutch have dealt with intersection conflicts to improve the safety of cyclists.

The criticism against separated bike infrastructure is becoming increasingly muted, though there are still pockets in the UK and North America. Increasingly, however, planners are adopting Dutch and Danish practices and installing much better infrastructure in Portland, NYC, San Francisco, Vancouver, Montreal and elsewhere.

Meanwhile folks like Hembrow and Copenhagenize continue to sway people's opinions with straighforward examples of what is possible. One such "anti-segregationist" switched teams because of the evidence. Here in Toronto folks like James at The Urban Country has been doing a good job showing the folly our own prejudices, even in bicycle-friendly Montreal.

Comments

Excellent material - thanks for showing it, Herb!

Some points worth noting:

  • most of the examples were filmed in the areas outside the old city cores, where streets are wide and have the space to create safe lane structures. In toronto, such areas would be found mostly in the burbs, on the arterials like Eglinton and Sheppard. Some downtown streets could take such designs as well - Richmond and Adelaide come to mind.
  • Many downtown areas would not be suitable for such space-demanding designs. E.g., Queen and King are to cramped for space and are probably best off with the the current design. Lowered speed limits would allow for a safer mixing of cars and bikes in the "vehicular" fashion.
  • One thing that is obvious is the added expense that proper design brings: more curb structures, additional signal light systems. Also, if I understand it right, the City as separate departments responsible for bike paths vs building roads. Until the "road builders" understand and appreciate the requirements of cycling traffic, nothing will change and the bike path builders will bang their heads against the proverbial wall. I am not sure what kind of disaster it would take before the city would be willing to change that....
  • the city planners can learn a lot from the videos instead of experimenting as they "re-invent the wheel". Maybe some key personnel should travel there and check things out first-hand. It would be money well spent...

I have ridden extensively throughout Holland with my children and my wife over many years.(the fact I have to go to Holland to safely tour with my children on bicycles is another story)
The bicycle lanes are also separated, in many narrower inner city 2 way streets, in cities like Utrecht and Amsterdam.
Based on what I have seen in Holland there is lots of space in most 4 lane profile 2 direction downtown Toronto streets to accomodate separated bicycle lanes.
The idea we dont have the space in downtown Toronto for separated bicycle lanes with 2 way 4 lane roads is just not correct in my experience.
The idea that separated bicycle lanes are only possible on 4 lane one way arterial streets is one that is not subscribed to in northern europe or Montreal for that matter.
We need to have the political will to give cycling more importance on a very few streets downtown to make a world of difference.
Support Denzil Minnan Wong's network.

Many of their critiques are only relevant to the poor bike paths built in certain locales such as California in the 1970s.

Then again, there are plenty of examples all over the world of bad installations.

Whilst most of Warrington's Cycle campaign facilites of the month are in the UK, there is this lovely one of Dutch vehicular cyclists, and this intimiate Dutch canal-side facility has always been one of my favourites.

Although, when your cycle facility needs a 'facility', Brussels is the place to ride.

I support the proposed downtown network of separated bike lanes, although with some reservations, and strongly supports separated bike lanes on or near high speed suburban roads like Finch. But I have something to say about the current divisions between so-called "vehicular" cyclists like the league of American bicyclists, and "infrastructure" cyclists like Copenhagenize: stop promoting divisions. In particular, stop describing cyclists on the "other side" of this artificial dividing line in the terms Jim Kenzie and other anti-cycling fanatics use for all of us.

Unless and until we get cycle paths right to everyone's house and place of business, a state of grace I do not expect this city will attain in my lifetime, cyclists who cannot or will not ride on roads with cars cycle under a very serious handicap. Worse, more than a few opponents of cycling want to use the presence of cycling infrastructure as an excuse to harass, bully or even legislate cyclists off the roads. It simply does not do to pretend that cycling infrastructure offers the answer to all of our problems. On the other hand, we need to get more people riding, and quoting statistics at them won't do the job. If only to build up the confidence of novice cyclists, we need more infrastructure.

That means we need more safe infrastructure, protected not just from motorists but also from various forms of street crime cyclists (particularly women cyclists) can fall prey to. It means we need more convenient infrastructure. It also, most importantly, means we need education to go with building the infrastructure. Paths do not provide an alternative to safe operation of cars or bikes, They do not replace respect or consideration on the part of motorists. Cycle pats simply provide an effective guide for traffic, and a way for users, whether cyclists or pedestrians or motorists to use the roads safely.

John G. Spragge
Mariner, cyclist, pilot

****Meeting tonight on Royal York Road Reconstruction. It is an opportunity to get the bike lane extended. ****

There will be a public meeting tonight, to discuss the re-construction of Royal York Rd. from Dundas St. West to where the bike lanes end at Ashley Rd. This re-construction could be an
opportunity to extend the existing bike lanes.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011 – 6 to 9 p.m.
St. Giles Kingsway Church (15 Lambeth Rd)

http://www.toronto.ca/involved/projects/royalyork9/index.htm

The #1 point in the original video and in my post that a certain group of people have taken the liberty of picking particularly bad infrastructure and generalizing it to all infrastructure. If there's anything obvious from the video it's that if there is a government that takes cycling safety seriously that they will actually invest in good infrastructure and good engineers and planners to deal with various issues that cyclists face.

And then you get the government in the UK (e.g. Warrington) which would rather make a token gesture towards cyclists rather than do a proper job.

When an apologist for "vehicular cycling" comes across bad cycling infrastructure, they say "Rip it all out!" But when a Dutch cyclist (or really the majority of cyclists out there) come across bad cycling infrastructure, they say "Make it better!"

On my street (East Danforth), separate bike lanes mean more than safety for my friends on the road. They also offer small businesses the hope of a better neighbourhood vibe.

Right now drivers treat East Danforth like a highway -- not very romantic or shopping-friendly.

The #1 point in the original video and in my post that a certain group of people have taken the liberty of picking particularly bad infrastructure and generalizing it to all infrastructure.

No, that's not what I'm trying to do, although claims that "all bad cycling infrastructure must be California in 1970" do need rebuttal. The point is that designing separated cycling infrastructure that fits in the urban fabric we have in Toronto, and can deal with the busyness of the streets, is not simple.

To get good-quality dedicated bicycle lanes in Toronto will require quite a bit of construction and rededication of road space from cars to bicycles. (Or fantasies such as making busy streetcar tracks bi-directional.)

Until I see plans with measurements--not vague proposals or Photoshopped concepts--I will remain skeptical.

If there's anything obvious from the video it's that if there is a government that takes cycling safety seriously that they will actually invest in good infrastructure and good engineers and planners to deal with various issues that cyclists face.

If there's something else obvious from the video, it's that the cycling infrastructure is in a completely different built environment than we have in downtown Toronto. It's also obvious that there is basically no traffic to worry about. We might be able to kind of replicate the video ride someplace like the Birmingham bike lanes, but College Street? Not a hope.

Even if the City was 100% absolutely committed to creating safe cycling, scenes like in the video simply won't happen on Queen or College or Sherbourne. I suspect that Dutch cycling infrastructure in space-challenged downtown areas will show that space has been taken away from cars and given to bicycles. Let's be serious--do you think a Ford administration is going to agree to that?

So you're making a rebuttal to something I didn't even say?

What I actually said was: "Many of their critiques are only relevant to the poor bike paths built in certain locales such as California in the 1970s." Note the words: "such as" meaning "for example". California built some crappy infrastructure, and so is the UK and elsewhere. Let's try to avoid the crappy kind and go for good stuff.

When it comes to what exactly is proposed for Toronto, that all depends on the design process and the politics. This post didn't address either issue so I'm not sure why you're bringing them up here.

These Dutch videos are likely of suburban Dutch roadways so are best applied to similar situations here (and we have similar examples already, for example, along Lakeshore and along Eglinton west of the Humber river). And then there are urban situations where this video may inspire some good infrastructure on some downtown streets (though don't take it that I'm putting my stamp of approval on this exact design, it's just an example):

Beautiful 'day in the life' of Dutch cycling. 14 million bicycle trips per day, on average! And not a helmet to be seen.

Some more about the safety of cycle tracks in a study on Montreal