BICYCLES

CYCLE HIGHWAYS AND BIKE SHARING: SAFE INFRASTRUCTURE TO ENCOURAGE ACTIVE TRAVEL

There are many benefits to encouraging bicycle use and improving city infrastructure for cyclists as well as pedestrians. Less space is required compared to car infrastructure and the transport system’s carbon footprint is reduced. In addition, cycling and walking has economic benefits, as both increase the possibilities for shopping. Of course, the health benefits of active travel modes are also well documented.

Consequently, urban planning should focus on encouraging cycling and walking to meet the fast growth of cities worldwide and the associated challenges in terms of sustainability, accessibility and liveability.

In the Urban Insight report “Urban Mobility on a Human Scale – Promoting and Facilitating Active Travel in Cities”, Sweco experts examine ways to enable and encourage active travel in urban areas. This is a short summary; please read the full report for detailed information, additional examples and conclusions.

 

IMPROVING THE SITUATION FOR CYCLISTS AND PEDESTRIANS

In many cities, the current infrastructure for pedestrians and bicycle users could be greatly improved. When planning greenfield projects or improvements of existing urban spaces of any type, plans for active travellers need to be included from the outset. The challenge lies mainly in identifying the best division of space among different user groups.

However, the infrastructure situation is only one piece of the puzzle. Availability is another. Making bicycles, including electric bikes (e-bikes), available to more citizens should be a priority for both employers and local governments. Specifically, smart locks and travel information via e.g. smartphone apps will help make cycling a viable alternative. Bike sharing systems can also play an important role in increasing availability.

In addition, it may be beneficial to influence the travellers’ behaviour in positive ways. Changes in behaviour can, for example, be connected to higher societal goals, such as clean air, sustainable development and health benefits for cyclists and pedestrians. Reward programmes for bike use and sharing and similar, local policies can also be used to facilitate active travel.

 

DEVELOPING SAFE INFRASTRUCTURE FOR VULNERABLE USERS

Even though cyclists and pedestrians are often great in number, even to the point of being the dominant commuter types in a city, they remain vulnerable. It can be argued that, considering how beneficial these travel modes are for urban areas and citizens, they should have the highest priority in infrastructure development.

Statistics on pedestrian and cyclist road accidents show two tendencies. First, most casualties involve single accidents (e.g. sporting accidents and slippery roads in winter conditions).

Second, the stronger the position of cycling and/or walking, the fewer cyclists are killed or seriously injured. There is most likely a two-way causality, meaning that it is possible, and also desirable, to create self-reinforcing dynamics – improved safety conditions increase the number of active travellers, which in turn has a positive effect on safety.

The goal for city planners must be to increase and ensure the presence of pedestrians and cyclists in well-designed urban streets through better infrastructure and maintenance, separated cycle paths and “traffic calming”.

Many European cities are currently investing in developing urban areas that provide additional space and focus on cyclists and pedestrians – not least by reclaiming space previously dedicated to cars, and separating cyclists from motorised traffic. This can be illustrated using examples from cities in various countries.

 

EXAMPLE: LONDON’S CYCLE SUPERHIGHWAYS

One of the most interesting examples of how high-quality bicycle routes can be developed even in dense, existing urban areas is London’s Cycle Superhighways initiative. By using quiet, parallel routes, active mode travellers have received dedicated infrastructure along main routes at the cost of fewer car lanes. The East-West Cycle Superhighway is a particularly impressive example.

To prioritise cyclists and other road users on the new routes, London created:

  • A sufficiently separated, two-way bicycle track to separate cyclists from motor traffic.
  • Innovative junctions for cyclists, including early start as well as protected two-stage right turn facilities.
  • Additional space for pedestrians using traffic islands, wider footpaths, and bus and coach.
  • Stop waiting areas.
  • New and/or improved pedestrian crossings.

 

EXAMPLE: HELSINKI’S BIKE SHARING SYSTEM

Helsinki has managed to double cycling in twenty years (from 1997 to 2017). A major contributor to the city’s success has been the development of a high-quality network of bicycle roads, known as “Baanas”.

A well-functioning bike sharing system has also contributed. In 2016, Helsinki’s bike sharing system had 50 distribution stations and 500 bicycles. In the cycling season of the same year, 400,000 trips were made. The system was expanded in 2017, to 140 stations and 1,400 bicycles, which resulted in a substantial number of additional users. Each bicycle made six daily trips on average.

Read full reportURBAN MOBILITY ON A HUMAN SCALE – PROMOTING AND FACILITATING ACTIVE TRAVEL IN CITIES