May 21, 2013
…or perceived safety and objective safety of the cycle tracks
Usually, Urban segregated bike lanes (cycle tracsk) are perceived as safer than non segregated one, by many cycle advocates and public alike. Alas most accident statistics say otherwise, and most scientific studies conclude, consistently overtime, that segregated bike lanes impair safety by ~20% ( summarizes and complete previous studies, see also a list of studies at ), some older studies putting this number up to 4 time higher .
Of course, it is possible to find some studies saying otherwise, but usually those studies show significant methodology shortcomings. To focus only on recent Canada centric examples:  draws conclusion on cycle track from a field study conducted in cities not having such infrastructure per sei, as seen in  and obvious selction biais discredit results from  (more critics here and there):
In urban area, most of the cyclist accidents are due to conflict with motor vehicles (85% in French cities according to the OSNIR), and most of them occur at intersection: In Canadian cities, 50% of fatal accidents and 72% of accidents resulting in serious injury occurred at intersections .
Thought, that a separated bike lane can remove potential conflicts along a road, and is recognized to reduce risk in such cases, it makes matter worse at intersections: This is mainly due to the fact cyclists, not on the road, tend to be overlooked by other road users, generating conflict at road intersections. The increased risk for cyclist is illustrated below:
Aware of this fact, Some transportation professional organizations don’t recommend separated bike lane: it is the case for the AASHTO in the USA, or the CERTU for urban area in France. A position supported by numeorus cyclist organizations, be in France (FFCT, Fubicy) or Germany (ADFC), which have been at best rather neutral on the development of segregated cycle track, in some case opposed, and consistently advocating against the mandatory use of it. That eventually became the case for most of the french cycle track, circa 2000. For this later purpose a new road sign has been introduced, and Germany is following track:
An issue is that motorists tend to ignore the difference, and harass cyclists not using the cycle tracks
Traffic engineers, on their side, sometimes eager to remove cyclist of the road for their “good”, have worked to increase the safety of separate bike lane:
Reintroduction into general traffic at intersection
Treating cyclist as pedestrian at intersection
Cycling Commuters are generally not impressed by those treatments, which are just slowing down their commute, even when the obligation to walk the bike at intersections (Hong Kong case), is obviously widely disregarded by cyclists using such facilities.
The Copenhagen’s Treatment: Blue cycle crossings
It has been “invented” in Copenhagen in 1981: The basic idea is to mark the area of conflict between motor vehicles and cyclists so road users pay more attention to this conflict and cyclists have a lane marking through the junction area. Alas, while it is found effectively reducing the number of accidents (and injuries) with one line, it increases it with 2 lines or more, according to .
A reason for that is that, it becomes too much solicitation for the motorist than he can process – resulting in an increase of rear ending collisions and red light runnings; and provides a false “sense of safety” to the cyclists, becoming more complacent- not doing head check or using hand signals according to - what is consistent with the “naked street and risk compensation theories.
…and more often that not:
Separated bike lanes come with a panoply of restrictive sign
All, in the name of cycling safety of course…
But at the end, it is sometimes better to give-up
…than to cut the trees:
Should we be Against the separated bike lane?
or…Should we support the helmet law under evidence of greater safety provided by the helmet
Both generate passionate debates, and unfortunately, both generate biased scientific literature too.
Same logic apply to the cycle tracks: there is no need to deny their negative effect on road safety, or to produce biased studies to try to counter evidence, to support them: that is only conductive of complacency with poorly designed cycle tracks which do no good for cycling. Former Vancouver Planning Director, Brent Toderian was able to implicitly recognize the safety issue and supporting it : What is important is to produce evidence that the positive effect they induce outweigh their negative ones
 Traffic safety on bicycle paths – results from a new large scale Danish study, ICTCT workshop Melbourne, 2008
 Signalreglerade korsningars funktion och olycksrisk för oskyddade trafikanter – Delrapport 1: Cyklister. Linderholm, Leif, Institutionen för trafikteknik, LTH: Bulletin 55, Lund 1984
 Risk of injury for bicycling on cycle tracks versus in the street, Anne C Lusk, Peter G Furth, Patrick Morency, Luis F Miranda-Moreno, Walter C Willett and Jack T Dennerlein, Injury Prevention, February 2011. doi:10.1136/ip.2010.028696.
 Route Infrastructure and the Risk of Injuries to Bicyclists: A Case-Crossover Study, Teschke K, Harris MA, Reynolds CC, Winters M, Babul S, Chipman M, Cusimano MD, Brubacher JR, Hunte G, Friedman SM, Monro M, Shen H, Vernich L, Cripton PA., American Journal of Public Health: December 2012, Vol. 102, No. 12, pp. 2336-2343.
 Safe Cycling: How Do Risk Perceptions Compare With Observed Risk?, Meghan Winters, Shelina Babul, H.J.E.H. (Jack) Becker, Jeffery R. Brubacher, Mary Chipman, Peter Cripton, Michael D. Cusimano, Steven M. Friedman, M. Anne Harris, Garth Hunte, Melody Monro, Conor C.O. Reynolds, Hui Shen, Kay Teschke, Injury Prevention, Canadian Journal of Public Health , Vol 103, No 9, 2012
 Bicycle Quaterly
 Gary James
 Conclusion of both  and  are drawn from a study carried from May 2008 to Nov 2009 in Toronto and Vancouver. To the bets of our knowledge, it was no “cycle track” in Toronto, and the only ones able to qualify in Vancouver, were an experiment started on July 2009 on Burrard Bridge, with no intersection along the ~1km cycle track segment, and a ~300m segment in one direction on a quiet street (Carral street) with ~300 cars at peak hour with only one very quiet intersection (Keefer street) featuring ~120 car at peak hour (From City of Vancouver’s 2006 traffic count) what is barely representative of a typical cycle track: The result provided for the cycle tracks is hence certainly irrelevant, and that is the reason it stands as an outlier.
 Bicycle Infrastructure Studies review by Ian Brett Cooper
 Bicycle Guidelines and Crash Rates on Cycle Tracks in the United States, Anne C. Lusk, Patrick Morency, Luis F. Miranda-Moreno, Walter C. Willett, Jack T. Dennerlein, American Journal of Public Health, July 2013
  draws conclusion by comparing current crash rate on some cycle tracks with some numbers collected, sometimes in specific situation- like a study on Boston’s bike messengers- more than 10 years ago, without correcting them of external factors, like significant general crashes reduction rate in the last decade, and well documented safety in number effect affecting more particularly the cyclists. Furthermore, one could argue that the “crash rate” is a very poor, if not uncorrelated, proxy, to qualify the safety of a road infrastructure: Roundabout are well-known to increase the rate of crashes, vs a signaled intersection, but they are also well recognized to reduce the risk of serious injuries, most of the crashes being limited to fender-bender type. In other word, a crash rate ratio is not representative of the safety social cost of an infrastructure…what ultimately matter. More awkward  suggests that “The AASHTO recommendations may have been influenced by the predominantly male composition (more than 90%) of the report’s authors” without being able to substantiate this assertion, showing that we have here more a opinion paper: attacking the gender of authors to disqualify their works, seems pretty petty at best!
 Vulnerable Road User Safety: A Global Concern, Transport Canada, 2004.
 Safety effects of blue cycle crossings: A before-after study, Søren Underlien Jensen, Accident Analysis & Prevention, Volume 40, Issue 2, March 2008
 Evaluation of Blue Bike-Lane Treatment in Portland, Oregon. Hunter,W.W., Harkey, D.L., Stewart, J.R., Birk, M.L., Transportation Research Record 1705, 2000
 The finding of  seems in fact to suggest that the increase in accident and injuries are mainly among motorists, and eventually moped: so that in fact the blue line could effectively be not than “unsafe” for cyclists. Unfortunately, the paper doesn’t provide detailed break down of the injuries according to the transport mode. In any case, the measured global effect is a negative one
 Vancouver Embraces Bikes, Adds Lanes, Tim Newcomb, Planning;, Vol. 77 Issue 2, Feb2011
October 23, 2012
Transit as integral part of the urban fabric
We are in a beautiful city, “what you would like do in its down town?” is the asked question. The answer, is, and has always been:
relax and enjoy watching the city life:.
Fulfilling the request has always been tricky in a city where the space is at a premium, and there is the competitive and not less important need, How to get there?. by feet, bike, transit, or by car ?
It has become clear that the car is consuming too much space. Walking certainly allows a much more efficient use of space, but does it is a good answer to the elders and disabled who are also part of the city?
Answering all these questions will spell a new paradigm for transit:
relax, enjoy watching the city life…and contribute to it
…by bringing the necessary influx of people to make the city public spaces a success. One city more than any other epitomizes this new paradigm:
The reintroduction of trams  in European cities, date back of the 80’s. but it is in Strasbourg, France, in 1994, that the tram paradigm will be radically changed. It is not thought anymore only as a transportation service, but more as a way of life, an integral part of the urban fabric. To this purpose, the train itself is integrally rethought, and its design become important:
- integrally low floor (Strasbourg is a first) to minimize any access/movement barrier
- As large as possible Windows on the city
- The train design is unique to the city
The design looks revolutionary in the beginning of 1990, but good design age well, as you can see in the picture below. The integration of the tram in the city is particularly well thought, and the tram is integral part of pedestrianized square and street (naked street concept), since it wants penetrate the city in its very heart, bringing its lifeblood, irrigating vast pedestrian areas
The success is immediate, and up to date, Strasbourg has been the showcase of successful urbanism and transit integration- Translink routinely illustrates LRT proposals with the Strasbourg trams-and it can be considered as the veritable origin of the tramway renaissance in Europe, and beyond the new way to think transit in Europe.
We will have to wait almost 10 years, to see a new transit network able to cast shadow on the Strasbourg innovations, it will be in Bordeaux, France, where most of the historic city is classified as World Heritage Site by the Unesco making the mere presence of an overhead wire a major issue. Here, none of the Strasbourg innovation has been repelled, but only improved.
At the difference of Strasbourg, Bordeaux is a city of large boulevards-called cours by the locals- and the tram could have avoided a large part of the pedestrianized streets and squares:
Its designers have chosen not to do so. Here too, the trams affirm their presence right into the heart of the city and are part of the pedestrianized street and square, like illustrated below:
The “naked space”, imposing very low speed, comes at a cost for transit operation, but it is the cost the city has chosen to not disrupt its fabric:
Influence of The Val/tram debate on the Transit paradigm
The VAL, is an automated mini-metro system, similar and contemporary to the Vancouver Skytrain. Both Strasbourg and Bordeaux were poised to have a VAL, not a tram, up to decisive civic elections, seeing mayoral change . Vancouverites can easily imagine how heated could have been the debate between advocates of respective technologies in those cities: The stand-off had translated in cities lagging behind others moving forward on the urban renewal front. Thought one of the argument of the VAL, not taking road space, was loosing steam very quickly, the tram advocates were not going to win the technology argument (speed- frequency), and presenting the tram as a cheaper second choice was not necessarily very appealing to city aspiring to be leading European metropolis (better build less, or wait… but build it right). Another paradigm was needed:
The tram/subway debate is not about money, it is about urbanism
Of course, the geometry argument always rules, but eventually tram advocates of Bordeaux and Strasbourg have been able to demonstrate that with a ~3km typical average trip in their respective cities, the advantage of the grade separated transit (typically VAL), can become moot… especially when the shared spaces in the historic center, usually not much than 1 or 2km, is balanced by segregated right of way in the burbs
The lag taken by those cities during their transit technology choice debate, have also allowed them to learn from other cities, making the renewal a leap forward: That was especially true in Bordeaux, which was a decaying harbor-city
The bus has long been the poor parent of the tram evolution in term of design, but things are slowly changing beyond the simple mimicking of the train feature . Thought cohabitation of bus and pedestrian in a naked space, is less frequent that in the case of tramway, it is more due to the fact that the naked street concept is relatively new than some inherent limitation imposed by the bus.
Besançon, France used to have a bus route in a shared space, before converting it to Tram; eventually showing the progress toward a naked space.
Neuchâtel, Switzerland, is an example where the street paving gives no indication of where the bus is passing.
The above example has shown to be successful, and cleared initial concern on the cohabitation between bus and pedestrian, so the concept is taking off in more major cities, like Exhibition road in London which is also open to bus traffic:
In Paris, the rehabilitation of Place de la République-by Trevelo and Viger Kohler, is also adopting the “naked concept” for bus. Notice that here too, imposing a bus detour to avoid the pedestrianized plaza has been ruled out.
Place de la Sallaz in Lausanne is another example we could name
 see post Hynovis or the Hydrogen bus
 trams is the non american name for streetcar…but in the hierarchy of transportation, the modern European tram is an intermediate between the streetcar and the LRT as known in Portland or elsewhere in America.
 Catherine Trautmann from the center left, defeating center right incumbent Marcel Rudloff, in 1989 in Strasbourg; and Alain Juppé succeeding to Jacques Chaban-Delmas in Bordeaux. It has been an interim mayor in Bordeaux from 1995-2004, Hugues Martin, due to the fact that Alain Juppé was also member of the French government. Alain Juppé had also got convinced of corruption, preventing him to be elected for a year: it has spent this year in Montreal, where there is little doubt he has found inspiration for the waterfront renewal of Bordeaux.