Monday, August 28, 2017

Hostile vehicles and crowded places

Since the recent terrorist attacks where vehicles have been used to attack crowds many cities have been installing temporary concrete bollards around locations vulnerable to terrorist attack using a vehicle. Unfortunately these are generally rather ugly and in many cases they significantly impact on the pedestrian capacity through the area.

Sometimes the temporary barriers have been installed despite existing bollards being in place. This is probably because the existing bollards are not strong enough to stop a determined driver in a heavy hostile vehicle.

In mid-September I was in Melbourne for the AITPM conference and noticed this example in the Bourke Street Mall. The temporary bollards are completely ineffective since a vehicle can quite easily access the mall using the tram tracks.

The Australian Government recently launched their Strategy for Protecting Crowded Places from Terrorism. As well as the strategy, the website includes some valuable tools that active transport and public space planners and engineers need to make themselves aware of when planning and designing crowded places. Crowded places could include outdoor dining areas, commercial hubs and CBDs, shopping centres, hotels, stadiums or special events. Relevant tools include:
The Hostile Vehicle Guideline for Crowded Places has some valuable guidance for planners and engineers. Some of the things that stand out for me are:
  • Early intervention during planning provides the greatest opportunity for success and the cost of including security interventions increases as the project progresses through design to completed infrastructure
  • Security should be proportionate to the threat and appropriate for the space
  • Sculptures, bicycle parking, fountains and stairs can be effective security measures that add to the amenity of a crowded place. This blog post provides a nice discussion on some design ideas for beautiful bollards.
  • To be effective, the maximum clearance between barriers cannot be wider than 1.2m
  • The angle of the vehicle entry to the space can significantly impact on the cost of barriers
  • Speed bumps and the like are ineffective in deterring or slowing down a hostile vehicle.
The guideline was prepared by the Designing Out Crime Research Centre who have done some interesting work in the use of design innovation to resolve complex crime issues and social problems.

So, does this mean the death of the 'naked streets' concept? I don't believe so, it just makes it an inappropriate design solution in areas where there are crowds that gather.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Trends in cycling - a little old, but good

This interactive web page developed by Allianz is a great resource summarising some of the census and other data sources on cycling.

Good on you Allianz for doing your bit to provide information and promote cycling.

It would be great if all cities and states provided this sort of update on an annual basis. It provides a fantastic barometer on how we are doing in supporting active transport.

Portland, Oregon regularly publishes a short report on cycling in the city on key corridors. It provides a great snap shot of cycling trends in the city. The National Cycling Participation Survey is great, but the information could be presented in a far more accessible format than a PDF report.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Raised priority crossings

Priority crossings of side streets are essential for off-road cycle tracks along arterial roads. Without the priority for cyclists the traffic on the minor side streets impact significantly on the safety and delay for cyclists using the cycle track. More confident cyclists will tend to ride on road and avoid using the cycle track, and all other cyclists risk their safety every time they have to cross the side streets.

The Cycle Track guideline (Technical Note TN128) issued by the Department of Transport and Main Roads gives good guidance on priority crossings for cycle tracks. Here are some examples I have seen delivered around the state.
 Brisbane Road on the Sunshine Coast

Entrance to theme parks and studios off Entertainment Drive, Gold Coast (photo from Google StreetView) - not the raised crossing on the slip lane.
Brassal Bikeway in Ipswich.

Brisbane has multiple locations where priority crossings are required on V1 Veloway. My pet hates are:
  • along O'Keefe Street with the crossing of Carl Street (Council did a half hearted upgrade in 2016 that did not address the issue at all)
  • along Bapaume Road and Birdwood Road
Stage E of the Veloway upgrade will hopefully provide a priority route for cyclists through this dangerous section of the V1. But unfortunately it may not address the issue for school kids cycling to Holland Park High which is just off the V1 along Bapaume Road. This is a personal issue for me as my daughter has just started high school there and our house is ideally located for her to use the V1 to cycle to school. However the multiple crossings of slip lanes, side roads and driveways make me very nervous for her safety.

Hopefully the upgrade to the V1 will also consider the needs of school kids needing to access Holland Park High. The upgrade does not appear to be funded yet so I dont know if it will get upgraded soon enough for my kids to use it to get to school. An interim intervention to improve this section would definately be welcome for commuters and school children using this dangerouse section of the V1. I have some ideas for improvements, if anyone would be interested.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Bicycle deflection rail removal

Thank you to the Brisbane City Council for deciding to remove the bicycle deflection rails (banana bars) on the network. These have been hated by cyclists for quite some time - especially on busy cycle links.
I have already seen the benefit on my cycle route via the V1. The hazardous banana bars on the entrance to the bikeway from O'Keefe Street were recently removed. This is a significant safety improvement.
The purpose of the banana bars in this location were never really clear as it is extremely unlikely that a car will access the path as there is a fence along O'Keefe Street.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Active cities

The Transportation Research Board (USA) recently issued a guide for city leaders on improving how cities support active lifestyles. I love the way the USA makes guidelines, statistics and research publicly available for free. They have some brilliant resources. Although they tend to be focused on the USA they are often more applicable in Australia than similar European research and guidance.

I love this quote from the report:
'Cities that make physical activity a priority, convert existing spaces into active spaces, and design environments for people to be active will create a legacy of physical activity. These active cities will be better off by almost every possible measure.'
The report has some great statistics and info-graphics. Not all the research is from the USA as the guideline is aiming to show a broad base of evidence of the benefits of active cities. In fact Adelaide is mentioned as an example of a city that is doing well at supporting activity.

The guideline gives simple and practical advice on supporting the development of an active city related to:
  • open spaces and parks
  • urban design and land use
  • transport
  • schools
  • building design and work spaces
It then gives policy interventions that will deliver positive outcomes - including 'quick wins'. And then it also provides links to a wealth of tools and resources. This guideline is a valuable resource that is aimed at the non-technical leader / decision makers in cities. It would be good to get more awareness of it amongst transport planning professionals and public figures.

Brisbane is doing many of these interventions and that is one of the reasons I love living here. Wouldn't it be great if these principles could be completely embraced by our cities.  

Monday, August 3, 2015

Economic benefits of active transport

The U.S. Department of Transportation recently published a white paper on evaluating the economic benefits of non-motorised transport. It provides a short review of available economic analysis tools, and recommendations on how they may be used. The comparison table of tools in Appendix A provides a useful comparison of what the tools can tell you, their data needs and usefulness.

Although it is a very brief paper, it provides an extensive list of reference works that provide some interesting data snippets from the USA and the UK.

Some interesting snippets of facts cited in the report:

Project specific economic benefits in New York:

  • 49% increase in retail sales near the protected bike lanes on 8th and 9th Avenues in Manhattan (compared to a 3% increase borough-wide)
  • 49% fewer commercial vacancies near the reconfigured pedestrian plaza at Union Square North (compared to 5% more borough-wide)
  • 172% increase in retail sales at Pearl Street in Brooklyn, where an underused parking area was converted to a pedestrian plaza (compared to an 18% increase borough-wide).
  • 58% decrease in injuries to all street users on 9th Avenue in Manhattan where a protected bike lane was installed
Macro-economic benefits: Vermont
  • Vermont hosted over 40 running and cycling events in 2009, which attracted over 16,000 participants spending over $6 million in the state. The running- and cycling-related spending from these events supported an estimated 160 workers;
  • A business survey found that bicycle- and pedestrian-oriented businesses in Vermont generated $37.8 million in output and directly employed 820 workers with $18.0 million in labor earnings

Friday, July 10, 2015

Making walking and cycling safer

The European Transport Safety Council has recently released an interesting report called Making Walking and Cycling of Europe's Roads Safer. It makes for interesting reading. The variation in safety is significant across Europe with countries like Romania and Latvia having average annual pedestrian deaths over 7 times those of the best performers like the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden.

There are some strange statistics. Such as the gender of pedestrians killed on the roads. Why is there a greater proportion of men than women pedestrians killed in the UK, while Switzerland has roughly even number of male and female pedestrians killed over the last three years.

The breakdown in cyclist deaths by age category is interesting. Generally older people appear to be more at risk than younger people. Since the statistics are based on deaths per population the figures are skewed to show poor performance in countries with large numbers of people cycling (like the Netherlands).

What is interesting is the discussion on what is needed to make roads in Europe safer for pedestrians and cyclists. The interventions are obvious:

  • improve urban road design characteristics to be safer for cycling and walking - it will also help address congestion
  • reduce traffic speeds to 30km/h on residential roads and those in business districts
  • change the design of cars and trucks to reduce the risk if pedestrians and cyclists are hit by a car 
  • Change truck design to improve visibility of cyclists
  • have automatic/passive measures to reduce the risk of driver inattention 
  • behavioural changes for cyclists and pedestrians to reduce risk