More ‘Pretend Infrastructure’

Background Reading

Summary

Share nicely, everybody! (From Wikipedia)

Share nicely, everybody! (From Wikipedia)

I assumed this means something like “home zone” and it turns out that’s pretty much right.

It marks the start of a “verkehrsberuhigter Bereich” which translates as “traffic-calmed area”. It means:

  • Pedestrians may use full width of the street.
  • Children are allowed to play anywhere.
  • Vehicles must travel at walking pace.
  • Drivers must not hinder or endanger pedestrians. They must wait when necessary.
  • Pedestrians must not unnecessarily hinder drivers.

There are also some parking and loading restrictions, but the headline is: this should be a place for people who aren’t using a vehicle.

But like the last post about Berlin’s pretend infrastructure, this sign is used on motor vehicle through-routes, and as such is entirely useless.

I’ve seen these all over Berlin. I’ve never seen children playing in them, nor have I seen people walking along them. They’ve all been rat-runs.

Here’s the nearest one to where I live. On one side there’s a park, and on the other there’s a school:

gudvanger-strasse-verkehrsberuhigte-bereich

gudvanger-strasse-verkehrsberuhigte-bereich

The authorities clearly saw there was a problem here, as the current situation is an improvement over how it was in 2008. There are lots of bike stands, and the road has been narrowed which must discourage some drivers from using it, as they’ll have to wait for any oncoming traffic to clear, but it’s clearly not good enough:

The traffic calming treatment is so weak I can’t understand it. Why isn’t this section of the road closed entirely, and permanently? There’s no need for it to be a through-route at all, as the roads either side of it are also two-way through routes.

Even the local children can see the problem, as they’ve written messages such as “walking speed”, “playing allowed” and “3 – 7 km/h” on the road, in chalk:

childrens-message-to-drivers-on-gudvanger-strasse-in-berlin

I find this really sad.

The children are telling us that there’s a problem here, they recognise that there’s a traffic problem – but the city isn’t listening, so the kids are trying their best to solve it the only way they know how.

Then their chalk pleas are worn away by car tyres.

Luckily, some of the local people are listening, and have set up a weekly “play street” event every Tuesday from the 26th of May. Let’s hope it leads to permanent change.

Perhaps they were inspired by what the children of Amsterdam did in 1972?

“You can keep asking, but if the city doesn’t act you have to do things yourself.”


TakeAways

As always a good ‘hard-hitting‘ article on real problems with the so-called bicycle infrastructure being introduced in cities all over the globe. What always amazes me is the obvious level of indifference in the infrastructure design and the over-the-top emphasis on ‘pretty green paint‘.

In a few years we will all be looking back on what has been going on to date and sadly realize we were being placated. Nothing more, nothing less. Politicians wanted to get us ‘off their backs‘, so they allied with ‘fake advocacy groups‘ whose primary concerns are their ‘bottom lines‘.

To keep us busy we return month after month to MBAC meetings which are designed to keep us ‘in the loop‘ on the ‘next big thing‘. And the activists in our midst who are either unmarried or childless keep returning to bask in the glow of ‘being in the know‘.

Infrastructure Is More Limited Than Useful

A surprising bit of information was released by StreetsBlog about the situation regarding bicycle infrastructure in Philadelphia. In essence we learn that:

  • The city has precious little of the glitzy stuff that Chicago and New York display
  • Because the streets are narrow the traffic has to cooperate to get anywhere

This is of course interesting because of the attitudes taken by Chicago’s Urban Cycling Community when it comes to missing or interrupted infrastructure:

When our bike lanes are interrupted during a construction phase we have a melt-down. Our response to having to ‘take the lane‘ when the bike lane is undergoing change reads like this:

A construction project on Milwaukee Avenue, one of the busiest bike lanes in the city, is putting riders at risk by forcing them into traffic.

This is language designed to caste the cyclists as ‘victims‘. What is most ironic is that a week or so before the construction began it was offered up that the feeder (Milwaukee) and its connector (Kinzie) could undergo a partial relocation to Grand Avenue:

But we are far more interested in grasping at things about which we can ‘rally‘, than things we can use to ‘further the safety of the community‘.

People do not even like Kinzie as it currently exists. I have ridden it countless times and always am amazed that someone bothered to build this lane on the sort of surface. It is in a word, lousy.

Unless You Force Something Via Infrastructure It Is Useless

Take for instance a parking lot at your favorite mall. We have one here in my town. You cannot drive directly to the end of the ‘lanes‘ inside the lot without having to come to a stop or slow down to go around the ‘island blockages‘ at the ends.

Once around those you are on the lane that circumnavigates the inner parking lot area. It will take you to the outer roads via a series of outlets.

This design works because it ‘forces‘ drivers of cars and bike to alter their behavior long enough to transition to the lane that runs around the perimeter of the lots. But on streets these sorts of thing seldom get built.

In fact in Oak Park they managed to take out the ‘bump outs‘ in certain areas for reasons I can only imagine have to do with snow removal. Following the first winter of installation of these stupid things, it became clear that you could not easily remove snow without using a much smaller plow that had a smaller turning radius.

But smaller trucks mean slower removal and suddenly everyone realized that the ‘bump outs‘ did not cut it.

Far too many of the supposed Road Diet tricks are about as meaningful as fad food diet tricks. They sound great on television but when you try them at home, they suck.

Who in his right mind would ever had decided to paint the surface of streets in Chicago with pretty green paint and then nail down PVC bollards? It took one winter to realize that the paint peels and chips off the surface of the roadway (especially when plows move over it) and the painted surfaces are ‘slippery‘. But being the fruitcakes that we are we lapped up the beauty of it all and paid absolutely no attention to the maintenance issues of it all.

We are going to make the same mistakes over and over again in Chicago. Our reliance on physical separated bike lanes is going to prove misguided. In a city the size of Chicago change is the norm. Raised platforms and such are useless. The first time you have to tear up that infrastructure to fix something it is going to be poorly re-installed.

But we need or rather believe we need protection. So why is the percentage of cycling so much greater in Philadelphia than here? You might be tempted to offer up excuses like the streets are narrower.

But that does not fit the situation in the suburbs. The streets out here are wider. And yet you feet safer on them. In fact give me a buffered bike lane and I will ride all day long, regardless of the traffic.

Jettison The Paint

Next time you are going eastbound through Oak Park on the Eisenhower Expressway, look down at the roadway. It is red! They have managed to do what the Dutch do, add a pigment directly to the pavement. The westbound side is still black.

Why not find ways to color the pavement for bike lanes? I don’t mean adding paint. Instead build the coloration into the pavement itself.

Getting Over Ourselves 

Sorry folks but eventually we will need to have bicycle registration, everywhere in this country. You will be given a card showing that you are licensed to ride your bicycle in the bike lanes and are because of your age forbidden to ride on the sidewalk.

And your bike will have to be ‘roadworthy‘. Like automobiles you will need lights and reflectors galore. And there will probably be restrictions on riding without brakes and other nonsense.

But let’s not fight over the issue of being licensed and having to actually pay for the privilege of locking up your bike (same as cars) when parking. Let’s think about how to make this a plus.

If you do not like my idea of having to use Divvy bikes then for goodness sakes let’s define what a minimally functional on street or end of block parking lot space has to have.

It needs to have space between bikes that allow you to lock up something a bit larger than you kids toy trike. In fact every parking lot should be designed with the idea in mind of securing your cargo bike. Some of these things are huge. So we need parking that is useful for such a vehicle.

I could go on, but it seems reasonable that there be attendants to watch over the bikes and cameras as a last line of defense should a thief get inside.

Segregated Bike Ways

IDOT has done a wonderful job by creating segregated bikeways along roads like Butterfield and Lincoln Highway. We need more of this approach all over Cook County.

This approach is not fancy. It is essentially an extra wide sidewalk with a fairway between it and the curb. At corners are crossing lights that you can control. It means that a four lane road can exist alongside a bike lane that even kids could ride.

Let’s Stop Acting Like Prima Donnas and more like ‘working class‘ people who do not expect our streets and bike lanes cleared by workers using tooth brushes. We are interested in the functional. We are not interested in being your backdrop every time you want to hold a photo-op of your latest bicycle infrastructure installation.

We are busy folks who have jobs and are not about to be your props. What we want to know is not how pretty the goddam lane you just installed is, but rather how easy is it to keep cleared of snow in winter.

Let the so-called Activists have their ‘Die-Ins‘. The fact of the matter is most of us are hard-pressed to avoid running red lights and stop signs because we have gotten into very bad habits. We own that reality.

What will help us get over ourselves is workable infrastructure that allows us to get from here to there without having to worry and fret. IDOT seems to understand this.

What the hell is wrong with CDOT?

And the next time someone offers you a chance to relocate a POS bike lane like Kinzie please ‘bitchslap‘ the folks in our so-called advocacy groups who have more time on their hands than common sense, by suggesting a frigging write-in campaign. Who the heck is leading that group? I’m not asking who is the fellow or gal serving as director, I am asking who is ‘leading‘ the danged thing.

At present it seems bereft of leadership.