It can be hard riding in the city.
I wonder at the sanity of the people riding down Lygon Street in peak hour. No room! no room! A week ago I saw a car bump a rider, but not enough to knock the rider off. The rider kept on riding, didn’t even seem to notice. How must it be for regular riders, that one can be so whatever about it?
Riding with a trailer is scary. You’re wider—enough wider. Wide enough to fall off the edge, or catch on something. And you’re a lot longer. You really have to plan your corners. (And the trailer is heavy. I laughed at Pen saying she got dragged backwards down one steep hill. But I tried it myself. The real problem is not getting dragged backwards. My legs are powerful enough to move forwards, upwards. The problem is the weight pulls my front wheel of the ground. I lose stability. I had to get off and walk the bike up that hill. Harder work, but safer.) So it’s scary riding on the road. Those crazy drivers get too close, and you’ve got a baby on board. So we try to stay behind-the-scenes, but sometimes we can’t.
Amsterdam is very different.
There are developed cities that aren’t the same as Melbourne, but they are museum cities, like Prague or Venice.
Amsterdam is very different.
Amsterdam is alive. Amsterdam is a world centre. It hosts one of the world’s big stock exchanges. Major companies operate out of Amsterdam (I used to work for one). It’s a modern western city.
But bikes rule Amsterdam. I’ve seen a cop car jam on its brakes to avoid a cyclist who (rightfully) ignored them. And the city is lovely and flat and easy to get around on the pig iron bikes they all ride (to try and avoid bike thieves).
That’s just… a challenge to the way we think about cities. The challenge is, don’t think Amsterdam is very different, and that’s why they ride bikes, and therefore Melbourne (or your city) could never be like that. The challenge is, think, they have chosen to ride bikes, you could too, and that is what makes them different, you could be different too.
(Don’t think it’s a utopia though, the bikes rule with an iron fist, and pity the poor pedestrian who doesn’t move fast enough.)
Which brings us to…
West Palm Beach (in the United States) has been working on traffic calming since 1992, reducing street sizes, levelling the grade between street and footpath, and removing traffic signs (including street markings). Trips are faster and accidents fewer.
Drachten (in Nederland) implemented a shared space scheme in 2003: all traffic lights, signs and street markings were removed from the city centre. Previously the city had an average of eight accidents per year; this has dropped to zero. At one particular intersection, there were 36 casualties in the four years before the change; in the first two years after, there were only two. Traffic jams in the main intersection, which handles 22,000 cars a day, have been eliminated.
(London) Kensington’s High Street (in the United Kingdom) implemented a naked street policy, clearing it of signs, markings and barriers, in 2003. There was a sustained drop in average casualties per year from 71 to 40.
And many more…
And as of September 12, Bohmte (in Deutschland) has no traffic signage.
And Bendigo plans to follow suit.
It’s about giving pedestrians equal priority to cars. It’s different, but it works. It could happen here!
In 2002 I had a dream that the streets of Carlton had been converted to grass. We all flew.