Biblio (43) Complete streets

biblio 43- complete streets

When I was a little boy, sometimes the grown-ups told me they woke up so early to go to their jobs, that streets were still not in place. The American concept of complete streets makes me think that in some places are still for early risers…

A complete street is, according to the definition by the National Complete Streets Coalition, a street designed to enable safe access for pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists and public transportation users of all ages and abilities.

This blog is written from an European perspective; I do not pretend to know the whole of the 27 states of the Union, but I can talk with some knowledge about the two cases I know best, Spain, Italy and France.

The presence of sidewalks, presented as one of the main elements in the American vision, is universal in urban land (but for some historical areas in which usually pedestrians are dominant), although width, and location of poles and signs, are sometimes quite bad; but sometimes the peripheral areas, which are not urban land in planning, can have homes without sidewalks. In illegal building areas the situation is worse.

Bicycles are not always well integrated in the street, and the situation varies from city to city.

Traffic and pedestrians are not always in a balanced relation, and crossing is dangerous in some places. And some other issues raised by the Americans are also sometimes deficiently addressed.

So, in the end, although the Americans are clearly in a worse shape (low densities help), we also have things to correct here in Europe. And from that perspective, it is interesting to read the “Complete Streets- Local Policy Workbook”, specially for the most “Americanized “ European peripheral areas.

Bikes (5) Madrid

Accoding to the Barómetro anual de la bicicleta, 20,5 million spaniards have a bike for their personal use, and some 3 millions use it almost daily. Some of them live in Madrid…

2013 will not bring the once expected municipal shared bike system (the current economic crisis does not seem the good time for it), but we have a new bike lane through central Madrid. After years of a strange situation in which the bike network in Madrid was just a peripheral ring more fit for leisure than for commuting, at least a small change. The bike trail along the Manzanares and the western part of the bike ring are now connected to the eastern part through calle de Alcalá and Calle O’Donnell, configuring a good route for tourists, even if there is still a lack of good connexions with some jobs concentrations.bicimad-plan

The municipal bike paths map (accesible through the internet, you must notice that the default view also includes recomended streets that have no proper bike lane) shows more clearly the situation; there are still a lot of unconnected bike lanes sections, without a proper grid.


On the metropolitan scale the situation is far from easy; the Bicisur project is led by the Consorcio de Transportes (the regional transportation authority) to make the bike a real alternative to mass transit and private cars in southern metro madrid, along the metrosur line (a curious subway ring that is in an excentric situation).

The method applied is:

  • 1: A collaborative map of quiet itineraries is defined on the web
  • 2: A collaborative map of black spots (traffic problems) is defined, from february 2013
  • 3: A collaborative map of the most popular subway stations as modal exchange points

There will be more initiatives, with the initial participation set to be closed in march 2013

Bikes (4) Cycle sharing in India and China

Hangzhou bike sharing system

In 2011 the India Government decided to launch a National Public Bicycle Scheme to promote cycling as the last mile connectivity in 10 cities. On average, 43,7% of indian households had a bicycle in 2001, a figure that rose to 46% in urban areas. The National Government issued a draft toolkit for public cycle sharing systems that studies such systems in other countries, mainly Europe and China.

The context in India is quite different from that in western countries; most cities have no dedicated bike lanes, and the cost of all the items that are used to set up such a system are different, as can be easily understood comparing the purchasing power of the average citizen. China has different situation as investment on capital infrastructures has been stronger, but shares some similaritudes with India (relatively low purchasing power but high tech local firms able to set up advanced control systems). According to the India Public Cycle Sharing Toolkit, the capital costs including all the systems from bike stations to control center and the bikes themselves are as follows:

  • Hanghzhou: Rs 64.000 per bicycle (891 euros)
  • Guangzhou: Rs 58.000 per bicycle (808 euros)
  • Pune (Cycle Chalao estimates 2012): Rs 54.000 per bicycle (752 euros)
  • Ahmedabad (IDTP estimate): Rs 77.000 per bicycle (1.073 euros)

Yearly operating costs per cycle are estimated as follows:

  • Hanghzhou: Rs 9.900 per bicycle (137 euros)
  • Guangzhou: Rs 13.600 per bicycle (184 euros)
  • Pune (Cycle Chalao estimates 2012): Rs 24.000 per bicycle (334 euros) (costs are higher as the system is not fully automated).

The usage fee structure proposed in the toolkit is:

  • Less than 30 minutes: free
  • 30 minutes- 1 hour: Rs 5 (7 euro cents)
  • 1-2 hours: Rs 10 (14 euro cents)
  • More than two hours: Rs 15 (21 euro cents)

According to the toolkit, a high quality cycle sharing system with 5.000 cycles can be established in an indian city for Rs 40 crore (5,5 million euros). Just in order to compare costs, Velib, the Parisian system, started in 2007 with 7.000 bikes and start-up cost estimated at 140 million euros (paid by the firm that got the external advertisement concession for the whole city, not the public administration); a 1 hour ride costs 1 euro.

A bicycle from Cycle Chalao!, a bike sharing system set up in Mumbai and Pune in 2010 that has ceased to exist since, but has provided an interesting local experience.

Bikes (3) Night biking in urban France


And now, for a special study, by a Psychosociologist (Mrs Catherine Espinasse), on night biking at Lyon, Paris and Poitiers. It is worth noticing that bike use in France is way smaller than in the Netherlands or Denmark. The interest of this text is to grasp the motivations to use a bicycle under special conditions that initially seem less adequate. It results from 60 open interviews with urban bikers (30 in Paris, 20 at Lyon and 10 at Poitiers).

The author identifies several biker categories:

  • Unconditional users, using their bicycle everywhere and as an almost exclusive transportation mode.
  • Hedonists, using their bike only when climate is good, but prone to use it by night for leisure
  • Prudent bikers (mainly women) that feel vulnerable and do not use it at night.
  • Sport pretentious bikers (mainly men)
  • Rationalists, which have become unconditional users.

For bikers in Lyon and Paris the bicycle seems a way to solve the lack of night mass transit, and also to rediscover city lights. At Poitiers, night biking seems associated to young users going to clubs and parties. Overall, biking seems not so much a “soft mode” but an “active mode”, as well physically as on citizen involvement terms.

Do you think night biking is possible where you live?

Bikes (2) Denmark

The national biking routes of Denmark

The national biking routes of Denmark

According to the last stats, 16% of all trips in Denmark are by bicycle, and for those under 4 km the share rises to 24%. 44% of all households don’t have a car. With many good conditions for cycling and a population used to it, Denmark is anyway subject to a certain rise in car ownership and use, and cycling on a national level decreased from 1990 to 2008. But even so, bike use has increased in Copenhaguen.

Since 1993 there are 11 national cycle routes, with a total length of 4.233 km. As they usually follow such elements as the coast, with much less stringent layout requirements than car roads, and they are mainly tourism and leisure oriented, they can have great lengths. The initiative’s interest must be weighted with more day to day projects, as Copenhaguen’s Cycle Superhighways, a commuter-oriented project that is to remind to anyone with a certain urban planning culture the “finger plans” so recurrent since the postwar years in this nice city.

Copenhaguen's Cycle Superhighways

Copenhaguen’s Cycle Superhighways

The standard bike lane width is 2,2 m, which have been extended to 2,5-2,8 m in Copenhaguen.

A good reference on Denmark:

Bikes (1) What do 57 million euros buy in Amsterdam?

A bike parking at Alkmaar rail station, by dutch urban furniture maker VelopA

A bike parking at Alkmaar rail station, by dutch urban furniture maker VelopA

27% of all travel in the Netherlands are by bike (according to Pucher & Buehler, 2008), the highest ratio in the world. The average Dutch pedals 2,5 km daily (Spaniards just 0,1, as well as in the US…).

Over the last 20 years the use of bicycles has increased by 40% in Amsterdam, to reach 490.000 daily trips in 2012 and 2 million kilometers daily, and over 3.500 bikers per hour in the most used segments. There is a relevant congestion that generates a third of accidents. 56% of the severe traffic accidents imply a bike rider.

Amsterdam City plans to invest 57 million euros up to 2016 to improve the use of the bicycle. There will be 15 new km of red, high capacity, bike paths, and the main thoroughfares will be enlarged, giving as much priority as possible to cyclists. Up to 2020 there will be a coordinated investment of 120 million euros involving other administrations to solve the most conflictive nodes of the network, but the priority (90 millions) will be allocated to 38.000 new bike parking places (2.368 euros per spot). According to the city, the investment on bicycles is the most profitable for euro spent.

Just to compare investment magnitudes and the number of implied persons, I will use a Madrid example. The Cuatro Caminos underpass, opened in 2005 with a 540 m length (and a complex engineering to make the four lanes way cope with many buried infrastructures) has cost, according to the press, 25,7 million euros, to absorb 70.000 cars a day. If the 57 million euros in Amsterdam’s investment were to benefit just 30% of its bikers in 2012, this would mean some 147.000 daily trips, so the cost in euros/trip would be similar, but the CO2 and other greenhouse gases and pollutants emissions would be clearly down, as well as the associated nuisance. Besides, the Amsterdam investment should tackle congestion city-wide, while Cuatro Caminos is a point solution. Taking into account that building costs in the Netherlands are probably higher than in Madrid, a more adjusted intra-city comparison would be even more advantageous to the bike.

More data about cycling in the Netherlands at

Biblio (26) Bike engineering

4-bicicleta ESTEYCO-

I’ll begin by talking about an American; not a bike runner that has become sincere, but a certain Steve Jobs (even if I write in Windows) that apparently said he thought that computers were to be bicycles for the mind. He meant that the energetic output of the human body when moving, poor when compared to that of other animals, was better than that of the condor when using a bicycle. Because that is what a bicycle is for, as it multiplies the human muscular efficiency.

Fundación Esteyco has published in 2010 the book “La Ingeniería de la Bicicleta”, with the contribution of a number of authors. It is a wonderful reference on the object itself, its origins, the problems and solutions raised in engineering terms, and, why not, the sheer aesthetic beauty it sometimes shows.

The last chapters focus on the engineering of the spaces the bikes use (from the Tour de France mountain roads to the urban spaces) and the bike as an urban transportation system. There is also a set of short texts from authors as Hemingway and Delibes, and artistic visions on the bicycle.

A complementary vision (this time in English) can be seen on Pucher & Buehler, Transport Reviews, Vol. 28, No. 4, 495–528, July 2008

Cycle superhighways

The new Barclays Cycle Superhighways are cycle routes (painted in blue, 1,50 m wide, on the car plaform) running from outter London into central London. They are meant to provide a safer and faster journey for commuters. A bike rental service is associated, and you can also learn to ride your bike. It is a possitive experience, but not entirely revolutionary.

Enter SkyCycle, a concept by British landscape Architect Sam Martin proposing a network of elevated cycle paths between the main London Tube stations, including transformed unused elevated rail lines and new infrastructure. This would increase bike speed and reduce cyclist’s deaths.

The system would not be free, as cyclists would use the Oyster card (an integrated transportation forfait) to gain access, paying about a pound to commute, which would be a third of the equivalent tube ride. It seems that a corporate partner is being searched for. But there are also some skeptics that would like to focus on the local bike networks.

The above image, that can be seen in the Rebar website (altough I have found no futher data on that in the site), seems to predict that such ideas could become common in next months.