Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Shared use paths

The Dutch believe it or not, have bicycle paths that expect people to walk and ride bicycles on. But there are four major reasons why this works there and not here.

First, if this is the case, hardly any pedestrians are ever expected on the pathway. Second, the path is built to a higher standard than ours are, often 3.2-4 metres in width, not 2.5-3 metres wide (bidirectional). Third, they do intersections in a far better way than we do, where ours have crossings and side street designed for pedestrians, not cyclists, their is the opposite, it is intended for cyclists. At traffic lights they do have separation because pedestrians are calculated to walk at a speed of perhaps 1 metre per second, cyclists are expected to ride about 4-6 metres per second. A 20 metre wide roadway needs 20 seconds to cross as a pedestrian at that speed (this is calculating the slowest pedestrian, like a 110 year old walking), and assuming 5.5 metres per second, 3.7 seconds to cross, and only the bicycle signal is turned on if the cyclist triggers the inductive loops or pushes the bicycle button, pedestrians only get their signal turned on when they press the button. And finally, pedestrians are expected to stick to one side of the pathway and look in the direction of traffic, in this case bicycles, and not impede cyclists. And note that this sort of path would look exactly the same as if it did have a sidewalk.

This means that at most but not all pathways in urban areas, pedestrians get a separate sidewalk, at least 1.8 metres wide, 2 metres standard, and wider ones are common, while the cyclists usually get a 2.5 metre wide path for a one way, 2 metres minimum, and 3.5-4 metre wide bidirectional paths, 3 metres minimum. In rural areas, the sidewalk is omitted, but pretty much nothing else changes. In some urban areas, the sidewalk is also omitted, but only when it is not expected that there would be any appreciable volume of pedestrians, even if it is only going to be that many on the weekends. This would happen for instance on 41 Ave, where the distances mean that almost nobody would ever want to walk, but riding a bike is still attractive.

By making this separation, it fulfills Sustainable Safety's demands that dangerous differences in mass, speed and or direction be eliminated. Bicycles and pedestrians are two very different masses and speeds and sometimes directions, so they need to be separated if there are either on a path or road in any significant numbers. Motorways/Freeways don't need separate bike paths because there are no cyclists who need to go there.

This crucial difference between shared use paths and cycle paths that just happen to not have a sidewalk for pedestrians as practiced in the Netherlands leads to more safety, more convenience and removes the often talked about and videoed conflict between cyclists mixing with pedestrians.

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