Saturday, 27 February 2016

Unravelled bicycle (and walking) routes

Something I haven't talked about much before are unravelled cycle (and implicately walking) routes. These are routes that do not parallel a road at all, or very little paralleling. These are the best routes that cycling and walking can have if well designed, especially in terms of social safety, and they are often the most well used routes that are in the Netherlands. Houten is full of them, literally built so that you never have to cycle even within the same road right of way as cars. Let's see how they work.

Edmonton has a few pathways and walkways that do not parallel a road (by that I mean that the cycle/walkway is far away from the road, often without even being able to see the main roadway, or having a very large obstacle, like a canal, and the intersections are completely separate). I know of a few in Heritage Valley, and Mill Woods as loads of these. They are quite nice, but not idealized for cycling and walking. The intersections often are not designed to the best that we can make them, sometimes they take slight detours onto public roads without a safe link between them, they are often narrower, often too narrow, and there is almost never separation between pedestrians and cyclists.

A good pathway should have at least a 2 metre wide sidewalk and a 3 metre minimum cycle path (automatically bidirectional) for secondary routes, as wide as it needs to be as a standard, and for most primary routes, 4 metres, minimum 3.5 for main routes. There should ideally be verges between sidewalk and cycle path, so that they have even safer and more pleasant routes. Make sure that there is good lighting. Solitaire paths can often feel socially dangerous, Almere shows that there can be problems if this isn't properly addressed. Houses should preferably front the path. Some unravelled routes can be fietsstraaten. I will address fietsstraaten in a different blog post, but go look up BicycleDutch, Aviewfromthecyclepath or the AlternativeDFT for a good explanation.

Intersections can be tricky with these unravelled routes because you want the main route for cyclists to have priority when possible. This can be a safe thing given good design. A 30 km/h zone preferably, good sightlines, something to make cars yield and control their speeds naturally, and clear visual priority. This can work given the right volumes, but it's not always possible. You can tack on this route to a nearby traffic light or roundabout, but doing this is less preferable if cyclists can have priority via other means. A good traffic light controlled intersection will look like the one in this video. Grade separation is another option, but requires a number of elements to work safely. The underpass or overpass must be wide, well lit, if an overpass shielded from the wind, not be too steep, ideally the cars would do all the going up and down part, must allow for cycling at high speed, especially on the ramp down, and must be socially safe. Good examples and the exact specifications can be found here.

But what are some of the benefits of unravelled routes? They are more pleasant. Even on a separated path, it's not especially pleasant to be riding or walking next to a main arterial road due to the noise and smell. If the separation is too small, too weak and/or the motor vehicles too big, then it can still feel intimidating. The paths next to the main roads are important because many of the destinations are next to them, the most direct way to get somewhere tends to be on those roads or they may feel more socially safe, but the ability to not use these roads and get a nice dose of car fumes or a bunch of road noise in your ears is also very important. The fact that these unravelled routes feel like a car is less likely to hit a cyclist shows itself in that Johnny Bright has most of its cycling traffic coming from these separated paths.

Another major advantage is that roundabouts and traffic lights, both things that had to be developed due to the existence of motor traffic, don't need to be present on most unravelled routes because there are a lot fewer cars. This makes your journeys more efficient. And because motor vehicles aren't using it, it means that the unravelled routes can go within neighbourhoods safely and in a way that is pleasant for residents. You never hear calls to put a main 60 km/h arterial road in the middle of Rutherford, and you don't hear calls to put a freeway through downtown, but people are often glad to have cycle paths in the river valley and have a nice path to ride in through the middle of Rutherford. Your route can be closer to home too by having it go within neighbourhoods.

Edmonton already has a number of routes where the cycle route can be completely unravelled from motor traffic. Mill Woods as I mentioned is a good place to look for them. This is an example. It needs to be improved, but the route it takes is pretty useful. It is more like a secondary path, so it might only be 3-3.5 metres wide, and with a 2 metre wide separated sidewalk and better roadway crossings, then it would be a very good unravelled cycle route.

I recently shown you a completely unravelled route proposal in Rutherford last week, links here and here, and it shows another good example.

I found even more information about unravelled routes on the Aviewfromthecyclepath blog, links to his blog posts here

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks for commenting