Friday 13 February 2009

Assen vs. Canada. Example of subjective safety differences

Jackie from Canada sent me this photo, showing the a picture that "was taken on a route which is 'recommended by cyclists' on the bicycle map of a small Canadian town. Pretty sad, eh? We have two main arteries going through our city of about 80,000, which is quite stretched out from east to west. Those two arteries, both recommended as cycling routes - for lack of anything better - have lots of traffic, also very heavy trucks like the one on the photo."

"I guess I should have had a cyclist on it. But in order to get a cyclist on a picture like that, on the 'bikelane', I might have to wait for half an hour or longer. I have a much better chance catching one on the sidewalk!"

Does this look safe ? Does it feel safe ? It's a classic example of how a lack of subjective safety will keep people from cycling. A frightening experience. You have three choices here. Share the road with rather large trucks, ride on the other side of the white line in a too narrow cycle lane with dangerous drains or ride on the pavement. Jackie suggests that last of these three is popular amongst cyclists. I suspect that the most popular option overall is to drive instead of considering cycling.

After that bad example, here's a scene from the North of Assen showing the main road which serves the industrial estate and a motorway junction. This cycle path provides cyclists with a much more pleasant experience despite being next to a busy road. It is very busy at all times, but especially during the morning and evening rush.

A short distance behind the camera is the location of the example of a traffic light which defaults to green for cyclists which was featured on the blog a few months ago. Also this path connects well with the surrounding area (there is a cycle path junction a few metres beyond this photo including a tunnel which crosses to the left side of the road), and the speed limit on the road is 60 km/h / 37 mph so although the cars are closer than is normal at this point they are at least not travelling at speeds that feel unpleasant.

This photo shows a view in the opposite direction. You can see both a gaggle of school-girls travelling home to outlying villages and the 2.5 m wide space between the road and path.

There are more posts about subjective safety, and more comparisons with elsewhere. If you would like to see this for yourself, consider booking a study tour.


Jayadeep(JDP) said...

This looks like heaven for cyclists! I just started cycling in Bangalore,India where we have to fight for space on the road with all kinds of vehicles(from trucks to bullock carts) and subjective safety is not a factor here. I am not even dreaming that something of this sort(bike lanes) will ever happen here. In fact, it is mainly people who can't afford a motor vehicle who cycle here. But it is not really high speed traffic comparatively which makes it a bit better. But the way to get over the subjective safety here is to ride with the traffic like a motor vehicle.

l' homme au velo said...

That Road looks Frightening ,it is even Worse than our Roads with that Big Truck.I would not like to share the Road with that thing and the Cycle Lane looks very Dicy, Narrow and with Dangerous Drains which could catch and Lock on to your Bike Wheels causing you to Fall in front of that Juggernaut. The Truck also appears to be going at a very fast Speed. This Road does not do anything to calm the Fears of Cyclists wishing to use it.

Those are Beautiful Segregated wide Cycle Lanes in Assen in Comparison to that Road in Canada.

Anonymous said...

The thing with local authorities who build cycle infrastructure like shown in Maple Ridge that really gets me, is that they then act all surprised when no-one wants to use them.

Anonymous said...

the frightening photos looks similar to the road i bicycle every day through the santa cruz mountains in california (where it's snowing today), but fortunately the speeds are fairly slow and the motorists have grown to expect me there. still i so wish i had those cycling roads you're so blessed with in the netherlands!


Anonymous said...

Actually, the local authorities build lousy bike lanes like the Maple Ridge one and then later say, "see, no one uses them. We wasted money on cycling lanes when people really want to drive."

Nick said...

Re: your headline. I don't think that picture from Canada has anything to do with "subjective" safety David - just plain safety; it's quite simply showing a dangerous situation. And if anyone were to convince people to FEEL safe (subjective safety) in that situation, they would be doing those people a great disservice. Safety and subjective safety aren't always the same thing, I feel.

David Hembrow said...

Nick, I see your point. It is unlikely that conditions on that road are particularly safe, though of course as neither of us have any stats to look at we can make only a subjective judgement at the moment.

Where I feel that subjective safety comes into this is that someone decided that painting a line here would make it a fine route for cyclists. It doesn't of course. It remains an unpleasant place to be on a bike.

In order to achieve a popular route for cyclists in this direction either the road should be changed so that it is not so unpleasant - perhaps give it a 30 km/h speed limit and make it a non-through road for motor vehicles - or a much better quality cycle route is needed which is not so close to thee road.

The solution of just painting a white line on a busy road can only have come from not having considered the unpleasantness of the situation they are putting potential cyclists into.

Subjective safety is a concept which rarely comes into the consideration of design at all in many countries, yet as Karl and Didrik both suggest, the result is sometimes surprise on the part of the authorities that their efforts have not been successful.

l' homme au velo said...

In Ireland we have a lot of Cycle Lanes as narrow as this and no Safety Gap between the Cyclist and Motorist. Because someone Paints a Line like this on the Road it Encourages Drivers to Drive right on the Line and even go over it as they sometimes cannot see the Line as they Travel the Road. There is Hardly the Width of a Cyclist on this Lane and Motorists do not keep the Regulation 3feet apart from the Cyclist. I was knocked off my Bike 2 - 3 times on Cycle Lanes by Cars,2 times I was Nudged and had to Steady myself and one time I actually was sent Tumbling sideways of my Bike Scraping my Knee. All of this at Rush Hour in Morning and Evening. It is worse when it gets Dark at 5.30pm or 7.30 am in Winter at Rush Hour.
So good Infrastructure is a Segregated Cycle Lane of 7feetand not feet2 1/2 / 2 metre not 3/4 metre. There should be a Gap between Motorist and Cyclist.

BikeBike said...

the only way things will change in canadian cities is if cyclists aggitate for change - period. it can be done - and has been in plenty of cities - we just need to try and do whatever we can to help make cycling ammenities more available where we live. join a commuter group. create a commuter group. we in calgary are lucky to have a commuter organization - Bike Calgary - and in a few short years they have benn able to get the "ear" of politicians and planners and things are changing for the better.

what did gandhi say - be the change you want to see in the world - i think thats it.

happy cycling!

Unknown said...

I don't even think twice when it comes to trucks anymore. I've learnt to live with them.
And I'd say 99.9% of the time, they will move completely over into the next lane to pass. I've NEVER had issue with trucks.

Of course I'd give ANYTHING, for Dutch-style bike lanes here.

Multiparty Democracy Today said...

Is the "pretty sad eh?" a joke on what many people think Canadians say a lot? But seriously, that is a terrible route and nobody except the most die hard will cycle there. Without a shadow of a doubt, not safe enough for a 5 year old child.