Tuesday 28 October 2014

Why do cyclists fear being banned from busy roads ? Is it faster to cycle on roads than cycle-paths ? What really makes cycling safe and convenient for everyone ?

Assen's cycle-racing circuit a few days
. The winner of this race averaged
59 km/h for 3/4 of an hour. The
fastest cycling takes place on tracks
which are away from motor vehicles.
All types of cycle racing are extra-
ordinarily popular in the Netherlands,
hence even many smaller cities have
specially built cycling circuits on
which people ride extremely quickly.
A fear which is often expressed, especially in the UK but also in other countries with little cycling, is that adoption of Dutch style cycling infrastructure will somehow lead to people being forced off the road. It is usually assumed that the road is the efficient place to cycle and that being forced off the road will be a problem for keen cyclists.

In fact, bicycles are at their fastest on specially built segregated infrastructure and on closed roads. If you don't believe me, try following this link, and also this one.

The no-cycling sign seems to wind up
some people. However when there's a
better alternative by cycle it's not a
problem to leave this road to the cars.
There is nothing inherent about being on a road with cars which makes cycling efficient. In fact, it's quite the reverse. For example, it is only because cars exist that traffic lights were ever invented. When cyclists have to stop at traffic lights, this is because the route which they are using is used by, or crosses, a route for cars.

The people who worry most about being banned also sometimes point at the Netherlands as being a place where cyclists have lost a right to ride on all roads. But how important is it to Dutch cyclists that they're not allowed to ride on every road ?

If you don't like the sign banning bikes,
then how do you feel about this sign ?
Both result in cycling without cars.
Where are the complaints in the Netherlands?
Actually, it turns out that this is not important at all. What matters in practice is that cyclists have a high density grid of high quality efficient routes to use to get to all possible locations. It's not very important at all that cyclists should go to the same places as cars can go to by following exactly the same routes. There's no reason to assume that the routes that cars are allowed to use are also the best routes for cyclists.

Unravelling of cycle routes from driving routes means that cyclists don't have to put up with infrastructure which is necessary for cars and the inconvenience of sharing roads with cars is removed. In the Netherlands cyclists often don't have to stop for traffic lights precisely because they're not riding with cars.

For example, in the city centre of Assen most streets are either not accessible by car, or have been made less useful by car than by bike. The result is very good conditions for cycling. Indeed, it's more efficient for cycling now than it used to be because getting rid of the cars meant that the many traffic lights which used to be present and which once delayed cyclists on city centre streets are no longer required.

Through the countryside, country roads have been made unusable or un-attractive to drivers and here too there are many cycle-paths which take more direct routes.

By making a distinction between cyclists and drivers, it's also possible for drivers to be built the sort of junctions that they need without cyclists needing to being aware of them at all.

Motorway south of Assen. I've never
even been tempted to cycle here. The
photo was taken from a bridge which is
only for bikes. Much more like it.
Why doesn't anyone complain about being banned from Motorways ?
How effective is the law which requires cyclists not to use motorways ? I would say it's barely worth having that law at all. People are sufficiently unenthusiastic about cycling on motorways that it is extremely rare that anyone does so, and the law is only part of the reason why people don't do so. It is so rare that people actually do ride their bikes on motorways that those who do this often end up on television. I've never heard of anyone fighting for the "right to ride" on motorways.

Distances here are often shorter by bike
than by car. It's not often so in the UK.
In the UK, main roads are sometimes built with dual carriageways and these are often motorways in all but name. The same speed limit applies and traffic levels can be very high. The main difference between dual carriageways and motorways is that it's required that motorways have a parallel route for the banned slow vehicles (not just bikes, also tractors, low power motorbikes etc.).

I still have the large collection of
Ordnance Survey maps which I
built up of places where I rode as
a touring cyclist in the UK.
Detailed tour planning was
required to minimise use
of unpleasant roads.
No vehicles are banned from dual carriageways so no parallel route has to be built. Despite the lack of an alternative route, cycling on dual carriageways is also almost unknown in the UK. That there is a law to ban people from cycling on motorways but not from dual carriageways is pretty much beside the point because few people cycle on either. In effect, dual carriageways and other busy roads already have a ban so far as most people are concerned. Cycling on such roads is so unpleasant that very few people care enough about their right to ride a bicycle in such conditions that they actually do so.

In the Netherlands I spend much less
time planning and much more time
enjoying fantastic conditions for
cycling. Being banned from roads
is simply not an issue when
cycle-paths are like this.
When I lived in the UK I was one of those rare people who actually did ride on dual carriageways sometimes. I would generally plan my routes to avoid unpleasant roads but if they were the only efficient route to my destination, I'd use them. This wasn't because they were pleasant but because I had a lack of choice.

However we have to recognise that even a short length of busy road may as well be a thousand miles so far as most people are concerned. Most people simply will not cycle in those conditions regardless of their right to do so.

No real reasons to complain
In the Netherlands I've never had a reason to ride on a road so unpleasant as those which I sometimes used quite frequently in the UK. Just as the UK provides an alternative to motorways for slower vehicles, the Netherlands provides cyclists with alternatives to unpleasant roads. These alternatives very often take shorter routes and quite often combine that with more pleasant scenery. They can even have a better surface than the road. It's not a hardship to use these routes at all, this just makes cycling more pleasant.

Retirement in the Netherlands...
All types of cycling are incredibly popular in the Netherlands because all types of cycling are enabled by having a comprehensive grid of high quality infrastructure.

While the cycle-paths are filled by commuters and children on Monday to Friday, Saturday is when you'll see any number of shoppers, Sunday mornings are when you'll see many racing cyclists and sunny Sunday afternoons are when the cycle-paths become especially filled by people of all ages just going out for a pleasant ride.

Touring is incredibly popular in the Netherlands. It's a mainstream activity here, not something for a small minority, because it's accessible to everyone. Whether you ride long or short distances, fast or slow, it's all possible.

Not perfect, but serious problems are rare
Of course the Netherlands is not perfect for cycling, but conditions on cycle-paths which really do not work for cyclists are rare. In seven years I've only found one place where the cycle-path was so seriously inadequate that I really wanted to ride on the road. You can see it in this video:

If all cycling infrastructure in the Netherlands was as poor as that shown in the video this would indeed be a problem for cyclists. However, actually what is shown here is a rare exception: a cycle-path which is not of high enough quality to support a high and growing cycling modal share. It should have been replaced by something which meets current standards many years ago. Note again that this is absolutely not the norm. It's just a short bad section in one town. The rest of the grid is better and that's why cycling works. Ordinarily, we don't even have to behave like this even if there are road works.

Note: Please don't make the mistake of assuming that the video above demonstrates the typical quality for cycle-paths in the Netherlands. The video above shows a cycle-path which is well below average quality. It is highlighted here in order to make the point that it is not good enough. Watch other videos which demonstrate normal quality paths on which it is possible to make very good progress by bike.

Should cyclists be banned from roads ?
Would I ban cyclists from riding on the roads ? Of course not. I wouldn't ask for this because there seems little point in asking for it. Nothing to gain. In places where there is no alternative route of sufficient quality and directness it would be a disaster to ban cycling on roads because that would make it impossible for the small number of people who cycle now to continue to do so. I would never support banning cyclists. It may seem surprising therefore that I chose to move to a country where cyclists actually are banned from a significant proportion of the road network. Read on:

Fast Dutch cyclist choosing to ride on
the cycle-path, though parallel with
a main road and a motorway
Given infrastructure of high enough quality it actually doesn't matter terribly much if you can ride on the road because there is no advantage to riding on the road. When cycle-paths are more pleasant and more convenient than the roads, people simply don't opt to ride their bikes on the road. Not even fast cyclists.

In the Netherlands, cycle-paths don't (usually) make people ride slowly. Even some very fast races occur on cycle-paths. When infrastructure is of this quality, a ban from riding on the road is academic. It makes no difference to anyone. In the Netherlands that is the point which has been reached very nearly almost everywhere.

One proper network for everyone
No-one designs different infrastructure for beginner drivers vs. experienced drivers because this would be ridiculous. It's just as ridiculous to design cycling infrastructure which is not good enough for all cyclists.

An underpass near our old home in the
UK. I saw school children crash into
barriers installed supposedly to prevent
"fast" cycling. This falls well short of
Dutch standards for underpasses.
If it doesn't work for a relatively fit and fast cyclist then it's not of good enough quality for beginners or children either. If that sounds unlikely, look at the video above a second time. Watch how when the infrastructure is too narrow even school children cause stress to the people who they overtake or who are coming in the opposite direction.

Crashes and injuries are more likely for any cyclist wherever the infrastructure quality is lower than it should be. Wherever complaints are heard about "fast cyclists", it's usually an overly simplistic reaction to conditions which make cycling unsafe for everyone.

Unaccompanied children and racing
cyclists have the same needs.
High standards are important to achieve a high cycling modal share and a high degree of safety. Experienced and fast cyclists have nothing to fear from proper cycling infrastructure because their needs are actually the same as everyone else's needs. i.e. direct, comfortable and safe cycling.

Cycling infrastructure which isn't good enough for everyone isn't good enough for anyone.

Saturday 18 October 2014

Our streets are too narrow for cycle paths

I've lost count of how often people have tried to convince me that their city's streets are too narrow to have cycling infrastructure. The three words "not enough space" are repeated as if they are a mantra.

It is often genuinely believed that Dutch towns were built with wider streets and that there is therefore more space here than in other countries. Of course, that's not true at all. If you look around an older city like Assen (over 750 years old) then you find many narrow streets just as you would with any older city in another country. Newer wider streets in the Netherlands are also similar in width to newer wider streets elsewhere. It's the modern day usage of the space which is different, not the width of the streets themselves.

Take a good look at the photo above which shows one of the streets in Assen in 2014. Quite clearly there's "not enough space" here now to accommodate motor vehicles. When people see streets like this then they often guess that there was never enough room and that therefore this street was always much as it is today.

However, that's not actually the case. Look back to 1957 and we find that this same street was completely different. There was an asphalt through road in this location, and it was quite a busy road which could accommodate large vehicles in both directions. While the gap between those buildings looks small, it is in fact just enough to accommodate this traffic so long as you don't mind that pedestrians must cross only at certain places and can walk safely only on one side of the street. Note that no separate space at all was allocated for safe cycling. Cyclists had to use the road along with trucks, buses and cars. There is of course no longer a bus route through this location.

1970s city centre street in Assen. No room for cycle-paths here either. Traffic lights were required to deal with the cars in this location. Cyclists were amongst the cars and pedestrians had little space.
I suspect that this is starting to sound like a familiar situation to some readers in other countries and it was certainly familiar to Dutch cyclists in the 1950s.

The same location in 2014. We don't need traffic lights any more because cars are no longer driven through here. Note how there is ample space for cyclists on a "road" for bikes separate from a wide pedestrian path, and that the pedestrian path has plenty of space on both sides for a textured surface for blind pedestrians.
An observer in the 1950s in the Netherlands might well have pointed out that this street had "not enough space" for a cycle-path at that time. i.e. exactly the same objection as people give about their streets now. And of course they'd be right if the streets were viewed as having to always manage the same combination of vehicles as was the case in 1950s Assen.

1960s. Pedestrians squeezed to the edge while a lone cyclist waits with drivers for a traffic light 
So where did the space for people, pedestrians and cyclists, come from ? It came from right underneath where motor vehicles used to be. A second revolution on Dutch streets was required to change things. A decision was made to effect real change. This was not limited to just a few streets, but spread across cities and even the entire nation. Traffic was redirected so that residential areas and the centres of cities could be reclaimed by people.

Now: Pedestrianized with good cycle access
It's worth reflecting on the fact that cycling was in decline in the Netherlands while streets were dominated by cars. It's not difficult to work out why. Transforming the streets reversed this decline. As you look at these photos, consider how convenient and how safe it was to cycle on the streets of Assen in the past vs. how convenient and safe it is today.
1960s: Main through routes for motor vehicles and cyclists alike

Now (2014): Still accessible by motor vehicle but very much a downgraded route. No longer usable as a through route by car so therefore few people drive here. Still a busy through route by bicycle, which no longer requires traffic lights.
Update 2016: Now upgraded once again. This is now part of Assen's central pedestrian zone which permits cycling. Allocated times for deliveries and and for the Wednesday and Saturday markets

Update 2016: Where trucks used to be driven on a main through route, children now play in the fountains

1940s: Major intersection, in this case busier than usual due to an event. Traffic stopped at a junction.

Now: A pleasant place to sit and have a drink. Bicycles flow freely here and it is no longer a bus route

1974: Assen city centre was a car park. The car park was often full.

Now: Assen city centre is a square with cycle parking and where events are held. There's no longer any need to have the streets leading to this area dominated by cars. Note that small children are free to cycle even in the city centre.
People often believe that Dutch cities somehow have more space than other countries. As you can see from these photos, it's simply not true. What happened in Assen and across the Netherlands was that planning on a large scale gave streets a defined purpose rather than all of them operating in a chaotic manner as through routes by car. Motor vehicles were not prioritized above all other transport but careful considerations were made of where they should go and where they should not. Busy roads still exist, but careful junction design removes conflict.

Streets where cyclists and pedestrians needed to go were transformed to exclude through motor traffic.

When ring roads were built the traffic was taken off the old main roads which became pleasant routes for bicycles. Crossings of the ring road were nearly always grade separated.

When a new route was required to take cyclists to the centre of a city from a new suburb, the original direct route was turned over to cyclists and the driving route took a required detour to traffic lights.

Drivers are now kept away from the city centre by a special type of one-way system leaving what were once the busiest city centre streets to cyclists and pedestrians. A similar network of one-way streets is used in residential areas.

Shops cater for cyclists with parking by the door, while car parks are by necessity larger and more remote.

Residential streets were treated in a
similar way, even the narrowest now
serving as bidirectional through routes
for bicycles while being made useful
for access only by car.
Together with an extensive grid of high quality cycle paths, these changes have resulted in nearly 100% segregation of cyclists from drivers. Cycling routes are largely unravelled from driving routes, resulting in lower noise, less danger and cyclists having the most direct routes and fastest journeys possible. This is what makes cycling extremely attractive to the entire population.

Of course it's not just Assen but every Dutch city which has done this and they have all been successful. Nothing stops other countries from making similar changes. There is no better time for other countries to start a similar transformation than today.

See the result of the transformation for yourself. We visit these locations on our study tours.

The city centre has changed enormously since this photo was taken in 1972. Infrastructure which was new or under construction at that time to accommodate endlessly more cars in the city centre was removed years ago.

Friday 3 October 2014

Trondheim in Norway. How an already successful city can increase cycling by increasing investment and prioritizing bikes

The local newspaper interviewed me.
Following on from last year's study tour of planners and officials from Trondheim, I was invited this year to take part in a conference on cycling in the city. That was two weeks ago but I've been thinking about it until now.

During my three days in Trondheim, I made presentations about Dutch cycling infrastructure and also took a close look at what Trondheim already has as well as where they are heading. I've made some suggestions for improvements to designs, but overall I got a very positive impression from what is happening.

Hills and Mountains: Differences between the Netherlands and Norway are obvious before landing. But there are also similarities and the same approaches can bring the same benefits.
Impression from the airport bus:
Cyclist on brand new cycle-path
The same, but different.
No two cities can ever be exactly alike, but sometimes it helps to find similarities. Trondheim has some obvious similarities with Groningen. For instance, the two cities have a similar population size and both have a high student population.

One of the first photos I took after I got on a bike in
Trondheim was of this wonderful roller-coaster cycle-path.
Trondheim is certainly much more hilly. It's also spread over a larger area. The overall population density outside of the centre is closer to that of Assen than Groningen. As a result, some peoples' journeys are perhaps longer in Trondheim than in Groningen. They also have to make those journeys in a different climate. Trondheim is colder in winter than Groningen. 3.6 C may not sound like much, but it keeps the mean temperature in January below freezing in Trondheim ( -1.2 C vs. 2.4 C ) and that is certainly a challenge because ice and snow therefore will not melt away so quickly.

Differences in temperature, distance and topology will of course result in a difference in the potential for cycling in any given city. Outside of the centre of the city, Trondheim really is hilly. However even in a hilly city like this, not all journeys are particularly strenuous. What's more, just because some distances are longer that doesn't mean that all journeys are longer and just because it's cold sometimes, that doesn't mean it's cold all the time. There are always opportunities for cycling. Always journeys for which cycling is a good fit. If a city makes cycling pleasant, convenient, attractive and safe then more people will cycle, regardless of difficulties like this.

There's new infrastructure everywhere. This newly opened
bridge is for cyclists and pedestrians only.
Of course, Trondheim has perhaps has more than its fair share of obstacles and this will make it more difficult to achieve a high modal share for cycling than would be the case if this were a flatter, warmer and more compact city. But that's no reason not to try to achieve the highest level of cycling possible.

When last measured, approximately 8% of journeys in Trondheim were by bike. This varies between 12% in the summer and 4% in the middle of the winter. These are already good figures compared with many cities elsewhere in the world. These figures are already better than many flatter, warmer and more compact places. It is believed that cycling has already grown by a fifth since the last proper survey a few years ago. The current target is to double the cycling modal share to 15% of all journeys by 2025. Given the expected differences between summer and winter, this implies a considerably higher modal share during summer.

Trondheim's older infrastructure is not always so attractive
But this problem is known about and can be fixed.
Maximising the potential of any city requires the same thing: investment in truly good infrastructure. I'm happy to say that Trondheim is genuinely making the required investment. 1.5 Billion Kr have been allocated for cycling in Trondheim. That's around €184 M. Of this, a fifth has already been spent and about €150M is left to spend over the next 11 years. This works out as an investment rate in cycling of €75 per person per year. That's approximately two and half times what the Dutch spend on cycling infrastructure.

No country can afford to be complacent. No place can expect cycling to grow or even maintain its popularity without investment. I'm very pleased to see that Trondheim is taking this seriously. There's a lot to do and there will inevitably be some mistakes made with such an ambitious project. However, with attention to good design, Trondheim could catch up with and pass the quality of infrastructure seen in Dutch cities.

The Trampe bicycle lift and "City Bikes"

Just after we went up the bicycle lift:
Tourists taking photos at the bottom.
Note how steep the hill is.
The bicycle lift is probably the main reason why cyclists worldwide currently know about cycling in Trondheim. Nearly twenty years have passed since I first heard of the Trampe bicycle lift and of course I was very keen to try it out.

The bicycle lift is unique to Trondheim and it really is quite marvelous. A great symbol of the importance of cycling, it's also very popular. It's popular not only with local cyclists but it's so well known internationally that this has become the second biggest tourist attraction in Trondheim.

Trondheim's "City Bikes". Paid for by
advertising not the cycling budget.
Trondheim also has 200 "City Bikes" which anyone can hire for a small fee (with a low cost card, rental is free of charge). 200 bikes may not sound like a huge number, but given the relatively small population of Trondheim this works out as better than one for every 1000 residents. That's a higher ratio of bikes per person than London. Like the lift, the bike share system is a symbol.

Symbols are fine but they should not consume a great deal of any city's budget. In Trondheim they do not. The Trampe bicycle lift already exists and requires only maintenance. The bike share system is paid for by a company which takes its income from advertising both on the bikes and adjacent to the bicycle docks. This leaves the cycling budget of the city for infrastructure, of which more later.

Absolutely no air at all in these tyres !
Naturally, the company responsible for the bikes has tried to keep their costs down. One part of this is reduction of maintenance and they've achieved that aim in part by filling the otherwise conventional looking tyres of the bicycles with solid rubber instead of air. This unfortunately makes the bikes rather inefficient. They're also quite heavy and they have just three gears but those are lesser problems. I rode one of these bikes for almost a whole day and I went up and down many hills with it. However Mr Dunlop's invention would have made everything easier. For casual users I think it a shame that they have this extra difficulty. On the other day that I cycled I borrowed a hire bicycle from my hotel.

Just as everywhere else, most people who cycle regularly in Trondheim have their own bikes.

Cycling in the suburbs and from suburbs to the city centre
In my short time cycling I can't claim comprehensive knowledge of Trondheim, but I found that considerable effort had gone into building routes between suburbs and the city centre in the directions that I rode in. Some of this infrastructure was older and it did vary in quality. But the new investment has clearly already achieved a lot. There are many new cycle-paths. In some cases, these new cycle-paths were so new that they still even had the smell of asphalt.

New cycle and pedestrian paths on the left, probably officially open by now. These take a more direct route across the top of an underpass rather than dropping to a blind corner and then climbing again as does the older shared-use path on the right.

This long video shows a route between one suburb and the centre of the city. I picked the route at random. Overall this shows a standard of cycle provision which few countries can match. Starting in a residential area, I ride on older provision and some of the very latest before entering the city centre.

This junction appears at 12:10 in the video above. We went back here together to look at why this junction design is inadequate. The cycle-path is too close to the road, the corner radii are too large, sight lines for drivers and cyclists are not what they could be. The junction would also benefit from being a raised table to discourage high speeds. While we stood there, these two drivers demonstrated how injuries can result from this design (this cyclist was not injured).

One of many bicycle roads in residential areas. These provide no good through route by car, but are usable to make journeys by bike.

Some of the newer infrastructure in Trondheim seems to go to unnecessary lengths to make cycling more difficult than it ought to be. For instance, in this location we went through a tunnel under a railway line, then over this high bridge which led us back down into a valley before we had to ride back up a steep hill. As well as designing direct routes on a 2D map, there needs to be emphasis on trying not to send cyclists up and down quite this much.

Cycling within the city
Just as in the Netherlands, a process began decades ago in Trondheim in which streets were emptied of cars. Car parks became pleasant squares.

What's more, Trondheim also succeeded in excluding much of the through traffic which used to go through the centre of the city (see the next section to find out how this was achieved in a city where there was no space to build a ring-road).

The result is a much more pleasant city centre. People very obviously feel at home there. However cyclists benefited almost by accident. It is within the city centre that I think Trondheim has its greatest challenges.

A wide and busy street with no room for a cycle-path ? That's only because so much space is allocated to motor vehicles. At present both cyclists and pedestrians are squeezed to the side. Timid cyclists use the pavement (sidewalk) while the brave ride amongst the motor vehicles. Neither solution is ideal but it does allow everyone to go everywhere.
Just as in every other place, many roads in Trondheim are still considered by some people to have "not enough space for cycle-paths". This really comes down to what you want to achieve. Trondheim's city centre roads are in many cases no longer very heavily used by motor vehicles but there those vehicles still have a great deal of space allocated to them. In some cases this is because of a conflict between wanting to provide bus lanes and cycle paths. At the moment, the allocation of space on many of Trondheim's city centre streets is inequitable. Cyclists and pedestrians are numerous but have very little space so there are some conflicts.
Cyclists and pedestrians alike find themselves waiting an awful long time for a green light even when roads are almost empty. As a result, crossing on red is very common.
In many cases, Norwegian traffic lights are set up so that a driver turning right will have a green traffic light at the same time as a pedestrian or pavement cyclist going straight along the same road. Traffic lights should never create dangerous conflicts in this way. When I commented about this, I was told that crashes and injuries occur in Trondheim due to this conflict. In Assen we don't have that conflict built into traffic light junctions and it results in the junctions being much safer for everyone. Unfortunately, this same conflict can still be found in some other places in the Netherlands, even at newly constructed junctions.

Pavement cycling
In other countries, that cyclist would be breaking the law
In Norway she is not. But it's not at all convenient.
A subject which causes much consternation in many countries is that of cyclists riding bicycles on the pavement (US: sidewalk). In Norway this was legalized decades ago.
I've often wondered what the effect would be of allowing people to cycle on the pavement, and now I know. There are pros and cons of this approach. The main benefit is that the pavements provide an almost complete network so make cycling to almost any destination into a possibility even for the most timid riders. The problem is that it's not really either convenient or safe for cyclists to do this, certainly not if they want to ride at any speed.
With my hosts I cycled into an old fort
through this portal. No-one took any
notice. Being able to access almost
any place by bike is an advantage.
I wanted to ride as the Trondheimers ride so I tried riding on the pavements in the centre of Trondheim. Once I got past my feeling of this simply being wrong, it was actually quite freeing. It is useful if you are not in a hurry. You can go anywhere on a bike in Norway and people don't wag their fingers at you for being where you shouldn't be. However, there's always that caveat: "If you're not in a hurry". It's not a substitute for specific cycling infrastructure because time is important for most people.

Crossing the road. It's not really
convenient, but it does work.
Note that people even cross the road on bikes as if they are pedestrians. Drivers don't have to stop for cyclists on zebra crossings as they do for pedestrians, but many drivers will stop. At crossings with traffic lights, that is not a problem, but it's not really convenient.

I should point out that there are good reasons why zebra crossings don't work well for cyclists. For safe operation they rely upon pedestrians being slow. A driver has to stop only if a pedestrian is very close to or is already on the crossing (local laws vary). This does not work safely for cyclists because higher speeds result in the reaction time being greatly reduced.

I spoke to many people in Trondheim about their experience
of cycling. This woman, and her camera-shy son, would
benefit greatly from cycle-paths in the city centre
I also tried riding on the roads. This allowed making much better progress. If I lived in Trondheim I'd probably cycle on the roads most of the time myself. However even though I was there for just a few days, a couple of drivers tooted me for no particular reason (this was not very aggressive, I'm not used to being tooted at all in the Netherlands). When riding on the road, I felt rather like a member of a minority. In fact, doing this this felt much like cycling in a country like the UK where cyclists most certainly are in a minority.

The two classes of cyclist in Trondheim are so separate that
they actually use different phases of the traffic lights to
cross at different times. All-inclusive infra is possible.

Within the city, faster cyclists almost exclusively stick to the roads because they can make faster journeys that way. I understand why they do this because I would do the same. But we're members of a minority which will always be small. It is due in large part to the pavement cyclists that Trondheim has such a high cycling modal share as it does within the city centre. These pavement cyclists are already numerous, but their journeys are not made convenient enough. If it were easy for less confident cyclists to make more of their journeys by bike then this would enable real growth to occur. What's more, if good enough cycling infrastructure is built then this will become the natural home of the confident cyclists as well, just as it already is outside of the centre. That everyone chooses to use them rather than some continuing to ride on the roads is an indication of quality for all cycle paths.

Due to pavement cycling being legal, there is no legal or social problem associated with cyclists using pedestrianized streets like this one. These are great. They work very similarly to Dutch pedestrianized areas which allow cycling. The problem is that the infrastructure to link them is in many cases missing within the centre.
On-road cycle-lanes have been created along some busier
streets. These are useful for confident cyclists where they
allow cycling against a one-way street, but they also
demonstrate the same problems as anywhere with
on-road lanes.
To me it seems quite obvious that the city centre not only has space for proper cycling infrastructure where it is needed alongside busy roads to link pedestrianized streets in the city centre to the cycle-paths and bicycle roads outside the centre, but that the residents of Trondheim would benefit greatly from it.

Trondheimers already cycle a lot, and they would cycle more if cycling were made more pleasant, more comfortable, more subjectively safe.

The pros and cons of pavement cycling. There's a real benefit in creating network which is more accessible to many than the roads, but it doesn't work well to have main cycling routes combined with main walking routes, as illustrated by the conflicts which occur on a busy shared-use bridge in Trondheim. Note that the bridge had undergone maintenance just before I made my video and that a painted line is usually used to separate modes. Some comments suggest that this is not entirely successful.

Burying Roads
What's happening in Trondheim is not only about cycling infrastructure. Much of the through motorized traffic which used to dominate city centre streets has disappeared. Just how it's been made to disappear is quite remarkable.

A brand new cycle-path next to one of many locations in
Trondheim where roads have been diverted underground.
The centre of Trondheim is surrounded by the sea on one side and hills in the suburbs on the other. Without any obvious place to build bypasses on the surface and with no desire to build bridges over the city centre, Trondheim has instead built an extensive network of tunnels under the city.

These tunnels are layered on top of one another and feature road junctions such as roundabouts. All of this is out of sight from the surface. Cyclists are not expected to ride in these tunnels. Indeed, it is not allowed to cycle through these tunnels. Cyclists have the surface.

There was once a busy road here but the road is now underground and this area now provides a traffic free cycle-path and a play area for children.
In the 1960s, this river was buried and a road was built here. The road has now been buried and the river has come back to the surface.
These buildings were removed during
tunnel construction then brought back
and placed on top of new basements.
Between the airport and the city, my bus travelled through at least 10 km of tunnels through rock. This is a difficult enough task but the city is not built on such firm foundations and digging through the softer ground under the city without disturbing buildings is considered to be much more difficult.

Difficulty isn't standing in the way of improving the city. In some cases, entire buildings had to be moved several kilometres away during construction of tunnels. After the tunnels were completed, the same buildings were brought back to their original positions. Quite apart from the removal of much of the traffic in the area which they live in, residents of these buildings benefit from new foundations and better basements than they had before.

I saw the official opening of electric
car charging points and an on-street
bicycle pump.
Much of the new and good work across the city is the work of Miljøpakken ("Greener Trondheim" - though it translates literally as "Environmental package").

This council initiative has been quite clever at marketing itself. Their logo is easily recognized and often seen. It's a symbol of progress within the city.

Free air: Another indication that
cyclists are considered important.
About 60% of Miljøpakken's funding comes from road tolls. There is a target to reduce journeys by private car but this is not happening in an aggressive way. There is spending on things which will improve the lives of everyone in the city, including drivers. When works are carried out on behalf of Miljøpakken, everyone is informed that this is the case.

Where a street is being pedestrianized, the logo is clearly visible.

On a cycle-lane: Thank-you for cycling.
Keeping on the right side of the public is essential for an organisation which is changing the city. Trondheimers are seeing benefits from what has been done and that is why most people are in support.

School trip
One of the successes in Trondheim in recent years is the increase in school cycling.

Some very small children cycle to
We visited a bicycle road (a road dedicated as a through route by bicycle but not as a through route by motor vehicles) as part of the tour around Trondheim and while we were there, this group of school children cycled past together. It was clear that my hosts were as surprised as I was. "This didn't happen five years ago".

For teachers to feel confidence enough to take an entire class cycling like this, as they regularly do across the Netherlands, and for parents to feel confident enough to allow it, requires a high level of subjective safety. School cycling is increasing in Trondheim, and also in other parts of Norway.

When cycling is made into an attractive form of transport, people are attracted to cycling. What it takes is removal of motor vehicles from where cyclists must ride. The higher the quality of this removal, the more cycling results. It's important to have a comprehensive grid of high quality infrastructure as non-existent or dangerous links are not attractive. Norway allowing pavement cycling has enabled the country to maintain a higher cycling modal share than it would have without pavements providing usable but low quality links, but to grow further Norway too needs proper infrastructure. I'm happy to say that Trondheim at least is well on its way to achieving this.

More advances in Trondheim
This month we have two more study tours booked by people from Trondheim. It's extremely positive that there are so many people taking a serious interest in growing cycling in Trondheim and across Norway. As with other study tour groups, we will take a close interest in what really works to make cycling more convenient and accessible to the population and also take a close look at those things which do not work in order to avoid mistakes being repeated.

Flying, cycling and the environment
I've not often flown to cycle. Earlier this same year I had also been invited to go and talk in Australia and I refused that invitation on the grounds of the environmental cost of making the journey. A few weeks after I made this trip to Trondheim I was invited to go back again in order visit Oslo, but I refused that trip as well. I think the Trondheim trip may have been positive overall, but it's very difficult to be certain of that. We all need to travel less. Online resources can show people how to build cycling infrastructure.

I came back to this theme in 2017 and in 2018.

Norway was not always a wealthy country. Their current wealth is in large part the result of having discovered North Sea oil in the 1960s. It helped enormously that the government of Norway was dedicated to flattening out income distribution so that everyone in the country would benefit from this windfall. The result is the high standard of living which Norwegians benefit from.