|The local newspaper interviewed me.|
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
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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 !|
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.|
|One of many bicycle roads in residential areas. These provide no good through route by car, but are usable to make journeys by bike.|
Cycling within the city
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.|
|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 other countries, that cyclist would be breaking the law|
In Norway she is not. But it's not at all convenient.
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.
|Crossing the road. It's not really|
convenient, but it does work.
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
|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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
|Where a street is being pedestrianized, the logo is clearly visible.|
|On a cycle-lane: Thank-you for cycling.|
One of the successes in Trondheim in recent years is the increase in school cycling.
|Some very small children cycle to|
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.
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.