Post this video to every traffic engineer whose email you’re able to find.

I wouldn’t normally post something that was trending anyway with the bike crowd on Twitter, but this new video is so good, I can’t risk any of my regular readers not seeing it too. There’s nothing new about the design. It’s for the clarity with which the design is explained that this video aught to be rammed down the throats of every traffic engineer in the world. Since the end of conscription, it has been the offices of traffic engineers causing the deaths.

For some historical context around segregated bike infrastructure, here is a piece I wrote for The Conversation some time back. And if you don’t believe your grandchildren will all be cyclists, not drivers, US$21.55 is the price to have your eyes opened. That’s how much  my book costs on Amazon.

About Steven

I'm on a mission to put cycling on the agendas of architects, urban designers and fellow academics, who see the potential for bicycles to change cities and buildings. My PhD is in architectural history and my interdisciplinary research spans art theory, philosophy and cultural studies. I teach architectural history and theory and design studio at The University of Tasmania, Australia, and formerly worked as an architect designing large public housing projects in Singapore.
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28 Responses to Post this video to every traffic engineer whose email you’re able to find.

  1. James says:

    Melb. BUG want something like that on Elizabeth St., but council says no because the car traffic throughput would be reduced…

    http://www.melbournebug.org/2013/12/shockingly-dangerous/

    I asked for a compromise to lower the speed limit to 30km/h, such that cars and bikes can more easily integrate, but apparently we cannot drive that slow. Hmm.

    Cr Cathy Oke emailed me the Manager Engineering Services phone number. I haven’t called Mr Geoff Robinson yet. No confidence I could affect the outcome.

    • Steven says:

      go to the media. They know how to save lives but are refusing. That’s a classic news story.

    • James says:

      I also asked how they monitor the Copenhagen lanes for collisions with pedestrians (which is what’s happened to me the few times I’ve dared use those that exist here already). It seems there is no way to record such information reliably. The only information comes from collisions with motor vehicles when police attend a crash.

      Thankfully the street is on the far side of town and I don’t recall ever using it, so not high on my list of annoyances.

      On the bright side, I complained about some long deep cracks that opened up along one of my regular routes and some have already been fixed! Nothing happened until I made a go-fix report, emailed Vicroads and then tweeted to both Yarra Trams and Vicroads. Seems the cracks are on the dividing line between their respective infra, and neither want to spend on a repair. Pointing fingers at each other.

    • Steven says:

      What don’t we want? Despite David’s usual humourless tone, he’s written a detailed and useful analysis.

    • James says:

      Yes, but IIRC, he says that the Dutch resist junctions with lights, and that the design with lights was just to show that it would fit in the space available – not that it was a recommended or regular Dutch design.

  2. E. Nigma says:

    So, how does the fire truck make the turn with the 67 foot wheel base?

  3. Dirk Diggler says:

    Petty? Me thinks you don’t think things through thoroughly enough. If it was your house on fire I would argue you would prefer those few extra seconds! And yes, let’s re-engineer all cities around bicycles, it won’t cost much and considering cyclists are typically not amongst the well to do, I’m sure they wouldn’t mind having their taxes raised 10%. It would give them something else to go out and protest against. What colour is the sky in your world?

    • Steven says:

      Blue. The wheels of a fire truck can roll right over curbs.

    • James says:

      Considering the billions we’re spending annually to create new roads that we wouldn’t need if, say 10-20% of trips were by bike, we’d have plenty to implement more bicycle friendly designs. A few kms of tunnel under Melbourne, for example, would pay for a lot of bicycle super highways.

  4. Reuben says:

    How do pedestrians fair in this design?

    • Steven says:

      I’ve spent quite a bit of time in the Netherlands, where this approach to road engineering is common. It’s MUCH safer walking there than in Australia or the US, where cars enter driveways without looking for anyone (bikes or peds) and where there are steel missiles hurtling down the middle of the street meaning you can only ever cross at the lights. In Holland you also find there is far less car traffic generally. Consider how Americans move to Amsterdam and don’t buy a car, but just start riding around everywhere. We all adapt to our environments. Build cycle tracks, and we will all cycle, and love it. You just have to have vision.

  5. Ralph says:

    As a commuter cyclist and traffic engineer in Chicago I completely support this design. However, I disagree with your statement that traffic engineers are responsible for the deaths of cyclists. Believe me, many of us would love to design every intersection like this, but there are many factors that go into the design (volume of traffic for cars, bikes and peds, available ROW, sight distance issues etc.) Even if everything is perfect and we have the room and capacity to install this design, it does not meet the State or City (the clients) policy therefore it will be rejected. The true issue is convincing State and City officials to change the traffic design policies to incorporate these innovative designs.

    • Steven says:

      Hi Ralph, I have friends who are traffic engineers and cyclists too. In talking to them, it has become apparent that national professional bodies — where I am, that’s Engineer’s Australia — have the power to influence national standards. So when clients ask for unsafe designs for the sake of expediency (fast traffic flows) you can deny them your professional services. As an architect I can’t give a client a balcony with a low balustrade, and I can’t give them steep stairs. My profession has put safety first. So you’re right, I can’t say the offices of traffic engineers are killing people. It is the engineers’ national professional bodies. What can you do as a member?

    • James says:

      In Australia the road design standards are developed by a group of “interested parties”, being mostly the state run roads authorities, and some traffic engineering consultants, as far as I can tell.

      From these people we get such reprehensible designs as “Door-in-your-face” bike lanes, disappearing bike lanes where you really need them, litter filled bike lanes and bike lanes up the left side of a left turn only lane (for riders wishing to continue straight). In addition we get Copenhagen bike lanes that drop you out among turning motor traffic, and hard edged narrow chutes on a downhill through curves with a bus stop and side roads to contend with. Also many of the in road vehicle sensors that trigger traffic lights don’t detect bicycles.

      There is only one bike lane in Melbourne I can point to and say, “I like riding there”, and it’s all of 150m long, over Princes Bridge, North bound.

      If electrical engineers, like myself, designed stuff this bad, you’d get a few electric shocks per day even from goods in perfect working order.

      I’m with Steven. Traffic Engineers have a lot to answer for.

    • Ralph says:

      Steven, you are correct. The national engineering organizations do have a strong influence on traffic/transportation policy here in the U.S. I am a member of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), which along with the Illinois League of Bicyclists (ILB) and Active Transportation Alliance (ATA) has put cyclist safety (along with driver and pedestrian) at the forefront of it’s agenda in the past few years, specifically for Illinois. As a result, we are seeing a stronger push to include bike and pedestrian safety in our designs. The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) recently passed its Complete Streets policy (2010), which requires that state funded urban roadway projects accommodate cyclists. This policy was adapted from a similar Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) policy. Of note, here in the U.S., the states create their own policies for local roads and they differ from state to state. So, even if the FHWA has a great bike policy in their standards, it does not mean the states and individual cities are required to follow those standards on non-federally funded roads.

      Anyway, IDOT’s Complete Streets policy is a huge step forward for cyclist safety, but there is still much work to be done to improve the current standards. Protected bike lanes still are not approved for use on high volume state routes, but some cities like Chicago have begun installing them with great success on local routes. The bottom line is, progress is being made. Is the U.S. slower to adapt compared to other countries? Yes. But, we are still making progress and will continue to until we can achieve safe routes for all modes of transportation.

    • Steven says:

      I can’t see the point of “complete streets”. Either they have cars travelling fast enough to kill cyclists in door zones, or the cars are so slow the whole district could be a plaza or shared space. Again, it’s like architects patting themselves on the back for mandating 2 foot high balustrades. Why not aim to make bike and pedestrian deaths 1 in 100 year freak accidents, rather than collateral damage?

    • Ralph says:

      Steven, I understand where you are coming from. Why not just design the roads/intersections to be 100% cyclist/ped safe from the get go? Well, government bureaucracy slows things down a lot, regardless of how active our professional organizations are. Since the federal, state and cities are allowed to have their own standards on their roads it is very difficult to regulate. As I said though, some progress is being made at least. 15 years ago, there weren’t even painted bike lanes on my bike route. Now there are protected lanes with dedicated bike signals. No bump outs yet as shown in the video, but I have seen preliminary plans for some in Chicago.

      Other issues are funding and lack of popularity of cyclists. There is a large culture of drivers in Chicago that despise cyclists and refuse to have any of “their” tax dollars go towards improving bike infrastructure. These people have a strong voice and vote, unfortunately. Thankfully, our current mayor is ignoring these people and has plans for more and more protected bike lanes.

    • Steven says:

      Your mayor must represent a 51% progressive constituency :) New york, Paris, London… all the big old cities where most voters have given up trying to find some place to park their cars, are getting these mayors. Parking price rises since the sell-off of on-street meter collection rights in Chicago may have helped, indirectly… another topic.
      fyi, most of my work focuses on bike transport along non-vehicular easements (like your lake front or your Bloomingdale trail) and how these can unlock former industrial sites for bicycle oriented redevelopment.
      But we can’t let you guys off the hook so easily. Any definition of a “profession” starts with some reference to its political autonomy. The traffic engineering profession can therefore be interpreted in one of two ways: as an evil profession that puts the interests of car and oil companies above public safety and truly efficient mobility, that we know is better achieved with cycling and transit, or as a child of the civil engineering profession that has not come of age as a bona fide profession itself. I don’t doubt your knowledge of traffic flow, or structural stability. But your profession seems to have a weak sense of ethics, and seems slow to absorb accident and injury prevention research by folk like Kay Teschke and Anne Lusk. Which leaves me wondering what concerned citizens can do if a profession that serves them is not making the preservation of life high enough a priority. I mean, if yours was a fully realised and ethical profession, you would all agree not to sign off on retrograde plans just because of political or funding pressures.
      btw: thanks for being a part of this discussion!

  6. Frank says:

    Steven, you sound awfully like those trolls the internet keeps talking about. Seriously, why did you design such awful, cold, and sterile public housing projects in Chicago? We’re spending countless years and money tearing them all down. What? You didn’t design those? Oh… never the less, all architects, including yourself, are cold and heartless with no sense of the environment their designing.
    :)

    See what a I did there? Joking aside, there are many traffic engineers who are also cyclists, as you mention, that gladly support these kinds of changes. There are also many who aren’t cyclists but given the opportunity or encouragement, would pick it up and become another ally. You’re angry at the lack of progress, I can tell. However, if you’re really trying to build support for your mission, alienating a component will get you nowhere.

  7. Omar says:

    Great design! I’m a pedestrian and an car driver (always hated bikes) but I understand the feasibility of mobility by biking. For this to work, we will need full coordination and respect from 3 mobility sources. First, downtowns would need a little more space that most of them lack, maybe on those places bike-only streets would make it but cars need to get going to. Not everybody can drive a bike. Second, bus stops and taxis are out of the mix on this. Streets may become chaotic; one solution would be to put bus stops and taxi hop on/off in the middle of the block rather than on the corner, stopping turns and making more difficult for cars to see others or quick right turns. Third, some bikers feel like they’re in the Olympics, so bikes must respect cars turns and pedestrians in the exact same way they need respect. Fourth. ALL respect the line direction! Finally, as technology improves, better light signal system would need to exist for ensuring an harmonic way to coexist among all. Your bike lights are a great idea!

  8. What about trucks? There is really no room a tractor trailer to make a turn there. Pedestrian conflicts at the bike lanes? Seems like chaos right now. Seems like a lot still needs to be worked out. Not so sure a community would be convinced to implement this scheme as is.

    Not at bad start I guess.

  9. Jon says:

    But the proposed intersection design does not address the safety of pedestrians having to cross the bike lane against bicycles making a right turn. Unfortunately I have seen MANY bicyclists not paying due consideration or often even acting obnoxiously agressive to pedestrians.

    • Steven says:

      where conditions are obnoxious for cycling, you see a lot of obnoxious behaviour from the hand full of people willing to ride in those conditions. In countries where cyclists are treated fairly, you see all walks of life using bikes.

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