Section 4.6 Safety is all in the mind

Are parked cars the better bollards. Berlin safe street survey

The perception of personal safety is particularly important for a cyclist. Many people will say that they do not cycle because they feel unsafe. Often authorities fall back to statistics, suggesting that it is not as bad as people think. However, if we want people to cycle, we must first feel safe. A study in Berlin looks at the types of cycle infrastructure that makes people feel safe.

Cycling is for everybody. In one study in Berlin, 21,000 people were asked what made them feel safe. “Berlin wants streets like this”[1] paints a picture of how the city of Berlin would look for cyclists. A more traditional approach are traffic studies, which provide a statistical measure of real safety but may do little to encourage people to ride. We need both: infrastructure that people think is safe, and infrastructure that has been proven to be safe. Luckily, the two have a lot in common. Another excellent report from Austroads, Integrating Safe System with Movement and Place for Vulnerable Road Users,[2] looks at cycling safety from the latter perspective.

Building bike paths on the green field is great if you have space, however, in town centres and Civic, this is not likely. All big cities have the problem that there is often the least available space, where people want to ride most. There are many options on how we could make cities bike-friendly. The below computer study generated random infrastructure changes for people to consider.

[1] FixMyCity Team, Study on subjective safety when travelling by bicycle. Results and data from a survey of 21,000 participants, , 2020, <https://fixmyberlin.de/research/subjektive-sicherheit#datensatz-der-ergebnisse&gt; [accessed 12 July 2021].

[2] Corben, B, Integrating Safe System with Movement and Place for Vulnerable Road Users.Sydney, Austroad, 2020, <https://austroads.com.au/publications/road-safety/ap-r611-20&gt; [accessed 12 July 2021].

First the worst (figure 4-9) and the best (figure 4-10).

The worst way to cycle. Berlin safe street survey
Figure 4-9 The worst way to cycle. Berlin safe street survey
The safest way to cycle. Berlin safe street survey
Figure 4-10 The safest way to cycle. Berlin safe street survey

People value being separated from cars, and roads need to be wide enough for that to be possible. Without a bike lane, cyclist will not feel safe. Markings on the road make cyclists feel safer.

Without bike lanes. Berlin safe street survey
Figure 4-11 Without bike lanes. Berlin safe street survey
With bike lanes. Berlin safe street survey
Figure 4-12 With bike lanes. Berlin safe street survey

Better than a cycle lane is to separate the cyclist from traffic with bollards. It does not matter that much what sort of bollards are used.

Structural separation makes a big difference.Berlin safe street survey
Figure 4-13 Structural separation makes a big difference. Berlin safe street survey
Bollards make people feel safe. Berlin safe street survey
Figure 4-14 Bollards make people feel safe. Berlin safe street survey

Passing parked cars is a common cause of low-speed collisions (dooring). For this reason, bike lanes beside parking spaces are not recommended (see Austroads). The best option is to have the parked cars on one side of the bollards and the cyclists on the other.

Parking spaces are scary. Berlin safe street survey
Figure 4-15 Parking spaces are scary. Berlin safe street survey
Bike path next to parked cars. Berlin safe street survey
Figure 4-16 Bike path next to parked cars. Berlin safe street survey
Are parked cars the better bollards. Berlin safe street survey
Figure 4-17 Are parked cars the better bollards. Berlin safe street survey

Grade separation is where the cyclist is moved off the road onto the verge. The verge of many city roads (Northbourne Avenue in Civic) is a paved sidewalk in front of shops and offices. Pedestrians are common. Pedestrians can worry about fast-moving cyclists, and cyclists can worry about unpredictable pedestrians with their eyes glued to their smartphones. The pressures increase with outdoor seating as well on sidewalks. The answer is “think three” – keep the bike path separated and clearly delineated from the pedestrian and road area.

Wide bike path with grade separation. Berlin safe street survey
Figure 4-18 Wide bike path with grade separation. Berlin safe street survey

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