Geller provides observations on how Seville manages their bike lanes

bikepathinspain.jpg
An example of a bike lane that is put on a city sidewalk in Spain

One of the things that attracted me to Seville was an article in the Lonely Planet travel guide describing the efforts the city is making to becoming a leading ‘green’ city in Europe. Many streets now ban cars in the historic centre, and a new Tram Line was recently built along the main avenue of the city. There are also many bike lanes and a bike sharing program in place, and they are used…no doubt due to the climate, the cost of owning a car, the relatively flat terrain, etc.

But there were a few things that struck me about Seville’s cycling infrastructure which I had seen in other international cities, including London from where I returned yesterday, and which I think are worth pointing out.

1. Unlike Vancouver, the bike lanes are both on the streets and the sidewalks. Where it is not feasible to add them to the street, the sidewalk will suffice, and I think it does work…while cyclists tend to go slower, I think that’s ok too. It cuts down on accidents but still allows a vaible alternative to the auto, or walking to function. Now in many places, the sidewalks are wider, but in others, they are similar to what we have…but it all feels much safer….for all.

2. There is little, if any space taken up by landscaped barrier systems like those installed along Hornby and Dunsmuir. In fact, I’m not sure I’ve seen anything quite like this anywhere in the world. Instead, Seville uses lines and changes in pavement colour, and subtle metal markers in certain places to let the cyclists know where they can go.

3. There are posted speed limits on cycling routes…generally 10 k/m which is reduced to 5 k/m in certain areas. I’m not sure I have seen speed limits posted for cyclists in Vancouver. Please tell me if this is city policy.

4. Perhaps due to the safer conditions, cyclists don’t always wear helmets. I noted this in my 2007 Vancouver Sun article. Indeed, I suggested that if we could improve bicycle safety, we might be able to reconsider our helmet requirments. One advantage of this would be to increase the number of cyclists…I really believe this…and facilitate more effective bike sharing programs.

Of course I was chastised by doctors and cyclists who had survived major accidents only because they were wearing helmets. However, my point is that if cyclists are restricted from travelling so quickly, then many of these more serious accidents may not occur. And I also believe that the total environmental and health benefits of far more cyclists will offset the occasional serious accidents that will happen because people are not wearing helmet.

If I’m wrong, then why aren’t helmets mandatory in most of Europe and South America, just to name two continents? And please don’t tell me they are not quite as advanced as us or caring about the health of the people….if you believe this, you haven’t been to Seville or Gothenberg, or Buenos Aires or Santiago. What I do know is that there are more healthy people who are cycling, and reduced carbon gases in many parts of the city

– Post by Michael Geller. He is a Vancouver based architect, planner, real estate consultant and property developer with four decades’ experience in the public, private and institutional sectors. Follow @michaelgeller or @CityCaucus on Twitter. He also regularly appears every Tuesday on the Bill Good civic affairs panel on @cknw radio in Vancouver. This column was originally posted on Michael’s blog.

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  • Max

    @ Mr. Geller:
    I know there are cyclist speed signs posted at Kits beach. I can’t rememeber for sure, but think it is 15 on the pathways.
    They are also asked to dismount in the area where the Boathouse Restaurant is and the children’s play area.
    Not all do.
    As for the helmet law, he, you want to take your chances so be it.
    A few years back, there was a cyclist hit at West 4th and Trafalgar. No helmet, lots of blood. I do not believe he survived his injuries.

  • Richard

    @Michael
    Great post, thanks for highlighting Seville. It is really amazing what they have done in a short period of time.
    Seville really demonstrates the advantages of rapidly building cycling facilities. In four years, they invested $42 million to complete a network of 78 km separated bike lanes throughout the city. In addition, they also installed a 2,500 bicycle bike sharing system. As a result, bicycle mode share increased from 0.2%, practically nothing, to 6.6% and cycling trips increased from 2,500 to 70,000 per day. Perhaps more importantly, it is now quite common to see children cycling in the city.
    Like here and it cities around the world, it was controversial too. Fortunately, they had courageous politicians and got the job done. They are continuing to make improvements and have a goal of 15% of trips by bike by 2015.

  • The Angry Taxpayer

    @Max,
    I agree. I don’t understand the stance of some bike riders with regards to helmets. A friend of a friend came off his bike several months ago…skinny tires hit something. He had a helmet on, and still had catastophic injuries. Without a helmet, he would have died.
    I have been to Stockholm and observed that many people there ride in a fairly leisurely fashion, without helmets. They use their bikes as transport—they don’t think they are all settting up for the Grand Fondo! Here in Vancouver I see far too many idiots who want to emulate Lance Armstrong (drug addled. perhaps?!), on skinny bike paths, overcoming (by yelling at) other mounted riders. And just generally being jackasses in their treatment of anyone else on the road.
    Richard, I like bike paths too, but would like to see those barriers come down, and have paths run along other roads that are not quite the arterial thoroughfares that are used now. I love the concept of a more graphic detailing on streets and on some sidewalks that are wide enough to hold both bikes and pedestrianns, though I can’t hink of any that fit the bill, right now.
    I used the wide sidewalks in LA myself (from Santa Monica to Beverly Hills) beacause of course they didn’t have too many marked bike paths West/East on the road(though there is a very nice marked path that runs along the main North/South arterial through Santa Monica). And of course there is a great biking path all along the beach to Marina Del Rey.
    Shockingly, on my way to the Hills of Beverly, I cycled through the incredible UCLA campus. Not another bike in site! Too many Maserati’s taking the kiddies to school? 😉

  • Glissando Remmy

    The Thought of The Day
    “Trying to implement ideas taken from other cities, especially from old, with long tradition,compact urban design, human scaled streets, and mostly…flat terrain cities, is like accepting a ‘collect call’ from a complete stranger, from a foreign country, and in a language you don’t understand. It’s stupid, in most cases will not work, and it will cost you a bundle.”
    Here’s a novel idea:
    ‘Let’s do what’s best for Vancouver by working with what we have in Vancouver!’
    The mostly ONE SPEED bikes on the streets of the most major European cities might want to tell us,the MULTI SPEED bike users in Vancouver,something, eh!?
    Michael,
    Re. 1 & 2 & 3
    Change in pavement or simply painted lanes. We already had those painted lanes on Burrard and Hornby streets before these Vision morons started spending millions for concrete/ planters barriers & ‘separated trial’ LOL. In order to make the sidewalk work you need to have the right sidewalk width…how many sidewalks do you know of…in Vancouver that can accommodate that?
    My point exactly.
    Oh, and one more thing, my mother was shaved twice in the past year, on the twin sidewalk/ bike lane of this… European metropolis, where my parents live.
    Even better, go to Stanley Park, and observe. You have one idiot out of 10 speeding on a busy day, and 1 cretin out of a 100 going the wrong way, with posted speed limits and arrow markings painted over. These are universal. You cannot play ‘Me not spick Hinglish’ on this one…
    Separated bike lanes and concrete in Vancouver is simply Vision chest thumping, Ballem iron pumping and Robertson balls clinking during his heels touching jumps. It’s plain and simple the Modus Operandi of a Bully government. And as we all know a bully is a bully because all he has is his bullishness.
    Re. 4.
    Helmet or no Helmet. Let me put it this way. How would you like to be remembered if not wearing a helmet:
    A – Risk Taker Shit Baker
    B – Organic Vegetable
    C – Major Reconstructive Surgery… but still Pretty
    D – Died Doing What He Loved Best
    Take your pick.
    I think the helmet is useful. Or the people in Europe are smarter and/ or luckier. Here:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IXhRPnh1JSU
    We live in Vancouver and this keeps us busy.

  • Richard

    @The Angry Taxpayer
    Just what roads downtown would you suggest for separated bike lanes then? Or are you suggesting that cycling downtown should only be for a few brave men?
    What is for certain, the many families with children that are now using the separated bike lanes would not be among those choosing to cycle downtown.
    Many of the people using Hornby and Dunsmiur are like the ones you describe in Stockholm. They are using their bikes for transport and riding in a leisurely manner, some with helmets, some without helmets. The more safe, comfortable separated bike lanes that are built in Vancouver, the more people will be cycling in such a leisurely manner.
    Often they are using their bicycles for shopping and thus need separated bike lanes along the roads where the shops are.
    Agreed, though that there are very few sidewalks in Vancouver that are wide enough to be shared with cyclists. Maybe Pacific Blvd. In Seville, it is important to note that in many cases, the space for the bicycle paths was created by reallocating parking or lanes of traffic, just like what was done on Hornby and Dunsmuir.
    If anything, some sidewalks in Vancouver need widening just for the high numbers of people walking on them.
    In European cities, where very few people chose to wear helmets, the ones trying to emulate Lance do wear helmets. People in general have a good idea of the risks they are taking and chose to wear helmets if they perceive the type of cycling they are doing is really dangerous.
    @Glissy
    How about giving the painted bike lane on Burrard a try. It is sandwiched between a bus lane and cars and trucks. Not very nice at all. I do recommend wearing a helmet if you do give it a try. Perhaps even a full body helmet.
    Regarding hills, electric bikes have taken care of that. Around 23 million are being sold per year in China.
    That keeps them very busy.

  • George

    In so many ways this is the most painful thing I’ve seen..I feel so sorry for these cyclists..it hurts just to watch..
    http://www.vancouversun.com/sports/Tour+France+Fury+knocks+cyclist+into+barbed+wire/5080876/story.html

  • Glissando Remmy

    Richard,
    unfortunately out of the 23 million electric bike buyers in China, we got none of them here. Here, we got only the SUV drivers audience, and mostly bad drivers.That’s the problem. Hey, BTW, if you admire them so much, why don’t you try a permanent move over there (I heard the air is pristine, not a smelter in sight) and see how that works out for you, instead of preaching from the Hollyhock Bike Sermons and giving us lessons on how to adjust our lives according to your goals. I don’t want to bike on Burrard or Hornby.
    It’s my preference.
    I’m going rollerblading on Burrard instead!
    Anyways.
    So, I’ll have to ask you, if I want a discount on a helmet or a bike you are The Guy, right? Or would that be Solomon, Vision’s Jorg&Oleff happy planet juicy daddy?

  • Glissando Remmy

    George,
    Tour de France like any other big, revamped sporting event, is BIG Business.
    From selling super performance bikes, helmets, full body velcro/ lycra suits, to selling advertising patches and stickers, to selling energy drinks and bottled water, to selling TV ads and ultimately shares in green investment scams. Isn’t this, Vancouver’s flavor of the Month, every Month? Isn’t this exactly what Renewal stands for?
    How would one sell ice for the igloos to the Eskimos… without the Eskimos?…if you catch my drift.
    The driver who hit the biker didn’t even give a shit about it, he basically sped up, can you spell ‘Hit and Lawfully Run?’.
    But he got the best close up shot of the fall for his TV station.
    Plus, all the bikers are asked to sign a release form before the race.
    They know the risks.
    Hey, Lance Armstrong lives a multi-millonaire’s life from riding a bike, and the most he’s lost? A testicle?
    So, don’t feel too bad after all!

  • Hmmm…a speed limit, but no mention of licensing???
    “And I also believe that the total environmental and health benefits of far more cyclists will offset the occasional serious accidents that will happen because people are not wearing (a) helmet.”
    As Glissando far more eloquently pointed out, this is Machiavellian.
    It sounds like Seville has incorporated Mondermanian principles, which would work wonderfully on the very wide Hornby sidewalks. It also works well as a conceptual approach to building cities and societies.

  • Two thoughts 1) I’m sure you mean full body armour
    2) Wonder how many scooters/ebikes could be bought with half the billions spent on urban-sprawl aggravating transit?
    PS Bikes and bike lanes-what’s the over/under on the comment count say by the midnight on the 14th?

  • Vancouver Citizen

    There are very few, if any, sidewalks in Vancouver’s city centre with ‘extra’ space that could simply be reallocated for other transportation purposes. Besides, reallocating sidewalk space from pedestrians to cyclists would go firmly against the City’s council-approved transportation priorities (1. walking, 2. cycling, 3. transit, etc.). This was done on the south side of the Burrard Bridge, resulting in a significantly degraded pedestrian facility (now non-existent) — hopefully this can be rectified in the future.

  • Jason King

    It’s funny how everyone is writing that there are no sidewalks wide enough…granville has very much become a “pedestrian center” that could easily have accommodated lanes like they have in Seville….but in addition, it seems that there was simply no vision when it came to our bike lanes…we created bug concrete barriers in many areas that are ugly, and then fully separated lanes that detract, rather than contribute to the public space….we really don’t seem to know what we are doing in vancouver

  • Richard

    @Glissando
    Not sure how encouraging the city to provide people of all ages and abilities with more transportation choices is preaching but anyway. There are many people who want to bike but don’t because they don’t feel safe “sharing” the road with traffic.
    Lots of people are using the separated lanes for rollerblading and skateboarding, which is great. The more the merrier. Enjoy your blading!
    @Vancouver Citizen
    Agreed. More space is needed for peds on many downtown streets. Hopefully, council sooner rather than later will reallocate a lane on the east side of Burrard Bridge so both people walking and those cycling can have their own safe space on the east side of the bridge.

  • victor

    Saw three seniors on their scooters powering along the Hornby Bike Lane this AM.
    No order there. Does one need a licence to drive on of those things? This group did not seem to know the rules of the road as they sailed through the red light, cars dodging them and missing them by a mere fraction of an inch.

  • Richard

    If they are electric scooters, they don’t need a licence. Still, they should follow the rules for their own safety.

  • Max

    Interesting Richard, that is the second time in a short while you have mentioned removing one of the east lanes on the Burrard Bridge in order to again accommodate cyclists which makes me wonder, what is in the works the the general public doesn’t know about.

  • Richard

    Actually, it is probably around the 2,000th time I have mentioned it over the last 19 years or so. Hopefully they will listen soon but who knows. You know as much as I do at this point.

  • This is very similar to the Hornby design where you’ve got autos going in the same direction with contradictory signals, combine with an inexperienced rider taking his cue from the stopped car instead of his signal.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lZdN4pattLY&NR=1&feature=fvwp

  • Richard

    The large majority of people on bikes and in cars have figured out the signals on Hornby and act accordingly as they have in hundreds of other cities around the world with such signals. It is not too complicated.

  • Paul Clapham

    Speed limit signs in Vancouver? Yes, I have seen a lot of signs advertising a 30 km/h speed limit, including some on streets designated as bicycle routes.
    On my ride along the 10th Avenue bicycle route this morning I noticed that people were generally doing about 20 km/h or so. If you’re suggesting that 10 km/h would be a reasonable speed limit for cyclists, then I expect most of us would disagree. In places like the sidewalk in your picture, sure, but on public streets originally designed for cars?

  • “Tour de France like any other big, revamped sporting event, is BIG Business.
    From selling super performance bikes, helmets, full body velcro/ lycra suits, to selling advertising patches and stickers, to selling energy drinks and bottled water, to selling TV ads and ultimately shares in green investment scams.”
    I’m not sure what a velcro suit is, but it sounds uncomfortable and would probably chafe a little too much for cycling. Nonetheless I got a giggle out of it.
    Selling bicycles is way down the list of priorities for the Tour as near as I can tell. With only 4 of the 22 teams directly affiliated with a bike mfr and no cycling companies as direct sponsors of the event itself (according to the official website) it’s pretty clear that it’s a rolling spectacle just like any other race, be it cars, motorcycles, boats or what have you. The competitors are a convenient place to put a logo. And, like most professional sporting events, its green credentials are almost non-existent, due to the large number of cars that support the riders, the inevitable air travel that accompanies it, etc. I like to watch, but to suggest the race is about selling bike or eco-friendly initiatives doesn’t stand up to closer examination IMO.

  • @Gerry
    I note that you’ve mentioned licenses for cyclists on a few occasions. Wondering if you favour the idea (you appear to). If so, perhaps you could expand on this. What ages are you thinking would be appropriate to issue licenses? How do you plan to deal with out-of-town tourists, or are you envisioning a nation-wide program, and restricting cycling use only to those with the appropriate piece of paper? How about enforcement? Would checking for bike licenses be the best use of police resources? What about costs? The same as drivers’ license? What if the cyclist already has a driver’s license in some form? Are they exempt by virtue of having shown an understanding of road rules sufficient to be allowed to drive a car? Are we going to grandfather existing cyclists with a clean driving record?
    Given that there is always a great hue and cry for evidence-based decisions on the part of bike lane critics, I’d suggest the same standard of proof should also be de rigeur for those initiatives which would likely only discourage people from this transportation choice, thereby creating more congestion on roads and transit.

  • Higgins

    “And, like most professional sporting events, its green credentials are almost non-existent, due to the large number of cars that support the riders, the inevitable air travel that accompanies it, etc. I like to watch, but to suggest the race is about selling bike or eco-friendly initiatives doesn’t stand up to closer examination IMO.”
    So then why did people try to call The Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver the greenest Olympic Games ever? Based on what?
    How about the numerous flights taken by our beloved councilors and Mayor in their quest to attend different sporting events …China, London, Athens, New York… LOL just look at David Cadman’s record of flying for green causes around the world, it’s just sick, man. What a bunch of phonies. This ‘Green” thing is way, way out of control. Nothing to do with the Environment and everything to do with making more money. Call them green like in Dollars green!
    And BTW , the tour of France is Big Business, and lots of so called “green businesses’ are busy at the trough.

  • This just in. Some companies use popular sentiment as a marketing tool. Film at 11.

  • There seems to be millions of dollars floating around for infrastructure. Legal infrastructure is a critical piece of the puzzle. In the long term the respectabilty and responsibility it brings to the cycling community will be a significant net benefit.

  • Max

    Chris:
    I know I have mentioned this before and will do so again, growing up, we had to have licenses for our bikes.
    City Hall doled them out. You registered your bike with City Hall, paid, I believe it was $5.00 and got your license plate to attach to your bike.
    It was not ageist in any way.

  • Max:
    Bike registration is different from a bike license. The first is a way to identify an object. The second is ostensibly a certificate indicating familiarity and capability to ride a bicycle according to the laws of the land. Some countries have cycling education programs to teach children how to ride responsibly and safely. No one would say that’s a bad idea. Most of us, IMO, would love to see driver education and cycling skills training in schools at the appropriate age, as a way to save money down the road by reducing accidents and injuries.
    But implementing a bicycle license just in Vancouver, or Metro Vancouver, or BC, or even Canada brings with it a host of complications such as I have outlined in a previous post. I’d sooner see that money spent on teaching kids how to be safe, courteous drivers, cyclists, pedestrians, and transit users, rather than administering a glorified ID card. I don’t think it would have to be a huge expensive program, but I do think it would bring a host of benefits to us all.

  • Mark Bowen

    There are very, very few places in the city where the sidewalks would be wide enough to accommodate bike lanes. Imagine your average sized sidewalk, then imagine your average sized bike lane painted on one side of it. Now jam the remaining sidewalk with rush hour levels of foot traffic. Now add in a few people pushing strollers or homeless pushing shopping carts.
    Doesn’t look so reasonable any more, does it?
    There will always be ways to improve our cycling infrastructure, but painting lanes on the sidewalks is a non-starter.

  • Michael, where are the people?