Saturday, August 11, 2012

New York - Brooklyn    

I was given a wonderful walking tour of Brooklyn by dear friend, John.  Contrasting with Manhattan were beautiful, tree lined, quiet streets, with apparently higher residential density than Manhattan, but in tall terraces reminiscent, to me, of Dutch cities (and some with Dutch style bikes out the front). A very attractive looking neighbourhood to live in, with some bike lanes.
A picturesque Brooklyn street
Bike lanes here and there

We stopped to chat to Lauren, an urban planner.

Cargo bikes and other practical, Dutch style bikes were parked along this street.


As Brooklyn has become more densely populated (and gentrified) over the years, this laneway, formerly of garages for nearby housing, has been converted to housing itself.
Former garages, now cute coach houses

Part of the Brooklyn waterfront open for walking and cycling (where is everyone?)
Some parts of the Brooklyn waterfront are accessible by foot and by bike.  The previous night I had been invited to a celebration of the announcement of the full implementation plan for the Brooklyn Greenway, a 14 mile waterfront path.  The project was conceived by the community back in 1998 and everyone was very excited that it is now becoming a reality.  Some sections already exist, and some have temporary arrangements, such as the bidirectional protected cycleway along Kent Avenue.
Janette Sadik-Khan making the announcement

The Greenway celebration

Kent Avenue

Residents of this row of expensive houses with great views of Manhattan across the water, fought the motorway being built along the waterfront decades ago.  In the end, two levels of motorway were built, but with a pedestrian promenade on top.  You can look over the edge to see the motorway, and, soon, more of the Brooklyn Greenway along the water's edge.
Looking over the edge - 2 levels of motorway, and the construction site that will soon be part of the Greenway
The motorway diving under the promenade


Saturday, July 28, 2012

New York - Manhattan  


New York is a lot bigger than it looks on the map, so my short stay there was only enough to catch a few glimpses of parts of the city.  It leaves a strong impression of so many big streets, so many people and so much traffic, yet so friendly and polite.  How is that possible?  It has chronic traffic jams, but despite any impatience there wasn't the aggression there is in Sydney traffic.  And the massive volume of traffic makes the bold reclamation of space on Broadway and elsewhere astounding and impressive.


The "don't block the box - fine and points" sign, top left, to no effect

Not during the next green bicycle & pedestrian phase, either

Amazing space reallocation to bike lanes and pedestrian areas
The extra pedestrian space is heavily used

Monitoring of taxi GPS data shows that travel speeds have actually increased since the road space changes


And, like every single other city I visited, it rained in NYC - to quell the heatwave

The bike lanes are also well used by pedestrians
Cars not allowed
But look out for (and yield to) pedestrians

Drivers were polite and keen to point out that they were looking out for me - I had plenty of friendly exchanges on the street.  Likewise the pedestrians - when I rang my bell to try to make my way through on the bike lane, a typical reaction was - "oh, so sorry, please forgive me".

These protected lanes, apart from the mild inconveniences of pedestrian usage and the cars blocking the intersections, are fantastic to use, and the new pedestrians plazas are such a great place to sit and watch the world.  Really impressive use of streetspace.

Some streets have bike lanes or buffered bike lanes.  The buffered bike lanes feel especially comfortable to use amidst the noisy din of traffic, though some seem particularly plagued with parked cars and trucks (I stopped to thank the police officer I saw booking a truck in the bike lane).  I also wasn't sure whether turning cars would always see and yield at intersections, but was pleasantly surprised every time.
Parking in the bike lane seemed standard practice on some streets

As I rode further, though, I had trouble finding streets with bike lanes and ended up, again and again, on busy roads competing with traffic.  Very tiring and stressful.

Overall, New York have done an amazing job so far of trying to retrofit a bicycle network into such a large city of so many busy roads.  To achieve sufficient network in a reasonable time, much of it is by necessity just simple painted space, not protected.  As such, the user profile will still be mainly young males rather than having broader appeal just yet.

Two unusual vehicles sharing the roads and bike lanes in New York were the food carts, with an electric motor to propel them while the owner walked alongside (but no brakes, it seemed) and, "The Interceptor".

Mobile Chilli Dog cart using the bike lane (the wrong way)
 
"Interceptor"!


Saturday, July 21, 2012

Zurich Airport     

Leaving Europe, and at Zurich airport departure lounge you can pedal to charge your laptop or phone - great for getting some circulation going before a long flight.  Except all seats were taken...

Friday, July 20, 2012

Waterloo


A commuter outpost of Brussels and the scene of the famous battle in 1815, this French-speaking town, like Bayeux, has very few people riding bicycles.  There are some bike facilities on the back streets, but they seem opportunistic rather than well planned (like much of Sydney, really).

Like elsewhere in civilised Europe, contra-flow provision on one-way streets is pretty standard.
No entry, bicycles excepted

Pavement markings.  Note parking on both sides, so some would cross bike flow.
More intense markings at intersection, to highlight it for turning drivers
Special stop line for bikes at the main road
And stop sign just for bikes


This set of cycle tracks seem to have been part of a newer medium density housing area, though on quieter streets where it is seems less necessary than the important connector streets.  Not great standard, and I didn't see them used, but probably a step in the right direction.
Footpath near the property line and one-way cycle track on each side next to the road or parking


Intersection treatment is minimal





This seemed to be the standard treatment on back street connector roads you'd most need to use - a shared bike/parking lane, with strong parking demand.  A treatment with which we are all too familiar.




The main shopping street is also the main thoroughfare to Brussels - nothing for bikes and too busy for comfort.  A nearby highway-type road, though, had some provision.
One way cycle tracks (or lanes behind parking, at least) on a highway


Cars are definitely the priority in Waterloo.  Here in the main shopping street the road surface is nice smooth asphalt, but the footpath is uneven cobbles.  Shouldn't it be the other way around?  The footpath here is wide, unusually - for the rest of the shopping street it is so narrow that it is hard to pass someone walking the other way without overhanging the road.
 


The most notable thing in Waterloo was to find that residents here actually DO seem to own the parking spot outside their house - something that would be popular in Sydney.  Many of the houses in streets where parking demand was high had this sign/sticker on their fence - "no parking - except for me".

No Parking - except for me






Freiburg Altstadt


Before this blog leaves Freiburg, it is worth showing a little of the Altstadt (old city) which is largely car-free.  Freiburg is amazing for many things - its leadership in environmental technology, the people's revolt against their feudal masters back in the 13th century, the spectacular cathedral built between 1200 and 1530 (you can see the change in architectural style over time from one end to the other), and the beautiful old city, bodering the Black Forest, rebuilt to the original street plan and architectural style after heavy bombing in World War II.


Narrow, cobbled, car-free shopping streets, with "Castle Mountain" in the background


Wisteria growing over the top of the street
 

Freiburg Altstadt streets have two distinctive characteristics.  Many of the streets have little freshwater streams (Bächle) running along the street (sometimes you see children pulling along a little wooden boat while they walk).  And secondly, the cobblestones are not so much cobblestones, but pebble mosaic.


Bächle, bike parking, and footpath cobbles



A major street, with tram tracks to the right of the Bächle, and inlaid patterns of stones
Detail of the street above.  The stones are river stones from the Rhine.
 We watched someone making a repair to the street.  He had a small pile of pebbles, from which he selected one the right size and then used a hammer and chisel to make it exactly the right size and shape.  Then he tapped it into place gently with the hammer.  Such craftsmanship was fascinating to watch.

Outside many shops and buildings are a mosaic indicating the current or past usage
     









The cobblestones are a bit of a discouragement to riding and do slow you down.  The old city is mostly pedestrian, with people walking their bikes, but some streets used as bike routes and with bike parking.


Mandatory cyclist shot, with bike parking corral behind

The cathedral square with the historical merchants hall (built in 1520) and, to the right in yellow, Hotel Oberkirch (established 1738)



The cathedral on the left - in the 1970s this square was used as a car park and now a lively market in the mornings and gathering and eating place in the afternoons (no, I don't know how I keep getting people-less photos)


A picture taken especially for Omar - an ancient bollard, there to protect the wall of the cathedral  :)