Sunday, 16 September 2018

A Scandinavian Safari: Part 3 - Malmö - Around The Suburbs

In this week's blog, I take a look at life away from the centre of Malmö out in the suburbs. It's always interesting to see what is going on away from the more famous parts of a city after all!

Now I didn't get to cycle round all of the suburbs, but I think what I found was pretty representative and it gives a flavour of what was going on. We stayed on the edge of the neighbourhood of Sibbarp which is about 6.5km (4 miles) from the city centre and probably serves to show that Malmö isn't a massive place. Sibbarp sits in the shadow of the stunning Øresund Bridge with a campsite at one end and a huge public park running along the coast.

Of course, cycling is welcomed in the park, although I did notice the dd barrier.

The 'fingers' were reasonably spaced, but it would have been a pain to get a cargocycle or adapted cycle through. Luckily, most of the access points didn't have them.

The park has a completely separate cycleway and so the mixing of people walking and cycling is limited to crossing points. The route is smooth (for walking and cycling), well-lit and clearly signed.

The park isn't especially a route for travelling through, more of a pleasant diversion from the street, although it was a useful cut-through from the campsite. At the north end of the park, the route turns back to the main road along the coast, Strandgatten (or beach street).

As it joins the main road there is a zebra crossing linking to a street on the other side of Strandgatten (Skånegatan) with a parallel cycle crossing, although people cycling give way to traffic here.

The access to the residential street is interesting in its own right because it's a modal filter with pedestrian priority (second photo below).

Although there is a cycleway in the centre of this traffic-free link, I'm guessing the signage is to help people cycling to remember that there are people around - the footways either side are actually made from self-binding gravel which isn't as good as asphalt to walk on. 

In fact, there were lots of footways finished like this around the suburbs (above) which is a curious choice.

The tactile paving and dropped kerb detail (above) was completely different to the UK, but quite interesting. For people needing a flush surface, there is a dropped kerb, whereas the tactile paving is to show a kerb with an upstand ahead. In reality, I can see that people using wheelchairs or mobility scooters would just use the cycleway.

This particular crossing also had a wide central island so that people can cross in two parts and the guy cycling clearly had an issue with the cycle route along the main road which I'll mention in a minute.

The crossing point also has some tight geometry for drivers to get round to make sure speeds are low approaching the crossing.

The cycleway along Strandgatten is essentially shared-use with a line down the middle. It does the job and it's nicer to use than the road, but it's not exactly world-class.

A good test of infrastructure is who uses it. Clearly it's fine for the pootlers (above), but the roadies (below) prefer the road!

The hedgerow between the cycleway and the road was a nice addition, but unfortunately, if you want get to the cycleway from the houses opposite, you have to go and find a gap at a side street or an alleyway (below).

Below is a photo of the junction of Strandgatan with Västra Bernadottesgatan which leads to a local supermarket and a larger residential area beyond and within which, there is less filtering and nothing to protect people cycling.

There is no protection in the junction, so it's find a gap and go, although the road itself was very quiet as it only serves a limited area.

Further north and we have Limhamnsvägen which on one side of the street has some significant construction work. In common with some other parts along the coast, there is regeneration work going on where old industry is being replaced with housing and commercial development. The photo below shows another shared path, but this time it's built continuously across the side road.

A short distance further north and we have a roundabout junction with Geijersgatan which looking at Google Streetview, has been tinkered around with over the years.

Currently it's a mish-mash of parallel crossings for walking and cycling and a partial annular cycle lane. The traffic signs for drivers show that only people walking have priority over traffic. The roundabout geometry is compact and so drivers are slowed down, but frankly, it's a work in progress!

The shared cycleway continues and again, roadies stick to the road. In this section, the surface was a poor and so the road was more attractive.

One thing I liked about Malmö was the quality of the cycling wayfinding. The signage was very clear and legible and pretty useful. The nice touch on the photo above is the square post to stop the signs getting rotated!

Still on Limhamnsvägen, there is a curious piece of grade-separation near the junction with Köpenhamnsvägen. Curious, because it quickly joins with paths on either side and doubles up a crossing on the main road (albeit just for pedestrians). It would have been more useful if it provided a traffic-free route through the residential area, but it's quicker than crossing the road when going to the beach I guess!

There were few people walking on my day out which was just as well as there's another gravel path for walking.

Above, we have a slightly more modern roundabout at the junction with Ribersborgsvägen. There's zebra crossings for people walking and cycle tracks with crossing points set back from the roundabout (where people cycling give way to traffic). Not a bad layout really.

In a completely different part of the city, I rode along quite a large road - Lundavägen. Given it runs parallel to a grade separated trunk road, it's definitely a candidate for a road diet! There are footways on both sides of the road, but with cycling only on one side within a two-way cycleway for quite a large part. This is far from ideal if you are wanting to access homes and businesses on the other side of the road.

It's another part of the city with lots of development and as can be seen in the photos above and below, there's a bit of street upgrade going on with some repaving of the (existing) continuous footway and cycleway. For the most part, the footway and cycleway is at the same level with the former paved and the latter surfaced.

Below, we have the junction with Hornsgatan which is another large road and is controlled with traffic signals. The staging arrange has people walking, cycling and driving all moving ahead at the same time with turning drivers having to give way to people walking and cycling.

It's the common approach in northern Europe and while it works for people as they leave on a green because people walking and cycling are ahead of and can be seen by drivers, it's less comfortable if you arrive at the junction later into the stage because drivers are already finding gaps which can be very intimidating.

Left turns are in two stages and at there is some protection with islands separating people cycling from traffic. The arrangement is designed for road capacity and although at some junctions some movements are separated, the approach of running people across the three modes together makes for simple signal staging. You don't wait long to cross, but you have turning drivers.

Above is where the road dips under the railway and it's a good example of where the footway and cycleway only dips by the headroom required by people rather than lorries so there is a gentle dip.

I rode this main road for a while, but took the opportunity to dive off into a residential area. The streets were filtered with a combination of one-ways and modal filters. I wasn't sure if the one-ways allowed two-way cycling because there were no signs - my assumption was not.

The photo below made me smile because I snapped the kid nipping across as I was riding and photographing the traffic-free link. Really, there was no danger as it was all slow and quiet.

I then swung back out of the estate and headed back into the city and while it was clear that the infrastructure was compromised and poor in places, the fact it was available across the whole city meant that everyone could cycle who wanted to.

I'll leave you this week with a little video from Lundavägen.

Sunday, 9 September 2018

A Scandinavian Safari: Part 2 - Swedish SuDS & Silence

Last week was a little introduction to a series of posts about my summer adventures in (part) of Scandinavia. This week, we head 400km east to Malmö, Sweden's third largest city.

There's a fair bit going on in Malmö in terms of construction and the delivery of new homes. During my wanderings, I came across a development in the Västra hamnen neighborhood to the north of the city, home of the Turning Torso, Scandinavia's tallest building and a former industrial area.

I'll be talking more about the city's walking and cycling infrastructure in a future post, but this week, I want to talk about a new residential development which I stumbled upon in the west of the neighbourhood.

Squeezed in a corner by the coast and the Turning Torso, the new development features high density (but not high-rise) residential dwellings, some restaurants and public open spaces. It's 2km from the heart of the city and so dead easy to travel around by cycle. The photo above is of Barometergaten which loops around the site. Interestingly, a planter has been stuck in the middle of the street to stop motor traffic and despite there being nowhere to drive through to, I wonder if this is an attempt to split up local traffic movements.

Barometergarten is a residential street and in common with large parts of the city, the lines between the road and the footway is blurred, being on a level surface, although the footway area is protected by parking bays entering the street from the larger roads around it, you'll see a "home zone" type sign where cars are the guest. As you move deeper in the development, the space becomes a network of pedestrian priority streets where access is presumably allowed to residents' parking bays and for servicing.

As you can see in the photos above and below, there is parking going on, but it's cycles in the majority. Cycling round this little enclave it became apparent just how quiet it was (although kids were at school at the time).

The space is broken up with planting and hard features to ensure that anyone driving in (and indeed cycling in) do so slowly and we have the feel of a courtyard. There is very little parking and it tends to be associated with the houses rather than the flats - I'm not sure there is much other parking around, but frankly, being 2km from the city does make lots of car ownership pretty pointless. You can see a garage within a house in the photo below.

Another feature of the development which struck me was the surface water management system which starts with downpipes and surface water being directed into little rills (see photo below in front of the pink house).

The rills then connect to larger basins full of plants (two photos below).

Eventually, it all connects to a larger canal within the development (below).

The water then finds its way into the sea via a weir at one end of the development and a canal link to the beach (below).

It's all very nice and according to Wikipedia, it probably helps to explain why this neighbourhood is one of the most expensive in the city!

Saturday, 1 September 2018

A Scandinavian Safari: Part 1 - Fabulous Fanø

So, I'm back from my family holiday on the other side of the North Sea, but I did find some time to look at infrastructure (between the ice-creams and travelling).

My blog posts about the Netherlands last year were themed, but this time, I'm going to write about some of the places visited in the round. First is the island of Fanø which is just off the North Sea coast of the Danish part of Jutland. As ever, these blog posts can only ever be a snapshot of what I saw and can never replicate the experience of living with and using these layouts.

The island has three main centres - Nordby, Rindby and Sønderho - the first being the main (small) town and the others villages. They are connected by a shared-use cycle track which runs on the eastern side of the island, generally following the main north-south road on the island. There's also an east-west route connecting the central village of Rindby to Rindby Stand on the west, again running next to the main road (below).

This shared-use cycle track next to a main road layout is very common on the European mainland and certainly we saw a similar approach along the German North Sea coast, across Denmark and in southern Sweden. The difference in Denmark was that a centre line is marked. In common with other countries, these rural cycle tracks are provided on one side of the road.

As you can see above, the cycle track is simply signed and this is consistent applied across the Danish network. Of note, being a shared path, pedestrians are denoted at the top of the sign in contrast to the UK approach of having them at the bottom. You will also note the use of little give way triangles where one track meets another. In my view, the signs are much larger than needed and I prefer them lower to be on a human scale; but they are all totally consistent.

Fanø has quite an extensive road network for such a small place, but other than the town and village centres, the roads are little more than unsurfaced tracks in places. However, whenever they meet a cycle track, drivers are expected to give way and cycle priority is reinforced with logos. In practice, I found drivers gave way to people walking too (which seems to be well observed in Denmark).

This priority extends to larger junctions. The above photo is the junction of two of the main roads on the island and you can just make out drivers giving way to a woman cycling through. Below, we have a closer view. The cycle track carries through the junction - reinforced by the cycle logos. The cobbles either side form a very slight ramp.

The cycle track is bent in from the minor road which means that drivers turning off the main road have space to stop to allow people to cross. My exploration of this part of the island was on foot and drivers equally gave way to me. This type of layout is possible in the UK (it has been for decades). Of course, this layout will not be appropriate everywhere - if motor traffic flows are high, the chances are that the junction would need to be signalised or a roundabout provided such as the Dutch use in rural places.

As you can see above, this simple, but very useable network is suitable for kids to use on their own!

The cycle tracks are machine-laid with asphalt concrete (DBM in old money) and there are no kerbs (other than when the cycle track is next to the road) - the sub base is wider than the track and the surfacing layers stepped in.

In terms of width, there are some variations, but they are around 3.5m in width (sometimes a touch wider, sometimes narrower), but generally suitable for side by side (social) cycling with overtaking in the other lane.

The island has its own bus service which has some stops being just flags at the side of the road and some in laybys (above). The cycle track passes behind the laybys with an area of hard standing providing separate boarding space.

Much of the main cycle track network has decent separation from traffic with a verge and as can be seen above, it often contains a drainage ditch. This is a very simple layout and should be the UK standard - where we have a road with hedges on either side, the very clear answer is acquire land on the other side of one of the hedges - we are happy to spend millions on land acquisition for UK road schemes in the countryside.

I walked between Rindby Strand (above) and Nordby which is about 30 minutes (no more than 10 minutes by bike). In both directions, I was the only person walking until I hit each settlement and so mixing walking and cycling wasn't a problem. The marked centre line was useful for ensuring I stuck to one side or the other as not to get in the way of people cycling - I found walking towards cycle traffic to be the most sensible as I wasn't surprised!

Approaching the edge of Nordby, the cycle track ended with a very simple sign (above) and I was deposited at one end of a short cul-de-sac. There was no footway, but also there was no traffic, so it was fine.

Above is the view in the other direction as the cycle track starts - no staggered barriers or bollards used here. The sign on the left says "path to Rindby and Sonderhø".

As an aside, there was another sign a little further along referring to the "Panoramarute", a 26km circular tour of the island.

There is an anomaly to the shared-use cycle track on one of the other main roads on the island (above) where separated footways and one-way cycle tracks are provided. The distinction between the two is subtle in terms of a different paving rather than anything else in terms of tactile demarcation or tracks being stepped. Apart from a couple of locations on the main north-south road, one can cycle on the roads of Fanø, but most stick to the cycle tracks.

Approaching Nordby, there was no cycling infrastructure, but people clearly felt safe because of low driver speeds and low motor traffic volumes. Even on a wet day, there were still plenty of people out on their cycles, including a couple of cargocycles and trailer users (below).

Those familiar with Copenhagen will be aware of the "Danish-fillet" (I'm not sure if there is a local name). That is, a line of tarmac dobbed into the edge of the carriageway to provide a ramp over a kerb. The photo below shows that this practice has made it right over to the west of the country (in fact, I saw it everywhere).

From a walking along the footway point of view, this is excellent because the footway width is maximised and there's no dropped kerb to interfere with the crossfall. However, it's not a tidy look, creates a trip risk for those crossing the road and if one were cycling up it to get to their home, then it's really steep. More about this in a later post.

The roads around the centre of Rindby are filtered and the core is pedestrianised with people cycling permitted. This means that drivers have to go the long way round rather than nipping through the historic town core.

The photo above shows an entry point into a Gågade or "pedestrian street". The sub plate (see below) explains that driving is allowed between 6pm and 11am - there are residents and business inside the core who might need to get vehicles in/ out.

The other thing to note about the core of Rindby in traffic management terms is the use of "no motor vehicles" signs at key points (below) which essentially create the condition where drivers go one-way and people cycling can travel both ways. This in turn means that the clutter of one-way signs and contraflow cycling is eliminated.

A driver could go in both directions beyond the sign, so the key is placing the restrictions in such a way as there is no advantage driving into the town unless you need to be there - i.e. any through traffic must stick to main roads.

Away from the traffic management, there is a subtle detail provided in the centre of Rindby which is full of bumpy stone setts (above and below) - an asphalt edge to the carriageway as been provided to cycle on. The setts help act as a traffic calming device and of course the asphalt is nice and smooth.

Away from the town centre, a cycle track runs along the main road which passes Rindby (below). Both the main road and it's cycle track means that through traffic of both wheeled kinds is routed away from the town centre. This is important because the town centre is pedestrian-oriented and through-cycle-traffic would create conflict. This is something that the UK cannot grasp and yet a tiny town on a tiny island in Denmark has managed it.

This particular cycled track leads to the island's ferry terminal which supports to the Fanø to Esbjerg Ferry, which is an important lifeline (below). There is an interesting arrangement where the island's ambulance service works with the ferry company to ensure people needing urgent medical help can be evacuated to Esbjerg, even overnight when the ferry doesn't operate. The ferry is also important for commuters (to and from the island) and secondary school children (as their school is on the mainland).

In the same way as a railway station might integrate with cycling, so does the ferry terminal. A huge cycle park is provided (for a little island) right next to the terminal (below) and is closer than the car park!

Integration is completed by it being possible to cycling on and off the ferry;

Once off the ferry, you immediately join the cycle track for your onward journey;

Fanø is a lovely place to visit and I wish I had been able to grab a bike and have a longer bit of exploring. However, it shows an easily scalable system of rural cycling provision which would work in the UK. I'll leave you this week with a nicer way to end a cycle track than a cyclists dismount sign and the big skies of the North Sea.