Saturday, 22 September 2018

A Scandinavian Safari: Part 4 - Malmö - Slicker City

After travelling through the suburbs of Malmö in by last post, this week, I'm hitting the city itself to look at what has been deployed to make the city people-friendly.

Feeding the the developments around Västra hamnen, there are new roads which connect up with older parts of the city network. From day one, they have been built with active travel in mind and judging by the cycle parking at the secondary school, Västra Hamnen Skola, something has been done right.

For people in the UK, a school with lots of cycle parking being used and one which doesn't look like a fortress is rather unusual.

The general approach to walking and cycling around the city is for a paved footway with an asphalt cycleway at the same level. Personally, I prefer to see a stepped layout with a forgiving kerb which helps to define the difference between walking and cycling space. A step helps to make the layout legible and clear and may also help visually impaired people find the edge of the footway.

On the larger roads we also have a verge between the cycleway and the road which not only provides space for trees and traffic signs, it helps confine ramps to side roads away from people and space for floating waiting areas at crossings and bus stops.

At unsignalised junctions, we have parallel zebra crossings, although as I explained in my last post, the cycleway crossing doesn't necessarily give people cycling priority. I have since found that some crossings have a parallel crossing sign for drivers which require them to give way, but when you are cycling, you don't know!

As small side roads and junctions, we have continuous footways and cycleways with a change in level for drivers and I found that they did generally give way to people walking and cycling. One point which made me smile was the some of the separation details between walking and cycling where a triple line of granite setts are provided which do help give tactile separation. I was smiling because that's the detail being used in the London Borough of Enfield which goes to prove that nothing is new and designers just nick each other's ideas!

One of my favourite places in the city (from a geek point of view) was the junction of Skeppsbron and Neptunigatan which is on one side of the Central Station.

It's a large signalised T-junction with plenty going on, but modes are given their own space.

The cycleways are mainly 2-way and in parallel to pedestrian crossings (some are 1-way, but you are generally led to the correct position). In common with many other countries, people moving ahead get a green together and so turning drivers give way. Some junctions have some additional stages which separate certain vehicle movements or provide bus priority.

Talking of buses; there are loads (because of the interchange next to the station). because of the separation of modes, even with monsters like the double-articulated models (below), it's safe to cycle without having to worry about them.

However, even the most intuitive layouts can confused people, but where mistakes are managed, then it's only pride which gets hurt;

Personally, I do prefer the separated designs of the Netherlands where you are generally not having to expect drivers turning when you get a green (not always), but what is helpful in Malmö is the use of islands to give protection from turning drivers and to ensure they approach crossings perpendicularly, even if the islands are sometimes a bit too small;

This video gives an idea of how the junctions operate (junction of Gibraltargatan and Citadellsvägen);

As you can see, it's a simple two-stage layout which provides high traffic capacity and short waits for people walking and cycling, notwithstanding my health warning on a lack of separation in time.

Back by the station, the separation continues between the bus interchange and a canal;

This led me to the station cycle parking and gives you a glimpse of the cycle I was mooching about on - a Donkey Republic.

For those who want a quick run into the cycle park, there a channel next to the staircase. However, I saw a cargobike logo.

Round the corner I found a really long and gentle ramp which actually shows you the cycle park is below the level of the canal.

It was rather wonderful to see some cargocycle parking, even though the place was all pretty empty!

A nice touch was live transport information by the entrance to the cycle park.

Over the canal, we get into the old city and things are a little different. There are of course wider streets which have the same standards for walking and cycling, but where space is less generous then other techniques come into play.

In places, there little more than an advanced stop line to help and while the smaller streets in the city were very quiet, it didn't always feel comfortable.

However, people were still out cycling and it goes to show that in a place which has a pretty good network, the gaps are carried by it.

Luckily, the pedestrianised areas allowed cycling. As can be seen above, this is an entry to an area where motor traffic is restricted during the day - the sign reads "motor traffic prohibited". 

I think the times (on the blue plate) apply to when the restriction doesn't apply - i.e. 6pm to 5am during the week, the bracketed times are Saturdays and the day before a public holiday and the red times means Sundays and public holidays. The yellow sign means "no stopping" and being at the times the pedestrianised area doesn't operate merely means that you can drive through but not stop - presumably to access parking or loading areas. Please do correct me if I am wrong.

There are lots of squares in the city and where traffic-free, they are simply nice places to move through or to stop a while.

Because people without business in the city are given decent cycleways around the edge, there aren't people blasting through at commute speed which is something the UK really needs to sort out.

There are also modal filters which don't always work as intended. As you can see above, there is a cycle bypass to go into the street, whereas you mix with traffic leaving the one-way street). The people on the right have got that wrong.

It would be simpler to just have a no-entry except cycles sign at one end and just allow contraflow cycling, however, the island separated entry does give more protection at a conflict point.

Elsewhere, I saw filters which completely excluded motor traffic (above). We are in retrofit territory here as the road is pretty wide. Parking and access is maintained for those who want to bring a motor vehicle in, but through traffic runs on the larger parallel street. The location is here.

Here we have Friisgatan which until relatively recently was just another street with through traffic. I don't know exactly when or why, but it's now pedestrianised. The only formal work done to the street is the pedestrian zone signs at each end.

However, the informal work comprises of planters, pallet seats and astroturf as well as lots of tables and chairs from restaurants. It's a great example of tactile urbanism and it can show just how easy it is to transform a placed without having to repave it in expensive stone. This should be done more often.

There was more of this sort of treatment going on, although I wasn't sure if it was permanent or being used to support the festival which was on at the time I visited which also had other parts of the old city closed to motor traffic.

I really like Malmö. It's got a bit of everything from smart waterfront development, historic areas, shabby and well-worn places, plus lots of interesting surprises. Most of all I remember that for the flaws, it is just so damn easy (and relaxing) to cycle around.

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.