Saturday, July 24, 2010

Singapore needs help with bicycle infrastructure design

Singapore needs help with bicycle infrastructure design
After decades of mostly ignoring bicycles, Singapore's authorities have recently become more positive. "Bicycle paths" are appearing but we may need more help to get them right.

An example in Sembawang. A painted line separates pedestrians from bicycle users.

The change in attitude is very welcome. But some of us here are worried about the designs of these paths. The photo below illustrates one problem.

'Dismount and push' sign where the bicycle path meets the entrance to a parking area in the housing estate.

My recent post at Cycling in Singapore looks at the bike paths in one such town (Sembawang).

Be aware that most bicycle use in Singapore is at very low speed, is for short trips, and takes place on the footways, which are usually much narrower than the paths shown here. Conflict between bicycles and pedestrians is an emotive issue often raised in newspaper letters and online forums. Riding on sidewalks/footpaths is illegal but ubiquitous. The exception is the new town of Tampines, which has taken the pragmatic step of making walkway cycling legal. This allows education and enforcement efforts in the hope of reducing conflict between the bicycle users and people on foot. However, bicycle paths are also being built in Tampines.

Your views on this would be welcome. And they would be especially welcome if you have any experience with bicycle planning or if you know Singapore.

So please do take a look at Sembawang's bicycle paths and consider offering a comment there to suggest how Singapore could do better.
2 comments

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Did the Japanese invent Shared Space Streets?

Did the Japanese invent Shared Space Streets?

The shared space (or 'naked streets') approach to street design was developed in the Netherlands right? The late Hans Monderman was the pioneering hero who extended it to some surprisingly busy roads and intersections, correct? And it has been popularised and applied in the UK and elsewhere by Ben Hamilton-Baillie, hasn't it?

Or did shared space emerge in Japan?

In a recent Ecohearth post explaining the shared space idea, Dawn Marshallsay includes this sentence:
It could be said that Tokyo led the way, as most of its roads follow the shared-space principle, although they were not purposefully designed to reduce accidents.
Actually, it is mainly small side-streets that are like that, not most roads, but you get the point. Here are some examples photographed during my short visits to Japan. (Scroll down for more discussion after the pictures)

Near Fukuoka airport and a subway station.

Near Tokyo University and Ueno in central Tokyo.
In Nishitokyo City, Tokyo. With a mamachari ('mother bicycle') and kids right on cue to demonstrate the high level of subjective safety here.
Also in Nishitokyo, with another mamachari.
Near Shinjuku, Tokyo (southwest)

Also southwest of Shinjuku.

OK. Let me retreat a little.

I don't really want to take any credit away from Hans Monderman and the other pioneers of today's efforts on Shared Space. Their projects are much more ambitious than these Japanese examples. They extend "public realm" much further into what used to be "traffic space". The side streets of Tokyo and other Japanese cities are not such a challenge to mainstream traffic engineering practice precisely because they are side streets.

Still, it seems a little rough that Hamilton-Baillie fails to mention such Japanese shared space in a June 2010 paper for City Planning Review (pdf), published by the City Planning Institute of Japan.


I suspect Japan deserves a bit more recognition for its little shared-space streets.

What do you think? Are Japanese urban planners, designers and transport planners proud of their side streets? Are they really as successful and safe as they appear to be? Have they been carefully evaluated and researched in Japan?

If you want to see more, try this location then click into street view and explore a little in a shopping district near Ikebukuro station.  

6 comments

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Connections (July 2010)

Connections (July 2010)
In this segment I try to connect you with recent items relevant to reinventing urban transport. 

From a public domain image at Wikimedia commons
  • Robin Chase suggests a cap-and-trade approach to residential parking permits. An idea with potential I think.
  • Charting Transport provides fascinating graphical analysis of journey-to-work mode shares in Melbourne.
  • Cycling in Singapore blog highlights fruits of the slow shift towards more positive bicycle policy in Singapore (bike paths aimed at local, low-speed bicycle users but I worry about their quality and design).
  • Human Transit marvels at the new Paris commitment to giving buses priority and space in the streets, even narrow ones.
  • New York Times reports on the Guangzhou BRT. Great quotes from ITDP folks. The BRT was reported to have set a new BRT record of 800,000 trips a day. Hat tips Streetsblog and Transport News.
  • Tokyo by Bike discusses confusion over Japan's bicycle laws. Twice.
  • Copenhagenize warns of the dangers of listening to 'Cycling's Secret Sect' (the 'vehicular cycling' movement, which objects to segregated bicycle infrastructure).  
  • This blog suggested that conventional planning treats parking like toilets (every building is required to have a certain number, so that we don't need to do 'it' in the street). But the analogy breaks down. Planning parking like toilets is a bad idea.
  • The CityFix sorts through a menagerie of animal names for pedestrian crossings and infrastructure (building on debate triggered by a question from India on the sustran-discuss list).
  • Six-minute video on the work of Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP). 
  • Slate's Nimble Cities series puts parking under scrutiny, via How We Drive.
  • A meta analysis asks: Do the health benefits of cycling outweigh the risks? Answer: yes, at least in the Netherlands. 
  • Robin Chase ponders personal mobility vehicles, hoping for motorcycle-like vehicles with car-like safety for their occupants (somewhat similar to the idea of personal mobility devices).
  • The June G20 meeting reached a 'mixed bag' of an agreement on phasing out fossil fuel subsidies. Something to watch and monitor. Progress is highly unlikely without ongoing political pressure.


Connections is a helpful public transport term highlighted at Human Transit blog. It is a more positive and illuminating term for what are sometimes called 'transfers'.
No comments

Friday, July 16, 2010

Let's give cars more competition!

Let's give cars more competition!
What competition do cars have in your city? I don't mean competition between Toyota, Ford or Hyundai. I don't even mean competition between cars and public transport for this morning's work trips.

I am talking about competition between a car-owning lifestyle and a set of alternatives that add up to a whole lifestyle, creating a complete 'mobility package' attractive enough to make car ownership feel optional.

In places like Manhattan or Hong Kong or the inner cities of Zurich, Paris, Tokyo or London a lifestyle without your own car is already an attractive option even for wealthy people.  But could we extend the range of places where not having a car is an excellent lifestyle choice? Can we make car use more provisional and less locked-in to our liefstyles and our urban systems? How?

Here is a presentation I gave last year which tackles some of these issues in a non-technical way.


In the presentation above I claim that the following issues in urban transport are under-appreciated and neglected.
  • Public transport integration and comprehensiveness; 
  • Short trips between 1 and 4 km; 
  • Taxis and car-sharing; 
  • Car ownership cost structures; 
  • Parking policy. 
They have in common that they seem much more important when we focus our minds on competing with the car-owning lifestyle and not just to get people out of their cars for specific trips.

My central messages were:
  • Urban transport policy for liveable cities can and should dare to compete successfully with car ownership.
  • Seeing the car-owning lifestyle as our primary competition expands and enriches our policy horizons.
  • Imagining excellent mobility without owning a car prompts a more critical look at car ownership arrangements.



I think this line of thinking offers hope for gradually offering a real alternative to the car-owning lifestyle. It brings together themes I have written about before, here, here and here. People who have been thinking along similar lines include Robin Chase, Chris Bradshaw, Eric Britton, the late Bill Mitchell, and Susan Zielinski.

For more detail on this approach to competing with cars see my working paper on the issue.
1 comment

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Parking in Asian cities - highlights and comparisons

Parking in Asian cities - highlights and comparisons
[Update: Looking for more parking policy information?  
Try Reinventing Parking.]


Here is a presentation with highlights from the Asian Cities Parking Study that I have mentioned before. I gave this at the ADB Transport Forum in Manila in late May 2010.

Barter for ADB Transport Forum 2010

What do you think? Post a comment.

You may feel that the policy implications near the end don't necessarily follow obviously from the data in the earlier slides. And you would be right. Some of them are a little speculative. They are based on the wider findings, on the data in the study, on my wider research on parking, and on arguments advanced in the study report itself (out soon I hope).

  A parking meter in Guangzhou.
It serves two spaces and accepts only contactless card payment.
1 comment

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Singapore through New (World) eyes

Singapore through New (World) eyes
On Sunday I spent an enjoyable few hours here in Singapore with Jarrett Walker, author of the excellent Human Transit (a must-read blog for anyone with an interest in transit planning).

Today he blogged about the evening, complete with many photos. Jarrett works mainly in the 'New World' cities of North America and Australasia as a consultant on public transport planning. This was his first visit to this Asian city. It is interesting to see his take on the bits of Singapore that we explored together (Ang Mo Kio mainly).

A few days earlier he also had some sharp observations on the pedestrian environment near his hotel near downtown Orchard Road.

Image from Vsion at Wikimedia


After reading Jarrett's post, you may want more on transport and urban planning in Singapore. You could start with my previous posts on the city-state (see here and here).
1 comment