More Cycling Advice

I attended a small group meeting of cycling advocates with Inge Molenaar, cycling honcho from Den Hague, the bureaucratic capital of The Netherlands, who was brought to Ottawa by the NCC to share cycle planning lessons. The instructing was made more pleasant by the Embassy treating attendees to hospitality afterwords.

Some observations:

The Hague will have 6 to 9000 indoor bike parking spaces in their new central rail station. I wonder if there will be any safe or secure bike parking facilities at Ottawa’s new LRT stations, or will there be a bent-paperclip rack stuck on the lawn? I also wondered how many indoor spaces there currently are in downtown Ottawa office buildings. I know the indoor bike parking facility in Constitution Square is huge, and wonder how many other such facilities there are.

The Hague has a grid-like network of designated bicycle routes criss-crossing the city. Most of these have no special facilities for cyclists, like Ottawa they consist of signs posted along car-cluttered streets. However, The Hague has indentified a smaller number (coarser grid) of key arterial cycling routes they call the Star Network, on which they are focussing their efforts to improve the cycling environment. These measures include painted lanes, counter-flow lanes, cycle signals at intersections, and some cycle priority measures.

A number of years ago the national government in The Netherlands passed laws requiring dynamo-operated front and rear lights on all bicycles. The fines are stiff, and police (wo)man checkpoints to issue tickets. The result: almost all bikes now have working lights. Older bikes have clip-on lights, which are subject to theft. On newer bikes, lights are permanently affixed so theft (of the lights) is not a problem.

At the same time, they issued regulations requiring all bike tires to be constructed with reflective white material on the sides. This results in every bike wheel glowing brightly in the dark when illuminated by street lights or car lights or the working lights on other cycles. These reflective strips have been very effective in Canada on school bags, running shoes, casual jackets, etc and the benefits seem high to me compared to the rather modest cost imposed on buyers.       [I have some  flashing lights that screw onto the inflating thingy on the tires that is supposed to flash and glow when cycling, but of a dozen such gizmos only one or two work, intermittently at best.]

Many new bikes come with radio frequency identifying tags (RFIDs), which are cheap tags like the UPC bar codes on everything we buy, but they respond electronically to monitoring devices. It was unclear at the meeting if these are national, compulsory, or what, but they should aid in recovering stolen bikes. At popular bike parking areas, like schools or transit stations, police can scan the lot for stolen cycles. 

In Holland cycling is so popular they need huge bike parking facilities. Like car parks, they take up valuable urban space (even if there are more bikes per sq m than the equivalent number of cars). I wondered if a bixibike or rental system mightn’t reduce the need for every cyclist to own multiple bikes.

I talked to Inge about the value of her trip, compared to conferences, tourism, or blogging. She thinks blogging is amazingly effective at reaching people, citing a number of blogs including one of my favorites,  David Hembrow’s AView from the Cycle Path.

The visit of Inge was definitely worthwhile. The program of the NCC to bring in experienced people for other places is good. I hope the city officials and politicians that met with her learned something that will be applied here. The single biggest point I learned was that on-street cycling is good when the speed limit is 30km/hr or below; if above that, go for segregated facilities.