Syv Fjell Sykkel

"Every time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the future of the human race." — H.G. Wells

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Misplaced and Misunderstood

The new Norwegian standard multi-user pathway sign, complete with "gender nuetral" bicycle and pedestrians!
Multi user pathways (MUPs) or ”Gang og Sykkelveier” are fast becoming the choice of city planners as the place to put everyone else. Isolated, scenic, with limited real world practicality and potentially overcrowded with users who are as diverse as the automobile is dirty. A great place to take your elderly grandfather for a Sunday stroll, jog, teach your kids to learn how to ride, rollerblade, wander in an irregular criss-crossing pattern whilst listening to p4 on your i"#% or watching movies on you i#%&. If you encounter just one of these users on your daily commute you know the burden it places on more objective fixated, faster moving users like yourself.
When planners point to cycling initatives they point to MUPSs, and understandably they are an easy favourite with those footing the bill. Families, the elderly, schoolchildren, commuters and racers alike can use them, but not at the same time without compromising enjoyment and safety. As an addition to infrastructure in support of the move to transportation on two wheels they are a cheap way to get politicians off the hook on transportation and environmental issues until the next election.

Being a pathway user in Bergen means sharing with the likes of our very own stealth Lone Wolf
Touting the erection of MUPs in their current form as the solution to bicycle transportation needs is almost as bad as building a brand new multi billion kroner light rail system and making previously ridable streets completely unridable. Wait, the City of Bergen already did that. Ultimately MUPs are an overly complex and over compromising initiative best left out of the inner city bicycle equation until on road bicycle infrastructure such as bike lanes are firmly in place. Bicycles belong on our roadways just as much as cars do, but obviously numerous factors have gradually shifted road use in favour of the beasts of the progressive modernism. Their shear size, noise and numbers are all contributing factors to their dominance of publicly erected transportation links otherwise known as roads. Roads are public, some are restricted, but most are open to all. Horses, buses, cars, bicycles, trucks, pedestrians, rollerblades, playing children etc. Most roads are open for all, but only safe for a dominant few. Roads that are designed for increased efficiency are often accompanied by long stretches of highspeed highway, tunnels or other factors that simply do not make them safe for anything other than vehicles capable of a certain speed. These roads are clearly marked as restricted and the restrictions imposed are protected by law and actively enforced.
Bicycle routes designed with MUPs as their backbone are often not clearly marked or divided for direction of travel or users. Routes catering to the superior speed and efficiency of the bicycle as a legitimate substitution for fossil fueled mobility do not exist in Bergen today. Claiming that a MUP is adaquate as a means to facilitate tansportation cycling over longer distances without painting a center line down the middle, clearly alerting users to the potential of faster moving occupants and eliminating or limiting potential hazards such as blind intersecting roadways and bus stops is like making highways designed for heavy transport too narrow, without lanes and with inadaquate signage. This is a concern of not only efficiency and attractiveness of the bicycle as a car substitute, but also an issue of safety.While car safety and improvements to an already over developed network of highways and biways continues to flourish in the media and at city hall alike, the question of the revolutionary potential of the bicycle continues to be played down and relegated to the erection of the MUP.
We are fortunate to have at least some car free thouroughfars in some places and we belong there just as much as anyone else. The fact that we are not alone on the pathways is no reason not to use them. Bergen does have some examples of efficient MUPs dispite their shortcomings as well as a host of MUPs that are best left alone and deserted in favour of the adjacent street. Furthermore, overcrowding by bicycle users will inevitably result in considerations being made to improve MUP standards in favour of efficiency and safety. Use the pathways for all they are worth.  Make them yours, ride safe, but above all RIDE!

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