This article appeared in the local Bergens Tidene as well as in a number of the other larger newspapers throughout the country this past week.
The premise of the article is a statistical analyses of the impact of increasing the number of trips made by bicycle and the subsequent impact on "rush" traffic. Conclusions are difficult to extract from the study given that the result is rather mindblowingly senseless and irrelevant for our fuel dependent time. It simply equates the addition of one bicycle to the removal of 1/50th of a vehicle in rush hour traffic. All hail the solo Olas in stationwagons with p4 polluting their airspace. One bicycle means one less car considering that the overwhelming majority of car users in this city indeed do "fly solo". Norwegians love statistics, meetings between budget savy empowered individuals with no person connection or authentic interest in their topic of entrusted discussion. They love spending big money on small solutions, and even bigger money downplaying and ruling out simple cost effective, easily implemented strategies for improvement. This is the Nor way and it is as viral as the Norwalk. It is a challenge for the simple bicycle and its potential to silently change the way in which we transport our ever thickening asses. That is why none conclusive articles that discretely right off alternative transportation continue to enter the mainstream media and convince the ever car sick Norwegian city dweller of his own deadly habit.
Inspired to find some more uplifting or at least inspired reading, I came across this article from April 2010 which nicely sums up the statistical foundation for why bicycles would have a profound impact on not only rush hour traffic, but the entire transportation picture in the city of Bergen. The vital statistic in this article is that 40% of working citizens in Bergen live within 5 km of their place of work and that 70% of working citizens in Bergen live closer than 10 km to their place of work. Currently 4% of trips made in Bergen are done by bicycle, compared to 9% in Trondheim and 7% in Stavanger. Some may argue that Bergens mountainous topography is the reason for such a dismal statistic. The article however points to the fact that large concentrations of those working in the downtown have access to their place of work via the Bergensdalen (Bergen Valley) corridor, which is relatively flat and simple to navigate. The article points to modest increases in use of bicycles, walking and public transportation between 2006 and 2008. The startling point is that automobile use has actually increased from 55% to 58% in the same time period. The article goes on to sum up cycling as an area of priority for local bureaucrats and includes a sunshine story of youth party focus on safe bicycle routes to school and even a safer system for locking bicycles at these schools.
The city of Bergen has indeed provided two boosts to bicycle infrastructure in the critical Bergensdalen corridor. The first will be referred to from now on as the great triumph of he Bergen Bicycle Project or"Milkroute" as it leads to the Tine milk processing facility. The second is the route along the Fjøsanger roadway, or as I like to refer to it as, the route along the "The Solo Ola Warpath".
The Milkroute is a relatively new continues pathway option from the Krambua area on the east side of Fjøsanger, to the Tine building at Minde Alle. This is an old railway line that includes an underpass under the far end of Kanalveien. No doubt a significant financial outlay for a pathway which is redundant upon further inspection and analysis of the single car free route into the downtown core offered in the aforementioned corridor. At its endpoint at Minde Alle this pathway is linked, by a not so obvious and uphill backtracking route, to the bicycle solution along the Lone Ola Warpath.
As is the case with the planning procedure in conjunction with our brand new Bybane light rail transit system, traffic is intended to be concentrated along the Fjøsanger route. All of it. For bicycles the Fjøsanger pathway option offers a continuos multipurpose pathway along the most trafficated road in Bergensdalen. This crown of the Bergen bicycle transportation solution offers exposure to not only dust and grime from solo flying Olas, buses and heavy transport trucks alike, but also numerous blind intersections, pedestrian crosswalks, bus stops, unmarked intersecting roads and pathways, sudden narrowing of the pathway for trees, lampposts, walls and other barriers etc. It is a cacophony of urban planning modern symphony. The sort which under masterful marketing among council and citizens alike has continued to flourish, be built apon, "improved" and diversified to include a multitude urban planning failures and misunderstandings on one section of tarmac only kilometers long. Which brings me finally to the second major improvement to cycling infracture, the "improvement" of the Fjøsanger route with several underpass linkages to the east side of the Fjøsanger artery. More bicycles to an unsafe, cluttered route and the best part...Fjøsanger is only meters from the great triumph of the Bergen Plan bicycle project, the aforementioned route to Minde Alle.
To the outsider and none user, this ramble of syllables may seem over complicated and difficult to follow. That is a written result of the pitfall of bicycle transport improvement in our dear city. Bicycles are simple machines, yet the means to facilitate their use is riddled with redundant, budget blowing engineering marvels of our time in the form of complex ramps and underpasses planned by uninterested, none bicycle riding, self proclaimed visionaries. They plan routes in the age old notion that the bicycle is a toy, a rolling freak show, a vehicle for the underage or underprivileged.
I like underpasses, bridges and ramps. I also like bike lanes and signage. And even more I appreciate bicycles being incorporated at the very initial phases of transportation planning. Keep it simple and do it right. Let the journey begin!
One more Bicycle