Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Lessons from Iceland: Building Safer Cycling Infrastructure

As I noted yesterday, I was in Iceland for the last few weeks. While I was there, I observed what they were doing to make streets safer for children. You can see some examples of traffic calming in that post which has resulted in a reduction in collisions with injuries, and fatal collisions.

Neighbourhood streets are 30km/h zones in Iceland, and cycling on these low-volume, low-speed streets are safe. They also have streets with higher volumes of traffic and/or higher speeds. Based on the type of street, they are building out safe cycling infrastructure that matches the type of street.

I snapped a few pictures of examples of the different types of cycling lanes from their capital city, Reykjavík, which has the same population as the Township of Langley. As I noted yesterday, about 80% of trips in their capital region are by car.

This first example is from one of the major roads in the city. This road would be similar to 200 Street. The left side of the picture shows the driving lanes, the centre is the walking path, and the right is the cycling lanes. At traffic lights, they have vehicle, cycling, and walking signals.

An example of a 50km/h, high motor vehicle volume street.

At intersections with traffic lights, right or left turns on red are not permitted. Before the motor vehicle light turns green, the walking and cycling lights turn green. This allows venerable road users to get into the intersection before vehicles which increases visibility and improves safety.

The second example shows a protected cycling lane on a street that is similar to 53 Avenue in Langley City. People cycling are buffered from motor vehicle traffic by parked cars. One of the major risks when cycling is getting doored. If you are cycling on the example street, you stay to the right of the thick white line to avoid the “door zone.” If you look at the picture closely, you can also see the 30km/h speed limit sign for a local side street.

An example of a 50km/h, lower motor vehicle volume street.

The final example is from one of the High Streets in Reykjavík. It is a similar design to 203 Street. The cycling lane is at sidewalk level. The vehicle lanes are also narrowed to encourage people to travel at 30km/h.

An example of a High Street.

Reykjavík is a city with snow in the winter and rain in the summer. It is also a place where the majority of people drive. It is encouraging to see a mid-size city working hard to make cycling and walking safer for kids that has resulted in reduced injuries and fatalities. As they continue to build-out their safe walking and cycling network, more people will choose to walk and cycle.

Personally, I’d like to see more cycling lanes like in the second example that buffers people cycling from people driving in Langley City.

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