An example of a bike lane that is put on a city sidewalk in Spain
One of the things that attracted me to Seville was an article in the Lonely Planet travel guide describing the efforts the city is making to becoming a leading 'green' city in Europe. Many streets now ban cars in the historic centre, and a new Tram Line was recently built along the main avenue of the city. There are also many bike lanes and a bike sharing program in place, and they are used...no doubt due to the climate, the cost of owning a car, the relatively flat terrain, etc.
But there were a few things that struck me about Seville's cycling infrastructure which I had seen in other international cities, including London from where I returned yesterday, and which I think are worth pointing out.
1. Unlike Vancouver, the bike lanes are both on the streets and the sidewalks. Where it is not feasible to add them to the street, the sidewalk will suffice, and I think it does work...while cyclists tend to go slower, I think that's ok too. It cuts down on accidents but still allows a vaible alternative to the auto, or walking to function. Now in many places, the sidewalks are wider, but in others, they are similar to what we have...but it all feels much safer....for all.
2. There is little, if any space taken up by landscaped barrier systems like those installed along Hornby and Dunsmuir. In fact, I'm not sure I've seen anything quite like this anywhere in the world. Instead, Seville uses lines and changes in pavement colour, and subtle metal markers in certain places to let the cyclists know where they can go.
3. There are posted speed limits on cycling routes...generally 10 k/m which is reduced to 5 k/m in certain areas. I'm not sure I have seen speed limits posted for cyclists in Vancouver. Please tell me if this is city policy.
4. Perhaps due to the safer conditions, cyclists don't always wear helmets. I noted this in my 2007 Vancouver Sun article. Indeed, I suggested that if we could improve bicycle safety, we might be able to reconsider our helmet requirments. One advantage of this would be to increase the number of cyclists...I really believe this...and facilitate more effective bike sharing programs.
Of course I was chastised by doctors and cyclists who had survived major accidents only because they were wearing helmets. However, my point is that if cyclists are restricted from travelling so quickly, then many of these more serious accidents may not occur. And I also believe that the total environmental and health benefits of far more cyclists will offset the occasional serious accidents that will happen because people are not wearing helmet.
If I'm wrong, then why aren't helmets mandatory in most of Europe and South America, just to name two continents? And please don't tell me they are not quite as advanced as us or caring about the health of the people....if you believe this, you haven't been to Seville or Gothenberg, or Buenos Aires or Santiago. What I do know is that there are more healthy people who are cycling, and reduced carbon gases in many parts of the city
- Post by Michael Geller. He is a Vancouver based architect, planner, real estate consultant and property developer with four decades’ experience in the public, private and institutional sectors. Follow @michaelgeller or @CityCaucus on Twitter. He also regularly appears every Tuesday on the Bill Good civic affairs panel on @cknw radio in Vancouver. This column was originally posted on Michael's blog.