Velocity 2007 in Munich

The 2007 Velocity conference in Munich, attended by ViaStrada director Axel Wilke, was most worthwhile. Below are a few reflections on this conference, lessons learned of relevance to NZ, and a list of Kiwi attendees.


Down with speed

Munich as host city is best placed to illustrate the importance of urban speed management. When Germany introduced legislation in the mid 1980s that allowed cities to drop urban speed limits to 30 km/h, Munich started the process of introducing those zones in 1988. The conversion has by now finished, and of the 2,300 km of urban road network, 80% are now covered in 333 individual 30 km/h speed limit zones. The remaining 20% represent the main road network, where the default speed limit is 50 km/h. New subdivisions are automatically built with a 30 km/h speed limit.

Munich's ultimate cycle network is 1,400 km long, of which 1,200 km have been built already. 38% of the existing network is within 30 km/h zones. When streets are reconstructed and the speed limit reduced, it is Munich's policy to remove existing cycle paths or cycle lanes (if these are present), as mixed traffic is by far the safest form of travel for cyclists. The person responsible at the city for the implementation of the cycle network used the following words: "The best and safest cycle path is, ultimately, the one that is not needed because of the traffic structure and the traffic proficiency of the road users."

30 km/h speed limit zones have been the single most important road safety tool in Germany in the last 20 years.

Lessons for NZ

  • Central government to introduce legislation, allowing Road Controlling Authorities (RCAs) to implement 30 km/h speed limit zones.
  • RCAs to introduce 30 km/h speed limit zones outside of the urban main road network.
  • RCAs to introduce mixed traffic in 30 km/h speed limit zones.
  • Police to lower speed tolerance to 5 km/h when enforcing limits of 50 km/h or below.

Marketing, marketing and marketing

One of the conference themes was the importance of marketing for cycling. It was stressed again and again that marketing is much more cost effective for growing the number of cyclists than building more infrastructure. Some speakers went as far as saying that building infrastructure without supporting marketing measures is insufficient. Travel behaviour change programs and events are regarded as essential tools when it comes to growing the number of cyclists.

Lessons for NZ

  • Central government and RCAs to put more emphasis on marketing measures.

Copenhagen study on cycle path and cycle lane comparison

Copenhagen has undertaken an intensive study of the performance of cycle paths and cycle lanes. 21 km of cycle paths alongside roads and 6 km of cycle lanes have been evaluated, using thousands of crash records and hundreds of traffic and cycle counts, and user surveys, with rather interesting results:

  • Where cycle paths were introduced, the number of cyclists increased significantly (18 to 20%), car traffic dropped (9 to 10%). The crash rate for cyclists decreased in the mid block by 10%, but increased by 18% at intersections. The overall increase in crashes is 10%.
  • Where cycle lanes were introduced, the number of cyclists increased much less than with cycle paths, the reductions in car traffic were also less, but the overall crash rate reduced.
  • Cyclists perceived cycle paths as much safer than cycle lanes - a perception that is contrary to the actual safety statistics as shown above.

Based on these findings, Copenhagen will continue building predominantly cycle paths, with cycle lanes much less used.

Lessons for NZ

  • Cycle paths are much preferred by cyclists over cycle lanes, even if their actual safety is not as good as the on-road solution. If NZ wanted to be able to start using pathways alongside roads as a promotional measure, central government needs to review the existing give way rules. In Europe, cyclists on a pathway have right of way over turning traffic, whereas in NZ, all other traffic has right of way over a cycle path, even motorists turning from a side street into a main road. Without such a give way rule revision, cycle paths would never offer a level of service acceptable to the majority of the existing cycling population.

Cycle parking

"Car parking doesn't work without supervision and neither does cycle parking" was stated by one speaker. Her evidence was that as her council has a policy of removing unused bicycles from public spaces in her medium sized Dutch city, several thousand bicycles are removed each year. In some areas, up to 40% of parked bicycles were unused. Similar experiences were reported from Copenhagen.

Bicycle parking provision was reported to be embedded in (national) building codes and district plans. One speaker suggested that compulsory provision in national documents is more effective than leaving it to districts to implement parking provision requirements.

Some discussion focussed on parking fees for high level security bike parking provision in city centres, i.e. either bike stations or locker systems. There were proponents for parking fees, as well as proponents for free systems. Research has shown that only some 10% of cyclists accept payment for bike parking.

The advantages of free systems are:

  • Free systems reach a far higher proportion of cyclists and furthermore, it is a significant tool for gaining new cyclists. It has been successfully used in one Dutch city to achieve a mode shift of 10%age points from car to bike.
  • Unsurprisingly, a free system is valued higher by the cycling community overall.
  • Secure bike parking systems are often also valued by the general population, as it decreases the demand for car parking spaces, making those more accessible for those with a need to visit the city centre by car.
  • There is often an element of subsidy for bike parking (just as there is subsidy for public transport systems). Making it free makes the system simpler to administer, but may increase the subsidy required.

The advantages of paid systems are:

  • A paid system follows the principle of user pays.
  • Payment avoids abuse of a locker system. Without payment, some form of management is always required for a free locker system, as it is otherwise abused for general storage purposes. A paid locker system needs much less management.
  • Parking fees can cover the operational costs of a bike station, or reduce the amount of subsidy required.

Lessons for NZ

  • City and district councils should actively manage their existing bike parking.
  • Government should commission research into appropriate provision of bike parking for different land uses.
  • Government should include bike parking requirements in the building code.
  • City and district councils should include bike parking requirements in their city and district plans.
  • In light of the significant promotional possibilities, city and district councils should consider free bike parking stations.

New CROW manual

Despite its age, the 1993 CROW manual "Sign up for the Bike" is commonly regarded as the authoritative design & planning guide. The English language version of the updated version was published in June 2007. No doubt, the new manual will keep its status. To keep on top of best practice, ViaStrada purchased its version of the manual less than a week since its publication.

Lessons for NZ

  • Designers and planners should purchase and familiarise themselves with the updated manual.
  • NZ guidelines are often less generous than recommended in CROW (the effect called ‘standards creep'). Practitioners should be aware of the differences and use their judgement when applying NZ guidelines.

Political will makes all the difference

When it comes to supporting cycling, nothing can replace political will. There is generally not a lack of technical or planning skills, but the difference is achieved around the council table. The cities that make the giant leaps are those with a committed majority amongst the elected members.

One of the better known examples is London, where the London Mayor has made the cycle network implementation one of his core campaigns. The budgets for implementing the London Cycle Network (LCN+) are staggering. While the implementation rests with the London Boroughs, the whole exercise is centrally coordinated and the infrastructure receives 100% funding from Transport for London.

Paris, also not a traditional cycling city, is also making big leaps with reallocating road space and allowing for cyclists. One of their most outstanding projects is to initially make some 10,000 free bikes available in central Paris, nearly doubling this number within one year.

Berlin had not been a traditional cycling city, but their efforts started in the 1970s. They made huge progress from the late 1980s with area-wide speed reduction campaigns.

One of the most progressive cycling cities in Germany is Münster in Westphalia. Although a deeply conservative area, cycling is totally embedded in the culture. A mayoral candidate with any hope of getting elected is better out there and seen on a bicycle.

Kiwi attendees

The conference was attended by some 950 delegates. NZ more than pulled its weight, with four Kiwi practioners and at least three NZ expatriates:

  • Roger Boulter (Roger Boulter consulting, Carterton)
  • Jackie Curtis (Land Transport NZ, Christchurch)
  • Nigel Weston (Christchurch City Council)
  • Axel Wilke (ViaStrada Ltd, Christchurch)
  • Kerry Betteridge (London, ex Ministry of Transport)
  • Thomas Stokel (London, ex Health Sponsorship Council)
  • Elisabeth Claridge (Transport for London)

Best wishes to everybody back in New Zealand.


Axel Wilke

Munich, 20 June 2007