It requires extraordinary efforts to retain and develop cycling in a city. In Aalborg, collaborations that include experiments and evaluation in order to bring Aalborg to the forefront amongst the leading cycling municipalities play a central role. Lately, two projects with Aalborg University have provided valuable input to continued development.
In the last few years, Aalborg Municipality has greatly focused on making life easier for the cyclists in the municipality and, since 2009, more than 150 million Danish kroner have been invested in new bicycle initiatives. The explanation is simple: city development and the improvement of cycling conditions go hand in hand with the vision of the town council of ”The Liveable City”. The bicycle constitutes part of the answer to some of society’s challenges: congestion, pollution and health.
In recent years, the focus on co-operation has increased and experiments and evaluation have become the starting point of a continued development. At the same time a development pool has been established which supports a somewhat more experimental approach and is managed by Aalborg Cykelby, which focuses on mobility, the town plan and the green area.
But the development does not only happen in-house or with the help from consultants. In many ways Aalborg University is an important player when it comes to the development of Aalborg. This is also the case when it comes to the area where Aalborg Cykelby and Aalborg University greatly benefit from one another. Amongst other things, the co-operation with the university is used to test new bicycle initiatives but just as much to document the effects. Of particular importance is the use of the word ‘experiments’ involving the university in connection with new bicycle initiatives because it strengthens the dialogue with the authorities and makes the experiments easier to try out in the field. Thorough evaluations that the municipality rarely has resources to carry out serve as a central dialogue tool for continued development. So the university has contributed with ideas, knowledge and resources and with the aid of the development pool, Aalborg Cykelby ensures that the university can carry out the experiments 1:1.
A few concrete examples from this year are footrests and crossing a red light at T-junctions – both experiments were carried out in co-operation with graduates. The experiment with the footrests shed light on traffic safety and behavioural effects and not least the cyclists’ attitude to the new initiative. The experiment with the crossing at a red light at T-junctions was initiated in order to gain more knowledge about traffic safety and behavioural consequences – naturally, in the hope of making it easier to implement it in other places. The initiative is cheap and simple and sends a strong signal to road users that cyclists have priority.
Both projects have been carried out as a video-based before and after study of conflicts between the vulnerable road users.
In particular, the study of T-junctions is interesting. Very few conflict studies have previously treated conflicts solely between vulnerable road users and no methods have been developed aimed at this problem. Therefore the project tested an alternative method to make it possible to point out serious conflicts.
The study encompasses four T-junctions in Aalborg regulated by traffic signals where cyclists have previously had a duty to stop for approaching traffic when arriving at a red light and after the experiment began have been exempt from the signal when going ahead and left. A string of several potentially serious conflicts were pointed out and were afterwards analysed by looking through 227 hours of videotape where in all 43,557 vulnerable road users have been counted; a Delphi study where 30 (!) national and international professionals in the field have estimated the seriousness of the conflicts.
The conclusion is clear: No safety-related problems can be proven between vulnerable road users when cyclists are exempt from the red light at T-junctions. No significantly larger risk of conflicts has been registered after the cyclists have been made exempt from the signal even though the number of cyclists crossing at a red light has risen significantly. At the four T-junctions, a significant rise of 30 per cent has been observed in the after-period where, in contrast to this, the risk of conflict has fallen from 3.2 to 1.9 (serious conflicts per 100 simultaneous arrivals).
At the same time it is particularly interesting that a significant effect has been registered on the speed of the cyclists when they are exempt from the signal when they cross and cycle left. The average speed of the cyclists in conflict situations has dropped from 20.4 to 16.7 km/h in the after-period. At the same time cyclists commit fewer breaches of the right of way. It appears that the cyclists are more aware and, to a larger degree, adapt their behaviour to the other road users travelling in different directions.
When it comes to the experiment with the footrests, the two graduates concluded that the footrests mean a lot when it comes to where the first cyclist stops since more cyclists place themselves behind the stop line and adhere to the right of way. It also functions as a service initiative since almost half of the cyclists have used the footrests. There is no statistically significant difference in the number of crossings at a red light and thereby it cannot be concluded that the footrests have any effect on the crossings at a red light. Conversely, the cyclists have generally expressed their satisfaction with the experiment which many view as an improvement to the comfort of the cyclists and, at the same time, gives a strong signal about values.
So far, the experiences with collaborations have been extremely good and in Aalborg Cykelby we see a great interest in starting collaborations internally as well as externally. Therefore Aalborg Cykelby expects to increase the number of collaborations, not least with Aalborg University. Not only when it comes to areas such as mobility, health and the town plan, but also when it comes to the creative environment at the Architecture and Design course we see great potential to develop untraditional and new initiatives that can support the goals to improve cycling conditions and support ”The Liveable City”.
Read more about Aalborg Cykelby and Aalborg Municipality
and the latest issue of the Aalborg magazine (in Danish) www.appetize.dk with an article about Aalborg Cykelby