20 March 2015

The uncertainty principle

My last post was about how problematic uncertainty is in cycle infrastructure.  It's since occurred to me that the problem isn't uncertainty itself, but uncertainty for the more vulnerable.

Good cycle infra, as seen in Holland, Denmark, etc reduces uncertainty - cyclists have their own safe spaces, as do pedestrians and cars.  But even the Dutch have some spaces where uncertainty is permitted - such as the bike streets that identify cars as visitors, and make it clear that the space is intended for cyclists and pedestrians.  Likewise, streets with no centre line and bike lanes on either side - a UK can be seen here and a study by TfL here .   But crucially here, the uncertainty is on the part of the car drivers, as the least vulnerable users. 

Edinburgh is trialling this system on a road on the outskirts of the city.  It's not perfect - the road speed is too high, and the bike lanes are not going to be colored. But it does introduce uncertainty for the car driver, rather than the cyclist. 

By contrast, the paths leading to North Meadow Walk have given the uncertainty to the pedestrians, as discussed in my last blogpost, and as @fountainbridge shows in this mockup:  
Cyclists have lots of signs telling them what to do and how to behave, but pedestrians have nothing.  Anyone who knows about Scottish law will know that pedestrians have full rights to use both the paths marked in green and in pink, but the signals being sent to them say differently.  So uncertainty is created.  

This is the exact opposite of the basic principles discussed above -- the heavier, more dangerous form of transport should be made to feel like a 'guest', not the most vulnerable. 

Until we put this principle at the heart of our infrastructure, we're getting it wrong.  We'll continue to foster resentment and hostility between cyclists and pedestrians, and discourage the take-up of active travel that our policies claim to promote. 

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