I was lucky enough to attend the recent Velo-City conference in Seville. Velo-City the major international cycling planning conference series in the world and seeks to encourage cycling as a part of daily transport and recreation. It is organised by the European Cycling Federation but is attended by delegates from all continents. The conference is hosted by a different city each year, with the host city decided by a highly competitive bidding process. As a little englander attending velo-city brings a shock of realisation at just how seriously cycling is taken in Europe. The conference is not held in a dingy Travelodge equivalent but in the best conference centre in the city and heavily subsidised by the host city. The hosts consider the long-term benefits of creating such a focus on their use of the bicycle to far outweigh the costs.
This year’s host, Seville, has undergone a remarkable change in recent years. Only 5 years ago Seville was gridlocked and the car was the preeminent form of transport for Sevillans - the modal share for cycling was only 0.2%. Since then a transformational set of transport policies has changed this - cycling now has a modal share of 6.6%. Now about 70,000 people commute by bike each day, which is double the number that use the city’s metro system at only one twentieth of the cost. Many experts would consider 20 years to be a reasonable timescale for such change - Seville has proved that much more ambitious schemes are possible.
To do this Seville has built an extensive - although not yet perfect - network of cycle lanes and a bike hire scheme with 2000 bicycles at 250 locations. The cycle infrastructure follows the main transport desire lines of the city rather than just being put into odd places where there is leftover space anyway. Seville has eschewed the easy options and created a really good cycle network in a very short time.
One interesting feature of the road network in Seville was their equivalent to our Toucan crossings. These crossings give a countdown to cyclists and pedestrians to let you know how long there is to wait and then countdown on green, so you know how long you have to live. These junctions didn’t need a button to be pressed, they assume there will be cycle and pedestrian traffic just as the presence of motor traffic is automatically assumed. I observed that at least one of these junctions gives exactly the same allocation of time to cyclists and pedestrians as it does to motorists - turns of about 50 seconds each. Now wouldn’t that be a great thing to include in a review of the traffic light controlled junctions in Portsmouth?
I was attending the Velo-City conference as an exhibitor which means I didn’t get to attend any presentations but I did still pick up a wealth of useful information. I will be writing it all up in a series of articles here on Pompeybug over the next few weeks. Stay tuned.