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They say that segregated bicycle paths actually make cycling dangerous. This is mainly thanks to turning cagers not bothering to notice cyclists. Well, there's a solution to that: the anti-bike intersection that makes cycling even slower and more cumbersome than segregation alone can achieve. The following pictures from Jyväskylä, Finland, show how to make cycling in your city safer, slower, and more cumbersome. Three flies on one stroke.
It should be noted that petrol fascism1 in Finland is more insidious than in some other developing countries (such as the iconic USA), where it's (in general) more in-your-face. The authorities can well claim that there's a considerable network of so-called bicycle infrastructure: In most areas built in the recent decades, cyclists are segregated from cagers on nearly all streets. However, in the centres – the tiny denser older areas that have had their street grid planned before the invention of the infernal machine and the consequent sparsity trend – and outside cities, the network becomes far more sparse and intermittent, demanding cumbersome path-changing manoeuvres from the cyclist, and trying to survive amidst 80-100km/h traffic on roads without even shoulders.
Even more importantly, a small handful of exceptions aside, the vast majority of these “bicycle paths” are merely multi-use paths or “light traffic lanes” (as the direct translation would go), shared with all non-motorised traffic (sometimes mopeds too), and mainly designed for the benefit of the cagers. They force the cyclist into a gory fight for limited space with pedestrians taking the dog for a leak and walking four hand-in-hand. (The most powerful gang around – the state – does not want the cyclist using the roadway when a multi-use path exists, even if he were inclined to take the risk and the stress of being constantly overtaken by high-speed mastodons.) And, as documented in the remainder of this posting, the multi-use paths and associated anti-bike intersections are designed to slow down the cyclist, to make the car a faster mode of transport in the city than the bicycle. Thanks to the gentle slope (to them), the cagers can even turn fast in anti-bike intersections, ensuring priority in the zebra crossing. And while the cyclist is negotiating the anti-bike intersection and the turning cagers blocking it, the cager going straight has already crossed the block. (Additionally the cyclist's progress is blocked by cagers entering or leaving parking lots, trees, and sign-poles, as well as slowed down by having to avoid colliding with pedestrians and leashes stretching to their dogs making a shit to be revealed in piles when the snow melts.)
That said, it's not high speed – certainly not high top speed – that is important. What is important is the lack of obstacles and, in particular, mindless waiting. In other words, usability. It is also not a problem mingling with pedestrians and others for short local distances (the “last mile”, or rather around around 500 metres). But for longer distances there needs to be faster obstruction-free paths, HPV2 highways.
Yes, that narrow pavement next to the old house is labelled a “multi-use path” that the monopoly of violence wants both cyclists and pedestrians to stick to. Part of the blue sign can be seen behind the house. This is perhaps the worst variant of the anti-bike intersection that I know of, thanks to the sharp and tight corner around that old house. Tricyclists would have some serious problems fitting through. But as the following photos show, the general anti-bike design principle is epidemic, with high kerbs blocking the straight path. (All the zebra crossings of this intersection are anti-bike, with the opposite corner as narrow as the featured one.)
Notice that the traffic lights are disabled at late hours, which is something of blessing. Traffic lights are an invention of pure authoritarian tendencies. The primary message is: law in effect, reason forbidden. You must wait to cross when the state deems so, not when you can see there's nobody coming. Judging the situation yourself has been forbidden: You may only wait and stare at a set of robotic lights incapable of thought, with message enforced by equally mindless robotic thugs in uniforms.
The proponents of Shared Space and other such schemes, in fact argue that the removal of traffic lights and other control devices can improve the behaviour of the cagers. Modern (sub)urban streets are built according to the same principles as the motorway: fast movement of cars based on following rules and signs alone. Where control devices and rules abound, traffic has become a techno-legalistic instead of a social affair. An anarchic environment more reminiscent of the living room than the motorway is argued to psychologically slow the cagers down, giving way to pedestrians and cyclists. But, while the cagers' top speeds lessen, their average speeds actually can become greater, because uncontrolled traffic actually flows more smoothly and there's no longer a hurry to wait at the next lights.
While I'm slightly sceptical about the idea of the shared space and how it will work in the Finnish culture and sparse town planning with wide streets that allow high speeds, it does sound better than traffic lights, anti-bike intersections, and so many rules that only lawyers know them all. Even better would be, however, if noisy motorised traffic with high space demands disappeared from the city, or was restricted to very limited areas.
Here the zebra crossing is so far from the parallel road, that I wonder if a court would even interpret that car being turning anymore, if an accident happened. In this backwater called Finland, cagers nearly always have priority (PDF, in Finnish) in intersections over bikes. Pedestrians in theory have priority in non-signalled intersections, while cyclists travelling on the same path are discriminated against, and come last unless the cager is turning or their direction has specifically been marked inferior with yield signs. I know of not a single case of a lone multi-use path having been prioritised (with yield signs); it only happens when the multi-use path is alongside a major car-road crossed by a minor one. Otherwise, the multi-use path is always considered an inferior road. Cyclists having priority over turning cagers is also a minor alleviation to the aspirations of the petrol fascist rule: When they wrote that law in 1997, they tried to make cars always have priority over cyclists. Previously to that anti-cycling reform, normal right hand priority rules applied.
Laws have little to do with reality, of course, and in practise pedestrians and cyclists alike are at the same level at the bottom of the food chain. Partly, it's their own fault, in the same way that “the poor are responsible for their poverty”. If the cyclists and pedestrians do not collectively dare to reclaim the street, the cager will expect the individual to yield.
Although a much-used path on the way from the major student suburb to to the university, high-speed cagers on the horizontally shown road have priority over cyclists on the crossing multi-use path. They are even purposefully slowed down by a zebra crossing not on the straight path across the road. Notice, however, that on the left the grass has been worn down and the gravel shows: coming from the direction in the horizon, it is possible to cross the road along the straight path, because there's no kerb at the near side. In the other direction, staying to the right side of the path, the direct path is over the zebra crossing, but you need a tight swerve to the left on the other side. (They dug some pipes or cables under the multi-use path, and seem in no hurry of paving it over. It's been a gravel path for almost two months, and one just illegally uses the low traffic dead-end roadway for a smoother ride. All segregation there is indeed quite pointless, and this could easily be unmarked shared space.)
A very typical anti-bike intersection in a somewhat newer area. (Typical Finnish 1990's-2000's apartment block suburb: bleak buildings sparsely scattered like pieces of sugar thrown on a map, surrounded by tree-lined parking lots.)
A recently renovated anti-bike intersection, this time in the centre. Here the multi-use path has actually been split into separate sides for cyclists and pedestrians. But typically pedestrians don't follow the split, because the “cycle lane” is not physically separate, and the sides are so narrow that it's nearly impossible. The cars, on the other hand, have three driving lanes and a parking lane. The pavement on the left side of the road (and that on the far side of the horizontal road) has not been marked a multi-use path, so cyclists are required to walk the bike to get there – they're not allowed to use the roadway, because the other side is marked as multi-use/cycle path – while cars can park right in front of the door. And the centre is a cop land. The thugs even terrorise the short stretch of supposedly pedestrian street (begins where the yellow building is) with their prison cages on wheels.
Here's a slightly more usable – and more space wasting – variant of the anti-bike intersection. Notice also the raised zebra crossing. It's a wonder, an intersection with a speed bump for cars instead of cyclists, who nearly always have one in the form of the kerbs (in addition to the sideways speed-bump of the anti-bike intersections). Notice how the asphalt at the intersection is relatively new compared to the more worn asphalt further away. They seem to have converted this intersection rather recently into an anti-bike version, although not as bad as most.
1 Being greenwashed into agro-petrol fascism.
2 Human-powered vehicle.