Bicycle and pedestrian traffic as the two pillars of active mobility need sufficient space. Pedestrian zones are often rendered as crucial bottlenecks leading either to a friendly coexistence or conflicts. The fact that opening pedestrian zones for cycle traffic can work was demonstrated by the German research project “Taking the bicycle to go shopping downtown – conflicts and potentials of opening a pedestrian zone for cyclists”. The German projects was running for two years and was subsidised by the Federal Transport Ministry (BMVI), the Ministry of Infrastructure of the province of Thuringia (TMIL) and the city of Offenbach as part of the national cycle traffic plan (NRVP) 2020.
The aim of the project was “the promotion of cycle traffic in inner cities, especially in downtown pedestrian zones. Solutions to address potential conflicts for the main purpose of promoting environmentally friendly short-distance mobility; additionally creating sensitivity among retailers, gastronomy and leisure facilities towards cycling customers in inner-city areas to achieve a general increase in the acceptance of cycle traffic in inner-city pedestrian zones.” In selected model municipalities the actual problem areas were determined through investigations, expert talks and on-site inspections. As a result of these on-site analyses necessary measures were formulated.
These measures can involve planning, construction, organisation and/or communication (e.g. an image campaign). In all selected model municipalities, the success or the effect of the measures taken was controlled with the help of a before-and-after evaluation. This comprised both surveillance techniques (e.g. video) but also interviews (standardised empirical interviews among the target groups pedestrians and cyclists). To pass on the findings from the project to local planners, associations and the interested public a planning handbook was drafted at the end of the project. The final report on the project is still being finalised and will be made available together with the planning handbook at this download site
Austria: Radlobby’s analysis
During the concluding conference of the project CycleCompetence member Radlobby Österreich has analysed international findings on how cycling in pedestrian zones can work.
“Pedestrian zones and cycling traffic have a high compatibility as long as car traffic is limited to access to and from the zone,” says Radlobby spokesman Roland Romano. In most cases there is a compatible frequency of pedestrian and cycle traffic and opening these zones facilitates the co-existence of road users. Open pedestrian zones are very safe and particularly attractive for pedestrians and cyclists yielding positive effects for the feeling of safety and for the local economy, explains Romano.
An accompanying information campaign for the public is recommended as research in the above-mentioned project shows: Information renders higher acceptance of the opening. Inhabitants feel as safe after the opening as before. The research also shows a majority of cyclists (80%) is riding in the pedestrian zone to get to specific places within. Through traffic only makes up a small percentage. By opening pedestrian zones no increase in problematic interactions was recorded despite the increase in cycle traffic. The cyclists’ behaviour hardly changed (regarding keeping distances or dealing with conflict situations) and no clear limits to opening pedestrian zones were found. Concerns of pedestrians or cyclists frequenting inner cities less often were not confirmed.
5 guidelines for municipalities and cities
The result from the analysis and the research findings is a five-point handbook for municipalities and cities on how to successfully open pedestrian zones:
1. City structure and route relations
Avoid pedestrian zones on main cycling roads (and vice versa) and install diversion routes instead
2. Spatial design and use of space
A visual separation of space for vehicles and pedestrians reduces conflict, avoid bottlenecks and carefully consider areas with longitudinal incline
3. Temporal and spatial distribution of traffic flows
Mostly traffic flows happen at different times or in different areas which facilitates co-existence; allow for diversion routes on market days or during events
4. Legal and organisational solutions and measures
Opening with our without temporal and spatial limitations – open up crossings, attempt good announcement (signs) and good climate via active PR
5. On the lookout for improvement
Once installed adaptations or extensions should be considered in regular intervals to simplify traffic flows.
Grafics: Radsam-Kampagne. Download in german: radsam-kampagne.de