Friday, February 05, 2010

Safety concerns for new streetcars

STOCKHOLM. As the Swedish capital gets ready to revive streetcars as a regular feature in the city center traffic, there are concerns for the safety of pedestrians and bikers.
“We are not used to streetcars in Stockholm. We have to learn to live with them again”, says Anne Kemmler of the City of Stockholm traffic office to the Dagens Nyheter newspaper.
In August of 2010 the first part of what is called Spårväg City (Streetcar City) will open for traffic. The first phase of the new streetcar network will connect Norrmalmstorg in central Stockholm with popular recreational area Djurgården and its tourist attractions.
An old museum streetcar has been serving this route, mainly for tourists. The new Spårväg City will mark the return of permanent streetcar-service in central Stockholm. The old streetcar network was dismantled in 1967, when Sweden switched from left-hand to right-hand traffic and the new subway was in place.
The City of Stockholm plans for an extensive information campaign in connection with the opening of the new streetcar-line, to make sure that residents understand the traffic rules and impact the new streetcars will have.
The new network of streetcars will gradually be extended to reach the fringes of central Stockholm and connect new developments with the existing public transit infrastructure.
In 2000 a new streetcar/light rail-line was opened connecting suburbs directly west and south of central Stockholm. There are plans to extend this service as part of the major investments in public transportation now underway in the Swedish capital.

Danish commuter hub gets facelift

COPENHAGEN. Wherever you go in the Danish capital you will sooner or later pass through the worn-down Nørreport Station, a commuter hub serving some 300,000 passengers daily.
Now this heart of Copenhagen public transit will finally get a facelift. It will be an operation that surely will affect travel in the Danish capital during construction in 2011-2014.
Tomorrow Copenhageners are invited to a presentation of what “New Nørreport” will look like. The only thing they will recognize is the old, red neon sign with the station’s name.
Nørreport brings together inter-city rail, the commuter S-trains, the relatively new metro and bus-lines. The worn-down building is surrounded by a chaos of parked bicycles. The platforms are dirty and smelly with diesel fumes.
The “New Nørreport” will add further to Copenhagen’s reputation as a pedestrian and bicycling city. Two lanes of traffic will be closed and a new urban space will open up around the station, which can be reached on pedestrian streets leading to the heart of the city.
The new glass and steel building has been criticised by some who see it as out of place, but few will miss the old station. There will also be 11 new ventilation towers bringing fresh air to the underground platforms.
Several new parking spaces for 2,500 bicycles will be spread out around the station, slightly lowered into the ground so as not to disturb the view of the new station.

Illustration: Public Arkitekter/COPE
The "New Nørreport" brings big changes to commuters...

Illustration: Public Arkitekter/COPE
...but they will recognize the old red neon signs.

Portland ready for a bicycle revolution

TRANSPORTATION. It has been called “Copenhagen on the Willamette”, after the bicycle-loving Danish capital. Now Portland, Oregon, is set to boost its reputation as a most unusual major American city by adopting an ambitious bicycle plan for the future.
City commissioners were expected to adopt the 2030 Portland Bicycle Plan yesterday, but after three hours of presentations and testimony the vote was postponed for a week, reports the Oregonian newspaper’s on-line edition.
Mayor Sam Adams was quick to assure supporters of the plan, several hundred of them held a rally outside City Hall, that “this is going to pass, folks”.
The 600 million dollar plan would be the most ambitious investment in bicycling anywhere in the United States. The goal is to have 25 percent of Portland commuters take the bike by 2030.
In today’s Copenhagen, often considered as the “bicycle capital of the world”, a third of all trips to and from work and school in the city are taken on two wheels. But in car-dependent America, Portland’s goals must be seen as almost revolutionary.
Data from 2008 showed 6.4 percent of Portlanders took their bikes to work, already a very high figure by American standards.
The 2030 Portland Bicycle Plan calls for the construction of nearly 700 miles (1,120 kilometres) of new bikeways over the next 20 years. The city now has some 300 miles (480 kilometres) in its bikeway network, developed since the adoption of the first Bicycle Master Plan in 1996.
In the proposed new plan’s vision of a future Portland bicycling will no longer be seen as an “oddity”.
“Portland residents do not identify themselves as ‘bicyclists’, but as users of a preferred means of transportation for regular daily activities”, the plan says.
Ask any urban activist in America to point out a city to look up to, and Portland will surely be mentioned first. The Bicycle Plan, if adopted, will set a new standard for visionary urban planning in the U.S.
“Our intentions are to be as sustainable city as possible. That means socially, that means environmentally and that means economically. The bike is great on all three of those factors. You just can’t get a better transportation return on your investment than you get with promoting bicycling”, says Mayor Sam Adams in the plan.

Copyright: Travel Portland/Brent Bradley
Portland, Oregon: "Copenhagen on the Willamette."