Landed in Barcelona - Good Bye Bliss

Spain is amazing, but hotter and more humid. The buildings are amazing here and I look forward to exploring more tomorrow. It’s super weird being in a car-dominated, loud, fume-filled city after 3 weeks of bliss. I hadn’t fully noticed the extent of my love of easy breathing, exercise, and quieter streets until we arrived here tonight.

Sight of the night: as I sat eating dinner outside of our hostel I saw a man on a bike cross his heart before biking onto the main road. Are people literally that terrified to bike here? I can understand it since I don’t see much bike infrastructure in place yet beyond bike share stations. More observations tomorrow.


Albert Heijn, a chain grocery store across Europe, gives out this package as their plasticware when you ask for take-away silverware. Talk about awesome! The spork is useful for multiple situations and can be reused instead of thrown away like almost all plasticware in the U.S.


The photos above are some of the highlights of a beautiful exploration ride through residential areas, parks, and rural areas with Kyra. The lower photos are a few of the highlights from watching fashionable bicyclists ride past a cafe as we sat and drank tea along the canal in downtown Utrecht.


schlossb:

Students touring major rail project construction site in Utrecht (Netherlands).


When I first got to Utrecht, I was a bit more confused by the traffic flow than when I first arrived in Copenhagen. In Copenhagen everything seemed more straight forward to me as a visitor who was just dropped into a new culture and transportation system. Here, it definitely takes getting used to. 

On the walk from the train station to our bed and breakfast, I stopped at a pedestrian traffic light for a while with our group and stared at an empty street in front of me until a truck pulled up and stopped, signaling for me to cross even though the traffic signal was red. That was my first sign that it’s not very smart or common to actually follow the traffic signals here.

The photo above exemplifies the craziness of some of the intersections in Utrecht. The posts holding up the traffic signals are striped and definitely caught my eye. It can be overwhelming. However, today things got better. After a couple of days of being in the city I realized that the best way to navigate the system is to ignore traffic signals and always be super aware of one’s surroundings. I get slightly frustrated by traffic signals being so eye-catching especially when the best thing to do is to disregard them and move according to traffic flows, but it is also liberating to be able to bike both ways on cycle tracks and go wherever as long as I am conscious of everything else happening around me. I am finally becoming more accustomed to riding around Utrecht on a bicycle. However, I think that I won’t get to the point where walking around as a pedestrian is as liberating and stress-free as riding a bicycle here since pedestrians are not prioritized and the infrastructure does not make as much sense because it is not continuous and well connected.

High points of Utrecht transportation system:

  • Can get places more quickly (no stopping for right turns, less stops for traffic signals)
  • Integration of bicycles and pedestrians with public transit (bicycle parking at Houten station)
  • Less stopping due to curved right turns and separation of bicycle tracks from car lanes
  • Generator lights on bicycles (powered by pedaling)
  • Chain guards (make bicycling with skirts easy and keeps chain cleaner in rainy weather)

Low points of Utrecht transportation system:

  • Walking around is more hectic (bikes are less predictable and come from all sides)
  • People are more impatient because they are always on the go from infrastructure that provides less situations to stop in
  • Motorcycles are terrifying for both bicyclists and pedestrians on the cycle tracks
  • Traffic signals are crazy (too many, inconsistent, striped too much considering the lack of their importance)
  • Difficult to find crosswalks as a pedestrian
  • Bicycle tracks are less clean and have lots of trash along them
  • Cannot bike park anywhere due to bike theft

Kyra and I went back to our favorite crepe/pancake place along the Old Rhein River this afternoon to split an apple cinnamon pancake. ‘Twas delicious. We also had a wonderful conversation about campus life and our community back home. It was the perfect setting for chatting and being inspired.


Comfy train bed on the way from Copenhagen to Utrecht. We had 4 girls in a tiny room. It was actually quite comfy and I slept well after gazing out at the wind turbines dotting the landscape. 


We saw beautiful wind turbines for several hours as we started our train ride south to Utrecht from Copenhagen. They look so majestic across the landscape, both in water and on land.


Copenhagen Summary


Below is an overview of some of the highlights of my experience and what I took away from my time in Copenhagen. My thoughts will continue to evolve as my program continues, but here is a summary of Copenhagen.


Infrastructure/use of space

  • Bike lanes
  • Cycle tracks (paved, smooth)
  • Commuter routes
  • Green ways
  • Safe routes to schools
  • Traffic play grounds (balance bike)
  • Traffic club - provide materials for parents to teach children
  • Free air pump stations
  • Hat helmets/stylish biking
  • Use different pavement types and materials
  • Cafe outdoor seating
  • Extending awnings
  • Blankets at outdoor restaurant seating
  • Summer lawn chairs
  • Benches to increase life in city and along streets
  • Double smoothed paving along cobble stones (bikes, runners, strollers)
  • Mobile phone apps to check bikes at stations
  • Mixed use “living room”/Paragraph 40 streets
  • Set back lanes from bikes for visibility
  • Green waves
  • Bicycle maps
  • Bike counters
  • Bike speed signs
  • Narrowed street with paving change for pedestrian crossing
  • Living room lamp styles for street lighting to change mood
  • Cargo bikes (Nihola and Christiania bikes)
  • Bike art
  • Divider for people to wait for bus
  • Plants on housing to attract more wildlife (Mt. Homes)
  • Slanted parking lots (airy and natural light)
  • Roundabouts built for bikes (blue cycle track for bikes and cars yield)
  • Simple bike locks
  • Solar lit bike parking space
  • Bike beds (Norreport station design)

Interactive, “soft” city

  • Copenhagen is what city planners there refer to as a “soft” city, or a city in which people interact with one another and see each other face-to-face as opposed to driving around in metal vehicles. The soft city feel makes Copenhagen feel more alive and also creates a similar atmosphere to those found on college campuses where friends run into each other and start up conversation in the street very frequently. The streets in Copenhagen are a social and recreational meeting place where people wish to spend more time. The soft city is created by promoting walking, bicycling, and public transit and creating more public spaces where people wish to gather by providing places to sit and people or things to watch.

Shared space

  • One has to learn to share public space in Copenhagen because accidents occur when people are not accommodating of one another. Biking around on the cycle tracks in the city was a pleasant experience. When an individual would swerve unexpectedly or react to a given situation that would end up getting in someone else’s way, most of the time everyone involved focused their energy on resolving the conflict instead of yelling or honking. The accommodating nature of people, slower speed of traffic, and separate pedestrian, bicycle, and car infrastructure made walking and biking around the city a calm, enjoyable, and convenient transportation experience.

Action Research - Data Collection and Pilot Programs

  • One of the biggest take aways that I gained from my time in Copenhagen was the importance of data collection and trying new ideas out with pilot programs to gage the public’s reactions. Copenhagen publishes a “Bicycle Account” every two years with research about bicycling from infrastructure to safety to people’s feelings about bicycling. The data collected is non-negotiable evidence that can then be used to persuade politicians to support future adjustments in the city’s bicycle infrastructure. I mention pilot programs as well since they are a brilliant way to get city planners, politicians, and traffic engineers on board to try out new programs in an inexpensive and temporary way that can then be evaluated for success and easily adjusted if need be. Many pilot programs become permanent, but by starting out a project with a trial period, it is much more likely to actually happy. As Marc says, “Don’t let perfect get in the way of good.”
  • Being in Copenhagen and talking with city planners has inspired me to do more personal observation and work with campus and the city of Eugene to conduct research on bicycling. Bicycling infrastructure and culture is often overlooked in standard traffic metrics and policies in the U.S. since we have built up our traffic policy from a car-centric perspective.

Transferables

Social and cultural

  • Light campaign - give out bike lights to students who are riding their bikes as encouragement for biking and support of safety.
  • Invitations to fun community engagement events - invite all stakeholders to engage in the progress of projects and give input by encouraging them to attend fun community events that are held in casual gathering spaces and include coffee, tea, and goodies (muffin for a comment strategy from Copenhagen)
  • Get politicians and key figures to bicycle - highlight different demographics using biking as a practical form of transportation by covering stories of different key figures biking
  • End of rainy season competition - organize a group biking competition in May to establish the habit of biking as the weather gets better
  • Bicycle maps - provide more information to bicyclists about the infrastructure that exists and how to plan safe and convenient routes. Connect with UO iPhone app to integrate bike information into the applications.
  • Fun promotional material - "I (bike) Eugene" swag for branding and promotional material

Infrastructure and policy

  • Set back car lanes from bike lane to create higher visibility
  • Change materials for different space use - use different pavings to indicate modes of transport as well as speeds cars and bikes should travel through a space
  • Encourage use of public space - build more benches and invite people into public spaces for longer periods of time
  • Parking garages with fresh air and natural light - design new parking garages similar to the Mt. Homes in Orestad. If the new EMU is going to have a parking garage, we should make it airy and well lit during the day with sunlight.
  • Integrate bicycle parking into building design - provide clean, dry, pleasant bicycle parking around buildings and even under them

"Build more roads and get more cars. Build more cycle tracks and get more bikes" - let’s get going and build out more bicycle infrastructure!


I went on an adventure with Andrew to find the original Little Mermaid. Here she is! Apparently she rates as the 3rd highest let down of tourist attractions in Europe or some metric. I was pleasantly surprised considering I was not expecting very much.


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Design by Craig Snedeker