‘Create alternatives first’

'Create alternatives first'

In discussions of the transportation transition, the argument often comes up that the alternatives must first be created before car transportation should be disadvantaged in any way. This manifests itself in tweets from car-dependent citizens in rural areas, local politicians from the CDU, FDP or Bürgerbund Bonn, who demand an "overall concept" and do not want "experiments". In other words, there should only be so-called pull measures, but no push measures. I think that is neither sensible nor feasible.

The most important thing in this demand is that nothing should deteriorate at any time for people who currently use the car. A bus or bicycle network can be developed in parallel. But then those people do not use it until it is better than driving a car. During the construction of the alternatives, however, no space may be taken away from the car, i.E. No lanes may be reallocated or parking spaces removed. As soon as the alternatives are better than the car, these people promise to change. These representations are charged with phrases such as that we "must not fall back into the stone age".

That sounds convincing at first. Motorists don't have to suffer, bicyclists and bus riders benefit from the continuous improvements. At some point, the traffic turnaround will be here. Nobody was unhappier in the meantime than before, in the end everybody is satisfied. Sounds like the perfect election promise. In a world of limitless growth there are no zero-sum games. If something grows, it does not take anything away from other things. Everyone can improve without others getting worse. The promise of capitalism.

However, there is simply limited space in the existing street space. You can come up with disruptive ideas, but you can't expand the available space. So it's a zero-sum game. Some voices call for demolition of houses to make room for more lanes, fortunately they are a very small minority. So if we don't get more space in the same area, the space has to be redistributed.

Multiple use

There are still ideas how to create space for bicycles and buses without taking space away from cars. One simply brushes a protective strip on the roadway. This way you can have bike and bus traffic on the same lane and not take anything away from car traffic. This sounds tempting at first.

But this has serious disadvantages. For one thing, cars then have to wait behind buses. From a certain amount of buses, this is also perceived as a deterioration for the car and thus possibly rejected. But the other thing is that bus traffic then becomes prone to congestion. Buses are delayed at rush hour, so they are not faster than cars, even with perfectly matched routes. And as soon as a change or a way to the bus stop is necessary, the bus will be worse and worse. As long as buses do not get separate lanes, they can never beat the car. No matter how much development is done, the time will never come when these people will change buses. This is especially true in cities, but also in the countryside. The own car will always be faster, unless the search for a parking space would be extremely terrible. But this is not the case due to the previous policy.

The situation is no better for bicycle traffic. Lanes are usually between 3.0 and 3.5 m wide. If a protective lane with a minimum width of 1.25 m is marked there, there is not enough space to overtake with the prescribed 1.5 m distance. Most motorists are not even aware of this regulation, the protective lane also clearly indicates to them that overtaking is possible there without any problems. The bicyclists will then be harassed. Do not feel safe. So there will be little cycling traffic because cycling is not attractive. Again, car drivers will not willingly change lanes, because cycling is not fun due to the remaining car drivers. In even narrower places, cyclists can then no longer be overtaken. This will then upset the motorists again, because they have been deprived of space and cannot drive their usual 55 km/h at the permitted speed of 50 km/h.

No matter how you slice it, I don't see any chance of creating such attractive bus or bicycle service with multiple use that motorists will voluntarily switch.

Minimally invasive redistribution

Since it is not possible without redistribution of the road space, one can still try to redistribute as minimally invasive as possible. So on a main road, where there is more than one lane in each direction, one lane can be reallocated. So one lane remains exclusively for MIV (motorized individual traffic), the other lane becomes an environmental lane. Only buses and bicycles will drive there. But this is not a really satisfying solution. Bus and bicycle traffic have two fundamentally different speed profiles. Bicycles will travel between 15 and 30 km/h. But you don't have to stop at bus stops. The bus easily goes 50 km/h, but has to stop at every bus stop. On the open road the bus has to wait behind the cyclists, at stops the cyclists wait behind the bus. All in all, both types of traffic drag each other down in their average speed.

In addition, one lane has been taken away from the MIV. The car traffic will have less capacity, there will be more traffic jams. So the MIV lane will be completely full. Bus lanes are very efficient, because the bus bundles the people. With the same number of people per time unit, a bus lane will look empty most of the time. Car drivers do not understand this apparent paradox of efficiency. They will call their lane a "congestion lane" and complain bitterly that the bus lane is empty most of the time. That a two-lane traffic jam is no better than a one-lane traffic jam does not seem to be understood.

So with this concept you have a compromise, it is not optimal for everyone. But it is a start. More and more bike traffic can slowly develop on the bus lane, and the buses can sometimes be faster than MIV. This can motivate to change. But it has taken something away from the car to make room for the environmental network. So it can't be done without push measures (less MIV lanes).

Individual costs

If we take as a starting point a person who already has a car and drives it every day, that person has certain fixed costs such as buying or leasing a car, insurance and road tax. Then there are costs roughly related to mileage, such as maintenance costs. Inspections are due according to time or kilometers, repairs according to an undefined amount of wear and tear. The tangible costs per kilometer are only the fuel, be it gasoline, diesel, natural gas or electricity. Even that is not calculated per kilometer, but every 500 to 1000 km at the gas pump.

The cost of each additional trip seems to be relatively small. If you compare it with a one-way ticket for the bus or train, the car always does better. For example, the distance to the office in Cologne costs me 4.77 EUR. If I would drive the 40 km with the car, calculate a consumption of 5 l/100 km at a gasoline price of 1.60 EUR/l, the marginal cost is 3.20 EUR. I also need only a third of the time for the track. A clear gain! As soon as you take more people with you, the calculation will only go more clearly in the direction of the car.

This consideration is incomplete, one would have to include the acquisition costs for the car proportionally. But that would be under the assumption that the car would be abolished otherwise. But rather we just wanted to consider if someone with a car would try the bus once. And with the bill it is not attractive. The fact that the bus ticket includes the purchase costs and that a monthly ticket would be cheaper is irrelevant. For a single trip it is not worth it. And in this way, those people will also not be able to use public transport. Especially not with luggage or escorts.

One could offer public transport for free. Thus the calculation with the costs would no longer be an advantage for the car. However, the problem of time and comfort remains. In case of doubt, people will continue to travel by car, after all, in this scenario, car traffic was not allowed to be made worse in any aspect.

Attractive expansion

To make environmental transport more attractive than the car, pull measures are not enough because of limited space. The MIV must be taken away place, so that the environmental connection can become strong. You could, of course, artificially make the car worse, but that's not at all necessary on the one hand, and completely untenable politically on the other hand. But it is often assumed that this is the goal of the traffic turnaround. No, I don't want to deny mobility to anyone, I don't want to leave anyone without a car somewhere disconnected. But I would like to have the freedom to be mobile in other ways than with the car.

So we have to redistribute space. Structurally separated bike lanes where neither pedestrians are endangered nor bicyclists are harassed by motorists. For this it does not need so much space. A bike lane in both directions fits acceptably on 3.0 m width, that is only a MIV lane. The capacity is incomparably higher. In the long run, driving will be more pleasant, because there will be more space available per car.

The other is this insistence on an overall concept. There is this saying that changes do not necessarily make it better, but that changes are necessary to improve it. A city is such a complex system with dynamic requirements that it is difficult for one person at a drawing board to develop a concept for hundreds of thousands of people. This can be seen as analogous to software development. There is the old waterfall model, so super rigid first create a concept, implement it, write a manual, deliver to the customer. The model can not respond to changing requirements. The modern mode of operation is agile. You take small steps, talk to the person using the software. Week after week details are implemented. But one always checks whether the plan still makes sense. And traffic experiments are to be seen in the same way. One proceeds step by step. Yes, there may be deteriorations. But there is also a chance that it can get better. And they should be allowed.

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