Perhaps inspired by the visit of the Tour de France in July 2009 for a time trial stage, the Haute-Savoie city of Annecy has implemented a number of cycling initiatives, including two way cycling in one way streets.
The city has taken bold steps to reallocate road space from motor vehicles to cyclists, often in forward-thinking ways. All one way streets in the city centre now allow contra-flow cycling. Below is a photo of one such street, showing how temporary measures have been put in place to alert motorists to the changes.
Two way cycling in one way streets seems to have been implemented regardless of the width of the street. Below is an example of a narrow street with two way cycling. This street is certainly no wider than Garden Lane, yet road users have been trusted to use the road space responsibly and to look out for one another.
Trust is extended still further in some streets in Annecy where the road space is shared equally by cars, cyclists, and pedestrians. Speed limits are set to 20 kph (about 12 mph) in these streets. Motorists would be unlikely to achieve these speeds at busy times when all traffic would be moving at walking pace.
Significant road space has been taken from motorists and given to cyclists in the city – including parking spaces, as you can see below. When reallocated to cyclists, one car parking space in the road will create enough room to park eight bikes. This simple idea has proved to be an excellent way to create room for bike racks where there is no space on the pavement or elsewhere in the street.
Nearby Chamonix has implemented a green travel plan which provides completely free transport on all buses and trains in Chamonix valley for all visitors for the length of their stay. New rolling stock has been purchased for the Chamonix valley line, which incorporates vertical bike racks in each carriage as shown in the photo below.
In Annecy, even chocolate shops support cycling by crafting bike shaped treats.
Not to be outdone, one local parfumerie has even used bikes to sell Chanel perfume. It is unlikely that these two concepts would be linked in a British perfume display!
Cycling rates in Annecy are very high despite the local hills. The city is not short of ideas for promoting cycle use, and is now a showcase for those ideas having been implemented in practice.
Maybe the difference is in the risk-averse approach generally taken in the UK. Allowing two way cycling in narrow one way streets and allowing cars, pedestrians and bikes to share the same road space in narrow streets involves a certain willingness to take some risks and a willingness to try something new in order to achieve significant change in transport mode choices.
Where there is a will to get people on bikes, things can happen.
The Chester Cycling Campaign would like to see Chester try some of these ideas. Garden Lane would perhaps be a good street to begin introducing two way cycling in one way streets. This would be very simple to achieve, would require no physical works apart from road markings and signage, and would provide a genuine boost for cycling at the University.
And perhaps Faulkner Street in Hoole would be a good place to try reallocating one car parking space for bike racks?