Part 2: The Desire Lines tool applied to an asymmetric intersection (Værnedamsvej, Gammel Kongevej, Svanholmsvej)
Here we get to focus on a major abberration in the street layout of Copenhagen. An intersection where bicycle users - and basically everyone else - have no normal way to cross the intersection. Indeed, the junction Værnedamsvej, Vesterbrogade and Frederiksberg Allé, is complex and not completely regulated by traffic lights. Generally, it's a bit weird.
What contributes to the confusion is the fact the municipal border between Copenhagen and Frederiksberg zig zags bizarrely through the area. It is also worth noting that ALL the bicycle infrastructure in place is on the Copenhagen side of the intersection. Frederiksberg hasn't bothered to do much at all. Except for seemingly wishing to priortize cars.
Here are the results of our observations made in October 2013 during the morning rush hour.
Southern intersection - Heading out Værnedamsvej
The bicycle users exiting Værnedamsvej followed an amazing 11 different Desire Lines. Compared with the less complex junction at the other end of the street, the number of trajectories recorded is more numerous (11 vs. 7). Let’s figure out what the bicycle users do when they must follow their own instinct and urban desire lines.
The 183 bicycle users observed headed to four different directions:
Turning left on Vesterbrogade
You can see the complexity of the intersection on the map. No clear, straight lines are in place. The majority of the bicycle users leaving Værnedamsvej turn left on Vesterbrogade (41%) - heading for the city centre. They cannot, however, reach the traffic light without using the crossing or cycling against traffic. That’s why 80% of these bicycle users bike or walk their bike on the sidewalk in order to reach the pedestrian crossing further down Vesterbrogade. Indeed, they try to follow the shortest trajectory and head normally towards the direction they want to reach without making a detour. Classic Desire Line behaviour.
In the first Desire Lines report – the Choreography of an Urban Intersection, we created 3 categories of cyclists: the Conformists, the Momentumists and the Recklists. Once again we noticed that only a very few “recklists” take a direct bend through the intersection (Line E).
Turning right on Vesterbrogade
Basically, there is no legal and safe way to turn right on Vesterbrogade by bike. All three Desire Lines used by the bicycle users break the traffic rules. Only those bicycle users who get off their bike and walk on the two-stage crossing act legally.
53% of the cyclists reach the sidewalk and then the cycle track on Vesterbrogade. They wait at the traffic light and then continue straight on. It's not a bad way to do it, but it certainly isn't bicycle-friendly and it also forces them to use pedestrian space, which is at a premium here. Especially in the afternoon in this densely populated neighbourhood, when bicycle parking and a sausage wagon take up even more space.
29% use the pedestrian crossing, completely or partially. Some of them get off their bike but a majority cycles. 18% take the shorter but also less safe trajectories, cycling against the car traffic.
We noticed that when cyclists felt uncomfortable, they quite often get off the bike and act as a pedestrian. At the very least, using the pedestrian infrastructure becomes a solution for them. But is it far from the optimal solution for everyone.
Heading straight down Oehlenschlægersgade
Bicycle users continuing straight on to reach Oehlenschlægersgade have the same problem as the ones turning left or right on Vesterbrogade: how on earth do you get to the traffic light? In this situation, almost half of them cycle through the car lane.
These maps clearly show that the junction is not designed for bicycle users leaving Værnedamsvej, despite the fact that it is a fairly major A to B route, as well as being a desirable destination.
Southern intersection - Heading into Værnedamsvej
For the bicycle users heading into Værnedamsvej the situation is clearly different since specific bicycle infrastructure has been designed for them. We noticed that the number of Desire Lines is less numerous (11 vs. 8). Most of all, we noticed that when bicycle infrastructure is well thought out, a clear, primary trajectory appears. One or two other minor lines are followed by a few bicycle users. It can be bicycle users using the pedestrian crossing to avoid to wait the red light or a small number of “Recklists”.
Coming from Vesterbrogade and Oehlenschlægersgade and turning left in Værnedamsvej (56% in total)
Coming from Vesterbrogade and turning right into Værnedamsvej (32% in total)
Coming from Frederiksberg Allé and turning left into Værnedamsvej (12% in total)
In addition, these numbers allow us to determine that, in the morning, bicycle users head in a clear, main direction: 30% of the cyclists head out of Værnedamsvej at this intersection and 70% enter the street. The street is an important east-west route for bicycle users.
Stay tuned... in the next part we'll present our Copenhagenize Fixes based on these observations.