Network simulations can help cities create better bicycle networks
CSH External Faculty member Michael Szell, an Austrian complexity scientist, studies how cities should optimally plan their bikeway networks. In a paper just published in Scientific Reports, Michael and his team show that it is not the lenght of bike lanes that matters, but how the network is planned and expanded.
“To get a functional bicycle network that will be used by many people, municipalities must persistently invest in the expansion of their biking infrastructure,” explains Michael, who once studied with Stefan Thurner at MedUni Vienna and now works at IT University of Copenhagen.
Planning for the whole city
A certain patience is necessary. “The bike infrastructure needs to reach a critical threshold until it will be fully functional,” Michael points out.
Most importantly, this planning needs an overarching strategy. Piecemeal improvements more or less based on chance are literally the worst growth strategy, the scientists show with their simulations.
“We found that just adjusting and improving a little here and there—which, by the way, is exactly what Vienna is doing, for example—will cost three times as much in the end,” says Michael. “Instead, a city should develop a basic strategy that encompasses the entire city, and should consequently follow this plan.”
“GrowBike” tool helps city planners
To give an idea of how to do so, Michael Szell developed an interactive tool for 62 cities worldwide, called GrowBike.
The tool allows to simulate the development of bicycle infrastructure in each of those cities.
The GrowBike simulations use the existing road network of the respective cities, taking also important points of general interest into account, like subway stations, schools, hospitals etc. “The tool will not cover all eventualities,” says Michael. “Yet, using the example of Copenhagen with its elaborated and well-working bicycle infrastructure, we saw that the simulation tool does a pretty good job.”
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