November last year, the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) formally launched bicycle lanes on some major roads in the Metro; A set in Manila area and another one on Commonwealth Avenue. If you happen to traverse these corridors, you would see the bicycle infrastructure in place. Whether they are really working or at least serving its intended purpose is a matter of a rather comprehensive discussion or maybe technical assessment.

Image: unfoldandcycle.com

Having this kind of support facility for our cycling community in the country requires us to ensure connectivity or access and comfort. Connectivity in the sense that once a cyclist embark on to his journey, he must be able to use various networks of access. Meaning, his trip must be continuous and smooth, as much as possible. His access must be "accessible" in the real sense, otherwise  there is what we call "Network Gap". It goes on to say that there is also, "Comfort Gap", because of the fact that the journey is being devoid of continuity.

On this subject, the city of Austin gave a new meaning to how a road network map can be viewed, in utmost consideration of a cycling community. Austin made an easy to read map that puts aside the hassle of reading and interpreting the technical terms of planners and engineers. Nathan Wilkes, a bike infrastructure specialist of Austin public works department revealed that the map is mainly coming from the ideas of Roger Geller, the bicycle coordinator for the city of Portland Oregon.

Here is a sample cycling comfort map (Oregon):

cycling-comfort-map

The symbology map reflects the streets of Oregon based on the following classifications:

  1. Quiet streets (peaceful, low-traffic neighborhoods) - marked in vivid green. 
  2. High comfort roads  - Bright blue
  3. Medium comfort -  is marked in a darker blue
  4. Low comfort - cautionary yellow
  5. Extremely low comfort  - marked in red

Aside from the color assignments, there are also directions arrows that indicate hills and their corresponding steepness.

The end product is a map where you can immediately see where it is easy to travel, navigate or traverse in the existing road network. Choosing your particular sets of road links to use for your route will be easy to formulate. According to Wilkes, the colors are in concept, parallel to what are being used in the traffic lights. It is thought that the scheme is easy to process and retain in the human brain.

The goal of Wilkes' team is to give people the information they need without getting into the torture of interpreting the generally used bike lanes design terms - Class I, Class II, buffered, separated and the like. Says Wilkes:

You don’t need to know what type of lane you’re on..
We want people to see, hey, look at all these places you can go even with your kids

All you need is the comfort level of the streets that you will be negotiating.

This method is seen as a powerful tool for the planners and engineers to address network gaps in a road system. They just have to look at the colors before jumping into the engineering side of things.

I think Metro Manila can make use of these Cycling Comfort Maps but of course, required cycling system and support infrastructure should be established first.

What do you think about Cycling Comfort Maps? Is your city using one already?

Source: http://www.theatlanticcities.com