How to suppress biking – Brief history from Hamilton

Thankfully Hamilton’s long history of suppressing biking has changed and our city leaders are now making biking part of our future. For example, the latest ‘Neighbourhood and Amenity Reserves Management Plan 2019’ states as its primary function #4 ‘Provide pedestrian and cycle connections between and throughout neighbourhoods’ (p3). But sadly, our past leaders did very little that was friendly to people on bicycles.

Waikato Arus – ‘Hamilton Street Raid’ 26 Aug 1913 – ‘About half a dozen people were fined for biking on the foot-path … Mr Bateman said it was necessary to enforce the by-law strictly in order to deter others’

Waikato Arus – ‘More By-Law Contraventions’ 10 Sep 1913 – Again about half a dozen people were fined for biking on the foot-path

The Mayor of the time did try to have bike lanes added to Anglesea St, which went into delay; something all too familiar for over a century now.

Waikato Arus – ‘Cycling Tracks’ 13 Sep 1913 – The Mayor said he was almost ashamed of the number of people who were being prosecuted for riding bicycles on the footpath. He thought the time had come when they should lay down cycle tracks in Hamilton … in Ulster Street alone there were 150 bicycles … Cr Speight was totally against the proposal … Cr Tristram said his experience was that cyclists deserved no consideration whatever … Cr McKinnon said … If they formed cycle tracks, it would just be a favourite track for speed tests and that sort of thing, and they would have more trouble controlling the traffic than trouble controlling the traffic than they had present … Cr Hayter said he would like to see cyclists getting a fir chance. They had none at present against vehicle drivers, who would not keep to their proper side … Cr Howden suggested that the committee should experiment with a track right along Anglesea Street.

A year later:

Waikato Arus –Frankton Borough Council’ Sep 1914 – It was decided to draw the attention of the local constable to the growing practice of cyclists using the footpath as a cycling track.

In the early 1950s: ‘Hamilton City Parks and Reserves bylaw 1952’ Clause12 – prohibits bicycles in parks

Every park in Hamilton had a sign prohibiting biking, and even having a bicycle in a council park was prohibited. And yes, it was enforced; years ago I was threatened by council staff for biking near a park. But even with biking prohibited on footpaths and in parks, people were still biking in good numbers:

Hamilton transport study Basic data report: 1968 – (p29) Travel Mode: 66% by car as driver or as car passenger. Truck trips made up 13% of total, and cycle trips amounted to 11%, public transport 6% by bus and 3% by taxi.

Sadly, we then had the Hamilton transport study Basic data report: 1968 – (p36) “It was considered that the prediction of future cycle trip movements would be of little value and this item was omitted from the projection procedure.”

Photo from early 1980s Transportation study review

By the early 1970s cyclists were only permitted on roads with motor vehicles and the 1968 Transport report noted that there was ‘little value’ including cycling in future transport planning. This was followed in the 1990s by the cycle helmet wearing law, an increase in motor vehicles by relaxing car importing rules and having every alleyway in Hamilton display a ‘no biking’ sign (photo below in Anne Way). By design, we suppressed biking more and more.

Even in 2008, Hamilton city staff clearly saw biking as a nuisance activity. Quoting below from The City Heart project that supported cars in Garden Place as ‘safety opportunities’, biking in Garden Place was described under ‘threats to safety’:

Hamilton City Heart Revitalisation Project: page 21 ‘Preliminary Safety Assessment’ reported 21 major incidents and 97 minor incidents. In total, 80 of these minor incidents were bikes or skateboards being ridden near or through Garden Place. (p22). “Although most skateboard and bicycle operators are generally competent, older citizens and mothers with children will perceive their activity as threats to safety”. The City Heart response was: “The proposed Garden Place lane [road] is not being proposed as a traffic solution in itself, it seeks primarily to make economic and social gains by opening the area up to greater retail exposure and safety opportunities”.

People biking and skateboarding made up two thirds of the safety incidents that partly justified the “safety opportunities” of having cars drive through Garden Place/Civic Square.

I’m happy to say that now, in 2019, it is normal to have Hamilton’s city leaders supporting biking.

End note:

Operative Sports Parks management plan – REF 353.78099334 HAM – Sep 2009

Page 36 – Section 8.4 of the Parks. Domains and Reserves Bylaw 2007 stipulates the following

No person shall within the limits of any park, except with prior permission of an authorised officer of Council:

  1. Take, drive or ride any vehicle (excluding any wheel chair), or any animal into or in the park except upon such parts set aside specially for such purpose; or
  2. Take, drive or ride any vehicle (excluding any wheel chair), or any animal within any park in such a manner as cause damage to the surface or to any part of such park.
  3. This applies not only to cars (i.e. driving is not allowed except on the roads provided) but also cycling since in law a bicycle is a vehicle. It means, in plain terms, that cycling is banned everywhere in a park except where council specifically allows it. Cycling will therefore only be allowed on paths built to the standards referred to in section 4 and signed as referred to in Policy 3 above.
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How to suppress biking – Brief history from German

By international standards, the bike mode share in Germany is pretty good (*p3), but as a visitor to Germany it felt as though it has lower biking numbers than countries to its north  I believe this is partly caused by a history of over-enforcing rules on where people can and cannot bike. According to the description of the 1934 picture below, ‘the personal details of the “traffic offender” were taken as their bicycle was “driven in the middle of the lane rather than on the extreme right.” According to the Prussian traffic regulations, “cyclists should always drive individually and extremely right.” In the Nazi era, cyclists were seen as an obstacle to traffic that should be driven off the road. An attitude that is unfortunately still widespread’.

* National Cycling Plan 2020

Cyclist in the Chausseestraße, 1934. Photo: Bundesarchiv, picture 183-2004-0512-502

Volker Briese explains the rules in his degree dissertation: Separating bicycle traffic: Towards a history of bikeways in Germany to 1940. This is from pages 11 to 12; please read the full text for context.

‘The new traffic laws in 1934, first in Prussia and then throughout the Third Reich, were announced under the heading “Traffic discipline for all” … New policing regulations for street traffic went into effect on April 1 of that year in Prussia. The mandatory bikeway rule for “bicycle paths” [Fahrradwege] (no longer cycleways [Radfahrwege]) is in: “The parts of the street specially designated for cycling (Fahrradwege) are to be used, if of single width, in one direction and if of double width, in both directions. Otherwise, the roadway must be used.” What is single width is not stated in the regulations themselves. The guideline from STUFA in 1927 was for a minimum of 1m, however the suggested minimum width for two-way cycleway was 1.5m, while the Prussian regulations indicate a double width … In 1938, the #1 “important rule of conduct” is “cyclists must as a matter of principle use cycle-ways.” … This intensive propaganda for the mandatory bikeway law, only in 1934 and later, suggests that cyclists often were dissatisfied with the narrow side paths with cheap and deteriorating surfaces, which had been installed along well-constructed streets, and instead would rather use the roadway. In particular, the legal prohibition on overtaking, and the narrowness of the side paths which made overtaking impossible, or possible only by breaking other laws, often led to conflicts with the police.’

The above Vimeo clip shows that some German people still feel that over-enforcement is suppressing biking. However in other Germany cities (see p. 40^) bike numbers are equal to Dutch cities, and most German cities have many very good examples of biking paths and shared spaces. But this post is about suppressing biking and the photo below is an example we in Hamilton will be familiar with. In Duisburg they just gave up on extending the bike route. Not only that; they could not manage to police ‘feral’ car parking, even though the Parking signage shows over 6oo off-street car parks are available.

^ Making Urban Transport Sustainable: Insights from Germany by Ralph Buehler, Virginia Tech, Alexandria, VA 

For more comment on Germany, the US blog site by Jan Heine provides some photos and thoughts about what he thinks German cyclists want.

Lastly the ‘10 aims’ of Berlin bikers can be found here (Volks-entscheid fahrrad) – because ‘Berlin is turning!’

End note: from ExBerliner – cycling in Berlin: Part 1

Berlin traffic fines: Riding without hands is €5, faulty brakes or bell €15, riding on the pavement €15-30, using a mobile phone €25, running a red light €60-180 (under €120 if the light was red for less than a second), going across a train line when the barrier is closed €350 or death, whatever comes first. The cops can also fine you multiple times (we’ve heard up to €200!) if you run through a street with a double red light, or multiple red lights in a row.

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