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10% cars change to motorcycles means 40% less congestion

Discussion in 'Research, Studies, and Data' started by Vertical C, Feb 15, 2012.

  1. I dont think this has been posted yet as a thread, though i think Rob, commented on it before in an argument we may have been having :) Ill just post it here for future reference so i can find it


    The answer to the world's urban traffic congestion may be as simple as creating policies to promote motorcycle commuting. A detailed study by Belgian consultancy Transport & Mobility Leuven has found that a slight shift in traffic composition from cars to motorcycles significantly reduces traffic congestion and emissions.

    The study, which was presented at the Association des Constructeurs Européens de Motocycles (ACEM) 2012 Conference in Brussels, found that if 10 percent of all private cars were replaced by motorcycles in the traffic flow of the test area, total time losses for all vehicles decreased by 40 percent and total emissions reduced by 6 percent (1 percent from the different traffic composition of more emission-reduced motorcycles and 5 percent from avoided traffic congestion). A 25 percent modal shift from cars to motorcycles was found to eliminate congestion entirely.

    The results came from a case study for a stretch of highway between Leuven and Brussels in Belgium and may not translate directly to other road scenarios, as the report states quite clearly that the effects of a modal shift are dependent on the local traffic situation.

    "The queues that develop at each bottleneck have different characteristics, which are dependent on local circumstances, such as the local traffic demand and the capacity of the local bottleneck and upstream road sections," states the report. "The relationship between the modal shift and the change in traffic flow, the reduction in travel times and the reduction in lost vehicle hours will consequently differ for each location."

    The researchers extrapolated the figures, noting the above, and warning that "extrapolating the results of the case study can therefore only serve as an indication of the order of magnitude of the impact of a global modal shift."

    When the case study results for this small area were extrapolated to Belgium's entire highway highway network, the total time savings for all vehicles was 15,000 hours per day, and that's just in Belgium. The amount of time all of humanity loses in the daily commute must be horrendous, and it might be far more easily managed by the implementation of some pro-motorcycling policies.

    When I first read this research, I immediately thought of Ho Chi Minh (formerly Saigon), the Vietnamese city of 7.5 million people and nearly five million motorcycles, and by far the most motorcycle-dependent traffic environment I have ever seen.

    The narrow streets of 300-year-old Saigon could not function without the enhanced traffic density and traffic flow of the motorcycle. Though cars are still plentiful on Saigon roads, the vast majority of traffic is made up of motorcycles.

    Even in peak hour on the main thoroughfares, where you can sometimes see a tangle of motorcycles for miles in front of you, the traffic flow remains remarkably high.

    Having watched what has happened to the traffic flows of many other Asian cities as the wealth of the population has grown and "progressed" the primary mode of transport through bicycle to motorcycles and hence to cars, I expect the traffic flows of Saigon to plummet unless the same traffic composition is somehow maintained. If cars make up say 10 percent of the traffic on Saigon roads, I suspect a model change of 10 percent from motorcycles to cars would have catastrophic effect on the traffic congestion in the city.

    A big role for smaller vehicles

    The research is yet another indicator that smaller-than-a-car road vehicles will play a much greater role in personal transportation.

    I raised this exact topic last year during a discussion with Chris Borroni-Bird, General Motors' Director of Advanced Technology Vehicle Concepts.

    Over the last decade, Borroni-Bird has led GM's "Reinvention of the Automobile" program, running a series of fascinating projects designing electric and fuel cell vehicles from a clean sheet. The first of these, the AUTOnomy, was shown in 2002 followed by Hi-wire, Sequel and the Personal Urban Mobility and Accessibility (PUMA) project which finally emerged as the EN-V.

    I asked Chris how he saw things playing out across the world with transportation systems and he said he thought the most likely scenario was that rules would be framed city by city, and that a "user pays" system would inevitably evolve which basically saw the user paying for the amount of space their vehicle took up on the roads, and that parking space pricing would also promote smaller vehicles by charging for the amount of space used.

    Quite clearly a change to smaller road vehicles offers the cities that can engineer it a more hospitable environment than those that don't or can't. The inhabitants of those cities will waste less time in transit and the air will be cleaner.

    The report [PDF] and a slide show presentation delivered by the report's author, Isaak Yperman, at the 8th ACEM annual conference are all available online.

    The following video is of Isaak Yperman's presentation at ACEM.
  2. have you learnt never to start an argument with Rob yet, Vert ?
  3. "A 25 percent modal shift from cars to motorcycles was found to eliminate congestion entirely."
  4. I'm suprised it's that bad actually. My observation of Sydney traffic is that it's only the last 5% of cars that cause most of the congestion.

    So my guestimate would be that a 10% switch would solve 90% of the congestion problems.

    Of course Belgium and Australia are different, but a good study for the arsenal.
    • Like Like x 1
  5. It was good to see the vid presentation. That was new. And given that it's a section of freeway, I think it's applicable in many contexts.
  6. Not yet.

    Anyway this is the type of thing that we should be pushing to government to keep bikes as an alternative.

    Though sometimes we maybe should lead with scooters as they don't have the misguided safety stigma.
    • Like Like x 1
  7. How do you define most in this context? A road like m5 is slow from 6 to 930 and completely untravellable from 7 to 9
  8. It is a good question and one for the author of the report too.

    The M5 is probably my reference too. Eastbound in the morning it's getting stop start from 5am these days and doesn't clear until after 10am.

    I guess for me it would be 90% clear if it were only just banking a little at King Goerges and flowing along the rest of the length.

    I think that is achievable with a minor drop in traffic, because once it goes into stop-start it always seems much worse than it did 10 minutes ago. The reality however is there are only a few extra cars.

  9. It's important to note that the bikes in the study were filtering.
    In order to get the level of benefit in the study we need legalised filtering in addition to increased bike use.

    The study provides good data for pushing for both.
  10. Where're Maurice Blackburn? They might be interested in this too.
  11. Agree with this and not just on the safety stigma grounds. Scooters are (rightly or wrongly) regarded as less "mechanical" than bikes and so have potentially greater appeal to the non-enthusiast who is just looking for an alternative to their clean, convenient, low-maintenance modern car. Hot exposed exhausts, oily open chains and visible suspension components are, anecdotally at least, a major turn-off for this demographic. Scooters, even big, fast scooters, hide all that.
  12. It doesn't quite fit into the SMIDSY paradigm.
  13. I recall from some unknown source that for uninterrupted flow, vehicle capacity at a merge must be less than around 2000 cars per hour - maybe slightly more. Any more than this will slow traffic progressively with backward ripple effects. Where everything turns to hell is when the ripples reach the merge behind and slow that one independent of traffic - which sends volume shooting up immediately. I would hazard a guess that this number would be around 2500 to 3000. Current peak on m5 is around 4000 cars per hour. The fact is that m5 will always be a congestion magnet - widening to road will only double the amount of cars.

    What must be considered is the effect that congestion on m5 has on surrounding road arteries. Whenever the m5 gets closed down in peak hour the whole southern half of sydney gets shut down in people attempting to avoid the mess it creates. everything from the Hume to Canterbury, Stoney Creek, Prince's, Gen Holmes and Grand Parade roads all become gridlock. Even as much as Paramatta Rd could be affected. Similarly a 10% drop of traffic on m5 (or rather 10% more cars) could significantly lighten those roads in a similar fashion. Would make for an interesting case study but reality is it won't become much more than that, not until the removal of red lights is mandated.
    • Like Like x 1
  14. What do you mean?
  15. Red lights are designed to manage cars not bikes and only function in comparatively small urban areas. In heavier populated areas they only increase congestion not regulate it. Getting as many as 10% on two wheels well only happen when its forced. As much a five percent may make the move willingly but I doubt ten will.

    If we remove red lights from intersections cars become utterly impractical. Bikes on the other hand come into their own completely being so small and manoeuvrable. Case in point any dense Asian urban area. I don't see any other catalyst strong enough to get the required number onto bikes. But to get there would take something drastic, our population is not yet big enough.
  16. I'm old enough to remember when intersection tended not to have lights. Bikes were more cost effective and easier to get a lisence for then and I dont' remember a lot more bikes. The only thing I remember is many kilometer long queues in the middle of suburbia.

    Although I think they are too keen to put them in these days

    • reasonable total rego costs
    • footpath parking in all states
    • bus lanes in all states
    • No tolls
    • Formally legalise filtering
    • Youth permit riding for smaller capacity scooters and bikes (like Europe)
    • Reduced P period for those that hold a car license
    • Government pressure on the spares industry
    • Positive safety initiatives from the government

    I think there are a lot of people out there that would like to ride if they could, but there are a lot of annoying deterrents and unreasonable fears.

    How many of us have been approached by people that say, "I'm thinking of riding to work but . . .". Or, "I used to ride, but . . ."?
  17. I think parking is the key. If there is none for cars, but is for bikes you will see a change. At the moment but the bike parking is often at capacity in cbds of sydney. This would be cheap and quick to change some signs.
  18. When I used to work at my previous place, I used to drive to work every day (before I got a bike). I would find that some days, traffic was just awesome, and you'd drive in no problems. There seemed to still be quite a few cars around, but, it just flowed. There seemed to be 2 times when this would occur. During school holidays (we were right near the Monash UNI) and it seemed on some mondays. I later found out that some union (CFMEU or some such) had their RDO rostered every second monday, or 1 per month or something. Can't remember. Anyway, my point is that it didn't take a MASSIVE change in traffic volume for the traffic to flow much better. As stated, we might find that a 5% shift gives us what we need for better traffic flow. The issue would continue to be wet days. They already suck, cause people who take public transport often drive instead, and people who ride may also drive.