How Much Space Do People Take Up in Different Modes of Transport?

Screen capture. PTV Group

Everyone has been showing versions of the City of Muenster poster comparing how much space people take up when they are in cars, buses or bikes. Now here is a new visualization, prepared by Tobias Kretz of the PTV group, a German company that produces software for transportation planning.

This one looks at "how much space each mode of transport needs so that it takes equally long for all modes to have 200 people pass the stop line." To nobody's surprise, cars take up a lot more space and need a lot more width than trains or pedestrians. And they are using 1.5 persons per car; In North America, 76 percent of commuters drive alone.

It is a question that comes up time and time again:

With regard to mobility the question “What is fair and reasonable?” probably no aspect is discussed so emotionally as for bike traffic. And there is indeed a lot to be discussed, since there are actually new developments, not only because of the rise of e-bikes.

In much of North America, the roads are a surveyor's chain wide, or 66 feet. That was plenty when there was nothing but a trail for horses, but now that we have so many competing uses, how do we divide up the limited amount of road allowance among pedestrians, cars and cyclists? We know what the default has been up until now, but as the population and density in cities increases, how do we reallocate?

Toronto's new bike lane

Lloyd Alter/ Toronto's new bike lane, 6:30 AM Monday/CC BY 2.0

It is a question that many cities are trying to deal with, particularly with the increase in demand for separated bike lanes. It would seem pretty obvious that modes of transport that take up less width would get priority, and that on-street parking would be the first thing to go, but it never seems to quite work that way.