County protests Bergen allowing outdoor dining on crowded sidewalks – NRK Vestland

County protests Bergen allowing outdoor dining on crowded sidewalks – NRK Vestland

Spring fills the air in Bergen.

And so beer glasses and glasses appear on sidewalk cafes. So does the debate over outdoor dining in the city.

– It is unfortunate that outdoor dining areas get more space than municipal rules allow, says Mats Corneliussen in the Vestland district municipality.

Photo: Leif Rune Loland/NRK

– Too crowded for a lot of people

– Severe crowding of pedestrians on several central sidewalks in downtown Bergen.

This is according to Mats Corneliussen, head of the road department of the Vestland District Council in the Bergen region.

He's standing on the sidewalk along the square. There, a large number of pedestrians, cyclists and strollers compete with outdoor diners for space. Additionally, this is a busy bus station.

He thinks it's unfortunate that every summer outdoor restaurants get more sidewalk space than municipal rules allow.

– Sidewalks are designated for light road users. It should be wide enough so they can reach safely.

A crowded square in Bergen.

In addition to its many pedestrian and open-air restaurants, Torget has busy bus stops.

Photo: Leif Rune Loland/NRK

Narrow sidewalks in the “walking city”

Both in the municipal plan and “Walking strategy” It says priority should be given to pedestrians, cyclists and public transport in the municipality of Bergen. But this year – As in previous years – will The municipality grants an exemption so that outdoor restaurants can use more sidewalk space than municipal rules allow.

The rule is actually that outdoor seating can only use up to one meter of sidewalk width, and only if there are still three meters of free width for pedestrians and cyclists on the sidewalk.

A year ago, the county board wrote that Bergen had to end the practice of exemption. However, the city council wants to move forward with allowing outdoor dining to escape the one-metre rule.

Al fresco dining at Torget in central Bergen.

Outdoor dining has begun at Torget. It then becomes a “narrow lane” for pedestrians.

Photo: Leif Rune Loland/NRK

– Yes, we will continue to grant the exemptions that we have had so far, because it is a successful procedure, and there have been no complaints or problems in implementation, says Urban Development Council Advisor Christine Kahrs (h).

She promised the business community plenty of sidewalk space this year as well.

– We will allow up to three metres, but this must not interfere with pedestrians who then have to step out onto the road. I will take care of that.

– Why it should be a self-proclaimed walking city Who says priority should be given to walking Restricting space for pedestrians in violation of their own rules?

– There is no problem everywhere. “The bottom line is we want to support businesses,” Kahrs says.

“Crowd detection” using artificial intelligence

Now, Vestland County Council has helped Traffic enumeration, video mapping and artificial intelligence Documented How crowded and trafficked it is For pedestrians and cyclists on sidewalks along county roads with outdoor seating in downtown Bergen.

pedestrian.  Bicycle movements in central Bergen are documented using KI.

The AI ​​visualization shows very heavy traffic along the square.

Photo: Vestland District Municipality

-It's a very exciting tool and a new method that I will continue to use. “I think we did a pretty good job of identifying the need for sidewalk width,” Corneliussen says.

Vestland believes that a similar comprehensive survey has never been conducted in Norway before.

Measurements show that there is significant pedestrian traffic along Bryggen and Torget.

-There are times of the day when a lot of people decide to go out on the road. Which is something I don't want at all.

In Kaigaten, cycling on the sidewalk means that a good view is needed, because there is a ban on cycling on the light rail tracks there. The width of the sidewalk is particularly narrow on these stretches.

Traffic of pedestrians and cyclists generated by the KI at Kaigaten in Bergen.

Pedestrian and bicycle traffic in Kaigaten is shown using KI. Yellow lines indicate pedestrians, red lines indicate cyclists.

Photo: Vestland District Municipality

New requirements

Based on these documents, the county council has now set rules on how much of the sidewalk should be open to pedestrians and cyclists, depending on how “busy” the sidewalk is at most:

  • More than 1000 pedestrians per hour: 4 metres
  • Under 1000 pedestrians: 3.5 metres
  • Under 500 pedestrians: 3 metres
  • Under 250 pedestrians: 2.5 metres

In Bergen city centre, this means that only traffic on the sidewalk in Torget requires 4 meters of free sidewalk width.

In addition, the county council will now grant businesses a permit for outdoor dining for two summer seasons in a row, whereas until now they had to reapply each year.

This makes requirements more flexible, more stringent, and more predictable in the business world, Corneliussen says.

First day of casting in Torgalmeiningen, full of people

First casting day in Torgallmenningen in June 2023.

Photo: Benjamin Dyrdal/NRK

Sidewalk view in Norwegian cities

It's not just Bergen that's experiencing a debate over outdoor dining versus cool road users.

Oslo changes the width requirements on sidewalks according to the volume of traffic on the sidewalk. Outdoor dining is possible when the sidewalk is at least 3.5 meters wide, or less “when city traffic conditions permit.” But in any case, there must be “at least 2.0 meters of free sidewalk width for pedestrians when the outdoor seating area is removed.”

Stavanger requires a 2-meter-wide free passage zone on sidewalks, and recommends at least 6 meters of space where goods are delivered.

Trondheim generally requires a distance of 3 meters or more where there are many pedestrians or cyclists.

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Hanisi Anenih

Hanisi Anenih

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