Cycling
April 22, 2019

Councillor Pete Fry, Slower Speeds in the ‘Hood, and Why This All Makes Sense

I have been advocating for slower vehicular speeds in neighbourhoods to make communities safer, more comfortable and convenient for vulnerable road users. I also have been writing about  the impact on communities elsewhere that have adopted 30 kilometer per hour as the default speed in municipalities.

The Scottish Parliament is considering a bill to  lower speed limits to 20 miles per hour (equivalent to 30 km/h) in all cities, towns and villages. That is a reduction from the currently accepted 30 miles per hour (50 km/h). London and several counties in the United Kingdom that have adopted the slower speeds within their city limits have seen vehicular deaths decline by 20 percent, and serious  injury also substantially decline.

City of Vancouver Councillor Pete Fry has introduced a motion asking that Council support a resolution to the Union of British Columbia Municipalities to lobby the Province to amend the Motor Vehicle Act “to a default speed limit of 30 kilometers per hour for local streets with municipalities enabled to increase speed limits on local streets in a case-by-case basis by by-laws and posted signage.” Councillor Fry has also requested that staff identify an area of Vancouver to pilot a 30 km/h speed limit, report back on the strategy, and implement the slower speed in that neighbourhood area to ascertain the effectiveness of the policy.

This is not the first 30 kilometers per hour rodeo going to the Union of British Columbia Municipalities. The City of New Westminster and Councillor Patrick Johnstone headed up such a request a few years back.  What really needs to happen is for this initiative to leave the purview of the municipalities and be seriously considered by Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Claire Trevena who can give authorization for the change to the Motor Vehicle Act.

The beauty of a blanket implementation of the residential neighbourhoods is that there will not be a huge capital cost to create signage everywhere indicating how fast you can move on which street. While arterial roads would remain at 50 km/h, the local serving streets  within Vancouver  neighbourhoods could  all be 30 km/h.

This is also City of Vancouver City Council’s opportunity to correct the term “Vision Zero”. During the Vision Party’s majority they did not want the term “Vision Zero” in Vancouver’s reports  (which refers to the Swedish approach adopted in 1997 to achieve zero road deaths) to be used for political reasons.

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A few years back I wrote about the magic of the Idaho Stop.  In Idaho traffic laws were revised in 1982 with an innovative bicycle code that allowed  “bicyclists to do a “rolling stop” instead of a dead halt at stop signs~treating the “stop sign” like a “yield” sign. Some cyclists and police officers advocated for an amendment to this law which was passed in 2006. The amendment stated that cyclists must stop on red lights, and must yield before proceeding straight or making a left turn at an intersection. The benefits of the Idaho Stop according to two studies are that safety is improved, and cyclists can move to see around obstacles, lessening car collisions. “

You would think that this aptly named Idaho Stop would just be a good thing for cyclists to practice, keeping themselves safe and at the same time allowing them to review exactly what is happening in an intersection. They are not legal in British Columbia, as many a ticketed cyclist can attest. It is puzzling that the adoption of the Idaho Stop has been painfully slow, with even New York City’s Doug Gordon the co-host of “The War on Cars”podcast wondering why rolling stops are not allowed in T intersections.

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Speed kills in cities, and in Great Britain many cities are considering lowering speed limits within their jurisdictions to save lives and reduce injuries under the banner “20 (miles per hour) is plenty”. Portland Oregon as part of its commitment to eliminate all road deaths by 2025 has adopted the Vision Zero approach, accepting no road deaths as acceptable on their street networks.

Last year the city of Portland Oregon lowered the speed limits on their municipal road system from a default speed of 25 miles per hour to 20 miles per hour, or 32 kilometers per hour. In one year, the results are starting to come in, with a death toll on the roads of 34 people in 2018, a reduction from the 45 lives lost in 2017 before the reduced speeds.

There is sea change in the United States regarding road safety. A University of Chicago  poll of 2,000 U.S. residents  showed that 60 percent were “were supportive of using speed and red-light cameras as an automated enforcement tool. Sixty-nine percent of those polled said they would support lowering a speed limit by 5 miles per hour if it was justified with crash data.”

Lowering road speeds in cities has a remarkable impact on crash survival rates for vulnerable road users~a pedestrian has a 20 percent survival rate being crashed into at 30 miles per hour. That increases to 70 percent at 25 miles per hour and to 90 percent at 20 miles per hour. In the United States municipal speed limits are set by each state or territory, with the default speed being 25 miles per hour or 40 kilometers per hour.

The cities of Portland and Eugene have been looking at the safety system and Vision Zero approach embraced by European countries like the Netherlands and Sweden in making their cities safer. A “context-sensitive approach that emphasizes safety for vulnerable road users will lead to safer outcomes on streets in urban areas” 

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Trust Dan Fumano in his Vancouver Sun article to wade right into the ongoing NIMBY and YIMBY discussions which in many ways mirror what we all think is happening on the west side of the City of Vancouver.  In his article (and you should read the comments on-line) a group of older articulate residents express their displeasure with the potential for a new five storey building on the site of the old St. Marks Church at Second and Larch in deepest darkest Kitsilano.

This application for 1805 Larch Street is for a 66 foot tall five storey building that will have 63 secured rental units which will be built under the City of Vancouver’s Moderate Income Rental Housing Pilot Program (MIRHPP). What this means is that 20 percent of the building will be for “moderate income” renters, those earning between $30,000 and $80,000 annually. In total the building will have 19 studios, 16 one-bedrooms, 20 two-bedrooms, and eight three-bedroom apartments, with underground parking and a rooftop patio.

In the rezoning application for the three lot site, Metric Architecture describes the church as disused for ecclesiastical services, but notes that its location and site lends itself for moderate income family accommodation.

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London leads in the intersection of  health and transportation planning for safer, healthier cities.  Asthma is a lung disease where the airways of the lungs are swollen and  inflamed, making it harder to breathe.  London, United Kingdom is the first city in the world  introducing ULEZ zones in the inner city. ULEZ stands for Ultra-Low Emission Zone and as reported in the Guardian implementation of this zone will “reduce the 36,000 deaths caused in the UK every year by outdoor pollution.”

London is wasting no time with the zone change happening on April 8. The World Health Organization has identified outdoor air pollution as  causing over 4.2 million premature deaths in low, middle and high income countries around the world. In cities particulates from diesel engines enters the bloodstream and damages heart and circulatory systems, impacting the most vulnerable and low-income. Since London estimates  50 percent of air pollution is from vehicles and 40 percent of that from diesel vehicles, charging more for diesel vehicles’ access to the centre city should be a deterrent and have healthy consequences.

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An American named Bill Heine moved  to Oxford Great Britain and ran two cinemas. This gentleman had studied law before turning to running movie houses.

But in 1986 Mr. Heine had a Big Idea and commissioned a fibreglass shark which he craned to the top of his house. The timing of his installation of a headless shark on the roof of his 1860 British townhouse was the  “41st anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bomb on Nagasaki.” The piece was created by artist John Buckley.

The shark weighs 400 pounds and is 25 feet from its headless body to its tail.  As this web page on the Hedlington Shark attests  the placing of such a large object on the roof of a pretty ordinary residence sprung the local Oxford city council to action.

First city council said the shark had to go because it was a dangerous hazard. But when the shark installation was inspected, it was carefully installed and was safe. Then Council used Section 22 of the Town and Country Planning Act that had no provision for the placement of large things like sharks on roofs within the municipality.

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Design editor Lloyd Alter of Tree Hugger sums up what is truly happening in the “sharing the road” adage that is so popular these days. As Lloyd recalls in this article in Mnn.com  “Everyone hates everyone”. That is a pretty true statement and we have to do a better job and get that done now.

 Lloyd Alter states “Unless we start planning now and figuring out how to share the space we have equitably, in 10 years it won’t be drivers hating pedestrians hating cyclists, It will be everybody hating old people. Because we will be everywhere.”

It really is not about a demographic time bomb of old people showing up on adult tricycles scooting along bike lanes. It is really about our discussion on why when talking about sharing space, we still pit pedestrians against cyclists, giving vehicular users a relatively free pass to the rest of the street without much discussion.

I wrote about the unfortunate bicycle crash that happened with City of Vancouver’s Transportation manager (and all around nice guy) Dale Bracewell who suffered a shattered elbow when a vehicle literally debiked him.  Both Lloyd Alter and Dale quoted the just released study from Australia which suggests that many motorists don’t see cyclists as real people and vulnerable road users with as much right to the road space as they do. You can take a look at that study here.

If you have been a cyclist or a pedestrian in Australian cities you will know it is still a bit like the wild west, with vehicles having priority on streets, and state government at odds with the big cities who want to traffic calm on state run road networks and give pedestrians priority at signalized intersections.

Of course there are issues between cyclists and pedestrians as well.

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It’s not over until it’s over and Peter Ladner has forwarded this article from Business in Vancouver reporting that GCT Canada Limited (that’s Global Container Terminals) wants the Federal Court to make a decision regarding plans to grow container cargo handling capacity at Deltaport.

As I have previously written “Environment and Climate Change Canada’s statement to the Canadian Environment Assessment Agency clearly outlined the catastrophic impact of a new terminal eradicating this sandpiper feeding area…  finally, Environment Canada has come out with a definitive statement that should stop this project in its tracks.” 

That 2 to 3 billion dollar Terminal 2 would also mean creating a reclaimed paved over industrial island of 108 hectares (266 acres) west of the existing Deltaport, supposedly in water deep enough not to impact the sensitive migratory bird and intertidal habitat.

So the good news was that Global Container Terminal who leases the docks from Deltaport had stated that the Terminal 2 complex proposed at Roberts Bank was “outmoded and no longer viable.” But of course GCT has  now dropped their new manifesto, and you can kind of see where they are going in the following  words:

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It is a bit of a 21st century thing~when a city hall staffer looks like they had been in a bar fight it usually is the result of a bike crash.. But it was extremely troubling news when the City of Vancouver’s transportation manager Dale Bracewell who was cycling to work from the north shore took the full brunt of road rage from a driver who sped off after knocking Dale off his bike.

Dale Bracewell is simply a nice guy and his kids’ dad as well as doing a lot of work advocating for safer streets for cyclists in Vancouver. Dale took to Twitter on Thursday morning stating

 “Today this was so real as an aggressive driver knocked me over while I was biking to work,I’m in the hospital right now getting x-rays. I still am in shock that a driver did something like this. Thanks to all who cared for me after the car knocked me over.”

Dale also did the right thing by not describing what happened but contacting the Vancouver Police Department and ICBC ( Insurance Corporation of British Columbia) to immediately follow-up. And that driver who left the scene after knocking Dale off his bicycle is responsible for Dale’s fractured elbow.

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