Cycling
May 31, 2020

That New Bike Lane Smell

The striping is on the asphalt like a new suit of well-cut clothes: It makes the Richards Bike Lane look smart.  This is the street engineer as designer and tailor.

 

What’s different about this one over Dunsmiur and Hornby?

Trees.

 

Imagine cycling on the Hornby Bike Lane past Robson Square … two rows of trees to one side, a gothic frame for the sidewalk.

 

Now imagine cycling with trees on both sides.

Voila, Richards.

 

 

 

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From Jeff Leigh of HUB, with photos by Clark.

Construction continues on Richards Street, with the new protected bi-directional bike lanes.  These lanes replace the painted lanes that were one way, and will provide valuable connections to our downtown cycling network.

Construction is underway from Cordova to Nelson.  This summer City crews will shift to the southern end of Richards and complete the improvements through to Pacific Boulevard..

Details here.

The planter boxes for the new street trees. (There are 100 trees planned.)

PT: Planning and construction for Richards did not take decades obviously, but the route to get to this point goes back to the 1970s when, after lobbying and advocacy by many of our two-wheeled pioneers, the first vision was developed by the cycling advisory committee and then approved by Council in the early 1980s.  From there, it took decades more to approve funding in capital plans, to develop specific work plans, to evolve ever more advanced designs (particularly the separated bi-directional routes pioneered on Dunsmuir Street), and to commit to a completely integrated network not only through downtown but across the city and region. That may take decades more.

But as the Beach Flow Way and the new Slow Streets show, it’s possible to advance a decades-long vision in a matter of months.  They, however, are temporary and experimental.  When you start pouring concrete, it’s best to have done the detail work only possible by building on the work of generations past.

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As part of its covid response, the City is providing “Room to Queue” – the reallocation of curb lanes next to essential businesses like grocery stores that use adjacent sidewalks for line-ups.  As seen in this example, sent in by Dianna, the lane in front of Urban Fare in Yaletown allows pedestrians enough distance to bypass the otherwise crowded sidewalk.

Here’s a video of the queue lane in front of Urban Fare in Yaletown: UF queue (1)

The use of your basic traffic barriers allows a quick if not exactly aesthetic response in an emergency.  Here’s an opportunity for Jimmy Pattison’s chain, Urban Fare, to commission artists, as did the Downtown Vancouver BIA with those plywood window hoardings, to add some fun, colour and comment to the street.

Notice, as well, the signage on the parking meters, providing a self-evident notice that they aren’t going to be in use anytime soon.  Maybe never.

This is a space that’s not likely to return to its pre-March-2020 condition.  Urban Fare may expand their outdoor seating and display spaces more comfortably on the sidewalk now that there is breathing room.  Maybe an outdoor art gallery?  E-bike charging?   They, along with their customers and neighbours, may decide that this makes far better use of the asphalt than redundant car parking.  (There’s more than the store actually needs in the underground garage.)

A return of the taxi stand is in order, but now there’s room for many of the other increasing demands on curb space.  Indeed, that one parking lane, as lucrative as it is for the City in meter revenues, is far more valuable for current and coming uses* that will need curb access.

Put it on the list of ‘things that we need to do in a post-covid city’:  The curb lane is no longer for parking of vehicles by default – one use among many that may be of greater importance to the community.

 

* Here’s one that also comes to mind: If the current bus fleet loses capacity due to distancing requirements, buses could make up some of the difference with transit-only lanes that have in the past been resisted (West Vancouver R2, Georgia Street permanently, not just in rush hours). 

 

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At the very moment when Vancouver Council was discussing and approving Lisa Dominato’s motion to move forward on a network of slow streets, I was cycling on the first ones – the streets from New Brighton to Queen Elizabeth Park.  It’s essentially the linking of the Gladstone Bikeway with the Ridgeway Greenway – hence fast and cheap to do ($2 a kilometre – not a misprint) and in place even before the motion was passed.

It was a nostalgic experience.  I was on Council when the Ridgeway Greenway was opened, so it’s wonderful to still be around as it, like me, tries to age well.  Indeed, not much has changed: still the same route through streets, parks and lanes, with still the same public art and amenities (like the wonderful Windsor Castle children’s sand box.)*

It’s only some of the signage that is showing wear and tear.

The greatest change: the turnover in housing – mainly just one (seemingly) single-family house for another.  But the quality and design of that housing clearly demonstrates the change in cost and class that has crossed over Cambie into the East Side.

From still-intact Vancouver Specials …

.. to the latest version of the McMansion:

What was possibly the most surprising discovery was tə cecəw (The Beach) at 137 East 37th – a social housing project of 46 studio units operated by Coast Mental Health and funded by BC Housing.  (Remember the controversy over this one?  I don’t either.)

It’s classed as “temporary modular housing” – but doesn’t look temporary.  (I’d recognize the designer, but don’t know who it is.  Please add below if you know.)

What was the use on the slow streets on a weekeday afternoon?  Modest, intermittent, but a good mix.  Lots of kids.  I especially liked the mother and daughter tackling one of the steepest hills.

On the way home, I headed down the Ontario Bikeway – joining a continual stream of cyclists on one of the heaviest used cycling arterials in the city.  But, with an almost total absence of cars, a quiet experience.  Here’s what I heard in order of their volume: human voices passing by, a lawn mower, the sound of bike tires on asphalt, birds.  (Oh wait, a car a block away.  Nope, it’s gone.)

 

*Thanks to the pioneers who made it possible – from Moura Quayle who chaired the Greenways Task Force to staff (like our own Sandy James) who implemented the vision.

 

 

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Everyone has been enjoying bluer skies, better views, great sunsets and better air quality with the reduction of vehicular and air traffic during the Covid crisis. ,Mount Everest is visible from the city of Kathmandu for the first time this century, even though it is 240 kilometers away.

In short, air quality has vastly improved in cities during the time of quarantine. BBC News reports that vehicle drivers are also willing to change their behaviour to maintain cleaner air and to be more environmentally prudent.

In Britain the lack of vehicular traffic resulted in a  17%  reduction in carbon dioxide emissions  recorded in  early April. Surface emissions from industry and brake dust were reduced by 43 percent.

In a survey of 20,000 drivers conducted by the British Automobile Association, fifty percent said they were willing to walk more, and forty percent intended to use their car less frequently. Remarkably 80 percent of those drivers surveyed said they would “take some action to reduce their impact on air quality”.

Just as in the national  Canadian survey  conducted by  Mario Canseco,  many Britons expect to continue working from home. While 73 percent  of Canadians expect to continue to  work from home, 25 percent of Britons driving said they would work more often from home, while twenty percent said they would be cycling more.

Edmund King, president of the British Automobile Association stated

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At the City of Vancouver where Council meetings  are turning out to be more of a cave spelunking expedition through the finer points of  Robert’s  Rules of Order, there’s been   well meaning motions to consider alcohol in public places and parks. The point ably made is that in terms of equity, not everyone has their own back yard  or outside space to drink a beer in during the pandemic.  Of course lots of people are already ingeniously decanting and imbibing in parks and public spaces, it’s just not sanctioned. Yet.

Master of municipalities CBC’s Justin McElroy has a two minute video on the CBC twitter site mulling over the possibility of “you being able to crack open a cold one in a place like Dude Chilling Park”.

One main  point missing in this idea of allowing individuals to carry their own alcoholic beverages to beaches, parks and city spaces.  People drinking alcohol will need to use washroom facilities more frequently. Where are the washrooms?

I have written over several years about why we need to have accessible public washrooms because every member of the public needs to go. It seems odd that during the pandemic we should not  be considering the universal installation of drinking fountain/water bottle stations, hand washing facilities, and of course, public washrooms before any provision regarding alcohol.

Lloyd Alter in Tree Hugger is even blunter, saying that we have to stop building roads and start building bathrooms. He equates the lack of washrooms with that of the budget for highways: “Authorities say providing public washrooms can’t be done because it would cost “hundreds of millions” but never have a problem spending billions on the building of highways for the convenience of drivers who can drive from home to the mall where there are lots of washrooms. The comfort of people who walk, people who are old, people who are poor or sick — that doesn’t matter.”

Lloyd Alter points out that post pandemic  washrooms that are touchless and sterilized will be important, and private companies, Starbucks and shopping stores  are not responsible for providing them.

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There’s finally more information about Vancouver’s Slow Streets in a press release that came out Monday, but still no overall “route map” available on the City’s website.The intent is to have Slow Streets on roads that are wide enough to maintain resident parking, and also allow for local vehicle access. The new Director of Transportation, the well respected and capable  Paul Storer is leading this work.

Vehicles will be temporarily sharing the road with pedestrians, rollers and cyclists on fifty kilometers of “Slow Streets”.  The  first twelve kilometers have already been opened, as described in  this article   by Gordon Price.

Gordon talks about the  Lakewood, Ridgeway and Wall Street sections of Slow Streets. The streets have jersey barriers of different kinds either on the street or at the street’s side, indicating that it is a slower street, with  repurposing for walkers, rollers and cyclists to maintain physical distancing.

There are two reasons for doing this: one, to facilitate  destination oriented routes for people not in vehicles; and second, to provide a way for families and others to exercise in a safer environment with physical distancing that could not be met on the sidewalks.

This presentation on the Covid-19 Mobility and Public Life Response which was given to Council last week provides  more background and rationale for the City’s response. In a survey conducted in April, the City found that walking downtown had declined by 40 to 50 percent, commuter cycling had declined by 35 to 50 percent, and transit usage had declined by 80 percent.  And if you see less vehicles downtown, you are right~there’s 48 percent less vehicles coming in and out of the downtown, with a 39 percent decline of vehicles coming in and out of Vancouver as a whole compared to April 2019.

The City’s three pronged approach besides the “Room to Move” outlined above also includes “Room to Queue” which is  providing expanded street space for people to queue outside of businesses. This can mean taking over the parking lane if needed outside of businesses. And to facilitate deliveries, “Room to Load” will provide special priority loading zones for business deliveries. The City also intends to work with local businesses to provide expanded patio spaces on road surfaces, with that information promised for next week.

While there is a graduated approach to opening businesses and services, it is expected that the use of private vehicles in the post-Covid city  could dramatically increase in the short term. For some, automobiles are seen as “safe, secure” types of travel. The intent of these Slow Street measures to facilitate easier travel by walking, rolling and cycling is to provide potential alternatives towards a more “equitable and sustainable transportation system”. 

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Seaside Greenway: all the paths along the waterfront, from Coal Harbour to Spanish Banks.

One of the best continual waterfront pathways in the world. The result of a century and a half of political commitment and constant addition.

In the 1990s, separated routes were state-of-the-art design as the Seaside enveloped False Creek.  Vancouverism at its best.  (Examples in the video above.)

Certainly a new standard for active transportation.

David Lam Park Seaside Extension – 1998

Vancouver loved it.  A generation of cyclists, runners, walkers was raised on it, of every age and agility.

But the road-like design was not a standard some park board commissioners were comfortable with, reflecting the general anxiety Vancouverites feel when it  comes to paving paradise.  In Kitsilano Park, they stopped trying.

Nonetheless, Seaside was connecting up. More kilometres opened every year in the nineties, the region was building a network in the 2000s, the Bikeway Network was in full bloom. Add in downtown bike lanes, Burrard Bridge, Point Grey Road.  Growth was inevitable.

Like any attractive and free transportation option, it began to fill up.  But we weren’t anywhere near incoherent congestion.  Wheel and feet got along pretty well on Seaside – except in some of the parks.  And there was still room for tourists.

Then, March of 2020.  Overnight we found out what our very own latent demand was when Park Drive and Beach Avenue became Flow Ways*.

Vancouver immediately experienced the difference, and they liked it.

Best of all, it took the pressure off the seawall. If the Beach Flow Way didn’t exist, those bicycles would be back in places like this:

 

How could deliberately doing that be defended? It probably can’t.

Basically, there’s no status quo to return to.  Now we have to design successfully for the world we are believe we are in.

As the awareness of the future of Seaside is developing, the summer will progress. And it will be just us Vancouverites on Seaside  There are no tourists.

By fall, if we’re responsive and there’s a will for more change, we’ll have essentially designed the next stage of Seaside.

 

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America Walks is hosting a new webinar,  In Praise of Walking: A New Scientific Exploration – a conversation with author and neuroscientist Shane O’Mara.

Author Shane O’Mara has just released  ‘In Praise of Walking: A New Scientific Exploration’. As a neuroscientist and walking advocate, O’Mara takes us on an evolutionary journey through how we started walking, the magical mechanics of it, and how we find our way around the world. It also explores walking in relation to repairing our mental and social health, sparking creativity, and how walking in concert can be coupled with critical policy change.

This one-on-one webinar is sure to inform your walking and walkability work and ethos, and we have built in ample time for questions and answers. This webinar is intended for those just starting out on the walking path as well as those interested in learning more about the topic.

Shane O’Mara is Professor of Experimental Brain Research (Personal Chair) at Trinity College, Dublin – the University of Dublin. He is a Principal Investigator in the Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience and is also a Wellcome Trust Senior Investigator. His research explores the brain systems supporting learning, memory, and cognition, and also the brain systems affected by stress and depression, and he has published more than 140 peer-reviewed papers in these areas.
He is a graduate of the National University of Ireland – Galway, and of the University of Oxford (DPhil). Heis an elected Fellow of the Association for Psychological Science (USA), and an elected Member of the Royal Irish Academy.

Webinar Date/Time: June 3rd, 2020

Time: 10 a.m. Pacific Time

REGISTER HERE at this link.

You can learn more about America Walks and this webinar here.

 

 

 

 

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