Cycling
October 31, 2019

Vancouver Impressions: Cascadian Guest Post

In September, Michael Anderson, senior researcher with Sightline Institute (Cascadia’s sustainability think tank), and Kiel Johnson, founder and operator of Portland’s Go By Bike (North America’s largest bike valet) visited Vancouver as part of a two-family touring holiday.

Anderson and Johnson rented a van to get to Vancouver because, well, kids and stuff. Plus, it was much cheaper and faster than the train. Whatever to do about that?

Gord invited the duo to write about their trip, and they did — in dialogue form.

Says Anderson: “I think we could have gone on for pages about things we saw and thought about the city, but Kiel rightly suggested keeping it pretty narrow.”

First impressions about Vancouver? How is Portland doing for cycling? What were the disappointments?

(Canadian spellings added for clarity.)

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Councillor Tony Vallente sends in this post from the City of North Vancouver, in anticipation of the new RapidBus service to Moodyville and through CNV.  Click title for helpful illustration  

As previously suggested in Dan Ross’s post More than Enough in Moodyville, a multi-year transformation is underway in the North Vancouver.  The arrival of the Marine Drive RapidBus delayed from Spring 2019 to early 2020 is very much underway.

A complete street is taking place on East 3rd Avenue in the City of North Vancouver, with space allocated for walking on sidewalks, a Mobility Lane, a dedicated bus lane (currently used as parking, all hail Shoup!), and a lane for cars.

A Mobility Lane is CNV lingo for a space that serves bikes, electric mobility devices, e-scooters, and probably other stuff we do not know will exist in the near future. (Councillors McIlroy and I passed a motion in July asking staff to prioritize segments of the City’s AAA cycling network as Mobility Lanes.)

The City of North Vancouver has been very diligent about attaining adequate space along the East 3rd corridor for years and that vision is now coming to fruition as the new Moodyville will be well served by RapidBus and also have space for alternate modes.

If the change in Moodyville to complete streets seems insufficient, look at Chesterfield at 3rd Street where a new development included a segment of off road. This is the new standard for bike routes in the City.  As more people use them with an increasingly diverse number of transportation devices, we can expect the outcry for a more complete transportation network to grow.

Transportation options in North Vancouver are beginning to be plentiful.

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Dean A sent in this article from The Guardian, with readers’ photos of the best and worst of the world’s bike lanes.  Here are the worst, because they’re much more appalling than the good ones are great.  (Click title for all the photos.)

To begin with a classic from Bucharest:

 

“This photo was taken in Bhubaneswar in eastern India where part of a street was recently painted for cycling but garbage has been dumped on it.”

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… or at least Italy, from where John Graham reports:

In the south of Italy – here in Sorrento at the end of the Amalfi coast – the e-bike with fat tires is taking over. And not by the mountain-biker demographic, as you can see from the front basket and rear child seat.

This bike on the main pedestrian shopping street is their version of the mini SUV. The fat tires are for the rough and variable cobblestones.

The rider was a woman in her 40’s who got off and went into the cosmetic shop behind.

 

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I have been writing about how SUVs and trucks which make up 60 percent of all vehicle purchases have been responsible for a 46 percent increase in pedestrian deaths.

Never doubt the power and strength of the motor vehicle lobby. A SUV  (sport utility vehicle) is a vehicle built on a truck platform with a “high profile” on the street. Statistics show that SUVs with the high front end grille are twice as likely to kill pedestrians because of the high engine profile, but this information has not been well publicized. In the United States a federal initiative to include pedestrian crash survival into the vehicle ranking system was halted by opposing automakers.

It was the City of London England that banned a certain type of truck when the city realized that it was responsible for 50 per cent of all cycling mortalities and over 20 per cent of all pedestrian deaths. Of course there was pushback, but the Mayor of London just said no.

Laura Laker  in  the Guardian  now asks the question~is it time to ban SUVs from our cities? SUVs are heavily marketed and are highly profitable for car companies, but they are also deadly. Drivers have an 11 percent increase in the chance of fatality in them, as their size and bulk is connected with more reckless driving. They are also killing machines in the conventional sense. In September a SUV driver in Berlin lost control of his vehicle and killed four people on a sidewalk, a grandmother and grandson and two twenty year old men.

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Dean A recommended this piece in the New York Times:

Among the safety measures proposed by car companies are encouraging pedestrians and bicyclists to use R.F.I.D. tags, which emit signals that cars can detect. This means it’s becoming the pedestrian’s responsibility to avoid getting hit. But if keeping people safe means putting the responsibility on them (or worse, criminalizing walking and biking), we need to think twice about the technology we’re developing. …

 

Peter Ladner was motivated to write this response with respect to our bike routes:

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While enjoying a few days in our provincial capital, I was pleasantly surprised to discover more separated bicycle lanes in the downtown core with the recent completion of the Humboldt and Wharf Street routes. (Click on title for pics.)

 

There are some great road diet and public realm measures taken here in addition to providing cycling infrastructure.

 

A street closure where Humboldt met Douglas giving way to an urban plaza complete with seating, bike racks and a ping-pong table.

Before:

After:

 

Further down the route, a rework and calming of the vehicular travel lanes where Humboldt, Government and Wharf meet connects to the Wharf street separated bike lanes.

 

There’s even a bike traffic counter in this new plaza which no doubt will keep ticking over as ridership grows.

 

And of course, the usual controversy and commentary: ‘I’m not against bike lanes, it’s just that everything you did or would have done is really stupid.’

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Rod King has a different perspective about  building separated bike lanes and his point is well taken. The head of a British organization advocating for reduced road speed,  King asks why we build great quality separated infrastructure for cycling when the real problem is the speeds that drivers travel at. The higher the vehicular speed, the more problematic any cycling and walking interaction is. He notes that the “The cost of infrastructure is largely the cost of driving at speed and are not costs of cycling and walking.”

In Great Britain “utility cycling” refers to daily biking to work, shops and school. It’s well documented that there are enormous benefits to cycling which includes increasing physical and mental health as well as reducing congestion and increasing air quality. The British Social Attitudes Study found that only five percent of people cycle at least weekly, leading to the question of what is the most impactful way to increase “utility” cycling.

King’s answer? Slow the streets.

The “20 is Plenty” website writes that “Traffic speed and volumes (are) inversely related to walking and cycling levels” and cites the The World Health Organisation’s studies that  20mph (30 km/h)  is the maximum safe speed to reduce catastrophic  conflicts between cars and cyclists. “Safety fears are what people say most puts them off cycling. Cycling casualty rates fall 20-40% with wide area 20mph limits.”

In Britain signing side streets at 20 mph (30 km/h) resulted in a 300 percent increase in cycling to school in Edinburgh. Setting vehicular speed limits of 30 km/h on direct routes can maximize cycling gains.

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One thing is proven without a doubt in this wide-ranging, deep political dive with Gord, Rob, and return guest George Affleck — these guys don’t know their Tolkien.

And while there was no cranky, right-wing guy in Middle Earth, there is a central character whose very rigid way of thinking begins to soften. If that seems to be the case with Affleck, it may be with the benefit of retrospect, especially with an eye to the performance of current council, and specifically in contrast to its predecessor.

That’s because Affleck’s behaviour while serving in opposition to Gregor Robertson’s Vision Vancouver juggernaut was largely the result of him seeing the majority votes walking into the council chamber every day, “knowing exactly what they were going to do”. Idealogical alignment can be like a wall; in the form of a political caucus, it’s a brick wall.

Contrast that with today; by Affleck’s count, there are just two parties in Vancouver Council, the NDP and the BC Liberals (and 1 or 2 predictably dogmatic, even irrelevant votes). So these decisions should be, well, decisive — consistently predictable and relatively quick. But, as he notes, “it’s 100% not working like that.”

Affleck talks about the splintering sound coming from the NPA corner. He talks choo-choo trains. And he talks bike lanes (remember, he’s not anti-bike lanes, just pro-process).

Lastly, Affleck makes a startling admission, perhaps revealing that aforementioned soft spot, one which may represent the rotting core of traditional NPA preservationist ideology — that the current political trend towards framing the decision-making process around community consultation (rather than incorporating and contextualizing it into decision-making) is a great way to give anti-growth, naysay perspectives platform and influence. And that it’s probably incorrect.

He sees it in West Vancouver, in White Rock, in Surrey, and even in PoCo. He sees pragmatism, he sees populism, and it seems he has a pretty clear view of the line to be drawn between the two.

Which leads to some interesting speculation on the nature of political campaigns of our not-too-distant future — those of Kennedy Stewart, the NPA and, yes, Affleck himself.

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From Ian W:

Any of the already mentioned parking entrances, designed decades ago when design guidelines did not prioritize the pedestrians, are all much safer than the intersection of Main and Union.

That intersection, the closure of the west block of Union, and addition of the bike lanes, dedicated and shared, alternately protected and not, islands lost in the middle of nowhere, two lanes turning onto the viaduct with one ending within a car’s length, non-orthogonal bike lane, unclear direction and movements and bizarre light sequencing, make the intersectio much more dangerous than probably all the ramps mentioned, combined! I’m sure ICBC’s and the ER reporting statistics will back than claim up in spades.

That bikeway and intersection was configured in the last decade with cyclists and pedestrians as a priority. It has also been showcased by CoV as a great example of “mobility improvements”.

OK, so it’s not downtown and it’s not a sidewalk but if you’re going to point out bad design, let’s start with the worst and most unsafe, not just the car-centric.

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