October 8, 2007

Bits and Pieces

I’m working on a couple of presentations in the Bay Area this week – so blogging will be spotty.
I’ll pass on some of the fun stuff I get – like this article from the Times of London on the impact of Paris’s le velib:

If you are on the hunt for love in Paris, forget cafés and art galleries and rent a bicycle instead. Residents and visitors have found that the city’s new self-service bike scheme offers the best chance of flirting with strangers.
The emergence of a two-wheeled mating service has been one of several unintended consequences of the runaway success of le Vélib’, the sturdy grey bicyclettes that the Mayor of Paris, Bertrand Delanoë, unleashed on the streets in mid-July.

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From Councillor Peter Ladner’s newsletter:

U-Bike everywhere:

The Lyon/Paris model of thousands of rental bikes placed in electronically-linked racks around the city for registered users has grabbed the imagination of other cities around the world. Cycling trips in Lyon jumped 95% in the two years since it was instituted, all paid for by JCDecaux (an earlier name for CBS Outdoor Media, the same company that does our street furniture and bus shelters) in return for street advertising.

I’m bringing a motion to TransLink to get it going here.

Great idea.  I wish we had included it in the original call for proposals.

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A street design that has been used in cities in Europe but never in New York City:

The city is planning to remake seven blocks of Ninth Avenue in Chelsea into what officials are billing enthusiastically, perhaps a bit hyperbolically, as the street of the future.
The most unusual aspect of the design, which will run from 16th Street to 23rd Street, is that it uses a lane of parked cars to protect cyclists from other traffic.
It does this by placing the bike lane directly next to the sidewalk on the western edge of Ninth Avenue, which is the left side of the street for those facing north, in the direction of traffic. The plan also takes a lane from cars, creating more room for pedestrians and for the bicycle lane.
Full story here.  Thanks to Ron Richings.

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August 27, 2007

A fine piece on cycling by world-traveller Michael Geller in the Sun over the weekend. Among the points he makes:

In addition to the obvious benefits of bicycles — reduced traffic congestion, fewer greenhouse gas emissions and lower transportation costs — bicycles offer another plus. In the Netherlands, you do not see as many overweight people as you do in North America.
While I have not seen any research, I am convinced there is a correlation between bicycle use and good health.
This is why I plan to ride my bicycle much more when I return to Vancouver, especially if I can be safely separated from the cars, and have a convenient place to park.

Just thought I’d highlight that personal commitment. (It’s not a requirement that someone has to cycle everywhere, all the time. At least start with the times and conditions that work.)
This just in – another indicator of progress in the region.

New Bike Routes in Coquitlam to Connect Region

Cyclists in the Tri-Cities area will have access to two new bike routes in Coquitlam this fall. The City of Coquitlam is working on two new road projects that will connect the region and make commuting easier for cyclists.
Cyclists will have access to dedicated bike lanes on Guildford Way and shared bike lanes on Foster Avenue. The Guildford Way bike lanes provides a regional connection from Port Moody to the Coquitlam Town Centre, while the Foster Avenue shared bike lane connects to a future bike route in Burnaby that is part of the regional bike system.

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Ian Wasson reports in from the City of Burnaby, where he’s an urban design planner.  They too are building a ped/bike bridge – the Griffiths Overpass – in the Edmonds area sometime in October.  It’s designed by Busby and Asssociates, and Fast and Epp.
And Patkau Architects and Delcan are designing another beauty for the Central Valley Greenway.

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In Price Tags 93, you can find examples of the new kind of pedestrian and bike bridges being built in Australia.  Like this one in Brisbane:

Peter Berkeley, Queensland’s bike and ped planner, has been on an international tour to check out cycling facilities, and he made a special trip up to Newcastle in England to see the Gateshead Millennium Bridge:

In order to allow small craft to sail beneath, the bridge actually tilts, like this:

You can see why it has become a tourist attraction in its own right, nicknamed the “Blinking Eye Bridge.”
As the debate over the Burrard Bridge continues (whether to widen the sidewalks, take some traffic lanes, not spend the ever-escalating amount – maybe $15 million, maybe $30 million), perhaps it’s time to consider the alternative: build a special ped/bike bridge across False Creek.
Discussion never gets very far because the centre of the creek comes under federal control as a navigable waterway, and the height of sailboats at high tide requires a high-level bridge, or some kind of drawbridge.  But maybe it’s time to face up to the trade-off: why should a relative handful of recreation boaters be able to trump a necessary and safe crossing for the most sustainable form of transportation possible?
Or maybe we can do a drawbridge after all.
These kind of bridges, after all, are becoming popular all around the world – designed by the Fosters and Calatravas who merge engineering and architecture into art.  They become icons for their cities. 
Maybe it’s time for us.

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Below is a picture of what you first see at the border of the District of West Vancouver after coming across the Lions Gate Bridge by bicycle.   

What’s missing?
There’s no signage telling a cyclist where to go.  No bike lanes.  Nothing that says West Van encourages (or even tolerates) alternative transportation.  The result has been frustrating for everyone: the cyclists don’t know where they should be, and pedestrians are upset when they go where they shouldn’t, and there are always conflicts with cars.  It’s confusing, intimidating and unnecessary.
But that’s changing.  As Colette Parsons noted in a previous post, there will eventually be a bike route through Ambleside.

And that’s thanks in part to the Spirit Trail funding coming from the provincial Ministry of Transportation.  That’s right – Kevin Falcon!  And kudos to him for pushing for a bike trail across the North Shore, and providing the money to do it.
The lack of a bike route through Ambleside has been a curious omission, since it’s one of the few places in this hillside municipality that’s conducive to cycling.
Ambleside, in fact, has all the elements needed.  From Lions Gate to the community centre at 22nd Street, it’s well within the 5 kilometre radius of most practical cycling trips.  (The red line below shows a distance of only 3 K.)

Below Marine and up to 19th Street, the topography is flat, the population is dense and the mix of uses is superb – everything you’d need in a day.   There’s the appeal of the beaches and the parks, and there’s plenty of space to provide routes for all.
But in West Van itself, there’s a curious absence of cyclists.  Which means that, given the underlying conditions and the absence of action, the municipality has actually been discouraging healthy behaviour and encouraged more driving.
That was abundantly apparent this B.C. Day, when the Harmony Arts Festival was taking place along the waterfront.  In a series of tents and performance spaces, the event was one of those things that give West Van its small-town appeal.

But it seemed almost everyone drove there and tried to find a parking space.  The result:
Conflict for all. 
As Vancouver learned with the Fireworks festival, the West End had to be closed off to circulating traffic and people had to walk in, preferably after taking transit, in order to save the event from itself.  The walk became part of the experience.
West Van, given its aging population and topography, doesn’t really believe that’s an option.  So increasingly it finds itself in a bind: having never actively encouraged alternatives, even in places where it makes sense, it now suffers from the paradox of the automobile – when everyone uses cars, the car becomes useless (as a recent report from the Ministry of Transportation on Lions Gate Bridge congestion so brutally illustrates. ) 
West Vancouverites – drivers especially – have a self-interested rationale for encouraging other people to take alternatives.  Not to mention related goals: more fitness in the face of obesity, less carbon in the face of climate change.  But search for “sustainability” on the District’s website and the references will take you to the “Fiscal Sustainability Task Force.”
It’s time for a new direction.  All I’m waiting for is one sign that says, “Cyclists, go here.” 

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It may be coincidental, but the Park Board chose to construct an expanded bike-and-blade route through the park at a time when people are expecting change – and the presence of heavy machinery – as a result of the December windstorm.
Still, it’s a shock to see the scale of the new right-of-way:

I confess: this is a project I’ve been pushing for since the late 1990s. I remember taking two groups of Park Board Commissioners on cycle trips through the park, explaining the inadequacies of the existing pathways, most of which were never designed to handle the load, as evident by the wear and tear on the popular routes :

Worse still was the confusion. On some paths, the yellow lines were meant to keep those on wheels to one side:

And on other paths, the markings served as the centre lines:

And they would change suddenly without clear signage – an unpleasant and dangerous experience for everyone.
The Park Commissioners were persuaded of the need for change, and passed the appropriate motions. But these things take money – and time. The City went through a public process that took two years before rebuilding the Seaside Bike Route along English Bay. That too involved laying asphalt across the greensward at certain places, like here at the Kensington Curves (my name, based on the historic apartment building across Beach Avenue):

Still, I have to say, the width of the new lanes by Lost Lagoon are awfully wide:

I’ll wait until they’re finished before final judgment. But it’s generally true that transportation engineers tend to prefer the widest right-of-way they can get, and to design the routes for the fastest user, whether cars or bikes or blades.
Still, after all these years, to have a safe and pleasant route to wheel through the park is a major achievement for the Park Board. And I have no doubt that it will be well used.

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Colette Parsons is the Urban Design Planner in West Vancouver.  First of all, isn’t it great that West Van has an urban design planner?  And secondly, she keeps track of Price Tags.
In fact, she just sent me a page from Issue 36 with this reminder:

At the end of your July, 2004 Issue on West Vancouver you pointed out the lack of cycling alternatives and signage from the Lions Gate Bridge to Ambleside.
We wanted to let you know that we have been working on a cycling network and greenway plan which was adopted by Council last Monday. We have secured some funding from the provincial government under the “Spirit Trail” funding to implement a portion of the plan in and around Ambleside and more than likely up to the bridgehead.
I have provided a short cut to our web site if you want to look at some of the details. Its not a perfect document but it is finally moving in the right direction. 
Cycling Network and Greenway Plan and Ambleside Town Centre Strategy 

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