Cycling
September 16, 2019

Cycling like a … Dutchman?

Via Karole Sutherland:

Wim Bot, an official in the Dutch cyclist’s union …

“Think of it this way. Car drivers behave like a bunch of geese. They have the same distance from each other and fly at the same speed, and move almost in military formation.” He put down his tea and made a series of regimented gestures with his hands. Then he moved them around together, in an elegant dance. “Cyclists move like a swarm of sparrows,” he said. “There are thousands of them moving in chaos, but there are no collisions. They turn a little bit; they change their speed. You must do the same.”

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We live in a time where simple solutions to problems are often overlooked for technological answers. It’s no surprise given that many people perceive technology as helpful, and in many instances it is. But it’s always important to figure out what the problem is that a technological answer seeks to solve.

Take a look at this installation at a traffic intersection in Singapore that allows a senior citizen (who has the requisite senior citizen’s card) to “swipe” the pedestrian crossing button to get up to thirteen seconds extra crossing time on a busy street. The “Green Man Plus” system was introduced in 2009 for seniors and “those with disabilities” to be allowed extra crossing time. As ABC reporter Stephen Dziedzic stated on Twitter

“At some Singapore intersections you can swipe your Senior Card and the crossing light will stay green for a little longer, giving you extra time to reach the other side of the road. I find this very touching.”

 

While the Twitterverse thought this was indeed a very good idea to enhance equity, the question really is who is equal here? And instead of installing hundreds of these pedestrian installations that require a card to activate them, why not increase the crossing time on the timing of the light cycle in favour of all pedestrians, no matter who they are or when they are crossing? If people using the sidewalks and crosswalks are truly the most valued and most vulnerable users, why not treat them that way, and allow everyone a longer crossing time without a card to ask permission?

Locally, another example of technological invention also focuses on the wrong end of the problem.

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Toronto Star reporter Ben Spurr has continued the conversation about road violence against vulnerable road users in that city. It’s been a surprisingly uphill battle in Toronto where 190 pedestrians and 7 cyclists have died in the past five years. But Toronto is not the big city leader in road deaths in Canada. Vancouver is.

The City of Toronto has 2.2  road deaths per 100,000 population. Vancouver actually has a higher rate than the City of Toronto, at 2.4 road deaths per 100,000. And Montreal’s rate is almost half, at 1.3 road deaths per 100,000.   You can take a look at the statistics here.

The residents of Toronto have protested against road violence and demanded change in making their city streets and places safer for vulnerable road users. People who have lost loved ones due to road violence have organized and protested in groups such as Friends and Families for Safe Streets.

The City of Toronto originally implemented a 2016 Vision Zero plan that did not aim at the complete reduction of road deaths and serious injuries, but rather a percentage of less fatalities.

Toronto soon realized the folly of that concept as the “the number of fatal collisions in the past 5 years has seen a general increase compared to the previous 5 years. The upward trend is most notably seen in pedestrian fatalities.” 

In a June 2019 reboot of Vision Zero called  “2.0”-Road Safety Update ,Toronto’s Engineering Staff got serious about the safe systems approach, with Council adopting a speed management strategy, road design improvements, and an education and engagement plan. As well two pedestrian death traps were identified for special attention: mid block crossings (responsible for 50 percent of pedestrian deaths); and vehicles turning through crosswalks (causing 25 percent of deaths). The City also directly stated that their goal was now no deaths or serious injuries on the road, which is the true  Vision Zero approach.

Toronto’s data on road violence also mirrored that of  Vancouver’s~the majority of pedestrians killed are over 55 years old. But like Vancouver, driver education and the design and timing of intersection crossings still  does not reflect the specific requirements of seniors or those with accessibility needs.

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In previous posts, I talked about subways and automobiles in China, but what really stood out in my recent visit to the country was China’s approach to other forms of transportation.

In Metro Vancouver’s North Shore municipalities, even low-hanging fruit like a new bike route or an express bus lane seem to face intractable obstacles. Despite declaring a “Climate Emergency,” local councils still default to private cars when designing their cities.

Our travels to China show just how much can be accomplished when government just steps up to the plate and makes changes.

Chengdu, population 10.5 million, is the capital of the southwestern province of Sichuan, which borders Tibet, and is known for pandas and spicy food. Once you drive past Chengdu’s first ring road, you can look in any direction and see dozens of fifteen- and twenty-storey apartment blocks stretching to the horizon.

This is the kind of population density that makes complaints about densification in our own region laughable; the density in China influences transit planning and construction by a government which understands that infrastructure investment is positive (and often necessary).

Admittedly, lots of things are easier in a one-party police state, but by the same token, that doesn’t necessarily make them bad ideas.

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Prior to the 2008 Beijing Olympics, it was generally acknowledged that both the traffic and the pollution in the city was out of control; in 2010, a traffic jam on the China National Highway 110 slowed traffic for 100 kilometres, and lasted for most of two weeks.

The Chinese government is still building and maintaining an impressive network of multi-lane freeways, highways, and flyovers — with regular toll plazas — to move large volumes of automobiles relatively efficiently, but the Chinese government has also tried to move the country (or at least the major cities) away from internal combustion engines.

As well as making lots of safe space for transit users, bikes, electric motorbikes, and pedestrians, the Chinese have done one other thing to improve the traffic mix in Chengdu and Beijing: they’ve made it really hard to own a car. Much like the licences and charges in London and Singapore, rules in China pretty much limit car use in the city to the very wealthy.

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A new brewpub in the old Fish House has opened in Stanley Park, next to the main tennis courts:

Isn’t the bike on the logo, front and centre, a nice touch?  It’s what you’d expect for a destination away from any major road, in a park, for an active, outdoorsy culture.

So how do you cycle to Stanley Park Brewing?

Officially, you don’t.  Go to the website for the brewpub, and here’s what you find:

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From Dianna. who’s a Seaside Regular:

This is an especially scary time of the year to ride on the seawall. People have a few months of riding, have grown stronger and more confident, and now their enthusiasm and strength outweigh their skill. People ride faster but aren’t aware of increased pedestrian traffic, never mind other cyclists.

I’m happy to see other happy riders, but please pay attention to what you’re doing. Heads up, friends!

 

Not a new problem.  Here’s a CBC report from 2014:

Cyclists have to take care for each other, because there’s not much evidence that the Park Board does.

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Another counter-intuitive study that offsets a reasonable expectation that more electric bikes and scooters will mean less fit users – kind of like the idea that ‘riding hailing will result in less SOV use and vehicle congestion’.  (Turns out Uber et al increase congestion and reduce transit use.)  But there are qualifications.

From treehugger:

E-bikers use their bikes more, go longer distances, and often substitute it for driving or transit. …

A new study, with a mouthful of a title, “Physical activity of electric bicycle users compared to conventional bicycle users and non-cyclists: Insights based on health and transport data from an online survey in seven European cities,” finds that in fact it is true: e-bikers take longer trips and get pretty much the same physical activity gains as analog cyclists. …

But perhaps even more significant is the dramatic increase in exercise among people who switch from cars to e-bikes, a much easier transition than from cars to a-bikes.

It should be noted that this study looks at European pedelec e-bikes like my Gazelle, where people have to pedal a bit to get the 250 watt motor to kick in. Results probably don’t apply to overpowered throttle-controlled American e-bikes or scooters. Because, as the study authors note, with a pedelec, “using an e-bike requires moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity, depending on topography.”

There is so much to unpack from this study. It also looks at how e-bikes are easier for older riders, keeping them fitter longer. It also reinforces my opinion that the Europeans got it right by limiting speed and power on e-bikes and mandating that they are all pedelecs rather than throttle operated; you don’t get much exercise on a motorcycle.

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Jeff Leigh, as always, provides some helpful background and perspective:

That path through Kits Beach park has been on the City inventory of bike paths for decades. Some Park Board commissioners have expressed on several occasions over the past few years that it isn’t actually a bike route now, since they didn’t vote for it and it is their jurisdiction, not the City’s. This is despite the fact that it is shown in the Vancouver City bylaw (with a drawn map) and in the City GIS database. That database is used to publish the City free bike maps. We pointed out to the Park Board commissioners and staff that they have in fact acknowledged it as their path in their Park Board meetings.

The oldest reference we were able to find that acknowledged it as a Park Board path was when Vancouver enacted the bicycle helmet bylaw, and wanted to include City facilities that were off-street. The City Council motion was in February 1998 (and was moved by councillor Gordon Price). Staff then made a list of all the paths, but City staff couldn’t make a bylaw for the city park paths since it was Park Board jurisdiction. Park Board staff prepared a report (April 1998) with a map of their paths, and Commissioners voted on it, in June 1998. It passed unanimously. That was in support of putting a helmet bylaw on Park paths per an attached staff report, not to declare some routes paths and some not, but it shows that at the time they considered it a formal bike path.

Park Board staff have more recently advised that they don’t consider the 1998 documentation to be significant in determining whether they consider that path to be a bike route or not. When stencils stating “No Cycling” were applied to the paved portion of the official path a few years back, and this was brought to their attention, Park Board staff removed the stencils. Now a few years later, they have applied them again.

All this matters in the push for improved walking and cycling facilities in Kits Beach Park because public perception can be different depending on where we are coming from, what our starting point is. Some claim that there is an effort to put a new path through the park, and remove green space. Others point out that there already is an official path, and the desire is actually to move the bike path farther away from the water, but still in the park, where it is less congested, and so return the waterfront path to people walking. By claiming that there is no path there now, Park Board staff effectively create more public pushback from special interest groups.

Just as the “To, Not Through” de facto policy for bikes routes in parks has never been officially voted on by the Park Board, so it seems is the very status of the AAA bike routes in parks like Kits, Vanier and Jericho.

So let’s ask them – and we’ll keep it simple: .
Should the AAA bike routes marked on the official City map above be removed?
. The fact that Parks and City may be studying them is not a sufficient answer; we want to know what each commissioner thinks their status is at the moment.   Do these AAA bike routes even ‘exist’? . PT will send an email to each commissioner, and we’ll report back here and find out where they stand. Read more »