March 29, 2021

Make Space Campaign: Safe passing distance for cyclists

Peter Ladner, a board member of the B.C. Cycling Coalition, writes:

We need your support for our Safe Passing Distance campaign, requiring cars in B.C. to stay at least 1.5 metres away from cyclists (including e-bikes), scooters and pedestrians. This is part of a multi-year campaign for changes to the Motor Vehicle Act. *


Safety for cyclists is more pressing than ever with the COVID-induced surge in cycling of all kinds by people of all ages and abilities. Yet in BC, four times every day, a person on a bike will be injured from being hit by a car. Every year, eight people die. 

It doesn’t have to be that way. Stronger road safety laws can reduce that risk.


*A generous donor has just stepped up to match any donation over $100 or any monthly donation over $10/month for one year. Donate now and double your impact. Donations must be received by midnight April 6 for the doubling match. 


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Here’s a report on the changes being levered by the pandemic to accelerate the move to active-transportation infrastructure and design of neighbourhoods in Britain – and the reaction against the constraint of motordom. 

Notice, as well, the use of the ‘Fairness Finesse.’ That’s the use of progressive language, defense of the marginalized, particularly the disabled, and the strategy of anti-gentrification – all to maintain the status quo: “motorists reasserting their right to take up space on urban streets.”  

And let’s throw in a little class warfare:  “Steve McNamara, the chair of the Licensed Taxi Drivers’ Association … repeatedly returns to a theme that cyclists are a privileged minority making life more difficult for working-class drivers in the suburbs.”

From The Guardian:

In London, the Streetspace plan unveiled by mayor Sadiq Khan and Transport for London (TfL), demanded “an urgent and swift response” to the crisis. The strategy funnelled money from the government’s new active-travel fund to London’s boroughs for low-traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs) and other projects to encourage walking and cycling, such as temporary cycle lanes and timed road closures outside schools. By the end of last year, there were about 100 in London, where they have been most widely adopted, but they are now being rolled out in Manchester, Birmingham and other cities. …

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When Tony Valente invited me over for a tour of recent cycling developments in the City of North Vancouver, he offered an irresistible inducement: an e-bike experience.

As someone who has never quite seen the need for one (or felt that it was a kind of cheating), I nonetheless anticipated that e-bikes were the wave of the future.  In fact, I was surprised they hadn’t washed ashore sooner in a tsunami from some massive factory in Taiwan.

Well, the future is showing up – that wave is coming in on the North Shore.  In particular, at Tony Sun’s Reckless outlet in The Shipyards.

Perhaps it’s is a confluence of factors: small powerful batteries, an aging demographic, falling prices, the need for pandemic-safe recreation, the cool factor.

Or even hormones.  Once Tony took a few minutes to explain the basic mechanics, I was pressing the button to kick in the e-assist.  It was like a hit of adrenaline, the bike felt almost alive, and out of my mouth came an unforced reaction.


And what better place to take a test run than the North Shore.  They have hills over there.  Long ones, like East Keith Road:

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Councillor Tony Valente has been advocating for ‘complete streets’ even before he ran for council in the City of North Vancouver – a city laid our before the dominance of the auto (check out its City-Beautiful aspirations on Keith Road or Grand Boulevard) but succumbed to Motordom as a post-war suburban city (check out Third Street west of Forbes or, worse, Esplanade).

Esplanade was a particular target for Tony (who now lives on the arterial) in his advocacy for streets that could serve a variety of modes safely and beautifully.  He’s now seeing it come to fulfilment.

The changes, complete with separated bike lane, are part of a greater transformation of Lower Lonsdale – with some big changes, small indicators, and one that’s quite surprising.

Here’s a delightful touch on Carrie Cates Court at Lonsdale Quay – a glass-enclosed canopy for bike racks on a newly widened and well-furnished sidewalk in front of a mixed-use tower.  Check, check, check.

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From Canadian Cycling Magazine:

Marcel Steeman, a regional councillor in the Netherlands, is the voice behind hundreds of people advocating for more bike friendly cities—in the Lego world.

According to The Verge, while playing with Lego with his children he realized that the toy’s city designs were extremely car-centric, with tiny sidewalks and no bike lanes. The designs particularly stood out to him as they didn’t resemble the reality of bike-friendly Dutch streets (or the Danish streets of Lego’s home country for that matter). …

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We don’t have many Traffic Highs in this city, so those we do feel extra special.

Like the downhill slope on Nelson Street, from Burrard Street to the Cambie Bridge.

It’s so sweet when it all comes together: the car gliding with gravity, the right music at the right beat, no stalls, no swerves – and you hit every light!  Without changing pace or lane.  Just like it was meant  be.

That’s a Traffic High.  And since there aren’t many one-way arterials in this city, it’s almost impossible to get harmony when everything is moving and making left-hand turns.

But there’s a good chance we will get another soon – on the arterial that crosses Nelson at Richards.  It has an almost-finished separated bikeway that will be a real treat. Potentially a Traffic High.

Richards Traffic High 

There’s a perfect downhill slope on Richards from Dunsmuir to False Creek.  Once at a sustained speed, the cyclist won’t need to pedal much.  Thank you gravity and inertia.   If the lights are timed so that the bike can hit the signals without changing speed or stopping, well, that’s biking bliss.

For both cars and bikes it would be the Richards Traffic High.


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While everyone knows that active transportation is good for you, there has been little data on exactly how much carbon emissions are lowered by walking, biking or taking public transit.

A new study published in Elsevier looked at the climate change impact of daily commuting using active travel. By gathering travel activity information in seven European cities  this study found that car travel contributed seventy percent to CO2 emissions across different modes and cycling contributed to just one percent.

Christian Brand at Oxford University and twenty other researchers concluded that if a car driver or passenger changed from a car to a bicycle they decreased “life cycle” CO2 emissions by 3.2 kilograms of CO2 daily.

This study looked at data from several cities instead of just one, and also took into account “full life cycle impacts” of both active and vehicular travel. Using life cycle analysis cycling is not “zero-carbon” emissions because of the creation, maintenance and eventual trashing of bikes, and any associated batteries and motors. The researchers did note that life cycle emissions for passenger vehicle travelled are ten times higher than that of cyclists.

The researchers looked at “short to medium sized trips, ” typically 2 km for walking, 5 km for cycling and 10 km for e-biking ” It is these short trips that “contribute disproportionately” to emissions when conducted by vehicle because of cold engine starts.

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We date contemporary ‘bike lane’ design back to the 1970s, when a cycling wave hit Europe and North America.  Here’s an historical example from Toronto:

Toronto’s cycling committee was established at city hall in 1975 to promote safe cycling. Four years later, the first bike lane in old Toronto was constructed on Poplar Plains Road.

There have been many iterations since, each once advancing more space for active transportation.
Vancouver was one of the first to evolve the completely separated route in a downtown – Dunsmuir and Hornby in 2010 after the Olympics.

Now other cities that have generated large volumes of bike traffic have realized they have to reallocate some highly contested space.  Like on the Brooklyn Bridge.

The New York Times:

… the city will finally address longstanding concerns about the Brooklyn Bridge, which has long been known as a particularly dangerous route for cyclists, and the Queensboro Bridge. Under the plan, the city will ban cars from the inner lane of the Manhattan-bound side of the Brooklyn Bridge to build a two-way bike lane.

The existing promenade area at the center of the bridge, which is elevated above the car lanes, will be used only by pedestrians. Cyclists will no longer be able to ride on the promenade, where there is currently a bike lane.

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As we’ve noted for the last few weeks on Instagram @gordonpriceyvr, the transformation of Richards Street is remarkable.  Once a four-lane high-speed arterial, it’s now down to one lane for moving vehicles on some blocks.

The northern blocks in blue below are now open, and construction is well underway to the south:


It’s been transformative, and not just for transportation.  The feel and look of the street is now tamed and dignified.

There will up to five rows of trees in a 75-foot cross-section – a street experience unlike any I can think of, including Paris.

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A colleague, Dr. Bridget Burdett who is a Chartered Engineer with MR Cagney in New Zealand sends along a “Safe System Snippet” from Safe Solutions.

Dr. Burdett reminds that a “cyclist dismount” sign is NOT the answer.

If you find yourself in the situation where you want to install a ‘cyclist dismount’ sign on your road network something has gone wrong with your planning, design and/or installation.
The majority of cyclists will not dismount.
The risk remains.
We can do better.

We don’t have signs indicating Motorists dismount crossing roadways~you don’t need them for cyclists either if lanes are planned correctly.

You can take a look at more “safe system snippets” published by Safe Solutions in Brunswick, Victoria State Australia here.



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