Cycling
June 19, 2019

E-Bikes Are Coming & Research Shows Users are Happier

Everyone has an opinion on them and in Asia there are over two hundred million in use. Although the technology is twenty years old, “e-bikes” or electric bikes originally had cumbersome heavy batteries that did not last long. Lithium ion batteries now replace those huge early batteries and can weigh ten pounds or less, half the weight of earlier e-bike batteries, and have a range of up to 60 miles or nearly 100 kilometers.

Technically the difference between an electric bike and a regular one is an electric drive system and a power control.  An e-bike can level the playing field for people of all ages and fitness levels to ride hills and shorten the time it takes to travel. While there is an electric motor to provide a power assist, it does not need to be used all the time, and e-bikes can also be used for small shopping errands that normally would require a car.

The Province of British Columbia has just announced that a bigger rebate of $850 to purchase an e-bike will be given to people who junk cars through their program.While only 2.5 percent of people in this province are currently biking, the Province’s mandate is to double active transportation trips~those by walking, rolling or cycling~by 2030. E-bikes are on the verge of becoming the next big thing in Metro Vancouver, and it turns out that electric bikers might actually be happier too.

There’s a new article in the Journal of Transport and Health coming out in September that examines the qualitative reasons that people on e-bike have adjusted to this form of travel. It turns out that people on e-bikes identify four main reasons for happiness:

  1. Having reliance and comfort in controlling the commute and having dependable reliability on arrival times, regardless of  traffic;
  2. Being able to be outdoors, with the sights, sounds, and nature visible on the commute;
  3. Enjoying the impact of moderate intensity exercise to and from destinations;
  4. Having the chance for enhanced social interaction with others along the route.
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While most cities are now embracing the importance of ensuring that cyclists and sidewalk users have safe accessible ways to travel to services, shops and schools, Saskatoon has proven to be the remarkable disappointment, choosing hyperbole and conjecture instead of good data and researched example in ripping out their existing protected downtown bike lane.

We talk about equity, sharing the road and giving the most vulnerable road users priority,  but places deeply entrenched in vehicular movement use those politics to continue the 20th century domination of road space. I have written about the Transport for London study released this spring that shows that street improvements for walking and cycling increased time on retail streets by 216 percent, with retail space vacancies declining 17 percent. Best of all, and just like studies conducted in New York and Toronto “people walking, cycling and using public transport spend the most in their local shops, spending 40% more each month than car drivers”.

Back to Saskatoon. This is a perfect place to put in protected bike lanes, and they are needed to provide connected, safe travel. But imagine this~in April Saskatoon City Council voted to remove the protected bike lanes on Fourth Avenue North which had been in place for two years. Why? Because of “member of the public” complaints about limited parking space. What that really meant is that drivers could not park in front of businesses as they had been accustomed to.  Drivers were also concerned that bike lanes were cleared of snow before vehicle lanes, and that cyclists were in danger in drivers’ “blind spots”.

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The ‘golden age’ of active transportation development in Vancouver continues, with ongoing expansion of the downtown bike network now reaching Drake Street.

Despite what you may hear elsewhere, Drake isn’t very sexy, or even that interesting. But as the City suggests, Drake is actually essential to the concept of a complete network, because it connects where people are coming from, to where they want to go.

A fair number of people cycle beyond the protected cycling facilities on Drake Street, indicating…strong desire.

Currently, cycling volumes on Drake Street are highest between Burrard Street and Hornby Street, the only section with dedicated cycling facilities.

That “strong desire” is based on evidence of an average of 500 daily midweek bike trips in the summer, about 40% of the volume at the separated portion.

By focusing on the rest of Drake, one can infer that, not only is the ultimate goal to provide safe passage for those venturing between Burrard/Hornby and Richards, Homer, or to destinations like David Lam Park, but that more people could be drawn into downtown by bike in the first place, if only these connecting bits (like Drake) had dedicated facilities.

Here’s where the City needs your input — they’re seeking feedback on two different design options, plus ideas on how to support the activities of local businesses, organizations, and residents.

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It’s Bike to School Day, so this seems appropriate – from Dianna.

Somebody is training these kids right. Today while riding around Kits, I saw a little girl on her bike, maybe all of three or four years old, following her mom along the bike/pedestrian walk (’cause there are no separated bike paths). Mom called back to her: “you’re doing such a great job.” And the young rider responded, “I watched where I was going, and you looked at the sky.”

Not them, but this pic from Michael Alexander seems right:

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Let’s just say it (because the Park Board doesn’t want to have to): Its de facto policy towards cycling is ‘To, Not Through’.  ‘We’ll accommodate bikes going to our facilities, but we don’t want to build cycling routes to enable them to cycle through our parks on the way to somewhere else or to reach key destinations in our parks.”

Hence: no separate cycling paths through Kits or Jericho parks.  Let the City build bikeways around them.

They don’t even want to accommodate cyclists going to their facilities if they can avoid it.

Like this one:

This is Kitsilano Pool.  It has about a half dozen asphalt paths leading to its entrance.  This is what they look like if you’re on a bike:

Or counting the little no-bike logos from space:

The paths all lead here:

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While the focus on cycling infrastructure is, as it should be, on expanding the network (#ungapthemap) or on the latest controversy, continual progress is being made on existing routes, typically in conjunction with new development – like here:

This small stretch of the Central Valley Greenway is adjacent to 339 East 1st Avenue on the False Creek Flats, where there is a proposal for a four-building complex, including a small hotel.

There’s another project near completion at the east end of this stretch on the Emily Carr campus, to provide cyclists and greenway users (more electric scooters noticeable now) with a necessary fuel: coffee.

And at the west end: beer.

So Mount Pleasant: bikes, beer, art and industry.

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Surprise: it built bike lanes.  This video shows how, from 2007, the Big Apple did it, and the results it got.  (Hey, Commercial Drive, retail sales went up.)

As the Transportation Commissioner at the time, Janette Sadik-Kahn, says at the end (definitely not a spoiler alert): “If you want to build a better city, you can start by building bike lanes.”

(For video, click Read More)

Thanks to Karole Sutherland.

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TransLink is hosting regional conversations on Transport 2050, the latest version of its strategic plan.  Last week at a packed Robson Square theatre, it began with “The Future of Mobility” – lots of thought nuggets from TL’s strategic planner, Andrew McCurran and a panel of those in what we used to call alternative transport (not any longer) – ride-hailing, car-sharing, bike-sharing, electric mobility, and scooters!

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Here are a few tasty items:

Say good-bye to the ‘bike lane’;  hail the ‘mobility lane.’  Since it’s illegal for electric scooters to use the sidewalk (yeah, right) and it’s obvious already that electrification is leading to new kinds of vehicles faster than self-powered two-wheelers, they will all use the bike lanes or demand their own right-of-way.  Expect conflict.

(By the way, in cities with both bike- and scooter-share, the latter outperforms the former.)

Will there be space available on a reconfigured road as the number of traditional vehicles (you know, cars) diminishes?  Assuming, of course, that the number of cars really does drop.  Data from the use of Uber and Lyft in American cities indicates just the opposite: more cars and more congestion.

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I have been advocating for slower vehicular speeds in neighbourhoods to make communities safer, more comfortable and convenient for vulnerable road users. I also have been writing about  the impact on communities elsewhere that have adopted 30 kilometer per hour as the default speed in municipalities.

The Scottish Parliament is considering a bill to  lower speed limits to 20 miles per hour (equivalent to 30 km/h) in all cities, towns and villages. That is a reduction from the currently accepted 30 miles per hour (50 km/h). London and several counties in the United Kingdom that have adopted the slower speeds within their city limits have seen vehicular deaths decline by 20 percent, and serious  injury also substantially decline.

City of Vancouver Councillor Pete Fry has introduced a motion asking that Council support a resolution to the Union of British Columbia Municipalities to lobby the Province to amend the Motor Vehicle Act “to a default speed limit of 30 kilometers per hour for local streets with municipalities enabled to increase speed limits on local streets in a case-by-case basis by by-laws and posted signage.” Councillor Fry has also requested that staff identify an area of Vancouver to pilot a 30 km/h speed limit, report back on the strategy, and implement the slower speed in that neighbourhood area to ascertain the effectiveness of the policy.

This is not the first 30 kilometers per hour rodeo going to the Union of British Columbia Municipalities. The City of New Westminster and Councillor Patrick Johnstone headed up such a request a few years back.  What really needs to happen is for this initiative to leave the purview of the municipalities and be seriously considered by Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Claire Trevena who can give authorization for the change to the Motor Vehicle Act.

The beauty of a blanket implementation of the residential neighbourhoods is that there will not be a huge capital cost to create signage everywhere indicating how fast you can move on which street. While arterial roads would remain at 50 km/h, the local serving streets  within Vancouver  neighbourhoods could  all be 30 km/h.

This is also City of Vancouver City Council’s opportunity to correct the term “Vision Zero”. During the Vision Party’s majority they did not want the term “Vision Zero” in Vancouver’s reports  (which refers to the Swedish approach adopted in 1997 to achieve zero road deaths) to be used for political reasons.

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105 Avenue Connector Road, Surrey 

At the 6th Annual Bike Awards on February 28th, HUB Cycling awarded five municipalities for their efforts to #UnGapTheMap across the region.

The first category of infrastructure winners were part of the 20 in 20 Infrastructure Challenge, launched last year as part of HUB’s 20th Anniversary.

Third place went to the City of Burnaby for completing nearly 20 Quick Fixes,  ranging from re-paving parts of the Sea to River Bikeway, trimming foliage that obstructed bike lanes and urban trails, and re-painting faded lines and shared lane markings.

A close second went to the District of West Vancouver, who also nearly completed 20 Quick Fixes, including removing narrow bollards and adding reflective diamond paint along the Spirit Trail, adding wayfinding signage at Ambleside Park, and installing rapid flashing beacons for safer crossings along 27th and 29th streets at Marine Drive.

And coming out on top was the City of Surrey, who doubled the 20 in 20 target with over 40 Quick Fixes. Highlights included adding new wayfinding signage, widening narrow bike lanes, and removing and or widening several narrow baffle gates that now allow people cycling with trailers (often with children inside) to pass through.

The Cities of Vancouver and Surrey also won an Infrastructure Improvements Award for providing All Ages and Abilities (AAA) cycling infrastructure at East 1st and Quebec (below) and along 105 Avenue (above).

East 1st and Quebec, Vancouver

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