Cycling
October 9, 2019

The Bike Lane Hall of Shame

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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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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