Architecture
September 22, 2020

Urbanist in the Okanagan 4 – Two Kind of Towns: Bisected or Bypassed

There are two kinds of towns in the Okanagan (and most of BC).

It depends on the provincial roads that connect them.  Some, as in Osoyoos, have a highway that divides the centre-right through its heart.


Very often the highway, like Crowsnest, is literally Main Street – a ‘stroad’ that has looked essentially the same for more than half a century: broad, muscular, low-slung and unambiguous.  Mid-century motordom, which even today, despite attempts to make them more friendly for people not in cars (which is the way most of them got there), are still car dominant.

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A blunt announcement from the Park Board:

This is what the Park Board is essentially saying to cyclists who still use Park Drive:

“The data tells us we can return the park to its conventional traffic patterns” – and we’re all about sticking with the conventional.  So we’re throwing you back in with the vehicles now, where you can fight it out for the same space.  But be careful, motorists may now see you in the way and assume you should be back on the seawall – where you can fight it out with pedestrians given the inadequate space and your vastly increased numbers (which we assume will drop down to the, um, conventional).

You really shouldn’t be surprised, given that we have repeatedly demonstrated in Kits and Jericho Parks that we don’t intend to find reasonable accommodation, and will relegate you to dirt paths and parking lots, regardless of conflicts and accidents.  And even though we have plans and budgets for improved facilities for cycling in Stanley Park, we haven’t spent it and don’t have immediate plans to do so.

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A challenge question for PT readers:

How should we start to limit congestion before it becomes unacceptable?

There’s a real-life experiment unfolding on our streets – one that will fundamentally affect our future – discussed here in “Our Real World Experiment in Traffic Congestion. “

As people switch from transit to cars, it won’t take much to fill up available road space.  It may only take a 10-15 percent to reach a level of inefficiency and frustration where we reverse the gains we’ve made in this region, notably with transit, in the last half century.   Without response, something has to break, even if we don’t yet know what that level is.  Waiting until we get to a breaking point seems kinda stupid knowing how much more difficult it is to reverse something if instead we can limit it before it happens.

Knowing we will have to slow, stop and reverse a move to post-Covid motordom worse than pre-March, what steps should we take now?

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A report from Global News reporter Nadia Stewart, with a headline that distorts the story:

The protest had three dozen people – surely worth a qualified ‘some’ when the headline starts “Vancouverites upset.”  But that quibble doesn’t matter when judged against the absence of data and other points of view (like, say, comments from passing cyclists).  Importantly, the video story was supplemented in the online print version, where reporter Simon Little provided important information:

Vancouver Park Board manager Dave Hutch says about 93 per cent of Stanley Park Drive is open to vehicles, and that about 70 per cent of parking in the park remains open.

He said after talks with the city’s disability advisory committee, the board also added 10 new handicapped parking spaces.

“We’re seeing that the park and parking is nowhere near capacity this year. The busiest day was in mid August, we had 63 per cent capacity. We would expect about 90 per cent in August,” he told Global News.

Still, impact-wise, the protesters had the visuals and screen time.  There have been demanding that Park Drive be restored to two lanes for cars and have all the parking returned – in other words, back to the standards of mid-century Motordom.  That’s what we did in the post-war decades, and the roads of Stanley Park were designed accordingly: a transportation system where cars are given most of the space, there are no separated bike lanes (cars and bikes fight it out for priority), parking is provided in excess, and the seawall has to accommodate the crowding of all active transport users.

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Peter Ladner reports:

The Stanley Park Hill Klimb (SPHK) now exists. It’s a thing. (The K is for one kilometre long but I challenge someone to prove me wrong.)

It has a Start Line and a Finish Line and piece of chalk at the top to write down if you’ve made a new record time.

So far I have the record time: 3:52. Timing for other people begins now.

Tell your friends. Do the SPHK loop in your costume on your way to the Beach Avenue Bikefest #beachavebikefest Sunday 3-4 pm, where you can win a costume prize! Share your time with your friends. Dare them to beat it, or to just come out and enjoy the ride. Remember: five-yr-old-kids can ride up it.

Be the first to set up the SPHK on Strava.

Do with it what you want. Maybe come and add some of your own art (sidewalk chalk is sold at most dollar stores). This story could just be getting started.

This will wash away in a few weeks, but perhaps some visions will be permanently chalked in.

Here’s part of a longer story by Peter Ladner on how the Stanley Park Hill Klimb has the potential to be an accessible in-town Grouse Grind. It was written as a friendly open letter to Prospect Point Cafe owner Nancy Stibbard:

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Dianna reports on the need for safe space and respect:

(Note: unconfirmed incident.  Update welcome.)

I just picked this off the Escape Velocity bike club Facebook page. Happened a couple of days ago apparently. Sounds like a hit and run.

Does anyone have news on the condition of the group of roadies that were slammed into by the BMW SUV when descending Prospect Point last week?

My friend was riding his MTB back home at the same time and got wiped out to with major road rash and broken bones on his right hand. I hope no one suffered any worse.

The account I heard was at a group of roadies were descending and, in the absence of vehicles, moved over into the left lane to safely overtake a family of four. The BMW laid on his horn and accelerated up to the group. Group moved back once past the family and the driver drove through the cones into the bike lane and the group!

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CBC Science reporter Emily Chung writes for CBC’s excellent “What On Earth?”  podcast and weekly newsletter that  explores environmental issues.

Last week I spoke to Dr. Chung and we pondered an interesting question~why are we not connecting the fact that slower speeds on highways and cities are also a way to cut back on greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution?

As Dr. Chung writes “According to Natural Resources Canada, driving a vehicle with an internal combustion engine at 120 km/h burns 20 per cent more fuel than driving at 100 km/h. An Ontario law that requires trucks to install technology to limit their speed to 105 km/h was estimated to have reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 4.6 megatonnes between 2009 and 2020. That’s largely because air resistance increases exponentially at higher speeds, reducing a vehicle’s fuel efficiency and generating more pollution per kilometre.”

I have already written about  The Netherlands where under European law nitrogen oxide emissions must be mitigated before roads, housing and airports are built. In order to build 75,000 new dwelling units this year, the Dutch government lowered daytime highway speeds. In the Netherlands 50 kilograms of nitrogen compounds per hectare  are released into the environment annually  where the average in the rest of the  European Union (EU)  is 15 kilograms per hectare.

The  EU is restricting levels of air pollutants based upon World health Organization targets, and in the Netherlands 11 percent of nitrogen compounds come from vehicular traffic. It made sense to reduce that to meet pollution targets.

It is NOT the chemical element of nitrogen that is the issue but the chemical compounds created when oxygen or hydrogen is added. As DW.com reportsAmmonia contaminates groundwater and nitrogen oxides contribute to respiratory diseases and, according to the European Environment Agency, were responsible for 68,000 premature deaths across the EU in 2016.”  

 I wrote about the new handbook put out by NACTO (the National Association of City Transportation Officials) that recommends the adoption of slower speeds in cities to make them less deadly  and more livable. While the handbook has great data, it does not include any correlation between speed and increased emissions. The handbook does point out that 2018 data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that speed factored into 25 percent of all fatal crashes that year.

It is people like Professor Marianne Hatzopoulou, Canada research chair in Transportation and Air Quality at the University of Toronto who is leading the way in making the connection for North Americans. Dr. Hatzopoulou points out that it is  not only speed that factors into nitrogen oxide  emissions but speed changes in accelerating and braking.

Dr. Fred Wegman,  an emeritus professor of traffic safety at Delft University of Technology is  credited as a  developer of the “safe systems” approach to road management and recognized as such at the 2019 International Road Safety Symposium in Vancouver.

By adopting principles aimed at recognizing the safety of all road users, The Netherlands experienced a 49 percent reduction in road fatalities.

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Jeff Leigh from HUB, responding to the preceding post – Beach Bikeway Gets a Datapoint: 12,700

 

Jeff: 

Some comparisons from CoV data: Highest single-day bike counts on popular City of Vancouver cycling routes, over the past few years:

Burrard Bridge:                            8,676
Point Grey Rd at Stephens:         5,852
Seawall at David Lam Park:        7,785
Seawall at Science World:           9,428

12,700 on the Beach Avenue Bikeway signifies overwhelming success at encouraging people to cycle.  And recall that this is simply with plastic pylons, temporary signs, no pavement improvements, and so on.  Imagine what we could do with a permanent protected bikeway with better signage and markings, connected at both ends.

The Burrard Bridge bike lanes were regarded as the busiest in the City based on the counter data.  This blows that number out of the water.

And it wasn’t a one time occurrence.

Looking at the recent data along Beach, there were single weekend days in June with over 10,000.   There was a Thursday in June with 9,415.  A Monday with 9,294.  There were seven days in July with over 10,000 bike counts.

At the HUB Cycling tent last weekend there were 9,993 bikes that passed by – per the counter a few metres away (the hose didn’t get cut until the following day).

It is hard to imagine this number of people cycling on the current seawall path, especially past the restaurant under the Burrard Bridge, or in front of the restaurant at the foot of Denman, both of which are congested.

When the seawall is opened up to people on bikes again, the two routes will naturally balance each other, with slower and more leisurely riders on the water, and most using the Beach Avenue Bikeway.

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Beach Bikeway (no one’s calling it a flow way) is obviously and surprisingly high-volume.  Many cyclists, many different kinds of cyclists, for many hours, in a near-continuous flow.

Dale Bracewell’s tweet was the first time we saw a number.  And it was huge.

But how to translate 12,700 into something we can grasp and compare.  The data is out there.  Can it tell us what 12,700 signifies?

That’s your cue, PT commenters.

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Let’s make the Beach Avenue Bikeway (connecting Stanley Park to False Creek North) permanent.

This incredibly popular and scenic route provides a safe, direct and flat connection between Hornby Street and Stanley Park for people of all ages and abilities, for recreation and commuting – all day, every day. It is a great use of limited open public space in one of Vancouver’s most popular and densely-populated neighbourhoods.

The Beach Avenue Bikeway will also relieve pressure on the very busy seawall route when bikes are allowed back on it post-COVID distancing measures.

Sign here if you agree and HUB Cycling will keep you updated on the future of this valuable cycling bikeway.

Drop by a HUB Cycling tent this Saturday, August 8 and Sunday, Aug 9 between 9 am and 3 pm on Beach Avenue at Broughton Street to sign your support.

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Last week I wrote  about Britain’s government prescribing biking   outlining the new British federal policy to increase fitness through diet and by  encouraging cycling use. Lloyd Alter in Tree Hugger also wrote about this new initiative and went a step further, outlining “In countries like Britain or Canada with nationalized medicine, there is much more of an incentive to keep people healthy and out of the hospital in the first place, since the costs are paid through taxes”.

But where is Canada?

As Christopher Guly in the Tyee writes Member of Parliament (and a member of the New Democratic (NDP) party Gordon Johns has twice brought forward a bill to adopt a national cycling plan. You’d think with the impact of the Covid pandemic that such a bill would be especially helpful as people want to keep moving as gyms and community centres remain closed down. Separated safe cycling lanes have demonstrated over and over again to be what is holding back a universal adoption of cycling as a more accepted municipal mode of transportation.

Mr. Johns who represents the  Courtenay-Alberni riding has already received support from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, along with such major cities as Toronto, Ottawa and Victoria”. 

The day last March that Mr. Johns reintroduced his private members bill asking for Federal support for cycling, it was also announced that Canada’s first national active transportation strategy would be developed. This plan will develop “a national active transportation strategy that promotes bicycle and walking-friendly communities and school travel, including identifying and harnessing current investments that fall within the strategy.”

An integrated national strategy on active transportation is helpful during the Covid pandemic where being outdoors and being able to physically move safely is more important than ever.

I have written about the initiatives of Winnipeg and Edmonton who were early adapters to the creation of active transportation streets in their municipalities. Vancouver eventually joined  the party a few months later in adopting “Slow Streets”.

But here’s the  exciting thing about this national initiative~eight organizations related to health including the Alzheimer Society and the Heart and Stroke Foundation have been supporting a national active transportation strategy. Finally some thinking on the intersection between  providing good infrastructure and impetus for active walking, cycling, and getting outside  which would reduce costs on the national health care system.

Member of Parliament  Andy Filmore who is leading the federal initiative has 20 members of parliament willing to work on the strategy~sadly there are no members from the Official Opposition party , the Conservatives.

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