June 20, 2019

Surrey~Where there is no Room for Light Rail but there is Room for Canals

With thanks to Scot Bathgate~this is not Metro Vancouver’s first rodeo with the canal idea. An early iteration of False Creek north included lagoons, and Expo 86 architect Bruno Freschi floated the canal concept with a connection from False Creek along Carrall towards Burrard Inlet. But these waterworks were suggestions for a mega development and a world’s fair. Both of these were also never built.

But this week in Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum actually told folks at a Business Association conference that  “water-filled canals could be constructed on a street with less traffic volumes, and that the idea first came to him when he visited Qatar”.

He also stated that he had already spoken to his city’s engineering department about the potential design. As the Daily Hive reports  CEO of the Downtown Surrey Business Improvement Area Elizabeth Model diplomatically responded “Mayor McCallum has an interesting concept and as I have travelled so much and seen cities being built with canals… I understand his ideas but it really depends on the ease and functionality.”

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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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I have previously been writing about  midblock crossings and raised crosswalks on this blog as well as on Walk Metro Vancouver’s website.

There is always lots of discussion about midblock crossings, and the term “jaywalking” was developed in the 1920’s to refer to those pedestrians who darted mid-block instead of freeing up that road space for rapidly moving vehicles. Pedestrians were moved to intersections controlled by engineering traffic standards, as the assumption was that traffic engineers were better judges of pedestrian safety than the pedestrians themselves.The American  Federal Highway Administration (FHA) striped highway pavements with the assumption that pedestrians are safer crossing at intersections with traffic lights and with all kinds of turning movements versus mid block two-way vehicular traffic.

I have also written about my involvement with the installation of the first permanent raised crosswalk in Vancouver located at East 22nd Avenue and Commercial Street north of Lord Selkirk Elementary School. The raised crosswalk is a walkable speed hump that is at the same grade as the sidewalk on either side of the street. The raised crosswalk serves to  elevate the pedestrian, and slows vehicular traffic which should be travelling the posted school speed limit anyway. You have probably driven over the  raised crosswalks located outside the Vancouver Airport.

So how effective are mid-block crossings and raised crosswalks at making pedestrians safer, more comfortable and secure on the street?Angie Schmitt of StreetsBlog has been collecting data on pedestrians and crossing safely, and the statistics she has found are quite shocking. In looking at how many drivers yield to pedestrians at a crosswalk without a traffic signal or signage, she found that only 16 to 32 percent of drivers will stop for those pedestrians.

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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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It really is astounding at how we can so easily erase the need for basic pedestrian amenity when new technology rolls around. Even the people at Amazon did not see the obvious usurping of the sidewalk by their six wheeled  sidewalk delivery robot as being a problem. You can see in the video below as “Scout” (yes they named him) dutifully takes up most of the sidewalk as he rolls on his route. There is no space left over for a pedestrian, a baby buggy or a user of any mobility device.

But now Amazon as reported in the Business Insider wants pedestrians to know that not only do they need to give way for these robots on narrow sidewalks, but “that the public should treat these robots in the same way that they would pedestrians.”. 

Yes you heard that right. The sidewalk delivery robots want to have the same rights and the same rules of the road as do pedestrians, and also will use the road only if a pedestrian would do the same with a level of comfort.

Sean Scott of Amazon states “If you feel safe walking on that road, that’s where we want to be. We want to be viewed as a pedestrian and treated as a pedestrian.”

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There is a perceptive cultural shift on how people in this province are viewing their residential streets and their ability to use those streets for more than just a vehicular driving conduit. I have been writing about how slower streets are now being adopted around the world and how slower speeds of 20 miles per hour or 30 kilometres per hour  reduces deaths and serious injury from vehicular crashes.

Slower street speeds also enhance livability, sociability, and the ability for neighbourhoods to use streets as public living rooms for street hockey and interaction. Lowering speed also reduces emissions and enhances sustainability.

In the City of Bristol which has universally adopted the slower speed, 95 percent of respondents want the slower speeds maintained in all residential and school zoned areas.

Mario Canseco has just released a new poll where he asked residents across British Columbia how they perceived the traffic on the street where they lived.  His online poll of a “representative provincial sample”  showed that  “58% of British Columbians say they would “definitely” or “probably” like to see the speed limit reduced to 30 km/h on all residential streets in their own municipality, while keeping the speed limit on arterial and collector roads at 50 km/h.”

When asked about Vancouver’s pilot project to have a demonstration project of slower residential speeds, two thirds (66%) of people in the Province thought it was a good idea, with only 22% saying it was a bad or very bad thing.

Here is where it gets interesting-Mario also found that people surveyed supportive of slower speeds were 74 and 72 percent voting for the BC New Democratic Party and the BC Green Party than the BC Liberals which were at 60 percent.

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While Vancouver City Council is creating a 30 kilometer an hour residential area “demonstration project” in Vancouver, Europe once again shows the way that slower streets are not only about increasing safety, but  are truly a facet of making neighbourhood streets much more neighbourly.

Slower streets means kids can play stickball in the street on a summer evening, and seniors can amble more comfortably around the area. It means making the residents and walkers, rollers and cyclists just as important as vehicular traffic, which ate up most of the road surface in the 20th century. That vehicular traffic has had a relatively free ride (bad pun) on city streets and infrastructure, and habits are hard to break. Vehicles and their drivers view speed and efficiency in their own journey as paramount, with residential streets necessary collateral needing to be used for drivers’ own interests.

Take a look at the City of Bristol, one of many cities in Great Britain that have embraced slower speeds of 20 miles per hour, equivalent to 32 kilometres per hour. Enacted between 2012 and 2015  a detailed review of the slower speeds found that only minor adjustments were identified, and most of those proposed improvements were to facilitate active travel by walking or bicycle.

And the numbers are astounding~of 3,500 responses,  95 percent of respondents wanted to maintain the lower speed limits in residential areas and school zones. The 20 mile per hour speed limit was an essential component of Bristol’s Vision Zero plan to eradicate serious injury and death  in vehicular crashes. You can read more about the survey and the background to the 20 mile per hour implementation at this website: 20 miles per hour~A little bit slower. A whole lot better.

Closer to home Seattle’s Dongho Chang  traffic engineer extraordinaire  has compared what happened in Seattle when sixty percent of streets were changed to 20 miles per hour in 2016, with arterials posted at 25 miles per hour.

Seattle has seen a 20 percent reduction in the number of total collisions for the years 2017 and 2018 when compared to the two years before the slower speeds were implemented. That works out to 1,000 less collisions  in the last two years, with 3,912 crashes compared to 4,907 crashes in the two years prior to slower speeds.

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Sandor Gyarmati with the Delta Optimist reported on  rookie MLA Liberal Ian Paton being called out on his continuing positional diatribe about the Massey Crossing. Mr. Paton also famously double dipped by keeping his position as a councillor with the City of Delta when he became  a rookie MLA, saying he was doing the right thing for both subsets of constituents.

Instead of collaborating with the  Mayors’ Council on alternatives to the Massey Crossing, Mr. Paton positionally  went out and stuck signs in 2017 by the tunnel entrance blaming the congestion on the NDP government in power. Of course there is back story to that too. Paton’s  signs are placed on property owned by Ron Toigo of White Spot fame, who got that property fast tracked and rezoned at Delta Council for a casino in 2018, which will take full advantage of the over fifteen percent of Delta population that is senior.

But back to Mr. Paton. He and another Liberal MLA rookie,Richmond-Queensborough’s Jas Johal  have been telling media that the proposed oversized multi-billion dollar bridge that was planned for the Massey crossing was dismissed because of politics from the current NDP provincial government, and that no new crossing would be available for over a decade.

In a very unusual step, Premier John Horgan made the following statement:

“To Mr. Paton, I’m disappointed. As a new member who is respected in the community, I would expect him to be less partisan and more focused on solutions. Mr. Johal has made a business out of making stuff up and he continues down that course. I’ve got nothing but contempt for his approach to politics. I think Ian understands we need to work together to solve the problems, not just here with respect to congestion at Massey, but a whole range of other issues. We’re not about politics at all, we’re about solutions for people and that’s been our focus from the beginning”.

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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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