Cycling
August 2, 2019

Twiggy Little Devices with Silly Names

They’re on their way, Vancouver is behind, it’s going to be messy, but it’s inevitable: electric scooters and, no doubt, a whole bunch of related technologies.

Thomas sends along a piece from The Economist that describes what’s happening in Europe.  (Unfortunately, the whole piece is behind a paywall, but here are the opening paragraphs):

Streets ahead

Europe is edging towards making post-car cities a reality

 Hurtling along a “cycle highway” by the River Scheldt in Antwerp recently, Charlemagne (the author) only noticed the electric scooter when it was too late. Spinning tyre met stationary scooter, British journalist separated from Belgian bike and Anglo-Saxon words were uttered. How irritating and obnoxious these twiggy little devices can seem with their silly names (“Lime”, “Poppy”, “Zero”) and their sudden invasion of the pavements of every large European city. Everywhere they seem to be in the way, abandoned precisely at those points where prams, pedestrians or speeding journalists need to pass.

And yet your columnist refuses to hold a grudge, because the rise of the electric scooter is part of a broader and welcome phenomenon: the gradual retreat of the car from the European city. Across the continent, apps and satellite-tracking have spawned bike- and scooter-rental schemes that allow city-dwellers to beat the traffic. Networks of cycle paths are growing and creeping outwards; that of Paris will by next year have grown by 50% in five years. Municipal governments are lowering speed limits, introducing car bans and car-free days, pedestrianising streets and replacing car parks with bike parks.

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From today’s staff report on the 2019 Greenest City Action Plan Implementation Update:

The chart says that by 2018 people in Vancouver took more trips by foot, bike and transit than by motor vehicles.  And did it sooner than expected.

That’s not news to a lot of people who read PT – but it’s still extraordinary.  Especially since those targets are often overly ambitious, assuming that the politicians who vote for them won’t be around to see the results.

Here’s another chart that affirms the previous one: distances driven are consistently dropping.

We’re doing something very right.

So to the doubters and deniers: don’t ignore real achievement or dismiss success.  It’s too easy to be cynical, and it’s destructive.

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Kevin Quinlan, who was working in the mayor’s office at the time of the Burrard-bike-lane blow-up, apparently saved files of the coverage, perhaps with the intent of doing what he does here – a delicious reiteration of how over-the-top most of the assumptions and criticism was at the time.  Here are excerpts from his Twitter thread.

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@KQ_VanCity

Guess who is 10! Happy birthday, Burrard bridge bike lane: today marks 10 years since the Burrard Bridge bike lane opened. Let’s take a casual bike ride back through time and look at the calm, nuanced media commentary that greeted the plucky bike lane in 2009.

Quick refresher: 6 car lanes on the Burrard bridge went down to five, to enable separated bike lanes to keep people from falling into traffic. Months of media hysteria that it would be a complete disaster. it would fail within days!

Political opponents tried to get ‘Gregor’s gridlock’ to become a catchy slogan (lasted about as long as ‘who let the dogs out’.) Radio pundits predicted Mayor and Vision would be trounced in next election. Nobody bikes! It rains! Social engineering! Radical green agenda! . On first day, morning commute had news choppers flying overhead. CKNW set up a live booth on Burrard at Drake to talk live to all those angry commuters stuck in traffic. ARE YOU MAD CALL IN NOW AND GIVE US A PIECE OF YOUR MIND NOW HERE’S A RADIO AD FOR ALARM FORCE. . The Burrard Bridge bike lane media commentary has aged really well. Vancouver Sun: BURRARD BRIDGE BIKE LANES DOOMED TO FAILURE. Not just won’t work: DOOMED TO FAIL. Like a curse. .

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While we rely on police forces to ensure the security and safety of citizens, we don’t think about what it like for police to stop or enforce speed limits on highways. Think of it~those police officers  are vulnerable road users without the protection of a vehicular steel cage flagging vehicles to pull over. Why are we using such a 19th century enforcement to maintaining speed limits and enhancing safety on our roads?

In June I wrote about the man with numbers, pollster Mario Canseco’s  findings 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.”  That indicated that in our cities and towns we are willing to look at reduced speeds to enhance livability and quality of life in those places, as well as dramatically increase the survivability of pedestrians and cyclists involved in crashes. But how about speeding at intersections and major roads in British Columbia?

Last summer Mario Canseco’s Research Co. conducted another poll that showed that 70% of  people in British Columbia were  supportive of the use of a camera system  to enforce  speed limits in this province, and make intersections safer.

In the online survey of a representative sample of British Columbians, seven-in-ten residents (70%) approve of the use of speed-on-green cameras, or red light cameras that also capture vehicles that are speeding through intersections. Automated speed enforcement works by using cameras or sensors to pick up a vehicle speeding. A ticket is then issued to the owner of the vehicle. Driver’s license points are not issued as the driver of the vehicle cannot be identified.

Mario’s latest article in Business in Vancouver discusses the findings of the provincial government when it studied speed and crash statistics from 140 intersections which have red light cameras. What the government found is troubling~”The findings revealed that, during the course of an average week, 201 cars drive at least 30 km/h over the advertised speed limit.”

The provincial government is converting 35 existing  red light cameras to “speed-on-green” equipment to photograph vehicles at speed through intersections.While there are two cameras in Langley, three in Burnaby and seven in Surrey, there will be twelve in Vancouver.

The government’s approach is similar to that adopted by the City of Delta.

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While the City of Vancouver dithers about reducing speeds to 30 km/h in their neighbourhoods, the City of Montreal just gets it done, and they are reducing speed on their arterial roads too. Montreal is not just doing lip service to Vision Zero, the concept that no serious injuries or deaths should result on city roads. They identified reducing speed limits as essential, especially where pedestrians and cyclists used the street.

In Vancouver we don’t talk about Vision Zero officially, as the previous Vision controlled council did not like the term for their own political reasons. It’s time  for this Council to take control and bring the right term  back.

It has been proven internationally that the one way to save lives on roads is to lower speed limits. That increases the survivability of a crash for a pedestrian and cyclist, and also allows for more reaction time for the driver. It is also more sustainable to travel at slower speeds, and allows the streets to function in a sociable way for residents walking and cycling, instead of just facilitating fast vehicular traffic.

As the CBC reports some of Montreal’s  boroughs have already adopted speed limits of 30 km/h in neighbourhoods and 40 km/h on arterial roads. Listen to the messaging from the Mayor of Montreal, who says that not only is it important to methodically implement slower speed limits for enhanced street use and livability, but that those limits need to be lowered quickly. They are serious about reducing injuries and saving lives.

Montreal’s Vision Zero plan is direct and to the point. Besides reducing speeds, they are banning heavy trucks from some of the street network, improving safety around schools, and improving crosswalk visibility. I have already written about the City of London banning certain trucks and requiring sideguards on others. London realized that one kind of truck was in three years responsible for 70 percent of that city’s cycling deaths. Those trucks  are now completely banned from the inner core of London.

The City of Montreal has buy-in from the  public health department, Quebec’s automobile insurance board and both the Federal and Provincial Ministries of Transport. Montreal has also led a fulsome public process engaging with citizens and over thirty different groups, including the trucking industry.

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Do you know which state sells the most automobiles? It is California, and their automobile market of two million annual sales of vehicles  is roughly the same as Canada’s.  California also leads in having ten per cent of all vehicles already electric powered.

As the New York Times reports the size of that state’s vehicular market and the potential for Canada to adopt California’s strict car emission standards may be sufficient to roll back the proposed lower emission standards.

The current President of the United States intends to roll back current emission standards which required carmakers to develop vehicles with an average of 54.5 miles per gallon by the year 2025. A plan to make that standard only 37 miles per gallon would dramatically increase climate change causing greenhouse gases.

In a move described by a political professor as showing that the current Canadian Prime Minister “doesn’t want to appear to be Trump’s poodle”  

Justin Trudeau’s government is signing a deal with California to adopt that state’s more stringent vehicular polluting standards. That means that the market for cars in Canada will need to adhere with the higher standards already in place in California. This may be enough to sway automobile makers to maintain the higher standard, with one-third of American states standing behind it as well as Canada.

Canada has traditionally adopted the standards proposed by the American government instead of independently adopting standards proposed by a state. While the move to an adopted state standard of higher emission control could pressure manufacturers to create solely less polluting vehicles, there is also the chance that a two market system would be created. That would be a market where better performing vehicles are sold in Canada and in thirteen states, with the rest of the states going for more pollution emitting vehicles.

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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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Take a look at Norway where the capital city Oslo has removed over 700 parking spaces in the downtown and replaced those spaces with benches, bike racks and public spaces.The City has 50 parking spaces left, mainly for disabled persons in vehicles and for deliveries to local businesses.

i have been writing about European cities going for slower streets, and finding that residents are happy with the slower vehicular speeds. The Economist observes that many European cities are going for outright vehicular reduction in their downtowns.  London and Stockholm have congestion charges, and I have written about London’s new ultra low emissions zone.

Paris has tried to limit vehicular use on certain days. But Oslo’s approach of closing off the downtown to private cars, and changing streets to limit traffic flow in one direction is the closest to a “downtown car ban” . While opponents to the ban have complained about limited access to the downtown, there are still vehicles in the downtown, just fewer places to park. Downtown Oslo business owners worried that “fewer cars could mean fewer customers”. While those statistics are not in yet, pedestrian traffic has increased in the downtown by 10%, and the experience in London showed that spending increased by 40% with people that walked, cycled or took public transit to downtown shopping areas.

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