Beijing Traffic Cycling
August 21, 2019

How China Reduces Automobile Usage

Prior to the 2008 Beijing Olympics, it was generally acknowledged that both the traffic and the pollution in the city was out of control; in 2010, a traffic jam on the China National Highway 110 slowed traffic for 100 kilometres, and lasted for most of two weeks.

The Chinese government is still building and maintaining an impressive network of multi-lane freeways, highways, and flyovers — with regular toll plazas — to move large volumes of automobiles relatively efficiently, but the Chinese government has also tried to move the country (or at least the major cities) away from internal combustion engines.

As well as making lots of safe space for transit users, bikes, electric motorbikes, and pedestrians, the Chinese have done one other thing to improve the traffic mix in Chengdu and Beijing: they’ve made it really hard to own a car. Much like the licences and charges in London and Singapore, rules in China pretty much limit car use in the city to the very wealthy.

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From Dianna. who’s a Seaside Regular:

This is an especially scary time of the year to ride on the seawall. People have a few months of riding, have grown stronger and more confident, and now their enthusiasm and strength outweigh their skill. People ride faster but aren’t aware of increased pedestrian traffic, never mind other cyclists.

I’m happy to see other happy riders, but please pay attention to what you’re doing. Heads up, friends!

 

Not a new problem.  Here’s a CBC report from 2014:

Cyclists have to take care for each other, because there’s not much evidence that the Park Board does.

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Another counter-intuitive study that offsets a reasonable expectation that more electric bikes and scooters will mean less fit users – kind of like the idea that ‘riding hailing will result in less SOV use and vehicle congestion’.  (Turns out Uber et al increase congestion and reduce transit use.)  But there are qualifications.

From treehugger:

E-bikers use their bikes more, go longer distances, and often substitute it for driving or transit. …

A new study, with a mouthful of a title, “Physical activity of electric bicycle users compared to conventional bicycle users and non-cyclists: Insights based on health and transport data from an online survey in seven European cities,” finds that in fact it is true: e-bikers take longer trips and get pretty much the same physical activity gains as analog cyclists. …

But perhaps even more significant is the dramatic increase in exercise among people who switch from cars to e-bikes, a much easier transition than from cars to a-bikes.

It should be noted that this study looks at European pedelec e-bikes like my Gazelle, where people have to pedal a bit to get the 250 watt motor to kick in. Results probably don’t apply to overpowered throttle-controlled American e-bikes or scooters. Because, as the study authors note, with a pedelec, “using an e-bike requires moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity, depending on topography.”

There is so much to unpack from this study. It also looks at how e-bikes are easier for older riders, keeping them fitter longer. It also reinforces my opinion that the Europeans got it right by limiting speed and power on e-bikes and mandating that they are all pedelecs rather than throttle operated; you don’t get much exercise on a motorcycle.

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While in Tel Aviv, I signed up for ‘Lime’ – one of the scooter-share services in Israel.  Within about ten minutes, I loved it.  The electric scooter filled a mobility niche I wasn’t quite aware of: short trips for which even bike-share seemed excessive.  Or when transit and taxis were infrequent or unavailable.  Or just because it was the most accessible mode to choose when leaving the apartment, often right there at the curb. 

(Here’s what scooter-use looks like along the waterfront.)

But it was also was apparent that scooters were too successful for their own good: lots of road user conflicts, parking problems, safety issues, a general sense of anarchy after only a year or two of their introduction.

It seemed that the City didn’t quite know what to do with this popular but uncontrolled mode of transport, or so far hadn’t had effective enough enforcement – no doubt to considerable complaint from the populace.

I therefore wasn’t at all surprised when the following notice arrived in my inbox today from Tel Aviv Lime.  My guess is that the City has come down heavy on scooter-share companies (insider perspective welcome from TLV) and these ‘guidelines’ are the result . PT prints them in full as a helpful guide for this Province and City, which so far has made the scooter effectively illegal everywhere. 

 

TLV Shared Mobility Regulations

Dear Limers,

We, as Israel’s largest micro mobility service provider, take upon ourselves the responsibility to help all users of the urban space adapt to this mobility revolution and to reduce any disturbance that may be caused by our scooters.

On August 1st, new regulations will come into force and we want to tell you about them and the requirements of the law. Let’s all respect them and act accordingly:

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The wave of electric micro mobility: it’s happening fast here in Canada.

From e-bikes, to e-scooters, to e-boards and segways, increasingly cities in BC and beyond are speaking out about the need to accommodate such emerging technologies, while simultaneously grappling with how to do so.

Written in 1957, BCs Provincial Motor Vehicle Act (MVA), whose initial design was to regulate motor vehicles and their drivers, has proven to be a significant barrier in the creation of a more hospitable environment for these rapidly emerging technologies and their riders.

While e-bikes are now legally able to operate on BC roads (operators must be at least 16 years of age and wearing a helmet, with electric motors capped at 500 watts) how to accommodate users who wish to use different electric technologies — such as e-scooters and e-boards — remains a big question.

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During this time of good weather, late nights and less clothing, I search for an agreeable public space along a greenway, to stop for a while to nurse a coffee and watch the passing parade.  I look for one specific thing.

Electric bikes. And the occasional electric scooter.

Here’s the curious thing: there aren’t any.  Well, hardly any – at least nowhere as many as you’d reasonably expect in a city as cycle-friendly as Vancouver, particularly one with hills.  Especially, say, North Vancouver.

At the opening of the Shipyards this weekend, I looked for any bike that had a battery pouch.  None – not too surprising in a pedestrian-heavy area.  But Tony Valente, the CNV councillor, also confirmed that there aren’t as any many electric-assist bikes as you’d expect in a community whose main street, Lonsdale, is essentially a hill.  He thinks they’re on the way.

But why aren’t they already here, given how popular they are – along with a tidal wave of electric scooters – in other cities as near as Seattle?

Perhaps it’s our culture.  We think battery-assist bikes are somehow cheating.  If you ain’t sweating up that hill, you’re a lazy weak person.

And we’re law-abiding.  Since electric scooters are illegal everywhere but in parking lots and your backyard, we’ve held back the inevitable.

But if what I saw in Tel Aviv is indicative, along with other global cities, the electric scooter is on its way, proliferating in traffic in a mere two or three years to the point where they often seem to be the traffic.  Here’s a typical scene along the beach front in TLV:

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And on Allenby Street, a major avenue through downtown.

IMG_3047(1)_HEVC

I welcome your theories.  And an answer to the questions: where should electric-assist cycles and scooters be?  On bikeways, separated routes, side streets, in any traffic? Or anywhere unless very specifically prohibited, like sidewalks and seawalls?

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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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A few decades back a trip to Europe was a more dangerous experience if you were driving on the roads, biking or walking in European cities. But as Joe Cortright who contributes to Strong Towns and runs the City Observatory notes that paradigm has changed. Meanwhile the pedestrian fatality rate on roads in the United States has risen by 50 percent in just one decade, from 4,109 dying in 2009  to 6,227 dying in 2018.

While Europeans have high rates of vehicle ownership, pedestrian fatality rates are lower, declining 36 percent in the last eight years from 8,342 deaths to 5,320.

Cortright asks~if more people walk in Europe than the United States, why aren’t fatality rates the same or more for pedestrians?

As Cortwright observes: “It’s worth noting that this trend is occurring even though walking is far more common in Europe, streets are generally narrower, and in older cities, there aren’t sidewalks, but pedestrians share the roadway with cars. Despite these factors, Europe now has a lower pedestrian death toll per capita than the U.S.”

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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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When it comes to the inevitable disruption that will be caused by the proliferation of electric bikes, scooters and every possible hybrid, we are so not ready.  It’s the one big thing I learned from last month’s trip to Tel Aviv, and saw this:

Scooters (and electric bikes) are everywhere in Tel Aviv – by the thousands.  Like an invasive species, it took only two years for them to fill a mobility niche, and there’s likely no possible way to exterminate them now.

Though there is the occasional sighting in Vancouver, so far the private scooter-share companies – notably Lime and Bird – have been prevented from taking root.  Like Uber, the Province has kept them at bay by making their use functionally illegal.  Here’s the situation as described in the new Active Transportation Design Guide:

Legality of E-Scooters and Other Small, One Person Electric Vehicles

At the time of writing, e-scooters (and similar small, one-person electric vehicles such as hoverboards, motorized skateboards, and self balancing electric unicycles) are not permitted on public roadways or sidewalks in B.C.

The B.C. MVA defines these vehicle types as motor vehicles, but they do not meet provincial equipment safety standards for on-street use. E-scooters and similar vehicle types may only be operated where the B.C. MVA does not apply, such as on private property that does not have public vehicle access, and on trails or pathways (if allowed by municipal bylaw).

Many of the laws that ban e-scooters were developed under different mobility contexts. As demand for these technologies and others grow, the policies may need to be updated.

Um, ‘may’?   Scooters, in particular, are gaining global popularity.  They’re cheap, compact, flexible, zero-emission, noiseless, practical, fun and hip.

There is no way to stop people from buying them.  And if the law says there’s no legal way to use them, then the law will be seen as irrelevant unless rigorously and punitively enforced. And why would we do that when this is exactly the kind of transportation we want to encourage in a ‘climate emergency.’

There will be more to come on the particular circumstances in Tel Aviv.  But we need to prepare ourselves now for the impact of this new mobility.  May I suggest we send the necessary authorities to Tel Aviv for a couple of weeks with instructions that, during that time, they cannot use a car.

 

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