Infrastructure
April 2, 2019

How to Solve the Mutual Dislike of Sharing the Road?

Design editor Lloyd Alter of Tree Hugger sums up what is truly happening in the “sharing the road” adage that is so popular these days. As Lloyd recalls in this article in Mnn.com  “Everyone hates everyone”. That is a pretty true statement and we have to do a better job and get that done now.

 Lloyd Alter states “Unless we start planning now and figuring out how to share the space we have equitably, in 10 years it won’t be drivers hating pedestrians hating cyclists, It will be everybody hating old people. Because we will be everywhere.”

It really is not about a demographic time bomb of old people showing up on adult tricycles scooting along bike lanes. It is really about our discussion on why when talking about sharing space, we still pit pedestrians against cyclists, giving vehicular users a relatively free pass to the rest of the street without much discussion.

I wrote about the unfortunate bicycle crash that happened with City of Vancouver’s Transportation manager (and all around nice guy) Dale Bracewell who suffered a shattered elbow when a vehicle literally debiked him.  Both Lloyd Alter and Dale quoted the just released study from Australia which suggests that many motorists don’t see cyclists as real people and vulnerable road users with as much right to the road space as they do. You can take a look at that study here.

If you have been a cyclist or a pedestrian in Australian cities you will know it is still a bit like the wild west, with vehicles having priority on streets, and state government at odds with the big cities who want to traffic calm on state run road networks and give pedestrians priority at signalized intersections.

Of course there are issues between cyclists and pedestrians as well.

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I have written before about leading pedestrian crossing intervals  for pedestrian crossings.  Last summer I wrote about New York City’s successful implementation of them which has resulted in a 40 percent decrease in pedestrian and cyclist injuries, and a decline in deaths.

It’s a very simple concept. For a nominal cost of $1,200 per intersection, crossing lights are reprogrammed to give pedestrians a seven to ten second start (in New York City) to cross the street before vehicular traffic is allowed to proceed through a crosswalk. There are over 100 of these leading pedestrian crossing intervals installed in New York City where their transportation policies prioritize the safety of walkers over vehicular movement.

Carlito Pablo in the Georgia Straight has taken a look at the City of Vancouver’s Transportation Plan that notes that 75 percent of Vancouver’s vehicular collisions with pedestrians happen at intersections. In his article he wonders why the City is not looking at implementing more of these leading pedestrian intervals to stop injuries and save lives.

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The City of Vancouver’s Greenway system comprises of a network of 140 kilometers of streets that are designed for walking and biking as a priority. This was an  innovative concept that was developed by the Urban Landscape Task Force chaired by Moura Quayle  in the early 1990’s under Mayor Gordon Campbell’s leadership. The original intent was to have a greenway a 20 minute walk or a ten minute bicycle ride from every residence in Vancouver. For some reason that has changed to a 25 minute walk on the city’s website in the last couple of years. You can read a bit more about greenways at the City’s link here.

Price Tags has been writing about the two kilometer downtown  Comox-Helmcken Greenway that links Hornby Street to Stanley Park and you can see some images here,  posted by Gordon Price when the greenway first opened in 2016. Like many things, the City has built a lot of the network, but has not undertaken any analysis of  the greenways’ effectiveness and impact on city residents~until now.

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The Mayor of the  City of Toronto  is now talking about  instituting 30 kilometer per hour speed limits in the city.  I have written about the road carnage that is happening in Toronto where 46 pedestrians and cyclists were killed on city streets in 2018. That number increased by ten percent from 2017. Imagine~almost four people a month dying walking or cycling in the City of Toronto. The quickest way to alleviate this carnage is to slow vehicular speeds and enforce them~being crashed into by a vehicle at 50 km/h a pedestrian has a 10 percent chance of survival. Survival odds increase to 90 percent if a pedestrian is crashed into at 30 km/h.

In Oliver Moore’s article in the National Post, fingers have been pointing at Toronto Mayor John Tory who has been very conservative about addressing this road carnage. The City also instituted Vision Zero, a road safety program that should be focused on eliminating all traffic related deaths and serious injuries according to its creed. But no, in the City of Toronto they decided to only try to achieve a percentage lowering of deaths, not the complete elimination of carnage, and received much bad press about that.

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There’s more evidence about the importance of creating walkable communities in a new study that was reported in The British Medical Journal. While cities strive to have goals such as bus stops within a ten minute walk of every residence, research undertaken by Dr. Bo Xi, at Shandong University’s School of Public Health illustrates that walking to the stop may actually be extending transit passengers’ lives.

Inverse.com writes that  researchers found that walking, dancing or even gardening for “10 minutes to an hour per week was associated with an 18-percent lower risk of death compared to people who did nothing.”

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The Planning Institute of British Columbia South Coast Chapter  is offering an afternoon  workshop on Accessibility~Understanding the Why and Then the How.

We invite urban planners, policy makers, architects, builders, engineers, park planners and anyone else who can learn from meeting people with various and levels of abilities that face barriers in the built environment. Let us learn how to make the built environment easy and safe to navigate from a mother with a baby carriage, grandmother with bags of groceries, Andrea Bocelli and friends, to Sue Thomas: F.B.Eye

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For anyone that likes to explore cities and spaces on their own, Google Maps has developed an augmented reality mode  that makes it easy to ascertain what direction a pedestrian should be headed in~there is a large animated type of arrow to guide your direction.

You know those moments where there are no references to help you figure out which direction north is, and no way to determine exactly where you are. Using global localization which brings together Visual Positioning Services (VPS) and Street View, the smartphone camera becomes a “sensor” making wayfinding so much easier.

With a limited release in February for people who will augment the app with new locations and take photos, it is in the feedback stage. And here is the best part~the new feature is solely for walking directions, not for vehicular drivers.

In those pesky locations where GPS does not work because it is bouncing off buildings and cell towers, the Augmented Reality (AR) application uses the camera to suss surrounding buildings and street grids to pinpoint a walker’s location.

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While many cities have undertaken initiatives to make it safer and more convenient for walking and biking, the motor industry has been selling bigger and larger vehicles, with over 1.4 million Sport Utility Vehicles (SUVs) and crossovers being sold in the United States in the first quarter of 2018. What is the difference between these two categories? A SUV is a vehicle built on a truck platform, while a crossover is a unibody construction on a car platform, and is supposed to  be more maneuverable and parkable. Both of these are large vehicles and are outselling sedans.

Indeed trucks and SUVs comprise 60 percent of the new vehicle purchases in the United States, and have been contributing to an increasing proportion of pedestrian deaths. From 2009 to 2016  pedestrian deaths have risen 46 percent and are directly linked to the increase of these large vehicles on the road.

Statistics show that SUVs with the high front end grille is 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.

So why are people buying these large vehicles?

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In the “you just can’t make this stuff up” department an auto parts service company in Japan has created a traffic safety video for cats. They actually used animal psychologists’ advice to create a video with “plenty of moving pieces to keep the kitties’ attention on the important message, adding in the sounds of chirping birds, and a narrator who meows.”

Fast Company  also reports that the video was “focus-group tested by cats for cats at a one of Japan’s many cat cafés and were chosen as most likely to ensure a rapt feline audience.”

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The City of Edinburgh has been led  the way on projects  giving vulnerable road users street priority. The City was one of the first to create “no-go” exclusionary areas around schools for vehicular traffic while kids traversed to school. This program banned cars from being in zones several blocks around six schools  from  one hour before to one hour after school. Of course there was vehicular pushback, but the program has been very successful, changed driver behaviour and encouraging children to walk and bike to school.

Now Edinburgh City Council is considering banning vehicular traffic in some downtown areas and radically throttling back vehicular movement on other routes, to create walkable places and plazas. A free “city hopper bus” would provide necessary linkage for residents and visitors during the first part of a pilot project commencing in May.

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