February 24, 2021

How wide should a bike lane be?

We date contemporary ‘bike lane’ design back to the 1970s, when a cycling wave hit Europe and North America.  Here’s an historical example from Toronto:

Toronto’s cycling committee was established at city hall in 1975 to promote safe cycling. Four years later, the first bike lane in old Toronto was constructed on Poplar Plains Road.

There have been many iterations since, each once advancing more space for active transportation.
Vancouver was one of the first to evolve the completely separated route in a downtown – Dunsmuir and Hornby in 2010 after the Olympics.

Now other cities that have generated large volumes of bike traffic have realized they have to reallocate some highly contested space.  Like on the Brooklyn Bridge.

The New York Times:

… the city will finally address longstanding concerns about the Brooklyn Bridge, which has long been known as a particularly dangerous route for cyclists, and the Queensboro Bridge. Under the plan, the city will ban cars from the inner lane of the Manhattan-bound side of the Brooklyn Bridge to build a two-way bike lane.

The existing promenade area at the center of the bridge, which is elevated above the car lanes, will be used only by pedestrians. Cyclists will no longer be able to ride on the promenade, where there is currently a bike lane.

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Urban Resilience: New Realities

Part of the Pandemonium: Urban Studies and Recovering from COVID-19 lecture series.

Wednesday, February 24

5:00 PM

Online event – Register here

How much can we apply from emergency and recovery planning efforts from other cities and other kinds of risks and disasters to our post-pandemic context? How much of the present pandemic demands a reconsideration of what it means to plan effectively for disaster?


Moderator: Seth Klein
Adjunct Professor, SFU Urban Studies

Sarah Moser
Associate Professor, Department of Geography, McGill University

Laurah John
Founder & CEO, JUA KALI LTD., St. Lucia

Anna Maria Bounds
Assistant Professor, Sociology, City University of New York

Lilia Yumagulova
Program Director, Preparing Our Home

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It’s Black History Month – and Michael Gordon adds this contribution:

Those of us old enough to remember can recall being hosted by a Black porter in a sleeping car on a CPR transcontinental train between Toronto or Montreal and Vancouver. I do, and they were wonderful hosts – a good memory to reflect on this month.

This week at the Vancouver Archives I discovered the CPR Porters’ Quarters at 1227 Richards Street. It was near Drake Street, which was the entrance to the CPR rail yards where the transcontinental passenger trains were prepared for journeys east to Halifax, Montreal, Toronto and Minneapolis-St Paul

View photos and train schedule:

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It’s the No. 1 intersection in Vancouver: Granville and Georgia.  Canada Line, SkyTrain and major bus routes, department stores, banks and office blocks, a major mall with high-profile stores, and some pretty good food carts.

Plus history: it’s been the No. 1 corner for a long time, notably when the anchors were (in addition to the Bay) the Birk’s Building (right) and, across Granville, the second hotel Vancouver.  The 60s and 70s were not kind to this corner.

A good case can be made for tearing out the London Drugs block as part of Scotia Centre and replacing it with something that addresses the corner, hides the party wall of the adjacent Vancouver Block, and provides some architectural interest.  (Could anything be more mediocre than the existing facade?)

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The permanent closure of the 800-block Robson and its redesign (close to the original vision of architect Arthur Erickson) must be getting close to opening.  It’s taken a surprisingly long time, likely because of structural and upgrading issues.

When looking eastward over the fencing, the symmetry of the new space and its urban context becomes apparent:

There are bleacher/steps on both sides (suitable for protests and performances of several sizes).  Then the view opens up.  Horizontal blocks frame a narrow 700-block Robson (likely to be partly pedestrianized in the future?)  Towers rise on either side.

Same elements, slightly different scales, combining to create an harmonious composition with a colour pallet and stonework consistent with the Square.

One obvious question: there’s no separated or distinguishable bike lane.  Is it assumed those cycling through the square will use common sense and etiquette to yield, that they should dismount when the block is crowded, or divert around the square using the Hornby Bikeway?

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