Cycling
December 20, 2017

Save 13,000 Lives, Save Billions of Dollars Just by Walking and Biking


The British  non-profit Sustrans has been examining governmental plans to increase walking and cycling and have figured out that if the plans are implemented within ten years, that 13,000 lives will be saved and nearly 9.31 billion pounds or 16 billion Canadian dollars still in coffers.
The CEO of Sustrans stated “The new findings reiterate that walking and cycling have a huge role to play in tackling the air quality crisis that causes tens of thousands of premature deaths every year. If we are to make a major modal shift, we need to provide a network of direct protected cycle routes on roads in addition to quieter routes across the UK.”
That’s an interesting thing to talk about protected bicycle routes, as air pollution in Great Britain causes 40,000 early deaths a year. The toxicity is mainly from diesel vehicles in the form of nitrogen dioxide. Many British towns and cities do not meet the WHO guidelines for mitigating air pollution, the most dangerous, PM2.5 coming from vehicle tires and brakes. “A report last month revealed that every area in London exceeds World Health Organisation limits for PM2.5.”
“Sustrans, in partnership with the environmental consultancy Eunomia, found that if targets to double journeys by bike and increase walking by “300 stages per person” in the England’s Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy were met, this would prevent more than 8,300 premature deaths from air pollution. This would result in £5.67bn in benefits over 10 years through the avoided costs associated with poor air quality, including NHS treatment in hospital for respiratory diseases.”  
Modal change from vehicles “to bikes, not diesel for electric” is the best way forward with even bigger savings if the wider impacts to health and well-being of physical activity were encouraged. This is the first time that Sustran’s data has been used with public health data to ascertain the impact of walking and cycling on a person’s exposure to air pollution.  “Our analysis suggests investment in cycling and walking has considerable potential to improve local air pollution. We believe this innovative model could be of considerable value in supporting local authorities and government as these bodies consider options to tackle the air pollution emergency at a local level.”

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Anyone downtown late in the evening knows how challenging it is to get taxi service. Price Tags Vancouver has previously written about taxis who don’t show up when they say they will, won’t pick up seniors for shorter runs and have inconsistent customer service. Even radio talk show hosts Steele and Drex have been discussing the fact that pre-booked cabs are not guaranteed, and the frustration for hotel guests and hotel  who assume they can hail a cab on the street-and hotel managers that have to explain that there is no Lyft or Uber car service.
Meanwhile, Lyft has moved into the  Toronto market  as reported by Tyler Orton for Business in Vancouver.  This is Lyft’s first foray outside of the United States, choosing Toronto because of ” its size and existing regulatory framework.” 
Lyft was founded in San Francisco in 2012 and operates in 300 cities. Lyft has reported that they have had 50,000 downloads of their app in Toronto and offer services to and between Hamilton, Oshawa and Newmarket Ontario. As the CBC reports “Lyft operates much like its competitor Uber. Riders download an app to their smartphone, where they’re able to request a ride at specific pickup and drop off locations.The app also provides an estimate of the ride’s cost and sends a driver to the customer in minutes. Payment, including tips, are also managed through the app. At the end of the trip, riders have the option to rate their drivers.”
Lyft’s pricing structure will be similar to Uber, with Lyft’s management insisting that their drivers make a decent wage working for then, and that there is a different customer experience. The major taxi companies balk at the introduction of Lyft  to the Toronto market, citing the King Street streetcar pilot as a “way to keep our city moving”.
And in British Columbia? The Provincial government has delayed allowing ride-hailing services, originally promised for the winter of 2017. Transportation Minister Claire Trevena has ordered a review of the taxi industry and ride-hailing services, with an expected completion date of Spring 2018. In the interim, the Toronto experience with two ride hailing services in their jurisdiction will provide more information on the effectiveness for customers and the impacts of these upstart technologies.

 
 

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Anyone that is walking, biking or driving in the City of Richmond knows that the intersection is not a very safe place. Cars go through on red lights, cars block the intersections, and it is often challenging for a pedestrian to legally cross the street. This is also reflected in the fact that 88 per cent of all accidents in Richmond occur in the intersection.
Under the guise of  enhancing public safety, Richmond city Council’s general purpose committee has recommended that Council approve a 2.2 million dollar upgrade of all existing traffic cameras to live recording, and install video cameras at all of the City’s 175  signalized intersections for 2018.
The report states “Threats of violence and terrorism remain an existential threat not only in international locations… but also domestically in cities in Canada.
“Richmond is an international gateway into Canada with major facilities including the airport and Metro Vancouver Port…It is prudent to address potential threats to the city’s community safety needs.”
Sure, but it will also be very helpful to have film footage of accidents, and it will be interesting to see if the universal camera installation makes a change in the driver behaviour and accident rate in Richmond’s intersections. The Richmond News also states that if the funding is approved by Council, staff will be looking for partnerships from the Province and Federal governments to help pay for it. You can also go on-line here to view photos being taken by the Richmond intersections that are currently operating with cameras.

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With thanks to Stan Hohnholz~From New York City comes this transformational story about Queens Boulevard,  a street where an appalling 18 pedestrian deaths occurred in 1997, and where a total of 186 people have died since 1990. This street in Queens was understandably called the “Boulevard of Death” and as the New York Times observes it looked that way too, with a road width of up to 300 feet and twelve lanes of vehicular traffic for pedestrians to cross.  Pedestrians often got stranded on narrow medians trying to cross the street.  In comparison many Manhattan streets are just 70 feet wide, with side streets off major streets being only 30 feet wide.
But there has been a major change~since 2014 not one pedestrian or cyclist has been killed on the seven mile stretch of this boulevard. Mayor de Blasio had an “ambitious Vision Zero campaign to eliminate traffic deaths citywide through a host of enforcement measures and safety improvements, including redesigning streets and re-timing walk signals to give pedestrians a head start in crosswalks.”  

Queens Boulevard was also the demonstration street to mitigate traffic deaths for other New York City streets. Pedestrian walk signals were lengthened to 60 seconds from previous standards of 32 to 50 seconds. Curb extensions were installed to shorten the crossing distance for pedestrians, refuge medians were widened, and barriers installed to protect pedestrians on them. Additional crosswalks were added, and fencing installed.
The 12 car lanes of traffic were reconfigured for six lanes of through traffic in each direction, with two bus lanes and two parking lanes. CCTV cameras were installed to ticket vehicle drivers going through red lights. Despite these changes eight people died on the street in 2013. Six of these deaths were pedestrians crossing the street. When de Blasio became Mayor in 2014 he ignored city traffic engineers and lowered the speed on the boulevard from 30 miles an hour (48 kph)  to 25 miles per hour (30kph). And that made all the difference. “The average speed midday along the boulevard dropped to 25.6 miles per hour for the eastbound lane in 2016 from 28.7 miles per hour in 2014. The average speed for the westbound lane dropped to 27.3 miles per hour from 31.5 miles per hour during that period.”
A redesign of the boulevard to include bike lanes, more crosswalks and median refuge areas cost four million dollars. Cameras are set up to ticket vehicles speeding near schools.  And an ambitious 255 million dollar project will commence in 2019 to add a linear park, tree-lined bike and walking paths and benches along this street. Slowing the vehicular speed made the difference in turning this boulevard into a potential amenity. And some residents complain that congestion has increased, and bringing bike lanes means that cyclists and pedestrian conflicts increase. But the numbers don’t lie. Congestion slows speed, and saves lives. The YouTube video below or here  has Ryan Russo from the New York Department of Transportation providing a more in-depth look at Queens Boulevard and some of the changes that have made it safer for all road users.

 
 
 
 

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There is no doubt that the heaving  change in retail malls and major store closings will leave structural buildings demanding reuse.  And this has all happened before-as reported in Citylab Sears built several “plants” across the country ninety years ago  that were subsequently  transformed into multi-use buildings and offices. Even the main headquarters for Seattle-based  Starbucks  is a former Sears warehouse.  The locations of these former plant buildings were close to rail lines on the edges of cities, with lots of parking. These plants were huge, often a million square feet, and were local landmarks. Some sported towers, but these were really to provide water storage for the plant to provide water pressure for bathroom use during workers’ break times.
As Sears lost the need for rail transportation and chose trucking for deliveries  plants near railway lines were no longer necessary and became opportunities to attract jobs and commerce. In Minneapolis the mayor and City morphed the old plant into the Midtown Exchange building with a corporate headquarters and 178 units of affordable housing and a food and crafts hall.  This food market also used the existing railway bed beside the building as a new “Midtown Greenway” to bring customers to the hall by walking and by bicycle.
This pattern of reuse was also experienced at other Sears plants, where period  architecture detail  became a feature of the building reuse, and former rail access provided a green walkway and bikeway to the structure. Contrast this with  shuttered suburban mall  stores  which are not near rail lines, but are industrial shell islands in huge tarred parking lots with no linear park greenway access and not near downtowns. Think of Amazon’s large warehouses. Can you see mixed use development occurring in those?
Where the previous Sears plants from nearly a century ago left industrial architecture and locations that were accessible by foot and valued, the shell structures from abandoned malls will be more difficult to readapt. Will these locations become sad decaying testaments to 20th century consumerism, or can these more remotely located malls be completely rehauled to new uses? As Ellen Denham-Jones states “the growing number of empty and under-performing retail sits throughout suburbia gives an opportunity to take the least-sustainable landscapes and convert them into more sustainable places. This allows us to redirect growth back into existing communities that could use a boost, and have the infrastructure in place, instead of continuing to tear down trees and to tear up the green space out at the edges”.

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It was one of the most prudent decisions of the new Provincial government.  Instead of implicitly accepting the proposed ten lane bridge and decommissioning the Massey Tunnel, the new government declared they wanted to know why an overbuilt bridge on the floodplain with the most arable farm land in Canada was the preferred option. They also wanted to figure out why every member of the Mayors’ Council nixed this concept except for Delta, who stood to gain mass 20th century industrialization of the Fraser River if  the bridge went ahead.
As reported by the CBC an engineer with experience consulting on public infrastructure projects is the contracted person leading the technical review of the multi billion dollar proposed bridge. Stan Cowdell, the president of Westmar Project Advisors Inc., is expected to report back in the Spring of 2018 with his findings. Mr Cowdell was also involved in the W.R. Bennett floating bridge in Kelowna which was a private sector partnership to design, build, finance and operate the bridge.
Earlier  Claire Trevena the Transportation Minister  stated that this review would examine whether the ten lane bridge, a smaller crossing, or  different tunnel configurations would be the best option. The review will look at the existing tunnel’s  lifespan, congestion and safety concerns. All the previously produced information will be reviewed and the need for more technical work may be identified in the course of the work.
The independent technical review is expected to culminate in a report by Spring 2018.

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Excerpts from CNU Public Square

Ten rules for cities about automated vehicles The adoption of AVs should not be allowed to replace time-tested places with something that would probably make our lives worse.  . . 1) Be afraid
New technologies that increase convenience are unstoppable, whatever their impact on our long-term quality of life.
It happened with cars. Enthusiastic adoption followed by some dubious outcomes.
 
2) Be realistic (or, What to expect, when you are expecting AVs)
… major change is unlikely to happen for several decades … because most of the benefits of AVs really only kick in when we have full autonomy—a swarming fleet of shared vehicles that operates as a public good.
Heaven is fleets of shared electric driverless cars powered by renewable energy, and a more socialist—my word—wealth distribution system to help all of the drivers put out of work by driverless cars. Hell, on the other hand, is privately owned AVs, that, since they have nowhere to park, spend much of the day circling, doubling the traffic load.

 
3) Decide how much traffic you want
This is probably the key rule …
If (AVs) cut the cost of driving by 80 percent as anticipated, that’s supposed to add 60 percent of the traffic to city streets that are already at capacity. … But it’s actually worse …
If you ignore induced demand, 60 percent more trips are not a problem, as long as we have swarming. Elon Musk tells us that a driving lane full of swarming AVs can handle 3 times as many cars as it does today. So, problem solved, until you realize that, these days, traffic congestion is the principal constraint to driving. Source: Walter Kulash

 
This becomes especially alarming when we realize that AVs will make driving cheaper in two ways: money and time. You will pay less per mile, and won’t mind sitting in gridlock as you work or watch cat videos.
The only answer, I believe, is to regulate it, not with laws, but with lanes. Without a commitment to limiting capacity, all our parking lanes, soon empty, will not become bike lanes and greenways as promised, but more driving lanes. And sidewalks will feel miserable.
The right solution, is to make the streets what you want them to be.
 
4) Plan for more sprawl pressure
Here was a Lyft ad, ostensibly for last-mile service complementing our rail network, but I’ll be darned if it wasn’t an exact map of suburban sprawl.

Only with the car did the entire landscape take on wasteful, unwalkable, disconnected forms that now, more than anything else, characterize American life.
But there is recent good news, which is that cities and towns have begun to figure out that sprawl does not pay for itself.
 
5) Understand transit geometry

There is no getting around the fact that low-occupancy vehicles are a tremendous waste of street space.  … Autonomous cars are a great supplement to transit, but, in congested places, they are not a solution to transit.
 
6) Don’t rob transit
This may be the greatest risk. In congested cities, replacing trains and buses with autonomous cars will cripple mobility. …
Unfortunately, just the prospect of future AVs is already threatening transit investment in certain American cities.
Meanwhile, Uber has set its sights on transit, and is offering UberPool monthly memberships at lower cost than a transit pass, some say to put the conventional transit out of business.
City leaders have the responsibility to teach their citizens about geometry—to teach them what even Elon Musk doesn’t seem to know—that a shift from transit to AV cars would reduce mobility.
 
7) Own the streets and own the data
It sounds implausible, but there is a very real worry that AV providers will ask to buy certain city streets, or certain segments of city streets, and cities will take the money.
Adam Gopnik: “Cities are their streets. Streets are not a city’s veins, but its neurology, its accumulated intelligence.” Never sell that.
Like Uber, AVs will represent a viable business model only by running on public streets.

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You can learn a lot about the previous Provincial government’s Massey Bridge process by looking at how other observers view it. This article from the Windsor Star compares the Gordie Howe International Bridge project connecting the Windsor and Detroit regions to the halted George Massey bridge project in Metro Vancouver.  That six lane international bridge is estimated to cost two billion dollars and is a public-private partnership, with a suggested opening for 2022.
A community advisory group member of the Gordie Howe Bridge project noted  that the “scuttling” of that bridge could occur without sound financial backing, drawing a comparison to the George Massey bridge which ” was scrapped on the eve of construction despite years of planning, plus $66 million spent on site clearing and other preparatory work.”  
While the Windsor article describes the  Massey Bridge ten lane crossing as being built to ease metro Vancouver commuter traffic, it also describes the intent as replacing “a crumbling, four-lane tunnel feared to be at risk of collapse in the event of an earthquake”,   that had a poor planning process and a lack of support from impacted communities. The article also states that local mayors were critical of the Massey Bridge which would increase congestion by throttling traffic into a four lane road.
Local Member of Parliament Peter Julian (NDP — New Westminster-Burnaby), weighs in calling the Massey Bridge plan “as “back of the napkin” thinking despite the large amount of money spent and preparation work completed.“Maybe it was a large, expensive napkin, but you had 10 lanes going into four lanes,” Julian said Friday. “There was no out (for traffic). It was absurd. It wasn’t well thought out and you had municipalities rejecting the idea.”
Ontario Member of Parliament Brian Masse (NDP — Windsor-West) for the Windsor and Detroit bridge said the two bridge projects appear eerily similar “on the surface,” but in reality are not. “One is an international bridge, the other was a provincial initiative that posed problems for a lot of municipalities which opposed the idea to begin with,” he said. “There seemed to be a lack of consultation, while we had full community consultation as part of a long public process.”
The Massey Tunnel/Bridge Crossing will be re-examined by the Provincial Government, with an expected study completed by late 2018.
 

 
 

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It’s been one year now since Tsawwassen Mills, the highly touted Ivanhoe Cambridge offering  was opened as the latest ‘megamall’ in their stable, which includes CrossIron Mills near Calgary and Vaughan Mills near Toronto. The mall was described in breathless terms as a game changer in Metro Vancouver, attracting regional shoppers to over 200 stores. Even a Delta councillor was quoted as saying “It’s definitely different at every gate, it’s a different style.”
Well, not really. This behemoth within 1.2 million square feet sucked up a lot of Class 1 farmland and paved a lot of space for 6,000 cars. The design of the parking lots and the entrances anticipated a high volume of shoppers, resulting in twisty and winding  driveways into the massive development that frustrated shoppers trying to leave. On the opening day weekend,  a volume of shoppers arrived for free merchandise vouchers and opening sales. When they tried to leave, they couldn’t, with many going “off-road” driving over curbs and grass to flee the Ivanhoe Cambridge complex. Many swore they would never come back. And local folks, those who have supported small businesses in Ladner and Tsawwassen have continued shopping in those small towns, understanding that the additional mall currently being built beside the mega mall is designed to vacuum customers from those two towns. The design of the mega mall complex, the advertising and the footprint is very similar to that used for the other two mega Mills stores. Since the land was leased from the Tsawwassen First Nation, some of the commissioned art includes inspirational pieces representing the Nation’s art, culture and history. But there was also the lost opportunity for this real estate arm of a Quebec pension fund to orient the mall’s windows and focal points to the traditional grounds of the Tsawwassen First Nations, and to interpret their rich history and culture within the mall. That testimony of time and place is sadly lacking and would have anchored the mall as a place of cultural learning. The mall is also lacking two things that make retailing effective~a density of consumers close by, and good accessibility by transit to the region. Indeed the mall has its own shuttle service to get employees to and from Scott Road Transit Station in Surrey.

You can look at the sales per square foot as a guide of how well this mall is doing~in Toronto’s Vaughn Mills, sales are $796 per square foot. In Calgary’s CrossIron Mills, sales are $662 per square foot. Tsawwassen Mills sales were based upon square foot per commercial unit, and were in the $275 dollar per square foot range. However this figure has now been taken off the Ivanhoe Cambridge website.
While the Delta Optimist reports that  the manager of Tsawwassen Mills says that the complex is performing “on par with expectations” the manager then deflects, saying that “We are very pleased with how our other two Mills centres in Calgary and Toronto have grown and developed over a number of years”. He also stated that the actual performance figures for the mall will not be released until 2018 “due to competitive reasons.
In an environment which includes expanding on-line purchasing,  the proximity to American shopping, and where younger consumers are no  longer spending their day at the mall, is there a future for this mega mall? Or will it, like Sears, become a relic of 20th century consumerism? Are the empty parking lots during the week an early sign of this mall’s demise?

 

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This story from NBC San Diego shows how far motordom continues to dominate, even when there are youngsters trying to walk to school. In Solana Beach North County California, a busy intersection has been  “deemed too dangerous even for crossing guards, leaving parents alarmed.” 

Officials at Skyline Elementary removed paid crossing guards by the 1-5 freeway exits on Loma Santa Fe because “the intersection was too hazardous and difficult to navigate.”
Getting rid of the crossing guard gives no other path for children walking or biking  to school to cross Interstate 5 without crossing freeway exits. The choices: Drive your kids or let them try crossing without an adult crossing guard. Parents being parents and thoughtful individuals, they have come up with some solutions to the problem, like getting a volunteer adult to assist at the intersection. They are also lobbying to prohibit right turns at some of the red lights to make the crossing easier and more understandable for children.
Meanwhile in Vancouver Denise Ryan in the Vancouver Sun reports on the independent school Stratford Hall located east of Commercial Drive between 14th and 16th Avenues. There are 500 kids, the drop-off for children is on Commercial Drive, and the kids cross the street to use Clark Park.  This is a bendy section of Commercial Drive, and despite the school asking for a school zone to be located here to slow drivers, the City has continually nixed the request. Why? The City of Vancouver in a written statement says “because Commercial Drive is an arterial road, “installing a 30-km/h school zone proves difficult,” and that “speed humps and other traffic-calming measures are not feasible options for arterials and collectors,” in part because of the impact it could have on “operations of a variety of key services, including buses and emergency-response vehicles.”

Last time I checked this was a four lane road at this location, and every driver knows to pull over if they hear an emergency siren. Somehow I think bus schedules can also be adjusted to provide a safe crossing for kids in a two stretch block. It’s the 21st century~time to recognize that there are some schools on arterials and those kids deserve just as safe a crossing to school as does everyone else. It’s the exception that should be made for the safety and comfort of kids.
Thankfully a motivated group of  “Grade 5 and 10s at Stratford Hall has taken on the task of researching and gathering data to try to effect change as part of their governance studies. They’ve partnered with their school liaison officer, Const. Cheryl Leggett, to document traffic flow and safety, and, with the help of a donor, and a substantial discount from the Anson traffic group, rented an electronic traffic-speed reader so they can build a substantive, data-driven case to bring to the city.” 
And what does the school want? They want simple improvements, such as overhead lighting for the cross walk at 15th Avenue, and to have the stretch of street designated a 30-km/h zone. Is this really too much to ask for? Do we really need to trigger the ICBC warrant system by having someone die or be seriously injured at this site to get a change? A sustainable green city means taking care of the most vulnerable. That includes children crossing safely across the street to their school.

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