October 27, 2016

Taking Safety Seriously

Great job by Lafarge Canada (a very responsible company) to help improve safety for all of us who ride a bike now and then (10% of trips to work in Vancouver).
Lafarge brought a truck and three people to the Bike to Work Week station at Ontario and Terminal (Science World) on Tuesday.
The company is concerned about safety, and helping people who ride bikes to learn about blind spots.
I spent a few minutes with a Lafarge driver, who put me in the cab and demonstrated that drivers have blind spots and limited visibility spots around them.
Good idea to stay out of those.  Generally, if you can’t see the driver, the driver can’t see you.
And good on Lafarge for making such a big effort to get this message out and help improve safety for us all.

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At Vancouver City Council on May 4, two reports will come forward for debate and approval: South False Creek, and Point Grey Road.

Seaside Greenway – South False Creek – Burrard Bridge to Cambie Bridge

Project Goal:  To upgrade and improve safety of the All-Ages-and-Abilities (AAA)
recreational facility on the South False Creek Seawall.

This report presents a plan to upgrade the Seaside Greenway (i.e. Seawall) on the south shore of False Creek between the Burrard Bridge and Cambie Bridge to improve safety, comfort and capacity for all users. This will be achieved primarily by widening the path where it is currently narrower than 6.0m and by separating people cycling from people walking. The design has been developed to minimize impacts on green space and trees, to respect existing character, and to improve walking and cycling connections to the Seaside Bypass and the future Arbutus Greenway.


 Seaside Greenway Completion — Phase 2 – Public Realm and Sidewalks, Point Grey Road, Alma Street to Tatlow Park

This report provides recommendations for the creation of an improved walking
environment and enhanced public realm on the Seaside Greenway between Alma
Street and Tatlow Park (Macdonald Street). The key components are:

• Wider, more accessible sidewalks and new or wider front boulevards with
street trees on the north side of Point Grey Road
• Expanded green space and street closure at Point Grey Road Park

These public realm changes were approved in principle by Council in July 2013.

Phase 2 of the Seaside Greenway Completion will improve the walking environment
and public realm between Alma and Macdonald Streets, including lighting and
pedestrian amenities, and be the final step in the creation of a continuous 28km route
for walking and cycling.

OK out there, engage those partisan issues lists and contrarian “comment cut n’ paste” files. Who will be the first to leap to their keyboard and howl: “gated community”, when describing a Greenway that has no gates, and that anyone can travel any time using two feet, two wheels, three wheels or four wheels. Or perhaps the first to engage in yet another satisfying round of “bash the rich”, since it can be imagined that property values on PGR are rising faster than elsewhere, and that a large house with ocean and mountain views is expensive only because it’s on a Greenway, and before the Greenway, these homes were all cheap like borscht.  Or perhaps the first to bash PGR as a “bike lane”, since this is easier to vilify than a Greenway, and the cut n’ paste thing works better too. Have fun!!

Personally, I’ll be cheering loudly for more green space, safer and more attractive places for people to walk or ride a bike, and for upgrades to two big chunks of our 28-km Greenway.  Bring on the Arbutus Greenway and connection.


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How many times have you thought: I’d love to sit outside but it’s kinda noisy and stinky with the cars right there?

This is my fourth post in a series on transforming our shopping districts into more pleasant places to get to safely and hang out in.
We’ve reached an awkward moment in Vancouver’s history where trips by active transportation and transit are increasing without updating our shopping districts to accommodate those modes as well.
If as of May, 2015 50% of all trips in Vancouver are made by walking, bicycling, or transit and we haven’t updated the safety for those modes in any of our shopping districts yet, is this affecting how well businesses are doing? It seems it must be.
Janette Sadik-Khan, likening a City to a business for a moment, said about updating streets: “If you didn’t change your major capital asset in 50-60 years, would you still be in business?”
Now that an interesting amount of data from best practices elsewhere confirms these changes are good for business, it is time for the City to plan improving the streets in our shopping districts with updates such as wider sidewalks including bulges, raised crosswalks, mid-block crossings, protected bike lanes and intersections, better bicycle parking, car-free plazas, space for transitioning between modes, and other additions.
Successful business owners like Jimmy Pattison always talk about exceptional, friendly customer service being the most important step for companies. What they really mean is that the whole customer experience – from the first website visit, to ease of getting there and getting through the door, to the impression the place is clean and appealing indoors and out, through the direct customer experience until the good-bye/see you soon – should be at least safe and pleasant or even fun.
Every successful business also adapts to the times to continue to be desired. They adjust to new ways their customers reach them (both online and via other modes of travel). Businesses are not served well by being seen as on the wrong side of history on the issue of safer streets.
Reach out to the successful ones who intend to be there throughout and after these transitions. The businesses who do well for many years do the following:

  • keep their awnings clean, readable, and free of green fuzz,
  • ask the City to install bike racks near them by tweeting details @CityofVancouver #311,
  • make sure the doors, floors, tables, chairs and bathrooms are clean,
  • greet customers with a smile,
  • make an effort to get to know regulars,
  • are in tune with what menu items or stock their customers really want,
  • have great relationships with their suppliers to get those items on a consistent basis,
  • handle complaints graciously – often with follow-up check-ins,
  • and always say please and thank you.

What we can do to help local businesses – especially through this transition:

  • make an effort to thank and support local businesses and their owners – especially the ones who support safer streets for all,
  • avoid lecturing (or “You should…” sentences to) business owners who have no intention of changing; it’s a waste of energy; they will learn the hard way,
  • go to the business manager or owner before complaining elsewhere if you have any problems: Assume If you like us, tell your friends; if not, tell us! is the motto of every business,
  • spread the word about great experiences in person, on social media, and with your friends and co-workers,
  • every time you visit, casually mention to the server what mode you took to get there,
  • notify the City if you see loose bike racks, street lights out, plastic bags stuck in street trees, etc. by tweeting the details to @CityofVancouver #311,
  • and always say please and thank you.

The City, together with residents, business owners, employees, and our visitors will need to pitch in to improve the health, safety, economic viability, and delightfulness of our shopping districts.

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1) Bikeshare system area

On February 24th, the City of Vancouver announced the Summer 2016 launch of our first bikesharing program.
They explained that the initial geographical area where bikeshare bikes can be picked up/dropped off would roughly be Arbutus to Main Street and 16th Ave north to, and including, the downtown peninsula. I thought this was odd. Why Arbutus? It’s not bike friendly. Why didn’t they start at Cypress? Improvements on Cypress Street should be completed before May. It would be much safer to ride along.

2) Arbutus Corridor announcement

On March 7th the City announced a major deal to purchase the CP railway along the Arbutus Corridor and, once the old tracks are ripped out, it will become a stellar active transportation corridor of green space.
A-ha! Oh-ho! Arbutus as a western boundary within the new bikeshare system area makes more sense now. It felt like some puzzle pieces in my head were coming together. Hadn’t a City Councillor recently talked about trail connectivity?

3) What does the map say?

The City plans to upgrade active transportation on all 3 False Creek bridges within the next 5 years, G-d willing. Remember that rendering of 2-way walking paths and 2-way bicycle lanes down the centre of the bridge? Some of us want that type of improvement sooner rather than later, of course. Ask anyone who wants to walk or ride a bike to work downtown and lives in Fairview or Shaughnessy.
I always urge pedestrians and bicyclists to avoid Granville Bridge entirely for now as it’s very unsafe and unpleasant to use. There’s a narrow space for the 2 modes to share that to get to it, in some parts you have to cross traffic going quickly around a curve. Worse, I understand 2 people in wheelchairs cannot easily pass each other in that narrow space. They have to maneuver to get around each other over the deafening traffic going 80kph. I’m embarrassed by that.
One person who shall remain nameless whispered, “follow the train tracks”.
I opened, which took me to, and followed the faint train tracks along Arbutus north from 16th, doo doo doo, to 6th Ave where I had seen bunnies many times, doo doo doo, I hadn’t really thought about where the train goes after that, doot da da doo, east to Fir Street. I froze. Ooo. Fir & 6th. That’s very close to the Granville Street Bridge!
I visualized the possibilities. My first thought: Lord’s. Oh Lord, that place has beautiful shoes! Imagine taking a stroll or riding bikes on the middle of the Granville Street Bridge surrounded by trees and gentle people to check out the store’s fascinators, stop for a nosh somewhere, smell the flowers at GIF, and get some more nail & cuticle butter at Rocky Mountain Soap Company.
Going to South Granville by booking a car, taking a bus, or riding over Burrard Street (and then what?) just doesn’t seem appealing. But the Arbutus Corridor land purchase is looking more appealing every day.


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The Gastown area in downtown Vancouver – especially the 3 blocks of Water Street – will need major street rehabilitation soon. The City is not sure what they’ll find underneath the street so it could take a year or it could take longer. Gastown’s 150th Birthday is in 2017 so it’s too late to start now to be ready in time.
Nothing is confirmed yet. The vision I like the best would be to open Water Street to people, closing it to vehicles – except delivery vehicles at scheduled times. This would leave more room for café style areas, big gatherings around the Steam Clock, space for active transportation, and pop-up markets and festivals.
If that happens, part of the vision would be Cordova Street becoming a 2-way street that vehicles – including taxis, transit and tour buses – would move to. As it stands now, if you do drive west on Dundas then Powell Streets, by Carrall Street if you haven’t turned left (at the 5 corners), you find yourself on an unpleasant, slow drive through wandering tourists and zig zag bicyclists for the 3 blocks of Water Street. It’s clear most of the vehicle traffic is passing through, frustrated. Not stopping to buy anything.
What Would Janette Do? Janette Sadik-Khan says people find it hard to visualize things from boards and drawings. She says to try things to help people visualize and to see what works since the streets are already not perfect. What if before the street rehabilitation started, for late 2016 and 2017, we made Cordova a 2-way street and opened the 3 blocks of Water as a car-free space? Café tables & chairs with wine and pastries, programmed events including the 150th birthday celebrations, and no tour buses blowing dark exhaust in our faces…
Wouldn’t it be better to know what worked and what didn’t before we dig it up then rebuild it? It seems to me the consultation process after we’ve had a trial period would have more consensus about what was delightful and what wasn’t and be more valuable than varying speculations over unknown results. According to best practices in other cities, the businesses in Gastown would thrive from this. A 2-way street is better than a 1-way for business (Cordova) and no vehicles is even better (Water). If the City did intercept surveys before and after we’d have even more data.
What I know for sure is: it isn’t working well now for any mode. Making Cordova a 2-way street for 11 blocks (including re-signalling) and changing transit routes would probably take the most time. One possibility is to keep transit routes the same, allowing the #50 bus to be the only vehicle permitted on Water if necessary (besides delivery vehicles at low volume times of day) as Phase I.
The above photos are of Cardiff, Wales, UK. The middle photo with the tables and chairs could be a model for Gaoler’s Mews in Gastown.

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Let’s work backwards from September, 2016. Pro Walk Pro Bike Pro Place, almost always held in the US, will be in Vancouver. In fact, we’re having a whole Placemaking Week Sept 12-18 AND celebrating Jane’s 100th birthday (may she rest in peace).
Vancouver Bike Share (the temporary name until CycleHop announces a sponsor) launches in June, expands in July, and should be running smoothly by September. Inshallah.
Five protected bike lanes downtown are to be built and finished by the end of July, 2016. Yes, 2016. It sounds like more than it is. Some are little blips on the map.
Cambie, Smithe, Nelson, Beatty, and Richards.
Here’s my 2 cents: I applaud the speed and approach. We should be constructing multiple lanes at once. Building upon and expanding the current AAA network is key.
The couplets on Nelson and Smithe (one-way on each street in same direction as vehicles) are: on Nelson from Richards to Beatty (shouldn’t that go to the Cambie Street Bridge?) and on Smithe from the bridge to Richards. If Nelson/Smithe went as far as Hornby instead, people would have so many more options and we would almost have a complete All Ages and Abilities (AAA) link from Yaletown to the West End.
Linking the bike lane on Homer Street northbound for one more little block from Georgia to Dunsmuir’s protected bike lane would help. Surely continuing the bi-directional protected bike lane on Dunsmuir for one block west to Burrard – a major transit hub of Burrard Station – is also a priority. Don’t make me take the one-way painted bike lane the wrong way for a block! #ungapthemap
Some of the bike lanes in the plan could conflict with vehicles turning. Please be careful in the final design.
You have 24 more hours to email your comments on this project. You might as well take a look right now. View the information displays from the March 8, 2016, open house and email your comments to by March 25.

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OMG traffic cones are all the rage. The revolution has begun and it has bounced off Twitter onto our streets.
First, I recommend following AwarenessCone on Twitter. A silly Philadelphia-based account, it mocks the traffic cone’s responsibility to protect us from danger with overqualified cones placed in menial, dead end positions. Their bio sums it up well:

AwarenessCone: a cone placed at the site of damaged infrastructure; a cone marking construction; a cone forgotten. Be aware.

Two examples are better than one.

Secondly, The Man systemic car culture wants everyone outside who’s not in a car to be dressed in clothing with high visibility (hi-viz). We all know black is the most slimming colour. Drivers are jealous of our active lifestyles. They want us to look chubbier than those in vehicles. They also want to take no responsibility for hitting and killing us with their cars. Activist people on foot and on bike and on board refuse to wear reflectors or bright clothing day or night in protest. Active transportation moderates get mocked as sell outs for having reflective trim on any clothing.
Moschino, always known for its tongue-in-cheek, society mocking designs, has a new line out for Spring/Summer 2016 called Dangerous Couture featuring ridiculous, high fashion, hi-viz clothing and their version of street signs (including little Do Not Enter signs as earrings).

Which all leads me to the third trend for cones. People are using them to control their streets. Call them safety heroes or vigilantes, drivers don’t know if they are City-issued or not and are slowing down. These movements are cropping up in various cities. PDXTransformations in Portland, OR was separating cars from bike lanes with traffic cones recently. Now its members have put up (illegal) 20mph speed limit signs and are getting local media coverage for their antics. (The Portland Bureau of Transportation has said publicly removing the signs is not a high priority with limited resources.)


We are not a “bike advocacy group.” We are a Transformation Action Group. We want our streets to serve everybody.
Our dream is that the people of Portland stand up to unsafe drivers and say ENOUGH. You can’t do that here anymore.

They are inspiring others.

If these rogue antics were organized in your town, would you be tempted to make a request? Is there a dangerous spot near you? Have you reported it to the City?
Clearly cones are trending and improved safety for all on our streets can’t be far behind.

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On Tuesday I cracked myself up in prep for an evening with Janette Sadik-Khan (JSK), former NYCDOT Transportation Commissioner and author of Streetfight: Handbook for an Urban Revolution. Here are the highlights.
Whether you livestreamed it under the covers or attended at the Vancouver Playhouse, you probably had at least one moment of inspiration, imagining the delight that street transformation can bring to where you live. What if the City of Vancouver became the largest real-estate developer in town like JSK was for NYC?
Her statistics were all US based but we’re used to that. When we translate their numbers to our population, the information is uncomfortably more relevant than we would like. She included in her slides pictures of Vancouver and local examples to go with them. For those of us who attended her last visit, a few of the NYC successes were the same and still had a stunning, audible impact on attendees; she has more data to back her up now. She is confident and motivating.
Gordon Price is consistently a top-notch moderator and interviewer. He was a gracious Canadian host, animated, and entertaining. He had a great rapport with JSK. Price asked the pertinent questions and got solid answers.
What’s as interesting is who attended. At $5 a ticket, there were all ages and abilities present. I wondered how many business owners or BIA staff were there. Did Nick Pogor attend?
Unfortunately, I didn’t catch all of the electeds who introduced themselves from my perch on the balcony. I was pleased to see Vancouver’s Deputy Mayor Heather Deal front and center, who is also a Councillor Liaison to the City’s Active Transportation Policy Council and Arts & Culture Policy Council, among others. It was announced for the first time publicly that Lon LaClaire is the new City of Vancouver Director of Transportation. He introduced JSK. At least one Park Board Commissioner attended.
There was at least one City Councillor from New Westminster, Patrick Johnstone there – a fan of 30kph. I was tickled that Nathan Pascal, City Councillor for Langley City was there in his first week on the job! I was even more delighted to hear that the Mayor of Abbotsford Henry Braun was there. It symbolizes a shift in decision-makers toward at least open ears and at most safer, healthier city centres in the Lower Mainland.
The first rule of Hollywood is: Always thank the crew.
JSK started by thanking the 4500 within New York City’s Department of Transportation. She acknowledged that they implemented the changes her team tried – often quickly. Being fast and keeping the momentum up is key.
Interview well. Be yourself. Be bold.
When JSK was interviewing for the top transportation job with then NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg, he asked: Why do you want to be Traffic Commissioner? She answered: I don’t. I want to be Transportation Commissioner.
A City’s assets – the public realm – need to reflect current values. Invest in the best use of public space.
JSK on streets: “If you didn’t change your major capital asset in 50-60 years, would you still be in business?”
“We transformed places to park [cars] to places people wanted to be…we created 65,000 square feet of public space with traffic cones.” “Broadway alone was 2.5 acres of new public space.”
JSK talked about the imbalance between the space for cars and space for people. Crowded sidewalks of slow walking tourists that fast-walking New Yorkers were willing to walk in car lanes to pass or avoid. In Vancouver, we already see this imbalance in our shopping districts and entertainment corridors.
She appreciated working for a Mayor who would back her up on her bold suggestions and who asked her to take risks because it was the right thing to do.
Consultation + Visualization = Education + Transformation
People find it hard to visualize from drawings and boards. Create temporary space and program it.” Basically: traffic cones, paint, and planters are your friends.
“We need to do a better job of showing the possible on our streets.”
“Involve people in the process…Just try it out. Pilot it.

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Trending now: governments are raising or lowering speed limits
Lowering speed limits in Cities saves lives (and is one of 4 key actions to increase the number of bicyclists). You’ve probably seen the stunning and scary illustrations of a driver’s field of vision at different speeds that Carlos Felipe Pardo talks about. If not, click here and scroll down to the 4 images in Diagram 2.
While some provincial and state governments, including the BC “Liberals”, have been increasing speed limits on highways (with objections from police), more Cities are adopting goals of #VisionZero (zero traffic fatalities and serious injuries per year) and have reduced speed limits like New York to 25mph in 2014, Toronto to 30kph and Edinburgh to 20mph in 2015, and Seattle to 30mph in 2016.

Quotes from articles in links above:
New York: “I am not going to speed for nobody,” [cabbie Ernst Rodriguez] said.
Toronto: “I hope every driver treats every local neighbourhood street like it’s a street where their kids could be playing,” [Ward 22 councillor Josh] Matlow said.
Edinburgh: The easy-to-love capital city is rrrolling out a plan to cap the speed limit at 20 mph across 80 percent of its rrroads, including the entirety of its dense downtown.
Seattle: SDOT Director Scott Kubly said, “The laws of physics tell us that higher speeds will result in more crashes, injuries, and deaths. Lower speed limits allow people more time to see each other and react. These changes will significantly help people walking and biking to schools, parks, transit and other destinations. This is especially important since crashes with pedestrians and bicyclists make up five percent of total collisions but nearly 50 percent of fatalities.”

In BC, municipalities cannot lower speed limits on their own without additional costs. They can either ask the BC government to do it for all municipalities or they have to post signs on each block for anything lower than the default of 50kph. If there’s no speed limit posted, assume the default. That’s 2 signs (1 in either direction) on each block. Vancouver, Victoria, and Kelowna have recently asked the BC government (via UBCM) to lower the default (urban) speed limit to 40kph twice and their request has been denied twice.
The City of Vancouver is concerned about the costs to put up and maintain signs on each block. City engineers also wonder if speed limits are as effective as street design and other methods to calm traffic. (They usually cite the 3 Es to make changes work: Engineering, Education, and Enforcement.)
The City of Victoria decided to act on its own, pay the $90,000 estimated for their first move, and reduce the speed limit from 50 to 40kph on 8 streets plus the Downtown Core.
Should the City of Vancouver be doing more instead of waiting for the BC government to understand the safety and environmental concerns? On the other hand, every time Vancouver adds a greenway or active transportation corridor, the speed limit along it goes to 30kph. Is that enough?
But on the other hand, the main 4 ways to drive to downtown Vancouver (into a dense population of walkers and bicyclists) involve going 60kph over a bridge/viaduct right before entering our downtown. How do we send a message to drivers that they have entered a dense area and need to slow down by 20-30kph or never speed up to 60 before slamming on the brakes to 30?
If a number of streets downtown have synchronized light signals (green the whole way at a certain speed) couldn’t the speed at which to drive through a bunch of green lights be reduced with a little programming?
Discuss. Or better yet, write your MLA and your City Councillors. This is a timely topic at both levels.

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