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Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Archive for August 2011

Diabetes Education Centre: Richmond Hospital

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I attended a course there to-day, as part of my efforts to better control my Type 2 diabetes. One of the things they taught us was to include more activity in our everyday lives. This is important for many health reasons. However, there is no bike rack at the centre. There used to be one behind the ER entrance, but that apparently has been removed as part of the new extension there. I saw one bicycle chained to the wheel chair storage – not ideal but inventive.

Nearly everyone on the course complained about the cost of parking. I would have ridden my bicycle if I had been sure that I could lock it up securely. Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH)  must do much better at promoting human powered transportation and provide secure bike racks at all its facilities but this centre must be top of the list in view of what it is supposed to be doing. And that there was a secure rack but someone in that organization decided to remove it and not replace it. Even though there is plenty of space behind the new ER extension and close to the south entrance, used by the Diabetes Education Centre.

The foregoing is adapted slightly from an email I just sent to Vancouver Health – they invited feedback and provided an email address. I promised to let you know what they say in an update.

UPDATE Sept 1

Let us hope this is just the start

Dear Stephen,Thank you for your email and for your interest in Vancouver coastal Health.Your email has been forwarded to Patient Care Quality for Richmond Hospital.Best regards, VCH Feedback

www.vch.ca

You can almost hear the sigh of relief of the clerk in the “redirect these emails somewhere” department, can’t you. Do you think “Patient Care Quality” has any influence over the provision of bike racks? No, me neither.

Written by Stephen Rees

August 31, 2011 at 1:20 pm

Posted in bicycles

Tagged with , ,

“Vancouver drops from number 1 spot”

with 6 comments

The Vancouver Sun this morning reports on the Economist’s latest Liveability Index

“Vancouver drops from number 1 spot in livability survey for first time in nearly a decade” bleats the headline

Thanks to the Globe and Mail I have been able to find a link to the EIU survey. (WARNING – you do NOT get to read the report unless you buy it – and only the summary in return for registration. The EIU site is really really slow right now too.) The Sun does not do that. What was no surprise was the reason given – our transportation system. Until I read this

Instead it was an adjustment in Vancouver’s score for transport infrastructure, “reflecting recent intermittent closures of the key Malahat highway that resulted in a 0.7 percentage point decline in the city’s overall livability rating,” said the report.

This quote was published without comment by either the Sun or the Globe. Frankly I cannot believe that a quality newspaper can be quite so sloppy. The Malahat is on Vancouver Island. It is really important to Victoria and Nanaimo but not Vancouver. Can they be serious? Now if they had said Highway #1 and left it at that I would not be at all surprised. The current construction of the freeway expansion and the now half completed replacement Port Mann Bridge is indeed reducing the quality of service on that Highway. So have various closures in the interior but I doubt very much if many people who live and work in Vancouver were affected by that. Anymore than Malahat closures affect them.

Since it is inside the quote it shows that the EIU’s standards are slipping. Not ours (though Canadian newspapers should have said something). As if it matters.

For the sake of completeness here is a chunk from the Globe story

The Malahat Highway north of Victoria was closed for 22 hours in April after the crash of a fuel tanker truck.

Many Vancouverites are wondering why a highway closure on Vancouver Island — about 60 kilometres away — would affect the city’s score.

But Jon Copestake of the EIU told Global TV the ranking reflects what he calls “regional” traffic issues.

“The adjustment is miniscule, and should not be considered significant in the context of the overall score, but it was sufficient to drop Vancouver to third position behind Melbourne and Vienna,” the report said.

And when I went onto flickr I found this image on Raul Pacheco‘s photo stream. (It is Creative Commons licensed)

malahat and livability

UPDATE next day the Globe is still following up - there is an interview with the writer who wishes he had picked a better example – and the story was a trending topic on Twitter (oh wow). August was always known as “the silly season” on Fleet Street. This will all be forgotten after Labour Day. Meanwhile The Economist is sticking to its guns – and it still thinks the Malahat is within the Metro Vancouver region. Do these guys know how to use Google Maps?

UPDATE Friday September 2

Tweet 2011-09-02 at 8.01.59 AM - They are proud of the story trending!

Written by Stephen Rees

August 30, 2011 at 7:45 am

Posted in Transportation

Tagged with

Bering Strait Tunnel approved

with 10 comments

I did not see this story in our mainstream media this week. It came me from a secondary source that cited The Times and when I did a Google news search I could not find that either but I did get a piece from the Daily Mail. This is the précis from the secondary source

Russia has unveiled an ambitious plan to build the world’s longest tunnel under the Bering Strait as part of a transport corridor linking Europe and America via Siberia and Alaska. The 64-mile (103km) tunnel would connect the far east of Russia with Alaska, opening up the prospect of a rail journey across three quarters of the globe from London to New York. The link would be twice as long as the Channel Tunnel connecting Britain and France. The tunnel across the international date line would be built in three sections through two islands in the Bering Strait and would link 6,000km (3,728 miles) of new railway lines. The tunnel alone would cost an estimated $10-12 billion to construct. Russian Railways is said to be examining the construction of a 3,500km route from Pravaya Lena, south of Yakutsk, to Uelen on the Bering Strait. The tunnel would connect this to a 2,000km line from Cape Prince of Wales, in West Alaska, to Fort Nelson, in Canada.

Now, since it ends up in BC you would have thought, perhaps, that local news sources might have picked it up. Not according to Google.

For one thing, the Port of Metro Vancouver continues to talk about expansion even though their case looks increasingly thin. After all we already face a rapidly changing world as the new Panama Canal and an ice free North West Passage both will cut shipping time and cost. While the UK press naturally likes the story of a round the world trip by train from London to New York, the real issue is going to be the movement of freight, especially containers, between the far east and the United States. This is the market that the Port thinks will expand. I think this in itself is a bit dubious, given the precarious nature of the US economy. But whatever the size of the market a direct train service from China to North America would drastically cut shipping times and by pass sea ports altogether. Moreover such a route could be electrified – and not just the bit under the Strait – meaning it would cut dependence on increasingly scarce and expensive oil for transportation.

For BC a direct rail link also means that our exports of coal, lumber and oil could also start moving by train – but I think that is less likely given the fact that these lower value cargoes are more cost than time sensitive.

But in any event it really does show how sensitive transportation forecasts are to assumptions. And you can be sure that a trans Bering Strait tunnel was not included in any of the Gateway’s forecasts.

Written by Stephen Rees

August 26, 2011 at 8:38 am

World Rivers Day

The following is an edited version of a message I got in the email this morning. I have reduced its coverage to BC events but left in the links in case anyone living further afield is interested.

Below is another update from World Rivers Day chair
Mark Angelo, in the lead up to our seventh annual
World Rivers Day, slated for September 25th, 2011.

Greetings River Advocates,

Preparations are being made for World Rivers Day
on September 25th and some exciting events are
beginning to emerge for 2011!

Below is a small sampling of festivities from around the
world that are in the planning stages and many, many
more events will be included in future updates. We hope
you’ll consider organizing a Rivers Day event of your
own and globally, millions of people are expected
to participate.

Thousands of events around the world are anticipated to
take place. Just a few examples;


New Westminster, BC - The  Fraser River Discovery
Centre celebrates the opening of a major new exhibit
on the Heart of the Fraser at a special reception on the
evening of Sept. 23 in the run-up to Rivers Day. The
display focuses on efforts to protect the Hope to Mission
stretch of the Fraser, one of the most productive
stretches of river anywhere in the world. Contact
info@fraserriverdiscovery.org



Vancouver, BC - Fraser Riverkeeper will be participating
for the 4th year in the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup
on September 24, 2011. Similar events are unnfolding
across Canada from Nova Scotia to Quebec and from
Prince edward Island to British Columbia. As part of both
BC and World Rivers Day, the Fraser Riverkeepers will
act as site coordinator for the cleanup of False Creek
East, which is a rocky beach near Science World.
Fraser Riverkeeper will also invite poets attending the
100,000 “Poets for Change” event in Vancouver that day
to take part of this action. The cleanup will go from noon
to two in the afternoon; contact - info@fraserriverkeeper.ca

North Arm with Baker

The North Arm of the Fraser River, Vancouver BC - my photo on flickr

Salmon Arm, BC - join in a major celebration of the
Salmon River Delta, including music, feasting, a blessing
from First Nations’ elders, and a riverside trail walk.
Contact – Warren Bell,  cppbell@web.ca

Port Angeles, Washington, USA - In the run-up to
Rivers Day, one of the most exciting and important dam
removals ever undertaken will commence as part of a
major river and fisheries restoration effort along
Washington’s Elwha River. A major science gathering
will take place on September 15 and the formal launch
of the dam decommissiong effort will take place Sept. 17.
In time for World Rivers Day, September 25, a new public
observation trail will be in place, as well as an interpretive
exhibit and several webcams so that the public can
continuously monitor the project over the next few years.
Contact - david_m_reynolds@nps.gov

Pullaway and Iron Horse with a log tow

The Fraser River at New Westminster BC - my photo on flickr

New Westminster, BC - The  Fraser River Discovery
Centre, we will be celebrating BC and World Rivers
Day with a festival that honours the Fraser River,
the province’s most magnificent river, and its many
tributaries. Inspired by the river, Artists on the River is
an art and environmental festival that attracts over
3,500 visitors to the Fraser River Discovery Centre
and the Westminster Quay boardwalk.  Consisting of
artists and artisans in all media displaying their work,
live entertainment for all ages, and crafts for children
and their parents, there is something for everyone!
Contact - CSale@fraserriverdiscovery.org

Fernie, BC - The Elk River Alliance is hosting the
“Elk River Swim, Drink, Fish Festival” Saturday
September 24 – Sunday September 25, 2011.
Celebrate our connection to the ribbon of life that links
residents in the Elk River watershed and is the lifeblood
of our community. On Saturday September 24, be an
active participant in stream science on Lizard Creek:
The Elk River Alliance Lizard Creek Streamkeepers
invite the public to their fall sampling day.  Get involved
in hands-on stream science taking water quality tests,
flow rates, mapping, measurements and sampling
freshwater creatures. Build a cutthroat kite or sculpt
a water critter. View displays on the Elk River
watershed. And on Rivers Day Sunday, participate in
the 7th annual Elk River Shoreline Cleanup:  Meet at
Annex Pond at 1:00 pm.
Contact – Lee Ann Walker at fernienature@shaw.ca


Chilliwack, BC - on both BC and World Rivers Day,
join in one of western Canada’s biggest stream
cleanups as the Chilliwack Vedder River Cleanup
Society undertakes another major initiative along
one of BC’s most important recreational rivers.
Contact – Chris Gadsden at gadsden@shaw.ca


Burnaby, BC - A massive celebration will take place to
celebrate the inspiring restoration of Guichon Creek, an
urban stream that only a few decades ago was severely
degraded (contact Tom_Saare@bcit.ca)

Yale & Hope, BC - A major paddle trip is planned down
the mighty Fraser River from Yale to Hope. A flotilla of
canoes, kayaks and rafts will travel 22 km downstream
between the two historic communities.  Along the way,
we’ll stop for lunch and explore interesting locations
under the leadership of Fraser River historians.
Contact - info@hopemountain.org

New Westminster, BC - the Fraser River Discovery
Centre will unveil an exciting new display on the
“Heart of the Fraser” as part of their World Rivers Day
celebrations. Contact - info@fraserriverdiscovery.org


Howe Sound, BC - local events will celebrate the
ecological resurgence of the area culminating in a plan to
restore fish stocks in Britannia Creek, a stream that was
once a toxic hot-spot but has bounced back following
efforts to address long standing pollution concerns.
Contact - tobe@shaw.ca

Numerous events are in the planning stages across the
United States as well as Africa, and South America.
Details will be forthcoming in future updates.

Visit our Web site at: www.worldriversday.bcit.ca
to find out more about World Rivers Day, We can help
your promotions via our website, as well as emails like
this one.

World Rivers Day is based on the incredible success of
BC Rivers Day in British Columbia, Canada over the
past 31 years.

Promoting River Stewardship
World Rivers Day is a celebration of the world’s
waterways. It highlights the many values of rivers
and strives to increase public awareness and
hopefully encourage the improved stewardship of
rivers around the world. Rivers in every country
face an array of threats, and only our active
involvement will ensure their health in the years
ahead.

Join the Celebration!
World Rivers Day organizers encourage all of you
to come out and participate. In particular, consider
starting a Rivers Day event of your own, which
might range from a stream cleanup to a community
riverside celebration. And if you create an event, be
sure to tell us about it! We’ll keep you posted in
the months ahead as new Rivers Day activities are
announced.

International Partners
World Rivers Day is intended to compliment
the broader efforts of the United Nations
Water For Life Decade initiative and we look forward
to working closely with them in the months ahead to
promote this event and encourage new participants.
In launching World Rivers Day, we also greatly
appreciated the support of the United Nations
University and the International Network on Water,
Environment, and Health.

Special thanks to our World Rivers Day sponsors:

- HSBC
- Rivers Institute at BCIT and the
visionary commitment of its founding
supporter, Mr. Rudy North
- United Nations Water For Life Decade,
Canada initiative
- United Nations Water for Life Decade; 2005 – 2015.

To find out more about water issues, and how
to get involved with World Rivers Day, visit the
Web sites below for more information.

World Rivers Day Web Site:
http://www.worldriversday.bcit.ca/

Rivers Institute at BCIT:
www.riversinstitute.ca

BC Rivers Day Web Site:
http://www.riversday.bcit.ca/

United Nations “Water For Life Decade”
http://www.un.org/waterforlifedecade /

Yours truly,

Mark Angelo,
– Chair, World Rivers Day
United Nations Water for Life, Canada initiative
– Chair, Rivers Institute at BCIT

Written by Stephen Rees

August 25, 2011 at 9:11 am

Posted in Environment, water

Tagged with

“Metro Vancouver transit users to get smartphone tools”

with 5 comments

Kelly Sinoski in the Vancouver Sun says that Translink will release an app for real time information on bus service on September 6. “The first phase of the program will allow transit [users] to access a map that pinpoints the location of every Coast Mountain bus and community shuttle in real time”…”the second phase, which will predict a bus’s arrival at a particular stop, [will be released] early next year.”

Obviously this second phase will be a great deal more useful. Schedule information in a system where the bus is mostly at the mercy of traffic is not very much use at all. The fact that there is supposed to be a bus in five minutes is not helpful if the bus is running early or missing entirely – and neither circumstance is at all unusual. Of course, with rising passenger numbers and the lack of adequate funding, there is also absolutely no guarantee that you will actually be able to board the bus when it does arrive.

In a book review on the Spacing blog John Calimente has some interesting comments to make about Zurich, and why their system works so well even in their low density outer suburbs. He talks about timetables, transfers and frequency. In my comment after that, I point to the difference in political culture. The Swiss have never dropped their commitment to decent public services. Once they got railways and streetcars – and into some very challenging terrain – they ensured that it was not only usable but attractive. Of course they also have autobahns and high car ownership – but not instead of good public transport – as well as. Underlying much of what is wrong in many systems is the notion that somehow the people who use public services are not as important or as good as those who drive themselves. Mrs Thatcher’s famous remark about any man over thirty on a bus being a failure might be apocryphal but it certainly rings true in many ears. And many politicians at all levels seem to have bought into the notion that if a system benefits major corporations like General Motors or Exxon then it must be good for all of us. Certainly the corporations themselves have spent much on convincing all of us that should be the case. It isn’t. It never was.

Zurich Bicycles

Zurich Bicycles by Alex Minza, on Flickr

Transit is not a stand alone issue. We should be pursuing greater density anyway. It is simply a better, more efficient system all round. The fad of low density auto mobility is – or ought to be – over. It did not work as advertised, and under present circumstances cannot be allowed to continue. Urban areas with separated land uses and great distances between origins and destinations are hugely wasteful of resources – and created much social anomie. In this region we had appeared to recognize that, and congratulated ourselves on stopping one inner city freeway. But that was about all we did. Yes, SkyTrain was a significant decision. But we focus far too much on big projects and gee whiz technologies. Most of what Zurich has achieved is because they stuck to what they knew worked, and concentrated on making it work better. We can emulate that – but first of all we have to come up with what they had all along, which is a level headed approach to public service provision supported by taxation.

by ponte1112, on Flickr”]Triebwagen

Triebwagen [ = multiple unit train

Written by Stephen Rees

August 23, 2011 at 12:29 pm

Finally!

No, that title does not mean I am going to stop blogging. It is the expression that first occurred to me as I read two news reports today that cover ground this blog has visited more than once.

Firstly, the second Amtrak train is now secured in that the Canada Border Services Agency is giving up its pursuit of an unreasonable payment from Amtrak to allow it to operate.

Secondly, it is being officially acknowledged in BC that rising sea levels due to climate change do pose a serious threat to parts of this region. There is a link to map on this story but interest in this story has, of course, overwhelmed the server where it is kept.

In both cases the view espoused in earlier blog posts has been shown to have been right. I like being right.

Written by Stephen Rees

August 18, 2011 at 3:46 pm

PRT at Heathrow

with 7 comments

I have now and again posted about the idea of Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) which has always seemed to me to be just beyond the horizon. It turns out that there is indeed an application where PRT is now working – shuttling passengers between the car park and Terminal 5 at London Heathrow Airport (LHR).

It’s a five minute ride – and the pods are not equipped with windscreen wipers. And that female voice they use sounds very familiar. I thinks its may be Sonya (as in “It gets on ya nerves”)

Of course here the same job is done by the Canada Line. Indeed the original idea behind what became Skytrain was an airport shuttle (which originally would have been MAGLEV as well as LIM) – a function it does serve at JFK.

If the video is not enough POPSCI has an article they credit to the New York Times

 

Written by Stephen Rees

August 9, 2011 at 10:55 am

Posted in transit

Tagged with

CAR2GO first trip

with 12 comments

I reported the launch of the one way car rental service months ago. I was one of the first to sign up while membership was free, but up until yesterday there was no real reason to use the service. In part that is due to its geographic restriction with cars only available and which must be returned to the northern part of Vancouver – from the seawall to 41st Avenue.

Yesterday we were planning a walk along the sea wall, and last week I had seen a tweet from Car2Go with a short link (tiny.cc/5wkqs) to a car finding web page that would work on any mobile. There has been an app for iPhones and some others for a while. This new one actually links to a web site in Germany which uses Google maps to show where you are and where the nearest car is. I imagine the iPhone app automates some of this by using GPS, but it is not difficult to enter a street address – including the city name – and the map information is returned quite quickly. (Even so, I hope some clever clogs develops an app for use with the Symbian system using the Car2Go API.) This was even easier than entering a bus stop number into Translink’s web site, which produces only schedule information, not real time.

Nanton at Arbutus

As it happened, the nearest car was near a bus stop (Arbutus at Nanton) and I recalled seeing reserved parking spaces for Car2Go at Granville Island. At 35c a minute, the car is even competitive with transit as the rental time was about ten minutes. So for two people $3.50 was less than than two one zone transit tickets ($2.50 each) – and parking (of course) is free. The journey time was much faster and the drop off much closer than the #16 bus stop on Granville Bridge.

Granville Island

Granville Island

As soon as we got out of the car, a visitor started asking me about the service. As you can see from the picture there are three spaces reserved near the market but if they are full you can park in any 3 hour space – if you can find one.

Balsam at Cornwall

For the return we had walked to Kits beach and there are two spaces at Cornwall and Balsam. Only one car was there but it was out of service awaiting attention.

Kits Beach

So I used the phone again and found another on 2nd Ave – a short walk away. Actually the map turned out to be more useful than the street address since the car was actually parked in the lane behind the building (quite legally).

Indeed for a blogger there is very little to write. The service was exactly as advertised. The cars were convenient, easy to use and the whole process was almost effortless. I had originally thought that it would be unlikely that CAR2GO could beat transit on cost and, of course, my journey times reflect yesterday’s very light traffic. On a weekday at peak periods, it might easily have taken twice as long, and I could well have spent more time looking for a parking space. But compared to the last time we made a similar trip by transit – when the return journey required a transfer with a long wait for the bus connection – service was indeed far superior. Even taking the time of finding the second car into account.

++++++

UPDATE In the interests of accuracy and complete disclosure I have now been to the Car2Go account page and established that the trip time was slightly more than I estimated and I forgot about the HST

So outwards it was 11 minutes (3 miles) $3.85 plus $0.46 tax and back 13 minutes (4 miles) $4.55 plus $0.55 tax: round trip for two people $9.41 including HST. So about the same as four one way rides on transit at $2.50 each – $2.10 if you buy faresavers.

++++++

For Vancouver it ought to be acutely embarrassing that this service was established while they were still in the process of trying to get a one way bike rental system going. These have been available for some time now in London, Paris, Toronto and Montreal and should be – in my estimation at least – an essential part of the “greenest city” claim. The Smart cars are good but they run on gasoline (electric cars are promised for future operation elsewhere). People who can rely on getting a car when they need one from car share and one way rentals do not need to own a car (or multiple cars) and tend to use transit and other modes more frequently than similar households that do own cars. But for many journeys a bicycle would be as convenient and much less fossil fuel would be burned.

I found the Smart car to be surprisingly roomy. In my Yaris I push the driving seat back to its limit to give myself a comfortable driving position. In the Smart, doing the same thing put me too far from the controls! The side mirrors in the Smart are manually adjustable – I had a passenger to sort out the near side one, but it would have been much easier if I had been on my own to have had the electric type the Yaris has. I paid no attention to the GPS map display: I have never used one in any car. I do like the fact that the radio comes on to CBC Radio 2. And the previous user had set the air conditioning on at maximum – which is noisy and not really needed for city driving speeds. I found the controls a bit heavy compared to the Yaris – the pedals need a really firm push, and the steering got lively on some of the streets where lack of maintenance is used as a way to calm traffic. But parking in such a small car is a snap.

If you are in a hurry, I think the combination of a smart phone and a smart car will work well in any trip where the transit alternative requires a transfer – or could impose a pass up. Obviously when the schedulers regard 15 minutes as “frequent service” it is often going to be quicker to find and use a Car2Go than wait for a bus. Indeed, one of the main reasons that Car2Go was established in Austin Texas was the paucity of transit service. And again it ought to be a matter of embarrassment to the responsible politicians that Vancouver does not have a good enough transit service that Car2Go finds such a ready market in the the one part of the region that actually has something approaching a reasonable transit service. In part, those who defend transit need to revise the attitude that there is something worthy about making sacrifices. It may indeed increase their own self esteem to be seen to be taking transit to make needlessly time consuming and inconvenient trips but it is not a sensible public policy approach to increasing transit mode share by expecting everyone else to think the same way.

Expansion to the suburbs for one way car rental is going to be very welcome.

AFTERTHOUGHT – The people who should really be worried are the taxi operators. They have been very successful in keeping taxis exceedingly scarce and expensive but at least now, for the northern end of Vancouver, there is a far better alternative, if you can drive.

Written by Stephen Rees

August 8, 2011 at 8:52 am

Posted in car sharing, Transportation

Tagged with

Upcoming talks – SFU Urban Studies

The SFU Urban Studies program presents two public talks by Mike Davis, Professor of Creative Writing, University of California-Riverside, and our Visiting Fellow in Urban Sustainable Development. Details of these talks are noted below

“The Battle of Rio and the Future of the Slum”
Monday, September 26, 2011, 7:00pm
Room 1500, Segal Graduate School of Business, 500 Granville Street (at W. Pender Street), Vancouver
Reservations are required: http://www.sfu.ca/reserve

Brazil is an emerging super-power much praised for targeted welfare programs that have substantially reduced extreme poverty over the last decade. Yet at the same time, Rio de Janeiro remains the most violent big city in the world, with at least one quarter of the population living under de facto governments of drug gangs and vigilantes. This talk offers an overview of the current urban pacification program (UPP) , that is designed to ‘retake’ Rio’s favelas in time for the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Summer Olympics. The battle of Rio is a crucial test of the Brazilian state’s actual commitment to urban reform as well as an ambitious application of the so-called Stability and Reconstruction (S&R) doctrine widely advocated as a solution to the problem of ‘failed cities.’

“The Socialist City as Utopian Tool Kit
Wednesday, September 28, 2011, 7:00pm
Room 3310, SFU Surrey
13450  102 Avenue, Surrey
(just south of the Surrey Central SkyTrain station)
Reservations are required: http://www.sfu.ca/reserve

For a half century, from the early 1880s to the early 1930s, socialists and anarchists, designers and activists, vigorously debated how to reconcile the industrial city with both nature and social justice. The alternative visions included the garden city, rational super-urbanism, radical anti-urbanism, ‘district’ urbanism, and the Constructivist emphasis on ‘workers’ palaces.’ In this lecture, Davis will argue that these ancient debates offer solutions or at least invaluable starting points to the vexing challenge of raising mass living standards within 21st-century constraints of environmental turbulence and peak resources.

Written by Stephen Rees

August 4, 2011 at 2:55 pm

Posted in Urban Planning

Bicycle Diaries: Episode Eight

with one comment

When we got back from Whistler the weather improved, and my partner, always keen on exercise wanted to keep on cycling. So I decided to take her on a conducted Tour de Richmond. I have always liked the idea of the circular tour – and Gordon Price’s analysis of the popularity of the Seawall seems to indicate I am not alone in this. When walking or cycling for pleasure – or exercise (I think the two may be mutually exclusive but I am sure to get some argument on that point) going there and back seems too much like what we do for transportation. Those journeys we make in order to do something else – work, school or shopping. By the way, no model that I know of includes journeys made purely for the pleasure of the journey itself: transportation economists do not seem to understand what motivates much travel.

When I went back to cycling after a long hiatus it was mostly about health and weight loss. I plotted out several routes from my then home, using the regional cycling map to chose routes that had the least traffic conflicts. As I have moved, those routes got adapted a bit, but not very much has changed.

The one we took starts at Number 4 Road and Steveston Highway – where there are no bike routes at all. South of the highway, No 4 is rural, and has a 30 km/hr limit – very unusual for Richmond. The road is also used by heavy trucks going to and from the Crown Packaging paper recycling plant on the river at Garden City Rd. But is reasonably quiet at weekends. No 4 Road ends at Finn Slough, where Dyke Road is very effectively traffic calmed by simple neglect of maintenance. There is a gate at the end of the slough and separate paths – one paved (badly) for bikes and one gravel for walkers. This ends at the above mentioned paper plant with a very crude railway level crossing – basically just bump over the tracks. This has been “improved” recently by the addition of a “cyclists dismount” sign that is universally ignored.

Sign that is mostly ignored

Cyclists ignoring the sign

Past the factory is the dog walking area – again cycles are directed away from  the riverbank on a path that leads through the parking lot and to the point at No 3 Road where the dyke once again has a paved road – and directions to share it. Since I have smooth road tyres on my bike most of the time I pick payment over gravel whenever I can.

It is also worth noting that there are washrooms and water fountains near the  No 3 and No 2 Road intersections – as well as at the boatyard and Garry Point park. Again, from Britannia to the former BC Packers site I use the road, not the boardwalk, but I get back on the path at the Gulf of Georgia Cannery where the informal cycle bypass of the barriers was carefully removed not so long ago. Again cyclists are supposed to get off because of some notion that there is a lot of vehicle traffic in and out of the cannery – tosh of course, but very official federal tosh.

Garry Point is a worthy destination in itself and on nice days a very popular place for Pajo’s Fish and Chips and Timothy’s ice-cream. This is the last point on this route where those seeking refreshment can buy any. From here the West Dyke to Terra Nova offers views of the mountains and the Georgia Strait, as well as the protected wetlands of Sturgeon Banks. There are also clean washrooms at Blundell Road and Terra Nova. You can also divert through the old field habitat of the Terra Nova park, if you like. The North Dyke offers a view of airport activity with seaplanes in the foreground. Much development is now going on at No 2 Road next to the Oval. A couple of public spaces were also created here as part of the Olympics but were not used then (“Security, you know”) or indeed since. The dyke was raised, and the path paved – the only bit of improvement in my time. I do not quite understand why the bike path needs to have swooping dips and bends. And it all ends, rather abruptly, between Cambie and Capstan Way. You really have not much choice but to get onto the road – so we used Capstan to get to the last bit of raised bike lane on No 3 Road. This has still the very uneven surface caused by poor oversight of a contractor who simply did not have the right equipment. Why no one has ever bothered to put it right baffles me. There is now a signed route through the industrial area north of Bridgeport Road to link up via dual use path on Van Horne to the Canada line bridge and its cycle/ped path to Vancouver. The Google map shows the path running alongside Fraser Wharf to the dyke, but that is fantasy. Stay on River Road (not River Dr as Google has it) or alternatively use the Bridgeport Trail to get to Number 4 road and Shell Road. If you do use River Road consider sidewalk riding if there are any heavy trucks about as the clearance at the anti road racing choke points is deliberately inadequate.

Shell Road is marked on Richmond’s map as an “on road connector” – meaning it has no bike markings or signage of any kind. At some times of the day, traffic to and from the employment area is heavy, with a long queue for the light at Cambie. You also have then to deal with people anxious to get onto the freeway. The only way I have found to deal with this is to ride on the sidewalk. The Shell Road trail starts again on the south side of the Highway 99 overpass, on the east side of the road – but there is a pedestrian signal here. There is, of course, more than enough space for a separated bike path either in the road right of way or of the parallel CN Lulu Island Industrial Line but I suppose that we will have to wait until the latter is actually abandoned before anything happens. While notice has been given, CN have yet to start construction of the necessary track between LaFarge and Riverport.

The cycle path alongside Shell Road has a longitudinal crack – almost a step. The road was recently resurfaced. The cycle path was ignored.

Empty trail 2

Past Westminster Highway Shell ceases to be a road and becomes a trail. It is a popular hangout for youth who believe that since there is no road there will also be no police presence. Much smoking of evil smelling “skunk” goes on here. The farmers being too cheap to install fencing apparently loose quite a bit of their blueberry crop to pick your own devotees who do not seem to miss the scales and cash registers of other locations.   There are road crossings at Granville and Blundell where I strongly advocate caution: drivers do not seem to expect anyone to cross  here. The path here seems to use as much wood chips as gravel and can be tricky in wet weather.

Halfway between Francis and Williams the road resumes again with puzzling signage. The path on the left seems to be dual use pedestrian/cyclist but the road is also marked with sharrows. Take your pick but it is easier to get across Williams where you can actually reach the signal button on the path. Williams has bike lanes on both sides – one of the very few Richmond arterials to be restriped. That eliminated  on sweet parking and made a continuous centre turn lane possible meaning that traffic flow in a single lane each way is now better than the standard four lane layout. Which, of course, remains the accepted standard and promotes speeding and weaving on most arterials. I use quiet side roads to get back to where I started.

Written by Stephen Rees

August 3, 2011 at 9:19 am

Posted in bicycles

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