Archive for the ‘cycling’ Category
“…when it comes to building bike culture, North American cities tend to use their (chiefly ineffectual) neighbours as a yard stick, rather than measure themselves against far braver European cities like Paris, Seville, and Barcelona. Sadly, their myriad successes are seen as unattainable; their urban areas far more willing and able to embrace change. Quebec, meanwhile – with its own cultural heritage, identity, and language – is simply too “foreign” to figure into the daily consciousness of this continent, and somehow ends up lumped in with the rest of Europe.
Three years later, all of that is changing,.. people [are waking] up to what is undoubtedly North America’s cycling capital. Montréal now regularly tops lists of the most bicycle-friendly cities on the continent, and is often named one of the top twenty cycling cities on the planet. Their secret is (slowly) getting out; their compelling story is being told, and it is inspiring romantics, such as myself, to demand better than the half-baked policies, poorly-connected facilities, and dismal, single-digit mode shares officials and advocates have accepted for far too long.”
Chris Bruntlett does something very clever. He has been taking photographs of people cycling in smart clothes “cycle chic” – he may not have invented the term but that’s how it came to my attention. I tried to do something similar while in Italy: it is not as easy as it sounds. I was was going to write about what they do for cyclists in Rome and Florence - but that all came out too negative. Cycling is, of course, forbidden in Venice.
Quebec City has long been on our bucket list. Montréal I once visited for work purposes back in the early nineties: I was not impressed then. Obviously I need to go again now.
This is the third, and final, instalment on my trip to Italy. And, as is common to blogs, it’s backwards, in that Rome is where our trip began.
On the way from the gate where we got off the plane, to the baggage carousel, there were all kinds of the usual retail opportunities that airports offer, and, indeed, depend upon. One of them was for the mobile phone company TIM, that internet research had shown to offer the best value for what I wanted. I bought a SIM card for my smart phone. It cost me 30€ ($46.87) of which about half was prepaid for calls, and the rest for 2G of high speed data (and unlimited low speed thereafter) and unlimited texts for the month. I think. The clerk’s English was barely adequate and all the documentation is, of course, is Italian. I was given documents to sign, and I though I was saying I did NOT want adverts by text. But it was the reverse. I got a daily barrage of incomprehensible offers by text from TIM the whole month. But now I was not dependent on wifi, and could access the internet anywhere. My phone also has Word Lens that is supposed to translate signs and stuff, and was almost entirely useless. I needed something to translate the translations. More than once I was glad of the data link to access Google Maps and sort out not just where we were but what direction we ought to head off in. It also meant that when I booked our trip to Venice, all I had to do was show the conductor on the trains the automated text message the FS system had sent me.
We were picked up from the airport by prior arrangement, and the journey into Rome was one of the scariest experiences I have had in a motor vehicle short of actually being in a collision. Afterwards we solemnly abandoned any thought of renting a car in Italy.
This is on the street where we rented an apartment. This car is not pulling out of a side street. It is parked. It is not unusual to see cars parked on the corner. They more usually park at an angle. The corner is usually the only place where there is a space to park. As pedestrians, we found that we were always taking what in a Canadian context would be very risky activity. If you wait at the curb, cars do not stop. You have to step into the traffic to show you are serious about crossing. Even then, motorcycles and scooters will simply weave around you as you cross. Fortunately many roads are narrow and often parked up on both sides. Most urban areas have one way streets, which result in much faster speeds.
Testaccio used to be part of the ancient Roman port facilities. It was redeveloped at the end of the 19th century as an industrial area with workers’ housing, and hosted the city’s slaughterhouse.
The river was prone to flooding, and the embankment process greatly reduced access to the waterside. Look at the height of the embankment and imagine that imposed on the Richmond dykes: or the waterfronts of Vancouver. Rome had to face floods every spring as it is surrounded by mountains – as we are. The rich lived on the hills: the ghetto regularly got flooded. That changed at the end of the nineteenth century for them. I suspect that it will have to change for us too, and in much shorter order than we are currently contemplating.
Trastevere, on the other side of the Tiber, has this two way cycle and pedestrian trail. I was lucky to be able to catch a cyclist actually using it. The Lonely Planet Guide has this to say about cycling “The centre of Rome doesn’t lend itself to cycling: there are steep hills, treacherous cobbled roads and the traffic is terrible.”
We saw several of these stations, but never any bikes. The only information I can find on line is entirely negative. There were no bikes in 2011 either. Lonely Planet does not mention bikesharing.
Ancient Rome is still in the centre of the City and most is unrestored ruins. This is the Forum – a view taken from Il Vittoriano. What is very noticeable about this view of the Eternal City is the amount of tree canopy, and the absence of modern high rise buildings.
There is a connected network of these streets across the Centro Storico.
I would like to see greater use of these barriers to car use in more cities. Robson St might be a suitable candidate, with trolleybus activation of barriers/signals.
Our neighbourhood had seen some traffic calming with this protected bike lane, and bumpouts for pedestrian crossings. Though you will note the pedestrian taking the more direct, diagonal route across the intersection. I did not actually see anyone use the bike lane, but I admire the vertical stanchions along the curb to prevent any danger of dooring.
There are many famous public spaces in Rome. Below is Piazza Navona – which was at that time the subject of some dispute between the authorities and the artists who rely on the tourists for their living.
Others are very impressive spaces, but seem to serve very little actual purpose. Or perhaps had one once that has now been lost.
This is Piazza del Popolo, once the site of public executions. At least they managed to keep it clear of traffic unlike the similar Place de la Concorde in Paris.
We did use the two line underground Metro. There is a third line now under construction, but progress is slow possibly due to the huge haul of archaeological material uncovered whenever you dig anywhere in Rome. It was reliable in some of the worst traffic disruptions, but not actually pleasant to use due to the crowding and the persistent presence of piano accordion players – some very young children. Begging – and demanding money with menaces at railway stations – is a real problem. We prefer surface travel, but one trip on Tram Number 3 from Piramide (near our apartment) to the Modern Art Gallery at the other end of the line took all morning! Trams do have some exclusive rights of way – but they often have to share them with buses and taxis and seem to have no ability to affect traffic signals.
There are two “albums” on flickr of public transport in general and trams in particular. Rome used to have an extensive tram network, but unlike other cities never abandoned it completely and has upgraded some lines in recent years with modern low floor articulated cars and reserved rights of way. Route 8 through Trastevere is one the better efforts. Our local service, route 3 along Marmorata, was curtailed during our stay due to track maintenance. We did best by choosing some of the designated express bus routes, which simply stop less often than regular services, rather like the B Line. Bus stops in Rome have very detailed information on them about services – but rarely have real time information. And the sale of bus maps is a commercial activity, not a public service. In the event of service disruptions, having a smart phone was no help as no information was available in English.
We did a lot of walking in Rome. There are lots of parks – Villa Borghese for instance, which is no longer an actual villa just its gardens. And we were next to one of the nicer neighbourhoods, Aventino, sort of a Roman Shaughnessy. So we saw a lot of a relatively small area, and not very much of the rest of the city, apart from one trip out of town to Ostia Antica (fantastic) – and on a our return an overnight stay in Fiumicino, which is not really worth visiting if it were not for the airport. The biggest issue was the tourists. Many more people are travelling these days, especially those from Eastern Europe who were once forbidden to travel but can now afford to do so. They all want to go to the same places, so the Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain and Mouth of Truth are beseiged all day. Rome of course still attracts pilgrims. If you are not one of those avoid the Vatican on Thursday mornings when the Pope addresses the faithful in St Peter’s Square and the Colosseum on Mondays when it is one of the few sites that is open. And if you have the guide book and it promises you “secrets” you can bet your life every other tourist has the same guidebook in their own language and is headed the same way. How else to explain the line up to peek through the keyhole of a locked door on a monastery – to get as glimpse of the dome of St Peters, more easily seen from a park a few metres away?
It has been a while since I have written anything under this heading. We just returned from a trip to New York. Given all the press attention it has received, we could hardly ignore the new bike sharing system known there as citibikes after its sponsor. (In London people refer to them as “Boris Bikes” rather than “Barclays Bikes”). I visit New York quite a bit as my son lives there, and have got to know my way about Manhattan. I have also now visited Queens, Brooklyn and Staten Island too: the Bronx I am saving for later. As with Paris, my first instinct was to try and get everywhere by subway, but I soon learned its limitations. “The only way to get across town is to be born there.” Like most visitors, there’s a lot of walking – and “flaneuring” – too.
A lot of people got very upset when these stations started appearing. I think they are neat and tidy, but what they seemed to do was take away that precious commodity – on street parking spaces. In fact, very few people can actually use on street spaces, since there are so few of them and much of the curb space is needed for deliveries. All over Manhattan much space is taken by large black limousines and SUVs waiting for passengers (livery cars are an important part of the transportation system but are not taxis). The price of off street parking is of course ridiculous – and much traffic is simply circling looking for an on street spot.
I am writing about my experience and this is not intended as a detailed critique of the system. There is plenty on line about how to use the system, but as usual the PR folks have made the process look a lot easier than it is in practice. It is not just a question of sliding in your credit card. There are a number of screens that you have to go through and on line forms to fill in. One good thing is that the screen accepts CA as the country code in default of a zip code. That is not possible at other terminals, like ticket vending machines at subway stations – or self serve gas pumps. My partner found that after going through the entire process it simply failed – something we also experienced in Paris. I managed to use two different credit cards for two separate bikes: I think you can register more than one bike at a time, but this seemed easier if we wanted to use them at a docking station later.
Getting the bike is simple. Having completed the registration process, you get a five digit code to punch into a dock – the buttons are on the left hand side – and a green light comes on to tell you to take the bike. This is time limited. Returning is equally simple. Push the front wheel into the dock until the green light comes on.
As you might expect, there are times when the stations are full of bikes – which makes it easy to rent hard to return. Equally we would have used the bikes more often but either the station was empty or not co-operating. We saw one man with a citibike key fob that he could put into the dock, but it refused to give up its bke. And that would have left only one for the two of us. I did not feel like using my card in a system that was behaving like that, but maybe the bike had been reported damaged. Yes, you can do that (“notify us by pushing the white wrench button on the top of the dock”) I do not recall seeing that very useful tool in Paris.
I strongly recommend the use of a smart phone or tablet to find bikes and stations. Like car2go it is not exactly essential but makes life a lot easier. I would also, like car2go too, not rely on the system exclusively. You will still need a Metrocard, and do not neglect the ferry system either. The Staten Island ferry is free, and the East River ferry only $4, which is still great value.
Contrary to the instructions, these bikes were simply left while the people who had rented them went and looked at the carousel in Central Park. If they had been stolen while they were in there, it would have cost them plenty. Even citibike say that for protracted periods, conventional bike rentals are a better deal. Since it costs $9.95 for a 24 hour pass, it is actually cheaper to rent if you do not intend to make a large number of trips. The first thirty minutes do not incur an extra fee so you can keep swapping bikes – but then you have t be able to find them when you need them. We would have got much more use out of our membership if bikes had actually been available when and where we needed them.
While we were looking at a bike station near Central Park, we were approached by a sidewalk salesman for one of the bike rental companies, offering a very attractive deal. And, this being New York, you could always try haggling.
We also saw bike share in Denver. Interestingly this one is sponsored by Kaiser Pemanente one the larger HMOs
We did not use this. Partly because it was so hot, but also because there is a free bus shuttle through downtown, which we used a lot, and everything we wanted to see in the two days we were there was within walking distance
The weakest component on the Velib bikes in Paris is the seat adjustment. Denver has adopted a much more robust approach
A Media Release from UBC with a link to the whole research paper – actually hosted by Translink – and dated August 20 last year
No surprises here – but useful back up to the argument that we ought to spend more on transit. Not that I expect that to influence people like Jon Ferry, [The Province, paywalled] who is pretending to be open minded!
A new report from the University of British Columbia shows that transportation and health are closely linked and recommends that health outcome be considered in transportation planning.
The report, funded by TransLink and Vancouver Coastal Health Authority as part of updates to Transport 2040, the regional transportation strategy, presents a range of opportunities for Translink to incorporate health into its planning.
“This report documents how prioritizing transit, bike and pedestrian infrastructure will positively impact health,” says the study’s lead author Lawrence Frank, Professor and Director of the Health and Community Design Lab, part of UBC’s School of Population and Public Health. “It looks at encouraging active transportation, such as walking, cycling and transit, and reducing air pollution and traffic collision risk.”
Dr. Lawrence Frank. Photo: Amanda Skuse
Previous research by Frank has shown that every hour a person spends in a car each day makes them six per cent more likely to be obese, while each additional kilometre a person walks makes them five per cent less likely to be obese.
Sedentary lifestyle is a major cause of many chronic diseases such as obesity, heart disease and some cancers. Many chronic diseases are preventable and active transportation and other sustainable transportation choices offer the possibility of prevention and even treatment through increased physical activity. The costs of these diseases are projected to increse by more than $1.5 billion in B.C. over the next 2 to 3 years.
“TransLink’s consideration of the health impacts of transportation systems could help offset the rising costs of health care in the Vancouver area and promote an active lifestyle that will benefit all Canadians,” Frank adds.
The full report is available at here.
This is our regular Sunday morning walk in the summer. And usually, when I post pictures to flickr I post them as a set and, more often than not, and quite a bit of text to the set description. The new layout means that now, nobody else can even see what I write there. Really, really stupid and insensitive to how people use flickr – not that they care. So if you follow me on flickr this blog post duplicates what is on there, and the text now appears there under each image. And I know there are cyclists who follow this blog, so it is not at all off topic.
My partner says she can see the tents from Arbutus Street when we drive past. That is because 11th Avenue is closed to traffic.
I have seen cricket and baseball being played at this location at the same time. But not this week.
As you can see, there is a large poster “Free and Safe Bicycle Parking” – so of course I had to ask why they were doing this.
They said they did not feel comfortable NOT paying at the Free parking – which actually asks for a $2 per bike donation (see next picture). They also said that it was a lot quicker to reclaim their bikes when they needed them.
But the young woman woman in the white shirt said it best: “We saw this space and it spoke to us.”
Well that doesn’t sound so bad. Though it seems to work a like PBS. I wonder how many people (like me) just don’t pay. Mind you, I walked both ways. My bike is in the locker downstairs, and I did not even think about getting it out.
And this was at eleven o’clock. However, other trucks use different techniques to deal with crowds.
I got a poached eggs sandwich (with bacon and cheddar) but then had to wait ten minutes while it was prepared. So there is no line up for Yolk’s, but just as many folks waiting. Just not standing in line.
There is a dearth of seating and shade here.
One of the guys from Yolk’s having his lunch.
The grassy knoll viewpoint
Under that white tent are UBC students offering free bike tune-ups. And they do mean free. Although there is still an opportunity to donate if you really insist.
It’s press release Thursday. This one come from the BCAA with the headline “BCAA unveils 2013 Top 10 “Worst Roads” list: Kelowna’s Westside Road, Vancouver bike path and George Massey Tunnel take top spots”
Bike path makes ‘worst’ roads list
This year, a surprising twist occurred with Vancouver’s BC Parkway, a bike path, leading the pack throughout the survey and landing in second place.
“It was really interesting to see a bike path get nominated which shows that cycling safety is an on-going concern and cyclists really see bike paths as their roads,” says Cousin [Ken Cousin, BCAA's associate vice president of Road Assist]. “The bike path making the top 10 ‘Worst Roads’ list speaks volumes about the need to ensure cyclists—and pedestrians, for that matter—have safe places to commute, which helps reduce the risk of traffic collisions for all road users.”
The reason it got on the list was that it was nominated by Patrick Johnstone on his NWimby blog and then promoted on twitter, where it was picked up by the cycling advocates The British Columbia Cycling Coalition and HUB: Your Cycling Connection. Since few people actually go to the BCAA site to vote for their roads, and they get spread all over the province, it is not too difficult for organized activists to influence the vote. My twitter stream is regularly populated by tweets trying to influence on line polls – especially those on main stream media. These are, of course, unscientific measures of opinion, and no one tries to measure how representative the sample is compared to the rest of the population. Equally no-one pretends that they are either.
Even so, I want to draw attention to number three – the Massey Tunnel – just in case my vote influenced things at all. I was annoyed by the way the map selection tool worked on the survey. Since what I wanted to draw attention to is not the congestion on Highway #99 – but rather than on Steveston Highway. At that time I lived there – and saw the daily back up of traffic, queueing to get into the tunnel which sometimes got as far back as Number 4 Road – and always well past Shell. I used to have to plan my trips to avoid that length of road in the mid afternoon. The problem is the intersection. Some work is going on as a result of the re-development of the Fantasy gardens site at the intersection of Steveston Highway with No 5 Road. But that stops at the boundary (CoR/MoT) – because the Ministry is responsible for the two lane overpass. And that is now a real barrier to local movement as the rest of Steveston Highway is 4 four lanes – and the SilverCity Riverport complex generates lots of trips. My views on the tunnel are here.
But it is one thing to get #2 place on an online poll, it is quite another to get something done about it. The BC Parkway was built at the time of the Expo line, but it was not part of that project. SRY still operated freight trains under the SkyTrain – and the budget then was for transit, not walking or cycling. The Parkway was partly funded by sponsors Molson and 7-Eleven in return for naming rights. They did not contribute to maintenance or improvements which quickly became evident. Some improvement did take place in Central Park, where the bike path used to use a winding path through the rhododendrons – the site of my first major cycling crash. Not that I think my broken wrist had anything much to do with the improvement.
Translink at least now has some commitment to cycling and walking. Not enough but its a start. And Burnaby does seem to be able to get itself moving on these issues. The Central Valley Greenway, for instance was an initiative of Translink, with contributory funding from the feds (back when they cared about GHG reduction) and Burnaby. But in order to get something done, there will have to be co-operation again between municipalities and Translink ought to be able to organize that. The problem right now is that they are more focussed on major strategic issues – and the line up for more immediate fixes to the system as a whole is longer than they can deal with.
In the coming weeks, the Association will provide the complete survey results to municipalities and the provincial Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure to encourage improvements.
Well I hope they BCAA has the sense to work with BCCC and HUB on this one. And maybe someone with an eye for publicity can round up some more sponsors. With a longer term commitment this time please.
A really balanced and thoughtful opinion piece from the Washington Post. The answer is not nearly as much as the helmet law proponents would have you believe:
Helmets are sometimes said to reduce the risk of head injury by 85 percent, but that statistic comes from a 1989 study that has not been replicated. “Studies in the last 20 years have calculated that helmets prevent 10 to 40 percent of head injuries,”
But this is in the context of states which do not have such laws, deciding whether or not to introduce them, and mostly they will only apply to children.
“No one would argue that helmets don’t decrease the risk of injury,”
Actually I think I might. For instance I often see cyclists who have a helmet on that will not do anything to protect them. That is because they do not wear them properly. Add to that the poor design of even the best helmets – which have not changed very much since standards were established – which do very little to protect against concussion. Moreover, many people do not replace their helmets often enough – or when the helmet gets damaged. If you have a helmet on, you won’t get a ticket is about the best advice I can give people here. But I am not at all confident that in the event of a collision the helmet will make a great deal of difference. What we do know is that helmet laws reduce the number of people cycling – and they deter the safest cyclists. They also get in the way of successful bike sharing programs, which otherwise are very good news for getting more people to cycle. The big killer these days is not collisions – its the diseases caused by inactivity: obesity, diabetes and heart disease. The metabolic syndrome of industrialized high calorie food (loaded with salt, sugar and fat), high levels of car use and widespread computer use for work and (with tv and video games) leisure time. Helmet laws make people think that cycling is dangerous, when not cycling is more dangerous. While the US can still avoid most of the silliness by sensible analysis of the Canadian data
overall rates of head injuries were not appreciably altered by helmet legislation.
we have the much harder problem of getting rid of the law we have. And at the same time persuading children that they ought to wear helmets – and that we need much better helmets, which people can wear if they want to.
PS And also see Feds Withdraw Claim That Bike Helmets Are 85 Percent Effective from the Washington Area Bicyclist Association as well as this post from Gordon Price on what ought to be the definitive study from New Zealand
A Press Release from the BC Cycling Coalition
This just turned up in my inbox. I have already posted it in the comments section of an earlier post, that covered a Transportation event in Richmond I spoke at. Then it occurred to me that not many people would likely see it there.
Disability Advocates & Seniors Support Cycling Infrastructure Improvements
VANCOUVER, BC – Improved cycling facilities are not just for cyclists – they benefit everyone by increasing mobility, safety and accessibility. People who use power wheelchairs and mobility scooters have seen real everyday benefits in accessibility from new bike lanes and paths in the City of Vancouver. Leaders in the disability community and seniors are voicing their support for major investment in cycling facilities across B.C via a new video:
The BC Cycling Coalition (BCCC) is calling for $75 million a year in provincial funding to implement comprehensive cycling improvements outlined in their Cycling Strategy for B.C. “Investing in better cycling facilities and safety education will bring widespread benefits to BC communities and all of its residents – including people with disabilities and the elderly,” said Craig Langston, vice-president of the Cerebral Palsy Association of BC.
“I get around on a power wheelchair – it goes a lot faster than is safe on crowded sidewalks and I used to have to creep along in Downtown.” added Langston, who sits on the Disability Advisory committees for the cities of Vancouver and Burnaby, and for TransLink. “On the new separated cycle routes, I can travel at the same speed as slower cyclists and get around more efficiently. Cycle tracks are not just for cyclists or for the young and athletic.”
“I’m 63 years old and I started riding an electric-assist bicycle three years ago. I love the freedom and mobility that it gives me, but there are plenty of areas where I still feel unsafe riding.” says Fiona Walsh, Board Member for HUB: Your Cycling Connection. “We want better cycling facilities so that everyone – from eight to eighty years old – can ride their bike and feel safe and comfortable.”
The Cycling Strategy for BC calls for greater investment in cycling facilities, improved road user safety education for cyclists & drivers and clearer regulations in the Motor Vehicle Act around the use of cycling facilities by electric wheelchairs and mobility scooters.
“Streets that are bike-friendly improve safety, mobility and accessibility for citizens of all ages and abilities – including families with children, pedestrians, people with mobility issues and even drivers.” says Richard Campbell, President of the BC Cycling Coalition. “This is a wise investment that benefits everyone – not just the cycling community.”
For more information about the Cycling Strategy for B.C., visit http://bccc.bc.ca/election/.