Stephen Rees's blog

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

Posts Tagged ‘bike lanes

Richmond Bikes Still Lagging Behind

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That has been my view for a long time – but the title is taken from a “Friday Feature” in the Richmond News. Although I no longer live there, I still find that I go there quite a lot. The airport, picking up parcels from couriers who did not find me at home, car servicing, the doctor … the list is quite long. I have not tried to get there by bike. Though it would be straightforward enough, and with bike racks on buses, easy to avoid Vancouver’s hilly bits. But if I am going to use transit anyway, why hamper myself with a bike? We also still like walking on the dyke. And at one time we used to put the bikes on the car rack and go further. I am not sure why that has not been happening of late. I feel a Bicycle Diary coming on but I will leave that for later.

Richmond ought to be great for cyclists as it is as flat as a billiard table. There has long been a cycling committee there – and I am afraid that they have not achieved very much. If you remove the use of the dyke – which is much more about recreation than transportation – then there is actually not much cycling in Richmond. It is still very much a car oriented suburb and what facilities there are, were grudgingly conceded. Or pushed by the availability of funding from Translink or extracted from developers. Few bike lanes – lots of sharrows. And one or two paths shared with pedestrians and unpaved.

Raised Bike Lane No 3 Road

There is a pretty fair summation in the News piece.  It would not have gone amiss to have pointed out that the No 3 Road lane was separated and raised – for some of its length, but ruined by incompetent paving and never corrected. The best example of arterial road reorganization is still Williams Road. For much of its length the traditional four lanes of traffic has been reduced to two with a centre turn lane and bike lanes each side. This gets altered at intersections, with  no priority for bikes, and actually improves traffic flow, just as separated bike lanes have done in Vancouver. It also should stop on street parking – but is not well enforced.

Bad Parking 1

The biggest issue for me is that after twenty years of “demonstration” it has not been replicated and should have been. Critical intersections like Granville at Garden City, or Shell at Hwy 99 remain diabolical for cyclists.

Highway 99 overpass

The News does not expect much to change any time soon and I think they are right. The City Council is very secure and is unlikely to face any great challenge at the ballot box, so smugness rules. They will not change and no-one seems likely to make them.

Written by Stephen Rees

September 13, 2013 at 3:03 pm

Sustainable Mobility & Cycling in New York

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Janette Sadik-Khan

“Learning from New York”

Shifting Gears II series SFU City Program at the Convention Centre, October 19

This was probably the largest audience for one of these lectures that I have seen: somehow everyone managed to get in although that meant a late start at 7:25 due to the length of line up.

Gordon Price opened with his memory of  New York in the late seventies when everything looked bleak and dangerous. But New York has now surely earned the title of The Resilient City.  No matter how bad things look cities can come back  faster and in ways you could never imagine. At the same time as this meeting, the convention centre was also hosting a conference called “Gaining Ground: Resilient Cities”.

Larry Frank introduced the speaker Janette Sadik-Khan

Janette Sadik-Khan

Janette Sadik-Khan

What most impressed her on her first visit here was that we have an integrated transit system, where one ticket allows one to ride on a bus, ferry or SkyTrain. “For ten years I have longed for your “golden ticket””

She said that much of success had depended on her ability to borrow best practices from other places. “We have to do a better job: to restructure our cities [to serve people better].  Cycling is just one component.”

Mayor Bloomberg started with a planning exercise – PlanNYC – a systematic examination to reduce the environmental impact of urban systems.   The transportation area is the one that has the most profound impact, and the plan calls for transit expansion as well as cycling and congestion pricing. A plan to introduce a charge of  $8 per car entering Manhattan had majority support in the city but was defeated by the state legislators,  who did not even vote on it .  Only 5% of people drive in NYC.  Sustainable streets 2009 is the strategic plan – with benchmarks so that NYC DOT will be held accountable for major goals. The basis is that streets are for people. NYC has  6,000 miles of streets which are valuable public spaces, not just for making cars go as fast as possible. They will become green corridors and are part of a social and economic plan. She noted that people quickly take over these spaces “once the orange barrels are rolled out.”  Times Square and  Herald Square (both on Broadway) were the first part of a  rapid implementation program. The  World Class Streets Report was commissioned from Jan Gehl which found that 30% of Broadway [sidewalks] were covered in scaffolding with only 3 outdoor cafes and no seats.  “We want to provide seats for New Yorkers.”

Roads are now much safer with the lowest traffic casualty figures since 1910. Children and seniors are over represented in the statistics of fatalities, so NYC is looking at both safer routes to school and for seniors. They targetted 25 focus areas: senior traffic fatalities are down 43% in one year.

The new mobility network is based on selected bus services which now get bus priority lanes with camera enforcement. 98% of riders were satisfied (“This never happens!”) Bus Rapid Transit is much cheaper and faster to deploy than rail. NYC has the largest bus fleet in North America and the slowest bus speeds.  “The only way to get across town was to be born there.”  [Most subway lines in Manhattan run north-south]

Infrastructure repair has been taken care of and now all of the bridges and most of the roads are in a state of good repair. They have created a network of cycling “backbones” – bike lanes on the four East River bridges and a bike highway on the West Side. There are now 200 miles of bike lanes and they starting to fill in the network. Some of these are innovative such as the bike lanes on the centre median of the Manhattan Bridge, use of advanced boxes at traffic signals and protected bike lanes, an idea imported from Copenhagen where bikes are put inside the parking lane. This uses the parked cars to protect cyclists and reduces collisions with drivers opening doors, but also preserves parking and truck loading/unloading. Crashes are down 50% and cycling is up 50%.

New York City has to accommodate 1m more people by 2030. But she also noted that the average New Yorker has one third of the carbon footprint of the average American – simply because they do not drive so much.

She showed an image of a family on bikes on a new lane that had not been completed. “Families are the indicator species: if you are 7 or 70, you should feel safe on the street.”

Lunchtime in Bryant Park

These changes are good for business. Bryant Park 20 years ago was an open drug exchange,  now is now surrounded by some of the most desirable real estate in the city.   They recently completed the “park in the sky” – the High Line – a former elevated railway which has stimulated $50m of investment along its route.

The linear plazas on Broadway mix pedestrians and cyclists but the bike lanes are not for racing at top speed. Cycling is not an extreme sport, which is what it used to be. “It is not alternative, it is fundamental”. The  pedestrian space was achieved through lane re-allocation.  Broadway is no longer a through street. Broadway is the only diagonal in a the grid, and was always a nightmare for traffic engineers. They have now reconnected the grid and restored the space needed to accommodate the 300,000 or more pedestrians who use it every day. Now that there is enough space, even New Yorkers are enjoying Times Square.

From this experience a new street design manual has emerged through the partnership of 11 agencies,  to ensure that the approach continues.  NACTO is to develop guidelines to become an alternative to MUTCD.

NYC is also adding bike parking with new designs of bike racks and they have tripled the number  of bike racks in the city.   David Byrne, author of  “Bike Diaries” has been responsible for some of the more innovative designs. The demand for bicycle parking at bus stops has been so great that NYC is now creating bike parking on street at transit stops. Indoor parking for bicycles has also been a huge issue because of the fear of bike theft. They are now creating indoor parking in government buildings and bike access is being legislated for private buildings.  All new buildings have to provide bike parking.

Bicycle use increased by 35%  in 2008 and is expected to double by 2013. Casualties are declining: there is  safety in numbers but also due to an awareness program LOOK

America faces a crisis of obesity and diabetes. New York started summer street closures – 7 miles of Park Ave. “I want to see many yellow checkered bikes” she said that they have been looking at the Montreal bixi system.

All the information she referred to is available on line

Q & A

Gordon Price pointed out that Translink had paid to bring Janette here.

1. What can we most teach each other?

New York should adopt Vancouver’s use of the bike symbol on signs. Vancouver should adopt protected bike lanes

2. There seems to be a cultural debate: The  Netherlands uses unregulated  shared space to encourage social interaction.  We tend to use signs and separation.

But Paris has seen great success with bike lanes and advanced boxes as well as its Velib program.  Different cities need different approaches. An unregulated space in a city like New York would become a scrum. “It’s a war out there!” We want to engineer safe streets. She referred to their approach as  “urban acupuncture”, applying pointed approaches to specific critical locations and this has been driving down fatalities to a third of what they were.

Q follow up on the scale and speed of changes in NY:  what made that possible?

Firstly the umbrella of  PlanNYC. There was  tremendous buy in, with the  recognition of the need for more effective solutions. New York was tired of plans that take 25 years to happen. The rapid implementation was literally painting the outlines. There was not much digging [in sharp contrast,  I thought, to what is still not yet complete on Granville Street]. Once we  rolled out the orange barrels, people took over.  Since Robert Moses paved a lot of NYC we had a lot to play with!

4     You said that your plan was better for business with lots of pedestrians and you referred to property values. That would not be the same for muffler shops. Are you prepared to purchase the businesses that are car dependent?

No

5   Please tell us more about “creative financing” as referred to by Larry Frank

The 7 line extension is using tax increment financing: the  increase in property values due  to the new facility should  go to the agency that provides it. PPPs make sense if the terms are good, but the public sector needs to up its game: the private sector has been better at securing its own interests.  They could apply to both port and rail expansions. TIF is a simple idea: zone around the project to identify properties that will benefit (our whole city is TOD) and capture that incremental value. Increases in property tax revenues are then used to service a bond issue.

6   How much is the change in mode share worth in terms of reducing pressure on infrastructure?

We don’t have that data yet: it is a ripe area for research and is an effective way to make the case. We  can make the case for transit in terms of the roads and bridges not built.

While there are doubtless significant savings in infrastructure, there are also on major benefits to health side. The lack of active transportation is a public health crisis.

7 – How does this work outside of Manhattan?

There is a huge program in all five boroughs – e.g Bronx hub and extensive BRT.  “People can’t be wished onto buses” we have to increase capacity so that the buses are seen as  “surface subways”. The population of New York is 8.2m – which effectively means there are 8.2m traffic engineers. We hold 200 meetings a month to listen to the concerns and suggestions. There is a strong appetite for transit and we plan “8 to 10 BRT networks” in the next few years

8  The questioner spoke at length about China and how the use of bikes has declined due to “market forces”. In fact driving is promoted by vested interests who will undermine your program just as they conspired to kill the streetcar. Most of the federal stimulus funds are going to roads and freeways. He also suggested that urban communities should be limited to a maximum of 5,ooo population max . He cited Plato who pointed to the complexity of problems of large cities. In Canada 80% of the population is now in cities and we need to read Lewis Mumford again to deal with this problem.

China is  investing heavily in transit – for example in Shanghai. This is a strong sign.  We are going back to the cities in the US. There are now over 100 streetcar city projects and an increase in the role of ferries. The  world is increasingly urban. People moving back into NYC  “We kinda like hanging out”. We can save the planet with cities and make cities work much better by sharing what works.

9 – The questioner liked the idea of changing streets as a better use of resources but said that “in the turf war for asphalt, bikes are getting squeezed out.” He asked are painted curbs safe? New Westminster uses concrete curbs which tend to reduce the overall amount of usable space.

Times Square shared the streets and  is curbless, but we had to tread carefully so that bikes don’t race through. We are not at a “cultural tipping point” [I think she was referring to earlier remarks about Dutch "naked streets".]

10 – Referring to her comment on how congestion pricing was defeated, “we no longer control Translink”.  How would you have transportation funded,  planned and implemented in an ideal world?

Look at Portland:  the regional growth boundary has teeth.  The region has therefore a robust transit system with incredible perform of the network. They extended MAX to the airport using a  P3.

She also noted that there are three different entities in New York and they don’t have common fare system.

11 – The questioner came from Ladysmith where, he said,  no-one rides – they are afraid.  How do we get the sceptics to use bikes

The NYC Summer Streets program includes bike teaching and gave away 25,000 helmets. They introduced weekend walks programs. However it is recognized that “etiquette” and “New Yorkers” are not often in the same sentence and  traffic signals are treated as suggestions.

12 .  Can you speak more about metrics and agencies – 3 Es [effectiveness, efficiency - there seems to be many suggestions for the third] pedestrian safety

“I’m big fan of pilot” – communities know their streets better than anyone else. You can use paint to produce some sidewalk extensions and use potted plants to impose a quick traffic calming scheme. In 1990 it was 365 pedestrian deaths a year. We now make more interesting places which send different cues to drivers that slows them down.

15 – Tell us more about covered bike shelters

The rain in Vancouver is a myth –  just like in Portland. It is something you tell people to try and stem the influx.  More is better. But also you need to look at  connectivity – fill in the network , and protected bike lanes. We both need a  bike share program.  Each city has to make strategic choices and in our case the is now increasing  bike parking in buildings.

Cars vs Cyclists

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This post is prompted by two articles on the vexed issue of cars and cyclists trying to co-exist on the same roadway.

The first is in citycaucus.com and makes the point – unhelpfully – by stating the obvious “When cars and cyclists clash, cars always win”. The car is bigger, heavier and its driver is much better protected than the cyclist. So in a collision the cyclist gets hurt worse. That doesn’t mean the car “wins” – nor does might make right. While there are some drivers who hate cyclists and think they should not be on the road, there are even more drivers who care about other people, and cyclists themselves – who would rather have a safer place to be than most of our roads as presently designed and used.

Some of the citycaucus piece describes first hand experience – in Toronto but that hardly matters since most places in North America are the same in this respect – but also refers to the Michael Bryant incident. And concludes

If any good is to come from the death of Darcy Allan Sheppard it’s that Toronto will get serious about cycling safety.

I think that is unlikely. That is because Bryant is now asserting his innocence, and as CBC tv last night pointed out, it is all about how the PR people handle the incident – not the incident itself. For if the cyclist can be seen as an aggressive attacker and Bryant merely trying to defend himself, then the incident takes on a whole different meaning. As that comment I linked to above by Kelly McParland says, bike lanes had nothing to do with it.

Which brings me to the second article from Seattle which reiterates a point I have made more than once here. Sharrows are a sham solution for bike lanes. They do not actually mean anything or change anything.

Perhaps the ultimate word on sharrows comes from the City of Seattle’s own website, which today answers the question “What do sharrows mean for motorists and bicyclists?” with this damning bit of faint praise: “Motorists: Follow the rules of the road as if there were no sharrows… Bicyclists: Follow the rules of the road as if there were no sharrows.”

Exactly the point — so why waste the paint?

The reason the paint is there is because it is cheap and easy to do – and gives the appearance of doing something. It enables the city to claim that it has increased cycling facilities when it reality it has done nothing of the sort. In fact it is like most paint on the roads – and the signs and other clutter that engineers have been adding steadily over the years. They are almost completely ineffective in achieving their stated objectives as, over time, everyone simply becomes less aware of them. Even the one line that people do pay attention to – the one that shows the middle of the road and what side you are supposed to be on – gets ignored as soon as there is an obstruction that people want to get around.  Indeed that is where the whole idea of “naked streets” comes from.

If we are going to continue to allow cars to dominate our lives – and our urban spaces – then separate bike routes are really an essential component simply because of the reality that road space that is not shared is not safe for cyclists – or pedestrians for that matter. But that also accepts the notion that cars now have the greatest share of the trips and therefore must be given the greatest share of the space. It is this shift from the descriptive to the normative that is the error. The situation that we now find ourselves is not only not one that should be continued it is also one that is not desirable either. It suited car makers – and other corporate concerns that make money out of car use – to convince us that having and using cars would make us happy, that it would produce a growing economy and improve general well being. But any objective assessment of what near universal car ownership has brought us throws a much different light on what still appears to be conventional  wisdom. Even if we only look at the casualty rates of collisions and ignore all the other social and environmental impacts.

Yes I want to see much safer streets for all users. But I also want to see the spaces in between the buildings used effectively for  a much wider range of activities – and not just for moving some people through as quickly as possible. We have accepted the argument that speed is good – and thus higher speeds better – uncritically for far too long.  Since cars are not going to vanish overnight, and there will be many people striving to come up with better cars that are safer and have lower environmental impacts, we need to come up with strategies that civilize car drivers – that is make them more aware of their impacts on the rest of us. And that does not mean painted symbols on roads, or bigger stop signs. It means drivers having to accept that in a crowded place they need to give way every so often to other road users.

For far too long we have tried to keep the roads free for fast moving traffic. That has not worked, and now we need to do something different. There is no one size fits all solution and we should be very wary of anyone who proposes seemingly simple solutions  to complex problems. Just like building freeways does not solve traffic congestion, building bikeways does not eliminate all conflicts between vulnerable and protected road users. We need a better understanding of how people interact – and the shared street experiments provide a lot of useful data – but also a more determined approach that sees streets as part of a complex urban ecology. Better design will be part of it, but so will better behaviour. And we will also need to wary of adapting the physical structure of places to take account of the exceptional circumstances when one or two individuals behave very badly indeed.

Written by Stephen Rees

September 3, 2009 at 10:14 am

New Bike Lane in the Right Place

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Inside Bike Lane - Vancouver BC

Photo by Rob Baxter

New bike lane in Vancouver on Carrall near Keefer and Guzhou Alley (Chinatown) showing the correct location for a change – inside the line of parked cars but also separated from the sidewalk. As prescribed by Jan Gehl. There’s a picture of the usual, wrong, type on flckr and a link from there to a useful video

Written by Stephen Rees

April 14, 2008 at 3:23 pm

Posted in bicycles

Tagged with

Urban cyclists still face unfriendly terrain in Vancouver

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Georgia Straight

This is all very encouraging. Nice pic of my friend Bonnie Fenton. Good article all round. What is less impressive the box which is headed “Experts Grade the Local Cycling Infrastructure” which deals with Vancouver, the Tri-Cities, Burnaby & New Westminster, the North Shore, Surrey and Langley. I do not know why both Richmond and Delta have been left out, but they are both very good places to cycle – being flat – but there are a few features missing.

At one time I was both a recreational and a commuter cyclist. And this week I got my bike out of storage and down to Steveston bikes in their new digs at the south dyke end of No 2 Road (next door to the excellent bakery that deserves many more customers) for a clean and tune up, as well as fitting a bike rack to my Yaris.

Richmond does have a network of marked cycle routes. These are mostly on major roads, with just a painted line. The bike lane is removed at signalised intersections and becomes the right turn lane. There are no advance stop lines for cyclists anywhere. Several routes have shared access with pedestrians but are car free. These include the dykes, Shell Road/Horseshoe Slough and we will also have a link across the North Arm on the new Canada Line Bridge. Bike lanes are also provided on the Alex Fraser, Arthur Laing, Oak Street and Knight Street bridges. Unfortunately there is no marked link between the north end of Shell Road and the south end of Knight Street bridge but you can figure out a reasonable route through Bath Slough and the back streets (Rees Road yay!).

There is room for a segregated bike path on the CN right of way along the whole of Shell Road but for reasons that are not clear the bike route ends at its most vulnerable area – the ramps to Highway #99 at Shell. This is one of the most hair raising areas to try and bike through and is not for beginners or those of a nervous disposition. CN has applied to abandon its trackage here in favour of a new route near the south dyke, so there is hope for the future in terms of an exclusive right of way.
The bike lanes on the bridges tend to get used bi-directionally, and I have always noticed great politeness between cyclists as it is clear that someone has to stop and give way. (I think a cyclist going uphill should have priority.) I wish I could say the same of pedestrians.

The dykes are mostly used by recreational cyclists, and the west dyke especially can get very busy on nice summer days. The trail does get a bit lost in Steveston, but that is a good place to go look for refreshments anyway. The concession in Garry Point being a very popular stop (PaJos fish and chips, Timothy’s coffee and ice cream). The only place where I have seen user conflict is the dogs off leash area at the end of No 3 Road and round the Crown Paper plant. Some pooches find moving pedals very tempting targets. By the way, west of No 5 Road facilities get very sparse indeed.

Without doubt the worst lack of continuity is on Garden City which is a cycle route north of Granville (another marked bike route). It is not at recommended that cyclists or pedestrians try to get south on Garden City across Granville. The only bike lanes on Garden City south of Granville are on the short section between Francis and Williams: one is shared with pedestrians, the other is a marked curb lane. A similar lack of continuity is seen on Gilbert Road and the Dinsmore Bridge.

Massey Tunnel Bike Shuttle Service van and trailer 2007_0904

But the biggest issue in terms of the regional network is the Massey Tunnel. There is a free bike shuttle (operated by Mainroad), but it is not geared to year round commuting, and a lot of cyclists resent having to pay for a two zone bus ticket just to get from Ladner to Ironwood.

Massey Tunnel Bike Shuttle Service timetable 2007_0904

Written by Stephen Rees

March 6, 2008 at 5:31 pm

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