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The Bicycle Diaries: Episode 11

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My bike getting a tune up by

There has been a very long gap since Episode 10, but the bike has been removed from storage, fettled up by Velofix and taken out. Because my partner, Amanda, bought her own bike. She likes walking, and, as I am sure you know, I like talking, and we both do a lot of that together. She has been less than keen to get on a bike, especially in traffic, but has joined in some of my bikey adventures – such as using bike share systems in Paris and New York, and renting bikes in San Francisco and Seattle. She is also of the opinion that I need more exercise, and so does my GP.

Some of our rides are documented on flickr and facebook. We have been down Point Grey Road a couple of times now – and she rode her new bike home, on her own, from the bike shop (next door to MEC) along 10th Ave and the new Arbutus Greenway. We have also now repeated a couple of earlier rides of mine though the Othello Tunnels and along the Myra Canyon Trestles. 

This morning we put the bikes on the car rack again, and drove to West Kent Avenue South. From there we rode over the Canada Line Bridge and along River Road. There has been a lot of change in this bit of Richmond, and it was not clear if we could even get on the north dyke. Then down Shell Road, where not nearly enough has been done. There is still no bike path between the north dyke and Highway 99, and that last intersection is still as hazardous to cyclists as ever. Probably not the City of Richmond’s fault entirely, as the provincial MoTI controls the intersection itself, but there is plenty of space to do better. There is some construction on Shell between Highway 91 and Westminster Highway: there is no clear alternative to the trail which is not yet finished.

The signage on the roadway between the end of the trail at King Road and Steveston Highway is still equivocal. There is both a shared use separated trail (bikes and peds) and sharrows on the road itself with Share The Road signs. None of the major intersections has crossing buttons convenient to cyclists but then that is true of all of Richmond. We stuck to Dyke Road rather than the gravel trail, just because it is a much better surface – even nice new tarmac past Finn Slough – which makes for faster and more comfortable riding. The same is true past No 3 Road but there is much change at the foot of No 2 thanks to redevelopment of the fish packing plant there. Sadly, the bike shop that was there has gone.

Garry Point

We stopped at Pajo’s on Garry Point for lunch, but I am not at all sure in hindsight that was a great idea. Maybe it would have been better to have taken a longer time out after eating fish and chips before riding again. MEC was organising some kind of race on the West Dyke, but that seemed to be almost over. Not so the organised hiking group – Yoho Hikes – who seemed to need to walk four abreast in large clumps. The dyke trail was very busy with cyclists and walkers – and I had forgotten how windy it can be. So a long slow slog up to Terra Nova, and then more construction on the dyke itself under the No 2 Road bridge. The paved path in front of the oval all the way to Cambie is a delight, even the curvy swoopy bits, with hardly anyone around. We rode through the Casino access rather than the posted bike route as it seemed more direct. And then tackled that bridge again, at which point I found I had to get off, winded, and push up the “hill” to the peak of the bridge.

All told 35.4 km in about 3 hours which excludes the time for lunch. But then this was supposed to be fun not record breaking. Beautiful day but no pictures, as I was trying not to stop. Maybe I need to get a GoPro.   We also spent a lot of the time riding single file – which had also been the case on the Myra Canyon – which meant much less discussion en route. At least when riding I can not only keep going, but also go faster than Amanda when necessary – which isn’t the case when we hike longer distances. In that case the “need” to take pictures provides useful respite, but she does like to walk fast when she can. We recently did a short 4.5km hike around Lightning Lake in Manning Park which is supposed to take one and a half hours and finished that in a bit more than two.

I must say that I was disappointed but not surprised that so little has been done to improve cycling in Richmond since I left. I used to do this circuit quite often, and hardly any of it is  improved, apart from the bit by the Oval. I also think that when we do it again, we will find somewhere to park along the trail, and avoid the Canada Line bridge altogether.

Written by Stephen Rees

October 2, 2016 at 6:42 pm

Posted in bicycles

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Guest Post by Brent Toderian on Bike Helmet Law

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Courtesy of Tweedeck




Written by Stephen Rees

September 11, 2016 at 7:46 pm

Posted in bicycles

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Bike share comes to Vancouver

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It has been a very long time in gestation, with at least one false start, but today was the first day of operation of Mobi, Vancouver’s bike share system. Ever since I used Velib (seen above), the system in Paris, I have been waiting for one to start here. I have also used systems in New York and Denver.



This is the station on Bute at Robson: two parking  meters have been suspended until the end of the year to accommodate the station. Presumably, this is to allow for some assessment of need and the potential exists for the station to moved and the meters restored.


Because we are in BC every bike rider has to have a helmet – and you can see how they are currently padlocked to the bike. In other places where helmets are mandatory, bike shares have been unsuccessful. Vancouver hopes this time it will be different. Of course our brain dead provincial government could not conceive of the possibility that its helmet law is based on falsehoods, and refuses to reconsider it in the light of current knowledge and, yes, data.

The current offer is for an unlimited number of rides for a year – and there is a discounted price for early adopters that ends at the end of July. It is not an offer that I feel inclined to accept. Nor does my partner. As I mentioned I have tried other systems, and none of them required a significant upfront investment from the user. Usually a credit card was necessary as a deposit in case of an unreturned bike, but the ride itself was cheap or even free. There were significant sponsorships on all of the bike share systems that I have seen. Barclays Bank had their name all over the bikes in London: even so everyone calls them Boris Bikes. Here the city has made the up front investment –  and I do understand that experience elsewhere has shown that bike shares that actually work reliably do not come cheap. Whatever the model was in Rome, for instance, that didn’t work.

The home zone does not extend south of 16th on Arbutus, so it doesn’t actually get close enough to me. A bit like Modo, whose nearest car to my front door is in Kerrisdale. So that’s another mobility aid that is out of my reach.

I also know that there has been significant lobbying by the established bike rental operators that Mobi not cut into their business, and the current pricing structure is clearly a real deterrent to use by visitors. Which is a shame, I think, but I can understand how the people who rent out bikes feel.

So I will watch what happens with a sense of detached interest. And will watch for the comments of the readers to see if they like the deal better than we do!

POSTSCRIPT a set of recent tweets

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Written by Stephen Rees

July 20, 2016 at 3:57 pm

King Edward bike lanes

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This item was inspired by one of Ken Ohrn’s posts on Price Tags. Not that I am complaining, you understand. One must acknowledge that an effort is being made to improve cycling safety here, but at this particular location not much more was needed to produce something that would actually be safe. Designated lanes are better than sharrows – or nothing at all – but a painted line does not really do much to actually separate out two different  modes. A kerb would be better: a boulevard or barrier even more so.

The road is very wide with a large park like central median with mature trees. While the posted speed is the standard 50 km/hr the combination of the median and the broad paved area encourages much faster speeds. I observe that when I or my partner drive at the posted speed, everyone else is moving much faster. Since these improvements were made that has got a bit better at busy periods.

W/b at Valley looking east

This is the intersection of King Edward and Valley. It was formerly one moving traffic lane with parking permitted at the kerb. Paint has been used to designate a bike lane between the parked cars at the curb and the general purpose (GP)  traffic lane. You will also note that only a very short length of the curb lane becomes a right turn lane at the intersection.

If the double white line had been moved towards the curb by a metre then the parked cars would have acted as a buffer between the moving vehicle traffic and the bicycles, and the risk of dooring by a driver reduced. Of course, the risk of dooring by a disembarking passenger would have been greater and the bus stops required a different treatment.

e/b at Valley

The bus stop is on the far side of the intersection (of course) and the bollards have been put in now to stop the parking space being used as a queue jumper. Traffic backs up down the hill from the traffic light at Arbutus Street. You will also observe that there are no cars parked when the picture was taken (mid afternoon, weekday). That is because there is ample off street parking provided within the Arbutus Village development on the right. There is really no need for parking along this side of this part of the avenue. Prior to this work there were essentially two travel lanes – and a bit of a freeway mentality for the car drivers.   The green paint patches are for the driveways at the Village entrances/exits.

Now some will say that additional road width would be needed to allow for a proper protected bike lane. It seems to me that a narrower GP travel lane is already in place but has not done very much to reduce speeds. I suppose old habits die hard. Moreover there is plenty of space available but we do get awfully close to a knee jerk reaction when trees and lawn are threatened. Up at the Arbutus Intersection the paved right turn lane has been extended – simply because the large number of hefty off road pick ups and all wheel drive SUVs had created a longer informal turn lane out of the uncurbed median.

Screen Shot 2016-03-09 at 3.23.31 PMThis is the Google map view

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Written by Stephen Rees

March 9, 2016 at 3:28 pm

Equity, Opportunity and Good Health

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A free public lecture from SFU Continuing Studies and The City Program

How Transportation Affects the Essential Qualities of Life In Metro Vancouver
Thursday, 30 April 2015 7:30 PM at SFU Segal School of Business

Transportation connects us to our community, our place of work and our friends and family. The way transportation infrastructure is designed and the modes of transportation that we have access to impact our lifestyle and our health.
The lecture reviewed some of the evidence from other jurisdictions, but focused primarily on the findings from the My Health My Community project that surveyed 28,000 Metro Vancouver residents in 2013/14.
While there are clear dividends in health for active transportation users, current transit infrastructure does not equally benefit all communities in Metro Vancouver. Access to transportation widens opportunity and is a significant equity issue in Metro Vancouver.

This lecture was in collaboration with the 2015 ITE QUAD Conference, May 1-2 at the Pan Pacific Hotel, Vancouver.

It is fortunate that the text and illustrations that were used for this lecture are all available on line. I noticed that several people were trying to photograph the illustrations used, but that turns out to unnecessary too.

The talk was preceded by a presentation by Dale Bracewell, the Manager of Active Transportation at the City of Vancouver. He started by stating that Vancouver now designs its active transportation projects to meet the needs of all ages and abilities. The overarching goals are set by Transportation 2040 but that includes the interim goal of 50% of trips by walk, cycle and transit by 2020. The City has set itself objectives in the fields of Economy, People and Environment. The active transportation program fits within the People category and the Healthy City Strategy, which has a four year Action Plan. Walking and cycling are now the fastest growing transportation mode which reflects Vancouver’s high Walk Score. A panel survey is conducted annually with the City’s Health Partners.

Walking has increased by 19% while the collision rate has fallen by 20%. The collision data also needs to be seen within the context of the City’s Vision Zero. Cycling has increased by 41% while collisions have fallen by 17%. It is clear that the safety in numbers effect is working. Vancouver has installed a series of automated bike counters. He had a set of graphics which I have yet to find but the data is available as a large pdf spreadsheet.

This is the counter at Science World which now has the biggest count – even greater than the Burrard Bridge

Bike Counter

The counters show cycle use growing between 7 and 15% over the last year. The Lion’s Gate Bridge now equals Hornby and Dunsmuir, even before the new safety measures for cyclists have been introduced.


Hornby Street still moves as many vehicle now as it did before, simply because the  two way separated bike lane replaced on street parking. There are still 14,000 cars a day, but cycle traffic has increased 50% to 2,700 per day. At the same time there are 5,000 people on the sidewalk, with pedestrians showing a clear preference for the side with the cyclists rather than the parked cars. The street is now moving more people overall.

He also added a plug for an upcoming conference in Vancouver next year pro walk pro bike pro place  September 12 – 15, 2016

Dr. Jat Sandhu is the regional director of the public health surveillance unit at the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority. He stressed that his remarks are his own personal views.

He started by contrasting the experience of driving a car in congested traffic on the Sea to Sky Highway with that of riding a bike on a path next to the North Arm of the Fraser River – the stress of the former versus the relaxation of the latter. He grew up in Hong Kong and described his boyhood commute to school from Stanley to Kowloon: and one and half hour combination of buses and ferry to cover the same distance as the Canada Line from Richmond Brighouse to Waterfront.

He cited the work of Larry Frank at UBC who has published the all embracing literature review on health and transportation, looking at physical activity, air quality, mental health, injuries and equity. “Urban Sprawl and Public Health”. He also pointed to USC study of the Los Angeles to Culver City Exposition LRT which reduced daily vehicle travel by households of between 10 to 12 miles a day which a 30% reduction of CO2 emissions.

It is known that daily physical activity helps maintain a healthy weight, reduces the risk of chronic disease and grants a 40% reduction in the risk of premature mortality.  Yet only 40% of the population meet the recommended activity levels. Obesity is now overtaking smoking in the mortality race. Physical inactivity is a large part of the problem as shown by a study of commute time against obesity in Atlanta GA (Am J Prev Med 2004). He also pointed to the lack of transit equity citing the Next Stop Health study in Toronto.

The My Health My Community survey covers the entire area covered by Fraser Health and Vancouver Coastal Health. What makes Canadians sick? 50% of the time “your life”.

The study asked respondents 90 questions about their socio-economic status, health, lifestyle, healthcare access, built environment and community.

The transportation report on Metro Vancouver released last week is the first of a series of reports from this data, intended to inform the discussion of the transportation plebiscite in this region. It draws from the survey responses from residents of the region – which is a subset of the survey mostly conducted on line, but with supplementary paper surveys to ensure adequate coverage of ethnic minorities. It covers only those over 18 years of age. Its target was a 2% sample which may seem small but is much better than the 0.5% sample of the typical transportation survey. Census data to neighborhood level was used to ensure a representative sample. It was a one year process, and results have been weighted to correct for age, gender, education and geography. Of 34,000 respondents, 28,000 live in Metro Vancouver: 80% of those make daily trips for work or education.

55% car driver or passenger

29% transit

10% walk

4% bike

2% other

Only Vancouver, New Westminster, Burnaby and the City of North Vancouver have over the Metro Vancouver average for active transportation modes.

Page 1 Key Messages Graphic

Page 1 Mode of Commute Graphic

I think the two maps are perhaps the most useful representations I have seen especially since they also map the Mayors’ Council’s proposals. What I think would be immensely more useful is a map of the non-active modes with the road projects that have been built in this region in the last ten years or so. While Dr Sandhu points to the goodness of fit of the proposals to correct some of the grosser transit inequities of this region, I think a map of “motordom” showing how the widening of Highway #1 (ongoing) the increase of traffic speeds on the Sea to SkyHighway, the impact of the South Fraser Perimeter road and the increase of capacity along Highway #10 through South Surrey, as well as all the various interchange improvements financed by development (200 St and Highway #1 for instance) as well as the Golden Ears Bridge and the new bridge over the CP yards in Port Coquitlam vastly overshadow anything that might happen as a result of the Mayor’s plan. I do not have the technical competence to produce such a map overlay myself, but I do hope one of you does.

By the way, the originals of these maps are huge: click on them to enlarge and see the details.

Page 4 Active Transport MAP

Page 5 Car use MAP2

Among some of the other results he quoted:

The median commute time is 30 minutes: for car users it is 25 minutes and for transit 45 minutes. He said that reducing travel time for transit users should be a target, though absent the data on distance I am not sure that actually tells us much. To some extent, people choose how long they are willing to travel – and for some, such as West Coast Express users – the travel time will be viewed in a positive light. However, as a selling point for the Yes side in the plebiscite “Less time in your car, more time in your community” works well.

The determinants of transit use include age: the two biggest groups are 18 to 29 and those over 70. In both cases there is often a financial incentive for transit use (UPass, concession fares). 14% of transit users have a chronic health condition which he said points to the need for more HandyDART, which is included in the plan. There is a 50% higher transit usage by ethnic minorities – except for South Asians – with the highest usage among recent immigrants  – who of course are not eligible to vote. Neither, come to that is Dr Sandhu. Only 75% of respondents are Canadian citizens. Transit use decreases with increases in income.

He also produced a graph showing municipalities by commute mode and the incidence of obesity. He said the correlation coefficient (r²) was 0.99 [which as far as I am concerned is unheard of].

He also showed the WalkScore map of the region – which I wish I could find on line. The web page I link to is not exactly what I was looking for!

The current transit infrastructure does not equitably benefit all communities. This is a social justice issue as it impacts access to education and employment. The proposed investments will be positive in this regard. The greatest health legacy of the Olympic Games was [not the creation of his position] the Canada Line. Metro Vancouver is 4th in transit use in North America, only behind the very much larger populations of New York, Montreal and Toronto. We have a relatively small population of 2.5 million and thus “do not have the same tax base”.

Q & A

1.  A question about the aboriginal use of transit which seemed to be explained by lower income and the availability

2.  Some people use different modes for the same trip on different days: walking or cycling in good weather for instance. Or more than one mode during one trip. The reply was that the choice of mode had been “collapsed down” and respondents were asked to pick their primary mode

3.  A technical discussion of the sample compared to household survey which replaced the long form censu  s

4. A question about income which produced the response that the City of Vancouver saw similar levels of active transportation across the city, but immigrants were more economically active than the population in general – a reflection of federal immigration policies.

5. Do people realize how walkable their neighborhood really is? Don’t we need more education?

The study helps the Health Authorities feed information into the OCP and community partners, as well as their interactions with nonprofits and school boards

6. “I have not heard the word Translink used. Is there going to be more bus service?”

7. Eric Doherty pointed out that just increasing bus service shows diminishing returns without a greater commitment to bus priority. He also mentioned feelings of superiority when he rode on a bus to the ferry and passed all those car users stuck in congestion.

I responded that bus priority measures are one of the most cost effective ways of improving the attractiveness of transit, but requires a level of enforcement not so far seen here.


Gordon Price was really impressed by the cycling data. There’s nothing like a few good figures to destroy some long held misbeliefs.

The health study simply confirms what we have long known, but seem reluctant to act on. My own views on this were set out in a post in published earlier this year. I want to acknowledge the recent promotion of that post on Twitter by Brent Toderian which has had a very significant impact on my WordPress statistics.

The talk was in a larger room than usual, and was linked to the ITE Quad conference, but was poorly attended. The discussion was really rather muted.

Point Grey Road: The Last Word

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As far as I am concerned there is no more to be said about the new bike route from the Burrard Bridge to Jericho Beach.

This video is stunning. And you have to bear in mind while watching it that this project is the one that Councillor George Affleck has committed to tearing up if the NPA is put back into power at City Hall at the upcoming election.

Written by Stephen Rees

September 26, 2014 at 4:31 pm

North America’s Best Kept (Cycling) Secret

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Photo © by Chris Bruntlett on Flickr

“…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.

Is that a popup bistro?

Written by Stephen Rees

June 17, 2014 at 9:30 am

Posted in bicycles, cycling, Transportation

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