Stephen Rees's blog

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

Posts Tagged ‘Richmond dyke

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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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

Extending the Canada Line?

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UPDATED April 24, 2012

The headline in the Richmond Review actually reads “Extending the Canada Line won’t happen in our lifetime, says Richmond mayor”.

That is his opinion and he is entitled to it. But the – shortish – piece under it also illustrates not only why he may well be wrong, but also why Strategic Planning is too important to be left to politicians – or people who seriously think that perception is reality.

Malcolm Brodie has shown himself to be a capable politician – simply because he has survived in his position for such a long time, not been tempted to get out his depth, and now and again stood up to the bullies in the provincial government who come from the same part of the political spectrum as he does. I do not buy the appellation “non partisan”. Malcolm is no socialist, nor is he in the slightest danger of being labelled Green. But he also shows that his perspective is what the local electorate generally wants to hear. South of Granville, most of Richmond is still single family homes (though many have “mortgage helpers”) and, like most people up to the eyes in debt, deeply distrustful of change in the neighbourhoods. After all, that was why they bought where they did, and they do not want to find themselves living somewhere else without moving. So this kind of stuff plays well with the local Chamber of Commerce, which is where he was speaking.

But Richmond is changing, and changing fast, and not just in the bits served by the Canada Line. Though the massive retail development proposed in the Bridgeport area is getting the headlines, change is happening along the bus routes, because of a council decision that allows that. Even though only of one them is classified as frequent (#410). At one time most change was small bungalows on large lots getting replaced by monster homes. That still happens within the subdivisions, but along the edges (i.e the arterial roads that are bus routes) the development of choice is townhouses. Lots of them, packed in tight and usually with lane way access. Because even though there may be a bus route, most people are still going to drive and parking standards have not been relaxed.

This blog has consistently pointed out that the Canada Line was not, in fact “specifically built with the idea that it could be extended”. Malcolm and other Richmond Councillors might have thought that, but they were not in charge. In fact they wanted surface light rail on the old B Line “central reservation” – which could have been easily extended, much cheaper but was also incompatible with automatic train operation. The Canada Line has significant limitations – mostly short underground stations – and a P3 “concession agreement”. The single track bit in Richmond does limit frequency as it is operated in two directions.

South end of the Canada Line at Richmond-Brighouse Station

South end of the Canada Line at Richmond-Brighouse Station by "indyinsane", on Flickr

As I have said, what could be done is to build a one way loop by tacking new track on the end of the Brighouse Station and linking back to Lansdowne, taking in the areas with significant traffic generating potential. (No 3 to Granville, east on Granville, north on Garden City, west on Lansdowne). Then it can operate at line frequency as there would be no need to wait until the train gets back to Landowne. The loop might have stations at City Hall, and two more on Garden City.  Indeed, I can imagine the sort of people who think concrete would greatly improve the Garden City lands as salivating at that thought. Not that I am proposing such a thing – or even saying that it would be a Good Thing. Just sketching out a possibility.

I think the cited “$107.9 million per kilometre” as the cost of the line probably includes the very expensive underground route in Vancouver. Single track guideway around a couple of square kilometres of high rises might be a lot cheaper. Though don’t expect the people living at track level to cheer about that. Ideally, of course, one builds rail rapid transit before the people move in. Much easier then to get the thing accepted, and a much better rate of return on capital employed. There is even enough room on the ground, thanks to the old BCER tracks which ran along Garden City and Granville, explaining the generous right of way those roads have, and the bizarre layout of their intersection.

This might well happen, if things develop as nows seems likely. Peak oil, and the lack of affordability of electric cars means that finally Greater Vancouver could get serious about providing alternatives to single occupant motor vehicles. This would be because transit is much more fuel efficient per passenger kilometre even if it is in old diesel buses – and exponentially better if it is in modern electric trains. And the majority of people who live in Richmond now are not people like Malcolm Brodie. They know at first hand what very high residential densities and excellent public transport look like. They just have not been very much involved in municipal politics – as the present ethnic make up of Richmond Council makes clear.

Of course, some of the other likely scenarios have to play out differently too. The major earthquake and tsunami might not happen for a while longer – or we may have actually done something effective to mitigate their impacts. Similarly sea level rise – expected to be much higher in the Pacific North West – will happen, but for Richmond to continue to exist will require a radically changed approach to flood prevention. Salt water ingress into the soil may have some impact on the remaining agricultural lands (if they have not all been paved for port expansion) but fresh water flow from the Fraser might hold that back – despite the loss of the last glaciers and much less snow pack.

One thing I would caution people like Malcolm making prognostications like this is the propensity of history to show that they were wrong and often much sooner than you might think. It does seem to me that those who have been saying that the North American style of car oriented suburb was a short lived idea and one that has now seen its heyday pass are much better founded in their understanding than someone who says “you’re going to have a huge expense for really very little value in terms of densities”. Malcolm really does not understand what is happening in the broadest sense. It may play well now that we are embroiled in trying to cut costs and avoid more property taxes, but it is very short term, local thinking.  And that worries me when we say that the Mayors need to be in charge of the agency that plans the region’s transportation system.

Written by Stephen Rees

April 20, 2012 at 10:43 am

UPDATE Richmond Dykes

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There is a short story in the Richmond Review paper edition that is not on their web site

Since it relates directly to a topic recently discussed here I am going to copy type the relevant paragraphs

Middle Arm Dyke to rise half a metre

The Middle Arm of the Fraser will get millions of dollars in additional flood protection now that the green light has been given to a series of major dyke infrastructure upgrades in the city.

$2.4 million will be spent on bolstering more than 750 metres of dyke between Cambie Road and Hollybridge Way. Plans call for the dyke top be raised about half a metre, concrete floodwall retaining structures will be added, and rip-rap armouring will reinforce the river face of the dyke.

Some $4.8 million in funding – from the city, province and Ottawa – will be spent on upgrades to the No 4 Road drainage pump station.

This is a small sum for a small raise to a small percentage of the dyke. The rip rap is needed to reduce the impact of wash from passing vessels. The pump station is not on Middle Arm and is some distance from the area of dyke raising, so is really a separate project. Pumps get rid of water from behind the dyke.

Middle Arm dyke at Hollybridge Way

Middle Arm dyke at Hollybridge Way

Written by Stephen Rees

October 23, 2009 at 12:01 pm

Posted in flood watch

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