Tag Archives: bike lanes

Adanac Bikeway Improvements

Adanac Bikeway Improvements Snapshot
The City of Vancouver is looking to upgrade one of its busiest bike routes, Adanac/Union. Although the project hasn’t garnered the same media attention as the proposed greenway along Cornwall, this is a very exciting project for cyclists. I use the route everyday on my commute to work, and I think the changes will go a long way to making it safer.

According to the City’s numbers, the route is used for 4000 bike trips and 5000 car trips per day. The city is proposing a number of improvements to reduce traffic and physically separate bikes.

The biggest changes involve restricting car traffic along Union between Quebec and Main, creating separated bike lanes for large stretches, and improving bike signals at the traffic lights. My usual bike route takes me along Union between Quebec and Main, so I’m excited that cars will largely be removed from that stretch. West of Quebec, a two-way, separated bike lane will connect with the Carall Street Greenway. East of Main, parking will be used to shield bikes from traffic.

More information is available on the City’s website and there’s a quick survey you can fill out.

Consultation on Kitsilano’s First Separated Bike Lane

Point Grey Road Bike RouteThe City of Vancouver is collecting feedback on improvements to Cornwall and Point Grey Road in Kitsilano. The possibility of a new separated bike lane has garnered most of the attention in the media so far, but opportunities to improve the pedestrian experience are also important. I bike and run that route a lot and the lack of sidewalk space is just as concerning to me as the harrowing traffic when I’m cycling. The Running Room has been pushing its members to give feedback, so this isn’t just about cyclists.

If you want to offer feedback, there are two more open houses: January 31, 7-9pm at Queen Mary Elementary School and February 2, 10am-2pm at Kitsilano Community Centre. You can also fill out an online survey.

Burrard Intersection RealignmentThere’s a few competing ideas the city is considering. The more interesting ones include a realignment of the intersection at Burrard and Cornwall that will make it easier for pedestrians to cross the street. There’s a potential separated bike lane along Cornwall (the scariest section to bike), which could be the first separated bike lane outside of downtown. And farther west, along Point Grey Road, one idea is to expand two parks across the street creating road closures that will limit traffic to locals and cyclists.

New York: Cycling Manhattan

Allen Street Separated Bike Lane
New York has made huge improvements to its walking/cycling infrastructure in the past five years, adding bike lanes, car-free zones, and greenways throughout the city. When we visited in 2007, the first bike lanes were just being built in Manhattan, and few cyclists braved the streets. Five years later, Times Square is a pedestrian-only zone, the High Line is all the rage (more on that in a later post), separated bike lanes cut across Manhattan, and cyclists are everywhere.

Brooklyn Bridge Cyclist

I was really excited to bike around New York and experience all the improvements firsthand. We rented bikes one day, and, unfortunately, had a terribly disappointing experience – the weather, construction, and cost all conspired against us. New York’s bike share program was supposed to be operational during our visit, but was delayed until March 2013. That forced us to rent expensive tourist bikes for $25 each for only 2 hours. The staff at Bike and Roll were almost useless on providing advice on where to go and sent us off with a map that promised separated bike lanes, but didn’t mention that large stretches were under construction and a mess to navigate.

Cycle Track Construction Begins Narrow Bike Lane During Construction

After we got through the construction under the FDR Expressway, we made the mistake of following the signs for the Brooklyn Bridge. The bike route to the foot of the bridge lead us down congested streets in the financial district without any bike lanes. It got especially hairy near the 9/11 memorial.

Nervous in New York Traffic Congested Bike Route

Things were a bit better once we got to the Brooklyn Bridge. The bridge has a designated lane for cyclists, but it’s narrow and there are constantly pedestrians spilling into it. There was also more construction on the bridge, so the the first half gave us spectacular views of metal sheeting.

Brooklyn Bridge Bike Lane Brooklyn Bridge Metal Tunnel

The one bright spot of our ride was the last stretch on the west side of Manhattan. The West Side Greenway and Hudson River Promenade offered wide, smooth, uncongested bike lanes put smiles on our faces.

Enjoying the West Side Greenway Battery Park City Promenade

Maybe it was because we weren’t often out during rush hour, but there seemed to be less conflict between cyclists, motorists, and pedestrians in New York (compared to Vancouver), even though space is at more of a premium and we witnessed a lot more bad behaviour. Pedestrians routinely darted into traffic, cyclists salmoned up bike lanes, and cars routinely parked in bike lanes. Yet, we rarely saw angry confrontations. I guess everyone’s a sinner in New York, so there’s no sense being self-righteous.

Union Square Bike Lane Cars Parked in the Bike Lane

More pictures available on Flickr.

Getting more Asses on Bikes in Vancouver

Work Commute
I’ve been thinking a lot about cycling lately. Vancouver just hosted the world’s premier bike conference, Velo-City, so cycling issues have been dominating the news and my twitter feed.

On Thursday night I went to a talk by Mikael Colville-Andersen, the man behind the Copenhagenize blog. It was a fascinating look into what cities can do to bring cycling into the mainstream. Mikael’s goal is to make cycling as common as vacuuming – you don’t need special training to vacuum, there are no “avid vacuumists”, and you don’t go to Vacuum Equipment Co-op to buy special gear – it’s just something you do. In Copenhagen, people don’t self-identify as cyclists and only a small percentage of people who bike do so for financial or environmental reasons. Most people do it because it’s the most convenient way to get from A to B.

After listening to Mikael and reading the reports coming out of Velo-City 2012, I realized Vancouver has a long way to go before it achieves the cycling mode-share seen in Copenhagen (37% compared to 5% in Vancouver). Here’s my list of things that need to change before cycling goes mainstream.

  1. Introducing a public bike share system.
  2. Scrapping the mandatory helmet law.
  3. Building a connected grid of separated bike lanes.
  4. Calming automobile traffic.

Progress is being made on all these fronts, but it’s moving at a glacial pace. The bike share system has been announced, but delayed by a year while they figure out how to work helmets into the system. Opposition to helmet law is mounting, but politicians are reluctant to speak out against a law that still has popular support outside of cycling circles. Vision Vancouver took a lot of flack for the new separated bike lanes they built downtown, but they were rewarded with an increased majority on city council. Hopefully they take this as a sign to keep building new separated lanes.

As for traffic calming, Vancouver has been on a road diet for decades, and vehicle volumes have been steadily dropping over the past two decades – they’re now at the same levels they were in 1965. The next step is to reduce the speeds that cars move at. According to Colville-Andersen, Barcelona is adding 30 km/h zones across the city, and 80% of all streets will have lower speed limits by 2015. Why? Because fast cars kill. If you get hit by a car going 30 km/h you have a 95% chance of surviving, but at 50 km/h it’s 55% and at 65 km/h it’s only 15%.

Hopefully the City of Vancouver, Mayor Gregor Robertson, and Vision Vancouver respond to Velo-City 2012 Conference by increasing the pace of cycling improvements.

Voting advice from Dan Mangan

Here’s some video advice from Dan Mangan:

I would urge you to look at the candidates and choose ones that have decided to not go with attack ads, to not go with the low road, to not go with lowest common denominator politics, to not go with strategic griping, but sort of a politician who perhaps actually has passion, who takes into consideration a lot of issues that are on all of our minds.

And some advice from Vancouver cyclists:

I’m really going to vote for a bike-friendly candidate because this is amazing. To see how many people are getting out, to see the healthiness that we’re inspiring in Vancouver, to have safety, I think, is really key, and we want to support those in city council that are going to support cyclists.

Debunked: Arguments Against Cycling

map-separated-bike-lanes
Looks like Downtown Vancouver is getting another separated cycling lane. The Hornby lane will connect the separated bike lanes on the Burrard Bridge to the separated bike lane on Dunsmuir. Once this is complete, the last piece in the puzzle will be the Helmcken-Comox Greenway, which planing should start on next year.

I went to the information session at the Pacific Centre to ask a few questions and lend my support to the Hornby bike lane, and ended up in a 20-minute debate with a guy who kept repeating the same lame arguments I’ve heard before. He also insisted on calling me a “militant cyclist”, which I found amusing. I’m willing to be labelled a dedicated cyclist, an enthusiastic cyclist, or even a hard-core cyclist (although compared to most cyclists I know I’m not very hard-core). But militant? I don’t think I’ve blown up enough SUVs to deserve the ‘militant’ label.

Here are the most common arguments I hear against cycling debunked. They’re all used as justification for not investing in cycling infrastructure, and especially for preserving road space dedicated to cars. The guy I was arguing with tried to use all of them at various points in the conversation.

  1. Hardly anyone cycles. Why are we spending money on such a small minority? – The best statistics on cycling come from the long-form census (the same one the Conservatives are scrapping). In 2006, 3.7% of commuting trips in Vancouver were by bike. In the neighbourhoods bordering downtown it is around 10%. Not an insignificant number, but nowhere near the target of 10% city-wide set by a previous city council many years ago. The best way to get more people on bikes is to build infrastructure to make cycling safer.
  2. The cycling infrastructure we have is good enough. There are already bike lanes downtown, we don’t need separated bike lanes. – Sadly, the separated bike lanes are not for cyclists like me. I will use and appreciate them, but I already cycle and will continue to do so, even with modest infrastructure we currently have. If the city wants to get to 10% cycling mode-share it needs to attract people who are currently afraid of cycling downtown. That’s why the separated cycling lanes are so important, they make it possible for people who are unwilling to battle with cars to get to work by bike. If you build it, they will bike.
  3. Converting car lanes to bike lanes will result in traffic gridlock. All that congestion is bad for the environment. – I love it when people who spend their days sitting in traffic pretend to worry about the environment, when really they just want to get home faster. As we’ve seen with the the Burrard Bridge and Dunsmuir, it is possible to take away car space without causing gridlock. If gridlock is really a problem, we should consider congestion pricing, but it is hardly a problem in Vancouver. The number of car trips into the downtown has been steadily declining over the past decade, while cycling, walking ,and public transit is on the rise.
  4. Police should crack down on cyclists who flaunt the rules. They don’t wear helmets and they don’t stop at stop signs. – If you want to be a stickler for the rules, I’d guess that the average car commuter breaks at least one law every time they drive to work (rolling through stop signs, speeding, etc). It’s easy to find cars breaking the law. That’s no reason not to build roads. If we refused to fund highways because of speeding, there wouldn’t be a single highway in Canada. The worst cycling rule-breakers are the road warriors and bike couriers – people who currently dominate downtown cyclists and get a high out of getting around as fast as possible, regardless of the danger. As cycling infrastructure improves, and more business people, children, and families start biking I’m confident the pace will decrease and you’ll see more civilized bikers.
  5. Cyclists should be insured/licensed to ride on the roads. – This argument usually takes one of two forms. For licensing, it is to provide accountability and ensure cyclists follow the rules. For insurance, it is to have cyclists pay more because cars need insurance. But cars need insurance because of the huge damage they can cause when accidents happen, not really an issue with bikes. As for licensing, some cities have tried with no success. Momentum has a good summary of the bike licensing debate. I just want to add that in Vancouver bike couriers are actually licensed and they’re the worst cyclists on the road, so I’m not sure licensing would accomplish anything.
  6. Cyclists should be forced to pay a road tax because they don’t pay gas taxes. – Cycling saves the government money – mostly because bikes take up less space and cause less wear. Cyclists may not pay gas taxes, but the majority of transportation projects are payed for by property taxes that everyone pays. And infrastructure for cars costs way more then bike infrastructure. “Engineering staff figure, on a very rough estimate, that the overall allocation of city transportation infrastructure is about two per cent for cyclists, 20 per cent for pedestrians and 78 per cent for cars.” – Cyclists are not freeloaders (Vancouver Sun). For years, the only infrastructure cyclists got was paint and signs (pretty cheap stuff). The separated bike lanes are not cheap, but to put the costs into perspective: the Dunsmuir bike lane cost about $1 million to install, while a left turn lane at Knight and Clark cost $3.7 million.

The interesting thing about the cycling debate is it has little impact on the politics here. The opponents who are the most angry are suburb commuters and they don’t vote for our city council. And even if they did, every political party in Vancouver supports the bike lanes, and has for the past 20 years. So opponents can rant and rave all they want, they’re only spinning their tires.