Tag Archives: bikes

Vancouver Election 2018 Primer – Part 2 – The Minor Issues

We’re less than a month away from the election and we now have platforms to judge the candidates by. Last month, I did a high level overview of the parties. Here are some of the more interesting ideas floating around in their platforms.

Alcohol in Parks and Beaches

Wine and Cheese

It’s a pretty simple idea. Adults should be able to indulge in a glass of wine on the beach or growler of beer in the park responsibly without risking $230 fine. Supporters of allowing alcohol in parks, at least on a trial basis include:

Subway to UBC

broadway_subway

Funding is now secured for the Broadway subway line, from VCC-Clark to Arbutus, with construction beginning in 2020 and finishing in 2025. Some local politicians are arguing that we should build it right the first time and extend it all the way to UBC. Normally transit priorities are set by Translink which is a regional body and needs buy in from other cities in Metro Vancouver, but as outgoing councillor George Affleck points out, the Broadway line is not funded by Translink so the city could fund the extension to UBC without regional buy-in.

Pushing for the Broadway Line all the way to UBC in a single construction phase are:

Opioid Crisis

Drugs

Considering that opioid overdoses are killing hundreds of Vancouverites every year, it’s surprising how little attention politicians are giving it. Here’s a roundup of the ideas proposed by the politicians who are brave enough to tackle what is obviously a complicated issue.

Leading the charge for a better response to the opioid crisis is Sarah Blyth, the founder and executive director of the Overdose Prevention Society and independent candidate for council. She’s proposing more overdose prevention sites, street drug checking programs, and a wider range of treatment options.

The other politicians who are talking about the issue mostly agree with Sarah Blyth, and are also calling for various degrees of drug decriminalization.

Electoral Reform

There are a few groups talking about changing the way we vote in Vancouver.

  • COPE wants to see a ward system introduced and permanent residents given the right to vote
  • OneCity wants to have a citizens assembly to propose an alternative voting system, and lower the voting age to 16.
  • Shauna Sylvester has proposed a hybrid system of 5 wards and 5 at-large councillors, with ranked ballots.
  • Kenedy Stewart has suggested using proportional representation or wards depending on the outcome of the provincial referendum
  • Independent candidates Graham Cook and Katherine Ramdeem support PR.

Bike Lanes

Autumn Cycling in Vancouver

Unlike in past elections where bike lanes were one of the major issues, few parties are talking about them, other than Coalition Vancouver who wants to rip them out. I guess that’s progress but I still want to know where the parties stand. Hopefully we’ll know more when Hub releases its survey results in early October.

In general, some of the strongest champions for cycling and active transportation are:

Housing

Housing deserves its own blog post considering how much attention its been getting this election. Stay tuned.

Helmets are the Kryptonite of Bike Share

Bixi Chic
Helmets are the kryptonite of bike share systems. Nothing puts a damper on the fun, spontaneous travel that bike share facilitates like a foam lid designed to prevent brain damage in the most severe accidents. Shared helmets are gross and carting your own helmet is not convenient. It’s no surprise then that bike share users are less likely to wear helmets then cyclists who ride their own bike.

So what happens when you flood city streets with casual cyclists (many of them tourists) who have no desire to wear helmets? Many pundits predict carnage but time has proven them wrong. Bike share systems around the world have outstanding safety records. Even in busy New York City, where Citi Bikes are being used for bar hopping, it’s a safe way to travel.

Emergency room and city officials say they have not seen a notable spike in bike-related accidents since the 6,000 Citi Bikes were unleashed on the city streets in May. “There’s no obvious sign that there have been more bike injuries,” said Dr. Marc Stoller, the associate chairman of the emergency department at Beth Israel Medical Center, which serves much of Lower Manhattan.

Meanwhile, personal injury lawyers are on standby. Daniel Flanzig, a lawyer who focuses on New York-area bike accidents, said last month that he was “absolutely amazed” that he had not had a single case involving the bike-share program. “My phone rings three or four times a week with a private bike crash, but nothing involving Citi Bike,” he said.

Bike helmet vending machine for Melbourne bike share.Riding a bike share bike without a helmet is statistically safe, but in some cities it’s strictly illegal. So how do you introduce bike sharing in cities with helmet laws? Melbourne offers taxpayer subsidized bike helmets at vending machines and convenience stores, but uptake has been slow. Now they’re leaving free helmets on the handlebars of the bikes, but it isn’t working. Riders continue to shun the system and the Mayor of London openly mocked the helmet law when he visited Melbourne last week. Mexico City and Israel took alternative approaches when they opened their bike share systems. They simply scrapped the helmet laws and watched their bike share systems thrive.

Unfortunately, after years of delay and study, Vancouver has chosen to follow Melbourne’s flailing lead. Hamstrung by a provincial helmet law, Vancouver is getting a bike share system with an integrated helmet share system. I think it’s a bad idea for a number of reasons.
1) It’s expensive. The City won’t reveal exactly how much is being spent on helmet vending machines, but think millions of dollars. That’s money that could have been spent on buying more bikes and extending the area bike share covers (initially limited to the central core).
2) Requiring a helmet will deter ridership. There’s a significant portion of the population who won’t ride a bike with a helmet. Some may still rent a bike and risk the fine, but many will just skip the experience all together.
helmethub-beta3) It’s a logistical nightmare waiting to happen. Balancing a bike share system is complicated enough without helmets. You need to ensure that every station has bikes available and empty spots returns. If you have a good mix of users taking a variety of trips, this will happen naturally. When it doesn’t, you need to pay people to shuffle bikes around.

With the helmet system being proposed for Vancouver, you can’t rely on even trip patterns to balance the system. Each helmet vending machine only holds 36 helmets and each helmet will only be used once before it’s cleaned and inspected. In a successful bike share system, each bike is used 5-10 times per day. There just isn’t enough capacity to store that many helmets. So a lot of time and money will be spent shuffling new helmets stations and picking up the used ones, assuming people use them at all.

I really want Vancouver’s bike share system to succeed, and the helmet law needs to be scrapped before that can happen.

Bikes Make Vancouver Awesome

24 31

I’ve started to notice a theme in the advertising of Vancouver’s hippest companies like Lululemon, Hootsuite, and the Craft Beer Market. They all feature bikes.

Not that I’m too surprised. The ability to cycle year round is part of what attracted me to Vancouver and it’s helped us attract talent at work.


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.

Bike Lanes Make Me Hornby T-Shirts

Bike Lanes Make Me Hornby T-Shirt

The t-shirt we’ve all been waiting for. Someone has finally created it.

Fairware will be selling organic t-shirts with “Bike Lanes Make Me Hornby” printed on the front at the Vision Vancouver Pub Night on October 20th @ The Charles. Full details here.

I’ve never been to a Vision Vancouver event, but I might show up just to get a t-shirt.