Tag Archives: cycling

Stanley Park Causeway

6 Dec

A section of my bike commute I often write about is finally getting some attention from the Ministry of Transportation and Highways. It appears the survey work conducted by the province is complete, and barring significant protests against tree removal, the project should hopefully move ahead in 2015. This will finally give cyclists, pedestrians, and motorized commuters a safer fixed link between downtown and the North Shore.

To learn more, visit: http://www.gov.bc.ca/stanleyparkcauseway. Click through the menu on the left to see pictures, maps, drawings, and pdf files. Very complete.

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Protective Barriers for Dogs, but not for Cyclists

17 Nov

I am one of hundreds of cyclists who ride the Stanley Park causeway on a nearly daily basis, and each time I never know if it will be the last time.

The causeway, as I have blogged about before, has no official space for cyclists, rather bikes and electric scooters share the same sidewalk as pedestrians. Adding to the problem is there is no barrier separating the narrow sidewalk from vehicle traffic.This situation has led to a number of serious accidents, including fatalities, where pedestrians (of all ages) and cyclists (of all ages) have collided and ended up on the causeway, crushed by a vehicle. Pedestrians and bikers have no alternate route to get to Stanley Park and the downtown, as the Seabus is at Lonsdale Quay, and buses are only designed to take two bikes at a time. Operated by the province, the roadway is the only link from the North Shore to the city centre.

This past week another dog sailed over the side of BC place, the result of a negligent owner ignoring signs and letting his large dog wander the public space without a leash. BC place has promised it will immediately construct a barrier to ensure this does not happen again. BC place is run by the provincial government.

Does this mean dogs who are off leash in on leash areas have more rights than cyclists, motorists, and pedestrians? How come the province won’t build a protective barrier on the causeway, but will do so at BC Place?

Clean those leaves

29 Oct

Feeling grouchy after my soggy bike ride from yesterday. Once again I had to take the detour around Stanley Park rather than risk the Causeway because the sidewalk remains covered in piles of slippery autumn leaves. The Causeway sidewalk is supposed to be maintained by the province, but it seems to be neglecting its duties, leaving pedestrians and cyclists with limited options and still without a barrier separating them from motorized traffic.

Oh how we live in an absurd world! There is this paranoia about bike helmets, but almost no interest in building bike infrastructure than will do more to save peoples lives than a dinky helmet.

In my opinion helmet laws need to be abolished, or modified. In Tel Aviv, in order to bring in bike share, the helmet law was modified where only children under 12 are required to wear a helmet. We in North America do not seem to understand that as long as a helmet is required, people will continue to think cycling is a dangerous activity. In fact cycling is much safer than driving, the only reason it is more dangerous in North America is because our bike lanes are paint on a street.
I’d bet the amount of lives saved with helmets are more than lost by the number of people who, put off by helmets and the “danger of bike riding”, stay behind the wheel of their cars, getting fatter and suffocating on car fumes.
Forget about helmets for adults, and focus on first world bike infrastructure.

Room for Improvement – Better Pedestrian Public Space in Vancouver

13 Oct

Trees, wide side walks, a varied composition of shopfronts and residential spaces, low levels of traffic noise, good lighting, pedestrian walkways, shelter from rain in the form of tree cover, canopies, and awnings; walking distance to amenities. These are the elements that create an appealing walker’s public space.

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Piazza in Konstanz, Germany

Most of Vancouver’s inner city neighbourhoods such as Kitsilano have high walkablility scores because their streets contain many of these elements, however, apart from the Westend, Vancouver’s downtown streets are a striking contrast. In the majority of cases, they are automobile thoroughfares offering limited shelter from rain or noise for pedestrians.

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Typical downtown Vancouver streetscape

After spending a month travelling in central and southern Europe, I was once again reminded how walkable European cities are. They are of course this way because they were developed prior to the automobile and stitched together during the golden age of rail travel.

Europeans are accustomed to efficient train travel, connecting seamlessly from foot traffic to a metro to an intercity express. I did this several times on my travels, catching a train from Barcelona to Lyon, another from Lyon to Milan, and from there to Lake Como and the gateway to the Helvetic Confederation. Travel was easy, inexpensive, and at each destination I was greeted by yet another inviting walkable inner city playground, a sort of pedestrian and cyclist’s Disneyland, populated with water fountains, trees, and restaurant patios of all shapes and sizes.

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Lyon Bike Share

Europe is not the only part of the world with this sort of infrastructure, even the centres of cities such as Melbourne, Cape Town, Tel Aviv, and Buenos Aires, where rail is almost non-existent, are a cyclist and walker’s paradise, urban oases providing respite from the noise of cars, motorbikes, and abrasive sirens.

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Cape Town Gardens

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Greenmarket Square, Cape Town

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Confederation Square, Melbourne

And what about downtown Vancouver? Where are our piazzas, our alcohol friendly sidewalk patios, our pedestrian malls, and our central squares? Why do we fight and squabble for 20 years over a bike lane, when in most other cities this sort of infrastructure is considered normal, an essential part of urban infrastructure in much the same way as the construction of sewers, roads, and powerlines?

Tango, Palermo Soho

Buenos Aires

There is no clear answer to this question. This is the very reason why some societies are highly successful and others fail miserably, and why even with free access to near unlimited information, this divide persists. Why is Detroit not like San Francisco, or why does Norway have a sovereign wealth fund and Greece an economic crisis, or why is Ukraine a failed state, while Poland is an economic miracle?

I remain optimistic that Vancouver is connected enough to the rest of the world that eventually we will see the need for more walkable public space in our downtown core. We may live in the “Best Place on Earth”, but there is always room for improvement.

On a road to nowhere: regional comprehensive transit stuck in traffic.

4 Aug

“Bike to Work Week”, how about just calling it “Bike to Work”? It borders on the absurd the amount of public awareness pushed during bike week, asking motorists to share the road with bicycles. What about the other 51 weeks? Does this mean next week motorists can stop sharing the road again? Indeed how is it even possible for a stressed out motorist looking at their phone to ever be able to share the road with anyone else?

Gripes aside, “Bike to Work Week” is a path in the right direction; however, the real battle is for a “third way” of entirely separated independent cycling infrastructure, integrated into a comprehensive regional transit initiative. Forgetting the fluff, this requires serious political leadership from senior levels of government, and not small cobbled together networks assembled by budget strapped city level governments.

Unfortunately there is little evidence of any initiatives from senior government. The premier of British Columbia is in perpetual campaign mode, having grinded long term transit work to a halt in the Lower Mainland, with the uncertainty of a transit referendum she has imposed, but which she refuses to take a stand on. Why is it that comprehensive transit has to go through a regional referendum, but a 3 billion dollar bridge over the Fraser River can pass without a single public consultation. If one is to be consistent, should the bridge not be part of this regional transit referendum? If there is no need for a referendum on the bridge, then why is there a need for a referendum on regional transit? In fact why is there a need for a referendum at all? After all, the Liberals won a clear mandate in the last election, so why not get on with the business of governing? Unfortunately the Premier and the BC Liberal Government seem to have lost the meaning of government. To govern is to lead, which means taking a stand that may not always win votes or assure reelection. Yet the blame does not entirely rest on the shoulders of the BC Liberals, it also falls on the opposition who fail to offer a viable alternative to the current governing party.

The federal government is not much better. Despite governing in a time with the lowest interests rates in history, the Federal Government has illogically taken to cutting taxes and spending, and consequently miss out on an opportunity to finance the modernization of the country’s urban infrastructure at near zero interest rates. The federal government should be taking the initiative to push more funding to local governments to pay for comprehensive transit infrastructure. Infrastructure to get people off highways and out of cars, and onto transit and bicycles. It seems not a day goes by without yet another story of a traffic jam, a cyclist or pedestrian hit by a motorist, a delayed overcrowded bus or trolley car service. Canadians spend too much time sitting in traffic and this is only going to get worse before it gets better. Canada is failing in a global economy where the difference between winners and losers is increasingly dependent on high quality infrastructure. The time is now for leadership from senior government, leadership willing to take risks to build a new society that breaks with the old.

In Vancouver, hats of to the city government for getting  “Bike to Work Week” moving, but sadly the effort is futile without getting the Provincial and the Federal levels of government on board. Vancouver and other cities in Canada will remain stuck in traffic on a road to nowhere, as long as there is no comprehensive transit plan with real dollars. An intolerable situation for a country where over 80% of the population lives in cities.

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http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/toronto/torys-transit-plan-rejects-drl-lrt-in-favour-of-surface-rail/article18864900/
http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/british-columbia/liberals-to-push-ahead-with-legislation-for-vancouver-area-transit-referendum/article16469783/
http://rabble.ca/news/2012/11/harper-clashes-transit-climate-crisis-deepends