Notes from yesterday’s CRD bike/ped plan launch

The CRD is building a new bike and pedestrian master plan and to get the ball rolling, they hosted a launch & lunch party yesterday and they were kind enough to invite myself, Lesley Ewing and Gerald Smeltzer, all of us on the core team of the Oak Bay bike master plan. The event was well attended, with staff from every municipality save Colwood there, lots of CRD staff, and community activists from the Greater Victoria Cycling Coalition, the Saanich Bike/Ped Committee, the sadly non-defunct Parent Advisory Committee for the Safer School Travel Plan as well as us. (Update: Michael Baxter, the engineer from Colwood on the comm., was out of town)

We started off with an excellent lunch in the 6th floor boardroom of the CRD building. You can quite literally see for miles up there. To kick off the presentation portion, Tracey Corbett of CRD’s Regional Planning and View Royal Mayor Graham Hill both spoke briefly. Tracey spoke about how this grew out of the CRD’s Travel Choices work a few years back and Graham gave an excellent overview of the challenges we face, with the “perfect storm” of peak oil, climate change and growing health issues).

After Tracey and Graham, Mira Birk and the Alta Planning + Design team out of Portland, OR, Urban Systems from Vancouver and John Luton, their local advisor, got up to talk about what they were going to do and what tools they brought to the table. They spoke about some of the GIS tools they have developed over the years to look at quality of bike and pedestrian infrastructure and make it easier to plan a complete street. For more information about these tools, Birk gave a talk on the cycle portion at the 2008 ProWalk/ProBike conference.

She went on to make some interesting points of the challenges of planning for bikes and pedestrians, in that most models of transportation don’t yet account for how new bike lanes or sidewalks change travel habits or factor in the health and societal benefits to more people walking and biking. This makes it hard to “sell” these improvements to people educated in the old school of planning for cars and single family homes. She also pointed that until recently few universities in their planning depts had people that could teach the next generation about how to plan for bikes, walking or mixed use development.

So where do we go from here? Hopefully the website will be appearing online shortly, so that most people can learn about the project. There will also be a citizen’s advisory committee and a planners/engineers from each municipality committee. Alta is hoping to finish the 1st phase by the Fall of 2009, with the 2nd and 3rd phases late spring/early summer 2010.

Will they be concerned when somebody gets killed?

Bowker & Cadboro Bay Intersection. Photo credit: John Luton
Bowker & Cadboro Bay Intersection. Photo credit: John Luton

The Oak Bay Police are claiming that the intersection of Bowker and Cadboro Bay Rd. isn’t a problem, because most people do the speed limit. Let me rephrase that, while the police watched, people didn’t speed. Colour me not shocked.

Having lived on Cadboro Bay Rd for just over three years, if most people are doing the speed limit, I would be truly surprised. I can definitely say that the width of the road encourages people to speed, as the picture to the right shows.

As I have mentioned before, pedestrian fatality percentage rises sharply between 30 and 60 km/hr. 5% to 85%, to be exact.

Cadboro Bay Rd width. Photo credit: John Luton
Looking north on Cadboro Bay Rd near Willows School. Photo credit: John Luton

So what can be done about it? A traffic circle is very needed, but before that there are three simple steps to keep speeds down:

  1. Bulge out the sidewalk at the crossing near Willows School. This shortens the crossing and puts the pedestrian beyond the parked car and in the sight of any oncoming vehicles.
  2. Bulge out the sidewalk at the two ends of the school zone. This narrows the roadway, slowing drivers down.
  3. Add bike lanes. The road in front of my house is ~11m wide, which is enough for two 3m travel lanes, two 1.5 m bike lanes and one 2m parking lane on the west side of the road. The loss of parking on the east side is mitigated by the fact that few people park on the east side of the road most of the day anyway.

Will any of this happen? I hope so. It will take a lot of work to convince council that these steps are needed to keep kids and people of all ages safe. Maybe they should be reading this pedestrian injuries report from Safe Kids Canada.

Bixi comes to Vancouver

Bike sharing station
Bike sharing station

The Montreal bike-sharing program is coming to Vancouver, for one day at least. The Georgia Straight is reporting that this Friday through Monday there will a test of the bikes on the seawall near Science World as part of Bike Month in the Vancouver region. You can see a map and the hours on the City of Vancouver’s official page about the program.

This isn’t the only place Bixi is spreading its wings to. Ottawa and Gatineau are also getting pilot projects, albeit a slightly more substantial one. This is run by the National Capital Commission (NCC) and comprises only 50 bikes right now. It is expected that if the pilot is successful, a larger rollout could come as early as 2010.

Given we have our own version of the NCC here in Victoria, the Provincial Capital Commission, and we such a tourist destination, where is the bike sharing project for Victoria? A few stations around downtown including at the cruise ship docks would allow tourists to discover all the great biking facilities here in Victoria and also maybe help the poor James Bay residents sleep better at night by cutting down on the diesel exhaust from buses.

Cyclist hit on Beach Dr at Estevan?

According to the Oak Bay News, a cyclist was hit at the corner of Beach Drive and Estevan Avenue on Friday. Given the claim of the vehicle running the stop sign, it must have been on Estevan, not Beach Drive. The 32-year-old man apparently tumbled over the hood of the car. This likely means that he  was right in fromt of her when she accelerated. Thankfully he apparently wasn’t seriously hurt, although who knows what kinds of long term injuries he might have sustained. As per usual, the drive got off nearly scot free:

The woman, 32, was ticketed for failing to stop.

Image courtesy Streetsblog New York
Image courtesy Streetsblog New York

How about driving without due care? I guess you need to kill somebody before you get this one. As light bedtime reading, I suggest Death of Cyclists in BC, by the Helmet Safety Institute. The report was written by the Chief Coroner of BC’s office and covers accidents from 1986-95. Wonder if the numbers of deaths has gone down since then, given that more cyclists equals less deaths in total. I think I would have to plumb the byzantine depths of ICBC or maybe WCB to get that info. Maybe another day.

Monday Quick Links

There are a few interesting announcements today from the CRD and the Federal Government regarding communities, planning and green space.

The CRD is looking for people to sit on their Regional Parks citizen advisory panel for the new Regional Parks Strategic Plan. If you are interested, the site has documents with more information and the deadline for applying is June 12th, 2009.

The new CRD Pedestrian and Bicycling Master Plan has its launch event next week. Curiously, it doesn’t have a website yet, so to get a better idea of what this plan with entail, see the Request for Proposals (PDF). The CRD has selected Alta Planning & Design out of Portland to do the initial stages of the work. Alta has done some great work all over the US and Canada and they are very focused on planning for bicycling and walking, so I look forward to they can bring to our great region. The initial report is due this fall with the larger plan including network maps done by Spring 2010.

The federal government also dropped another tiny little bit of money in the bucket today, with a $4.2 million announcement of the EQuilibrium™ Communities Initiative. And yes, they did trademark the name. So sayeth the press release:

The new $4.2- million, EQuilibrium™ Communities Initiative will seek to improve community planning and develop healthy sustainable communities that are energy-efficient, economically viable and vibrant places to live.

Colour me not impressed. $4.2 million is nothing. The new CRD plan above will cost $20,000 – $30,000 just for the inital report with the 2nd and 3rd stages being considerably more. I suspect this might just be a feel good thing for Lisa Raitt, better known the whole Chalk River “sexy” isotopes statement, bad-mouthing a fellow minister on tape and leaving documents behind at a newspaper issue.

(Hattip to the Livable Region Blog in Vancouver for the link)

I am off to council tonight, where the agenda pretty normal. It is the season for block party requests and there are the usual rezoning requests. Also up is a letter from the Oak Bay Marine Group regarding the ongoing saga of the getting the Sea Rescue Society a new boathouse.

Oak Bay Tea Party + Willows Park = no bike parking

The one bike rack in Willows Park, packed
The one bike rack in Willows Park, packed

Managed to finally get to the Tea Party today, after being quite busy yesterday. Even though I arrived after 3 and after the airshow, there were still tonnes of people there. I did see large numbers streaming up Estevan Rd to their parked cars on Musgrave and nearly all the streets between there and the water. But then again, I don’t blame them for driving. The bike parking situation at Willows Park is quite abysmal, even on non-busy days. There is exactly one bike rack there, as can be seen to the left. It was full. This meant that bikes spilled out and where parked everywhere.

When I arrived, I ended up having to raft my bike up with a very nice gentlemen by the name of Terry who was similarily looking for a spot. We ended up parked near the toilets, right near the giant mess of bikes seen below. You can see the rest on in my 2009 Tea Party flickr set but there was one other picture that amused me. That was this one of two bikes locked to an Oak Bay Works flashing sign.

Hopefully for next year, there will be more bike parking. Maybe if we get organized soon enough, Safer Cycling Oak Bay and/or the Community Association could get the portable racks that Chain Chain Chain have. It would be nice if Shooting Star Amusements could provide bike parking as well, just like they provided the lone bench seen below.

Bikes locked to Oak Bay Works sign
Bikes locked to Oak Bay Works sign
Shooting Star Amusements portable bench
Shooting Star Amusement's portable bench
Mass of bikes locked to rail
Mass of bikes locked to rail

Getting to the game by bike, transit or walking

One of the most persistent problems facing non-car drivers is that complete auto-centricity of directions listed on most websites, of which sports teams and their stadiums seem to be especially bad for. Take the new Highlanders FC team. For starters, they choose to play in car-happy Langford rather than Royal Athletic Park or UVic’s Centennial Stadium, but take a peek at the image on their page of directions:

Yes, that is a picture of an empty parking lot. And yes, they have transit directions, stuffed alongside parking under the heading “Park & Ride Locations”. No link to the schedule of either the 50 or the Langford Trolley and absolutely no mention of whether they have bike parking of any sort or even the best biking routes (like say, the Galloping Goose). And a map? Nope.

If they want a half-decent idea of what their directions site should look like, they should take a look at the San Francisco Giants baseball team’s page, which lists transit first. They even have maps at the bottom, both of the local area and stops and a larger route map. Sadly their page lists the truly excellent bike lockup facilities provided by the San Francisco Bike Coalition at their games under “Getting there by car”, but not everything can be perfect. How good are these valeted bike spots? Streetfilms, out of New York, was there and shot this video:

To be completely fair to Highlanders, I did a survey of other major event locations around the city and only the Belfry Theatre’s directions included transit. Failing grades to Langham Court Theatre, Royal& McPherson Theatres, Victoria Event Centre, Memorial Arena and any movie theatre.

Interestingly, the new FitinFitness program, which consists of Greater Victoria recreation centres, along with BC transit, the CRD and the Y, lists bus route information, with links to schedules on their page, but nobody but the CRD have any bus information on their facilities websites. The CRD’s SEAPARC leisure centre in Sooke’s page even lists biking via the Goose.

Looks like we in the livable streets community here in Greater Victoria has some outreach to do.

Vancouver demos an electric car

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson in MiEV

I managed to miss this last month, but the province, BC Hydro and the City of Vancouver signed a deal with Mitshubishi to test a production-ready electric car, the MiEV. Unlikely the low-speed electric cars Oak Bay recently let on their 50 km/h streets, this is a highway capable vehicle, like the ill-fated GM EV1 and the sort-of-already-here Tesla Roadster.

One of the great myths running around is that if we only switch all our vehicles to electric, hydrogen or another hypothetical cleaner fuel, all will be good. Aside from the major issues with the creation of the fuel for these vehicles, they ignore the reality that building auto-centric infrastructure is damaging our health, our communities and is ultimately financially unsustainable. Thankfully, Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson gets it (emphasis mine):

“We want to make Vancouver the greenest city in the world, and supporting this early adoption of plug-in electric cars is one way that Vancouver is becoming a leader in green technology. Electric vehicles are an important way to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions when combined with improvements to transit, biking and walking.”

By this time next year, we should have quite a few production electric vehicles on the road, including this MiEV, the Telsa Roadster (although small quantities are available now) and the Chevy Volt. We do live in interesting times.

A daily grab-bag of links

The world keeps turning, even if I have been crazy busy with various non-bike relating things. So I present a grab-bag of fun links and commentary on news stories:

  • Packed in like sardines. It is a cliche and yet our buses (and public transit across the world) often feel more like a can of fish than a pleasant way to travel. To drum up political support for fixing the problem, a couple of Swiss decided to ride around dressed literally as sardines.
  • After dropping off my grandmother at a ferry today I got caught by this accident on Cordova Bay Rd. Apparently the cause was an 82 year old man having a heart attack. Why are we still building cities that require 80+ year old people to drive?
  • Speaking of my grandmother, two Saanich workers scared the crap out of her the other morning by walking into her back yard, looking for a storm drain cover. Turns out they were looking for the source of this oil leak into Douglas Creek, a salmon-bearing stream which runs through Mount Doug Park right behind her house.
  • Arthur Erickson, Vancouver architect, has died. He had a bit a love for concrete and brutalist buildings but also did a lot of good work including a building in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver.

There has also been a whole host of news about community planning today:

And lastly,Transportation Alternatives, a bike and ped advocacy group in New York City that has gone from guerilla activism to advising the city’s Department of Transportation, has launched “Biking Rules: A new street code for NYC Bicyclists” campaign that is coupled with a slick website that also allows users to show safe biking routes they have found (via Streetsblog). The map is driven by data from OpenStreetMap. More of that free data empowering people and communities again.

“Winning” at the expense of pedestrians

This week the biking community “won” a pair of battles to add bike infrastructure in a pair of cities. But what did they really win? First, let’s look at Toronto:

Photo Credit: Marc Lostracco/Torontoist
Jarvis Street - Photo Credit: Marc Lostracco/Torontoist

The 5-lane Jarvis Street is being redeveloped to make it more pedestrian and bicycle friendly. Sadly, rather than do the right thing and remove two car lanes to both expand the sidewalk and add bike lanes, the council decided to remove only one lane, which means they forgo widening the sidewalks in favour of bike lanes.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, the Vancouver City Council went far beyond that. They actually took away space from pedestrians to give it to bikes. They are closing the eastern (northbound) sidewalk to make it bike-only, while southbound cyclists will have use of a car lane. This means all pedestrians will now have to use the western (southbound) side of the bridge. This image below explains it better:

Source: City of Vancouver page - click on image to view

And in Portland, a recent crash and general pedestrian and bicycle congestion issues on the Hawthorne Bridge has created a suggestion to do that bridge what they are planning on the Burrard Street Bridge, save that they would dedicate one sidewalk to each mode.

Let me very clear: These are not wins for bicyclists, the larger community or of sustainable transportation in the longer term. All they will do is pit cyclists against pedestrians while drivers laugh all the way to their hit and run. Streets must be designed to protect the most vulnerable users first. This means that pedestrians trump bikes everytime (and bikes trump cars…). This is why we have crosswalks with lights and curb bulge outs. This is why we widen sidewalks and have ramps to allow wheelchairs and strollers to pass easily.