Rainbows & Raindrops from the community fair

At the Community Fair yesterday we put out two piece of bristol board, sticky notes and pens and then we asked people who came by to tell us about biking in Oak Bay, both what they loved and what they would like to see changed or disliked. We got some great feedback, as I have transcribed below:


  • Healthier and environmentally better way to travel. Oak Bay is awesome for biking
  • Riding along the waterfront (Dallas Rd.)
  • Path along the water
  • New bike lanes on Henderson
  • love riding on Oak Bay’s quiet streets
  • Part of Foul Bay Bike lane
  • Slow traffic in Oak Bay
  • Lanes
  • Quiet bike lanes. Sidelanes and back alleys
  • Bike lanes
  • Roads that are generally quiet
  • Bike lanes. Secure locking ???. beach dr & oak bay avenue
  • Quiet streets for making long traverses across the community
  • Fresh air and exercise
  • New bike parking at municipal hall
  • close to community, parking easy, fresh air, calories burned

Of course, life is not all roses. Sometimes there are thorns:

  • Disrespect by cyclists and motorists for each other
  • bicyclists who ride in the middle of the road instead of the cycle lane! 🙂
  • cars parked on Beach Drive
  • No road bike lane by Marina and Glenlyon
  • Need more bike trails
  • Roads where there is not enough room for bikes + car (McNeil Ave)
  • Lack of bike trails and lanes
  • Access to Galloping Goose from Oak Bay
  • Cyclists who ignore the rules of the road
  • Need bike lane on Foul Bay
  • Oak Bay needs more bike lanes
  • nervous of traffic
  • Parking along Cedar Hill X Rd up to Uvic is very dangerous!
  • Oak Bay needs more bike lane & bike racks
  • Potholes
  • traffic calming devices. potholes in street
  • Not enough bike racks in the village!
  • Cyclists who don’t follow the rules of the road. Cyclists who don’t have lights.
  • Foul Bay & Oak Bay intersection
  • not much bike parking on the avenue
  • clear glass from bike lanes
  • –> Please signal –> Wear helmets

Each line is a single note. Where possible I have tried to preserve the formatting/spelling/etc.

We also got a few comments about the pedestrian experience:


  • For wheelchair: Good in the village, Foul Bay rather rough
  • Safe, clean sidewalks that have been redone


  • More attention to care of sidewalks on non-busy roads
  • crosswalk at Brighton + Foul Bay to fit with the Brighton Ave Centennial path

Thanks again to Jill Croft and the whole OB Comm. Association for organizing the event, the OB Emergency Preparedness people for being so kind as to share their space and time and to Jane and David who came out and peopled the SCOB booth with me. Here’s looking forward to next years.

Come to the Oak Bay Community Fair today

Safer Cycling Oak Bay will be at the Oak Bay Community Fair today between 11:30am and 1:30pm. The fair, which is co-hosted with the emergency prepardness people, is in the Oak Bay Recreation Centre’s indoor soccer pitch. We will be there to talk about what we are working on, to meet more people from around Oak  Bay and learn what they love and want to change about biking in Oak Bay.

Entitled Driver Syndrome hits Liberal candidates

Candidate vetting is always a tricky process. It is far, far too easy to miss something that will bite the candidate and the party in the butt when they least expect it. This is partly the reason I duck out of sight whenever somebody brings out a camera at a party. I live in the internet generation. Nearly everything we do goes online, something Ray Lam, the former NDP canadidate for Vancouver-False Creek, discovered last week (CBC).

But there are mistakes and there are mistakes. Getting underwear pulled at a party is not the same as getting behind the wheel of a deadly machine and driving away while drunk. And getting a simple parking ticket is not the same as willfully ignoring traffic laws merely because you are “busy working”. It seems that some of Liberal candidates haven’t yet learnt that (CBC). Even the Solicitor General, the person in charge of ICBC, is getting in on the act (CBC).

The sad reality is that because of Entitled Driver Syndrome or the so-called windshield perspective, these people won’t drop out of the race. Part of  the blame for this can be laid at the feet of the journalists. They are often just as guilty (Streetblog), if not more so. It is ultimately a societal flaw. We let people get away with things behind the wheel that they never would be able to do outside a car. We invent cute phrases like “road rage” or explain away blame by using terms like “accident” rather than crash. Maybe somebody that will change. I guess I can only keep hoping.

New Safer Cycling Oak Bay website goes live

Lesley Ewing and I have been working on a new Safer Cycling Oak Bay website for the past few weeks to correspond with the launch of a new project we, amongst others, have been working on. Rather than being stuck at the old Telus.net webspace, we have finally launched the new website at scob.ca, a nice short and easy to remember url. Expect to see more on the SCOB website in the next few weeks.

Bike parking on the Avenue

At tonight’s Committee of the Whole meeting, the council discussed the addition of covered bicycle parking to the avenue. Apparently instigated by the Mayor, this is long overdue recognition that bike parking on the Avenue is sub-par. Currently there are no covered spots anywhere on the Avenue and even the few racks that do exist are substandard, such as the ancient metal rack at the corner of Fairway Market closest to the Municipal Hall.

The plan presented at tonights meeting initially called for the removal of two parking spots on Wilmot on the eastern side closest to the Avenue. Councillor Herbert mentioned that there is a lack of handicapped parking on the Avenue and these two spots might make a good location for them and the bike parking could be moved to the north end of Wilmot right by Theatre Lane. Thankfully Tara Ney suggested that rather than moving them further away from the Avenue, the lawn of the Municipal Hall might make a better place, between the small information stand and the building itself.

As for what they will look like, there were two examples given, one from in front of the MEC building downtown:
mec bike shelter complete

This is quite a modern design. There is also this much older design seen around UVic:
uvic shelter 101

(Both photos credit John Luton of Capital Bike and Walk and more recently a Victoria City Councillor. He has an excellent set about Best Practices and another, Bike Parking 101.)

Estimated at around $20,000 for purchase and installation, the question of where the money will come from came up. A recent change to the Local Government Act allows municipal governments to take money out of their parking funds and put it into funding alternative forms of travel: walking, biking and transit. As such, Oak Bay is apparently going to be setting up an Alternative Transportation Infrastructure Fund, although no money has yet been moved around.

As the money will likely come out of the parking fund, Council decided that the Business Improvement Area who represent businesses on the Avenue, should be consulted on any spending of the parking fund on things other than parking. I am a little worried we’ll get some classic old-school 20th century thinking from them, but we will see.

Overall, I am hopeful that the bicycling community here in Oak Bay may not have to fight tooth and nail for every scrap of bicycle infrastructure. I was also heartened that during the nearly hour long discussion of the the traffic problem at the corner of Cadboro Bay and Bowker, several residents mentioned that bike lanes in the area is something they would like to see, even at the expense of parking. All in all, 2009 should be a good year for biking here in Oak Bay.

TC’s special on Rebuilding Canada

The Times Colonist (and presumably the whole Canwest newspaper chain) has a special entitled “Rebuilding Canada”. That they are running such a piece now isn’t really a surprise, given the massive number of stories talking about an “infrastructure stimulus“. What really gets me is the focus on rebuilding and adding new roads. One of the choicer quotes comes from a story titled “The scramble to make our highways safe“:

Elsewhere, Edmonton has a $260-million interchange project to unclog a bottleneck on a ring road.

Twinned Port Mann bridge
Twinned Port Mann bridge. Notice the lie of the mostly empty lanes

You can’t build your way out of congestion. This is the hard lesson Boston is discovering, after their giant “Big Dig” project. Aside from all the well documented problems with quality of the construction, what they have found is that the faster traffic flow in the core has simply pushed bottlenecks outwards. The traditional answer to this would be to “fix” the new bottlenecks with more roads, which would just be perpetuating the cycle of endless construction, which is how we ended up here in the first place. We need to build less roads and reduce the number we already have, not be adding more.

But where is the talk about using transit to solve some of these bottlenecks? The problem is that planners and governments fail to look at mobility holistically. Essentially, we need to be planning how to move people more efficiently, not cars. Some organizations get it, such as Washington States Department of Transportation and their page on bottlenecks and chokepoints. Others, well, just don’t.

Seattle Street Edge Alternative
Seattle's Street Edge Alternative program. Photo credit CRD

Of course, roads are not the only piece of infrastructure that is crumbling. Recreational facilities and housing, garbage disposal, sewers and public transit are all covered as well. Sewers are an interesting one. Apparently the City of Victoria has some of the oldest sewer pipes in Canada, at almost 100 years old. All well and good, but where is the discussion of using bioswales (CRD on bioswales) and green roofs (Ecogeeks has a good photo-filled FAQ on green roofs) to reduce runoff into our sewers? As the CRD plans to charge municipalities based on flow, reducing runoff means less tax dollars wasted.

Overall, I am deeply disappointed with this whole series. It is typical tired journalism. Given the recent cuts in the Canwest newsrooms, I am not surprised they are failing to produce good, innovative stories. I guess that leaves it up to the poor bloggers to tell the story.

The need for complete streets

Complete street transformation in University Place, Washington
Complete street transformation in University Place, Washington Image Source: completestreets.org

One of the biggest challenges of the next 50 years is the return to a balance of transportation options, something that has been heavily skewed towards the car for a very long time. Founded around the idea that our current streets are incomplete due to this skewing, the Complete Streets movement seeks to restore that balance.

What does this mean for Oak Bay? At first glance, you would think we are doing fairly well here. Our bicycling percentage is fairly high (6% according to the 2006 census data – PDF) and Bike to Work Week has been growing for years.

What can a municipal government like Oak Bay do? While we cannot do as much as California, which recently passed complete streets legislation, we can make certain that our little part of the world is better for everybody. Usually this takes money, as streets need to be physically reconfigured to allow better access by pedestrians, bicyclists and transit users. Thankfully, the provincial government, via Bike BC and its Cycling Infrastructure Partnerships Program, has been cost sharing with muncipal governments for a few years now.

Of course, one of the key challenges Oak Bay faces is our older population and how to help that population stay active. One of the major barriers to physical activity is the incompleteness of our streets and thus it is not surprising that the American Association of Retired People (AARP) is one of the strongest supporters of complete streets in US. Their surveys have found that many older people would walk, bike or take transit more if the streets were better built. You can read more in their press release.

Getting to complete streets requires residents stand up and ask their governments to help them bike, walk and ride transit more. Thankfully, the CompleteStreets.org people have a great page up on how to get complete streets in your community.

Cycling in New York up 35% after millions in new bike infrastructure

Streetsblog, a New York blog dedicated to the Livable Streets movement, is reporting that bicycling is up 35% over 2007. Given a Portland State University researcher just showed how a lot of bicyclists will go out of their way to ride on bike lanes and bike boulevards and New York City has spent millions building new bike lanes, paths and a host of other improvements to help bikes, pedestrians and transit, this increase is not exactly shocking.

It is high time that Oak Bay ceased being the laggard in bike infrastructure in our fine region. We need a comprehensive network of bike lanes, boulevards and paths to help get people out of their cars and into bikes.

Henderson Road bike lane or parking lane?

The Henderson Road bikes lanes, a half-baked solution to a real problem, is proving to be a bit of a headache. From 7am to 8pm on weekdays, cyclists have right of way on the side of Henderson Road. The rest of the time, cars have the right to park at the curb, while cyclists navigate a riskier trip weaving among cars.  Confused? So is everyone else.

This confusion became apparent to me on Thursday, when during two hours in the middle of the day I saw three vehicles parked in the bike lane.  Why are people parking in these bike lanes? Maybe they didn’t check their watch, or maybe the new by-law is too inconsistant to sink in. After all, Henderson Road has the only bike lanes in the city that aren’t always bike lanes.  What a lovely “made in Oak Bay” solution.

One ray of sunshine in this affair is the quick, professional way the Oak Bay Police department responded to my report. Within 20 minutes they had returned my call and informed me that the drivers had been spoken to and the cars moved.

Of course, that we have bike lanes on Henderson Road at all is due to the tireless work of Lesley Ewing and Safer Cycling Oak Bay. She collected more than 3000 signatures from Oak Bay residents by pounding the pavement and making calls, 3000 signatures that only got us half way. All this effort aftter council voted 4-3 against full bike lanes in 2007. What a difference one vote makes.

Isn’t it clear that half-way solutions aren’t enough? If we make it safer and less intimidating for people to get on a a bike, they might reach for a helmet rather than their car keys, saving their pocket book and tax dollars. What will it take for council to take biking seriously?