CRD plans next Regional Pedestrian & Bicycle Master Plan event

The CRD Regional Pedestrian & Bicycle Master Plan (PCMP) is having its next public event on March 11. The event will cover the completed first phase of the plan, including the unveiling of the Bikeway Inventory Map. The plan, which launched last year, has already gone through some initial collection of public input. As has been the case with previous events, project consultants Alta Planning + Design and CRD staff will be on hand to discuss the next steps. I strongly encourage you to come, for which you need to register on the CRD PCMP page.

Wall of Fame and Community Initiatives Committee looking for people

The Wall of Fame selection committee is looking for people to add to the wall in 2010. The Wall of Fame is:

a means to honour individuals who have been instrumental in the development of Oak Bay’s parks, facilities, and programs and who have exercised extraordinary commitment to the community of Oak Bay or performed voluntary services deemed to have been of great importance to the community.

The nomination form (PDF) must be submitted to Director of Parks & Recreation, currently Lorna Curtis, by Februrary 28th of this year. Winners will have their photo and information posted on the wall in the Social Lounge at the Oak Bay Recreation Centre.

Also looking for people is the newly expanded Community Initiatives Committee. The committee has not only gained new responsibilities, such as creating an Oak Bay Village plan and active transportation initiatives, but also a new councillor, Nils Jensen. As I mentioned previously, the next meeting of the committee is the 5th of February (see the calendar in the sidebar for more details), so with the closing date of February 16th for nominations there will be at least one more meeting of the old committee. Details about nominations can be found in the announcement (PDF).

The new CRD Bike/Ped plan

While some poor CRD staff get to deal with sewage, others are much luckier, working on the new Bike and Pedestrian Master Plan. As was reported in our local rag, the public kick-off events for the plan were earlier this week, although some of us were “lucky” enough to get involved a bit earlier. For my sins I have become part of the Citizen’s Advisory Committee, one of two groups to advise the CRD and it’s consultants.

First up Monday night was a short meet and greet of the aforementioned committed, before the public advocacy session. The committee as a whole totals about 20 people, with representatives from many groups the GVCC, Capital Bike and Walk, Roads, Rails and Trails, Bike to Work Society and others I am surely forgetting. Oak Bay is fairly well represented, with myself, Lesley Ewing and Gerald Smeltzer, who wears dual-hats, both the Oak Bay Bicycle Master Plan core team and the Oak Bay Community Association.

1897 Bicycling Map of Victoria
1897 Bicycling Map of Victoria

The main part of Monday night was actually the public advocacy session, attended by 70+ people from all stripes, although the crowd was heavily tilted toward bicycle advocates, a trend that continued the next day. To start the evening off, Tracy Corbett, Senior Manager of Regional Planning at the CRD, pointed out this isn’t the first bike plan the regiona as a whole has created, showing the 1897 bike route map seen on the right. This is also about the era that bicyclists where leading the fight for paving of roads, something forgotten in the recent celebration of the 100th anniversary of the first concrete road.

But the highlight of the night was a talk by Scott Bricker, Executive Director of the Bicycle Transportation Alliance, an Oregon bike advocacy group that has made great strides in making Portland and the rest of Oregon the bicycle-friendly place it is. He stared off by stating the core principles of the BTA:

  1. People like to bike
  2. People don’t like to bike with cars
  3. You need a dense network
  4. The network has to go places (that people want to go)

While obvious on the face it, these core principles evolved to become part of the official Portland Bicycle Master Plan. Beyond core principles, he spoke extensively about to advocate effectively, including such truths that businesses are some of the most effective advocates of bicycling and that you need both the bicyclist in the suit and the more fringe elements some of us would rather go away.

As a wrap up to his talk, he gave a quick top 10 list for what makes a good regional plan:

  1. Engage (the public, businesses, etc.)
  2. Build support from diverse camps
  3. Take the short view (get things done quickly)
  4. Take the long view (think where you want to be 10, 20, 30 years from now)
  5. Take the heat (be out there to support politicians that support you)
  6. Tell the story (stats and stories are both needed)
  7. Be polite and respectful (be thankful)
  8. Be a regional plan (make certain it effects all parts of the region, leave nobody out)
  9. Chase the money (with money, nothing gets built. Be where the money is)
  10. Don’t forget fun

Overall, it was a great night. Thanks to the Road, Rails and Trails people for bringing Scott to Victoria to talk with us. Of course, this was only day one of two for those of us on the citizen’s committee, as well as the Gil Penalosa talk on Tuesday evening at UVic. More on both of those later.

The era of removing crosswalks is over…

New crosswalks at Bowker & Hampshire
New crosswalks at Bowker & Hampshire

…and not soon enough. For the past several decades crosswalks have been scraped up under the misguided assumption that it causes “pedestrians to act recklessly“. Even the US DOT Federal Highway Administration has changed its tune:

Pedestrians are legitimate users of the transportation system, and they should, therefore, be able to use this system safely and without unreasonable delay.

This change in thinking is hitting close to home, with the addition of two new crosswalks with a curb cut for wheelchairs at Bowker and Hampshire. This is immediately to the east of the dangerous Cadboro Bay Rd and Bowker Ave intersection that may get a traffic circle.

Will we get any more of this in 2009? I haven’t had a chance to ask David Marshall, head of Oak Bay Engineering yet and the 2008 Municipal Report (PDF), which just came out, makes no mention of any crossswalk or sidewalk works in 2009. Guess we will have to enjoy at least this victory.

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.

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.

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.