Haultain bikeway: Eastdowne and Haultain in Oak Bay and Saanich

After the introduction yesterday, today we deal with Eastdowne Rd. and the start of Haultain St itself (at least through Oak Bay and Saanich). One of the major challenges with any sort of planning in the CRD is the sheer number of municipalities involved. It can be a good thing (can you imagine if Oak Bay-style stalling on bicycle infrastructure had been the policy across the region?) but sometimes it makes it challenging.

Haultain bikeway through Oak Bay and Saanich

This section is amongst the easiest in the whole piece.

Eastdowne @ Haultain

Like the more northern Estevan intersection, adding a traffic circle here would calm traffic as can be seen in the picture below, there is plenty of space here.

Haultain and Eastdowne

along Haultain St in Oak Bay

This part of Haultain needs to be repaved. Very badly. It is amongst the worst pavement I have been in the CRD. It is nearing the quality of pavement I have seen in places that much poorer than us (New Orleans after Katrina comes to mind).

@ Foul Bay Rd.

This is the toughest crossing of the whole bikeway. This is a very high traffic street that is quite wide. Unlike the two Shelbourne and Richmond to the west, there is no intersection barrier to prevent through motor vehicle traffic. It badly needs it.

Haultain at Foul Bau
Haultain at Foul Bay. Green lines show bike lane realignment and green arrows show allowed motor vehicle left turns.

There are some unanswered questions about these kinds of barriers. As they divert traffic, a small amount of additional traffic on Foul Bay would be expected. Doing a full intersection movement count would give Saanich and Oak Bay’s public works/engineering departments the information about just how many cars would be diverted. My guess would be a fairly low number due to the existing diverters at Richmond and Shelbourne.

along Haultain St. in Saanich

Nothing! This section was repaved a few years back and has three lovely speed humps. Now if only we can get a better Bowker Creek Greenway (which would cross Haultain here)…

Making the Haultain bikeway better

As we have now passed a slightly wet June and the weather is getting better, I thought now would be a great time to share some ideas about improving the cycling infrastructure in Greater Victoria. Let’s start with my ride to work: the Haultain bikeway. This is already one of the best east – west connectors in the core but it needs some work to make it great.

Why Haultain?
Flat – unlike Fort to the south and other roads to the north, Haultain is largely flat.
Quiet – Haultain has very low traffic volume, likely because of the traffic calming that already been done
Already traffic-calmed – Saanich and the City of Victoria have already spent money and effort making Haultain pleasant for cyclists through closing off intersections and adding speed humps.
Existing connections – it already links many other regional bikeways including the Seaside Touring route, Dean Ave, and via Cedar Hill/Walnut/Chambers/Caledonia gets you to Vancouver St.

So if it’s so great, what needs to be done?
Designating it as a bikeway
None of the three (Oak Bay, Saanich or the City of VIctoria) jurisdictions that Haultain cross designate it was a bike way.  It is identified as a route in the Oak Bay Active Transportation Strategy (an unofficial plan) and the it is part of the CRD’s PCMP Primary Inter-Community Network, largely because those of us who helped craft that document insisted on it.

Repaving Haultain in Oak Bay
To say that the road here is terrible is an understatement. Unlike sections further west, there has been no recent paving here.

Prevent through motor vehicle traffic at Haultain and Foul Bay
This intersection needs a barrier like the intersections at Richmond and Shelbourne.

Widen the crossings as Richmond and Shelbourne
Neither of these intersections are wide enough for the volume of traffic through them.

Add traffic calming on Haultain between Shelbourne and Cedar Hill Rd
This section can have fast moving vehicles, but adding traffic calming is impossible unless BC Transit removes the 22, something they are already talking about doing.

Add a connection to the Vancouver Street bikeway
Haultain’s biggest problem is this lack of link. Although such a link exists via Cedar Hill and Walnut St in the official City of Victoria bicycle plan, but nothing actually exists on the ground.

Over the next few days I will be sharing a section by section view of the bikeway with specific recommendations on how to make it better.

Why did Councillor Murdoch vote against his own committee?

At council last week the Environmental Advisory Committee, newly setup by this council earlier this year, came forward with its first recommendation:  a symbolic council motion against the two big pipelines planned for BC: Kinder Morgan and Enbridge. During the debate Councillor Murdoch, who is the council liaison to that committee, noted his discomfort with the motion as it was outside of the immediate jurisdiction of Oak Bay. During the vote, which passed 3-2, he and Councillor Herbert voted against it. Even Councillor Herbert voted for bike lanes on Cedar Hill X Rd despite his long-stated opposition to bike lanes in Oak Bay, likely because he chaired the Community Initiatives Committee that brought the idea forward. So why did Councillor Murdoch vote against his own committee? And more pressingly, what does it mean for future Environmental Advisory Committee recommendations?

Bike train success to Willows!

Thanks to the Oak Bay Police Department and Councillor Michelle Kirby, the bike trains to Ecole Willows School yesterday were a great success. The two trains, one from Allenby Park and the other from near Monterey School, had over 75 students in them.

Bike train at Ecole Willows School
Bike train at Ecole Willows School

What does a bike train look like you say? Well Tom Croft took some video, but here is an example from another community:

Today, for adults, the Active Transportation Advisory Committee organized some guided rides for adults, but the bad weather meant it was only a few truly dedicated people that came out. Thanks to those that did come out and brave the rain with us.

‘Til next year…

(this post was also put on the Community Association of Oak Bay blog at http://oakbaycommunityassociation.org/blog/2012/05/31/bike-train-success/)

UVic talks parking some more

UVic, smarting after their rejection last summer for their height variance, is back before the community again for the CARSA project and its associated parkade. Not much has changed with this round, although they have at least attempted to show a few different options. The public seems to like the partially buried option as the TC has reported, but there some other interesting things in the report.

Not many students gave feedback
Arguably students have already given their approval after CARSA went through a referendum. Still, the total number of students was very low.

Nobody is talking about how CARSA or the parkade are going to be funded.
CARSA itself will come from a whole list of groups, but the parkade will be funded by the parking fees (which will generate money for UVic once the debt is paid off). This is why UVic isn’t talking about a new sorely-needed transit exchange: they aren’t paying for the parkade, so there is no money to shuffle from one project to another.

The story of funding CARSA is even more convoluted, involving a 2009 referendum to raise student fees that the province rejected as being too high and a 2011 attempt to have another referendum.

The parkade is busy damaging UVIC’s green cred
Several of the attendees were concerned about how this fit into UVic and the region’s larger transportation strategies. (full disclosure: one of those people was me).

CARSA will make biking/walking to UVic less attractive
CARSA will take a major (12% of total people) and narrow the pathway and redirect bicyclists onto McKenzie.

The kicker here is that UVic already did this once already, with the new Social Science and Math building. Bicyclists used to be able to cross the Ring Road from McGill, never actually having to bike on the Ring Road. The New SS&M building closed off that access, forcing bicyclists onto Ring Road, which is narrow and has a lot of traffic.

So for me the take away is this: does UVic actually care about sustainability? I used to think so. Now I am not so sure. The CARSA April Open Houses Summary (PDF) can be read here or on UVic’s CARSA site.

UVic’s CARSA and McKenzie rebuild host open houses

Seems it is the season for open houses and we have a lot of them:

For the next stage for teh CARSA project at UVic, including its parkade:

Saturday, April 28
St. Aidan’s United Church
3703 St. Aidan’s St.
noon – 3 p.m.

Monday, April 30
Mount Doug Secondary School, multi-purpose room
3970 Gordon Head Rd.
5 – 8 p.m.

Tuesday, May 1
UVic Student Union Building, Michele Pujol room,
University of Victoria
11am – 2 p.m.

Wednesday, May 2
Cadboro Bay United Church
2625 Arbutus Rd.
4 – 7 p.m.

And for McKenzie road rebuild (from Gordon Head Road to Cadboro Bay Rd.), we have an open house today:

The District of Saanich Engineering Department will host a Public Information Session on Tuesday, April 24, 2012 between the hours of 4:00 and 7:30 p.m. at the University of Victoria Student Union Building, 3800 Finnerty Road, in the Michele Pujol Room (A121).

What I read last week

I try and stay on top of new research which pours in. Usually I fail, but here are the papers I managed to get time to read last week:

Emergency Response and Street Design Initiative
Lead by the US Congress of New Urbanism(CNU), this report is a call to new urbanists and fire departments to talk more about traffic calming, especially street narrowing. Many emergency responders, including fire departments, oppose traffic calming because it is perceived to slow response time. Anecdotally, I know from speaking to residents along Hampshire Road that the Oak Bay Fire Department was instrumental in preventing traffic calming on that road, which is heavily trafficked, and has major speed issues. This report is part of CNU’s Emergency Response and Street Design Initiative. More information about the topic can be sen on the Strong Towns blog under “fire trucks“.
[download id=”14″ format=”1”]

Transit Bus Life Cycle Cost and Year 2007 Emissions Estimation Final Report
This report, although 4 years old, looks at life-cycle costs of various types of buses, including compressed natural gas (almost unknown amongst Canadian transit agencies, but popular in the US), various types of diesel, and diesel hybrids. The biggest problem with the report is that it doesn’t account for the massive spike in fuel costs in 2007, which changes life-cycle costs considerably. Still, an interesting read.
[download id=”13″ format=”1″]
(note: Although I downloaded the original report from Proterra, an electric bus manufacturer, the report is from the US Federal Transit Agency and the West Virginia University’s Center for Alternative Fuels, Engines & Emissions)

Thoughts on the Oak Bay Lodge decision

Well Monday night’s decision was not what I was expecting. I knew going in that we have two councillors on either side, with Hazel Braithwaite as the swing vote. What I was not expecting was Hazel to switch from yes to no, causing the project to be defeated. So where did it all go wrong? VIHA and Baptist Housing boxed themselves into a corner.

They arrived at the table with set of requirements that left no room to move. To contrast, I find it instructive to look at Oak Bay High School vs the Lodge. Both are very large projects, both driven by replacement of long-standing community amentities, both with some very specific needs that meant that there was little “wiggle room”. But this is where the path diverges. The High School team arrived with a blank page, a list of things they needed, and a willingness to talk about it. The reality with the high school is that the end result, with the school along Cranmore St, was probably going to be only result that worked, once the need for the regulation-sized soccer and rugby fields, transforming the old gym into the new theatre, and protecting Bowker Creek were all taken into consideration. But critically different, that result came about because the neighbours and the wider community got to hear why the high school plan ended up like it did.

Contrast that with the Lodge, where the developer arrived with a plan for a building on a site and then told the community it had a very short time to decide. So they were already forcing the neighbours to accept something they had no insight or decision-making on, but also they are not being given the time to see why the Lodge ended up as it did. Further, Baptist Housing apparently spent years up in Saanich talking, but only weeks in Oak Bay. The very easy question then came up: Why didn’t we get the same amount of time? Nobody seemed to be willing to answer that clearly. I think that Baptist Housing should have come out and apologized to the neighbours for that even if it wasn’t their fault (I actually think the delay can come down to VIHA, whom I don’t trust).

In the end, the combination of mostly-formed project, with a big building, an apparent disregard for consultation in one community but not another, and a very short time frame doomed this project. I suspect this project is now dead. Baptist Housing’s media statement says this (emphasis mine):

Baptist Housing is extremely disappointed with Oak Bay Council’s decision to vote against our variance application regarding the proposed redevelopment of Oak Bay Lodge. Baptist Housing will be meeting with our partners, Vancouver Island Health Authority and Capital Regional Hospital District, to determine what our options and next steps are. Baptist Housing remains committed to providing resident-centred complex care and licensed dementia housing for the seniors of Greater Victoria.

Not Oak Bay. Hmm. Further, their project website is now offline, which is usually a pretty telling statement.

Well, that was a fun ride while it lasted. Hopefully other developers will take the right lessons away from this “community engagement is critical”, not the wrong ones, “Oak Bay doesn’t want development”.