Increased Regional Investment in All Ages Cycling Networks Badly Needed

TransLink, the Federal & Provincial Government, Burnaby, New West and Vancouver Provided Funding for the Central Valley Greenway

TransLink, the Federal & Provincial Government, Burnaby, New West and Vancouver Provided Funding for the Central Valley Greenway

Cycling is a transportation bargain for both individuals and government. Compared to the billions for a new bridge or transit line, bike paths are really inexpensive. Still, it is not free. High quality cycling facilities separated from traffic do cost money. The cycling and walking path on the Canada Line bridge cost $10 million. At least $40 million has been invested in the Central Valley Greenway and more is needed for upgrades.

The Burrard Cornwall improvements were $6 million.  Until people of all ages and abilities can easily travel to anywhere from anywhere on a network of connected bike paths, separated lanes or low traffic streets, the bike routes already built will not be used as well as they could be by residents and tourists. Short sections of bike paths that vanish at busy intersection or don’t connect with major destinations will attract few people.

TransLink Provided all the funding for the Bicycle and Pedestrian Path on the Canada Line Bridge

TransLink Provided all the funding for the Bicycle and Pedestrian Path on the Canada Line Bridge

Rough estimates put the cost of creating all ages and abilities networks in communities around the region at nearly $1 billion. A fair amount of money but only third of the cost of Port Mann/Highway 1 Project and the proposed new Massey Crossing.

Currently, TransLink’s budget only contains around $2 million per year for cycling. Even when this money is matched by municipalities, it is nowhere near enough to complete the cycling network within our lifetimes.

TransLink’s Regional Transportation Strategy Strategic Framework States: “For decades, the region has called for priority for walking and cycling, but the level of investment has not always reflected that commitment. Early and significant investment will now be required to complete walkway and bikeway networks with a particular focus on traffic-protected bikeways in Urban Centres and other areas of high cycling potential.”

Cycling friendly jurisdictions spend much more on cycling. For example, the Netherlands invests around $40 per person per year or $100 million per year. As many of the benefits of cycling including health care costs savings and cycling tourism accrue to the Federal and Provincial Governments, they should provide matching funding for cycling as well. A regional contribution of around $34 million per year would be reasonable.

The good news is that many of the cycling and walking routes to transit stations are also important links in the regional cycling network. The BC Parkway, which needs a lot of work, provides cycling and walking access to many Expo Line stations in Surrey, New Westminster, Burnaby and Vancouver. The badly needed connection along United Blvd will connect Coquitlam and PoCo to Braid Station.

Improving these connections should prove to be a great investment for TransLink and the region. By enabling more people to walk and cycle to transit, ridership revenue will increase. And, there will be more space on buses for those who can’t or choose not to cycle.

Cycling can ease demand on busy transit routes delaying the need for costly upgrades enabling funding to be used on other transit priorities. For example, improvements to the BC Parkway, Central Valley Greenway and other routes connecting East Van to Downtown could relieve demand on the busiest section of the Expo Line. London is planning on investing billions in cycling to reduce crowding on the Tube. They are even naming the bike routes after the transits lines they parallel.

The Mayors Council is currently drafting a regional transportation plan which will likely form the basis of the transportation package in the upcoming referendum. Please email the Mayors Council, mayorscouncil@translink.ca, and your Mayor and Council encouraging them to support more regional funding for cycling and walking networks ($34 million per year) to supported by increased funding for cycling education and promotion ($3 million per year would be great). List improvements that are needed in your area to highlight where the regional funding is needed. A good idea to  copy Hon. Todd Stone, Minister.Transportation@gov.bc.ca, Claire.Trevena.MLA@leg.bc. ca, and your MLA (Find your MLA here). More on the BCCC’s funding recommendations to the Provincial Government here.

More Information

Cycling Recommendations for New Metro Vancouver Transportation Plan and Funding | HUB: Your Cycling Connection

 

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Burrard Cycle Tracks Worth Considering

The upgrades to the Burrard Cornwall intersection are almost finished. The improvements include separated bike lanes from the Bridge along Cornwall to Cypress and along Burrard south to 1st Avenue. These badly needed improvements are fantastic and will help encourage more people of all ages to ride bicycles both for daily trips and recreation.

Sewer, water and road construction work is scheduled on Burrard from 1st Avenue to 16th Avenue starting in 2015. This presents an idea opportunity for the City to improve Burrard Street for cycling and walking building upon the great work on Burrard Bridge and the Cornwall intersection.

Currently, Burrard south of 1st is a miserable place to cycle and walk. Typically, the narrow sidewalks are right next to the speeding traffic. In spite of the traffic, a significant number of brave souls still cycle on Burrard. For some trips, it is more direct than the alternatives plus there are many businesses and shops along it.

Cypress, the current bike route is not much better north of 4th Avenue. At Cornwall, there are almost 500 vehicles on Cypress in the afternoon peak hour. This around the maximum traffic volume acceptable over 24 hours for a road to be safely and comfortably accommodate cyclists of all ages. Many of vehicles are making turns that will cause conflicts and pose a danger to people cycling.

According to ICBC, both Burrard and Cypress have fairly high levels of cycling collisions. From 2008-2012, there was at least one collision at each intersection from 10th to Cornwall. In 2012, there were 7 collisions from 12th to 1st along Burrard while there were three on the same section of Cypress. In 2011, both streets had five each from 16th to 1st.

2011 Census Cycling Commuting Mode Share - City of Vancouver

2011 Census Cycling Commuting Mode Share – City of Vancouver

As shown in the map, the cycling mode share in areas served by Burrard, Pine and Cypress (6%-9%) is significantly lower than other areas (9%-15%) of Vancouver similar distances from downtown. Moreover, while cycling in the areas east of the Dunsmuir Separated Bike Lanes increased significantly from 2006 to 2011, areas to the south of the Hornby and Burrard Separated Bike Lanes did not increase over this period. This is likely due to the lower quality of the bike routes feeding Hornby and Burrard compared to Adanac Bikeway.When Burrard/Pine/Cypress are improved, it would be reasonable to expect cycling levels to increase to 10% to 15%.

Upgrading narrow local streets like Cypress and Pine to accommodate all ages cycling quite challenging. Either enough traffic needs to be diverted off it to reduce volumes to 300-500 vehicles per day or separated bike lanes need to be added. Especially with the diversions introduced with the York Bikeway, diverting traffic off Cypress may be difficult while maintaining basic access for residents and businesses. Furthermore, with the high turnover of customer parking, it may not be possible to reduce levels enough. To add separated bike lanes, parking would need to be stripped from one side of Cypress and the street would need to be converted to one way. Some residents and businesses won’t be too keen on this either.

Burrard, on the other hand, is wide enough to accommodate separated bike lanes while maintaining access and parking at least during off-peak hours. While the number of travel lanes between intersections would need to be reduced from three to two, right turn lanes would help maintain vehicle capacity near current levels.

Burrard - South Side of 4th

Possible lane configuration for Burrard just south of 4th Ave

One option worth considering is one-way separated bike lanes (cycle tracks), on both sides of Burrard from 1st Avenue to at least 10th Avenue. On two-way streets with a lot of cars turning at intersections and driveways on boths sides, cycle tracks can be safer than a two-way path on one side.

Burrard - South Side of 5th

Possible lane configuration for Burrard just south of 5th Ave. On-street parking could be allowed evenings, weekends and off-peak weekdays.

Burrard provides obvious direct connections to Burrard Bridge. Using either Cypress or Pine will result in cycling longer for some trips and may involve crossing busy Burrard more times. People that drive who are considering cycling will know that Burrard is a bicycle route. They may never realize that side streets like Cypress are bike routes.

Having the cycle track between the traffic and the sidewalk will make Burrard much more pleasant to walk along. And, as with the case with Hornby, collisions will likely be reduced making the street safer for everyone, including people in cars. The City should quickly study options for improving Burrard, Pine and Cypress to determine the best options before the planned work starts on Burrard.

Take Action A good idea to write Mayor and Council, mayorandcouncil@vancouver.ca, thanking them for the Burrard Cornwall intersection improvements and encourage them to make Burrard, Cypress and Pine better for all ages cycling.

SkyCycle: Would it Fly in Vancouver?

Riding along elevated bicycle highways passing over busy roads without having to stop. Imagine the Dunsmuir Viaduct without any motor vehicle traffic. A SkyCycle in Vancouver would be really wonderful. For the most part though, unlike London, there is typically space available near rail lines here making elevated paths on top of them unnecessary. Still, there are a few spots where elevated structures would make cycling a lot better.

Central Valley Greenway

A 750m elevated walking and cycling path from Grandview Hwy North and Clark to near the Home Depot over the False Creek rail yards was seriously considered a decade ago as part of the Central Valley Greenway. Unfortunately, it was killed for budget reasons leaving cyclists to contend with the 13% grade up to Clark by VCC and forcing them to cross two legs of the busy Clark and 6th intersection.

Since it follows the railway, the Central Valley Greenway has a lot fewer stop lights than parallel roads like Broadway and Lougheed Hwy. Last time I used it, I didn’t hit a red light between Caribou Road and Rupert Street. Little would be gained elevating this section. On the narrow section between Lillooet and Boundary, the SkyTrain is elevated leaving space on the ground for the Central Valley Greenway.

Portside Greenway

With the completion of the Powell Street Overpass this summer, the section of Powell Street between Clark Drive and Wall Street will be the only missing link in the Portside Greenway. An elevated path over the railyard in the Port is certainly one possible option. A less expensive solution would be to reallocate a lane of traffic on Powell Street to create a separated bike path.

Low Level Road

The new Low Level Road currently under construction in North Vancouver will include painted bike lanes on both sides of the road. However, with high vehicle speeds and lots of trucks, it will not be a great cycling route for people of all ages and abilities. On the north side, cyclists will be sandwiched between the traffic and a tall concrete retaining wall. Yikes! The Spirit Trail is the alternate route. Unfortunately it is much longer, very hilly and is further from the water.

A bicycle and pedestrian path over the rail yard would be a much better option. Hopefully they will built it soon once they realize that people really want bicycle paths separated from traffic that are flat and by the water.

London SkyCycle – Mass Transportation for a Massive City

The main barrier to cycling short distances is lack of safe infrastructure such as cycle tracks. For longer trips, the big barrier is time, effort and distance. Typically, the average distance that people will cycle to work is around 6km. In Germany, they have found that this increases to 9km with electric bikes.

While it is not possible to reduce distance, time and effort can be significantly reduced by eliminating the need to stop at intersections. Many cities have old railways that have been converted to bike paths with overpasses and underpasses eliminated the need to stop. Paths following rivers, oceans and railways typically have fewer intersections. Bike paths outside of city centres in the Netherlands often have underpasses and overpasses where they meet highways. A great example of this  is the Hovenring in Eindhoven, Netherlands. This spectacular circular overpass enables cyclists to safely cross a roundtable without stopping.

Image: Gizmodo

Dutch and Danish towns and cities that have great on-street cycle track networks in their cores, often have bicycle paths with limited stops between communities. These paths compliment the on-street cycle track network delivering shoppers and commutes to the town centre.

Even the largest cities, Amsterdam and Copenhagen in these cycling friendly countries are not much over half a million people in regions of around two million. It is does not take that long to get out of the city to the countryside where there is plenty of room for bike paths. Contrast this to mega cities such as London with over 8 million people. And growing. It takes a long time to get out of the city.

Space is at a premium in cities like London. The railways are definitely not abandoned. They are carrying hundreds of thousands of passengers a day. And they are building more rail.

The elephant in the room for transport in London is the growth of population and the resultant increase in population density. Transport for London boasts that Crossrail will add 10% to London’s transport capacity, but London’s population is growing faster. The urgent need for another one or two new Crossrail lines should not be underestimated.

Added new rail in London is very expensive and can take decades to complete. Crossrail is Europe’s largest infrastructure project. The 118km line, which is currently under construction, includes 42km of new tunnel at a cost of £14.9 billion. Cost estimates for the proposed Crossrail 2 range from £9.4 to “only” £12bn. Crossrail has been in the works for 40 years. Stations also have to be rather deep to avoid existing tunnels and other stuff underground.

So, cycling is just about the only option to improve transportation capacity in London especially in the short term. This is one of the main reasons why they have spend hundreds of millions of pounds on bike sharing and have committed around a billion pounds to creating cycling routes including Cycling Superhighways named after their Tube lines.

It is within this context that Exterior Architecture, Foster + Partners and Space Syntax have proposed SkyCycle:

The proposed SkyCycle network follows existing suburban rail services and provides over 220 kilometres of safe, car free cycle routes which can be accessed at over 200 entrance points. Almost six million people live within the catchment area of the proposed network, half of whom live and work within 10 minutes of an entrance. Each route can accommodate 12,000 cyclists per hour and will improve journey times by up to 29 minutes.

The first planned route, from Stratford to Liverpool Street Station, is estimated to cost around £220 million for 6.5km, $59 million per km.

Early studies of a SkyCycle system indicate that it provides capacity at a much lower cost than building new roads and tunnels.

Light Rail running along city streets will cost around $100 million per km when the costs of the vehicles and vehicles storage facilities needed for 12,000 passengers per hour are included. The cost jumps to around $200 million per km for elevated sections and $300 million per km and up for underground rail. Emphasis on up. That said, both elevated and underground rail typically have greater capacity than SkyCycle.

Foster says that SkyCycle would allow cyclists to raise their average speed from 10mph (16.1 kph) to 15mph (24.1kph) in the city, protect their lives and cut journey times significantly.

With stops or stations km apart, the same distance proposed between SkyCycle ramps, street level light rail averages between 20kph to 30kph while elevated or underground rail  averages around  40kph. However, with cycling, there is no waiting for the train, walking to the stop or transferring so the door to door travel times for SkyCycle will be competitive for many  trips and perhaps even more important, more predictable.

In a big city like London, where many trips are greater than 6km, this should dramatically increase the number of trips within the time and distance people are willing to cycle. Electric bikes could increase the distance even further while making quick work of the long ramps up to SkyCycle.

Some people are concerned that SkyCycle is a substitute for cycle tracks on city streets. It is not an either or though. Busy high streets are great places for slow city cycling. People ride there to see and be seen. With a lot going on and people wandering about, not great places for fast commuting, fast recreational cycling or training though. That is where long straight paths with no intersections like SkyCycle are perfect.

To be successful, SkyCycle will need comprehensive networks of cycle tracks along city streets to attract people on bikes to it. Door to door safe fast transportation. SkyCycle should also make it politically easier to build cycle tracks on city streets once businesses realize that the combination of SkyCycle and cycle tracks will deliver customers to their door.

Like any city, London has many sections of streets that are interesting to walk and cycle on. However, like any city, it also has long sections of streets and even parts of town through industrial or even residential areas that are not very interesting or attractive or safe for that matter.

While I don’t know London and the specific routes well enough to say for sure that what is proposed would be successful, the SkyCycle concept can definitely make sense in city like London where space is at a premium as long as it is accompanied by investment in on-street cycle tracks.

 

Cornwall Separated Bike Lanes – Balsam to Arbutus

The City is doing a fantastic job improving Point Grey Road west of Trafalgar and the Burrard Cornwall intersection making them much safer and more comfortable for people of all ages to cycle on. These great facilities have the potential to encourage many people of all ages to cycle if there was a safe obvious direct connection between them. York may work well for commuters but it does not connect to Kits Beach nor will it appeal to people wanting to  enjoy the view.

The separated bike lanes on Burrard Bridge and Hornby Street are well designed and have the capacity to handle thousands more bicycle trips per day. Connecting them to the vastly improved cycling facilities along Point Grey Road with separated bike lanes along Cornwall is the best solution for ensuring the safe access to the Seaside Greenway west of Trafalgar.

According to ICBC collision reports, this is the most dangerous section of Cornwall. The staff presentation on the Seaside Greenway states that 28 of the 51 reported collisions (including dooring)  from 2008 to 2012 involving motor vehicles along Cornwall/Point Grey occurred on Cornwall East. Of the collisions on Cornwall East, the vast majority of them occurred from Balsam to Arbutus with the most dangerous intersection being Vine. As cycling traffic will likely increase on this section of Cornwall, the number of collisions will likely increase unless improvements are made even if some of the bicycle traffic is diverted to York. As bicycles can pick up some speed on this downhill stretch, it is especially important to provide separate paths for the safety of people walking and cycling.

With the plans for a bike path in the Kits Beach Park not looking good at all, now is the time to look for alternatives. With Point Grey Road down to two lanes of traffic further west, it is likely that four lanes of traffic are not needed between Balsam and Arbutus.

A two way separated bike lane could be created on the north side of the street by reallocating a lane of traffic on Cornwall from Balsam to Arbutus. In addition, the curb lane on the south side of the road could be made a bit wider perhaps reducing the risk of dooring. No trees would be lost and no green space in the park would be affected although some grass in the Cornwall right-of-way would be lost mainly to create parking bays.

Cornwall - Balsam to Yew - Tree

As there would still be three lanes of traffic, off-peak parking could still be maintained on the south side of the street. By allowing off-peak or 24 hour parking on the north side between Yew and Arbutus, the total number of parking spaces would be increased (9 more is a rough estimate) more than compensating for ones that are lost between Balsam and Yew.

Cornwall - Balsam to Yew - Parking

All the bus stops could be maintained so there would be minimal impact on transit users. By encouraging more people to cycle on the bike lane instead of the road and by enabling more people to cycle instead of drive, bus travel times could even be slightly improved.

Completing this badly needed connection will help ensure that lots of people will enjoy cycling along this route for both transportation and recreation. Without this connection, the number of people cycling along Point Grey will likely be significantly lower. There will also likely be more sidewalk cycling, people cycling in the road along Cornwall and more people cycling on the narrow shared paths in Kits Beach Park creating conflicts with pedestrians and motorists increasing the chances of pedestrians and cyclists being injured.

The section of Cornwall from Arbutus to Cypress is more challenging. Some options will be discussed in the next issue of WeCycle.

Please write City Council mayorandcouncil@vancouver.ca thanking them for the improvements to Point Grey Road and the Burrard Cornwall intersection and encouraging them to make further improvements along Cornwall.

Kits Beach for All

IMG_1468

Cycling is one of the most popular forms of recreation enjoyed by residents and visitors of all ages. By Science World, over 5,000 people cycle past on a nice day. As with all the paths by the water, many people cycle along Kits Beach with their children. Sadly, with even neighbourhood streets having fast moving traffic, these paths are the only places many feel safe cycling with their families.

With the Seaside Greenway improvements further west along Point Grey Road due to be finished soon, most likely many more people will want to cycle and walk along Kits Beach making the path even more crowded. The rough path worn in the grass is a clear sign more space is needed.

Sharing the narrow path along the beach and through Haddon Park is not great for people walking or cycling. When passing, riders should let walkers know by ringing their bell or with their voice. But when there are so many people walking and cycling, the constant bell ringing and “on your lefts” can be very annoying for everyone. People also like to walk side by side chatting in groups of 3 or 4. That just is not feasible sharing a narrow path.

A separate bike path will make the park more enjoyable and safe for many people. Two decades ago, a separate bike path was build by Sunset Beach and English Bay. This is a solution that we know works.

It is people that make an urban park. Many of those people enjoy activities on paved and cement surfaces. Yes, grass would look nicer than the tennis or basketball courts but without the tennis and basketball players Kits would not be the same. It would lose part of what makes it exciting, vibrant and attracted; people.

The survey of people using the park, found that 42% of people cycle in the park and 93% thought that separated cycling and walking paths would be a good idea. The planned cycling path will only occupy around 3% of the total park space. As so many people cycle and walk in the park, this seems like a good use of this space.

The City’s Physical Activity Survey found that 20% of adults cycled on a regular basis, 5% played tennis. Basketball did not make the top 18. For children, biking was at 10% while basketball was at 16%. Tennis did not make the top 21. Surely if space can be made for these activities, the same can be done for cycling.

I’m one of the lucky ones who live near the beach walking down there pretty much everyday. Most people are not so fortunately. Given that only so much parking near Kits Beach, cycling is one of the only options that many people can realistically use to get to the beach. Judging by the large number of bikes at the beach, many people do just that. More people cycling instead of also decreases the impact on the neighbourhood and the chances of people driving, walking or cycling getting injured in a crash.

There are many options to significantly or reduce the net amount of grass lost in the park. Part of the path could be placed on Cornwall or Arbutus Streets. Parking space in the park can be reclaimed. Some of the existing paths can be narrowed or reclaimed as greenspace.

Over at Sunset Beach, more and more of the parking lot gets reclaimed for other activities as time goes by. Part of the Kits north parking lot would make a great picnic area. It is nice and flat and close to the beach. Maybe it is possible to redesign the larger south parking lot to fit the same number of cars in less space.

While sadly, it is impossible to be sure how Harvey Haddon, the philanthropist who generously donated the park to the people of Vancouver, would have felt about the bike path. The deed does state that improvements can be made for people to enjoy recreational activities safely while keeping it as close to a natural state as possible. Who knows for sure but it is indeed possible if he could witness all the families cycling along the water around, that he would approve such a path.

So, instead of lawsuits, it would be great if everyone including Park Board, the City of Vancouver, beach user groups and area residents sat down to work on solutions. Lets make Kits Beach great for everyone walking, cycling, jogging, playing tennis, shooting hoops, picnicking, swinging, climbing or just enjoying the view.

Please write City Council mayorandcouncil@vancouver.ca and Park Board PBcommissioners
@vancouver.ca
 encouraging them to find a solution.

Seaside Greenway Well Under Way

IMG_1624

Even with the construction not complete, lots of people are enjoying cycling, walking and jogging along Point Grey Road giving us a small glimpse of what it will be like this summer once the separated bike lane is completed along Point Grey Road between Trafalger and Macdonald. As was the case with Burrard Bridge, Hornby Street and Dunsmuir, the traffic chaos that some predicted just did not happen.

The Burrard Cornwall intersection cycling and walking improvements are almost completed with only the bike path on the west side of Burrard left to pave. The York Bikeway is under construction and construction on the separated bike lane along Point Grey east of Macdonald should begin soon. Be careful if you check it out as there is active construction.

Without the speeding traffic, the birds, bikes and joggers now are just so noisy now!

A good idea to send a quick thank you to city council mayorandcouncil@vancouver.ca thanking them and staff for the improvements to the Seaside Greenway.