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Archive for the ‘Vancouver’ Category

2012-06-01 Version

© H-JEH (Jack) Becker, Third Wave Cycling Group Inc. 2007-2012., Velo.Urbanism 2012

The City of Vancouver’s draft Transportation Plan 2040 contains some interesting strategic directions which will further the use of Active Transportation modes of travel while decreasing the dependency on car use.

Vancouver; TransLink; SkyTrain
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2010

Vancouver; Dunsmuir St. Separated BIke Lanes
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

Vancouver; TransLink; Bicycles on Bus
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

Vancouver; TransLink; Bicycles on Canada Line
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

Now, if one steps away from the details of the plan and views the document from a macro point of view, then the plan feels like an incremental step forward from the past rather than a dramatic change in the way we travel in the next 30 years.  At this point in time, a dramatic change in travel is what we need, not crawling forward at past speeds.  Why is a dramatic change in the way we travel now needed?  Well, all the rational has well been debated from the desire of the residents of Vancouver for improved air and noise quality, personal health issues, growth of obesity and the contribution to that from modes of travel, health care cost, and so on.

The Draft Transportation Plan feels like a technical document, not a change agent paper.  There is a lack of a new vision in the document for transportation and for transportation’s role in creating a liveable, green, sustainable city community which has vitality and spirit that people can see, feel, buy into, and get inspired by.  There is a lack of connectivity of this draft document to the vision of the city and its key strategies that will make this plan’s contribution to move the city towards realizing that vision.

Perusing the many strategic directions for the modes of transportation in the document, some thoughts for additional strategic directions come to mind that may be worth considering:

In addition to focusing on directions for growing each mode of transportation, some strategies should concentrate on people and persuading them to make modal shifts to active transportation options.  One could argue that a strategy focusing on people and inducing mode shift could be the key strategy for a transportation plan.

In this article, the phrase “active transportation” includes walking, cycling, transit, and other modes that travel at the speed of walking or cycling (wheelchairs, skateboarding, in-line skating, etc.).

Streetscape – Toronto retail and commercial street, streetcar, bike parking – post and ring
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

Streetscape – Nice Fr, Automatic bollards control car and truck access to walking street
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

Streetscape – Strasbourg Fr; Asymmetrical street; traffic lane; tram; cycling lane; sidewalks
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

Proposal for an Overriding Strategy for the Transportation Plan 2040

The Transportation Plan 2040 and its recommended infrastructure, toolkits, services, and programs shall be focused on social marketing of the preferred modes of transportation, be focused on reaching the plan’s target transportation mode shares, be contributing to reaching the stated city direction to be the greenest city in the world, meet the Kyoto commitment, and be a contributor to achieving a true green, sustainable, and vibrant city.   The implementation of the plan, including infrastructure, its design, and programs, shall focus on a target market and the customers of that market who need to be induced by alternate transportation modes to meet the city’s vision of a sustainable city and a world leader.

Streetscape – Nice Fr; Asymmetrical street; tram; traffic lanes; sidewalk
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

Streetscape – Strasbourg Fr; Two-way cycling track in the middle of the road ©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

Streetscape – Madrid Spain; Traffic lanes; separated two-way bike lanes
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

For modal conversion to occur, motorists will need to have alternate forms of transportation available and to their liking for the Transportation Plan 2040 to be successful.  For growing suburbs and non-central core densification, it is highly desirable for active transportation options to be in place before decisions for home purchase are made.  Does one buy a car and a home or does one decide to use active transportation and have more money that normally would go to car driving and ownership be available for home purchase?  That is the choice for home purchasers when active transportation options are in place.  When not, what choice is there but to commute by car?

With a population expansion within any parts of a city, there is criticism of congestion.  The first choice option for congestion relieve for cities is to put in more road capacity.  As we know, road capacity expansion will only provide short-term congestion relieve.  If the city wants to be truly a green city, then it makes good sense to put active transportation measures in place, determine its impact on road congestion, consider if the level of road congestion is desirable to support use of active transportation, and then decide if road expansion is really necessary.

Strategy – Mobility Management – Transportation Demand Management

Active Transportation alternatives will be implemented and in operation for a minimum two years in any corridor before any assessment is made for increasing road capacity for cars and trucks, from simple improvements such as left or right turn lanes to additional lane capacity.

Streetscape – Madrid, Spain; Cycling and pedestrian lane
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

Save for lack of personal financial resources, people will not make modal changes unless the alternative makes sense to them, fits in their lifestyles, are socially acceptable, does not impose an unreasonable discomfort, and the facilities are to their personal liking.  So, it makes sense to choose and focus on a target market and its customers and design for them very specifically, rather than follow some design manuals.  Target marketing versus the shotgun marketing approach to design of infrastructure facilities and cycling network should result in significant cycling traffic growth.

Strategy – Infrastructure Design

Designs shall meet the needs of people from the young to the seniors (8-to-80 or AAA concepts) and shall be specifically focused on the needs of the target market of customers (i.e. motorists that are open to change in transportation modes) that will need to be induced to use active transportation alternatives for the targets for transportation mode shares to be achieved.

Nice Fr – Other users of cycling infrastructure
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

Toronto – Other bike trail users – People in wheelchairs
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

Nice Fr – Cyclist, Shopping by Bicycle
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

Nice Fr – Cyclist, Father and child
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

Real growth of active transportation will be enhanced through change-inducing statements from traditional practices, rather than incremental enhancements of past practices.  Bold, clear statements that signal rapid change will result in creative solutions that residents of the city will see as explicit signals that modal change needs to happen and that they need to play an active part in making it happen.

Concepts that should be included in this plan:

People Street – Madrid, Spain – Late night shopping; some 24 hour stores; car and delivery access until 11:00am
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

Strategic Direction for Walking – Direction should include a statement that the walking infrastructure and its support facilities (audible signals, signage, wayfinding, etc.) shall meet the needs of both the young and the seniors, who may have visual, balance, navigational, motor skills or other limitations.

Streetscape – Making cyclists movement through intersection highly visible to other road users, especially to motorists with closely placed sharrows©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

Strategic Direction for Cycling – Market segmentation shall identify the characteristics of potential cycling customers.  Infrastructure design and social marketing programs shall focus on the needs of the target market segments and induce them to use cycling as part of their transportation options.

Streetscape – Two-way tram line on sunny side of retail street. Cyclists and trams co-exist. Nice Fr.
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

Streetscape – Cyclists and trams share the tram lines; Nice Fr;
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

Streetscape – Cordoba, Spain; Separated lanes – cycling, bus, traffic lanes
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

Strategic Direction for Transit – Work towards an effective transit system with service levels that will attract people away from using their cars.  Work towards a city being served by a full complement of transit layers, including streetcars / trams, maximizing the appeal of transit to the public.  Work towards maximizing the transit ridership growth opportunity through combined mobility strategies, infrastructure, and social marketing programs (transit and cycling).  Improve the quality of the air in the city and control of noise pollution with a 100% electric-powered bus and commuter train system.

Streetscape – On retail street; wide sidewalks; two-way tram lines; one-way shared lane for cars and bicycles, and limited car parking; Nice Fr
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

Streetscape – Asymmetrical street layout – Grouping modes together. Car parking on one side of street; two-way car lanes with median; two-way tram lines; Sidewalks on each side of street
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

Strategic Direction for Motor Vehicles – The city shall remove itself from a non-essential city service of providing on-road and off-road car parking and reduce its road maintenance costs in the process, considering that there is private sector capability to provide such services from land owners, developers, residential complexes, private home owners and potential new entrants such as car parking condos for neighbourhoods.  City shall separate the sale of parking spaces in residential and commercial buildings from the sale of home and office units.  The city shall support such a separation by applying and invoicing municipal taxes separately for homes and offices and for car parking spaces.  City shall implement bylaws, which allows unused car parking spaces in residential and commercial buildings to be rented out for short-term parking and potentially long-term parking if short-term parking demand has been satisfied.

Streetscape – Strasbourg Fr; Asymmetric street with tram
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

Streetscape – People streets with restricted car and truck movement for designated hours each day; Bollards on edge of sidewalks restricting car and truck parking. Avignon, Fr
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

People Street – Avignon, Fr; Bollards control motorized traffic on streets, including a local bus
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

Streetscape – Car and truck traffic flow on street controlled with automatic bollards at intersection; Local residents and other approved vehicles can lower bollards allowing entrance; Dijon Fr
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

Strategic Direction for Land Use – Integrate transportation planning with land use, urban planning, urban form, and zoning bylaws through zoning densification levels in each neighbourhood along all corridors generating sufficient traffic for quality active transportation modes thus allowing active transportation facilities and services to be implemented on an economic case basis.

Streetscape – A shopping people street; Nice Fr.
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

Streetscape – People street and the shoppers; Mom on VeloBlue public share bicycle; child on her own bicycle; Nice Fr
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

Streetscape – Early morning on a shopping, people street; Bollards restricting car and truck parking on the sidewalks; Nice Fr
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

Streetscape – Local farmers market on a people street; Merchants ready for the day’s business; Dijon Fr
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

Streetscape – Farmers market on a local street with a bike lane; Dijon Fr
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

Strategic Direction for Streetscape – The Transportation Plan should include a vision and strategy for people streets where car and truck access is managed and controlled to time of day for delivery of goods, municipal and emergency street services, transit, and local residents.

Transportation Plan 2040 Section on Cycling

The opening statement should include “and support significant cycling traffic growth by inducing people not to drive and use cycling or combined mobility of cycling and transit instead”.

Key Strategic Directions for Cycling

Want significant cycling traffic and use growth? Want continued snail-pace, incremental growth for the future?
If significant growth of cycling traffic is desired, then bold statements and bold visions are needed.  Paving the way for this level of growth requires strategic direction statements for:

The first policy should address a rapid implementation (5 year) of a high-quality cycling network, city-wide, to determine the amount of modal conversion from driving that can be achieved and to allow for wiser investment in road infrastructure for car traffic in the future.

The second policy should address the focus of infrastructure, network, infrastructure toolkit, network toolkit, and social marketing that would appeal to motorists to cycle instead, including combined mobility.

The third policy should call for quality, physical separation of cyclists and motorists (with barriers, not paint, thus  preventing cars and trucks from using cycling facilities) that would induce motorists to cycle instead.

Public bike sharing system station located by the entrance to a hotel and a performance centre; Toronto Bixi System
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

VeloBlue public bike sharing system; Nice Fr
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

The fourth policy should address the role of public bike sharing system in advancing cycling and cycling-transit usage.  The role should be directed to expansion of public bike sharing systems beyond the current model and usage.

The network policy should call for feeder networks from home to schools, transit facilities, shopping areas, and other destinations.  Provide suburban neighbourhoods the feeling of cycling that one gets when cycling along a seaside bike trail or on abandoned or operational railway lines.  This policy should also include providing seaside path type of facilities on interior local roadways, separated cycling facilities along retail streets, and separated cycling facilities along any roads adjacent to rapid transit lines (existing and new).

In general, the policy statements in the Transportation Plan 2040 document are very lightweight, not exemplary of a pacesetter city, and more indicative of a follower city content to be positioned behind American cities with little cycling enthusiasm.

Each municipality needs to make a decision. If that decision is to move towards Active Transportation and away from cars as the primary forms of transportation, then bold, visionary, leadership statements and strategic directions are needed.  As they say – no pain, no gain.  If no gain, then pain as personal health care issues continue to climb quickly, along with the tax burden that each person carries for maintenance of the health care system.

Some comments on the City of Vancouver’s initial draft of its Transportation 2040 Plan and the proposed Transportation Mode Share Targets

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Community gardens can satisfy more than just their gardeners’ nurturing  instincts for food and Nature. They add instant visual beauty and interest near 

Leslie St. community allotment gardens in light industrial area by Toronto's Waterfront bike-pedestrian path beside entrance to Leslie St. Spit. Gardens in existence over past 15 years. 2011. Photo by J. Chong

Leslie St. community allotment gardens in light industrial area by Toronto's Waterfront bike-pedestrian path beside entrance to Leslie St. Spit. Gardens in existence over past 15 years. 2011. Photo by J. Chong

 bike and pedestrian routes.  After all, car drivers are usually moving  too fast to encourage up close lingering and reflection on budding plants and garden art.   Sample approaches of community gardens in relation to active transportation routes, will be highlighted for cities of  Toronto, Vancouver and Calgary.

A Bright Spot in Industrial Area by Leslie St. Spit- Along Toronto’s Waterfront Bike Route

Leslie St. community gardens protected by fence on right. Waterfront bike-pedestrian path connects between Beaches area, east Toronto and along Lake Ontario into downtown Toronto by Harbourfront.

Leslie St. community gardens protected by fence on right. Waterfront bike-pedestrian path connects between Beaches area, east Toronto and along Lake Ontario into downtown Toronto by Harbourfront. Road is heavily used by trucks during work week 2011. Photo by J. Chong

 Fifteen years ago, before community gardens became the blooming rage for growing local food and flowers, I used to cycle to work daily and pass a large community garden along Toronto’s Waterfront bike route  –not far from the Leslie St. spit.  At that time, this garden had a low wire fence where one could look over top to see a profusion of plants, compost piles and garden lawn chairs scattered about for resting.

Now, the Leslie St. Allotment Community Gardens are protected by higher secure fencing.  But these gardens still thrive in the same location.  They have expanded and matured with some lawn grass rows and ever-thickening 

Well-loved new community gardens along abandoned Molson rail branch line off the Arbutus abanonded rail corridor.

Well-loved new community gardens along abandoned Molson rail branch line off the Arbutus abanonded rail corridor. At rail line corner stop on lst St. on bike route connecting between Granville Market and Burrard St. Bridge separated bike lanes. Vancouver BC 2011. Photo by J. Chong

 bushes.  Most likely, the choice location wasn’t because of the bike path location. It was  the reality, that sometimes people could drive and stop briefly to unload soil and other gardening tools.  Besides, the location was on a convenient plot of public land across from a light industrial area that continues to have flotillas of trucks rumbling on the road.  Thank goodness for a marked bike and walking route.  Without the Leslie St. allotment gardens and signed pathway, this area would be dull, bleak and an area to avoid.
 

lst St. community gardens line abandoned Molson rail branch line. To right of rail, is on-road bike lane. Vancouver, BC 2011. Photo by J. Chong

lst St. community gardens line abandoned Molson rail branch line. To right of rail, is on-road bike lane. Vancouver, BC 2011. Photo by J. Chong

Vancouver’s Spirited Reclaimation of Abandoned or Underused Land
Some Vancouver community gardens display creative reclamation of abandoned public right of ways and other underused land plots, such as traffic calming circles.  Just a 5-minute walk from the Granville Public Market, lst Ave. near Fir St., are recent new community gardens lining the  abandoned Molson branch rail line from the Arbutus Corridor, another abandoned rail line.

The gardens line a well used bike route that feeds to and from the popular Burrard St. Bridge separated bike lanes that are 2 blocks away. The Burrard Bridge separated bike lanes have a daily average of 5,300 cyclists. (2011)

Davis St. Village community garden in heart of Vancouver BC at Burrard and Davie St.

Davis St. Village community garden in heart of Vancouver BC at a busy corner of Burrard and Davie St. Cyclists transit, cars and pedestrians converge in this area. 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

 You can’t help but stop by to marvel bright red poppies, miniature tongue-in-cheek, homemade transmission line art and jewel-coloured floral annuals dotting  decorative grasses, ground cover plants and some veggies, including tomatoes.  It’s a brave garden: it has no fencing –yet. There’s even an arbour built right by the rail crossing sign.  Certainly cyclists have to slow down anyway to look,  in order to angle their wheels safely across the rail line.

One of several traffic calming circles which contain community gardens. Ontario St. bike route, Vancouver BC 2010. Photo by J. Chong

One of several traffic calming circles containing community gardens. Ontario St. bike route, Vancouver BC 2010. Photo by J. Chong. A road centrepiece that slows down cars, cyclists and pedestrians.

 After cycling another 10 minutes north on the separated bike lane via the Burrard St.  Bridge, you will reach the Davie Village garden. 

This community garden is planted right in the heart of downtown Vancouver,  at a street corner thronging with people, car traffic, buses and bikes during the day.  The garden has overtaken land where there was once a gas station. The land was specially prepared to contain soil contamination for gardening on top.  There, sunflowers rise like smiling, calm faces to greet the harried crowds and traffic.

The City of Vancouver had only discovered within the last few years, that its cycling network had some major routes close to a wide range of community gardens. Here are maps that combine its bike routes and community gardens.

Bright Spots in Calgary– A Prairie City
Calgary has less of a lengthy history and number of community gardens. People tell me it’s the shorter warm growing season since it is over  400 km. north or 8 

Community garden behind Fort Calgary, historic former Northwest Mounted Police site. Along Riverside bike-pedestrian path by Bow River. Calgary, AB 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker.

Community garden behind Fort Calgary, historic former Northwest Mounted Police site. Along Riverside bike-pedestrian path by Bow River. Calgary, AB 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker.

 degrees latitude north  of  Toronto.   While Vancouver has over 2,500 community garden plots, Calgary has 30 community gardens with over 115 garden plot allotments.

So the expectation to find many of Calgary’s community gardens near its signed bike routes and paths, is a bit premature at this time.  The most obvious community garden would be a large full community garden behind Fort Calgary along the heavily used Bow River bike path in the downtown core.  If it 

Toy piglet garden amulets adorn a temporary community garden in East Village while area is under construction. Calgary AB 2011. Photo by J. Chong

Toy piglet garden amulets adorn a temporary community garden in East Village while area is under construction with new condos, parkland in downtown Calgary AB 2011. Photo by J. Chong

  weren’t for the occasional concert and staging area for annual Calgary Stampede, this flat prairie parkland is otherwise underused. The community garden is a bright spot under the blazing hot, naked sun.
 
As you continue along the path and near the heritage Simmons Bedding Factory which now house architectural offices, there are temporary community gardens in the rising, rehabilitated East Village area.  The gardens pop cheerfully and humbly amongst the construction flurry of condos, a new Central Library and more. 

Food, flowers and visual interest at Leslie St. Allotment Community Gardens. Toronto 2011. Photo by J. Chong

Butternut squash, tomatoes, flowers and visual interest at Leslie St. Allotment Community Gardens. Toronto 2011. Photo by J. Chong

 Community gardens and bike-pedestrian routes, if well-positioned and integrated into community design, enhance neighbourhood property values, health of its residents, and promote conviviality among people in shared outdoor activities.

Further Reading and More Photos of  Other Community Gardens
Calgary Horticultural Society.  Community Gardens.  List provided with links.

Chong, Jean.  People’s Oases: Community Gardens. In Cycle Write Blog. Apr. 9, 2010.

Chong, Jean.  Touring Vancouver’s Community Gardens Along its Bike Route.  In Velo-city Global 2012 Conference Blog. Apr. 15, 2011.  Includes community gardens on front lawn of Vancouver City Hall.

City of Vancouver.  Community Garden Walking and Cycling Tours. Includes maps.

Toronto Community Garden Network.  Community Gardens in Toronto and GTA. For unknown reasons, Leslie St. Allotment Gardens are not on this list.

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Since Apr. 2010, when I  first launched our rolling series on outdoor bike art work, there has been a recurring theme whenever the image of a cyclist 

Scene evokes irrespressible fun. Tweedsmuir Elementary School. New Westminister. Photo by John Steil, 2010.

Scene evokes irrespressible fun. Tweedsmuir Elementary School. New Westminister, BC. Photo by John Steil, 2010.

 is interwoven into art: fun, play, freedom and oneness with nature and companionship. No wonder why images of cyclists, young and old, are often tucked in outdoor art work installed on schools. I featured some art work in a previous bike art blog post, but now here’s more.

A comic figure of an older gentleman on his fixie pink bike is featured in one of the art panels at Tweedsmuir Elementary School in New Westminister, BC.  Elsewhere on the same school, a  smiling carefree (Oops, nearly misspelled as car-free.)  woman cyclist cruises along while balanced on her saddle with an ice cream cone in one hand.
 

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 Elsewhere in Burnaby at Kitchener Elementary School, is  bike art work of a cycling racer  emblazoned with flashy multicultural and multi-faith badges. This cyclist has no need to assimilate and hide among cars or in the landscape. Whereas in the mural mounted at Eagle Head Elementary School, a bike is nearly hidden by beach grasses and driftwood among beach strollers and a soccer player.

Cyclist heading to favourite place --a bakery. Part of mural at Victoria St., near Ridgeway bike route. Vancouver, BC. Photo by John Steil, 2011

Cyclist heading to favourite place --a bakery. Part of mural at Victoria Dr., near Ridgeway bike route. Vancouver, BC. Photo by John Steil, 2011

  At times, the cyclist is part of a much bigger landscape mural. At Victoria Dr. where it crosses near the Ridgeway bike route in Vancouver, there are two different cyclists heading in various directions against a ridge of mountains and the Vancouver skyline. Happily one of the cyclists, will haunt a spinner’s favourite stopover –a bakery.

More bike art, in the shape of mandalas, was recently installed along the planters at the community gardens on the front lawn of  Vancouver city hall.  

One of the community based art mandalas installed along the side of raised community garden beds on front lawn at city hall.  This one is bike-inspired where cycling has its place in network of roads. Vancouver  BC 2010. Photo by HJEH Becker

One of the community based art mandalas installed along the side of raised community garden beds on front lawn at city hall. This one is bike-inspired where cycling has its place in network of roads. Vancouver BC 2010. Photo by HJEH Becker

 The art work was created from city sponsored 2010 summer art program in the Mount Pleasant area for residents and the homeless. The Cycleback Art Outreach Program was led by effusive Jamie Ollivier who cycled around on his recumbent bike, with art supplies to community centres and parks to deliver his program to adults, teens and children as well as the homeless.  The bike art work is a fitting flourish for the community gardens and for  Mayor Robertson’s vision of Vancouver as Greenest City, since he was a farmer and still a long time, daily bike commuter between home and city hall. 

More bike-themed mandala art. City hall community gardens. Vancouver, BC. Photo by HJEH Becker

More bike-themed mandala art. City hall community gardens. 2010 Vancouver, BC. Photo by HJEH Becker

 Bikes and community gardens are really not so far apart. Vancouver’s bike routes are close to many community gardens. There is even a map that helps you check out some gardens by bike. Like sustainable living, eating and travelling, bike art feeds us memories and dreams of unchained bliss.

Note:  There are now over 50 different outdoor bike art works in Metro Vancouver. Other bike art pieces are featured in articles below. 

Additional Articles:
Chong, Jean.   Bike Inspired Outdoor Art. Third Wave Cycling Blog.  Apr. 29, 2010.

Chong, Jean.   Stripping More Metaphorical Wallpaper to Rediscover Outdoor Public Bike Art in Vancouver and beyond. Part 2. Third Wave Cycling Blog. Aug. 24, 2010. 

Chong, Jean.   Stripping More Metaphorical Wallpaper to Rediscover Outdoor Public Bike Art in Vancouver and beyond. Part 3.   Third Wave Cycling Blog. Sept. 6, 2010.

City of Vancouver.  Community Garden Walking and Cycling Tours.  (Self-Guided with map.)

Steil, John.   Public Art in Vancouver: Angels Among Lions: 500+ Works of Art to Discover.   http://www.johnsteil.com

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During the winter my cycling habits do get abit stuck in a snowbank whenever there is snow or ice.  In Toronto, my bike never saw sunlight from within the 

Bike parked in snow bank. Leavenworth, Washington 2009. Photo by J. Chong

Bike parked in snow bank. Leavenworth, Washington 2009. Photo by J. Chong

bike storage cave for the whole winter.  But then, I lived 16 kms. in the suburbs, away from downtown and separated by ravine parks and a cold lake waterfront where snow and ice stuck around for awhile.  

In Calgary, I’ve only kicked out my winter cycling abstinence by a notch:  I will cycle for grocery shopping,  if the pavement looks reasonably ice-free without me wandering out into the middle of the road to avoid an ice patch. The City does try to clear snow off its downtown riverside bike and pedestrian paths close to home.   Drier prairie air means drier snow for easier removal.

Winter Use of Bike Lanes:  Cycling Count Statistics vs. Flash Observations

Dunsmuir St. separated bike lane. Vancouver, BC Mar. 2010. Opened a few weeks after Winter Olympics ended. Photo by HJEH Becker

Dunsmuir St. separated bike lane. Vancouver, BC Mar. 2010. Opened a few weeks after Winter Olympics ended. Photo by HJEH Becker

In Vancouver, I  cycle-commuted to work  when I worked downtown on certain winter days. Otherwise, on weekends,  I ventured out for a brisk bike ride usually under 15 kms. at near freezing temperatures..  I confined my bike routes where possible, to quieter roads and bike paths (where there were just less pedestrians and joggers anyway). I preferred bike lanes. 

Snowclearing machine or perhaps, a big snowbrush for dry, prairie snow on bike-pedestrian path. Calgary, AB 2010. Photo by HJEH Becker

Snowclearing brush machine for removing dry, prairie snow on bike-pedestrian path. Calgary, AB 2010. Photo by HJEH Becker

 So is it really true that bike lanes are severely underutilized  in bad weather when there is heavy rain, some snow or ice?  It’s a favourite rant among drivers and other observers, especially when a separated bike lane was implemented by reassigning part of the road pavement real estate. 

Yes, right:  If this  short 1-3 min. observation was from a  driver waiting at a traffic light or whipping along the road.  Some cynics proclaimed their observations during the first year in Vancouver for  separated bike lanes on:  Burrard Bridge, Dunsmuir St. and perhaps, Hornby St. 

Vancouver cycling count statistics for 2010 proved otherwise for sample separated bike lanes:

  • Burrard Bridge: Bad weather days – 300 to 400 cyclists daily. Otherwise, normal winter days range – 800 to 1,000 cyclists peaking to 3,000 daily (Winter 2009-Mar. 2010 including during the Winter Olympics with road closures starting, Nov. 2009-Mar. 2010.)
  • Dunsmuir St.: 1,000 to 1,600 cyclists daily (Oct. 2010)
  • Note: Vancouver installs bike counter equipment which generates data to support implementation of new cycling facilities. This cycling metrics program has been in place for last 2 years.

    Winter cycling on bike-pedestrian access ramp. Calgary, AB 2010. Photo by HJEH Becker

    Winter cycling on bike-pedestrian access ramp by Bow River. Calgary, AB 2010. Photo by HJEH Becker

     Is this cynicism really a motorist-blinkered perception?  Do they realize that residential streets and some downtown streets, are often at true traffic peak volume for approximately 1 hr. each during morning and late afternoon.  Meanwhile for the rest of the day, car traffic peeters out to occasional cars ambling calmly down the road every few minutes.

    That’s a short amount of daily optimal road use by cars for alot of wide, long pavement real estate.

    In fact, in engineering circles, there is a common design principle for roads designed to accommodate peak car traffic volumes for approximately 1 hr. each day. (Several decades ago, peak car volume was 15 min. or so. It must have been shortly just after the car speedsters were still celebrating after the horse and buggy disappeared.  Or perhaps when cities and towns were smaller.) 

    Downtown Calgary 2010. Photo by HJEH Becker

    Downtown Calgary 2010. Photo by HJEH Becker

     Bike Commuting Away from Peak Rush Hours
    Based on my daily cycling patterns during off-peak hours on business days over several months, most definitely there were streets simply safer and quieter to cycle.  My cycling schedule was oriented around  cycling during lighter car traffic periods after 9:00 am or before 7:00 am.  I avoided impatient car commuters and the congestion of parents dropping off their children at school.  In Vancouver, I had been living downtown for several years.

    One job required a long,  multi-modal commute of cycling, transit rail, bus and then a walk to work site.  I wrote about this commute in an earlier blog article.   But my bike ride was stress-free, since I started early morning at 5:30 am and later, homeward from the transit bike locker after 6:30 pm.  At both ends of the day, I dealt with little car traffic even though the bike commute did include some major road intersections.  The route did include a blend of bike lanes, multi-purpose bike-pedestrian paths and quiet residential streets. Major commercial streets only covered less than 5 kms. of a 13 km. one-way bike route.

    Hornby St. separated bike lane. Vancouver, BC Dec. 2010. Photo by HJEH Becker. Bike lane opened after considerable debate and public consultation with business owners and general public.

    Hornby St. separated bike lane. Vancouver, BC Dec. 2010. Photo by HJEH Becker. Bike lane opened after considerable debate and public consultation with business owners and general public.

     Just like car drivers testing out new roads and bridges, it takes several years for cyclists to change their riding routes to integrate sections of recently built bike lanes. So don’t be surprised that winter and rainy season cycling traffic is lower but growing. After all, with Vancouver’s winters far more balmier than most other Canadian cities, there is good reason that bike lane use will increase.

    After all, go to the website, Copenhagenize, where during the winter months there are many photos of Copenhageners cycling through snow and rain. The city makes it a priority to clear their separated bike lanes over cars, because their daily cycling volumes are high. 

    Within the last few weeks, snow-removal of bike paths and lanes was a hot Internet topic on a North American listserve for the Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals. Perhaps this reflects an increased appetite for winter cycling.

    Further Reading:
    City of Vancouver.  Bike Vancouver for updated cycling statistics on key bike lanes and routes. Including Burrard Bridge, Dunsmuir and Hornby separated bike lanes.

    Chong, Jean.  Biking to Work in More Challenging or Isolated Work Areas.  May 22, 2010.

    Copenhagenize web site.

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Wheelchair User in Two-Way Separated Bike Lane. Berri St., Montreal QC 2005. Photo by HJEH Becker

Wheelchair user in two-way separated bike lane with cyclists. Berri St., Montreal QC 2005. Photo by HJEH Becker

For years, cyclists have been demanding their own space on roads.  After all, pedestrians have had their space, physically separated from car and truck traffic by curbs and vertical elevation from road surfaces.  So, why should cyclists not have their space?  Safety and inducement for more people to cycle and not drive, is the call of the marginalized cyclists.

So life in North America is slowly changing.  Slowly, bike lanes are making their way into city landscape.  Just like neighbourhood streets in Vancouver which were traffic calmed to attract cyclists,  now other road users have come to bike lanes.  While Vancouver’s cycle streets attracted car drivers, bike lanes are attracting three and four-wheeled vehicles as well.  In this case, it is the wheelchair users along with in-line skaters, skateboarders, and the occasional binners with their shopping cart.

Wheelchair user in bike lane. Pacific Blvd., Vancouver BC 2010. Photo by HJEH Becker

Wheelchair user in bike lane. Pacific Blvd., Vancouver BC 2010. Photo by HJEH Becker

Some countries in Europe even allow smelly, gas-driven mopeds and motorcycle.  Even four-wheeled electric cars are allowed on cycling facilities in the Netherlands.  Hope that North America never goes that far.  Fast speeding electric mopeds and e-bikes with their pedals removed, are drawing cyclists’ irritation.

So, what is it about?  Is it not about placing same speed movements together for everyone’s comfort and safety?  First there is the speed of pedestrians, joggers and runners.  Then there is the speed of cyclists, wheelchair users, in-line skaters and skateboarders all moving in the same speed range.  Then there is the speed of cars within urban streets, mopeds and moped-like e-bikes, some with their speed-either bypassed or removed.

Meanwhile, there is nothing like an elderly person driving his wheelchair at a speed passing a cyclist churning up a steep hill.

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With the rollout of the Greenest City strategy and its separated bike lanes component, Downtown Vancouver retailers are resisting changes to their local streetscapes.

People streets in retail areas with outdoor seating, street art and on-street retail booths. Denver, CO 2010. Photo by HJEH Becker

Upon examining this phenomenon, conclusions could be speculated including a natural resistance by retailers to any change, which is not either generated internally by a retailer, or collectively with their associations.  This is not unlike how business prefers to operate unless forced to change by outside elements, by market place changes, by bank managers, or by impending bankruptcy.  Another hypothesis may be a preference for the “status quo” while business continues to migrate to the suburbs.  Also, it may be conjured that retail businesses owners, property owners, and property mangers as a group have not bought into the Greenest City strategy and its favourable local economic impacts, which come with that strategy. 

Cyclists riding down bus lane on 16th St. Denver, CO 2010. Photo by HJEH Becker

In Europe, cities and downtown merchants have realized the benefits to their business emanating from traffic-calmed streets.  These cities have turned over some streets to people walking and cycling.  Car and commercial vehicle access has been limited to hours when people are not on the streets shopping or enjoying eateries.  Stores migrate to outdoor merchandising.  Big boxes, chain stores, and specialized local stores all benefit.  These businesses are attracted to these streets.  People are also attracted from the neighbouring region to these downtown streets.  Merchants clamor for the expansion of their people street network.

Lessons from Downtown Denver, Colorado
A stay in Denver on a Labour Day weekend, highlighted the attraction of such streets with a milieu of people enjoying stores, eateries, and the vibrant atmosphere.  People took time to sit in outdoor restaurants.  People took time to sit on street furniture, the chairs, benches, and sitting blocks located in the 

Police on bike street patrol in people friendly retail street. Denver, CO 2010. Photo by HJEH Becker

boulevard down the middle of the street.  People were absorbed in conversations.  Some sat in front of pianos and played to their hearts’ content.  16th Street has been reconfigured from a conventional arterial road, most probably a one-way street.  Now there are two narrow bus-only lanes, flanked by wide sidewalks with outdoor eating spaces.  Cyclists and buses seem to share the space.  Sometimes the sidewalks on each side of the street are of the same width.  Sometimes the sunnier side is wider, sometimes by almost fifty percent.  Sometimes there is a wide median located in between the bus lanes decorated with trees, sitting areas, and space for selling or entertaining.  Buses travel constantly with headspace of a block or two or so.  Speed is slow.  These buses are purpose-built with drivers on the curbside and with four doors for quick, highly efficient loading.  On this street, the ride is free.  Police park their cars, take their bikes off the rear racks, and patrol the street by cycling, having time to talk to pedestrians.  It may be surmised that there may have been some careful store location planning to keep the street lively.

People time in the mid-boulevard-- playing chess, resting and talking. Denver, CO 2010. Photo by HJEH Becker

Downtown Vancouver –Lagging Behind with Car-Oriented 1960-1970’s Retail Models
Meantime, Downtown Vancouver retailers prefer to keep their street the same way they were in the 1960’ s and 1970’s — car-oriented.  Meanwhile  their customer base has changed.  No longer is this area a regional destination.  People no longer have any compelling reasons to come downtown to shop or to eat.  In the past, the big box stores, department stores, and locally owned, specialized stores were only located downtown.  Now, the big box stores have moved to the suburbs, sometimes with stores and merchandise lines larger than downtown.  Restaurants have moved and popped up in the suburbs, as well.  Only the concentration of bars in the downtown area keeps people coming.  It is not unusual to hear unsolicited comments that people have stopped going downtown, since they can shop locally.  For instance, Chinatown has effectively moved to Richmond and expanded there, leaving only an older, local shopping component behind in downtown.

In Step with Recent  Residential Population Growth in Downtown?
During all this time, there have been changes in the downtown peninsula.  Resident population has grown significantly.  However, retailers have not shifted their focus to this new market, which has been developing since the 1990’s.  Instead, the owners, developers, and property managers have focused on big boxes, forcing specialty stores to look to the suburbs.  Has this strategy really worked or has it resulted in regional customers shopping more locally?  Has this strategy even worked for the downtown peninsula dwellers?  Where do they go to shop, south of False Creek?

Treed median with seating, flanked by 2 bus lanes. 16th St., Denver CO 2010. Photo HJEH Becker

Vancouver has seen a resurgence in farmers’ markets.  Have the downtown retailers taken advantage of this trend to attract more people to shop there?  Have streets been closed downtown for such a market?

The basis of free economics has not prevailed downtown. Supply and demand is supposed to set the prices for rent.  Downtown retail rents keep rising, while retailers are complaining of hard times and looking for assistance from the city’s residents through their municipal Council, in one form or another, including provision of on-street parking.  There is a case to be made that this is a form of city subsidy to the retailers, when full cost accounting techniques are applied.  Rent prices keep locally based specialty store operators out of downtown.

While residents in European cities from small to large populations are flocking to their downtown people streets, while farmers’ and other markets are held in their downtown streets, downtown Vancouver retailers are going in the opposite direction, by continuing on with their retailing habits of the ’60’s.

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 There are arguments being expounded that step changes are needed for Downtown Vancouver.  Times have changed.  No longer can businesses look for the tourist and foreign student trade  to buoy up the retail trade.  New urbanism concepts within the context of Greenest Cities and Livable Communities, suggest that it starts with the streets.  It starts with streets that shoppers want to visit and shop in.  It starts with Greenest Cities and Livable Communities Streets and with people streets.

Arguments have been put forth that now may be time for downtown retailers, developers, and landowners to embrace what Europe has learned many decades ago.  Are we really different than Europe, contrary to the standard rhetoric that is thrown out when change is not embraced?  Are we really 

Two bus lanes flank each side of road median. Denver, CO 2010. Photo by HJEH Becker

 different than other global places where use of city streets is given to first to shopping?  The reality is that most of us in Vancouver come from Europe, Asia, or from other lands, either as first, second, or third generation Canadians.  So, is there a big difference, which would prevail against people streets?  Did the Olympics not demonstrate an appetite for people streets?

Arguments against people streets and against Greenest City streets with separated bike lanes are sometimes based on the expectation that people have of being able to find parking right in front of their destination retail stores.  On the other hand, reality tends to be that people may have to park farther away and walk back three or four blocks or so.  Then, is there a real argument against providing short-term parking in car garages within this catchment area?

Merchandise carts in median boulevard for people-friendly streets. 16th St. Denver, CO 2010. Photo by HJEH Becker

 Arguments are made that people prefer to park on streets than in parking lots.  Would the free market pricing argument not prevail that the market determines parking prices for on-street parking and that these premium, desired parking spots should be priced at premium rates?  Would the elasticity of pricing then be such that motorists would seek out lower-cost, off-street parking?  By using free market pricing principles, on-street parking should be priced at a premium to the level that free market pricing demands for event parking downtown, at sometimes ten and twenty times more than the going rate for off-road parking outside of an event parking catchment area.

Maybe it is time for downtown retailers to seriously reconsider their retailing direction and embrace and work with Vancouverites in transforming some streets to people streets, to Greenest City streets, to Livable Communities streets.

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A ceramic tile mounted on outdoor wall areas, as part of community art at Britannia Community Centre, Vancouver BC. Photo by John Steil.

 Maybe it’s the mouse on bike  chasing the cat, or the cat overtaking the mouse on the bike.   It is sheer coincidence that I begin part 3 of our Metro Vancouver outdoor bike art series  with John Steil’s photo of ceramic tile cat on the bike. 

My previous blog article, part 2 last week, began with a  mouse on the bike saddle.  A few days after the post was released on the blog, I received a few more photos on more outdoor bike art.

2009 sidewalk mosaic by Bruce Walther at 7th Ave. & 12th St., New Westminister BC. Photo by John Steil

This latest batch covers a few more bike art installations in the Metro Vancouver –courtesy of John Steil who has an interest in outdoor bike art while cycling around.

After cycling as a child,  John “bought a ten speed as an adult, but just toodled around.   About 25 years ago, I bought a mountain bike—didn’t do any real mountain biking, mostly stayed on the easy trails.  But, I did ride it on some longer trips.  The length of Portugal on it, did the south shore of Nova Scotia, the north shore of the St. Lawrence River from Quebec City east, from Basingstoke to Bath.  Now I’m just a recreational rider—around the seawalls, out to Spanish Banks and back, but I’m out several evenings and on the weekend plus do my weekend errands on bike.”

His latest discovery is a 2009 sidewalk mosaic by Bruce Walther in New Westminister at  the intersection of the Rotary Crosstown Bikeway, (7th Ave.)  and 12th St.  This mosaic is a similar motif  for his earlier 2008 sidewalk bike art mosaic,  at Smithe and Burrard St. in downtown Vancouver that was highlighted (with a photo), in one of my earlier blog articles. 

The New Westminister mosaic features streetcar, TransLink bus, cyclist, and for pedestrians, a red sneaker.  City of Vancouver’s mosaic included a few  more alternative transportation modes –an aboriginal boat, seaplane, ocean liner and train.  

Mural under bridge at Fir St. & West 6th Ave., Vancouver BC.  Photo by John Steil.  Cyclist enters another world, maybe more real compared to a static art gallery world of Canadian Group of Seven paintings.  At bottom left, there is a Cezanne-like still life painting of fruit transforming into simply food.

Mural under bridge at Fir St. & West 6th Ave., Vancouver BC. Photo by John Steil. Cyclist enters another world, maybe more real compared to a static art gallery world of Canadian Group of Seven paintings. At bottom left, there is a Cezanne-like still life painting of fruit and vegetables.

Other public bike art featured in this article, has been removed, such as the mural by Mandy Bouriscot which graced the lobby of the now-demolished, old Mount Pleasant Community Centre.  Maybe the mural will resurface somewhere else one day.

Some art work needs some interpretation.  The mural under the bridge at Fir St. and West 6th Ave., depicts a cyclist entering a world that is less static, not necessarily as elevated as an art gallery where a family gazes upon a Group of Seven Lawren Harris-like painting. The door marked “Bienvenue” originally may refer to a nearby French language centre.

Art mural at Ray-Cam Community Centre at East Hastings St. near Campbell Ave. By Richard Tetrault (1991). Vancouver BC. Photo by John Steil

Other art needs more visual prodding and acuity since the art work is very subtle:  the 2005 floor mosaic by Liz  Calvin at the Broadway/ Commercial Skytrain station, has a blend of footprints and bike tires  tires from road and mountain bikes that thread through the design.

Detail of Centennial mural (2007). On retaining wall at Queen Mary School.West Keith Rd. & Mahon Ave. District of North Vancouver. Photo by John Steil

 Both municipalities of North Vancouver District and City of Surrey, feature outdoor art paintings of a fit-looking male solo cyclist grinding their way.  The North Vancouver cyclist painting  is part of the 2007 Centennial mural at Queen Mary School in the District of North Vancouver.

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 In fact, a lot of outdoor public bike art in Metro Vancouver, does overwhelmingly feature the cyclist as male.  The only exception is the lycra-clad female cyclist on a 2009 vibrant wall mural at 1249 Adanac St.   A subconscious artistic view of cycling as male-dominant, would be challenged as more women join the regular cycling ranks every year. In Copenhagen, over 55% of cyclists are female. 

On exterior back wall of recreational centre at Whalley Town Centre, Surrey BC. Photo by John Steil

Later in  fall 2010, there will be some more outdoor bike art at city hall.  Some bike themed mandalas will be installed at Vancouver city hall’s community garden, thanks to Jamie Ollivier’s summer 2010, Cycleback Art Outreach Program. This summer program, sponsored by the city, was targeted for the Mount Pleasant area and homeless. 

Since we are close to taking a break from  spinning around and revealing more unheralded bike art:  Is there any more public bike art that awaits our discovery?  Drop us some comments.  We know there’s more than these 27 different public bike art pieces featured in this 3-part article series!

 

Acknowledgements
John Steil’s photo contributions and commentary, are most gratefully appreciated. He is an artist and and also author of Public Art in Vancouver: Angels Among Lions: 500+ Works of Art to Discover.  http://www.johnsteil.com

Jamie Ollivier, Program Coordinator. Cycleback Art Outreach  is on Facebook.  Summer 2010.

Previous Blog Articles and Photos of More Bike Art
 Bike Inspired Outdoor Art: Vancouver.   By Jean Chong. Apr. 29, 2010.
 Stripping the Metaphorical Wallpaper and Rediscovering Outdoor Public Art in Vancouver and Beyond. Part 2.   By Jean Chong.  Aug. 24, 2010.  With photo contributions by J. Steil.

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Mouse is graffiti response to bike lane stencil at Cardero and Pendrell St. Vancouver 2010. Photo by John Steil

Mouse graffiti response to bike lane stencil at Cardero and Pendrell St. Vancouver 2010. Photo by John Steil

Outdoor public art is like wallpaper:  familiarity breeds visual blinkers. Yet when the art is removed, it is akin to  the effect after stripping wallpaper, the  “visualscape”  is more empty, bare.

This post is part two, a sequel to the first article I wrote last April on outdoor art, Bike Inspired Outdoor Art: Vancouver.  This sequel was prompted by John Steil’s impromptu photo contributions for two art works not found in his book on outdoor public art,   Public Art in Vancouver: Angels Among Lions.  The first art ‘piece’  is a temporary whimsical grafitti response to a bike lane –a perky mouse perched over the saddle and handlebar  bike pavement stencil at Pendrell and Cardero St. in Vancouver.   A brave little icon coinciding with the larger spirited consultation and public discussion on the Hornby St. separated bike lane at this time.

Mountain biker skeleton part of 'Trial by Stone' sculpture mural by Ross Agro (2002).  Photo by John Steil

Archaeological-like mountain biker skeleton part of 'Trial by Stone' sculpture mural by Ross Agro (2002). Rotary bike park, Port Moody BC. Photo by John Steil

The second photo he furnished,  was an art sculpture which featured as part of a larger piece, a skeletal cyclist on his  mountain bike,  bouncing ghostily yet nearly buried  in an archaelogical dirt swirl with his unbuckled bike helmet ready 

"Trial by Stone", by Ross Agro (2002), full piece is installed under a viaduct. Port Moody, BC. Photo by John Steil

"Trial by Stone", by Ross Agro (2002), full piece is installed under a viaduct. Port Moody, BC. Photo by John Steil

to fly off.  “Trial by Stone” by Ross Agro (2002), is mounted under a viaduct at the Rotary mountain  bicycle park in Port Moody. 

Meanwhile I had missed out (again) in Vancouver and actually not far from home, the art murals along the north base of Granville Bridge off-ramp at Seymour St.  Usually a cyclist’s attention is diverted away from the mural details at  this intersection  since there may be either fast flowing car traffic or off-ramp cars ready to merge with traffic along Pacific Blvd.   Hardly a great place to notice art.  Yet I had been cycling by this area often, oblivious to the murals for the last 8 years.

Unfortunately for one of the  bike murals, I have only a 2006 photo link to a mural by Steven Lowe, of a cyclist with the Vancouver skyline must before it was defaced.  Luis Curan  had the foresight to photograph Lowe’s original mural and post it along with other  the Granville Bridge St. murals. 

"Tour de Chance" by Nelson Garcia (2005). Granville St. bridge north off-ramp at Seymour St. Photo by J. Chong

"Tour de Chance" by Nelson Garcia (2005). Granville St. bridge north off-ramp at Seymour St. Photo by J. Chong

“Tour de Chance” by Nelson Garcia (2005), depicts a caricature father doggedly cycling on a fixie with his family onboard and dog in back trailer. If you look closely, each character has a nickname.

As for outdoor bike art on the North Shore, for now, I have given up temporarily on even finding sufficient information on much outdoor public art in general, at the municipal web sites for the West Vancouver, District of North Vancouver, and City of North Vancouver.  Odd– either less money and time is invested 

Mural on side of health clinic at northwest corner of West Broadway and Commercial Dr. Vancouver, BC. 2010. Artist and date unknown. Photo by HJEH Becker

Mural on side of health clinic at northwest corner of West Broadway and Commercial Dr. Vancouver, BC. Artist and date unknown. Photo by HJEH Becker 2010.

on outdoor public art or no one has taken time to update their web sites.  Outdoor public art deserves wide promotion for enjoyment by all. Even Richmond’s web site provides some arresting photos of several outdoor art installations, though none are bike-themed. 

The field is wide open to any travelling, or shall I say, cycling blogger or amateur photographer to document more systematically, outdoor public art in some of these other areas within Metro Vancouver. 

It would be a pleasant surprise to find any outdoor public bike art on the North Shore, plus in municipalities south and east of Vancouver.  A confirmation that cycling inspires unfettered transportation and exploration.

Acknowledgements:
John Steil, who is also an artist and author of Public Art in Vancouver: Angels Among Lions: 500+ Works of Art to Discover.  http://www.johnsteil.com/

Luis Curan who has taken photos of  many public and privately sponsored art murals and mosaics located in the City of Vancouver.

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They cannot wait.  The cyclists just cannot wait until the barriers are completed.  After the workers leave for the day, the cyclists take over the partially completed separated bike lanes under construction on Dunsmuir St.

Dunsmuir St. separated bike lane under construction. Downtown Vancouver BC. May 28, 2010. Photo by J. Becker

Dunsmuir St. separated bike lane under construction. Downtown Vancouver BC. May 28, 2010. Photo by J. Becker. City council approved construction of extension for Dunsmuir separated bike lane into downtown. To be completed by June 15, 2010.

Curb separation between the general traffic lanes and cars and the two-way bike lanes have been built.  The planters are still to come.  In one block, bike racks still need to be installed within the barrier space. The bus stops still need to be poured.  Construction signage and pylons still line the road. 

One late afternoon as rush hour traffic forms, cyclists take over the construction site.  Signs are disobeyed with enthusiasm as cyclists pounce on the new bike lanes.   Still cycling traffic is in the same direction as car movement.  Contra-flow cycling on Dunsmuir has not taken hold, save for a few cyclists including myself.  Traffic signals have not been installed for these cyclists.

Yet there is enthusiasm among the cyclists with a sense of a free spirit.  The neighbouring car traffic is less onerous.  What is truly amazing is the appeal of these separated lanes to cyclists whereby they abandoned parallel streets to cycle through a construction area.

Cyclist already using downtown Dunsmuir separated bike lane. May 29, 2010. Photo by HJEH Becker

Cyclist already using downtown Dunsmuir separated bike lane still under construction. May 29, 2010. Photo by HJEH Becker. Separated barrier still needs to have landscaping installed as planned by June 15.

 What is even more amazing is the speed that these lanes are being built.  Other bike lane projects were approved months or maybe a year ago and still wait for the construction scheduler somewhere in City of Vancouver land to give the nod for crews to start the work.  However, for Dunsmuir, there is a rush.  There is a desire to have the lanes in place before the summer cycling traffic grows.  Have the lanes open in mid-June, right in Bike Month in Vancouver.  Then monitor the cycling traffic grow into the fall.  What a way to see the draw of separated bike lanes to bring cyclists to Dunsmuir St.  Just a few days ago, city staff reported that the usual 100 cyclists on Dunsmuir Viaduct have multiplied by 10 fold after separation was installed , giving cyclists their own space removed from car and pedestrian traffic.  What growth will separated bike lanes bring to the downtown core?

Going back to the amazing speed that these lanes have evolved from the black asphalt:  just awhile ago on May 20th, Council gave their approval to these lanes.  That night, staff already was busy sweeping the asphalt so that the new configurations could be painted on the road surface.  Construction drawings were completed.  Then  just 9 days later, already on several blocks downtown, 

New Signage for 2-Directional Separated Bike Lane on Dunsmuir St. Downtown Vancouver BC. May 29, 2010. Photo by HJEH Becker.

New Signage for 2-Directional Separated Bike Lane on Dunsmuir St. Downtown Vancouver BC. May 29, 2010. Photo by HJEH Becker. Signage for right-hand turning cars not best message. Needs to indicate turning cars must stop for cyclists flowing through in bike lane.

the car traffic lanes emerged from construction mayhem to operating normally in the post construction road configuration.  Now for construction, what is left, can now happen within the confines of the bike lanes.  Is this not a construction miracle?  Nine days into construction, car lanes are back to normal operation.  Is this the way of future for building bike lanes?  One could only dream of it or go to Dunsmuir and experience the dream being played out.

What is this all about?  Maybe the Vancouver Sun article May 28th,  provides some insight.  Population is expected to grow strongly within the next few decades.  Will the city grow to “a busy metropolis that’s a pressure cooker of humanity, traffic jams and subways that pack commuters in like sardines?”  “Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson is pushing to replace car lanes with bicycle lanes — a policy that will accelerate.”  Maybe separated bike lanes will induce people to forsake their cars for their trips to work and to shopping.  Maybe separated bike lanes are a relieve valve for that pressure cooker.  Let’s come back in 6, 12 months and look at the evidence.

Background
In June  2009, Vancouver’s City Council approved the concept of separated bike lanes within Vancouver. On February 4, 2010,  Council approved separated bike lanes on the Dunsmuir Viaduct.  As well, Council approved separated bike lanes from the Burrard Bridge and the Viaduct into downtown core. On May 6th, Council at the CS&B Committee meeting, endorsed staff’s report recommending that staff report back on trials for separated bike lanes outside of the Downtown core, including an arterial street and on part of a local street bikeway.

Further Reading:
Cernetig, Miro. Growing metropolis needs unified vision. In Vancouver Sun, May 28, 2010.
City of Vancouver. Engineering Services.  Separated Bike Lanes in Downtown. Administrative Report to Standing Committee on City Services and Budgets. Supports Item No. 2.  February 4, 2010.

City of Vancouver. Engineering Services.  Cycling in Vancouver:  Looking Forward 2010/2011. Administrative Report to Standing Committee on City Services and Budgets. Supports Item No. 5.  May 6, 2010.

Cole, Yolanda. Bike-lane work on downtown Vancouver’s Dunsmuir Street could snarl traffic. In The Province, May 28, 2010.

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