Archive for the ‘Velo Urbanism’ Category

©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2013

Calgary, Bow Pathway

Cycling for transportation has progressed from sunny days, to rainy days, to fall days and now is penetrating into winter days, no matter the temperature or snow or ice on the road and bike paths.

Back in the 1990’s when snow started to settle onto Toronto and the temperatures plunged below freezing, it was time to park the bike for the winter and switch to using the subway and transit system.  More…..


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This blog is not meant to be there for advocacy.  It is meant to provide perspectives for significantly moving cycling traffic growth forward.  Once in a while, an article comes forth that may be more on the advocacy side and has content that needs sharing.  This is one of these.

©Image by City of Calgary, 2013An article was published on 2014-02-07 that needs visibility in North American cities that are struggling to refocus their cities for the future reality of transportation use, and specifically, trying to adjust to cycling infrastructure and separated bike lanes.

Right now, the media and even one of the local cycling advocacy organizations, Bike Calgary, is abuzz with comments on the Calgary City Centre Cycle Track Network being released and in public consultation this week and next.  From all the negativism and positivism being expressed, a business leader comes forth with positive comments on how the cycle track network will be a tool for his job in selling Calgary as a city to do business.

Quotes from Bruce Graham, President and CEO, Calgary Economic Development, from the Calgary Herald article, Cycle Tracks deserves to get some traction, 2014-02-07:

“Well, as the promotional agency tasked with attracting and retaining the best talent, as well as promoting our business and lifestyle advantages around the world, a cycle track network will help us do just that.”

Re commuter bike lanes: “And make no mistake, it is an investment.”

“This is a prime example of the kind of selling feature we use when telling Calgary’s story around the world.”

“Sixty-two per cent of recent transplants to Portland, Ore., said that the city’s bike friendliness was a factor in their decision to move there.”

Bruce Graham provides an excellent business marketing perspective of why Calgary needs an extensive network of separated cycling facilities within downtown, with connections to the business retailing streets and the very extensive rivers pathway systems.  We need to hear more from progressive minded city business people who look forward to the next 30 years and the expectation of another 1,000,000 people living in the Calgary Region.  If Calgary were to adopt the 50% workers, 50% residential ratio for downtown Calgary, then about 200,000 of this population growth should go to downtown.  With Downtown and the adjacent Beltline, Mission, Inglewood, Eau Claire, Edmonton Trail/Bridgeland retail areas easily accessible by cyclists, local retailers would enjoy the growth that other cities have shown along cycling facilities.

©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2013As the cordon count indicates, motorists are forsaking driving downtown and switching to transit, cycling, and walking instead.  Now, only 32% drive into downtown.  Now, next year, the C-Train will be adding 33% capacity as its trains go to 4 cars.  How many more drivers will be making the switch to transit or to combining transit with cycling on their commute? With each new cyclists commuting to work or coming downtown for shopping, one less car will be on downtown streets.  More street pavement will become available for reassignment for separated cycling facilities and sidewalks.

As Bruce points out, the business environment downtown will benefit with increased retail sales, lower operating costs, more productive employees, less workforce loss to sickness (both physical and stress).   What more, he and is organization will have another strong marketing tool to sell Calgary to business to locate here.

Bruce, thank you for the article.  It will benefit Calgary and other cities that have the same resistance to move towards a more organic, more liveable, progressive people place city and city core.

Calgary Cordon Count, 2013, Downtown Transportation Modal Split: Walking 8.5%, Cycling 2.5%, Transit 50.1%, Driving 32.1%, Passenger in Car 6.9% (Time Period 7:15 am to 8:15 am, Weekday May)

A Copy of the Article from the Calgary Herald:

Graham: Cycle track deserves to get some traction


By Bruce Graham, Calgary Herald February 7, 2014

©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2013Calgary’s proposed cycle track network has been creating quite a buzz around town lately and we wanted to weigh in on this issue. You may wonder why we, as Calgary’s leading economic development organization, care about a cycle track network for Calgary. Well, as the promotional agency tasked with attracting and retaining the best talent, as well as promoting our business and lifestyle advantages around the world, a cycle track network will help us do just that.

It may be less obvious than an increase in healthy lifestyle or taking tailpipes off the roads, but an inner city cycle track network can boost business. In Colorado, cycling brought more than $1 billion to the state’s local economy, and in New York, after the installation of a protected bike lane, retail sales increased by as much as 49 per cent compared to a three per cent increase in sales citywide during the same period.

When San Francisco optimized Valencia Street for cyclists and pedestrians, nearly 40 per cent of merchants reported increased sales and 60 per cent reported more area residents shopping locally due to reduced travel time and convenience. Travelling by bike encourages more frequent stops than travelling by car; a study of Toronto merchants revealed that patrons arriving by foot and bicycle visited the most often and spent the most money per month.

It goes without saying that parking the car and jumping on your Trek is good for your health, but it’s also good for the health of the community. Business owners would be interested in a study done by the Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research, which found that cycling reduced employee absenteeism — specifically, the employees who cycled to work regularly missed less work, on average more than one day per year less than colleagues who didn’t. And a Minnesota company that encouraged its employees to bike to work saved $170,000 in health care over three years and $301,000 through increased employee productivity every year.

And then there’s the social reputation factor: The “I didn’t know the city built on energy invested in commuter bike lanes.” And make no mistake, it is an investment. This is a prime example of the kind of selling feature we use when telling Calgary’s story around the world. People want to live in a city that invests in making the lives of its citizens better. Sixty-two per cent of recent transplants to Portland, Ore., said that the city’s bike friendliness was a factor in their decision to move there. By 2018, Calgary’s population is expected to grow by more than 150,000 people. We’d love to add the cycle track network to our people-attraction tool kit before we see tens of thousands of new cars added to our morning commute.

The major benefit of dedicated bike lanes is they help pedestrians, motorists, transit users and cyclists coexist safely. Even in Calgary’s harshest weather, you’ll see many diehard cyclists making their way to work, and these numbers would increase if we made their commute safer. After New York City installed their first protected bike lane (the first in the U.S.), they saw a reduction in injuries to all street users by 58 per cent. Calgary drivers will be the first to say that the unpredictability of cyclists sharing the narrow downtown roadways makes them nervous for the safety of the cyclists and themselves. A cycle track network in Calgary gives commuters a reliable alternative to driving, while ensuring the well-being of both cyclists and motorists.

©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2013Calgary is already well suited to adopting a cycle track network and here’s why. With the most expensive parking in Canada, our citizens have already shown us they would happily utilize this healthy and fun mode of transportation.

The first leg of the cycle track network runs on 7th Street S.W., and over the course of a year (2012-2013), the number of bikes quadrupled per day. Pedestrians were happier too, as the number of cyclists riding on the sidewalk went down by 25 per cent. At 700 kilometres, Calgary has the longest paved urban pathway system on the continent. With the addition of a downtown cycle track (and Calgary Transit’s recent announcement that all new buses will have bike racks), commuters can safely and efficiently travel from their homes in any quadrant of the city into the core. Calgarians may be surprised (and hopefully delighted) to learn that over the past five years, a multitude of downtown building owners have added up to 2,000 bike parking stalls in their buildings, telling their tenants and their employees they support their desire to embrace diverse transportation options.

We realize adoption will take time and people want to be involved in the process to understand where the proposed network will go and how it impacts them. We encourage Calgarians looking for more information on the cycle track network, to stop by the CORE Shopping Centre, Plus-15 level, by Holt Renfrew, this Monday to Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. to talk to the cycle track network team.

Bruce Graham is president and CEO of Calgary Economic Development.

© Copyright (c) The Calgary Herald

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TransLink’s SkyTrain
Entering Main St Station
Vancouver BC, Canada
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2013

There has been too much tradition in building rapid transit lines as projects in themselves, without consideration for urban communities that will be services by this faster form of transportation. The billions of dollars invested in rapid transit lines are now in competition for ridership with the adjacent streets. There is nothing like governments creating competition with themselves, one form of transportation with another.

Cambie St Retail Corridor
After the Canada Line construction
Vancouver BC, Canada
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2013

It is all about building vibrant, liveable, sustainable, green communities where people can live healthily and happily. Clean transportation is one of the options to get there. If neighbouring communities do not benefit from rapid transit lines, then significant chances to move the liveable community agenda forward will be lost. If residents of local neighbourhoods do not see improvements that would benefit them, they may become vocal.

There are principles, believes, and values that should be part of any political actions for approval of any new rapid transit line investments.
Read more….

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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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The City of Vancouver has released an initial draft of its Transportation 2040 Plan for public consideration. Within the plan, the city spells out its transportation mode priority for the next 30 years and its target mode share.

At the recent Velo-city Global 2012 Conference on cycling, international experts called the city’s cycling component of the plan and its target as too slow and not enough. Experts from around the world sensed that the next growth in cycling and attracting motorists to use cycling for transportation will come from physically separated bike lanes and from combined mobility trips of cycling and transit.

Cycling growth in the City of Vancouver has been very slow. From 1991, the mode share has climbed from 1.3% to 3.8% or 0.114% per year while Copenhagen has increased cycling by 4% in two years and Seville has increased it by 4.5% in 5 years.

The City is proposing that the target cycling mode share for the next 30 years should show growth of 3.2% from the current 3.8% level to 7%. With this target the growth rate will continue to remain slow at 0.11% per year. This growth rate is certainly not at a pace of a world-class green city. This growth is more like that of a follower city. One Transportation Planning Manager was trying to placate an audience at a consultation session by stating that the City normally reaches targets very early in its transportation plans lifecycle. Well, the question may be asked to the value of a target if it can be easily met rather than be challenging for city staff and the public and also be a signal of change in how we travel.

Transportation Plan 2040, City of Vancouver, June, 2012


The city wants to be the greenest city in the world and has committed to achieving the Kyoto protocol calling for reduction in greenhouse gases to 6% less than the 1990 level. Basically, the Kyoto commitment means that all trips originating from population growth must be by active transportation modes, not by car.

Future cycling growth will need to come from those who drive today. The easy growth has been realized. Now is the time to shift into social marketing of cycling. Social marketing will not be effective unless a robust and highly desirable cycling infrastructure is in place. With the city’s desires and with the strong commitment from the public to the greenest city and Kyoto goals, it might be appropriate to adopt more challenging transportation mode share.

An aggressive set of transportation mode share targets will contribute towards this city to becoming a world-class green city, reducing air and noise pollution, helping improve individual health, and reducing the associated health care costs. Guided by the City’s gains in reduction of car trips within the downtown core and accomplishments of other cities in reducing driving and increasing cycling, consideration should be given to adopting aggressive targets for the 2040 transportation mode shares. Transportation mode share is usually defined by driving, transit, walking, cycling, and by others. For more effective direction of future efforts, a more detailed set of targets may be appropriate. Also, the current set of targets understates the use of each mode, as combined trips are not accounted fully in the statistics.

The accomplishments of other cycling-active cities and of the City of Vancouver in the downtown core would suggest a set of appropriate transportation mode share targets of:

  • Walking                             17%

Walking to transit stops >450 metres                      3%

  • Cycling                                20%
  • Transit                                20%
  • Combined Mobility               15%

Transit and Cycling – Personal bicycle                      7%
Transit and Cycling – Public Bike Share System       3%
Driving and Cycling – Personal Bicycle                     4%
Driving and Cycling – Public Bike Share System       1%

  • Car                                     27%

Driver                                                                   24%
Passenger                                                               3%

  • Other                                   1%

With this set of mode share targets, cycling would be involved in 35% of all trips, transit in 30%, and car trips in 32%.

With aggressive targets, staff has clear direction on strategies and speed of implementation for realizing the next transportation plan.

Some comments on the City of Vancouver’s initial draft of its Transportation 2040 Plan will be published on August 26, 2012. 

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H-JEH (Jack) Becker
Third Wave Cycling Group Inc., 2012-05-13

A recent radio interview highlighted the timeliness for Calgarians to have a comprehensive dialogue on separated bike lanes (SBL), especially local cycling advocates and those interested in better cycling facilities. The dialogue should start with the question of why have SBL and then continue into concepts and designs, fit into local streetscape and urban form.  Then the dialogue must include how SBL contributes to local business and to the city as a whole.

Separated bike lanes have been shown to be successful in instigating a shift from driving to cycling. It is a tool that comes in many configurations of designs and fit into local urban form. The type chosen has a direct impact on the degree of local acceptance and of success in increasing cycling.

So, what types of separated bike lanes do Calgarians want? Some of the dialogue should cover

  • Cycling traffic capacity

How wide should the separated bike lanes be?  Well, first it should be established what the objectives for the SBL should be.  Is it for the convenience of current cyclists?  Is it to provide capacity to meet natural cycling traffic growth or the city’s future cycling mode share targets?  Is it part of a city reshaping itself into a large city or world-class city form, instead of a sprawling metropolis?  What current barriers are hindering cycling growth that could be accommodated with SBL?  What human characteristic could be designed into SBL to cause significant growth?

Acceptance of SBL is greater by cyclists and by potential cyclists if they could see efficient trip time.  One of the factors, capacity to pass slower cyclists, is key.  The next big step into cycling growth is to move away from solitary cycling to accommodating social cycling of two people side-by-side deep into discussion.  Intersection passage time is also key.

  • Forms of separation

Generally, separated bike lanes comes in various forms of separation from vertical to horizontal, at general traffic lane level, on sidewalk elevation, outside of road right-of-ways, etc.  Separation comes in many forms from virtual where drivers’ observance of painted lines provides the separation to physical through various forms of barriers that will have negative effect on cars if drivers were not to observe the barriers.

Physical separation can be provided at various cost levels from minimal to sophisticated separation designs that fits well into urban and streetscape forms.

Observations of various forms of SBL in cities within Europe and North America indicate the need for physical separation where cars, trucks, and motorcycles are prevented from entering into bike lanes.

With virtual separation (painted lines or buffers) and half curb height separation (Copenhagen style), it is only driver decency that causes the bike lanes not to be used for passing motorized vehicles stopped for a turn, overtaken a slower vehicle, or parking, especially by delivery vehicles. Even car entry into bike lanes needs to be prevented for such bike lanes not to become parking lanes.  However, the form of separation should allow police and other emergency vehicles to use the lanes to efficiently get by street traffic.  This also tends to encourage width of bike lanes to accommodate a police vehicle and a cyclist.

  • Two-way bike lanes versus one way

A dialogue on this subject usually gets around to selection of one-way separated bike lanes on the same or adjacent streets to the use of two-way bike lanes.  There are many arguments that can be made for either solution that would better fit the needs of cyclists, motorists on the streets, local businesses, and urban and streetscape form.

Two-way separated bike lanes are self-levellers of traffic accommodating cycling traffic jams and supporting social cycling.  Bringing together into one space cyclists going both ways, the presence of cyclists on the road is much more evident to motorists, a bit of a marketing tool.  Motorists will see the lanes actually being used and become more aware that their driving style needs to adjust accordingly.  Another important benefit is the reduction of potential cross traffic of cyclists and motorists, limiting that to one side of a street.

  • Which side of road

One-Way Bike Lanes

Should two one-way bike lanes be located on one road, no matter if one of the lanes is contraflow or be placed on two neighbouring roads?

Two-Way Bike Lanes

Location of two-way bike lanes should recognize night cycling and the effect of car headlights shining into cyclists’ eyes with overhead lights often being too weak in intensity to overcome cyclists’ blindness or blocked out by tree leaves making sidewalk curbs or separation barriers difficult to be seen by cyclists.

Two-way bike lanes should be positioned on the roadway with direction of flow of cyclists and adjacent car traffic being in the same direction.  This will place contra-flow cyclists horizontally farther away from the headlights of cars moving in the opposite direction lessening light impact on cyclists.

The dialogue should include such factors of one side of the street to the other as to the number of ingresses and egresses from local properties, the volume of cars turning across the two-way bike lanes, visibility of cyclists to motorists who are making turns across the bike lanes (left side visibility of motorists of parallel cyclists versus right side), and visibility of oncoming cyclists to motorists at intersections.

  • Networking

Networking of cycling facilities is a cycling traffic growth factor.  A cycling facility leading to on-street, shared cycling will only draw a smaller portion of motorists who could be induced to cycling if the cycling facilities were to their liking.

The dialogue for downtown Calgary should include the priority of SBL extending a limited cycling capacity Peace Bridge facility into the downtown core along 6th or 7th St or both.  The dialogue should also consider an option of SBL extension into the working core of downtown Calgary within the catchment area of cycling facilities to cyclists’ work places.

SBL’s along these two streets would have limited value unless the SBL were continued and networked into the downtown core and underneath the railway tracks to the shopping areas of 10th to 12th Ave and to 17th Ave.  Considering the cycling unfriendly 5th St and 8th St underpasses for potential cyclists and also cycling infrastructure catchment area, 7th St may be a more desirable street for an SBL as a first level network infrastructure.

Some grey research that I have been doing over the last 10 plus years and supported by lower-level rigour research by others would indicate that catchment area of cycling facilities tends to be from 0 metres to 500 metres (5 blocks, 2 minutes cycling).

For downtown city centrum, a catchment area of 2 blocks each side of cycling facilities is a highly desirable, first level networking design with catchment area eventually being decreased to two blocks between cycling facilities as the second level and then adjacent major streets as a third level. 

From a networking perspective, any off-road bike trails such as that along the Bow River should also have on-road bypasses as cycling traffic will built up on bike trails that will cause commuter cyclists to want to use on-road facilities from a commuting time perspective.  This factor would encourage an on-road cycling facility parallel to the Bow Trail.

Considering cycling infrastructure catchment area, the location of the Bow Trail, and the concentration of downtown workplace, a two-way SBL should be provided on 6th Ave as a first priority or alternately 5th Ave connecting with the Bow Trail via 11th St in the west and 6th Ave through the East Village at the east end.

  • Right turn or left turn prohibitions across SBL’s

The dialogue should include discussion on intersection design especially motorists’ capability for turns across SBL.  A through understanding on current motorists turning pattern needs to be had on candidate streets and alternate routing options for motorists should full or partial banning of turns occur across SBL.

Cyclists trip time, cyclist’s’ visibility, and perceived safety for potential cyclists are driving forces for intersection limitations for motorists.

Especially full prohibition or alternately no turn on red signal phase will enhance the perceived safety of SBL for potential and current cyclists.  

  • Cyclists advance timing at intersection

The dialogue should also include an alternative to banning turns across SBL

Alternately to full or partial turning for motorists at intersections, a cyclists advanced signal phase to clear backed-up cyclists at a traffic signal first before car movement starts will enhance the cyclists’ experience and the attractiveness to potential cyclists.

  • Bike boxes to accommodate turns

The dialogue should also consider how to efficiently move cyclists with high visibility to motorists from SBL to intersecting streets and also bringing cyclists from these intersecting streets to the SBL.

Coloured bike boxes (especially environmental green colour) at intersections of streets with SBL and diagonal streets is a good solution.  At some streets up to 4-coloured bike boxes may be desirable.

  • Road maintenance

The dialogue should also include housekeeping and maintenance of SBL’s.  What type of equipment should be added to the city’s arsenal and what cleaning frequency should be built into the city’s budget and maintenance procedures?

Wind tends to move dirt and garbagy materials left behind by cars and especially trucks into SBL.  Water ponding on SBL’s can be a significant problem for cyclists especially during freeze-thaw periods.

Maintenance procedures should be providing quality of cycling service that reduces the chances of tire flats for cyclist and provides for safe operation of bicycles at any speed.

  • Winter operations and snow and ice clearing

With a SBL network the desirability of cycling during rainy weather and winter increases significantly.  While initially SBL were convenient places to dump road snow, slowly these SBL’s are now being maintained throughout the winter in some cities with much more snow than Calgary and heavier snow to move with a bicycle.  In Copenhagen, the cycling facilities are cleared of snow before road lanes.  As we know now in Calgary, snow clearance on the river bike trails starts early in the morning.

Ice removal from SBL before morning commuting cycling starts is critical for making SBL desirable to potential winter cyclists.  Reduction of cyclists’ injury and associated health care costs results from such a program.

Road snow removal procedures will need to change.  Today, the procedures usually call for two or more passes with the first pushing the snow to the curb or also on the pedestrian walking facilities and then followed by a number of trucks and loading equipment to carry away the snow.  One-pass snow removal would make winter walking in Calgary much more pleasant and safer, especially for seniors and those with disabilities.

One-pass snow removal procedures are in place in many cities and may safe time, cost, and greenhouse pollution production from snow clearing trucks for Calgary.

  • Urban and streetscape form

The discussion contribution should be focused on a dialogued on SBL being a tool for shifting the appeal of downtown Calgary streets from places to avoid to people streets that attract Calgarians to spend time after 4:30 pm when the streets now become very deserted.

Various forms of separation designs can enhance the visual appeal of downtown streets and softening the austere look of 1960 designs of car-moving streets.  Street functionality can be enhanced with restricted-time, commercial drop-off zones, although neighbouring buildings should really provide that.  Bus loading zones can be designed to allow for pedestrian level crossing of SBL.  Bike parking can be built into the SBL design.  Even motorcycle and moped parking can be incorporated.

Downtown Calgary streets are already well situated for SBL with sufficient off-street parking for cars and lack of street facing retailing.  On-street parking is not required nor should not be encouraged.  In fact, SBL may encourage more street retailing.

  • Local retail business activities

Any change on a street that affects on-street parking tends to be a rallying point for retail businesses to call on city politicians to do nothing.  The reality of retail marketing, as one vice-president of a major Canadian property company once stated to a municipal council, is that retail businesses need people traffic.  People traffic is critical for retailing success.  The source of the people traffic is not that important.  Bringing cycling to a street increases retailing traffic.  One car parking spot can be converted to 10 to 14 bicycle parking.  About 80 to 100 bicycles can be parked along one side of 100 metre street block that could only accommodate up to 10 to 13 cars.  It is understandable that retailers are very reluctant to let go of the umbilical cord of car parking that is now starting to fail strip malls, which were designed for the car driving customers.  The marketing model for retailers must continually change with time along with its customers or these businesses will go bankrupt.

The influence of cycling customers and differences in purchasing capacity are now slowly being documented by researchers.  Without a car, a person has about $10,000 more available to spend each year.  Without a second car, that may be about $5,000.

The dialogue should be around how to make that happen by focusing on urban form, cycling, and combined mobility of transit and cycling.

If retailers cater their products to cyclists, then a 10-fold increase in street traffic is a potential.  With retailers offering the right product mix, people will cycle to stores.

  • Congestion

Dialogue would be worthwhile to explore this further.  The usual “NO, do not change anything from a car-oriented street” argument is that congestion will increase, meaning car congestion not cycling growth, transit growth, or walking growth, all of which should happen.

“Car congestion is good” is an argument used by some people.  It is argued that congestion or any other type of roadblock, which could include increased car trip time  due to car congestion, more car collisions and negative impacts to personal health, finances, obesity, and health during the aging process, causes people to consider which transportation alternative is in their best interest.

For people to make the transition from car transportation to another mode the infrastructure must be there and to a level that is appealing to them to make a change.  This includes peak and off-peak transit capacity and service level, combined mobility capacity whether it is car-cycling or transit-cycling supported by cycling infrastructure from home to local rapid transit and high service bus routes, safe and dependable bike parking in all weather, and a cycling network that is appealing from home to final destination including for commuting.

Introduction of SBL on a road should be with expectation and target that car traffic will reduce as a result of people make the shift in transportation mode from car-based, not as a facility that is being imposed on top of a car traffic level that will continue to increase in the future.

  • The final direction

With extensive dialogue, it will be become very apparent that downtown Calgary needs a network of connected SBL’s as another tool for reducing driving into the downtown core and reducing already beyond acceptable and historically high levels of greenhouse pollution.  

Back in the 1970’s, people wanted to come to Calgary for health reasons since allergies, sinus discomforts and health side effects improved for them.  Now these sufferers look for other cities to improve their health:  even in January, brown pollution clouds can be seen on Nose Hill, with much contribution from the high level of driving in the city.

With carefully thought-out design parameters for SBL and the resulting reduction of driving, the downtown core will become more of a people place  after business hours, increase downtown retailing, increase vitality of the city core, and will be more of a place to attract tourists beyond the Stampede.

Yes, it is a first phase in the introduction of public bike sharing system, as Paris proved so successfully.


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