Posts Tagged ‘cycling touring’

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Some more comments from a recently completed 72 day, 4,100 kilometres cycling touring trip through the States of Montana, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, and California with the southern terminus being Santa Barbara.

Cycling on Interstate Highways

Questions frequently asked: “You cycle on interstate highways? Why would you want to cycle on interstate highways?  Why would you not use frontage roads beside interstate highways instead?”

Cycling on Interstate Highways.
I-90, Ritzville, WA
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

Well, I do and enjoy the opportunity to do so in the mid-western states where there are very few access limitations to cyclists.

Cycling on Interstate Highways with trucks, buses, motorcycles, and other vehicles.
I-90. Missoula, MT
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

There are many reasons for this.  One does have to accept the noise of trucks, cars, and motorcycles passing continuously by. 

Rethreaded tire litter on Interstate Highway shoulders.
I-90, Washington State
©Photograph by H-JEH
Becker, 2012

Somes steel removed from the front tire of the touring bicycle. It was difficult to get out. Fortunately, no flat tire.
Interstate Highway I-5, Williams CA
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

One has to put up with unmaintained highway shoulders littered with junks of rethreaded tires cast dangerously out on road shoulders by fast speeding trucks.  One has to put up with risks of tire flats from the steel sticking out from these junks of rethread tires or broken off steel pieces deposited on highway shoulders.  Flats can happen at the most undesirable time late in the day, during rain downpours, on steep hills, when time is getting late to reach the night’s destination, when energy has been burned up, and so on. On has to be continuously aware of other garbage thrown out of cars and trucks that could cause problems for cyclists.  Ah, nothing like cycling on the shoulders of interstate highways after a cleaning.

Wide shoulders on interstate highways with rumble strip separation of motor traffic and cyclists.
I-90, Missoula, MT
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

Noise from passing trucks and wind effect on cyclists.
I-5, Weed, CA
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

Interstate shoulders provide a cyclist with the comfort of exclusively cycling on a surface with a width of a traffic lane while separated from motorized traffic usually by rumble strips.  There is the glory of cycling on such a wide shoulder where passing traffic does not require attention.  The noise is the nuisance not the behaviours of motorists.  Wind effects of passing trucks and buses are usually nullified, except for very strong crosswinds.

Interstate highways tend to have hills with less grade than frontage roads.
I-5 Chehalis, WA
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

Frequently there are frontage roads next to interstate highways. How far do these roads go? Are there intersections at the end of these roads to cycle onto the interstate highways?
I-90 Moses Lake, WA
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

When time is a consideration, interstate highways provide a cycling surface with the least amount of grades in the most direct way to that day’s destination.  Frontage roads tend to have steeper grades and more wind, and seem to attract drivers’ speed and drift through curbs using the full road width.

One is never certain how long there will be a frontage road and how to continue the trip without doubling back to the last intersection or lifting a bicycle and its panniers over a fence onto an interstate highway.

Oh yes, one might actually come upon a convenience stop once a day on interstate highways.

Rest stops along interstate highways. At least one for each cycling day.
I-90, Washington State
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

Rest stops along interstate highways. At least one for each cycling day.
I-90, Moses Lake, WA
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

Rest stops along interstate highways. Windmill powered electricity for the rest stop.
I-90, Washington State
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

When sections of highways restricted for cyclists use are reached, some states provide signed alternate routes until they are allowed back onto the interstate again (I-90 Bike Trail, for example).

The sign that cyclists hate to see when on a trip.
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

Cycling on interstate highway is restricted. Alternate cycling route is signed.
I-5, Spokane, WA
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

An alternate cycling routing along a bike trail parallel to an interstate highway.
The Coeur d’Alene Trail parallel to the I-90.
From Mullen to Harrison, ID
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

An alternate cycling routing along a bike trail parallel to an interstate highway.
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

So, when there are no alternative roads readily available, interstate and other restricted-access highways provide more direct routes for cyclists.  When the scenery is the same for all parallel roads, then interstate highways provide less demanding hills for cyclists.

Interstate highways with wide, paved shoulders, with wide shoulders or bike paths on bridges, with rumble strips providing separation between motor vehicles and cyclists, with maintenance programs calling for frequent removal of debris from highway shoulders, with convenience stops comfortably spaced apart for senior-aged cyclists, with signed, alternate cycling routes for section of highways restricted to cycling, with underpasses at high-traffic intersections, then these highways provide a pleasant alternative for cyclists who can handle the noise. Government banning of rethreaded tires would also take away the concern of flats on trips, especially for those cyclists that are not adept at changing flat tires or would not make a trip by bicycle because of fear of flats.


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Comments from the Latest Cycling Touring Trip

The third cycling touring trip of the year is now over.  It started on August 28th, 2012 as I left Calgary, AB behind.  It ended seventy-two days later on November 9th with a train ride from Seattle, WA to Vancouver, B.C.  I sort of miss not doing the last segment by bicycle.  Other priorities cut out those last three days of cycling.  Still, I have done this segment of the trip a number of times using a variety of routes.  Nevertheless, the cycling touring trip covered 4,100 kilometres and the states of Montana, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, and California with the southern terminus being Santa Barbara.  The southerly cycle was by bicycle with the northern portion being a combined mobility trip of trains and cycling.  Time was a limiting factor on the northernmost section as the wonderful fall weather that I had been enjoying from the start of the trip now threatened to turn to winterly conditions, including the oncoming of fog in the morning hours as the length of daylight decreased quickly.

The next few blog articles will reflect on some observations from the trip on network and infrastructure design toolkits that affect cycling touring.

Federal Government Funding Programs for Cycling

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The trip showed the effectiveness of federal programs that mandate that a specified portion of grants for any road construction or rebuilt be spent on cycling facilities.  While the cycling facility design toolkit being used on these builds may not appeal to non-cyclists, the end product will appeal to more confident and more risk-taking people who now cycle to use arterial roads with bike lanes.

Reflections on cycling in the States, I started to expect that every hamlet, village, town, or city, no matter the population, would have bike lanes guiding me through it.  In rural roads, I expected either to see marked bike lanes or paved shoulders allowing for confortable cycling.  Definitely, the federal transportation program had a very positive effect on cycling facilities. It is amazing to think back and reflect on the limited distances that I cycled where there was not a bike lane or cycleable paved shoulders.

Chemult OR, Population 300, Hamlet, Bike lanes on the main road.

Chemult OR, Population 300, Hamlet,
Bike lanes on the main road

Moro OR, Population 370,
Bike lane on the main road.

Polson MT, Population 4,500, Town,
Bike lane and bike path within
road right-of-way through town.

Madras OR, Population 6,000, Town,
Bike lane next to car parking
lane and curb.

Bend OR, Population 78,000,
Small city, Bike lane on
restricted highway
through city.

Santa Cruz, Population 60,000,
Small city, Cycling mode share 9%,
Separated bike lane entering

Portland OR, Population 600,000,
Larger city,
Cycling mode share 6.3%,
Bike lane on an arterial street
with traffic control pavement
marking and green lane through

Fairfax CA, Bike Lane, Width measured from face of curb, Asphalt and Concrete surfaces, Separation starting at materials interface.

Being able to cycle on bike lanes was great.  The widths of the cycling facilities ranged from meagre to very comfortable.  Sometimes, the 1.5 metres bike lane widths were measured from curb faces making them uncomfortable.  Frequently, the concrete extensions were great storage places for dirt, branches, garbage, and other obstacles, making this space useless for cycling.  Frequently, the road asphalt did not extend to the curb face.  Unfortunately, having both asphalt and concrete surfaces in bike lanes also brought poor cycling conditions with safety issues as the meeting of these two materials may be unsmooth, may have difficult raised humps, or separate and ready to eat up a wheel.

Interstate Highway I-90, Washington State, Wide paved shoulder for comfortable cycling, Rumble strip separation from motorized traffic.

Interstate Highway I-90, Washington State, Wide paved shoulder for comfortable cycling, Rumble strip separation from motorized traffic.

Washington State Highway, With wide paved shoulder and rumble strip separation from motorized traffic, Comfortable cycling.

Generally, the bike lanes were designed to the second wave level with frequent, undesirable conditions at intersections where bike lanes would disappear when newer cyclists needed them the most.  So, for determinant, skilled, or risk-taking cyclists with limited fear, these second wave design bike lanes provided separation from cars and an acceptable cycling environment.  Certainly, these facilities would not draw out motorists from their cars to cycle instead.  This was evident by the number of people cycling.  Third wave cycling designs are needed to increase cycling traffic beyond the current cyclists.

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An Afterthought!  A Reminder!

Why should there be physically separated bike lanes on major highways or horizontally separated bike paths on highway right-of-ways?  Why are they needed?  Why are wide shoulders not enough?

Vancouver Island rural road – Road with white edge line; shared road use; “What is the drawing power of this street for people to cycle?”
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

Rural Highways and Roads

©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

When discussions come forth for enhancement of cycling on rural roads for people who wish to cycle rather than drive, the dialogue invariably starts with:
Should the shoulders be paved?

Then, what should be the width of paved shoulders? – Minimal 1 metre; minimum bike lane width of 1.5 metres; more comfortable bike lane width of 1.8 metres that would attract more people to cycle; bike lane width supporting social cycling with minimum of 2.2 metres but more desirably 2.5 or 3 metres; width of 2 metres plus that would negate the wind effect on cyclists of trucks or buses passing at high highway speeds; width that would allow for cyclists’ avoidance of road dirt on shoulders caused by passing trucks, snow clearance, etc.

Should the road shoulders just be marked for cycling on the pavement or signed as a bike lane or both?  Should there just be paved shoulders with no cognitive demonstration to motorists that cyclists may be present?

Washington State Highway #90 –  Bikeway Signage; Path along the highway
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

Should there be physical separation between fast-moving cars, trucks, buses and slower moving cyclists?  Then from there, the dialogue turns to what type of separation:

Province of Quebec, – Painted lines separating the two-way bike lanes from traffic
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

Calgary, AB, – Buffered painted liens separating two-way bike lanes from traffic
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

Should the separation simply be painting providing a virtual buffer that can be transgressed by motor vehicles poorly driven and drifting into the cycling space or used by motorists for temporary stopping or parking?

Should there be physical separation or barrier between cyclists and the rest of the road pavement users?

Should there be physical separation instead with bike paths within the road right-of-way removed from the general traffic lanes?

Should physical separation provide one-direction cycling on each side of roads or two-way cycling on one side of roads?

Instead, should there be a bike trails on their own separate right-of-ways, removed from any roads?

Urban Arterial and Other Roads

Similar discussions seem to come up for city roads, including:

Should the roadway be a shared facility with sharrow markings?

Is it enough just to put up bikeway signs on arterial, collector, and neighbourhood streets?  Sign it and people will be drawn to cycling being the operative strategy or belief.

Considerations for Rural Highways and Roads

Banff National Park of Canada; Banff Legacy Trail; From Canmore to Banff – Choice – cycle on paved, wide shoulders of the Trans-Canada Highway #1 or cycle on this bike path along the highway.
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

In the discussion, there is something important missing.  What seems to be missing is a dialogue on factors that affect design that would increase cycling traffic and encourage people to leave their cars at home and do trips by cycling instead.

What seems to be missing is the dialogue on what will attract non-cyclists to move towards cycling.  What seems to be missing is translating factors that hold back people from cycling into cycling infrastructure design and network design.

Designing Infrastructure for People

Penchant for Cycling Model – Personal influences that affect the decision to cycle.
©H-JEH Becker, 2012

Personal confidence, personal propensity for risk-taking, personal considerations, personal convenience, degree of cycling skills, navigational skills, perceived cycling friendliness of roads, mechanical skills for maintaining or repairing bicycles, trip considerations, topography and environment considerations that limit attracting people to cycling are some of the factors that need to be overcome, which affect infrastructure and network designs.  Targeting a portion of drivers for potentially inducing them to cycling instead may be more fruitful rather than designing for current cyclists if the objective is to get cycling traffic activity to grow substantially.  For designing, the Maslow model of Hierarchy of Needs may be useful to keep in mind.

Maslow’s model of personal Hierarchy of Needs – A theory of self-actualization; the bottom layer of needs must be satisfied before other needs are addressed.
Model courtesy of Abraham Maslow

Influences on Cycling Infrastructure Design

Nothing fazes people more than the thought of being stranded on a highway many kilometres from civilization.  Not all people carry cell phones to call for assistance.

Trans-Canada Highway #1, Calgary to the Rockies – Rethreaded tire chunks and steel wire pieces, gravel, stones, debris, and other litter fallen off cars, trailers, and trucks on paved shoulders
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

Clumps of truck tire pieces straddling road shoulders are a prime cause for cyclists being stranded, as steel pieces separating from these rethreaded tires pieces litter road shoulders.  Then, cyclists face the task of repairing a tire.  Sometimes the weather is not too kind with wind, rain, cold, or darkness posing an uncomfortable environment for the task.  Some people are not inclined to repair flats; so potential for flats is enough discouragement for cycling.

Law banning rethread tires and very frequent (weekly, at least) shoulder sweeping would reduce the probability of such flats.  Now, will this really happen in the political environment that is with us.

Trans-Canada Highway #1. Calgary to the Rockies – Wide paved shoulders.
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

Wide paved shoulders of 3 metres plus, lower highway speed and its observation may offset some risk as the distance that trucks hurl discarded tire pieces is dependent on vehicle speed.  Rethreaded tire garbage tends to litter highway shoulders primarily within 1.5 to 2 metres from outside lane lines.

More realistically, physical separation of cyclists and drivers is a real solution that would attract more people to cycle.  Such separation needs to be accompanied with impermeable physical barriers if cycling is right adjacent to traffic lanes or with vertical separation by distance that bike paths on road right-of-way provide.  Of course with the absence of truck traffic, bike trails eliminates the potential of flats from rethreaded tire pieces.

Rethread tires pose another danger to cyclists.  With speeds of 100 km or more being frequently undertaken by drivers, the lateral discarding of rethreaded tire pieces causes a missile effect as the pieces are dispatched to road shoulders.  Would one want to be in the way of a 100 km baseball pitch or a rethreaded tire piece?  It is bad enough to be unfortunately in the way of a rock being projected by a car, which just happened to cleanly shear off a bicycle tire stem during a steep climb.  The potential danger to cyclists during the act of a truck tire casting off a rethreaded piece is real.  Fortunately, the probability is low.  Of course, if you are unfortunate to be in the way, statistics become meaningless.  Potential cyclists seeing the highways littered with rethreaded tire and other garbage cast off by trucks, cars, and snow clearing activities is enough for some to consider cycling on these types of roads as not the thing to do.

Wind Effect on Cyclists

Highway 1A, Canmore AB – Truck traffic; wind generators; cross-winds; effect on cyclists
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

A blast of wind from a high-speed truck or bus passing by is enough to unsettle many cyclists and a discouragement for the less risk-takers to cycle on fast speed roads.  Strong cross winds can increase the intensity of the wind’s slipstream unnerving the less confident cyclists.  Sometimes, one needs to cycle towards passing vehicle to stay on the road, during very strong winds.  Otherwise, the verges will great you.  The wind envelope from large vehicles, such as trucks and buses, has been well documented but not considered in designing for cycling along high-speed roads.

Air Pollution Envelope

Trans-Canada Highway #1. Calgary to the Rockies – Wide paved shoulders; cars, buses, and trucks emitting air pollution. ©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

Some research has been done on the effect of poor quality air or emissions emanating from motorized vehicles on cyclists adjacent to these pollution producers.  Results has shown that cyclists are polluted less if removed from a car by a metre and more so, if farther away.  One study focused on relationship of air pollution on neighbouring streets to arterial streets and found that the pollution is less.  So, it seems that the amount of pollution present that was emitted from cars, trucks, buses, and other motorized vehicles is dependent on distance and decreases as the distance increases.  More research is required to fully understand the linearity relationship of distance and the amount of pollution absorbed, the pollution bubble.

The research supports the use of bike paths on road right-of-ways and off-road bike trails for decreasing the effect of pollution on cyclists.

Noise Pollution

In 2006, I came to realize the effect of highway noise on people.  Until then, I just saw it as undesirable noise and put it aside.  On a trip from Vancouver, B.C. to Chicago, IL, I saw the impact that noise can have on a cyclist as I watched my cycling colleague suffer with each passing truck and cars.  Noise emitted from cars, tracks, and buses has an envelope and dissipates with distance.  That noise envelope is not well understood.  There is need for clear documentation of the model. The model needs implementation with any work done on any road or any bike paths being built.  The effect of noise on people needs to be eliminated or much reduced for cycling infrastructure.  Proper application of the noise envelope will have direct impact on cycling traffic volumes.

Moving towards Wide Shoulders and Preferably to Bike Paths or Bike Trails

Interstate Highway 90 Bikeway; Spokane WA to Coeur d’Alene ID – bike path paralleling the highway; concrete barrier separation with fence.
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

Interstate Highway 90 Bikeway; Spokane WA to Coeur d’Alene ID – Bike path paralleling the highway
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

Coeur d’Alene Trail; Plummer to Mullan, ID – A bike trial far removed from roads. ©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

For highways, there are good arguments that cycling will be encouraged if wide shoulders, bike paths, or bike trails within 500 metres of the traffic lanes are provided.  Wide shoulders will only entice a smaller number of potential cyclists.    The number will grow as bike paths on road right-of-ways are provided and even more when bike trails are provided within the cycling catchment area of roads or about 500 metres.  Road garbage, wind effect, air and noise pollution will have been reduced or eliminated.  There are other justifications for physical separation and the wider separation the better.  Some of these are economic and others are local retail business contributors.

Of course, only paved paths should be considered.  Research has shown that gravel paths require 30% more energy than paved paths.  30% more energy is sufficient to dissuade many not to cycle or cut daily distances down where touring does not become feasible.

Use of Bike Paths and Bike Trails during Snow Periods

Two-way bike paths and bike trails open up the potential for increased business along the cycling facilities and their destinations during low cycling periods when the paths and trails would be covered by snow.  Snowshoeing and Nordic skiing become a use of these facilities, a tourist attraction, and reason for coming to the area.  For more remote cycling infrastructures, considerations should be given towards drawing in local economic benefits that snowmobilers bring.  Defiantly, ATV’s should not be allowed on these facilities considering their demonstrated history of destructiveness to trails.

An Afterthought, A Reminder

Trans-Canada Highway #1. Calgary to the Rockies – A parallel bike path; wide paved shoulders; cars, choice where to cycle. ©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

The Banff Legacy Trail is a fine example that separation increases cycling traffic.  After all, there are excellent wide shoulders on the Trans-Canada Highway where we used to cycle on in less cycling numbers than we experience on the new trail now.

Read the blog from the beginning:

The Banff Legacy Trail, Banff National Park of Canada, Province of Alberta

 Links – Banff Legacy Trail



http://actionplan.gc.ca/initiatives/eng/index.asp?mode=8&imode=7&initiativeid=129&id=4836 ) (parallels the Trans Canada Highway (Why #1) through the Banff National Park  (http://www.pc.gc.ca/pn-np/ab/banff/index.aspx)


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Banff Legacy Trail – Part 4


© H-JEH (Jack) Becker, Third Wave Cycling Group Inc. 2007-2012, Velo.Urbanism, cycling planning, policy, and social marketing consultant, 20 year advocate for balanced transportation modes within cities focusing on cycling and transit.

The comments in this article come from a touring and commuter cyclist where the bicycle and combined mobility with cycling are the first choices of transportation.  The comments reflect the experience and observations gained while cyclotouring where now the 100,000 kilometres mark is being approached on trips 4 days and longer up to 11 months.  In addition, many thousands of kilometres have been cycled on weekend exploring trips and on day tripping.  These trips may be done solely by cycling or combined with other modes of travel including air, trains, buses, ferries, and on some occasions, including cars. 

As this blog is being posted, the writer is on a two and a half month cyclotouring trip.  A couple of days ago, a 2,025 metres high mountain pass was traversed, a personal high, followed by a modest 1,225 metres pass today with a 1,400 metres pass coming up in two days.

This year, the 21-year-old Miyata 1000 touring bicycle was retired for one with disk brakes for cycling through mountain ranges, a Salsa Fargo 2 bicycle.  A Dahon touring folding bicycle is usually used when planes, trains, buses, and ferries or European hotel elevators are involved on trips.


Some Thoughts on the Design of the Banff Legacy Trail


Arriving in Canmore by bus with bicycle.©Photograph by H-JEH Becker
As mentioned in an earlier blog, this bike path is excellent in drawing people to come and cycle in the wilderness.  The path alignment and design is attracting cyclists who used to cycle on the paved shoulders of the highway.  The path also draws tourist staying at Canmore or Banff to rent bicycles and use the trail.  The path also draws families from Southern Alberta to spend a day cycling here.

Even good bicycle paths can attract comments and suggestions for improvements and so here are mine.


1 – Wayfinding


Connecting to Trail

Banff trailhead at the town bus loop.
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker

On trips, cyclists want to know where they are, where they should go next, and how afar they need to go.   To break the routine of long trips, information on highlights along the route and on the lands being traversed is always welcome.


Connecting to the Trail – Canmore

On approaching Canmore either from Trans-Canada Highway #1 or from my preferred approach on Highway #1 A, finding the Banff Legacy Trail is not very evident.  Canmore has two off-road bike routes of which neither is identified on the approaching highways.  On these routes, there are no signs to connect to the Legacy Trail.  There are no maps signs to provide direction.  There is no signage such as those that we are used to in Europe.  There is no cycling by numbers or knooppuntroutes (node points) to lead you to the trail.

So, finding the Canmore bike routes is a matter of searching or good judgment.  One bike path parallels the highway while the bike trail is adjacent to the railway track in town.  How to find them?  Canmore can do much to improve wayfinding.


Connecting to the Trail – Harvey Heights

Southbound off ramp from the Trans-Canda Highway with provision for contra-flow cycling to the Banff Legacy Trail. No signage or map advising cyclists to use ramp to connect to trail. Which side to ramp to use – Stay left of yellow line?
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker


Southbound off ramp from the Trans-Canda Highway with provision for contra-flow cycling to the Banff Legacy Trail. No signage or map advising cyclists to use ramp to connect to trail. Which side to ramp to use – Stay left of white edge line?
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker




Coming to the northern end of a bike path along the Harvey Heights and Highway #1 roads, you are left with choice and no help.  There are no maps to direct you to the Banff Legacy Trail.  There are no signs.  So, proceed onto Highway #1 northbound, proceed to the park gates, and then cross over the many traffic lanes to reach the trail?  So instead, cycle contra-flow on the southbound off-ramp leading to the Harvey Heights Road.  Who would do that?  Well, the people who have found direction in other places and are aware that this is the way to go.  The ramp has a white line on the right side and a yellow line on the other side.  So, which side to take?  Which side should one cycle in the contra-flow direction?

Then as the ramp approaches the highway, there are no signs indicating that there is two-way cycling on the shoulder for either the cyclists or the motorists.

Contra-flow cycling on the Trans-Canada Highway with no awareness signs for motorists or cyclists.©Photograph by H-JEH Becker

Contra-flow cycling on the southbound Trans-Canada Highway lanes connecting to the Banff Legacy Trail. No awareness signage advising cyclists and motorists of the contra-flow cycling.
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker







Then there is the entrance to the Legacy Trail.  Where is the signage to indicate to cyclists to descend down the small drop to the left and then turn right onto the trail?

There is a fantastic opportunity to simplify finding the trail and make infrequent and other cyclists more comfortable and secure on finding their way.


On the Way – Lake Minnewanka


A few kilometres from Banff there is a cutoff to Lake Minnewanka.  Wayfinding would be very beneficial at this junction for highlighting cycling options the roads to Lake Minnewanka and Two Jacks Lake provide.  For information and for generating more cycling interest and traffic, wayfinding signage would be a good addition to the trail.

The Lake Minnewanka area provides plenty of choice for cyclists from just cycling the road to wandering down one of the trails, to taking a tourist boat on the long lake, to camping on one of the many sites, to enjoy watching wildlife grazing on the roadside or walking on the trails.

Connecting to the Trail – Banff


Arriving at Banff, the trail map indicates a route through the town and then connecting to the Bow Valley Parkway.  None of this is evident at the trailhead or on the roads identified on the map.  Wayfinding, map signs, bike route signs, and street marking (bike lanes, sharrows, white edge lines) would provide clear direction for cyclists and, at the same time, highlight to motorists of the presence of cyclists on the roads.

Wayfinding and signage should ensure that cyclists knows where cyclists are geographically at any time, that cyclists are heading in their desired directions, that cyclists are aware of any conditions ahead that requires special attention, and that cyclists becomes aware of any special interest along routes.  Cyclists should never be confused, hesitate, or uncertain as to where one should be cycling.  Road signs should provide destination, direction, distance, travel time, information, and warnings in a timely manner.

Wayfinding should be focused on potential cyclists especially those with high desire for risk aversion and limited propensity for cycling.  Wayfinding should appeal and be understandable to young children.  Wayfinding should also be supportive of seniors cycling, especially readable by senior cyclists with reducing eyesight.  Wayfinding should be readable far enough away to make a decision and take corrective action.  Wayfinding should be supportive of a country changing in cultural background with a large new landed immigrant status. Wayfinding should pass the test of supporting a significant growth in cycling traffic.

A comprehensive set of road signage should heighten cyclists’ comfort on the road and encourage people to cycle as a means of transportation.   Besides supporting growth of cycling, local businesses along a trail, their towns and their inhabitants will also benefit.


2 – Trail Alignment

Images – Topography and Terrain Alignment

On the way to Banff
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker

Water tower at an electric power dam in the distance.
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker

©Photograph by H-JEH Becker

©Photograph by H-JEH Becker










It is all about aligning a trail to maximize the attraction to cyclists, including those who cycle today and those who can be induced to cycle, thus maximize the cycling traffic volumes.  The market for this trail includes Banff to Canmore commuters, visitors to the park, and day-trippers from Calgary and other municipalities within a day driving distance.

The Legacy Trail seems to be laid out sensitive to the topography and the terrain adjacent to the highway.  Unlike the roadway where the terrain was changed to accommodate the highway, the trail is ribboned up and down the terrain, in between and round trees, and squeezed in between adjacent rivers and the road.

From a cyclotouring perspective, the trail alignment provides a variety of experiences, including trains passing by.

The trail alignment results in a variety of separations with distances from as little as a half metre to a distance where car traffic becomes a hum.  Forms of separation come from simple techniques such as gravel or grass, vertical elevation, and physical barriers, such as concrete barriers.  Over bridges, wind protection for cyclists is provided by high barriers.

Images – Separation – horizontal, vertical, physical, virtual, distance from traffic lanes.

Metre separation
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker

Bridge providing wind break for cyclists.
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker

Trail wanders into a bush. Vertical and horizontal separation
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker

Two metres plus physical separation with concrete barriers.
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker

Narrow separation with physical barriers.
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker

A metre separation with a physical barrier.
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker

Physical separation.
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker

A wider separation – horizontal and vertical, diminishing the effects of air and noise pollution and wind effect from fast travelling trucks and buses. ©Photograph by H-JEH Becker
















Of course, the forms of separation along the Banff Legacy Trail have appeal to potential users of this trail.  Observing cycling traffic, it is very apparent that parents are quite willing to let young children, some just able to be on bicycles or tricycles, cycle freely in front of them.

Trail design should focus on the impact that the trail will have in encouraging people to cycle between destination rather than driving, especially in parks designed to keep the lands natural.

Alignment of trails need to consider air and noise pollution on cyclists, as well as, the effect of winds and drafts from vehicles on keeping cyclists comfortable and secure.  More later on this.


3 – Trail Amenities – CycloTourists Convenience – facilities

Time for a convenience stop.
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker

Time to relax and enjoy the mountains.
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker

The trail has a convenience stop approximately near the middle, which is much appreciated.  What about at each end?  Designing a trail for seniors should consider facilities about every half hour of cycling especially for the first hour and a half into a trip.


4 – Trail Traffic Capacity – width


©Photograph by H-JEH Becker

©Photograph by H-JEH Becker

Designing roads for cars and trucks, future volume projections are taken into consideration.  The same methodology does not seem to be used by professionals when designing cycling facilities.  Even the width of this facility is not sufficient and running out of capacity after a year of operation, considering the needs of the cyclists using the trail and people walking.


5 – Trail Grade


The thrill of a fast descent. What about icy days?
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker

Maybe a bridge bypass would attract the risk averts.
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker

For some, cycling up the steep incline is good exercise. For others, pushing a bike up is more the likely case. What about the young children on bicycles? What about parents pulling children trailers? An alternative on the embankment at a moderate grade would be appealing to many.
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker

Cyclists are sensitive to road grade, especially parts of the market made up of infrequent or potentially new cyclists and tourists wanting a local experience.  Considering their body conditioning for cycling and hill climbing, this cycling market place is sensitive to the amount of energy required to cycle trails.  Both grade and pavement of a trail become important considerations. Experience with cycling growth in the Netherlands and the appeal of the Le Petit Train du Nord trail in Quebec would indicate the attractiveness of low grades peaking at 3% or 4%.

Considering that this trail is intended to appeal to families with small children, park users, and tourists, it is quite difficult to understand the trail alignment just after the Banff Park Gate at the Canmore end.  Suddenly, the trail does an s-curve as it climbs at a 12% grade.  Who expects children and infrequent cyclists to make this climb when more seasoned and conditioned cyclists get off their bikes and walk the last few metres?

Instead, the trail should have been aliened at a 3% or 4% grade along the road embankment.  Leave the steep climb alignment for those who want that type of experience and have a moderate graded trail option for 6-year-old children on bicycles or for parents pulling their children in trailers.

Trail Surfacing

This trail is surfaced by asphalt extending the season that the trail can be used.  Water on gravel trails, both from rain and winter precipitation, will encourage people to stay on the neighbouring highway shoulders and discourage people who cycle less frequently from using the trail.


6 – Pollution Abatement for Cyclists


Lessening the impact of motor vehicle pollution on cyclists – separation.
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker

©Photograph by H-JEH Becker

©Photograph by H-JEH Becker

©Photograph by H-JEH Becker




Pollution Envelope – Car and Truck Emissions – Air and Greenhouse Gases


Cars and trucks pollution emissions dissipate with distance.  In essence, there is a pollution envelope around these vehicles.  The farther that cyclists are removed from the source of pollution, the less impact on them.  Studies have been done to start defining these envelopes.  More studies are needed before the envelopes are well enough defined for designing the alignment of cycling facilities, which minimize impact on cyclists.  From the research that has been done, we know that bike paths two metres away from traffic lanes is better than one metre.  Three and more metres are of course better than one or two.


Noise Pollution Effect on Cyclists’


On a trip from Vancouver to Chicago with a colleague I became aware of the severe impact that noise pollution can have on people.  Apparently, as one ages the effect becomes greater.  While the noise pollution envelope is not well defined for alignment of cycling facilities, the greater the distance between traffic lanes and cyclists, the more appeal the facilities will have to draw cyclists.


Wind Effect


Getting caught in the draft of a fast moving truck or bus can be unnerving for less experienced cyclists and even the more risk-taking.  Nothing like having to steer a bicycle into the direction of buses or trucks to compensate for draft after these vehicles pass and strong crosswinds takes hold of cyclists going down a steep grade at fast speed or cycling on more level terrain.  Quite a distractor for the uncommitted cyclists.

Wind effects of moving vehicles including buses and large trucks has been researched and documented.  Location of cycling facilities, such as this trail, need to consider the wind envelopes under different wind situations, including crosswinds.  For simple winds, a minimum separation of two metres should be provided.  For crosswinds the separation should increase or double, at least.


7 – Electrical Gates


©Photograph by H-JEH Becker

Keeping wildlife off the highway has been a preoccupation of this park for the last decade or two while still facilitating migration from one side of the highway to the other.  So, with this trail Canada Parks had to come up with a scheme to keep wildlife off the trail while still allowing easy passage of cyclists and walkers.  For this purpose, electrical gates were installed at two locations.  Walkers’ passage is through gates that they open manually.  Cyclists are greeted with signs indicating that they should not stop on electrical pads lying on the asphalt surface at gates that are kept open for their passage.  The system seems to work well as cyclists just need to slow down through the gates.

At the Lake Minnewanka cutoff, the locations of the gates are in a dip that affects two-way flow.  Gates at the top of the dip would have been more efficient from a cycling perspective.  The rational for their current location is not known.



The Banff Legacy Trail – Part 5, “An Afterthought” National Park of Canada, Province of Alberta


This blog will be presented in five parts and released a week apart starting with 2012-08-09. 

The next blog will give an afterthought on the attraction of bike paths (on rural highways) and on bike trails, rather than bike lanes or wide shoulders for cycling on highways.

https://thirdwavecyclingblog.wordpress.com/2012/08/08/ banff-legacy-trail-t…y-trail-part-5


Read the blog from the beginning:


The Banff Legacy Trail, Banff National Park of Canada, Province of Alberta



Links – Banff Legacy Trail




http://actionplan.gc.ca/initiatives/eng/index.asp?mode=8&imode=7&initiativeid=129&id=4836 (parallels the Trans Canada Highway #1 through the Banff National Park)  http://www.pc.gc.ca/pn-np/ab/banff/index.aspx


Other Links


Knooppuntroutes – http://www.cycletourer.co.uk/cycletouring/holland.shtml

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Photo by HJEH Becker June 2010.

Growth of cycling could see a real spike when people can effortlessly get out of their urban environment and into the countryside to do their recreational cycling.  A European-style train system composed of suburban, regional, and fast trains provides a real boost for cycling with readily-accessible escape opportunities to the country.  Beneficiaries would be the local retail economy of small cities and towns along rail routes.

One of my morning activities includes planning my day ride(s).  I want to get in about 40 kms. of cycling for exercise and also do my daily shopping along the way.  In addition, meetings and business engagements are planned into the daily cycle.

Hamburg train station, Germany June 2010. Photo by HJEH Becker

Hamburg train station, Germany June 2010. Photo by HJEH Becker. Station serves suburban to high speed trains.

 Just back in Vancouver from over a month in Europe, my daily cycle felt different.  It is urban-based again.  As I was cycling along, my mind drifted on how my habits would be different if I lived in Europe again, a place where suburban, regional, inter-city, and high speed trains are just like using a streetcar.  The drawback to cycling in North American cities is that trips tend to be cycled out and then cycled back to the starting point which means one does not normally leave the urban environment when one wants to cycle 60 or 100 kilometres on a day.

Germany's train system, Deutsch Bahn offers a rail bike storage car. June 2010. Photo by HJEH Becker

Germany's train system, Deutsch Bahn offers a rail bike storage car for many of its scheduled trains. June 2010. Photo by HJEH Becker

 In Europe, with a mature network of electrified regional and inter-city trains and hourly service at a minimum, a cyclist can select their distance for any day, look at the network of villages, towns, and cities served, and pick a destination to cycle there.  The return can be by train using bike-friendly train cars.  In fact, one can decide to take a train for an hour or two, then continue on by cycling .  For us, being in Europe meant that we could cycle the 100 km from Freiburg, Germany to Basel in Switzerland and then take a train back.  No doubling back on the route which we tend do back in Vancouver, when we cycle out to the Golden Ears Bridge –a 100 km. round trip cycle for us.

The region and the countryside is opened up to cyclists. They can conveniently cycle in rural landscape and then return home without the tediousness of seeing the landscape all over again while cycling on the way back.

Bike parking for restaurant patrons by Rhine River, Germany. Less than 5 kms. from Basel, Switzerland June 2010. Photo by HJEH Becker

Bike parking for restaurant patrons by Rhine River, Germany. Less than 5 kms. from Basel, Switzerland June 2010. France was just across the river. Photo by HJEH Becker. This was a busy place.

One might ask:  So what?  Why should the public care if cyclists can conveniently and frequently interlink with rail?  It is all about local retail economy and retail health in smaller cities, towns, and villages.  Trips of 50 to over 100 kilometres a day, tend to result in cyclists visiting local establishments 

Cyclists enjoying lunch. Summerhill Winery, Kelowna. Okanagan Valley, British Columbia 2008. Photo by J. Chong

Cyclists enjoying lunch. Summerhill Winery, Kelowna. Okanagan Valley, British Columbia 2008. Photo by J. Chong

 and leaving some money behind.  With an average spending in the $10 range per cyclist, the local effect builds up as the cycling trip volumes grow.  On top of that, the rail provider also sees its revenue grow, especially on off-business, quieter traffic volume days from its equipment utilization perspective.

If the same rail capability were available in Vancouver, I could cycle out to Mission, Chilliwack, or Hope and then catch a train home on the same day.  No boxing of bicycles for the trip if the train’s bike cars also have bike racks.  Just an easy roll on and off the train car.

Okanagan Valley, BC. One of the few wine-producing regions in Canada. Photo by J. Chong

  I could also take a train out to the same locations and then do rides out from there.  From Hope, I could cycle out into the Fraser Canyon and return in the same day.  With a fast train, a day trip in the Okanagan Valley would be feasible along with a meal at a vineyard, some wine tasting and shopping.

Right now, I am starting to plan my next trip to the East Coast.  I will not fly.  Instead I will be making use of trains and cycling.  Options are being considered.  First a three day cycle trip to the first station.  Cities along the train route are being considered for stopovers to try out their local cycling infrastructure.  Later on, cycling trips of 2 to 7 days are being considered for segments on the trip.  All doable since it is easy take a bike on the train.  Options are limited since there are only a handful of routes

Quail's Gate Winery. West Kelowna.  Okanagan Valley, BC. Photo by J. Chong

Quail's Gate Winery. West Kelowna. Okanagan Valley, BC. Photo by J. Chong

 to select.  Bike boxes are unfortunately needed but on stop-overs, train stations will keep your box for several days.  For local retail and hospitality businesses, monies being spent at local establishments that would not happen if I would fly instead.

In the Province of British Columbia, the British Columbia Cycling Coalition has been promoting a cycling touring network throughout the province, named the Soaring Eagle Cycling Routes.  If this network were built and if a network of efficient, fast, frequent passenger rail system were implemented for movement of people as an option to car travel, then local economies in small cities and towns would see a real boost.


Jack is a touring cyclist who has logged well over 80,000 kilometres on trips ranging from four days and up to ten and a half months in three continents.  In addition, he has logged thousands of kilometres on two and three day trips.    He has also spent much time in researching the economics of cycle touring; studying networks and facilities; and the needs of touring cyclists.  He is also a lead promoter of the Soaring Eagle Cycling Routes concept for the province. 

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