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©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2013As cycling advocates we spend significant time for the purpose of realizing significant growth of cycling traffic in our cities, provinces, and country.  As advocates, significant growth will only come from focusing on enticing car drivers to give cycling a chance as an alternate transportation mode or in combination with transit or car trips.  We can see the success of many cities in gaining significant cycling traffic growth within a short time frame from a couple of years to five years.  Usually this was achieved through upgrading the cycling networks, upgrading the cycling infrastructure design toolkits, or through marketing.  Usually Copenhagen is used as an example, a city that has achieved a 4% growth within two years.  More…..

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CycloTouring in California

 

For promoting cycling touring, information on closed sections of interstate and state highways needs to be easily accessible on the Internet.  Adventure Cycling maps do provide routes through the state and are useful, if you are going in the direction set out and if you have the time and energy for the defined routes.

CycloTouring in California, at this time, tends to be more for long distance cyclists who are either confident in cycling in fast moving traffic, are competent cyclists, or lean towards risk-taking. Cycling of families with children, as is frequently seen in Europe, would, most likely, be more restricted to some regions in the state that have good cycling infrastructure and multi-kilometres of bike trails. CycloTouring as a combined mobility trip with the Californian and Amtrak train systems is simple and provides opportunities for regional touring. Just take a train to a designation and start the trip from there and then take the train back. Train one way and return by cycling provides another opportunity to extend the trip in different parts of the state. With the trains providing bike space without the need for boxing bikes expands the opportunities for cyclotouring. The only exception is Amtrak’s Coastal Starlight train, which still requires boxing of bicycles. Hope this changes in the near future. How Amtrak’s bus system fits into this type of touring is uncertain to me as I have received different information when the question was asked. Also, it seems uncertain if a bike would be taken when you show up for a bus. Would suggest that bike racks on front and on the back of these buses, i.e. the Swiss method, would increase cyclotourists using these buses. (Combined mobility cyclotouring trips will be the subject of a future blog article)

Realistically, the only provincial / state entity in North America that has comparable European style cyclotouring capacity, which appeals to families and children is the Province of Quebec with its famous La Route Verté network and the province’s capacity for combined mobility with the intercity transportation providers (trains, buses).

California is a frustrating state to cycle in.  Actually, there was enough frustration during the trip where I did not want to cycle to another city and just wanted to get out of the state.  Discouraging was the number of occurrences where interstate and other highways were closed to cyclists along my desired route path.   This did not happen in other western states.

Yes, one could go way out of the desired direction to find highways to cycle on.  Many times these highway routings were not direct to the desired target city for that night.  It would have taken much longer to reach my final destination this way.

Replacing maps with GPS-based cycling computer.
Garmin Edge 800
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

Trip planning for the next day, setting up the day course on my Garmin BaseCamp computer mapping software, and then downloading the information onto the Garmin 800 GPS took much longer than it did in other states.  Sometimes it took an extra hour.

The lack of readily availability of information on which section of interstate and state highways were closed to cyclists caused trip planning to be time consuming.

 

The dreaded sign on interstate and state highways. Time to get off. The highway not designed for cycling as a mode of transportation.
Redding CA.
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

On one day, an unexpected cycling prohibited sign on a state highway forced rerouting and change of destination for the night half way through that day’s trip when uncancellable motel reservations were already made in another city 30 kilometres farther away.  This happened on a Saturday of a busy weekend, which drew many tourists to this area.  Hotels and motels were filled up.  Finally, an accommodation was found late in the day at the edge of that city.  As it turned out, it was the last room available in the motel.  A bit of luck, at least.

 

There was no advance warning signs that this would occur.  There were no cycling bypass route or signs.  The only alternative was to cycle 20 kilometres north and then another 20 kilometres west to meet up with a highway that would take me to my intended destination.  Now, the question became “Is the highway to the motel open for cycling?”  Not wanting to take that risk, the decision was to stay in the city with the prohibition sign and do a major reroute of the trip bypassing some places that I really wanted to cycle through.

A few days later I was cycling on a state highway when that highway split into two highways.  There was one of those cycling prohibited signs for the highway that I wanted to take.  Joyfully, I noticed a bike route sign leading to the other highway.  So I took it expecting that at some point I wild be directed back to the highway that I wanted to take.  After an hour of cycling I realized that would not happen.  Fortunately, a person at a service station could direct me back to the highway that I wanted to be on by using some local roads.  Confidence was now lost that I could depend on highways to be open for cycling along my intended route.

So, this is cycling in California!

 
 

Trip Planning, Finding Information on Highway Cycling

 

The Internet was a frustrating place to find the needed information.  Maps to identify open roads for cycling did not seem to exist.  There was conflicting and sometimes incorrect information on blogs.

CDOT District 2 Cycling Guide providing information on interstate and state highways open and closed to cyclists.
State of California

There was an exception and that was District 2 of the Californian Department of Transportation, a northern district. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

This district had produced a very effective and informative document for cycling there (http://www.dot.ca.gov/dist2/pdf/bikeguide.pdf).  Open and closed highways to cyclists were identified on maps.  For closed sections, alternate routings were mapped out.  Other useful information was provided.   Internet search did not reveal the existence of such a document for the other districts in California.  It certainly is needed.

 

Bike Routes Parallel to Highways.

 

Sometimes by chance, parallel bike trails were come upon through Internet searches, by chance, or avoiding restricted sections of highways.   Some of these trails were well marked with direction and destination signs.  Others were not.  Sometimes these routes used local and rural roads.  Some sections would have bike lanes and paved cycleable shoulders.  Some of the roads were shared roads, usually with a low amount of motorized traffic.  For the most part, bike lanes or cycleable paved shoulders were available on these roads.

Pacific Coast Bike Trail between Santa Cruz and Monterey CA. The well signed trail travels along county roads with sections of bike lanes, paved cycleable shoulders, and trails.
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

Pacific Coast Bike Trail between Santa Cruz and Monterey CA. The well signed trail travels along county roads with sections of bike lanes, paved cycleable shoulders, and trails.
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Bike paths next to a highway were frequently encountered as an entry to cities, while some started before city limits, up to 20 and 30 kilometres.  Some examples included Monterey with a path starting 30 kilometres before the city limit and Santa Cruz with a bike path starting at city limit.

As some municipalities are approached, the adventure of entering is much more comfortable as bike trails branch of state highways. For some municipalities, the experience of leaving is also enhanced with bike trails.
Entering Santa Barbara CA.
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

As some municipalities are approached, the adventure of entering is much more comfortable as bike trails branch of state highways. For some municipalities, the experience of leaving is also enhanced with bike trails.
Entering Santa Maria CA.
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

As some municipalities are approached, the adventure of entering is much more comfortable as bike trails branch of state highways. For some municipalities, the experience of leaving is also enhanced with bike trails.
Entering Monterey CA.
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

As some municipalities are approached, the adventure of entering is much more comfortable as bike trails branch of state highways. For some municipalities, the experience of leaving is also enhanced with bike trails.
Entering Monterey CA.
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

As some municipalities are approached, the adventure of entering is much more comfortable with bike trails branching off state highways. For some municipalities, the experience of leaving is also enhanced with bike trails.
Leaving Fairfield CA.
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Cycling Facilities in Urban and Rural Environment

 

As mentioned in a previous blog, the positive effects can be continuously seen while cycling in California of federal road programs which requires cycling facilities as part of the funding for new and rebuilt roads.  One continuously comes on these facilities in municipalities from the smallest to larger cities as well as on rural roads from county roads to state highways.  It is rare to cycle in any municipality that is without any bike lanes or trails.

Rural California, cycling made more pleasant with bike lanes or cycle able paved shoulders.
Half Moon Bay CA.
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

Rural California, cycling made more pleasant with bike lanes or cycle able paved shoulders.
Corning CA.
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Cities with a Network of Cycling Facilities

 

Cycling cities. Separated bike lanes in downtown waterfront area supporting retail.
San Francisco CA.
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

When discussion turns to cycling cities in the US, normally Portland, as a US large cycling city leader, Seattle (3.5%), and San Francisco (3.5%) as an upcoming cycling city, are mentioned.  Sometimes the City of Davis is mentioned with its 22% cycling mode share. There the discussion tends to end.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

On this trip there were other medium size cities that should be recognized for their work towards building of a cycling network and for developing a sizeable cycling mode share. Municipalities passed through that have made an effort towards providing cycling facilities include Fairfield (0.2%), Vallejo (0.2%), Monterey, Avila Beach, and Santa Maria (0.5%).

Special mention goes to the efforts put out by the following cities: Santa Cruz (cycling mode share 9%, many innovative cycling features), San Luis Obispo (7%), and Santa Barbara (6.4%).

Cycling cities. Separated bike lanes making the commute more pleasant.
Santa Cruz CA.
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

Cycling cities. Downtown bike parking on streets. Cyclists are good customers for retailers.
Santa Cruz CA.
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

Cycling cities. Mass bicycle parking contributing to attainability of higher education. An indicator of the attraction of cycling for transportation when the environment is supportive.
Santa Barbara CA.
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

Cycling cities. Cyclists are good customers for retailers.
San Luis Obispo CA.
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

Cycling cities. Cyclists are good customers for retailers.
San Luis Obispo CA.
©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2012

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Source of cycling mode share to work: League of American Cyclists, 2010 data on bicycle commute mode share (based on the US Census American Community Survey with data on 375 cities over 60,000 population).

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Hotel view of a interesection for a 10 lane road bisecting a 6-lane road  to watch traffic ballet. Changzhi, China Oct. 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

Hotel view of an interesection for 10 lane road bisecting a 6-lane road to watch traffic ballet. Changzhi, China Oct. 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

 Arriving late at night at a five-star hotel, my  first impressions were the number of smiling hotel staff  that looked after the guests :  from pushing the elevator buttons to cleaning the buttons after each use.  It seemed that there was more staff than guests.  Staff were very polite, smiling, and provided excellent service.

Cyclists navigate their way on same wide road among trucks, cars and motorcycles. Changzhi, China Oct. 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

Cyclists navigate their way on same wide road among trucks, cars and motorcycles. Changzhi, China Oct. 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

 Watching Traffic Ballet:  10-Lane Road Bisecting 6-Lane Road
However, from a transportation viewpoint, the melodic sounds of car and truck horns playing out an unorchestrated concert at seven in the morning , was the first introduction to the city’s streetscape in front of the hotel.   The room looked down onto a 10-lane road intersecting a six-lane road.  The ten-lane road was divided with two lanes on each side, separating the inner six lanes with small medians of trees.  The traffic seemed to be equally divided with just slightly more cars and trucks than bicycles.  Some of the bicycles seemed more like a motorcycle – two and three wheel variety, outfitted to carry goods and work material.

Cyclists on 10-lane road. Changzhi, China Oct. 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

Cyclists on 10-lane road. Changzhi, China Oct. 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

  Bus Drivers, Motorcyclists and Cyclists Dance to Avoid One Another
At the intersection, cars, trucks, motorcycles, bicycles and pedestrians did a ballet to the sound of the horn-orchestra to make their way through the intersection.  Dancing, pivoting, swerving, weaving, and coming to a quick stop, were the ballet steps.  In some strange way, it was all harmonious.  A few days later, I was taken to the airport through the intersection, in daytime by taxi.  The perspective from the back seat, was much different than from the hotel room, as cyclists veered to avoid the taxis that were not stopping for anyone.  A transportation planner commented that the days for these types of intersections, were coming to an end.

Occasional worker-cyclist with his utility tricycle for transporting loads. Changzi, China Oct. 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

Occasional worker-cyclist with their utility tricycle for transporting loads. Changzi, China Oct. 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

  There was another 10-lane street through the heart of the city again with treed-medians separating two lanes from the inner six-lanes and thoroughly clogged with traffic.  For this street, a design exercise was under way to consider how two lanes of traffic could be reassigned to bus lanes.  The thought was to take two lanes away from one side of the street.  Nowhere in the discussion was consideration given to taking any lanes and reassigning them to cycling.

Umbrella toting cyclists while riding were quite common and nonchalant. Changzhi, China Oct. 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

Umbrella toting cyclists while riding were quite common and nonchalant. Changzhi, China Oct. 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

  In the city core, the roads were so congested with cars that the traffic moved slowly.  Somehow cyclists managed to make their way through it all.  “Slow motorized vehicle driving speed at approximately cycling speed encourages cycling”, so goes the hypothesis.  The question remains:  how may cyclists will be drawn to slow speed?  Just a borderline few cyclists or the mega throng that used to cycle and now drive?  Now the question also may be posed as:  how many drivers will be drawn from their cars if cycling facilities were installed that really appealed to drivers?  Some insight to this question is being seen with evidence-based data in some cities, such as Vancouver, where a comprehensive cycling traffic volume monitoring program has been undertaken.  24-hour monitoring is being done on separated cycling facilities and bike lanes as well at other locations.

Cyclist and motorcyclist travel through a centuries old village section within Changzhi, China

Cyclist and motorcyclist travel through a centuries old village section within Changzhi, China Oct. 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

 Meanwhile, in an older part of the city with walled blocks, and a 300-year old Buddha temple where personal income may  not be so high, there is light traffic with most of it by a very basic moped.

The mayor and the deputy mayor both iterated that they want Changzhi to become a model city of sustainable transportation for China.  The statements came forth with conviction at private lunches with the two officials and the speakers of a Shared Transport Forum in October, 2011 where I had the privilege of being invited to speak.

What a difference between the airports of Beijing and Changzhi.  Beijing is a very modern, high traffic, and high efficient airport where passengers are  

Cyclists pouring down their 2 lanes by a treed lane in a 10 lane wide road. Changzhi, China Oct. 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

Cyclists pouring down their 2 lanes by a treed lane in a 10 lane wide road. Among the traffic confusion with cars and trucks. Changzhi, China Oct. 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

 moved through quickly.  Changzhi airport is a reminder of the airports that I used to fly into during the 1970’s in Northern Ontario  — very basic with extremely limited service where one took only 5 to 10 minutes to go from the parking lot to the departure gate.  Somehow, and sometimes expansiveness such as Beijing airport, does not mean efficient travelling.

Changzhi is a city of  approximately 700,000 people within the Province of Shanxi.  Shanix has a population of about 3.2 million and is  located  650 km. south-west of Beijing.  It is a transportation and industrial center. Manufacturing includes iron and steel machinery.  Coal, iron ore, and asbestos are mined nearby.  It is regarded as a medium comprehensive industrial city.

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Cyclist in Copenhagen. June 2010. Photo by HJEH Becker

Cyclist in Copenhagen. June 2010. Photo by HJEH Becker

People have shown their enthusiasm for moving towards environmentally sustainability in our urban and rural places while attacking causes which are affecting our personal health more and more each day.  Breathing disorders are on the rise along with obesity increasing the provincial health care costs and affecting the time span we can expect to live.

It is argued that for this province to move towards a sustainable greenest province with greenest cities, its transportation capacity must be environmentally friendly.  Each mode of transportation must do its part.  It is also argued that at this time, the transportation system is not in balance. 

All local buses with bike racks. Vancouver, BC 2010. Photo by HJEH Becker

All local buses have bike racks. Vancouver, BC 2010. Photo by HJEH Becker

Infrastructure with Cars as a New Consumer Product
Looking back to the first half-century of the 1900’s, city streets were filled with people walking to their destinations, taking streetcars and buses, using interurban trams, and cycling.  There were a few cars and trucks about.  Post-war governments needed to create jobs for people. So they turned to the automobile as a 

Bikes and rapid transit as part of multi-modal transportation. Vancouver, BC 2005. Photo by HJEH Becker

Bikes and rapid transit as part of multi-modal transportation. Vancouver, BC 2005. Photo by HJEH Becker

saviour. Governments were willing to quickly jump on this bandwagon by looking to the car industry and the oil companies for post-war jobs.  Streetcar transit disappeared to make a market for gasoline and diesel-powered buses.  For the sake of personal freedom and to explore our cities and countryside, the populous happily embraced this trend. 

Streetcar in Strasbourg, France 2010. Photo by HJEH Becker

Streetcar adjacent to bike lane. Strasbourg, France 2010. Photo by HJEH Becker

Car-Based Evolution of the Transportation Infrastructure
Over the last 50 to 60 years, the infrastructure for movement by cars, has been well funded.  In fact, it could be argued that funding has exceeded the needs of the infrastructure for movement of freight.  During this time, pedestrian infrastructure has reasonably kept up with its role in the system.  Over the last 20 years, transit has seen growth in investment.  Much still needs to be done, especially in semi and real rapid transit as well as intercity fast train infrastructures.  The bus systems have moved towards maturity from a network perspective but still needs much funding for improvement of service levels to where it really is a competitor to car travel.

Heavily used bike parking lots are outdoor and also indoor with automated security system. Outside local and interurban train station. Karlsruhe, Germany June 2010.

Well-used bike parking lots at main commuter and long-distance train station. Indoor bike parking secured with an automated security system. Karlsruhe, Germany June 2010. Photo by HJEH Becker

Currently, cycling as a serious competitor to car travel, is well behind where it should be.  Cycling needs a large infusion of capital within this province.  Infrastructure design toolkits needs to be revitalized, based on European thinking to draw people to cycling.  Cycling has an important place as a mode of transportation both for taking people to their end destination, as well as, bringing people to high-frequency service, faster transit, or rapid transit lines.

Bikes allowed on all B.C. Ferries. British Columbia Jul. 2010. Photo by HJEH Becker

Bikes allowed on all B.C. Ferries. Some ferries have bike racks. British Columbia Jul. 2010. Photo by HJEH Becker

Cycling as part of Greenest Cities
Looking at transportation mode share for a province such as British Columbia, some cities should have a cycling mode share of 20% while others should be in the 10% to 15% range.  Technology and climate is  now there for such mode shares.  E-bikes can now effectively tackle hills which may be deterrents to cycling for some people.  What we lack, are an infrastructure which appeals to people to make personal changes in mode of travel, infrastructure design toolkits which appeals to people who do not cycle today, and social marketing programs which would encourage people to make that change.

Rebuilding the Cycling Environment as a Transportation Option
Over the past 10 to 20 years some progress in the cycling environment has been done by all levels of governments within the province.  Modest amounts of moneys have been invested in infrastructure.  It has allowed cycling mode share to increase to the 3.7% and 5.5% levels in Vancouver and Victoria. 

Downtown Vancouver, BC Apr. 2010. Photo by HJEH Becker

Downtown Vancouver, BC Apr. 2010. Photo by HJEH Becker

Unfortunately, there are no other municipalities achieving that type of growth.  Transit buses in the province all have bike racks.  Bike racks are a support tool for people to make the shift to cycling as racks provide people with an option to cycling by taking the bus when they need it.  Rapid transit systems allow a modest and insufficient number of bicycles on board.   Ferries accommodate cycling.  It may be observed that this is a start and that is all it is.

From people’s feedback much more needs to be done and now is the time.  There is a change in people’s priorities and commitment to a sustainable, healthy, and environmental province.  Timing may be right for more focus and investments by governments for cycling.

Further Reading:
Teschke, Kay Dr.  Cycling in Cities Survey. Vancouver: University of British Columbia, 2005 and 2006.

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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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There are some more challenging work sites to reach by bike:  construction sites, industrial sites and farms.  These areas are often in more isolated areas, not well served by public transit and may lack safe, bike friendly routes.   Such

Golden Ears Bridge construction. Langley, BC 2008. Photo by J. Chong

Golden Ears Bridge construction. Langley, BC 2008. On the way to work site. Photo by J. Chong

work sites are located out in the suburbs, in industrial parks or  in a busy city district where there is little provision for construction site workers to store a bike nearby all day safely.

Then on top of these challenges, one is even lucky that a construction site or a farm offers a continuously clean room to change clothing. After all, it is a construction site where users may track dirt directly into the washroom. More often at the site, it’s just a port-a-loo. Hardly an ideal spot for clothes changing.

Patchwork of Cycling, Rapid Transit, Bus and Walking
For several years I worked at a large, busy construction site for the creation of  the Golden Ears Bridge and its highway approaches.  I had a lengthy, convoluted round trip which was an 1. 5 hr. commute  one-way, between Vancouver and Langley. My commute  was a crazy patchwork of part-cycling, Skytrain, bus and then walking for 15 minutes through construction traffic and activity to and from the site office. Cycling all the way would have been even more time-consuming  in order to avoid highway stretches where cycling was illegal. By bike, it would have meant a 102 kms. round trip ride.

I stored my bike at Metrotown in a bike locker and saved the relaxing ride  homeward –after getting off the Skytrain. The day was long enough but the bike ride was my glorious fitness saviour and destressor.  It was the only way to build in regular fitness within my daily work and travel schedule.  I was seriously committed, maybe abit insane.

Glimmers of Cycling Interest at Construction Site
Bike to Work Week  at the construction site for a cyclist, was  a bizarre dream —  amongst temporary trailer buildings, dust, caterpillar earth-moving machines, trucks, concrete pourers, dangerous piles of materials and potholes.

At minimum, there were 120 employees at our head office site where I worked, who drove.   During the first year, there were no bikes parked at the office. Nevertheless, I emailed to the entire organization, including 5 other work sites, to announce Bike to Work Week was on and I had copies of bike maps. 

Migrant farm workers' bikes. Dresden, ON 2009. Photo by J.Chong

Migrant farm workers' bikes near tomato processing plant. Dresden, ON 2009. Bikes were loaned to workers from the Carribbean and Mexico. They were seen often cycling around town after work. Photo by J.Chong

Up to 10 employees picked up a map and most were ex-patriate staff, hired directly from Germany, Great Britain and U.S.  They were interested in maps for weekend cycling. Several German employees did tell me of growing up using bikes often or simply there was more cycling back home since Germany has an  established network of bike paths.

During the second year, the number of parked bikes  and employees riding to work, increased from zero to 10 frequent cyclists.  However there was nothing to lock up the bikes, so the bikes were kept by the office trailers under the office windows.

Near the end of the construction project, several employees even banded together as a corporate team for an annual MS 75 km. fundraising bike ride among the local wineries.

Postscript:  The Golden Ears Bridge was completed in mid-June 2009. Now there are separated bike lanes on the bridge and also  bike lanes on several highway approaches.  Since then, we have biked the 102  km. round trip  several times on weekends where there are always a few cyclists using the new cycling facilities.  Local muncipalities are now expanding cycling routes into their core  areas.

J.Chong was Document Control Manager during the design-build stage for the $800 million Golden Ears Bridge and its highway approaches. During peak construction, there were over 600 employees and contract labourers.

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B.C. Stadium. Spectator line-ups for pre-game security checks. Vancouver, BC. Feb. 2010. Photo by J. Chong

B.C. Stadium. Spectator line-ups for pre-game security checks. Vancouver, BC. Feb. 2010. Photo by J. Chong

Daily  we  see orderly streams of people walking down streets.  By B.C. Stadium, they are shepherded by voices from bull-horned crowd management folks perched on their high lifeguard chairs.  People are directed into security check line-ups every time there is a Stadium event or competition game. On Cambie Bridge, flow continues along the multi-use pedestrian and bike paths, sidewalks and then down the access ramps.

Cherry tree by Kitsalano Beach. Vancouver, BC  Feb. 2010. Photo by J. Becker

Cherry tree by Kitsalano Beach. Vancouver, BC Feb. 2010. Photo by J. Becker

Spring-like weather causes tree buds to break free early and encourages more people to stroll and sit by the paths.  On the Seaside Path, cyclists are forced off the cycling path since foot traffic exceeds the capacity of the walking path.  Cyclists divert onto the adjacent roads. Fortunately, neighbourhood roads are only sprinkled  with occasional cars since temporary road closures and lack of low-cost car parking discourages car traffic. With a $35.00 parking fee, a parking lot across the street from a BC Stadium entry gate remains empty.  Thus, cyclists are able to clip nimbly along in their own space. 

Davie St. at Pacific Blvd. Near Yaletown-Roundhouse Canada Line Station.  With some road lane closures during Olympics. Vancouver, BC. Feb. 14, 2010

Davie St. at Pacific Blvd. Near Yaletown-Roundhouse Canada Line Station. With some road lane closures during Olympics. Vancouver, BC. Feb. 14, 2010

If car traffic is kept light during these massive people movement events, with alternative transportation options close-by, then the neighbourhood is not overly stressed.  One wonders why some streets are not closed off to roving car traffic with only residence access permitted.

Usually, sporting events from B.C. Stadium or GM Place (now “Hockey House” temporarily for Olympics), did not attract such high volumes of foot traffic nor cyclists over several hours in the North False Creek area by the Seaside

Seaside Path. North False Creek near Cambie Bridge. Vancouver, BC. Feb. 14, 2010. Photo by J. Chong

Seaside Path. North False Creek near Cambie Bridge. Vancouver, BC. Feb. 14, 2010. Photo by J. Chong

Path, except near Science World.  Usually, the Seaside Path to the Main St. SkyTrain station, would be useless for cycling after a concert or hockey event for a half hour when streams of pedestrians overtake the multi-use path.

During the Olympics, it is quite different. Even on rainy days, there is a consistent flow of people for hours, walking in Yaletown to various pavilions and then flowing into the downtown core towards Robson St.  Walking and cycling crowds appeared quite orderly without much litter left behind.

Olympic streetcar line stop passengers to Granville Island. Feb. 2010. Photo by J. Becker.

Olympic streetcar line stop passengers to Granville Island. Vancouver, BC. Feb. 2010. Photo by J. Becker.

The Yaletown – Roundhouse Canada Line station entrance is often crowded with people. So far, Translink estimated for Sat. Feb. 13 a total of 210,000 passengers used the Canada Line.  On a Saturday  at 9:30 am and onwards, there was a growing stream of people leaving Olympic Village Canada Line station to board the free Olympic streetcar line. As someone observed from riding the streetcar line three times during that morning, each time the streetcars were filled to standing room capacity to and from Granville Island. One streetcar has full capacity up to 180 passengers.

LiveCity Yaletown Fireworks & Waterworks Show. Feb. 2010 Photo by J. Becker

LiveCity Yaletown (David Lam Park) Fireworks & Waterworks Show. Vancouver, BC. Feb. 2010 Photo by J. Becker

Reflections
Does a neighbourhood die when cars are detoured from its roads or does it come alive with people?  Just ask the local retailers and eateries.  Urban Fare, a grocery store with an eatery section, cannot keep up with customer orders.  Restaurants on main pedestrian routes, are filled with diners.  As we walked from the evening fireworks display down the street past these eateries at 11:00 pm, the rooms were still full.  Usually, these restaurants are dark and shuttered much earlier.

Noteworthy is that careful people routing reduces tension on a neighbourhood.  A wise move is guiding pedestrians on sidewalks along undeveloped blocks, parkland or along retail streets without adjacent residences.

Good streetscape designs also reduce neighbourhood tension with a milieu of people passing by.  Wide sidewalks reduce crowd stress and promote orderly

Olympic bike valet parking. Nelson St. & Pacific Blvd. Vancouver, BC  Feb. 2010. Photo by J. Chong

Olympic bike valet parking. Nelson St. & Pacific Blvd. Vancouver, BC Feb. 2010. Photo by J. Chong

passage without people jostling each other.  Careful landscape design with raised curbed plant beds and lawns, keeps people on sidewalks.  Trees surrounded by concrete eliminate trodden landscaping.  Laneways connecting streets helps thin out traffic.

A palatable mix of car traffic reduction, combined with convenient alternate transportation options and strategic streetscape designs, can increase life on streets and liveability of neighbourhoods.

Additional Reading:
TransLink. The Buzzer Blog. Feb. 17 2010.
Sinoski, Kelly. “Record Weekend Expected for Transit as Olympic Fever in Vancouver Deepens. In Vancouver Sun, Feb. 19, 2010.” (Addendum provided after this article was published.)

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An official corporate sponsor is ready. Feb. 2010

An official corporate sponsor is ready. Feb. 2010

While cycling about the city and particularly around  the main Games venues, each day we see signs of readiness for the Olympics. The official corporate sponsors are certainly prepared and hoping for a windfall of more customers and revenues.

Olympic torch relay. 37th St. & Queen Elizabeth Park, Vancouver BC. Feb. 11,  2010

Olympic torch relay. 37th St. & Queen Elizabeth Park, Vancouver BC. Feb. 11, 2010. Photo by J.Chong

Outcomes of transportation planning for the Olympics will be critiqued on all fronts.  For the next few weeks, we will see the fruits from a few years of transportation planning, forecasting and modeling mass movement of people while also ensuring their safety. The planning has been executed and hopefully, coordinated at all levels – municipal, provincial, national and international.

 On the roads, each lane or road closure provides an opportunity for testing where the traffic goes and how much disappears.  Transit ridership and cycling traffic are being measured.  Some neighbourhoods are becoming much quieter with less pollution being emitted from vehicles.  Hopefully, the experience will be well documented with research papers.

From this laboratory will come new knowledge and new opportunities for realigning streets to accommodate all road users from pedestrians, to cyclists, to transit users, to car drivers.  More appealing and  comfortable people streets could be gained from this knowledge.

A massive choreography where there is no single shared music score except

Olympic torch relay by canoe. North False Creek to Yaletown Ferry Dock, Vancouver, BC. Feb. 12, 2010. Photo by J. Chong

Olympic torch relay by canoe. North False Creek to Yaletown Ferry Dock, Vancouver, BC. Feb. 12, 2010. Photo by J. Chong

 people wanting to travel for their own reasons, on their own terms, and on

Olympic torch flame canoe reaching Yaletown dock. Vancouver, BC. Feb. 12, 2010. Photo by J. Becker

Olympic torch flame canoe reaching Yaletown dock. Vancouver, BC. Feb. 12, 2010. Photo by J. Becker

 their own schedule between several different destinations.  The choreographer has to effectively mix people movement by air, water and land.

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Last week we posted an article which referred to some experiences of former Olympic host cities on cycling for transportation during the big event. 

Bike valet parking for Golden Ears Bridge opening

Maple Ridge bike valet parking location. Golden Ears Bridge opening. Lineup 1 hr. early. June 2009. Photo by Jack Becker.

As an addendum, there were  some thoughtful responses from Sydney, Australia on local cycling during the Olympics.  Thanks to Elaena Gardner from the cycling advocacy organization,  Bike Sydney and cycling folks there for their feedback!

Some key points include:

  • State of receptivity by transportation authorities and the general public, was not there for cycling as transportation during the Summer Olympics

a decade ago cycling was considered purely a sporting-and-recreational activity, and cycling-for-transport was just not on the radar of public officials

  • Lack of planning experience for adequate bike valet parking facilities at mass events and large scale public venues.

The problem with cycling-for-transport to mass events is that bicycles are still personaltransport devices, and thus present major parking problems. At peak times there were about 300,000 people attending the Homebush site each day. If 5% of them cycled, then that’s 15,000 bikes that need to be parked, secured and retrieved, with very large peaks in demand as events end. Event organisers or authorities in Australia had or have absolutely no experience in providing such large-scale bike parking facilties.

Check out their discussion thread on  more experiences, some information links and on legacies from the Olympics.

Note:  In Nov. 2009, Elaena had a keen audience when she provided a slide presentation on the latest cycling developments in Sydney to the Vancouver Area Cycling Coalition on a very rainy evening. We are glad to hear that cycling in Sydney has improved in spades since 2000!

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