Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Archive for March 6th, 2008

Urban cyclists still face unfriendly terrain in Vancouver

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Georgia Straight

This is all very encouraging. Nice pic of my friend Bonnie Fenton. Good article all round. What is less impressive the box which is headed “Experts Grade the Local Cycling Infrastructure” which deals with Vancouver, the Tri-Cities, Burnaby & New Westminster, the North Shore, Surrey and Langley. I do not know why both Richmond and Delta have been left out, but they are both very good places to cycle – being flat – but there are a few features missing.

At one time I was both a recreational and a commuter cyclist. And this week I got my bike out of storage and down to Steveston bikes in their new digs at the south dyke end of No 2 Road (next door to the excellent bakery that deserves many more customers) for a clean and tune up, as well as fitting a bike rack to my Yaris.

Richmond does have a network of marked cycle routes. These are mostly on major roads, with just a painted line. The bike lane is removed at signalised intersections and becomes the right turn lane. There are no advance stop lines for cyclists anywhere. Several routes have shared access with pedestrians but are car free. These include the dykes, Shell Road/Horseshoe Slough and we will also have a link across the North Arm on the new Canada Line Bridge. Bike lanes are also provided on the Alex Fraser, Arthur Laing, Oak Street and Knight Street bridges. Unfortunately there is no marked link between the north end of Shell Road and the south end of Knight Street bridge but you can figure out a reasonable route through Bath Slough and the back streets (Rees Road yay!).

There is room for a segregated bike path on the CN right of way along the whole of Shell Road but for reasons that are not clear the bike route ends at its most vulnerable area – the ramps to Highway #99 at Shell. This is one of the most hair raising areas to try and bike through and is not for beginners or those of a nervous disposition. CN has applied to abandon its trackage here in favour of a new route near the south dyke, so there is hope for the future in terms of an exclusive right of way.
The bike lanes on the bridges tend to get used bi-directionally, and I have always noticed great politeness between cyclists as it is clear that someone has to stop and give way. (I think a cyclist going uphill should have priority.) I wish I could say the same of pedestrians.

The dykes are mostly used by recreational cyclists, and the west dyke especially can get very busy on nice summer days. The trail does get a bit lost in Steveston, but that is a good place to go look for refreshments anyway. The concession in Garry Point being a very popular stop (PaJos fish and chips, Timothy’s coffee and ice cream). The only place where I have seen user conflict is the dogs off leash area at the end of No 3 Road and round the Crown Paper plant. Some pooches find moving pedals very tempting targets. By the way, west of No 5 Road facilities get very sparse indeed.

Without doubt the worst lack of continuity is on Garden City which is a cycle route north of Granville (another marked bike route). It is not at recommended that cyclists or pedestrians try to get south on Garden City across Granville. The only bike lanes on Garden City south of Granville are on the short section between Francis and Williams: one is shared with pedestrians, the other is a marked curb lane. A similar lack of continuity is seen on Gilbert Road and the Dinsmore Bridge.

Massey Tunnel Bike Shuttle Service van and trailer 2007_0904

But the biggest issue in terms of the regional network is the Massey Tunnel. There is a free bike shuttle (operated by Mainroad), but it is not geared to year round commuting, and a lot of cyclists resent having to pay for a two zone bus ticket just to get from Ladner to Ironwood.

Massey Tunnel Bike Shuttle Service timetable 2007_0904

Written by Stephen Rees

March 6, 2008 at 5:31 pm

Alberta Oil Sands Land

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The NDP and the Greens are out for the environmentalists votes. This just popped into my inbox. Thought I would pass it along.

Written by Stephen Rees

March 6, 2008 at 2:05 pm

Posted in energy, Environment

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Crashes cost more than congestion

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New Mexico Business Weekly 

Traffic crashes in Albuquerque cost $1.2 billion annually, six times more than the costs associated with traffic congestion, according to AAA New Mexico.

“Crashes: What’s the Cost to Society?,” a report conducted for AAA by Cambridge Systematics, reveals that in most areas of the country, the cost of traffic crashes far outweighs the cost of traffic congestion. Those costs include emergency services such as medical and police, property damage, lost productivity and reduced quality of life.

And I would be very surprised indeed if that were not also true here. Accident severities are directly related to speed, and as my regular readers are probably tired of hearing by now, our current lack of speed limit enforcement is the why our collision rate is not declining and why severities remain high. In slower moving traffic, collisions still occur, but tend to be fender benders rather than personal injury accidents. Of course that is talking about vehicle collisions with other vehicles. Collision with softer targets – cyclists and pedestrians – are quite a different matter.

If we are not going to see photo radar back, or a serious deployment of average speed cameras (which do not use radar) the it is time to look at traffic calming measures – including speed tables which can also be incorporated as pedestrian crossings which eliminate steps or ramps at curbs, and thus improve everyone’s mobility. For while few of us may be in wheelchairs the use of strollers, shopping trolleys and rolling luggage seems to be on the increase. Since most urban streets are posted at 50kph speed limits, a table would work better than a speed bump – which is more useful at lower posted speed limits. Bike lanes inside the line of parked cars would also be a good idea – though passengers are even less likely to do a shoulder check than drivers before opening their door, there are fewer of them. Jan Gehl says they work well, and that is a good enough endorsement for me.

Mostly though what this study suggests is that we should deliberately shift our focus away from getting traffic moving faster – which is what  most highway expansion and traffic management here is supposed to do – to reducing the dreadful carnage on our roads. We do not accept crashes when they occur on planes or trains. Two people die on a ferry sinking and all kinds of action swings into play. But two deaths in a road crash will probably not even get covered by the local press in any detail and “lost control” seems to be accepted as an adequate explanation for all kinds of incidents on the road.

Written by Stephen Rees

March 6, 2008 at 11:16 am

Posted in Road safety

Of Nice and Men

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Frances Bula, Vancouver Sun

A longish piece comparing the style of politics now prevalent in Surrey compared to Vancouver, and the extent to which the role of women can explain the differences.

What I looked for was some reference to Doug McCallum, the former Mayor of Surrey. That was missing. He treated politics as a kind of blood sport, but mostly he was an egotist. While he was Chair of Translink, every quote that appeared in the media about the organization had to have his name on it. And that was because how he ran Surrey. I suspect that when he was replaced almost any new leader would have been a welcome relief, especially someone who showed that they were prepared to listen sometimes.

The role of gender may be important, but a lot of women politicians that I have had to deal with climbed the slippery pole by fighting men and being better at it than them. The first generation of female world leaders were a pretty scary bunch – Mrs Thatcher (“the best man we’ve got”) Indira Ghandi and Golda Meir for instance. Hilary seems to be forged from the same metal. Yes, women are usually better at consensus building, but I think that probably reflects more recent socialisation, and possibly the influence of some feminist theorists, who rejected the notion that woman could only succeed if they used classic male techniques. But some places manage to organise themselves differently. Canada’s northern territories for example.

Anyway, well done Frances. A good piece which left me feeling I knew more when I finished it than when I started. It would be nice to see some competent politician in the Mayor’s office in Richmond too, but somehow I don’t see that happening any time soon.

Written by Stephen Rees

March 6, 2008 at 10:39 am

Posted in politics

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Water ‘highway’ could take trucks off Metro’s roads

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Vancouver Sun

I did not go to the Metro Vancouver sustainable growth and the economy public dialogue yesterday. The panel was different to the one I did go to at West Vancouver. But what really surprises me is that Randy Shore did go to Surrey. The press has not been at many of these meetings in that past, so far as I am aware. And so was Brian Lewis of the Province who has this wonderful quote from Gordon Price

“Can someone give me an example where this kind of road has worked elsewhere?” he said.

“We’re spending a billion dollars on a road without any working examples of success [elsewhere], yet when we’ve made commitments to build rail systems we have seen the benefits.”

He quipped: “It’s curious that when we know it doesn’t work, we do it, but when we know it does work, then we don’t do it.”

Darn, wish I’d said that.

The road he was referring to is the South Fraser Perimeter Road, and the idea is that if the containers were moved by barge instead of truck, then we would not need this road.

The plan to load containers on to barges is not of course new and has been discussed here before – though the mention of Hope is new. Up until now I had expected that the ecological significance of the gravel reach would have been a block to navigation by large barges this far upstream.

“Most of what we need to make this happen is there already,” Badger told The Sun. The highway — in this case the Fraser River — and the railroad tracks run side by side all the way to Hope.

The Fraser River at Hope BC

What isn’t there of course are the terminal facilities. And proposals by the port to buy up land along the river front for terminals are already a cause for concern among the local communities.

The cost of transferring containers more than once — from deep-sea vessels to short-haul vessels and then to trucks or rail — in their trip from port to market has been prohibitive until now.

As the cost of transport goes up “it makes this kind of operation much more viable,” Badger said.

But it still does not make any sense at all. The container terminals all have rail access. And the plan for the expansion of Deltaport is to add even more rail. So for long distance shipments across North America, most of the containers taken off ships go onto trains at the marine terminal. This can also happen at Surrey Fraser Docks where the container cranes have now been standing idle for some time. In fact at Deltaport I have never seen all the cranes in use at once. This is not, of course, a scientific study but casual observation suggests that at the moment there is a lot of spare capacity. The Burrard inlet terminals are all rail connected too, of course – though a sneaky suspicion lurks in my mind that they could be very desirable redevelopment sites.

Zim Atlantic Deltaport Vancouver BC 2007_1221

Now I have heard it said that CN Intermodal does operate trucks between Deltaport, Vanterm and its Thornton yard. Quite why that would be cheaper than running trains I have no idea. Perhaps it is something to do with the CN/CP agreements on track use.

Stacks and Mountains Delta BC 2006_0325

The big deal that generates truck movement is the volume of traffic that gets resorted here. Imported containers are stripped of their contents, and the goods reloaded onto other containers or trailers for onward transmission by companies like Hudson’s Bay and Canadian Tire. Very few stores need an entire container full of rubber duckies, so the trailers carry a variety of goods from various sources. It is this activity that generates so many truck movements as it is very poorly co-ordinated, with a lot of movement of empty equipment. If that could be combined at one site with packing containers for export there is a real potential for savings. But double handling full containers, to load them onto trains up the valley just adds cost and delay to what can be done now – putting them on to trains at the port.

Many of the approximately 50 attendees were exasperated by the expansion of the car and truck based road system when the region is trying to encourage denser residential growth and promote transit.

More highway capacity without tolls will encourage more sprawl, more driving and more pollution, speakers complained.

Well at least he did report it, even if it was buried at the bottom of the article.

David Fields on the Livable Region blog has these observations

Environment Canada has requested that an alternative scenario on the same scale as the current Gateway scheme be developed that would meet the same goals of moving people and goods but could possibly have a lesser impact on our environment. We here at the LRC have been clamouring for the same. The Minister of Highways has so far refused to do so, claiming that his Gateway is the only option that will work. It is interesting that highway schemes everywhere else have failed. Even after these few years when we have seen the public switch on climate change and the Premier’s response with the Carbon Tax and promised future action, the details of Gateway have not changed in kind. Well, not entirely true- the price has gone up.

A re-think of Gateway is long overdue. There is an incredible amount of expertise and determination in this region that would enable us to realize a vision of moving people and goods while lessening our impact on the natural environment and enhancing our communities. A process of developing a full scale Greenway to replace Gateway could be undertaken swiftly and would be cost effective. The obstacle, of course, is the extreme arrogance of this current government.

Written by Stephen Rees

March 6, 2008 at 9:24 am