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

Archive for August 4th, 2009

Richmond: Bike lane experiment begins

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Richmond Review

I went for a ride along it yesterday and took some pictures – thinking that it might make a blog piece. But then it seemed to me that it would, once again, look like a personal attack on Larry Pamer, which is not something I wanted to do. He is quoted extensively in the Review article – for example “I think the design is absolutely world-class” which is hyperbole.

By the way the pictures were all taken late morning of BC day – a public holiday. This explains the emptiness of the images – there were no cyclists or pedestrians to include.

No 3 Road at Cambie nb bike lane
Two major issues are that the bike lane does not connect to any part of the cycling network – neither Cambie nor Sea Island have bike lanes. But then the Richmond “network” is pretty much disconnected anyway. Very few usable routes are continuous for any great length. The other is the quality of the surface

“And the northbound lane has slight slope imperfections—due to crews spreading the asphalt by hand because the contractor’s machines wouldn’t fit on the narrow lane, according to city spokesperson Diana Waltmann.”

“Slight slope imperfections” means that you get a very lumpy ride indeed. Pamer tries to make that a positive – and the City is not going to make the contractor do it properly.
Plant climbing frameAnd of course the whole thing is incomplete – and there will not be a southbound lane any time soon. Not until the development industry can be persuaded to pay for it.

R8066 nb on No 3 Road on #98 B-LineThe width is about the same as most on street bike lanes in Richmond – about half a traffic lane – and the gutter that is used to separate the lane from traffic does give a bit more “breathing” room. But of course whenever there is a bus stop or a right turn, the lane ends.
No 3 Road at Cambie nb sidewalk
It seems to me that much more money and effort went into trying to reduce the impact of the Canada Line structure with planting and landscaping – to little effect. At present the line provides some welcome shade. I am not sure that it will be so welcome on a wet November morning.
bus stop provision nb No 3 Road at Yaohan Centre
Very little new has been done for cyclists in Richmond for the last several years. “Sharrows” do absolutely nothing, as far as I am concerned. I also happen to think that routes through quiet streets would be a better strategy than bike lanes on busy arterials. Such a strategy could also be used to help improve walking and cycling access in subdivisions otherwise designed to deter through traffic. But that goes well beyond the present discussion. The “raised bike lane” really achieves very little – unless it deters casual parking in the lane which bedevils the few other Richmond arterials that do have painted bike lanes.

The real argument should be about is this going to be a “Great Street” which is the City of Richmond’s declared intention. And the answer to that, on present evidence, has to be “No!” The problems of No 3 Road are little to do with bike lanes. The curse of No 3 Road is the automobile – and the fact that the road tried and failed to accommodate them. The City itself does not provide any parking – that is all left to the property owners on ether side, and the ITE parking guidelines. Since this parking is private it is free, but only to those actually visiting the premises at the time. You cannot park and then walk between the various destinations – you must drive, or your car will be ticketed and then towed.

Much of the parking is at the front, so few of the buildings have any “street presence” – and anyway these days shops care little about window displays. Where shops have been put at the back of the sidewalk in the podia of large buildings on other streets in Richmond the windows are usually blank. But that is not the real issue either. All the entrances and exits to the parking cross the sidewalk at a sharp right angle. So curb lane traffic crawls, held up by the cars trying to negotiate the tight curves and of course waiting to get in and out of traffic flow. So it doesn’t. Hence the frustration of the drivers and those who will tell you to avoid driving on No 3 at all costs. No-one walks on No 3 Road for any distance, and I can’t say I blame them.

The whole street is built at very low density – partly because of the height restrictions needed for safe aircraft operations. No 3 Road is close the end of both main runways. But mostly becuase of the assumption that anyone going to No 3 Road will get there by car. Will the Canada Line change that? Well the B Line didn’t but it only had ten eight years and on the whole not much happened in that time. The buildings that did go up followed the same set of rules – which were all about cars. Until the city centre is rethought in terms of people it will not change enough. And the bike lanes are a very small change indeed.

Written by Stephen Rees

August 4, 2009 at 8:24 am