Stephen Rees's blog

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

Richmond: Bike lane experiment begins

with 13 comments

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

13 Responses

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  1. Great to hear your perspective, Stephen. Was the B-line actually there 10 years?

    Bernadette Keenan

    August 4, 2009 at 10:15 am

  2. I was part of it ten years ago. “The line was officially opened in August 2001.” (wiki) So no not actually ten years of operations more like 8.

    Stephen Rees

    August 4, 2009 at 10:26 am

  3. Great photos.. In a non North-American world a new rapid transit line would be the incentive to rebuild the whole area by moving buildings closer to the line and separated from it by a not too big green area. The parking would be integrated within the buildings, preferably as automatic parking (you bring you car to a gate, get off and the machine whisk you car up and away)
    You are so right, Stephen, to suggest that bikes lane should be (in the whole Metro area, not just Richmond) along secondary roads, not major arteries.
    I also wonder why cars have the right to park on BOTH sides of narrow streets (the Commercial street area is an example) making both driving and biking a hazard, instead of on one side only, as is the rule in many countries.
    There are countries where one must prove that one own/ rent an off street parking spot before one is allowed to own a car.
    Talking about parking have a look at: this is no joke..I have seen lots of cars parked like that..most without a scratch

    Red frog

    August 4, 2009 at 11:33 am

  4. Was it really necessary to lay the asphalt by hand? Why not just build a small barrier to denote the path?

    Justin Bernard

    August 5, 2009 at 4:03 am

  5. I rode that stretch of No. 3 Road back in May when things were not completed yet. I would say that I enjoyed that I was separated from traffic. I managed to catch up with a particular Honda Civic at every red light that he hit.

    I didn’t get to ride with a B-Line bus right beside me, so I found that fortunate. There is still the danger of getting the “right hook” from a car turning into one of the malls. I would have preferred the bike path on the other side of the Canada Line columns, but I guess you get the other problem of pedestrians unknowingly sauntering within the bike lane.

    Secondary arterials for bike routes are perfect. I hate trying to ride on big streets. There may be “sharrows” along Main Street, but you’re not going to find me riding on that street any time soon.


    August 5, 2009 at 8:37 am

  6. […] under Uncategorized Leave a Comment  Speaking of walkable neougbourhoods, Stephen Rees has some smart comments about why no one wants to walk on No. 3 Rd in Richmond. It’s an issue now because the Canada […]

  7. One other factor about bike lanes on main roads is that main roads back-up with traffic. Drivers stuck in traffic become distracted by the stop and go nature of the traffic and can easily forget to make a shoulder check when turning right. This is dangerous, particularly if there is a significant disparity in the travel speeds between the two lanes (slow car lanes, fast bike lane) – i.e. it’s similar to why lane changes are not permitted anywhere along HOV lanes from general lanes on highways. It is much easier for drivers to keep tracks of cyclists (and safer for cyclists) when both are moving. i.e. if a driver passes a cyclist the driver knows the cyclist is there. If a driver is stuck in a line for 5 minutes and no cyclist rides by to provide a mental cue, the shoulder check may slip his/her mind.

    Ron C.

    August 5, 2009 at 1:51 pm

  8. Ron C.

    August 5, 2009 at 1:54 pm

  9. I don’t find this bicycle route too bad. Due to the very large size of blocks in Richmond, the placement of off-arterial cycling routes is problomatic as these cycle routes would require a significant detour to arrive at commercial destinations. This route serves the purpose of traveling along a main arterial to a final destination. A bigger concern for this bike route is that due to the large blocks, speeds on no.3 in low traffic situations would be higher, and create a frightning situation for cyclists.

    It is unfortunate that the paving is uneven, but the costs must have been significantly less than the Carrall bikeway. It would have been nice, and flatter to pave with concrete, and the concrete could have been coloured to clearly distinguish the bike path from other facilities.

    The tyee’s article on cycling in Portland (thursday’s)does touch on the need for facilities where cyclists want to go.

    The densification along no .3 will come eventually, as will building facades along the property line and public parking facilities. And when that happens there will not be an uproar of reallocating road space for bicycles.


    August 5, 2009 at 3:24 pm

  10. Ron Richings also went for a bike ride along No 3 but he also looked at the section under construction, and found a number of features to criticize. He put his pictures on flickr with commentary beneath them

    Stephen Rees

    August 8, 2009 at 8:48 am

  11. Off topic: Are you going to apply to be on the Translink Board? I see the ad in the careers section of the Vancouver Sun today and I thought either you would be perfect for the job or you would write a really interesting piece on why you would not want to do so.


    August 8, 2009 at 4:05 pm

  12. No, I am not going to apply. My views on the current Board structure are well documented on this blog already. Indeed, the very fact that I have a blog on which I have expressed my opinions about planning and transportation in this region has become a reason for me not to be employed by many agencies here – and the companies that depend on them for income.

    Stephen Rees

    August 8, 2009 at 4:12 pm

  13. I went to go try this new bike lane, and filmed it with my helmet-cam, along with the other non bike-laned side of the road:

    I went on a very non-busy Saturday morning. I’ll have to try it again during a busy time when the construction is finished to see what it’s like then.


    August 18, 2009 at 8:02 pm

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