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Archive for the ‘bicycles’ Category

The Bicycle Diaries: Episode 12

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Where I live there is only one flat route out of Arbutus Village park – north west along Valley Drive. In any other direction there is a hill. In fact to get up to the Arbutus Corridor I have to get off and push. So when I saw a crowd funder for an electric wheel, that provides assistance when cycling, I decided to take a chance. It has taken six months from making my payment through KickStarter for the first of two wheels to arrive. I got one for myself and am still waiting for the one for my partner.

In the intervening period the name of the project had to be changed from UrbanX to UrbaNext.

Via Kickstarter the team reported

We received notification from BMW Auto Group that our product name UrbanX was too close to their venture fund called URBAN-X which focuses on helping emerging and start-up companies in the fields of technology and design for urban environments. You can read more about the program here. Despite our best efforts in researching our product name, we were unaware of similarity to their program and program name. The program does seem very cool in its mission to work with small businesses and help fund new innovation in urban environments.

KickStarter provided regular project updates and this video about installation

So that all looks pretty straightforward I thought. Once my wheel arrived, I unpacked it and took it down to the basement. Taking off the existing front wheel is easy, but the new wheel was a real problem. Some time ago, after renting a very comfortable bike in San Francisco, I had my Trek 800 upgraded by fitting suspension forks and a sprung saddle post. The forks were simply too fat to admit the wheel properly – and the bracket for a disc brake got in the way of inserting the battery. I took the bike with the wheel to West Point Cycles in Kerrisdale, and they replaced the forks (no suspension) and installed the new wheel for me. I then spent a while hooking up the cables and installing the control and the phone carrier – as the functioning of the electric wheel is controlled through an app. No, that installation video does not mention that – but you do get an instruction manual with the wheel. That includes a QR code for the app which is called iMortor. If you go to YouTube you will see other videos about iMortor and another UrbanX user called Edgar Cornejo who has made a number of youtube videos about his experiences.

I first tried out the new wheel in our underground garage. That really did not get me enough space to get up to speed (5km/hr), and I also missed the point that you are supposed to hold the throttle open for ten seconds, while pedalling, to get the motor to kick in. My next trip was to take the bike up to the Greenway by the hill on King Edward Avenue. This gave me enough distance to get up to speed and to hold the throttle open for long enough – and I knew the motor had kicked in as I did not have to get off and push. The app allows for three speed settings, and all of my first trip was in speed 1. The ride up to Kerrisdale by the Greenway is actually not a problem for me, I just gear down and keep twiddling. This time I did not have to gear down. As long as I was pedalling the bike kept going – and that seemed to be true even when I let go the throttle. I tried other speeds too, but that is not so easy when trying to hit the very small button on the app while moving.

Of course, no-one needs help to ride downhill. What is missing from the UrbaNext is a regenerative brake setting, which could act as a retarder and recharge the battery. Not only that but as I was in speed 1 and the app and motor was stilled turned on even pedalling downhill on King Edward, hoping to keep up with traffic, all I could manage was 12 km/hr.

Today I decided to venture further afield, so I added a bottle of water and some Cliff bars to the pannier and headed  south on the Greenway to Burrard, hoping to use the new bikeway across the bridge. The east side of the bridge was closed by barriers, and a sign instructing “use West walkway”. I rode wrong way in the bike lane – and noticed that there might have been room to ride in the vehicle lane if I had been daring enough. Then down Beach Avenue and round Stanley Park (via the Chilco Loop). By now I was getting used to riding with and without assistance. In fact there were times when, with the throttle closed, I wished it was not “helping”. Equally there were times when I was below the 5km/hr when help starts and I would have appreciated it much sooner!

I had a pleasant break near the Lumberman’s arch, with a view of the Lions’ Gate Bridge and some charming company. By the time I got to the Second Beach pool, the lights on the control box were showing red – or 30% of capacity. So I stopped using the motor by simply hitting the off button, hoping to conserve power. The bike was much heavier, thanks to the wheel and its battery, but there also seemed to be significant rolling resistance when there was no power available. Given the lack of regenerative braking I found that puzzling. By the time I got to Cornwall, I decided I had had enough, and waited for the #2 bus. Getting the bike on the bus wasn’t easy before the new wheel. Now it was beyond my ability unaided. Fortunately a very strong young chap who was passing offered assistance, and the bus driver got out too! I had taken the phone off the bike to use the transit app to find out how long I had to wait, so I just shoved the phone into my pocket when the bus arrived.

The #2 was short turning at 16th Avenue, so the driver was not pressed for time, and told me she would help me get the bike off. What with the ratchet on the bike rack’s bracket and the weight of the front wheel I was very glad of her help.

I set off home along the familiar nearly flat Valley Drive route, and just out of curiosity flicked on the throttle to see how much power was left. Amazingly the bike took off like a rocket. There was no phone controlling the app – I had taken it off the bike, and hit the iPhone’s power off button reflexively when putting it in my pocket. I even stopped pedalling altogether and the motor actually accelerated! I used no muscle power at all to get home, and in fact did a lap of honour round the garage all unaided by pedalling!

It has taken only an hour or so to recharge the battery. I should also point out that getting the battery out of the wheel is in itself no mean feat. It really helps to wait awhile for it to cool down first. Then you have to hold down the two top latches while pulling evenly on both sides.

As I was an initial funder through KickStarter I paid $800 – plus $200 shipping – for two wheels. That is considerably cheaper than other electric assist bikes – or wheel conversions. However you only get what you pay for – and while others are expensive they can also be installed for you. Their offered range is considerably greater than the UrbaNext. They do have a facebook page and currently offer the wheel at $319. If you click on the Shop Now link on that page it takes you to IndieGoGo – where the “60 second conversion” claim is repeated. Sorry, that 60 seconds is not actually possible. Even if your front forks do fit first time! Allow at least an hour to set it up properly.

POSTSCRIPT I should have mentioned that I got the 350W version: there is also a 250W which is a bit cheaper.

Written by Stephen Rees

October 3, 2017 at 4:58 pm

CUTA Integrated Mobility Report

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I have decided that there is no way to make this work just with a retweet. So this blog post is addressed to mostly to readers who come to this blog because they are interested in how Canadian transit agencies should better adapt themselves to changing circumstances. Unlike CUTA’s approach to transit statistics, this report is not restricted in its distribution and it is free to download as a large pdf.

Screen Shot 2017-09-28 at 11.30.34 AMIt is meant to be a resource for transit agencies wishing to advance their communities towards integrated mobility.

So if that is something you want to read, start at the CUTA report web page from which there is a download link.

Written by Stephen Rees

September 28, 2017 at 11:32 am

South West Marine Drive bike lane

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Posted to YouTube by my social media contact Anthony Floyd.

All summer long this stretch of road has been closed to traffic to allow for the reconstruction of an important water main (he says – I thought it was sewers). This has resulted in much frustration, as traffic diverted to 41st and King Edward avenues while the work went on. And my favourite route to get away from traffic on Granville Street (Arbutus/West Boulevard/Angus Dr) was closed so it took a lot longer to get to the Airport.

There isn’t any reason for me to use that bike lane, but I am glad it’s there. The video illustrates really well how a bike lane makes it faster for a bike over driving. Compared to other things I have seen I note that the amount of physical protection (New Jersey barriers) is minimal. I also note that there is no-one parked in the bike lane!

I also note that there is always someone who wants to ride faster than you, in any circumstance.

 

Written by Stephen Rees

September 7, 2017 at 8:50 pm

History strikes again

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bike path 30s

After the Greater London Council was abolished (1985), I managed to secure new employment with the Department of Transport. I went through a competitive recruitment process and was appointed an Economic Adviser (Grade 7) and my first assignment was to the Traffic Policy Branch. I think a lot of that was due to the fact that in the run up to abolition there had been a hard hitting campaign which was pointing out some of the lacunae in the government’s assessment of the task in front of it. For instance the GLC had one man who wrote all the traffic orders for the metropolitan area. After abolition, it looked like there would have to be 32 – one in each borough. Not exactly the great boost to efficiency that was predicted. I also happen to think that someone had a sense of humour since the Under Secretary I reported to at Traffic Policy was called Neville Rees.

Most of my time as the economist of the unit was to try and make some sense out the mess that had become of parking in the capital. The politicians, of course, insisted that it was simply a matter of the market producing the optimum solution. There was no market where the hidden hand could work its magic. There had to be policy and there had to be regulation, but mostly there had to effective enforcement – that had collapsed under the weight of indifference to traffic policing at Scotland Yard.

This is a good story but it will have to wait, because now we turn to what was going on in a quiet corner of the office. There were two engineers who were trying to improve the dreadful numbers of collisions involving cyclists. The cycling lobby was pushing hard for the government to promote cycling. The policy at the time was to resist any promotion at all, since the more people who cycled, the worse the casualty statistics. The engineers were coming up with real, hard engineering solutions. Finding safe routes, better separation and better sight lines at intersections. Their mantra was to make cycling safer – and every time they did more people started to use their bikes. And just to make this perfectly clear, their remit was national, not just London. Two engineers, tiny budget for a small number of carefully selected projects. No actual program to promote anything.

My father had been an avid cyclist. Back in the 1930’s car ownership was low, public transport was plentiful and cheap, but young people used cycles – especially for recreation, sport and commuting. When my Dad was evacuated out to Egham with the Public Control Department of the LCC (1939) , he rode his cycle back to Manor Park every weekend. He could do that because when the great network of road improvements was built – mainly as a way to relieve unemployment during the Great Depression – cycle paths were always added to these new roads. For instance the Great West Road, Eastern Avenue and the East Ham ByPass all come to mind.

When the cycling engineers and I talked about what they were trying to do, I mentioned this history to them. They were pretty dismissive. So imagine my surprise when I came across this article in the Atlas Obscura.  I knew these roads and had tried to use some of them in my own youth. By the late 1960s much of them were being used by residents along these roads to park their cars.

In the years that followed the construction of the cycleways, though, cars became the predominant form of transportation, and the bike lanes fell out of use. Even the Ministry of Transport forgot that it had built them. “Within 40 years, it had been lost in their own department that they were doing this,” says Reid. He read the ministry’s minutes going through the 1960s and found records of ministers saying that they’d never built anything like a bike highway before.

So once again, just like bringing back the trams, or re-opening the railway lines closed by Dr Beeching, Britain is now rediscovering what it lost in the rush to motordom. They could have done it thirty years earlier.

Written by Stephen Rees

May 14, 2017 at 11:00 pm

Arbutus Greenway 2017

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Sunshine – and everyone (it seemed) was out on the greenway this morning. Though the pictures don’t show that.

Newly installed bench

There are to be benches at regular intervals: this is Maple Crescent around 29th Avenue

End of the line

The Greenway ends in one of those no-places – with no connections, or even signs to indicate onward connection. This is Milton Street at Rand Avenue. Note that the Greenway doesn’t appear on Google maps – even as a disused railway.

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Arbutus Greenway

This is the reverse angle looking back up the Greenway. The dashed lines indicate where the blacktop will be removed and replaced by a “landscaped” divider.

The bike ride is great – but will definitely get better as more separation between pedestrians and cyclists is established. Right now people tend to just keep to the right even where signs and paint on the path indicate otherwise. The biggest issue is the street crossings – especially on the busier streets like 41st Avenue and Marine Drive. The old train signals are still place – and what signage there is suggests that cyclists behave like pedestrians. 41st at the Boulevards has long been a vehicle only type of intersection with corrals and blockages to pedestrian desire lines. Much work is long overdue here – and the Greenway is going to increase that pressure.

But even so it was nice to be out on the bikes again – and enjoying the long sections of gravity assistance!

Written by Stephen Rees

March 19, 2017 at 1:15 pm

No cycling on the bike path

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img_1733

This is Kits Beach “It’s between the parking lot path and the Boathouse restaurant, due west of the tennis courts” (Anthony Floyd). The picture was taken by me on Monday January 9, around lunch time – and posted to Twitter. In fact this entire post is crowd sourced from Tweetdeck.

In the summer there are signs on both sides of the concession building asking cyclists to dismount due to the heavy foot traffic between the beach, bathrooms, changing rooms, concession, first aid/lifeguard station, restaurant etc.

screen-shot-2017-01-09-at-2-10-37-pm

This is a crop from the official bike route map of the City of Vancouver – and the picture was taken just to the right of the letter k in “Kitsilano Beach Park” (courtesy Jens van Bergmann)

This is like putting “no driving” between the road and parking lot. (Anthony Floyd)

“No cycling” sign on official bike path? Can we please get this sorted out (Jens van Bergmann) to the City and the Park Board

The City responded “Thanks guys! I’ve sent an inquiry over to Active Transportation team via case 8965477! ^BP” – and once we get a response that will be added here

Incidentally while I was sending the picture and caption to Instagram I saw someone cycle past the sign, blythely ignoring it. There is another sign like near the path to the beach and the Biennale’s chair exhibit.

And one comment might be worth noting from Instagram user Colin M Stein “Misquoting Jack Nicholson’s 1989 Joker: “This Park Board needs an enema.””

UPDATE

No Cycling sign

This is by the entrance to the Parking Lot of the Maritime Museum.

From Twitter on January 27

screen-shot-2017-01-27-at-3-53-22-pm

Written by Stephen Rees

January 9, 2017 at 2:27 pm

The Bicycle Diaries: Episode 11

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My bike getting a tune up by http://www.velofix.com

There has been a very long gap since Episode 10, but the bike has been removed from storage, fettled up by Velofix and taken out. Because my partner, Amanda, bought her own bike. She likes walking, and, as I am sure you know, I like talking, and we both do a lot of that together. She has been less than keen to get on a bike, especially in traffic, but has joined in some of my bikey adventures – such as using bike share systems in Paris and New York, and renting bikes in San Francisco and Seattle. She is also of the opinion that I need more exercise, and so does my GP.

Some of our rides are documented on flickr and facebook. We have been down Point Grey Road a couple of times now – and she rode her new bike home, on her own, from the bike shop (next door to MEC) along 10th Ave and the new Arbutus Greenway. We have also now repeated a couple of earlier rides of mine though the Othello Tunnels and along the Myra Canyon Trestles. 

This morning we put the bikes on the car rack again, and drove to West Kent Avenue South. From there we rode over the Canada Line Bridge and along River Road. There has been a lot of change in this bit of Richmond, and it was not clear if we could even get on the north dyke. Then down Shell Road, where not nearly enough has been done. There is still no bike path between the north dyke and Highway 99, and that last intersection is still as hazardous to cyclists as ever. Probably not the City of Richmond’s fault entirely, as the provincial MoTI controls the intersection itself, but there is plenty of space to do better. There is some construction on Shell between Highway 91 and Westminster Highway: there is no clear alternative to the trail which is not yet finished.

The signage on the roadway between the end of the trail at King Road and Steveston Highway is still equivocal. There is both a shared use separated trail (bikes and peds) and sharrows on the road itself with Share The Road signs. None of the major intersections has crossing buttons convenient to cyclists but then that is true of all of Richmond. We stuck to Dyke Road rather than the gravel trail, just because it is a much better surface – even nice new tarmac past Finn Slough – which makes for faster and more comfortable riding. The same is true past No 3 Road but there is much change at the foot of No 2 thanks to redevelopment of the fish packing plant there. Sadly, the bike shop that was there has gone.

Garry Point

We stopped at Pajo’s on Garry Point for lunch, but I am not at all sure in hindsight that was a great idea. Maybe it would have been better to have taken a longer time out after eating fish and chips before riding again. MEC was organising some kind of race on the West Dyke, but that seemed to be almost over. Not so the organised hiking group – Yoho Hikes – who seemed to need to walk four abreast in large clumps. The dyke trail was very busy with cyclists and walkers – and I had forgotten how windy it can be. So a long slow slog up to Terra Nova, and then more construction on the dyke itself under the No 2 Road bridge. The paved path in front of the oval all the way to Cambie is a delight, even the curvy swoopy bits, with hardly anyone around. We rode through the Casino access rather than the posted bike route as it seemed more direct. And then tackled that bridge again, at which point I found I had to get off, winded, and push up the “hill” to the peak of the bridge.

All told 35.4 km in about 3 hours which excludes the time for lunch. But then this was supposed to be fun not record breaking. Beautiful day but no pictures, as I was trying not to stop. Maybe I need to get a GoPro.   We also spent a lot of the time riding single file – which had also been the case on the Myra Canyon – which meant much less discussion en route. At least when riding I can not only keep going, but also go faster than Amanda when necessary – which isn’t the case when we hike longer distances. In that case the “need” to take pictures provides useful respite, but she does like to walk fast when she can. We recently did a short 4.5km hike around Lightning Lake in Manning Park which is supposed to take one and a half hours and finished that in a bit more than two.

I must say that I was disappointed but not surprised that so little has been done to improve cycling in Richmond since I left. I used to do this circuit quite often, and hardly any of it is  improved, apart from the bit by the Oval. I also think that when we do it again, we will find somewhere to park along the trail, and avoid the Canada Line bridge altogether.

Written by Stephen Rees

October 2, 2016 at 6:42 pm

Posted in bicycles

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