Stephen Rees's blog

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

Archive for the ‘cycling’ Category

The Bicycle Diaries: Episode 13

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UrbanX-wheel-full

I know that this wheel is no longer being sold under the name UrbanX – or even UrbaNext – but that does not mean transactions are not continuing. The company which sold two to me has evaporated. Leaving me one wheel which simply does not work. And another that continues to frustrate me. However there are still plenty of pages available on the internet from websites which seem to have simply accepted the claims made by its makers untested. So my purpose in writing this is simply to re-issue warnings that I have made to an earlier diary entry which I keep updating but is maybe not being noticed as much as a new post.

Yesterday I took the bike out on the Greenway. It has been sitting in the locker for the winter, but the weather was so nice, and my partner was quite happy to ride her bike now that its electric wheel has been removed. I was quite surprised to find that the battery had held its charge all this time. I first did a short test along Valley, just to make sure everything was working properly. As expected the control started working once I reached 5 km/hr (based on the reading on the app) but kept on working even if the speed dropped below that provided that I did not come to a complete stop. I was even able to get the speed control on the app to work in motion and there is a real difference between the three “gears”. But it isn’t easy to hold the control down and change the bike’s gears. On the level that doesn’t matter. On a hill – such as the one up from Valley to Arbutus along King Edward Ave – it matters a lot. Once again I found myself getting off the bike and pushing. Even when the wheel is turned off it acts like a brake. The bike is much heavier with the wheel and its battery and that is all on front axle. That isn’t a good place to add weight. Pushing that bike up the hill was not fun!

If an electric assist bike is going to be useful, getting moving from rest on a hill must be the most important task. This wheel won’t do that.

On the return downhill ride on King Ed the app speed read 12 km/hr – even though I was keeping up with traffic which must have been much faster. The wheel under power does not hold back as it does when turned off. But it also doesn’t regenerate either if you did want a decellerator. It does happily bring me home on the flat Valley Drive – no pedalling, and I did not even press the throttle. But the wheel does get hot. It is impossible to pull the battery out from its housing when it is hot. So I left it in overnight. I still cannot budge it this morning. You have to hold down two tabs on the top of the battery while pulling back evenly. The battery case is smooth and there is nothing to get a grip on. You also need to have the wheel secured against something so you are not pulling the wheel over too. It is a lousy design ergonomically.

My conclusion is that while an electric assist bike is a worthwhile idea, the reality needs more than can be provided by purchasing over the internet from a Chinese company. It is cheap for a reason, and its very cheapness ought to be warning. Most ebikes and conversions come out to be more than the ~$500 I spent on each wheel. Buying from an established retailer a bike made (or adapted from) a reputable manufacturer is a lot better bet than KickStarter or IndieGoGo.

 

Written by Stephen Rees

May 7, 2018 at 12:27 pm

Weekly Photo Challenge: Lines

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Lines

I took this photo back in 2009, when I lived in Richmond.

Much more recently, we were checking out the improvements that have been made to the seawall around False Creek near Granville Island. On flickr someone commented on the “leading line” – but all I thought I was doing was noting how much better the path is when there is a separate space for cyclists and pedestrians.

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So this is my response to the challenge Lines

Written by Stephen Rees

April 25, 2018 at 11:27 am

What Vancouver Streets will look like

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A powerpoint presentation by Dale Bracewell (Manager of Transportation Planning, City of Vancouver) via Twitter

Three sample slides

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Download the complete presentation

Written by Stephen Rees

February 1, 2018 at 2:38 pm

Infographic courtesy of Prof Chris Oliver

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Worth following him on Twitter

AFTERWORD

I was reading a news item about a murder investigation which uses the iPhone native app “Health” – meaning you get it and it runs by itself. I did not know that. It seems in the case mentioned that the app shows that the suspect was “climbing flights of stairs” on the day when the victim was dumped in a river. So the cops can link the phone to the area, and time and activity.

So I looked at my iPhone and it turns out that it has been tracking my physical activity. Yesterday (February 6th) I walked 3.3km and took 4,643 steps. Not bad, eh?

Written by Stephen Rees

December 20, 2017 at 3:54 pm

Posted in cycling, health, transit, walking

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

Another Idea for Granville Island

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Credit for this idea goes to Connor Murphy – who posted to Twitter in a thread – and provided this illustration.

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Imagine a timber clad boardwalk that threads its way through over and under the existing bridge, sloped sections for accessibility and opening sections for boats. It could act as a driver for change and growth on Granville Island

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I think this is an idea that has merit. My first concern is how steep the ramp would be and what impact that could have on accessibility. And I also think that this is the sort of thing that could be done on a trial basis. I would support it, as long as it did not mean that the idea of elevators to the existing bridge deck to connect to new bus stops was not abandoned as no longer needed. I would also expect opposition from the little ferry operators!

There is also the non-trivial issue of raw materials going to the readymixed concrete plant on large barges.

Written by Stephen Rees

August 7, 2017 at 7:03 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