Below we provide mainly some number coming from [1], using a data base; the “registre du Rhone” (Lyon district, France); recording detailed information for 14 478 cyclist victims of road accident in the Rhone county (France). The data under studies have been collected from 1996 to 2007. The level of detail is very high compared to some other data base, and they can help to clarify the helmet debate:

see wikipedia for the AIS and IIS definition and meaning

Injured Body part among cyclists
reported numbers are only for cyclist where the helmeted/unhelmeted status is known

helmeted 1461 unhelmeted 5620 helmeted 1461 unhelmeted 5620
Body region %yes %AIS3+ %yes %AIS3+ yes AIS3+ yes AIS3+
head 16,6% 1,0% 19,5% 2,3% 242 15 1095 128
face 18,3% 0,1% 24,3% 0,2% 268 1 1367 9
neck 3,3% - 2,7% 0,0% 48 0 152 1
Thorax 9,6% 1,8% 6,3% 1,0% 140 26 355 55
abdomen 3,9% 0,1% 3,6% 0,2% 57 2 200 14
spine 7,5% 0,3% 5,0% 0,1% 110 5 281 8
Upper Extremity 53,5% 3,2% 44,7% 3,4% 781 47 2513 189
Lower Extremity 33,7% 1,8% 31,2% 1,9% 493 27 1751 107
skin 17,8% - 15,2% - 260 0 857 0

This table shows that the helmeted cyclist are less often severely injured to the head, less often injured and seevrely injured to the face. But they are more often injured and severely injured to the Thorax and spine, and more often injured to the upper extremity. This suggesthelemeted cyclist get involved in more severe accident. 2 reasons can be advanced for it

    • Helmeted cyclists have a different cyclist practice that non helmeted one (that relate to the infamous MAMIL)

the effect of it is to give an under estimation of the helmet efficiency

    • There is a risk compensation at play along helmeted cyclist

the efficiency of the helmet could be under estimated by those raw number
this annihilate in part the helmet efficeincy

The figure below illustrates the % of head injuries oberved for injuried cyclists with an helmet and without:

The bike helmet seems to have no significant effect at reducing superficial head injuries but it reduces the risk of severe head injury (AIS3+) by 50%. However such severe head injuries represent less than 2% of the total cyclists injuries

So we are looking at a global effect of 1%, but severe head injuries can have long term disabilities consequence, so a reduction by 50% of severe head injuries could be considered a worth endeavour:

Below a more detailled view of the head and face injuries specificities:

Head or face Injuried cyclist: type of lesion according to helmet wearing or not

Helmeted 238 Unhelmeted 1078
lesions N = % N %
Unconsciousness without additional descripted lesion or head trauma without further indication 194 73,5% 668 49,3%
skin lesion 43 16,3% 459 33,9%
brain 21 8,0% 150 11,1%
skull 6 2,3% 65 4,8%
little brain 0 - 4 0,3%
nerves 0 - 4 0,3%
brainstem 0 - 2 0,1%
Destruction skull and brain 0 - 2 0,1%
Total 264 100% 1354 100%

In despite of a pretty huge database, significativity is not reached on many lesions types.

According to [1], Among the 222 cyclists injuried to the skull or its content

  • 30 are dead
  • 42 will have severe heavy brain disabilities (IIS3) – that represents 0.3% of the injuried cyclist
  • 146 will have light brain disabilities – that represents 1% of the injuired cyclist

The effect of the helmet on long term disabilities seems to be measured on a very small cohort:

unhelmeted 35 helmeted 3
fatalities 15 0
%fatalities among total injuried 0,3% -
%fatalities among head injuries 1,4% -
Severe head disabilities (IIS3+) 20 3
% Severe disabilities among total injuried 0,4% 0,2%
% Severe disabilities among head injuried 1,9% 1,3%
% Other severe disabilities in addition of severe head disabilities [10] 19,8% 21,4%

Again, we don’t reach significativity to be able to conclude that a “bike helmet saves life”, but it could well reduce significantly the risk of severe head disabilities. The number could suggests 50%, but again with very little confidence.

In anycase, the effect is measured in tenth of 1% of the total injuries: the absolute number of victim is very small.

How bike injuries compare to other transportation mode?

When involved in an accident, cyclists have the lowest fatailities rate compared to other individual transportation mode. They have also the best chance to survive an accident without long term disabilities. Urban cyclists are even much safer than rural or suburban cyclists:

Cyclists
Injury severities Uurban 6584 Rural 1726 0-10years 3364 Pedestrians 10131 car 53151 Mopette Motorbike 21831
MAIS 1 63,7% 53,7% 72,5% 60,4% 81,6% 61,7%
MAIS 2 28,7% 35,3% 22,4% 24,7% 13,4% 27,0%
MAIS 3 5,8% 7,9% 4,2% 10,0% 2,8% 8,6%
MAIS 4 and 5 0,9% 2,0% 0,3% 2,3% 1,0% 1,5%
fatalities 0,6% 0,8% 0,1% 2,6% 1,2% 1,1%
no disabilities 78,4% 73,8% 88,2% 66,1% 55,3% 73,7%
light diabilities (MIIS1-2) 20,2% 23,8% 11,1% 29,6% 42,8% 23,8%
severe disabilities (MIIS3-6) 0,6% 1,2% 0,2% 1,6% 0,7% 1,3%

When urban cycling is considered alone, helmeted cyclists are observed to have 20% less chance to be severly injured that non helmeted one, whenever involved in an accident, however significativity is not reached [1].

The figures below eventually help to compare the different pattern of injuries, according to transportation mode, and eventually relativize the impact of a bike helmet on the total number of both severe head injuries and severe disabilities.

AIS4plusandTransportationMode

Injuries type according to transportation mode (from [2])

Long term severe disabilities type according to transportation mode (from [2])- head injuries represents ~60% of the long term disabilities fro both pedestrians and cyclists

those figures provide absolute numbers for the Rhone district (1.7Millions) inhabitant for years 2007-2010…
Even if a bike helmet is able to reduce the severe head injuries and disabilities, by 50%, the saving in term of public health could be relatively insignificant but the more generalized economic cost can be real: It has became clear that an helmet legislation is counterproductive, but even promotion campaigns in favor of bike helmet could be counter productive:

  • The money spend on helemet couldn’t justify the health care saving, and could be better invested somewhere else
  • Helmet campaign promotions paint cycling as a dangerous transportation, discouraging people to cycle, conducting to a less healthy population

One could object that a low absolute bike injuries number is due to a relatively low cycle ridership. The dramatic increase in cycle ridership over the last decade, especially in urban area, is well documented, and still the number of total injuries has not increased but is decreasing [2]:

Bike accident evolution in France

Bike accident evolution in France

The more people bike, the more a bike helmet becomes irrelevant…unless you believe pedestrians should wear an helmet too!


More citation to come

[1] Vélo et casque, Journée spécialisée, jeudi 28 mai 2009, Rapport UMRESTTE 0908, May 2009

[2] Bilan 2011 de la sécurité routière en France

[10] doesn’t express it like it, but I am assuming it is due to a typo.

The strong bike helmet lobbying push seems to have started with a widely quoted 1989 paper from Thomson & Rivara, [1] that makes the bold claim that:

“we found that riders with helmets had an 85 percent reduction in their risk of head injury … and an 88 percent reduction in their risk of brain injury”

That finding has been a foundation for helmet legislation calls. Alas, after legislations were passed, be in Australia or in BC, leading to a significant increase in helmet wearing [6][17], numbers suggested by [1] never materialized [6][7][8]. Worse, the bike helmet legislation seems to have no impact on bicycling safety [7][8], the later study justifying a British Medical Journal editorial advising against helmet legislation [9].

It quickly appeared that [1] had many flaws as debunked in [10][11], and effectively recognized in a BMJ editorial [9] …That has not prevented an author of [1], Rivara, to publish many more papers always claiming impressive efficiency for bike helmet, but always presenting similar flaws as identified in [1] (confounding factors) [11]. A meta study published in 2001, [4], was also associating bike helmet with an impressive 64% reduction of risk of head injury and [3] confirmed those results and reported even more impressive reductions in the risk of head injury. Alas the studies included in both [3] and [4] have been demonstrated to be the result of a severe selection bias. After correction of this selection bias, [5] found that a bike helmet was reducing the risk of head injury by ~15%. The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)  dropped claim that bike helmets reduce head injury by 85% as this number has no credible basis.

While initial claims on the head injury risk reduction offered by bike helmet has been proven unfounded, and bike helmet legislation shown ineffective at increasing bike safety, it appears that such legislation could discourage cycling [18], what is eventually conductive to lower bike safety and less physical active population with detrimental effect on the population health [23]. Overall, a bike helmet legislation can quickly be considered as having a negative impact on public health [12]. Wherever more general economic impact is considered, the picture can become even bleaker [16].

In despite of the above, the bike helmet controversy has side tracked the research community…which focuses more on the way to mitigate the consequence of bike accidents rather than addressing their causes. As an example, several studies have reported an alarming rate of alcohol intoxication among injured and deceased cyclists, but the helmet lobby has totally seized the debate to a ridiculous point: [15] observing that half of the cyclists who died in Oregon, were alcohol intoxicated, has -in fine- no better recommendation than promoting bike helmet…among drunk cyclists!

It also take considerable energy by cycling promoters to counter misleading claims advanced regularly by the bike helmet lobby. A recent example below:


Following the publication of [19], The University of Washington and Washington State University, issued a press release titled “Study correlates presence of bike-share programs with more head injuries” stating [20]:

“Risk of head injury among cyclists increased 14 percent after implementation of bike-share programs in several major cities ”.

That has quickly being debunked as a flat lie [21], but that has made alarming headline in some media outlet (Washington Post, NPR,..).

The journalists, who are not epidemiologists can’t be reasonably blamed to reporting what is told to them by some unscrupulous researchers, considering that the study has been published, after a peer review (How to argue against that?). However in despite of evidence of misrepresentation of facts reported in various social media, they didn’t issued appropriate correction to their original story (and have preferred to close the comment section) and that is a fault.

The unscrupulous researchers can certainly be blamed for their absence of ethic:
We will pass on the unprofessional self promotion of the previous authors’ publications, such as the now well discredited [1], this, in no uncertain term:

“Solid data from well-designed studies support the effectiveness of bicycle helmets and legislation mandating their use”

As we have seen, that can’t be farther from the true, but the real problem is the thrust of the article and a misplaced conclusion, as well exposed by [22]

However, the bulk of the blame should go to the American Journal of Public Health editor; Dr. Mary Northridge; to have accepted to publish what appears to be a scientific fraud. Such an article should have never been accepted under such a form and it has clearly not been properly peer reviewed:

    Peer reviewing to work, suppose trust in the ethic of the authors (no intention to deceipt…), however, just the name of the authors should have already been sufficient to raise an eyebrow: Frederick P. Rivara, not stranger to deeply flawed studies and scientific controversy, is considered by many as nothing more than a charlatan; noticeably for reason exposed above; and considering this infamous record, the minimum of precaution could have been to choose at least some reviewers showing more scrutinity ability than complacency.

Conclusion

The minimum the American Journal of Public Health can do is to issue a correction, clearly stating the observed reduction in head injury in cities having a public bike share program as pointed by K. Teschke [24], this in a proeminent place and endorsed by its editorial board

In the meantimes, this episode will have helped to make clear how deep is the lack of ethic among the bike helmet supporters, to the point to even embarrasse some of them [25]. It will help to convince more people to be not only very critical of the bike helmet lobby claims, but also aware that a peer review process is unfortunatly not synonym of quality.


[1] “A case control study of the effectiveness of bicycle safety helmets “, Thompson RS, Rivara FP, Thompson DC , New England Journal of Medicine v320 n21 p1361-7; 1989

[2] “Effectiveness of bicycle safety helmets in preventing head injuries: a case-control study “ . Thompson DC, Rivara FP, Thompson RS., JAMA 1996 Dec 25;276(24)

[3] Helmets for preventing head and facial injuries in bicyclists. Cochrane Review. Thompson, D.C., Rivara, F., Thompson, R., 2009. The Cochrane Library (1), 2009

[4] Bicycle helmet efficacy: a metaanalysis. Attewell, R.G., Glase, K., McFadden, M., Accident Analysis and Prevention 33, 345–352, 2001.

[5] Publication bias and time-trend bias in meta-analysis of bicycle helmet efficacy: A re-analysis of Attewell, Glase and McFadden, 2001. Accident Analysis and Prevention 43 1245–1251, 2011

[6] Head injuries and bicycle helmet laws, Robinson DL, Accid Anal Prev. 1996 Jul;28(4):463-75.

[7] “Bicycle-related head injury rate in Canada over the past 10 years” ,Middaugh-Bonney, T.; Pike, I.; Brussoni, M.; Piedt, S.; MacPherson, A. ; Injury Prevention 16: A228 2010

[8] Helmet legislation and admissions to hospital for cycling related head injuries in Canadian provinces and territories: interrupted time series analysis.Dennis J, Ramsay T, Turgeon AF, Zarychanski R. BMJ 2013

[9] Bicycle helmets and the law, Wellcome G. And Spiegelhalter Winton D., BMJ 2013

[10] misguided doctors or marketing agents? June 11th, 2012, Cyclists Rights Action Group

[11] Misleading claims, Bicycle Helmet Research Foundation

[12] The Health Impact of Mandatory Bicycle Helmet Laws, de Jong P. ,Risk Analysis, Vol. 32, No. 5, 2012

[13] New Zealand bicycle helmet law—do the costs outweigh

the benefits? Taylor M. And Scuffham P. Injury Prevention 2002;8:317–320

[14] Bikes, Helmets, and Public Health: Decision-Making When Goods Collide. Bateman-House A. ; American Journal of Public Health ; Vol 104, No. 6, June 2014

[15] Injuries Resulting from Bicycle Collisions Frank E, Frankel P, Mullins RJ, Taylor N. Academic Emergency Medicine, Volume 2, Issue 3, pages 200–203, March 1995

[16] Few study exist – except maybe [13] suggesting that the social cost of outfitting every cyclist with an helmet was not economically justified – But as far as we know, there is no comprehensive study examining the implication of transportation mode substitution, under a transportation economic perspective (time saved or not, infrastructure cost…)

[17] Bicycle helmet use in British Columbia, Foss RD, Beirness DJ, UNC Highway Safety Research Center; Traffic Injury Research Foundation, as cited by cyclehelmet.org

[18] Bicycle helmet legislation: Can we reach a consensus?, Robinson DL, Accid Anal Prev. 2Volume 39, Issue 1, January 2007, Pages 86–93.

[19] Public Bicycle Share Programs and Head Injuries; Janessa M. Graves, Barry Pless, Lynne Moore, Avery B. Nathens, Garth Hunte, and Frederick P. Rivara.; American Journal of Public Health: August 2014, Vol. 104, No. 8, pp. e106-e111

[20] “Study correlates presence of bike-share programs with more head injuries” College of Nursing; Washington State University, June 9, 2014

[21] “As if we needed another example of lying with statistics and not issuing a correction: bike-share injuries”, Phil Price, andrewgelman.com, June 17, 2014.

[22] “Hard Evidence: do bikeshare schemes lead to more head injuries among cyclists?”, Woodcock J. and Goodman A.; Theconversation.com ; August 28, 2014

[23] Health effects of the London bicycle sharing system: health impact modelling study, James Woodcock, Marko Tainio, James Cheshire, Oliver O’Brien and Anna Goodman. BMJ 2014;348:g425

[24] letter to American Journal of Public Health Editor, Dr. Mary Northridge, by K. Teschke and M. Winters, June 24, 2014

[25] Shared Bicycle Rental Systems and Helmets, Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute June 17, 2014.

Voony’s library

April 25, 2014

This blog uses many reference documents, sometimes not available online except thru this blog: This post gathers those “odd” documents and is aimed to be updated whenever needed.

Note 1 Most of the Translink documents can be found in their library
Note 2 Different Reference spreadsheets are maintained in a specific post

Grounded on principle previously exposed, we present here some more concrete ideas of what could look an ideal transit network in downtown. In a top down approach, we naturally ensure that the regional and city transit lines are optimized: that is the main purpose of this post

The regional transit network:

The regional bus network: the extension of the North sore bus route to the Main street Station

The regional bus network: the extension of the North sore bus route to the Main street Station

The Hasting buses (named HSB) such as bus 135 are considered as regional bus, as well as all buses heading to the North Shore (named NSB for the one using the Lions gate Bridge).

A major change is with the North shore buses.
All routes coming are extended to Main terminal:

  • The actual connection with the Granville station is preserved, but patrons will eventually find that Stadium or Main will provide better transfer: that will reduce crowding pressure at the Georgia#Granville stop
  • Georgia street, sometime called a traffic sewage, is where some want hide Transit and its users: it is not without creating challenges.

    Corwding at Georgia#Granville bus stop is reduced by the extension of the north shore buses to Main station

  • It resolves North shore bus layover issues in the downtown core: there is ample space at The Main/Terminal
  • It provides a direct connection with the Main street bus routes (3,8, and 19)
  • it provides a direct connection with the train and intercity buses station.

A potential extension to the future Broadway line station, at Great Northern Way# Fraser, could be doable too


City Bus routes:

the city bus network

the city bus network

A major change on the main street corridor:

Bus #3 and #8 are short-turned at the north end of Main. It is a result of an observation: most of the patron of those routes, transfer onto the Expo line at main terminal, leaving bus #3 and #8 wandering empty in the downtown core. It is also a follow up of a previous Translink recommendation [1].

  • The saving in term of operating cost is tremendous, and it helps to address bus congestion (mainly at bus stop) on the hasting corridor

Bus 19 can preserve a direct connection between the downtown and the Main Corridor.

The route 22 toward the Knight street corridor
In the context of the 2013 Bus service optimization consultation, we came up with a “counter proposal” to improve the bus 22 and C23 route (then proposed to be extended to Terminal Avenue) which has been discussed in comment section of the buzzer blog:

proposed extension of route C23 (in blue) and rerouting of bus 22 (in red) to serve the Terminal avenue area, and provide a good connection with the Expo line

The bus is permantly routed thru terminal avenue (instead of Prior and Gore).

  • it improves the connection to the expo line (for people using its East branch)
    • to avoid a left turn at Main street(preventing to have a bus stop in direct connection with the Expo line), the route 22 is routed thru Columbia and Quebec street.
  • The actual 22 use Pender street, but Hasting could be a superiori choice (direct connection with hasting bus corridor, and closer to Waterfront):
    • Toward it a section of Columbia (North of Pnder) could need to be reverted as a two-way street.

The Bus 17

It is used to provide a North south service East of Granville from Waterfront (bus termini on Cordova). Due to the street layout, Cambie street is the only reasonnable choice:

  • Beatty closer to the Staidum station end up at pender, is often closed to traffic with special event at Canada place.
  • Hamilton and all western choice, are to too far away of the Statdium station, and roverlapping too much with the Granville corridor.

The route 50 case.

This aim of this route is to provide some transit service to Granville island and on the South False Creek slope. That said, the routing of this route make it of little value for too many people:

We redesign this route as a peripheral one, linking Broadway#Granville, Granville Island, Olympic station, Main street station and Main#Hasting:

bus 50 as a peripheral route connecting Main#Hasting to Bradway#Granville via Main station, Olympic station and Granville Island

bus 50 as a peripheral route connecting Main#Hasting to Bradway#Granville via Main station, Olympic station and Granville Island

Among other benefits: Such alignment allows to improve the transit offer in the South East Flase Creek area, and remove one diesel bus route of the Granville Mall.

The inconvenience of this design is the eventual lost of a direct connection between Downtown and Granville island: The implementation of an elevator between granville island and the Granville bridge span could be a good solution, which could be part of the Granville Bridge greenway proposal

The route 15 is then prolonged to downtown, following the alignement of route 17, able to provide a more consistent bus service on the peninsula section of Cambie

The Hasting bus corridor

We include the bus serving Powell in this corridor (essentially route #4). Even with the removal of bus #3 and #8, there is lot of bus service redundancy (#7,#14,#16,#20): The rationalization of it should be the object of a study focusing on this corridor rather than a down town study.

The Burrard bus corridor

At this time, it consists only of bus 22 and 44. If the Broadway subway is designed to terminate at Arbutus, it is expected that this corridor will see much more bus traffic, and a revamped route 44 -using Broadway to connect with the subway line- could see a level of service similar to the actual bus 99.


[1] Vancouver/UBC Area Transit Plan , Translink, July 2005.

A brief historical context is available here

The war on buses is continuing.

The City of Vancouver is losing no occasion to attack the downtown bus system:

the North Plaza site analysis as presented in the open house material

Even when a design doesn’t need to threat transit, City of Vancouver can’t refrain to do so:
The site analysis, while showing permanent bus stops on Burrard, and temporary ones on Howe, fails to show a single bus stop on either Robson or Granville. Also surprising is the lack of mention of any major transit corridors in the vicinity (Granville is not considered as such!).

That could be due more to ignorance of the site and unfamiliarity of the bus network by the design team, than malevolent intentions. Nevertheless, the result is still a deceptive material, raising questions on the openness and good faith of the city of Vancouver in regard of the Down Town bus service review.

(why go thru the exercise, when it is all decided as eventually suggested on the left?)

Passing the above provocation, which eventually left little ambiguities on the city intentions if it was any doubts left after the disastrous “block 51 consultation” in fall 2012 [1], let’s have a look at the proposed designs


Since the VAG is poised to move to Larwill park (Cambie#Georgia), in a relatively near future, the purpose of the exercise is a bit futile, but as the underground vault below the square is leaking: work on the plaza needs to happen as soon as possible. That somewhat can explain the relatively low profile adopted (e.g. no design competition) for one of the most important place in Vancouver, which, potentially temporary, facelift is budgeted at $3 millions. 3 options are presented to the public:

Plalo Ring


PlaloRing2PlaloRing3 A Plalo Ring, transforming the square as a night club at night? May be for a Nuit blanche event, but permanently?

The focal point of the square is obviously the Rattenbury building, and any design should be driven at making the best of this heritage building. This Plalod ring, not only ignoring the Rattenbury building, but also diminishing it, is probably out of place on the North Plaza. One could also infer, it could create some problem for some events. (lighting issue, and sound reverberation).

The fact that it is considered by the design team, and is a favorite with the public [2] is eventually one reason of despair of the Vancouver culural and urban scene:

Someday, they will propose to demolish the Rattensbury building to increase the size of the north Plaza![4]

Active edge

Some "edge" on the side of the square?

Some “edge” on the side of the square?

The goal of it is unclear: bring some intimacy to the square?… square being surrounded by traffic sewages on 3 of its sides, that looks:

  • A loosing battle
  • and an unnecessary one, since the spaces north of Robson street fulfill this need

All those “edges” seriously limit the versatility of the place, think the Vancouver Sun Run:

  • The Georgia side
  • The fountain along Georgia, seems more inspired by the current “centennial fountain” than anything else. As much as the current fountain, it creates a psychological barrier to the Rattenbury building access. It is worth to note, that a fountain used to sit along Georgia (and is now along Hornby: it is also surprisingly misisng of the site inventory). Why not put restore the historic fountain in its original location?

  • The Howe side
  • The site inventory notice a bus stop at the foot of Howe street, so this design turns its back on Howe, and erect a “wall” there, preventing the transit users to be part of the square life…enough is said!

    Wet

    the water mirror

    the water mirror – for bottom photos, credit (3)

    May be the rendering is not making justice to the design, which in some sort is reverberating an early Erickson concept for the square: it doesn’t seem to encouter a great public adhesion [2], but it is by far the best option among the proposed ones:

    • It is the most able to address the formalism and ceremonial aspect of the square
    • while offering a versatility of use, and still not offering an empty place

    That is the purpose of such a mirror in Bordeaux, and more recently Place de la Republique, Paris, a huge “demonstrating” square, as we have seen before, that said:

    • Does the water mirror, need to cover all the square?
    • probably not, since it hinders other spontaneous activities

    • Does the water mirror, is a necessary feature on the North Plaza?
    • may be, may be not: the square is somewhat small, and a proper surface treatment and other urban furnishings, can be enough, to both compliment the building, and enlivening the square.

    Place de la Republique, Paris: a skateboard ledge? a speaker corner? a mattress? Basic, moveable and still permanent furnishing, can gather many spontaenous uses, enlivening  the square at low cost.

    Place de la Republique, Paris: a skateboard ledge? a speaker corner? a mattress? Basic, moveable furnishing, can gather many spontaenous uses, enlivening the square at low cost.

    And The red carpet

    All presented proposals seem to be relatively weak, focusing more at addressing the need of a 3 days Jazz festival, rather than addressing the place itself. As such they are relatively uninspiring, especially when compared to the “red carpet” as presented by Hapa collaborative, at the “Where’s the square?”, VPSN design competition.

    Vancouver Red Carpet – Hapa Collaborative – entry of the 2009 VSPN Where’s the Square Competition

    The surface treatment

    All design are based on “Hard landscaping” landscaping because it is “more durable and long lasting”: If Granville mall, where the city believes an outstanding job has been done, is an indication, one should not hold his breath on it. Since, the setting could be temporary, the city could be well inspired to use a compacted fine gravel surface, which has the merit to be much cheaper than a good quality hard surface, and easy to recycle, whenever a new arrangment of the square is required by a different use of the Rattenbury building.

    Like many squares in France, Place Bellecour, Lyon, has a compacted surface, able to accomodate a great range of venues

    Like many square in France, Place Bellecour, Lyon, has a compacted surface, able to accomodate a great range of venue.


    And why not also keep the space as a blank page?… pretty much like Place Bellecour in Lyon, France, which Viva, or other group could program (instead of organizing a blockade on bus routes), and revisit our options when we will have more clarity on the future use of the Rattenbury building?


    [1] see “block 51” public consultation, which has left a sour taste with many observers, as we have already noticed here and there. In despite of all evidences, VPSN, a group advocating for aggressive pedestrianism and co-organizeer of the block 51 consultation, unsurprinsingly and sadly, still believe it was a good consultation.

    [2] According to a poll by Vancity buzz (3 stunning design revealed for new Vancouver art Gallery North Plaza, Kenneth Chan, VancityBuzz, Oct 1st, 2013), 65& of its polled prefer the “plalo Ring”, while 20% prefer the “wet” concept, with 8% liking the “active edge” one.

    [3] flickr user hisgett

    [4] This is paraphrasing Victor Hugo, whose famously said, “somedays, they will destroy the cathedral Notre Dame, to increase its parvis”, about the Haussmann work in Paris

    yesterday, transport action BC (a group I am member of) got contacted by a TV network, on this topic, so here below, is what has been provided, as a discussion base on the topic:

    I could entertain a Hong Kong type model:

    • distance based on the rail network.
    • fixed route based price n the bus system (with time variation on/off peak, but not distance based variation)

    That is:

    A compromise between and “ideal” economic model and a pricing model, simple enough to be understandable by people is required

    an Octopus reader on a KMB bus in Hong Kong: price is simple and easy to understand, (no surprise price) – credit photo wikipedia

    you want to know how much you gonna pay when you board the bus…not finding it out afterward!
    that is also true for trains, but the train system can be made pretty clear, at the station’s Ticket Vending Machine.

    distance pricing on bus open a Pandora box: what distance we are talking about?
    … bus are able to pound many extra miles on a trip looking very short on the map:

    As for this bus route 405 in Richmond, it is very common for bus route to do many detours, loop,… before bringing you to your destination: should you pay for all that extra mileage you didn’t ask for?

    Just Imagine what you could think if a cab driver (charging by the distance) was using the bus 405 route for a trip from Ikea to a temple on Number 5 road in Richmond…

    Vancouver region is full of those circuitous routes…

    Distance doesn’t reflect the cost to provide a bus transit service

    The cost to provide a bus service is mainly based on the time spent on the road, not the driven distance, by the bus [2]:
    It is commonly admitted than bus driver wages and benefits account for ~70% of the operating cost of a bus, and wages are paid based on a time, not a distance, base.

    • bus 5 (Robson) average speed is barely better than 10km/h
    • bus 555 (PortMann express) zip along Hwy 1 at 100km/h

    It is almost as expensive for Translink to provide a bus seat between Granville and Denman (1.6km), than it is to provide a bus seat between Carvolth exchange in Langley and Braid station in New Westminster (20km). Why the later one should cost more?

    The real problem to address
    The real problem is to encourage people to use bus off peak, or alternative route to the more congested one:
    examples include

    • encourage people to bus 84 rather than bus 99.
    • encourage people to use the bus 96B rather the bus 320, on 104th avenue when they don’t need to travel east of Guilford

    this to make an overall better usage of the transit system …That is: it is more a demand management model tha a distance based fare model which is needed.


    [1] I plan to write further on the bus 96B and 320 interaction: recently published letters in the Surrey leader, (“Transit woes continue in North Surrey” and “Transit changes make no sense“, in their Sept 30th, 2013 edition) high-light a real network design problem

    [2] The bus operating cost/hr is defacto the metric used by Translink to assess the operating cost of its bus routes, as illustrated in its bus performance service review

    Viva Vancouver 2013

    August 29, 2013

    Only one week-end before back to school: it is time to draw some conclusions when memory are still fresh on the Viva Vancouver 2013 season

    The viva objective is to disrupt Transit as much as possible, no matter the reason what: under this light, 2013 marks a special achievement, by the reintroduction of cars on Granville Mall. (credit photo: Car2go facebook)

    Judging the Viva programming is certainly a question of view point:


    Some minor projects here and there, like the park-lets or the public pianos, are certainly positive actions for our public spaces, but the Viva signature projects will be on Robson square and Granville street. It is the focus on in this post

    For some, the Viva 2013 program will be considered as a tremendous success:

    • Closing Granville Mall to bus, for the sake to provide space to a for profit car company subsidiary, is a noticeable achievement

    For others, it will be considered simply as disappointing, if not a failure:

    Robson Square 2013.
    (credit photo, scout magazine)

    This Year flagship installation, Corduroy Road at Robson square, was providing some seating using warm material, bringing the street partially at level with the sidewalk. Alas, as noticed before by Stephen Rees, it never get used much more than a glorified foodcourt, and beside lunch time, the place was looking too empty to be attractive [2]:

    • The installation itself, providing little interactivity, at the difference of the very popular 2012 PopRock, or the 2011 Picnurbia, could be at cause.
    • The fact that both side of the 700 block of Robson street are going under renovation, was not helping either

    But more probably, the “Olympic atmosphere” memories which people could have been looking at when wandering on the Vancouver street in the previous summers is simply fading, and the interest for the programming of our public spaces is disappearing. More simply, there is not enough pedestrian traffic to “fill-up” the offered space, which is too big considering the pedestrian traffic [1].

    That is a disappointment. A particularly sunny summer makes it even bitter.

    It becomes a significant failure, when the goal is to demonstrate the viability of a year round closure, and in despite of a generous funding, Viva was not even able to meaningfully program the space it seized, for the 2 most favourable months of the year: Presenting a “car2go” booth as a way to program our public space, has turned the experience into a farce, to not say a full scale fiasco.

    The space is too big with undefined edges to instillate a sense of “successfull pedestrian space”. The “corduroy road” installation serves mainly as a food court for the foodtrucks (on the bottom/left corner), which is preferred to the then deserted concrete seats, legacy of Arthur Erickson, credit photo, Brent Toderian

    The conclusion on the viability of a permanent Robson square closure should be obvious, and the last year experiment- keeping Robson square pedestrian only during the fall 2012- should have given hints:

    The Robson square Sidewalks are ample enough to accomodate the pedestrian flow: no pedestrian feels the need to overflow on the street, even when invited. The lack of “edges” provide no reason to stop/ slow down at Robson square – credit photo Emily Jackson from MetroNews

    Where are the people?

    As we have mentioned before, the Vancouver geography of public spaces has changed with the introduction of the Canada line: The Georgia#Granville intersection (and more specifically the plaza in front of the London Drugs) has replaced Robson Square as a major Vancouver’s focal point. That reminds us the importance of transit as it comes to define the geography of the city public space, and pedestrians activity, this for the best and the less good:

    Georgia street, sometime called a traffic sewage, is where some want hide Transit and its users: it is not without creating challenges.

    Georgia street, sometime called a traffic sewer, is where some want to hide Transit and its users: it is not without creating challenges and it doesn’t necessarily help to create a positive urban experience of the city at large

    Transit, and transit users need to be accomodated, not hidden, and if the City of Vancouver is true to its transportation 2040 plan, the “problem” illustrated above will become more acute in the future: It should be addressed and not made worse.

    We eagerly await the return of the bus 5 on its historic route and hope reason will prevail at City Hall


    [1] Robson street is 80′ wide. There is virtually no example of pedestrian only street in Europe with such width. New York Broadway Avenue, at ~80′ wide, could be the closest, but the pedestrianized block around Times Square see a traffic of 350,000 pedestrians/day

    [2] If it can be any indication, disturbing lack of people has also been observed recurrently on picture published on the Gordon price blog, on Granville street like here or there there (2012)

    Follow

    Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

    Join 43 other followers