…or a bike commuting adventure in Richmond

Richmond with its flat land should be a paradise for cyclists, and indeed it offers interesting trails on the dykes and elsewhere. Stephen Rees has extensively covered them and others Richmond related cycling issues in a serie of posts [sr1][sr2][sr4], so here is another view focusing more on utility cycling, that is basically cycling to go to work/study. Below is a snapshot of what makes such cycling an adventurous proposition in Richmond

The bike lanes or lack of…

A B&W sign seems to indicate a bike lane, motorists have a different opinion. A green sign indicates direction against common sense that cyclists also rightfully ignore.

It is not the least advantage of a cycle lane to behave like a legal, safe, and comfortable queue jumper, avoiding inhalation of polluted air by cyclists on congested road, and making this mode more competitive with other commuting choice.

It makes little sense to promote cycling by asking cyclist to breath car exhaust in middle of traffic congestion [5]

… But Richmond replaces the bike lanes when it is most needed, by one of its avatar, the sharrow, as seen below:

horizontal Chevron marking is usually reserved for shared road, carrying calmed or low level of traffic. In Richmond, they are also found on main axis, with predictable effect

As explained by New York City DOT engineers [3], when there is not enough right of way to implement a dedicated lane or traffic is light and calm enough to justify a shared street, a chevron marking (also called sharrow) could be used raise awareness of motorist…Richmond still has to learn how to use appropriate horizontal marking for bike facilities

The network or lack of…

Richmond city provides a cycling map, where the simple fact to draw a bike on a road, seems to justify the classification of it as a bike lane. A ground survey of the bike lane could lead to the more realistic map below:

The richmond bike lanes network has lot of critical missing links

basically, the Richmond city center is serviced by a a backbone of 2 bike lanes, the north-south bike lane,along the path of the former interurban (gardencity, Granville and railway) and on the east of Garden city by an East-West bike lane along Westmintser hwy.
In despite of some commendable effort in the right direction, like the raised bike lane on the road 3, bike lanes are still fairly disconnected and basically don’t provide much needed connections to the Canada line or the Kwantlen college.

Connection to the Bridgeport station

Nevertheless, Bridgeport station is reachable by a bike lane connected to the rest of the network… at least up to a certain point:

bicycle access to the Bridgeport station doesn't seem to have been well considered

Connection to the Canada line bridge

A recent addition to the bike lanes netwok has been the connection of the Canada line bridge to the rest of the bike network through Van Horne road in an industrial precinct…but probably that the 12 meters wide road was judged still on the narrow side, so a bike lane takes place in only one direction! (opposite direction is a shared path).

Notice that in general cyclists use an alternative and more pleasant route via Riverport road.

The 12 meters wide road was judged a bit too narrow to put 2 bike lanes in addition of 2 general traffic ones, so one of them end up on the sidewalk! Notice how the shared path sign is hiding the stop...and which path is shared?

Better to ignore the signage

At Great Canadian way and Sea island way intersection, cyclists are the object of less care than the landscaping, and a cyclist following sign could put himself in an uncomfortable if not outright unsafe spot.

First a satellite view of the situation

the great canadian Way and Sea Island way interstection from satellite or how the cyclist can evolve from West to East?

The cyclist travelling from West to East on Sea island Way will encounter a suite of sign designed to his attention. A first sign suggest he will have to do a right tun where the on ramp lane merge. The sign indicates that the cyclist should be still on the road:

Right at the intersection, the sign tell you that you will have to tun right where the lane merge, but to stay on the road for the time being

A second sign seems to disagree with the first one, since it assumes that the cyclist should be on the sidewalk, and then suggest a very strange procedure to the cyclist obeying to the first one:

after proceeding to where the lanes merge, the sign tell you to turn right to take the bike path, but how the bike is expected to do it

Law abiding cyclist need to be lucky…

or prepared to spend very very long time…at ever red light. This is due to the fact that most of the secondary roads have traffic light activated by induction loop…not triggered by bike

this traffic light goes green only if a car approach it, if you are a cyclist, you have to count on luck, and be prepared to waste tremendous amount of time...for sure another option exist!

The right turn lane…
…or how to make a cyclist like a pin in the middle of a bowling lane

Richmond bike lanes disposition put cyclist in treacherous spot in most of the city intersection

As the above picture illustrates, advanced right turn lane gives way to probably the most disconcerting disposition of bike lanes, de facto defeating the purpose of those bike lanes, which is to provide a secure environment to the cyclist.

Motorists seems unsure on the way to negotiate a right turn with a bike lane in the middle of the road: some will pass a cyclist on the right… some others on the left before tail gating the bike….


In Richmond, yield to cyclist is definitely not an option!

Needless to say, intersections in BC (most of them arranged as above), are especially treacherous for cyclist, where more than 60% of the accidents happen, and going straight seems the most dangerous proposition for a cyclist [4]

Obviously, there is some better way to implement bike lane with advanced right turn lane, and generally, they are implemented like below in Europe

the cyclist doesn't need to be in the middle of traffic to cross an intersection. bike lane is protected by horizontal yielding marking giving priority to the cyclist (what is the law in most of European juridiction)...In North America, additional signage as seen in Portland, OR or Vancouver, BC could be necessary (right)

because the “yield to cyclist” could be not obvious to the BC motorist [1] and horizontal “yield” marking less frequent here than in Europe could be not as well understood [2], additional vertical sign, nowadays rarely seen in Europe, could be required here

.


In cyclist friendly jurisdictions, Yield to cyclist is the only option!

…and not surprisingly, those jurisdictions have usually much safer road safety record than BC.

Conclusion

Richmond BC, is like a child learning to bike. It seems to be full of good intention, but lack of understanding and method. European cities was not much different a quarter century ago, it is just that Richmond needs to work much harder in order to not fall behind.


[1] While, it is generally the law to yield to cyclist, like to pedestrian, on a right turn in Europe, law seems to be far less consistent across North american jurisdictions which usually don’t treat cyclist as a vulnerable user of the road, see bike lane and right turn difference in Oregon and California or, for a more awkward regulation, the Ontario MTO explicitly indicates that right turning vehicles have priority on cyclists.

[2] European countries, and more generally country adopting the Vienna convention road signage, use thick dashed lane as a horizontal “yield line” marking, the equivalent in North america is usually a line of triangle, used in New York City as illustrated in the video of the NYC DOT[3].

[3] NYC DOT explains Bike Lanes in the Big Apple

[4] number from www.bikesense.bc.ca

[5] It is what is required by the BC motor vehicle act section 158

Steveston

August 30, 2010

Steveston can offer a bucolic retreat, step of the city, easily accessible by bus from Richmond brighouse (like pretty frequent 410)

some warehouse asking for restoration on the south dike. the beefs you can see pasturing when on the west dike, come from the Steves farm

But the main reason to come there will be to stroll and shop on its fishermen wharf, which can be pretty busy when fish is announced as abundant like in this season for the sockeye.

To be sure it is not Sai Kung next to Hong Kong, but it is probably the best place in BC, where to buy fish directly from the boat, or for that matter to be able to buy local sea-food in a BC fishing community, what can be very challenging, when not possible, legally, at all, in other BC fishing localities.

Apparently, disregarding the catch of the day, the Vancouverite will like to head here to enjoy a fish and chips. Nevertheless, the Steveston food scene has matured a bit in the recent years and you will be able to find some more decent food proposition, like at the Tapenade restaurant which could be to the fish and chip, what the DB bistro is to the hamburger. In the meantimes, local learn happily how to make the best use of their resource what is certainly promising for the future of the community.

Richmond’s Mayor Malcolm Brodie learn from Tojo‘s nephew and aid, how to prepare local sea food at a cooking demonstration during the wild bc sea food fest.

But there is still some strange things in Stevenson. the urban landscape, while showing historic potential, seems to be under exploited and the pedestrian seems to be object of little if any consideration. Indeed, in some instance sidewalk, right in front of the fishermen wharf can be lacking. That is not inviting to stay a bit longer, to explore other streets.


The streetscape could be significantly more friendly, for the good of the community. Bayview street at the fishermen wharf could be more inviting to ‘soft mode’, like pedestrian and cyclist, using maybe a more shared streetscape.

the transit rider will arrive via the depressing Chatham street. Used mostly as a parking lot, this street present no interest : folk will head quickly south toward the riverside, and will be relieved to find Moncton street enroute, which seems to do fairly well, thanks to having a critical mass and combination of keys business, and looking more a rural “main street”. but it is still not as appealing as it should be

Asphalt has became the dominant element of Moncton street: may be narrower lanes to the benefit of more comfortable sidewalk and tree lining could improve the street experience, in addition to provide some traffic calming….also burying the electric wires could help. (credit photo KwantlenChronicle.ca).

that being said, Saturday was a good day for Steveston, and not only for fishermen.

May be, synonym of “bohemian sophistication”, Steveston has a real baker at RomaniaBread, making probably one of the best bread around (he bakes real pain de campagne what is pretty rare to find, especially good one which can last several days). he got a good day.

The Gordon’s Lanes

March 5, 2010

recently the BC government made some budget announcement concerning transportation [7] and transit observers will have noticed a shortage of funding for “number one priority” transit project when the deep unbalance between transit and road investment could call for a better equilibrium as we have already noticed…but to add insult to injury, the government is not hesitating to make up the number for transit…and the Gordon’s Lanes illustrate how.

These Gordon’s Lanes are the bus lanes announced with great fanfares (and funded at 50% by the provincial government):

  • 16$ millions for a “bus lane” on highway 7 in Pitt Meadows [1] where there is no bus route
  • 13$ millions for a “bus lane” on Highway 99 in Surrey [2] where there is only one regular bus route serviced every 15mn [3] and little congestion

Every one in Lower Mainland, with a little sense of observation, can easily think of way better transit investment [4]: If the government was serious about transit it could have easily found some investment bringing more bang for the buck!

So what is the real reason of those bus lanes?


Those Bus lanes will be also HOV one obviously!

Not that there is something wrong with it, but what is certainly wrong is to tout an investment as “transit” when the obvious reason is only to create more road capacity, which will be marginally used by public transit services if any.
Where the cynicism of government proves to be boundless is that it will fund this road investment from earmarked “transit money” [6]

.

The Gordon’s bus lanes fallacy shows how our shameless government is willing to ostensibly burn our tax money on complete useless project while it refuses to address real pressing public transit need. This strategy will accredits the idea in the general public that public transit is no more than a waste of tax payer money…
It shows that the contempt of our Government for the public transit matter is even worse that most could suspect


[7] Prime minister, premier announce 15 new projects, March 1st, 2010

[1] Governments partner to create jobs, stimulate economy- 174 B.C. infrastructure projects to be funded. Sept 24, 2009

[2] Ottawa and Victoria invest $35.4 million in B.C. transportation upgrades, March 2nd 2010, Business In Vancouver

[3] it is the bus 351, Crescent Beach, Bridgeport. route 352 and 354 are peak service only

[4] Examples of sounder investment include the Surrey 399B line (which has been ditched due to lack of funding) or improvement of the bus traffic on Highway 99 in its Richmond part : for example the Hy 99 North bound doesn’t have bus lanes south of Westminster highway, there is no queue jumper at the Bridgeport exit, used by all suburban buses connecting with Canada line, ..investment here could benefit to the existing bus route targeted by the government funding among other converging to Bridgeport station. One could also give a look at the 699B line idea to foster an attractive transit presence in our suburbs…

[5] Eventually the government will deny it (remember the HST?), but there is no doubt on the fate of under used lanes

[6] The Blog follower will have also noted that the “hydrogen bus” experiment is funded from transit “earmarked money”…

A Viaduct in Richmond

February 15, 2010

Or an example of an elevated Guideway working  well [1][2].

The urban setting of the Westminster road restrain vision on  the viaduct reducing its intrusiveness feeling.

On Number 3  at Westminster road, the viaduct on one side of the road is balanced by High rise building lining the street on the other.

Number 3 near Brighouse: the viaduct is “kissing” the buildings, acting like a Canopy from a pedestrian experience.

Have you noticed it? When the Viaduct is close enough of the background building (built afterward) it tend to blend easier with it.

The pedestrian experience: Note the dressing of the Viaduct pillar by greenary. The viaduct pillar also separate the pedestrian space from the motorized one.

Number 3 is still dotted by numerous strip malls , where the viaduct doesn’t necessary help to improve the visual experience,  except at night (picture at  lansdowne mall). the space below viaduct is also used to exhibit some sculptures.

On daytime, the pedestrian experience can be particularly pleasant, with the viaduct pillars contributing to form a buffer zone with the motorized traffic. Note that a bikpath is also sitting under the viaduct (photo credit: Richard).

thumbs up for Richmond!

And the stations

The Canada line station  have got their fair share of critics, too short, blend architecture,…But they seems to past the test of  heavy usage, thanks eventually to  deep platforms, and also present numerous positive upside: let’s see below:

The viaduct pillar is here used as an advertising opportunity, cyclists take advantage of the weather protection provided by the viaduct, and visibility from a station offering lot of transparency and safety feeling (for  bike parking also)

The station platform offer a pleasant waiting experience.  warm and  good quality material  is contributing toward it. Transparency provide a safety feeling as well as keeping the station in symbiotic with its urban environment.

The Canada line stations are short (40m), but paradoxally this eventually help to their integration in the  environment: their footprint is small, and couldn’t be larger than a “tram station”. The complete transparency of the station doesn’t separate the waiter of its surrounding

The entrance of Aberdeen at night:  The station is right along the street, the pedestrian is supposed to contourn it by the East (left side of the picture): this aspect doesn’t work that well: pedestrian tend to walk on the bikeway, eventually because the experience is otherwise quite unpleasant (lack of lighting, construction site), eventually the extension of the Aberdeen Mall will correct this issue (the location of the bike rack behind the entrance is also questionable since it doesn’t provide the safety feeling of the passer-by eye looking at the bikes like  we have at Brighouse but provide weather protection).

[1] this  to provide illustration in support of a discussion on the Stephen Rees blog , as well as one of the Jarret Walker blog.

[2] One would like also read the an entry relative to richmond on the Gordon price’s blog

Hynovis or the Hydrogen bus

February 4, 2010

It is a  tale of two approaches:

  • Identify a break through technology[9], find an application for it and pour money toward a demonstration project, hoping to find a demand
  • or

  • Identify a demand, then pour money to develop technologies and synergies to enable an answer to the demand

Both can work, but one involves more risks than the other.

The train’s world example

In the later case, we find the “conventional” High Speed train: the demand is to travel “from down town to to down town” in a “time competitive with air travel” and at a “price competitive with the automobile“: that was roughly the French TGV project requirement back at the end of the 60’s, when the French railways company was also considering to address the congestion on its Paris-Lyon railway line.

There is no really break-through technology in the French TGV, or its direct competitors: they are all trains moved by traditional century year old electrical motor concept, and running on centuries old rail track concept …but there is a combination of incremental advance making the whole product a break through advance in the railway world.

In the former case, we find the magnetic levitation technology. A break through technology associated mainly with train demonstration projects.

Today, there are 1850km of High speed train lines in revenue service in France only [3]. From the original speed of 260km on the first line (Paris-Lyon), the train has accelerated to 320km/h on its later extension toward Strasbourg. To not embarrass anyone, we will not mention the line mileage of commercial “maglev” train [10].

The bus’ world example
Hynovis bus (credit Irisbus)

Hynovis is a concept bus, output a of a french program called “affordable and clean vehicle” from the french government agency PREDIT which has benefited of €120 million in total on the period 2002-2008[4], the Hynovis bus being only one project in that program covering most mode of transportation.

the Hynovis program mandate is to answer to a demand: cleaner bus for sure but must also answer to the need of “fund starved” transit agencies, so the bus cost must be economically justified by

  • the saving on the bus consumption
  • improved operation like
    • reduction of dwelling time
    • improvement of the loading capacity
  • improved social role, like better accessibility for disabled people, improved attractiveness…

This program has teamed the Paris transit agency with a bus manufacturers and bus part providers [6] on the conception of the  bus. As you can see (click for video), the Hynovis design try to answer to all requirement without “break through” technology but presents nevertheless a new product by incremental step on numerous fronts:

  • the improved consumption is provided by an hybrid engine and light weight material
  • reduction of dwelling time is provided by a better circulation inside the bus:
    • A back door moved further toward the rear of the bus, allowed by a rear axles moved under the rear bench, allowing more smooth flow on an enlarged low floor area
    • A twin steering axle fitted with low-profile tires, allowing the central corridor to be enlarged to ~4 feet alongside the front wheel housings, compared to ~3feet for a standard bus (note how this can accelerate the boarding of wheelchair and other strollers)
  • the reorganization of the wheels allow an increase of capacity of 8% [5]

To be sure, the Hynovis innovations don’t come for free, and the Paris agency experiment will tell whether the return on investment worth it or not, but more certainly, the lesson learnt of the experiment will improve the future bus design over the foreseeable years.

The Canadian Hydrogen bus fleet is only one application of a technology in which the federal government has invested $215 million since 2003 [1]. The sole demonstration project will cost more than $110 million taxpayer money for 20 buses [2], and address only one issue (GHG), at the eventual expense of the others.

There is honestly more chance that the hydrogen bus share the fate of the Maglev train than the one of the TGV. In the meantime, incremental improvment in the bus technology allowed by project like Hynovis will allow sustainable (not only in term of CO2 emission, but also financially!) expansion of public transit, at the expense of less environmentally friendly transportation mode, and at the end of the day, the Hynovis concept will have probably a better impact on the environment that the Hydrogen bus [7][8].

What is the best approach?

A subsidiary question could be: Is it the role of a government to gamble with the tax payer money or to address the concern of its citizens?


[1] This as a part of the Climate Change Technology and Innovation (T&I) Program, for the development and demonstration of hydrogen and fuel cell technologies

[2] $45 million from the province and BC Transit, $45 million from the federal government, and $23 from the city of Whistler. Andrew Mitchell, B.C. Transit celebrates hydrogen fleet, fuelling station, Pique newsmagazine, Jan 27, 2010

[3] number from wikipedia in french

[4] the agency budget is in fact of 360 million, from which ~35% are allocated to the affordable and clean vehicle” program. (see predit publication (in French))

[6] Predit Info n 17 in French

[7] and that is discounting the fact that the province consider the Hydrogen bus as part of its much touted “$14 billion Provincial” Transit plan

[8] Worth to mention that it seems also to be the position stated by Stephen Rees in some of its posts and others disgressions and obviously the viewpoint is not aimed at fuel cell, but at technology driven choices rather than economically grounded ones, and could apply to CNG buses as well

[9] Preferably where you think you can develop a competitive advantage.

[10] See also Human Transit take on it and on technology driven approach in general like the monorail.

The latest draft of the Regional Growth Strategy Metro Vancouver 2040: Shaping our future was released for public comment in November 2009 and Metro Vancouver is seeking comments until February 5, 2010.

Reading this document, it appears that the zone defined as “agriculture area” by the regional Growth Strategy doesn’t encompass all of the Agricultural Land reserve set by the Province, so in that instance, the Region set a let ambitious goal for itself than the Province set for it.

More of concerns are the Richmond’s Garden city lands -an 136 square foot block sitting next to Garden city Road and Westminster Highway- and the National Defense lands connecting the former to the Richmond Nature park, both zoned as ALR by the Province, become the object of no specific zoning under the regional Growth Strategy.

Simple mistake

You could think it is a simple omission of Metro Vancouver, which should be corrected in the final version…

When the issue has been raised at the Richmond public meeting held by Metro Vancouver[1], the answer given by the Metro Vancouver Chief Administrative Officer, Johnny Carline, has been that “Metro Vancouver includes land in -agriculture area- at the request of the municipality [not the ALC]“, so the puck come into Richmond city Hall. The Richmond’s mayor, Malcolm Brodie, then attending the meeting didn’t commented on the issue…

In fact it could be possible that the city of Richmond has some plans not very compatible with agriculture or park land use for the said area.

Previously, it has floated the idea of an Trade and Exhbition Centre. Thought that the area is central in Richmond, it is neither

  • in the immediate, walkable, vicinity of the Canada line stations,
  • in the immediate, walkable, vicinity of Richmond’s major hotels
  • and in the immediate access to highway 99 or other highways servicing Richmond

so one could have think of a better location for such a development to minimize the traffic impact, Fortunately this plan died in front of the ALC which declined to rezone the ALR [2], but Richmond could have others plan in the card,…if not why not accept the ALR classification?

This land, still central, associated with the National Defense land has the potential to be part of a green corridor, or greenway, to the more widely open agriculture area of Richmond. Green corridor concept is an important one from an ecological and social perspective:

  • it presents an ecological continuum, allowing species to frequent an area otherwise not vast enough to sustain them (think of deer or other large mammal for example, but also smaller species)
  • The point above allow the urban population to interact more naturally with their surrounding environment. The nature presenting itself in the city invite the citizen to explore further unlimited area, by feet or bike (read “instead to drive to bike in nature”)
  • The preserved and sustainable nature, here mostly bog, creates a sense of connection with the original place (in this following the good example of the Terra Nova rural park)
  • the preceding points foster a new relationship with our surrounding environment able to enhance the livability of the city

Fortunately, some People [3] in Richmond having some goods ideas for the future Garden city land have organized themselves around a coalition to save Garden city land of human predation and expose all the intricacies of the problem on their site and blog. Visit them and don’t forget to give your feedback to Metro Vancouver before Friday!

[1] Minute of a Decision of the Provincial Agricultural land commission, February 10, 2009

[2] Richmond meeting on the Regional Growth Strategy, Thursday, January 21, 2010

[3] We should also mention Olga Tkatcheva’s letter alerting the Richmond council of the unfortunate “omission”.

What is wrong with Delta?

February 1, 2010

Illustration of the WhiteCaps training center project (credit: VancouverSun)

Saturday January 16th, 2010, the South Fraser Action Network was organizing a Town Hall meeting on “The True Costs of the South Fraser Perimeter Road” [1] in Delta, BC. A crowd in excess of well above 100 came, if not to get answers, to have at least an understanding at it…Thought invited, the Delta Council as a whole, ostensibly refused to listen the concern of their constituents…

When it happens to bring support to unsustainable development, the Delta council is always present.

Again recently, it was supporting the development of an also called “National soccer training centre” proposed by the Vancouver WhiteCaps club. To be sure, there is nothing against supporting the development of sport facilities, but there is something wrong to support such development in an area

Illustration of the Delta council insanity: Extract of the Translink map with the ALR zone in overlay with the training center project location highlighted


It is even more wrong to use the taxpayer money to finance [3] development occurring into the ALR zone, and which will involve further taxpayer money spending in public amenities like transportation infrastructure or service in order to serve the development.

Eventually interesting project, but wrong place

Fortunately, the economic climax got reason of the council patience, since it gave up on the project [4] also saving $17.5 million of taxpayer money [3]

So there is a reason to cheer, but there is little reason of pride in Delta.

[1] One can refers to the south fraser perimeter Road blog posts of the Livable region coalition or the bad freeway blog

[2] the nearby route 10 is serviced by a rush hour bus only, 311, and a low frequency community shuttle, C76. see Translink for further detail.

[3] In a failed attempt to gain a MLA seat for Wally Oppal at the last provincial election, the liberal government has tried to buy votes by promising to subsidize this training center, (“Liberals promise $17.5-million soccer centre in Delta”, VancouverSun, May 2, 2009). For the record, the seat has been won by the independent MLA Vicki Huntington whose was present at the Saturday January 16th, 2010 meeting on the South Fraser perimeter road (as long as the MLA Guy Gentner)

[4] “Plug pulled on Whitecaps $31-million Delta training centre plans”, Vancouver Sun, January 2010

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