The bike lane vs the park

October 16, 2013

…Or should a bike lane be built at any price…

The Vancouver park board, seems to believe that the public consulation on the Cornwall-Point Grey bike lane, makes a similar public engagement redundant when comes the time to design a seaside bikelane at Kitsilano Beach. Instead, an intercept survey was chosen: the following question was asked to 370 “park users” :

Our goal is to make walking and cycling in and through the parks safer, more convenient, and more comfortable – without compromising the many ways, people use the park. Do you support this goal?

95% naturally supported this laudable goal…but does that give license to the park board to aprove anything, as long as it is called a bike lane, as it has done on October 7th by approving a $2.2 million path bisecting the Kitsilano park?

The need for a bike lane

There is no question that Kitsilano park is very well used: bikes and pedestrians cohabitation on the current seaside path is problematic. In an effort to reduce conflicts, cyclists are asked to dismount on the stretch along the beach itself on busy days… Some cyclists comply….

There is no question either that cyclists are here overwhelmingly on a leisure trip, looking at a seaside experience:

  • the fact that a route thru Kits point is unconvenient to commuter cyclist is a reason why it has not been pursued by the Cornwall-Point Grey team [2]
  • The selected route, York, didn’t remove the need to improve cycling facilities for recreational user looking at a seaside experience.

This was recognized in the Cornwall-Point Grey consultation, deferring improvment to the existing seaside greenway between Balsam and Burrard to further consultation with park users [2]….

Instead of “improvments” to the existing path, the park board is preferring to build a new one, albeit a reasonnable option…but which is proceeding without consultation:

the planned bike route

the planned bike route

…That is the most detailled map provided by the Park board staff [1]….it was considered good enough by the Vancouver park board to approve the project on October 7,2013.

The alignment raises several questions:

  • it doesn’t connect in any meaningful way with the York Avenue bike lane
    • That could be done at Balsam street on the West side, but more importantly at either Yew street or Arbutus street on the East side
  • it seems to multiply the zone of conflicts rather than to reduce them between the foot of Yew street and the Boathouse restaurant (this part of the park is heavily used by sun bathers)
  • Among many safety hazards, cyclists will eventually have to deal with backing trucks.

  • In other part of the park, it “sterilizes” large swath of the park, that is bisecting the park in such way that some part become practically unsuable as illustrated below -where a ~10 meter wide strip is made unavailable for usual park use:

the 3.5meter wide bike lane cut accross the park…Notice the swath of grass on the right becomes practically not useable by park users

The bike lane could have been put on Arbutus street, a neighborood street in Kits point, but apparently the park board has considered the 66feet wide street too narrow for adding a bike lane:

Arbutus street at Kits point: the 66 feet wide neighborood street s apparently too narrow to accomodate a bike lane

Arbutus street at Kits point: the 66 feet wide neighborood street s apparently too narrow to accomodate a bike lane

A similar observation could be done at Hadden park, where cyclist are already separated of the sea by the Maritime musseum, and where a bike path on Ogden avenue could not compromise the seaside experience either:

Ogden avenue along hadden park, offer already  a great cycling experienc which just need to be connected with the rest of the network

Ogden avenue along hadden park, offer already a great cycling experienc which just need to be connected with the rest of the network

In both case, it requests to suppress some parking spots. Something the park board seems wary to do, in fact the report mentions [1]:

    The parking lot at the foot of McNicholl Street will be reduced but leave twenty spots, including ten with waterfront views. Impact on parking revenues is considered to be negligible.

Should we be relieved that no parking spot with water front view has been endangered by the bike lane?

Beyond the park board, here lies the problem of the party ruling Vancouver: As we have noticed before, their bike lanes agenda, is a single and narrow minded one…it is one consisting of laying down bike lanes at the exclusion of any other considerations and for that, it follows the path of least resistance, instead to make clear choice:

  • Reallocating space for cyclits at the expense of the car, and not other vulnerable users

Everything needs to give way to the bike lane.

The connection between Hadden park (Ogdon Avenue) and Kitsilano beach (Arbutus) should have been open to discussion: Does a bend to follow as close as possible the shoreline (like done in the proposal) is really necessary?

  • One should weight the benefits of a brief moment of extra scenery for cyclists against the costs of eliminating prime space for picnickers, and constructing a longer and convoluted route (eventually preventing cyclists to spread out further west

Thought that the usual suspects will be against the kitsilano bike lane for the sake to be against a bike lane, they will feel conforted in their battle by being joined by people coming of a quarter which should haven’t been bothered: the defensors of our parks….

One doesn’t need to be against bike lanes, to recognize, once again, tha lack of judgement from the Vancouver park board: Eventually due to lack of proper consultation, this bike lane suffering of lack of though is ill conceived (*).

We already hear the unconditional supporters of bike lanes pointing at the successfully used bike lane to prove us wrong…Exactly same logic could apply whether the park board had elected to build a parking lot instead of a bike lane.

(*) To be sure it is a done deal suffering no discussion [3]


[1] Seaside Greenway Improvements,Vancouver Park Board, Oct 1st, 2013

[2] Seaside Greenway Completion and York Bikeway (Phase 1 of Point Grey-Cornwall Active Transportation Corridor),General Manager of Engineering Services, City of Vancouver, July 16, 2013

[3] Kits Beach bike path a done deal, Sandra Thomas, Vancouver Courier – October 15, 2013

…or perceived safety and objective safety of the cycle tracks

A study on Toronto and Vancouver (Canada) from [4]: the risk of bike infrastructure separated of traffic is under-estimated. Note the result carried for the cycle track is an aberrant and irrelevant one for reason explained in [8]

Usually, Urban segregated bike lanes (cycle tracsk) are perceived as safer than non segregated one, by many cycle advocates and public alike. Alas most accident statistics say otherwise, and most scientific studies conclude, consistently overtime, that segregated bike lanes impair safety by ~20% ([1] summarizes and complete previous studies, see also a list of studies at [9]), some older studies putting this number up to 4 time higher [2].


    Of course, it is possible to find some studies saying otherwise, but usually those studies show significant methodology shortcomings. To focus only on recent Canada centric examples: [5] draws conclusion on cycle track from a field study conducted in cities not having such infrastructure per sei, as seen in [8] and obvious selction biais discredit results from [3] (more critics here and there):

Montreal, QC: In (3), a separate bike path in a one lane residential street (rue Brebeuf) is compared to an up to 6 lanes thoroughfare (rue st Denis) on a 1km section (Rachel to Laurier), where St Denis has more intersection, and higher speed limit than Brebeuf...to conclude that separates bike lane improve cyclist safety! (no indication of motor traffic volume is provided) -

    The most recent study extended to the USA by the same authors, [10], seems to suffer similar flaws [11].


In urban area, most of the cyclist accidents are due to conflict with motor vehicles (85% in French cities according to the OSNIR), and most of them occur at intersection: In Canadian cities, 50% of fatal accidents and 72% of accidents resulting in serious injury occurred at intersections [12].

Thought, that a separated bike lane can remove potential conflicts along a road, and is recognized to reduce risk in such cases, it makes matter worse at intersections: This is mainly due to the fact cyclists, not on the road, tend to be overlooked by other road users, generating conflict at road intersections. The increased risk for cyclist is illustrated below:

According to some study, the cyclist could be up to 4 time safer on the right side of the street - credit photo (6)CycleRisk

According to (2), the cyclist could be up to 12 time safer on the right side of the street - credit photo (6)

Aware of this fact, Some transportation professional organizations don’t recommend separated bike lane: it is the case for the AASHTO in the USA, or the CERTU for urban area in France. A position supported by numeorus cyclist organizations, be in France (FFCT, Fubicy) or Germany (ADFC), which have been at best rather neutral on the development of segregated cycle track, in some case opposed, and consistently advocating against the mandatory use of it. That eventually became the case for most of the french cycle track, circa 2000. For this later purpose a new road sign has been introduced, and Germany is following track:

B22a_PisteCyclable_obligatoire

The cycle in a blue square sign has been introduced circa 2000: it indicates a recommended cycle track. The cycle in a blue disc indicate a mandatory cycle track ... except of course in UK Which has not ratified the Vienna convention on road sign, from which those signs are derived

An issue is that motorists tend to ignore the difference, and harass cyclists not using the cycle tracks

Traffic engineers, on their side, sometimes eager to remove cyclist of the road for their “good”, have worked to increase the safety of separate bike lane:

Reintroduction into general traffic at intersection

Rennes, France: Bike paths merging in general traffic at intersection, and resuming after it


bikeLaneEntranceBdArmorique Rennes, France (Armorique Bld): Cycle track merging in general traffic at intersection, and resuming after it

Treating cyclist as pedestrian at intersection

MapHongKongBikeLaneIntersec

Hong Kong (Along Ting Kok Rd, Kong Kong NT): Cyclists are expected to walk their bikes to the cycle track... and dismount at every intersections...what by the way is seldom respected in despite of the British style staggered pedestrian crossing! -credit photo left (16), right, Google

Cycling Commuters are generally not impressed by those treatments, which are just slowing down their commute, even when the obligation to walk the bike at intersections (Hong Kong case), is obviously widely disregarded by cyclists using such facilities.

The Copenhagen’s Treatment: Blue cycle crossings

Copenhagen, DK: An intersection where potential conflict zones are highlighted in blue

Copenhagen, DK: An intersection where potential conflict zones are highlighted in blue – credit photo (13)

It has been “invented” in Copenhagen in 1981: The basic idea is to mark the area of conflict between motor vehicles and cyclists so road users pay more attention to this conflict and cyclists have a lane marking through the junction area. Alas, while it is found effectively reducing the number of accidents (and injuries) with one line, it increases it with 2 lines or more, according to [13].

A reason for that is that, it becomes too much solicitation for the motorist than he can process – resulting in an increase of rear ending collisions and red light runnings; and provides a false “sense of safety” to the cyclists, becoming more complacent- not doing head check or using hand signals according to [14]- what is consistent with the “naked street and risk compensation theories.

…and more often that not:

Separated bike lanes come with a panoply of restrictive sign

All, in the name of cycling safety of course…

Left, Bideford UK; center, Harlow UK (now dismantled); right Vancouver, CA - credit photo resp (5),(unknown),(16)

But at the end, it is sometimes better to give-up

…than to cut the trees:


ClosCourtelOld

Rennes, France (Clos Courtel Street): A once mandatory segregated bike lane, has been replaced by a painted bike lane, allowing much better visibility of cyclists by other road users - credit photo Google

Should we be Against the separated bike lane?

or…Should we support the helmet law under evidence of greater safety provided by the helmet

Both generate passionate debates, and unfortunately, both generate biased scientific literature too.

  • Supporters of the helmet laws are because they are concerned by the safety of existing cyclists, they will be obviously against separated bike lanes for the same reason. Not surprisingly, most of the anti cyclist lobbyist will fell in this category
  • Supporter of the helmet laws supporting separated bike lane are not logical with themselves and probably grossly misinformed
  • Opponent to the helmet laws, will explain that, while the safety of existing cyclists is important, it is not paramount- One have to take a more holistic view to assess the benefit/drawback of such safety tool than the existing cycling population- and opponent to the helmet laws, without necessarily denying the positive safety effect of the helmet on an individual, will oppose to a law on the ground that it discourages sufficiently cycling to have a general negative effect for the society.
    Same logic apply to the cycle tracks: there is no need to deny their negative effect on road safety, or to produce biased studies to try to counter evidence, to support them: that is only conductive of complacency with poorly designed cycle tracks which do no good for cycling. Former Vancouver Planning Director, Brent Toderian was able to implicitly recognize the safety issue and supporting it [17]: What is important is to produce evidence that the positive effect they induce outweigh their negative ones

  • [1] Traffic safety on bicycle paths – results from a new large scale Danish study, ICTCT workshop Melbourne, 2008

    [2] Signalreglerade korsningars funktion och olycksrisk för oskyddade trafikanter – Delrapport 1: Cyklister. Linderholm, Leif, Institutionen för trafikteknik, LTH: Bulletin 55, Lund 1984

    [3] Risk of injury for bicycling on cycle tracks versus in the street, Anne C Lusk, Peter G Furth, Patrick Morency, Luis F Miranda-Moreno, Walter C Willett and Jack T Dennerlein, Injury Prevention, February 2011. doi:10.1136/ip.2010.028696.

    [4] Route Infrastructure and the Risk of Injuries to Bicyclists: A Case-Crossover Study, Teschke K, Harris MA, Reynolds CC, Winters M, Babul S, Chipman M, Cusimano MD, Brubacher JR, Hunte G, Friedman SM, Monro M, Shen H, Vernich L, Cripton PA., American Journal of Public Health: December 2012, Vol. 102, No. 12, pp. 2336-2343.

    [5] Safe Cycling: How Do Risk Perceptions Compare With Observed Risk?, Meghan Winters, Shelina Babul, H.J.E.H. (Jack) Becker, Jeffery R. Brubacher, Mary Chipman, Peter Cripton, Michael D. Cusimano, Steven M. Friedman, M. Anne Harris, Garth Hunte, Melody Monro, Conor C.O. Reynolds, Hui Shen, Kay Teschke, Injury Prevention, Canadian Journal of Public Health , Vol 103, No 9, 2012

    [6] Bicycle Quaterly

    [7] Gary James

    [8] Conclusion of both [4] and [5] are drawn from a study carried from May 2008 to Nov 2009 in Toronto and Vancouver. To the bets of our knowledge, it was no “cycle track” in Toronto, and the only ones able to qualify in Vancouver, were an experiment started on July 2009 on Burrard Bridge, with no intersection along the ~1km cycle track segment, and a ~300m segment in one direction on a quiet street (Carral street) with ~300 cars at peak hour with only one very quiet intersection (Keefer street) featuring ~120 car at peak hour (From City of Vancouver’s 2006 traffic count) what is barely representative of a typical cycle track: The result provided for the cycle tracks is hence certainly irrelevant, and that is the reason it stands as an outlier.

    [9] Bicycle Infrastructure Studies review by Ian Brett Cooper

    [10] Bicycle Guidelines and Crash Rates on Cycle Tracks in the United States, Anne C. Lusk, Patrick Morency, Luis F. Miranda-Moreno, Walter C. Willett, Jack T. Dennerlein, American Journal of Public Health, July 2013

    [11] [10] draws conclusion by comparing current crash rate on some cycle tracks with some numbers collected, sometimes in specific situation- like a study on Boston’s bike messengers- more than 10 years ago, without correcting them of external factors, like significant general crashes reduction rate in the last decade, and well documented safety in number effect affecting more particularly the cyclists. Furthermore, one could argue that the “crash rate” is a very poor, if not uncorrelated, proxy, to qualify the safety of a road infrastructure: Roundabout are well-known to increase the rate of crashes, vs a signaled intersection, but they are also well recognized to reduce the risk of serious injuries, most of the crashes being limited to fender-bender type. In other word, a crash rate ratio is not representative of the safety social cost of an infrastructure…what ultimately matter. More awkward [10] suggests that “The AASHTO recommendations may have been influenced by the predominantly male composition (more than 90%) of the report’s authors” without being able to substantiate this assertion, showing that we have here more a opinion paper: attacking the gender of authors to disqualify their works, seems pretty petty at best!

    [12] Vulnerable Road User Safety: A Global Concern, Transport Canada, 2004.

    [13] Safety effects of blue cycle crossings: A before-after study, Søren Underlien Jensen, Accident Analysis & Prevention, Volume 40, Issue 2, March 2008

    [14] Evaluation of Blue Bike-Lane Treatment in Portland, Oregon. Hunter,W.W., Harkey, D.L., Stewart, J.R., Birk, M.L., Transportation Research Record 1705, 2000

    [15] The finding of [13] seems in fact to suggest that the increase in accident and injuries are mainly among motorists, and eventually moped: so that in fact the blue line could effectively be not than “unsafe” for cyclists. Unfortunately, the paper doesn’t provide detailed break down of the injuries according to the transport mode. In any case, the measured global effect is a negative one

    [16] www.vivendesign.com

    [17] Vancouver Embraces Bikes, Adds Lanes, Tim Newcomb, Planning;, Vol. 77 Issue 2, Feb2011

    …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

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