…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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