…or the robfordisation [7] of a bike lobby…

People looking at the bike lanes from the plane, tend to see all of them as created equal…and after all, a massive mall development, be at Oakridge in Vancouver, or at Tsawassen could also looks the same as seen from the plane… it is then easy to frame the debate as pro vs anti bike lane… but on the ground it could quickly appears that the reality could be a bit more complex:

  • As we have seen before: Why insisting to bisect a narrow and crowded park, when perfect alternatives, still offering a seaside experience to the cyclists, are able to satisfy all parties?

Bike lanes on the street

the bike path at English bay is on the Beeach avenue ROW, making the best use of the narrow strip of grass

the bike path at English bay is on the Beach avenue ROW, making the best use of the narrow strip of grass

Could such an alternative be that difficult to implement at Kits point:

Arbutus

A bike path can be implemented along Arbutus, providing some minor alterations: In this option, Arbutus is one way north of Creelman, and lost parking space on its west side, south of it (to preserve 2 way general traffic)

The example above considers the bike path along Arbutus,

  • To preserve park space as much as possible
  • To provide a seamless conection with the future York’s bike lane, and in longer term a Rapid transit station at Arbutus#broadway (making Arbutus a desire path to join Kits beach)

The example above is not the sole solution on the street but is provided to demonstrate that alternative exists:

  • They offer far less dramatic change than the one involved by the closure of Point Grey
    • The illustrated option converts Arbutus one way, to preserve parking space- but around 20 space are lost south of Creelman, if the bike bath is kept routed on Arbutus (that is no more than the current proposal by the park board) south of the tennis courts
  • They provide a defacto lighted path at night, and eye on the street, so enhancing the general safety feeling at no additional cost (no additional lighting)
  • They could please or not the residents, could need to be altered according to their feedback, but since they haven’t been presented to them, we don’t know

What we know, is that the Vancouver park board refuses, so far, to consider such compromise and prefers, the below solution, adding basically nothing to the cycling experience, but certainly removing an important park space.

the 3.5meter wide bike lane cut accross the park…depriving the park of a significant swath of grass for better use of it

Shared space

A similar solution (bike lane on the street ROW) at Ogden could be in place as easily, nevertheless, the very low level of traffic on it could justifies a shared street arrangement, something planned on the future traffic calmed Point Grey Rd, part of the same seaside bike route [4][6]:

The seaside bike way at Point Grey Road at TRutch will share the road with local traffic

The seaside bike way on Point Grey Road at Trutch: cyclists will share the road with local traffic

Why the above solution is considered good on the Point Grey portion of the seaside bikeway, and not at Odgen road, lining Hadden park?

To be sure, as illustrates the desires line below, it is not a problem for cyclists:

this googleView shows the desire lane of the cyclists: coming from Vanier: they overwelmngly go to Ogden avenue, in despite of a steep slope (which could need to be gentled), rather than trying to continue along the pedestrian path – the marked path in Hadden park is mainly created by cycling coming from Kitsilano beach (no option)

Shared space for bike is often the recommended alternative, as explained by the Bicycle network, an Australian cycling advocacy group:

When speeds and volumes of motor vehicles are low enough, no separate space is needed for bikes – they share the road with motor vehicles. Quiet, slow streets not only allow children and family groups to walk and ride in comfort, they also allow more interaction between people using the street. This usually requires restrictions to motor vehicles access to keep actual speeds and numbers of motor vehicles low (30km/h and 3000 per day) as well as complementary measures to favour walking and cycling. [1]

There is no recent traffic number for Ogden, the latest ones available, suggest a traffic of ~500 vehicle a day (in March 93) to ~1500 vehicle a day (July 98), what makes the street apriori suitable to be shared by both car and cyclist. To be sure:

  • More recent traffic data should be collected
  • Traffic calming measure can be implemented to reduce further the traffic and speed there

Again, such possibility is quickly dismissed without analysis: The population of Metro Vancouver grows steadily by an average of 40,000 people annually, and we have little if no room to create new park spaces, even less with waterfront and beach, and serviced by frequent transit. So all measures should be taken to minimize unecessary paving of this space…but still it is obviously not what is happening. Why?

The park board doesn’t provide answers, but what is also of a concern is that some bike lanes apologists also refuse to consider that other solutions, minimizing impact on the park, can exist. why?

The robfordisation of a bike lobby

Some bike lobbyists share the common though with Rob ford:
The street is too dangerous for cycling, and cycling belong to the park, or at minimum requires segregation

That is, as Rob Ford, they give up on the idea of sharing the street and tame the car, and advocate for segregation everywhere,…but like the bike helmet law, the segregation paradigm foments widespread and largely unjustified fears about cycling outside of bike lane, especially when they are used unappropriately (that is neither for cycling safety nor comfort). The fact that some proeminent bike lobbyists use this fear card, to exclude cycling on street seeing less than 500 vehicles/day [3], is just doing a disservice to the cycling cause, since we don’t gonna install segregated bike on every single street in our city…or are we?

[2] gives a reason for that: cycling groups, in as much as they choose to concentrate on political lobbying rather than facilitating cycling socially, benefit from maintaining the segregation paradigm because they legitimise their existence by the results of their lobbying and segregation policies (whatever their real effects on cycling) and offer faster and more clearly quantifiable results of political value to show their constituencies

What should have been a tool, segregated bike lane, to be used appropriatly, to facilitate and encourage cycling, is becoming a goal in itself:

For this reason, some bike lane apologists [3] wholeheartly embraces the paving of a park, and dismisses any research of better compromise…and to justify a such extrem position, the arguments are well known, they are exactly the same that the road builders use (asphalt is asphalt!):

  • We have already pave a lot of the park, why stop there?
  • (As for the Massey tunnel:) There is lot of congestion, we need more space for our constituency
  • (As for the Sea to sky Hwy and the tunnel), We do it for the sake of safety, and especially the little children
    • And the ones playing in the playground will be put behind a fence to not pose a safety hazrd for cyclists [5]

None makes good sense, when better alternatives exist…


[1] Notice that some other publications consides that shared space can work with as much as 5,000 vehicle a day, see Traffic Calming and Cycling

[2] Segregated cycling and shared space in today’s cities, Garcia, Velo-city 2009 Conference, Brussels, Belgium

[3] see Richard Campbell blog for an example of the tone.

[4] To make sure, to not be misunderstood, It is eventually useful to remember my position on it, as worded on the Gordon PRice’s blog

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

[6] 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

[7] neologism, to express the Mayor of Toronto, Rob Ford, view of the world…By the way, Rob Ford also recently inaugurated a segregated bike lane

Transit as integral part of the urban fabric

We are in a beautiful city, “what you would like do in its down town?” is the asked question. The answer, is, and has always been:

relax and enjoy watching the city life:.

The world best expert in urban life, the Parisian bistro owner, knows better that anyone, what people like is to “sit, relax and enjoy city life” – (here cafe Beaubourg at 100 Rue Saint-Martin, Paris)

Fulfilling the request has always been tricky in a city where the space is at a premium, and there is the competitive and not less important need, How to get there?. by feet, bike, transit, or by car ?

It has become clear that the car is consuming too much space. Walking certainly allows a much more efficient use of space, but does it is a good answer to the elders and disabled who are also part of the city?

Answering all these questions will spell a new paradigm for transit:

relax, enjoy watching the city life…and contribute to it

…by bringing the necessary influx of people to make the city public spaces a success. One city more than any other epitomizes this new paradigm:

Strasbourg

The reintroduction of trams [3] in European cities, date back of the 80’s. but it is in Strasbourg, France, in 1994, that the tram paradigm will be radically changed. It is not thought anymore only as a transportation service, but more as a way of life, an integral part of the urban fabric. To this purpose, the train itself is integrally rethought, and its design become important:

  • integrally low floor (Strasbourg is a first) to minimize any access/movement barrier
  • As large as possible Windows on the city
  • The train design is unique to the city

The design looks revolutionary in the beginning of 1990, but good design age well, as you can see in the picture below. The integration of the tram in the city is particularly well thought, and the tram is integral part of pedestrianized square and street (naked street concept), since it wants penetrate the city in its very heart, bringing its lifeblood, irrigating vast pedestrian areas

The re introduction of the tram in Strasbourg has been a turning point in the way the transit in city is thought. Notice that this tram design, dating from 1990’s – credit photo (2)

The success is immediate, and up to date, Strasbourg has been the showcase of successful urbanism and transit integration- Translink routinely illustrates LRT proposals with the Strasbourg trams-and it can be considered as the veritable origin of the tramway renaissance in Europe, and beyond the new way to think transit in Europe.

Bordeaux

We will have to wait almost 10 years, to see a new transit network able to cast shadow on the Strasbourg innovations, it will be in Bordeaux, France, where most of the historic city is classified as World Heritage Site by the Unesco making the mere presence of an overhead wire a major issue. Here, none of the Strasbourg innovation has been repelled, but only improved.

At the difference of Strasbourg, Bordeaux is a city of large boulevards-called cours by the locals- and the tram could have avoided a large part of the pedestrianized streets and squares:

the trams goes right into the heart of the city and its pedestrianized zone – Place de la Comédie-thought other option using large boulevard 100 meters away could have eventually be possible

Its designers have chosen not to do so. Here too, the trams affirm their presence right into the heart of the city and are part of the pedestrianized street and square, like illustrated below:

Place de la Comédie- Bordeaux : the tram is mingling with pedestrians and bikes, in a very natural way. no street curb, no bollard, not even an overhead wire (…but pavement texture variation, allow visually impaired people to recognize the tram right of way)

The “naked space”, imposing very low speed, comes at a cost for transit operation, but it is the cost the city has chosen to not disrupt its fabric:

Shared space as at a cost for transit efficiency… but a detour too. Enhanced City life and transit rider experience can command the first option

Influence of The Val/tram debate on the Transit paradigm

The VAL, is an automated mini-metro system, similar and contemporary to the Vancouver Skytrain. Both Strasbourg and Bordeaux were poised to have a VAL, not a tram, up to decisive civic elections, seeing mayoral change [4]. Vancouverites can easily imagine how heated could have been the debate between advocates of respective technologies in those cities: The stand-off had translated in cities lagging behind others moving forward on the urban renewal front. Thought one of the argument of the VAL, not taking road space, was loosing steam very quickly, the tram advocates were not going to win the technology argument (speed- frequency), and presenting the tram as a cheaper second choice was not necessarily very appealing to city aspiring to be leading European metropolis (better build less, or wait… but build it right). Another paradigm was needed:

The tram/subway debate is not about money, it is about urbanism

Of course, the geometry argument always rules, but eventually tram advocates of Bordeaux and Strasbourg have been able to demonstrate that with a ~3km typical average trip in their respective cities, the advantage of the grade separated transit (typically VAL), can become moot… especially when the shared spaces in the historic center, usually not much than 1 or 2km, is balanced by segregated right of way in the burbs

The lag taken by those cities during their transit technology choice debate, have also allowed them to learn from other cities, making the renewal a leap forward: That was especially true in Bordeaux, which was a decaying harbor-city

The bus

The bus has long been the poor parent of the tram evolution in term of design, but things are slowly changing beyond the simple mimicking of the train feature [1]. Thought cohabitation of bus and pedestrian in a naked space, is less frequent that in the case of tramway, it is more due to the fact that the naked street concept is relatively new than some inherent limitation imposed by the bus.

Besançon, France used to have a bus route in a shared space, before converting it to Tram; eventually showing the progress toward a naked space.

Place de la Revolution in Besancon: the bus used to travel in a shared space, where its ROW is identified by pavement. The introduction of the tramway allowed to bring the “shared” space to up to date standard, where the transitway, marker is more discret (the rails show the direction, but some, discreet pavement color/texture changes show the Tram ROW – credit top (wikipedia)

Neuchâtel, Switzerland, is an example where the street paving gives no indication of where the bus is passing.

Place Pury is the heart of Neuchâtel, Switzerland: It is a pedestrian square criss-crossed by buses (the trolley overhead give you the idea)

The above example has shown to be successful, and cleared initial concern on the cohabitation between bus and pedestrian, so the concept is taking off in more major cities, like Exhibition road in London which is also open to bus traffic:

People waiting the bus 360 on the renovated exhibition road transformed in a pedestrian-priority road

In Paris, the rehabilitation of Place de la République-by Trevelo and Viger Kohler, is also adopting the “naked concept” for bus. Notice that here too, imposing a bus detour to avoid the pedestrianized plaza has been ruled out.

(top) Place de la Republique Paris – the right hand size of the square is open to bus traffic using the naked street concept (bot) View of the concept for bus traffic on the square

Place de la Sallaz in Lausanne is another example we could name


[1] see post Hynovis or the Hydrogen bus

[2] pic.atpic.com

[3] trams is the non american name for streetcar…but in the hierarchy of transportation, the modern European tram is an intermediate between the streetcar and the LRT as known in Portland or elsewhere in America.

[4] Catherine Trautmann from the center left, defeating center right incumbent Marcel Rudloff, in 1989 in Strasbourg; and Alain Juppé succeeding to Jacques Chaban-Delmas in Bordeaux. It has been an interim mayor in Bordeaux from 1995-2004, Hugues Martin, due to the fact that Alain Juppé was also member of the French government. Alain Juppé had also got convinced of corruption, preventing him to be elected for a year: it has spent this year in Montreal, where there is little doubt he has found inspiration for the waterfront renewal of Bordeaux.

Denman Street

April 25, 2011

Gordon Price, has an interesting picture of Denman street to illustrate an article posted on citytank:

Nothing much to say about the architecture quality in the Westend...but still it is a well searched after neighborhood. credit photo (1)

Interesting picture since it highlights how “dull” can be the architecture standard in Vancouver, but Denman street is still a great street (by Vancouver Standard) in a well desired neighborhood

Denman street can be much more inviting from the ground. credit photo (2)

.

That illustrates more than perfectly the thesis that what is important is not how high or architecturally interesting is a building, but how it meets the people where they are-on the ground…Thesis defended by architect Jack Diamond at a city of Vancouver sponsored event last Tuesday night [3]…and a reason explaining the success of Vancouver urbanism (somewhat termed vancouverism) , in despite of somewhat bland architecture to speak the least.

Denman has all the ingredients to be a great street:

  • It is properly oriented to benefit of sunlight most of the day, while still offering interesting lighting condition changes during the day
  • It Connects the south and north shore of the peninsula, with great vantage viewpoint at both end, and inviting perspective on English bay
  • Stanley park, the beaches, the seawall, all provide a great deal of pedestrian traffic to capitalize on
  • It is a human scale short stretch street making a consistent beautification project of it very doable

That said, Denman suffers of some flaws to become a “great” street: it doesn’t capitalize on its natural strengths but tends to ignore it.

After touring the Stanley park, riding the seawall, or lazying on the beaches, the natural prolongation of those hedonist moments is to enjoy some more urban time at a sidewalk cafe…

Sure, Denman, doesn’t lack of cheap food joint, and also has some patio restaurants, but does it offer what we are expecting in such location?

This patio offer a great view on English Bay, but the formal privacy involved by grade separation, prevent the desired contribution to the street-life. Notice that the tortured cherry trees are not necessarily the right essence choice for this specific location

A canopy providing unwanted shade in this April sun, a poor pavement, accomodating a cramped single table is usually the only other options on Denman...food is to take-away..

On Denman, there is no sidewalk cafe allowing you to enjoy, while still contributing to, the street-life (what could epitomize the “european style sidewalk cafe” experience). Since Denman street is a very short street which is experienced by virtually 100% of Vancouver tourists the lack of proper treatment of it by a city so pride of its image is for the least, curious.

Why there is no European style sidewalk cafe here ? Is it due to a cultural difference or a poor treatment of the street, which call for lack of inviting experience? is it a fatality Denman street has to resign to ?

Montreal has nice streetwalk cafes, and people flock at he venetian hotel in Las vegas to enjoy the "streetwalk" cafe experience. credit phot left (4), right (5)

Since sidewalk cafe experience can be found in numerous place in North america, and in less extend in Yaletown, Cultural differences fail to explain why Denman shouldn’t be able to offer such an experience.

Vehicular Traffic is certainly heavy on Denman, but it is more due to "organized" congestion. "cruising" cars are a recognition of it and the natural attractivenesses of Denman street to have a stroll: Sidewalks are overcrowded and don't allow for a rest!

  • There is no lack of people, and potential customers, but the street is not designed for enjoyment…sidewalk are too narrow and crowded, and clearly not sized to allow sidewalk cafes.
  • In despite of lack of bike lanes, cyclists are numerous, but bike rack are at a premium,
  • vehicular traffic is heavy on Denman, but in fact of the 4 lanes dedicated to vehicular traffic, one is used for parking most of the time, and erratic movement on traffic lanes, like left turns, cyclists, bus stops, jaywalkers, directional lane at Robson….make the street not having much more throughput capacity that a reasonably designed 2 traffic lanes street.

Reduction of Denman to 2 traffic lanes + a median lane is a necessary step to a greater street.

  • The median lane can be used to avoid slower traffic like cyclists, bus stopping, right turning vehicle or as “storage” lane for left turning
  • the median lane can also encourage “responsible” jay walking what is good in heavy traffic area, since it relieve congestion at designated sidewalk crossing, and contribute to make the street a more “shared space”
  • The sidewalk should be the main beneficiary of the space reallocation. benches should be installed and sidewalk patio should be encouraged.

The inspiring model could be “cappucino strip” (south terrace) in Fremantle, Australia:

South terrace street in Fremantle, Australia, could accomodate 4 lanes of traffic, but here a different choice has been done...2 lanes of traffic with a median to keep traffic flowing in presence of "obstacle" allow ample sidewalk colonized by streetwalk cafe

Transit

Denman is on the notoriously slow number 5 route. There is little reason to think that the alteration of the street as suggested above should affect this route. That said this route has considerable flaw as illustrated below:

A family with a stroller At Davie and Denman asked to a driver on a layover:
-How to get to Stanley Park?
The bus driver:
-Take 6 to Downtown, and transfer to 19 at Granville#Pender

The problem, is not that much the driver giving an insanely circuitous route, the problem is that the transit system is designed in such a way that the driver answer is a correct one!

The Translink route map extract below shows why:

Transit is very Vancouver centric: thought numerous bus route to North shore run on Georgia, there is no direct connection of them with the Westend. furthermore bus 5/6 make a time point at Davie and Denman making the Northshore<-> Davie area transit option less than appealing (map credit; Translink

The Vancouver centric view of the transit network, make the transit option from North-Shore to the Westend not necessarily appealing. Thought that the Georgia bus stop is a mere 350 meters away of Robson, it can be a pain to have to walk that distance either under the rain or in the cold. To add to the frustration, people using the route 6, will have to spend extra time at the time point at Davie and Denman.
All that can be corrected easily:

  • Extend both routes 5 and 6 to Denman North to provide direct seamless connection at Georgia street with the countless bus routes using this later corridor.

That extension adding less than 1km to each bus trip, could have limited effect on operating cost, but could make the system much more comprehensive in the area.

That is: there are lot of reasons to revisit the street space allocation and transit in the Denman area


[1] Gordon Price

[2] Exploring Denman street- From English bay to Cola Harbour Dana Lynch, Inside Vancouver, June 16, 2009

[3] Achieving new height in archiecture excellence, April 19, 2011

[4] New urban Architect