the Kitsilano bike freeway

October 30, 2013

Some critics of the park board plan [1] have called the infamously bike path approved by the park board, a “bike freeway”. Is it an “over the top” rethoric”?

A freeway definition:

freeway
/ˈfriːweɪ/
nounN. AMER.
dual-carriageway, especially one with controlled access.

The park board plan for the bike lane:
kitsBikeLanePicnicArea

The dual carriageway is there, albeit on a short section, where downhill bikes can accumulate lot of speed (the reason for the “freeway”?). That is a point for the bike freeway qualification. Unfortunately it is also at the most convoited picnic area site…If the project proceeds ahead, picnickers will be separated from the shore by no less than 3 rows of paths…The bike path takes more space than we have initialed thought


Notice, that the gradient of the slope is roughly similar to the one on McNicoll, but the elevation difference, 6m, is 50% greater than between arbutus and Maple, along Mc Nicoll (4m). That increases the risk of speedy cyclists, and potential safety hazard


Notice also, that from a cycling effort perspective, it makes little sense, to go down to the parking lot from Arbutus (2m elevation change), to have a longer hill.

The route above is extracted from the RFP No. PS20130532, providing detailled engineering plans: this finding call for a recap of the Kits beach bike lane saga


  • On october 7th, the Park board approves a bike lane bisecting Kistilano beach and Hadden parks, the approved report [1] mentions that benches need to be relocated, and fences erected around the playground area (see more here)
  • On october 14th, thanks to some chalk lines materializing the approved bike route alignment, park users and residents discover the existence of the project. That creates an outrage in the community, Howard Kesley seems to emerge as a leader, and seems to be behind @savekitsbeach and the associated facebook page (Raymond Tomlin, is also following this on his blog Vanramblings)
  • On october 15th, Park board commissioner Aaron Jasper explains it is a “done deal”, and there is no intention to consult the public on it [3]
  • On october 16th, The city of Vancouver issues the request for proposal PS20130532, with detailled engineering plan – specifying at least 5 memorial benches to be relocated, in addition of picnic tables, and the fencing of the playground area. the deadline is November 5th
  • On october 18th, Park board chair Sarah Blyth issues a media release [2] qualifying as “untrue rumour” the above and stating that the “White chalk lines outlining a wide route through the Park” as not in any way reflect the route to be taken”. The park board staff said otherwise the day before. She goes as far as to say that “The final route has not been determined”, and advisory group will be established to work on the final design of the route. Some media, like the Georgia Straight, reprint the media releases in extenso without pointing any contradictions
  • On october 20th, a town hall meeting organized by savekitsbeach is held at the Kitsilano boat house. NPA park board commissioners Melissa De Genova and John Coupar, NPA city Cuuncillor George Affleck and Vision park board commissioner Constance Barnes are attending. Ms Barnes then recognizes than the lack of public consultation was a mistake, explained the the park board has been misleaded by its staff, and agreed to correct that…
  • On october 22th, Park board chair Sarah Blyth and commissioner Constance Barnes agree finally to qualify the attendance to the sunday town hall meeting, as a “mob of retiree loitering around the Boathouse” and “enjoying obsolete pasttime…as picnicking” [4].
  • On october 28th, NPA Park board John Coupar and Melissa De Genova issued a motion calling for Special Meeting on Kits Beach Park, to be held on Novemebr 4th, 2013, 6pm

In principle, After all the damages inflicted to the public trust, by more noticeabily park board commissioners Barnes and Blyth, the park board, recognizing it has been off track, should be eager to regain this trust and approves the NPA motion…and finally forms the promised advisory committee….

…let see how gonna unfold all this….


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

[2] Park Board statement on Hadden and Kitsilano Beach Bike Path – Next Steps, Sarah Blyth, October 18th, 2013

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

[4] See various tweet from the concerned indviduals: as here and there for Constance Barnes. Sarah Blyth did the same.

Some people ask,

Many parks have bike paths, or scenic drives. Some have even a train, what is the problem with Kits beach?

Bike path at Trout Lake and motor road at Stanley park - credit photo left (1), right (3)

The problem is one of geometry:

  • A park needs to be accessible
    • The larger a park is, the more it needs to have access infrastructure, if one want to see it “used”.
  • The smaller is the park, the more a new infrastructure impacts it

Trout Lake is not only much bigger than Kits beach park (overlayed on it), but it has also a square shape, when Kits beach is a “strip park”. Notice also that there is no continuous street on the East side of the park (where the bike path is)

According to what is measured, the impact of a bike path along Kits beach (around 1.1km) is between 2.5% of the total park area to 10% of the effective green space (vegetation):

The different space allocation of Kitsilano park. A bike path can have a significant impact on the useability of the park

In comparison, John Hendry park (Trout lake) is 27Ha and has a ~900m bike path. Kits beach a 50% smaller park, could have a bike path 40% longer than John Hendry park. The Trout lake bike path occupies roughly 1% of the park area. A number order of magnitude lower than in the Kitsilano Beach case

  • Some shapes are better than other

Comparing surfaces area disregarding their shapes is missing the most critical informations on the quality of the space

paved area (grey) surface  is the same in the left and right case. but no volleyball court fit in the left one, when 2 fit in the right one

paved area (grey) surface is the same in the left and right case.
but no volleyball court fit in the left one, when 2 fit in the right one

Kitsilano is a narrow “strip park”, which usuability can be quickly compromised, if it can’t offer swaths of grass of sufficient size for spontaneous activities, usually occuring on grass that is ball games but not only; spontaneous activities typically occur on space with non defined use.

SlacklinerCollingwoodPark

Kids playing soccer, young practicing Slacklining: a sample of many spontaneous activity observed this week-end at Collingwood park, all of them requring swath of grass of sufficient size

A good picnic site, in addition of a good view, also requires an agreable environment able to maintain a minimun of “social distance”, with other people and activities…what requires a certain size, too

One of the problem with a bike path into Kitsilano park, as initially approved by the park board [2], is that it will impact other activities justifying a park in the first place. If the park board proceeds as it wants, there is no doubt, the bike path will be successful, but that also means, that our seaside will become increasingly homogeneous, geared toward the enjoyment of cycling only, instead to offer a wide and diverse range of recreational activities

Fortunately, it is possible to provide a safe and scenic ride to cyclists, with minimal impact to the park, and its current usages, as we have seen here and in more detail, there. The question rest, does the Park board will finally listen?


[1] twitter user neil21

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

[3] flickr user keepitsurreal

…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

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