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Category: cycling infrastructure

Bicycle Corral

Bicycle Corral

During Dan’s visit (see May 29th post), we went for a walking tour of the Capital Hill neighbourhood of Seattle. On the way, we saw this beauty:I delayed our quest for the martini bar in order to take a photo of a bicycle rack – yes, I’m exactly that geeky. But…it holds a minimum of 9 bikes in a single car parking space! And it has an adorably cartoony car design. Since only a few bikes were parked there, I couldn’t really tell if the spaces were wide enough to allow two bikes per space. I suspect not. However, even at a single bike per space, a trade of 9 bikes for one car is fantastic. At that time there were only three bikes parked. However, I wouldn’t assume that meant a lack of demand. This was early afternoon on a Monday and the neighbourhood was extremely quiet. The streets were really quite deserted until two or three hours later.

Sadly, we are unlikely to see more bicycle corrals in the near future. Due to budget cuts, SDOT (Seattle Dept. of Tranporation) has put the bicycle parking program on hold and it may be cut entirely (see the write-up on Seattle bike blog http://seattlebikeblog.com/2011/05/26/sdot-bike-parking-program-on-hold-could-be-cut/).
Neighbourhood Greenways

Neighbourhood Greenways

How do I get there? How do I find a route that feels safe but is still reasonably direct and, if I’m really lucky, enjoyable? Recreational bike paths are great fun, but don’t really help you when you just need to get around town. Many city bike lanes are on busy arterial streets that can be intimidating to potential cyclists and are not particularly family-friendly.

Enter the Neighbourhood Greenways (previously called Bike Boulevards). These are quiet streets that give priority to cyclists and pedestrians, while still allowing motorized traffic at lower speeds. They’re for people who don’t want to ride on the busy arterial streets, but still need to go somewhere. I’ve been a seasonal bicycle commuter for the last couple of years, and am moderately comfortable in traffic. However, when I make short neighbourhood trips, I prefer a low key route, particularly when towing my 5 year old on the trail-a-bike. It’s a dramatically different experience – I’m much slower and less agile with the trail-a-bike and ride much more conservatively. For instance, I need a much larger gap in traffic when crossing intersections.

The Neighbourhood Greenway idea is gaining momentum here in Seattle. Last week had some terrific blog posts describing both the concept and details of the campaign to bring them to Seattle:


Much of NW Seattle (including the Ballard, Greenwood and Crown Hill neighborhoods) should be well suited to this. The streets are laid out in a reasonably regular grid. It’s relatively flat, by Seattle standards, at least until you reach Phinney Ridge. Traffic calming measures, such as traffic circles and speed bumps, are already common to reduce speeds on residential streets and funnel through-traffic onto the arterials. The above photo is of a typical residential street in this area. It’s narrow – allowing parking on both sides of the street means that only a single car can pass at a time. This is actually an advantage to cyclists, as drivers are already used to going slow and taking turns to let each other pass.


Traffic circles, like the one above, dramatically slow vehicle speeds. Frankly, it’s annoying to drive around more than one or two at a time. In contrast, bikes can pass by them with only a slight curve – they’re really a piece of cake.


So, what’s special about a Neighbourhood Greenway? How is it different than just riding on the residential streets already there?

1. Priorities at intersections. Currently, it’s difficult, if not impossible, to cross arterials without a traffic light.

2. Signs and paint to make it clear that this is a pedestrian and cyclist-friendly space.

3. Promoting a network. I think it’s great that folks in Seattle are thinking in terms of a network of Greenways – that’s key to making them useful on an everyday basis, as opposed to a once-a-month recreation or novelty. This also presents novice cyclists with clear routes to reachable destinations. Such a contrast to the current situation where every new cyclist has to figure it out for themselves.

Over the next couple of months, I plan to ride many of the proposed routes to get a feel for the advantages and disadvantages of the different options. Along the way, I’ll post a few photos and my thoughts on the plans.
Fun With Lego

Fun With Lego

My son got a few sets of Lego City for Christmas. We spent the other night setting up a Lego table for him. I know you’ve all seen the brilliant sustainable Lego community over at Miss Sarah’s blog, but I still had to amuse myself with a few photos:

My coblogger Angel, parking her bike Daisy beside the little coffee stand near the LRT station. 
Her bike’s got a milk crate on the back, big enough to hold both her Bern-style helmet and a briefcase 
(Actually the crate is the bowl for the dog’s huge sausages, from the Lego City Advent calendar).
I think it’s pretty awesome that Lego have a bike shop as part of the set. 
The bearded fellow riding in the bike lane must have a generator hub, since his headlamp is on.

I’m locking up my bike & meeting hubby at the bus station closest to the LRT.
The policeman walking the beat looks a bit like Eric Estrada circa CHiPS, doesn’t he?
It’s a shame Lego haven’t come out yet with wave-style bike racks, 
or front bike baskets, although it may be possible to macgyver a porteur rack.
Municipal Election Bike Advocacy

Municipal Election Bike Advocacy

It’s municipal election time here in Edmonton (as you may know from the fabulous Miss Sarah’s blog), and I’ve been trying to work out who will earn my votes this time around. The new ward map means I can’t just vote for who I voted for last time, so a little research is required.

Luckily for me, Edmonton Bicycle Commuters have put together the terrific Cycle Edmonton website, compiling the responses from all the candidates to their questionaire and reader-submitted copies of email responses to letters. It also has links to all the candidates’ websites and other contact information. Highly recommended!


Update: The REALTORS Association of Edmonton have also posted the responses by candidates to their survey. Very interesting stuff.

(Also luckily, Edmonton Grows Up have endorsed a slate of candidates for the Edmonton Public School Board who will work proactively with communities to prevent school closures in mature neighborhoods. There’s a great post on Dave Cournoyer’s blog about the old-guard versus younger candidates for EPSB trustees that I also suggest you check out.)


However, there are a number of candidates whose public platforms are incomplete, or who have not replied to surveys and questionnaires. Since these particular candidates don’t have twitter accounts, I went with the next most immediate method to publicly ask them for more information online: their blogs. (More after the jump…)

For Edmonton Catholic School Board trustee candidates in my ward, the race is essentially between the incubent Marilyn Bergstra, and former trustee Michael Savaryn. (One other candidate seems to be running on a platform that Catholic schools are not religious enough – um what? – and the fourth candidate repeatedly misspells “school closure” in her campaign literature and has no website. So, I’m not taking them seriously.) Savaryn has replied to EBC’s questionaire and makes a point of discussing ways of preventing the closure of schools in core neighborhoods in his pamphlet (but, again, no website? Seriously?). Bergstra mentions her recreational cycling and work on anti-idling campaigns on her website; her literature is the usual effective-responsible-fiscally-prudent stuff that incubents here in Alberta always seem to run on.

So I asked her on her blog:

Hi Marilyn,

I’m a parent in your ward, with children attending St. Monica’s Elementary and Monsignor William Irwin Elementary Schools.

Can you please comment on your platform and record regarding closure versus renovation versus alternative uses for ECSD schools in mature, core neighborhoods?

Also, will you please take the time to complete the questionnaire you have received from Edmonton Bicycle Commuters? I’m very interested to hear whether, as an avid recreational cyclist yourself, you’ll advocate for adequate bicycle parking and other pedestian- and bicycle-friendly infrastructure at ECSD schools, bicycle safety education, bike-to-school events, and other measures to encourage students and their families to ride or walk to school.

These ideas can reduce the ridiculous crush of idling motor vehicles around our schools during drop-off and pick-up times, and promote stronger, healthier, safer, more vibrant neighborhoods.

I look forward to your response.



…No response yet. I wonder if I’ll get one? There’s so little conversation on her blog that I was surprised that comments were enabled.


(I may actually be in a position to follow up on some of these ideas at the level of individual schools in my part of town, since I have volunteered to help organize a bike-to-school month with a bike rodeo at my daughter’s school, and will naturally share the information with people at my son’s school as well… stay tuned for a separate blog post on that!) 


As for councilors, the race in my ward (Ward 9) isn’t hotly contested. We have a well-respected, fairly progressive incumbent in Bryan Anderson, who has replied to EBC’s questionnaire and said sensible, well-researched things – and a handful of challengers who none of the pundits seem to think have much chance of unseating him. (Envision Edmonton aren’t even funding a candidate in this ward.) The most interesting of those challengers, or at least the one whose platform aligns most closely with my own opinions, is Jennifer Watts, so I commented on her blog to see if she would also say sensible, well-researched things. (Update: she did! But none of them were about cycling infrastructure. Yet.)


Here’s what I said:








Hi Jennifer,

I’m extremely interested in sustainable design and development, and have recently taken up cycling again as a way of minimizing both my carbon footprint and improving my health. I bike both with my school-age children and on my own to run errands, and I’m fortunate to live in a part of Ward 9 where it is possible to walk, bike, and use public transit much of the time – although the multiuser pathways are not always convenient, and motor vehicle users sometimes seem dangerously unaware that adult bicycles are legally required to be on the roadways, not the sidewalks.

You’ve been quoted in the newspaper articles you have attached about the need to manage sprawl in our ward, and you specifically mention accommodating public transit and active transportation (walking & cycling) in the “Transportation” part of your platform, and supporting the community leagues and schools to strengthen our neighborhoods in the “Community” section of your platform.

Can you clarify how you, as councillor, would support our school boards in preventing school closures in core neighborhoods, and support rejuvenation of core neighborhoods so that they are attractive to young families such as mine, and the small local businesses promoted by groups such as Keep Edmonton Original?

Can you also clarify your position regarding funding of the City of Edmonton’s Bicycle Transportation Plan, and take the time to answer the questionnaire you have received from the Edmonton Bicycle Commuters Society? I’m very interested to hear how you would support cyclists and pedestrians, and thereby promote stronger, healthier, safer, more vibrant neighborhoods. (Readers can learn more about the City’s BTP, and see what other candidates are saying at http://CycleEdmonton.ca)

Congratulations on a thoughtful and progressive campaign. I look forward to your response.

Update: since her response did not answer the cycling side of my questions, and her questionnaire response has not been posted yet (presumably because she has not bothered with it), I posted a followup comment:

 Thanks for your thoughts on revitalizing mature neighborhoods by improving infrastructure, and how demographics influence school enrolments. Naturally, these are complex problems that require a many pieces to be in place for their solutions.

However, you really didn’t address my question about bicycling infrastructure. Cycling in Edmonton is increasingly popular, but the existing recreational multiuser trail network is incomplete and ill-designed for the needs of people wishing to commute to work or run errands in their own neighborhoods. City planners have recognized the importance of cycling and the trend toward increasing bicycle use by creating the 10-year Bicycle Transportation Plan, but it needs to be fully funded, and although the dollar amount for that investment is relatively small (less than the cost of a single freeway overpass, at $10-million per year for 10 years), it is vulnerable to cuts if councillors are ill-informed about the many other benefits of the plan. 

By completing the proposed bike paths and sharrow lanes, and fully integrating the needs of bicyclists and pedestrians into future public transit and roadway construction projects, we would not only ensure that everyone can travel our city safely and efficiently in a healthier, more sustainable manner. We’d also make it possible for families to get by with fewer motor vehicles, putting more money back in their pockets and thus improving the local economy. Improved bicycle infrastructure can also make neighborhoods come alive: more pedestrians and bicyclists on the streets lowers crime rates, and more pedestrians and bicyclists spending time in local parks and spending money in local businesses helps to build vibrant neighborhoods where residents know each other and set down roots. More people using their bikes means less traffic congestion, fewer parking issues, and requires less road maintenance.

Will you commit to fully funding the Bicycle Transportation Plan as part of your commitment to smart, comprehensive development plans and reinvestment in mature neighborhoods?

Thank you for taking the time to reply to my comments.

Sincerely, 

Deborah

Exploring the Sharrows in Millwoods

Exploring the Sharrows in Millwoods

We’ve been wanting for awhile to do a ride where we go explore the roads with the new sharrows in Southeast Edmonton, which have been installed painted this year as part of the implementation of the City of Edmonton’s Bicycle Transportation Plan. Weddings and illnesses have intervened, but we finally got a chance this weekend, while turkey was in the oven and warm sunshine tempered the autumn winds.

We rode from Angel’s place to her son’s elementary school, followed the sharrows partway along the Millwoods Road loop in light traffic, then ducked down 66th Street (which is busier and has no markings) to warm up with coffee at Millwoods Town Centre. I definitely felt like the drivers on 66th were more impatient than those we encountered on the marked section of our route.

Angel has fantastic new slouchy suede boots and shiny teal tights.

The idea is that you ride square down the middle of each sharrow marking, 
but that makes it trickier to photograph them.
(When you ride over these fresh ones, unlike the older ones around the U of A,
you feel a gentle bumpity-bumpity-bump under your tires from how thick the paint is.)

A better view of an entire sharrow marking, taken with the camera at handlebar level.

Most of the way along Millwoods Road, the markings are in the middle of the lane, as seen here. 
However, there are also a couple of sections where they were placed (like a bike lane) closer to the curb,
and then cars had parked over top of them (which makes them considerably less helpful). 

The roads with sharrows also have signs like this one, reminding drivers to expect bicyclists in the lane.
Coffee was lovely. I had chai and a poppyseed roll, mmm.
Since the chain cafe where we stopped had no bicycle parking (shame!), 
we sat outside in the sunshine at a table beside our bicycles. 
The cafe could definitely use a rack, since there were three other bicycles parked beside ours.

Our next stop was Millwoods Park. We took some portraits:
Angel and Daisy
Angel complained that the wind was trying to flip up the hem of her stretchy jersey dress while she rode,
but she looked so comfy and colorful. Not to mention badass, in this shot.
Deborah and Mary Poppins
Vintage herringbone wool shift dress, herringbone patterned tights, and vintage Naturalizer pumps.
I like to imagine that the pumps were nurses’ shoes in their previous life. 
I think in the future I’ll wear this dress with leggings instead, 
since it had a tendancy to ride up as I pedalled, 
but the wool was the perfect weight for 13C with a cool breeze.
After Millwoods Park we swung down 26th Ave to peer through the window of an LBS I had noticed.
Then it was back via the road past Grey Nuns Hospital, and a residential street with great Hallowe’en decorations already being put up, to Angel’s to chill out.
Edmonton’s Cycling Infrastructure Funding

Edmonton’s Cycling Infrastructure Funding

The Edmonton Bicycle Commuters Society sent out an alert through their Facebook group on Thursday, asking its members to talk to their municipal representatives about why funding for cycling infrastructure is important. As they wrote:

The bad news: the recommendation is not the $100M ($10M over 10 years) for cycling that we had initially expected. The city is missing out on a golden opportunity to save the city money and achieve its goals of having a more active city, less auto-dependent, with a compact urban form.

The city is not serious about getting people cycling. They are not dedicating the funds to making it safe and easy for people to cycle. Funding PR, such as the maps, promotional programs, and such won’t get people cycling: infrastructure investments such as on road lanes for bicycles will. It has been proven in other cities; New York, Toronto, Montreal, Copenhagen, Vancouver. If you want to get people cycling you have to make it safe.

This is the test for Edmonton City Council. Are we serious about cycling and reducing our auto-dependency, or are all of these plans just nice words?

Here is the letter I just sent to councillors@edmonton.ca and stephen.mandel@edmonton.ca – Edmonton friends, won’t you take a moment and write to them too?

Dear Mayor Mandel and City of Edmonton Councillors,


The Transportation and Public Works Committee is voting on the Active Transportation Strategy this Tuesday, November 17th.
I have read the report at http://www.facebook.com/l/978d8;ereg2.edmonton.ca/sirepub/cache/2/0tdddp2qbsyr3x45myv31a45/1325711122009114753247.PDF – and I am disappointed in both the relatively small investment being made in cycling infrastructure in this proposal, and how that funding is meant to be allocated. An increase in funding from 1.15% to 1.5% for projects shared between cyclists and pedestrians is disappointingly small. [Correction: actually, it’s a decrease in proposed funding: down from the original combined total of $286M over 10 years to about $22M over 3 years.]

When I moved to Edmonton as a graduate student in the early 1990s, I lived in the area close to the university, and I walked, rode my bicycle, or took public transit everywhere I went. I did not cycle as much as I could have at that time, because I did not feel comfortable cycling on busy city roads, and cycling paths in the river valley were (in my perception) the domain of recreational cyclists on beefed-up mountain bikes, not commuters on comfort or hybrid bikes. Buying my first car allowed me to explore parts of Edmonton that had felt completely off-limits to me – and when my bicycle was stolen shortly after my car purchase, I did not replace it. Cycling maps that indicate ease-of-use for the paved valley paths might have made my experience easier, but to encourage me to continue cycling at that time, on-street bike lanes and better bicycle parking would have made a huge difference, as would the ability to take my bike on public transit.

I am part of the recent boom in people who are taking up cycling as commuters (and blogging about it). I’m living in Terwillegar Towne, which is a convenient place to commute from by car (close to both the Henday and the Whitemud), and it’s become much more convenient to use public transit with the opening of the new transit hub at the nearby recreation centre site on 23rd Avenue and the imminent opening of the LRT line to the former Heritage Mall site. It’s also an extremely pedestrian-friendly neighborhood, with sidewalks and multi-use paths through parks. Now that my children are old enough to pedal on their own, I’ve gotten a bicycle again, and I’ve fitted it with big baskets so I can use my bicycle to reduce my dependance on my car for local errands (like trips to nearby grocery stores, which are a bit too far to walk to conveniently). When the schools open in our subdivision in September, we plan to ride back and forth to school. I hope we won’t need to ride on the sidewalk to do so, and that there will be easily-accessed bike racks of appropriate size for both adult and child bikes at the schools.

I’m also looking forward to taking my bicycle to – or on – the bus and LRT. To make that convenient, I’d love to see secure covered bicycle parking at major transit hubs, and a way to bring bicycles onto transit. Under the current proposal, funding for those projects would be deferred until at least 2012 and possibly later.

I’m fortunate to be living in a new neighborhood with such amenities, and I feel strongly that all parts of Edmonton should have such opportunities – which is why I strongly support the sidewalk and curb ramp rehabilitation and renewal programme outlined in the report, and other city policies that support renewal and family-friendly infill development in older, established Edmonton neighborhoods. I do not think that any infrastructure rehabilitation projects in these neighborhoods should be deferred in an effort to find funding for new projects. I would prefer that roadway expansion along the Henday be deferred, if necessary, to allow funding of inexpensive cycling infrastructure projects (such as repainting key roads to identify cycling lanes) and quicker implementation of projects that will allow commuters to combine bicycle use with public transit. I support that strategy, even though deferring completion of some planned projects along the ring road would affect me personally, as a driver who uses the Henday regularly and who has benefited from the ease with which it allows me to reach far-flung parts of the city. Deferring roadway expansion along the Henday could allow projects to move forward that will make it easier to commute by bicycle, reducing traffic volumes and making it easier to find automobile parking in congested areas like downtown and Whyte Avenue – so drivers would also benefit.

Thank you for your hard work in making Edmonton a more sustainable city!

Warmest regards,
Deborah

UPDATE: I’m also helping Edmontonians Supporting A Green Economy (E-SAGE) to draft a letter about this. From that letter:

We appreciate that the City of Edmonton is working hard to craft policies that support a more sustainable future for its citizens. However, we worry that in limiting the immediate funding for the creation of cycling infrastructure – and combining it with the funding for pedestrian infrastructure – that the City may miss a golden opportunity to capitalize on a boom of interest in commuter cycling by making it easier and safer. Making it safer to cycle in this city will result in fewer accidents (both bicycle-auto and bicycle-pedestrian), and will encourage more people to use their bicycles. More people cycling to work, or combining cycling with public transit use, would translate into less vehicle traffic and more parking in congested areas like Downtown and Old Strathcona. It would reduce requirements for road repairs and road widening, and subsequently save the city money in the transportation budget. It would help the city meet its goals for reducing its carbon footprint, along with other environmental and public-health benefits. Making it possible for families to do without their cars, or for two-car families to make do with only one, would provide them with additional disposable income that would be spent in our community, stimulating the local economy.

For more information about the benefits to cities of increasing cycling infrastructure, we invite you to read the following articles:

The Economic Benefits of Bicycle Infrastructure Investments (a point-form summary on EcoVelo of a policy research report by The League of American Cyclists): http://www.ecovelo.info/2009/08/18/the-economic-benefits-of-bicycle-infrastructure-investments/

How To Get More Bicyclists On The Road, an article from Scientific American:
http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=getting-more-bicyclists-on-the-road

Bucking The Cycle (an article from the Los Angeles Business Journal about the connection between cyclists and shoppers at local businesses): http://bicyclefixation.com/bikebucks.html