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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.
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.
Magic Hour (LGRAB Summer Games Post 7)

Magic Hour (LGRAB Summer Games Post 7)

Today I’m blogging about riding a new-to-me greenbelt path, as part of the New Territory section of the LGRAB Summer Games, which end tomorrow! That went by fast.

I set out by myself on Mary Poppins tonight at about 9pm, when the sun is low in the sky and the light is gorgeous. Wish I had a better camera.

Me and my shadow.

My goal was to take a quick look at a nearby, long, paved multiuse path that winds east-west through parkland in several neighborhoods, dips into a ravine park that you would swear isn’t part of a city (which I have walked previously), and appears to connect with the river valley park path network (Part of it appears on this walking map (PDF) marked in yellow). Unfortunately I didn’t have time to explore more than a short section in the middle today – but I’m sure it’ll be part of many future posts.

The view east toward the ravine at the point where I accessed the path.
The view west toward the river at the point where I accessed the path. 

As you can see, it actually runs through a power line right-of-way, which is an innovative way to create public use for land that in some parts of North America is left fallow, or is sprayed occasionally with herbicides to prevent trees from growing (for ‘safety reasons’). They may not be able to plant large trees in this area, but I think the understated grassland approach they’ve taken to the landscaping is lovely and ecologically appropriate (No sign of herbicide use that I saw.). I found this article (dated 2003) that outlines some safety risks to be aware of in travelling on such paths, which is refreshingly balanced on the EMF issue.

This pedestrian bridge over Terwillegar Drive has won awards for its innovative architecture.
The view of downtown and Terwillegar Drive from one end of the bridge. 
(You can actually see all of the downtown skyline from the other end of the bridge, 
but my phone’s camera wasn’t equal to the task.)

The view toward the river from the other end of the pedestrian overpass. 

The plan was apparently for this path to connect with a pedestrian bridge over the river (under the North Saskatchewan River Bridge on the Henday) and Cameron Heights, but I’m not sure if that work has been completed yet.

My path home – which turns into the multiuse path alongside 23rd Avenue that Angel & I rode previously on our errand-running-and-exploring jaunt. So this path does also connect suburban neighborhoods with suburban grocery stores, restaurants, shops, and cafes for those who are so inclined.

I passed many people out walking, and a couple of other (teenage male) cyclists. Here is another view of the rec centre under construction:

This lighting could almost convince me to put Hardie Plank on the exterior of my home. Almost.

PS – Five doors from home, a guy at a house party on the front porch up the street asked where I got my sweet helmet (the polkadot Nutcase), and said they’d been talking about it ever since they saw me as I was leaving home about 45 minutes before. I guess wearing a silly helmet I’ve mostly seen photographed on children (like at the Fiets of Parenthood in Portland) is a way to remind people that bikes are fun! Hooray for advocacy through cycle chic!

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 and – 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; – 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,

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):

How To Get More Bicyclists On The Road, an article from Scientific American:

Bucking The Cycle (an article from the Los Angeles Business Journal about the connection between cyclists and shoppers at local businesses):