The link above provides a great infographic on the myriad health benefits of decreased car dependency and increased walking and transit use. This is a great primer for anyone who questions the assumption on this blog that car dependent land use and transportation planning decisions are the worst way to run a human settlement.
Off Topic But Interesting: A Risk Evaluation of the Enbridge Pipeline
This one is a little off the topic of this blog, but the proposed Enbridge pipeline is too big of an issue to really ignore. Its nice to see an issue that sees so much emotion from both sides evaluated logically. For those who aren’t aware, the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline is a proposed oil pipeline that would carry oil from Alberta’s oil sands to Kitimat. While it would doubtless increase profit to the oil sands sector, it is also strongly opposed by many for the risk of a spill from the pipeline or from tanker ships.
I found this recent study published in Innovation Magazine: three professional engineers, two of whom are Professors Emeritus at UBC with specialties in risk assessment and probabalistic decision making, evaluate the risks associated with tanker traffic associated with the Enbridge Pipeline. Using Enbridge’s own study, they evaluate the probability of a tanker spill during the project’s 50 year lifetime. The odds of a spill of any size is 47%, and 9% for a spill greater than 5000 cubic metres.
They compare these probabilities to standard allowable probabilities for other incidents in BC. The difference is striking. For instance, the design target probability for bridge collapse due to ship collision is .0001%. The authors make it clear that Enbridge’s application asks BC to accept a risk that is orders of magnitude higher than what we accept in other fields.
Innovation Magazine is the official publication of the engineers professional association for British Columbia. It reports on industry and association news in addition to technical papers.
NYC’s Department of Finance recently found that after improvements to transit and pedestrian infrastructure, local retail revenues jumped by 73 percent. The project included a package of improvements, including dedicated bus lanes, reduction of parking space, and added parking meters. As is usual with these types of street improvements, local merchants opposed the improvements in the planning stage, and claimed it hurt their revenues after it was implemented.
The evidence gathered by NYC speaks to the contrary. This shows evidence for what should be obvious: that transit riders, cyclists, and pedestrians spend money too. In fact, the NY Post has found that many of New York’s innovative streetscaping, which includes pedestrian plazas and bike lanes, have precipitated a rise in retail revenues in their areas.
What does this mean for our city? We have had many of the same improvements in Vancouver, from street closures on Granville and Robson to bus lanes to those headline-grabbing bike lanes. We also get similar push back from businesses that claim that ready car access and free parking is the only option for bringing in customers. The results in New York suggest that this economy vs. livability dilemma may be an illusion. Complete streets, when done well, can in fact be good for business. The perplexing part, however, is that improving the lot of businesses and convincing them that their revenues have increased has not proved to be the same thing.
Earlier this month, the City of Vancouver released the final report from the Mayor’s Task Force on Affordable Housing, with the lofty goals of increasing affordable housing choices for all Vancouverites, and (get this) ending street homelessness by 2015. While it is good to set time lines for concrete goals, I think that ending Vancouver’s street homelessness may be a generation’s work, not just three years. Nonetheless, I hope that this fairly unrealistic goal indicates a focused approach to ending street homelessness.
A full recap on this plan is definitely due, but for the time being, I want to focus on the report’s thin streets proposal, as it has received the most attention so far. The plan for thin streets is to take a standard 66 foot road allowance, chop it in half, and allow a developer to build townhouses on one half, leaving a thinner street (hence the name) on the other half. The concept is designed to basically pull space for new housing virtually out of thin air.
I think the idea has some merit, as it is a great way to use existing road allowance for housing. The long term trends in Vancouver show demand for roads declining while demand for housing increasing, so conceptually there is a certain symmetry to it. As a municipal engineer, I feel obliged to recognize that there tend to be utilities under roads that would need to be relocated to make room for the new housing. However, the fact that new housing projects often go hand-in-hand with utility upgrades suggests that costs associated with this need not be insurmountable.
The largest backlash from this initiative has come from (who else?) homeowners. Complaints run from typical NIMBY cries against density to a much more reasonable concern that homeowners who paid more for a corner lot may see their property price decrease as it ceases to be one. Apparently no one told them that if this plan succeeds, the overall value of property in this city will decrease or at least slow its climb, so we’ll set that aside for now.
Its clear that the proposed thin streets pilot projects would need a certain amount of neighborhood buy-in. I think that for corner lot owners, this would essentially mean a buy-off. It has been proposed that the city could clear upzoning for affected corner lots. This would allow them to be upgraded to contain additional suites that could be rented for income. Even if the current owner doesn’t act on the new allowances, this would increase the resale value of the property, which could counteract the negative impact from thin streets development. Other options include cash compensation to the owner or buying the property outright, upzoning, and reselling. The first option is an obvious cost to the city; the second, while it contains an element of risk, could be revenue neutral or even net a profit.
Gary Mason brings up an interesting point about new townhouses in his Globe and Mail article. He puts forth that townhouses are not really all that affordable in this city, and therefore that building more would not help with housing affordability. It is true that the townhouses themselves will likely be expensive when sold, but that misses the point. New housing will likely never be easily affordable for low-income households in Vancouver. However, an increase in total housing brings the whole market down. Part of the reason for Vancouver’s million-dollar-tear-down houses is that you can’t really get new houses in Vancouver for any price. They just aren’t there. However, if we can increase the supply of good $800k-$1M housing, no one is going to pay a million for a shack.
Its important to point out that I’m not advocating for trickle-down economics in Vancouver’s housing. Increasing the supply at the $800k-$1M level targets a large part of the real estate market, and can help to stop the migration of middle-income families to the suburbs by adding downward pressure on the prices of homes currently in this price range. While the lowering of townhouse prices may indirectly affect low-income rental prices, it is unlikely that there will be enough effect on its own to provide substantial help to low-income Vancouverites. This portion of the Task Force’s plan is targeted towards middle-income Vancouverites. Ironically, this group is not unlike the group of homeowners who oppose this measure the most.
The Proliferation of Density in the Metro Vancouver Region
Last week, the Vancouver Sun highlighted the growing trend in Metro Vancouver for in high rises outside of Vancouver proper, particularly in Burnaby, Surrey, and Coquitlam. This isn’t necessarily earth-shattering news, as several cities in the region have had small but dense areas of development for quite some time. In fact, many of these developments meet the goals of longstanding community and regional plans.
The main guiding plan in this trend is the Metro Vancouver Regional Growth Strategy. The document, ratified by representatives from the region’s municipalities, sees development in the region being focused into several regional centers with smaller ‘town centres’ playing a supporting role. There is a lot in there, so I won’t try to do a full breakdown, but essentially the plan is to have dense regions scattered throughout the region. This breaks down the central business district/suburbs dichotomy that is all to common in North American cities.Distributing the dense centers around the region helps to alleviate traffic and shorten trip times, and having dense urban areas in several locations helps alleviate the infrastructural inefficiencies associated with large low-density suburban areas. The Regional Growth Strategy provides the philosophy for land use in the region, but leaves the application and enforcement to individual municipalities.
Burnaby in particular has been working on the regional/town centre pattern of growth for quite some time now, and has been acting on community plans to concentrate density in Metrotown (since 1977) and the Brentwood area (since 1996). Even before the arrival of the skytrains, these were areas set up to be dense neighborhoods and commercial centres. I always find it tempting to believe that little pockets of density had sprung up in response to transit development, when skytrain lines likely were made to pass through these areas because they were pockets of development.
Richmond has also been working on creating a city centre. The Richmond City Centre Plan, originally conceived in 1995, sets the goal of attracting 50% of Richmond’s growth in population to the City Center area from 1995 until the plan’s horizon, 2021, and is on track to meet that goal. Again, this is a dense area that that had been in the works for many years before it gained skytrain service.
When you look at the regional and town centres above, it is clear that the idea of a region with distributed nodes of density is did not happen suddenly or recently. For several decades now, regional and municipal authorities have been pushing for a distributed network of urban centres across the region. The Vancouver Sun article should not be seen as a sign of a recent trend, but as a marker of progress in decades of land-use planning in the region.
The debate surrounding allocation of transportation resources is a lively one, and for good reasons. Decisions surrounding personal transportation affect everyone. Unfortunately, one debate tactic that surfaces in the bikes vs. cars subset of this debate is the idea that cyclists are reckless, lawless, and unsafe. This idea is often used to justify calls for greater regulation of cyclists or the restriction of cyclist-friendly infrastructure
There are several problems with this idea. For one, it assumes that infrastructure or regulatory decisions should be punitive. There is an inherent assumption that for their misbehaviour, cyclists don’t ‘deserve’ infrastructure that protects their safety or makes their lives easier. The idea of restricting safety measures to only deserving people makes is at odds with the idea of promoting public safety.
For example, before the recent upgrades to the Sea-to-Sky highway, Provincial highway officials did not castigate motorists for causing a high number of crashes on the highway, they made the highway safer. The smoother curves, ample passing opportunities, and concrete barriers were not seen as perverse rewards for unsafe drivers, but an effective tool to reduce fatalities. The problem is that cycle infrastructure is often politicized to the point where adding safety features is equated with rewarding unsafe behaviour in public debate.
The other issue with using accusations that cyclists as a group are unsafe is that they are largely unfounded. Cyclists do break laws, and in Vancouver, police do patrol bike routes and issue tickets. However, the fact is that transportation users of all stripes break laws. Pedestrians jaywalk (which is not always an offence) or wander into vehicle paths. Motorists have an almost uncountable number of ways to break the law behind the wheel. To aim criticism at any one group of road users while ignoring the rest is to give them a free pass.
Since definitively proving fault in a cyclist/car crash is hard (or at least finding at-fault statistics is), some proponents of this argument turn to the specter of fatal pedestrian/cyclist crashes to illustrate cyclists’ danger. I did some research to find out how many fatal pedestrian/cyclist collisions occur in Vancouver each year. The only problem is that I could only find one. The Globe and Mail showed one incident in 2010. The article shows that about ten pedestrians a year are hospitalized by cyclists in BC, but that this is the only death since BC Injury Research and Prevention Unit started keeping records in 2012. This rate, one fatality in 11 years, is invisible compared to the 3,096 traffic fatalities in BC from 2001 to 2007 (the latest year that ICBC crash statistics are available).
Unfortunately, there is no easy way to put this argument down for good. Motorists are the majority of road users, and the gut reaction to perceived unsafe actions is can be fierce. There is a certain amount of confirmation bias in that motorists don’t remember all the courteous, law-abiding cyclists they encounter, but remember only the dangerous near-misses. When these stories are presented uncritically in the media, motorists’ misplaced anger is only reinforced.
I am visiting family in Winnipeg for the next two weeks, so I wanted to profile the Winnipeg transportation system while I am here. This week, I start with my first impressions of cycling in Winnipeg.
Despite having lived in Winnipeg as a teenager, I have never seriously biked for transportation purposes. On this visit, however, I wanted to try it out. So far, I have only cycled somewhat suburban areas. I don’t feel like this is too large of an omission, however, because Winnipeg’s downtown is quite small and infrequently used. Historically, each neighborhood in what is now known as Winnipegwas its own municipality. This contributes to a spread out land-use, with sometimes with potential infill area in between the former towns.
In conjunction with the land-use pattern, cycling in Winnipeg is also defined by the city’s geography. The first thing that this Vancouver cyclist notices is the lack of hills. When taken with the long, wide, straight roads and bike paths, this creates some stretches that are hypnotically straight, flat, and uneventful. In this way, the riding more resembles the Tour de France than an alleycat.
There were a surprising number of off-street trails and bike lanes. Looking at the city’s cycle map, it looks like a lot of these are existing recreational trails that, with a few links, have been strung together into a pop-up cycle network. This is a great way to use existing bike infrastructure for new purposes. However, some of the windier trails may be frustrating for cyclists not looking to joyride, but just wanting to get somewhere.
The newer off-street bike routes that I tried were all extra wide sidewalks (about 6 meters) that were shared between pedestrians and cyclists. While this would create conflicts at higher volumes, the ones I tried had few cyclists or pedestrians, making an easy ride.
Overall, I was pleasantly surprised at the cycle network of the city that I typically associate with sprawl and car dependence. There seems to be somewhat of a cultural shift towards cycling as well; more people that I know are biking for personal transportation, and there are definitely more cyclists on the road.
Derek Spalding reports that cycle crashes are up 21% in four years. What he doesn’t tell you anything about is the change in cyclists on the road, or the rate of crashes per cycle trip. If growth in cycle trips is increasing faster than total number of crashes, the crash rate is going down and cycling in Victoria is getting safer.
The scaremongering infographic does show that cycling across the Selkirk Trestle on something called the Galloping Goose is up from 2010 to 2011 by about 8%. If we assume this is representative of the region’s cycling growth over the last four years, we can estimate that cycling is up 36% in that period and, therefore, that cycling has gotten safer. Those are some big assumptions, but that’s all this article gives its readers to go on.
This is a good example of the misleading and shoddy reporting that cycling often receives in the media. Mr. Spalding took one stat and didn’t place it in proper context. He later goes on to use this poorly presented information to contest the claim that more riders are good for cyclist safety even though the stats he presented suggest that there are more riders in Victoria and that bike riding has become safer.
Last week, a BC supreme court ruled that when you take the pedals off an electric bike, it ceases to be a bike. The court case involved a Chilliwack man who took the pedals off his electric bike and was ticketed for riding a motor vehicle without insurance or registration.
He was riding an emerging style of ebike that is essentially an underpowered scooter with vestigial pedals attached at an angle that makes them impractical for pedaling. The reason for the pedals is purely legal: if it has pedals, it can be classed as an ebike. This means that the rider doesn’t need a drivers license or registration (ICBC rules here). Riders of ebikes are treated the same as ordinary cyclists, with the exception that they must be 16.
When the pedals come off, however, things get more complicated. Since it is no longer a motor-assisted vehicle, it is a motor vehicle. This motor vehicle, however, isn’t built to the same standards as a street-legal moped or scooter and so does not fit into any category of registrable vehicle. An ebike with the pedals removed cannot be driven on public roads.
I agree with the distinction between a human-powered and a motor vehicle. For one thing, human-powered vehicles have natural limits on their mass and speed, limiting the damage possible in a collision. It makes sense that drivers of all but the puniest of motor vehicles be required to prove their ability to drive safely. Part of the appeal of ebikes is that they require no license.
For mopeds and scooters, drivers must have a full license or a learner’s permit. This means that drivers must learn how to drive a car (tests cannot be taken on a moped) first. If I only wanted to drive a moped, I could get my learner’s permit, but would have to retest every 2 years. It may make sense to create a separate license class, with similar requirements to a learner’s permit, that can be held permanently.
The Mayor’s Task Force on Housing Affordability recently released its interim report. One of their key recommendations was to increase options for denser forms of housing. This supply-side effort to bring down the cost of housing also has positive effects on density, as I wrote about previously. One form that caught my eye for its mention was row houses.
There is some confusion and crossover between townhouses and other multifamily forms, but most definitions do converge. There are two distinctive features: form and ownership structure. Row houses are attached housing, much like townhouses. That means that units share a common wall (called a ‘party wall’) between them. Unlike a strata, where occupants own the inside of their unit plus shares in a company that owns everything else, townhouse owners own their unit and property outright. Owners have a party wall agreement between them which states that each party will bear half the responsibility for maintaining the wall in excellent condition.
The advantages to the form are obvious; row houses mark a good halfway between detached housing and condo apartments. They enable some of the positive benefits of detached housing such as increased privacy, a private yard, and more space. They also bring some advantages of condo apartments in that they allow an increase in density, help to create human-scale neighborhoods, and can be bought for less money than a detached house.
Additional benefits come from the ownership structure. Doing away with a strata means that owners are in a legally binding agreement with their next-door neighbors, rather than the potentially hundreds of people involved in a strata, and to a much more limited extent.
Strata houses are a good compromise between the form and ownership structure of condominiums and single-family detached houses, but there are a number of issues keeping them from being built in Vancouver. The first has been recently overcome: until May 31 this year, a party wall agreements dissolved when one party sold their property. Bill 41, section 68 changes this so that the party wall agreement stays with the land, much like restrictive covenants or easements.
Vancouver also has building restrictions that preclude party walls. One pioneering row house project, the Cambie Rowhouse Project, found that Vancouver City Hall requires that each unit be treated as a separate building for structural purposes. In addition to beefier shear walls for earthquake protection, each party wall actually needed to be two seperate fire walls with a one-inch gap between them. These separate walls then needed steel restraints to hold the gap between them for earthquake consideration. These requirements result in increased material and construction cost, as well as wasted space. It is worth noting that Art Cowie, the man who started the Cambie Rowhouse Project in 2002, passed away before he could see his vision finally built.
Despite the legal hurdles, however, there does seem to be interest in the form. Frances Bula points out that in Surrey, which I usually think of as the place where people go because they can’t buy a house in Vancouver, had 27 percent of its new construction last year in row house form.
Vancouver has been in planning for a city bike sharing program (VIXI) since 2008. On June 13, the City announced that the program is expecting to launch the system in the spring of next year. The bike-share system will be operated by a private company, with the company running Montreal’s BIXI expected to be involved.
Paris’ Vélib’ bike share program launched in 2007, kicking off what has become a major trend in Europe and the Americas. In North America, it seems like nearly every world-class city either has a bike share program or is at least talking about getting one. This list of bike share programs indicates that the trend is even more widespread in Europe.
Not all of bike share programs succeed, however. Most bike share programs don’t turn a profit, but that isn’t the point. Bike share systems are usually thought of as a public service which, much like sidewalks and roads, cost taxpayer money but (hopefully) provide enough value to its users to offset these costs. Bike shares are best evaluated on that value-for-taxpayer-money basis. So what makes a succesful bike share? And how might Vancouver’s program fare? Lets break it down:
There needs to be adequate supply of bikes at any given station. If riders can’t depend on it, they will be less likely to subscribe or less likely to look for the option, preferring more dependable mode choices. Vancouver is planning on launching 1500 bikes at 125 stations, suggesting that there will be an average of 12 bikes per station. With stations spaced every 2 or 3 blocks, its hard to imagine that being used up, but it is hard to tell at this stage.
Because bikes will need to be locked at specialized docking stations after every use, users can only make trips that start and end near a docking station. Coverage will be bounded by Main Street to the east, Arbutus to the west, Broadway to the south, and extend to the waterfront to the north. While my initial reaction is that the Grandview-Woodland area (Commercial Drive territory) and Kitsilano could support bike share, this coverage area links well with Vancouver transit’s golden triangle: the area bounded by the Millennium/Expo Line, Canada Line, and Broadway’s 99 B-Line express bus route. This means that in addition to serving downtown tourists and people living within the service area (of which there are many), the bike share system could link well with the transit system, allowing riders to link the local mobility of bike share with the speed Metro Vancouver’s rapid transit.
This one is too early to tell, but having conveniently located and easy-to-find stations helps tie in good coverage with good availability. Ideally, bike locations downtown should be like Starbucks shops. Riders want to be able turn their head and find the nearest one.
A Bikeable City
This one is obvious. If riders don’t feel safe riding around they won’t. Vancouver is a leading city in this aspect, especially within the proposed coverage area.
This last aspect can be make-or-break for bike shares, and has rightfully receivedthe mostattention in local press. Bike share has given voice to a resurgence of the old helmet law debate. Do helmets save lives, or does the inactivity of discouraged would-be-cyclists do more health damage? Is this an issue of personal liberty, or cycling’s version of the seatbelt? Do helmets keep cyclists off the roads, putting the few who do cycle at even greater risk?
That debate is an issue for another post. However, it seems quite clear that mandatory helmet laws are a serious issue for the success of bike-share programs. Mexico and Israel repealed mandatory helmet laws to lay the groundwork for their bike share programs. Australia didn’t and as a result, programs in Melbourne and Brisbane are floundering. No one has figured a way around it yet. People don’t want to carry helmets around with them in case they decide to take a bike. Offering helmet share programs have many issues including cleanliness, fit, and quality assurance.
Vancouver, for its part, seems poised to petition the Province for either a repeal of BC’s helmet laws, or special dispensation for bike share users. An article in the Victoria Times-Colonist quotes Ted Dixon, BC Liberal Party Policy Chair as supporting change to the helmet law.
Since coming across Massurban’s post on density (and reblogging it below), I’ve been wanting to write an entry on Vancouver’s love-hate relationship with the topic.
Vancouver is Canada’s densest city, with plans to densify further under the Eco Density Charter. Even the most casual of urbanist understands the ecological benefits of denser cities: higher transit use, less miles driven in private cars, more efficient heating, more efficient use of infrastructure, and the list goes on.
A recent Georgia Straight article unintentionally sums up the false dichotomy that usually plays out here in Vancouver pretty well. It pits Jane Jacobs’ emphasis on mid rise walkup apartments, essentially the pattern of Greenwich Village that informed much of Jacobs’ writing, with former mayor Sam Sullivan’s penchant for high rise apartment and condo buildings, an attempt to cram as many units into the city as possible.
The difficulty with opposing those two ideas as a low/high density debate is that the Jacobs model for a living city is high density. With its high-coverage of lots, the mid rise Greenwich Village/Soho area has a density of 23,000 people per square kilometer (source), much higher than 5249, the average density in Vancouver. This video shows how hard it is to tell the density of a building from its form. If you get bored, just skip ahead to 9:45, which shows that a familiar-looking ‘Vancouver style’ high rise condo tower in Austin has a lower unit density than a typical old-style Parisian rowhouse.
The current battles against high rise condo towers in Marpole and Mount Pleasant would suggest that there is desire for a less ‘Sullivanist’ form of densification in this Vancouver. Some of the options are quietly being put in place. This includes relaxing of bylaws to allow more detached homes to be used as tri/duplexes, as well as increased permissibility of laneway houses. However, low-to-mid-rise multifamily suites are not necessarily being pursued to the extent that they could be. Frances Bula has a very interesting piece on the lack of rowhouses in this city. The cause seems to be at least partially because of a lack of regulatory support from City hall, and the lack of knowledge on successful marketing of homes.
Until someone finds the low-to-mid-rise alternative, however, it looks like Vancouver will be continue to be a mix of skyscrapers surrounded by detached houses.
Check out this video on Streetfilms about road diets. It shows one of the most (to the urbanist wonk anyways) astounding things about road diets: that we can take the infrastructure we have, and get more out of it for everyone with just a few gallons of paint.
Road diets involve no construction. In any road diet, a two-way street has two one-way lanes removed and replaced with a center turning lane that can be used by vehicles travelling in either direction. The extra road space is usually made into bike lanes on both sides of the street. When done properly, this can lead to increased safety for cyclists, pedestrians, and motorists. In fact, by preventing queuing behind cars waiting to turn left and reducing lane changes, a road diet can actually increase motor vehicle capacity.
This is a departure from the tradeoffs associated with many other safety improvements in that there need be no impact to motor vehicle travel times.
So why haven’t we seen this type of development in Vancouver? For one thing, we have been mostly spared from the six-lane collector roads that are the norm in many other cities. This only works on four-lane roads and up.
Within downtown, many of the major streets are one-way only, which are not subject to road diets. The few large collector roads outside of downtown, however, still seem to be totally car-focused, such as Clark or Broadway. Clark is the major trucking route to the Port of Vancouver and (rightly or wrongly) has been kept as a bastion of motor-vehicle oriented street design. Broadway is another major artery, but City planners have chosen to create part-time transit lanes and create bike lanes just off this major car thoroughfare. While this does make make crosstown traffic flow more quickly, the street has several commercial dead spots between major intersections.
The revelation that first got me interested in city planning issues was that our built environment is no accident; it is designed by people in various positions with various goals. The result of these often abstract decisions are very concrete, as urban design has a wide-ranging effect on the quality of city life. In most of the developed world, a large share of these decisions are made by local governments.
One far-reaching tool in urban design is the regulation of parking requirements. Most cities in North America have requirements that new developments require a minimum number of off-street parking stalls be included in any new development. In Vancouver, the guiding document for parking policy is the Parking Bylaw.
One of the issues with so-called ‘parking minimums’ is that they potentially drive the cost of development up. If I buy a condo in a city with parking minimums, I don’t just pay for the living space, I pay for a parking space. Whether I use it or not, its mine. Businesses have end up paying for parking spaces regardless of how customers get to their store.
The money paid to build of all those rectangles of pavement takes the form of a parking subsidy. By keeping the availability of off-street parking high, developers are being forced to subsidize the cost of parking in the city. This amounts to a subsidy on driving as a transportation mode choice.
In Vancouver, the guiding document for parking policy is the Parking Bylaw. The off-street requirements section is a mixed bag: it mostly proscribes parking minimums, with some types of development subject to both minimums and maximums, and exceptions to minimums based on geography. Some highlights for include a minimum of 1 parking space for each game at an arcade or table at a pool hall, three spaces per lane at a bowling alley, and 1 space for every 9.3 square meters of casino or club. Eric de Place has a good analysis of the irony of Vancouver’s parking minimums at drinking establishments posted on Sightline Daily.
Reducing the parking supply can help reduce auto-dependency and City Hall knows it. Talk Green Vancouver, the public website for the ‘Greenest City Initiative’ lists ‘demand management’ as one of its green transportation strategies, with reduction of parking being one implementation. I guess the upshot of that is that the reduction or elimination of parking minimums is actually (hopefully) on the way.
Offering Cycling Amenities on Routes That Cyclists Already Use: A Winning Strategy
Recently, Vancouver City Hall announced that two new bike lanes were in the works. Plans are for one on Commercial Drive in Grandview-Woodland, and another route down Cornwall and Point Grey Road in Kitsilano. Both routes are near popular leisure destinations: Cornwall and Point Grey run along the beaches of Kitsilano, while Commercial Drive is a destination for its shops, cafes and restaurants. The routes have two other things in common: both already carry large bike traffic, and both are very dangerous for bikes.
It’s clear that City Hall is using a sound strategy to guide bike lane expansion by responding to what cyclists already do. The pedestrian equivalent of this a concept called ‘desire lines.’ When pedestrian traffic wears a muddy path through a grassy area with no sidewalk, that line indicates to planners that some sort of path would be desirable. Applying that logic to Commercial Drive and Cornwall-Point Grey, we see that a large amount of bike traffic on these routes indicates that a bike route would be well-used. The fact that there are also a large number of accidents also indicates that investing in cyclist safety could prevent a lot of accidents.
The desire line concept becomes even more apparent when one considers that both routes are parallel to nearby but underused bike lanes. Commercial Drive runs parallel to the bike lane on Woodland. Woodland fails to remove bike traffic from Commercial for a few reasons. First, Woodland has more hills than Commercial Drive, which is far smoother. As it runs through a residential street, Woodland is fairly devoid of landmarks and so is more problematic for navigation. Most importantly, though is the fact that Commercial Drive is so often the destination itself. It makes little sense for a cyclist (or indeed any traveler) to ride parallel to the street and then only enter it where their destination is.
The same comparison can be made to the Cornwall-Point Grey and the existing nearby route on West 3rd Avenue. The contrasts are much the same as Commercial Drive and Woodland but are even more extreme. 3rd is extremely hilly, Cornwall-Point Grey is a route that I have personally used many times to skirt the steep hills along 3rd. Cornwall and Point Grey run right along the some of the most well-used beaches in the city, and reveal classic postcard views to cyclists, pedestrians, and motorists alike. There is a reason why one can see so many convertibles along Cornwall on a sunny summer afternoon.
As a sidenote, if you read Vancouver Sun article, note that the article contains the views three people: one former city counsellor and two business owners. This is an example of the frequent car/business bias that media outlets often take when reporting on urbanism and transportation planning issues. Unless former counsellor Peter Ladner is a frequent cyclist (the article gives no indication of this), cyclists’ views are completely unrepresented in the article.