Thursday, April 19, 2012

Today's letter to the CRD about issues emerging on the E&N Trail with new construction.

Geoff Young, Chair, Capital Regional District
Director Susan Brice, Chair, Parks Commitee
Barb Desjardins, Mayor, Township of Esquimalt 

I am writing to request that CRD Parks halt work on intersection treatments along the E&N Rail Trail to review designs that may compromise the utility of the trail for cyclists and other intended users. 

Funding for this project was secured to support commuter cycling, and while rail crossings may need more robust controls, sections where the trail connects only with minor roadways are being designed to present hazards and frustrate the needs of the most important user group.

The proposed gates and chicane, while consistent with federal railway regulations, are not supportable for connections from the trail through the road allowance in Esquimalt parallel to Wurtele Place.  I know of no engineering standards that would support this treatment, nor is it consistent with local precedent in the design and management of our regional trails.  The application of this treatment may, in fact, expose the CRD to liabilities associated with the construction of treatments that deliberately present hazards to trail users. 

There are a number of issues with the designs as proposed and sketched out on the trail already:

·         Traffic volumes on the road allowance that connect to the trail are very low while trail traffic is likely to exceed vehicle volumes on the roadway very soon after connections are completed.  Right of way assignments typically favour corridors with higher traffic volumes, as has been done along the Galloping Goose through Saanich between the Victoria border and the Switch Bridge.  Why is this chicane treatment even being contemplated before completion of the trail, an assessment of traffic volumes or review of hazards presented to users by the design?

·         There are many locations along the Goose and Lochside in particular where the trail connects to roadways with much higher traffic volumes and higher vehicle speeds than will be seen along this laneway.  At no location are there chicanes – only bollards and signage – to inform trail users of potential conflict points.  The proposed treatment in Esquimalt has no local precedent that would indicate this is the right approach to designing this connection.

·         There are similarly oblique connections between trails and roadways along the Galloping Goose – at Harbour Rd in Victoria and also between a connecting path alongside the Delta Ocean Pointe and Esquimalt Rd where cyclists using existing pathways alongside the rail can merge into traffic.  At this location in particular, chicanes that had been used were removed to eliminate hazards for cyclists using the trail.  The roadway that trail users enter at this location has many thousands more vehicle trips per day than the small laneway in Esquimalt where this failed treatment is being introduced again.

·         All other proposals along the Goose or Lochside where chicanes or other problematic design approaches have been contemplated in the past have been rejected in favour of more sympathetic designs.  Why would a design that fails to support the intended users of the trail project be contemplated at this location?

There are several other issues that this proposal raises:

·         What consultation has taken place, if any, with other stakeholders or users (beyond local residents and the local municipality) to inform design choices to support the intent and performance of the trail?

·         What protocols are in place to review and assess designs for other elements of the trail project that can now proceed with clarity on the return of active rail to the corridor?  There will be numbers of other issues where engagement with user groups will be critical to successful design and operation of the trail.

·         Chicanes as marked out will affect tandem bicycles, those pulling bike trailers or trail-a-bike attachments for children, who may not be able to negotiate the barriers, even when dismounted.  Apart from the many hundred, if not thousands, of commuter cyclists that can be expected on the trail, it will also serve leisure cycling and visiting touring cyclists for whom the design will also presents hazards or obstructions difficult to navigate, and suppressing demand.  Chicanes as mapped out on site may also pose difficulties for those pushing strollers, in wheelchairs or using other mobility aids.

·         While properly designed chicanes can work where the trail crosses the rail line, more thoughtful designs must be used.  Chicanes are unnecessary where the trail merges into a low volume, residential laneway where only a few dozen vehicle movements a day are likely to conflict with much heavier trail traffic.  Better approaches using signage, bollards and textured pavement are available.

Designs and installations along this important trail must first serve the intended user groups, particularly commuter cyclists, who are the client market who were central to successful funding applications by the CRD.  Compromising levels of service for this market reduces the chance that the use of the trail will meet targets used to sell this project to funding agencies. 

The need for consultation to ensure the design process incorporates “customer feedback” must be integrated into your design process.  A good model remains the original Galloping Goose design advisory committee that helped to shape that project in the ‘90s and ensured that the users for whom the trail was constructed had a forum in which to provide feedback on design issues.  A similar task force or advisory committee should be established to ensure that E&N trail projects are similarly reviewed by representatives of user communities, something that is clearly missing from the currently proposed works now being advanced.

Yesterday’s endorsement by the CRD Parks Committee for renewed expenditures and construction along the trail is a timely and welcome and will help move the trail forward to completion, but design issues need to be reviewed with users as has been the practice with past phases of the project.   Expressions of concern by residents or the municipality should not be sufficient to ignore appropriate design standards, and a lack of reference to user groups is not a satisfactory approach to further trail development.

Capital Bike and Walk will file this correspondence with legal counsel as a notice that we believe a hazard is being created by this proposed installation.

 We are asking, therefore, that any further work on these treatments be suspended pending further review and that the chicane treatment at the Wurtele Place laneway be discarded.  I am available to appear before committee to present further on this issue or to discuss options with staff to ensure more responsive and appropriate designs are used along the trail, and that further works along the E&N corridor are vetted through a more appropriate process to ensure users have opportunities to provide feedback on designs that will affect their safety, comfort or convenience on the trail.


  1. Thank you for writing such an effective letter, John! I gather that the chicane gates at these two points on the future E&N Trail are being re-thought.

  2. Chicanes are out, more consultation is in.