Saturday, August 23, 2014

Crosstown Traffic: Bike trips and the Johnson St. Bridge

Beer discussion.

While bike facilities will draw traffic, they must serve destinations that are trip generators for cyclists, and most will have not much tolerance for out of direction travel, unless for some compelling reason.

Recently published research suggests that those facilities not so purposeful will draw occasional or recreational use but are less likely to fundamentally alter travel choices to grow cycling significantly.

The discussion revolved around connections to the Johnson St. Bridge, a project that at its inception aimed also to improve conditions for cycling across a weak link in the regional cycling network.  Many other deficiencies pointed to a new bridge over any attempt at refurbishment.  Strong support from the cycling community and my own efforts to ensure, at the time, the most practical and achievable facilities on the bridge for cyclists and pedestrians, helped to confirm the decision made by council.

Some challenges were understood but not so far easily solved - I could only push so far to incorporate everything I might have wanted on deck and in the surrounding road network.  None were sufficient to support the folly of delay or ill conceived rescue work aimed at preservation of a museum piece over a functional centrepiece of our transportation infrastructure.

Still, there are some now who, because they didn't get everything, may have just as comfortably settled for nothing.  They would do a disservice to those many who will find the new bridge light years ahead of any levels of service hitherto enjoyed on the icon of the old blue bridge, (which, of course, was black for the first decade I was riding east from home in Vic West.

I took the morning a few days back to conduct my own count and observe the patterns of travel on the "delta" side of the bridge - where streams of traffic disperse travelers around downtown like so many rivulets depositing what the river of traffic has streamed into the core.

3 of the 445 cyclists I counted over an hour passing through my observation post were not wearing helmets.  There's $75 worth of lost revenue for the police who can't, it should be noted, be everywhere all at once.

Including those leaving town - against the predominant flow of morning traffic, 13 distinct destination streams were found, though most heading outbound were coming from the south along Wharf and not so many along Pandora (a route that will show higher numbers, no doubt, when I go out again to record the afternoon patterns.)  Still, that is a lot of different boxes to check and analyze.  Keeping up with the count (and, as always, snapping some pics to illustrate the story), kept my fingers busy.

Of those heading into town, more than half headed south immediately upon exiting the bridge, another third continued east, though their end points could have taken them perhaps both north and south into downtown as much as they might have been headed to other destinations served by Johnson St. as it cuts through the city.

The pattern speaks to the pressing need to connect more effectively the new Goose that will spill bike traffic into downtown when the bridge (not to mention the E&N trail) are complete.  That will be a new project, as will new concepts for Wharf and harbour pathway connections will be as next steps take shape.  Wharf has no easy fixes, which is partly why it does not top the priority list for new investments the city's bike plan envisions.

A separated cycle track on Pandora is at the top, and two designs will be assessed, though destination travel analysis would indicate that a couplet with Johnson is a more complete network approach than the two way fashion statement some would prefer.  Engineering challenges will be daunting enough given the inconsistencies in available right of way along the corridor, though it will still be worth extra work (and extra money) aimed at conceptualizing the two way option. Understanding that trip patterns will be at least as important as the symbol provided by a two way cycle track must inform the analysis.  I am less certain than some that the two way concept is the silver bullet.  It has many blemishes.