Sunday, June 28, 2015

Gone troppo.

The city will likely move forward on a two-way protected bike lane along Pandora St. following recommendations from staff now before council.

A few quick thoughts, again, on the failures of logic embedded in the plan.

Emphasis on the preferred option focuses on costs – it’s cheaper to build to two-way facility along Pandora than it would be to pair it with Johnson, and it costs fewer parking spots.   That’s the starting point for a project where something other than good transportation design is directing choices.

When the Galloping Goose hits downtown, all similarities to a continuous, stand-alone trail end.  The Goose is a river of traffic, downtown is a delta.  People traveling on bikes will remain drawn by purpose and destination, more so than a few blocks of separation.  Continuous travel will be impossible on the cycle track – signalized intersections, multiplied by six, and destinations that are not served by Pandora will mean that cyclists will continue to seek other routes.  The Goose works in part because flow is uninterrupted, something the city cannot offer on Pandora.

Trip generators are mostly south of the bridge, and those newly bike friendly on council who have built their success opposing that project need still to understand that the key fix for the trailhead will be the harbour pathway, which can serve large numbers of cycling tourists and help some of those commuting by bike reach jobs and services that are not concentrated along Pandora.  The need to provide connectivity to other routes will be essential, and the notion that those traveling by bike will gleefully endure several blocks of stop and go designs, each with extended delay patterns, just to join the parade, is na├»ve.

Dislocation of traffic from Pandora will affect other streets, notwithstanding that theoretically they are manageable.  Yates is full and Fisgard cannot absorb rat running around Pandora.  Victoria’s Chinatown will suffer and the intersection at Store Street is a poor location for new treatments that will be needed to deal with the fallout.  There is little excess capacity on alternate routes.

Designs will compromise what we can deliver for cyclists and erode space for pedestrians.  A two-way track will likely offer narrower space for each direction than paired one-way facilities would provide, and numbers of existing or planned mid-block crossings will be lost.  If you walk, your need for space and interest is being sacrificed and fresh opportunities will be extinguished.  Ironically, the neighbourhoods connected by Pandora count more foot traffic than most anywhere else in the region as a primary choice for journey to work trips.

Johnson Street, which at this point, carries about the same volume of cyclists as does Pandora, will be cheated of the higher levels of service needed to support emerging travel choices.  The failure of many advocates supporting the two-way project is in following the logic of their own rhetoric.  We want to reshape our transportation network to allow more people to choose cycling for everyday travel.  This demands that we fix the routes people travel on.  Steering them towards routes we want to choose for them rests on the idea that cyclists should go to where we are prepared to build facilities for them, not where their trip purposes direct them.  Those advocates want you to join a political parade.  The notion that “bikes aren’t blocking traffic, they are traffic”, is lost in the rush to build a symbol rather than a solution.

Despite my misgivings, the two-way cycle track will work, though incidental to the choices made rather than the overt epiphany some are expecting to be a result of the investment.  All of the facilities we have built over the last two decades of work on our cycling network, despite the protests of those who believe history begins now, have played a role in helping more people to choose cycling, more often.  Every new piece of the puzzle solved adds more bicycle trips to our traffic mix, even those that, much to the consternation of more ideological advocates, are little more than paint and route signs.

Whatever happens along Pandora, it will have similar impacts, though the two-way cycle track remains the wrong solution in the right place.  We do need better facilities across downtown, but we would better served if the choices being made were based on sensible traffic engineering rather than more calculated political choices pursued by those in a rush to get in front of the parade.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Small mercies.

New sections of the E&N trail, a commuter cycling route that runs parallel to our hopeful railway across the Capital Region, are completing final touches to connect the path through View Royal to the Colwood overpass near Thetis Lake at Island Highway.  Here the trail meanders on to the Galloping Goose before reappearing in Langford at Savary School.

One of the final touches here is most certainly unwelcome.

Few will notice it, fewer still will pay it any heed, but signs instructing cyclists to dismount and walk through a pair of crosswalks don’t meet the test of good design.  They need to be removed.

The trail is already a minor street, soon to be a major conduit for bicycle travel.  It has always been intended to serve that function.  Much of the early funding was secured on the premise that it would help convert commute trips from cars to bikes – I helped write the formulas essential to a successful application.  The dismount protocol runs contrary to the trail’s purpose and needs to be dropped.

There is likely nothing in any safety analysis that would likely point trail managers to raise a panic over cyclists crossing an access road (to the Adams Storage property off Island Highway, where trip volumes are low, access to the main route is stop controlled and sight lines are adequate, if not completely ideal).   A few metres further along, where Island Highway and Burnside Road meet below the Colwood Overpass, the crossing has been designed for cyclists to ride through (I did consulting work on the project and we shaped the streetscape to allow a ride through median), movements are controlled by traffic signals, hardly a situation where dismount instructions are needed.

Precedents are everywhere on the Goose and Lochside Trails.  No crossings remain where the “dismount and walk your bike” approach has been sustained.  Those that were in place were dropped years back and local bylaws enacted to endorse the concept of bicycles as traffic, not as rolling pedestrians.

Use of the E&N trail has ramped up significantly with every new emergent segment, impatient cyclists finding their way round barriers and sections under construction.  Even as the new signs have gone up, none have paid any attention whatsoever to the harebrained instruction to dismount along a hurried route.  Whatever for?

If any road users notice the signs, and mercifully they are small, the protocol might seem absurd, though some few may whine a familiar refrain that brands cyclists as scofflaws intent on bending the rules to suit their arrogance.  It breeds disrespect to impose a requirement that no one will observe.  Better to design to reflect patterns of use than post impotent signs that satisfy some hand-wringer concerned about who is using the trail.

While it may seem small, most every detail of design and delivery of the project has caught my eye over the course of the project development.  It’s one I’ve been working on for near two decades.  Design matters, and bad design ideas won’t serve the users our new facilities are intended to attract.

Somebody needs to put their thinking cap on and take out the signs.  And while you are at it, perhaps you could run some wiring under the sidewalk at the overpass so trail users don’t have to contort themselves trying to push a button for their turn at the signal.  And when you don’t know what you are doing, please ask someone who does.