Wednesday, November 18, 2009

WINTER BIKE TO WORK CAMPAIGN TACKLES 2010 COMMUTING WOES

Nov. 17, 2009 – Getting around Vancouver will be challenging during the Winter Olympics. To address the issue, the Vancouver Area Cycling Coalition is encouraging commuters to consider biking to work. Thanks to positive feedback from cyclists during Bike to Work Week (Nov. 2 - 8) and continuing support from TransLink, the VACC is extending its commuter station program for cyclists until the end of December and offering workplace programs to educate commuters on the 'how-to' aspects of riding their bike to work. Six additional stations (dates and locations below) will be available in the coming weeks, for commuter cyclists to stop by and enjoy a hot drink and free snack, get advice on winter maintenance and equipment suggestions, and enter to win a variety of bike-friendly prizes. In addition, special holiday themes at some of the stations will help reinforce the fun aspects of cycling, regardless of weather conditions.

"There's no doubt that cold and wet weather can be a barrier to winter bike commuting," says VACC representative Lisa Slakov. "The commuter stations are a way to reward those year-round cyclists who stick with sustainable transportation choices. They are also a great place to provide advice on equipment, clothing, and safe routes for those who are just starting out."

In addition to the extra commuter bike stations, the VACC is offering riding workshops designed to help those looking for an easier way to get around during the 2010 Olympic Games. Workplaces and other organizations can take advantage of the program's sensible advice on safety and equipment, promoting realistic expectations, and offering potential cycle commuters the moral support they need to overcome perceived barriers.

"How do I get started? Not being able to answer that question seems to be the biggest roadblock to those wondering if biking to work is right for them," says Slakov. "Our workshops help people find the right answers. With the Winter Olympics coming and road closures soon to be affecting many parts of the region, we want people to know that getting to work by bike is a great way to avoid the frustration of traffic jams and transit overcrowding."

WINTER BIKE TO WORK COMMUTER STATIONS

Date: Friday Nov. 20
Location: Central Valley Greenway at Gilmore Way (Home Depot)
Time: 07:00-09:00

Date: Thursday Nov. 26
Location: SW corner of Burrard Bridge
Time: 16:30 - 18:30

Date: Friday Dec. 4
Location: Cambie and 10th Ave (West side of Cambie)
Time: 07:00-09:00

Date: Thursday Dec. 10
Location: Frances/Union bike route between Fell Ave and Kensington Ave
Time: 16:30 - 18:30

Date: Friday Dec. 18
Location: Ontario and 33rd, Vancouver
Time: 07:00-09:00

Date: Tuesday Dec. 22
Location: Union and Main (Adanac/Union bike route)
Time: 16:30 - 18:30

For more information on getting your organization involved in Bike to Work programs, please visit: http://www.biketoworkmetrovan.ca/


WINTER BIKE COMMUTING WORKSHOPS


For more details on the Winter Bike Commuting Workshops, including how your company or organization can participate, visit http://vacc.bc.ca/cycling/cycling.php?pageID=39#2 or contact the VACC office:


Vancouver Area Cycling Coalition
Phone: 604-878-8222
Email: admin@vacc.bc.ca
Website: www.vacc.bc.ca


MEDIA ENQUIRIES
Contact: Chris Keam
ckeam@telus.net
604-780-6125

Friday, August 14, 2009

Friends of Burrard Bridge - Vancouver Sun Op-Ed

I wrote an editorial appearing in today's edition of the Vancouver Sun. Although it carries my byline, I must acknowledge the help of Mary Sherlock and Arno Schortinghuis for their help with the raw materials, and Richard Campbell and Rob Wynen for advice and direction with the tone and tack of the piece.

Here's the first paragraph:

One month after the opening of bike lanes on the Burrard Bridge, it's a little hard to remember what all the fuss was about. Drivers haven't suffered from the change. Communications efforts before the trial began, publicizing the upcoming change and suggesting alternate routes clearly paid off. Unsurprisingly, cyclists and pedestrians are lauding the new arrangement. The increased safety both user groups now enjoy has turned uneasy confrontations into peaceful coexistence. Hopefully, these outcomes will spur further initiatives to create the separated, protected facilities that make walking and biking in the city a safe option for people of all ages and abilities.

And a link to the full article

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Vancouver announces date and details of lane reallocation trial.

June 23, 2009 - City of Vancouver communications and neighbourhood transportation staff gave a special media briefing Tuesday, explaining some of the details and logistics surrounding the upcoming $1.4 million cycling lane reallocation trial on the Burrard Bridge.

Here are seven things about the upcoming trial cyclists and pedestrians should know. Feel free to post questions and I’ll do my best to answer them. If you’d like to know more, read the media briefing for more detail on the plans at this Vancouver Sun link, take a look at the city’s lane reallocation technical details web page, or keep it brief with this summary backgrounder. (All images below are from the City of Vancouver reports)

1. Monday, July 13 is the big day. Barriers, lane painting, and roadwork will be done the weekend previous. Expect the bridge to be ready for your morning commute unless bad weather the previous week delays roadwork. Banners reminding drivers of the change will go up on the bridge at the end of the month and a three week media blitz will commence.



2. A particularly nasty section of road where northbound cyclists currently leave the bridge and merge with eastbound traffic on the north side of the bridge should see some improvements -- with the addition of a bike lane and bike boxes on the stretch between Burrard and Hornby making it easier for cyclists to use the Hornby Street bike lanes as a route into the downtown core. A slip lane will allow bikers to cross over the eastbound car lane and continue north on Burrard, but extreme caution will be the order of the day as this problematic intersection may yet retain some of its inherent dangers.



3. All pedestrians will be using the west sidewalk. Apparently, city data suggests two-thirds of walkers already use this side, perhaps because of the ocean view. The best place to get over the east side of Burrard before you get to the bridge itself is at First Ave.



4. Cyclists will have the benefit of barriers on both their protected lanes. With the lack of pedestrians to act as deterrents to excess speed, it will be instructive to see if any new safety issues related to cyclists passing each other arise.

5. Bike lanes on Pacific and Burrard on the northwest side of the bridge should give cyclists a clear route onto their new protected lane of southbound road space on the bridge deck.

6. There was no commitment to an end date, meaning that an unsuccessful trial can be abandoned early, despite assurances from the City that a report will be prepared after three months.

7. Buses heading south on the bridge will see their bus lane extended past Pacific Boulevard, so that buses will have some measure of priority when getting onto the bridge. If transit experiences severe and prolonged congestion problems, engineers may implement special transit phasing of traffic lights at the intersection to keep buses moving.

Friday, May 8, 2009

A One Lane Lament

(The following is an expression of my own opinion only, and not an official message on behalf of the Friends of the Burrard Bridge. Thank you to everyone who supported the two lane trial campaign and I hope you will help us to make the one lane experiment as successful as possible - Chris Keam)

The Vision Vancouver-dominated city council voted on the proposed Burrard Bridge lane re-allocation trial on Thursday afternoon. Three options had been put before council. The first option, widely considered the best route to a successful experiment and useful data on traffic pattern changes, would have seen a curb lane in each direction separated from motorists by concrete barriers, giving cyclists a safe road-level corridor to and from the downtown core. Pedestrians would have had sole access to sidewalks on either side of the bridge. That’s not the plan that will go ahead however. Instead, Vision supported a third option. With this scheme, pedestrians will be banned from the east sidewalk and it will become a cyclists-only facility. Only one lane on the bridge (heading south) will be allocated to cyclists. Sound like a practical compromise? Unfortunately, as with many half-measures, this plan lacks audacity at a time when our city has a real need for courageous political decisions. 

Here are some of the reasons I am disappointed, by the decision and the process:

Hundreds of people sent emails to Council in support of the two-lane trial. A Facebook group supporting the two-lane reallocation has nearly eight hundred members. There is, as far as I know, no organized support for the status quo, or a one-lane experiment. More than two dozen people came to City Hall on their own time, to voice their support for this option, or bear witness to the proceedings. One person spoke against it and a representative for downtown businesses presented a non-committal stance on the experiment. Yes, you read that right. Only one citizen of Vancouver went on record as opposing the trial!

Throughout the process councilors encouraged two-lane trial supporters to build support and make our presence known. Once it came time to make a decision however, this grassroots expression of political will was characterized as the work of the vocal ‘cycling lobby.’ Apparently it’s possible to be too organized and have too much support. At least that’s the impression one gets after this experience. From my perspective, this decision looks as choreographed and predetermined as a performance of Hamlet. Given the ongoing safety issues, we can only hope a real, long-term solution can be implemented without a similar quantity of blood spilled by the time the curtain drops. Unfortunately, given the abysmal record of the bridge with regard to injuries and lawsuits, there’s little reason to suspect this road story will be analogous to a happy Hollywood reboot of the Danish prince’s misfortunes, re-titled Ophelia’s Big Fat Wedding.

Councilor Suzanne Anton’s performance was particularly disappointing. She quizzed staff on the minutiae of the communications budget for a proposal which she clearly had no intention of supporting. Most of the questions could have been asked, and answered, with a simple email to the appropriate staff members, either before or after the meeting. In all, a waste of everyone’s time and certainly an expensive way to make a point when you consider the cost to taxpayers to have everyone come back on Thursday to finish the debate and vote on the matter. Here’s the kicker. Anton wasn’t present for the vote on Thursday, or to hear the rest of the speakers who wished to address Council. One would have thought, given her interest in knowing the particulars of the plan on Tuesday, she might have deigned to actually cast a vote one way or the other when it came time to represent those who put her in office. If I were an NPA supporter I would be livid with this lack of representation on an important issue. At least we know where she stands–even if she didn’t care to cast a vote. Councilors Louie and Stephenson didn’t speak to the issue. They and the rest of the Vision councilors voted in lock-step, all supporting the pedestrian-unfriendly plan. The mayor, and Vision councilors Chow, Deal, Jang, Meggs, and Reimer did voice their reasons for choosing the third option. Unfortunately, there’s a disconnect between their fine-sounding words and the meat of the matter. Safety, safety, safety. That was the mantra invoked again and again. But, it’s clear the two-lane re-allocation was the safest plan. Pedestrians first. That’s the city’s official position. Yet, walkers are now to be banned from one side of the bridge. Anyone wishing to walk from the southeast side of False Creek to the northeast side on the Burrard Bridge will now have to cross more than twenty lanes of road to make the trip. Currently, they needn’t ever set foot on asphalt. If this is how we improve walking in the city I hope we never find the money or will to really improve cycling infrastructure! Last time I checked adding time and distance to a journey is a good thing for hang glider pilots, but not the usual method of making self-propelled transportation more attractive.

Now, it’s easy to do the right thing when you’re in opposition. You have nothing to lose. And COPE Councilors Cadman and Woodsworth gave it their best shot. Kudos to them for attempting to see Vancouver emulate the demonstrated successes of New York, Copenhagen, Paris, Seoul, Bogota, Budapest, Barcelona and a host of other cities unafraid to tackle auto-dependence. Unfortunately, two councilors aren’t enough to ensure two lanes of the multitude of roads leading in and out of downtown are made safe for the growing number of commuter cyclists in our city.

What really happened was not a question of putting pedestrians first, or choosing the best way to encourage both cycling and walking downtown. What we saw on Thursday afternoon was the mere specter of upset drivers making Vision Vancouver ignore the wealth of evidence that lane reallocation doesn’t create long-term traffic congestion. This is important and bears repeating. Lane reallocation doesn’t create long-term traffic congestion. Drivers quickly find alternate routes, such as the under-capacity Granville Bridge just a few blocks away. They sometimes actually decide to try biking or walking or taking transit instead of driving… and quickly discover that not all trips need be done in an automobile. This isn’t the mad raving of a cyclist or the theoretical results of a computer model. In every city where road space has been re-allocated to pedestrians and cyclists, a brief period of congestion and adjustment to new traffic patterns resulted in better facilities for the self-propelled, with no ongoing issues for those who still need to use their cars. Why? Because people aren’t idiots. Nobody knowingly sits in a traffic jam. Hence the traffic reports that dominate local television and radio during rush hour, offering advice and alternate routes around accidents and other traffic snarls. Speaking of which, turn an ear to those reports before the trial begins. See how often our local traffic reporters mention congestion on the Burrard Bridge. Get yourself a coffee and donut first however. Unlike the drivers who use the bridge, you’ll be waiting a while.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

It Takes Two

by Richard Campbell

Well, finally, after 16 years the decision is near. See below for more information on speaking to council at the meeting on May 5.

It is critical that you e-mail mayor and council or speak at the meeting on May 5 in support of the two lane trial which is by far the best solution for almost 6,000 people per day that walk, cycle and run over Burrard Bridge.

There are three options being considered:
- A two lane trial with bike lanes separated from traffic by barriers
- A one lane trial with a bike lane separated from traffic by barriers on the west side of the bridge with cyclists and pedestrians sharing the sidewalk on the east side
- A one lane trial with a bike lane separated from traffic by barriers on the west side of the bridge with cyclists only on the east sidewalk. Pedestrians would be banned from the east sidewalk

Two Lane Trial
The two lane trial will enables people of all ages to safely walk, cycle and run over the bridge. Faster cyclists will have room to safely pass slower cyclists. The traffic noise and pollution will be further away from the sidewalk, making the bridge much more pleasant to walk over. People will be able to enjoy walking over the bridge without worrying about cyclists whizzing by.

By creating a great walking and cycling experience in both directi ons, the two lane trial will provide many people with a real options to driving over the bridge. This will maximize the number of people walking and cycling while decreasing traffic on the bridge thus ensuring the success of the trial. Granville Bridge is only a short drive away for motorists and will even be quicker for many trips and with the Canada Line opening this fall, traffic downtown will decrease.

Mayor Robertson unveiled this week, the Greenest City Action Team's Quick Start Recommendations which included the Burrard Bridge Trial. The two lane trial is the type of bold measure that will be required if Vancouver is to become the Greenest City in the world. Ot her cities such as Portland, New York, Paris, London and Copenhagen are already reallocating lanes of traffic on major roads and bridges for cyclists and pedestrians. In these cities there is the predicable reaction from some motorists who think there will be traffic chaos. In spite of the dire predictions, people are resourceful enough to adapt to these changes and the any traffic issues are minor.

One Lane Trials
Regarding the one lane options. First of all, pedestrians are the city's transportation priority. It is no acceptable to ban pedestrian s from the east sidewalk nor would it likely be effective unless the city posts guards on the bridge. At both ends of the bridge, the connections to the other side of the bridge are not very convenient, requiring people to wait for several signals.

Neither of the one lane option provides a barrier to prevent cyclists from falling off the sidewalk into the traffic. Assuming the trial is successful, more people will be walking and cyclist over the sidewalk increasing the chance of conflicts and cyclists getting knocked off the sidewalk by either pedestrians or other cyclists. It just does not make sense to provide a safe bicycle route in only one direction over the bridge.

Speaking to Mayor and Council
Tuesday, May 5th, 9:30 AM
Council Chamber, Third Floor, City Hall 
To address council, please call Denise Salmon at 604.873.7269, by 1:00 p.m. on Monday, May 4, 2009.  Please limit comments five minutes.

Contact Mayor and Council
Please e-mail mayor and council:
It can be a brief message or your experiences and close calls on the bridge might help increase the sense of urgency.

If you wish to call them, their numbers can be found here:


More Information
The staff report, which has a lot of good information in it, can be found at:

Greenest City Quick Start Recommendations:
Councillor Megges has a good summary of the history of the Burrard Bridge proccess:

For those of you on Facebook, please join the group:
Invite your friends. Let's show Council a 1000 people and more want a two lane trial. http://www.facebook.com/groups/edit.php?members&gid=44613493519
Finally, here is a flyer you can print and handout to cyclists and pedestrians
encouraging them to contact Mayor and Council.
Thanks Richard

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Two Lane Trial Update

The long-awaited Burrard Bridge two lane reallocation trial should go before City council on April 21. You can find out some more of the details regarding the trial on Councillor Geoff Megg’s blog

and on veteran municipal reporter Frances Bula’s blog too

This is a great time to send off that letter of support you’ve been meaning to write. Let Council know their decision to go ahead with the trial will have the backing of eco-conscious, forward-thinking residents:

gregor.robertson@vancouver.ca
clranton@vancouver.ca
clrcadman@vancouver.ca
clrchow@vancouver.ca
clrdeal@vancouver.ca
clrjang@vancouver.ca
clrlouie@vancouver.ca
clrmeggs@vancouver.ca
clrreimer@vancouver.ca
clrstevenson@vancouver.ca
clrwoodsworth@vancouver.ca

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Taking Another Step Towards Taking The Lanes


“It will make the chicken debate look calm,” notes Vancouver Councillor Geoff Meggs during the March 18th meeting of the city’s Bicycle Advisory Committee. He’s referring to the expected protestations from drivers, regarding the hoped-for implementation of a two lane reallocation trial on the Burrard Bridge later this year… and referencing the uproar that ensued when council advanced the idea of allowing city residents to keep chickens. And while much laughter accompanies Meggs’ mention of urban poultry, everyone in the room knows the first few days of the lane reallocation may be the make or break moment for the proposal.

And if the trial doesn't work out, cyclists can all buy water-bikes and still get across False Creek via pedal power without sucking exhaust fumes or dodging pedestrians!

Meggs’ comments come at the end of a report on trial preparations by David Rawsthorne, the city engineer tasked with the unenviable job of balancing the needs of advocates and critics, overcoming traffic flow challenges, and making the reallocation trial a reality. Rawsthorne is here on his day off, fielding questions and concerns from the Bicycle Advisory Committee, and asking the B.A.C. to make a motion formally supporting the two-lane trial. It’s the urban design equivalent of grunt work, the meetings and discussions armchair experts don’t have to engage in when proclaiming their ‘obvious’ solutions to improving a traffic network that moves millions of people around Metro Vancouver every day. Rawsthorne faces a friendly crowd tonight however. Committee members are eager to see this initiative gain momentum.

Two issues dominate the discussion. Identifying the feeder routes that will funnel cyclists to the bridge and ensuring communications between the public, media, and city representatives relay factual information and helpful solutions during the transition.

Advisory Committee members want to make sure that nearby bike routes aren’t flooded with drivers seeking shortcuts, a situation that could actually dissuade cyclists from the most sensible paths to the bridge and likely to raise the ire of area residents. They want the City to identify the best ways to get cyclists to the new lanes and make sure they’re clearly marked. Luckily, monitoring traffic and putting up signage is pretty straightforward. Good data and a small budget are all that’s needed to bring the bikers to the bridge.

Sharing the good news however, may not be as cut and dried. Meggs says council is going to need to know exactly how the trial is going from the outset. The media will be eager for comment. Critics will be ready and willing to exploit any flaws be they real or perceived. Everyone recognizes the threat to the trial inherent in a basic tenet of the news business. “Two Lane Trial Goes Unnoticed” isn’t the kind of headline encouraging one to take a free copy of the papers proffered by orange and green smocked human newsstands seemingly stationed at every busy street corner and transit hub in the downtown core.

And there it sits. No date has yet been set to take the matter before council, but the day approaches. When it does, judging from City Council’s interest in the process, approval seems likely. At that point, it’s a matter of a couple months to put barriers and signage in place and get the trial underway. A big change to the bridge seems imminent. This summer, be it a Point Grey gathering with canap├ęs and champagne, or a Mount Pleasant kegger featuring quinoa and cannabis, determining whether that change is for good or ill is bound to be one hot topic.