A Vancouver bike commuting Christmas wish list

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sign: bicyclists watch out for rail tracksIn Vancouver, we have a pretty bike-friendly political environment. On both “sides” of the city council, the politicians are generally supportive of increasing accessibility and safety of cycling in Vancouver. There are, however, a few things that I don’t hear discussed in the media that I’d like to see happen. So, on this Christmas Eve here are a few things I’d like Santa to bring to bike commuters in Vancouver:

1. Get rid of the car canyons

They’re designated as bike routes, but they’re pretty intimidating to many novice cyclists: residential roads exactly three car-widths wide, and two of those widths are taken up with parked cars. In particular, I’m thinking of Off-Broadway on 8th Ave, but the Seaside bike route is the same. In these car canyons, there are lots of problems. Visibility sucks, so it’s hard to see cars coming out of driveways, parking spots, or side streets. If you encounter traffic coming in the other direction, you have to either squeeze uncomfortably close to the parked cars (the door zone!) or just get out of the way. If you encounter a large truck (garbage truck, dump truck, etc) you’re really screwed. The easy solution? Just like on the 10th Ave bike route, get rid of parking on one side of the street. Instantly everyone will feel safer.

2. Get rid of the traffic circles

I mean, really. Cyclists and motorists alike have been complaining about these for years and the recent study out of UBC shows that they actually make the bike routes more dangerous, not less. They decrease visibility, cause confusion, and many motorists drive through them way too fast. Or the wrong way. Or both. And they are absolutely treacherous in the wintertime because of the sharp turns cyclists have to make on the potentially icy corners. Pull them out, replace them with 4-way stops or diversions.

3. Get the rat runners off the bike route

Traffic on the bike routes should be limited to bikes and local residents. Installing speed bumps, corner bulges, and traffic circles do not deter motorists trying to find ways around the traffic on the arterials. Instead, do what’s been done in Mt Pleasant and the West End: Install diverters that forces motorized traffic off the bike routes while allowing bike traffic to pass through. Make the bike routes one way for motorized vehicles.

4. Yield signs: let’s do more of those

Those uniquely-Vancouver intersections with the pedestrian/bike-controlled light on the arterial and the stop sign on the cross street? Get rid of the stop signs. When the arterial light is red, no one on the cross street stops at those signs, and if they did, the vehicle behind them (also running the stop) would plough them over. Put a yield sign in instead. It acknowledges the existing behaviour and clarifies what everyone expects to happen, particularly those drivers unfamiliar with the style of intersection. While you’re at it, replace some stop signs on the bike routes with yield signs: again you’re acknowledging current behaviour, clarifying expectations, and it doesn’t change the required yielding pattern when there’s cross traffic.

5. Pass a 3-foot (1 metre) overtaking law

Many jurisdictions are moving to adopting a minimum 3-foot (1 metre) passing distance when motorized vehicles overtake cyclists. Yes, please. That’d be swell. Too often a car or truck brushes by, nearly sideswiping a cyclist because they think they are entitled to pass, no matter how unsafe it is. The current cyclist solution to this is to firmly take the whole lane, but putting a safe passing distance into the motor vehicle act would be extra reinforcement of a good idea. Perhaps it would even be something that new drivers would have to learn for their driving permit.

Bonus: Take out or pave-over the decommissioned Arbutus rail lines (and remove the useless stop signs)

These rail lines haven’t been used in years and due to vegetation and construction (look between Broadway and 10th Ave!) they cannot be used for trains. How about taking the rails out where they cross bike routes (10th Ave, 7th Ave, Cypress). They are a terrible, unnecessary hazard.

Happy holidays everyone! What do you want Santa to bring to cyclists in Vancouver?

Last modified: December 24, 2012

10 Responses to " A Vancouver bike commuting Christmas wish list "

  1. S. Morris Rose says:

    One problem with the diverters is that many motorists just drive around them. Not sure if there is an engineering solution for that, but it’s real dangerous to be a cyclist on such a route while a motorist is pulling such a manoeuvre- they try and do it as quickly as they can.

    They have something in some jurisdictions called “enforcement.” Maybe that could be introduced here?

  2. Phil says:

    Yo – I’ll have to take a closer look at that UBC study, it’s findings run counter to what I’ve read about traffic circles. Personally I’d like more, not less.
    +1 for bike routes like 10th being one way only – the hospital patch of that route is so chaotic I’m starting to prefer 8th.
    My wish is that more cyclists adopt and use bells to alert others when they overtake.

  3. Bill Barilko says:

    “One problem with the diverters is that many motorists just drive around them”

    It would be a much larger problem if they completely prevented access to emergency vehicles.

    This a Very Important to City Engineering-they are Very Much against breaking up the grid-and I agree.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Also agree that 10th Ave by the hospital is a nerve wracking ride-not just traffic confusion but stressed out/overworked hospital staff and patients/visitors who aren’t all there for any number of reasons walking across the road wherever.

  4. Kitsilano Cycle says:

    Funny article. Crossed over the rail tracks many times and never had a dangerous situation. If you cross the right way, then no problem. There is nothing wrong with roundabouts. They slow down most cars.

    The comment by Bill is silly. 10th avenue is a good bike route if you are careful. There are other pedestrians and cars, this is a big city. What do you expect?

    The attitude of some bikers is they think they own the roads. You must share the roads.

  5. Bill Barilko says:

    “The comment by Bill is silly”

    Sounds like you have little experience with 10th between Oak & Cambie during daylight hours.

  6. Diana says:

    One law I’d like to see in place and enforced is cars not being allowed to overtake cyclists on designated bike routes. More BIKE ROUTE signs along the way, and lots of signage to make it extremely obvious to people.

  7. Anthony says:

    @diana The idea of a no-overtake law is interesting but I can imagine that 1) it’d be really hard to educate motorists, and 2) there’d be no enforcement. Much like the 30 kph speed limit on the bike routes: it’s relatively well signed but I’d say exactly zero motorists obey it.

  8. Kitsilano Cycle says:

    Hmm have lots of experience with biking on 10th avenue. Only bike during daylight hours. There is no problems if you don’t bike like a maniac. The aggressive bikers cause the problems.

  9. Bill Barilko says:

    Fri Jan 7 about 14:00 hrs-I was northbound on Ash @ 10th Ave.

    I watched as a pedestrian stepped off the curb right in front of a cyclist (not me) collision narrowly averted but the cyclist did crash unhurt.

    The pedestrian seemed to totally unaware of his surrounding-and seeing as how he’d just left the Cancer Centre maybe he was- who knows what was going through his mind bad news for him or a loved one.

    That’s the third time I’ve seen an incident or near miss on 10th this year and that’s what I mean about being hyper alert-because of the mind set of some people around the hospital complex.

    Three years ago I was in the Cancer Centre myself-tests for something else- and I noticed so many super stressed people all- of whom walk or drive among us.

  10. Peter says:

    To counter the traffic circle debate:

    There used to be 4 way stops in along 10th and IMHO were far more dangerous for cars and bikes. Most cyclists would not (and still don’t) stop at the 4 way stops, and occasionally the cars don’t either – I almost got taken out by a car pausing through a 2 way stop sign, and wrecked a rim in the process while hopping the curb.

    At least with a traffic circle, there are simple rules to follow and if everyone is travelling at a sensible speed, at least no one kills their flow by having to come to a complete stop. http://vancouver.ca/streets-transportation/traffic-circles.aspx . The problem comes when everyone is racing to the traffic circle so they can claim to be the first in the circle and therefore right of way.

    Either way, I would far rather have a traffic circle than a 4 way stop.