In 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