Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Bike-to-school advocates face uphill journey

The numbers of children biking to and from class are low, but moves are afoot to change that

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

N.S. bicyclists to get wider berth on roads

November 16, 2010
By CBC News
Motorists are going to have to make more room for bicycle riders on roads in Nova Scotia.

Motorists are going to have to make more room for bicycle riders on roads in Nova Scotia.
The Department of Transportation is proposing to change the Motor Vehicle Act to make sure there is at least a metre between each vehicle passing a bicycle.
The push to get car drivers to share the roads began earlier this month with a private member's bill from Dartmouth East Liberal MLA Andrew Younger.
On Monday, Transportation Minister Bill Estabrooks announced he's' making changes to provincial legislation.
The new rules would require motorists to make room when they pass a cyclist in a bike lane, and also make it illegal to park in a bike lane.
Under the changes, bicyclists will have to ride single file and in the same direction as traffic.
Estabrooks admitted the design of some bicycle lanes in Halifax will make abiding by the law difficult. In some areas, cars are parked on the inside of the bicycle lane and cars drive on the outside, making it a tall order to find a metre of clear space.
"And that will continue to be an issue, but we are looking at it as mutual respect for each other based on common sense," he said.
Estabrooks said the penalties will be for violating the new rules are still being worked out.
Nova Scotia is the first province in Canada to bring in the one-metre rule, but 15 states in the United States have similar laws.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Canadian bike routes on Google maps

From: http://technology.canoe.ca/2010/11/22/16264421.html
OTTAWA – Google will soon help Canadian urban cyclists navigate their cities' many trails when the search engine launches the latest addition to its maps program later this week.
Cyclists will be able to find cycling directions and bike trail data in Google Maps much like motorists already can at maps.google.ca, said Shannon Guymon of Google Canada Monday during a press conference at the Chateau Laurier in downtown Ottawa.
The system is also being launched in Gatineau, Toronto, Edmonton, Vancouver, Calgary, Winnipeg, Kelowna and Waterloo.
The new edition will also help cyclists avoid dangerous roads and hills if they wish.
The maps will be colour coded. Dark green that will indicate a dedicated bike-only trial, lighter green is a bike lane along a road and a dotted green line means roads that do not have bike lanes but tend to be used by cyclists.
Riders will also be able to provide feedback to help the system.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Cycling in Maple Ridge

Maple Ridge advertises itself as being "one of the best places for cycling in the Lower Mainland". However, when I talk to cyclists in our town, I often hear that people feel they're safer on the sidewalk than on certain busy and high speed roads.
In the Netherlands, which is arguably the best place for cycling in the world, the percentage of trips made by bicycle in the top municipalities is on average between 35% and 40%. In Amsterdam over 50% of trips are now made by bicycle. Probably the top municipality in the Netherlands is Houten, with 60% of trips made by bicycle. Cities with the lowest bicycle use rate score between 15% and 20%. Compare this to Maple Ridge or comparable suburban municipalities, where bicycle usage is around 1% or less of all trips. It hasn't always been like that in the Netherlands. For decades after WW-II, until the early seventies, transportation investments heavily favoured car infrastructure. During the oil crisis in the seventies, the government realised that to continue on this path would have serious consequences farther down the road. Not only because of increasing oil-dependency, but also because of ever increasing congestion on roads. That's when wonderful things started happening for cycling in the Netherlands. Now, with the low hanging fruit having long been picked, Dutch planners and politicians are still trying to think of ways to get even more people out of their cars and on their bikes, seeing all the additional advantages cycling brings: improved livability of towns and cities, improved health, less noise pollution, less money spent on transportation (i.e. more money available to spend on other things), etc.
Maple Ridge, of course, has the disadvantage that it's stretched out from east to west, and there are only 2 major direct arteries that absorb much of the east-west traffic: Lougheed Highway and Dewdney Trunk Road. Over the last several decades, when most of the rapid growth in Maple Ridge took place, the infrastructure was built for cars only. Like in many other north american municipalities, many dead-ends and cul-de-sacs - without even pathways for pedestrians and cyclists to provide shortcuts to other neighbourhoods - were favoured over the "grid-system", like the one that was used in Vancouver. It was felt that this ensured privacy and peace and quiet for local residents. The result was though that it became virtually impossible to get around by any other means than a car. Only in more recent years is North America becoming more aware of the problems caused by all the urban sprawl and the kind of infrastructure that has been built over the years to accommodate the movement of cars. Part of the problem has been also that we've often been separating all the different land uses: shopping, residential, commercial. Many of us do not even have a neighbourhood grocery store at walking (or even biking) distance to quickly go get a jug of milk.
I feel that municipalities like Maple Ridge should set their standards considerably higher than they have done so far. Let's truly become the best place for cycling in the Lower Mainland before we start beating ourselves on the chest!
Many people seem to think that now that we have been building our suburbs around cars, it's impossible to change. The fact is though, we have no choice but to change. Even if you don't worry about peak oil, or climate change, just look at the congestion on our roads. There is no plan, other than extention of the Abernathy connector - which is only going to bring marginal, temporary relief to ever increasing congestion. The population in our town core is supposed to more than double in less than a decade. Where are all the extra cars going to park in our downtown? What about all the new development that's happening in the east end of Maple Ridge, as well as Silver Valley? The existing and new residents there have no shopping in their own neighbourhoods, and no jobs. Are they going to have to drive to downtown Maple Ridge and find a parking spot as well to do their shopping, or they just use the roads going through our downtown to reach shopping destinations elsewhere, and just add to the congestion?
The recent beautification of 224th Street and Lougheed Highway in the town core has given us wider sidewalks, which is wonderful. The fact is though that people don't have an awful lot of time or patience these days, and will only walk relatively short distances. If it takes too long or they find it too far, they'll drive. And how enjoyable are these beautiful sidewalks going to be with all the congestion that we're already seeing now, and that's just going to get worse?
In a suburban municipality like Maple Ridge, where distances are longer than in more dense cities, cycling can offer a good alternative to driving or walking. Most people can easily swap their car for a bike for a trip of less than about 7 km. But we have a problem if the roads are not safe enough.
There are certain requirements for a good bicycle network to get people to use it.
The basic requirement to make it work: on higher speed and higher volume roads (arterials and collector roads) separation is required to improve subjective safety. Subjective safety, which means whether or not people FEEL safe, is possibly more important than actual safety. If people don't feel safe, they're much less likely to bike. In the case of lower volume and lower speed roads (e.g. residential roads), we need "complete streets". They need to be safe for ALL users, including cyclists - of all ages and abilities - and pedestrians. Possibly reduced max. speeds or traffic calming can be used, improved crossings for pedestrians, bike lanes, etc., all depending on the specific situation.
There are other requirements. For example, it's important to provide direct routes for cyclists. In fact, this is one of the main reasons why the Dutch bicycle network is so successful. Often the routes for cyclists are shorter than those for cars, which is a great incentive for drivers to leave their cars at home and hop onto their bikes.
A bike route needs to be convenient as well. A route with many stop signs of course doesn't cut it. Or having to hop onto the curb to press the pedestrian traffic light button to make the light turn green when there are no cyclist buttons along the curb, or bicycle loop detectors or other sensors to make this happen automatically.
A big thing is safe bicycle parking, which is often sparse or unavailable, so that you may end up using a tree to lock your bike.
As you can see, there is much to do for our advocacy group to help make things better for cyclists. We can't do it alone. We need your help.
One thing you can do, is to use your eyes and ears in your own neighbourhood. We need your local expertise! You know your neighbourhood best, and you may have ideas on how to improve things. You may want to discuss certain options with your neighbours. Maybe we need to lobby for a pathway to cut through to another neighbourhood. Maybe your street would benefit from some traffic calming measures. Maybe you have a school in your neighbourhood with traffic problems that need to be solved. Please send your ideas to: mapleridge-pittmeadows@vacc.bc.ca
Another thing you can do, is become a member of the Vancouver Area Cycling Coalition. The more members we have, the stronger our voice will be. Our goal this year is to hit the magic number of 2010 members, and we're at approx. 1200 right now. To visit the VACC website to become a member click here.

Vancouver to Host Velo-City Global 2012

While this announcement is over one month old, it is worth repeating on this blog.
Vancouver Mayor, Gregor Robertson (left foreground), and European Cyclists' Federation president Manfred Neun (right) officially announce that Vancouver, BC, will host Velo-city Global in June 2012.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

M.R. Council this Week

The weekly newsletter of the District of Maple Ridge highlighted a few items that would be of interest to local cyclists:
The Zoning Bylaw Review - Is consideration being made to alternate modes of transport in the creation of new developments? End of trip facilities?
Town Centre Investment Incentives - A vibrant, energized, multi-functional downtown is important to us all. This blog supports efforts to enhance and revitalize the Maple Ridge town centre. Cyclists are inherently localists. Love the recently completed improvements to 224th Street and Lougheed Hwy.!
Albion Flats Concept Plan - Will the Albion Flats be turned into "just another car-dependent mall"? Is the era of the single-use "Mall" coming to an end? Check-out the video on the left sidebar of the blog - "Retrofitting Suburbia".  What are the implication of Albion development on downtown enhancement initiatives? Keep a close watch on this.

Monday, November 15, 2010

B.A.C. seeking 3 new members at large

The Maple Ridge/Pitt Meadows Bike Advisory Committee will have openings for 3 new members at large - two from Pitt Meadows and one from Maple Ridge. The positions are for two years duration beginning Jan. 1/2011.  
The committee meets monthly with the exception of July and August. 
Direct inquiries or applications to Tracy Camire, Committee Clerk at the Municipal B.A.C. home page.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Experience the Fraser

Several of our committee members went to an Ideas Forum on Oct. 28 on the Experience the Fraser project, which is a plan of Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley Regional District for a trails system along both sides of the Fraser River all the way from Richmond to Hope, connecting numerous cultural, heritage, First Nations, outdoor recreation and nature sites.
We are pleased that we can already enjoy a great, well-used multi-use trail along the Fraser in Pitt Meadows.
As for Maple Ridge, we feel that this project will not only be a fantastic attraction for tourists, but it will especially fill a dire need for a multi-use trail for residents in south and east Maple Ridge, who are severely underserved when it comes to cycling infrastructure for recreation as well as transportation.
It's always a good idea to let our Council know that you would like our city to get to work as soon as possible on its section of this trails system. This will be a great help to us in our lobbying efforts. Click here for some background information, and here for an article in the Vancouver Sun on the Experience the Fraser project. Send your e-mail to: mayorandcouncil@mapleridge.ca, and cc to: mapleridge-pittmeadows@vacc.bc.ca

Saturday, November 13, 2010

UPDATE - Coquitlam segment of Central Valley Greenway

Since 2006, the Tri-Cities VACC has advocated to extend the Central Valley Greenway through Coquitlam and connecting to the Port Mann Bridge.

As part of Gateway, numerous construction roads have been built to facilitate construction in this area.  This presents a rare opportunity to transition construction roads into a bike route(s).  The City of Coquitlam have not responded positively to this option, citing many potential obstacles.  

In a recent meeting with City staff, the VACC rejected the City's position that the development of an off-road cycling route that would connect the Port Mann Bridge with the Central Valley Greenway is not possible because the City has not conducted a process to assess feasibility.  The City has since agreed to proceed with a process to assess feasibility.  

This initiative is a regional priority for the VACC.  As this process gains momentum, the Tri-Cities VACC will likely require assistance in conducting site visits and route planning - let me know if you can contribute, particularly those who have experience with the Central Valley Greenway process.

Best Regards,

Alexi Zawadzki - Chair, Tri-Cities Committee of the VACC

Monday, November 8, 2010

The World's 10 Greenest Cities

Cities are becoming increasingly important fronts in the fight against climate change. Drawing on renewable energy sources, creative forms of public transport, and futuristic eco-friendly gizmos like solar-powered trash compactors, these 10 towns are leading the way.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Maple Ridge Town Centre Investment Incentives

Laura Benson, Manager of Sustainability and Corporate Planning, spoke to her report [PDF, 2.47MB] that asked Council to endorse the recommended program of incentives designed to accelerate private sector investment in the downtown. The program, as recommended, comprises 10 different incentives including priority processing of applications, tax exemptions, fee reductions, and reduced parking standards. New residential construction, new commercial construction, certain commercial renovations, site preparation, and facade improvements are the targets of these incentives.  Staff will present an implementation schedule for each of the incentives at the November 15 Council Workshop meeting.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Richmond bike route connects bridge and trail

Richmond will unveil a new cycling route today that makes it easier for cyclists and pedestrians to connect with the new Canada Line bridge.
The $265,000 route stretches from the bridge along Van Horne Way to the Bridgeport Trail. About $135,000 of the money came from the provincial government with the rest from Richmond and TransLink.
Terry Lake, the parliamentary secretary for health promotion, Richmond Centre MLA Rob Howard, acting Richmond mayor Derek Dang and TransLink board member Cindy Chan-Piper will test out the route today. Richmond spokeswoman Cynthia Lockrey said the connection is aimed at making it easier for cyclists coming off the new bike/pedestrian bridge. Between January and Aug. 12, 73,000 bike trips were recorded.

Maple Ridge to update transportation plan

Andrew Wood, Municipal Engineer, spoke briefly to his report [PDF, 226KB] advising Council that the update of the transportation plan had commenced. The current plan was developed in advance of the Golden Ears and Pitt River bridges opening and it is now appropriate to review the plan to see if the assumptions made about the transportation impacts of the bridges have materialized.  In addition to vehicular routes, pedestrian and bicycle transportation routes will be a focus of the updated plan. Mr. Wood advised Council he would provide regular updates to Council as the project progresses.