Sunday, January 30, 2011

Streetwise Cycling courses

The Vancouver Area Cycling Coalition offers cycling courses to people of all ages who want to learn how to bike safely in places where they have to share the road with vehicles and other users. Their Streetwise Cycling courses are very popular in Vancouver. For outer communities such as Pitt Meadows and Maple Ridge, this course can be arranged if there are enough people interested. They can be arranged by contacting the VACC:

Below is an recent article written by one of the participants.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Central Valley Greenway - Coquitlam extension

From Alexi Zawadzki (former chair of Tri-City VACC)

Hello Fellow Velophiles,
You are receiving this email because you have expressed an interest in participating in the Coquitlam Greenway Working Group.  The purpose of this group is to advocate for the extension of the Central Valley Greenway to the new Port Mann Bridge by 2013 (when construction concludes on the Port Mann/Hwy 1 Expansion Project).  This is a long-term and very worthwhile process that has roots dating back to 2006 when the Coquitlam VACC first identified the route.  I have volunteered to chair the group, and have stepped down from chairing the Coquitlam VACC to focus on this special project.  There are strength in numbers, and representation from the entire Lower Mainland in this working group gives us critical mass.
 I envision three main areas that we need to address: 1) route selection; 2) government/commercial lobbying; and, 3) media.
 1) Route Selection
It would be very useful to go on site and map out a detailed route alignment.  Lines on a map that have been ground-truthed have legitimacy.  This step also includes identifying land ownership.  To help us with this task, a friend of mine is going to fly over the route and film it on video.
 2) Lobbying
Lobbying government (such as Coquitlam and crown corporation BC Hydro) and businesses (such as CPR) who are stakeholders is fundamental to the success of this project.  I see the majority of our effort being focus on this task.  Since 2006, we have lobbied the province (MoT, MOE), the City of Coquitlam and most recently CPR.  We need to step this up to include all potential parties that are affected by this route - and thus we need to understand land ownership.
 3) Media
This story naturally attracts media attention - there have been two columns and one video shoot in the last month alone.  We need to keep the momentum.
 I propose we meet on FEB 1 at 7 PM at the Coquitlam City Centre Library (next to Coquitlam City Hall) to develop a work plan along that broadly addresses these core areas.
 I'm not and expert on this stuff, so if there are better/more efficient ways to accomplish our end goal then please speak up!
 Please confirm your interest in this group and availability for Feb 1.  

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Open House - 122nd Avenue

I am interested in this improvement project as a cyclist and from another point of view. I have been advocating for the improvement (greening/naturalizing/addition of trees) to the front/streetscape of Maple Ridge Secondary School. Of all the secondary schools in the district, MRSS is woeful in this regard. The predominant features of the building are traffic signs, cracked pavement and fencing. It seems that after all the renovations to the school in recent years, the builders forgot to finish (to landscape)! Good architecture and urban design and landscaping can either inspire or dispirit. You might have a look at 122nd, specifically the frontage of MRSS, from this point of view.

Mountain View Cres/122 Ave Road Improvements

The District has planned road improvements for Mountain View Crescent/122 Avenue from 216 Street to 222 Street. The scope of this project includes the widening of Mountain View Crescent/122 Avenue to improve pedestrian and cycling access and repaving of the roadway. Construction is anticipated to commence in 2011. An Open House is scheduled for Thursday, January 27, 2011 fom 3:00 pm to 8:00 pm at Maple Ridge Municipal Hall, 11995 Haney Place (Lobby area at the Dewdney Trunk Road entrance). Design boards will be displayed and staff will be available to answer questions. Your attendance is welcomed.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Support Provincial Investment in Cycling

Please pass this message on to your cycling friends.

The BCCC has sent the Provincial Government, Realizing the Benefits of Accelerated Investment in Cycling, a document recommending dramatically increased funding for cycling facilities, education, promotion and maintenance that would make cycling safer for people of all ages and abilities in communities across British Columbia.

Please send a message to Minister Bond at the address below indicating your support for the BCCC cycling investment recommendations, "Realizing the Benefits of Accelerated Investment in Cycling" and in particular the four year investment of $175 million dollars per year totalling $700 million to fund bicycle paths, separated bike lanes and other high quality cycling facilities in communities and on provincial roads throughout BC.

The recommendations are at:

The message can be as short or as long as you want. The most important thing is to let them know that investing in cycling is important.

Your message could include some or all of the following:
- The mention any of the other recommendations that are important to your or your community.
- What these recommendations and improved cycling would mean for you, your family and your community
- Specific cycling facilities you would like to see built
- Stories on what new cycling facilities have meant to you and your community
- Stories about impact of the lack of cycling facilities in your community

Hon. Shirley Bond
Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure
Province of British Columbia

Please cc your MLA. You can find their email address at:

As well, cc:

This message is can also be found at:


Thursday, January 13, 2011

Letter To Mayor and Council Regarding Albion Flats

I have a few concerns about potential commercial development on the Albion flats:
I am concerned that previously productive farmland will be destroyed for the delivery of a single function - shopping.
I am quite concerned about the viability and vitality of our current downtown (Haney), and how the creation of yet another, strictly commercial centre (Albion shopping), will adversely affect it.
It has been established, historically, that a vibrant, vital and active downtown is essential in defining a region or municipality, giving it focus and guiding development in an orderly and sustainable fashion. The development of yet another mall (a single-use commercial enclave) outside of the town core will ultimately detract from the core - drawing energy, commercial patrons, infrastructure dollars and other resources away from it. More and higher volume roads, and other municipal infrastructure will have to be created to service this area at great expense and at the expense of creating more density in Haney where the infrastructure currently exists (as does vacant land).
I applaud the new incentive program for downtown development that has been established and the aesthetic/structural improvements that have been made to 224th St. (Spirit Square), Lougheed Hwy. and other streets in the city centre. These are sure to attract further private investment, provided interest is not drawn away the city centre by the promise of "big boxes".
I am wondering if the city of Maple Ridge actually now has a great opportunity (and competitive advantage) to capitalize on its relative lack of big box, auto strip malls, in favour of the "new urbanism" ideal of a vibrant, mixed-use urban centre? Our downtown surely is full of potential. Further to the economic incentives and beautification, the city must help end the Extra Foods labour dispute so nearby residents can once again walk to grocery shopping; motivate the owners of the Liquidation World (mall) to make aesthetic improvements or to entirely rebuild on this prime, urban site; motivate the owners of Haney Place Mall to modernize as we have seen them promise in the past.
Why do big-box mall developers seeks only "greenfield" developments on what used to be the best agricultural land? Because it suits their economic interests as developers to do so. But does it meet the best interests of Maple Ridge and its orderly, sustainable development?
The current model for mall construction (and I presume Albion will follow this model), is entirely a car-dependant one. People drive from their homes on one side of town - shop - then return by car to their homes. This mall will again have to pave vast areas of land for parking and this whole shopping scenario requires expanded highway capacity, filling the streets with congestion and the air with auto emissions. Then, in the evenings, when all the cars and shoppers are gone, the "mall" sits idle and lifeless, except for those looking for criminal opportunity and the security guards charged with preventing it.
The MeadowTown mall at the border of Pitt Meadow and Maple Ridge is such an example of singular use (shopping), auto-dependent, mono-use. Some would say that this model of strictly commercial development has seen its day come and go in favour of truly mixed-use, "new urbanist" concepts. Examples of which are springing up throughout the Fraser Valley - Sutterbrook, Newport Village and Morgan Crossing, to name a few.
There appears to be a need for some commercial development in Albion to service that area's growing populations. Surely there is currently commercial land where Bruce's Market and the abandoned R. Muth and Sons service station now exists which would be suitable for smaller-scale commercial opportunities. And what about development on the south side of the railway tracks on current industrial lands. That proposal seems very interesting and should be looked at very closely.
The developers of the proposed Albion flats mall, Smart Centres, promote the concept of developing a quaint, village-like, shopping experience. I say that this concept already exists in Maple Ridge and it is called Historic Haney, our current downtown. Let's spend the energy and development dollars on densifying, improving and expanding our current downtown to turn it into the vibrant, urban centre that we all would like to see.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

downtown for people

Much money is being spent by the District of Maple Ridge on beautification of our downtown - close to $6 million. New sidewalks are going in, with curb bulges to make it easier for pedestrians to cross the street, fancy crosswalk markings, new and more trees and other landscaping, street furniture such as benches and bike racks. The idea is that all this will provide a more attractive environment for people, so that we will be more likely to park our cars and walk, or bike, around and we'll hopefully choose to shop in our own town rather than to drive all the way to Langley or Coquitlam to get our shopping fix. It's definitely starting to look much better. The last phase of the project, 224th Street between Spirit Square and Dewdney Trunk Road, is to be completed before the end of March 2011.
Now that so much of our money has gone into this downtown enhancement project, it would be good for City Council to give some thought to some other important, and much cheaper, ways to make the downtown core a more pleasant place to be.
The streets in Maple Ridge are clearly built to improve the flow of cars. Many roads, especially the newer ones, are quite wide, which - possibly unconsciously - often makes drivers go just a little - or sometimes a lot - over the speed limit. I think a lot of people don't think about the effect that fast moving and often noisy cars have on them as pedestrians or cyclists. They can raise stress levels considerably and generally make our streets less appealing for pedestrians and cyclists. So if we want more people to walk and bike, lowering the speed limit would be one way to make our streets more inviting for people and to encourage walking and cycling.
The maximum speed limit within any municipality in BC, according to the BC Motor Vehicle Act, is 50 km/h, unless signs have been posted stating otherwise. In school zones in Maple Ridge, the maximum speed is 30 km/h on school days between 8 am and 4:30 pm. The municipality can decide to post signs with lower speed limits elsewhere if desired, and I think this would be a logical next step towards a transformation of our downtown into a place for people instead of a place for cars.
Lower speed limits would not only benefit the livability of the downtown area. It would also mean a much better environment for businesses. Cars don't shop, people do. Businesses are often quite hesitant to agree to any restrictions on car use, but this is more out of fear of the unknown than that it is based on facts.

In the Netherlands and other European countries, many cities have considerable restrictions on cars in their town cores: lower speed limits, and car-free zones. This idea is starting to catch on in North America too. Even New York has successfully experimented with this concept. These shopping streets are very popular among pedestrians and cyclists, and are generally the most sought-after by businesses to set up shop. Often these streets are lined with cafés and restaurants with outdoor terraces filled with people, taking a break from hopping in and out of the many interesting shops and boutiques, and enjoying watching the people strolling by. Some streets in Maple Ridge that could easily be turned into car-free streets are MacIntosh and 119th Ave., between 224th and 223rd Streets. And 224th Street itself, between Dewdney and Lougheed, should actually be a prime candidate to be turned into a lovely pedestrian/cyclist street. After the improvements are all finished, it would just take some visionary developer to tackle the unsightly parking garages on the north side of Memorial Peace Park and replace them with a more exciting and appealing store or restaurant, preferably with apartments above, overlooking Memorial Peace Park. With some new interesting ethnic restaurants and nice boutiques this could satisfy the dreams of many Maple Ridge shoppers. Who knows, Maple Ridge may turn out to be the envy of Pitt Meadows residents, who may just prefer the village-type shops to its unimaginative Meadowtown mega-Mall. These dreams just may come true, if only we can keep the big boxes out of Albion!