Friday, May 31, 2013

wonderful story from Copenhagen

Wouldn't it be nice for elderly people who are stuck, day-in-day-out, in a boring old folks home to have a chance to go for a fun ride along the Fraser River? Or a ride on the dikes? I like this story from Copenhagen.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Pitt Meadows Transportation Plan

Pitt Meadows is presently developing a Transportation Master Plan, which builds on the Pedestrian and Cycling Master Plan finalized in 2012. The Transportation Master Plan will provide direction on how the City can achieve better transportation facilities today and over the next thirty years for all modes of transportation, including roads, transit, walking and cycling.

Please give your input and fill out this survey by Monday, June 10.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Maple Ridge Transportation Plan Update

For those of you who didn't have a chance to attend the public input session of the Maple Ridge Transportation Plan Update last week, May 22, the display boards can now be viewed on-line.

Apparently the Transportation Plan of 2003/4, which is now being updated, was never adopted by Council, which is why it is not available on-line. So after this update has been finalized, it is hoped that Council will adopt the Plan itself, after 10 years. Interesting....

I think it would be helpful for us to see the Plan itself as well. In 2003 HUB did not yet have a local committee in Maple Ridge. Since our group started advocating for better infrastructure about 4 years ago, there has been a dramatic shift in the way of thinking concerning the need to build infrastructure that's safe for all ages and abilities, instead of just for the "strong and fearless" type cyclists. Not only did much change with regard to knowledge about cycling infrastructure and the realization that cycling has enormous benefits to the whole community, but 10 years is also a long time in the recent history of Maple Ridge. Much growth has taken place during those 10 years, and if we're doing an update, it would be a good idea to take a look at the whole plan.

I also feel it's important for the District to put in place a Complete Streets by-law, which ensures that the needs of all users - including pedestrians, cyclists and cars - are considered when new roads are built or existing ones are being upgraded. Right now with all the new development on the outskirts of town, new roads are being built without those requirements, which means that at some point in the future, sidewalks and bike lanes - where needed - will have to be built by the District with tax payers' money, and we all know that there's never enough money to do that.

Until now, Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows had a joint Bikeways Plan, dating from 1994. That plan is now no longer relevant and has been scrapped. It would be good for Maple Ridge to follow the example of Pitt Meadows in putting together an Active Transportation Plan.

Please take a look at your neighbourhood and your cycling and walking routes on the display boards, and give your input, which you can send to David Pollock, Director of Engineering at, with cc Michael Eng, Engineering Department, at and Brian Patterson at

Update: anybody who is interested in seeing the actual draft Plan, can ask for it at city hall, at the Engineering counter. Ask for Marry or Nola.


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Costly sprawl in Maple Ridge

When hubbie Ivan and I went to the last HUB AGM about a week ago, Ivan, as one of our local HUB committee's co-chairs, gave a little summary of what's been happening in Maple Ridge cycle-land. When he took the stage, people started laughing - just like at last year's AGM: "ha-ha-ha.... Maple Ridge? Where's that?". OK....obviously we have a long way to go when it comes to  being a true cycling paradise for people who use their bikes as a mode of transportation, but we're trying our best!

Of course we're quite a sprawling community, and the distances can be discouraging for some. What's more discouraging perhaps is the absence of a safe place to ride on roads that encourage drivers to go fast.

Sprawl doesn't help when you want to get more people on their bikes. But it also has other disadvantages. One of them is that it's a lot more expensive for the municipality to maintain and provide services like fire, ambulance and law enforcement. In Maple Ridge, like in many other communities all over North America, we already have something called an "infrastructure deficit": we're spending much less than what's needed to maintain our existing infrastructure. That's why I think it's not a good idea to add more wasteful infrastructure, especially if the taxes generated don't cover the long-term cost.

Yesterday I went to a public meeting to give my two cents about a large development of 91 one-acre lots at 12420 269 Street, which is 5 kms outside the urban boundary:

The reason given by Councillors for approving these kinds of developments is usually that they want to give residents choice: those who want to live on acreage should be able to do so. What I have a problem with, is that the long-term costs of maintenance and eventual replacement of the infrastructure and the needed services are not covered by the tax revenue that these kinds of properties generate. The cost of providing things like municipal water, roads and emergency services are much higher for remote, large-lot developments like these than for denser developments closer to town. Having more car-dependent developments also means more parking is required downtown – a wasteful use of precious space and non-revenue generating for us as tax payers, but mostly free for the user . Ever increasing requirements to facilitate car traffic and car storage downtown also reduces livability and therefore continues to make it a less desirable place to live than it could be.

This development is about 5 km outside the urban boundary. It boggles my mind that we’re required to provide municipal water way out there in the boonies! Because we want to give people choice?  I don’t have a problem subsidizing housing if people really need some help. But I doubt that the people who choose to and can afford to live in this development really need to be subsidized by the rest of us.

On the one hand we give a select few the choice of private large-lot-large-house-living.  But at the same time, we put an extra, unnecessary burden on all existing and future tax payers who will eventually, collectively, have to pay up.

As Council knows, we already have a huge infrastructure deficit. 
  • According to the Maple Ridge Financial Plan 2012-2016, the approx. $800,000 spent on road maintenance is only about 8% of the $18 million annual requirement. I think this percentage is actually wrong. According to my own calculations it’s only about 4.5%.
  • We spend about $650,000 on storm sewer maintenance every year, which is only about 14% of the $4.5 million required.
  • We are currently allocating $450,000 to building and equipment renewal, which is only 12% of the $3.8 million we should be spending.

Raising our taxes to make up for the difference between cost and revenue in residential taxes would mean hundreds of dollars extra on the average property tax bill, which of course would lead to a revolt among tax payers. Since 2008 the municipality adds an extra 1% to our tax bill every year, so that in 25 years our infrastructure deficit will be ‘only’ half of what it is now. In other words: we are living beyond our means, we’re kicking the can down the road. So why is it ok to continue to add more of this kind of sprawl, to subsidize supersized lots in remote locations that are very expensive to service, while unnecessarily adding to our already huge infrastructure burden?

Maple Ridge prouds itself upon being a Smart Growth community, but why do we bother densifiying downtown, building expensive LEED buildings and investing in hybrid cars, while at the same time approving this kind of “ultimate sprawl”? It’s certainly not the first time. East Maple Ridge is already showing a patchwork of leap-frog development, with disconnected sidewalks and few amenities. 

Council committed to an aggressive Greenhouse Gas reduction target of 33% from 2007 levels by 2020, assuming that whatever we’re already doing will get us there. By 2010, our emissions had actually gone up by about 12%. This should be quite alarming to Council, but it seems like it’s business as usual and we continue to approve further sprawl, because “people need choice”.  I’ve seen plenty of communities  with a clearly defined urban boundary where people still have choice. It IS possible. True Smart Growth is not just about densification in the town core. As you may know, the trend is that more and more people now actually prefer to live in walkable communities, where schools, shops, restaurants and entertainment are close by, and where they have a choice of transportation other than the car. Many young people are, surprisingly, not so enamored with the idea of owning and driving – and paying for - a car anymore.  Yes, there are people who are looking for a more rural property. An yes, there are still lots of properties in Maple Ridge right now where people still have that country-feel. 

This development is actually closer to Mission than to Maple Ridge. It has a “walk score” of 2, which is pretty much as bad as it gets: it’s totally car dependent, there’s nowhere to walk to.  Only bus #C49 comes by on Dewdney, but only on weekdays, and only every 2 hours. 

From the Maple Ridge Financial Plan 2012-2016: "the Federation of Canadian Municipalities strongly encourages local governments to take action with regard to the infrastructure deficit, and demonstrate their ability to address the issue. They have provided a series of recommendations, a critical one being that “municipal governments must evaluate how they plan for growth, price their services, and generate revenues. A long-term plan, with targets and milestones, must be put in place to help phase in these changes over the next 20 years.” 

I would like Council to ask staff to do a cost-revenue analysis of different types of developments at different densities in different locations to help them determine whether or not this kind of sprawl is such a good idea. I think we all probably have a pretty good idea what the outcome is going to be, but it’s necessary to see the numbers (for Council as well as for taxpayers!). 

I would think a revision of the policy to allow 1-acre lots outside the urban boundary would make a lot of sense, as would a moratorium, until AND IF we are in a better position to subsidize this kind of development. 

This development application will be on the agenda again for the Council meeting on Tuesday, May 28, 7 pm.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Maple Ridge Transportation Plan Update public input session May 22

HUB needs your help. Maple Ridge is updating its Transportation Plan. There's a lot of development going on in our community, and still there's no requirement to consider the needs of cyclists for new developments. A Complete Streets by-law, which requires the developer to provide appropriate infrastructure for cyclists (bike lanes, preferably separated, for busy and higher speed roads)  is essential to ensure that the District doesn't need to spend taxpayers' money to add bike lanes and paths at a later stage. It's clear we need to push harder for more and safer cycling infrastructure for people of all ages and abilities, both in the older parts of Maple Ridge as well as in new developments.

Please attend the District's public input session on May 22, 3 pm - 8 pm and have your say!

From the website of the District of Maple Ridge:

The District of Maple Ridge is currently in the process of updating the Strategic Transportation Plan. The District's existing Long-Range Transportation Plan was developed in 2003. Since the existing Transportation Plan was adopted, there have been a number of changes to land use patterns and the transportation network within Maple Ridge and the surrounding area such as the Golden Ears Bridge and Pitt River Bridge.

Updating the Strategic Transportation Plan will guide decision-making for transportation over the next 25 years and beyond, and will recommend improvements for all modes of transportation, including walking, cycling, public transit, and vehicles. This process is important to ensure that transportation investments work towards achieving the District's strategic goals and help shift towards a more sustainable future. The District is holding a Public Input Session [PDF, 417KB] on May 22, 2013, from 3:00 pm to 8:00 pm at Municipal Hall. Your attendance and input is welcomed.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Help for Students Cycling to School

HUB Maple Ridge/Pitt Meadows latest column in The News:

Throughout Metro Vancouver, HUB provides cycling training programs at elementary schools.
For example, in New Westminster all sixth-graders receive cycling education, and Surrey provides training for all fourth-  and fifth-graders over two years.

In Maple Ridge, HUB wheeled out a successful Bike to School program at Albion elementary in 2011.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Alex Pope, provincial Green candidate Maple Ridge/Mission

I sent an e-mail to all the provincial candidates for our region (see earlier blog post) to ask them about their views on the Cycling Strategy proposed by the BC Cycling Coalition.

Alex Pope, Green candidate for Maple Ridge/Mission, responded as follows:

"The Green Party of BC is committed to creating and supporting clean, affordable, and efficient transportation modes for all British Columbians. Greens want to limit urban sprawl while increasing cycling paths, maintaining and creating more walkable neighbourhoods, and providing affordable transit systems. Encouraging cycling is one of the ways in which Greens will contribute to a more cycle-friendly BC. The BC Greens will also provide tax breaks and funds that support cycling and other clean modes of transportation.

Funding for increased biking infrastructure will come from the use of Transportation Demand Management (TDM) strategies, such as road pricing, congestion pricing and parking pricing. BC Greens would also increase the carbon tax and use some of this extra revenue to fund transportation alternatives. Being dedicated to a healthy and clean lifestyle for all British Columbians, BC Greens want to see an increase in the accessibility of current biking infrastructure, while continuing to improve and expand it.

Increased cycling is sure to provide many benefits to British Columbians by decreasing health care problems that are a result of physical inactivity, increasing revenue by creating ‘green-collar’ jobs, and decreasing pollution from car emissions. Greens recognize the potential that cycling has in contributing to an overall cleaner environment. This is why the BC Greens are dedicated to providing British Columbians with easier and greater access to safe cycling infrastructure and encouraging them to live more active and healthy lifestyles.

Even with the amount of funding suggested by the BCCC, complete cycling networks will take quite a number of years to complete. I would suggest that we should prioritize those cycling projects that will provide all-ages cycling pathways that provide connectivity to schools and transit hubs.  These pathways are the most likely to see the greatest uptake in use so will provide the greatest benefit to future cyclists.