Friday, December 19, 2014

Column The News: Cycling: Develop with two wheel transportation in mind

My latest column in The News is about the development proposals on Brown Ave (for a highrise) in downtown Maple Ridge along the 121 bike route, and the proposal for 21 homes along the 123 bike route at McKenney Creek in west Maple Ridge. Here is the unedited version:

Barely two weeks after Maple Ridge Council's inaugural meeting, Mayor Read and her team had some discussions that gave us a pretty good indication that our new Council intends to get more serious about cycling.

On the agendas for the Public Hearing and Council meeting of December 9 was a development proposal for an 18-storey tower on Brown Ave. in the town core. This proposal is part of a plan for a number of highrises, all along Brown Ave., north of Dewdney. This is a real game changer for our town. There are already 3 other towers in the pipeline, two of which are also on Brown Ave., and the third will be right around the corner from the other three on Dewdney and Edge, all built on a large podium with a commercial component and multiple floors of under- and above ground parking.
In another five years or so, it is expected that another development of five more highrises will move forward, also along Brown, but on the west side of 224th.

So we're going from a quiet single family home neighbourhood to highrises. You can imagine the kind of traffic we're going to see on Brown Ave.

Brown is one of two designated bike routes that help cyclists get to and through the town core. So far the car traffic on Brown hasn't been very busy, and sharing the road with cars hasn't been a problem.

It's clear that going from low to very high density will have a significant impact on car traffic. Proper cycling facilities will have to be included in the road design, so that cyclists can continue to safely navigate the roads.

According to the present plan, space is provided for parking on either side and one car lane in each direction. Cyclists will have to "take the lane" (ride in the middle) to avoid getting "doored" by someone opening a car door in their path. That means they'll have no choice but to get in the way of cars. Drivers won't be too happy about that.

Many cyclists will end up having to ride on the sidewalk. Neither pedestrians nor cyclists are going to be happy about that.

Wayne Bissky, the developer of this property, a 25-year resident of Maple Ridge, has a very strong desire to help Maple Ridge become less reliant on cars, and to make it more feasible to get around on foot and by bike. He says that if the standards for Brown Ave. included bike lanes, that's what he would have planned to build.  The Multi-modal Transportation Plan for the towncore, the cycling component of which has not been reviewed as part of the new 2014 Transportation Plan, does not call for bike lanes.

Council took a strong position that a solution will have to be found. It's so refreshing to see this Council take cyclists' concerns seriously. It's in the interest of anybody who drives, bikes or walks in and around town to make safe cycling part of the plan.

Another development proposal that concerns cyclists is on 123 Ave., at 207 Street. A 21 single family home development is proposed to be built between two tributaries of McKenney Creek.

Cycling along this narrow stretch of 123 Ave. is rather daunting, with cars speeding by and some giving cyclists very little space. According to the City's road standards it is considered "substandard", and the City can ask the developer to widen it as a condition of the development. At the public hearing, significant concerns were raised by residents of the area about the impact this development will have on the fish bearing creeks and the forested land, due to significantly reduced setbacks, as well as a potentially dangerous intersection being added to an already dangerous stretch of 123 Ave. Council asked staff to come up with possible solutions.

I'll be watching with great interest what happens with these two proposals. I think we just may be on a path to better cycling in the future.

See also my recent posts about the Brown Ave. proposal and the 123 Ave. proposal.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Development along 123 bike route: cyclists don't matter, again?

At the Council meeting on Nov 25 (starts at about 57 minute mark), the following development application was discussed by (outgoing) Council: 2013-041-RZ, 20738 123 Avenue. This is on the 123 bike route.
I sent the following e-mail to Council:
"At the Development Information Meeting on Dec. 11, 2013, one of the concerns raised [by Dave Rush, HUB MR/PM committee member] was:
"3. The existing 123 Avenue is narrow along the development site, which results in speeding and is a concern for cyclists."
This concern was (not) addressed in the staff report as follows:
"3. The Engineering Department is in support of maintaining the existing road right-of-way width on 123 Avenue although it is less that the standard for a collector road. A Development Variance Permit is required. The narrower road right-of-way is to reduce the impact on McKenney Creek, which has two tributaries that cross 123 Avenue in this location."
I appreciate that the reason for not widening 123 Ave. in this location is to reduce the impact on McKenney Creek. However, the substandard width means significant safety issues for cyclists (of all ages and abilities), especially as car traffic increases significantly in the coming years.
I would like to point out that 123 Ave. is not only a major corridor for car traffic, but it is also one of the few east-west corridors for cyclists. It is, in fact, the only east-west bike route north of Lougheed between Skillen and 206th Streets and as such cannot reasonably be avoided. The only other east-west neighbourhood bikeway is the 117th route south of Lougheed.
Here's the description of a neighbourhood bikeway (from the Maple Ridge Transportation Plan):
123 Ave. is not a local street, so actually it's not really a "neighbourhood bikeway". It's a major collector road (according to the Transportation Plan), so it is a "shared use lane". Traffic calming can not be used to slow traffic. As explained above, a "shared use lane" should be minimum 4.3 metres wide. The lane presently is too narrow for a shared use lane (I believe it's about 3.3 metres) - definitely too narrow for a car/truck to safely pass within the lane. That means that the safest thing for cyclists to do would be to "take the lane"  ride in the middle of the lane), to ensure that drivers can only pass by moving into the oncoming lane.
There are some problems with taking the lane:
  • a cyclist may or may not be allowed to do this (although ICBC and certified cycling instructors all over North America teach cyclists to take the lane in this situation, as to the legality of it the MVA is actually rather vague in this respect. Local RCMP officers may not allow it. I know at least one officer doesn't...I may actually get fined for it myself, as well as for "impeding traffic" if I decide to pursue a recent complaint against the driver of a tow truck who dangerously cut me off. This could very well happen to other cyclists here if the road width is not adequately increased); 
  • cyclists may or may not be required to take the lane in this case to ensure their own safety (again, the Motor Vehicle Act is not conclusive here, but I know a judge in one case decided that a cyclist was at fault for NOT taking the lane to ensure his own safety); other words: the cyclist can be found at fault in either case.
  • It is also a practice that many cyclists will not feel comfortable doing on a road like 123 Ave.
  • It is also a practice which tends to infuriate some drivers, possibly resulting in road rage and at least terrified cyclists, and potentially catastrophic consequences.

East-west traffic is expected to increase by 100% in west Maple Ridge over the next 20 years, and with that, potential conflict between cyclists and drivers will increase. We're not just planning for the present, we're planning for the future.
I believe it's important to adhere to the minimum road width of 4.3 metres in this case, to ensure adequate safety for cyclists and to reduce the very real potential for road rage."
Note that Coun. Bell and Coun. Masse brought up some of my concerns during the meeting. Coun. Bell asked about the actual impact that widening the road would have on the creek.
I think the development itself, the impact of the 21 homes, the road, parking and driveways that will be built as part of this development between the two creeks is way bigger than the widening of the road.
During this same meeting, Council approved a development of 91 1-acre luxury homes on pristine land with various creeks running through it north of Dewdney at 269th Street . Coun. Bell voted against. Why no concern from the rest of council about the impact on the environment in this case, and widening a short stretch of road to ensure the safety of cyclists cannot be done?

Staff report on this development application, dated November 17, 2014, can be found attached to the Council agenda of November 25 on page 190.
Several comments were received by Council from cyclists. Presentation by city planner Chuck Goddard starts at 32:00. Speakers comments start at 38:00.

Council meeting was right after public hearing on Dec. 9:
123 Ave. starts at 20:00. I'm really happy that Council is listening to cyclists' concerns! We'll have to wait and see what staff will bring back to council in January.

Another highrise planned for Brown Ave; let's plan for cycling now before it's too late!

An 18-storey tower is being planned for 22576 and 22588 Brown Avenue (just east of Edge St.), which is a designated bike route. The file # is 2013-019-RZ. There are several more towers planned for Brown. It is expected that, in another 5 years or so, a developer will move ahead with 5 more towers between Brown and Dewdney west of 224th. It looks like Brown will be a busy street!
Before the Council meeting on Nov. 25, I sent the following e-mail to Coun. Masse (and alerted Coun. Bell to this issue on facebook):
"From a cycling perspective I'm concerned about the towers and further densification planned for Brown Ave. This is a designated bike route, but no bike lanes are planned according to the recently adopted 20-year Transportation Plan.
There will be on-street parking, which can make on-road cycling rather challenging for the average cyclist as traffic increases. If at a later stage the decision is made to add bike lanes, will the street be wide enough to add bike lanes WITH A BUFFER between parked cars and bike lanes? Bike lanes in the door zones of cars are some of the most dangerous types of bicycle facilities.
It's important to plan for this now. Especially since cyclists don't have a whole lot of safe east-west options. Some day in the not too far future we won't be allowed anymore on the sidewalk either, which will further limit our options (it's just a matter of time. There is no doubt in my mind that'll happen).
I also mentioned the need for bike lanes in my e-mail to Council of November 10, 2013 regarding the other tower (2012-115-RZ): "Since Brown Ave. is a bike route, I expect that the Engineering Department will at some point be planning to add bike lanes, since over time, with increased density, traffic volumes will increase. Perhaps it may make sense to make added bike lanes part of the rezoning requirements for this development."
The present road design requires cyclists to take the lane. Definitely not AAA (all ages all abilities) infrastructure...I actually saw an artist's rendering attached to the staff report with a cyclist riding on the sidewalk...

See agenda November 25 Council meeting, staff report on page 144: 

Council discussion at the Council meeting of November 25, 2014, starts at about 48 minute mark:

This development is on the agenda for the public hearing on Dec. 9.

All that's planned for this road is some bike symbols to alert cars that they should expect bicycles on the road. I think we need to start setting our bar a little higher than that, if we ever want to be successful encouraging more people to bike for short trips in and around the town core. It's obvious that if this design is according to city standards, these standards are not adequate for a designated bike route on a high density street right in the town core. 

It would be much appreciated if you could send your comments to, or speak to Council at the public hearing on Dec. 9 (the meeting will start at 6 pm).

Great to hear that several e-mails were received by Council from cyclists! 
Presentation by city planner starts at about 2:25. 
Presentation by HUB committee Ivan Chow starts at 17:00. 

Council meeting right after public hearing on Dec. 9:
Brown Ave. starts at 3:00. Great to see strong support from most Council members!

Sunday, November 30, 2014

HUB Maple Ridge Pitt Meadows meeting dates in 2015

Here are our meeting dates for 2015. We meet on the second Thursday of each month.

Location: Maple Ridge Library, Alouette Room (note that the location of the January meeting has changed. We will not be able to use the Alouette Room that evening, and will be somewhere in the open space area upstairs, most likely on the side of the library entrance.

Time: 6:45 pm - 8:45 pm.

Jan. 8 (see above) 
Feb. 12
Mar 12
Apr. 9
May 14
June 11
July 9
Aug. 13
Sept. 10
Oct. 8
Nov. 12 Note: Alouette room probably not available for this date. Look for us in the open space area upstairs in the library.

The meeting on Dec. 10 will be canceled.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Cycling: Emissions still increasing in Canada, world

When I write for the Maple Ridge News, often my columns are longer than allowed, so sometimes they're pretty heavily edited. The good thing about a blog is that I can write whatever and however long I want.

So here is the original version of my November article:

The IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) has recently published its fifth report, which sends a very dire warning to the world, including Maple Ridge. We're on track to severely and irreversibly impact the global climate and the natural world around us, endangering survival of many plant and animal species, including ourselves.

We're already seeing more heat waves, droughts, more severe rainfall and floodings. The report further warns that food security is at risk, and we'll likely see more wars as a consequence of poverty and economic shock. Some pretty alarming stuff.
Developing countries are most vulnerable to climate change, while developed and wealthier countries like Canada are among the worst carbon emitters; we don't have a particularly good reputation in the rest of the world when it comes to doing our share to reduce emissions.

Not only in Canada, but also world-wide, emissions are still going up.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon says: "Leaders have to act now. Time is not on our side."

On the positive side, the report, which has been contributed to by thousands of scientists, states that it's economically affordable to take action.

Unfortunately, both at the federal and the provincial level the powers that be are single-mindedly focused on exploiting the tar sands in Alberta and LNG in BC, with little regard for the resulting rise in emissions and other environmentally damaging consequences. Are we crazy? Shouldn't we, instead of just ramping up production of non-renewables, focus our efforts on rapidly expanding alternative energy sources, while aiming to gradually phase out the use of fossil fuels where possible?

What's happening at the local level?

In 2010, all members of the previous Council in Maple Ridge, five of which are still representing our interests now, unanimously and ambitiously endorsed a target of 33 percent reduction in corporate and community emissions from 2007 levels by 2020. At the time Council felt we were doing pretty good already and little further action was required;  all the policies that were already in place at the time were thought to help us achieve the target.

I saw on Maple Ridge's old website last year that our community emissions had increased by 12% between 2007 and 2010. However, the new website now shows a reduction of 3% by 2010. Interesting. Apparently data and methodologies used are continually updated. All of a sudden we're looking much better!  Somehow, I doubt that our emissions would have gone down when our population increased by about 5 percent or almost 4,000 people during that time. Unless these and more people perhaps all found local jobs, drove EVs, walked or biked to work, school and shopping, and moved into empty basements in existing homes.

When Council discussed the 20-year Transportation Plan at the Council meeting on October 28, Councillor Masse did not get a response from the rest of a rather unambitious council when expressing his deep concerns - not for the first time - about Greenhouse Gas emissions and obviously wanting to do more through a well-thought out Transportation Plan which would cut down emissions from automobiles. Since the source of 57 percent of our community emissions is on-road transportation, it makes a lot of sense to look for ways to achieve reductions there.

Councillor Masse suggested to then look at amending the adopted target in the future, and the Transportation Plan was subsequently endorsed. Can kicked further down the road.

In 2007, with the adoption of the District's Sustainability Action Plan, the development of a community energy plan (CEP) was recommended.  This was officially added to our OCP as a "will explore" item. Now, seven years later, despite stronger calls for action from the scientific community as well as common folks around the world, and the alarming report just released by the IPCC, we still don't have a plan.

According to Laura Benson, Manager of Sustainability and Corporate Planning with the City, despite not having a CEP the city has worked on things like densification in the Town Core near transit and services, attracting high value local jobs and installing EV charging stations, which should definitely help.

But when it comes to planning for a truly multi-modal transportation network that will help convince more of us to choose alternative modes, safely - which will lead to lower emissions - in my view the present Transportation Plan lacks vision, and Council clearly lacks a sense of urgency.

It's great that there are some nice big ticket, multi-use items in the Plan, but we clearly need a more ambitious council, to lead us on a path to become a more modern, more livable, equitable and sustainable city to help future generations to better weather the coming storms.

The next four years should be interesting. We'll definitely see some new faces, hopefully new, creative ideas and strong, forward-thinking leadership on Council.
One thing is clear. Once the election is over, we'll start talking again about all-ages-all-abilities bike lanes!


Friday, November 7, 2014

Cost of suburban sprawl / questions to candidates

Another questionnaire was sent out to Maple Ridge candidates, this one being about the cost of suburban sprawl. For more information and links to the questionnaire and responses received, click here.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Municipal election 2014: Vote to Bike!

HUB asked candidates across Metro Vancouver two questions related to cycling. Both Maple Ridge (69%) and Pitt Meadows (92%) had high response rates compared to other Metro Vancouver municipalities.

The first question was specific to each community:

In the case of Maple Ridge:
"Do you agree that it's absolutely critical that we start to apply the principles of Smart Growth not only in the Town Core, but within the urban boundary, so that we can build a healthier, more sustainable community where people are much less car-dependent?"

Pitt Meadows:
"Do you agree that we need to more to facilitate alternative modes of transportation - transit, walking and cycling, as per the Pedestrian and Cycling Master Plan - to help prevent future gridlock in our communities and that 'all ages and abilities' cycling is part of the solution?"

The second question was the same for all municipalities:

"Would you vote in favour of infrastructure investments that close the gaps in the municipal and regional cycling network so it is well connected and allows people to travel safely by bicycle?"

Check out the responses from candidates here.

School trustee responses are in too, but will be published later this week.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Transportation Plan endorsed by Council just before election

The Transportation Plan was endorsed unanimously by Council tonight, although Coun. Bell and Coun. Masse had some concerns and were - in vain - looking for support to delay the endorsement. Thank you, Coun. Bell and Coun. Masse. Here's the link to the Council meeting. The discussion on the Transportation Plan starts at about 3:49.

In my opinion public consultation has been absolutely minimal, with just two open houses for the general public, one pretty much unannounced at the Farmers Market, the other at municipal hall. The District also did an on-line survey.

The consultant (Urban Systems) presented to the Bicycle Advisory Committee a year and a half ago, and  HUB committee members had a meeting with Engineering. With the help of 20 volunteers HUB also helped do an assessment of the entire cycling network in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows with recommendations for improvements. Our committee provided detailed input in May 2013 as well. This all happened long before the actual document was quietly put on-line several months ago.

A few days ago I sent the following e-mail to Council:

HUB Maple Ridge/Pitt Meadows comments re final Strategic Transportation Plan

1. Public consultation inadequate

The 2014 Strategic Transportation Plan is not just an update, but a rewrite of the 2004 Plan. The draft Plan was posted on-line several months ago, but this was not publicly advertised in any way by the District (now City) as should be normal practice for any policy document during the public consultation stage as part of a transparent and open process. The two open houses, the survey and the consultation with the Bicycle Advisory Committee all took place before the actual document was put on-line without any fanfare.

This policy document is a very important one, at such a very critical time in our history - because of 

  • rapid population growth, 
  • global economic instability, 
  • significant climate change concerns, 
  • increasing congestion and decreasing livability due to our continued focus on cars as preferred mode of transportation, 
  • continuing development patterns (sprawl) outside the Town Core that favour the use of cars, 
  • the certainty of rising financial, environmental- and geopolitical costs of our oil addiction and our continued wasteful use of it for transportation purposes,
  • the harmful effect of our continued reliance on cars on our health, which puts a huge burden on our health care system.

Furthermore, there's a significant on-going shift among the younger generations, who increasingly prefer alternative modes of getting around, including transit and cycling, for various reasons. Walkable/bikeable neighbourhoods are also "in" also among older generations. In order to attract millennials as well as the jobs that are needed to employ them locally, and to offer the quality of life that these types of neighbourhoods can offer to all residents, more effort needs to be made to cater to their needs and wishes.

Therefore this document deserves scrutiny by residents of Maple Ridge. 

2. HUB input 

As you may remember, HUB provided extensive input in May 2013.  

Some of the key issues/recommendations mentioned in our input but not addressed in the Transportation Plan include:

  • "The District should set cycling goals. HUB's suggestions include: 4% cycling mode share in 2020; increased number of women and children cycling, etc."  
  • "Cycling routes should be on streets with destinations, and frequent stop signs preventing cycling ease should be avoided." It is HUB's position that the Town Core multi-modal Transportation Plan, established in 2004, should be open for review as part of the rewrite of the Transportation Plan. We need to determine whether the plan has led to any increase in cycling by all ages and abilities (see previous point), and if a change in direction might be needed to achieve our goals. Baseline counts should be done, from which progress can be measured. 
  • Setting maximum speed limits throughout the Town Core of 30 km/h, which will not only make the roadways safer for cycling, but will improve overall livability significantly;
  • Making Lougheed part of the cycling network in the Town Core. 
  • Improved infrastructure around schools should go hand in hand with cycling education through all elementary schools.
  • Putting in place a Complete Streets by-law (requires consideration of the needs of all road users when new streets are built, which is especially important for a rapidly growing community like Maple Ridge). There is no reason why we cannot use such a policy to ensure that proper cycling infrastructure is provided in all new development, where appropriate, so that we don't need to spend more later. Cycling facilities can also be included when existing roads are upgraded.
  • "Depending on the cost involved and other competing priorities, we support in principle the proposal by the Alouette Valley Association and the Silver Valley Neighbourhood Association for a recreational roadway on 132nd Ave.". Now that the first section of path has been completed, HUB strongly urges Council and staff to consult with cyclists - HUB could be of assistance - to determine whether with the present road configuration and path surface all types of cyclists are adequately accommodated, or certain improvements/changes are required before spending a further $3 million out of the cycling budget to complete the path.   
  • "All arterials within the urban boundary should have separated bike paths where feasible. If not, they should have at least bike lanes on both sides. This includes the arterials on the east side of Maple Ridge, which presently show shoulders as planned "cycling infrastructure". In situations where parking is allowed on the shoulder, this can create dangerous situations for cyclists and pedestrians when having to swerve onto the traffic lane in order to pass a parked car. Cyclists also risk being “doored”, which can result in serious injury or death." The risk of bike lanes between parked cars and moving cars without a proper buffer can not be over-estimated. Accidents caused by inattentive drivers are often very difficult to avoid for cyclists in these circumstances and these types of facilities generally don't appeal to any types of cyclists and actually may provide a false sense of safety to inexperienced cyclists.
  • Separated bike facilities along Lougheed east of town core to Albion. For many people in Albion this is the only direct connection when cycling to or from the Town Core and beyond. The actual speeds east of the Town Core are often significantly over the posted speed limit (at times double the speed limit or even more). Enforcement is rather infrequent and does not seem to make a difference due to the road design which encourages speeding.   
  • "Bike lanes along 240th south of Dewdney should be completed all the way to Lougheed, preferably separated south of 104th to accommodate cycling to Albion Elementary School. A proper buffer needs to be provided where parking is allowed."
  • In view of the higher density of lower Albion, the increasing traffic on 102nd Ave. east of 240th and the presence of some neighbourhood commercial development, bike lanes should be provided. Shoulders often allow parking, and this poses dangers for cyclists, having to swerve into the path of moving cars and the possibility of being “doored”. Once more commercial development takes place in Albion, this will provide a nearby destination for shopping trips by bike and 102nd Street will need to be safe for cycling.

3. Further comments regarding contents of actual Plan

Key points: 

  1. The bulk of (long-term) spending for cycling as proposed in the Transportation Plan seems to be shoulders along rural roads. Much of this type of infrastructure will be used by road cyclists as well as local residents on foot and on horseback, and sometimes parking, so these are multi-use (not just cycling) facilities. According to the consultant, investments in walking should be made where we can get the biggest bang for the buck. The same should be said for cycling: the primary focus should be on areas where the biggest gains can be made, which is where people of all ages and abilities can use their bikes for short trips (to school, shopping, errands, etc.). The focus should be on all ages all abilities ( AAA) infrastructure. A complete AAA network has the most potential to lead to more cycling.
  2. Under "Strategic Transportation Goals" (page 2): Affordable Transportation System:  "Provide transportation infrastructure and services in a cost-effective and efficient manner that makes best use of existing facilities and projected resources. This will include maximizing opportunities to make beneficial investments, improving existing infrastructure, and prioritizing transit."  Walking and cycling should also be prioritized, since transit is not a door-to-door transportation mode and many people who use transit will need to/can walk or bike to complete either end of their journey.
  3. Under Goal #2: Transportation Choice: 2.1 Integrate Travel  Modes: "Plan for the integration and balance for all modes on most urban streets within the city." The word 'balanced' is sometimes used to argue that further investment in cycling is not justified, since most people drive. It is HUB's position that there is a significant imbalance because of 1. the existing gaps in our cycling network, 2.  the types of infrastructure provided that are not always considered safe for all ages and abilities, and cars generally get direct, convenient, fast, comfortable and safer routes, whereas cyclists often get indirect, inconvenient, slow, less comfortable and in certain ways not necessarily safer routes.

Further to the previous comment, HUB is of the opinion that a "level of service" (LOS) measurement should apply not only to cars, but to pedestrians and cyclists as well, since the goal is to "Provide for safe, convenient and accessible movement of people, goods and services throughout the District.", so not just for cars. 

HUB would like to see Council to show its commitment to fully integrate walking and cycling in our transportation system by instructing staff to start work on a detailed Active Transportation Plan, in recognition of the fact that walking and cycling can bring many benefits to our community, as listed in the comments HUB provided to Council in May 2013 (also attached to e-mail for your convenience). 

HUB would like to see the input received from residents added as appendix to the plan. Residents need to know whether or not their input has been considered. Through HUB, 20 volunteers have assisted the District (/City) with a thorough assessment of the cycling network in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows in 2011. Neither this, nor the extensive written input by HUB, was mentioned in the Plan, and it is unclear whether or not any of the input has been used for the Transportation Plan. 

The continued focus on cars as the prioritized mode of transportation means ever increasing need for parking. There's a significant cost of providing this additional parking to businesses, the municipality and thus tax payers and consumers. Therefore a parking strategy should be an integrated part of the Transportation Plan. 

The joint Bicycle Advisory Committee had its last meeting in June 2013, after which it was no longer operational due to Pitt Meadows starting its own Active Transportation Advisory Committee. The remaining Maple Ridge contingent was consequently no longer able to continue its work of providing input and recommendations to Council and staff. BAC members have therefore only been able to view the materials displayed at the open houses, but have not been able to scrutinize the actual Plan and provide further input. HUB urges Council to wait with adoption of the STP until the future Transportation Advisory Committee has had an opportunity to review and comment on it. We haven't had an adopted Transportation Plan for 10 years, so we can wait a few more months.

Thank you for considering our comments.

Coun. Bell brought up the fact that our HUB committee does not feel listened to. Mr. Pollock basically replied that a meeting with HUB members took place. Coun. Masse expressed his deep concerns about the District not meeting its commitment regarding Greenhouse Gas reductions (while some other Councillors were, rather disrespectfully and disturbingly, rolling their eyes), and felt that Council should look at perhaps setting a more realistic goal. None of our concerns were addressed.

It was said that things could still be changed during the implementation stage. That made me think about the open houses that were held before each stage of the renovations of Lougheed in the Town Core. When I asked if bike lanes could be included in the design, the answer was "no, because Lougheed is not part of the cycling network". That's why it would have been so important to get the plan right in the first place.

I must say, it seems rather futile to spend so much time trying to provide meaningful input.

Friday, October 10, 2014

The cost of sprawl: election issue?

Election time is upon us; much is at stake. Which will be the main issues on the table? We'll probably once again see the same old discussions about shopping, garbage, council and staff salaries, and our ever rising property taxes, none of which ever seem to get resolved to our satisfaction.

Metro Vancouver is facing significant challenges, as a region and as individual municipalities.

The experts are telling us we will see continued population growth for the next 30 years in Metro Vancouver, with the expected addition of a million more people and 600,000 more jobs. We'll have more than our fair share happening in Maple Ridge and to a lesser extent in Pitt Meadows. After that, population  growth is expected to level off.

That means that how we grow and develop our cities over the next 30 years will determine for a large part how we will live for the next few hundred years.

If Maple Ridge decides, with our present land use pattern and with our soon to be adopted Transportation Plan, that we will continue to allow a significant amount of hopscotch, sprawling, inefficient greenfield and largely residential development instead of opting for contiguous, more compact and mixed-use smart growth, then an ever increasing number of residents will be car-dependent for a very long time to come indeed. That's a scary thought!

The threat of the real possibility of a failing transit referendum next Spring means that we may not be able to look forward to any significant expansion of transit and increased spending on cycling to improve the balance of options we have in our area.

In Maple Ridge we're not doing much to reduce our community Greenhouse Gas Emissions, even though the majority of present Council members a few years ago committed our City to the goal of 33% reduction from 2007 levels by 2020.

There are so many other reasons why we need to get serious about getting people out of their cars and onto transit, and walking and biking for shorter trips. Growing smarter, more efficient, is one of the most important things we can do to help convince more people to look for options in the way they get around for at least some of their trips.

There's another urgent reason why we can't keep growing the way we do: the "Infrastructure Deficit".

It's a significant and complex problem, not unique to Maple Ridge, that past and present Council members have so far not wanted to address.

Mr. Gill, our diligent penny counter at the City of Maple Ridge, has tried to warn us earlier this year. The article 'For every 'burb built, Maple Ridge pays' by Phil Melnychuk in The News seemed to generate a lot of interest. I added my two cents about it in "We need to stop Suburban Sprawl"As explained, other communities that have done the math have realized they can save many millions of dollars and significantly reduce their infrastructure deficit by growing smarter.

Why is Council still not talking about this? Is it because their constituents are still not concerned?

I think they should be, so I would like to raise the issue again, hoping that the average voter will understand we have a variety of more important things to worry about than not having some big box shopping in our community, which seemed to be the main determinant of the outcome of our last municipal election.

What's the problem? Well, when a new development gets built, the developer builds the infrastructure within the development - roads, sewer, water - and also pays Development Cost Charges to the City to pay for some of the necessary upgrades of surrounding infrastructure that are impacted by the development. Sounds good, right?

Development cost charges are provincially legislated and can only be used for things like roads, water, sewer, drainage and parks, but not for things like a new fire hall or added police services and community halls.

If you've ever taken a look at where our tax money is spent, you'll know that RCMP and fire services together make up a whopping 40% of all municipal expenses. When we approve more development and another fire hall is needed, all tax payers, including existing ones, are paying for that. Every time we build a new fire hall, if we need additional police services or we need to expand our library, all tax payers are on the hook. The more spread out and disconnected the development patterns, the more these services cost per household.

The infrastructure that's paid for by the developer is handed over to the city as soon as it's built. So now it's ours. Nice, eh?

Maybe not quite so nice once you realize that about 80% of the cost of infrastructure is in the operational budget. In other words, all tax payers pay for about 80% of the cost of the infrastructure over its lifetime. So on the one hand, it's nice that we get this gift from the developer, but on the other hand, it's a gift that keeps on taking, from all of us tax payers.

So it's essential that the long-term cost of any development application is carefully considered, in the interest of existing tax payers, but also and especially future tax payers: our kids.

Right now, the infrastructure items that appear on the municipal books as "assets" are valued at over $1.5 billion. The maintenance cost as estimated in 2006, when we had about $1.3 billion worth of infrastructure, was about $30 million per year. Of course the cost of maintenance goes up over time as more infrastructure gets built and also the cost of material and labour goes up. Looks like these "assets" are more like "liabilities"!

So are we actually paying the required $30+ million per year to maintain these assets? No, not by a long shot. We have been spending roughly one tenth of that. The good news is that, since 2008, a 1% annual cumulative tax increase is being set aside to start dealing with this Infrastructure Deficit. If we keep raising our property taxes in this manner, by 2031 we should have cut our infrastructure deficit in half. That means, in the best case scenario, it's highly unlikely that most of us would see the problem resolved within our lifetime, but if we're principled enough, we can make a significant dent in it.

However, because of our low tolerance for ever increasing property taxes, Council already caved in and reduced this increase by half last year and it'll probably be at least a few more years before we should be back to being charged the full 1% increase. To make up for some of the difference until then, we're using some of the gaming revenues.

The question is, are tax payers going to tolerate these cumulative annual increases for the next 20+ years or so, and are the increases even keeping up with the infrastructure added during that time?

What happens if we don't put enough money aside to pay for maintenance and eventual replacement? Well, roads start to crumble, and bridges will start to collapse. We've seen that for example in Montreal, and many cities in the U.S. offer frightening examples.

Like Mr. Gill says: "pay me now, or pay me much more later". If we don't look after the infrastructure now, it's going to be much more costly to fix things when they start to crumble.

My take-aways from this:

  • We need to start tackling the problem at the source: we need to stop inefficient, hopscotch sprawling development that makes more of us more car dependent and that we simply can't afford; 
  • Our new Council will need to work with other BC municipalities, through the Union of BC Municipalities, to appeal to the Province for changes in the legislative framework of Development Cost Charges and property taxes, to ensure that new development pays for the full cost, and that smart development does not unfairly end up subsidizing new dumb development, of course recognizing that the unfairness in the way existing development is taxed cannot be simply undone from one day to the next.
  • BC Municipalities can't tackle the problem on their own. Both the federal and provincial governments will need to share more of their tax revenues with municipalities as more responsibilities get downloaded by higher levels of government to municipalities. Municipalities need to band together through the UBCM to get reliable long-term funding from the province and the federal government to help pay for maintenance of the infrastructure that's the backbone of our cities and economy.

So this should give you some ideas as to questions you can ask your mayoral and council candidates!

Friday, September 12, 2014

Photos Bike to Farms ride 2014

Last Sunday we went on the second Bike to Farms ride. This was our biggest ride so far. I was hoping for at least 20 people, but we had 40! You can read about the ride in my column in the Maple Ridge News.

Here are photos taken during the ride by some of the participants:

Matt and Deanna Laity gave us a tour of their farm, which has been farmed by the Laiteys since 1879

We had a little 4H demonstration

Matt showed us how the cows are milked

On our way to Lorea's vegetable gardens

Lorea proudly shows us the fruits (or veggies) of her labour

Lorea grows many varieties of tomatoes, and we got to try some

Ken Knechtel of Red Barn Plants and Produce with a tomatillo

Some of us loaded up on fresh fruits and veggies at Red Barn

We should have taken the group photos earlier. This one was taken at Red Barn, probably an hour after the planned finish time of the ride, so a number of people already had to leave before the photo was taken.

Monday, August 25, 2014

GETI Fest 2014, Sept. 20: bike decorating, bike rodeo and much more!

GETI Fest 2014 is fast approaching. Click on the link to find out more about all the exciting stuff that's happening this year.

Of course, we're back for the 4th year in a row with our bike decorating and bike rodeo station: 

We're hoping to see lots of kids this year. Bring the kids' bikes so they can make them look great and practice their skills while having loads of fun. We have two small bikes and a few helmets available, so even if you don't bring any bikes, please drop by and use ours.

I'm excited that eProdigy will be at the Station with some electric bikes for people to try out. Electric bikes are getting quite popular, especially in places that have traditionally seen more cycling. Besides regular bikes, electric bikes offer huge potential for communities that want to start transitioning away from our over-reliance on cars onto more sustainable and healthier modes of transportation. In more sprawling communities, like Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows, with e-bikes more people will be able to bike for transportation more often, since they can more easily cover longer distances and hills are much easier to tackle. They also enable people with physical limitations to continue to stay active.

The GETI Fest volunteer coordinator is still looking for lots of volunteers. We can use some too! If you volunteer through the volunteer coordinator, a free lunch is provided. It's good to state your preference if you want to volunteer with HUB, but it's kind of nice at the same time to be flexible and have something to do all the time. The numbers of kids at our station may vary throughout the day. I've arranged with the volunteer coordinator that she will send me volunteers as I need them, so hopefully that'll work out best for everyone. Please let Chelsa know if you would like to volunteer:

To see the photos I took at last year's GETI Fest, click here.

Bike to Farms ride, Sunday Sept. 7

Join Golden Ears Community Co-op and our HUB committee for our second Bike to Farms ride on Sunday, Sept. 7. We'll be leaving from Big Feast restaurant (11920 227 St., Maple Ridge) at about 1:00 pm, and we should return there by about 4:30 pm.  

The length of the ride is about 15 kms. Here is a map of the route:

This year's participating farms are:

  • *NEW* Brookfield Farm, a historic farm owned and operated by Matthew and Deanna Laity. Lots of animals and lots of interesting stories!
  • Lorea McCready, who lives on a lovely property overlooking the Golden Ears mountains, where she, with the help of her kids, lovingly and expertly grows, and preserves, an amazing variety of vegetables and fruits to feed her family. 
  • Red Barn Plants and Produce. This is where much of the produce is grown that owners Elke and Ken Knechtel sell through their CSA program, as well as at the farm gate and at the Haney Farmers Market.
This year's ride is sponsored by the Maple Ridge Agricultural Advisory Committee.

Donations to the Golden Ears Community Co-op would be much appreciated.

For those of you who were wondering: out of safety concerns we decided not to visit Golden Ears Cheesecrafters this year, but we're hoping to once again include this yummy destination in future Bike to Farms rides once the planned multi-use path along 128th Ave. is completed.

Participants will be required to sign a waiver at the start of the ride. Of course we will all be expected to follow the rules of the road, such as wearing a helmet, riding single file when riding on the road, and pulling over when an emergency vehicle is approaching.

You can view a description and photos of last year's ride here.

My husband and I participated in the Slow Food Cycle Tour in Agassiz a few weeks ago. Same idea, only much bigger! Hundreds of people participate every year. I wrote about it in my last column in the Maple Ridge News.

It would be appreciated if you could register for the Bike to Farms ride in advance, so we have an idea how many people we can expect. Please send me an e-mail at

Friday, August 8, 2014

How a bike can change your life

The simple bicycle has changed so many lives in the past, and continues to be a life changer to many people in the present. Listen to this edition of CBC's On the Coast: Shifting Gears to hear some inspiring stories:

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Our meeting dates for the coming year

Good news! We're once again getting a free meeting room in the Maple Ridge Library from the District of Maple Ridge for the coming year! We're still getting the same room: the Alouette Room, which is upstairs.

We have one more meeting on the 3rd Thursday of the month in August, on the 21st. We'll be in Memorial Peace Park for this meeting for our annual "Pizza in the Park". So if anyone is thinking of joining us, please let me know ahead of time so I can make sure we have enough food and drink (my e-mail:

Starting in September we're back to the 2nd Thursday of the month, and our meeting schedule will be as follows:

Sept. 11
Oct. 9
Nov. 13
No regular meeting in December
No room available in January; meeting in open space area upstairs
Feb. 12
Mar 12
Apr. 9
May 14
June 11
July 9
Aug. 13

Time: 6:45 to 8:45 pm

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Katzie Slough bike tour July 19 - photos

So happy that the weather co-operated yesterday for the Katzie Slough bike tour: not too hot, not too cold, even a bit of sunshine and no rain! Couldn't ask for more!

Scott Magri, a Pitt Meadows resident who is determined to bring the slough back to life as a healthy salmon habitat after years of neglect and degradation from urban development, and Lina Azeez (Watershed Watch Salmon Society) led this tour.

There was lots of interest: 22 people participated with the bike tour.

Scott Magri and Lina Azeez

Lot of work to be done to clean up the slough and get the water flowing to turn it once again into viable salmon habitat

Scott explains to his captive audience what needs to be done at one of the stops by the slough along the multi-use path between Hammond Road and the Airport Parkway

Another stop along the Airport Parkway

At the Baynes  pump station
We finished with a picnic at Osprey Village
It's wonderful to see passionate people like Scott and Lina take on this huge but very worthy challenge. Lots of money will be needed to replace at least one of the 3 pump stations in Pitt Meadows that control water levels and flow in the slough with a fish-friendly one, so there's a lot of work ahead. 

You can find more information about the Katzie Slough Restoration Project here.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Introduction to Cycle Touring, July 8

I just received this info about a fun event organized by Metro Vancouver Regional Parks

in Pitt Meadows, Tuesday July 8, 7 - 9 pm

Learn the ups and downs of cycle-touring from an experienced tourer in SE Asia, India and Cuba.

Enjoy a laid back ride in a gorgeous park, stop along the way to learn how to pack, change your tire on-the-fly and more about the beauty of two-wheeled travel.  Must be able to ride 7 to 10 kilometres of level, crushed gravel trails. PLEASE REGISTER FOR EXACT MEETING LOCATION.

Here is the location on Metro Vancouver's website (or just go to  then Regional Parks then events):

Or call to register Mon. – Fri. 8- 4 pm 604-432-6359

Monday, June 30, 2014

Downtown Enhancement Project Phase 4 HUB comments

Our HUB committee sent the following comments to Engineering with regard to the planned "improvements" on Lougheed and Selkirk between 225th and 226th Streets.

Please find below the comments from the Maple Ridge/Pitt Meadows Chapter of HUB:

We're happy to finally see some much needed improvements for pedestrians along this stretch of Selkirk Ave.

Selkirk is a bike route. What does this mean? Is the District's goal just to get cyclists out of the way of cars (1)? Is the goal to provide a safe route for cyclists (2)? Is Selkirk supposed to be safe, convenient, fast, “all ages all abilities” (AAA) cycling infrastructure that leads to destinations (3)?

The first goal - if this is indeed the goal - is achieved for a good part with the planned changes. The car lanes on Lougheed will be less safe for cycling, since the curb lane is narrower. The result is that less cyclists will use Lougheed. It’s one of those measures that  may actually reduce cycling participation overall. It does not allow cyclists easy access to stores, plus it takes away the choice of a faster route for those who are less fast and furious than the small segment of super-athletes in our population. Reduced cycling participation is actually also not good for drivers, because the people who might prefer to bike will then also be in cars, which means more traffic congestion and more demands on existing parking.  

Cyclists are allowed to bike on the sidewalk, but we all know that some day, probably sooner rather than later, cycling on the sidewalk will be banned, as it is in most other communities. Before that happens, the District should actually work on improving cycling on all roads (not just those designated as cycling routes), especially those with destinations such as shops. Contrary to what Mr. Quinn stated during a Council meeting last year, the sidewalks will not be wide enough to “accommodate” cycling: trees, garbage cans, benches, sandwich boards etc. significantly narrow the available space.  Cyclists will get stuck behind pedestrians, and there will be conflicts, as we can see on the sections of Lougheed that have already been “improved”.

Translink (Helen Cook) is open for discussions on making Lougheed part of the cycling network. This could happen when widening of the Haney Bypass takes place. Buffered bike lanes would not only make getting around and shopping by bike more feasible for cyclists of all ages and abilities, it would reduce car speeds, and would dramatically improve the shopping experience for pedestrians. By maintaining the parking, access for cars is not reduced.

The second goal – to provide a safe route - is not necessarily achieved. Selkirk (and also other bike routes) has many 2-way stop signs. At every single intersection actually. Quite a few drivers tend to stop for cyclists to let them cross even if the car has the right of way. This can lead to very confusing, and sometimes dangerous, situations. The driver may get impatient when the cyclist hesitates, and the cyclist may feel pressured to go. Other drivers may or may not stop, and that is where dangerous situations occur.  Educating drivers may possibly help somewhat, but this will remain problematic.

Any other goals (3) that should be pursued to make cycling a more attractive option for people of all ages and abilities, such as convenience, speed and comfort are not addressed in this project.

As part of this project, perhaps a small traffic circle (button) could be considered at the intersection of Selkirk and 226th, which would eliminate the need for the 2-way stop. Eventually more buttons could be added along the bike route, making the route both faster, more convenient and safer for cyclists.
We understand that this project only involves “improvements” for this one block, and that it does not involve any improvements for cycling. This particular section of the bike route has many exits from parking lots on both sides (about 8 each in this one block). Each exit can potentially present a danger for cyclists when cars exit. Bike routes should preferably not be planned on routes with many parking lot exits (and v.v.: parking lot exits should preferably not be planned along cycling routes), which increases the potential for conflict with cars. This is something that should be kept in mind when the District-owned piece of land between 226th and 227th Streets is developed, as it should for any other development projects along bike routes.

Kind regards,

Jackie Chow
HUB: Your Cycling Connection
Maple Ridge/Pitt Meadows Chapter