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

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Open House June 26: Downtown Enhancement Project Phase 4

The District will hold an Open House on the Downtown Enhancement Project Phase 4 on Thursday, June 26, 4 pm to 8 pm at MR Municipal Hall, in the lobby area at the Dewdney Trunk Road entrance.
"This project will build on the earlier projects completed in 2011 and 2013 and support Council's goals for the revitalization of the Town Centre and add to the vibrancy of the area. The objectives of the Downtown Enhancement Projects include increasing the livability of the Town Centre, supporting business growth and encouraging future investment in the area, while enhancing the street experience for pedestrians and shoppers and the safety of road users." (note that cyclists are not mentioned here, even though Selkirk is a bike route). You can view the conceptual designs for both part 1 (Lougheed Highway from 224 Street to 226 Street) and part 2 (Selkirk Avenue from 225 Street to 226 Street) of this project.
Note that for the previous phases of this project, HUB requested bike lanes on Lougheed, since Lougheed has many shops, which are not only destinations for drivers, but also for cyclists. However, we were told that the traffic volumes are too high (some 26,000 cars per day), and since Lougheed Highway is not part of the cycling network (we feel it should be!), no improvements such as bike lanes were necessary for cycling there, and the widened sidewalks would "accommodate" both pedestrians and cyclists. It's obvious that there is a problem with designing for cycling on the sidewalk right in the town core, and Council recognizes that. That's why a review of the Highways and Traffic by-law where it allows cycling on the sidewalk was recommended in a recent staff report and will likely be done in the near future. Council will need to decide whether Lougheed should continue to be just a major traffic sewer, or a shopping street, and this decision should be reflected in whether the road will accommodate people (including both pedestrians AND cyclists) or just cars. Perhaps this could be a somewhat longer term vision: when the Haney Bypass gets widened to 4 lanes all the way to Kanaka Way, 2 car lanes on Lougheed in the Town Core could be re-allocated for buffered bike lanes, which would dramatically improve the shopping experience and vibrancy of Lougheed. Parking can be preserved, and possibly serve as a buffer between bikes and moving cars.
As to Selkirk, it takes more than just drawing a line on a map to make a street into a good bike route. Good bike routes have as few stop signs and (non priority) intersections as possible. Selkirk, as it is now, has many intersections with 2-way stop signs to navigate. The fact that traffic is increasing on the north south routes and will continue to do so in the future, further decreases the quality of this bike route. In my experience, many drivers stop for cyclists who are trying to cross even when they shouldn't stop. This makes it actually more dangerous to cross since other drivers may not stop and everything becomes more unpredictable and confusing.
Pedestrian access on this particular section of Selkirk is particularly poor. On the south-west side, at the intersection with 225th, there's some hydro and whatever else poles that completely obstruct the short section of sidewalk. Further east there is no sidewalk on the south side. On the north side, the sidewalk only runs part of the way going west.
Pedestrian access going from Haney Place Mall parking lot at Thrifty's to the Scotiabank shopping plaza v.v. is terrible and should be improved.

Here's the link to the multi-modal transportation network map for the Town Core.
Please consider attending the Open House and giving your input.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Column: Connected bike path a pleasant ride

Our latest column in the Maple Ridge News:

Some people have named the new multi-use path along Lougheed Highway the “Bike Path to Nowhere,” since they seem to think that it abruptly stops and there’s nowhere else for cyclists to go.
You may be surprised to know the path is actually the link that finally completed the 117th Avenue bike route and it does lead to several destinations.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Pitt Meadows Day: free bike parking and draw for free bike tune-ups!

If you're planning to go to Pitt Meadows Day (Sat. June 7), consider taking your bike! The new Pitt Meadows Active Transportation Committee is offering free bike parking from noon till 5:00 pm.

You can read about the chance to win a free bike tune-up, offered by Pitt Meadows Cycle,  in this e-mail.