Friday, 10 February 2017

Common offenses

I've been reading quite a bit about restorative justice, traffic offenses and how the UK and Dutch police operate, and I'd like to come up with some ideas for North America in particular but they can apply anywhere really.

A lot of people claim that automatic cameras used for traffic offenses are cash cows first. For some situations that might be true, but in a well designed road system that should not happen. Fines should be based on income proportionality. It should also issue tickets to the actual driver, not the owner of the vehicle. It should tack on demerits and community service to the offender, and potentially be able to catch suspendable offenses and offenses worthy of traffic education if they are unlikely to be cash cows. Road design must also be attempting to deal with the problem as much as possible without cameras, a speed limit appropriate for the type of road, like a 130 limit on a rural freeway and in a 30 km/h zone, a road that looks like it should be that slow, ideally bricks, a narrow roadway, speed bumps, etc. Speed limits on rural highways and high speed roads should also be based on average speed over something like 1-2 km not one point. Traffic lights should be visible from a long distance or if it must have a blind curve, use advance warning signals, non signal control options like roundabouts should be used if possible, and at times of low traffic, the signals should if possible go to flash mode. 

In the US especially these days, but also to be fair some other places in the world, racism among police is an enormous issue. 600 unarmed people shot by US police? Really Americans? This is what your "Sworn to protect and serve" officers have come down to? I have some disputes with the BLM protests in some areas, you can have separate marches for victims of gay people after Orlando and unarmed black people shot by cops, but they did come up with a website full of some quite useful ideas on having a police system that is very accountable. Link here I like them. Norwegian police don't carry guns on their belts. I think that you could adopt similar techniques, possibly even in gunland crazytown America (sorry, I know there are pacifists in the US, but come on, hundreds of shootings since Sandy Hook and still nothing?), and even I feel less safe when police officers in my own city carry pistols. 

Proper road design in general prevents a lot of traffic offenses from happening. Yield signs combined with good physical design makes yielding correctly easy and without the need of fully stopping to be safe. There's no reason to fully stop 100% of the time at most stop signs, they should all be really well reviewed. Only when you really cannot have anything else should a stop sign be used. Bike lane intrusion wouldn't happen so often if most of the time where bike lanes are used, there were cycle tracks instead, ideally with a physical verge not just a stepped track. 

Drunk and drugged driving is something I talked about before, but it's especially important now given the opioid epidemic. Opioids by their nature are CNS depressants just like alcohol is, but they tend to be rather more strong per gram. Many are legally prescribed these and forget that they don't just make you feel less pain, they also slow you down. YOU CANNOT DRIVE UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF OPIOIDS EITHER! Benzodazapines as well do this, I even have a legal prescription for a benzodazapine called lorazepam, also called ativan. Benzos are also depressants and will impair your driving for a significant amount of time after you take it. Cannabis legalization is getting more and more popular, rightly so in my opinion, and more people are using it, thankfully mostly in reasonably safe ways, but a lot of people are discussing the effects of driving while stoned. It still causes acute impairment (I am thinking delta nine tetrahydrocannabinol, I don't know whether these effects also apply to the non psychoactive version called CBD or cannabidol), doubling your risk of a crash, roughly the same as .05% BAC of alcohol, and a lot of people might smoke and drink at the same time which causes much more impairment than either will alone. Have someone else drive for you who is sober, and while I wouldn't arrest you for cycling drunk or stoned, you also should not do that, and can lead to significant risks like hitting a bollard which is not nice. 

I like a model similar to what we have in Canada. I'd put it at .05% to .10% BAC (and equal impairment levels for other drugs) to be given a civil suspension like we have today, 3 day suspension 3 day vehicle impoundment, and more time on each for repeat offenses, plus a traffic class and community service for something like 6 hours. If you get caught a second time around, you must install a breathalyzer in the car. If you go over .10%, then you get the breathalyzer installed automatically when you get the license back, even for the first offense. I don't know of any breath based analysis systems for similar drugs or something like a quick reacting saliva tests that is expendable, but if there is one, one of those should also be installed if you are caught with other drug impairments. Above .10% you'd also get more criminal like penalties, like probation and perhaps an e tag with a ban on going to the bar and have limits on how much alcohol or other drugs you can buy in any say 2 week period. I don't believe in prison anymore, and so of course something else must be done, but these are measures I believe would be effective. 

If you look at the way we get around though, it should be fairly obvious why people do drink and drive in the first place. It's hard to get around in other ways, especially if your designated driver happened to leave for some other reason before you. Having an urban design plan that had public transport, cycling and walking connections to your home in good order and where the pubs and bars are reasonably close to the homes, then you would be much less likely to think of driving drunk in the first place, or coffeeshops or whatever other impairing drug consumption sites there are in your community like supervised injection sites. The drink cycling rate in many Dutch cities is very high (and I should point out that it's mainly tourists actually who regularly use marijuana, I mostly heard English with non Dutch accents being spoken from outside the coffeeshops I cycled past in Amsterdam), but it's a lot less drink driving. To even get out of the parking spot in Amsterdam is tricky if you are drunk, it's not going to be easy to get all the way home, and it's just maybe a kilometre away, why risk a whole car when you can walk?

As for hallucinogens, a lot of people thankfully are aware that you mustn't drive while hallucinating for obvious reasons. But LSD only causes hallucinations above a certain point, a common tripping dose is 100 micrograms (also called ug). A trend these days is to take sub tripping doses for relaxation purposes among other purposes. I don't think that this is especially useful unless you can be absolutely certain of how pure and concentrated the drug you get is, but because this causes no visual effects, the question is whether you can drive (or cycle or walk well) on it? I am not certain about this given that people react differently to different drugs, heck even 600 mg of caffeine in the morning (yeah, that was not a good day for a lot of coca cola) one day didn't affect me at all when others would react very differently, but given that LSD is also a bit of a depressant and anxiolytic, I suggest caution. There is always a principle in law that says that if you are unsafe to drive, even if you are below the normal legal limit as defined by blood alcohol content or THC per millilitre of blood content or whatever, then you can still be charged with a DUI. Given how it's impossible to truly know by looking at it how much LSD is in a tab or juice or whatever and how different people respond differently, the best test is a field sobriety test in my opinion. Can you recite prime numbers backwards from 100, can you stand on one leg effectively, do you follow another person's eyes, etc.

Stimulants are similar. They don't have any properties I'm aware of that will automatically entail impairment like being unable to see, but they can for some people and especially the higher the dose, cause anger and aggression, jitteriness and being unable to sit still. Again, field sobriety is probably your best bet, especially knowing how impure cocaine and methamphetamine often are (this doesn't apply for adderall or caffeine, but they have the same aggression, jitteriness, etc properties). This also goes for 3,4 metheylenedioxy N methamphetamine, molly/ecstasy, although given that it's often cut with other drugs, apply the same reasoning to other stimulants. Jitteriness, inability to sit still, especially in higher doses, and overdoses are concerns that you should keep in mind when getting home. And I also should point out that a lot of people who use cocaine are also drunk at the same time, (and this also happens to go for caffeine as well). Stimulants do NOT counter the effects of drunkeness on your ability to drive. In fact, cocaine and alcohol combined form cocaethylene, which impairs you even more. Not a good combination with a steering wheel in your hand, even a bicycle handlebar is not something you should do either. 

Phone use while driving is quite common, hundreds of thousands of tickets, even though the risk rate is something like 23 times the normal risk rate, equal to over .20% BAC. Similar penalties for drink driving are appropriate, and being required to install an app to prevent it from happening again can be invented and installed like breathalyzers. Should be quite effective once the technology can be nailed down and being seen as dangerous as drunk driving. 

Also, the penalties are often less important than getting caught for it. It's why even though the US kills people who murder, they have a lot higher rate than Norway, and same with other offenses for that matter. It's why automatic cameras, when used correctly, are so much more effective than even high penalties. Having auto cameras to deal with common offenses, breathalyzers and phone apps for dealing with drunk driving and distracted driving respectively and strong police enforcement, ideally not one having to deal with so many repeat offenders in the criminal justice system nor a drug war to enforce, is going to do more for us than things like doubling fines. 

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Economic development, taxes, fietsstraaten and Edmontonian roads

It's been a while since I made my last blog post, sorry about that (insert Canadian apology joke here), but I've been seeing how well I adjust to my new high school my (attempted) relationship with a girl and doing more activism related to the US presidential election (I know that it isn't my country you Americans in the viewer list, but what you do affects the rest of the world and not just by invading places like Iraq, thrice, and Nicaragua). I've also been doing more research into blogs like on many subjects.

I also did some more cross section profiles of suburban arterial roads, seeing how much space where was left over, and remembering what I knew about fietsstraaten from the Netherlands and the dimensions of the kind of stores that StrongTowns suggests, about 10-25 metres per side and multiple levels if possible directly affronting the sidewalk, it made me wonder. Could we actually put those buildings in without acquiring land?

As it turns out, yes. Most of the arterial roads in Edmonton except quite old ones are between 32 and 55 metres wide, which is actually just enough to put down the design I like. Here is a sample design, based on a 35 metre wide profile:

As you can see, I put a 16 metre wide placeholder on one of the sides. This is actually just enough for a fairly wide array of uses. It can have an apartment building, 6.1 metre long apartments on either side of a central hallway. It can have commercial structures, a bike store for example or groceries, offices, tailors and barbers, and it's relatively easy to reconfigure the inside structure if a business goes broke. And they can be on multiple levels, 2-4 is an ideal number here. Big box stores aren't like that, they have a very specific business model, it cannot be changed easily. Oh, and I might add that a 50 metre wide road designed like that, and many arterial roads have widths of 50 metres including the clear zones, can have these sorts of buildings on both sides of the road, doubling the return. 

Also, think about history. How long have these small businesses been around? Thousands of years, if something was wrong with them, don't you think that we would have come up with a better idea, and why would the Dutch stores built like this continue to not be replaced if they were so good, they have good education. It's not like they're not open to change after a long history in something, they revolted against the Pope in the 1500s, and that trend continues today just with less mass murder, and that's far more significant a change for an individual than a company which of course is motivated by money and the most efficient means of getting it, not crosses and the Yin and Yang. 

Of course in relation to the big box style of business, I'm leaving out the elephant in the room, how much space must be devoted to parking. It's not called an ocean of asphalt for nothing. In the area covered by the Walmart parking lot closest to my house, with 61 thousand square metres, in a 4 story apartment block that big, you could fit several thousand people living full time in 50 m^2 apartments. Of course it also makes it more attractive to drive, as well as making the distances further away, especially given that they compete to a level we've never seen before with the traditional model of store. It also contributes massively to the area that is not permeable to the ground without a real use above the ground, contributing to floods. 

As you can see, we have a major problem with these large box style businesses and I haven't even gone into the realm of worker's rights in developing countries and how hard it is to use consumer power to force them to chose between ethics and going out of business by having a less automatically loyal market and less competition and more consumers to cover risks. 

But what to do about it? 

As you saw, I made a cross section showing a 35 metre wide street with this sort of business on it. But isn't that contradictory to the idea of the stroads I have rallied against before? Not really, it's a small scale road without the high speed design of roads involved That can be downgraded in width and speed, down to 50 km/h. It wouldn't affect all distributors, some would remain 2-4 lane divided 70 km/h urban through roads with much less complexity and no direct access and no new businesses facing the road. But most of the distributors in Edmonton would be like that. I also would save enough space to provide things like roundabouts to prevent a common problem with minor side roads. 

I also know that many of you will be concerned about the congestion that can arise from going from 4 to 2 lanes. But as I've said before, the number of lanes actually has a lot less to do with traffic capacity than you might think. The main reason congestion happens is because of a slowdown somewhere, be it a merging car, a crash, a bus stopping outside of a roadside bay, a traffic light or stop sign, or a long delay for a turning vehicle, many of which could be avoided with the downgrade. Of course there would be fewer stretches of road where you could actually need to merge or diverge anywhere or change lanes, there would be room for roundabouts which reduce crashes, even the property damage only crashes which also contribute significantly and makes the road able to handle more cars than a traffic light. There would be room for bus stop laybys, and turning lanes would be lessened by the use of roundabouts for turns and service roads for most of the remaining turns. 

Also, remember, that these sorts of streets would be much more conducive to the use of cycling and walking and even transit. There would be safer provisions for making these streets, successful fietsstraaten in the Netherlands with sufficiently low speed and volume of motor vehicles are very pleasant to ride on as are of course the cycle tracks, I rode on several in the Netherlands including a very nice canalside one in Utrecht, walking would have fewer traffic lights, subjective safety and without feeling like cars were passing you closeby even though you had your own sidewalk, and a walk that felt like you were passing interesting sights and feeling faster by passing more buildings rather than just seeing endless parking lots and huge businesses, the same actually goes for cycling too. Distances would be shorter for the most part due to the higher density and the lessening of independent zones for living, working and selling, including common non food amenities like libraries, theatres, barbers and clothing. This alone would generate something like a 20-50% reduction in the rate of car usage, which could easily drive a street that had say 30 thousand trips, requiring 2 lanes per direction, to maybe 19 thousand, which could be handled by one lane per direction easily. 

Existing businesses do not have to go away. I saw many McDonald's in the Netherlands, they just occupied the first one or two levels in a store depending on how popular they are. I saw many chain stores too. It's just that it isn't the default option and local businesses can be easier to pop up and with more variety. My dad works in an office that could easily work in the space of a one person apartment, imagine how many small companies could work here in a space something like 4-32 times bigger (including the added number of floors, and this is per building), and none of the employees work in the high density method of cubicles that offices often use. 

Oh, and I imagine that many of you are snickering, thinking that rebuilding the road would cost far too much. It's actually far more affordable than you think. Just focusing on the property taxes alone, they are massively improved. I did some math and found that the taxes per square metre that Walmart pays in Grand Rapids Michigan was so much lower than a one level tiny art store that if you even had such small businesses with so little use of that art gallery, let alone the highly productive streets seen in Amsterdam, would make reworking the street to entice that development would repay itself within a single year through property taxes. And they pay this for a long time, to the tune of billions more per city, which would make the transformation to Dutch style streets almost comically quick. And given that this is just property taxes, think about business license fees. I looked it up on the city`s bank of PDFs (oh the things you find, I never knew some of the businesses that Edmonton officially licensed before), and found that for the space of one Walmart store that, parking lot included, 65 thousand square metres, you could fit 130-260 businesses in that space, which despite the lower rate for being minor on retail, would give in between 30 and 60 thousand dollars per year, that one Walmart would pay 460 dollars per year. Even going by storefront's per km, the small stores would earn about triple in business licensing fees alone. 

And you can of course chalk up all the other money saving measures, less snow to clear for one, less covering the cost of expansion, having to deal with so many cars which costs the healthcare system a tremendous amount of money via pollution, laziness and crash victims, more enticing atmosphere to cycle, including children cycling, so less spending on school buses. Each time the police, fire department and ambulance department is called, sometimes all at once, to a car crash, it`s incredibly expensive, we`d save tremendously by rebuilding our roads like this by just avoiding the costs of the emergency responders and police being deployed. Crashes would be avoided by having a lot fewer conflict points, having separation of masses, speeds and directions better, lower speed where the conflict points remain and by controlling speed effectively via roundabouts, editing the width of the storefronts so as to have some of them jutting out more, some less, that would begin to influence the curve of the distributor road and alternating the side of the road that parking is on that would affect the 30 km/h access road, as well as raised intersections and crossings and narrow lanes, plus optical narrowing and smaller clear zones. Trucks don't have to be so large to provide for these companies and homes, smaller, and especially electric these days, vans, and smaller trucks, are used more often instead of the bigger trucks and so that saves on the damage to the road and it's repair, and the damage to the road in general. 

It`s saving us a lot of money that isn`t all that obvious, but it`s real, even on the side of the expenditures on the part of the government alone, think about how much more indirect money we`d get from parents being able to let their children be independent, freeing them up to do more things that they want, perhaps including working better and shopping as they please. They'd spend less money on cars and their fuel, even if they had an electric, and that can be diverted into consumer spending, which is one of the biggest if not the biggest driver of consumer growth, in fact the lack of it caused the Great Depression in the US and kept making it a more vicious circle. People would be able to keep more of their money too and companies would have more incentive to keep their workers well paid and by having a structure that avoids the ease of paying CEOs and top dogs much more than lab rats, er, I mean employees, that also increases average income. But the worker also does more with boosts of energy that employees who cycle tend to receive if they do it. Schoolchildren also get that boost of energy which makes them better students and eventually leads to them being able to go and do more things for the economy. All of these income sources can be taxed I might add, even without changing the actual rates, we'd be by far better off for roads designed like these. 

If you've ever been to Amsterdam, and if you haven't, you need to go online and book yourself a room to go there now (believe me, it's safe and it's not all about the red light district which is much a much smaller part of Amsterdam than you think it is), and compare the experience of riding a bike, walking, if you're determined enough to drive there, and even just feeling the street, which one would you rather use? Which one feels more people friendly, like you have the freedom to go where you chose and live close to your work, school, and the other chores like groceries and books? Which one, provided that you didn't have a slow father who needs to ride with you, feels like you can feel safe walking at any time of the day that you chose, even at night? 

I see no reason to fail to adopt these types of roads. I dare you to try and find one. 

Tuesday, 20 September 2016


I'm going to pause my blog post production.

I have already covered a lot of what the Dutch do to make roads safer, I might find inspiration later, but for now, given my desires to focus more on school and a girl I like (there are two types of people, those who can extrapolate from incomplete information ...), I'm going to leave all of these videos and posts up, but I'm going to take a bit of a break.

Until then, go and do something like read the other blogs I suggest, go on a Terry Fox run in a couple days and continue to speak your mind to those you know about roads and making them better. Hope to find inspiration again soon!

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Cheap ways of having cycle infrastructure short term

No doubt many of you have heard of the time it supposedly takes to have Dutch streets and that it's expensive. I agree, it would take time and a lot of money to make it happen. And political will, especially in a city like Edmonton, is very weak for cycle infrastructure. Our city council pathetically removed cycle lanes on a road to make it four lanes. It had less than 7 thousand vehicles per day and never more than 1100 per hour.

I wondered whether we could use anything cheaper so that we could build political will and raise the commitment. I believe there is.

There are several main components of getting our boom.

  1. The right bicycles. We don't have many Dutch bikes, but there are a number of designs that at least will work in the short run. My dad wondered whether I'd like this model: before I found the model I have today. It's not perfect, not like the bike I have, but add a wheel lock and pair it with a chain or cable plug in lock and some dynamo lights and it actually works very well. Get a studded front tyre for winter and it works well enough for that weather too. The final solution would cost maybe 500 dollars a bike and it's not an unreasonable expenditure for a person, worth half a year's worth of bus fare and half of the cost of my insurance as a driver. 
  2. Helmets cannot be promoted any longer as the means of cycling safety. Neither can high viz jackets or vehicular cycling on fast and busy roads. The police should also be made to enforce the under 18 provincial helmet law in the way that San Francisco almost enabled Idaho stops (mayor of SF, what were you thinking!?). 
  3. We must be willing to invest money. A lot of it. Along the lines of about 50-75 million dollars per year. But given that this is about 55-80 dollars a person per year in Edmonton, that's not that expensive. It's worth about 12 km of divided four lane highway, not counting interchanges. 
  4. We would use temporary curbs, like the kind you see in parking lots to keep you from hitting the sidewalk, still made of concrete, as well as paint and 1000 each bike signals and sensors and signs to create protected intersections, sometimes simultaneous green intersections, and those same kinds of curbs, planter boxes and plastic flex bollards, plus paint and signs, to create protected cycle lanes (not full cycle paths), paint and signs to create some cycle lane, mainly on narrow and low volume collector roads and as optical narrowing on 30 kmh zones. Sharrows, raised sinusoidal humps and volume control to make fietsstraaten in some cases, usually on service streets next to the main road. 
  5. Using bollards, (spaced 1.8 metres apart so as to allow big bikes to come through) and paint as volume control and curb extensions, paint to make zebra crossings and speed tables and optical narrowing to make 30 km/h zones, it makes streets much nicer. 
  6. On existing shared use paths, the curb ramps are realigned to be square to the direction of travel and to be made of asphalt with no upstand, rebuild intersections to have the cycleway crossing model where no dismounting is needed and you have clear bicycle specific signals, and stripe them so as to make them miniture roads for bikes only that you are technically allowed to walk on. Also, if pedestrian volumes ever get to the point where they interfere with the speed of cyclists, the shared use path shall be widened from the minimum of 3 metres to between 4.8 and 6 metres and the footway will be demarcated with this: kerb: curb.
  7. Get rid of the stop signs and replace them with yield signs. 
There is another essential element to this. We must only make this phase temporary. It must be an integral part of the plan that is not negotiable to only last 1-3 years. We begin the full scale reconstruction to cycle paths like the F59 that Mark Wagenbuur recently explained, and I memed, that goes between S'Hertogenbosch Centraal and Oss Station right after. We'd already begin to see changes like that at intersections and little bits ranging between 5 metres and 150 metres where you couldn't otherwise provide cycleways without editing the curbs. 

Assuming a budget of 60 million dollars per year over three years (180 m), we can spread it out over the following:

  1. 46.875 million to pay for 5000 km of protected cycle lanes, assuming 15 thousand per kilometre
  2. 8 million for 10 thousand kilometres of access road, assuming 8 speed humps per kilometre and 100 dollars a hump. 
  3. 3200 kilometres of higher volume access roads using painted bike lanes, 10 thousand dollars per kilometre of cycle lane, 20 million dollars.
  4. 5000 access restricting bollards, each 50 dollars. 250 thousand dollars.
  5. 1100 intersections updated to protected intersection design, 50 thousand dollars per intersection, 55 million total.
  6. 40 thousand bicycle racks to hold up the wheel, each 120 dollars for three bike slots. 4.8 million.
  7. 1000 new raised and median refuged zebra crossings, 5000 each, 5 million dollars.
  8. 40 new cycle/pedestrian underpasses/overpasses to bypass difficult crossings, 1.5 million each. 
This brings us up almost exactly to our 180 million dollar target. Already there is an enormous network of protected cycleways and 30 km/h low volume roads so that you never cycle with fast, over 30 km/h, or busy, over 2000 vpd, traffic, it funds tens of thousands of new bike racks, calmer residential streets without the possibility of rat running or shortcutting and it's very hard to speed, pedestrians have many new safe crossings, cyclists nor pedestrians have to deal with many crossings that are just too dangerous to take on, like major freeway interchanges and huge roads. And this is in just 3 years, less than a council cycle or a budgetary cycle. It would take longer, more like 8-12 years to build it full term like the Dutch did with permanent infrastructure, but it makes it so that no street requires you to give up either speed or safety to cycle, the biggest turn off, and it makes it faster by removing stop signs, a huge barrier for many people, removes upstands at crossings, makes it so that intersections are complete, logical and not a delay. It will be transitioned out, but in the meantime, cycling can easily skyrocket, probably by at least 15% if not more, and this is just with temporary infrastructure (that everyone knows is temporary) and not even everyone having gotten used to the idea that cycling can work for everyone and it not being quite as convenient as the Dutch. Edmonton is larger, but most people can use cycling for at least some trips. Most people live within 7.5 km of their shopping area and many live within this distance of their workplaces and almost all elementary and most junior high school students and some senior high school students live within this distance of their school. Most university students live within this distance. Most people can find some use of cycling.

All it takes would be 60 million dollars per year, and this is including extra pedestrian crossings and large grade separations, even bike racks, so we're going the extra mile with it. It costs a tiny amount per person, $63.15/person/year is childsplay. I mean, how much McDonalds do you have per year? Far more money spent on that I imagiine. You can get maybe 20 beers for that price. I'm pretty sure that you can live without that per year. It's a tank of gas less per year. If you even just replaced a tenth of your journeys, maybe even less than a twelfth of your journeys with cycling, you'd see no price difference. A choice that is very easy to make. Paying for 4 bike helmets for a family of 4, replacing every two years, costs as much as this. For the amount of money we spend on bike helmets that we almost never use (not because we ride without helmets all that often, it's that we don't usually ride often, or at all), we could pay for it. For the amount of money we are spending on Vision 0 billboards and other educational campaigns we can afford this. If we could even save 8 lives, that economically would cover it, and I'm not even counting how much we'd save by not having nearly as many serious injuries. Of course I'm not even getting into the pain, suffering and loss of life and connections from the victims of these crashes. It would be pennies compared to what we spend on the roads. There is no reason why we should not do this. Get your heads out of the myths and stop bashing them on the ground and on car bonnets, and start thinking with your brains, not your anger detection lobes!

August 22 Update

I thought about it for a second and realized that there's no way that even remotely close to that many km of access road needs optical narrowing with cycle lanes, so just consider it used for cycle lanes on occasion but also for painted curb extensions (well, there would be something like armadillos or plastic potted plants) and alternating the side of the road that parking happens on to make the cars go slowly in a tight curve around it, alternating about every 75 metres or so, making speeds over 30 km/h impossible. Other means would be using bollards and a speed hump with a cyclist bypass like this in Utrecht:,5.1110724,3a,75y,158.67h,81.65t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sL74sgzP0_i_vBXq_asWf6g!2e0!7i13312!8i6656?hl=en.

Works well, but small roads would become safe places for everyone regardless.

Sunday, 31 July 2016


Goedemorgen nederlands, het is 10 AM en ik fietsen op Amsterdam op 30/07/2016.

As you could tell from the first line, I had my first day of cycling, first day in general, of cycling in Amsterdam. And it was truly amazing. Even aside from the fact that I never needed to wear a helmet or feel like the cops were just around the corner waiting to fine me, I could cycle for tens of kilometres and want to keep cycling for over 10 hours (with a few short breaks, including trying to find my bicycle in a whole crowd of parked bicycles). I probably went at least 25 km of riding in that day. It was pretty relaxed too. 

The biggest stresses come from the same reason they would be stresses back home or anywhere else really, having to share with dense and large traffic. There were some portions where there were illegally parked vehicles, usually vans for no particular reason at all (you know who you are you annoying van drivers) and so I had to overtake them using the car lane (I never saw any four lane roads in Amsterdam), sometimes there was only a bike box and trixie mirror, and sometimes I had to get off and walk because of roadworks, but overall, it was far more comfortable (although some waiting time indicators and more roundabouts would be nice) than anywhere in Edmonton. Cycle lanes were generally wide and normally on relatively low volume roads otherwise where there was a genuine incapability of using anything else for cycling. 

The brick roads were nice, although they were sometimes a bit old, and especially with the need of replacing tile with brick on the cycle tracks) 

I got to experience the protected intersection for the first time in my life, found it to be even better than expected. Actuating the signal was much easier because the system was installed specifically to make it easy to push for cyclists, not to be used by pedestrians or dismounted cyclists. I also saw the roundabout with the tramlijn 3 through it, Mark Wagenbuur filmed that a few years ago, link here: BicycleDutch Amsterdam Roundabout. I liked the roundabout quite a lot, although I didn't like the sharp corners that I had to make to get onto the circle and I could never be sure whether the cars were going to give way. I liked the waiting time indicators, also when they were used for pedestrians (something we could immediately adopt in Edmonton, it would not be difficult). 

Public transport also felt like a joy. The trains from Haarlem to Amsterdam were fast and efficient, up to 130 km/h, there was WIFI on the trains, I could use the same card to pay for both the train and the tram I rode, and the tram often had reserved lanes with actual curbs to keep cars from intruding upon it as much, with signal priority, and priority even at that roundabout, it felt very comfortable to ride. 

Amsterdam also felt like a place where even at 11:30 at night, I could walk around a hundred metres ahead of my dad without feeling scared, I could even talk with someone who had tried cannabis in a pleasant way at the McDonalds. The street lighting was good, there were plenty of people around, and people weren't violent. All this even with the drunk and stoned people around, and roughly the same proportion of people who were drunk/stoned on their bicycles. Hey, at least they aren't driving drunk, and as long as you can balance on a bicycle, you should hopefully get home safely to sleep off your booze (although you should still wait until the booze has worn off before you try to cycle anywhere). Or party some more. I got back to my hotel after 1 AM, and the walk from Haarlem Central to the hotel, even over a kilometre, felt fine to me. 

No doubt you will ask whether I indulged in the tolerance of Amsterdam. Not in the sense that they tolerate people for who they are, I'm a straight man who is male and white, so nothing about me would stick out in Amsterdam (except that I know only basic phrases in Dutch), the other recreational options. Actually, no, I didn't. I'm 16, you have to be 18 to get cannabis unless your doctor is prescribing you some for something like a herniated disk, a condition that I don't have, and nothing would get a coffeeshop closed faster than selling to under 18s. Although I did buy some fries (without mayo though. How do you Dutch and Belgian people stand mayo on your fries?) from a place that also sold cannabis (I didn't look that carefully at the cannabis, but I think it was just the plant and brownies and other edibles, not joints). Amsterdam also happens to be the first place that I ever smelled marijuana (which isn't a bad smell IMO, it's the cigarettes I can't stand), not that smelling it can make you high, it is a distinct smell that I never knew before (probably for the better). I could have visited a hooker (21 to be one, 16 to buy from one in the Netherlands), but I'm not interested in a hooker, why would you when you could form a relationship with someone you could love back home (especially given that you have more options, like where you go, at what time of day, if you just want snuggles that night or something more intense, etc)? One of the sex workers did try to honeypot me though, nice try but no cigar. For the same reason why I can't get cannabis, I didn't try any Heineken, you'd have to be in Belgium for me to legally get that. Yes I know that it's a bit prudish and that most of the locals have had (usually somewhat dilluted) alcohol from a much younger age, but better that than someone who gets fined by the police (also Health Canada advises against even a millilitre before the age of 15, I haven't even had a millilitre in my life, and extreme moderation even into your twenties). 

I'm going back for more cycling and exploring in Amsterdam today, hopefully the traffic won't be too bad and the weather will be nice. Tot ziens je blog kijkers! 

Monday, 25 July 2016

Sorry for not posting and some quick numbers

Hi. Sorry I haven't posted in a month. I've been going through a lot with me being now a 16 year old and with the biggest news of all. I'm going on a trip to Northern Europe. And yes, I will be going to Amsterdam. No, I will not be smoking pot while I'm there. You have to be 18 to do that (and I kinda don't want the kind of experiences that some report even if I have a better chance of dying off of going up my staircase). I will however be cycling. Only an idiot tries to drive through Amsterdam in a private vehicle.

I will be posting quite a lot while I'm there, I'm going to be experiencing Dutch cycling for the first tie in my life, sorry David if you're reading this, a study tour is not something that my dad is planning, I'm going to be cycling in London UK, Europe (for now), on their new protected cycleways, taking a bullet train for the first time in my life at 300 km/h, my first ever trans continental plane trip. I leave soon.

To get your taste buds tantalized, I created a list with some quick numbers. I thought about the statistical cost of car crashes in Edmonton and it was quite surprising what I found. More than a quarter of a billion dollars every year. And this is on the way low end of the estimates, some put it at over a billion for Edmonton alone. I wondered what would happen if we got all of that crash money and did something useful with it. Enjoy:

278.76 million dollars costs capital region per year. What else could we spend it on?

50 million dollars for cycling, about 4000 km of paint and bollard and signed protected bike lanes (temporary) in year one and 400 km of protected bike lane to curbed cycle track conversions per year.

30 million dollars for 300 new protected intersections costing 100 thousand each

50 million dollars for 125 roundabouts each year, 400 thousand on average each,

48 760 000 dollars for 4876 new rasied zebra crossings generally with median refuge islands, 10 thousand each

50 million dollars for 5000 kilometres of new access roads per year costing 10 thousand dollars per kilometre

50 million dollars 33 new bicycle and pedestrian overpasses and underpassed costing 1.5 million dollars each

Over 4 years, one capital budget cycle and political term, we get:

1600 km of curbed cycle track and 2400 km of paint and bollard cycle track, 2/5 of the way to go for all collectors and all arterial roads.

1200 new protected intersections (unlikely to need to be this high, money can likely transfer to roundabout contstruction after the first or second year)

500 new roundabouts, some single lane and some turbo roundabouts (unlikelty to be this low as the need for traffic light junction reconstruction will likely go away after the first or second year)

19500 new raised and well marked zebra crossings.

20 thousand kilometres of 30 km/h access road.

132 new bicycle and pedestrian underpasses.

Overall, you can see that there is far too high a price to pay for our traffic crashes. We could get so much in even just 4 years, even in just one! We could be so Dutch in just four years! Incredible. But we do very little. Not even sensible ideas like these.

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Edmonton LRT. A new standard for them?

Our LRT system needs several things to make it safer and more efficient. Here are my ideas.

We need a few infill stations. One at 40 Ave and 111 St and another at the future LRT line down to Ellerslie Rd and Heritage Valley at 9 Ave N. On the North side of the line, we could benefit from a stop at 95 Ave, and on the route between Clareview and Gorman, we can put a stop halfway between 144 Ave and 153 Ave.

Second, we need a system that is safe at the level crossings. We do have a few grade separations, but not many stand alone ones. We could benefit from having one at Ellerslie Rd, 51 Ave and probably the Whitemud Drive / 111 St interchange and under under University Ave, possibly at 60 Ave as well. 112 Ave and 129 Ave also can be problem spots for traffic. They can get quite tied up, especially when a T or cross road junction is added to the mix because the left turns have to always be on a different cycle. Even at intersections without the LRT but with left turns on a separate cycle, they are better because of the lack of pre emption. Add pre timed traffic signals and it does not work very well. These grade separations also help with preventing an: LRT train, a 125 thousand tonne object that can go up to: 70 km/h, from crashing into a : car going ;0 km/h in the direction the train is moving at. They are very often severe crashes, the car or truck will be totaled, if the vehicle is a truck then the train can also be very severely damaged, and very likely someone will be killed or severely injured. We could use grade separations over 178 Ave, Whitemud Drive and 66 St, if the LRT gets expanded to the East, then under 75 St at 98 Ave and if the LRT gets extended Southeast, then 23 ave as well.

We need more lines at a much more rapid pace than we have in the past. I calculate that we have another 68 km of lines left to be planned to go through St Albert, to Windemere, to 41 Ave from Mill Woods, to Sherwood Park and to Fort Saskatchewan. Let alone the works we have already to be added. We have about 113 km in total to build, or about 4-6 billion dollars worth It doesn't need to be at once of course, and the federal and provincial governments are probably going to take up about 2/3 of the cost for a remainder of about 2 billion or so. Over 10 years worth of funding, we can contribute about 200 million dollars towards the LRT and so can the feds and province.

We need better bus connections. Seeing what buses are actually at the terminals helps a lot. And having buses that can turn around and go back and stop easier is better.

We need a bikeshare system at the stations. This is very useful for ensuring that we are always in range of our end destination, easily, on the other end of the LRT or transit.

Better speed. I know very well that our trains could go 10 km/h faster on everything than they actually do. They test the trains for 10 km/h faster. Faster, even to save seconds for a transfer, is invaluable.

Priority at junctions. We still need this, pre emption in fact. But we can have, the rest of the time, signals according to actual demand.

Just my takes. Share yours in the comments below. Bye.

Sunday, 19 June 2016

Drivers aren't evil. A review of penalties for offending drivers

I heard on the radio the story of someone who did actually drink, drive and run over a pedestrian, killing him. I want to share about my feelings on this.

Today, just a few minutes ago, I was coming home from a party for my grandfather who is amazingly still alive after all these years. I was listening to the radio. A segment about the story from a former drunk driver aired. He killed about 15 years ago, an 11 year old boy in a crosswalk. He's been having nightmares, and felt like the worst person in the world, until he committed suicide a few years ago. He was genuinely tearful.

It made me think about what happens when I get angry at people who do bad things. Most of these people aren't evil. You probably know by now who Brock Turner is. And you probably know that he was drunk at the time of the rape.

But the big difference with this drunk driver and Brock is that the driver was genuinely sorry, and came clean as soon as it is humanly possible. He's spoken out against his own behavior. He was willing to do what he could.

Some drivers, like some Brock Turners, don't admit their own guilt. These need a larger penalty, and they need to be convinced of how bad of a driver they were. It is a good idea to make examples out of these on the internet.

And some people really are incapable of driving safely, and not because of any fixable things like alcohol. Or they were so reckless so often that they have shown that they cannot prove to be safe drivers. These people should be prohibited from driving.

This is why I like penalties that correlate with the offense itself. If you go ahead and drink and drive, you need an alcolock interlock in your car that checks at random intervals for extra samples along the way. A fine that takes away a certain amount of your disposable income, also called day fines in some countries like Finland, is calculated by taking half of the money that you have on a typical day to spend on whatever is just a want, not a need, and then multiplying that by a certain number of days to account for the severity of the offense. The police google your after tax incomes and taking in certain guesses for how much money one is likely to need to spend on their expenses, then they use a mathematical formula to calculate your fine. I like the system quite a lot, especially given that it's generally those with money to spare who commit traffic offenses and not care about it.

Demerit points are a good idea, but you often need too many demerits in too short a time for people to believe that their license is in danger.

Community service is a good idea. If you can just pay a fine, even a relatively high one, it's still mainly an annoyance and lost dinner parties. If you actually have to go and spend 6 hours out of your Saturday doing things like cleaning up the park, you are not going to be happy. And you are not going to be likely to commit traffic offenses.

This part is mainly deterrence, to deter others from doing the same. It's not really doing all that much to give back. But given that they weren't actually in a crash, they didn't scare anyone and it was a violation of the rules of the road, this is OK.

The biggest thing that makes people less likely to commit traffic offenses is getting caught for them. So ramping up the frequency of enforcement is also very helpful, as are well used automatic cameras.

And of course, prevention is better than having to go and arrest the person who did cause a crash. I'd rather have no crash than fining someone who caused a crash if I had the choice. Alcolocks that are the less annoying kind that just check at the beginning of the trip are still effective, are probably a bit cheaper, can be integrated into the vehicle when it's made, reducing costs further and they also make it much harder to drink and drive.

But the biggest thing that keeps people safe is a sustainably safe road. With features that automatically enforce safe speed, forgive errors to the degree required to ensure that no serious injury nor death can occur and ensuring that any conflict that does happen, can only happen at acceptable speeds, acceptable differences in masses and acceptable differences in direction, tailor made to the tolerance of the human body and the way that our vehicle's protection systems can ensure that occupants and other road users are protected.

Enforcement is good to have, it ensures justice for the victims of road crashes and things that cause secondary effects like cars beginning a stop start wave, etc, but infrastructure is the basic thing needed to keep us alive and well.

Monday, 13 June 2016

Our transit system currently is a joke.

Today, I'm going to do a final exam for high school. And tomorrow and Thursday. And I am beginning to get really mad at the transit system.

Well, not really the people who do run it. I heard that only Edmonton and other Canadian citizens thank their bus drivers when they leave the bus.

I am really only annoyed at the people who have the funds and the decision making authority.

It takes a minimum of 85 minutes to take the bus to the school. It takes 23 minutes by car. The bus isn't very direct, with many twists and turns through the collector roads, with many stop signs to deal with. It is also pretty infrequent, showing up every half hour. And because my dad wants me to be a bus early, I have to tack on another 30 minutes to the trip time just in case. In Japan, trains leave to the 10 second or so. Average delay being 6 seconds off chart. And these are on the bullet trains, arriving every 3 minutes. Extremely punctual, you can rely on them without accounting for extra time to your trip.

Good buses and good transit is relatively isolated from things that can delay them, congestion, with reserved bus lanes or train tracks, priority at crossings with other traffic, stops that allow quick boarding and unloading. You get your ticket before boarding, and you can board from any door, and following a fairly straight line.

I also cannot borrow a bicycle at the other end of the trip. I either have to have a pre arranged bicycle at the other end, feasible only for commutes, or bring my own bicycle, something I cannot do on the train during peak hours and it's awkward to take it around on the stairs and elevators.

Incidentally, my trip could actually be built with quite simple LRT construction projects. A 2.7 km extension from Strathearn on 95 Ave and 85 St to Capilano and an already planned extension to Heritage Valley is all I need. One simple transfer at Churchill Station and I can ride the 2.5 km to the transit centre intended to be built at Ellerslie Rd. The extension on the Capilano side isn't even hard, no bridges, nothing really difficult, a rebuild of the transit centre there maybe, no demolitions, nothing problematic, no grade separations even and just 4 low floor stops.

I'm pretty sure that the system we have isn't worth $3.25/90 minutes on it. A trip like the one I need would need very nearly this entire length for a trip that can be done in less than a third the time in a car for a price of about 2 dollars in fuel costs.

Edmonton has completely failed to build transit at nearly the rate it should have. For 24 km of LRT, over 38 years to build, we get about 1.58 km per year. We twin arterial roads at a rate probably at least 10 times higher. The LRT takes about 110 thousand people per day on it. More than the Whitemud Drive did in 2014. A system that can be used by anyone, regardless of age. They can be blind and use the train. They can be less than 16 and use the train on their own. The system is essential to me, as I cannot drive a car on my own. I know that many people are sick and tired of driving, and it can be quite expensive for them. It's also quite risky. A train is incapable of leaving the tracks on a pure whim. A second of distraction will not be a problem for the train given the automatic safety systems. Parents don't want to need to drive their kids around, my mom doesn't want to drive me to the test taking place despite the ridiculous amount of time the bus takes. By making cars practically a necessity to get around for non communing and even commuting trips, it encourages car use, even in a city with an LRT line,

Cities that continue to chose this path, I have a message for you. Stop hitting your heads on the asphalt and K rails and start putting them to work making high quality transit, almost like BRT on arterials and LRT on main routes, high quality cycleways, and walking attractive. To not do so is a direct infringement of my right as a citizen to travel in Canada. By that right, it means to effectively travel, not being theoretically capable of doing so. I should be able to decide on what means I get around. Amsterdam allows all means. Edmonton is not among the cities which is effective at getting people to get around.

Sunday, 12 June 2016

What it takes to make my own neighbourhood Sustainably Safe

I created a list of all the things that would be needed to turn my neighbourhood, Blackmud Creek, into a neighbourhood of Dutch quality. It is a quite comprehensive list. I tallied up everything that from memory, we would need. I will put a link to an example with each requirement.

5.27 km of access road, with parking on one side of the road that alternates every 75 metres, with a ~4.5 metre wide brick paved carriageway and 1.8-2 metre wide sidewalks. Where possible, extra trees and plants shall be added.

1.5 km of collector road, a pair of 2.5 metre wide cycle tracks on both sides of the road on Blackmud Creek Drive to the East of Blackmud Creek Crescent and on the Crescent itself, a 4 metre wide two way cycle path on the south side of Blackmud Creek Drive to the West of the Crescent, with the collector road itself to be between 5.6 metres wide and 6.2 metres wide, with generally between 2.8 metre and 3.1 metre wide travel lanes and 2 metre wide sidewalks on both sides of the road, except within 300 metres of the school, where it would be 2.5-3 metres wide. The buffer between cycleway/footway and roadway shall be at least 1 metre, should be 1.5 metres or more if possible.

7 access closures

1 220 metre long downgrade from collector road to access road

2.5 kilometres of upgraded recreational trail to 3 metres, smooth black asphalt, with lighting and a 1 metre wide clear zone on either side,5.2422711,3a,79.1y,206.42h,70.96t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sf_YorNxQDh-6SlJUBzrQpg!2e0!7i13312!8i6656?hl=en
530 metres of upgraded, 88 metres new, cycle and pedestrian shortcut, 3 metre asphalt cycle path + 2 metre wide sidewalk in each case

1.87 km of new 4 metre wide cycle path + 2 metre wide sidewalk to be rebuilt next to Ellerslie Road and James Mowatt Trail.,5.275647,3a,49.2y,301.4h,78.17t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sIpVJ2gQ6Rmh2hjY5KxbpXg!2e0!7i13312!8i6656?hl=en

1 new safe zebra crossing (with non priority cycle crossing) at Bowen Wynd and James Mowatt Trail, may need to be traffic light controlled crossing with 5 second waiting time.,6.5113471,3a,75y,352.98h,76.08t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1srpvglb0L2dO-uPxb-PPlwQ!2e0!7i13312!8i6656?hl=en

4 new zebra crossings with raised table, overhead signage and a sharp bend with a design speed of 30 km/h, one at both ends of the trail through the stormwater pond, one at Barnes Way and Blackmud Creek Drive, and one at both junctions of Blackmud Creek Drive and Blackmud Creek Crescent,4.3848527,3a,75y,233.69h,72.28t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sTMc0fdWUMaEckyrUPUSH0w!2e0!7i13312!8i6656?hl=en

26 new pedestrian non priority crossings with dashed parallel lines perpindicular to the road, a raised table and a centre median, one at each minor side road where zebra crossings are not used.,5.1137669,3a,75y,323.51h,72.65t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1siUG3EqzHLKkz10jEoERJVg!2e0!7i13312!8i6656?hl=en

12 new bus stops with cycle parking, a 20 cm high curb, tactile markings, bench and shelter, a departure board and inset bay if mixed with general traffic, all along James Mowatt Trail or Ellerslie Road.,5.8631445,3a,73.9y,203.31h,76.97t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1s9YR8csL-LEQaake-hpSmqg!2e0!7i13312!8i6656?hl=en

14 new raised intersections at access road to access road junctions.,5.2818385,3a,75y,358.3h,69.15t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1spVu4_AblGIPQNyHQRnQKfA!2e0!7i13312!8i6656?hl=en

12 new gateway style access road to distributor road crossings with continuous footway and cycleway.

1 new single lane roundabout at Blackmud Creek Drive and James Mowatt Trail,, 1 new turbo roundabout to be built at James Mowatt Trail and Ellerslie Road.

1 new set of underpasses for vulnerable traffic users at the turbo roundabout.

New protected intersection at Ellerslie Rd and Blackmud Creek Drive.

New ban on vehicles over 3500 kg except for emergency vehicles and public service vehicles from entering the neighbourhood.

As you could see, a fairly simple list of actually relatively cheap things we can do, some things we could do in a day if we wanted to, like the no trucks and filtered permeability, painted crosswalks, and a few other things. Why don't we take simple measures to do things like this?