Friday, 27 November 2015

Imagine Jasper Ave

On Wednesday, the city held a consultation for Imagining Jasper Ave. The rebuild would happen around 2019-2020, and the concept plan to be issued next year. I attended that meeting, so if any of you got to meet me, I hope I said hello to you. I also gave one of you city officials the link to this blog, so I hope you are reading.

My vision for this area of Jasper Ave between 109 St and 124 St is a street which is car free, cycle friendly and people friendly, no car dealers, and where buses are fast and efficient.

One of the best symbols of this is how intersections at major cross streets are organized.

It has wide sidewalks, wide cycle tracks, bus lanes, and good intersection design. I will work on this some more over the next few days to explain, but this is the first part I want to show. 

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Complete Streets part 4

In my last section about Complete Streets, I combine all the elements to show what a complete street actually looks like. Lets first remember that we have to design according to function of the road. Homes and businesses on it? Access roads. Large artery? Through road. The links between the two? Distributor road. Sometimes it is impossible to separate link and place, but this is generally on the city centre arterial roads.

The city made some nice examples. . If you enjoy sub par roads that is. I made a few of my own showing what the ideal is.


And the ones I made myself. 

This means that in every situation the city guidelines suggest, I found the space for a better solution without widening it and whenever there happens to be parking, I keep at least some of it on one side of the other. And the ideals I suggest are as wide or narrower than similar proposals from the city with equal intentions of what the road is to be used for. The space is there if you look at a road as a blank slate not what it is now. If you haven't seen the other posts on this, here is the last one: https://www.blogger.com/blogger.g?blogID=6756907006054199604#editor/target=post;postID=484658135396455475;onPublishedMenu=allposts;onClosedMenu=allposts;postNum=1;src=postname.

Complete Streets. Part 3

The next part I am going to talk about is how the guides integrate transit and bicycle facilities. If you haven't seen part 2, here's the link.

This section proposes a few ideas about how to design a road to cater for cyclists and transit.

It has a table showing what to do. Lets see what it says:

At or over 20 buses per hour, you have use a dedicates bus lane plus a dedicated bike lane, or a mixed traffic lane (open to all types of vehicles). Under 20 buses per hour, you can have a dedicated shared bike/bus lane or a mixed traffic lane. At or above 60 km/h, there should be a dedicated bus lane, under it, there can be a dedicated bus lane, shared bus/bike lane or a mixed traffic lane.

All of these are terrible ideas. You have to have much lower speeds and much lower frequencies if buses and bikes could ever be in the same road space. It would be on access roads, at 30 km/h, and no more than 6 buses per hour, or one every 10 minutes. Anything above that and on some collector roads you can use bike lanes, but on everything else in urban areas, use a cycle track. You can look to London as an example of why bikes and buses don't mix. There are so many buses and a lot of bikes on some routes, and they have similar average speeds, but this is because cyclists don't stop as often but don't have a high top speed, with buses stopping frequently and having a higher average speed. In Utrecht this year, a 6 year old boy was killed while cycling and a bus hit him. It was a city wide tragedy. It's simple physics. A bus has a mass of 24 thousand kilograms, a bicycle has a mass of perhaps 100 kilograms. You'd never mix trucks and bikes like that would you?

This also does not prioritize buses well. A bus route deserves a bus lane at any more than 6 buses per hour peak frequency. The speed matters less, the volume does though. In fact, sustainable safety from the Netherlands shows that it is preferable to have buses in their own lanes because cars only have a mass of maybe 1.5 tonnes, only 1/16th the mass . In the city centre, IE Downtown, Strathcona, Garneau and the UofA, the speeds for buses could be 40 km/h, but because of the frequency, the buses deserve their own lanes. Whyte Ave has plenty of room for a cycle track, median busway, bidirectional and a pair of car lanes. Same with Jasper Ave and 109 St.

Next is how goods are transported in the city. Page 92 is particularly a problem.

It suggests that if cyclists have their own dedicated part of the street, then the travel space for general purpose traffic should have 3.5 metre lanes. This is as wide as Dutch motorway (freeway) lanes! It is extremely likely that speeding WILL occur here. Trucks are not 3.5 metres wide. They are less than 3 metres wide, usually less than 2.7. If they are traveling in more or less a straight line, they do not need so much extra space. They do need some more space at intersections, but then again, most trucks don't belong on most streets. Very few roads should be designed for semi trailers. Pretty much the freeways in the city, Manning Drive, Terwillegar Drive, 170 St between the Yellowhead and Whitemud, St Albert Trail between the Henday and Yellowhead, 75 St and Wayne Gretzky Drive, 82 St, and a couple others perhaps. Small un articulated trucks 10 metres long or smaller will serve businesses and home deliveries well. In Downtown something I found that would be useful is something that Utrecht already has, something like an electric road train that is about as wide as a man stretching out his arms left and right. Link here from Mark Wagenbuur: https://bicycledutch.wordpress.com/2012/03/28/because-we-dont-want-large-trucks-in-the-city-center/. It would be used in downtown, the UofA, pedestrianized centres and town centres. It makes it smaller, cleaner and efficient. Light commercial vehicles would transport most goods within Edmonton, and semis transport it out of Edmonton and into Edmonton. So would trains.

It suggests having truck aprons, but they are using it incorrectly. Massachusetts has it right with their separated bike lane design with the protected intersection design. Here is the picture:

Given separate signal staging or if you can't do that, something like a 10 second head start on the green light, it would minimize the risk of a right hook, particularly dangerous to a cyclist because they often have no way to predict this and stop in time. The protected intersectios design gives you the visibility to see if this is happening, makes the truck go at a slow speed, so the truck has enough time to check and cyclists time to stop if the truck will not yield. 

We often believe that big vehicles and bicycles mix. They will not. Move on from this crazy idea Edmonton! Next post here: https://www.blogger.com/blogger.g?blogID=6756907006054199604#editor/target=post;postID=7194974292925227000;onPublishedMenu=allposts;onClosedMenu=allposts;postNum=0;src=postname

Monday, 23 November 2015

Complete Streets part two

This is the part two of the Complete Streets examination. Go look at part one here: http://cyclinginedmontonfromtheeyesofateen.blogspot.ca/2015/11/complete-streets.html.

Now, we get onto what the city actually recommends on the streets themselves. The lanes for motor traffic, bus lanes, cycle lanes/tracks, and sidewalks. I know it goes into bus stops too, but I covered that here: http://cyclinginedmontonfromtheeyesofateen.blogspot.ca/2015/11/bus-stop-bypasses.html

So the city recommends sidewalks. Big surprise. But why? Because pedestrians are small, vulnerable and slow. But why do bicycles get to mix with motor traffic at speeds well above their own? They have only medium speed and are just as vulnerable, and they are small, with no protection. Not to say that pedestrians should not get sidewalks, of course they should except on the absolute lowest possible speeds and volumes, walking pace and only the residents of that very street would ever consider driving on. The Dutch have a word for this type of street, woonerven. 

The city however sets a low bar in relation to sidewalks. 1.5 metres wide. The Dutch have an absolute minimum of 1.8 metres and 2 metres is standard width, wider ones are common though, especially in commercial areas and near schools. The city (Edmonton) also believes that sidewalks at least on one side of the street can be removed if there is a shared use path instead. This is almost never done in the Netherlands in urban areas. This is because there is a mass and speed difference big enough to cause injuries when you have both pedestrians and cyclists. In rural areas there are no shared use paths. They are bicycle paths you are required to walk on if present. Cyclists come first, makes sense given the distances. But Edmonton is almost always urban, so this is mostly irrelevant. Sidewalks at intersections are also not well designed. They are somewhat accessible, with the ramp (but with the wrong angle) and semi detectable ridges, but that is all. The corner radius is also extremely wide, so mistakes about failing to yield to pedestrians is very likely. Image here:sidewalk at intersection. I made a design that really is familiar to Dutch pedestrians.

I took my inspiration from pictures like this one and this one. They are much more pedestrian friendly along sidewalks. 

Onto cycling provisions. On the introductory page, it lists what kind of treatments to apply to what road. I cringe. It says along non bike networkstreets (which is a myth. Every street must be usable in safety unless it is an expressway or freeway and it would not provide a useful link, like a ring road), there are a few options. Local: Not required. This is not quite true. It should be a 30 km/h traffic calmed low volume road. Otherwise, it is not safe enough.

Collector roads can get nothing, bike lanes, buffered bike lanes or sharrows. Sharrows are never considered the bicycle facility in the Netherlands. Some municipalities do paint bicycle logos on fiestraats, but they are never the only thing about it, it comes with the right of way over side streets, traffic calming and red asphalt to provide a smooth surface and wayfinding. And they are main routes. Bike lanes do have a place on some collector roads, but they should be used with extreme caution. If you have a street that needs buffered bike lanes, it is a street where you need a cycle track. Like these two pictures from streetmix prove: buffered bike lanesbuffered bike lanes converted into cycle tracks, the space is there. Nothing is also a bad idea. There is a large enough speed difference and collector roads have too many cars for mixing. 

It recommends for arterial roads on non bike network streets: wide curb lanes or wide curb lanes and shared use path. OK, who came up with this idea, because you have just one a one way trip to my yelling? It does not take an engineering degree to know that force equals mass times acceleration. To make it a little easier I am going to use speed, but I know that is technically incorrect. 60 km/h, times 2 metric tonnes. Not a good outcome. And you just have to ask anyone if they would be willing to cycle with motor traffic. I doubt you will find 1 good specimen of vehicular cyclists within an hour on an ordinary city street. And if you have wide curb lanes and shared use path, well now you are dual networking, making it easy for me to say that you are implying that cycling must be in two groups, fast and unsafe or slow and safe. For cycling to be any sort of useful transport, it must be fast and safe. It can NEVER be a choice between one or the other.

And even vehicular cyclists would enjoy the Dutch cycle paths (Even other paths when they are wide enough and fast enough, like this cyclist in London shows: CS2 phasing), as they are wide, subjectively and objectively safe, efficient, you bypass red lights many a time, get priority on roundabouts and minor side roads, and you get to take shortcuts that cars cannot take, even getting twice as much green time as cars on some interactions. And even if cycling was divided into those two groups, which one would be in the majority? The VCs or the slow and safe prefering ones? By far the latter, so you should design it for their needs. Roads don't have an extra lane so that cars that want to go at 300 km/h on a 60 road can do so just because a small portion of the population might want to that fast. 

On bike routes, well, not much better. Bike boulevard, sharrows and bike lanes on local access roads. Bike lanes might have their uses sometimes on access roads, but for the most part there are low enough volumes that it is safe to go in the middle of the road. Vught cycle lanes, but if you have a main cycle route through an access road, bike boulevards are best. Mark Wagenbuur made a video about this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RhfWk7B-N8Y

On collector roads, it suggests sharrows, bike lanes and buffered bike lanes. I have explained what is wrong with these before, but only bike lanes would have any potential on these roads, and if you can, cycle tracks are better than cycle lanes. 

On arterials, we have a few more options. We have cycle tracks (finally), buffered bike lanes, bike lanes, and shared use paths with wide curb lanes. I explained the problems with shared use + wide curb lanes, but bike lanes, even buffered, still have no place on arteries. There is too much speed and volume for this to be OK. Cycle tracks must be used here. 

So what does the city even set as standards for these facility types? Lets start with sharrows. 

Up to 4500 vpd and up to 50 km when cycling directly in front of cars and 60 in a side by side system. This is nowhere even remotely close to competent use of sharrows. 30 km/h is the maximum speed and up to 2000 vpd are the maximums, in fact, 4500 would earn a street cycle tracks to me, as would 50 km/h speeds (roads with bike lanes would get 40 limits). And sharrows at best can only remind drivers that cyclists can use the roads, but this sort of information is better reflected by road design, not what is on the asphalt. 

Bike boulevards are good ideas, but one of the places they suggest is a block or two off a main road. This can be more useful when the main road has no destinations right off it or there is a service street, but most of the time, the bike boulevard is being used to justify not building a cycle track/lane on the main artery which usually in the areas where there is a parallel block a hundred metres left or right, has all the commerce. By not building cycle tracks on the main road, you cannot get to the commercial areas where you can work or shop or eat. The city does suggest a separated bike infrastructure on the main road, but does not require it. There are some places these make sense. For example, when there are a pair of T intersections between two main roads with cycle tracks but they are separated by a kilomere of local access road, where the access road is a straight line. But let's look at the city's recommendations for the design. Up to 3000 vpd, 1500 preferable, preferable is OK, but there should be a maximum of 2000 vpd. Equal to or less than 40 km/h speed limit, 50 max (30 is the only safe speed where in the right volumes, cars and bikes can share on urban roads), so that needs to be lowered. Vancouver has success with 30 limits.

 It has a diagram of what can go where on a bike boulevard. Bike boxes, traffic calming, signalized crossings, etc. First, let's get rid of the bike box. There is more than enough room in Edmonton for a short stretch of bike lane which can be protected with a small curb on the approach to a traffic light. Traffic calming is good, make sure that speed bumps have sinosidual profiles for easy cycling, the right of way over side streets is important but nobody ever said that stop signs were required. What about cyclists coming from the cross street onto the bike boulevard? Signalized intersections are not required at many intersections. Here is an example of a bike boulevard crossing a main road: Den Bosch bike boulevard roundabout, and anther example at the north end: Den Bosch bike boulevard yield sign controlled crossing. Both good unsignalized intersections with minimal delay to everyone. 

Bike lanes have flaws too. First, they should be avoided in general, pretty much only useful on collector roads like the one closest to my house because I just want to keep the parking on one side to create a chicane and not anger the residents, and it has only 1000 vpd and could have a 40 limit. But if you need to build a cycle lane, you should do it right. It should be surfaced in red asphalt. Green doesn't work as well as asphalt dye, not because you can't do it, but you have to have a clear base, which is not easy to get. Ordinary asphalt can have red dye. It is distinctive but not too showy, and it keeps the colour for a very long time. This is also a good idea for cycle paths, but is required at conflict points. Second, the width must be right. 1.75 metres is the minimum in many cities across the Netherlands, and 2 metres is the standard. This is what Edmonton should follow, maybe rounding the 1.75 up to 1.8 metres. There should never be more than 2 lanes for motor traffic, maximum 2 per direction, with the addition of a left turn or right turn lane but not both, The bike lane must transition into a cycle track at major intersections, signalized intersections, roundabouts and bus stops, and preferably when there is parking or loading. This makes it possible to avoid those conflicts. There should not be more than 4000 vehicles per day, above that, cycle tracks are needed for subjective safety. The city suggests 1.8 metres as standard, and then contradicts itself by saying when the truck volume is less than 5% of the total number of vehicles, the bike lane standard is 1.5 metres and if over that, 2 metres. If the truck volume is over 5% that is worth a cycle track to me. Include buses in that figure. 

Cycle tracks are recommended in the city guidelines when the volume is over 10000 vpd, or if the speed limit is over 50 km/h, when there is extra width, on high transit or truck volumes, on frequently congested roadways and or if there is room on the left side of a one way street. It says the standard width is 2.1 metres, though it can be reduced to 1.5 metres, the standard buffer width (it does not specify what the buffer is made of, only that it has vertical separation) is 50 cm, but contradicts just after the parenthesis by saying 1 metre is preferred for snow storage, while the Dutch prefer 1.5 metres and have a minimum of 35 cm, because 35 cm is better than no separation (buffer width not track width), but a Copenhagen curb easily leads to falls off the track. They have a minimum of 2 metres and a standard width of 2.5 metres. 

It does not talk about bidirectional cycle tracks. This could mean that bidirectional cycle tracks are not preferred or that they should be like shared use paths except with a sidewalk too. In the Netherlands, bidirectional tracks have 3 metre absolute minimum widths. But this is for secondary routes. It is also the standard width for a minuscule shortcut between cul de sacs for example. 3.5 metres is the standard width for secondary routes and is the minimum for primary routes, 4 metres is the standard for primary routes. 

A problem for cycle tracks is that none of the recommendations would endorse a cycle track being used as a path through a park with a separate sidewalk or similar off street and completely away from motor traffic. But these paths are essential in a cycling city. It creates the unraveling of cycle routes from car routes. Also, the speeds I say where cycle tracks are required is when the volume is over 4000 vpd, the speed limit of 40 km/h or more, and always on an through road and most of the time on distributor roads. 

I am going to stop here and leave the rest for a third post. This is long, and to continue would take several hours to work on. 

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Complete Streets

A lot of street planners are really embracing or trying to at least something called a complete street. For example on a four lane undivided road, providing a pair of bike lanes, a pair of driving lanes and a two way centre turn lane. I can't remember whether it is this or bidirectional overtaking lanes that are called suicide lanes. Edmonton is getting into this, and published their guides to a complete street, link here: http://www.edmonton.ca/city_government/documents/RoadsTraffic/Edmonton-Complete-Streets-Guidelines_05062013.pdf

It talks a fair bit about a street as a place and a link. To the Dutch, at least modern Dutch streets, this completely contradicts what is said about a street's functionality in Sustainable Safety. It demands that a road/street must, and I mean must, be a link, or a place, but never both. Some existing streets may really have to be both, but it still recommends this for new streets. By link, I mean a roadway intended for medium to high volumes of traffic to get from A to B relatively quickly. A place is a street where you want to be on that street, like many in Downtown are, or there are destinations directly off the street, without needing to use another access road to get to. This includes both the small mostly local kind of shops on Whyte Ave and the Walmart off Parsons Road.

Note that I use street and road as different types of things. This is not an accident, though there aren't good words to describe when something is both. In Edmonton we use street for north south, and avenues for east and west flows.

Lets think about why trying to combine link and place is problematic.

First, in general if the street itself is a place, then having any more traffic than has to exist that is using the street only because their destination is that street makes it hard to do things like cross the road where you would like to do that, the traffic lights make it hard to get anywhere fast, there is constant risk because of the relatively high speed traffic, and it just makes it unpleasant.

Now lets look at what might happen if a road is simultaneously a street. First, the number of side roads and business accesses and driveways that accompany a road being a place is a big risk, lots of conflict points. Second, the people walking around in high volumes is a bit of an obstruction, and makes it more likely that one of them is going to cross where people do not expect it. You could and should expect crossing whenever and wherever you want to on an access road, but not on a road like Whyte Ave if it were a true link. Also note that if you have a destination on the road itself with no space or money to put in a parkade (parking garage), then that means you either need to go onto one of the side roads to park, or you have to park on the street itself. This creates risk, you have to go slowly if you want to parallel park, making it more likely that you will be rear ended, and the fact that you have 2 tonne metal and plastic objects on the side of the road is something that you can easily crash into, it creates traffic disruption if you want to park, by slowing down traffic, and it means the street has to designate space to things that don't make the road more effective at being a link.

Now looking at why the idea of a complete street has flaws from the beginning, lets see what the city suggests (emphasis on suggest. The city is not looking at things like cycle tracks on Jasper Ave even though that would make it a complete street according to their very own guidelines) to try and make streets complete.

Design speed is the first element I want to discuss. The Dutch have it very clear. In urban areas, access roads have 30 km/h speed limits, distributors have 50 km/h speed limits, arterial roads also have 50 km/h speed limits unless access is very restricted, the traffic is fairly far away from the city centre and the traffic can be safe at a higher speed, in which case 70 km/h is posted. Above this and there cannot be traffic lights or roundabouts. Freeways and expressways have 80-130 km/h limits depending on the area, but in urban areas the size of Edmonton, the Dutch would certainly add a system to reduce the speed limit with electronically displayed variable speed limit signs, which are regulatory.

It also suggests that design speed should equal the posted speed. Funny, why do I see a post 2013 (when the guidelines came out) design plan for a divided 4 lane Parsons road with a design speed of 70 km/h with a posted speed of 60 south of South Edmonton Common? This is a terrible idea. It means that if the street looks as if a higher speed is possible, then everyone is going to be around that speed. The police will have to conduct sting after sting, things that would be possible at the posted speed would not be possible at the higher speed, like roundabouts, it needs more space, valuable space, and millions of dollars more. It means things like traffic lights are designed for the higher speed, needing longer green times, increasing delay for everyone. And what happens when someone gets hit? The higher speed means a much greater chance of serious injury or worse. It also means less capacity, because if you design the speed for higher speeds on a road other than an expressway/freeway, then the capacity will be lower. You need more space between vehicles. City planners often claim it is needed to prevent a mistake of speeding from causing damage, but it does nothing to prevent the speeding in the first place. It encourages the speeding and you should be ashamed traffic engineers who came up with this idea or insist on sticking to it.

The recommended speeds are terrible too. 50 km/h in a commercial local access street? What did I just tell you about higher speeds on a road not able to handle it? And it gives the option (read requirement) to have 50 km/h speeds on a local access road. Oh, a road like the one I live on with children playing, interactions with neighbours, walking across the street wherever you like and the police not able to care less about it, and creating emissions and noise on my street for no good reason other than to give a couple seconds absolute maximum of time? I would much rather live on a street like this: Houten Access road, which is within the 30 km/h zone and nobody would ever consider shortcutting through here. If I was a parent, I would much rather my children play there then on a 50 km/h local road in Edmonton.

On street vehicle parking is for some insane reason suggested on street oriented places, but makes no distinction about whether we are talking about a low speed low volume road where parking on street is a safe thing to do or about arterial roads where this would be a terrible idea.

A bit further on it talks about traffic calming. One wording I don't like is it saying most appropriate on local streets, particularly effective at creating bike boulevards. But this wording is a problem because other streets need traffic calming too, and it suggests that bike boulevard benefit the most from traffic calming. But bike boulevards and local access roads equally benefit. Plenty of people on 84 ave would benefit from traffic calming but only 83 is the one being made into a bike route.

And it says not to be used on arterial roads. For things like pinchpoints that can be true, but a few things I would actually want. A raised median has a significant use on arterial roads. Lets take an example from Heritage Valley if I may. On James Mowatt Trail south of Rutherford Road, there is a minor access road intersecting with James Mowatt Trail. This place is significant for cyclists and pedestrians because it would provide a completely unraveled route away from parallel motor traffic if Bowen Wynd was closed to motor traffic and a central refuge was added, along with a zebra crossing and bicycle crossing. Adding a speed table designed for speeds of 50 km/h would further reduce the impact of cars making it intimidating.

Next element I am looking at are sidewalks, cycle tracks, bus stops, and transit lanes, and on street amenities, but that will have to wait until part two, because this post is very long already. I could go on for hours on it.

Monday, 16 November 2015

Bus stop bypasses

I've mentioned a couple times before about bus stop bypasses, but I haven't defined them. Simply put, it is a bus stop which has a cycle track between the bus stop waiting island and the sidewalk, or if there is no sidewalk, where there is a waiting island between the cycle track and the area where buses go.

There are many examples, of course in the Netherlands, but also in the UK, a few exist, like on London's newer cycle superhighways, in Copenhagen, Germany, even Belgium, and Vancouver. Not all of them are equal, which speaks to how easy they are to make fit in a street, but it also means that there is opportunity for screwing up.

Lets see an example which are good other places. London: https://youtu.be/jAuPfiyv4S8?t=139, Copenhagen, https://www.bicyclenetwork.com.au/media/vanilla_content/images/copenhagen%20bikes%20behind%20bus%20stopw.jpg, Germany, https://aseasyasridingabike.files.wordpress.com/2014/04/screen-shot-2014-04-30-at-22-45-09.png, Belgium, http://www.cycling-embassy.org.uk/sites/cycling-embassy.org.uk/files/styles/main_left_panel_wide/public/photos/Screen%20Shot%202014-07-09%20at%2020.23.01.png?itok=cG7_kpds, Vancouver: https://www.google.ca/maps/@49.2724666,-123.1472786,3a,43y,123.74h,88.54t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1szwuB4bDAO-oE28jfvUJqCA!2e0!7i13312!8i6656?hl=en, and the Netherlands: https://www.google.ca/maps/@52.0942771,5.1145655,3a,75y,240.72h,75.38t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sh1DuUH8yBrKaXpv1AT97ew!2e0!7i13312!8i6656?hl=en.

They are becoming more and more popular, many installations are reasonably good replicas, but still may lack a couple details. The key features of a bus stop bypass are:


  1. Ubiquitous nature. This means that they are features you see at all bus stops where there is a cycle track or cycle lane, or if the volumes of the buses exceeds one every 7.5 minutes during peak times, if there are articulated or double decker buses, or exceeds 30 km/h in speed. 
  2. A waiting island between cycle track and roadway. This does not have to be that wide, even 80 cm will do, but preferably 2 metres is the minimum and 3.5 metres is the standard. Wider ones should be considered when there is a high volume of bus passengers. It must be a concrete curb, not a painted island. 
  3. Sufficient width of cycle track (I also include the times when in the non built up areas, you do mix cyclists and pedestrians). This means 2 metres minimum for a one way, this also is the standard width if the facility leading into the cycle track is a cycle lane and quickly after the bus stop bypass you revert back to cycle lane again. 2.5 metres is the standard with for a one way though. 3 metres is the minimum for a bidirectional cycle track, 3.5 metres is standard on a secondary route and 4 metres is the standard for primary routes and being near high traffic locations, like in city centres, near schools, etc. 
  4. A safe pedestrian crossing of the cycle track to the sidewalk and an accessible bus stop. This means a raised stop island, up to 30 cm off the asphalt/gutter, minimum 20 cm. This really reduces the step up. Combined with low floor buses, and you barely have to think about the phrase "Mind the Gap". Make sure the ramp is no more than 1 in 12 though. Tactile paving, both on the edge of the bus stop towards the road/bus lane, in the blister pattern, directional pattern to guide you from the accessible crossing to the edge of the stop. If the crossing of the cycle track is not flush, then it needs to have a ramp for this purpose, or a slight raise in the cycle track height, or both. And if there are other amenities, like a shelter, or a display of the waiting times, then the shelter must have the dimensions to allow for accessibility, and there needs to be a button on the departure board to automatically audibly tell a blind person of the same information. The crossing if pedestrian volumes are high, or near something where pedestrian priority is important, like near a school or retirement home or hospital, then mark the crossing with zebra stripes. It is the standard for mid block crossings. If there is not a need for pedestrians to have priority, leave it unmarked, making it just like if a pedestrian crossed the road midblock not at an official crossing. 
A few other details are important, like ensuring that there are splay curbs next to the cycle track, with the bottom of the curb flush with the cycle track. This isn't optional. Providing amenities like departure board, shelters, bike parking, seating, lighting, timetable information and even trash cans, but those are on a stop by stop basis, not vital to the function of the cycle track.

Note that if there is a ramp for cyclists, it must not be designed to slow cyclists down. A design speed of 40 km/h is sufficient. The goal is to provide an accessible crossing, not traffic calming. Also the bend out must not be intended to slow cyclists down either. You should be able to cycle at 40 km/h past the stop. 

There are very occasionally times when there is genuinely not enough space for even an 80 cm wide verge between cycle track and roadway. If that is the case, then there should be whatever space you can provide, to improve the subjective safety of riding past on a bike, a zebra crossing extending the whole length of the stop between where the doors are, and a yield to pedestrians sign. The cycle track should be level with the sidewalk. Designed a bit like this: http://www.cycling-embassy.org.uk/sites/cycling-embassy.org.uk/files/dictionary/bottom-bus-stopped.jpg, but only use it if you do not have that hunk of space to the right of the bus which could have been used for an island. I expect these to be, if correctly implemented, so rare that you need specific signs to warn you about this. 

People might have a bit of a getting used to period, but cyclists and pedestrians are very able to negotiate between themselves. Sometimes at the extremely busy stops, so busy that it is likely that pedestrians might jostle around enough to make someone fall onto the cycle track, then a railing can be built. This should only happen in town centres next to LRT stations, downtown, the UofA and maybe a few other locations. 

Edmonton is actually planning a couple new bus stop bypasses. It is under the 102 Ave bike route plan, which includes protected bike lanes. It is a good idea, but a bit of a problem in practice, but this is mainly down to width. You can review the cross section here: http://www.edmonton.ca/transportation/RoadsTraffic/102%20Avenue%20-%20136%20St%20to%20124%20st%20Map.pdf, but I created streetmix file to show what it could be: http://streetmix.net/CyclingEdmonton/61/cross-section-g-102-ave-bike-route-at-124-st. It includes a wider cycle track, car lanes more likely to encourage obeying the speed limit and making sense for the urban environment and giving car parking only what they need.

I created an interpretation of what this could look like at a basic end of line stop. It is on a collector road, it would have a speed limit of 40 km/h, it has a flagpole and a small screen showing when the next bus arrives, and a 2 metre wide cycle path.

It is good to see designs like this coming into play in Edmonton, and elsewhere. Keeping the huge difference in mass and speed of buses and bicycles apart is a good thing for everyone to know. Are you writing this down vehicular cycling evangelists? 

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Driver training and equipment

Learning to drive is an often important, in our car culture, essential, skill, and even if you don't intend to commute or do most of your transportation with cars as an adult, it is still a useful skill to know. Not everyone is capable of getting a driving license (including learners licenses), someone who is legally blind is an obvious example, but those who do should be well trained to handle situations on our roads.

I am learning to drive, and am becoming good at it. I still don't know everything, it takes years to get very good at it, so my dad and occasionally someone else, a couple of my uncles took me on a lesson before, still stay in the passenger seat, ready to make sure that if I am doing something incorrectly they can stop it before it becomes a habit, and give advice on things like how to make a complicated turn for example. This is normal.

A class 5/6 non probationary ( I am using Alberta's classification of licensing) license, which means that you are allowed to ride a moped with an engine size 50 cc or under (I am not a lawyer), an ordinary car, SUV, van for non commercial reasons, and you can pull a trailer while driving one of those vehicles, that is class 5, Class 6 can ride a motorcycles and mopeds.

If you want to get that license, or a class 1/2/3/4, then you should need to be required to get some training ready. Pass an approved first aid class (and all drivers and riders should be required to have a kit in their vehicle in an easily accessible place). This makes sure that if you do get in a collision with an injury, you know how to treat what wounds you can. Some things are intuitive, some are not. You've probably heard of the parable of the good Samaritan. Some ancient things are still worth thinking about. Helping those in need is one of them. If you see that there is a collision, if it is not already required, then you need to be obligated to give what help you can. Dial 911 if you have a phone, get out that first aid kit and use it, not so much that you risk yourself, like if the car is burning, but a fire extinguisher, another thing worth requiring to be had in motor vehicles, can put out that fire.

If the person wounded refuses, then you couldn't do that much about it. Medical ethics prevent treating someone who while culpable refuses treatment. If they are unconscious, a child, senseless or not able to understand what situation they are in, then a refusal is not clear, and sometimes not possible. Though I would note that if a child asks for treatment then the parents should not be allowed to deny it. It would be the other way around if the kid refuses treatment.

Other things that would be good to have in a car would be a spare tire, and of course the tools to install one. It would be rather useless to have a spare tire but not a wrench to tighten and loosen the bolts. Other basic tools, screwdrivers, pliers, duct tape even, jumper cables, and an instruction sheet on how to use them, shovel, swiss army knife (used correctly), flashlight, tow strap, and spare bulbs. Tools you can use if something goes wrong.

It is better to have them and not need them rather than to need them and not have them, one of the most repeated but important phrases. It would also be good to make sure you are certified to know how to use these things. Some things should be obvious, no extra training required, like screwdrivers or duct tape, even shovels, but some things need a bit of practice, jumper cables for example. And knowing what things are where in your car is good. Do not identify the battery as ground when using jumper cables, or confuse the air filter with the emergency food compartment. The latter is a bit of a joke, it doesn't take a genius to know that the air filter is not food. But seriously, the battery is not ground. Not really a tool, but folding warning triangles can really be useful. Imagine in the cold weather and your car breaks down. Even on the shoulder if the road has one, it can still be a considerable danger. Letting people know that a big object is stationary on the side of the high speed highway is vital to keeping people not rear ending the car. They are legal requirements in many countries. Alberta is not one of them (for cars at least as far as I know).

The province can set the legal standards for these sorts of objects, how reflective a triangle must be, how much pressure and volume and type of extinguishers are to be carries, what objects must be included with a first aid kit and the province could either require that these come with new cars, and can make an advertised list of what sorts of things meet these requirements and where to get them.

A lot of this training would even help ordinary life. Do you know how to use an extinguisher?  Given that so many people are licensed drivers, most people who are eligible for one go out and get one, it would make it so that you get training. First aid is also a winner. Figuring out how to use jumper cables wouldn't be that useful for ordinary life, except for if a car battery is dead, but other things that you can be trained on really helps. People could do basic repairs in their home, like fixing a lightbulb or tightening up screws.

Other things more related to how you drive would be requiring people to every 5 years after they get their full license to at their renewal of their license would be to attend a class on what is new (or about to be) on the roads, roundabouts, bike lanes and their signals, 30/40 km/h limits, other things and new laws, like distracted driving, and a basic retest of how good their abilities are. Making sure you still don't have a habit of cutting too closely, not going over a reasonably set speed limit, still knowing that you have to stop first, yield, then turn right at a red light unless signs forbid that. It should be a basic test, and people should see no hurdle with this, just a day every 5 years. 1 day (more like a couple hours) in 1826. You will get at least a couple notices in the mail, same as today when licenses expire. It might also update your mass and height, if you still need glasses if before you needed to wear them, using colour photo (why is my face in black, grey and white on my license?), etc.

Making sure that while still as possible for a person who knows what they are doing to get a license, not allowing someone who doesn't know what they are doing to get a license. One place to start would be the exams themselves. I got my learner license after filling out the paperwork like things like declaring that I need glasses to see but know other medical conditions would affect my driving, where I live, who I am, etc, and the proof of who I am and where I live, an actual eye test, and a written exam which was 30 questions and I could have gotten 20% of them wrong and still pass (I didn't, I got one minor question wrong and by the 27th question, the computer decided that I got 80%, which is the minimum). Why not have a test ride on a bicycle? You couldn't demonstrate things like speed limits. Bicycles do not have speedometers and trying to get to 51 km/h is not something you do on a bicycle without being very well trained and on a racing bicycle. But you could demonstrate things like lane positioning, stop signs and who goes first at them, and even roundabouts.

Other things to include would be a hazard perception test. Required for those who want to get a class 5/6 non probationary license. I found a video here from Australians which shows this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HW7rscFePho. Simple idea, but worth having. You should take it at the registry office though (Alberta does not have DMVs. If you came here to do whatever you do, like renew a license, you would think that the government finally shrinked).

Other restrictions applying to drivers. Not having your hands holding a phone isn't the main distraction. It is paying attention to things that isn't related to driving. You will do equally badly at driving with a hands free device than a regular cell phone, or even the kind that has the phone built into the car. I also would like to see a ban on eating while driving, and requiring using a straw if you are drinking something, at speeds greater than 50 km/h. It makes sure that when you drive fast, you still pay attention. Pull over to eat or drink something else. Or on a freeway/expressway, on the next exit. Er, not the ramps, I mean the road the ramps lead to. Which is more important. A few minutes more for eating and drinking or driving? If you answered being distacted, then you need to go back to drivers ed.

Fines and punishment of law doesn't do that much to decrease the rate of traffic offenses. If you ticketed every single driver who speeds, like with auto enforcement cameras, then people probably would drive a bit slower. But things on the road do that better. Narrower lanes, brick paving, speed tables, and similar calming. Speed limits that make sense on roads where that is a safe thing to do. On freeways, 110 is rather slow. 140 is better in my opinion, 130 if I had to. Posted or electronic limits can reduce the speed if required. If you ticket people for illegal left turns but don't prevent people from making the left turn, like with a median in the way, and they still have a reason for wanting to turn left, then you will have a lot of traffic violations. But for the time when people are bad drivers and go too fast, go through a red light (or yellow light if it is safe to stop), double park, etc, then they should feel the force of law.

Our fines and demerits for rather serious offences are rather low. I mean, 3 points (you have a limit of 15) for running a red light. That is bad policy. You need at least 8 for that offense. Running a red is a very dangerous thing to do in a car. Driving 51 over the speed limit nets you only 6 points. That would be worth prosecution in the Netherlands and Europe. 30 over the limit means an automatic suspension. Here, we give 4 points. The idiot who runs at 80 km/h in a school zone gets 6 points? Going a few kilos over the limit is easy to do, but 80? Who could possibly not notice that? A few days ago someone drove at 120 in a school zone. That deserves prosecution. There is no way to justify yourself doing it. I also would for any traffic offense, downgrade their license to GDL for 2 months and require them to go and attend a safety class.

Some judges have gotten creative with their sentencing. Like the guy who insulted a police officer by declaring them pigs and being made to stand next to a real pig and hold a sign saying that it was not a police officer. I don't intend to go that far. But how about making something like community service suit the offense? Did you speed? OK, go to a location to help operate a radar gun connected to an electronic board. Maybe go to the morgue and visit corpses of victims of speed related traffic deaths. That would send a very clear message. Red light running? Help install new signs telling drivers about the danger of red light running. And implement the Finnish traffic fine system. In case you didn't know, fines in Finland are connected to the income of the offender. The more you make, the higher the fine. Makes sense. Give a millionaire instead of a $300 a 30 thousand dollar fine and that would make them pay attention. $300 is just an annoyance for uncle pennybags.

Given that the Liberal Government of Canada is planning to legalize marijuana for adults and regulate it in a similar way to alcohol, it would need to be clear about marijuana having a similar effect on your body as alcohol in how capable of driving a car. Make high driving as serious and publicized issue as drunk driving.

These methods should hopefully make drivers more likely to know what they need to know and give them good incentive to do it on the roads. This combined with physical design could save a life (or should that be postponing a death, maybe until someone's last rites on a bed in a house?), prevent injuries and collisions and prevent congestion that arises from collisions.

Monday, 9 November 2015

109 St Saskatchewan Drive intersection in detail

I made a post a little while ago throwing around the idea of redesigning the 109 St Saskatchewan Dr intersection with simultaneous green. If you have not seen it, go and view it here.

OK, so to get an idea about what this intersection does and who can go where, lets look at the approaches.

88 Ave is a low volume minor access road, one way for motor vehicles, going westbound. There is a counter flow lane for cyclists going eastbound. It could be used as a through route to get to the UofA.

109 St is a major artery, linking the south side with downtown, with one of the relatively few southbound crossings of the river in this area. It is well used. It is also home to a popular bus route #9, so popular is needs articulated buses even every 15 minutes during off peak times. There are many businesses and shops and a few apartment buildings and bungalows next to the street.

The High level bridge is an old 2 lane southbound only bridge, with shared use paths on both sides. A streetcar runs on the top, and there are discussions on how a low floor LRT could cross here to link Garneau and Downtown.

Walterdale Hill road is a 2 lane northbound only road, with a shared use path on the north side. It is one of two roads that links the Walterdale Bridge, currently being replaced, and the Kinsmen sports centre.

Saskatchewan Drive is a minor artery, and links Scona Road with 104 St. But that is well to the East. It also has a number of high rises. A shared use path is on the north side. It links to Queen Elizabeth Park Road, which also links to the Walterdale Bridge and Kinsmen Sports centre.

OK, now that we know where the roads go, lets see where they come together. Right now, it is a mess.

Lets sort out the problems one by one. First, a protected bike lane on 109 St. And given the congestion here, and the popularity of the #9 bus route, we should also add bus lanes. Cross section of that here: http://streetmix.net/CyclingEdmonton/12/109-st.

On 88 Ave, we have a route that functions as a main cycle route in a minor residential street. The Dutch already know very well what to do with that. Fietsstraat time! Literally translating to bicycle road. Because this is an urban minor residential street, that means a 30 km/h speed limit. It is one way for motor traffic but two way for bicycles. Lets not change that. It will have a surface of smooth, red asphalt. About 30-50 cm of beige bricks on either side of the road, so that car drivers think that they have less space than they actually have. Lets add a 2 metre wide counterflow lane, and a small raised but possible to traverse brick median between the two directions, about 20-120 cm wide. There will be raised intersections, but yield signs arranged in such a way that the cross streets yield to 88 Ave. Between access roads that should become unusual for an access road to have the right of way over another access road, but main routes for bicycles are excepted. It will be continuous, all the way to 112 St, either as a bicycle street or cycle path.

Lets add wider pathways and separate sidewalks to the remaining approaches. At least 3 metres, preferable width of 4 metres for the pathway, and 1.8 minimum, 2 metres preferable width for the sidewalk. Try to have separate sidewalks and pathways here. A small raised curb or verge with grass will work well to separate cyclists and pedestrians. Lets also add 40 km/h speed limits to Saskatchewan Drive, Walterdale Hill Road, 109 St and Walterdale Hill Road. Also bus traffic light priority system. That would be helpful.

OK, we have the approaches ready. At the intersection itself, the bicycle street 88 Ave will have a transition from mixed cycling with motor traffic to a cycle track. But the big part is the traffic light programming. The middle of the road is freed up, the curb is taken away, and you can cycle in the middle. On green of course. There are no motor vehicle turns on red allowed. Three simple traffic light signal stages are used. Southbound High Level bridge, right turns into 88 Ave, thru to 109 St, left turns to Saskatchewan Drive and Walterdale Hill Road. Next, High level bridge right turns into 88 Ave and thru to 109 St, and also Nouthbound traffic from 109 St, onto the Walterdale Hill Road and Saskatchewan Drive. Finally, a simultaneous green stage. Each lasting about 20 seconds. Cycle time, 60 seconds plut clearance intervals. If the cycle traffic gets really busy, there can be either a longer simultaneous green stage, a whole second stage, one after each motor vehicle stage, or both. The waiting times are 40 seconds maximum, plus clearance intervals. If you add waiting time indicators, it should be a pretty easy to navigate. It has fair cycle timings. Allows for formerly awkward turns, and pedestrians and cyclists come into much less conflict.

I hope you can see the logic of this within the wording, but I also recommend this David Hembrow blog post to read more about SG (simultaneous green)

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Comparison of various intersection design types. Part 2. Protected intersection

You've seen the Copenhagen type of intersection last post. Now that I have explained what is wrong with it, let's go to an intersection that avoids the problems I mentioned. But first, watch this video: Protected intersection for cyclists


Note that the cycleways are now in red asphalt. The yield triangles are just showing that if the lights are not working or they go to flashing mode for whatever reason, the left-right flow goes first.

The design has major advantages over the Copenhagen Junction. It keeps cyclists in as little conflict with motor vehicles as possible. If you look closely, then you will notice that cyclists are to the right of the right turn lane. This would normally make people think that there is a huge problem. But there isn't. I will explain why in a little bit.

The corner refuge islands extend the protection of the cycle track in the intersection as well, creating continuity. You can make right turns on red without even needing a special exception to the no right turn on red signs or stopping. You make left turns in two stages, but you are protected if you have to wait. And the signal stages are much more flexible.

The intersection is much more intuitive, and easier to cycle through. The bend out is not sharp, and can be taken at something like 40 km/h+ if you wanted to. You also are in a position in that if you want to make a left turn by bicycle, you have no awkward turns.

The cycleway widths are also usually much wider than Copenhagen does. While Copenhagen has a 1.5-2.2 metre wide cycleway, Dutch protected intersections have 2-2.7 metre wide cycle paths. One way. For two ways they have 3-4 metre widths. Standard widths are usually 2.5 metres for one ways and 3.5 metre wide widths for two ways, 4 metres on primary routes. The buffer is also much wider. Minimum of 35 cm, preferable minimum of 1 metre, and standard buffer for a 50 km/h distributor is 1.5 metres, and for high speed or higher volume is about 2 metres. And it is a curbed buffer, a median. Often with things like plants, trees, grass, lamp posts, road signs, are in that buffer.

The traffic lights are programmed to separate the different directions. Here is an example signal stage:

The cyclists have their very own traffic lights and so do turning vehicles with protected prohibited signal staging. Pedestrians also have their own signals. The Netherlands does not have a signal to indicate that a lane with two directions you can go to from that lane has a protected movement in both directions, but Edmonton actually goes. A green ball and a flashing green arrow will do the trick. I do not believe that I have seen it used before for this purpose of providing the only left turn, and that the arrow will always be used if the left turn/thru lane has green, but tell me in comments if you know. 

The signal stages are rotated. If you rotate it to the right, then you will see that you will get the green light to proceed right after the signal stage that lets you go straight. Easy left turn. But note that during low volume periods where controlling the intersection like a two way stop would be done whenever sensors detect that this is possible with the given volumes and conditions. Full actuation would ensure that nobody would have to go through any signal stage that was not necessary. It also would not be a fixed cycle, any direction could get green at any time. Copenhagen intersections are usually fixed timing. 

Protected intersections have one flaw, and that is if there is a high volume of cyclists turning left (or diagonally, considering bidirectional cycle tracks. If that happens, over 15% of people make two stage turns, then simultaneous green is a good choice. If the intersection is too small for protected intersection, likewise simultaneous green gives you an easy way out of the problem. 

Be back for the simultaneous green blog post.

Comparison of various intersection design types. Part one: Copenhagen

Anyone who has been doing their research into cycle friendly intersections knows about Copenhagen. With about 25% of the population cycling, that is a pretty impressive number. They also have probably seen this video.

Let's see what intersection design they tend to associate with Copenhagen.
You can click on it for more detail.

Lets go over it piece by piece shall we?

First, we have a right turn lane on all approaches, a curb protected cycle lane on each of the approaches, in and out, a two stage waiting area for cyclists, a bike box (advance stop line) on each approach, and sidewalks on both sides of each approach lane. The cycling area is painted green.

The lane configuration and angles varies from intersection to intersection, but the concept is very similar.

There are more than a few problems. Where should I begin? How about the approach cycleways? They are not well protected, and it would feel not that different than a painted line. It is also not that wide, often 1.5-2.2 metres standard width. It is OK for corridors genuinely constrained, but not as a standard (but the minimum is 2 metres, not 1.5 metres). The fact that you are using paint for the colour is also not good. Even thermoplastic doesn't last all that long. A good asphalt surface can last for a couple decades or more. That includes dyed asphalt.

The fact that you have the dedicated right turn lane on the approaches in the position they are leads to conflicts. That being the conflict that cyclists cross the turning lane at a shallow angle, which is not good for visibility. It is also likely to be relatively high volume, and there is nothing to slow cars down as they approach and make that lane change.

The bike box is not always present, but if it is, it leads to positioning cyclists in front of cars, which car drivers hate on a fast and busy arterial road. Given that it could only help effectively when the traffic light is red, its use it limited. And it is a form of dual networking. A way to turn for confident cyclists, not the ones seeking a safe way to turn left.

The two stage turn can be a good idea, but only if it is protected in the way that a protected intersection would make it, and you have to have short waiting times. In this example, you are positioning yourself right in front of motor traffic. It is also hard to make this turn in this configuration if you are on a big, not nimble or heavy bicycle, something you might have if you are getting groceries or picking up toddlers from preschool. You have no protection from say a driver who is about to run a red light from the cross street.

You are also not able to make a right on red at this intersection (also applies to the top of T intersections), unless you have a specific exemption from the signage, and even if you did, you would have to stop before turning, and you have no protection as you make that right turn. And you would have to do it in the right turn lane, which is shared by automobile traffic, possibly including large trucks.

How are these intersections in general signaled? Usually, it is a bicycle pre green, or advance green, to let those cycling go ahead a few seconds before cars start to move, usually between 2-12 seconds. This is to clear the cycle lanes, let those using the bike box if present make their turn and to clear those who are making a two stage turn go. Then the cars from one street and the bicycles get to go, including left and right turns. And this applies for the cross street too, just rotated 90 degrees or so.

This would be a big improvement over what we have now, and would be capable at least in theory of attaining around 20-25% of people on bike, maybe a little more, a little less, but it is not the best intersection you can get with traffic lights, and why stop at improvement?. You have two other options that are both better than the Copenhagen junction when you have at grade crossings with arterial roads with traffic lights. Simultaneous green and the protected intersection. But this is usually promoted as the way to accommodate cyclists, to coin a phrase (sarcasm). The Complete Streets manual also recommends this sort of Copenhagen style intersection. Let's finally move past this idea, please?

Now you can go see part two: Protected intersections

Thursday, 5 November 2015

Collector roads

A large chunk of the movement within a neighbourhood is done using collector roads. These in my area of Edmonton have a sidewalk on both sides, a grassed boulevard, parking on both sides and two lanes for general purpose traffic. They are the roads that tend to have stop sign controlled intersections with other collector roadways, bus routes and their stops, and schools and playgrounds are usually on these roads.

But how do we classify this type of roadway under Sustainable Safety's rule that roads must be as mono functional as much as possible, through roads, distributor roads and local access roads? Through roads don't make sense, but they tend to be where people live, but also connect local access roads and send the traffic to the arterials.

We have two options for dealing with this type of road. We can make it a distributor, have cycle lanes/cycle tracks, a 40 km/h speed limit and the right of way over side roads, or we could make it a local access road, cycling mixed with motor traffic, 30 km/h speed limits, no road at intersections with the right of way over any others and brick paving.

Lets see what the volume on a collector road fairly close to me is. Rutherford Road is the road I am picking. In the North of the neighbourhood, around 119 St, it is not uncommon for the volume to exceed 2000 vehicles per day. That would make me classify it as a distributor road. But wait, what about volume control? A fair bit of the traffic is shortcutting. Or traffic who should be going around the neighbourhood, using roads like 15 Ave to get to Johnny Bright school or 17 Ave to get to the Catholic school. This is very likely going to reduce the traffic by a lot. But it has the flaw that the volumes would be increased close to the school. It is likely that if you combine anti-shortcutting measures and making cycling and walking a safe thing to do, you are probably going to reduce the volumes by a high amount, maybe getting over 50% of people within 5 km to cycle or walk to school. I'd like to see it at 100%, maybe the rare parent dropping their late kid off (even though riding a bike would be faster under a good quality plan).

Though given the volume remaining, I will go with the distributor option.

This one would transform the street from a cross section like this: Collector road streetmix to one more like this: Collector road with sustainable safety. The existing model has 2 car parking lanes, 2 narrow sidewalks, a pair of boulevards, and 2 wide (but unmarked) lanes for motor traffic. The new model has one lane for car parking (it sounds bad, but just look at how many people could park their cars in the driveway or garage which in this area, all the residents have, businesses do not exist here, and visitors are uncommon), a pair or cycle lanes, a door zone buffer space for cyclists on the side with remaining car parking, a 5 metre bidirectional area in the middle of the road, widened sidewalks plus unchanged boulevards filled with trees and grass. The new situation also has a 40 km/h speed limit.

It looks weird seeing how narrow the 5 metre wide section in the middle is. And the fact that cars might need to enter the cycle lane. Lets see an actual example of this model: Overvecht Collector road. It is almost exactly the same as in the Edmonton model. It lacks boulevards but has a widened sidewalk. Parking is in the grey brick bays, marked with white bricks. It is very similar to my example. Lets see what bus stops would look like. Cross section: Collector road at bus stop. It has a bypass, required when the speeds exceed 30 km/h, and no car parking on either side. The cycle lane remains wide enough to pass within the lane.

Intersections would be very different then the ones we know and hate today. They are much more friendly to those walking and cycling, and make sure that people understand that when you come out of a distributor road to the 30 km/h zone, you are in a very different street type. Picture here: Gateway treatment. You have a steep speed table, where the sidewalk continues as if nothing happened, and a sign saying 30 km/h zone. In this particular example, there are cycle lanes on the distributor. Roundabouts are also possible, even at this size. Here is my inspiration: roundabout with cycle track around it. The roundabout central island is not mandatory at small roundabouts. A video made by the FHWA (Federal Highway Administration US) shows the concept of mini roundabouts. It is missing cycle tracks (to be clear, if possible, use the 6 metre long gap between cycle track and car ring, it is not always possible though) shows what can be done if you do not have the needed space for the regular central island. Link here: Mini roundabout. Note that if you mix bicycles and cars, then you need to have low volumes and speeds of 30 km/h. Mixing won't work unless that is present.

If you still do not have the space needed for a roundabout, then option two is a right of way intersection. One or more of the approaches has a yield sign (or stop sign, but it is better if we don't think about those), and the remaining road does not stop. With two distributors, it will look a bit like this:



So that is the basic picture for collector roads. They have 40 km/h speed limits, low to medium volumes of traffic, cycle lanes or cycle paths, cycle paths for most uses where the volume is over 3000 vpd or near schools and parks, or where cycle lanes would make people fear, and not used as the main road for traffic between neighbourhoods. 

Update 10:00 AM Friday Nov 6 

I forgot to mention that by putting parking on one side of the road, you can switch it around maybe every 80-150 metres, creating an effective chicane. 

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Accessibility on the roadways

Something that many people are concerned with on our roadway network is making sure that those who are not as able as most are still able to get around as independently as possible. I mean people with adapted bicycles, wheelchairs, mobility scooters, the elderly, blind people, those with very limited eyesight (I don't mean those who can see just as well with corrective lenses, I mean those with problems like macular degeneration), etc. Feel free to add any mental or physical disabilities.

Here are some basic things that are simple to do to increase accessibility. Wheelchair ramps, tactile paving, and bleepers at traffic lights (which tell the blind and visually impaired when they can proceed). Simple enough, but the devil is as always, in the details. Wheelchair ramps are frequently poorly aligned, Edmonton has not adopted tactile paving at all, just a small amount of ridges that don't provide much of a tactile feedback, with the exception of when pedestrians cross the LRT or at the edges of their stations, and the bleepers are not standard practice, or even found all that often in new signals.

Let's start with the wheelchair ramps. They can be well aligned, like this: well aligned ramp, or poorly aligned, like this: badly aligned ramp. The latter would be more OK if pedestrians are intended to cross diagonally. But that would only make sense if there was a pedestrian scramble. Because the vast majority of intersections, including the latter example, have no intention of pedestrians crossing diagonally, this design does not make sense. It could do way better, like in the former example from the Netherlands. It is pretty much a straight line, maybe a centimetre off, between the curb ramp alignment and the other side of the road. Having the ramp go in the direction that people actually are supposed to cross makes a huge difference.

I challenge any engineer who says "job well done" on a project to go and borrow a wheelchair and try to navigate their work in one. I suspect that you are not going to find it easy to take the routes which almost force you to cross at an angle right in front of the motor traffic, which because of the way the curve is designed, also are capable of turning at a high speed, which is not what you want when you are expecting cars to be able to yield to pedestrians. I also point out that many times there is a slight upstand to the ramp, making a bump. If you are on a wheelchair, or cycling legally on the sidewalk, going up and down is going to be very bumpy. Would anyone tolerate that on a new road, a bump that really could make a drink spill out of your hands?

Tactile paving is another place to start. Edmonton currently uses small ridges to indicate to the blind where the crossing is. However it is not distinctive, not easy to feel unless you are trying to find them on purpose and does not provide any contrast, which those with poor vision but still have something are looking hard for. Edmonton does use tactile paving at limited locations, but they are almost always at LRT crossings with sidewalks and at the edges of the stop platforms.

We could provide it at many locations to make Edmonton much more accessible to those who can't see or can't see nearly as well as the rest of us, even if they had corrective lenses. Those crossings with roads and cycle paths for instance (the latter type of crossing could be found for example at a bus stop bypass, look at this picture: accessible crossing at a bus stop bypass) could use these a lot, actually everywhere. Of course, LRT platforms have this too, but bus stops could as well. The same kind of edge could be used, the standard pattern with the dots in a grid pattern. Other locations where this could be useful would be where pedestrians are expected to cross midblock, like in a pedestrianized zone, or where the roadway or cycleway is level with the sidewalk. It would be a more long but skinny ridge pattern, like this: directional tactile paving. A similar style could be used to direct people from a crossing to a nearby crossing, like when you are in a waiting island between a cycle path and roadway waiting for the walking man signal.

Sidewalks are a big part of accessibility. They need to be wide, bare minimum 1.8 metres, 2 metres or wider whenever possible, smooth, as flat as possible, and without any barriers in the way, like a lamp post or electrical box. It keeps a clean, open and usable space for someone walking, a couple wheelchairs to pass by each other in opposite directions, and giving a blind person plenty of room to walk. The curbs should be designed so that a car could not simply walk into Mordor, oh wait, I have the wrong meme. So that a motorist does not simply park on the sidewalk. The sidewalk outside my home is 1.2 metres wide and cars more often than you think park on it. The cars get ~7 metres while pedestrians get 2.4 metres. The speeds and volumes would be low enough for cyclists to mix with motor vehicles, but cars do not need the room they have. A pair of 1.8 metre wide sidewalks would allow enough room to get around in a wheelchair, and the street is so low volume that you could walk on the street if you had to, you could even make it officially shared space if you wanted to because of the volumes and if traffic calming were present, the speeds. But the gutter itself is about 20 cm wide, so I see an easy place to add more space.

I suggest a new law that makes it so that if someone is blind, regardless of where they are crossing or what a signal says, they have the right of way, and if in doubt, they are blind. You can politely tell them that the official crossing is in another direction, but you can't yell at them (nor should anyone be allowed to yell unless not to do so would endanger someone (like if someone is about to plough into someone)). It won't help anyone crossing in front of someone who is not paying attention, but at least for those who are, it could be a big help. The tactile paving and dropped curbs help them to find their way, so that they use the official crossings.

There are a huge amount of detailed work about this, many specifications, but it's late now, and I need to make sure I am not pumping my brain full of energy before I will need to calm down for bed time. So I will end this article here. If anyone has any other ideas or comments that I didn't cover, please leave them in the comments below.