Saturday, 26 December 2015

Google maps distance measurement tool

I discovered something that's going to make my life and a lot of other cycle campaigners lives easier. On google maps, right click any point you want to measure from, and on the little box that appears, select measure distance, and then select the next point you want to measure, and right click again and click stop measuring or something like that to cancel. It also works with satellite views, and you can zoom in fairly well without loosing too much quality.

Before, road managers could very easily claim that roads are too narrow or that the status quo is fine and give you a false perception as to how wide it really is. A sidewalk you can measure yourself but carrying a tape measure everywhere is a challenge, and you might obstruct pedestrian traffic in a downtown area. You can't really measure a road unless there isn't traffic to endanger you while you do it, which rules out measuring, arterial roads. You'd be surprised just how wide they are. Try measuring the width and length of a car, I measured one at 2 metres wide and 4.7 metres long. Even a truck was only 2.5 metres wide. I felt like the nearest large intersection to me, Ellerslie Road and 111 St, might be too small for quite the treatment I had in mind, an ordinary traffic light controlled intersection. I discovered that there is easily enough space for a turbo roundabout with a bicycle and pedestrian underpass. It measured 108 metres across. A Dutch turbo I found had 54 metres of diameter. Half the width.

I felt like a collector near my home was 20 metres across, it was actually 18.7, but that still only meant I had to very slightly narrow the tree boulevard by 20 cm each and remove a car parking buffer. The cycle lanes remained 2 metres wide each, the sidewalks could be widened to 2 metres each and the rest of the road remained 5 metres wide.

Sometimes when dishonesty or believing whatever a traffic manager tells you rules because of a lack of ability to check it for yourself in person, you can now check it with a very simple program and just about any computer. In just about any country anywhere (Germany with a lack of wifi outside your home and office).

Especially a problem is the lack of ability to see on roads that have already been built, because the plans are just locked in some cabinet somewhere and people rarely get the time to make a FOIPP request (freedom of information and privacy protection act Alberta, look up local equivalents). Now everyone can see.

I like an example I saw near that Ellerslie Road area. The cycle paths, which are bidirectional, are 2.4 metres. That's narrow under Dutch path requirements (their one direction paths are wider than this bidirectional path!) but too narrow for even Edmonton modern standards. It requires at least 2.5 metres, 3 metres standard and wider ones for higher volumes. Dutch standards slightly vary on the minimums, but the ones I follow are 3.2 metres minimum, 3.5 metres to 4 metres standard depending on the importance of the route and volumes of course. And I found easily that there is room for a sidepath crossing a minor side street to have a sufficiently wide 4 metre wide path and 6.5 more metres of separation from the road, allowing for vehicles to turn 90 degrees to face the path, at a slow speed, with a corner radius and a speed table designed for about 10-15 km/h, with enough time so that I riding on the path, can cycle forward and easily have enough time to know if a vehicle is turning. Even if the vehicle doesn't signal and I don't shoulder check, I will know in time if it's coming to slow down.

The width of the motor vehicle lanes easily explains why speeding is rampant. I measure meany lanes to be 4 metres wide or more. Wide enough to park 2 cars side by side. Wide enough for 130 km/h+ if the width was transplanted onto a freeway, wider than Dutch standard motorway lanes, designed for 130 km/h. Imagine if the lane was 2.9-3.1 metres wide on an arterial. How much less common would speeding be and by how much? Especially if combined with other measures like speed tables designed for the speed limit and roundabouts, and wiggles in the road (not the TV show which aired was it 9 or 11 years ago?), the speeding rate will go down considerably.

This mapping tool is a useful piece of technology that lets us know how far, wide and long things are. I will be using it a lot for future blog posts.

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