Saturday, 19 December 2015

Horse Hills

The city made a plan for an area in the northeast, past Anthony Henday, south of Manning Drive, named Horse Hills. This is a good opportunity to make an area just as good as a Dutch suburb can be for cycling, walking, transit and environmental friendliness. We have nearly a blank slate here. There is Manning Drive, a couple railway lines to the west, the North Saskatchewan River to the Southeast, plus a few homes and buildings that are currently being used.  We have the opportunity to do everything right.

But yet the city fails to design with transit, cycling and walking taking precedence over cars. The arterials are still planned to be divided 4 laners, and the LRT is not the most direct route, nor do buses get any way to take straight lines unless an arterial already does that. It talks a lot about walkability, but this has been done for the structure plan for my neighbourhood and ones near mine, and nothing happened to make walking attractive. And walking is a very different means of transport than cycling. There is no grid, closely connected bicycle paths spaced 500-750 metres apart for primary routes. Also, a lot of the commerce is centred on the arterial roads. This is a big mistake. An arterial road (the Dutch would call our arterials a mix of through and distributor roads) is for traffic to get from A to B quickly in high volumes, not give access to the commerce, or homes for that matter. Even access roads don't have to be centred on homes, they can also be centred on taking traffic from the arterial to the end destination, in this case, the commerce.

Putting the commerce near the large roads also means that car dependency is massively boosted. Putting it dead centre in each neighbourhood, just enough for that neighbourhood, for all the different kinds of amenities you might need, like restaurants, groceries, a few different kinds of stores for groceries to encourage competition, health services, a bike shop or two for all your needs related to that, coffee house, all those sorts that you go to on a regular basis, they could all exist in the centres of neighbourhoods, especially if the city didn't require anything other than handicapped parking. We obligate businesses to have a lot of parking, and putting it underground is expensive. If transit use made up about 10% of journeys, cycling 65% and walking 15% for going to stores, then a tenth of the parking is even needed assuming it all was before. And it was not all needed before. All areas should be walkable, as well as cyclable and transit friendly.

I also note that a lot of the walk ability part of this plan, and where the options that are even more important the less income you have is mostly near the town centre, where prices are likely to be higher.

First, create a direct light rail line through the area, away from motor traffic, designed for 80 km/h, the fastest our trains are capable of. Create a network of bus only roads completely away from motor traffic, spaced about 1.2 km apart or so, meaning that you won't be further away than 600 metres from a bus stop. Organize the bus routes entirely around that system of bus lanes, buses only even running on those bus lanes makes for a high frequency permitting, reliable and fast bus system.

Create the cycling routes at 500-750 metre intervals for primary routes and 250-350 metres apart for secondary routes. Make homes and businesses face those paths. Then put in the homes and shops,  the latter of which concentrated around the transit stops and cycle routes.

Create access roads for motor traffic, designed in a way that doesn't even act like the intended routes for bicycles, they only function as roads which you use to get to homes and businesses. Design them as traffic calmed 30 km/h zones with lots of filtered permeability, where cyclists and pedestrians can go, but not cars. On the roads that don't function as the way cars get around within neighbourhoods but are only used by the residents of that very street, build them as living yards, or woonerven.

Pick one or two accesses from each neighbourhood as the road that will intersect with an arterial road, rebranded as a distributor, with one lane per direction with a median between them, no parking and no direct access to anything other than access roads and through roads, and build the intersection as a single lane roundabout. Oh, and raise the distributor up about 2 metres to make it easier for cyclists and pedestrians to go under the roundabout.

Roundabouts as a method of controlling traffic both between distributors and other distributors, distributors and busy access roads (speeds may be 30 km/h but if it has more than 2000 vpd then it needs cycle paths, but it's use as the means to get into a neighbourhood is fine), and even between through road intersections (both through roads in this area are grade separated, so I am referring to the interchange ramps) are not mentioned. They are getting a bit of popularity in brand new developments which is a good sign, even in Edmonton, but are still uncommon (just look at this suburb in Winnipeg. Roundabouts everywhere: https://www.google.ca/maps/@49.7976482,-97.1926309,15z?hl=en). Im my plan, it could very well be a stop sign and traffic light free area, which would be amazing progress. Even if there are traffic lights, they are likely going to be very rare.

Manning Drive provides a good through route for traffic here, and so does Anthony Henday Drive, and given noise and visual barriers to make it so that living near it makes no difference, maximum use of the land can occur.

The density bugs me a little. It seems to suggest building the single detached homes that practically define suburban North America and Edmonton. Rowhouses are much denser, and four story apartments are also massively increasing the density and making better use of the land.

I also noticed under a little box in the ASP plan that cycle routes are to be planned at the neighbourhood structure plan. OK, is this it city planners? You think that they only matter on a micro scale of within neighbourhoods? That's very foolish. A good path that functions just like an arterial road, moving high volumes of cycle traffic on a fast cycle way (the literal translation of a fietssnelweg) needs to be planned on the same scale as arterial roads are. That means basing the neighbourhoods off the cycleway network, not the other way around.

And of the paths they do suggest, they consist of shared use paths. The only time when that is acceptable is if pedestrians never cause a disruption to cyclist movement on bike paths designed as if cyclists are the only means of travel on it because of their volume. It doesn't even suggest building separate paths for pedestrians and cyclists next to schools, where very high levels of pedestrian and cyclist activity can occur. In fact so high that if I cycle near a school like Johnny Bright, I have to get off my bike and walk because the volumes of pedestrians are too high. Any thing that obligates cyclists between the point of setting off and parking their bicycle at the other end to dismount has already failed as a cycleway in my opinion. It disqualifies it from being an acceptable option to me. If you are going to do this, why not make car drivers get out and push, after all, they pose a danger to pedestrians too?

 It suggests things like skiing and snowshoeing, plus walking, inline skating and cycling on the shared use path, exasperating the problem. Skiing also needs snow on the route they take, and if you snowshoe on a cleared path, why are you using snowshoes? It suggests that paths won't be cleared in winter despite it being a necessity to getting from A to B on a bicycle. Bike paths are supposed to be designed for one thing. Cycling at a reasonable speed to get from one point on it to another point. The exact same reason why distributor roads are built like this. They aren't designed to be shared with pedestrians and cyclists because it slows the travel down on a facility that should be designed for getting places.

A well designed path is intended so that you could go 50 km/h down it on a straight level path. Most people on upright bicycles won't go that fast but not everyone is on upright bicycles. Those on road bikes, with dropped handlebars and thin tires, people training for a race, conducting races, using velomobiles and recumbents, ideal for touring, mountain bikes being ridden towards a slope, are often going faster than 25 km/h. I've seen velos being ridden at 87 km/h down a hill. On flat land, about 40, often faster depending on the rider. These are not always people going on a tour, they are often people just getting to and from work. You can feasibly commute over 30 km/h in one of those velomobiles, if you've seen David Hembrow's blog, you probably know about his velo. Mopeds limited to 30 km/h are also at the right speed and mass to mix on a cycle path, although for the care of people's lungs I would add the regulation that only electric scooters/mopeds are allowed.

It says later on that opportunities for modal shift will be explored. No. Modal shift MUST be used to the greatest possible extent. This wording prevents a developed from shifting the cost of high use of cars to the city and public, and makes it possible for me and everyone else to criticize the city if they do not build the Dutch level infrastructure (taking good examples, not obsolete bike boxes, but the 3.5-4 metre wide cycle tracks separate from the road, 30 km/h, simultaneous green, protected intersections and roundabouts with cycle tracks around them, grade separations of large roads, etc) that have proven to be able to change the modal shift to 27% nationwide counting the rural areas and up to 60% in some cities. It also says that cycling and walking will be prioritized as a goal. The suggested policy? Absolutely nothing in relation to cycle tracks on all roads with volumes greater than 2000 vpd or speeds above 30 km/h (in existing areas cycle lanes are sometimes tolerable but only when the speed does not exceed 40 km/h and no more than 3500 vpd, in the new areas of the city, it's a blank slate, nearly all the land that we could need, so we can avoid cycle lanes entirely).

Dutch suburbs are much happier and healthier than ours, they have less congestion, less pollution and everyone feels genuinely safe. I found that the Kloosterveen in west Assen has 0 injuries and 0 deaths and very few collisions. What kind of Edmontonian suburb is like that? I challenge people to name one. You get featured with your own blog post if you can prove that a suburb in Edmonton is as bicycle and pedestrian friendly as the Kloosterveen. I expect that I will not have to write that post.

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