Monday, 28 December 2015

Mini Netherlands Edmonton.

A lot of talk is going around in the UK about Mini Hollands programs, the idea being making neighbourhoods as good as Dutch ones. A few show some promise, but they still have a long ways to go. Lets see what we could do in my neighbourhood. Allow me to use the correct name for the country in question. (CGPGrey explains elegantly here).

Lets first get the nearby through roads right. Electronic management system and perhaps a higher speed limit on HWY 2, maybe extending the 110 north of the Henday, and Anthony Henday Drive, up to perhaps 120, and maybe HOV lanes or a third lane, perhaps shoulder running. This gets them up to the capacity required.

Next are the nearby distributors. These are 127 St, Ellerslie Rd, 30 Ave, 41 Ave and James Mowatt Trail/111 St. They need to be upgraded. 50 km/h speed limits except for 41 Ave, where a 70 limit is probably better, replacement of all traffic lights and planned stop signs where public roads are intersecting with roundabouts except at the DQ on Ellerslie Road (transformed into a bicycle and pedestrian only intersection with a light controlled crossing designed like this), and the intersections of Blackmud Creek Drive and Ellerslie and MacEwan Rd and 111 St, where they become roads designed as protected intersections. 41 Ave and James Mowatt gets a turbo roundabout, the interchanges with the freeways get turbo roundabouts and Ellerslie Road and 111 St gets a turbo. All of them have an underpass for cyclists and pedestrians. They also get high quality cycleways.

The bus routes get shifted onto the arterial roads, and get traffic light priority at the remaining intersections, and have busways going right through the middle of roundabouts with lights that only serve to stop traffic when buses come. They get new bus lanes in the middle of the road, and bus stops get transformed with reduced step up height, tactile edge, cycle parking, shelters and real time arrival information. I found that on Ellerslie Rd just to the west of Blackmud Creek Drive, the median itself is sufficiently wide to hold a pair of 3.2 metre wide bus lanes and still have 90 cm wide curbed medians between the bus lanes and roadway. Without modifying the width of the roadway between the outer curbs, there is enough room for a pair of bus lanes and no reduction in the number of motor vehicle lanes and no banned turns or reduced turn lanes at the intersection itself. The LRT should but is not required to extend to the city limits or Ellerslie Rd for this to work.

The cycleways need to be improved. At minor side roads they need to bend out a bit, to 5-6 metres, with tighter corner radii and a raised table. Building a separate sidewalk to keep those conflicts down. Widening them out to 3.5-4 metres of width. The separation from the road in general is good, though more trees wood be useful. Pun intended. And the design of the cycleways needs to be continuous and not needing to dismount or ride illegally on sidewalks.

Now I can get into the interesting bit within my neighbourhood.

On the two collector roads, Blackmud Creek Drive and Blackmud Creek Crescent, we have some work to do. A 40 km/h speed limit immediately, they are collector roads within a neighbourhood, not linking multiple neighbourhoods. And some new cycleways. Most of the length will have cycle lanes, though some sections will get a completely separate cycle path. The parts that get cycle paths away from the roadway is a pair of one way paths between Beck Close and Ellerslie Road, so that there's some separation close to the edge of the neighbourhood. And the other part is a pair of one way paths between Bowen Wynd and Blackmud Creek Drive on the Crescent on the west side at the park. And the other area with a cycle path is on the area of Blackmud Creek Drive between the playground and James Mowatt Trail, with a 4 metre wide bidirectional path. This has an advantage in that you don't have to cross the road to get to the school and park.

And finally, whenever there is no parking on a side of the road, then it gets a separate cycle path. This is because it widens out sufficiently to have a pair of 2.5 metre wide cycle paths protected by at least a metre of a median. Sometimes it will narrow, the median that is, but never less than 80 cm next to parking and never less than 35 cm next to moving traffic. The motor vehicle lanes are reduced to 2.5 metres, for two directions, for a grand total of a 5 metre wide road. I also widen out the sidewalks to 2 metres, sometimes more than 3 near the park and school, wide enough that you could fit a car with a plow fitted to the front on it, and giving plenty of space to walk. Which is exactly what will become more attractive, as well as cycling.

Where I can't put in a cycle path, then it gets cycle lanes, unless it is a 30 km low volume road. The cycle lanes are at least 2 metres wide, and if next to parking, has a small buffer to reduce the impact of the door zone, paved with beige bricks. 2 metre wide cycle lanes are the norm in the Netherlands for new cycle lanes, and given that I have the room here, I can order 2 metre wide lanes. The sidewalk is also widened to 2 metres.

Don't worry too much about the narrower lanes. 2.5 metres is actually considerably wider than normal cars. And trucks would have a prohibition, only goods vehicles less than 3.5 metric tonnes (3500 kg) would be allowed, and even semis are 2.6 metres in width, and those are banned). Buses while being 2.6 metres wide also, they are also not routed through the neighbourhood. When I have 2.5 metre wide lanes then it also means that there will be a cycle lane too where a vehicle could use if it absolutely had to, like a firetruck.

On the minor side roads, I bend out the cycle lane whenever I can, same with the cycle paths, sometimes I also close minor side streets to A reduce shortcutting and B to reduce conflicts. Having a tight corner radii and a steep curb, probably about a 5% gradient, to go up to the height of the cycleway and then another ramp to go over the sidewalk, again at a 5% gradient, makes that nobody will go faster than walking pace. Designed a bit like this:,5.2716537,3a,75y,52.12h,67.73t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1s990aN71Jm3KJgsZxO7X8bg!2e0!7i13312!8i6656?hl=en. I know that there are a lot of driveways and it will be somewhat of a challenge, but getting them right is possible, and you can actually ride past driveways without even noticing. Watch this video to see what I mean:

At the intersection where the two stop signs are, both intersections of Blackmud Creek Drive and Blackmud Creek Crescent, it could be configures like a mini roundabout with non annular cycle paths around it, or it could be configured where the traffic going EB to SB and NB to WB on the park side intersection and from NB to EB and WB to SB on the eastern intersection has the right of way. In the latter case, the section of the Drive in the middle should have the access for cars on both sides closed off and local traffic has to access it from the east side, and be redesigned as a low volume 30 km/h access road.

Another access closure needs to be implemented. It affects private motor traffic at the intersection of Bailey Court and the Crescent, stopping traffic on the Crescent. It does not affect emergency vehicles or cyclists. It stops shortcutting traffic from outside the neighbourhood. More closures need to be added to stop traffic from having the potential to use a minor side street loop as a bypass, and to permit only one way to get from any individual home to the main arterial road by private motor vehicle. It makes cycling more attractive and more pleasant with the traffic. Finally, the remaining access into the neighbourhood at Bowen Wynd and James Mowatt Trail needs to be closed to motor traffic and have a median refuge for cyclists and pedestrians created, along with lane narrowing from a redesigned ordinary width of 3.1 metres to 2.8 metres, a wiggle and a speed table, all designed for 50 km/h speeds.

The minor access roads need to be redesigned. The surface would become brick paved, to provide an audible warning of motor vehicles when one comes along, to make it clear just what kind of road you are on, to suggest a lower speed, and also to make it feel like a nicer street. We often have a tendency to have some sort of nostalgia for the brick paved roads for some reason, and people like it. So out with the asphalt (which is made of tar by the way, so we save on the environment too, you can make bricks out of clay and shale), and in with the brick. The intersections would be raised, to slow traffic and all indications of who goes first is removed. People would need to be educated that this means yield to traffic who came first, if two came around the same time, the traffic from the right goes first. pretty much all signage goes away, except for a sign at the entrance that you are in the 30 km/h zone, and a sign on the exit saying that the 30 limit no longer applies. The intersections are also equipped with curb extensions and tight corner radii, cyclists on a 4-6 metre wide roadway couldn't care less about a corner radius that tight, but cars take it slowly. The rolling curb is also replaced with a vertical one, though with those steep ramps that don't roll into a gutter at first. The drains are also replaced with drains in the curbs themselves. If a curb is directly next to the road, it's sloped at 45 degrees.

Parking is removed where possible, as far as I can tell, everyone except those in apartments have driveways, and even those in apartments have parkades and a parking lot to park in. And pretty much every home I see has garages, mostly 2 car garages. Very little more is needed. And no parking is needed where there isn't a home facing the road, like near the park. A few spaces remain for those who want to drive there, but especially near the school, the parking spaces are removed. There is going to be a small lot for the staff and visitors, but the drop off zone too could be brick, and come with a low speed limit, maximum 30, maybe even just 15-20 km/h. A stopping ban near the school would also prevent people stopping further into then neighbourhood. And besides, with improvements like this, a large chunk of the students coming here will walk or cycle, maybe over 75% of them.

Of the parking that remains, it will be raised a few centimetres, probably 5, above the road surface and have an angled curb, around 30 degree angle, and paved with a completely different colour and pattern of brick. The parking bays are 2 metres wide, and where possible, equipped with a 50-120 cm wide beige brick buffer also paved in a slightly different pattern than the main roadway, to act as a door zone warning. Curb extensions would be used wherever parking is not allowed, so that it cannot optically widen the road. It extends the full 2 metres of the width of the parking bays, and the door zone beige brick zone if used. It makes the effective corner radii tight, to slow down traffic.

And finally, the pathways away from roads are improved. The little shortcuts are widened, to between 3.2 and 4 metres of width, depending on usage, and equipped with lighting, and a sidewalk when possible. The part that links it to the roadway is redesigned as a long, smooth ramp, rather than a rolled curb. This also applies to the path between Barnes Way and the Sobeys, long and smooth with a good transition to the parking lot. Main routes are upgraded, to 3.5-4 metres of width, and paths are built to connect it with Callaghan and the commercial area to the east across the creek, and upgraded with lighting. The recreational routes are better signposted and some sort of lighting system is added in some way that it doesn't affect the wildlife but still allows people to see. The gradients are lowered when possible and paths are paved and straightened where it is possible to do so.

It will be an area where children are able to go and meet friends without needing to worry about the traffic, with the parents not being worried, people cycle to all sorts of locations and people cycle and walk to school. Collisions are rare and injuries are practically unheard of, and serious injuries and deaths are absent. The cycling and walking rate within the neighbourhood to the elementary school is at least 90%, only dropping to 80% during the winter, people feel safe to ride, even in winter, and the roads become calm, peaceful and quiet and never a nuisance to people. An area that serves as inspiration for other areas in Edmonton. And hopefully combined with making other areas more friendly to ride, downtown and the UofA and Strathcona, the rest of Heritage Valley, South Edmonton common (just try to find a parking space there on the saturday before Christmas), and the entire city, and transit reorganization, the modal share can go up by tens of percents, maybe more than a third of people on bike, and another third walking or taking transit. Hopefully the only sounds you'll hear near the playground are children playing and the bells on bicycle handlebars ringing, not motor engines or car horns.

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