Sunday, 31 January 2016

Safe road crossings.

I wrote a few days ago about how a cycleway can safely be crossed by a minor side street when the cycleway is parallel to a main roadway with yield sign control. I have yet to finish off my traffic light series with simultaneous green and what to do if you can't fit a fully separate turning/cycleway signal system, but I can write now about what happens if a cycleway needs to cross a main road without traffic lights when it's not parallel to a roadway. I was inspired to write this by the post from Aviewfromthecyclepath talking about cycle priority crossings. I'm not writing about priority crossings as the sole topic, but it will be one of the primary topics. 

Visibility is one of the key factors that makes a crossing safe. Especially if cyclists have priority. It makes it so that you can understand who will be where at what time. At least a lot easier. David found a chart, link here: http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-Lf8_NGn4rbM/VW7jJTsKmrI/AAAAAAAAYj8/AQNz2QfrP04/s1600/Screenshot%2Bfrom%2B2015-06-03%2B12%253A56%253A35.png, that describes the sightlines required in relation to how how fast the road is and how wide it is if cyclists are assigned the right of way. You can see that a huge amount of space is required to make a priority crossing safe for 50 km/h speeds (85th percentile, not necessarily posted limit) than for 30 km/h crossings, and so on. 

Speeds at the crossing is the next big task. There must be low enough speeds to make them safe. I would say that the maximum a safe crossing can be with priority for cyclists without a traffic light is at 50 km/h. Possibly at 60 for rural access roads, but I have doubts about that. Because this is measured speed, not posted, there must be things to make drivers want to be at the speed limit in question. A bend in the road helps a lot here. For the most part this bend would be very difficult to build, but I found a location in Edmonton where such a crossing could be retrofitted. More on that later. 

Drivers must be able to know with confidence where cyclists are going. If there is an intersection between cycleways near the intersection, then it makes it hard for drivers to know whether cyclists are going to continue onto the road crossing or are going to turn beforehand. This means that cycleway intersections should be located well back from the road crossing, or if you can't do anything else, offset the roadway crossing and the cycleway intersection, creating a pair of T intersections separated by a number of metres. 

Drivers must also know who has the right of way in an instant. Look at this image: https://www.google.ca/maps/@53.424728,-113.5148711,3a,90y,160.71h,78.85t/data=!3m7!1e1!3m5!1s_Q5gGHZj1ARF3W7O3XQ0kA!2e0!6s%2F%2Fgeo0.ggpht.com%2Fcbk%3Fpanoid%3D_Q5gGHZj1ARF3W7O3XQ0kA%26output%3Dthumbnail%26cb_client%3Dmaps_sv.tactile.gps%26thumb%3D2%26w%3D203%26h%3D100%26yaw%3D91.306839%26pitch%3D0!7i13312!8i6656?hl=en. You have no idea who is supposed to go first by design. There aren't markings, no signs, and nothing to slow cars down other than a 10 metre wide corner radius, which isn't that small which can increase to a 15 metre wide effective radius if you move a little bit away from the curbs. With that only maybe 60% of the motor traffic will yield to pedestrians and cyclists, even if they are aware that such a path exists. The crossing isn't at a right angle either, even though it is perfectly possible to put about 5-6 metres of space between path and roadway edge. Elephants feet, yield signs and yield triangles plus the continuation of the red asphalt of the cycle path and when crossing access roads, a continuous level sidewalk too, otherwise zebra markings, all on a hump help to make it very clear that cyclists should go first, and a drop down to roadway level, facing a yield sign and having the sharks teeth point towards you and narrower dashed lines flanking the crossing rather than elephants feet plus a break in the surface of the cycle path, using the surfacing of the roadway makes it clear that cars should go first in that instance. This is visual priority, when you know for certain who should go first (coined by Schrödinger's cat from the Alternative DfT).

Breaking up the crossing(s) into simple easy to follow steps is useful too. A median refuge, even if cyclists have the right of way, and especially if they don't, can be really helpful. Having the ability to turn off a main cycle path before you cross a road, for example when you are cycling parallel to a main roadway and need to go onto a minor route and to do so you would cross the road, being able to turn off the cycle path and use a secondary path for a short distance before you cross the road helps a lot. 

The roadway should be as small as possible, especially if cyclists have the right of way, so limit speeding, to limit the number of things that a driver might doing instead of looking around for cyclists, like finding a parking space or overtaking, and to make it a smaller crossing with less risk and fewer things for the cyclists to look out for, like an overtaking car. 

Too much reliance on things like amber flashers shows that there is likely a problem with the crossing itself. They can be helpful in some cases, but should not be the main go to alternative for other physical measures. They also should be activated by loops or microwave detectors or something like that from a distance so that you don't have to stop on a bicycle to push a button. The over-reliance problem is a problem because it entirely depends on a driver being conscious, alert, at the best mental capability and is willing and going to react and not distracted. With a good physical design, if a car is for example not going to follow the curves on a roundabout, then they are just going to crash into the curbs on the central island or splitter island or into the curbs on either side of the lane. If it were a traffic light or stop then, then you might crash into another car or cyclist or pedestrian. Same with these priority crossings, a bend helps a lot in that if you don't slow down, you are going to hit the curb not the cyclist. 

If cyclists do not have the right of way, then they should face a yield sign to the greatest possible extent, not a stop sign. There are a few locations I can think of which do need stop signs, but not nearly to the extent they are used now. If you didn't have to fully stop, then you are more likely to want to obey the yield sign. The curves should also be tighter for cyclists if there is a curve and a bend for the cyclists is a good idea. This is how roundabouts work in Assen. There must be gaps in the flow of traffic. The speed must also be regulated, and you must be able to decide whether in each lane that motor traffic has that there is enough of a gap. This is why multi lane unsignalized crossings can be very difficult, and especially when there is no suitable median refuge. 

It is at 109 St and the powerline right of way path in Steinhauer. The same path in other locations also could have a safe crossing in this way too, but I am focusing on this example. There is about 140 metres between the first driveway north of the path and 29A Ave (that intersection with 29A ave needs a roundabout). This leaves plenty of space for a bend in the road, a sharper one that is, to create A right angles between the path and road, and B to make drivers slow down. I don't know whether the design speed should be 50 or 30, the slightlines are good for both speeds, given that 109 is a collector road, I think 50 is good, but it needs some refinement. Either way, the bend(s) in the road help make drivers aware that something is going on and gives them an indication that they need to control their speed and pay attention. 

A good warning sign for cyclists (and pedestrians) crossing is also useful, and there should be a raised table to help with the speeds, the road should be fairly narrow, about 5.4 metres (parking isn't needed here, there aren't really any destinations that don't have their own parking lots or homes), trimming the trees as seasonal maintenance, and good visual priority. Given that there isn't too much volume and the speeds are low enough, 50 km/h, this should work well. 

This goes for other situations too, some will have cyclists having the right of way, some will have motorist priority, both are used with safety and efficiency in the Netherlands. We should copy what works, regardless of where it came from. 

Saturday, 30 January 2016

Reducing delay at traffic lights

We've all had the scenario. Late for something, and the traffic light "just" turned red for you, or you're waiting and you don't see any side street traffic, and you just wished that you could treat it as a stop or yield sign or something like that? Well, there are many ways to reduce the delay.

First is to get rid of the light altogether. That does make it sound like the can you hear a tree falling in the forest if you aren't there to hear it sort of paradox, but it's true. This won't always be true of course, I think people would make lots of videos about how our woulds would be like the videos from India sometimes are if we suddenly took the lights away absolutely everywhere, but in many cases it is possible to remove the lights. You can use a roundabout, that often works. You can have a stop sign for low visibility cases and yield signs for other situations on the side streets. You can also have an interchange or a more simple grade separation, but that is not always a possible thing to have.

Of the lights that remain, a good way to reduce delay is to have specialized signals for each direction and mode, including bicycles and pedestrians, a separate lane and path for each direction, IE left, right and through (exact configuration varies) lanes, a separate sidewalk and a separate bicycle path as simple an intersection as you can, prohibit as many left turns by car as possible, full actuation, fully flexible cycle timings and a rest in red by default mode. Buses should have priority signal transmitters, and emergency vehicles should have preemption systems. This makes it so that you don't need the clearance interval and the yellow light delay all the time, just when other conflicting traffic came first. Here is an example.

We will have the major road, known as A, going east and west, and minor road, as B, going north and south, and all the directions and movements have their own signals in the way I just described, and it is a four way intersection, no turning movements prohibited.

On phase 1, we have the left turn going in just from westbound to southbound. But we don't have the westbound through movement at this particular time, because there isn't traffic detected in that lane. So we wait for say 10 seconds and how all of a sudden, a car is coming eastbound and is going to turn left to go north. Well, because we didn't give the westbound through traffic the green light, we don't have to wait for any yellow and red clearance intervals. We can give that car a green light as soon as it's detected and the controller computer calculates that there is no other traffic.

Now let's say that it's phase 2, and we have the right turn from southbound to westbound on the green, but because traffic wants to go westbound from road A, the phase is going to end soon. But wait, a bus is coming and it wants to make that right turn. It wouldn't originally have the ability to make that right turn, because it just couldn't make it in time, but because we took the few extra seconds to let it go first, it takes less time. And if there wasn't traffic behind the bus, then we would also save on time because then we wouldn't need a whole new phase for the bus only, it saves on the yellow and red time that would otherwise have to be repeated. This is especially useful to me because a bus route I often take makes a left turn on a protected movement, but often times it is just a little too slow to make that movement. Oh, and this reminds me. Having separate bus lanes also helps here because A the flows are separated by mass and speed, allowing for the signals to be coordinated to give the bus a slightly longer yellow time to account for the need for an increase in the stopping distance, especially given that if it has physically separated lanes, it is possible to give the bus a higher speed limit.

Having this actuation system also means that it can be configured to count the traffic as well given the right kind of actuation. Pedestrians couldn't be counted in this way, but other traffic can. It would give the city and province good information to make good decisions about who is making how many journeys in which direction. Maybe a left turn by bike is very popular, 20% of all the cyclists make that left turn from each approaching cycleway, and it's found that their delay is on average, say 50 seconds. A simultaneous green could be added, so that the left turn could say be done every 30 seconds, as in no more than a 30 second wait for cyclists and you can make that left turn all at once. It makes better use of data.

And another way this actuation system, and used in the right way and given good physical design, the lights can be programmed to flash amber in all directions, or possible yellow in 2 directions and flashing red in the other two depending on sightlines, when the traffic counters detect a pattern in the flow of traffic that is consistently low enough to go to flash mode. It obviously would be tailored to each 15 minute period of each day of each week, as in 9:PM on Saturdays could mean the lights to go flashing amber but it takes until 10:30 on Thursdays to do the same. It would take a few weeks to get enough data for an accurate picture of what the pattern is, but the flow would be much more efficient. How who goes first when all the lights are flashing yellow, and the turn arrows are flashing amber? Yield signs could be introduced to make it clear. In theory no yield signs could be used, but it would have to be having even lower speeds and volumes to be safe, and it needs to be clear that it would be an uncontrolled intersection. If these requirements are not met, they are just as good as shared space, which in the wrong volumes and speeds has proved a disaster.

To do this, the intersection should be well designed. One of the excuses the city put up about why they don't do this now includes drag racing. Well, I don't see why someone determined to race would obey a red light anyway, but we can still prevent the racing in the first place with good physical design. Narrower lanes help a lot in this field, practically nobody goes 80 km/h on a 50 km/h limited 2.8 metre wide lane. Especially if the 20 cm on either side of the curb used a brick paving line, so that there is a tactile feeling if you go too fast to control a car within 2.4 metres. There can be fewer lanes, preferably a single lane after the traffic light, and as few lanes as possible while still giving each direction it's own signal control. There can be a speed table designed for the actual limit but not more just before the stop line, this is an actual technique used in the Netherlands, and can be designed for a range of speed limits, generally 30, 50, and 70 limits. Raised medians in the middle of the road and between lanes divides crossings for cyclists and pedestrians who under flash mode would not have signals to guide them, well, flashing yellow for cyclists, no signal for pedestrians, and the raised tables provide speed calming.

Other elements of good design is making it clear about pedestrians, the city claims that the flash mode provides no protection, but then again, it would exactly as much protection as a similar street without traffic lights at all, and the red light itself can't do anything, it depends on drivers actually stopping. Pedestrians can have the zebra striped type of crossing to maximize visibility. I am still not entirely certain about whether it would be good or not to adopt how the Netherlands seems to have pedestrian priority at unsignalized crossings, one with the zebra stripes, where cars are absolutely required to stop, and must let them go first, vs the dotted line crossings, where traffic is only advised that pedestrians may be crossing and that it's probably a good idea to let them go first. Car drivers are used to stopping for pedestrians at most crosswalks, but I'm not sure. Either way, having refuges between the two directions when possible, and on multi lane roads, between each lane when possible (along with a raised ridge for about 80 metres before the crossing so that the traffic doesn't suddenly change lanes. This also helps cyclists. Generally when crossing 50 km/h roads parallel to the major road, cyclists will have priority over the minor road, when crossing parallel to the minor road, then when crossing the major road they will have to yield, using central medians for help. Crossing 70 km/h+ roads, you should probably not have the right of way over that road regardless of whether you are paralleling a major street or not. Given a low enough volume and good median islands and good lighting it shouldn't be too big of a problem though, that is after all the requirements to having flashing amber. Corner radii also need to be fairly tight so that you yield to traffic that is not turning, as you are legally supposed to.

Driver confusion is somewhat understandable. It will take time to learn. But it shouldn't take too long, it's like how quickly people get used to roundabouts. They are growing in popularity. And think about how quickly you can forget an old way of life. If you have moved homes within the last year, can you imagine life without your new home already? If you moved 5 years ago, can you imagine life without your new house? I can't (I moved from one house to another about 11-12 years ago, I can't really remember, I can't imagine how I would be living without the home I have now). Collective memory is quite short, especially for relatively low importance events, like a switch in how you behave on the roads. Besides, they will probably be willing to learn how to deal with fairly simple things like this to reduce their own delay that appears to be from a very obvious cause. Given the choice between say 1 minute of delay vs 10 seconds of delay, you will almost certainly pick the 10 seconds, especially given that there is very little cost to you, even in monetary costs. A programming switch is not a very expensive operation, and painting zebra stripes is pretty easy and cheap.

The Dutch also found that when they do this, it means that people look around their cars, and actually pay attention. It reduces the crash rate by a considerable number as long as the volume and speed isn't too high. With regulated yielding conditions, good road design, a little time to get used to it, low enough volumes and enough speed control, this can work very well. And so can the other options for traffic lights that also have really improved safety and time management.

Thursday, 28 January 2016

Aren't our roads too narrow for cycle paths, wider sidewalks, bus lanes and other improvements?

It's a bit funny that people suggest our roads are too narrow to have bicycle paths, sidewalks, bus lanes, and things like that, because we have some of the largest roads for our size, Calgary being one of the few places of similar size with even bigger roads (many of their roads are almost like expressways, though with mostly 60 km/h limits instead of mostly 70 and 80 limits).

Let's look at a place many consider "too narrow", 106 St near the Whitemud Crossing Branch Library. I measured myself, and it has a total width of 28.8 metres. Starting from scratch, lets built up the road. I managed to make all of this fit in the 28.8 metres of width we have (note I measured from the left edge of the west sidewalk to the east side of the bus stop shelter just north of 42 Ave):


It makes it clear that the space is there. For a pair of 2 metre wide sidewalks, a pair of .5 metre flower bed buffers between sidewalk and bicycle path, a pair of one way 2.5 metre wide bicycle paths, a 3 metre wide tree lined buffer on the west side between southbound cyclists and southbound motor traffic, a 2.8 metre wide lane for cars going southbound, a 4 metre wide divide between the two directions of motor traffic, another 2.8 metre wide motor vehicle lane going north, a 3 metre wide bus stop inlet, and a 3.2 metre wide transit shelter.

It all fits. This comes down to looking at the road as something capable of handling the traffic we could want to put on it, not look at car dependency as inevitable. This cross section provides safe walkways that are wide enough to walk with friends side by side, to push baby strollers around, and makes the phrase "stop and smell the roses" literal, due to the plant and flower beds between cyclists and pedestrians, which also discourages toddlers from stepping into the cycle path. The cycle path provides a wide area to cycle at the pace you desire to cycle at and makes that you can cycle two abreast, and then be overtaken by another cyclists, and still feel very safe at any time of the year, and makes clearing it of snow and ice a breeze.

The bus stop design makes that a bus can stop for as long as it needs to without disrupting the flow of traffic, and that there is plenty of space for people to wait for the bus and provide amenities. The other tree buffers divide the two directions of motor traffic, removing most of the risk of head on collisions, and provide enough room to divide your crossing into easy to follow steps, and makes the southbound cyclists feel very safe near the traffic. And the pair of car lanes makes that going 50 km/h or less, the optimal speed limit of distributor roads, a natural feeling and still allows trucks up to 7500 metric tonnes (the road isn't incapable of handling vehicles larger than that, but I would impose such a limit to minimize the size of trucks, making turning conflicts with cyclists less dangerous) and ordinary buses and firetrucks.

Another example you ask? Fine. Lets go to a smaller collector road. A nearby road. 108 St north of 40 Ave. It has between 500 and 1000 cars per day, and while it does have a bus route, that can be relocated to 106 St. Even if the bus route had to stay, there is enough room to put bus stop bypasses, though for obvious reasons it is quite constrained. How constrained? Just 15 metres, sidewalks included. I created a diagram of how this could look:

I managed to include a pair of 1.9 metre wide cycle lanes, a 5 metre wide bidirectional roadway, a pair of 1.8 metre wide sidewalks, a 70 cm wide buffer between parking and cycle lane plus a 1.9 metre wide car parking lane. It provides a good door zone buffer, cycle lanes wide enough to overtake within the lane itself, and optical narrowing for the drivers, and a small improvement over the current slightly narrower sidewalks. Cycle lanes aren't my first choice, but given that there isn't too much traffic and the speed limit is 50 km/h, and that could be naturally enforced with the narrower lanes, the dashed white line between cycle lane and roadway, speed humps and parking alternating the side of the road it's on, creating chicanes. Median refuges aren't really needed here with this little amount of traffic. The bus route is a concern, but given that most people in the neighbourhood are within 400 metres of a main distributor, 111 St, 106 St, 40 Ave, and the same goes for the rest of 108 St, and as best as I can tell, everyone is within 600 metres of such a stop, it should be no issue to relocate the bus routes to the primary distributor roads where there would be separate bicycle paths rather than cycle lanes within the neighbourhoods. 

Some other roads are not as wide, in fact, many aren't this wide. Like the road I live next to. It's a local access road, intending that only traffic that really needs to be on my street will ever be here. It's not a main car route, neither is it a main cycle route though. The speeds can be reduced to 30 km/h, traffic calming can be introduced and it can be turned into a pleasant road to mix with the extremely low volumes of motor traffic. About 50 houses on my street. Assuming 2 cars leave each day each way, that means about 200 cars in a day. That's an average of less than 9 cars per hour. There are a few commercial vehicles sometimes, a garbage truck each Friday, and sometimes my family along with the others on this street invite people to events at their homes. There is no need of separating cyclists from motor vehicles. My street is 12 metres wide, which allows for a pair of 2 metre wide sidewalks, no rolled curb, just a steep angled one, going to about 10 cm of height over about 20 cm in width, for such a short distance, that's no problem, a 5.4 metre wide bidirectional roadway, paved in brick, no need of separate cycleways, a 1.9 metre wide parking lane and a different coloured brick paving area about 70 cm wide to provide a door zone delineator. Here is the cross section: 

Our streets come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, speeds and volumes of differing kinds of traffic. The Dutch found a solution for every type of road and every width of road. Why can't people in Edmonton accept that our roads are wide enough for separated bike infrastructure above 30 km/h and above 2000 vehicles per day? Aside from the obvious person accepting this fact, the guy who wrote this blog post. 

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Passenger Car Units

When I've been saying vehicles per day or per hour, I actually meant passenger car units per hour or per day or whatever time period. I just used vehicles per hour because it is easy to understand. It's how many vehicles arrive over 24 hours or over 1 hour or whatever. But the reality of traffic is different.

In the realm of traffic engineering, they actually use Passenger Car Units, or PCU. This accounts for how much of an impact various types of vehicles have on the flow of traffic and capacity. Large vehicles effectively count for more than one car, a many bicycles can use the same space taken by a single car, and similar relationships.

I will use the following chart to describe how PCUs will work to me, and how they would be used whenever I say vp(time representation letter, like hour, day, etc) but mean PCU.

A car is 1. This also counts light trucks and vans, up to 3500 kg and no more than about 6 metres in length. Ordinary vehicle to most.

A single unit truck (meaning that the cab and the cargo part is fixed together, or at least they don't have an articulation) is 1.5 PCU. And this will count trucks and vans over 3500 kilograms.

Multi unit truck, basically meaning any truck with an articulation is 3.

Ordinary buses, 12 metres long, the ubiquitous city buses, and also the non articulated coach buses, are 2.5.

Articulated buses ate also 3.

Motorcycles (engine size over 49 cubic centimetres, no limiter and needing a class 6 license (in Alberta) to ride), will be .5.

Mopeds and bicycles will be .2. Mopeds being 2 or 3 wheeled motorized vehicles that are not motorcycles. Bicycles including E bikes.




So remember that PCU/d is what I mean if I say vpd or vpd or similar. I just use the latter because it's easier to understand and explain. There are of course times when we want to talk about specific vehicles, but in terms of capacity and modeling, this is how I am rolling. Pun intended.

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Minor side streets

A lot of people, especially vehicular cyclists and city planners, tend to say that sidepaths are dangerous at minor side streets, more specifically sign controlled intersections where the roadway that is given the right of way has a bicycling path on one side or the other side or both and there is a roadway that is facing a yield or stop sign and intersects with the path.

Well, it all depends on the design. A badly designed cycle track is dangerous, but a well designed one can be the thing that encourages thousands of people to ride on it every day for all the trips they need to make.

Let's start with where these side street crossings (and how bike lanes fit in) are used and how they work.

They are generally used at the intersections between an access road and a distributor road, though sometimes distributor roads and another distributor road intersecting will have them in lieu of a roundabout or traffic light, and sometimes at the intersection of a through road and access road, though that should be rare, and often at a driveway/business access and distributor roads.

Gas stations tend to have the cycle path bypassing it in such a way that the cross section would look like the through road/distributor road in the centre, the bicycle path and sidewalk on the outskirts and the gas station in the middle. There is an access from the cycle path to the gas station though because their might be employees who could commute by bike. This design can also be used for other types of related businesses. It avoids conflicts well.

Minor side streets that are too frequent should have a fietsstraat on either side of the main roadway, limited to 30 or 60 km/h for urban and rural areas respectively. This avoids conflicts at high speed. Mark Wagenbuur made a blog post about how this works: https://bicycledutch.wordpress.com/2012/05/21/dutch-service-streets-and-cycling/.

A further way to reduce this right hook problem (and left hook) is to downgrade the road. This is not always possible, but it can be done in many places. Even if you can't downgrade a through road into an access road, you can often make it a distributor road, at a lower speed and with lower volumes and generally with more space to allow bend outs and lowered corner radii. But getting roads with destinations on it downgraded to an access road helps a lot.

And the best way to deal with the right hook and left hook problem is to remove the problem altogether. Close off the road access if you can (to cars). Especially in the older parts of Edmonton, on the grid system there are far too many minor side streets intersecting with main roads. A few hundred extra metres for a car is practically nothing, just a few seconds. Even a kilometre is not a long distance in a car. A minute or so perhaps.

So what happens at remaining minor side street intersections?

If the road is an access road that serves as the main access to the neighourhood, then a roundabout can be an attractive option if the volume from the access road is high enough to compete with the main road traffic. Design as a fairly normal roundabout, except that usually if the volume is low enough, then the cycle path will merge back into regular traffic. It would be like how a freeway ramp merges with the main flow of traffic, except on a scale more like 15 metres rather than 150 metres of length.

The other option is to have a right of way intersection. The side street faces a yield (and very occasionally a stop sign) sign and a row of sharks' teeth to indicate who has the right of way over whom. The colour of the cycle path is red, to highlight the conflict, with dyed asphalt or concrete, and there will be elephants feet markings (large square markings flanking the crossing). But the physical design is even more important. There needs to be pretty low corner radii to assure low turning speeds. A truck apron can help with this, making the curve smaller for passenger vehicles and vans and larger for larger vehicles. Of course the really big vehicles should be prohibited where possible. No semis off the through roads, and only vehicles less than 3.5 metric tonnes into the 30 km/h zone. A raised table also helps out too. The elevation incline will vary depending on the intent of the access, lower and gentler for busier side roads, like a distributor road being the side street, more like a rolled curb that you find on a driveway access for the 30 km/h roads and for driveways, both business accesses and home access. For pedestrians, on business accesses, driveways and 30 km/h access roads, the sidewalk should continue as normal. Otherwise it is designed like a zebra crossing over the side road.

But probably the most important part of this is that wherever possible, there is the space for a car/van to turn and face the cycle path at as close to a right angle as possible and to the greatest possible extent, be out of the way of other traffic. This is about 5-6 metres or so, and some can be wider. The more space, the better. The tight corner radii slow the speeds and make it very obvious who is doing what when, the distance creates the visibility and the ability for drivers to deal with as few things as possible at a time. There will be some exceptions, but for the most part, there is enough space to put at least about 1.5 metres between cycle path and roadway, which is still better, and does create the space for a car to turn slightly, making it obvious to the cyclists at least if you are doing something.

Also important is creating space in the middle of the road as much as possible to break up the crossing into as few steps as possible. And it also creates the space for cyclists and pedestrians to break up crossings in this way as well, with pedestrians having a zebra crossing, sometimes with amber flashers, and cyclists having a priority crossing sometimes if the sightlines are good if the route is a major route for cyclists, otherwise there will be a yield sign facing them. If the volume is right, that shouldn't be a problem.

The volume and will determine the specifics, but there are a few things I know. I got a copy of the Alta Protected intersection model, which if you remove the traffic lights and put in some signs, given the right volume and speed, will work well without lights, and it says that 80% of motor vehicles will yield to cyclists and pedestrians when turning right at 10 miles per hour, which is ~15 km/h. And this is the relatively wide corner of a protected intersection and a 3 metre turning radius and just paint and signs to ask drivers to yield. Given the walking pace you need to go over the gateway style of access road/driveway style of crossing with a raised table, tighter curves and a continuous sidewalk, pretty much every car driver and van will yield. And even if they don't the speed is slow enough that a pedestrian and cyclist can stop in time, and if someone gets hit, they are likely to remain uninjured at walking pace and a much smaller chance of injury and almost no deaths if any at all at 15 km/h.

The right and left hook "problem" really isn't a problem given good design. With a good design, it makes it clear who should go first and what behavior is naturally suggested and enforced at a location like this: https://www.google.ca/maps/@53.4247239,-113.5145274,3a,49.5y,240.75h,77.59t/data=!3m7!1e1!3m5!1scIaDbevDL7GGH5HcwniVXQ!2e0!6s%2F%2Fgeo3.ggpht.com%2Fcbk%3Fpanoid%3DcIaDbevDL7GGH5HcwniVXQ%26output%3Dthumbnail%26cb_client%3Dmaps_sv.tactile.gps%26thumb%3D2%26w%3D203%26h%3D100%26yaw%3D338.30493%26pitch%3D0!7i13312!8i6656?hl=en verses this: https://www.google.ca/maps/@51.7087494,5.3294625,3a,90y,206.96h,80.18t/data=!3m7!1e1!3m5!1sMWg6q6tTVyrU2A73jl4ozg!2e0!6s%2F%2Fgeo0.ggpht.com%2Fcbk%3Fpanoid%3DMWg6q6tTVyrU2A73jl4ozg%26output%3Dthumbnail%26cb_client%3Dmaps_sv.tactile.gps%26thumb%3D2%26w%3D203%26h%3D100%26yaw%3D315.44757%26pitch%3D0!7i13312!8i6656?hl=en and especially this: https://www.google.ca/maps/@52.3748622,4.8720517,3a,50y,214.48h,75.7t/data=!3m7!1e1!3m5!1s8cBuQjF6dMM-tisYJny_Zg!2e0!6s%2F%2Fgeo3.ggpht.com%2Fcbk%3Fpanoid%3D8cBuQjF6dMM-tisYJny_Zg%26output%3Dthumbnail%26cb_client%3Dmaps_sv.tactile.gps%26thumb%3D2%26w%3D203%26h%3D100%26yaw%3D303.87161%26pitch%3D0!7i13312!8i6656?hl=en.

Bike lanes update

For the bike lane part of the equation, they can be used with success, but it depends on low speeds and low volumes, no more than 50 km/h and not more than a few thousand vpd. The side road should be using the continuous sidewalk design as much as possible, and there should be a continuous cycle lane, as in, elephants feet markings, red asphalt, and the yield sign faces the side road. If possible, it should transition into a cycle track before the intersection. On the side road, it should be low volume as well, and preferably having things like a median refuge for cyclists and motor vehicles, so that you can do as few things at a time as much as possible. They can work, but under very limited circumstances and they should be uncommon. 



Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Our roads are too big

You might be interested to know that single lane roads generally have the ability to handle 19000 vehicles per day on a regular stretch of roadway. And they can handle up to about 24000 per day given other upgrades like roundabouts. Given that cycle paths, 30 km/h roads, a dense grid of cycle routes that provides a fast, safe, direct, mostly non stop and easy to follow routes that connect ever home, destination, or other place you might be to every other destination you might want to go. Successful road diets have been around this number.

A single lane roundabout has a surprisingly high capacity, even without right turn and sometimes T roundabout bypasses. With at grade bicycle crossings they can have up to 1500 motor vehicles per hour, for a total of 36 thousand per day. Without at grade bicycle crossings, this can happen either with grade separation or a lack of any need to put a bike crossing near the roundabout, or at least not on a crossing, it can go up to 1750 per day, for a total of 42 thousand. For a single lane roundabout, I'm cool with that.

So what? Don't our roads have too much volume for that?

Actually no for the most part. Yes there are some roads where it would be ill advised to narrow it to a single lane or use a single lane roundabout, but a large number of roads can be narrowed successfully.

Some intersections do not have the space for a single lane roundabout without obtaining private property. So how to deal with that? Well, in many cases, a mini roundabout with similarly shaped bicycle paths around it as with normal single lane (non annular), but with the circle in the middle traversable, low and small and the roundabout being much smaller often works. It has the expectation that you can go over it if you are a truck, bus, pulling a trailer or for some reason need the central island to go anywhere, but most traffic is comprised of private cars or smaller vans. And in many cases, the buses can be re routed away from mini roundabout locations, not all, but some, and trucks can be regulated, perhaps no longer than 10 metres and no heavier than 7.5 tonnes (7500 kg), and school buses would be mostly a thing of the past because all the kids are on their bicycles, walking or taking the city bus, maybe creating exceptions for winter, and smaller minibuses 9 metres long perhaps for those with disabilities where it would be a challenge to use other means.

Parking on these roads, especially collector ones, is often not needed, especially given that on the arterials where there are destinations directly off the roads without a parking lot for it's own use tend to be in areas of the city where it's on the grid system, and in areas where there is even more potential for cycling, walking and transit than usual. Collector roads might have some parking left if there are homes and businesses without parking lots directly next to them, but can only be considered after cycling and walking both have safe and efficient places to be.

But this post is about how our roads are too big. How do we solve that? On collector roads, the ones we have now, can mostly have 1.75 metre (round up to 1.8 metres generally) to 2+ metre wide cycle lanes or 2-2.5 metre wide one way cycle tracks, sometimes 3.2-4 metre wide cycle tracks, we can widen the sidewalks, narrow the car lanes, the parking lanes, widen boulevards and planting boundaries, and make it more pleasant for all.

There are a couple other things needed to make them work right. They need bus stop inlets when you can, especially on the arterial roads that will be downgraded to 2 lane roads. Most arteries have more than enough width for this. Some routes even would benefit from completely separated lanes, but that is not always going to be the case. They still need separate bicycle paths away from cars. There is still considerable volume here, and there is still more than 30 km/h speeds. Speaking of speeds, the ideal speed limit for a distributor road in an urban area is 50 km/h. Pedestrian crossings will be made much easier, and bicycle crossings. The crossings can be set back at sideroad intersections, the speeds at the main road will be lower, and there will be median refuges, more zebra striped crossings, fewer traffic signals and less guessing what cars will do, and less guessing which lane a car is in, as there will often be only 1. The lanes will need to be narrower, as many roads are still too wide even with a single lane. There will sometimes be a median for most of the length, but not always.

Here is a nearby collector to my home: https://www.google.ca/maps/@53.4210446,-113.515195,84m/data=!3m1!1e3?hl=en. It is a little skewed because it's right near a school, but we can account for that. Especially the desire to cross as few roads as possible, provide good links to the park and route the path directly to the bicycle parking, and bypass all of the hullabaloo near the school parking lot. And the tidal waves of bicycles. The parking near the school is not needed, there are no real destinations and there will be a parking lot at the school. There are no homes within hundreds of metres directly affronting the road, and it creates a risk to children, cyclists and creates a sightline hazard. The width as I measured at the bus stop is 21 metres wide. Lets create a cross section to fairly account for it.

Here it is:

It has a 4 metre wide cycle path on the south side, near the school, a 5.6 metre wide roadway, 2.8 metre wide lanes per direction, a 2.6 metre wide bus bay inlet, a 2.9 metre wide bus stop waiting area, a .5 metre wide row of plants, maybe with a chain link fence between cycle path and sidewalk, a 2 metre wide sidewalk on the south side and a 1.9 metre wide sidewalk on the north side, plus a 1.5 metre wide tree boulevard on the north side. It creates a design with bus stops that doesn't obstruct any kind of traffic, cycle or motor vehicle, it has room for safe crossings of the road and cycle path, when it is not a bus stop, the cross section can look more like this: 

Here is another example on collector roads. It has 19.9 metres of width, sidewalk to sidewalk, link to it here: https://www.google.ca/maps/@53.4133445,-113.5315215,100m/data=!3m1!1e3?hl=en. It's not near any major destination, and the intersections on either side are numerous, so one way cycleways are more preferable, and there aren't really tidal flows. There are houses directly next to the road, so I will keep some for the residents. It's less busy, but still has a respectable amount of traffic, about 6 thousand per day. It can be redesigned like this: 

Those are just some collector roads. Let's look at arterial roads now. 

This is Rabbit Hill Road. https://www.google.ca/maps/@53.4565601,-113.5656929,3a,75y,355.54h,80.57t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sq433H2lRFbdU1uE-jJ8SaQ!2e0!7i13312!8i6656?hl=en. It is a 60 km/h divided 4 lane arterial road with about 16 thousand cars per day, the peak hourly volume has about 1300 cars per hour, both directions. That volume means that there is no need for a second lane. Add some roundabouts, they can't be put everywhere due to the volume on the intersecting street, 23 Ave comes to mind unless we build a turbo roundabout somehow, Terwillegar Drive should be a freeway as it was intended to be, and is designed for that, but in the meantime, traffic lights will be needed. For the interchange ramps, which would probably be diamonds, the two remaining intersections could be roundabouts, probably single lane. I checked the public road intersections and all of them would fit a single lane roundabout. The rest would be a simple right of way crossing with a yield sign. 

Its cross section could look like this: 

It has a 4 metre wide bidirectional cycle path on the west side, with a 2 metre wide sidewalk and a 1 metre wide planting bed between the path and sidewalk, 3 metre wide travel lanes, a 3.1 metre wide median between the two directions, which will be ordinarily along this road, a 2.9 metre wide bus inlet at the stop, the platform is 3.5 metres wide, a 1.8 metre wide access sidewalk to the stop, a 2 metre wide tree boulevard between the sidewalk and stop platform, and 3 metre wide tree boulevards on the outskirts of the road. The 5(5.5 on east side) metre wide divides on either side of the road between motor vehicle lanes and paths/sidewalk keeps people subjectively safe near the 50 km/h (reduced speed limit, for it's own good, and is a safer speed here. Plus it makes it very clear that it is not a through road, but a distributor road linking neighbourhoods to neighbourhoods and neighbourhoods to main arteries like 91 St and freeways), and provides enough room that the cycling path does not need to bend out at intersections, or maybe slightly, by about 1-2 metres, but much less than normal, so that you turn 90 degrees or very close to it, go over a raised table and yield to the cycle path/sidewalk.

Many other roads can get this treatment too. The collection of 101 Ave, 106 Ave, 71 St and 84 St, even 50 St north of 101 Ave all work well for narrowing to a single lane per direction and most work for roundabouts. Some will have to be mini roundabouts due to space constraints, but given the volume it should be OK. I used to go to that area a lot. 106 Ave will have a traffic signal at a couple locations but a number can be removed in favour of roundabout control. 

40 Ave and 106 St both have way less traffic than the 19000 per day, 24000 with other improvements, cut off point for single lane roads and have low enough volumes where they cross paths, and also when 106 St crosses 29 Ave, plus when 40 Ave crosses 119 St, to have roundabouts. 119 St is busier, but still low enough in volume to have reductions and roundabouts. At 34 Ave it will work for a roundabout but cyclists won't be able to cross at grade without a signal due to the volumes, so either a traffic light assisted crossing or an underpass is needed unless the extra volume can be contained on right turn bypass lanes for at least one arm, preferably not the ones cyclists may need to cross.

Having single lanes as much as possible simplifies intersections. It makes it harder to misjudge which vehicle is in which lane, which while that's easier to do during daytime, when there is a lot of traffic at once, traffic switching lanes, traffic turning right that quickly wants to turn left and vice versa, it can be really difficult. It's a challenge when I make a right on red at Ellerslie Rd sometimes from a collector road at night. There is simply more snow to remove and ice to de salt too. Collisions can happen via sideswipes and side crashes along straight stretches of road more easily. And when human brains are given the capability of making mistakes, they will inevitably make mistakes at some point. It also takes up many more resources, asphalt uses tar remember, than just planting grass. 

We can do even better with roundabouts being the common way to connect larger and busier roads as much as possible. The safety is better, a low angle Y collision at something like 25-30 km/h is likely to only cause minor property damage and no injuries, even to babies, than a T bone crash or head on at something like 50-60 km/h. As Minutephysics said, an average car at 60 km/h has the energy of a stegosaurus being dropped from a 3 story building. And it saves on the fuel and environment due to the reduced need of stopping and idling, plus the use of less asphalt. We even use less electricity to power it, we only need nighttime lighting with roundabouts, you need nighttime and traffic signal control electricity. 

And many roads can have their volumes reduced by modal shift onto cycling, walking, and transit use. Many roads already have the low enough volumes. How about we make them only as they need to be and not be wasteful, and maybe let the traffic lights pick on volume closer to their size? 

Saturday, 16 January 2016

109 St/61 Ave

The intersection of 109 St and 61 Ave is a mess. I almost was in a collision today there. Having a learning license and being in the winter didn't help. There are a number of things that can be done to improve this.

Let's get a busway in the centre of 109 St between 60 Ave and Saskatchewan Drive installed. This lets the buses bypass all the traffic. Let's add a one way cycle track in each direction on 109 St. This reduces the remaining roadway to 1 lane in each direction, plus turning lanes. Let's close off the service street access on the north of 61 Ave intersecting with 109 St. The rest of the service street is open, but not the part that links it to 109 St. Except bicycles. The service streets would be converted into fietsstraatsen, or bike boulevards. Very low volume roads with cycling as the main form of transport on the road, and 30 km/h speed limits in urban areas.

You will need to connect the fietsstraatsen with bicycling paths. At least 2.5 metres wide, as usual for one way paths on both sides of the street.

This is the potential cross section for 109 St just north of the antiquated intersection. It's 27 metres wide. Plenty wide enough for a pair of bus lanes, cycle tracks, widened sidewalks and still a car lane per direction. http://streetmix.net/CyclingEdmonton/172/109-st-63-ave provides a cross section made by me. Emergency vehicles are allowed in bus lanes by the way in case you were wondering.

There is the odd arrangement that southbound 109 St traffic must stop and wait for traffic that turned left off 61 Ave just before the main intersection with traffic lights. There isn't much to enforce even a yield sign, let alone a stop sign. But that intersection has to go away anyway. The shortcut that traffic can use to cut through Pleasantview is abused frequently. The bus route, the 9, needs to be relocated. An articulated bus is far too big to go through a neighbourhood. Even a regular 12 metre long bus is too big, so an 18 metre bus with an articulation in the middle is much more dangerous and unpleasant.

So how to fix this? Let's realign 109 St just north of the McDonalds to curve west, and create a T intersection with right angles. It may be able to be roundabout controlled, otherwise it would use traffic lights. A queue jump system for buses would be used at such a roundabout, going through the middle, and a queue jump in the left most lane in the correct direction would let buses make their way between 57 Ave and 61 Ave, and then on 61 Ave, same thing. That reminds me. The 61/111 St intersection should be made into a roundabout as well. The existing 109 St straight north south route and 61 Ave just east of the McDonalds becomes an unimportant intersection, a light controlled crossing for bicycles and pedestrians, and an access for emergency vehicles. The southbound cycle track traffic that doesn't go west will be using a new light controlled crossing, or a yield controlled crossing with motor vehicle priority if enough speed and volume control can be implemented well. I doubt it, but the fact that the crossing can be located far away enough from 61 Ave and the busway crossing can be separate stages, I think it would work OK if it was yield sign controlled.

The speed limit for motor vehicles should drop to 40 km/h for 109 St traffic and probably 50 km/h for 61 Ave. 70 km/h is an option though. All conflicts with bicycles and pedestrians would be light controlled anyway, the road is a divided 4 lane roadway and the lanes are so wide that it would benefit if they were narrowed, plus the controls that can be added to 61 Ave allows the possibility of 70 km/h. Chances are the roadway was designed for 70, like most 60 km/h arterial roads are in Edmonton.

Buses at any remaining traffic lights would get signal priority over the rest of traffic. Along 109 St as many local access roads are closed or made into right in right outs, limiting access onto the main roadway at few locations, like 76 Ave and 72 Ave. The remaining crossings are generally marked pedestrian and bicycle crossings, maybe with amber flashers. Many traffic lights would be able to be removed as a result.

The loss of motor vehicle capacity would be made up for with added capacity on new main through roads, like 61 Ave, and Groat Rd, and with new transit capacity, frequency, speed and directness, and cycle and pedestrian capacity. A lot of the traffic would dissipate and become bicycle and pedestrian traffic when conditions for them are not so poor as to essentially require cars.

There are a lot of conflicts on 61 Ave to the east of the intersection. Far too many side roads. Service roads were built for this. Removing the minor accesses would work well, and making them use the service streets work.

The access to the McDonalds would either be added to 61 Ave, the realigned 109 St or to one of the service streets parallel to 61 Ave, with a yield sign controlled access to the service street. I would use the service street option but I'm not certain about the impacts on the volume on the cycle street. I also question whether the McDonalds is properly located or not. I mean there is one just a short drive or bike ride up the road on 109 St. I've been there before. There is another on 51 Ave and Calgary Trail. So I think the McDonalds is probably better off closed. It would mean another set of conflicts out of the equation. Remember, these are roads not intended for local traffic, they are roads to carry large numbers of traffic at a medium-high speed at a high rate of flow.

Preventing more collisions, like the one I was almost in, (if you saw a blue car with a red L on the back with two people in the front seats going south of 109 St to south on 111 St via 61 Ave on Saturday afternoon on Jan 16 almost sideswipe you, sorry). The intersection is needlessly complex, full of conflicts every which way at high speed, makes transit, cycling and walking more difficult and for pedestrians and cyclists, dangerous.

Car drivers almost never intend to cause crashes, and neither do bus drivers, train engineers, cyclists, pedestrians or other categories of road users, but the collisions often come from the way the road is designed or signed or signaled. Artificially low limits on freeways and divided rural highways make great differences in speed, traffic signals that create the illusion that you can go when you can't, roads that pressure you to do a whole lot of things in not a lot of time depending on a human brain to process, control and be perfect 100% of the time will never work well. Humans are fallible, by 5 PM going home from work, and especially if the sun has gone down as it often does in winter, they are often tired, and yet still have families to pick up, think about and care for. People are on their cell phones, using excessive speed given the road conditions, making mistakes and drink driving. A person who is on the receiving end of a drink driver has no say in whether the other guy drank or not. It isn't fair to them that roads do nothing to prevent mistakes. And especially for some children, some of the old, those with certain disabilities and others who can't control what they were doing have no part in traffic collisions, and it is our duty to prevent the collision. This includes you traffic engineers who depend so heavily on antiquated guidelines that don't reflect new research, psychology, and the shift away from car dependency to bus, train, bicycle and walking dependency.

Thursday, 14 January 2016

Road hierarchy

Our road hierarchy is in a big mess in newer developments. And in the older areas too, but newer developments is the focus.

It has several levels. Alleyways are less common in newer areas, but they still exist. Local access roads give direct access to homes and shops, and they usually have parking on both sides and depending on the road, usually enough width for two cars to pass, but lanes are undefined, collector roads take traffic from the homes and puts them onto arteries, and they usually have things like shops, homes, schools and other destinations on them. These have 50 km/h speed limits, as do local roads, they usually have parking on at least one side of the road, generally both, and two lanes for motor vehicle traffic, they may have bike lanes or sidepaths but this is less common. Intersections are with other collectors generally stop sign controlled or traffic light controlled.

Arterials usually have 60 km/h speed limits, though 50 limits are used in a number of arteries, sometimes 70 is used, they have 2 lanes to start with plus turning lanes, and they usually end up with 2 or 3 lanes per direction, a divide between the two directions and turning lanes, though a few stretches have bidirectional centre left turning lanes. Intersections are usually traffic light controlled, some have stop signs in the interim 2 lane stage, and they continue to have stop signs for very minor side streets and for business accesses sometimes, and they usually have no homes on the street but do have some shops and business accesses to parking lots. And of course we have the freeways, limited to 80 and 110 km/h, divided, grade separated, with at least 2 lanes per direction and a shoulder.

The Dutch don't like this confusion between types of roads. They make it very clear from roadway design what kind of street you're on. In my view I would like to make collector roads either access roads or take out the buildings directly adjacent to street oriented roads, but neither is quite right. I will be pragmatic, but I will try to get as close to the functionality, predictability and homogeneity of roads as possible.

Local access roads have 30 km/h speed limits, may or may not have parking, but does give direct access to the homes and businesses. The intersections are either yield sign controlled for intersecting with distributor roads or uncontrolled for intersecting with the other local roads.

What we generally call collector roads will be distributor roads. These will have as little parking as possible, and will have cycle lanes or cycle paths, the latter hopefully being more prevalent, and have intersections controlled by yield signs with local roads and sometimes other distributors, and roundabouts with most distributor-distributor road intersections. Bus routes should be routed on these, although preferably outside of neighbourhoods when possible. They will be one lane per direction roadways with single lane roundabouts and at signalized intersections, there will be one lane for each direction it is possible to proceed in.

The arterials are classed as either a distributor road or through road. Through roads carry vast amounts of traffic at high speed with a high flow rate, linking entire districts in the city. Freeways are preferable for this task, but 50-70 km/h arterials will also do the trick. If a road is classed as a through road, the speed limit is upgraded to 70 km/h when possible, left turns lanes are channelized, the road is grade separated where possible, and is generally equipped with 2 lanes per direction and a median between the two directions is added. Roundabouts like turbo roundabouts are also added where possible when grade separation is not feasible.

Distributors take traffic at medium speeds at medium flow rates. Many arterials fall into this category. They will be downgraded to single lane per direction, with a divide between the two directions, certainly a bicycling path, though sidewalk presence or not is less certain. Bus routes are routed on these when possible, and also when possible, they have a completely separate busway, usually bidirectional, usually in the middle of the road when possible but also might be on one side or the other. The speed limit is downgraded to 50 km/h, a cycle path is either added or modernized, and intersections are governed either with traffic lights, yield signs or roundabouts, the latter when possible. Things to naturally slow the speeds, narrowed lanes, raised tables, a median refuge requiring traffic to go right and then left in a more sudden movement, and a dashed line on the side of the road optically narrowing the road is added.

Freeways are generally not upgraded much, though interchanges that are not free flowing ones have roundabouts added to the remaining at grade intersection(s), they may also have an HOV lane added, extended where it's sensible to do that, a guardrail in the middle of some sort, even a cable barrier, is added when possible. Electronic management systems are added when possible, even just ramp signals on the entrance ramps on non systems interchanges. The speed limit should be as close to 130 km/h as possible. In some cases this can be done right now, others it might take certain upgrades like on Whitemud Drive, updating the interchange ramps, maybe making more use of collector roads that collect traffic from side streets. When driving speed is naturally enforced, at 130 km/h this can be done just by having drivers being comfortable on their own at 130, or in congested freeways, 80 km/h perhaps, it works better.

All this makes it very clear what the difference is between this road: https://www.google.ca/maps/@52.4753012,5.4916832,3a,75y,232.71h,86.15t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sjotx4St0GFhZ9hRSvmBjuw!2e0!7i13312!8i6656?hl=en,

this road, https://www.google.ca/maps/@52.4810869,5.5024503,3a,44.5y,315.33h,82.83t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sCjlBZGXNi09mNF3TRVD2xA!2e0!7i13312!8i6656?hl=en,

this road, https://www.google.ca/maps/@53.0006861,6.5311089,3a,90y,129.54h,78.71t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sMlV0DkoQuv8Mpnl2WZs8rQ!2e0!7i13312!8i6656?hl=en,

and this kind of road: https://www.google.ca/maps/@53.0010585,6.504729,3a,90y,86.94h,80.27t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1s0hVBGawn7gr4_4Dy7okcQQ!2e0!7i13312!8i6656?hl=en.

It's what leads to less confusion, fewer collisions and more effective roads.

Monday, 11 January 2016

The Popsicle Test

A simple but effective and really easy way to determine the safety of our streets is to ask this question: Is it safe enough for a young child (I'll set the bar at 5-6 years of age) to walk or bike on their own to a corner store (assuming there is such a store) to go and buy a popsicle, and return home in a quick way?

It deals with many things at once. First, is the quality of life sufficient for a 5-6 year old to have a sufficient allowance to spend some on a popsicle or other similar treat? Are the streets safe enough from a parents' perspective to walk around on their own, not likely to be kidnapped, literally, robbed (then again, who robs a 5 year old?)? Is there a low risk, subjectively and statistically, of getting hit by a car or other vehicle while doing so? Is there space to walk around, space to park a bicycle at both ends? Are there local corner stores, meaning that people do not have to go too far to get their basic needs? And are they close enough to allow a child to walk or bike there, while not so close that it's like a police officer lined pedway? And are parents going to feel no stigma or get ridiculed of child abuse, neglect or similar for letting their child do this?

When almost every parent, preferably 100% of them, are in the opinion that their own children can do this at this age, and are willing to let it be in practice, and making sure that it really is statistically safe, you know that you are in a community that is safe for all, from 8 to 80, and from birth to deathbed. We can have a place where children can roam freely, where parent's don't have to spend valuable time away from work to drive their kids home, where kids can play with friends whenever they want, when they can play at parks and playgrounds, and get exercise by walking or cycling, which feels intrinsically more useful than treadmills in that you are actually getting somewhere. If it's so easy a child can do it, I'm pretty sure that adults can do it just as well. Even the hungry stoner can get home/food safely, though not in the smartest way.

When did children lose this ability to roam like this? In 1900, the street was a place for everyone, streetcars, which weren't just big slow attractions in Fort Edmonton Park, horses, buggies, bicycles which yes many people rode everyday as their everyday means of transport and they had bicycles to match, they were even called freedom machines by suffragists, pedestrians and the few car drivers who in many cities had to have someone walking in front with a bright flag, and the car driver going at walking pace. And children could go where they wanted.

It began to change as cars became much more prevalent. Already in the 1920s the US was building parkways, in the 1930s Hitler began his massive program for autobahn construction, thousands of kilometres built in just a couple years (which goes to show that when a government wants something, they can usually get it done really quickly, and cycle paths are far easier to build than a freeway), the first unlimited speed limited section of freeway in the US opened in the 1940s, the US was thinking of a freeway network in the 1950s, and the interstate highway system was approved in the 1960s, and in the 1970s, traffic deaths peaked. Children had fewer and fewer places to safely walk, and pedestrians were treated as those who were just walking from the store to the parking lot or from the house or apartment to the garage. Pedestrian guardrails began to show up in a number of cities in the world. The stranger danger and the crackdown on drug crimes by imprisoning users happened in the 1980s, anyone remember the GI joe PSAs attached to the end of episodes (even though healthy human minds want to protect children, in the same way that you never want to disturb a bear mother with her cubs, you will be in for an eating competition with you as the food and the bears eating, there are some things to do, but keeping anyone younger than 12 with someone 12 or older at all times is not the solution).

It will take time to reverse this pattern of car domination and making people know that there are ways of reducing kidnapping without needing anyone younger than 12 to stay in the house, but if we never even start, how can we have a hope of having children being able to do this: (David Hembrow)

Or this: (also taken by David Hembrow, or maybe Judy) 

Or even this: (same guy as the other two)