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.

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