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. 

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