Thursday, 18 February 2016

A complete cycle route proposal Part 1 and cycling to school

In this blog, I'm going to create and argue for a new cycle route, well, part upgraded, part new, how it interacts with what is already there, and along the way, I get to talk about cycling to school.

In Rutherford, a major school with over 1000 students (the last time I checked, which was when I had to go to a different school because they ran out of space) attracts students from many different neighbourhoods in Heritage Valley, and while there is going to soon be a new school in Blackmud Creek, there will still be traffic going to that school.

If you have ever observed the parking lot and drop off zone, you will see the 30 km/h speed limit during school hours is partly self enforced; due to the fact that cars hold each other up, and nobody can move at times. The pedestrian volume is so high that they have to employ 6th graders as crossing guards to prevent them from proceeding due to the sheer volume of pedestrians. Cycling is much more common than it usually is due to the students there, but few adults cycle and it is not yet as safe an activity as it should, and the pathway network is mainly designed for recreation, though the routes are fairly direct and are well away from motor traffic. You'll never guess why parent's are fine with their children cycling here: https://www.google.ca/maps/@53.4159332,-113.5319167,3a,75y,39.22h,80.05t/data=!3m7!1e1!3m5!1skhHmTuHktK0S6TxSmVsmMQ!2e0!6s%2F%2Fgeo1.ggpht.com%2Fcbk%3Fpanoid%3DkhHmTuHktK0S6TxSmVsmMQ%26output%3Dthumbnail%26cb_client%3Dmaps_sv.tactile.gps%26thumb%3D2%26w%3D203%26h%3D100%26yaw%3D254.1902%26pitch%3D0!7i13312!8i6656?hl=en unless you guessed "No cars on this trail".

Clearly the environment could be dramatically improved for cycling. And walking for that matter. The Dutch have very close to 100% of students walking or cycling to school. It is so mainstream that a parent was hounded for unusually taking her kid to school by car, you can get fined if you do so in some cities, and parents will hound others sometimes if they do take their kids around by car excessively because it "deprives" them of the ability to learn how to ride well.

Walking is good up to around 600 metres as an effective means of transport, though 1 km or so is acceptable. Cycling works well even for a number of kilometres. 5 km journey is not a big deal for an 8 year old child on good infrastructure. Even at a slow pace of 15 km/h, assuming no stops, it can be done in 20 minutes. And even the southernmost tip of Allard is only a 3.8 km journey, closer to around 15 minutes.

But for the conditions for cycling to be good enough to encourage something like 75% of kids to cycle and another ~15-25% of them to walk, you need good infrastructure that allows for complete journeys from home to the school door, no exceptions. And if even we begin to run out of cycle parking now at the public and Catholic schools in the neighbourhood, we will certainly be out of cycle parking if we get up to Dutch levels. And stopping the helmet and high viz mantra of "cycle safety" couldn't hurt either.

Critical: We need to keep cyclists and pedestrians on separate paths and limit the number of times they cross, and there needs to be at least a splay curb separating them. This is because we have a very high volume of pedestrians here, much more than we usually see. And this volume is mostly made up of children. Same with cyclists, many of those are children here. And the 5th rule of Sustainable Safety demands that we take into account how likely people are to be able to assess what they need to do as part of traffic. Children aren't dumb, but they can make more mistakes than most of us. So it is especially important that we separate car and cycle traffic flows, cycle and pedestrian flows and make our roads as easy to use and very forgiving of errors. We also must account for the high volume of pedestrians in the width of our sidewalks. I am going with 2 metres for the most part, but some places will have wider sidewalks.

So let's actually look at the route we could be making. Let's start at 15 Ave and Rutherford Way in the West and end at Bowen Wynd in the East.

In the west, we have a 20 metre wide roadway, with 2 lanes for motor vehicles, on street parking on both sides, a planted boulevard and sidewalks on both sides. No safe place to ride a bike. Given that this is a 50 km/h distributor roadway (reducing to 30 near the school during school hours, let's make the 30 permanent so we don't have to design for the top speed of 50) with a fairly high volume, we will need to have separate cycleways. We have the space for cycle paths rather than cycle lanes, so let's use the cycle paths. We don't have any houses directly affronting the road, and no businesses either, we we won't need the on street parking at all.

So our profile looks like this: http://streetmix.net/CyclingEdmonton/212/15-ave-rutherford-way. With 2.5 metre wide one way cycle paths on both sides of the street, a widened out sidewalk, 2.5 metres each, a 1.5 metre wide buffer between road and cycle path and because we have an added number of small children here, and we have the space to do so, let's add a 70 cm wide planting buffer, plus it will make it easy to have nice planting for pedestrians as well as for cyclists.

At Rutherford Rd coming from the North (just at the forest line), the roadway is the same width, 20 metres wide. Because we also have a 50 km/h distributor road, with close to 4000 vehicles per day, we also will need cycle tracks. Because we have fewer pedestrians here, we don't need as much of a sidewalk, but still a slightly widened out one from the one we have. In the end, we have this: http://streetmix.net/CyclingEdmonton/213/rutherford-rd-south-of-tree-line with 2 metre wide sidewalks, a 50 cm wide grass strip between cyclists and pedestrians and a wider area between the paths and roadway, up to 2.2 metres.

South of the tree line, we would need to transition southbound cyclists to the east side of the road to better connect with the school. It is possible here because we have the space to have a safe priority crossing, and because we would be by that time hopefully within the 30 km/h zone, we would have a need of naturally slowing the cars down anyway. We need a bend in the road. Like this drawing:

There is a bend in the road to A slow cars and B create better sightlines. The width and the exact figure obviously would not be exactly like this, but the principles are the same. There is room for a safe priority crossing here. It makes the transition more convenient for cyclists, and makes it safe. It also creates the perfect transition into a 30 km/h school zone for cars. 
Now at the point where the road and path straighten up again, the cross section will look like this: http://streetmix.net/CyclingEdmonton/214/rutherford-rd-south-of-the-priority-crossing. It has a seemingly narrower roadway, but in reality it's just a painted buffer which maintains the roadway width at 5.6 metres like it normally is along the road in my plans. The sidewalk is much wider because of the expected volume of pedestrians, we have a 4 metre wide cycle path, a 1 metre wide planted buffer, a 6 metre wide buffer between cycle path and road, this prepares for drop off zone access crossing the cycle path and sidewalk a few metres to the south. The sidewalk on the west side of 2 metres wide with a 2.5 metre wide tree boulevard. 

Further to the south, the sidepath crossing with the drop off zone would be a typical access road junction with a distributor, with a raised and continuous sidewalk, steep curbs and a cycle path that could barely be distinguished from midblock cross sections. 

Further to the south, we will need to amend several functions. First, assuming we do actually keep the bus route here (I'd advise against keeping the bus routes, municipal and yellow buses, the latter of which actually shouldn't be existing at all except maybe for field trips. The school isn't far from 127 St, less than 400 metres, and specialty minibuses can transport any disabled people here) the stop should be just to the west of the public parking lot; this avoids problems at the 15 Ave intersection and the transition of the cycle path from bidirectional to a pair of 1 ways. If the bus stop is kept, then the cross section should look something like this: http://streetmix.net/CyclingEdmonton/215/rutherford-rd-near-school-entrance. Secondly, we will need to create a way to get from the cycle path to the bicycle parking lot, which should expand using the space within the "triangle" of sidewalks. This can be done by using a cycle path crossing of the drop off zone. Given that there is a bend in the road, plus the good sightlines and can be combined with good visual priority and a raised table, and the already low speed of cars, this won't be a problem. 

For 15 Ave/Rutherford Rd intersection, we have a couple options. One of them will not be shared space. Given the high volumes here, that would fail and be very dangerous. We could use an uncontrolled intersection, but given the volumes I don't like that idea. We could use a mini roundabout with separate cycle paths around it in a non annular fashion. One advantage of this is making turns is easier by car, something that is quite useful in this particular location. A disadvantage is that we might have a problem with cyclists being able to proceed through. And it could impact any sort of effort to create a cycle priority crossing just to the south. I think the best option is to have a 1 way yield intersection with motor traffic and cyclists from 15 Ave yielding to Rutherford Rd. A raised table and if possible, central medians, will make it easier to use this intersection. 

Cross section here: http://streetmix.net/CyclingEdmonton/219/rutherford-road-at-15-ave It has a 3 metre wide central median for waiting in the middle of the road as a cyclist or pedestrian and leaves a bit of a gap for car drivers to turn left or right slightly easier, there is a good verge of 5 metres between cycle path on the east side of Rutherford Rd and and roadway, so that a car's length of space is still there, the sidewalk is of a good width of 2.5 metres on the east side and 2 metres on the west side, an adequate gap of 2.5 metres has been created for the tree boulevard on the west side, with standard car lane widths. A 30 degree 5 cm tall curb rather than a row of plants will separate pedestrians and cyclists on the east side. 

On the south side of the intersection, the 4 metre wide cycle path will need to become a pair of one way cycle paths instead, and the transition should be on a cycle priority crossing. There is less of a gap as on the north side but still just enough that it could be done safely, especially given that I've either relocated the bus stops or relocated the routes. Here is a model.

Again, still crude. But it still creates an easy to understand and use, and especially safe, design. It has an S curve instead of a normal bend on a road, this would be made quite a bit sharper than most S curves, again, the design speed is 30 km/h not 50, this is also a gateway to a school zone. Combined with the expectation that given good enough cycle and walking infrastructure many more people would not be using cars here, so the volume would be much lower, and visual priority, sightlines and a significant raised table, this should be OK. Note that I added a cycle path connecting an access road to the southeast. An example of filtered permeability. The one way eastbound cycle path on 15 Ave is also visible here. 

I need to go and rest now. I will be writing the part where I get from the school to Bowen Wynd in a future post. Keep your email addiction going so you can see it soon. 

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