Sunday, 20 March 2016

40 Ave

Last year, 40 Ave had bike lanes. Then, in the second half of that year, they were gone. And now the city intends to build new cycle infrastructure in this area. Let's see each of these steps close up.

The bike lanes actually met Dutch guidelines for ordinary cross sections. 2 metres with a 1 metre wide buffer. Yet this did not entice people to ride a bicycle much. However I was one of those who did ride my bike often, as it was a route between Harry Ainlay High School and the library, which I use to get books and movies. Among the reasons why it did not entice people to ride was that it did not provide a network. A couple connections to a couple sidepaths and bike lanes on 106 St, but they are substandard paths (by Dutch standards). It was missing a coherent network to the rest of the city. It also lacked a connection to ordinary homes. It lacked 30 km/h side streets with low volumes (or wide bike lanes on certain collector roads). 

Another reason was that it did not feel safe enough to ride here. Cars passed at speeds over 50 km/h, and the bike lane was just that, a lane, that was not protected. It also completely failed at intersections, with a bike box at 106 St and right turn mixing zones at other intersections. 

The perceived lack of use resulted in their removal by city council vote. This was a terrible failure. I got completely cut off, there was nowhere else to ride that was anywhere even remotely close to as subjectively safe (it was not too difficult for the enthused and confident, and anytime you cut off a route, you MUST create an alternative that is safe and fast. The city never did that when the bike lanes were removed. No temporary path, nothing) as 40 Ave was. As did a number of other cyclists. Also it made it feel like the 4 lanes were essential, despite only about 6-7 thousand motor vehicles per day. EASILY low enough that 1 lane per direction will work. It also felt like a confirmation that cars could win over active transport, and that anger pointed at an outgroup works. 

So at least provide a temporary cycle path on 40 Ave, all it takes are some orange barriers filled with water and some signs. The Dutch do this any time that a cycle path or cycle lane needs to be rebuilt. 

The removal came with a promise to have better bike routes on 40 Ave. But now the city (and Michael Walters) is backpedaling on that promise because they are considering having a route on the 43 Ave/pipeline corridor. By offering this route as a replacement as opposed to an addition to a route on 40 Ave, you backtrack on your specific statement that you will have a high quality cycle route on 40 Ave, and that it disregards the fact that the people on 40 Ave, plus the businesses and schools too, will lack a safe route to even get to 43 Ave. 

The Dutch cycle grid of routes goes everywhere. And I mean everywhere a person could be expected to want to go to. Every single home, every single school, every single business, house of worship, park, and other destinations. All of them. 40 Ave has those destinations on those, and thus requires a cycle route on it. Not a couple hundred metres away. On it. 

43 Ave would be a decent route actually, it would require a 3-4 metre wide cycle path and a 2 metre wide sidewalk, an underpass under 111 St due to the barrier that the LRT creates, and priority crossings over side roads, with no wheelchair ramps, the road raises up instead to cross it, and would need to be in a straight line. But the city doesn't want to do this. They propose a 3 metre wide shared use path, no sidewalk, and no discussion at all of an underpass under the LRT and 111 St despite the huge barrier they are (all roads that big are barriers). I don't know how they intend to build the side road crossings, but given how the city has designed shared use paths before, and how they continue to design them, it is almost certain that they will build them in the way they have before, no priority, visual or legal, a wheelchair ramp design going down to cross the road, and only sidewalk connections to roads that cross 43 Ave or the path. 

Even if 43 Ave gets a cycle path and sidewalk like I described, it must only be a complement, not a replacement, to 40 Ave. 

40 Ave is described as having the option to have a 3 metre wide shared use path on one side (which isn't described), or cycle tracks. How wide the cycle tracks is never described, but I have a feeling like they would be 1.5-2.1 metre wide cycle tracks, with a narrow curb protecting it, and probably something resembling a mixing zone at intersections, and no discussion of a safe crossing of 111 St. How the cycle tracks will be designed at intersections is something I can't know for sure, as the city has never built a cycle track-intersection before. But it will probably resemble the complete streets guidelines.

But a key element is that cycle tracks are only an option, not the one the city wants to build. They are proposing a shared use path. And of course this is only assuming that 40 Ave is chosen. And 40 Ave in any case is being proposed to retain 4 lanes despite the lack of warrants to require it. Wide roads provide extra dangers, a much higher chance of speeding, sideswipes, making it harder to cross the road, especially when walking or cycling, and it just wastes space. Plus by keeping the 4 lanes (and the parking), it makes it very hard, possibly impossible, to provide a cycle route on it without requiring property aqusition. 

Much of the claims of designing for 8-80 cyclists often divide cyclists into fast and experienced and slow and novices, commuters and children, and similar groups. This is a HUGE mistake. There are fast cyclists, but what about them makes them always opposed to cycling on a well designed cycle path? Experienced gives us no help here in terms of who were are supposed to be designing for. All it can say is that they are more used to cycling in general, not that they are any more desiring of mixing with motor traffic. A grandmother may have decades of experience cycling but do you think that she would be interested in cycling with motor traffic just because of that? Novice cyclists are only more likely to make mistakes that would be avoided if you knew how to cycle better. Cyclists must never be artificially be speed controlled. If there is a hill that isn't artificial because we don't have magic wands to wave and make everything flat, but when we can design for cyclists, why not design the cycle speed to be 50 km/h, just like the cars nearby on the same road? Not many cyclists would go that fast, but if there is a clear enough cycle path with not too many cyclists in front, if you want to, you should be able to go at 50. If it's good enough for 50, it will also be good enough for something like 20 km/h that an 8 year old might ride at. 

I also at that meeting at the Royal Gardens asked how the city is going to not alienate drivers by making it seem like that is an eternal conflict between them and cyclists, and by not alienating or dividing and conquering cyclists by dividing them into groups between fast and furious and slow and novices? All I got was that it was a good beginning of a discussion for healing the relationship, but not any answers as to how. I also asked about making sure that cycle infrastructure does not appear to be dependent upon a pretend lease that requires perfect behavior. I used my mom as an example of how everyone, cyclist, motorist and pedestrian, is fallible, by driving at 80 km/h on a 60 km/h arterial road. 

Here is my 40 Ave proposal. The representatives at the meeting said that you would check it out, leave a comment below telling me what you have learned by reading this to prove that you have checked it out. 

On 40 Ave, at 120 St, to the west of this block, Aspen Gardens becomes a 30 km/h zone. There are no collector roads or main arterials here, just some roads that lead nowhere for through traffic. So a 4.5-5 metre wide shared 30 km/h low volume roads or 3-4 metre wide bidirectional road lane plus 1.75-2.5 metre wide cycle lanes (designed like advisory cycle lanes) is used to calm the traffic. At 120 St, the cycle lanes start if they haven't already and they turn into a cycle track with a good transition over something like 10-20 metres. At 119 St, the road design is like this: 

It provides cycle tracks on both roads, with the protected intersection design. The traffic light phases are likely to be separated, at least from the westbound side. Right on reds are prohibited. 119 St as it is also low enough in volume would be reduced to 1 lane per direction, but given how that traffic flows during the hours, it requires traffic lights. 

40 Ave is a 1 lane per direction roadway, with this sort of design. Parking lanes 2 metres wide on one side of the street is acceptable if required, but not on both. 1.5 metres of a curbed verge must in any case protect the cycle track. 

Crossings of roads looks like this, although having a divide between the two directions would be very useful here, due to the volumes of traffic. 

This continues all the way until about 100 metres before 111 St. Given the sheer size of the road, I propose an underpass for cyclists, mopeds and pedestrians on one side of the road, with a 2 metre wide sidewalk and 4 metre wide cycle path. Because I propose one way cycle tracks on both sides of the road, how can you cross safely? You can have a median refuge allowing for a transition between sides of the road. Crossing the road at right angles, with good sightlines, crossing where the turning lanes for 111 St haven't started yet, and where they won't for a number of metres, with a wide median refuge, even with cyclists yielding, the volume is low enough that such a crossing won't be a problem. In any case it would be a shorter amount of time than to wait for the traffic lights. With a gradient of no more than 4%, it would be an easy incline for everyone. Elevating 111 St would be a good idea if that is possible, up to 1-2 metres if possible. 

At places where there are bus stops, the road can look like this: Buses stop in dedicated bays, not obstructing traffic, with a smooth transition back into the road, and with cyclists always well protected. Looking like the bus stops in this video:

At 106 St, I propose a roundabout. The roundabout circle for cars should be about 32 metres in diameter. Cyclists have bidirectional cycle paths, at least for the part of the intersection where you haven't picked which arm to exit on, and are thus 4 metres wide, given that these are primary routes. All of the approach arms would have single direction paths 2.5 metres wide each. Cyclists yield to motor vehicles (given that Edmonton drivers aren't used to cyclists in general and even fewer would expect that they should let a cyclist have priority while crossing a distributor road, and few are used to roundabouts, not having priority is even more important than in the Netherlands, where it is proven dangerous to have priority, at least on the annular cycle path designs), but have 90 degree crossings, crossings between about 6-10 metres away from the outer edge of the roundabout for cars, cars having to have their tires pointed towards the centre of the inner island, not flared out, on a speed table with wide medians and volumes under 1500 vehicles per hour, this will work well. 

Another advantage of the non annular cycle path design is that you can bypass the roundabout by going from eastbound to southbound without stopping and you can make right turns to and from 106 St without even stopping or giving way at all. Roundabouts have proven to be very safe and traffic lights here are a big time waster and are more dangerous than roundabouts (given the right design). Pedestrians have priority over cars in any case, also on their own raised table with a zebra crossing. 

This design makes for very convenient and pleasant cycling, with the biggest three delays, 111 St, 106 St and 119 St not a problem, ignoring 111 St altogether with an underpass, having a pleasant cycle path around 106 St-40 Ave roundabout with 30 km/h cars on the circle, and with a protected intersection on 119 St. It would also be sustainably safe by Dutch road design, minimizing conflicts, and reducing the speed at the remaining conflict points. It will be a very safe and attractive design should it be picked, and a well used route if it forms part of a grid, and connected to every home around here with 30 km/h low volume zones, even using filtered permeability to make cycle routes shorter than car routes. Underpassing 111 St also avoids the biggest delay to cars if you ride a bike, walk or ride a moped like a friend of my brother does. 

This is a big opportunity Edmonton, don't screw it up! 

(You still have time to respond to the survey. Help by complaining about their "fixed" options and make them use Sustainably Safe designs)


  1. I'd like to answer some questions you asked about Dutch infrastructure. Can you share your e-mail or make possible to contact you privately in other way?

    1. Why hold it in private? If you know something about a non personal topic, why withhold it from the world?

    2. We can talk here (at least if links in comments are allowed) if you don't mind the off topic :)
      If I'd respond in places where you asked these questions (some time ago) I wouldn't be sure if you read my responses. And it would be a bit off topic too.

    3. Fine to talk about those questions and your answers here. As long as it's about roadway design, making people feeling safe on roadways, or anything related to bicycles, walking or transit (emphasis on or, it can be any or all of these), then you can feel free.

    4. I see that my comment (which had some links) didn't appear here. I don't know if it was permanently deleted or it will appear after confirming that it's not spam.

    5. I don't know where it is, but at least I can repost your comment because I got your email. Also something tells me that you're a Pole named John because the same username was used on the Aviewfromthecyclepath blog on roundabouts. True?

      OK, so...

      "I would like to know how many lanes and how wide those lanes are are used in the Netherlands for different configurations"

      I came across at this:

      On p. 34 there is some information about lane widths. But why not measure the width of Dutch roads by yourself? You can count pixels on Google Earth images (it's easy to do with programs like Inkscape, you just check how wide line you can draw on the road) and compare it with e. g. zebra crossings (here in Poland (BTW, sorry for my English) the stripes are always 0,5 m wide and probably it's the case in the Netherlands too).

      "A road near me was widened from 2 lanes to 4 with a median last year, with a volume of 20 thousand vehicles per day."

      I think this is justifiable, because AFAIR 18 thousand PCU is maximum for 2 lane (i. e. 1 lane in each direction) road. Anyway, you probably don't need a Dutch handbook for this, Americans are quite good at calculating these things.

      "Another thing I want to know about is how do the Dutch decide what kind of junction to use on the different kinds of roads? When do I know that a roundabout will work better than a traffic light? I have a general idea, 1500 PCU/h on the busiest arm, but I believe that requires even spreads of turning movements."

      On p. 48 of the publication mentioned above there is an information about capacity of roundabouts (I don't know how good Americans are at calculating the capacity of roundabouts, because they have few of them).

      But when you want to decide which type of junction is better, this may be more useful:
      On your blog you have links to articles from the same page, but maybe you haven't notice that there is a table with traffic volumes specified?

      "And finally, I wonder whether you made any posts about low volume uncontrolled (the term doesn't quite make sense to me, that would be a junction without signs, signals or markings at all, you use it to refer to crossings where one road has priority, another does not) roads with distributors and access roads but there is a continuous footway gateway design over the side street and about 5-6 metres of space. Is that safe?"

      Well... probably yes, because what you describe sounds like a typical Dutch junction.

    6. Yes, that's me :) As you see, I strongly disagree with your (and David Hembrow's) view about roundabouts, but that doesn't mean we can't discuss things related to Dutch infrastructure :)

    7. Part of the reason I find the priority design to be a big problem is that drivers outside of the Netherlands aren't used to cyclists, and chances are they haven't used a bicycle for getting around since university or school, if they even used it for that purpose, and very few people tend to be aware of cyclists. The angles make it a challenge to see if drivers will give way to cyclists, and I also know very well that having priority means that those giving priority must never make a mistake. And especially given that we are talking about cyclists here, they are among the most vulnerable of road users, making a mistake quite likely to be a problem. Having priority in a situation in Edmonton tends to make me quite nervous if the angles are wrong and the volume is high. I need to be in a good position and drivers need to be needing to be able to break up intersections into as few easy to follow steps as possible.

      There are experiments going around in the Netherlands to see whether cycle priority non annular paths around roundabouts can be safe. If they are successful, then they could easily be adopted on the non priority design by simple changes in adding a raised table for the crossing, changing visual priority and making people aware of the new design. If they don't prove successful, then I guess it would be safer to not have priority.

      I also suggest remembering that many times drivers when they do look for cyclists in Edmonton, and they do end up seeing me, they often slow down for me anyway, giving way of their own accord even if I'm the one facing the give way/stop sign. If you see your kid riding a bike around one of Assen's roundabouts, then you are more likely to let them go ahead of you because you care about cyclists often because you are one anyway. But because the onus is on the cyclist to ensure that the motorists stop, not the other way around, it works more safely.

  2. Driver behaviour is irrelevant. The same argument you could make against cyclists priority on ordinary junctions.

    Of course angles should be improved, but mainly by removing unnecessary triangular islands (cyclists and pedestrians don't have to wait in the middle anyway) which only increase car speeds. Again, improve visibility, decrease car speeds, but don't make cyclists do sharp turns or give way to cars. But even current imperfect design used commonly in the Netherlands is more preferred by most people than the design from Assen.

    To say that loosing priority is safer is simply misinterpreting statistics. Making me stop when I'm on a bike isn't going to help me at all (I still can stop if I wish), but making drivers (or even some of them) stop - yes. Number of collisions is irrelevant in this case.

    1. The roundabout design at least the kind the annular one imposes, even if you do have 6 metres of space between the inner edge of the cycle path and outer edge of the roadway, requires drivers to do too many things at once, and thus I consider the annular design to be a failure. Whether the non annular priority designs will prove themselves safe is something I am very interested in, but it has yet to prove itself. For now, I go with the lack of priority non annular design. It is convenient enough and safe enough to work. On the ordinary junctions where an access road simply gives way to a distributor road, the car driver is in a position to give way at right angles and has less to do at once at the point of giving way. He would be at a 90 degree angle, and has nothing else to do but go in a straight line.

      If you want to interpret statistics in a different way, well, then what statistics are you quoting and how are you interpreting them?

    2. No, on a roundabout with cyclist priority (be it annular or the other kind you are talking about) just as on an ordinary junction the driver has to do just one thing when crossing the cycle path: give way to cyclists (and pedestrians). Of course, this is more difficult than not doing anything (like with roundabouts without cyclist priority), but it's a bare minimum.

      The "innovative" cyclist priority roundabout described on David Hembrow's blog is a step backwards even comparing to typical annular design. It may result in fewer accidents but it doesn't comply with Dutch best practice which says that cyclists should make no sharp turns when having priority. Reducing number of accidents by slowing down cyclists at junctions is exactly the kind of bad practice which in countries outside of the Netherlands we are getting rid of now. In Poland such things will soon be even illegal (a minimum turning radius for a priority cycle path will be required by the road standards).

      As for angles, it depends. On badly designed crossroad junctions the angles are bad too, but fortunately they are rare in the Netherlands. With roundabouts it's a bit different because for some historical reasons there are more cyclist priority roundabouts with bad angles, but better examples exist too: (well, even this example isn't very good because turning radius for cars is too large)
      Again, don't fear of the circular shape of the road for cars, just apply principles of Dutch best practice which are used widely on other kinds of junctions.

      We can use statistics, for example, to check how much improving visibility at roundabouts improved safety of cyclists. But using statistics we can't say how much giving cars priority improved safety of cyclists, because giving cars priority simply isn't any kind of protection. In that case we can only use statistics to say how much less people deliberately risked their lives.

    3. I still don't trust priority for cycles at roundabouts.

      If it will reduce the crash rate, is cost effective and especially if it's reasonably convenient for cyclists (better than waiting for a traffic light), I feel like it must be adopted. The crash rate has been proven lower on the non priority designs. Would you want anyone, especially someone like a child, having a potentially very painful injury and the possibility of a disability? What life would that be like? If you get into a crash with a car while being a vulnerable road user, you are much more likely to give up riding bicycles or walking, which can be devastating to ones' independence and income, and often going to cars can be quite stressful in a city, where you might have to wait behind a lot of traffic.

      I also believe that causing pain to other people (In case you were wondering, I am seriously considering going without animal products) is not fair.

      The task I was referring to drivers having trouble with on the annular priority design was that drivers have to look behind them at a bad angle, also look in front of them to look for pedestrians, turn the car to leave the roundabout and even understand that cyclists have priority and wanting to give them priority in the first place, which is something that the Dutch have challenges with as this injury and crash rate shows, but over here, cyclists are not yet a normal flow of the traffic, and drivers are more likely to not want to yield, citing that they're late, that they don't care for cyclists or that they are unfamiliar with the concept. There is also no natural reason to yield, maybe a speed table if you're lucky. The tight curves happen anyway on roundabouts without priority, so no real difference. The main difference is the visual priority switch.


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