Wednesday, 9 March 2016

How I could be getting groceries and other related goods. A proposal to change the roadways and shopping centre in my neighbourhood.

If I needed to for whatever reason to get groceries, there is a store just 1 km away, so that means a round trip of 2 km. But for many of my trips on a non education and non work style basis, it is very hard to use a bicycle to get to those places, or at least harder than it should be to do to them. Let's break it down to see how we could improve.

I have 2 main options for routes. I could go up Blackmud Creek Crescent and then through Blackmud Creek Drive, on  James Mowatt Trail and turn off,or I could stop short of James Mowatt and turn into Barnes Way and use a shortcut. It wasn't very convenient that the cul de sac that I live on doesn't have a direct connection to the sidewalk on James Mowatt, but it would be pretty difficult to retrofit one, the city would have to buy a house and demolish it. Not a cheap purchase either, and not very convenient to the family living there. Oh well!

Both options need improvement. Right now if I were to use James Mowatt, to get to the Sobeys, the ATB, and other businesses on the southeast part of the business area, I have to cross like a left turning car, that is to say, vehicular cycling with high volumes of 60 km/h traffic crossing 2 lanes to make a left turn. Not good. Or I could cross over to the side with the apartments next to them and ride on the sidewalk, which is illegal (to ride a bike on), narrow and also with poorly designed sidewalk crossings of the main roadway. Or I could cross at Ellerslie Road, which would add quite a bit to the distance and time.

But even the collector roads while not too bad when there isn't much traffic,it becomes a bit intimidating during the peak hour, especially when the municipal bus comes along. And both routes go close to the new school, which while now is occupied entirely by builders and the engineers who go onsite, but it's going to attract swarms of people in September. So clearly this infrastructure needs to change.

I actually measured the width of the roadways, and we have a lot more space than you think we do. So much so that I managed to come up with a plan that maintains some parking when there are houses that have their driveways directly connect with the road, and just has moving traffic, cycle paths, sidewalks and some planted verges elsewhere, which would look like this next to Blackmud Creek Crescent and this next to Blackmud Creek Drive. I propose that the bit of space of Blacmud Creek Drive between the two intersections with the Crescent be downgraded and turned into a 30 km/h access road with a closure to motor traffic on the intersection near the park in the west, so as to remove the shortcut, and also close off the west arm of the intersection between the two collector roads, requiring access from a T junction. The buses don't run there, and it's not a long journey for motor traffic to go around, if they should even be there.

The cycle paths offer several advantages. Next to the 50 km/h traffic, which can get fairly busy during peak hours, and especially the mixing with the buses and vans and sometimes trucks, it would be pleasant to ride on a cycle path away from all that traffic. It also provides a protected space, making it much less likely that an errant driver will crash into a cyclist. It also helps to make cycling a legitimate form of transport by creating such a protected space, It also is likely to eliminate sidewalk riding by providing cycle paths on the desire lines away from motor traffic on a wide cycle path, wider than the sidewalk, So pedestrians benefit too!

I chose a bidirectional cycle path between James Mowatt Trail and Blackmud Creek Crescent because I know that there is a school there,so the flow of cyclists is likely to be tidal, Also kids will do it anyway, plus it reduces the side road conflicts.

Next my unraveled route that I like to take, Barnes Way, should become a low volume 30 km/h access road. Closing off the access for motor vehicles for the north arm of the Blackmud Creek Drive/Barnes Way intersection W would reduce the shortcutting traffic and simplify the crossing, especially given that the school under construction is going to have it's drop off zone adding a 4th arm to the current intersection. Repaving the sidewalks to make the gutter a level part of the sidewalk widens that, and raising the car parking to halfway between road and sidewalk with a beveled curb connecting the road to car parking lanes and adding a new brick paving pattern with curb extensions where car parking is prohibited makes the sightlines better, enforces the speed limit a bit and makes it easy to know where to park. Repaving the road with a red brick surface makes it clear that this is not driving space, it is living space with cars as a guest. Adding uncontrolled raised intersections makes people more cautious and slows them down, and makes pedestrians look like they have priority over motor vehicle better.

There are a few small shortcuts from Barnes Way to the shopping area parking lot accesses. Those should be widened to 3 metres with a 2 metre wide cycle path, a beveled 5 cm curb connecting them and using a smooth transition from cycle path to roadway with a level crossing, maybe a bollard but only if it is proven to be needed and it would be located at least 5 metres behind the pedestrian crossing of the cycleway.

Now for the shopping area itself.

Everything should be removed (fast food is at the DQ, there is another bank, there is a Tim hortons and groceries, even a gas station on the other side of the road, so it is still possible to get all your things ther) to the ground, and rebuilt. The cars get an underground parkade, however it will need to be calculated how much there would still need to be due to the higher chance of cycling and walking), and also an improved crossing of James Mowatt Trail. I chose James Mowatt because there is more space for a safe crossing into the access in both directions, complete with median refuges that require cars to only go 50 km/h around them, also in place for cyclists and pedestrians, but also cars turning left from southbound and cars turning right from northbound. A 6 metre wide space between sidewalk (and also a cycle path to account for desire lines) and roadway on the east side so that cars turning can do it in simple stages.

What remains on the surface? A pedestrianized shopping centre. Indoor cycle parking next to where the shopping cars are (and the return point) monitored by security cameras let's people use their wheel locks safely in each store, and a pedestrianized shopping street (with cycling allowed) will take the place of motor vehicles. By being far more efficient in terms of space, it will be no wider than the current access roads for motor vehicles getting to the individual parking lots. Buildings, up to 4 stories but at least 2 (both levels open for business and at least the 1st floor for shopping and retail) and no bigger than 500 square metres (the building must be rectangular or circular in shape with the golden ratio size being the largest any of the lengths can be) would be used instead of the humongous 4100 sobeys currently in that location. The end result should look like this: It looks historic doesn't it? But it was actually built not that long ago, about 6-7 years ago. It allows for many more stores to be there, and on a human scale, not car scale. It allows for competition between stores, because it is easy to walk from one store to the next. Like how Whyte Ave is, with human scale stores where it is feasible to walk from one to the next.

So a complete trip would look pretty much like this:

Vans and other light goods vehicles 3.5 tonnes or less would make deliveries here, using alleys behind each store.

This makes it feasible to cycle here. It also makes cycling competitive. I could go door to door with my bicycle, and I can easily lock it quickly, yet securely. I also could easily load up my goods by putting them in a basket or a nice set of panniers. Given that I have a shortcut I could take, and given that I can easily navigate a narrow road, I would be likely to beat a car in terms of travel time. Cars would have to make a left turn out onto the public road and then turn left again on a roundabout (in my plan) to do the same, and they would have drive around just looking for the spot, park at a slow pace, get out, shut the door and lock, and then walk all the way up to ground level (either with a wheelchair ramp or stairs) and walk some more to the store of their choice. Add this to the driving time and it can add minutes to the journey. It happens if I go to Southgate with my dad while driving on a busy day. This can really make cycling even more attractive and taking less time. Even under the best of situations it takes between 3 and 5 minutes to go the kilometre. And that is assuming no delays at any of the left turns and that you are going 50 km/h on the street I live on. On a bicycle, it would take 4-6 minutes. Adding in 3 minutes for car parking and door to door walking total both ends (with a pannier system you can just bring in all the cargo by removing the pannier), and it suddenly becomes very competitive.

Assuming you don't have a helmet or high viz or a bicycle that needs special preparation to ride or a U lock or something like that to lock, that makes it faster too. My lock requires only a few seconds to hop off, put in a rack (if I can find one) and use the lock. If I use my chain, that maybe takes another 10-15 seconds.

This all makes cycling very convenient for shopping, and a feasible alternative to a car. Why not make the conditions for it right, especially in new developments where there is no excuse for not building it like this from the beginning?

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