Friday, 29 April 2016

Wide lanes

In much of North America and in some other countries, the goal on streets is often to have wide lanes for motor traffic. I believe this to be a mistake.

In the Netherlands, normally, access roads in the urban area is more or less 4.5 metres for a two way road. We aren't trying to have trucks overtaking each other. In fact, I'd suggest a law that prohibited vehicles over at least 7.5 tonnes, possibly down to 3.5 tonnes (1 tonne = 1000 kg) from entering an access road, but that's a different topic. On distributor roads, the lanes are typically 3.1 metres, although they can do down to 2.8 metres in some situations. And on the through roads ,the lanes are usually 3.25 for an autoweg, maximum speed of 100 km/h, and 3.5 metres for motorways, this also happens to be the standard for an E route as defined by the UN. Note that the width of the stripe itself isn't counted.

In North America, we generally see 12 foot lanes on many roads as advocated for by AASTHO. This is for the rest of the world who has joined the 21st century, 3.7 metres. Sometimes 11 foot lanes, or if you're like me, 3.3 metre wide lanes, are used in the urban area, and sometimes 10 foot lanes are used, or 3 metre wide lanes, although this is generally only used on downtown streets or in very limited situations. Sometimes 14 (4.2 m)-15 (4.5 m) foot lanes are used when a road manager decides to try using a "wide lane" as defined by vehicular cyclists, wanting the ability to have 4 (1.2 m)or 5 feet (1.5 m) for cyclists allowing a car 10 feet to overtake.

I believe the North American practice to be a mistake. It encourages speeding. I myself find it very hard to stay at 60 km/h if the lane is 3.7, or worse, 4.2-4.5 metres as is often done in the curbside lane, wide. I also find it to make it harder to predict the function of a road. 3.7 metre wide lanes officially limited to 50 km/h are wider than Dutch motorway lanes with a speed limit of 130 km/h. Obviously there is a problem with consistency. Another problem is that it takes away space we could use to make a road more useful. Let's use the city's plan for 107 Ave over Groat Rd as an example. The widths of the lanes is very wide. I added up all of the lane widths, then took the number of lanes, multiplied it by 3.1, or the standard width for a Dutch urban distributor road, subtracted this from the lane widths, and got a remainder of 4.3 metres. We have an extra 4.3 metres to use if we narrow the lanes down to the Dutch normal lane widths. We can add an extra 2 metres to the 2 metre wide shared use path, we can add a separate sidewalk for pedestrians alone, widen the opposite side sidewalk by .3 metres to bring it up to 1.8, the Dutch minimum. We can add more protection for the new cycle path by reorganizing the median layouts, but you can see that we just created a a cycle path and a sufficiently wide sidewalks, though a bit narrow by Dutch standards, just by making the widths better suited for the road.

Note that I eliminated the wide curbside lane. This will not harm cyclists who in the past may have vehicularly cycled here. This is because I allocated room for a completely separate path that is wide, and assuming you build the intersections correctly, IE to Dutch standards and best practices, absolutely nobody suffers by having the vehicular cyclists on a separate pathway. Not even you John Forester.

I imagine you wanting to ask me how a bus or truck will fit through. Put down your pitchforks and torches, and listen. Maybe even put up your hand as you were taught in school. The European, and by extension, Dutch, regulations surrounding trucks and buses also includes width. They have a legal maximum of 2.6 metres. What is our legal maximum? Also 2.6 metres. This goes for buses and trucks. There isn't a reason for oversize vehicles to come here, nor do we have any expectation of a tractor, so we can make a reasonable assumption that vehicles will not exceed 2.6 metres in width. And anyone with a basic understanding of math knows that 3.1 metres is much wider than 2.6 metres, 50 cm to be exact, or 25 cm on both sides of the vehicle. Still enough.

Our lanes really are too wide, and in some cases can restrict our ability to have quality cycling and walking space, sometimes even make it impossible to provide otherwise. By using our valuable lane space wisely, we can reduce speeding, make the speeds more in line with that should be expected of the road users and make space for cycling, walking and in some cases, even public transport.

My experience learning to drive.

Today I will tell you my experience learning to drive a car. I think that it's fairly typical and how perhaps you might learn from what I discovered.

I got my learning license, which in Alberta is a class 7 license that lets me drive whatever most adults can, normal sedans, SUVs, minivans, and in general vehicles with two axles, RVs with no more than 3 axles, a two axle vehicle towing a trailer without air brakes, an RV with three axles or less towing a trailer without air brakes, and a moped. Well, I guess it's not illegal to ride two mopeds at once, but why would you (as best as I can tell, you can actually ride the moped on your own without a fully licensed driver at your side in another moped and you can learn to ride a motorcycle)? at the age of 14.

In fact, the day after my birthday (by the time I the celebrations ended the office was closed). Pretty much a normal licensing, except without the long wait times. There was really no lineup at all, I walked straight up to the desk. Sign some forms, my mom also signing those forms and showing some forms of ID (a passport and birth certificate plus a bank statement works well for this) to the clerk, I took the written test, passed on the first try (my brother didn't this year. That's what you get for not studying enough!), went to the eye exam test (how else do you see everything on the road? I think you are allowed to be colourblind though), passed that (though with a condition that requires me to wear corrective lenses. I would anyway, I can barely walk out of my own front door without them, how else do I expect to not run through a red light or yield at the yield sign?), and waited. And waited. Until I got back from a summer holiday, to find my plastic license in the snail mail (the first thing I did was run to the mailbox, didn't even unpack from the holiday). I actually lost most of my interest in learning. I never asked my dad or mom to some quiet place to start learning.

So what do I need to do when I learn? You have 8 demerit points, you have to ensure that you have your own seatbelt and until your passengers turn 16, you have to make others wear them too (given that the learning age is 14, what happens if a learner does not buckle up their own seatbelt?). You need to have an instructor who does have the normal non probationary license for a car in the passenger seat. I can't drive between midnight and 5 AM (The only time when this actually ever came up was a time when me and my family were going somewhere and I remembered that I couldn't drive after midnight). And I also can't have any alcohol (and presumably no intoxication at all from anything else like relaxation medicine if it will affect my driving at all, not even 5 nanograms/mL THC thing and all). I don't drink alcohol at all, and particularly strong alcohol makes me want to gag from 2 metres away, so having it in my mouth is not a tantalizing proposition. Though the laws of the province as best as I can tell only impose a minimum age for buying and prohibit buying alcohol for minors, there isn't an age at which you can only consume it just lying in the fridge, and your parents can give you it with their supervision, so Catholics are OK (I'm not among them though), so this is why this is a law that isn't covered by other legislation.

Last year, a little more than a year ago, my dad asked if I wanted to go with him in the car. We went up to a quiet place and he asked to switch seats. I actually didn't know how capable I was of learning at the time. Having the steering wheel and the gas pedal of a 1.25 tonne car with a speedometer that can if allowed go up to something like 220 km/h (I don't suggest you try that, a motorway in Germany or elsewhere) is rather intimidating. I did that loop for an hour or two, got used to it, and even got up to about 30 km/h. I got fairly good, making a U turn, avoided a head on crash with a bus on the blind corner. The next time we went out, I got up to about 40-50 on the quiet roads, me and my dad got bored at that, so we went on the arterials at 60. After an hour or so at that, I actually went on the motorway and got up to 90 km/h, the speed limit on that particular one, and I drove straight home. I don't remember whether I parked in the garage or not.

Most of my other lessons over the last year are similar, starting out at home, going to the intended destination, coming home, I picked the routes that went on the largest variety of routes I could. It's actually an easy thing to get pretty good at, but it takes years to perfect. Of course people will make mistakes, this is why you start out with the easier and less dangerous things first, if you want to climb a mountain you go to the top of the nearest hill first not Mr Everest or Kilimanjaro. I still haven't mastered parallel parking, but who has these days. I need practice with that.

Long distance trips are pretty easy and because I automatically get someone in the passenger seat, they are less boring.

The fastest I've driven is 120 km/h in BC. If you have been paying attention to this blog in the past you'll know that I am 15 (as of writing this post), so how did I legally drive in BC? Remember, I have an AB license, which apparently BC will recognize as if it's one of their own so long as it was legally obtained. 120 feels like a more proper speed for a motorway designed for 120, although I have yet to have driven 130 km/h (until I find the time to hit the pedal to the metal in Montana, only a 620 km drive from Edmonton, not long at all by Albertan standards, taking about 5 hours and 30 minutes to do. I hope that Hank has a Good morning John event at some point (nerdfighter jokes)).

In a few months I will be 16 years old and be able to drive on my own so long as I upgrade my license. So long as I can get my parallel parking together, I should be easily able to pass the road test, although my parents are a bit nervous, not because they doubt my ability to drive or that they think there is a likelihood of me being reckless with a chesterfield full of friends in the backseats (a couch-full), but because of the increased insurance (they aren't poor, and they could easily afford if it they decided to accept it, they just would rather not pay the increased amount. I intend to go to a learning course with some sort of professional instructor, because although my dad is good at it, it isn't his job and he only has personal experience and I am the first person he's taught to drive, same with my mom who has recently come out of a coma (the kind of coma that makes you unwilling to accompany a learner that is). That, and the fact that the insurance rate is much lower if you do take the course. I hold the opinion that it would be a good idea for anyone wanting to get the non probationary license to be required to get it.

So what is my advice? I suggest finding someone who is calm and able to help you correct mistakes when you first begin to make them so you can stop the habit. Try to do these practice runs on trips someone would have made anyway. I drove my family down to Red Deer to visit our relatives on Thanksgiving day last October (yes, I mean October). My dad nor my mom would have gained anything had they drove, and because I was good at driving on the highways, albeit on that day there was a very strong crosswind that I actually had to begin adjusting for (40-60 km/h I believe) and overtaking trucks was not the easiest thing to do once you actually passed the truck, I drove instead because I actually could use that experience more. Practice at every opportunity for a trip that has to be done. In BC I visited my uncle in Abbotstford (if you have ever been to a baptist church in Abbotsford, you've probably met him), and because we had a trip that needed to be done, it was a good idea to go for a trip with him instead of my parents or my uncle doing it instead. Even minute shopping trips are worth doing. They add up over time and offer good practice for perpendicular parking and if your stores have them, angled parking. By doing the trips that have to be done anyway, you also happen to reduce your environmental impact.

It is a useful skill driving is (coming up soon talk like Yoda day is, April 29 it is), especially given how Edmonton is structured. I have cycled longer distances on my bicycle, a couple weeks ago I cycled about 16 km for fun, but it's not especially pleasant, efficient nor the most useful way to get around for the most part. The bus system is slow, infrequent and doesn't go on the routes I actually need to use, like from east to west or straight north to south. And $3.25/90 minutes isn't very great value for money if you couldn't afford a car on your own anyway. I drive safely and know my limits. My dad or mom, whoever is accompanying me, rarely intervene in how I drive, in fact a couple weeks ago I drove with my uncle and he did absolutely nothing in relation to instructing me, he didn't need to he said. I usually set the route, often making up the route as we go along, as I've learned enough about the city's street layout having lived here for nearly 16 years and been going around it on my own frequently for the last 3 to make most of the decisions on my own, the only thing that tends to change is the layout of the collector and access roads of individual neighbourhoods. I usually drive about once a week, sometimes more, sometimes less, but an average of about 1 week is normal for me. I don't know how often I will be driving when I get the unaccompanied class 5 license, I probably will drive around once a week like now, possibly taking my little sister to school, hopefully carpooling with my neighbours to save on the fuel.

But it's a skill that should be reserved to when you are alert, not intoxicated, as I've said before, I won't criticize you for getting drunk or reasonably high if you are in a safe place and are not using it too frequently, but not while driving (my dad actually said at an IHOP once that if I ever do get drunk, just call him and he'll be there in a jiffy, no need to call a taxi, he'd rather have me recovering and vomiting at home than running off the road or into another car, My advice: buy the alcohol from the store, take it home, and drink it there, wait until the morning to drive anywhere else), no phones (I don't drive looking at my phone, ask either of my parents and they will tell you that too. I even asked my mom to not use her own cell phone on the talk function because then I'll start thinking about it too. I actually tend to voluntarily reduce my speed on most collector roads, usually 40 km/h or so, sometimes 30, rather than the legal maximum of 50, out of concern for anything that might pop out. I also pay attention to my speed, careful not to go 70 in a 60 zone, although you need to be watching your speedometer quite frequently for this to work although I remain supportive of certain speed increases on motorways.

It's a wonderful ability, it can be fun especially when you do it with friends and family so long as they don't start yapping if you're in a car without an ejection button, but it needs time and skill to do safely. Drive carefully, obey the design speed, try to carpool if you can, drive a more efficient car (my car actually automatically shuts off the engine if I stop for more than about 5-10 seconds or so, and turns back on if I don't turn off the car or take my foot off of the brake) and remember to include an ejection seat for obnoxious and distracting passengers, hopefully they'll land in the field rather than the road ;).

Sunday, 24 April 2016


If you read the title, you might think I have bad spelling. But as you'll see, I am never late nor early, I mean precisely what I mean to (Hobbit jokes). I was inspired to write this because Edmonton released a spinoff guideline around "Main Streets", link here:

A stroad is a portmanteau, combining the words road and street. The main characteristics are that it has some sort of local access function while also trying to be a place where motor traffic is trying to get from A to B. Japser Ave in Edmonton is an example, as is Whyte Ave. To a lesser extent, this applies to arterial roads which have parking lot accesses directly off of them. Usually it's used in the context of trying to be a place where pedestrians are expected.

Many of these have very bad safety records. I will explain why shortly. To try and address this safety record and the image as being a place for cars, many cities are trying to make them "complete streets", I explained why this will fail as well if we try to follow Edmonton's guidelines on this or similar documents, by adding protected bike lanes, widen the sidewalks, add a bus lane or two and add plants. It is unlikely that these are going to make much of a difference. A lot of roads in NYC have protected bike lanes and bus lanes but still the streets are congested and full of cars with bad safety records.

So why are they so dangerous? If we look at Sustainable Safety, they violate three main principles: functionality, homogeneity and predictability. It may or may not be forgiving of error as well depending on the specific design. In Sustainable Safety, a thoroughfare is safe if it is either for local access, or for getting from A to B, but not both at the same time. It should be for exchange or flow on a link, but not both. Based on the way that these stroads function, they'd be distributor roads, because they are intended to be the main ways that people get from their local streets to the highways and motorways, but they are otherwise very bad distributor roads. They focus on exchange on the links but it also focuses on flow on the links.

It violates the homogeneity principles as well. It combines many different speeds, masses and directions into one place. This is exasperated when you don't have separate cycle paths. The trucks on these roads are large, often over 12 tonnes, but they have to mix with ~1 tonne cars and small bicycles and pedestrians. A bus is the only thing that is likely to be comparable. Buses have the same problem. One tonne cars often mix with cyclists in the traffic lanes. Cars often park on the side of many stroads, so hitting them is a conflict. Because of the large number of minor side roads, a lot of traffic has to make turns. Each minor 4 way intersection is an additional 32 conflict points. And this is just assuming that there aren't multiple lanes for motor vehicles in each direction, no pedestrian movements, no bicycle movements, no bus lanes, just a simple 2 lane road crossroad. Many of these are crossing conflicts. The speed of traffic is often just slow enough to be inefficient for getting anywhere but just fast enough to make the conflicts dangerous. At speeds over 30 km/h, a crash between a moped, bicycle or pedestrian and a car or truck or bus is going to be much more dangerous. 90% survive at speeds of 30 km/h or less but less than 50% at 50 km/h, and at 30, you have more time to react.

And it violates the predictability element by combining the functions of an access road with the functions of a distributor road. The multiple lanes paved in asphalt sometimes with a median with traffic lights and priority over side roads makes it feel like a distributor road for medium speed traffic at medium volumes, but the buildings, parking, local access and pedestrians makes it feel like an access road. You don't know what is expected of you. Especially given that many stroads tend to try to lower the speed limit from perhaps 50-60 km/h to 30-40 (30-35 down to 20-25 mph), but the physical design doesn't change much. You have little time to react when you make a right turn, you often have to shoot for the gaps when making a left turn if there is oncoming traffic. You have less ability to gauge how to behave here. And this is under ideal conditions. Let alone the night, fog, thick snow, etc.

The best solution is to downgrade the roads to a 30 km/h zone. Divert as much of the traffic as you can, and if the volume is sufficiently low and the big heavy traffic is gone or is restricted (no buses if possible, and vans or other trucks under 3500 kg deliver goods at certain times of the day when there is less traffic, then begin to mix cyclists and motor vehicles. This should never be a shared space as Exhibition Rd in London or the Kerkplein in Assen works where there is too much traffic for mixing to work, but a low volume street is what we want. Banning cars altogether is another option.

If you cannot downgrade to a 30 km/h street, then remove as many conflicts of the distributor road as possible. Remove as much car parking as you can, close off minor side roads to motor traffic or if they really need to exist, make them right in right outs. Ban left turns from the distributor road at arterial to arterial road junctions too. Add simultaneous green and or the protected junction, preferably with separate signal phases. Make it be so that only a single lane for motor vehicles in each direction remains, and separate the traffic with a median. Add cycle paths that are well protected and wide, and also continuous. Make any side street crossings open to motor traffic into a gateway design with a continuous sidewalk and cycle path at the same level and make the cars go up and down curbs. Restrict deliveries, put bus stops in separate bays if they do not have physically separated bus lanes. Restrict the corridors that the buses use, so that they pose less of a danger on as many corridors as possible. Make minor side road crossings where pedestrians and cyclists still cross into safer crossings with the motor traffic going at a speed of 30 km/h by making them go around a median with tight curves and a raised table with an advisory speed of 30 km/h and a zebra crossing with a median refuge for cyclists too to wait in the middle. Remove objects from the clear zone, on a 50 km/h road I believe that this would be 1.5-2 metres when possible from the right edge of the curbside lane. Remove objects from the sightline triangles.

Stroads should never be intended by design, and existing ones need MAJOR modifications to avoid being the deathtraps for pedestrians and cyclists and congestion wells they are today. They are inefficient, dangerous and not helping anyone.

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Sustainable Safety: A thorough look into each of the 5 principles. Part 5: State Awareness

OK, it's been a month since I last left off on this series. I am here to finish the job, and talk about how our human brains play a role in how safe our roads are through the Sustainable Safety principle of State Awareness. I got most of what I know about this from this document made by the

The main three things that this part focuses on is how capable you believe yourself to be, how capable you truly are, and how capable you are at adapting to things on the road, from an amber light to finding that a pedestrian is crossing in your path.

The first part, how capable you think you are at dealing with being a road user interacting with all of the things, deals with things like how you stressed you are (is there congestion, unfamiliar roads, you need to find a place to take a break and are tires, do you have a child whom you are late in picking up from, etc, ), how you think you can deal with the traffic situations, like what you believe you should do if you encounter things like a roundabout, a yield sign, an interchange ramp, etc. It also shows how you think you should behave in general. People often believe that certain dangerous things are in fact safe. Many people continue to talk on their cell phones, go 80 km/h on a 60 road (mom) in the built up area. And finally, many people get temporarily diminished in mental capability to be aware of what to do in traffic. You know these, alcohol, other drugs and medicines (that are also technically drugs) that make it harder for you to drive, cell phones and distractions in general, and a lack of rest. The latter one particularly affects truck drivers, who also happen to drive the largest vehicles. Put 2 and 2 together, and you get, 5, no just kidding, 4, or in other words, a crash (I read 1984 last week).

The second part, how capable you actually are at dealing with traffic, differs from the first in an important way. The first part is much more subjective. People have a bias towards themselves and those they trust. They believe that they are more capable than other people. We all have this bias in some way to some extent, and for you to say that you are affected by it less is actually an example. You also have less capability to even determine how capable you are if you are mentally diminished by disease, drugs, distractions, lack of rest, etc. Therefore, an objective, or at least as little subjectivity as possible, is essential. We need to objectively put as little stress on the road users too. This is one of the reasons why I support the non priority roundabouts for cyclists. You have too much to do at once. A priority crossing could be 10-20 metres away from the roundabout maybe, but not 6 and certainly not just a metre or so of curbing.

And the final part referenced in my source sheet is calibration. This probably isn't the best translation, and is probably better referred to as adaptation to challenges and situations you face. Either way, you need to be able to adapt your behavior to the changing road conditions. You need to be able to understand how to slow down, stop, change lanes, or make a turn. You need to know how to actually get off the road and into a rest area if you're tired. You also need to know how to get to the hospital if you're leg was tired, caused by a car running over it. You also need to know when to do these things as well. Even a simple lane change is more complex than you think. You need to know if you actually need to make a lane change, you need to know when it's legal, when there is a safe gap to do it with, you need to signal, make the lane change, keep your speed up and all the while, do everything else you need to do, like understand if a roundabout or traffic light is coming up (as might happen if you're making a left turn and you are currently in the outer lane of a 2*2 road), if you are keeping to the safe speed and in any case, under the legal limit.

These things can be a challenge under the best conditions, The Mythbusters shown that lane changing on a congested freeway can be quite stressful, even for well rested, non distracted and not intoxicated drivers. And because many drivers, especially after 11 PM, are tired, intoxicated and or distracted, it is even harder to make even a basic lane change. Alcolocks and tiredness sensors (like the kind that detect how often you stray out of your lane, how often you make unexpected speed ups and slow downs on an clear road, etc) can help, but there is a limit to how widespread these can be and it would take time for all cars operating on the road to have been made after a time when lane straying sensors became a part of all motor vehicles sold.

Mental capability is a huge part of how Sustainable Safety works. It's not just the bodies we have, it's also the mind we operate. I don't have a moral problem against adults drinking or getting high (on non dangerous things, please don't go around getting a few kilograms of meth to consume), having a texting chat with friends, or needing sleep, but just don't be doing these while needing your concentration, especially if you are or are about to be, a road user, and this goes for you too cyclists and pedestrians. Many crashes, especially into things like solid posts, bollards and curbs tend to happen under the influence. More than half of cyclists given a breathalyzer in Groningen at night were over the legal limit (.05%). It may or may not be legal, but the actual behavior of road users needs to be taken into account when designing roads, and this includes their capability to understand driving, cycling, walking or some other participation in traffic.

Monday, 18 April 2016

Hype and publicity

There is a large danger when you start to focus on hype. I will attempt to explain why I believe this is so.

Whenever someone does anything, they usually want to make it well known. In London, they promoted their East West Cycle Superhighway quite vigorously. The Calgary newspapers like to start flamewars in relation to the cycle tracks in Downtown Calgary. Copenhagen has the busiest cycle bridge in the world.

First, we must assess whether these claims are even true or if they are misrepresentations of facts. For example "double the risk of crashes" would be a true statement if your odds went all the way from 1 in 53 Quintilian to 2 in 53 Quintilian. It would also double your risk if you had a 1 in 10 chance to a 2 in 10 chance. But the overall amount of risk is astronomically low in the former example. A world's busiest cycle bridge depends on a number of factors. How was the data collected, what is the margin of error, and who collected it, who had a particular interest in a certain outcome and had a stake in the collection?

Second, we must assess whether the thing that is being promoted is actually useful. You may have heard of that rain sensor incorporated into a traffic light timing system in Groningen. But if you read the report where it says that "delays to other road users was not increased", all of a sudden, your arguments go out the window. If it didn't cause a delay to others but was a use for cyclists, then why is this use restricted to rainy times? The Aviewfromthecyclepath goes on about this:

Something like a claim to spend 5 million dollars in Edmonton each year on cycling sounds like a good thing, and it's better than 0 dollars spent. But it only sounds like a lot of money when we consider that we look at it from the perspective of individual people. Spending that much on a city of our size and population is minuscule. It's about $5.26/person. But wait, this often comes with a multi year plan. Often 4 years, a budget cycle that coincides with how many years go between municipal elections. So per year that would be $1.31/person per year. If you remember how much the Dutch spend, they spend the equal of 43 of our dollars each year per person. If you do the math for Edmonton, that should come out to at least 40.085 million dollars. Each year. So we would be spending an incredibly small amount of money, money that in the way that we've been using it, and how little we've done with it, isn't making cycling that much better in Edmonton. A couple hundred metres of shared use path is the only construction of cycle infrastructure that's actually benefited me, and I suspect that came out of a widening budget paid for by a developer.

Another problem is that because very little tends to change permanently with only very few exceptions, like the protected intersection south of the Burrard Bridge in Vancouver or the actual and original Stop De Kindermoord Campaigns in the Netherlands, the hype is very likely to dissipate into nothing pretty quickly as people find something else new and sexy to promote or hate depending on your perspective.

People also tend to lower their standards. Often times cities have claimed to initially go for "cycle tracks" but ended up building just more of the same old same old, often with claims that "fast cyclists will benefit from slightly slower traffic, sharrows and share the road signs and inexperienced cyclists will benefit from legally being able to use a (slightly) widened footway", and that training and police enforcement will be added. Having the police enforce the laws is a worthy goal, but I don't think that people care about whether the police enforce the traffic rules when it comes to their decision about whether to cycle or not. Would you start cycling if only you knew that the police would give higher fines more reliably to someone who runs you over?

And besides, what is your goal? The ordinary, everyday people of the Stop De Kindermoord campaign, their individual names haven't gone down in history, but what they achieved has, and is enjoyed by millions of people every day, and has saved thousands of lives. Would you rather that you be famous, or that what you ended up doing is famous?

Sunday, 17 April 2016

Why "it's too expensive" and it will take 45 years" arguments don't hold up.

This night as I was reading Mark Treasure's As Easy as Riding a Bike blog and thinking about the cost of cycle paths on my bed, I realized something. Mark's post was about using the extra roadway space to build cycle paths. He said a lot about reconstruction, and this is where I had my "a ha" moment.

I realized something fundamental about the cost of building roads. They will need to be replaced at some point. This is a critical thought. All roads and paths need to be replaced over time. It's the ship paradox, which is the original road if you gradually replace parts of it? We don't usually notice because only some areas are rebuilt at a time and very few brand new roads are built, and even when they are, they are usually only noticed by residents. Only freeways and divided highways tend to get that much attention, as well as projects like twinning 23 Ave a long time ago. As time goes on, we can't even remember a time before daily using the old road or thing. I can't remember ever driving on Ellerslie Road past the church near Calgary Trail without it being a 4-6 lane arterial road, but it was once a 2 lane road with no divide between the two directions. 

Including cycleways as part of a road reconstruction (or indeed, as a new construction) is almost nothing, especially if you replace existing lanes of traffic with cycleways, widened grass medians or sidewalks, and even building separate bus lanes physically separated with a median is actually less than the cost of building a pair of lanes for motor traffic in the same space in many cases because then you don't need bays to stop in or things like a construction allowing for large trucks all of the time (buses tend to run even on BRT corridors maybe every 7.5-10 minutes during off peak times, less often than trucks tend to and trucks usually weigh more). 

So because every road will eventually need to be rebuilt at some point and including non motor traffic facilities (buses are technically motorized, but they don't induce demand for cars and don't need freeways), what would happen if roads began to be replaced now? 

It would increase costs, but only right this minute. Well, right this timeframe, maybe 5 years, but there are many benefits that justify the cost. Crashes go down when Sustainable Safety is introduced, and crashes require a huge amount of money to rectify the damage, and sometimes the damage is permanent, from someone being too scared to cycle again to killing someone. An average life is statistically although not emotionally about 7.9 million dollars in 2006 US currency. We don't need as many resources or money to reconstruct roads in the future, given that we would have less to reconstruct and well built cycleways don't need to be replaced as often just by wear and tear. We would encourage cycling and walking on masse, very quickly so long as we build a network of cycleways. This reduces our spending on cars, until we all get Telsas, gasoline and diesel. We get health benefits. You're never too late to start cycling. We get economic benefits. People get sick less often, students are happier and healthier in school and do better in school. The long term benefits would easily outweigh the short term costs. 

People so often feel like short term benefits are better than long term benefits if the latter involves some sort of small cost. Not even that long term, maybe 30 minutes from now, or even just 5 years from now, a time most of us will still be around and have lives that mostly resemble those right now. 5 years from now, we probably will have a functioning Valley Line LRT in Edmonton. What else do we want to see in even just 5 years? People can't help but have biases towards easy short term goals vs slightly harder very large long term goals, but we can keep our emotional brain in check and keep using our logic sensors to great effect. 

We've done many great things by investing in the present to make a great future. Just yesterday I went on a plane of my own accord for the first time and conquered my aerophobia. It took a lot of convincing myself that the statistics in favour of it were far greater than the costs, but I did it. And so can Edmonton and the rest of the car centric world realize the error of it's ways, make some short term sacrifices to have a greater future with longer lives, healthier people, happier people, and a system which gives sustainable transportation to everyone regardless of income and ability. When do we want it? And when will we realize that we are killing ourselves with our cars, directly and indirectly, and that the benefits of Sustainable Safety and cycle paths everywhere with 30 km/h zones everywhere else are worth it? 

Saturday, 16 April 2016

Filtered permeability and how to do it better

If you ride a bicycle or walk in the newer areas of the city, or in Mill Woods or the area to the west side of the West Edmonton Mall, you probably will notice that between houses, there are paths. Some of them are wider, 2.5-3.2 metres and made of asphalt, intended as shared use paths, or 1.5 metre wide sidewalks. These are examples of filtered permeability. But it could be oh so much more.

The Dutch surprise surprise have a lot of filtered permeability. It makes cycle and walking journeys faster than cars in most cases, and allows connections that would be illogical to provide by car. You can offer a cycle path connection closer to the desire lines for example. You can have a small access to a residential area right near a traffic light controlled crossing for bikes and pedestrians even when there wouldn't be enough room to allow that access to exist by car. And it allows the maintaining of cycle and walling routes when you remove through traffic from areas that should be low volume and not the main routes by car.

Edmonton does not have good examples of filtered permeability. The paths are too narrow and join up with the road in awkward ways, sometimes without even a wheelchair ramp, they tend to have less good sightlines, sometimes blind corners, not good maintenance and with no divide between cyclists and pedestrians. We often use bollards in dangerous ways, with large T shaped metal bars that won't give, with nothing to mark that there is a bollard at night, or only a minute reflector.

Let's see what we can do to improve them. The Rantyhighwayman, a roadways designer in the UK who actually follows sane guidance and genuinely puts cyclists and pedestrians ahead of motor vehicles in much of his work, I know, shocker that the UK has this kind of person (note that I did not use plurals intentionally, but I did include a bit of sarcasm). He designed along with a few others, this cycle path:

It's quite a nice path, 3.1 metres wide (could be 3 metres if needed given the low expected volumes and the low importance on a grid wide scale) with a 2 metre wide sidewalk. I'd have liked it had they used grey tiles or concrete for the sidewalk, but he did what he did and it works well anyway. 

This is how to design out shortcuts. We obviously would change which side of the cycle path we ride on, but that aside and the yield markings would be replaced with a yield sign and sharks' teeth, there is practically nothing different. 

There is a reason for why the sidewalks also tend to be present. Given that these are narrower cycle paths and these are still quite close to home, it is much more likely that people will walk along here, and they often can cause the flow of cyclists to be interrupted to a degree that it's lowering the effectiveness of the cycleway. Even more so if people feel like it is attractive and pleasant to walk and that it feels competitive with cars. 

I came up with my own diagram for how this can work, assuming a 6.5 metre wide shortcut (including the grass and bushes) to work with: It's not much, but it does the job. When there isn't a lamppost, the area reserved to it just goes back to a sidewalk making it 2 metres again. An angled curb between cycle path and sidewalk will d

This filtered permeability is a major reason for why many cycle journeys are shorter than those made by car. Why not make them even more efficient, smoother and conflict free? 

Penalizing drivers?

Something often said about making it more friendly to walk and cycle and to cut down on collisions is to fine and jail drivers more harshly. Let's look at that.

I don't support this idea for the most part. It is uncommon that a rise in harshness of a punishment laid on anyone will result in a decrease of offenses. Americans execute murderers and they have among the highest murder rates in the developed world. In Norway, your murder sentence is 21 years in a much better prison (if you're still a danger to society, you can repeat the 21 years up to 5 times) and their murder rate is by far lower. There are other factors, less income inequality for example, but the justice system is focuses on rehabilitation.

How does this relate to driving? Well, would you rather have every drunk driver thrown in a harsh jail but still have about the same number of drunk drivers or would you rather have fewer drunk drivers even if it means that their sentences will be lighter? Often times a long sentence doesn't quite leave people satisfied. They still lost their loved ones and they can't get them back.

And this still doesn't do anything to prevent the crashes. It only has an after the fact partial remedy. This goes for all crimes and offenses too by the way. And given the way that the roads are designed, there is only a matter of time before the crash happens again. This is why Sustainable Safety aims to prevent the crash as much as possible, forgiving errors and limiting the severity of the crashes, aiming to make them non lethal and as few serious injuries as possible. Strict liability is only an insurance law. The road design we have also often encourages offenses. The design speed of the road is higher than the posted speed in most cases, this is why most arterial roads feel like 70 is a better speed for them rather than the 60 we often have, and why 120-135 km/h is the usual speed on most freeways in North America unless there is bad weather or congestion or sharp curves or steep slopes. Stopping ahead of the stopping line, and often into the crosswalk, is encouraged because the lights are on the opposite side of the stopping line well ahead of the crosswalk. Sometimes the road itself is just ambiguous. When turning across a minor side road and crossing a sidepath open to cyclists, there is no information given about whether cyclists or that turning car should have priority, almost never is there a given regulatory sign like a yield or stop sign, rarely does the physical design help, and practically nobody is taught about how to behave.

Most crashes are genuine mistakes. Practically nobody starts their day driving while singing out the window "It would be a wonderful day to run over some pedestrians!". In fact, I've never heard this ever spoken.

This is why I don't support things like putting them in prison. If there was a drunk driver who was caught, I'd rather sentence them to need an alcolock in their cars, an alcohol rehabilitation program if they consistently had too much, make them go to a driver education class and give them a large fine. Only those who are seriously dangerous to other people even in ordinary life without cars (a driving ban can be used if needed) should be sent to prison, and even then, they are only a danger to society and they have a hope of not always being such a danger, and can be let free once they are, and thus, everything should be done so as to make the transition from prison to the outside world and the skills and tools to lead a crime free life. They don't do anything good by being in a prison all day. They could be doing something useful at a job. It costs a lot of money to jail someone, and few could fund their own imprisonment. That money could be spent on cycling and walking, road design tools and programs to reduce the temptations and chance that people will make the mistakes in the first place.

This is why I support Nordic justice and why we must have roads that have self explaining rules and expectations with as few temptations to break them as possible. You don't put your hand on a hot stove, you don't normally want to kill your neighbour, you obey the speed limit because it feels like the right speed to go at for the conditions at hand.

Genuinely bad drivers should feel the force of law, but only so far that they don't drive anymore or don't drive in the dangerous manner anymore (you can't start a car if it has an alcolock and you're over the set limit) along with something to let them know that the action is wrong, like a fine or some community service.

By the way, strict liability in the Netherlands is only an insurance law that means that the driver's insurer pays for the financial cost to the non motorized vulnerable road users if the driver causes a crash, and partially pays if the vulnerable road user's mistakes were not unexpected and the crash could be avoided. It doesn't affect the drivers themselves except through a slightly higher insurance rate.

(I have read the story about the affluenza teen. I don't think the anger is mainly about the low sentence itself, it's the low sentence compared with the typical sentences of people who aren't rich. By the way, don't drink and drive. You are quite likely to get into a crash, and this goes for anything else that affects your capability to drive, like phones or a lack of sleep).

I hope that I've given you the right ideas about how the mistakes of drivers should actually be reduced in number and severity and maybe even convinced you about how the justice system should work, not only for drivers and road users but for everyone too.

Thursday, 14 April 2016

Why trip counts must include those not made to commute.

Many people when they think of modal share, they come to think "for getting to work and back". As I will explain, this is a fundamental error when assigning priority to the different kinds of trips.

I've mentioned before that a modal share of all trips, keyword, all trips, made by bicycle, of somewhere between 25 and 60% of trips is common in the Netherlands, usually between 35 and 50% as a more normal range. This is usual for trips of 7.5 km or less. This is an important distinction. 

People of course don't need to get around just for work and back. There are a lot of people you exclude by doing that. My grandparents are retired, they don't have work trips, so do you consider their travel patterns irrelevant? Of course you don't. Young children go to school and back each schoolday, but by excluding their trips from the roster, you ignore a huge number of the trips made. Most field trips, or trips that the school organizes for the students either for fun, like to a pool, or educational like a cemetery, wait, why did I use cemetery as an example, are done by yellow bus. Let's not be so morbid, and use the Bennett Centre (which I myself went to on a trip about insects) in the River Valley, near 98 Ave, The Dutch have practically no yellow buses, and the ones that are used are pretty much just rented out by businesses taking clients to various places. 

People who shop also make a large number of trips, go watch a Walmart parking lot for a few minutes. It often generates so much traffic that many accesses to parking like this can need traffic lights. They need to be counted among the other trips, as they add a huge number to the total trips. 

People who cycle for recreation has a different meaning to me than "recreational cyclists". The former indicates that a person just happens to be using a bicycle for a particular trip intended to be recreational in nature. Recreational cyclist in my opinion means someone who primarily cycles for recreation, sometimes exclusively for this purpose. Using this term also makes it more likely that people will associate them with low speed high tolerance for inconvenience but desiring high subjective safety levels type of people. People do cycle for recreation, and it should be counted, especially in the countryside where it's more likely that people tour and go for rides just for the fun of it or when cycling itself is the object, other than the primary desire to use your muscles. 

Student trips need to be counted as well. It helps to indicate that cycling is mainstream for younger people, it shows that we need to consider the higher chance that a younger person will make a mistake when riding and it shows that parent's must be comfortable letting their kid cycle around. University students also need to be counted. They need cheap transportation that fits into the urban area well and needs to be high density, and they also need something that they can use more of given a still learning brain, at least in terms of learning to driving a car.

The other big group that is often left out are those who cycle partway through their trip then switch to public transport, be it a bus or train or helicopter (I'm joking about the last one). It is vital that we understand the sheer magnitude of people who use this combination, especially in the Netherlands. The amount of cycling is expanding so rapidly that stations quickly become overcrowded with parked bicycles. Even thousands of parking spaces, maybe even over 10000, isn't enough for the number of cyclists in many cities. Another thing that this group shows is how the pattern of getting to the homes to the transfer point works. Is there a major obstacle, is a major intersection slowing cyclists down? Is there a weak link, maybe a narrow cycle path, some bad maintenance somewhere? Is a cycle path overcrowded? This can be a determining factor as to whether people will cycle longer distances by combining modes or not.

People driving cars in the Netherlands are almost always also cyclists, and often the other way around  too provided that the subject is at least 18 years old. Almost everyone who is old enough is able and willing to use each kinds of modes they want. They might use the car to get to work but they might cycle to go to the store and pick up their Grade 1 kid from the elementary (primary) school, or they might normally drive once or twice a week to visit their grandparents, walk to take their kids to school and back, cycle to get the groceries, and take the train and walk to go to work and back. It should be a collection of all the different trips regardless of what they are normally and it should include those using the different kinds of modes for the different kinds of trips they could make.

This also defeats the arguments about cyclists being licensed and or taxed. People in school are taught how to cycle and assuming they pass the traffic exam, they get a certificate that they passed, a major rite to a Dutch child. Kind of like how I saw getting my learner license. You don't have to get one to succeed in life, but it feels great to know that you are capable. And most people when they turn 18 will get a driving license and learn to drive a car, even if they intend to go car free, just so that they can drive if they really need to, or if they need to drive abroad in the US. Most of the money spent on cycling is from local budgets, which are mostly funded through property taxes, and much of the rest is business license revenue, and most of us pay in some ways, business use some of the money they get from sales towards their taxes and people owning any sort of large property pay their property taxes and many people own property that is taxed in this way. No correlation to the amount they use roads at all.

You need to think about all trips, not just those made to get to home to work and back. In fact, I've seen figures that put the number of people who make a commuting trip at only around 25-33%. There are so many more trips. We build arterial roads and highways so that everyone* can get around at any time of the day (* everyone not including those without a license, those who cannot afford fuel, those without a car with the right to legally drive it and the ability to drive one safely) for whatever purpose of trip (aside from going to a store to rob it) they desire.

Why don't we build cycleways and streets to let you be able to make any type of trip you want to make at any time of the day for anyone and everyone to cycle?

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Cyclists are NOT pedestrians OR motorists!

This is a very important blog post. It is a major challenge to the traditional way of thinking about cyclists in the North American influenced designs. IE vehicular cycling vs slow and inexperienced cycling.

As you can probably see (unless you are blind, in which case you've heard about it) on the streets, there are no cycle tracks, or practically none. This will vary depending on where you live, London now has quite a few kilometres of actually pretty nice cycle tracks on the new generation of cycle superhighways, though the junctions could have an update, and Vancouver has some excellent cycle friendly places, like the south end of Burrard Bridge, but overall, and in Edmonton, there are no cycle tracks on a consistent basis.

The usual rational or explanation of why there are so few is that cyclists are given the "choice" between cycling on the road or on the sidewalk on shared use paths, or are given the "option" to dismount and cross using pedestrian crossings or dismounting and using zebra crossings at roundabouts and side streets. This is a terrible idea, and I believe that this is the reason why our cycle routes suck so much these days. It's turned cycling into mainly either a leisure or sport activity, leading the the decline of the single speeders/three speed backpedals like I have that make journeys, even long ones, practical (I just did a 15 km journey today over a single hour of time spent on my bicycle, and that was including waiting for a train and several traffic lights and with a poor surface with bumps and upstands at every side street). The leisure vs sport also makes people think that you can either go slow on inefficient paths or fast with heavy and intimidating traffic. And it's led to the rise of "safety" equipment, with helmets and high viz jackets, even for slow and medium speed cyclists, often with helmets being legislated. Nobody would suggest building sidewalks for "slow" pedestrians and the minority of people who want to jog, and nobody would suggest building an 80 km/h freeway right next to a 300 km/h freeway in the rural area so that you can have experienced drivers away from the ordinary people, the Volken, if you are German (Volkswagen joke)

There are critical differences between cyclists, pedestrians and motor vehicles. The masses, speeds and directions are obvious. But there are other differences too. Cyclists need to have very few, ideally no, stops on their routes to be efficient. Cars have engines, and you as a driver don't waste your own energy by stopping. You can put your foot on the accelerator with practically no effort. The waste of energy that the cyclist has to put in is multiplied when you have people less able to cycle, like elderly cyclists.

Bumps in the cycle path also make you go slower. They also pose a much larger risk for the same crack or bump size than they usually do for a motor vehicle, as cyclists must balance on two wheels. Bi, two, cycle, wheels. Even a few millimetres will cause this problem.

Cyclists also need a paved surface to be efficient. Cars can do reasonably well on grass, but give dirt rain and it becomes so much of a challenge that it gave the Soviets the ability to counter attack the Nazis.

Cyclists also have differences from pedestrians. Pedestrians can be much denser than cyclists can, and cyclists need to maintain a minimum speed to even stay upright at all. I cannot balance if I cannot go at least about 8 km/h. Cyclists also have a turning radius. Pedestrians usually don't, and even most wheelchairs can turn nearly on the spot. There are also more differences between speeds of cyclists. Some are slower, some are faster. Pedestrians don't often have this difference, and there isn't as much variety. Pedestrians, also by being denser, can fit into less space. I say 1.8 metres minimum, 2 metres standard, more if needed. Cyclists need to be able to overtake effectively.

Cyclists also have inertia. Pedestrians of course do to, but by not going very fast, not having wheels on a free flow axle and by having "brakes" that will stop you in very nearly an instant, IE your feet, pedestrians only get a stubbed toe if they hit a curb. Hitting the curb can be a fatal crash for a cyclist, at the very least possibly getting thrown off the saddle and possibly over the handlebars.

The reaction distance of a cyclist, and the braking distance, is much longer than a pedestrian. You can be coming at maybe 18-25 km/h normal speed for upright cyclists, more for recumbent riders, velomobilists and racing cyclists. This means that you must have good sightlines to predict what is going to happen next. The distance isn't nearly so long for pedestrians. This is why pedestrians often get priority over motor traffic even if cyclists don't.

It's a huge mistake to lump cyclists in with motor traffic or pedestrians, or sometimes both, depending on the type of cyclist you have. Why not have one system and make it so good that everyone will want to use it, and a legal obligation to use it actually seems like a formality, and practically nobody is given a ticket?

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Bike boulevards, fietsstraaten and neighbourhood greenways

The title reflects how we in North America have a wide range of terms for something that should be more clear. A freeway is understood as a 4 lane grade separated divided highway with shoulders and is the first thing that comes to mind. What does a bike boulevard mean to you? How about the term neighbourhood greenway? You will know this if you're Dutch, but to the rest of the people who aren't Dutch, what does fietsstraat mean to you? For clarity, I will use the term fietsstraat.

However what do I mean by fietsstraat? It is the Dutch word that means bicycle street. A more precise definition is where a cycle route is an on road cycleway on an access road. In the Dutch hierarchy of road classifications, access roads are the lowest classification, and has the least amount of traffic and the lowest speeds in their environments. 30 km/h in the urban areas and 60 in the rural areas. The fietsstraat as it would look from the perspective of one of its users would see a cycle path that cars just happen to be allowed at a slow pace on provided that they are local traffic that needs to be there. There is a carpet of smooth red asphalt, the actual speed of motor traffic is low, it has priority over other access roads and should connect with distributor roads in the traditional manner (although if priority is possible then this is a nice thing to have), and motor traffic volumes are very low, but cyclists outnumber cars at least 2 to one, preferably 4 to one so as to ensure that cyclists dominate the flow of traffic.

Rural fietsstraaten (yes, this is how you make it plural by Dutch grammar methods) are pretty uncommon, and in general what you might call a rural fietsstraat is created when you allow tractors or motor vehicles on an otherwise cycle exclusive path for access on that very block alone. This can be done in the urban areas too for the same reason.

There are certain things that make Dutch fietsstraaten different from bike boulevards or neighbourhood greenways or whatever else you wish to call them. One is that the Dutch pave the access road in 3.5-4.5 metres of smooth, red asphalt, sometimes with a grey textured area in the middle to discourage overtaking by cars or optically narrow the road, sometimes with bands of brick on the outer edge so as to provide extra space for motor vehicles without looking like this is what you have done. This makes it so that the access road looks visually like cycling space, not hard to imagine that you are actually riding on a normal cycle path. Sometimes the markings are even the same as those on cycle paths. This carpet of smooth red asphalt also helps in navigation. If the cycle route must take a bend as can happen in the maze like nature of access roads, then the red asphalt also makes that turn around the corner.

Fietsstraaten also have priority over side streets. In North America this is generally referred to by saying "rotating the stop signs to face the side street". While this will help the bike boulevard, it doesn't remove the problem altogether, as cyclists coming onto the cycle route will legally need to stop. There is no real lack of safety by having yield signs instead of stop signs.

There is extensive traffic calming, but mainly the things that limit speed are limited to gentle raised tables. This is because it should be an easy place to cycle and so bumps are not nice to ride over. Narrow lanes also help to enforce the 30 or 60 km/h speed limit.

These cycleways are also having one more critical difference. They are not used as a replacement to cycle tracks on the main distributor roadways. They are an addition to these cycle tracks. Fietsstraaten can also be found on service streets next to distributor roads, as these have low volume and the route would be well used by bicycle, a fietsstraat is a logical choice.

Overall, this should culminate in a design that looks like these examples (all from Mark at BicycleDutch).

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Pedestrian crossings

A lot of the time, pedestrian safety focus goes towards where pedestrians cross the road. It should be obvious why. It is a place where motor vehicles, 1 tonne vehicles generally going between 40 and 70 km/h on urban streets, and pedestrians share. I have a few thoughts on this.

Modern pedestrian crossings at traffic lights in places like Assen look like this: Well, it's filmed on a bike, but pedestrians have the same low waiting times and they never need to worry about delays here. In Edmonton, our crossings are ludicrously long. It can easily be over a minute before we can get the green light to cross. Even at major junctions, like arterial to arterial major, the wait time is often 30 seconds or less and many places have committed to a maximum of 40 seconds or less, almost always shorter. Compare this with the perhaps 20 seconds to wait for the side road to even begin halting pedestrians parallel with the major road as the first indication of stopping traffic and then another 35 seconds perhaps to give even more time. If you're lucky, then maybe you'll catch the button just before the light goes green. Video here for the length of pedestrian delays in Edmonton:

Zebra crossings are a very efficient way for pedestrians to cross the road, but whenever you assign pedestrians priority over motor vehicles, you must ensure that there are natural reasons for motor vehicles to stop for pedestrians. A bend in the road is ideal, but measures like median refuges where possible, a raised table, easy to understand street layout that is consistent for all pedestrian priority crossings, and low to moderate speeds (30-50 km/h). Roundabouts in urban areas are a good place for zebra crossings, as the speed is well moderated and where the traffic comes from is predictable, and you can build the crossing on a raised table, plus you either just left a bend or are about to go onto a bend, making it even safer.

Here is a major change for North America. In Canada and the US, pedestrians always have priority over motor traffic at unsignalized official crossings, even if they are unmarked. This is very different from what almost everywhere else in the world does. The Dutch pedestrians generally do not have priority when crossing a roadway, they only have priority at traffic lights, at zebra striped crossings and they have priority over turning motor traffic, as in, if motor vehicles when turning would cross the path of a pedestrian, the latter has priority. And they also have the same priority as the road they parallel, if they walk parallel with a distributor road on the sidewalk, the sidewalk has priority over side roads. In all other situations, pedestrians do no have priority.

This doesn't really cause a problem. There are several reasons why this is the case. Pedestrians are never expected to cross a large and busy road without assistance, nor are they expected to cross roads with more than a single lane per direction (turning lanes not counted). You can find acceptable gaps in the flow of traffic to cross. Pedestrians also often have a median refuge with which to wait in between the different directions of traffic. This makes it so that you only need to deal with one flow at a time. Pedestrian crossings like this are also usually marked with a pair of broken white parallel lines, so people know where they are even though they don't have priority. The traffic is still calmed, and never faster than 70 km/h in terms of the speed limits and even then I've never seen where pedestrians cross even 70 roads without the slowing down nature of a roundabout close by. Those with disabilities also get priority even at non priority crossings (motor traffic is encouraged to give way, but they don't have to).

The latter type of crossing would mainly be used where access roads cross distributor roads. This helps make the distributor road a road that is intended for flow on the links (but exchange at junctions). Traffic doesn't stop all of the time. And I also believe this assists safety. Whenever someone is assigned priority, it doesn't matter who, they tend to behave with less care and less attention. How many drivers out there rarely even notice minor side roads if you don't see a stop sign, yield sign or traffic light in your way? Not very often. You are even less likely to notice pedestrians given that they are fairly small and with little to make them look all that important. And if you do have priority, all you can do to ensure that you get priority is to confidently walk across and hope the drivers see you and are going to let you go first, or stop so that the traffic stops for you before you begin to cross. This is partly the reason why I support cycle non priority roundabouts with a very similar reason. And given that currently there is very little that will give drivers a natural reason to stop for pedestrians, I do not believe that it is worth it to assign pedestrians automatic priority over 50 km/h distributor roads and even in 30 km/h zones it may be not suitable.

I also don't believe in things like amber flashers to attempt to make things safer. All they can hope to do is to attract the attention of drivers who are paying attention, and often you find drivers who are not very attentive. There is nothing improved about the physical geometry to make things any safer. No improvements to sightlines, no decreases in motor vehicle speed, and nothing to give drivers a natural reason to let pedestrians go first. Same with reflective stripes on the poles that support pedestrian crossing signs as is done in Calgary and even at the JB elementary school crosswalk.

Take a look at the street that you see in this link:,-113.5113706,3a,75y,126.65h,74.1t/data=!3m7!1e1!3m5!1spN5Y-IexjRirdPp8x3ot2A!2e0!!7i13312!8i6656?hl=en. It's a small little residential road with barely any traffic and is an ideal candidate for making into a 30 km/h zone road. But did you know that due to bad wording in Edmonton's bylaws, you can be fined 250 dollars for crossing this road where you like even if you let motor traffic go first? It's legally called jaywalking. St Albert has a more sensible law. On roads with speed limits no higher than 50 km/h, no more than 2 lanes in each direction and isn't separated by a fence in the middle, you can cross the road where you like so long as you don't violate a pedestrian crossing signal and you let motor traffic go first.

Banning jaywalking was promoted in the 1920s when cars became much more common on US streets, the term coined by car companies trying to encourage insult to pedestrians who remained on the streets. Jay used to be quite a bad word to be called, a bad insult. It worked. To this day, we have quiet residential streets where you can be fined 250 dollars for crossing them except at intersections. Europe never adopted laws like that. In fact, in the UK, there is nothing legally stopping you from even crossing on the red man signal. All that tells you is whether traffic that crosses your path has a green light or not. The UK is terrible for pedestrians but at least that law protects people who cross on red at absurdly long wait time crossings. I don't know where the red man is binding on European pedestrians, but there is nothing in the law against jaywalking in the Netherlands. In fact, there are very few regulations about pedestrians at all. You can't walk on the motorways, autowegen or where signed as a no pedestrian area (there is never any need or desire to do so anyway), you walk along the left hand side of the road facing traffic on cycle paths or roads without a separate footway, and who legally has priority where.

In the rural areas, there is almost never a separate footway, but walking is still very pleasant in the Netherlands. Even next to 80 km/h distributor roads. Why? Because there is a separate cycleway instead to walk on that all you need to do to use it is to walk along the left hand side of the cycle path facing cyclists and mopeds for safety. This goes for other places where there is a cycle path but no sidewalk. Given the low numbers of pedestrians that ever walk here and the well designed cycling paths where it is clear that pedestrians are welcomed guests rather than the primary users with cyclists as guests that have to artificially lower their speed, this works very well.

Tell your governments that regulate pedestrian crossings to adopt measures like this, and walking can once again be pleasant and easy ways to get from a to b in a safe and efficient way.

Sunday, 3 April 2016

The three main ways often identified to make our consumption sustainable.

People often talk about global warming and how unsustainable our current models of consumption are. But this doesn't not have to be the case. There are three primary ways that we can reduce our human impact on the environment.

Lessened use of automobiles. This is something that I've mentioned before, and many have written longer pieces about this, even entire books and many thesis. Cars make up around 15% of our emissions or so, depending on where you live. And there are other damages. The cars make up a big part of the reason why we have so much urban sprawl, and of course that makes a large part of environmental damage as well. Of course electric cars won't produce any emissions (at least not any locally, whether it produces any at all depends on the power plant source be it coal, nuclear, solar, wind, etc), but still takes a lot of effort and material to make the car in the first place, and also building places for the cars to be also takes a lot of effort, emissions and material, and removes the ability for it to be instead something like a park.

We of course need certain motorized vehicles, firetrucks need to be in existence otherwise how do we put out large fires? We need container ships to move things around (the latter could be powered by non coal non diesel means though). But we don't have to rely on motor vehicles nearly as often, and this is where bicycles, walking, electric buses and electric trains come in. We can build smaller roads in our cities too because of this lessened reliance on motor vehicles. We can route roads around environmentally sensitive areas more often. And while it won't solve all of the problems, electric cars at least do provide a way to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions (as long as the power plants are themselves clean and use renewable power sources).

The second means is pretty obvious. Most of our power (and heat for that matter) derives from fossil fuels. This does vary depending on the country, France uses a lot of nuclear power as does Sweden, and Denmark on a bright windy day can rely exclusively on renewable power sources. But most of the world's power plants are powered by fossil fuels. Nuclear power can provide incredible amounts of power, I mean the E=M*C^2 equation means that you could convert one kilogram of mass into the equal amount of energy as detonating 21.48 megatonnes of TNT. That is a lot of energy (this is why our Sun can produce so much energy based on this one equation). But given the risks and lessons learned from Fukushima Japan and Chernobyl, former Soviet Union, I don't think that it is worth the risk.

We can shift to clean and renewable power sources effectively. We could also do things like have the right insulation for each of our homes and buildings too. Geothermal power does not depend on the weather and only uses water and the internal heat of our planet. If we have a windless cloudy day when solar and wind power won't create enough power, we can turn to geothermal. We can also store extra power on the very good days with artificial lakes that use potential energy created by elevating water up high and letting it flow down on bad days (link here to what I mean. Good video Wayne:

The last huge transition that we can make (obviously there are more, like not using single use bottled water, using fabric rather than plastic bags at the supermarket, etc) would be what we eat (and use for clothing). Animal agriculture takes up a surprisingly large amount of resources and land. It needs about as much land as all of Africa. You probably don't know the true extent of the size of Africa because of the Mercator projection maps, so imagine it like 3 USAs, Canadas, Chinas or Europes or 3 and a half Australias, or almost twice the size of Russia. Imagine all of that used for animals that go on to feed humans. Obviously you are allowed to hunt if you're starving, for the same reason that a Muslim is able to eat pork if they are starving, practicality and saving a human life, but for the most part, we don't need to use or eat animals. We would need some land for the increased about of produce we would need, but we could turn into grasslands or forests what was once animal farms.

I took some of my first steps towards this when I yesterday turned down bacon that my dad was preparing for the purpose of not eating meat as opposed to a stomach ache or something like that, and making a chart with baby chicks, calves and piglets compared with the meat that the adults would grow up to be, printed it out and put it on my refrigerator door. Hopefully that would inspire me as well as maybe a sibling or parent or more to do the same as I do.

I'm actually a pescatarian right now, not eating any meat but fish. I am looking and seriously considering getting rid of the fish part and the milk and eggs part of my diet and turning to things like artificial leather for whatever I have that would be leathery. It's harder to do when you aren't the person responsible for the groceries in your house, and am not an adult yet, but even Lisa (Simpson) could do it in the 90s. I have been googling how to make things that I currently enjoy out of vegan things, like jello (if you didn't know, gelatin is made out of hooves), waffles (haven't found answers for waffles yet), I've even found out on Good Mythical Morning that you can find alternatives for fish that taste pretty much like actual fish. I am seriously considering a vegan lifestyle not only for the reduced environmental impact but also the ethics of eating meat vs not eating it (and also other animal products).

It would be much easier to do the vegan thing if we had labeling laws, indicating whether a product contains animal products and if so what kind (skin, meat, milk, eggs, etc) with simple to read easy to find charts on products (including things like candles, beeswax isn't vegan) as well as laws that require the provisions for non animal alternatives at places where animal product containing products are also provided, excluding businesses that revolve around meat (like a deli) but including things like grocery stores and restaurants. I am hoping that this will make it easier for people to find that more things are vegan than you think. Refusing new meat based businesses business licenses also should hopefully make it less prevalent.

I found this video on youtube that shows kind of the stereotype that people tend to have about vegans vs the things they actually do. I enjoyed it. Link here:

These are just some of the ways to help our environment which is quite strained right now. I don't think that you would like to swim to work would you?

Saturday, 2 April 2016

A new way to use the revenue from traffic fines

Many people complain about traffic fines. Sometimes for real reasons like when amber lights are not timed correctly, other times for not so real reasons, like being caught by photo radar at a place where there is a correctly set speed limit. Sometimes traffic fine revenue does make governments incited to not fix the reason why people are committing the violations rather than it being a real deterrent.

Sweden has an interesting system that I like. If we were to adopt it here, I propose that we take a certain percentage of the traffic fines and set that aside for victims of crimes (well, traffic violations), 15% is the usual amount I find. After that, each month, we add up the revenue from the last month and keep it in some sort of account. At locations where traffic violations are rampant, a camera to randomly select drivers that are obeying the law at that location, and this happens at multiple locations. The revenue from the last month is then split evenly between the people who were picked from the pool of law abiders.

I think that this sort of system could help solve a few problems. One being that people like it when they can play a game for money. Just look at how many people play the tax on people who are bad at statistics, er, I mean the lottery. Even for small amounts like 25 dollars.

Another problem is that people often yell around saying that "parking fines/red light cameras/photo radar is a cash cow". It would be harder to make that claim if the money is split evenly between randomly selected law abiding people (with a small amount sent to a victim aid fund) instead of the normal part of the government that deals with this.

A small blog post, but an interesting one that could be a useful part of how Vision 0 and Sustainable Safety's part focus on enforcement could be improved.

Note that this shouldn't be a substitute for aiming to have roads with speed limits that feel like they are natural speeds rather than artificial ones.

Friday, 1 April 2016

Let's play the 50 bollards game again

You probably remember last time I talked about the 50 bollards game, if you don't, then click here:

The basic concept is that each time you play the game, you have up to 50 bollards that you can use to redirect and channel traffic, remove shortcuts, or prevent traffic from using bicycle paths, or really do what you want with them to try and improve the livability of the neighbourhood. Note that you are allowed to use electronic bollards.

Let's play this game twice more, having up to 50 bollards each for the University of Alberta and Twin Books.

Starting with Twin Brooks (it gets the name from the pair of creeks running, thus, twin, brooks), let's look at the neighbourhood from a map:

There is a collector road that kinda looks like it was intended to go and connect up in Blue Quill with 119 St across the ravine and thus that is why there is so much space there, and this is on the west side of the neighbourhood. There is a little bit of the neighbourhood on the east side of 111 St, so I also include it in the traffic calming plan. There is a pipeline or some other utility corridor on the south side, so that would be a good location for an unraveled cycle path and sidewalk. 

I propose that the bollards we have are placed here: 

I used just 9 locations for bollards. This is very efficient. At bollard number 1, a way to get around 119 St is removed and cycle and walking routes become shorter than car routes. 

At bollard number 2, I divide the residential area into cells, that motor vehicles have only access to either side but not through, and it makes cycle and walking journeys shorter. 

At bollard number three, I remove a way to get from 119 St to the rest of the neighbourhood, making traffic go around, and also removes a way to shortcut between Anthony Henday and 111 St. It also just makes cycle and walking journeys shorter. 

At bollard number 4, I make cycle and far journeys shorter, but this also has another function. If a cycle path was to be built on the utility corridor, then it would cross the collector road here. It removes a place where car traffic could conflict. 

Bollard number 5 is just something to prevent traffic from shortcutting on neighbourhood streets, and as always, it makes cycle and walking routes shorter. 

Bollard number 6 removed another place where a roadway can conflict with a cycle path, and it also makes traffic go around if they want to get from north to south in the neighbourhood. It also removes a way to bypass 111 St. 

Number 7 is just a bollard to get rid of a potential shortcut. 

Bollard number 8 gets rid of any through route by motor vehicle in the east side of the neighbourhood. 

And bollard number 9 removes any last vestige of a route to get from the east side of the neighbourhood to the west side directly in a motor vehicle. 

All of the roads in the east side of the neighbourhood would become access roads, and all but 119 st become 30 km/h roads as well on the west side of the bollards dividing it in two parts. 119 St gets modernized with some roundabouts, an updated cycle path and gets a flyover or interchange with Anthony Henday Drive. On the former collector roads, they just get advisory cycle lanes that cover about half of the roadway. Bus routes are relocated to the main arterial roads. 

In the UofA, we have a more complex situation. It will be looked at in a future update. 

Stay tuned for the next update.