Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Cheap ways of having cycle infrastructure short term

No doubt many of you have heard of the time it supposedly takes to have Dutch streets and that it's expensive. I agree, it would take time and a lot of money to make it happen. And political will, especially in a city like Edmonton, is very weak for cycle infrastructure. Our city council pathetically removed cycle lanes on a road to make it four lanes. It had less than 7 thousand vehicles per day and never more than 1100 per hour.

I wondered whether we could use anything cheaper so that we could build political will and raise the commitment. I believe there is.

There are several main components of getting our boom.

  1. The right bicycles. We don't have many Dutch bikes, but there are a number of designs that at least will work in the short run. My dad wondered whether I'd like this model: https://www.purecycles.com/collections/pure-city-step-through-bikes/products/the-melrose?variant=5511061889 before I found the model I have today. It's not perfect, not like the bike I have, but add a wheel lock and pair it with a chain or cable plug in lock and some dynamo lights and it actually works very well. Get a studded front tyre for winter and it works well enough for that weather too. The final solution would cost maybe 500 dollars a bike and it's not an unreasonable expenditure for a person, worth half a year's worth of bus fare and half of the cost of my insurance as a driver. 
  2. Helmets cannot be promoted any longer as the means of cycling safety. Neither can high viz jackets or vehicular cycling on fast and busy roads. The police should also be made to enforce the under 18 provincial helmet law in the way that San Francisco almost enabled Idaho stops (mayor of SF, what were you thinking!?). 
  3. We must be willing to invest money. A lot of it. Along the lines of about 50-75 million dollars per year. But given that this is about 55-80 dollars a person per year in Edmonton, that's not that expensive. It's worth about 12 km of divided four lane highway, not counting interchanges. 
  4. We would use temporary curbs, like the kind you see in parking lots to keep you from hitting the sidewalk, still made of concrete, as well as paint and 1000 each bike signals and sensors and signs to create protected intersections, sometimes simultaneous green intersections, and those same kinds of curbs, planter boxes and plastic flex bollards, plus paint and signs, to create protected cycle lanes (not full cycle paths), paint and signs to create some cycle lane, mainly on narrow and low volume collector roads and as optical narrowing on 30 kmh zones. Sharrows, raised sinusoidal humps and volume control to make fietsstraaten in some cases, usually on service streets next to the main road. 
  5. Using bollards, (spaced 1.8 metres apart so as to allow big bikes to come through) and paint as volume control and curb extensions, paint to make zebra crossings and speed tables and optical narrowing to make 30 km/h zones, it makes streets much nicer. 
  6. On existing shared use paths, the curb ramps are realigned to be square to the direction of travel and to be made of asphalt with no upstand, rebuild intersections to have the cycleway crossing model where no dismounting is needed and you have clear bicycle specific signals, and stripe them so as to make them miniture roads for bikes only that you are technically allowed to walk on. Also, if pedestrian volumes ever get to the point where they interfere with the speed of cyclists, the shared use path shall be widened from the minimum of 3 metres to between 4.8 and 6 metres and the footway will be demarcated with this: kerb: http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-7RIjhzfeexI/UiCm0jjo8TI/AAAAAAAAA9U/3Hd1lv8k7sc/s1600/cycle+demarcation+kerb.jpg curb.
  7. Get rid of the stop signs and replace them with yield signs. 
There is another essential element to this. We must only make this phase temporary. It must be an integral part of the plan that is not negotiable to only last 1-3 years. We begin the full scale reconstruction to cycle paths like the F59 that Mark Wagenbuur recently explained, and I memed, that goes between S'Hertogenbosch Centraal and Oss Station right after. We'd already begin to see changes like that at intersections and little bits ranging between 5 metres and 150 metres where you couldn't otherwise provide cycleways without editing the curbs. 

Assuming a budget of 60 million dollars per year over three years (180 m), we can spread it out over the following:

  1. 46.875 million to pay for 5000 km of protected cycle lanes, assuming 15 thousand per kilometre
  2. 8 million for 10 thousand kilometres of access road, assuming 8 speed humps per kilometre and 100 dollars a hump. 
  3. 3200 kilometres of higher volume access roads using painted bike lanes, 10 thousand dollars per kilometre of cycle lane, 20 million dollars.
  4. 5000 access restricting bollards, each 50 dollars. 250 thousand dollars.
  5. 1100 intersections updated to protected intersection design, 50 thousand dollars per intersection, 55 million total.
  6. 40 thousand bicycle racks to hold up the wheel, each 120 dollars for three bike slots. 4.8 million.
  7. 1000 new raised and median refuged zebra crossings, 5000 each, 5 million dollars.
  8. 40 new cycle/pedestrian underpasses/overpasses to bypass difficult crossings, 1.5 million each. 
This brings us up almost exactly to our 180 million dollar target. Already there is an enormous network of protected cycleways and 30 km/h low volume roads so that you never cycle with fast, over 30 km/h, or busy, over 2000 vpd, traffic, it funds tens of thousands of new bike racks, calmer residential streets without the possibility of rat running or shortcutting and it's very hard to speed, pedestrians have many new safe crossings, cyclists nor pedestrians have to deal with many crossings that are just too dangerous to take on, like major freeway interchanges and huge roads. And this is in just 3 years, less than a council cycle or a budgetary cycle. It would take longer, more like 8-12 years to build it full term like the Dutch did with permanent infrastructure, but it makes it so that no street requires you to give up either speed or safety to cycle, the biggest turn off, and it makes it faster by removing stop signs, a huge barrier for many people, removes upstands at crossings, makes it so that intersections are complete, logical and not a delay. It will be transitioned out, but in the meantime, cycling can easily skyrocket, probably by at least 15% if not more, and this is just with temporary infrastructure (that everyone knows is temporary) and not even everyone having gotten used to the idea that cycling can work for everyone and it not being quite as convenient as the Dutch. Edmonton is larger, but most people can use cycling for at least some trips. Most people live within 7.5 km of their shopping area and many live within this distance of their workplaces and almost all elementary and most junior high school students and some senior high school students live within this distance of their school. Most university students live within this distance. Most people can find some use of cycling.

All it takes would be 60 million dollars per year, and this is including extra pedestrian crossings and large grade separations, even bike racks, so we're going the extra mile with it. It costs a tiny amount per person, $63.15/person/year is childsplay. I mean, how much McDonalds do you have per year? Far more money spent on that I imagiine. You can get maybe 20 beers for that price. I'm pretty sure that you can live without that per year. It's a tank of gas less per year. If you even just replaced a tenth of your journeys, maybe even less than a twelfth of your journeys with cycling, you'd see no price difference. A choice that is very easy to make. Paying for 4 bike helmets for a family of 4, replacing every two years, costs as much as this. For the amount of money we spend on bike helmets that we almost never use (not because we ride without helmets all that often, it's that we don't usually ride often, or at all), we could pay for it. For the amount of money we are spending on Vision 0 billboards and other educational campaigns we can afford this. If we could even save 8 lives, that economically would cover it, and I'm not even counting how much we'd save by not having nearly as many serious injuries. Of course I'm not even getting into the pain, suffering and loss of life and connections from the victims of these crashes. It would be pennies compared to what we spend on the roads. There is no reason why we should not do this. Get your heads out of the myths and stop bashing them on the ground and on car bonnets, and start thinking with your brains, not your anger detection lobes!

August 22 Update

I thought about it for a second and realized that there's no way that even remotely close to that many km of access road needs optical narrowing with cycle lanes, so just consider it used for cycle lanes on occasion but also for painted curb extensions (well, there would be something like armadillos or plastic potted plants) and alternating the side of the road that parking happens on to make the cars go slowly in a tight curve around it, alternating about every 75 metres or so, making speeds over 30 km/h impossible. Other means would be using bollards and a speed hump with a cyclist bypass like this in Utrecht: https://www.google.ca/maps/@52.1229857,5.1110724,3a,75y,158.67h,81.65t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sL74sgzP0_i_vBXq_asWf6g!2e0!7i13312!8i6656?hl=en.

Works well, but small roads would become safe places for everyone regardless.