September 23, 2014

Streetsblog USA features Vancouver bike lane design

Don’t we always pay attention when the Americans pay attention to us?


Hornby Separated Bike Lane


How Vancouver Designs Intersections With Bike Lanes to Minimize Conflicts
Vancouver is famous for its livable urban core, the ease with which its citizens can live without a car (as 26 percent of downtown residents do), and its enviable investments in bicycling and transit. Read on and tell me: Don’t you wish your city’s transportation chief talked like this?


Tanya Snyder’s interview with Jerry Dobrovolny, transportation director – self-described as “the most hated man in the city” – continues here.


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  1. Do readers like the intersection designs on Dunmuir and Hornby?
    They feel like a series of unplanned fudges and band-aids to me: “add turn restrictions, add green paint, add signal phasing” Add, add, add, add instead of any comprehensive comprehensible redesign. Maybe such a thing is planned one day. I was disappointed when Dunsmuir went from ‘trial’ to ‘permanent’ with zero infrastructure change.
    I get confused about where to wait and how to turn, e.g. off Hornby on to Dunsmuir when there are cyclists and pedestrians going; or off Dunsmuir on to Beatty. They really don’t feel like they were designed with ease-of-use/simplicity front of mind.

    1. There’s a lot of bobbing and weaving, putting a foot down in the middle of the intersection, etc. at Hornby and Dunsmuir. When there are a lot of bikes and pedestrians it does get rather messy. Hornby and Drake is another somewhat messy one in the afternoon when there is a steady stream of cars turning right onto Hornby, a few coming the other way turning left onto Hornby and a relatively high number of bikes wanting to cross their paths to reach the bike lane on Drake. Getting off and walking your bike like a pedestrian seems the best approach, but the high volume of cars would be better served if the bikes zipped across quickly.

  2. I think it is clear what to do, you have to wait for a green to turn right or left, give way to oncoming bikes when going left, and give way to pedestrians, but the overall result feels like a muddle, mostly because it is cramped. I go left from Hornby to Dunsmuir, and there just isn’t a very good space to wait to turn left. With right turners southbound and left turners northbound, the bike lane really becomes three lanes and there isn’t much space for that and further the central pylons make three lanes even harder. But one problem with delineating the travel routes with lines and the right of way with lines and lights is that it speeds traffic up. If it is clear that you can go, then you go faster. This effect is obvious with cars, but it applies to bikes too, and it can make these crowded corners less pleasant. So a shared space solution might be as applicable for some bike paths as they are for some roads.
    (Obviously the bike path in front of the beach and Cactus Club on English Bay ought to be considered shared space. I know plenty of pedestrians are too dippy to notice the bike markings, but that is just a fact of life. I get annoyed by the self-righteous bell dinging from speeding cyclists on this stretch of path.)
    And yes, all of Dunsmuir is something of a mess. Just a clutter of everything. Road isn’t really wide enough to do justice to peds, bikes and cars. One of these days we will have to move the separated bike lanes to Georgia. Possibly when the viaducts come down and the traffic and bike routes need a re-jig.

    1. From what I saw in the plans for the viaducts removal included a ramp for walking and biking up to Dunsmuir. So the Dunsmuir thing probably will stay. It might not have been the ideal street to do this on but it was what got us started on the right path. And overall it’s very workable and we’ve learned a lot from it.

    2. My “technique” for making a left from Dunsmuir onto Hornby if the light on Dunsmuir is still green (so as to avoid blocking up the path) is to turn right into the Hornby lane, then (when clear of other riders) do a little u-turn and return to the light to wait to cross.
      So yeah, it’s really not an optimal setup there. Feels like quite the compromise.
      Still, I’m glad it’s there. Still way safer and more pleasant than riding on the street.

  3. The lanes aren’t perfect and I’m glad Vancouverites will continue to push for better design, but well deserved kudos to the Vancouver engineering department who did a great job with the Dunsmuir and Hornby lanes. Keep up the good work.