November 27, 2014

Another beautiful theory mugged by a gang of ruthless facts

Alone with her trolls, Frances Bula wanders into the bike-lane debate yet again:

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Does Vancouver really have a new pollution problem as cars idle because of the bleeping bike lanes?

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Wanna guess?  And after you’ve seen that data on her blog, would someone please let us know whether there have been reports on the impact of the New Point Grey Road on traffic in the surrounding neighbourhood and on connecting arterials.  (Believe me, if there had been Carmaggedon, you would have known about it – in the headlines, at every all-candidates debate. )

And while we’re stirring the pot, I heard from a reliable source that the Mayor is reported to have said that there will be no more bike lanes now.  Any confirmation?  Could he have been that oblivious?

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UPDATE: Jeff Leigh clarifies:

In an interview with Robertson published on Nov 11 in Vancity Buzz, there was this:

Q: Looking at bike lanes, I know it has been an issue for a lot of people and it’s something you’re looking to continue to build more of. Where would you like to build more bike lanes?

A: Most of the next steps of the bike lanes will be improving the existing network. We’ve got the basic network built now, all the major routes. But there are a number of connections and improvements that are needed to make the system safer and more convenient for people of all ages and abilities. The improvements need to focus on the False Creek bridges, the major bike routes along 10th Avenue and Ontario Streets… because ridership is up so much, we need to make them safer and more convenient and that will be my priority for the next term – to get it ready for the ridership growth to come.

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  1. It would indeed be ironic if this means that in four years we have fewer bike lanes than if LaPoint had been elected. He likely would have felt compelled to prove that he could do bike lanes but with a “better process” as he put it. Our victorious mayor, reasonably, likely feels the best thing to do for a while (four years?) is to let this particular dog lie.

  2. It would be great if the City could conduct (or release?) recent traffic counts for the area. On VanMap there are counts for September 2012 for McDonald north of 4th and counts for 4th on either side of McDonald, probably in order to understand the impact Pt Grey would have. It would be interesting to repeat those counts.

  3. The quote I saw from Robertson was in response to a question on downtown separated bike lanes, and if there would be more of tehm. The answer was something like “not for now”.

    The capital plan presentations from July focused on improvements to existing bike routes more than greenfield bike routes. That said, there were also items related to pedestrian and cycling improvements on the three False Creek bridges, and any physical separation on the Cambie or Granville bridges would be new.

    In an interview with Robertson published on Nov 11 in Vancity Buzz, there was this:

    Q: Looking at bike lanes, I know it has been an issue for a lot of people and it’s something you’re looking to continue to build more of. Where would you like to build more bike lanes?

    A: Most of the next steps of the bike lanes will be improving the existing network. We’ve got the basic network built now, all the major routes. But there are a number of connections and improvements that are needed to make the system safer and more convenient for people of all ages and abilities. The improvements need to focus on the False Creek bridges, the major bike routes along 10th Avenue and Ontario Streets… because ridership is up so much, we need to make them safer and more convenient and that will be my priority for the next term – to get it ready for the ridership growth to come.

    1. I remember the announcement a few years ago of three routes. Point Grey and Cornwall, Commercial and Kingsway.
      The first has been done and is really nice. Commercial drive is on hold and the community is figuring out what it wants on its own.
      I don’t know if there’s any work being prepared for Kingsway. It would be easy in practical terms as it’s so wide. It’s pretty long but maybe it could be done in stages. One stage per year or something like that.

      I think they might be getting cold feet about anything bike related. It’s a shame because there is much less opposition now.
      I read an interview with the former mayor of Seattle and he said that opposition is to be expected but once you get over it, you can then get something done.
      Now that people in this city can no longer claim that they don’t know what it is or have strange fears about a scary unknown, it’s not the time to then stop progress.

      1. not only that, but four years before an election is a much better time to undertake something that might be divisive than right when the election is nearing. If they don’t do it soon, will they really do it in the last two years of the mandate?

  4. What I’ve noticed is that the people I’ve found that complain about it being hard to drive in Vancouver tend to not drive here. They’re getting these ideas from somewhere else obviously rather than on evidence or even their own observations. Others who do drive here say that driving down Hornby is fine to drive down.
    My own observations are that the lights on Hornby are timed for the speed of cars going north. This means when biking, if you want to hit all the lights you have to go very fast. Maybe they should time them to have a bit more time at each one. I also think that there should be a longer right turn signal for the general travel lane at Georgia during rush hour. I see a lineup of cars wanting to turn right and they only get a small amount of time to do it. It’s fine in midday but in rush hour it’s frustrating. Tiny tweaks like this would help to prevent people from believing myths like the war on cars thing.

    1. Yeah, it’s the waiting for turns and turn restrictions that get people riled up
      – especially when driving at midnight, no other cars or bikes anywhere in sight, and you have to sit idly (and idling) for the traffic signal cycle.

      1. Maybe there could be both timing and sensors and the time of day all included into the light timing sequence. It would be complex of course to figure it out but would only need to be done in a few places.

      2. Any vehicle turning delays on Hornby are accommodating pedestrians as much as people on bikes. Given that pedestrians have the highest priority in our transportation hierarchy, and that sensors at every crosswalk sound pretty expensive, I think changes are unlikely.

        The lights on Hornby aren’t set up for sequencing (a green wave), but it would be pretty tough to do for both the motor vehicle and bike lanes, considering the bike lanes are bi directional, and that cyclists have a wide range of travel speeds.

        My observation on the turn lane at Georgia off Hornby isn’t that the advanced turn light is too short, but that vehicles travelling east on Georgia obstruct the intersection. We don’t need changes in timing as much as we need ticketing for failing to clear the intersection. Then right turners from Hornby could get around the corner better.

  5. The staging of improvements to the bike network hasn’t been a mystery since Council adopted the Transportation 2040 objectives back in 2012. There’s a helpful graphic of cycling route priorities in the city press documents, which I’ve uploaded here: https://reflectingvancouver.files.wordpress.com/2014/11/maps-and-graphics-transportation2040-draft-plan-2012_page_2.jpg

    (It came from the second page of the Transportation 2040 map release: http://vancouver.ca/files/cov/maps-and-graphics-transportation2040-draft-plan-2012.pdf)

    Next up is separating bikes from pedestrians on Cambie Bridge, followed by the big fish of Granville Bridge and Alexander/Powell. There are also planned spot improvements to the 10th Ave and Ontario bikeways, already pretty friendly corridors. Don’t think we’ve seen the last of the bike lane disputes, especially if the City gets serious about a Granville Greenway.

    1. Powell had significant improvement with the new overpass, but all of the connection work to the east is still pending.

      10th needs quite a bit of improvement, including traffic calming around Kingsway and Main.

      Kent is still outstanding from 2013. Ontario to Cambie was the priority, and while that needs separation, the protected Kent bikeways further east need improvement as well. The route can also be extended westward through to Granville.

      South West Marine from Granville towards UBC is coming up.

      I think the Cambie and Granville bridges, plus the above, will provide lots of opportunity for debate in the coming term.

      If we are going to get to the interim 2020 targets in the Transportation 2040 plan, all of the above will be required in the next few years, IMO.

    1. Perhaps for the earlier years in Frances’ post, but the discussion was about the effects of idling due to the increased number of bike lanes. The Hornby separated bike lane went in in 2010. The current light duty (ie car) vehicle emissions standards came into force starting in 2004, and were phased in up until 2008. They haven’t changed since then. Hard to see how they relate to any changes since 2010.

      Beautiful theory, meet ruthless facts.

      1. People dont buy new cars every year. So, even though emission standards are not changing, it’ll still take years before everyone upgrades their old cars and the air to get better.

        Anyway, I think the only bad spot for car traffic is Georgia (and some road sections that feed onto it, like Pender). If you’re going to/from the Lions Gate to head to the mountain, it can be a pain. So, much so that I’ll often pick the 2nd Narrows.

      2. I had a friend bring up “the fact” that my bike was made in China and therefore had produced many carbon emissions from coal burning there, as well as the emissions from the cargo ship to bring it over, and “probably more than what my biking would save” implying that I’m hypocritical.
        My response, is that I am not hypocritical because my motives are not ecological. They’re practical. Where I live and where I shop and work are at such a distance that out of all the transportation options I have, cycling makes the most sense. The building I live in does not have enough car parking spots for all the cars that the residents own now so there would be nowhere to put a car.
        My choice to cycle for my transportation is not out of concern for carbon emissions it’s because I’m pragmatic. If I was a lofty idealist I would be hitting my head against the wall trying to keep the 1950s’ dream of a car centred world alive. That’s impractical idealism.

        1. Regardless of your motivation, his argument is still pathetic: building a car would cost way more Co2. The only thing better than biking, especially factoring in lifecycle emissions, is walking.

          1. It would be nice if the city put a little more effort into enhancing the pedestrian environment. Particularly at this time of year when sodden banks of leaves seem to accumulate at every intersection in residential neighbourhoods.

        2. Janda: Your friend also has a beautiful theory which is easily mugged by a gang of ruthless facts. A quick search produces many articles on the subject. For example: http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/the_green_lantern/2011/08/two_wheels_vs_four.html . You need to cycle only 600 km to pay back the CO2 produced by the bike. In terms of overall effects, research from Norway shows that for each km ridden, society benefits by 5c (mostly due to health improvement) while for each km driven, a motorist costs society about 35c. I’m glad that you find cycling practical, but you are certainly not a hypocrite and you should be proud of your contributions to society..

  6. I spent part of Black Friday in a traffic jamb. And that got me thinking about Bula’s theory about how bicycles produce green house gases. I thought maybe she was on to something when I realized that I was surrounded by concrete trucks and that got me thinking in a different direction and mainly about all the commentaries written here on high rise buildings. Could it be I thought that in that ribbon cutting Kodak moment, that one could discern a convoy of diesel powered machines and trucks lined up all the way down the Viaduct and far beyond Hope, starting with excavators, dozers and front end loaders, dump trucks by the hundreds, graders, pile drivers, drillers, concrete trucks and pumpers by the hundreds, generators, welders, water pumpers, pea gravel slingers, tractors and flat deck trailers carrying everything that needs moving by forklifts and cranes, wow and it takes all that just to get a parkade for the future inhabitants to sidewalk level. That of course gives the hundreds of workers arriving each day in their pickups and panel vans somewhere to park. It will take another 3 years or so to get to the very top on floor thirty if that is where it all is headed, and even more machines will burn gas and diesel fuel before arrival at the ribbon cutting ceremony. I don’t suppose that anyone has ever done the actual calculation, but I am thinking that if all the trips were added up end to end it would easily reach to Fort McMurray where we might find a parade of moving vans leaving town with new found riches and headed for new downtown condos with granite countertops all the way from Italy.

    1. So, better would be what ? e-trucks ? no highrises ? Wood brought by bikes or 50+ pedestrians ? More expensive highrises due to no diesel nor concrete allowed ? No more new housing in dense cities like Vancouver ? No more people are allowed into Vancouver ? Higher GST ? Higher energy prices ? One-child policy ? Allocation of space per person ?

      Oil is burned not because it is nice, but because it is a necessary product. If better options, at similar price points, were available, they would be used instead. But they do not.

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