July 22, 2022

How the Traditional Bikeway has Become Obsolete

I wrote about the transformation of the Rue de Rivoli in Paris here – a pandemic response that is now, likely, a permanent indication of what cities will do around the world.

Here’s an even better backgrounder from Streetfilms, with a comparison to New York’s bike lanes.


Vancouver did a similar exercise in pandemic response along Beach Avenue – and has made that a permanent bikeway.  Well, much more than a bikeway really.  More a micromobility arterial, responding to changes in the technology of small electric motors and batteries, and to the need to accommodate e-bikes and scooters moving up to twice the speed of human powered vehicles – just as on the Rue de Rivoli.

These changes are coming at the time we are opening some of the best bikeways we have ever designed – notably on Richards Street.  But they’re only two-way separated lanes that assume most users will be on bicycles all travelling at about the same speed.  The future isn’t going to look like that.

Richards is transformative in the way it has changed the avenue from a one-way couplet system (with Seymour) meant to feed the Granville Bridge, funnel traffic in and out of downtown and to allow vehicles to bypass the core at higher speeds.  Now Richards is the classiest residential street in Downtown South, and part of an urban forest that soothes even as it serves.

But it can’t be easily transformed in the way that the Rue de Rivoli and Beach Avenue were.  It may even be unsafe unless it becomes a route that allows passing by all kinds of new e-powered vehicles.

Designing our streets to create new Rivolis for this new era is one of the most delightful challenges we could have.


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