Sunday, 16 October 2016

Economic development, taxes, fietsstraaten and Edmontonian roads

It's been a while since I made my last blog post, sorry about that (insert Canadian apology joke here), but I've been seeing how well I adjust to my new high school my (attempted) relationship with a girl and doing more activism related to the US presidential election (I know that it isn't my country you Americans in the viewer list, but what you do affects the rest of the world and not just by invading places like Iraq, thrice, and Nicaragua). I've also been doing more research into blogs like strongtowns.org on many subjects.

I also did some more cross section profiles of suburban arterial roads, seeing how much space where was left over, and remembering what I knew about fietsstraaten from the Netherlands and the dimensions of the kind of stores that StrongTowns suggests, about 10-25 metres per side and multiple levels if possible directly affronting the sidewalk, it made me wonder. Could we actually put those buildings in without acquiring land?

As it turns out, yes. Most of the arterial roads in Edmonton except quite old ones are between 32 and 55 metres wide, which is actually just enough to put down the design I like. Here is a sample design, based on a 35 metre wide profile:


As you can see, I put a 16 metre wide placeholder on one of the sides. This is actually just enough for a fairly wide array of uses. It can have an apartment building, 6.1 metre long apartments on either side of a central hallway. It can have commercial structures, a bike store for example or groceries, offices, tailors and barbers, and it's relatively easy to reconfigure the inside structure if a business goes broke. And they can be on multiple levels, 2-4 is an ideal number here. Big box stores aren't like that, they have a very specific business model, it cannot be changed easily. Oh, and I might add that a 50 metre wide road designed like that, and many arterial roads have widths of 50 metres including the clear zones, can have these sorts of buildings on both sides of the road, doubling the return. 

Also, think about history. How long have these small businesses been around? Thousands of years, if something was wrong with them, don't you think that we would have come up with a better idea, and why would the Dutch stores built like this continue to not be replaced if they were so good, they have good education. It's not like they're not open to change after a long history in something, they revolted against the Pope in the 1500s, and that trend continues today just with less mass murder, and that's far more significant a change for an individual than a company which of course is motivated by money and the most efficient means of getting it, not crosses and the Yin and Yang. 

Of course in relation to the big box style of business, I'm leaving out the elephant in the room, how much space must be devoted to parking. It's not called an ocean of asphalt for nothing. In the area covered by the Walmart parking lot closest to my house, with 61 thousand square metres, in a 4 story apartment block that big, you could fit several thousand people living full time in 50 m^2 apartments. Of course it also makes it more attractive to drive, as well as making the distances further away, especially given that they compete to a level we've never seen before with the traditional model of store. It also contributes massively to the area that is not permeable to the ground without a real use above the ground, contributing to floods. 

As you can see, we have a major problem with these large box style businesses and I haven't even gone into the realm of worker's rights in developing countries and how hard it is to use consumer power to force them to chose between ethics and going out of business by having a less automatically loyal market and less competition and more consumers to cover risks. 

But what to do about it? 

As you saw, I made a cross section showing a 35 metre wide street with this sort of business on it. But isn't that contradictory to the idea of the stroads I have rallied against before? Not really, it's a small scale road without the high speed design of roads involved That can be downgraded in width and speed, down to 50 km/h. It wouldn't affect all distributors, some would remain 2-4 lane divided 70 km/h urban through roads with much less complexity and no direct access and no new businesses facing the road. But most of the distributors in Edmonton would be like that. I also would save enough space to provide things like roundabouts to prevent a common problem with minor side roads. 

I also know that many of you will be concerned about the congestion that can arise from going from 4 to 2 lanes. But as I've said before, the number of lanes actually has a lot less to do with traffic capacity than you might think. The main reason congestion happens is because of a slowdown somewhere, be it a merging car, a crash, a bus stopping outside of a roadside bay, a traffic light or stop sign, or a long delay for a turning vehicle, many of which could be avoided with the downgrade. Of course there would be fewer stretches of road where you could actually need to merge or diverge anywhere or change lanes, there would be room for roundabouts which reduce crashes, even the property damage only crashes which also contribute significantly and makes the road able to handle more cars than a traffic light. There would be room for bus stop laybys, and turning lanes would be lessened by the use of roundabouts for turns and service roads for most of the remaining turns. 

Also, remember, that these sorts of streets would be much more conducive to the use of cycling and walking and even transit. There would be safer provisions for making these streets, successful fietsstraaten in the Netherlands with sufficiently low speed and volume of motor vehicles are very pleasant to ride on as are of course the cycle tracks, I rode on several in the Netherlands including a very nice canalside one in Utrecht, walking would have fewer traffic lights, subjective safety and without feeling like cars were passing you closeby even though you had your own sidewalk, and a walk that felt like you were passing interesting sights and feeling faster by passing more buildings rather than just seeing endless parking lots and huge businesses, the same actually goes for cycling too. Distances would be shorter for the most part due to the higher density and the lessening of independent zones for living, working and selling, including common non food amenities like libraries, theatres, barbers and clothing. This alone would generate something like a 20-50% reduction in the rate of car usage, which could easily drive a street that had say 30 thousand trips, requiring 2 lanes per direction, to maybe 19 thousand, which could be handled by one lane per direction easily. 

Existing businesses do not have to go away. I saw many McDonald's in the Netherlands, they just occupied the first one or two levels in a store depending on how popular they are. I saw many chain stores too. It's just that it isn't the default option and local businesses can be easier to pop up and with more variety. My dad works in an office that could easily work in the space of a one person apartment, imagine how many small companies could work here in a space something like 4-32 times bigger (including the added number of floors, and this is per building), and none of the employees work in the high density method of cubicles that offices often use. 

Oh, and I imagine that many of you are snickering, thinking that rebuilding the road would cost far too much. It's actually far more affordable than you think. Just focusing on the property taxes alone, they are massively improved. I did some math and found that the taxes per square metre that Walmart pays in Grand Rapids Michigan was so much lower than a one level tiny art store that if you even had such small businesses with so little use of that art gallery, let alone the highly productive streets seen in Amsterdam, would make reworking the street to entice that development would repay itself within a single year through property taxes. And they pay this for a long time, to the tune of billions more per city, which would make the transformation to Dutch style streets almost comically quick. And given that this is just property taxes, think about business license fees. I looked it up on the city`s bank of PDFs (oh the things you find, I never knew some of the businesses that Edmonton officially licensed before), and found that for the space of one Walmart store that, parking lot included, 65 thousand square metres, you could fit 130-260 businesses in that space, which despite the lower rate for being minor on retail, would give in between 30 and 60 thousand dollars per year, that one Walmart would pay 460 dollars per year. Even going by storefront's per km, the small stores would earn about triple in business licensing fees alone. 

And you can of course chalk up all the other money saving measures, less snow to clear for one, less covering the cost of expansion, having to deal with so many cars which costs the healthcare system a tremendous amount of money via pollution, laziness and crash victims, more enticing atmosphere to cycle, including children cycling, so less spending on school buses. Each time the police, fire department and ambulance department is called, sometimes all at once, to a car crash, it`s incredibly expensive, we`d save tremendously by rebuilding our roads like this by just avoiding the costs of the emergency responders and police being deployed. Crashes would be avoided by having a lot fewer conflict points, having separation of masses, speeds and directions better, lower speed where the conflict points remain and by controlling speed effectively via roundabouts, editing the width of the storefronts so as to have some of them jutting out more, some less, that would begin to influence the curve of the distributor road and alternating the side of the road that parking is on that would affect the 30 km/h access road, as well as raised intersections and crossings and narrow lanes, plus optical narrowing and smaller clear zones. Trucks don't have to be so large to provide for these companies and homes, smaller, and especially electric these days, vans, and smaller trucks, are used more often instead of the bigger trucks and so that saves on the damage to the road and it's repair, and the damage to the road in general. 

It`s saving us a lot of money that isn`t all that obvious, but it`s real, even on the side of the expenditures on the part of the government alone, think about how much more indirect money we`d get from parents being able to let their children be independent, freeing them up to do more things that they want, perhaps including working better and shopping as they please. They'd spend less money on cars and their fuel, even if they had an electric, and that can be diverted into consumer spending, which is one of the biggest if not the biggest driver of consumer growth, in fact the lack of it caused the Great Depression in the US and kept making it a more vicious circle. People would be able to keep more of their money too and companies would have more incentive to keep their workers well paid and by having a structure that avoids the ease of paying CEOs and top dogs much more than lab rats, er, I mean employees, that also increases average income. But the worker also does more with boosts of energy that employees who cycle tend to receive if they do it. Schoolchildren also get that boost of energy which makes them better students and eventually leads to them being able to go and do more things for the economy. All of these income sources can be taxed I might add, even without changing the actual rates, we'd be by far better off for roads designed like these. 

If you've ever been to Amsterdam, and if you haven't, you need to go online and book yourself a room to go there now (believe me, it's safe and it's not all about the red light district which is much a much smaller part of Amsterdam than you think it is), and compare the experience of riding a bike, walking, if you're determined enough to drive there, and even just feeling the street, which one would you rather use? Which one feels more people friendly, like you have the freedom to go where you chose and live close to your work, school, and the other chores like groceries and books? Which one, provided that you didn't have a slow father who needs to ride with you, feels like you can feel safe walking at any time of the day that you chose, even at night? 

I see no reason to fail to adopt these types of roads. I dare you to try and find one. 


Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Hiatus

I'm going to pause my blog post production.

I have already covered a lot of what the Dutch do to make roads safer, I might find inspiration later, but for now, given my desires to focus more on school and a girl I like (there are two types of people, those who can extrapolate from incomplete information ...), I'm going to leave all of these videos and posts up, but I'm going to take a bit of a break.

Until then, go and do something like read the other blogs I suggest, go on a Terry Fox run in a couple days and continue to speak your mind to those you know about roads and making them better. Hope to find inspiration again soon!

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.

Sunday, 31 July 2016

Amsterdam

Goedemorgen nederlands, het is 10 AM en ik fietsen op Amsterdam op 30/07/2016.

As you could tell from the first line, I had my first day of cycling, first day in general, of cycling in Amsterdam. And it was truly amazing. Even aside from the fact that I never needed to wear a helmet or feel like the cops were just around the corner waiting to fine me, I could cycle for tens of kilometres and want to keep cycling for over 10 hours (with a few short breaks, including trying to find my bicycle in a whole crowd of parked bicycles). I probably went at least 25 km of riding in that day. It was pretty relaxed too. 

The biggest stresses come from the same reason they would be stresses back home or anywhere else really, having to share with dense and large traffic. There were some portions where there were illegally parked vehicles, usually vans for no particular reason at all (you know who you are you annoying van drivers) and so I had to overtake them using the car lane (I never saw any four lane roads in Amsterdam), sometimes there was only a bike box and trixie mirror, and sometimes I had to get off and walk because of roadworks, but overall, it was far more comfortable (although some waiting time indicators and more roundabouts would be nice) than anywhere in Edmonton. Cycle lanes were generally wide and normally on relatively low volume roads otherwise where there was a genuine incapability of using anything else for cycling. 

The brick roads were nice, although they were sometimes a bit old, and especially with the need of replacing tile with brick on the cycle tracks) 

I got to experience the protected intersection for the first time in my life, found it to be even better than expected. Actuating the signal was much easier because the system was installed specifically to make it easy to push for cyclists, not to be used by pedestrians or dismounted cyclists. I also saw the roundabout with the tramlijn 3 through it, Mark Wagenbuur filmed that a few years ago, link here: BicycleDutch Amsterdam Roundabout. I liked the roundabout quite a lot, although I didn't like the sharp corners that I had to make to get onto the circle and I could never be sure whether the cars were going to give way. I liked the waiting time indicators, also when they were used for pedestrians (something we could immediately adopt in Edmonton, it would not be difficult). 

Public transport also felt like a joy. The trains from Haarlem to Amsterdam were fast and efficient, up to 130 km/h, there was WIFI on the trains, I could use the same card to pay for both the train and the tram I rode, and the tram often had reserved lanes with actual curbs to keep cars from intruding upon it as much, with signal priority, and priority even at that roundabout, it felt very comfortable to ride. 

Amsterdam also felt like a place where even at 11:30 at night, I could walk around a hundred metres ahead of my dad without feeling scared, I could even talk with someone who had tried cannabis in a pleasant way at the McDonalds. The street lighting was good, there were plenty of people around, and people weren't violent. All this even with the drunk and stoned people around, and roughly the same proportion of people who were drunk/stoned on their bicycles. Hey, at least they aren't driving drunk, and as long as you can balance on a bicycle, you should hopefully get home safely to sleep off your booze (although you should still wait until the booze has worn off before you try to cycle anywhere). Or party some more. I got back to my hotel after 1 AM, and the walk from Haarlem Central to the hotel, even over a kilometre, felt fine to me. 

No doubt you will ask whether I indulged in the tolerance of Amsterdam. Not in the sense that they tolerate people for who they are, I'm a straight man who is male and white, so nothing about me would stick out in Amsterdam (except that I know only basic phrases in Dutch), the other recreational options. Actually, no, I didn't. I'm 16, you have to be 18 to get cannabis unless your doctor is prescribing you some for something like a herniated disk, a condition that I don't have, and nothing would get a coffeeshop closed faster than selling to under 18s. Although I did buy some fries (without mayo though. How do you Dutch and Belgian people stand mayo on your fries?) from a place that also sold cannabis (I didn't look that carefully at the cannabis, but I think it was just the plant and brownies and other edibles, not joints). Amsterdam also happens to be the first place that I ever smelled marijuana (which isn't a bad smell IMO, it's the cigarettes I can't stand), not that smelling it can make you high, it is a distinct smell that I never knew before (probably for the better). I could have visited a hooker (21 to be one, 16 to buy from one in the Netherlands), but I'm not interested in a hooker, why would you when you could form a relationship with someone you could love back home (especially given that you have more options, like where you go, at what time of day, if you just want snuggles that night or something more intense, etc)? One of the sex workers did try to honeypot me though, nice try but no cigar. For the same reason why I can't get cannabis, I didn't try any Heineken, you'd have to be in Belgium for me to legally get that. Yes I know that it's a bit prudish and that most of the locals have had (usually somewhat dilluted) alcohol from a much younger age, but better that than someone who gets fined by the police (also Health Canada advises against even a millilitre before the age of 15, I haven't even had a millilitre in my life, and extreme moderation even into your twenties). 

I'm going back for more cycling and exploring in Amsterdam today, hopefully the traffic won't be too bad and the weather will be nice. Tot ziens je blog kijkers! 

Monday, 25 July 2016

Sorry for not posting and some quick numbers

Hi. Sorry I haven't posted in a month. I've been going through a lot with me being now a 16 year old and with the biggest news of all. I'm going on a trip to Northern Europe. And yes, I will be going to Amsterdam. No, I will not be smoking pot while I'm there. You have to be 18 to do that (and I kinda don't want the kind of experiences that some report even if I have a better chance of dying off of going up my staircase). I will however be cycling. Only an idiot tries to drive through Amsterdam in a private vehicle.

I will be posting quite a lot while I'm there, I'm going to be experiencing Dutch cycling for the first tie in my life, sorry David if you're reading this, a study tour is not something that my dad is planning, I'm going to be cycling in London UK, Europe (for now), on their new protected cycleways, taking a bullet train for the first time in my life at 300 km/h, my first ever trans continental plane trip. I leave soon.

To get your taste buds tantalized, I created a list with some quick numbers. I thought about the statistical cost of car crashes in Edmonton and it was quite surprising what I found. More than a quarter of a billion dollars every year. And this is on the way low end of the estimates, some put it at over a billion for Edmonton alone. I wondered what would happen if we got all of that crash money and did something useful with it. Enjoy:

278.76 million dollars costs capital region per year. What else could we spend it on?

50 million dollars for cycling, about 4000 km of paint and bollard and signed protected bike lanes (temporary) in year one and 400 km of protected bike lane to curbed cycle track conversions per year.

30 million dollars for 300 new protected intersections costing 100 thousand each

50 million dollars for 125 roundabouts each year, 400 thousand on average each,

48 760 000 dollars for 4876 new rasied zebra crossings generally with median refuge islands, 10 thousand each

50 million dollars for 5000 kilometres of new access roads per year costing 10 thousand dollars per kilometre

50 million dollars 33 new bicycle and pedestrian overpasses and underpassed costing 1.5 million dollars each



Over 4 years, one capital budget cycle and political term, we get:

1600 km of curbed cycle track and 2400 km of paint and bollard cycle track, 2/5 of the way to go for all collectors and all arterial roads.

1200 new protected intersections (unlikely to need to be this high, money can likely transfer to roundabout contstruction after the first or second year)

500 new roundabouts, some single lane and some turbo roundabouts (unlikelty to be this low as the need for traffic light junction reconstruction will likely go away after the first or second year)

19500 new raised and well marked zebra crossings.

20 thousand kilometres of 30 km/h access road.

132 new bicycle and pedestrian underpasses.

Overall, you can see that there is far too high a price to pay for our traffic crashes. We could get so much in even just 4 years, even in just one! We could be so Dutch in just four years! Incredible. But we do very little. Not even sensible ideas like these.


Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Edmonton LRT. A new standard for them?

Our LRT system needs several things to make it safer and more efficient. Here are my ideas.

We need a few infill stations. One at 40 Ave and 111 St and another at the future LRT line down to Ellerslie Rd and Heritage Valley at 9 Ave N. On the North side of the line, we could benefit from a stop at 95 Ave, and on the route between Clareview and Gorman, we can put a stop halfway between 144 Ave and 153 Ave.

Second, we need a system that is safe at the level crossings. We do have a few grade separations, but not many stand alone ones. We could benefit from having one at Ellerslie Rd, 51 Ave and probably the Whitemud Drive / 111 St interchange and under under University Ave, possibly at 60 Ave as well. 112 Ave and 129 Ave also can be problem spots for traffic. They can get quite tied up, especially when a T or cross road junction is added to the mix because the left turns have to always be on a different cycle. Even at intersections without the LRT but with left turns on a separate cycle, they are better because of the lack of pre emption. Add pre timed traffic signals and it does not work very well. These grade separations also help with preventing an: LRT train, a 125 thousand tonne object that can go up to: 70 km/h, from crashing into a : car going ;0 km/h in the direction the train is moving at. They are very often severe crashes, the car or truck will be totaled, if the vehicle is a truck then the train can also be very severely damaged, and very likely someone will be killed or severely injured. We could use grade separations over 178 Ave, Whitemud Drive and 66 St, if the LRT gets expanded to the East, then under 75 St at 98 Ave and if the LRT gets extended Southeast, then 23 ave as well.

We need more lines at a much more rapid pace than we have in the past. I calculate that we have another 68 km of lines left to be planned to go through St Albert, to Windemere, to 41 Ave from Mill Woods, to Sherwood Park and to Fort Saskatchewan. Let alone the works we have already to be added. We have about 113 km in total to build, or about 4-6 billion dollars worth It doesn't need to be at once of course, and the federal and provincial governments are probably going to take up about 2/3 of the cost for a remainder of about 2 billion or so. Over 10 years worth of funding, we can contribute about 200 million dollars towards the LRT and so can the feds and province.

We need better bus connections. Seeing what buses are actually at the terminals helps a lot. And having buses that can turn around and go back and stop easier is better.

We need a bikeshare system at the stations. This is very useful for ensuring that we are always in range of our end destination, easily, on the other end of the LRT or transit.

Better speed. I know very well that our trains could go 10 km/h faster on everything than they actually do. They test the trains for 10 km/h faster. Faster, even to save seconds for a transfer, is invaluable.

Priority at junctions. We still need this, pre emption in fact. But we can have, the rest of the time, signals according to actual demand.

Just my takes. Share yours in the comments below. Bye.

Sunday, 19 June 2016

Drivers aren't evil. A review of penalties for offending drivers

I heard on the radio the story of someone who did actually drink, drive and run over a pedestrian, killing him. I want to share about my feelings on this.

Today, just a few minutes ago, I was coming home from a party for my grandfather who is amazingly still alive after all these years. I was listening to the radio. A segment about the story from a former drunk driver aired. He killed about 15 years ago, an 11 year old boy in a crosswalk. He's been having nightmares, and felt like the worst person in the world, until he committed suicide a few years ago. He was genuinely tearful.

It made me think about what happens when I get angry at people who do bad things. Most of these people aren't evil. You probably know by now who Brock Turner is. And you probably know that he was drunk at the time of the rape.

But the big difference with this drunk driver and Brock is that the driver was genuinely sorry, and came clean as soon as it is humanly possible. He's spoken out against his own behavior. He was willing to do what he could.

Some drivers, like some Brock Turners, don't admit their own guilt. These need a larger penalty, and they need to be convinced of how bad of a driver they were. It is a good idea to make examples out of these on the internet.

And some people really are incapable of driving safely, and not because of any fixable things like alcohol. Or they were so reckless so often that they have shown that they cannot prove to be safe drivers. These people should be prohibited from driving.

This is why I like penalties that correlate with the offense itself. If you go ahead and drink and drive, you need an alcolock interlock in your car that checks at random intervals for extra samples along the way. A fine that takes away a certain amount of your disposable income, also called day fines in some countries like Finland, is calculated by taking half of the money that you have on a typical day to spend on whatever is just a want, not a need, and then multiplying that by a certain number of days to account for the severity of the offense. The police google your after tax incomes and taking in certain guesses for how much money one is likely to need to spend on their expenses, then they use a mathematical formula to calculate your fine. I like the system quite a lot, especially given that it's generally those with money to spare who commit traffic offenses and not care about it.

Demerit points are a good idea, but you often need too many demerits in too short a time for people to believe that their license is in danger.

Community service is a good idea. If you can just pay a fine, even a relatively high one, it's still mainly an annoyance and lost dinner parties. If you actually have to go and spend 6 hours out of your Saturday doing things like cleaning up the park, you are not going to be happy. And you are not going to be likely to commit traffic offenses.

This part is mainly deterrence, to deter others from doing the same. It's not really doing all that much to give back. But given that they weren't actually in a crash, they didn't scare anyone and it was a violation of the rules of the road, this is OK.

The biggest thing that makes people less likely to commit traffic offenses is getting caught for them. So ramping up the frequency of enforcement is also very helpful, as are well used automatic cameras.

And of course, prevention is better than having to go and arrest the person who did cause a crash. I'd rather have no crash than fining someone who caused a crash if I had the choice. Alcolocks that are the less annoying kind that just check at the beginning of the trip are still effective, are probably a bit cheaper, can be integrated into the vehicle when it's made, reducing costs further and they also make it much harder to drink and drive.

But the biggest thing that keeps people safe is a sustainably safe road. With features that automatically enforce safe speed, forgive errors to the degree required to ensure that no serious injury nor death can occur and ensuring that any conflict that does happen, can only happen at acceptable speeds, acceptable differences in masses and acceptable differences in direction, tailor made to the tolerance of the human body and the way that our vehicle's protection systems can ensure that occupants and other road users are protected.

Enforcement is good to have, it ensures justice for the victims of road crashes and things that cause secondary effects like cars beginning a stop start wave, etc, but infrastructure is the basic thing needed to keep us alive and well.

Monday, 13 June 2016

Our transit system currently is a joke.

Today, I'm going to do a final exam for high school. And tomorrow and Thursday. And I am beginning to get really mad at the transit system.

Well, not really the people who do run it. I heard that only Edmonton and other Canadian citizens thank their bus drivers when they leave the bus.

I am really only annoyed at the people who have the funds and the decision making authority.

It takes a minimum of 85 minutes to take the bus to the school. It takes 23 minutes by car. The bus isn't very direct, with many twists and turns through the collector roads, with many stop signs to deal with. It is also pretty infrequent, showing up every half hour. And because my dad wants me to be a bus early, I have to tack on another 30 minutes to the trip time just in case. In Japan, trains leave to the 10 second or so. Average delay being 6 seconds off chart. And these are on the bullet trains, arriving every 3 minutes. Extremely punctual, you can rely on them without accounting for extra time to your trip.

Good buses and good transit is relatively isolated from things that can delay them, congestion, with reserved bus lanes or train tracks, priority at crossings with other traffic, stops that allow quick boarding and unloading. You get your ticket before boarding, and you can board from any door, and following a fairly straight line.

I also cannot borrow a bicycle at the other end of the trip. I either have to have a pre arranged bicycle at the other end, feasible only for commutes, or bring my own bicycle, something I cannot do on the train during peak hours and it's awkward to take it around on the stairs and elevators.

Incidentally, my trip could actually be built with quite simple LRT construction projects. A 2.7 km extension from Strathearn on 95 Ave and 85 St to Capilano and an already planned extension to Heritage Valley is all I need. One simple transfer at Churchill Station and I can ride the 2.5 km to the transit centre intended to be built at Ellerslie Rd. The extension on the Capilano side isn't even hard, no bridges, nothing really difficult, a rebuild of the transit centre there maybe, no demolitions, nothing problematic, no grade separations even and just 4 low floor stops.

I'm pretty sure that the system we have isn't worth $3.25/90 minutes on it. A trip like the one I need would need very nearly this entire length for a trip that can be done in less than a third the time in a car for a price of about 2 dollars in fuel costs.

Edmonton has completely failed to build transit at nearly the rate it should have. For 24 km of LRT, over 38 years to build, we get about 1.58 km per year. We twin arterial roads at a rate probably at least 10 times higher. The LRT takes about 110 thousand people per day on it. More than the Whitemud Drive did in 2014. A system that can be used by anyone, regardless of age. They can be blind and use the train. They can be less than 16 and use the train on their own. The system is essential to me, as I cannot drive a car on my own. I know that many people are sick and tired of driving, and it can be quite expensive for them. It's also quite risky. A train is incapable of leaving the tracks on a pure whim. A second of distraction will not be a problem for the train given the automatic safety systems. Parents don't want to need to drive their kids around, my mom doesn't want to drive me to the test taking place despite the ridiculous amount of time the bus takes. By making cars practically a necessity to get around for non communing and even commuting trips, it encourages car use, even in a city with an LRT line,

Cities that continue to chose this path, I have a message for you. Stop hitting your heads on the asphalt and K rails and start putting them to work making high quality transit, almost like BRT on arterials and LRT on main routes, high quality cycleways, and walking attractive. To not do so is a direct infringement of my right as a citizen to travel in Canada. By that right, it means to effectively travel, not being theoretically capable of doing so. I should be able to decide on what means I get around. Amsterdam allows all means. Edmonton is not among the cities which is effective at getting people to get around.

Sunday, 12 June 2016

What it takes to make my own neighbourhood Sustainably Safe

I created a list of all the things that would be needed to turn my neighbourhood, Blackmud Creek, into a neighbourhood of Dutch quality. It is a quite comprehensive list. I tallied up everything that from memory, we would need. I will put a link to an example with each requirement.

5.27 km of access road, with parking on one side of the road that alternates every 75 metres, with a ~4.5 metre wide brick paved carriageway and 1.8-2 metre wide sidewalks. Where possible, extra trees and plants shall be added. http://streetmix.net/CyclingEdmonton/510/access-road

1.5 km of collector road, a pair of 2.5 metre wide cycle tracks on both sides of the road on Blackmud Creek Drive to the East of Blackmud Creek Crescent and on the Crescent itself, a 4 metre wide two way cycle path on the south side of Blackmud Creek Drive to the West of the Crescent, with the collector road itself to be between 5.6 metres wide and 6.2 metres wide, with generally between 2.8 metre and 3.1 metre wide travel lanes and 2 metre wide sidewalks on both sides of the road, except within 300 metres of the school, where it would be 2.5-3 metres wide. The buffer between cycleway/footway and roadway shall be at least 1 metre, should be 1.5 metres or more if possible. http://streetmix.net/CyclingEdmonton/511/distributor-road

7 access closures http://www.designcouncil.org.uk/sites/default/files/styles/dc_-_wysiwyg_-_smart_embed/public/assets/images/roadclosure.jpg?itok=e43oOInM

1 220 metre long downgrade from collector road to access road https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q57sa7tjSNk

2.5 kilometres of upgraded recreational trail to 3 metres, smooth black asphalt, with lighting and a 1 metre wide clear zone on either sidehttps://www.google.ca/maps/@51.7300447,5.2422711,3a,79.1y,206.42h,70.96t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sf_YorNxQDh-6SlJUBzrQpg!2e0!7i13312!8i6656?hl=en
530 metres of upgraded, 88 metres new, cycle and pedestrian shortcut, 3 metre asphalt cycle path + 2 metre wide sidewalk in each casehttp://2.bp.blogspot.com/-fGqAe0NeyMI/Vk4fMZmOLbI/AAAAAAAADxw/8Rqjz12pqxM/s400/9.JPG

1.87 km of new 4 metre wide cycle path + 2 metre wide sidewalk to be rebuilt next to Ellerslie Road and James Mowatt Trail. https://www.google.ca/maps/@51.7007981,5.275647,3a,49.2y,301.4h,78.17t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sIpVJ2gQ6Rmh2hjY5KxbpXg!2e0!7i13312!8i6656?hl=en

1 new safe zebra crossing (with non priority cycle crossing) at Bowen Wynd and James Mowatt Trail, may need to be traffic light controlled crossing with 5 second waiting time. https://www.google.ca/maps/@52.9951641,6.5113471,3a,75y,352.98h,76.08t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1srpvglb0L2dO-uPxb-PPlwQ!2e0!7i13312!8i6656?hl=en

4 new zebra crossings with raised table, overhead signage and a sharp bend with a design speed of 30 km/h, one at both ends of the trail through the stormwater pond, one at Barnes Way and Blackmud Creek Drive, and one at both junctions of Blackmud Creek Drive and Blackmud Creek Crescent https://www.google.ca/maps/@51.9210855,4.3848527,3a,75y,233.69h,72.28t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sTMc0fdWUMaEckyrUPUSH0w!2e0!7i13312!8i6656?hl=en

26 new pedestrian non priority crossings with dashed parallel lines perpindicular to the road, a raised table and a centre median, one at each minor side road where zebra crossings are not used. https://www.google.ca/maps/@52.0959974,5.1137669,3a,75y,323.51h,72.65t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1siUG3EqzHLKkz10jEoERJVg!2e0!7i13312!8i6656?hl=en

12 new bus stops with cycle parking, a 20 cm high curb, tactile markings, bench and shelter, a departure board and inset bay if mixed with general traffic, all along James Mowatt Trail or Ellerslie Road. https://www.google.ca/maps/@51.8618078,5.8631445,3a,73.9y,203.31h,76.97t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1s9YR8csL-LEQaake-hpSmqg!2e0!7i13312!8i6656?hl=en

14 new raised intersections at access road to access road junctions. https://www.google.ca/maps/@51.6882764,5.2818385,3a,75y,358.3h,69.15t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1spVu4_AblGIPQNyHQRnQKfA!2e0!7i13312!8i6656?hl=en

12 new gateway style access road to distributor road crossings with continuous footway and cycleway. https://departmentfortransport.files.wordpress.com/2012/08/continuous-path-cycle-view.jpg

1 new single lane roundabout at Blackmud Creek Drive and James Mowatt Trail, https://cyclebath.files.wordpress.com/2014/09/screen-shot-2014-09-21-at-16-58-09.png, 1 new turbo roundabout to be built at James Mowatt Trail and Ellerslie Road. https://bicycledutch.files.wordpress.com/2013/05/turbo-roundabout2.jpg

1 new set of underpasses for vulnerable traffic users at the turbo roundabout. http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-VURs-WK-JqU/U_SNmzVAu_I/AAAAAAAATJQ/Bfaf39Lo9Sk/s1600/102_5212_1.jpg

New protected intersection at Ellerslie Rd and Blackmud Creek Drive. http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-TMQ7ttT6XRI/VYGxKIcQNQI/AAAAAAAAYvo/JnL1zhaZIJQ/s1600/DSCF6801-1.JPG

New ban on vehicles over 3500 kg except for emergency vehicles and public service vehicles from entering the neighbourhood.

As you could see, a fairly simple list of actually relatively cheap things we can do, some things we could do in a day if we wanted to, like the no trucks and filtered permeability, painted crosswalks, and a few other things. Why don't we take simple measures to do things like this? 

Thursday, 9 June 2016

I give you readers a challenge

Well, not everyone. Really only people who are concerned about particular streets or claiming that there isn't room for Sustainable Safety and Dutch style cycling on all of our streets.

Send me a link to the location on streetview or overhead view on Twitter, tell me via #notenoughroomDutchcycling that this is a location you believe where it won't fit, and I'll reply with a cross sectional design for you.

I'll pay attention quite often. Here is the initial Tweet I released earlier today on this subject. https://twitter.com/CyclingEdmonton/status/740882596561752066.

You can also reply in the comment section of this post.

I'm pretty sure that I won't be losing this bet.

Saturday, 4 June 2016

Automatic enforcement cameras

There is often a lot of buzz, especially in the news, about automatic traffic enforcement cameras. I have some words to say about it.

The idea is that a camera is fixed in a certain positions with some sensors on or near the road to determine whether anyone has committed a traffic offense. For example a radar system to measure speed and a camera to record which vehicle, and in some cases which driver (if the vehicle is the target not the drive then the owner of the vehicle is fined unless they can prove who did drive it when the offense happened). It's fairly common, you see it around the city quite a lot.

Police have fairly limited time to stop traffic for common offenses like speed or red light running, they could use their time more effectively by pulling over people who are unlikely to be caught in other ways like DUIs, and by pulling over drivers they are actually putting themselves in quite a lot of risk, both from the passing traffic and also because the suspect may be actually going to try to attack them. The police don't know who's who in the vehicle. And if the cop hears a slobbering enough story or is emotionally swayed, they are more likely to be a bit too lenient.

Many people oppose these cameras. A common argument is that red light cameras have the amber light set too short. Now if that is indeed true from the programming of the lights, then you have a case and should go to court over it, you also have the right to inspect the programming. But if the lights meet best practices standard, legal requirements for amber time, usually 3 seconds (3 seconds is enough for a car at 70 km/h to stop from full speed, even assuming a second of that is thinking time, although for safety I'd use 5 seconds for speeds over 50), then it's pretty obvious. You broke the law. You signed the agreement when you got your license to drive that you'd obey the rules of the road, and you seriously endanger other road users by not obeying red lights correctly in a car or other motor vehicle, and often yourself. Even if you didn't sign that agreement, you still broke the laws, and common sense. You should be penalized. Not with jail, a fine proportional to income, some demerits and maybe a traffic class should be enough.

And whoever's idea it was to pay a red light camera ticket in pennies, you were being very mean to the clerk you gave the pennies to, she wasn't a judge, she couldn't do anything about your fine. Give the pennies to the judge instead if you want to protest the ticket. Good thing that in Canada, pennies aren't legal tender if you use more than 40 at once, and similar limits apply to other low denominations as well. Well, they don't have to accept them.

Another common argument in relation to speed is that the design speed, or speed at which the traffic is flowing, is much higher than the legal limit. I sympathize you on this one. Much of the time the design speed indeed is higher. The design principles we have need to reflect this. However, once you leave the area in which it is indeed safe to go the design speed, for example 130 km/h on a motorway designed for 130 without competing traffic, and are suddenly in a school zone, going 50 in a 30 limited area, you do have to slow down. There are overpowering reasons for not going the 85th percentile. Photo enforcement is completely justified here, although I would like to see physical measures to prevent the speeding in the first place.

California has a law I believe in which the driver must be photographed as well, ensuring that the correct person is sent a ticket. This is a good idea. It ensures that the right tickets get sent to the right person. It can also be used to track vehicle thieves, who often break traffic regulations. It also ensures that more than just a fine can be sent, demerit points that deter future offenses and maybe even a bit of traffic school and for rather serious offenses, maybe even community service and for really bad, criminal offenses, arrest.

I would also be nervous if a private company was working with the tickets, aside from insurance companies worried about whether you might cause a crash. You do have a right to be suspicious, and to make it less dependent upon the flow of money, I wouldn't permit anyone but the police or other sworn law enforcement officers dealing with the tickets, and the camera company only gets paid for the cameras, sensors and the program to run it, not per ticket.

Bus lane tickets are common in the UK. And Leeuwarden has a fine and camera system so that those caught entering the city centre in an unauthorized car are fined. Those are good ideas too. The bus lane should be well marked, ideally with dyed asphalt or concrete, signed, ideally on overhead signage, and ideally with something like raised ridges to protect it, and to make it very clear when, how, and why you are allowed to cross them. Same idea in Leeuwarden. Assuming those requirements are met, and everything else I said in this post, then they are perfectly fine in my opinion. Bus lanes are for buses, motor vehicle lanes are for motor vehicles. You could even apply this to cycle lanes. That would be nice.

However, I want to stress that enforcement like this, while predictable, going to catch every offender or nearly all of them, giving you a very high chance (with obvious reasons for why this is) of being caught, a vital part of making a road regulation credible in the minds of it's users, should not be the go to option for dealing with traffic problems. Infrastructure design that makes it obvious what to do, who by, when, where and why and also how is the best way to get people to use the correct behavior. I mean, it's nice knowing that if a car crashes into me at a traffic light that they are going to be given a traffic ticket, but I don't want the crash from happening in the first place. More visible traffic signals with a large backplate, 30 cm diameter aspects and a good high contrast stripe around the edge of the signal, plus speed tables and other calming devices to assure the correct speed, is best to deal with red lights (assuming you need the lights, roundabouts are even better ideas). Brick paving, narrow lanes, curving roads, even if just going around parking that alternates sides of the roads every 80 metres works well to enforce a school zone limit. You also know what the speed limit will be just by looking at the road. This is the idea behind "self explaining roads", something that Sustainable Safety is often paraded around as being.

Photo enforcement is a useful tool, but make sure that they aren't tied to people who can make money off of it (maybe just send it off to a zebra crossing construction fund), make sure that the road itself and signal programming prevents offenses as much as possible, good amber light timings, speed limits equal to the design speed, and people will obey the law even more than they do now.

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Fixing Whyte Avenue

For the second Main Street in Edmonton, it's currently a stroad as I have defined before. Let's see what it takes to make it a road for everyone.

To those who don't know Edmonton, Whyte Ave is a major East West route through South Central Edmonton. Strathcona used to be an independent city until a merger in 1912. Whyte Ave used to be the main street for Strathcona, just like how Jasper Ave did the same for Edmonton. it became the main route over time for traffic running through there and didn't bother to go south and use 61 Ave. It is a 50 km/h urban arterial, varies between 4 and 6 lanes, along with turn lanes, some areas have parking, some have a median barrier, it has full sidewalks and a lot of businesses and shops along it, and some apartment buildings. It crosses a creek to the east of the storefront zone. It connects at the East end to a motorway that leads to Sherwood Park and on the West end to 114 St, where the LRT is.

There are no cycleways here. This is one of the big things that make this a bad corridor. There are also a lot of transit passengers in this area. Buses are delayed due to congestion, traffic signals don't give them priority, stops are not very good, and buses often bunch up. Thus, transit needs improvements as well. And because of the way that roads cut through minor side streets and there are multiple lane crossings at speeds of 50 km/h at the crossing itself, and occasionally more than that, along with large trucks, pedestrian collisions are common, and many injuries and deaths have happened as a result.

There are several ways to fix this.

Let's start with the traffic volume. Some of the traffic isn't local. Some of it could take other routes that are more suited to the volume and speed. River Valley Road combined with 98 Ave makes for an effective route to bypass the entire area on the North Side, and it leads from 75 St to Groat Rd, and it has very few local destinations, and even those can mostly be dealt with. We can also add Argyll Road, 63/61 Ave and 113/114 St as a South bypass of the area, and a better route for traffic coming from the East of the city to get around to the University. Both would have fewer stops, in some cases a speed limit of 70 km/h, and with a design to have as few things to deal with as possible.

That should take care of a considerable amount of the traffic on Whyte Ave. Most of the rest would be local traffic. Let's deal with the exact street layout now.

Let's first apply Sustainable Safety. First, classification of function. This road functions as an access road in many ways but it also needs to carry traffic in a fairly efficient way as a distributor road. To solve this problem, we could try using a pair of fiestsraaten parallel with the main roadway. I found that this actually works. I can fit transit lanes in the middle, a pair of motor vehicle lanes at 50 km/h on links, a pair of service roads, parking on one side of the road at a time (this can be alternated as required), and 3 metre wide sidewalks. Link to the design here: http://streetmix.net/CyclingEdmonton/437/unnamed-st. Thus, this road works well in terms of functionality.

The second principle is to make the speeds, masses and directions of road users homogeneous or separated. As you could see in the cross section, I have. I added 30 km/h service roads for local access at low volumes and low speeds, sidewalks, to give slow and vulnerable pedestrians protection. The dedicated transitway in the middle of the road keeps the rather large trains out of the way of cars. I mean, substituting a Blackpool tram style Flexity 2 (the contract to built the low floor line out to Mill Woods was won by a consortium that included Bombardier. No surprise as to which style of LRV's they're going to pick. Their own) for Edmonton, multiply that by 3 to get a platform length of 90 metres, and multiply that by 40 tonnes (per LRV), and you get 120,000 kg on rails facing off against 1500 kg of car, crashing into each other, both at 50 km/h, and it's not pretty. The best solution is to separate these at speeds over 30 km/h. The buses don't need to exist anymore on this corridor, the trains stop frequently enough here (about 400-600 metres apart, the same as modern standards for bus stops in my neighbourhood) and go to the same places anyway, so they don't need to mix with cars anymore. Trucks can be limited to 7500 kg, limiting the results of a crash between motor vehicles and especially trucks and vulnerable road users.

The third principle is to make everything recognizable. As in, if we plopped this down in the centre of Amsterdam or Den Bosch, people would understand the way that you were supposed to use it just by looking at it. The service streets, being fietsstraaten, would get red asphalt and priority over minor side streets, as well as raised junctions and narrow lanes and usually parking. The distributor road part of the road is black asphalt, without parking directly off of it, no local access, it has priority over minor side streets like distributor roads should, and no on street cycling or walking. The speed limit would be 50 km/h, although traffic would go slower at intersections. The railway component of this street would simply be red concrete to indicate it's reserved lane status and have signs and markings to show that it's not part of the road for motor vehicles.

The next principle is forgiveness of errors. There is a curb next to the roadway to protect the LRT line, so straying will just make you hit the curb, and in this case it would be a larger curb than normal to protect both the train and the people in the motor vehicle. The speeds at intersections would be low. 30 km/h. And the speed at which cars do mix with bikes is also 30 km/h. Thus, speeds are low, so if a crash happens, there is a much smaller chance of a serious injury or fatality. You can angle the curbs next to where cyclists happen to be riding on, for example the curb that separates parking from the fietsstraat or the curbs on either side of a cycle track, so that hitting it won't cause a fall. You can remove bollards from where cyclists might be riding.

And finally, you must consider factors in relation to the cognitive ability of road users to understand what's going on and their capability to adapt, or State Awareness. In this particular case, we are going to need to deal with a higher chance that someone will be under the influence of alcohol here. I have no idea what the cannabis consumption rate is likely to be next year when it's legalized in Canada, but we are probably more likely to have stoned road users here regardless of that law. So making sure that roads are forgiving is especially important here. There are also going to be a lot of university students, and even when not drunk/stoned, university students tend to take disproportionate risks. We also should consider that there is a children's hospital on the west side, so cognition of children is a factor to think about.

Putting the South Central LRT line here is a good idea, as it's a more or less direct line depending on what the routing is from the west side, and there is lots of space. Plus, it connects well to Bonnie Doon stop on the east side on the Mill Woods line, and could go out to Sherwood Park pretty easily from here. It also wold be a pretty fast and straight route. 50 km/h wold be an easy speed for the train to maintain here.

By prohibiting the left turns for motor vehicles, the signal cycles are simpler and quicker. Because you can use protected intersections for cyclists and pedestrians, it`s easy to allow left turns without being intrusive on the cycle timing. Plus, left turns are among the most risky movement for any road user to make, especially if there is a chance that you can be hit by a train.

The trains should probably have stops on the split side platform style, on one arm you have from left to right, looking into the street, a left turn lane, a train track, the second train track, and the platform, in that order, and then the same goes for the opposite side of the intersection. Like this: http://www.gometrorail.org/clients/2491/480315.jpg. The stops would be 3.5-4 metres wide, with a raised curb, 30 cm high, with a tactile edge, a fence to prevent people from accidentally stepping onto the roadway and to discourage crossing in unsafe locations, off board payment for the trains, shelters and benches, a few other amenities like trash bins, wifi, some decoration, and a real time departure board. It works pretty well in places where this stop style is used. The platforms would be 90 metres long to allow either a pair of 45 metre long trains (Gold Coast in Australia uses trams this long) or 3 30 metre long trains, I don't know which model is going to be used, and a 4 metre long ramp to go from 30 cm to 10 (raised intersections are nice to have to control speeds) to allow wheelchairs to use it as well.

I propose that the following intersections have stops line this on Whyte Ave:


  • 112 St
  • 109 St
  • `106 St
  • Gateway Boulevard
  • 99 St
  • 95a St
  • 90 St
It would join up at Bonnie Doon, stopping there along with the under construction Valley Line. 

But bicycles by far would be the greatest enabler here. By providing continuous networks of cycleways around here, from 30 km/h low volume fietsstraaten to fully protected cycle tracks and everywhere else having low volume 30 km/h access road designs, you can ride anywhere with efficiency and ease. A 5 km journey each way is very easy on a bicycle, taking 20-30 minutes depending on how fast you want to ride. There is a lot of density here, and everything is close together, making it even more attractive. A lot of options too, grids can be very dense for cycle routes. It makes it much easier to ride to the grocery stores for your food needs, to go to retail and clothing stores, to go get your computer fixed. Many university students live without a car quite comfortably, and with LRT and bicycles and an enhanced bus system, it would be very easy and people often feel no need of cars where cycling and public transport is so easy. Many people in central Amsterdam or Groningen don't own cars for this reason. Bikes are just too easy and affordable and usable in the dense urban environment to not chose them. 

Cars aren't even really negatively affected. It's likely that with so few cars and not having to worry about the left turn arrows that your average speed would be higher. 

Whyte Ave could be made a safe place for all to use and a vital transportation corridor while adhering to Sustainable Safety, and a place for people to congregate, a place that people are actually likely to use because cars don't dominate. It would be foolish to do anything else. 

Monday, 23 May 2016

Little things that we can do to improve our roads

There are a lot of small things that we rarely think about when looking at roads. I have few ideas about some small things that make a big impact.

The pedestrian crosswalk lights. These should be shielded from the driver's perspective. It makes them use it to figure out whether they will be able to proceed through or not. Especially if they have a countdown timer to the solid don't walk (or solid red man, depending on where you are) signal. It is causing more crashes than they save.

Curbs. Why don't we angle the curbs here? A small change from 90 degrees to 45 degrees in terms of the curbs next to roadways and from 90 to 30 when next to cycleways or roads with bicycles intended to be used on them. They forgive errors, reducing injuries, often serious, and sometimes even fatalities, on bike and they make it easier for drivers to exit the road if they absolutely have to while still discouraging it being done and reduces the damage done if you do accidentally hit the curb. It just saves a lot of money while not really costing anything. I doubt that people would actually really notice on a day to day basis.

Crosswalk signs. Often times these are more effective, even if you don't have amber flashers, if you put the sign above the road lanes, not to the side of them. Having such a sign is very unusual to have overhead, and thus more likely to be seen and understood.

Removing the upstand and adding tactile paving. I have often times have had drinks spill when cycling just because someone didn`t ensure that there is no upstand to the curb ramps whenever I use a pathway ramp. And when pushing wheeled things, the upstand on normal sidewalks as well is very annoying.

Raised intersections. Add these to intersections to help control speeds, especially where it will matter most. Design them to be comfortably taken at the speed limit or less. 30 km/h in access roads and where you cross cycleways and footways without traffic signals, like at roundabouts, 50 km/h at most arterial road intersections, 70 on a few urban through road corridors and on the exits from the motorways at interchanges when you come off and go back to being on a normal road.

Paint posts with stripes. Probably normal horizontal strips, but maybe angled ones work even better. Either way, they work very well to make the contrast very much improved. Poles tend to be rather unforgiving in a crash. Thus, seeing where they are is a good thing to have, especially in the dark. Posts that may affect cyclists are generally red and white in the Netherlands, most other poles are black and white, and posts holding up navigation signs are usually blue and white. Interesting choices by the Dutch, but they work, so why not?

And finally, road studs. As in, when slightly tactile markings are used that also show where the line markings are optically. Usually called cat's eyes in the UK. I drove in British Columbia at nightlast year, and it was far easier to see the lanes because of the reflectivity. And driving around the main city at night also was easier because of the traffic signal visibility. It's obvious that these are really useful. Even on a bike they can help. Adding yellow ones to the centre lines of two way paths would show when paths are bidirectional, and also adding white ones to the edges as well through curves shows where the curve goes. It may be that even a high powered bike light won't reflect (though car headlights will work anyway). If that is the case, solar studs can do this too. It works best for line markings because other shapes are hard to show via cat's eyes. They also give a bit of tactile feedback, letting you know if you are straying from your lane, even in the daytime. I suggest using yellow as centre lines, white for normal lane markings, red for the right edge markings, and green for turn lanes and exit lanes and also when lanes are joining the other lanes. It is very easy to remember and works brilliantly. Even better news is that they are friendly to snow plows. Even better.

So there you have it. 7 ways to improve the operation and safety of roads without much cost and without people really caring at all about them consciously but they learn to use these to great effect. It saves money from collisions prevented and with less damage to roadside objects. Why not?

Friday, 20 May 2016

Double standards

I've been reading quite a bit about statistics and the logic that different people put out. I want to show you some examples of double standards when it comes to this.

Planes are actually statistically safe. You know all the buzz that came when a Malaysia Airlines flight was lost over the Indian Ocean? It got so much buzz because we don't need to save the next day's newspaper space for the next crash which isn't likely to happen again for a long time. There are loads of procedures meant to remove the ability for the screw ups of humans to make us do dangerous things. Autopilot being a useful tool in this. People get bored pretty quickly. This, it takes over during long flights, and is actually capable of operating entirely on it's own if it were allowed, landings and take offs included. Loads of checklists for just about everything. There are two pilots so that there is a smaller chance that one will be doing something stupid, and one can take a break when they need to. There are also very few opportunities that planes could ever get near one another. Air traffic control routes planes on completely different paths keeping them often kilometres apart if not tens of kilometres apart or more. And if they ever do stray, there is plenty of time to correct a mistake, there's lots of space to realize that a mistake is being made and you can correct with time to spare.

And if a crash does happen, it's among the things that makes crash investigators work the hardest on even the smallest details, down to duct tape on the plane skin even. It can take more than a year to issue the final report. Sometimes regulation changes even occur. This leads to a very low crash number, 898 fatalities each year. Over a world population of more than 7 billion people, and especially comparing that 1.2 million are killed each year in motor vehicle crashes, this is very safe. Of course they go further, but this is balanced out by people generally taking few place trips per year. It also feels like every plane crash is a disaster, even though the US alone needs only about 3 days to create as many casualties as MH17

Car crashes on the other hand aren't treated like this. Few are ever considered a disaster, massive pile ups on motorways perhaps. They are shrugged off, very quickly. If we were to have the same coverage dedicated to car crashes in the media as plane crashes, we'd be swamped, easily overwhelmed by the sheer number. The investigators would also probably be overwhelmed as well, although there is usually less to check out. How many wikipedia pages do you think there would be? Millions per year just dedicated to car crashes. We often don't investigate their causes very well. We don't take corrective measures. We give the driver at fault a fine, maybe license suspension and possibly prison, maybe a civil trial will award damages, but nothing really happens after. The road stays the same. If you are LUCKY, someone will add extra signs and the cops might focus for a week an extra sting there. If there is a fatal crash in Edmonton, the city puts up a diamond shaped sign (like a cross), no, more like a kite shape, As if that's going to change road user behavior.

Our roads NEED to understand that humans are not perfect, and we can't make ourselves perfect. Just as dog breed makers in the 1800s and Dr Frankenstein played God for a while, they failed too, because they aren't capable of making something work the way they think it would. We must make our roads capable of absorbing our mistakes. They thankfully do this a lot, most mistakes don't lead to crashes. We'd have a problem more than a hundred times worse if it didn't. But they don't go nearly far enough. We can't just expect education and enforcement to solve our problems. Our infrastructure must change. We cannot allow conflicts that are more dangerous than our roads are capable of handling and allowing mistakes that will lead to crashes too severe to be present on our roads. We can't put non forgiving lampposts next to a motorway designed for 110 km/h without a crash barrier, allow cars to mix head on at 100 km/h, require that cyclists and pedestrians mix with motor traffic on a shoulder at 80 km/h, or other conflicts that will inevitably have people making mistakes. It only takes one to cause a major problem.

We try to solve this problem for cyclists by making them wear helmets and high viz or advising them to ride in the middle of the lane. This doesn't work. Car drivers aren't hitting cyclists because they can't see them just because they don't have a high viz jacket, they miss them because of the inherent sightlines that the road has. Cyclists' lives aren't being saved with helmets in the Netherlands, they are being saved because of the fact that motor traffic is kept away and cross or mix only at low speeds and with very few cars to begin with, or with a traffic signal giving specific times to specific users.

Pedestrians too are targeted by the high viz jacket campaigns, or at least bright colours part. Just last week I missed a pedestrian wearing white while crossing the wrong arm of a junction where it was prohibited to cross with a speed limit of 60 km/h. It actually made her blend in, somewhat ironically with the white painted fences on either side. It actually made me feel horrible as a result because I know that a fatality  (for the pedestrian) is almost certain at 60, and if my mom didn't spot her before I could reach that point on the road... This also shows that most people aren't ignorant, nor are they trying to commit driving offenses, and that people if a crash happens do feel horrible and often hate themselves for making a mistake like that. People normally have altruism, and people normally want to take care of others, especially if they know in their hearts who made the mistake.

Most car crashes are genuine mistakes. It is the consistent failure of our roads to give natural reasons for obeying a rule, to forgive mistakes so that they are not lethal nor seriously injurious, and to rule out conflicts happening at speeds where they will seriously hurt people, or worse. Our roads are not Sustainably Safe. Please understand this. If you still blame people for their own misfortune, well who would be blaming you if a crash involving you happens? The number of people killed each year is equal to that of a large city each and every year, more serious injuries, broken bones, disabilities, lost limbs, brain function loss, paralysis, dangerous infections, more of those happen as a result of car crashes than the entirety of Canada's population, all of them, and more than twice the population of Australia, and the equal of South Korea.

And do you seriously want to continue these policies for people who don't even have the freedom to not live on roads like this, like small children, who have to use them despite the serious risks involved?

Monday, 16 May 2016

But, it causes congestion and slowdowns right?

This is the phrase that many people use to try to fight separate cycle infrastructure, and sometimes cycling in general. I am going to show how congestion is fought in the Netherlands.

First, the fact that there are so many different alternates to driving a car means that you have plenty of options, you don't have to drive. If you do, it's a genuine choice between many fast and safe options. Thus, many will switch to cycling, walking and public transport. This massively reduces the number of cars you have on the road in the first place. It also means that you can take routes you might not have before. You can go straight to work while your children cycle to school or take the bus. This reduces the number of trips even more. And many shopping trips will be done by bike, another large chunk of journeys not done by car.

The next big thing they use to fight congestion is to use well designed motorways or expressways and through roads to carry most of the traffic. This means fewer stops, more space between interchanges, less weaving, fewer crashes and by using electronic controls, they reduce the number of time delaying and often times dangerous crashes and improve the efficiency of the road in the first place. Shoulder running can be allowed during congested periods too, as can a ban on trucks overtaking. This can add a huge amount of efficiency.

Another major addition is the reduction in the number of stroads and monofunctionalizing roads. Imagine if you drove down a road like Gateway Boulevard but didn't have to deal with nearly the number of minor side streets and perhaps even avoided a couple traffic lights. This also decreases weaving, lane changes, congestion and the number of crashes. Access would be maintained via 30 km/h service streets or via side streets.

The Dutch model also adds bus bays and bus lanes. A lot of the lane changes in urban areas is done to avoid being behind a bus, and so by not needing to worry about this, it's safer and more efficient, and less congested.

Parking would also occur less often on main roads and collector roads, removing more obstacles and providing better sightlines, and thus fewer emergency slowdowns would occur.

Traffic signals are reduced in number and made much more efficient. Traffic signals are operated by demand not pre programmed. Pedestrians only get walk lights when they are actually there, thus, the amber light can come on more quickly when they don't come. And by using crossing sensors to figure out whether pedestrians have cleared the crossing gives them extra time if they need it and less time if the crossing is clear. By having signal stages that rely on demand as well, you don't always need to have left turn arrows if there is no left turning traffic. Having separate turn signals for all of the different directions and modes, transit if they have reserved lanes, cyclists if they have either a separate path or dedicated lane, and pedestrians if they have their own sidewalk, allows the signals to be much more flexible.

Many grade separations in vital areas would be added. Sometimes for car to car conflicts, more times for pedestrians and cyclists and car conflicts. 75 St would have at grade pedestrian and cycle crossings removed and replaced by underpasses. By adding these underpasses on the desire lines this doesn't cause a problem for them, but it removes a lot of the danger of at grade crossings with such a busy road and prevents slowdowns.

Roundabouts add a lot of efficiency. They would replace many traffic signals and stop signs. It is better to be flowing at 30 km/h than going 0 km/h waiting 45 seconds for a green light. And many stop signs would be removed in favour of yield signs. This reduces driver frustration and allows more efficient movements.

Speeds would be made more homogeneous under the principle of Sustainable Safety. Thus many speed limits will change to account for this. You'd be able to legally go 120 and 130 km/h on hundreds of kilometres of roads in the province. Some urban arterials would be upped to 70 km/h, and some limited access corridors would go to 100, like Wayne Gretzky Drive. Many arterials would go down to 50, but it would be offset by having less stop start traffic and the ability to use roundabouts more effectively.

Some roads would be built as bypasses. An East bypass of St Albert would help traffic coming from the East that never intended to go into St Albert. Many local communities wouldn't have to deal with a massive flow of traffic. And the motor traffic wouldn't have to deal with the reduced speed, stop signs and traffic lights.

The Dutch really do have less congestion as a result of this, and more efficient journeys. And if you are worried about lane reductions, keep in mind that traffic will expend or reduce to fill just about any niche if you let it. Rarely is congestion the result of a lack of lanes but a bottleneck somewhere. Or multiple bottlenecks. Removing these bottlenecks is the main thing that I try to reduce with the designs I just shown here. They work. Even in North America. Why not adopt them to show just how efficient our roads can be if we let them?

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Pedestrians and the Dutch model

Pedestrian groups in many areas often are divided about supporting cycle infrastructure or not. I want to debunk some myths about it today.

There are some that oppose it, like a Blind people association in London, this is a common theme around disabled people's rights groups, they tend to oppose separate cycle infrastructure. Seniors groups too, for the same reasons. Children's groups may or may not oppose it, and some people concerned about public transport also may be concerned about pedestrian access.

There are common themes to their opposition. I think the source of this is the divide we have between vehicular cyclists and relaxed but slow cycling. Unpredictable, going to run over everyone without even ringing their bell, and others along the lines of this. The main reason why cyclists tend to not be predictable is that the road design doesn't give them obvious reasons for doing what they are supposed to do. There isn't an obvious reason for obeying stop signs if the visibility is sufficient. And there isn't an intrinsic reason why a red light should be obeyed if there isn't a car in sight. And if you don't have a separate path to ride on in the face of fast and or heavy traffic, then you often take to the sidewalk. Thus, you scare pedestrians in the process. This is solved by having cycle paths at far lower thresholds, about 2000 PCU/d and over 30 km/h in the built up area. And the second part is by having signs and signals intrinsically linked to how you should obey them. Short waiting times at traffic signals, and not using stop signs unless the visibility is exceptionally poor and nothing else can be done about it.

The part about being run over tends to come from a bias towards looking for events that happened recently or were talked a lot about, and from the perception as that vehicular cyclists don't care for other people. Just because something is well talked about does not mean that it is common. In fact, the opposite tends to be true. They are talked a lot about because they are so rare. The shooting in Parliament that required the sergeant at arms to resolve is extremely uncommon. If we talked about car crashes as much as plane crashes we would be swamped with news reports. And most people do care for others. It's called altruism. We recognize other members of our species, or even with characteristics that we have, like puppies, and care for them, almost as if they were our children. And you often do feel incredible guilt if you know that you cause a problem. Most people do show remorse and try to help as best they can. It's the exceptions that make us mad. Thankfully, these are also uncommon. Car drivers angry at other car drivers are helped by the fact that they would be yelling at an object, not a face.

Blind pedestrians tend to object due to how cyclists are silent vehicles, and worrying about how they will be able to cross a cycleway from the sidewalk. The Dutch have blind pedestrians, obviously they are coping somehow. Providing tactile markings to show where the crossings are helps a lot, and making laws that give those who are blind, or who look like they are likely to be, a white cane, a dog with a badge on the side, someone holding the arm of someone in sunglasses, helps. And better education about how to give priority to a blind pedestrian could be used. But among the most important of these is that most cyclists do care about other people and would usually be on omafietsen, not race bikes.


Now that most of the misconceptions are out of the way, let's go into exactly what the Dutch have done to change the environment of pedestrians.

Pedestrian courtesy crossings as they are called in Ontario, or just uncontrolled pedestrian crossings in normal terminology outside North America, are when pedestrians know they don't have priority, but car drivers are asked politely to let pedestrians go first, but they aren't obligated to. Pedestrians look both ways, look for a good time to cross, and once there is a good gap in the traffic, they can proceed. Of course if there is too much traffic, there is going to be a long wait, so a low enough volume is critical. A median refuge island really helps here if you can provide one. Low speeds too are important. 30 km/h is the best speed for these crossings, with 50 as an absolute maximum. Even 70 is too fast in the built up area.

Normal pedestrian zebra crossings are also very helpful and would be widely used. They let pedestrians get immediate priority. I believe that it would be a good idea to restrict these to places where a car would only pass through at 30 km/h or less. On a 30 km/h road of course, but also near a roundabout and where there is a median refuge design with a curve sharp enough to require 30 km/h speeds. They would be well marked, and usually with an overhead sign. Amber flashers shouldn't really be needed, as it relies entirely on drivers wanting to give way, not anything physical.

Both of these crossings can be used on cycleways as well. Given that they have low speeds anyway and rarely have too many cyclists to use otherwise, non priority crossings are probably going to be more common. If an important footway, like the one that the cycleway would parallel, for example at a protected intersection, or at a busy bus stop, at a crossing near a school, hospital, or areas with very many pedestrians or so many cyclists that gaps would be hard to find, then zebra crossings may be used.

Jaywalking would not be an offense in and of itself. Failing to give traffic the right of way first would be the offense if you did fail to yield. But even still, if motor traffic had time to react to you, they should have stopped under the principle of that everyone must not create extra dangers and all must do what they can to avoid a collision, they are still partially guilty and liable.

Now minor side roads will change dramatically. Paralleling a distributor road crossing a minor side access road with a 30 km/h speed zone with no roundabout or traffic signals would mean that the access road would not be continuous over the footway. The footway is the same elevation as it normally is, and the material would be the same as well. Same with business accesses. The cars have to go up and down. This makes it very obvious who waits and who has visual priority. At intersections between 30 km/h zones, then they would often be raised intersections to help control the speeds. But they also give pedestrians presumed priority. Either using zebra crossings or a continuous footway built into the bricks of the raised intersection surface would make it last a long time and with minimal maintenance.

The footways in general may change. The Dutch put utility lines under the footways not the road. This makes the latter not doing to be disrupted and the surface won't be broken. By using bricks for the footway not concrete or asphalt, it means that they are easily repairable. This could be a means of making maintenance easier. And because you could temporarily walk on the cycle paths instead, disruption is minimal.

Pedestrians would rarely interact with motor traffic at all. They rarely would walk more than a kilometre or so. Because most destinations would either be a pedestrianized shopping area or in the residential areas, both places where motor traffic would be excluded, there would rarely be crossings. Of the locations that do remain, they are likely to remain small intersections to deal with. The protected intersection or simultaneous green or roundabouts or zebra crossings would be the most common means of dealing with them. Main routes for pedestrians and grade separation would be rare because of how the through roads would be unraveled so much from pedestrian routes. But of the places where they do still exist, they would have a separate sidewalk.

Footways would be wider, usually at least 2 metres wide, 1.8 metres minimum. Sometimes wider sidewalks will exist. A considerable improvement from the 1.5 metres we often use.

In areas where there is no sidewalk, pedestrians are not disadvantaged. They are either going to be on a cycle path, or on a low speed low volume road. This way, you still have the freedom to walk in these areas if you chose to do so, just that there would be few who do alike. All you do is walk on the left side of the travelway facing cyclists and motor traffic.

This shows how pedestrians have a lot to gain and are not going to have their lives ruined by the Dutch method. Dutch pedestrians have a higher quality of life than ours. And safer travels. Why don't we make pedestrians the focus of our lives again? We have legs for a reason. What use are they if we don't feel comfortable walking somewhere?