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Complete Streets (it’s more than just about cycling)

It is so depressing to think about how much further along in their thinking that places like New York City are than Saskatoon in realizing that not all people own cars.  Just think about it, a street designed for cars, pedestrians, and cyclists.  It could one day happen in Saskatoon.

The Case for Separated Bike Lanes (in New York City)

The Whole Story

Inspiration for Cycling

The view from within the peloton

A look inside the peloton from Stage 5 of the Tour de Suisse.

The Partnership’s position on Bike Lanes

From The Partnership’s Chairman, Dave Denny

The Partnership’s position on Bike Lanes has been consistent.We endorse the idea of protected bike lanes, but only with adequate consideration of traffic flow, special needs safety, and with minimal cost to parking convenience. We have several ideas for how to make this possible by reducing the number of lost parking spots, by making up for lost spots, by providing affordable options for employees to move their cars out of prime spaces, and by enhancing the commercial benefit to downtown businesses. We hope for a chance to collaborate with the city and with the bicycle community to make safe bike lanes come true in a way that all interests can support.

We believe that it is worthwhile to pursue a demonstration of parking-protected bike lanes in downtown Saskatoon because it could simplify safe access for bicyclists. Safe bike lanes would be an additional amenity for downtown employees, customers and residents and would help enhance our downtown brand as youthful, fun, progressive, and healthy. We recognize that every visitor to downtown who switches from driving to biking will have opened up a new parking space for the other drivers.

We simultaneously believe that convenient parking downtown is one of our most critical challenges. The vast majority of employees and shoppers in our winter city currently drive. Many drivers view downtown as more fun, but less convenient. As convenience decreases they may be attracted to our suburban competitors, as has already happened in many other Canadian cities. The parking issue is more complex than simply the question of how long it takes for shoppers to find a metered space. It also involves finding acceptable parking solutions for employees. It involves finding alternatives to unsightly gravel surface parking lots which currently are heavily relied upon to serve a legitimate need. Proper parking management should involve measuring and projecting parking needs as our economy changes and as people’s transit choices change. It should involve finding solutions when there is a deficiency. We categorically reject a philosophy of “management by neglect” whereby car convenience is left unmanaged with the hope that its deterioration will drive visitors to other transit methods. Downtown is too important to take that chance.

For these reasons we hope for an opportunity to collaborate with the city and with the bicycle community to make safe bike lanes come true in a way that all communities can support, thus ensuring the longevity of this demonstration project.

Stop forcing people to wear bike helmets

Look at what Vox has to say about bike helmets

But in the world’s most popular biking cities, particularly in Europe, very few bikers wear helmets. And there are good reasons for that: biking, it turns out, isn’t an especially dangerous form of transportation in terms of head trauma. And the benefits of helmets may be overstated. While they do protect your head during accidents, there’s some evidence that helmets make it more likely you’ll get in an accident in the first place.

Most importantly, requiring helmets deters many normal people from biking in the first place — in Australia, bike commuting rates plummeted when mandatory helmet laws went into effect. And, when there are fewer bikes on the road overall, biking becomes more dangerous.

Of course, if people want to wear helmets they are more than welcome to.

But we should think of helmets as an optional accessory, rather than an absolute requirement — and proposed laws that would mandate all cyclists wear helmets are a bad idea.

Why cycling is so dangerous in the United States (and Saskatoon)

Americans are not only among the world’s least avid cyclists; they are also among the most likely to get killed. Here are a few interesting—if morbid—takeaways. Pedal safely!

  • Roughly “17% of all cycling fatalities were involved in a hit-and-run crash in which one (or several) of their crash opponents fled the scene (2005-2011, FARS) – presumably the motorist(s). This is nearly four times the rate of hit-and-run involvement for all recorded traffic fatalities over the same period in the United States (4%).”
  • “Investigating officers on the scene of fatal bicycle crashes in the United States found no contributory factor on the part of the motorist in 46% of cases.”
  • “An overwhelming majority of fatal bicycle crashes occur in dry or clear atmospheric conditions – 94% in the USA and 87% in Europe.”
  • “One quarter of (deceased) cyclists for which an alcohol test was performed returned blood alcohol values above 0.08 mg/ltr which constitutes a drink-driving offense in all 50 US states.”
  • “In the United States, most fatal bicycle-vehicle collisions involved a passenger car or light truck (Sports Utility Vehicle) though 10% of fatal bicycle collisions involved a large truck.”
  • “In the United States, 36% of all fatal bicycle crashes for the period 2005-2011 occurred in junctions with another 4% in driveways (commercial and private) most likely caused by entering or exiting motor vehicles.”
  • “In the United States, the share of fatal bicycle crashes occurring in low-speed zones was lower than in Europe – possibly because low-speed traffic calmed zones are relatively less common in the United States.”
  • “In the United States, 27% of deceased cyclists for which helmet use was recorded wore helmets in 2010 and 2011.”
  • “Red light running by cyclists … is an often-cited contributory factor in fatal and serious injury bicycle crashes (at least in the United States).”
  • “Motorists were charged with traffic violations in nearly one third of all fatal bicycle crashes and investigating officers identified a crash-contributing factor on the part of the motorist in over half of all fatal bicycle crashes.”
  • “Data from the United States indicate that cyclists were imputed with an improper action in 68% of fatal bicycle crashes (though, as noted earlier, this may be biased as the cyclist was not able to give their version of events).”

Sign the Better Bike Lanes Petition

If you are a cyclist, pedestrian, or motorist, you may want to head over to Better Bike Lanes and sign their petition for inserting quality (in other words safer) bike lanes in downtown Saskatoon.  Quality bike lanes means that our roads are safer for all modes of transportation, they reduce congestion, and help build a more sustainable city at a really low cost.  

Saskatoon has some of the poorest bike lanes in North America and the result is collisions, cyclist riding on the sidewalks (for their own safety) and traffic congestion.  Our politicians can do better and we need to let them know this is a priority so head on over, read, watch some videos and sign the petition.

100 Ideas to Improve Saskatoon: 2. Convert the Traffic Bridge into a Pedestrian Bridge

When the Traffic Bridge closed a couple of years ago, the city was in a near state of panic.  Idylwyld Bridge was being repaired and traffic was atrocious.  People screamed for a replacement bridge despite a) few people ever used it b) whenever we take one of our bridges offline, Traffic Bridge or not, downtown backs up.  

Now we have a new South Circle Drive Bridge and soon will have a new North Commuter Bridge which will change traffic patterns even more.  Despite that, City Council has decided that we need three bridges within a kilometre of each other and is dedicated to rebuilding what the city administration basically described as a surplus bridge.

There is another alternative and that is to turn it into a pedestrian bridge, something that could strengthen the ties between Nutana and the downtown core/River Landing tremendously.

Take a look at this conceptual rendering by OPEN.

Victoria bridge aerial summerFINAL 1024x514

1.new views  2.public gathering place  3.zip-line  4.enclosed vertical garden  5.separated bike/pedestrian access

As they see it.

This resulted in a ‘new’ bridge, one that retains some glory of its former self but a ‘new’ bridge that sets out to enhance the existing qualities of the river valley. While it maintains its original connection points on either side of the river it also presents new stronger connection to existing conditions. Its reconfigured spans offer new views in all directions including glass portholes that let users see below the deck. The ‘new’ bridge also proposes a zip line as a new form of passage that reconnects the bridge to Rotary Park and adds new adventure for thrill seekers alike. There is ample opportunity for gathering and a separate bicycle lane to ensure safety. It is a hub for artists, theatre groups, musicians, poets, festival and event organizers. And because Saskatchewan is known for its culture of growing, the ‘new’ bridge would provide the infrastructure required to support a vertical community garden that produces food year round.

This story ends with a ‘realized’ project that retains a piece of its past but reinterprets its trajectory to better serve and enhance the existing and future community through a representation of a perceived experience.

As other cities have shown, pedestrian cities bond a community more than a traffic bridge does.  With Saskatoon unable (and unwilling) to even clean it’s bridge decks in a timely fashion, crossing any of Saskatoon’s bridges on a wet or dry dusty day is not the most pleasant experience.  No wonder people prefer to use pedestrian bridges, especially ones that look like the rendering by OPEN.

Especially if there is a zip line.

The Best Bike Lock

Eric Hanson of Outside Magazine took a look at the best bike lock that money can buy.

Kryptolock bundle

The consensus among those in the know was that a u-lock is best for virtually everyone, offering the highest ratio of security to portability. Unconventional devices like folding locks are intriguing, but so far none offer the security of a good u-lock. Chains sometimes offer a slight bump in security, but they often weigh twice as much and still relent to power tools. Let masochists wear belts of hardened steel; all our experts said a good u-lock is the sensible solution.

But before we talked specific lock models, they also insisted we slow down. Most people don’t know how to use their locks, they said. Most people buy big, heavy expensive u-locks and then don’t secure their bike’s frame, or don’t lock to an immobile object, or worse. Videos like this and this and this drive the point home.

Both the professional and petty thieves we talked to suggested that if a cyclist couldn’t take his bike inside, he should lock his bike in a different spot each day, making it harder to case out. And they encouraged people to ride cheaper bikes. After all, the resale value of a bike—and its expensive components—is what makes the thing worth stealing.

Locking smart will allow you to stand out from the thief-tempting masses, and thankfully the proper lock method is straightforward. Known by many as the “Sheldon technique,” it involves placing a u-lock through the frame and rear wheel. When a bike is going to be left unattended for a long time or in a crime-ridden area, a cable lock can be added to grab the front wheel and seat, further discouraging a thief. If a person really wants to thumb his nose at the criminal set and doesn’t mind searching for smaller objects to lock to, then he can use the Sheldon technique with a small u-lock instead of the standard size. Small locks leave little room for thieves to insert crowbars or bottle jacks or any number of tools that can bust open a lock.

Hal Ruzal, the dreadlocked cofounder of the NYC bike shop Bicycle Habitat, uses the Sheldon technique to lock an $800 bike with a $100 lock. Using a lock that expensive on a bike that cheap is overkill, but his results are impressive. After putting some 350,000 miles under his tires, predominantly in New York City over the last 30 years, he has had only one bike stolen, when he used an un-hardened chain lock instead of a u-lock.

Indeed, just the sight of a properly used u-lock is usually enough to deter thieves, sending them down the street where they’ll find an equally-nice bike locked with nothing but a chintzy cable, or a bike with a wheel that’s not secured, or a bike locked to a piece of scaffolding that can be unbolted, etc. In the words of Brad Quartuccio, editor of Urban Velo magazine: “Locking technique is more important than how much you spend on a lock.”

If you are a cyclist, the entire article is worth reading.

The Great Cycling Debate with Sean Shaw

Sean and I joined David Kirton on the Saskatoon Afternoon Show yesterday to discuss cycling safety in two different segments.  

Segment One

Segment Two

It was a good discussion but the big thing is that Saskatoon is a brutal city to be a cyclist in.

Bike Lanes

Vancouver, B.C., a relaxed getaway built for walking and cycling

This could be Saskatoon if we ever got serious about cycling infrastructure

And, of course, cyclists. More than any other North American city I’ve visited, Vancouver was filled with people young and old cruising around on two wheels. After several hours on foot exploring parks and gardens, I was sure of one thing: The bicyclists were seeing more and having the most fun.

The next day I returned to beaches with a bike of my own and before long was gliding, barely pedaling, around the Seaside Greenway. The greenway forms a large loop around much of downtown Vancouver and Stanley Park, the 1,000-plus-acre forest that from the air looks like a floppy cap at the tip of the city’s core. It’s a cyclist’s and walker’s paradise — with dedicated lanes for each — that is fast becoming a kind of futuristic riff on bike havens like Amsterdam and Copenhagen.

Two things make Vancouver an ideal cycling destination for travelers. First, since the late 1990s the city has invested heavily in “active transit,” mainly bike and pedestrian paths. The result is not just the scenic Seaside Greenway, but a network of connected bicycle paths that crisscross downtown. If you’ve never biked in a dense urban setting, Vancouver is the place to try. It’s safe, easy and a good way to get to places such as the historic Gastown neighborhood. Even the drivers seemed good-natured and accommodating about sharing the road.

The abundance of bike rental shops is another reason Vancouver is a biking destination. In most of the city I was never far from a rental bike and there were several shops within a two-minute walk of my hotel in the West End. A four-hour bike rental will cost less than $20.

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Why people are so fearful of bike lanes?

Excellent piece in the Globe and Mail by Gordon Price

Why do bike lanes proposals create such reaction? From Wall Street Journal editorial writers to hundreds of Point Grey homeowners, the battles over bicycles have created unprecedented levels of passion. A ‘First-World’ problem, to be sure, but clearly something is going on – and it’s about more than just bicycles.

It is, perhaps, a signal of a change in our way of life that some – in particular, aging boomers – see as a threat.

We have spent most of the last century building car-dominant urban regions. Every stage of the transportation network was designed to lead, without congestion, to a garage in every home or a parking space near every business and destination.

To ensure smoothness in the vehicle flow meant, for safety reasons, keeping other modes like bicycles off the vehicle rights-of-way. The result: almost everyone drives, almost everywhere, for almost everything. And because driving is so prevalent in the absence of alternatives, it follows that drivers deserve the greatest recognition – and the budget allocations which follow.

And they have.

So when the assumption of car-dominance is threatened – particularly if it looks like it might cause inconvenience for drivers – it feels for many that there is something inherently wrong with this, that the natural order of things has been disrupted. Arguments are then assembled to make the world right – even if it means turning it upside down: By encouraging cycling, we increase pollution. By encouraging healthy activity, we increase accidents. By making the city a better place, we make it worse.

The conclusion: No intervention should be made where it might add to congestion. Those plans that put walking and cycling first are therefore meaningless, and only tolerated when they have no impact on motor-vehicle flow. Anything else is declared a ‘war on the car’ and used to divide the electorate for political advantage. Hence the ginned-up passion, often media-amplified, over these issues.

But here’s the irony: Bike lanes and pedestrian priorities don’t create congestion no matter how often it’s predicted (and it’s been happening since the 1970s in Vancouver). We’ve been reallocating road space, introducing traffic calming, closing off blocks, reducing parking, and yes, adding more bike lanes – and what happens? Traffic quickly adjusts, and over time driving diminishes, even as the number of trips grows.

Traffic volumes into downtown Vancouver, for instance, are now down to 1965 levels, even though population, jobs and tourism have roughly doubled – the result of better transit, changing work and residential patterns and, yes, more walking and cycling. In the case of the Point Grey corridor, the shift of vehicles to other arterials will only return them to levels previously experienced, and will likely drop from there if recent trends continue.

So why the anxiety? Is it because those who are car-dependent fear someone might force them out of their cars, make them feel guilty for their habits, or above all, inconvenience them for the sake of those who have traditionally been of lower status or who, more annoyingly, flaunt their fitness and the traffic laws with impunity and who, don’t in the minds of vehicle owners, pay their way?