Tag Archives: cycling

Some random urban design thoughts

  1. I was at the Peace Bridge tonight.  A couple hundred people crossed it while I was there.  Lots of tourists and families taking photos of their “accomplishment” and documenting the bridge.  Name me one place in Saskatoon where that happens.  It’s infrastructure and a tourist attraction.   Even Mark and Oliver thought it was the greatest thing they had ever seen.
  2. There was an open air concert near there and yes, there were cars parking all over the place but there were hundreds of bikes down there.  a) Can you imagine the carnage that would happen if you didn’t have bike and pedestrian infrastructure in place to get people downtown. b) How much vibrancy would you lose without it as people said, “I’m not driving downtown?”  World class cycling infrastructure means less congestion for those that have to drive.
  3. The Peace Bridge is wide, a lot wider than Saskatoon’s under bridge sidewalks.  Wide pedestrian lane and a wide cycling lane one each side.  In Saskatoon we talk of pedestrians vs. cyclists but in Calgary their multi-use path are 3x larger than Meewasin or twice as large as the path along 33rd.  Cycling infrastructure is more than just protected bike lanes, it means building all sorts of things so cyclists can use it.
  4. The Cycle Track is busier (I took some time to watch it) than I expected.  It also isn’t perfect and has some design flaws as it begins and ends but it is being used by a lot of people.   I (and others) have always said, “build it and they will come”.  It is happening in Calgary.
  5. When I was in Banff, I was shocked by how little parking there is downtown.  Only a few spots and then they use parkades.  Like in Calgary and even in some malls, it gives you a real time update of how many spots they have left.  In Chinook Centre, they even had lights to tell you where there were open spots . Saskatoon could do that kind of stuff but first we would have to invest in some parking garages.  I can’t see it happening but it would totally change downtown and give designers so much flexibility into making it into a people centric place again.
  6. In downtown Saskatoon, we have this idea that since we have Meewasin, we don’t need any downtown parks while in Calgary, there is the river and guess what, several amazing downtown squares and parks.  One of the most interesting ones was a temporary park put up by where the Telus Sky will be.  It’s just a placeholder for a future development but it looks really good and isn’t surface parking.  I’m assuming there is a tax incentive for doing this but why can’t Saskatoon do the same thing.  Why does everything torn down have to be turned into the Impark Empire.
  7. Banff has a pedestrian bridge.  It isn’t even for tourists but locals but it looks great.  Think about that, Banff has a bridge for pedestrians.
  8. Speaking of Banff, they integrate cyclists really well despite no protected bike lanes.  They are so natural there that you expect bikes (and elk) to be everywhere.  Drivers accommodate them.  I believe in excellent cycling infrastructure but drivers who respect cyclists goes a long way.  I think Saskatoon and SGI could do a lot more to educate people.  It would take decades but it could make a big difference.
  9. Does anything think that Saskatoon’s North Commuter Bridge will look anything other than the cheapest design that can be built?  Why can’t we have any signature infrastructure at a time when it is increasingly part of the urban fabric?
  10. Saskatoon will never be the next Calgary.  There is a boldness and arrogance that has long been a part of Calgary that has always demanded to be seen on the same level as Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal.  It has always punched above it’s weight, even in times of deep recession.  Saskatoon doesn’t have that kind of leadership and spirit. 
  11. I don’t think that is entirely our fault.  There is a different business culture with agriculture, uranium and potash then with oil and natural gas. 
  12. Calgary has much higher design standards than Saskatoon.  The architecture is better in Calgary in part because they demand it.  The result is that the city has incredible design even for things like parkades while Saskatoon has the Sturdy Stone Centre.  It’s not just the market that is different, city design standards are higher.  If companies want to play in Calgary, they have to pay.  Proponents of build cheaply say that the costs are passed on and they are right but the entire wage structure is different in Calgary so it can absorb it.  Great cities are expensive, Saskatoon is trying to become one by being cheaper than everywhere else.  It isn’t going to work.   For this I blame Lorne Calvert who recruited people to come back to Saskatchewan because it was cheaper than everywhere else.
  13. You know, Lorne Calvert probably isn’t responsible but still, it bugged me when he did that then and it still bugs me now.  You don’t invite people to come back because of cheap utility and insurance. 
  14. Macleod Trail is as ugly as street as I have ever seen anywhere outside of Winnipeg.    Luckily Calgary is trying to fix it.

Minneapolis is dramatically increasing it’s bike lane network

This is an interesting read.  Minneapolis (another cold weather city) is drastically increasing it’s bike lane network to over 200 miles in the near future and over 403 as a long term plan.

Minneapolis is a great city for bicycling. The bicycle network has been expanded significantly in recent years, and a lot of people are biking. However, not everyone feels comfortable and safe riding on a busy street, even with a bike lane. There are some parts of the city where potential bicycling demand is high, but where low-stress bikeway facilities such as trails, bike boulevards, and lower-traffic streets are not an option. To continue to grow bicycling in Minneapolis, we need to make more of the city easier to bike for more people.

Minneapolis Bike Network

How much does your commute cost (or save) taxpayers

Commuting costs

“Although these costs are easy to overlook, that doesn’t make them any less real,” says George Poulos, a transportation engineer and planner who analyzed the data behind the Cost of Commute Calculator. “Sometimes we pay them upfront, other times indirectly. But, at the end of the day, we still pay them, so we should consider them in our calculus when making big decisions.”

Here is another chart that takes into your costs.  Transit is less popular because it costs you more.

Infographic 1 scenario map v04

The Law of Induced Demand

The long term impact of Saskatoon’s planning and development path

I GREW UP in Los Angeles, the city by the freeway by the sea. And if there’s one thing I’ve known ever since I could sit up in my car seat, it’s that you should expect to run into traffic at any point of the day. Yes, commute hours are the worst, but I’ve run into dead-stop bumper-to-bumper cars on the 405 at 2 a.m.

As a kid, I used to ask my parents why they couldn’t just build more lanes on the freeway. Maybe transform them all into double-decker highways with cars zooming on the upper and lower levels.

Except, as it turns out, that wouldn’t work. Because if there’s anything that traffic engineers have discovered in the last few decades it’s that you can’t build your way out of congestion. It’s the roads themselves that cause traffic.

The concept is called induced demand, which is economist-speak for when increasing the supply of something (like roads) makes people want that thing even more. Though some traffic engineers made note of this phenomenon at least as early as the 1960s, it is only in recent years that social scientists have collected enough data to show how this happens pretty much every time we build new roads. These findings imply that the ways we traditionally go about trying to mitigate jams are essentially fruitless, and that we’d all be spending a lot less time in traffic if we could just be a little more rational.

But before we get to the solutions, we have to take a closer look at the problem. In 2009, two economists—Matthew Turner of the University of Toronto and Gilles Duranton of the University of Pennsylvania—decided to compare the amount of new roads and highways built in different U.S. cities between 1980 and 2000, and the total number of miles driven in those cities over the same period.

“We found that there’s this perfect one-to-one relationship,” said Turner.

If a city had increased its road capacity by 10 percent between 1980 and 1990, then the amount of driving in that city went up by 10 percent. If the amount of roads in the same city then went up by 11 percent between 1990 and 2000, the total number of miles driven also went up by 11 percent. It’s like the two figures were moving in perfect lockstep, changing at the same exact rate.

Now, correlation doesn’t mean causation. Maybe traffic engineers in U.S. cities happen to know exactly the right amount of roads to build to satisfy driving demand. But Turner and Duranton think that’s unlikely. The modern interstate network mostly follows the plan originally conceived by the federal government in 1947, and it seems incredibly coincidental that road engineers at the time could have successfully predicted driving demand more than half a century in the future.

A more likely explanation, Turner and Duranton argue, is what they call the fundamental law of road congestion: New roads will create new drivers, resulting in the intensity of traffic staying the same.

Intuitively, I would expect the opposite: that expanding a road network works like replacing a small pipe with a bigger one, allowing the water (or cars) to flow better. Instead, it’s like the larger pipe is drawing more water into itself. The first thing you wonder here is where all these extra drivers are coming from. I mean, are they just popping out of the asphalt as engineers lay down new roads?

The answer has to do with what roads allow people to do: move around. As it turns out, we humans love moving around. And if you expand people’s ability to travel, they will do it more, living farther away from where they work and therefore being forced to drive into town. Making driving easier also means that people take more trips in the car than they otherwise would. Finally, businesses that rely on roads will swoop into cities with many of them, bringing trucking and shipments. The problem is that all these things together erode any extra capacity you’ve built into your street network, meaning traffic levels stay pretty much constant. As long as driving on the roads remains easy and cheap, people have an almost unlimited desire to use them.

You might think that increasing investment in public transit could ease this mess. Many railway and bus projects are sold on this basis, with politicians promising that traffic will decrease once ridership grows. But the data showed that even in cities that expanded public transit, road congestion stayed exactly the same. Add a new subway line and some drivers will switch to transit. But new drivers replace them. It’s the same effect as adding a new lane to the highway: congestion remains constant. (That’s not to say that public transit doesn’t do good, it also allows more people to move around. These projects just shouldn’t be hyped up as traffic decongestants, say Turner and Duranton.)

Interestingly, the effect works in reverse, too. Whenever some city proposes taking lanes away from a road, residents scream that they’re going to create a huge traffic snarl. But the data shows that nothing truly terrible happens. The amount of traffic on the road simply readjusts and overall congestion doesn’t really increase.

Of course the last paragraph is exactly how downtown Saskatoon will survive University Bridge being shut down and Better Bike Lanes.  It is also why road diets will work.

7 Cities that Are Going Increasingly Car Free

Like Helsinki (which is also a winter city)

Helsinki expects a flood of new residents over the next few decades, but the more people come, the fewer cars will be allowed on city streets. In a new plan, the city lays out a design that will transform car-dependent suburbs into dense, walkable communities linked to the city center by fast-moving public transit. The city is also building new mobility-on-demand services to streamline life without a car. A new app in testing now lets citizens instantly call up a shared bike, car, or taxi, or find the nearest bus or train. In a decade, the city hopes to make it completely unnecessary to own a car.

Have they always been this way?

Forty years ago, traffic was as bad in Copenhagen as any other large city. Now, over half of the city’s population bikes to work every day—nine times more bike commuters than in Portland, Oregon, the city with the most bike commuters in the U.S.

Copenhagen started introducing pedestrian zones in the 1960s in the city center, and car-free zones slowly spread over the next few decades. The city now has over 200 miles of bike lanes, with new bike superhighways under development to reach surrounding suburbs. The city has one of the lowest rates of car ownership in Europe.

Yet in Saskatoon the rumours are that our Better Bike Lanes demonstration project is being pushed back for a year because of the lane closures on University Bridge.  We seem to be going backwards instead of forward (which could very well become our new slogan)

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.