When it comes to traffic solutions, choose safety over symbolsROAD AHEAD COLUMN BY JEFF OUTHIT
Painted bicycle lanes and signalized crosswalks symbolize the friendlier streets we want. They are not always practical traffic solutions.
Designated bicycle lanes tell cyclists they belong on the street. They tell motorists to share the road. Crosswalk signals tell pedestrians when to walk or stay. They tell motorists to watch for pedestrians who share the intersection.
These are important statements. I understand why some people want to make them.
But the reality about painted cycling lanes is that many residents feel unsafe in them. So they stay out of them, turning them into wasted space.
When planners surveyed 2,337 local cyclists in 2008, they found most prefer to ride off the road, even on streets with designated bike lanes. Most cyclists favour sidewalks or boulevards where they feel more comfortable.
The practical solution to encourage cycling is to separate bicycles from cars. This means installing curbs or barriers, building wider shared sidewalks, pursuing segregated cycling paths and developing a network of cycling trails. It means putting bicycles somewhere else than on our busiest streets.
Signalized crosswalks are often touted to make pedestrians safer. The reality is they can be very dangerous places.
Too often, careless motorists or careless pedestrians misread signals or fail to notice each other during a right or left turn. As intersections get bigger, crossing distances get longer, adding to pedestrian risks.
This is partly why roundabouts make practical sense. Some critics complain the circles can’t be safe for pedestrians because no signal tells a driver to stop. There’s concern for students who will cross at busy roundabouts coming to three high schools in Kitchener and Cambridge.
But pedestrians aren’t made safer by signals. They’re made safer by reduced speeds, shorter crossing distances, and attentive drivers. Roundabouts provide this without the false security of a signal.
Planners recently compared 81 traffic signals to 11 roundabouts over multiple years, with similar traffic and pedestrian counts. Pedestrians were hit 25 times at the signals and only once in a roundabout, when someone wrongly crossed through a central island and stepped into a driving lane.
The early calculations, though based on very small data, suggest pedestrians are twice as likely to be hit at signals.
I get the symbolism in painting more bicycle lanes and adding crosswalk signals. I lean more to traffic solutions that may actually work.
The point about roundabouts needs to be considered in context: roundabouts in the Region of Waterloo have only been placed in suburban areas that have few pedestrians.
Get Your Feet On The Street for International Walk to School Month!
October 4, 2010 | http://www.region.waterloo.on.ca/web...0?OpenDocument
International Walk to School Day (IWALK) will be celebrated around the world this year on October 6, kicking off a month which focuses on increasing everyday walking, both to school and at school.
Schools across Waterloo Region will join over 3 million children from over 40 different countries, on six continents, from India to Italy to South Africa, who are participating in Walk to School Day.
IWALK is an opportunity to focus on the many benefits of safe and active travel to and from school. Walking to school as a family provides parents with opportunities to teach children important street safety skills, and more “eyes” on the street makes our whole community a safer place.
Here are ten good reasons to walk to school together:
- It’s fun
- It’s healthy
- It’s non-polluting
- It helps polar bears
- It’s economical
- It reduces stress
- It’s a chance to teach and learn road safety skills
- It’s educational
- It’s a great way to meet new friends
- It’s a way to make streets safer
For more information on International Walk to School Month, or to register a school, visit www.saferoutestoschool.ca.
*Active and Safe Routes to School is a program that promotes safe, walkable communities. It engages both schools and the community to work together to make safe walking routes a reality for all children.
Cities for people, not cars: Former UW instructor pushes new approach to urban planning
October 15, 2010
By Terry Pender, Record staff
TORONTO — A couple of week before the Oct. 25 municipal elections one of the world’s leading architects and urban designers gave voters a lot to think about — cities for people not for cars.
Jan Gehl, a world-renowned architect based in the Danish capital of Copenhagen, says when cities are made friendly for pedestrians and cyclists four important objectives are quickly achieved:
• Streets become livelier.
• Safety increases because more people are around.
• The city becomes more sustainable — both financially and environmentally.
• The city becomes healthier because the air is cleaner and residents more fit.
Gehl gave public lectures in Toronto and Ottawa last week to promote his latest book, Cities for People, that sums up the major lessons and insights from his 50-year-long career in architecture and urban design.
Gehl, who taught at the University of Waterloo school of architecture in the late 1970s, has helped cities big and small become pedestrian-oriented, cycling-friendly and transit-supported.
Gehl’s comments are especially relevant in this region where a proposed light rail transit system has emerged as a major-election issue and where mayoral candidates are asked what they will do for cyclists.
Waterloo Region has the second-highest rate of car dependence in the country with about 400,000 registered vehicles for 535,000 people.
The City of Kitchener has committed or earmarked $70 million for parking garages in the core area. The interest payments alone on the parking garage at Benton and Charles streets in downtown Kitchener is about the same that Kitchener plans to spend on cycling infrastructure over the next 20 years — about $6 million.
Becoming cycling-and-pedestrian friendly starts with a change in perspective
Gehl says the perspective of the pedestrian moving along a street at five km/h is the most important when new developments are planned and approved.
In the past 10 years, the paradigm has shifted from city building for cars to cities for people, Gehl says.
Cars started crowding into cities in the mid-1950s and since then architects, planners, developers, landscape architects and traffic engineers have failed people, Gehl says.
“The biggest city planning problem was to find capacity for more cars,” Gehl says. “We have spent so much time trying to make the cars happy.”
Traffic planners and traffic engineers always have the latest statistics on cars, but what city has a department for pedestrianism? Gehl asks.
“None of us were trained to look after the people,” Gehl says. “This is a dimension of architecture and planning that has been overlooked for 50 years.”
Gehl’s work has helped transform Copenhagen, the capital of Denmark, Melbourne in Australia and New York City, which has added 300 kilometres of bike lanes and trails in the past two years.
In the early 1960s, all of the 18 public squares in Copenhagen were parking lots. Now, they are for people and cars are not allowed.
Cyclists make up 37 per cent of commuters. And, by 2015, that should be up to 50 per cent, Gehl says.
Parking spaces in Copenhagen are being phased out at a rate of about three per cent a year.
“We have less car traffic than any city in the Western World of a similar size,” Gehl says.
“You can easily live in Copenhagen without a car.”
Bike lanes are plowed first in the winter. The bikes lanes are often separated from the traffic by a row of parked cars.
“Parked cars are used to protect cyclists in Copenhagen, cyclists are not used to protect parked cars,” Gehl says.
When a city seriously invites people to walk and cycle, the city itself becomes a destination with sidewalk cafés, benches and crowds of people, Gehl says.
The City of Vancouver was selected for the fifth time this week as the Best City in the Americas by the Condé Nast Traveler’s 2010 Reader’s Choice Awards. Vancouver was named as the most livable city in the world by The Economist last year and it is consistently ranked in the top three by the United Nations.
Gehl loves Vancouver’s approach to transportation planning where pedestrians are ranked at the top, cyclists are number two, public transit is third, followed by cars and then delivery trucks.
“Welcome to the 21st century, cities for people,” Gehl says.
"Only the insane have the strength enough to prosper. Only those that prosper may truly judge what is sane."
He's got lots of great things to say, hopefully many of them get implemented.
"Becoming cycling-and-pedestrian friendly starts with a change in perspective. Gehl says the perspective of the pedestrian moving along a street at five km/h is the most important when new developments are planned and approved."
It's amazing that this is a radical idea. Also amazing: Jan Gehl. My new hero.
"I have always believed that what is originally an abuse does not cease to be one by having become customary."
Don’t miss the Walkable, Bikeable Waterloo Forum
February 22, 2011 | City of Waterloo | Link
The City of Waterloo, with support from the Region of Waterloo, is hosting a public forum in March that will encourage residents to join the conversation about making this city a livable community for all, including pedestrians and cyclists.
The Walkable, Bikeable Waterloo Forum
Date: Thursday, March 10, 2011
Time: Doors open at 6:30 p.m.
Forum runs from 7 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Location: Waterloo City Hall, in council chambers, 100 Regina St. S.
This event will be facilitated by Gil Penalosa of 8-80 Cities, a Canadian not-for-profit organization focused on creating people friendly cities. As former Commissioner of Parks, Sports and Recreation in Bogotá, Colombia, Gil’s team initiated the “new Ciclovia” – car-free Sundays – which today is an internationally recognized program that sees more than 1.3-million people walk, run, skate and bike along 121 kilometres of Bogotá’s city roads.
Participants must register by Monday, March 7, 2011 by emailing email@example.com or calling Helen at 519-747-8620 and providing their name, organization, phone number and email address.
For more details on 8-80 Cities, visit www.8-80cities.org.
I can't remember if it was this same Walkable Waterloo initiative whose survey I completed last year, but I was struck by how clearly biased it was. Throughout all the questions, I remember the common thread was clearly, "arterial and cul-de-sac suburbs bad; grid and dense areas good." I wrote in the comments section that they had missed one clear point: regardless of what we think of suburbs, we are not going to bulldoze them overnight. In fact, we will likely still have many of them many decades from now, if not forever. We need to figure out low-cost and low-impact ways to adapt our current neighbourhoods.
Planners need to consider how to move pedestrians, cyclists and other trail users through a suburb without merely marching them around the periphery next to the arterial roads. I'm glad to see that local municipalities are beginning to publicize their trails. I know that Waterloo has published a trails map that includes all the trails between streets as well as the marquee trails like the TransCanada Trail for nearly a decade. I wonder how soon before the major map apps include trails in their online directions rather than simply routing pedestrians along road ways?
Car-free Sundays coming?
05Apr11 | Waterloo Chronicle | LinkBut, but, but... Brenda Halloran already committed to making it so. Why do we need more studies, cooperation with Kitchener, bureaucracy, ask the BIA, etc?City councillor Melissa Durrell is proposing that the city adopt car-free Sundays, an idea that has been adopted at more than 800 cities around the world.
“It’s just a seed of an idea right now,” said Durrell, Waterloo’s uptown Ward 7 councillor.
“I just think this would be a great opportunity to do something a little different.” Council unanimously supported Durrell’s motion Monday night, directing city staff to work with their counterparts in Kitchener and the region on an open streets initiative and report back on the feasibility of the project on May 16.
Durrell decided to explore the idea after a presentation by Gil Penalosa of 8-80 Cities at the Walkable, Bikeable Waterloo forum.
Don't just sit there. Get up and do it!
After all, that was Gil Penalosa's main message.
What do I have to do, apart from show up? Register? Make a submission? ???The next meeting on planning this will be next Tuesday at 4pm at Waterloo City Council chambers. Please consider coming.
There are probably many community groups who would enjoy having the street open. A juggling club, perhaps, or some other group that wanted to take advantage of high numbers of pedestrians to be spectators or participants. I certainly think it could be a really great opportunity.
Eventually, you can't go on not caring. You realize you have a voice.
ISTM that's far easier to accomplish, at least initially and for the purposes of a pilot. That's also along the lines that Gil proposed and Brenda seemed to be in favour of. It avoids the difficulties you describe. It's patterned after the Busker festival so we know it's doable because it's been done several times already. Let's do that first, then expand towards Kitchener.
BTW one way to bypass "street closures in midtown and by the hospital" would be for Kitchener to do their own car-free Sundays in downtown, then later once we have people in both communities on board, we can "meet in the middle."
I'm not sure how much farther south you could stretch a car-free zone from Uptown Waterloo. Currently, when the section from Erb to William is closed to road traffic, vehicles are routed along Caroline and Regina. At most, you could route traffic along Caroline as far south as John or Allen.
As well, a car-free zone would really only work where there are some form of amenities for the public to enjoy. This could range from store-fronts, public greenspace or a dedicated (or temporary) space with a stage or some other attraction. Once you reach Union street, there really isn't much else unless you turn the SunLife parking lot into a temporary festival space, or invite picnicking on the SunLife lawn.
And dare I ask how this project would work once you have an LRT line running through the middle of it? It would make it rather awkward for the busker, the kiddie rides and the hoards of people you might expect to see packing the street in a car-free zone. Has a car/traffic free-zone operated elsewhere with a trolley route running down the middle of it?
I'm not advocating we close King any farther South than William, but in terms of the statement above we can easily reroute down Park all the way to Victoria St if we wanted too.