Support All Ages Cycling on North Van Low Level Road

The HUB North Shore Committee is urging that the City of North Vancouver and Port Metro Vancouver provide safe all ages and abilities walking and cycling facilities on the proposed Low Level Road. They are  strongly recommending a separated 4.5 metre path on the south side of the new Low Level Road.

Take Action
Please write to the Council of the City of North Vancouver before June 18  and encourage your friends and family to do the same. More info at:

South side Low Level Road multi-use path proposed by HUB

The Petition
City of North Vancouver: Include safe pedestrian and cycling facilities on the Low Level Road – Sign the Petition!

BCCC’s Letter

Dear Mayor Mussatto

Thank you for the opportunity to address this important project at the Public Hearing. The British Columbia Cycling Coalition (BCCC) strongly supports the recommendations of our member organization, HUB, as detailed in their letter of June 4, 2012.

Since the meeting, I have learned that the current design is significantly worse for people using bicycles, wheelchairs and personal mobility devices than I had thought. I had incorrectly assumed that the proposed lower path east of the lane was accessible to users of wheeled devices. As the design includes stairs, this is certainly not the case. To detour all but the bravest up a steep hill is not going to encourage more people to cycle. Children; seniors; beginning cyclists; and people suffering from leg injuries or chronic conditions that make cycling uphill difficult; the people that are most likely want to cycle on a route separated from traffic are the least likely to want and to be able to cycle up steep hills. While a nice walk or a ride on a summer day, the current Spirit Trail route won’t attract a significant number of people to cycling.
I must say, in 2012, it is really quite surprising to see a proposed design for a new road that is not accessible to all users of all ages all of the time.
A Shared Path on the South Side
A 4.5m multi-use path along the south side of the road has none of these issues and will attract people of all ages and abilities. It will also be an all season route usable by all cyclists, pedestrians, users of Personal Mobility Devices and in-line skaters at all times of the day and night. By lowering motor vehicle speeds to 50kph and narrowing the lanes and shoulders as well as making use of narrower barriers and other measures to make efficient use of space, such a path would require only widening the right-of-way by a metre or two possibly by cantilevering over the rail tracks where the clearance is sufficient.
Cycling on Sidewalks Next to Painted Bike Lanes
A couple of events following the public hearing demonstrate the problems with bicycle routes that are not separated from traffic. 
On my way down Chesterfield, I saw a young man in this mid-teens cycling on the sidewalk right next to the painted bike lanes. If painted bike lanes on a street without much traffic don’t appeal to teenage males, not exactly the most risk adverse segment of the the population, they obviously don’t have broad appeal. This is to be expected as the Cycling in Cities research by UBC, http://cyclingincities.spph.ubc.ca/opinion-survey/ has indicated that cyclists of all abilities and levels of experience strongly prefer cycling facilities that are physically separated from traffic.  
The separated bike lanes on Hornby and Dunsmuir Street have significantly reduced sidewalk cycling over the previous painted bike lanes.
Safe Late Night Cycling
Early the morning following the Public Hearing, a man riding a bike was killed by a suspected drunk driver speeding along Dewdney Truck Road in Maple Ridge. Painted bike lanes offer no protection from drunk, careless or reckless drivers. As sections of the Spirit Trail are unlit, cyclists, pedestrians and users of personal mobility devices have really no safe options at night when drinking and speeding drivers are likely more common. Some Pedestrians and users of  personal mobility devices, will likely end up using the painted bike lanes at night, which certainly is not safe.
Cycling for Everyone
The current design is at odds with the vision articulated in Cycling for Everyone – A Regional Cycling Strategy for Metro Vancouver, “By 2040, Metro Vancouver is renowned locally and globally as a cycling-friendly region where cycling is a desirable and mainstream transportation option because it is safe, convenient, comfortable, and fun for people of all ages and all cycling abilities.” 
A path along the Low Level Road meets all the positive factors that influence the decision to cycle (Cycling for Everyone, Table 3, page 21); it has beautiful scenery, it is separated from traffic, it is flat and it is shorter than the other option. While this path would be adjacent to motor vehicle traffic, the noise and pollution from the levels of traffic that can be carried by the Low Level Road are unlikely to discourage cycling. Burrard Bridge, Cambie Bridge, Beach Avenue, Dunsmuir Street and Hornby Street are among the most popular bicycle routes in the region and all have levels of traffic higher than or at least similar to that of the Low Level Road. Of note, the path would have less noise and pollution than the painted bike lane on the north side.
Travel Times
Besides safety, a major advantage of a separated path is that most cyclists would not have to stop at the St. Andrews Ave and 3rd intersections. This decreases travel time and effort and, perhaps more importantly, increases the predictability of travel times.
3rd intersection
The 3rd intersection in particular looks problematic for cyclists:
 - The intersection is rather long and thus it will take cyclists and motorists a long time to clear intersection. There is a good chance that even fast cyclists entering at end of green phase could get stuck in intersection facing nearing head on traffic. 
- Also drivers running reds will pose a threat particularly due to the long intersection clearing time
- Westbound cyclists must cross lane of traffic with no signalization
Spirit Trail
While the high level Spirit Trial route is a nice walk, jog or cycle and serves some trips well, a path along the Low Level Road has several advantages:
- The Low Level Road is much flatter. The hills on the trail both increase effort as well as decrease safety by increasing cyclist speed and thus the chance and severity of collisions with pedestrians and other cyclists;
- The Spirit Trial does not connect conveniently with Main Street;
- The Low Level Road is lit. The Spirit Trial is not. Thus for a significant part of the year, the Low Level Road will be much better for commuting;
- In icy conditions, the lower grades of the Low Level road will make it much safer. As well, the Low Level Road is much more exposed to sunlight that can help melt the icy;
Painted Bike Lanes Collect Debris
Debris and tends to collect on bike lanes requiring frequent sweeping. If not, the usable area of the lane decreases forcing cyclists dangerous close to traffic. Separated paths typically require much less sweeping.
Separated Paths are Drier in the Rain
All the rain that falls on the road flows over bike lanes making them very wet to ride on and icier if it freezes. Well designed separated paths are significantly drier.
Other Projects
Other road improvement projects around the region are providing much better cycling and pedestrian facilities.

King Edward Overpass
The new King Edward Overpass over Highway 1 in Coquitlam, has a shared pedestrian and bicycle path on one side and painted bike lanes on both sides.
Powell Street Overpass
The Powell Street Overpass, a similar project along the Port in Vancouver, has sidewalks on both sides and a separated bike path.

New Highway 1 Overpasses in Burnaby
The new Kensington and Willingdon Overpasses across Highway 1 in Burnaby have shared paths, allowing two-way cycling, on one side with bike lanes on the other.
Emergency vehicles
Regarding emergency vehicles, the path could have a curbs that emergency vehicles can mount so they can use the path if they needed to get passed an obstruction in the road. Sidewalks and paths are separated from traffic by curbs all over the region and there doesn’t seem to be much of a problem of vehicles crashing onto pedestrians on the sidewalks.
A collision that blocks the street with only two lanes of traffic will likely block the street even if there are bike lanes. Collisions close roads with far more lanes of traffic around the region.
In conclusion, the BCCC strongly recommends a separated 4.5 metre path on the south side of the new Low Level Road.
Richard Campbell
British Columbia Cycling Coalition

This entry was posted in Campaigns, Metro Vancouver.