Thursday, June 14, 2012

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, 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

Friday, June 8, 2012

Proposed ICBC Changes Could Improve Safety

ICBC is proposing to change the way it calculates insurance premiums.  These changes could very likely make the roads safer for everyone including cyclists. Anyone can make a submission on-line at:  The deadline is June 22, 2012.

As in the end, this is likely to be a political decision, it never hurts to send comments to Premiere Clark and your MLA as well.

From Tannis Braithwaite:

The proposed change is intended to be revenue neutral, and to better align premium with risk in individual cases.  Structurally, it's a switch from "vehicle-based" insurance to "driver-based" insurance.  Under the current "vehicle-based” system crash history follows the insured vehicle.  So, for example, if "A" crashes "B's" car, the crash is recorded against "B's" insurance.  If "A" has had a bunch of crashes in one vehicle and then insures a second vehicle, the second vehicle is insured at a rate reflecting zero crashes.  Under a driver-based system, "A's" crash history would follow "A".  In either system, vehicles/drivers are only penalized for “at fault” crashes, which ICBC defines as having been at least 25% at fault in a collision.
Statistically, if you crash your car, you are much more likely to have a second crash within the next year than is someone who didn't have the first crash.  Insurance premiums go up after a crash, not because the insurance company is trying to recover past losses, but because you are more likely to cost them again in the subsequent policy year. 

Factors that predict your crash risk
ICBC is prohibited from considering age, sex, race or any other prohibited ground of discrimination in determining crash risk.  The factors they do/propose to use for determining premiums in the new system are:

Driving Experience
The likelihood of having a crash decreases dramatically with each year of driving experience for the first 5 years, continues to decrease a fair bit over each of the next five years, and continues to decreases a little bit for each additional year of experience….forever.  The current system recognizes the number of years of crash-free driving, but doesn’t recognize that a person with more years of driving experience is less likely to crash than a person with an equivalent crash history but fewer years of driving experience.  According to ICBC, experience isn’t just a stand-in for age.  Even if you don’t start driving until you are older, you are more likely to have a crash in the first several years of driving than you are with more years of experience.  ICBC proposes to recognize years of driving experience, not just years of crash-free driving experience.  ICBC wants feedback on how often premiums should be adjusted to reflect driving experience.

Number of Past Crashes
The more crashes you have had in the past and the more recently you've had them, the more crashes you are likely to have in the future.  It takes 15 years for the statistical effect of a single crash to wear off completely.  So, for example, someone who had a single crash 9 years ago is still 15% more likely to have a second crash in the current policy year than is someone who has never had a crash.  The current system recognizes the effect of a previous crash for only 3 years.  ICBC proposes to extend the number of years that a crash will continue to count in calculating your insurance premium to up to 15 years.  They want feedback on how long you think crash history should count for.  ICBC is also considering a system that also weights more recent crashes more heavily than crashes that occurred longer ago, which is in keeping with statistical risk.  But, ICBC thinks this might be too hard for people to understand(!??)  Surely it’s not.

No More Free Crashes
ICBC currently has a policy of giving drivers one "free" crash after 12 years of crash-free driving.  A person with a very long term crash-free record can have up to 3 crashes in quick succession with no impact on premium.  There is no good rationale underlying this policy.  Statistically, if you have a single crash, you are 40% more likely to have a second crash in the policy year than someone who didn't have the first crash, and this is true even if you’ve previously had a long period of crash-free driving.  ICBC proposes either getting rid of the free-crash policy or offering an opt-out option in exchange for a premium reduction.  And, of course, there's really no such thing as a "free" crash, since the $$ have to come from somewhere.  Failing to penalize a driver for having a crash means penalizing drivers that don't have crashes.

Other Driver Crashes
About 20% of crashes are by drivers other than the registered owner/principal driver of the at-fault vehicle.  Under the current system, the vehicle owner pays the increased premiums regardless of whether they were driving at the time of the crash.  Under a driver-based system, the crash would follow the driver rather than the vehicle.  The problem for ICBC is that not all crash-causing drivers have an insured vehicle, so they need to work out how to collect from uninsured drivers who crash.  Three options that have been proposed to deal with this problem are: spread the cost of the uninsured driver across all insured drivers, continue charging the cost against the vehicle owner, or send a bill for $500 to the crash causer and then try to collect.  Personally, I think ICBC can come up with something better, like maybe true driver based insurance where you have to be insured to drive.  Just not sure how this would be enforced.  Also, most "other driver" crashes are by members of the same household, e.g., child driving parent's car, so this may affect the best options for enforcement.

Driving Violations
Driving violations are a strong statistical indicator of crash risk.  ICBC tried to introduce driving violations into its assessment of crash risk a couple of years ago, but was prohibited from doing so by the Provincial government (call it, the leading edge of the tsunami of political interference in regulated utilities that we've seen lately).  Now, they are trying again, but this time proposing to limit consideration of driving violations to the most serious ones, such as, impaired driving and street racing.  Again, there is no reason for basing crash risk on only the most serious driving violations.  Statistically, every driving violation correlates with higher crash risk, and there is no reason why lower risk drivers should be subsidizing higher risk drivers.    This is especially true when you consider how many un-ticketed driving violations occur and the police focus on the most egregious ones.  Also, it seems to me that including all driving violations in the assessment of crash risk is a good way to provide drivers with an incentive to follow the rules of the road.  ICBC just needs to spin this issue better next time, and they really need to hear that the public supports the use of driving violations in calculating insurance premiums.

Some things that came up in discussion
  • Giving credit for higher levels of driver training, similar to discounts that can be obtained on fleet insurance for organizations implementing safe driver programs
  • Relationship between distance driven and crash-risk. Proposal for distance-based insurance and better availability of alternative types of insurance such as temporary or occasional coverage.
  • The system doesn't include any impact to premiums based on the severity of the crash.  There must be correlations or indicators of severe crash risk, such as high risk driving violations, or past crash history that help to predict the risk of a severe crash.
  • Insurance brokers don’t want the system to be too complicated to explain to people, or to take too much risk in people not understanding or not being told the right thing.
  • BC has a very low % of uninsured drivers compared to other jurisdictions.  We need to consider whether there is a tipping point where high risk drivers just stop insuring their vehicles in large numbers.
  • It’s good to have incentives that prevent owners from loaning their vehicles to high risk drivers (re other driver crashes).
  • Driving records are at the heart of driver-based insurance and all violations should be considered, though not weighted equally.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Founding Meeting of a National Cycling Organization - June 25

For the past three years cycling association leaders and professionals across Canada have been engaged in a consensus process leading to the formation of a National Cycling Organization to represent cycling activities such as commuting, touring and recreation.

The purpose of this not-for-profit and non-partisan organization includes working with federal and national agencies to advance a national cycling strategy and to develop new funding sources for infrastructure and programs - with local and regional groups - to significantly increase support for cycling organizations and initiatives throughout Canada.

Other potential services include sharing of information and expertise, co-ordinating local and regional proposals, increasing public cycling capacity and progressive policies and guidelines.

The post on the last Federal Election outlining some of the national issues and opportunities remains one of the most popular indicating strong interest.

On behalf of this new national group the British Columbia Cycling Coalition is hosting a half-day founding national meeting scheduled from:

8:00 am to 12:00 pm, June 25, 2012,
in the Port McNeil Room, 4th floor, North Tower of the Wall Centre,
1088 Burrard Street, Vancouver, BC.

The meeting is in conjunction with the Velo-city Global 2012 international cycling conference.

Cycling advocates, experts and practitioners are invited to attend or call in. We are expecting representatives from cycling organizations, industry and government. Conference call-in capability will be provided - details to follow.

Please RSVP at: