Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Active Transportation (Read as Bicycles)

Let me begin with this. I own a bike, I can ride it, I enjoy riding, and no John Gerard, I don't wear a helmet and you can't make me. (Actually in this Nanny State, if he ever comes into a position of any authority I'm sure he'll try). I believe in the "Build it and they will come" philosophy. I believe that bike counts would increase if good infrastructure was available to use, BUT read that last sentence again. I said GOOD.
What we see going on in Winnipeg is a lot of things... but it's not GOOD.
The Bishop Grandin Bike path.OK, this one looks like it makes sense. It's distinct and off the roadway, probably important during rush hour. Since bicycles are not allowed to pass stopped vehicles on the right, you wouldn't bother riding on Bishop Grandin during rush hour because you'd just be sucking in a lot of exhaust fumes, but look at this other crap we're "investing in".
Sherbrook, Assiniboine, some route through the North End, down town... I look at the lines on Princess and shake my head. This is what passes for a bike route?
My lovely wife and I had the glorious opportunity to travel Europe earlier this summer. I think in Europe they hire people to go out and actually THINK through the plans standing on the street, watching the dynamics of the traffic and how it works.
Consider Rome. A city that is fairly clean and beautiful except for the graffiti problems, they manage traffic with trams, buses, cars, scooters.... and a few goofs might attempt to use their bikes, but not many. The major traffic routes are just that. MAJOR TRAFFIC ROUTES. Old city walls with the original arches accepting lanes of traffic, trams, buses. This city doesn't have an abundance of space where it can grow an area by tearing things up. You tear something up and you remove the very fabric of the city. Bicycle paths are installed in areas where they make sense, where people will use them, and they are NOT installed where the public will simply ignore them. Maybe we're a long way from Rome, after all, we don't consider red lights optional. We'll move on to a "newer" city.
Cologne. Here's a place where people RIDE their bikes, and can do so safely for 10 or 11 months of the year, (Maybe even 12 depending on the snow fall) This place was pretty much levelled during the last great war (that they started) and rebuilt from scratch. Granted, they rebuilt everything just as it was, but they had the chance to add a few things like bike paths. Bridges specifically have two distinct areas for peds and cyclists, and there are NO barriers between the roadway and the active transportation lanes. (Shades of "I don't feel safe on Disralie, someone will get hurt") Pedestrian malls exist in a dynamic, healthy down town where the ground floor is mercantile and the top 2 or 3 floors are residential. People go there all day long to eat, drink, shop, work... it's idyllic, but it's NOT Winnipeg. I did not see a plethora of bikes, regardless of the nice weather, or the infrastructure. People there ride the bus, take the train, or a tram. Bikes co-exist with pedestrians, but it's risky.
In Berlin (also devastated during the war) I was caught walking on the sidewalk, but on the area of red/pink asphalt. I was "belled" at a few times. That's where the bikes are. Cyclists are still able to use the roadway, but can choose to ride on the protected,dedicated areas of the SIDEWALK. What I did notice is that people there OBEY the traffic laws. Perhaps the peaceful co-existence is about the respect you are given when you approach a red light and actually STOP and wait. Maybe the cyclist who is on the sidewalk stopping when there is a red light indicating you may not cross and doesn't helps foster the sort of tolerance we don't have here.
The crem de la crem for bikes is Amsterdam. Three level parking garages, literally thousands of bikes at the train station, dedicated paths, dedicated lights, dedicated riders. Everyone here owns a few bikes, most of which are what I'd consider "crap". NO ONE is making good time here on a bike. The BTTF crowd with their tight shorts and tops, shaved legs and aero dynamic helmets are not welcome in Amsterdam. They'd probably take your fancy bike and pitch it into the canal. Your kind of thinking is NOT what makes it work in Amsterdam. What makes it work is that there is no parking, the close proximity of everything you need within a 5 minute ride, and NO SNOW for 4 months of the year.
I am SO SICK AND TIRED of these clown on bikes in December trying to ride in the rut of snow. I have to pass this clown on slippery, narrow lanes only to have the jerk pass me on the right at the next light again (Illegally). Now I need to go through this spiel again!? No sir, I pull as far to the right as I can... you are NOT going to have this easy... but the clown goes around me on the left, or up onto the sidewalk for a stretch and then back onto the street after crossing in the cross walk against the red. This is COMMON PLACE and no one does anything about it.
"What's you point boy? Wrap it up... You're , I say, you're ramblin, son'" (In my best Foghorn Leghorn)
The infrastructure that leads to the actual USE of the bike routes is well considered. It was planned out over years and executed in a way that makes sense. It's "intuitive". In Winnipeg, we have some guy sent out with a spray can to mark lines on the road before the construction crew shows up... and he and his buddy are pacing off things with strides instead of a measuring device. In the rush to spend "stimulus money", we do a shitty job, because we're in a rush. Well I don't think this is much different than a renovation. You had better spend some time planning it out, because if you start making it up on the fly, changing as you go, you will screw it up, and it'll cost you either money to fix it, or you'll have less of a result than you could have had for the same amount of money... or less.
The people planning these things have likely never spent enough time in a city where there is snow for 4 months and where trey are not blessed with a vast amount of extra space to expand the active transportation routes to even have a clue as to how this whole thing might work.  I know this because of what I see. It all makes NO SENSE. We blew $20 million (plus) and end up with something most people won't use.
Good job.


  1. First of all, I couldn't agree more. All your points are excellent. The twenty million would have been more wisely spent on public transport. Your point about the spandex wearers is to true. I live on Henderson Hwy. past the perimeter and these tights wearing morons ride in the traffic lane, and not on the perfectly good paved shoulder! They sometimes ride three abreast in order to have a conversation! We call them the bike Nazi's because that is the attitude they seem to have! The locals who ride bikes around here have enough sense to hug the shoulder. We have nothing but contempt for the spandex assholes!

  2. Welcome Einstein. Thanks for stopping in and adding your two cents.