Archive for the ‘COB’ Category

Green streets – Kelowna’s first.

April 4, 2008

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As mentioned in an earlier post, green streets are regular streets modified to make them more attractive, inviting, and safe for non motorized traffic. Kelowna has none now but is considering one for the next year.

The first phase of the rails with trails (Gordon to Spall) has problems. For some reason there was little thought given to accessing each end. On the Gordon end, there is a distinct need to tie into the downtown/waterfront area and on the Spall end there is a need to tie it into the bike lanes on Enterprise and paths to Parkinson Rec. Centre.

The City is now looking at using Cawston from near Gordon towards the waterfront as the main access to that end of the Rails with Trails. Since cycling and pedestrian traffic in that area is likely to increase substantially once the Rails with Trails is open this spring, they recognize that changes must be made to Cawston.

Please note that the above sketch may not be the actual route – it gives an idea of the area however. Also the right hand side of the street labeled “Clement” is now the Central Okanagan Bypass. Other possibilities include the use of Pheasant Ave. or the small street at it’s north end.

Initial plans are to convert Cawston into a “green street”, using various traffic calming measures and pedestrian/cyclist operated crossing lights to make the route safe and enjoyable. As far as I know the route will tie in with the crossing at Wilson and Gordon as there is a traffic light controlled crossing of Gordon at that point.

Another point of interest is that most of that area of Cawston is a regular bus route. Combining a green street with a bus route definitely limits the amount of traffic calming measures available.

I believe that Wilson would be the better choice as there is no bus route, it is already a pleasant route (more trees), and it ties directly with the light controlled cross walk across Gordon. There is a development planned for the area along Gordon near Cawston and this may have had an impact on the route chosen.

I wish the City the best in this endeavor and hope that the route gives priority to non motorized traffic rather than becoming just another motor vehicle route with a few minor changes to make it appear green. This is a real opportunity to set the stage for future streets and thus it is very important that it be done properly.

John.

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Bike infrastructure – expensive??

January 7, 2008

It seems that whenever there is a City of Kelowna “grand opening” of a cycling or pedestrian facility two things are mentioned:

– that the City is a leader in having 230 km (?) of cycle paths along city streets

– that the new path or facility, has been tremendously expensive.

An example of this was the official sod turning in late fall (2007) for the  first portion of the Rails with Trails.  The mayor and others publicly stated that the City and Province had paid $2 million for the right of way in a cost sharing agreement.  Ron Westlake once again mentioned the 230 km. of bike lanes (I tend to turn off a bit at this point so may have this figure wrong).

Not long after that I was reminded by Councillor Letnick (in a public meeting) of the $2 million cost of the first phase of the Rails with Trails.  In reponse I reminded him that the nearby “Central Okanagan Bypass” was likely a good bit more expensive.   For some reason these officials never have the costs of the COB (or other motor vehicle infrastructure) at hand when asked.

Another example is the “flyover” to the UBCO campus.  The total cost was estimated at between $9 and $11 million (depending on the source of the information).  A small portion – likely under $500,000 – may eventually be spent for a cycling/pedestrian path to allow people to get to the campus under their own power.  Of course most of this has not been spent because the Dept. of Transportation is still “working on it”.

The above figures indicate that approximately 5% of the budget for the flyover is for non motor vehicle facilities – interesting isn’t it that cyclists and pedestrians are so expensive.

A recent news article quoted councillor Day.  He stated that the cost of one motor vehicle parking spot downtown is $30,000.  His comment was in relation to the application by a downtown casino to expand, reducing parking by several spots.  I have no idea where he got the $30,000 figure from and don’t know if it is accurate – it certainly gives one room for thought however.

How many bikes can be parked in the space reserved for one motor vehicle?   How many bike paths can we build for the cost of one road?  Is it fair to have cyclists, pedestrians and other non motor vehicle (or low motor vehicle) use people subsidize motor vehicle infrastructure – much of it taken up by single occupancy vehicles?

If we add the environmental and social costs of road building to the financial costs then the total cost is very high indeed.  If this is done then cycling and pedestrian facilities begin to look inexpensive at any financial cost.

John.

Rails with Trails – recent critism and other options.

December 28, 2007

In today’s Capital News, Judie Steeves mentions a number of pluses and minuses for the environment, in a review of 2007. Near the end she comments, “However, concrete and pavement provided the bad news, with plans for paving over a wetland along Mill Creek for a 40 metre wide bicycle corridor. Ironic, isn’t it.”

The “40 metres” is a misprint – I believe it should be 4 metres. She is correct that it is being built on a wetland area.

I have a lot of respect for Judie as she is one of the few people in the Okanagan who state their mind about the environment. To most the environment is simply free for their use. Since there are seldom any economic costs to abusing the environment, use what you want and to hell with the consequences. Judie regularly brings to our attention that this attitude is causing more and more trouble for us as time goes on.

I cannot recall her columns for previous years but hope that she reflected that the 4 lane highway on the other side of the tracks is a bigger source of environmental problems than the pedestrian/cycling trail will ever be.

I feel that the corridor along the tracks should be developed differently, concentrating on light rail transit and pedestrian/cycling path(s) and not the highway that is now blighting that area. This would have avoided much of the “necessity” for new construction near or on wetlands. In fact this was the general approach taken by Councillor Rule at hearings earlier this year (regarding constructing the COB north of Spall).

My rational for the above is that we already have a number of major routes running South to North in the Valley – Springfield, Hwy 97, Enterprise and Glenmore Roads among others. All are busy enough to severely disrupt non motorized life in the valley and once built they took only a few years to fill to capacity. I am sure that nothing will change with the new (and misnamed) “Central Okanagan Bypass”. Once it is completed out to the Airport area, it will be filled within a few years – then what do we do? I suspect the next step is to make Glenmore 6 lanes from around Spall out to Lake Country. Once that is done we may not have room for many other routes. Is this intelligent? Is it progress? Or is it merely copying other cities that have screwed things up royally because they were not creative enough to find better solutions?

The argument against light rail transit is that it is too expensive. This is based solely on economics – it gives absolutely no dollar value to the diminished quality of life or damage to the environment (by highways and motor vehicle traffic). If these factors were taken into account it is likely that light rail would compete on a more equitable basis.

That’s my rant for today – Keep up the good work Judie.

John.

Update on Kelownabikes blog

November 15, 2007

Grant has turned over the blog to me for the time being. I plan to post three or so times per week. I would appreciate comments, ideas and corrections.

Phase I of the Rails with Trails:

A lot has been happening in Kelowna with regards to cycling, both good and bad. Looking at the good, the City has finally begun construction on the first phase of the Rails With Trails. It starts near Gordon Ave (the north end) and will finish at Spall Ave. There are plans to extend it all the way to the UBCO campus but I expect that will take a lo…..ng time. The City hopes to have phase I will be ready for use this spring.

UBCO cycling/pedestrian access:

I will briefly mention the UBCO/flyover access to the campus. I plan to cover the complete UBCO access situation over the next few posts.

In the late summer of 2006, reps from the UBCO and Kelowna cycling coalitions met at UBCO with representatives of the City of Kelowna and the Provincial Dept. of Transportation. UBCO was invited but did not attend. The flyover project (for automobiles) had been planned and construction was about to start. The cyclists (I was one of them) were concerned that there would be no safe cycling/pedestrian access too and from the campus to go along with improved automobile access. The cyclists pressed for an “optional” route to bypass the Ellison Overpass.

For any who have gone over that unpleasant piece of the provincial highways network you will know why a bypass is needed. Briefly, the north bound lane on the Ellision overpass has an extremely narrow shoulder, forcing cyclists to “share” the road with high speed automotive traffic.

The cyclists provided a written report to UBCO, the City and the Dept. of Transportation (the three flyover partners) outlining 4 possible bypass routes. As a result of the ensuing discussion, the three partners agreed to construct an optional route. Over a number of months, 12 different variations were explored and finally in the late summer of 2007 (after the automotive portion of the flyover was complete) option 12 was accepted by the three. The project manager from the Dept. of Transportation was very fair to the cyclist reps in that he kept them regularly updated on the plans and asked for input on the options being looked at.

Note: the cyclists asked for a widening of the Ellison overpass but this was not considered an option by the Dept. of Transportation. We were advised that the bypass was actually two structures and thus not ammenable to widening. There was also mention that the costs would be very high and that the flyover project was not able to include other issues in it’s agenda.

The current plan (option 12) involves a bicycle/pedestrian path from the north end of Adams Court across a piece of private property, along the rail way right of way and across the rail line to join the path recently constructed from the rail right of way to the south east corner of the UBCO campus.

There is the possibility of a big delay on this project. We had hoped this would be in place and in use by now. At the first meeting, in the summer of 2006, we advised the project manager that we were very concerned about the time it would take to obtain a rail crossing from CN. We felt that the railway(s) should be kept informed of any impact the route would have on their property in order to keep any delays to a minimum. Negotiations between the City of Kelowna and CN, for the first phase of Rails With Trails took years, and we did not want to see that happen in this situation.

It should be noted that the rail property is owned by CN Rail and leased from them by Kelowna Pacific Rail (KPR). I have done some research on this and the best information I can come up with is that crossings are mainly an issue for KPR, with a final approval by CN, whereas any parallel path on the rail right of way is an issue for CN. Thus the project manager must now negotiate the right of way use and crossing with both railways.

I have recently been advised that the application for right of way use and a crossing was received by CN on the 10th of October 2007. Interestingly enough, I had emailed the new project manager on the 3rd of October, asking for an update and in particular, a date for the completion of the optional route. The response was that CN was very difficult to get in touch with and thus the implication that they were causing the delay.

With the assistance of several staff at UBCO and a neighbor, I was able to get the names and contact information for people from KPR and CN. I forwarded that information to the project manager, hoping to facilitate the process and get things moving.

I have been informed today that negotiations are going well on the private property acquisition and that negotiations are going “slowly” with the railway companies.  Considering that the application was sent in very recently that is no surprise.

John.

Central Okanagan Bypass (Clement Ave.)

July 12, 2007

The City has recently put two vehicle lanes each way on the Gordon Dr. end of the Central Okanagan Bypass (COB). This is the new road that leads from Gordon to Spall along the CN tracks.

There will eventually be a dedicated bike/pedestrian route along the tracks and separate from the road. In the meantime the roadway between Gordon and High roads is not safe for cycling. To complicate things even further, High road is under construction from Mountain Ave., down to the COB.

The City Engineering Dept. initially advised that they would keep the east bound lane from Gordon to High road as one wide lane so that cyclists would be able to travel along it with traffic. They further advised that they would put signs at the bottom of High road indicating that cyclists should use the sidewalk to get from High Road to Gordon.

Neither of the above have taken place. City Engineering advised that vehicle traffic was building up and they had to complete marking of the two lanes or face backups. They now suggest that cyclists heading to Spall from Gordon Ave., turn east on Wilson, turn north east onto Orchard Drive, ride across the small park at the railroad end of Orchard
and then carry their bikes across the track across the curb and onto the bike lane on the COBP. The bike lane starts at High road, on the COB. Don’t try this route if you have difficulty carrying your bike up a moderate sand bank, across the tracks and down the other side. It is ok for most of us but out of the question for anyone with an e-bike.
Anyone with heavy bikes or e-bikes may wish to consider going to Spall by way of Springfield.

No suggestion was made about travelling from the area of High road to Gordon but here are two options. If you are travelling from the area of Glenmore Rd. and High Rd. and wish to go downtown you can still get through the construction area on High road as far as Mountain Ave. From there travel towards the lake on Mountain and turn left, down Cerise Dr.
to access the controlled crosswalk at the bottom of Cerise. This will allow you to cross the COB, and ride beside Bankhead School onto Wilson Ave. Wilson Ave. meets Gordon at a controlled intersection so it isn’t too bad crossing Gordon and heading downtown through one of the residential streets.

The other route is to also head towards the lake on Mountain from High Rd. Continue on Mountain and left onto Royal View Drive and then left on the short access road that goes across to Knox Mountain road. From here one can get into the North End and into downtown. You have a choice of riding on Royal View Drive or using the gravel path along it on the downhill side.

Note that High Road from Clifton Road down to Mountain is in pretty bad shape right now. The pavement is broken up and there is lots of gravel – be careful.

If you plan to ride from Spall along the COB the bike lane ends at High Road. Your only safe option is to take to the sidewalk. This is illegal but was suggested by the City engineering dept. (I have names if this is ever needed). Safe is better than legal in my opinion.

I haven’t seen any advertising by the City as to cycling routes in this area although there are many signs advising motorists of detours and the like.

Any other ideas for routes in this area would be welcome. The City should be tendering for the construction of the bike/pedestrian path along the tracks soon although I have doubts as to how much of it will be done this year.

John C. Suttie.

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