Archive for the ‘Combined transportation’ Category

Are we facing higher gas prices soon?

April 25, 2008

I won’t make any pretence at predicting gas (and oil) prices. However, Jeff Rubin, an economist with the CIBC has made accurate predictions in the past and is now predicting that gas will increase to $2.25 per litre over the next four years. If this happens, you can imaging the effect on the economy and people’s driving habits. It might even lead to more people on bikes.

The article can be found here:

http://www.financialpost.com/story.html?id=469426

There is a big concentration on bio fuels now, with western governments putting huge emphasis (and subsidies) towards the production of ethanol and bio diesel. Predictably, when food products (grains and vegetable oils) are used to fill our gas tanks, the cost of food goes up. Recent increases in the price of flour, oils, rice and the like are due in part to the increasing production of bio fuels. For this reason I am hesitant to believe that bio fuels will “solve” our gas price problems although the moral implications of this don’t seem to be on the radar screen for those of us in the West.

This is a lot of doom and gloom but there are solutions. None of them are rocket science. Here are a few ways to reduce our “mortgage payments” to the gas companies:

– plan trips – this can make a major reduction in use of a vehicle. Get groceries and other goods all at one time. Pick up big bulky items when using the car so that small items can be carried on foot or on the bike.

– use an electric bike (scooter style) for local trips (easily used 8 months a year) to pick up groceries and get around when cycling isn’t attractive.

– use a bicycle and walk as much as possible for shorter trips and when this isn’t practical use transit and share rides with others.

– Kelowna does not have a car share program – maybe it is time for a few concerned people to get together to form one.

– consider getting rid of the car and renting one when needed. It may seem an expensive option but add up the yearly costs of ownership and it can amount to a considerable number of weekend rentals. We found that we coped quite well when the car wasn’t insured – when it sits in the driveway ready for use it is amazing the number of short (and generally unnecessary) trips that can be justified.

– when looking at a new car choose the smallest most fuel efficient vehicle that will do the job. We use a utility trailer and that negates the need for a pickup or larger vehicle.

– if moving, choose a location close to services, schools and jobs. If gas prices continue to climb, out of the way properties are likely to take a price hit as the market for these properties will be reduced to those who can afford higher and unpredictable gas prices.

John.

Toronto – possible transit strike

April 21, 2008

Bike shops in some areas of Toronto are sold out as people are looking for alternatives to transit for this morning. A website has tips for getting around and information to help novice commuters use a bike to get to work. You can find it here:

http://bikingtoronto.com/bikethestrike/

Interesting that cycling can be a handy skill even for those who in the past may have had no interest. One can always hope that if the strike goes ahead there will be an increase in the numbers of bike commuters afterwards.

The above website would be an excellent model for the Kelowna and Area Cycling Coalition (KACC) to use for one of it’s own.

John.

Bike signs – McCurdy Road

April 8, 2008

We ended up riding on McCurdy road twice in the last week. I noticed one of Kelowna’s few bike signs at the location seen above, about midway between Rutland Rd. and Hollywood Rd., seen here looking towards Hwy 97. There are sidewalks both sides of the road and the one on the north side (seen above) is wider in most places than the one on the left. The Kelowna Bike Map designates it as a shared bike/pedestrian path but you can’t tell from the one sign that is posted. Also at some parts of the path, hedges and other growth have narrowed the path down to regular sidewalk width.

It is an offence under the Provincial Motor Vehicle Act to ride a bicycle on a sidewalk. Exceptions can be designated. Cyclists can be forgiven for not riding on this path since there are no indications that it is a shared use facility. Not everyone refers to the Kelowna bike map when they are out riding.

The other aspect is that if the path is meant for both bikes and pedestrians, is it meant for two way travel?

This is common to almost every shared path within Kelowna. There are no signs indicating that bikes are allowed (and indeed welcome) and there is no indication that electric bikes, electric wheelchairs and electric four wheeled scooters (the ones quite commonly used by seniors) are allowed or have even been considered by the City.

There is a huge difference between Kelowna’s lack of bike signs and that of Nanaimo. Nanaimo has signs all through town, many are on posts indicating not only bike lanes and routes but also where routes will take you and other routes to which they join. Others are on the pavement including left turn bike lanes on the right side of car lanes, just before intersections. I was not familiar with a many parts of Nanaimo but found that going strictly by their bike signs and a general idea of the town, I could get easily get around. This plethora of signs gives cyclists similar consideration to motor vehicle operators as far as navigation and safe routes.

Imagine if we took all of the direction signs off our local streets and highways, leaving only speed signs. Can you imagine the outcry of motorists and our local businesses. That situation is faced by local cyclists.

At the risk of repeating myself, it is time the City realized that signs give legitimacy to cycling – they tell motorists, pedestrians and cyclists that biking is regarded as an important part of our transportation network and not just a funny looking conveyance used by the economically challenged “underclass”.

John.

Protection Island

April 1, 2008

new_000091.jpg

A week or so ago we were visiting in Nanaimo and heard about Protection Island. Actually I was told it was a place I would enjoy as there were few motor vehicles on the island.

One afternoon we took a small passenger ferry across from Nanaimo harbour to the island – about a 10 min. ride. The ferry holds about 35 people and has bike racks for 4 bikes. See the photo above.

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The ferry docks next to the pub/restaurant on the island and it is a short walk up to the road network on the island. The second photo (above) is taken at the area just up from the dock. You can see Nanaimo in the background. There were several motor vehicles parked there but mainly there were bikes, some with trailers and several electric golf carts.

The road network is made up of gravel roads and quite a few walking paths. A resident told us that there are about 300 permanent residents on the island plus quite a few who have vacation cottages. The residents have rejected paved and improved roads, liking it the way it is. In effect, the narrow gravel roads provide natural traffic calming.

It was great walking around the island. We passed quite a few pedestrians, some obviously bringing groceries (and beer) home on foot and a few driving quiet golf carts at low rates of speed. Most people walked in the middle of the road and when we were passed by one motor vehicle, the driver was very careful, drove slowly and gave a wave when we moved over.

It would appear that the owners of the few motor vehicles on the island are known and it would be quite foolish for them to drive idiotically.

Most of the houses are fairly small and most do not have huge garages beside them or taking up space in the building. More often than not, the houses had a number of bikes parked beside them and of course there were quite a few golf carts.

We didn’t see any locked up bikes – after all anyone taking a bike can’t go very far.

All in all a very rare and enjoyable environment where the motor vehicle does not rule and people are welcome on the streets.

John.

Green Streets

March 26, 2008

The Tyee has a great article on getting rid of a few parking spots to make our streets more attractive. You can find it here:

http://thetyee.ca/Views/2008/03/26/GreenStreets/

The author, Ruben Anderson, makes the point that public on street parking is a huge subsidy to drivers – stating that each public spot on a street in Vancouver is worth $25,000.

Adding small gardens to streets is a great idea to unite cyclists, gardeners and pedestrians. Too often these groups are working by themselves and are pushed aside for the “rights of the motoring public”. Perhaps these groups working together, with residents of streets who are tired of fast traffic and car centric planning could make some changes to our streets to make them more productive (see article for mention of food production), attractive and people friendly.

John.

Update

March 25, 2008

We have just arrived home from Nanaimo, being there about 12 days. Took the bikes with us (in pieces in the trunk of a small car) and got in some pretty good rides. Nanaimo has gone all out with off road paved bike/pedestrian paths. They aren’t perfect and some of the intersections of the path with industrial roads are just like Kelowna – pickup trucks driven at high speed by drivers who have forgotten every lesson they learned when they got their licence (eg. pedestrians have the right of way at crosswalks).

I will comment further in future posts – for now we have to get sorted out and get our lives back to normal. I am currently in the process of applying to the City for a plumbing permit to install my own hot water solar system so this may take some time.

John.

Carless in Kelowna – further update.

March 22, 2008

We managed quite easily to go without the car for just under a month (Feb. 16th to March 13th). This has saved us money for insurance, fuel and maintenance and has had an impact on our fitness. It was certainly not a big deal and resulted in better trip and meal planning. We needed the vehicle for a trip so had to insure it.

It has made us aware that even though we live fairly close to a few services, our city is too spread out and has few services close to where most of us live. Most people won’t walk more than a few blocks (in fact most drive 100 to 300 feet to get to their neighborhood mail box).

We also became more aware that transit service is pretty decent during business hours during the week but is lousy in the evenings and not much better on weekends.

As long as the City lets developers create more sprawl and does not ensure that nearby services are provided such as grocery and drug stores, we will remain the capital of the “single occupancy vehicle”. This attitude is very expensive (ie the triple bottom line – monetarily, environmentally and socially). It requires more and bigger roads, more paved parking lots, creates more congestion with it’s attendant pollution and GHG production and makes our city less friendly and beautiful. Must we “pave over paradise? When will we wake up?

John.

Moving by Bike

March 18, 2008

I received an email from a Kelowna resident a short time ago. He recently did a move from the downtown area to another residence near the college, all by bike. He suggested that doing so at night worked well as the Abbot St. corridor was very quiet.

There are a few websites mentioned “bike moves” and as I recall a few have been done in Toronto – at least one in a few inches of snow.

He did the move with his bike and trailer and offered to assist if anyone else was planning to do the same in future. He also suggested that such a move(s) would be great publicity for cycling in our area – perhaps an idea for the cycling coalition.

If anyone out there has a small household and is planning to move, keep this in mind. Send in a comment and I will post it on this blog to see if a few dedicated cyclists are interested in helping out. Please don’t expect us to help move your grand piano however!

Thanks Keith.

John.

Green Streets

March 16, 2008

A big problem in built up areas is developing rights of way for bike lanes, sidewalks and the like. As mentioned before and likely to be mentioned in the future, our cities have been built with cars given priority, and other means of transportation far down the list. It would seem that we should give priority to “transportation of people” rather than transportation of motor vehicles but that is not usually the case in N. America.

There are other reasons for green streets other than transportation. Some are put in to beautify streets and others to reduce problems from rain runoff. The topic here however is for alternative transportation.

Green streets are an effective and low cost method of encouraging cycling and walking. The City of Vancouver, Portland, Oregon and other jurisdictions have developed such streets. The general idea is to take an existing street and redesign it to discourage motor vehicle traffic (not eliminate it) and to slow it down. Usually vehicle parking is left in place but it may be somewhat restricted, depending on the situation. This is generally done on quieter residential streets and a variety of methods and designs can be used such as:

– speed bumps – not always the best.

– narrowing streets with curbs out into the lane of traffic – there is one of these on Mountain Ave. between High Rd. and Glenmore Road – sometimes called “corner bulges” (in a typical green street these bump outs would be developed into small gardens, not covered in concrete.)

– installing circles in the middle of uncontrolled intersections which cause vehicles to slow to go around them.

– allowing bicycles to go through on a street but putting in right turn lanes, causing motor vehicles to turn right.

– lots of cycling, walking and green street signs and crosswalks to let motorists know that these areas give priority to the non driving public.

The reason they are called “green streets” is that efforts are usually taken to add small gardens in the areas narrowed and inside the traffic circles in the middle of intersections. These gardens are usually offered to nearby residents to maintain – Vancouver does this and has small signs showing whether the garden has been adopted or if it is up for adoption.

Some of the effects of green streets:

– slower vehicle traffic and quieter streets.

– more people walking and cycling in the area – thus more people friendly.

– higher property values due to less vehicle noise, more greenery, and people friendly atmosphere.

– gives local residents a bit more garden space and a chance to make their area look better.

– relatively inexpensive method of creating alternate transportation corridors. Considering that the City is quite stingy with their bike and pedestrian monies, this is a big advantage. These projects can also be done in stages and quite quickly if desired.

These alternative transportation corridors are usually situated every few streets – as an example in Kelowna, two or three could be located running roughly east-west between Harvey Ave. and Clement Ave. Another three or four could be located between the lake and Spall Ave. running north-south.

More on green streets along with some photos, at a later date. Suffice to say that the City is considering a trial project in the near future – a great move and one that is to be encouraged.

John.

Wrap up for the last couple of weeks

March 13, 2008

A few things that need follow up:

I have emailed the transportation dept of the City asking for further details on the claim that 1 in 7 Kelowna residents commute by bike – no answer to date.

An item that I noticed in HomePower magazine indicates that 1 gallon US (3.785 litres) of gas stores 31,000 kcal. The average man burns about 2500 kcal per day and traveling 10 km on a bike would use about 250 kcal (really rough estimate but it gives you the idea). If he used his motor vehicle to travel the same distance he would use the following caloric amounts of gasoline:

24 mpg (Imp) 11.76 litres / 100 km 10,849 kcal appr. 4 days food

36 mpg (Imp) 7.84 litres / 100 km 7,233 kcal appr. 3 days food

48 mpg (Imp) 5.88 litres / 100 km 5424 kcal appr. 2 days food

Keep in mind that it is a rare vehicle that gets even 30 mpg when started cold and driven a short distance.

A bicycle is quite efficient and if you consider the above calories needed to get a loaf of bread with your car (which you can just as easily do with a bike), what a waste of energy.

One other thing to consider here is that governments in N. America and Europe are really pushing bio fuels. This sounds great but there are some major problems. Food prices, particularly grains and corn, are going through the roof because we are beginning to burn food in our gas tanks. Conversion of grains and corn into bio diesel and ethanol are very inefficient and over time will lead to huge soil problems to say nothing about taking food out of the mouths of the poor to feed the gas tanks of the rich (thats most of us by the way).

I also noticed an article mentioning that in Toronto 1% of commuters biked to work, 4.8% walked, 22% took transit and 71.1% drove. Not that different than Kelowna (unless we take the 1 in 7 figure seriously) except that transit use is much higher in Toronto. You can find the article here:

Toronto commuting

John.