Safety, no compromising

Kelowna has the stated goal of increasing the number of trips taken by foot or by bicycle to 25 per cent over the next 20 years.

In addition, the city wants to reduce the rate of collisions by 50 per cent. These goals are taken from the Pedestrian and Bicycle Master Plan that was accepted by city council in 2016.

We’re not the only ones who are working to reach goals like these, and we’re not the ones who are on the forefront of having the solutions.

The Netherlands has already reached these goals. Vancouver has increased their mode share amazingly in the last 10 years.

Here are the guidelines for separated paths that have made it possible.

  • Self educating/enforcing design – it runs with traffic, such that drivers can see you and are indeed looking for you, as opposed to being surprised by you (off side approaches); this is the recommended and safest design in the Dutch Bicycle Design Manual
  • Smooth curb crossings – so your butt and body are not jarred, so that kids and seniors don’t fall/crash/hurt themselves by traditional ‘rollover’ curbs
  • Wide enough for 2 x 2 riding and passing like the Dutch do, minimum 1.8 metres (6 feet), same width as a good sidewalk
  • Colour differentiated (or texture; but pigment in the asphalt mix fixes colour forever) from the sidewalk so folks know when they are approaching it, crossing it, and on it, and, cyclists know where they are supposed to be.
  • Protected intersections, ideally via properly designed roundabouts with appropriate bike/ped refuge islands, no traffic signals that cause unnecessary delays to everyone, and make you stop/dismount off your bike (increasing risk of falling for seniors) even when no one is coming in the other direction!
  • Year-round maintained – Swept off in fall (leaves) and winter (snow) and spring (grit/sand);
  • Setback from the curb so that trees can be planted for ambiance, shade, and carbon sinks; street lights for night; traffic signs for control; and cyclists are not doored by parked cars nor buffeted/sprayed by passing traffic.
  • Designed by cyclists, and with all cyclists in mind – first timers (kids, immigrants, tourists, novices), regulars (commuters, shoppers, students), families and seniors; fast and slow; timid and expert – such that it can attract more cycling to address obesity, mental illness, accessibility, and other community health issues.
  • Uncompromising when it comes to safety – not budget focused, but instead focused on the safety of its most vulnerable users – the human body on the bicycle. 

People rely on engineers to do the right thing and put their safety first. We have done it for years in proper road design, we must do the same for cycling design; learn from the best designers in the world.

If we settle for “better than what we have,” we will never reach the goals we set out because it will not make people feel as safe as possible.

The Ethel ATC has shown an increase year after year for cycling traffic, and that section has many aspects that don’t meet the requirements listed above.

Just imagine the people that will choose active transportation when we build the right infrastructure.

And the wheels roll on

Seems to me that "Go by Bike Week" is a good time to restart this column.

What better way to start that conversation than to help promote the healthiest week of the year?

Next week, thousands of people will make a concerted effort to ride the roads on two-wheeled creations that date back to 1817, riding into the future on the back of history.

Yes, Bike to Work Week has been rebranded to be more inclusive.

These days, when things seem to want to divide people into more groups the bicycle is working to bring people together.

Recently, I watched the documentary Why We Cycle at the Rotary Centre for the Arts.

Premiered in Kelowna by the Vancouver-based Modacity, this show presented the Dutch point-of-view on cycling.

The biggest takeaway from it was how many times they said that choosing to cycle was a “choice,” but was just the first thing that comes to mind.

This is the purpose of “Go By Bike Week,” to start getting the idea into our heads that there are many modes of transportation and we can pick the best one for our current trip.

Starting May 28, the City of Kelowna and participating sponsors host celebration stations around the area to offer new and experienced people on bicycles the opportunity to connect, to win prizes, to get free snacks on their ride to their destination. 

Let’s run down some personal benefits of participating:

  • Cheaper than anything else, even more efficient than walking
  • Get a workout before your work starts, end the day with a boost of energy
  • Find out who your neighbours are, rejoin the community
  • Lower your stress levels, breathe fresh air and smell the flowers

At first glance, many people will balk at joining the cycling effort because it takes more time, you might need to change your clothes, or it requires more breakfast.

Persevering through what we perceive to be complications, people report being better prepared for the day, arriving to work with a smile on their faces, and just having more energy overall.

As I say each year, “try it, you’ll like it.”

If you haven’t heard the good news, the Okanagan Rail Trail is within $150,000 of its $7.8 million fundraising goal.

With three segments almost ready to ride on, this means we could have the whole length of it done by next year.

It’s been an amazing effort many of us will celebrate with a day trip up to Coldwater by bike.

Until it’s open, though, we can join them trail ambassadors for a food truck afternoon on June 2 at the intersection of High and Pheasant. 

Kelowna has the potential to be a real multi-modal city, but that might never happen unless we understand what it’s going to take and make the effort to get there.

In future articles I hope to help everyone understand what we have, what we could have, and what we need.

Thank you for taking the time to read this.

PS: have you ever gone to your car parked on the street and found the mirror knocked out of place? The windshield wipers pulled up? If this has happened you might take a closer look at where you parked.

I’ve found this to be the way people on foot or bike will let you know that you parked on the sidewalk or in a bike lane.

Obsessed with light

*Blink* *blink* *blink*

If you overtake me, day or night, the blinking red light is what you'll see.

If you're lucky enough to see me after dark you might catch me from the side and see a fancy pattern of stars or diamonds. 

From the front it will be a shining beacon of hope, bright white that will make you think the angels are appearing out of the heavens.

But as you get closer you'll just see it's me, making certain with my lights that you can judge my position and speed while we share the road.

There is a basket of lights at my house. More front lights of varying brightness. Rear lights from big to small with plenty of interesting patterns ready to blink for your attention.

Even bought an EL wire light that goes on the trailer and provides visibility for my groceries or my daughter.

A few years ago, the Kelowna Area Cycling Coalition put together a Light The Night campaign to help bring more awareness to making sure cyclists were thinking about their visibility when the sun goes down.

We all get a bit complacent during the summer with the late night sun and laid-back tourists.

We had the goal of getting more people thinking about lights on bicycles. 

Back in 2013, there was a study published that looked at the different types of "visibility" strategies that cyclists used, how far away they thought cars would be able to see them at, and how far they actually could be discerned from the streetscape.

The best finding that came out it was "if you bike more often, you tend to get a better sense of just how invisible you can be at night."

In essence, we, as cyclists, have to start with the assumption that we're invisible and then work up to being visible. 

Just like the other study that found drivers who have a bad attitude toward cyclists are more inclined to "not see" people on bicycles.

By promoting the use of lights, I don't want drivers to think that it's solely the responsibility of cyclists to keep themselves safe. This is the wrong position to take.

Car owners would have to think about lights too if their vehicles didn't come with safety features that automatically lit up their vehicles like Christmas trees.

Using lights is a matter of communication. Making certain that all road users have a good chance of noticing you is "best practices" because it fulfills the responsibility we have to others on the roads no matter the mode of transport.

If you're still undecided on the whole blinking versus solid light conundrum, don't worry, the jury is still out and the best advice is to run it the way that you feel most visible.

I use a blinking rear light while I have a combination front light that has a solid bright centre with some pulsing smaller lights around it.

  • Light clothing is better than dark clothing.
  • Fluorescent and reflective clothing is better than light clothing.
  • Lights are better than any clothing.
  • Bright blinky lights are the best of all. Find what makes you visible.

Just as drivers are classified as bozos for not remembering to turn on their lights after dark (hence the need for "automatic" lights as a safety feature in cars), as cyclists we should help brighten on the world after sunset or before sunrise.

Tis the season!

I'll continue answering people who tell me my light is on in broad daylight with, "Of course it is. You just saw me and that's what it's there for."


A child shall lead them

With school just around the corner, it seems appropriate to talk about the kids.

Too often, I’ve heard this answer when asking someone if their children ride: “I won’t let my kids ride their bikes around here, it’s not safe.”

My response is usually, “Do you ever ride with them?”

At this point, I usually get a blank stare.

Kids absorb what they see around them. Our obsession with driving and cars becomes the legacy they grow up with. We have to change this.

When the Pedestrian & Biking Master Plan was being shown publicly one of the members of the Kelowna Area Cycling Coalition asked the question, “Why can’t we use the measure of how many kids bike to school to gauge success?”

I thought that was an idea worth pursuing.

Studies have shown that kids aren’t getting enough activity. Can we use biking to fix this? Studies show that we can.

According to the plan that the city put together, there is a 20-year timeline set up to increase the number of trips under five kilometres.

Children in primary school will be adults in 20 years. If they start cycling now, when they are adults there is a much greater chance they will still be riding as adults.

Face it, we adults love cars because it extends our reach.

That is exactly the same reason that kids love bicycles. It changes a boring walk that would take forever into something easy and fun.

The other day, I suggested to my daughter that we ride our bikes to pick up some cat food. The response was less than keen. “I’m too tired.”

I cajoled and prodded, eventually we rolled our bikes out the door.

For the next hour we rode. I never heard her mention being tired again.

The new school year starts next week. The weather will be good. How many bikes will you see in the bike racks at school?

Schools can do any or all of three things:

  • provide crossing guards
  • provide bike racks
  • provide promotional material.

Motorized vehicles aren’t going to go away, that’s the reality. Crossing guards make it safe for kids to get to school by active means, either walking or cycling.

This requires either adults or older children who are trained in making sure the communication occurs.

If a student rides to school, but finds there are no spaces left on the bike racks then they won’t ride next time. Bike racks need to be front-and-centre, this provides safe parking by being very public.

They act as a reminder that fellow students are riding.

Promotional materials can be something as easy as a map. Put together with traffic measures that show low-volume traffic and slow-traffic routes.

When kids get comfortable riding, when they learn the skills to ride safely; when they gain the freedom that enhances their self-esteem, everyone wins.

If your children ride more, don’t you think you might think about riding more?

Becoming a teenager and getting our licence shouldn’t be the end of riding our bikes. It should be seen as an extension of our reach.

Bicycles aren’t childish things, but if we treat cyclists as children, we’re going to continue the same pattern that has created untenable traffic, horrible air quality, and an inactive population.

I want to count the number of kids riding to school not just on my fingers and toes, but I want to use yours and yours and yours.

More Grind My Gears articles

About the Author

As a youngster on two feet, a teenager on two wheels, then a young adult on four wheels, Landon has found that life is really about using all modes of transportation. Currently a cycling advocate with the Kelowna Area Cycling Coalition he tries to lower road rage on both sides.

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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