Network to nowhere

One of the issues cyclists in Kelowna bring up time and again is that the “cycling network” in this city is very disconnected.

Many cycling infrastructure projects only get built when there is a larger capital project on the table.

The “while we’re at it let’s slap some bike lanes in” might sound nice, but you end up with a network that only confuses people as they can’t feel safe on their whole route.

A new example that really has me scratching my head is the Bernard Avenue bike lanes. This year, starting in the summer, they’ll be connecting all bike lanes that currently end at Lakeview Street west to Ethel Street.

That sounds reasonable until you realize that there is a single block missing from a trip to downtown. Nothing will connect the bike lane that now ends at Ethel Street to the sharrows starting at Richter Street. Sure, you can turn right and go up to the Cawston multi-use path, go across to the lakeshore, then down to The Sails where you end up on the other end of Bernard.

It’s like driving east on Harvey to get to Orchard Park mall and then having the highway stop at a farmer’s field at Hardy so you have to turn up to get to Enterprise, right to Cooper, and then to your destination.

Makes sense, eh?

I asked the City why this block was being ignored. Their reply was that the final block was complicated and needed extra time to design. Demands that come from single family houses, multi-family housing, and housing converted to business offices require more time for planning how cycling infrastructure will be integrated with the vehicle lanes and/or parking.

I reached out to friends on Facebook who cycle regularly and found plenty of examples where we have breaks in the network:

  • Dilworth, from Enterprise to Harvey
  • Sutherland, from Gordon to Burtch
  • Sutherland, at Richter on the west side
  • Burtch, from Sutherland to Harvey
  • Banks Rd, from Harvey to Baron
  • Rutland Rd, from McIntosh to Gray
  • Lakeshore Rd, northbound approaching KLO
  • and many more …

But the winner is: Abbot Street from Leon Avenue to Riverside Avenue.

Abbot Street is special because the bike lane coming from Bernard Avenue at The Sails directs people up on the sidewalk after the entrance to City Park. People are expected to know that you cannot cross Harvey from the west corner, but instead must detour under the tunnel and then through the beach and down Lake Avenue to get back onto Abbot.

The only other option is to walk your bike across Abbott to the east corner where there is a pedestrian crosswalk signal which then crosses Harvey where you have to navigate a couple of tight sidewalks to get down to the multi-use path that starts at Riverside Avenue.

What does this tell us?

Kelowna seems not to value cycling as an equal mode of transportation. Thus, there is little reason for designers and planners of the city’s streets and thoroughfares to consider the cycling public’s needs in the same way thought is given to roads for cars.

As a city, we need to come together and change this mindset. We need to realize that cycling has benefits for health, can lessen road congestion, and have a positive effect on the environment.

We need to start treating cycling like it means something.

The alternative is the status quo which will continue to frustrate all road users alike. We must begin looking at the rides, listening to cyclists, analyzing the destinations, if we are ever to start filling in the blanks in our cycling network. 


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."

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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