Cycling Advocates Ride to Pro Walk Pro Bike 2006

     
Daily Trip Log
Jack
 
     

from Vancouver B.C. to Madison, Wisconsin

Picture of VancouverGrouse Mountain Vancouver B.C.
       
Afterthoughts      
  2006-10-24    
   

A Cyclists First Long Distance Cycling Touring

Traffic Signals  Pedestrians

Traffic Signals - Cyclists

Cycling Highways

Value of Highway Grants for road construction, reconstruction, and Resurfacing to Including Cycling Facilities

Interstate Highway Bikeway

Road Selection Criteriae

Cycling Through Countryside and Entering Cities on Rail-Trails or Bike Trails

Well Aligned and Signed Trails

Streetcars, LRT, Rapid Transit and Bicycles

Use of Countdown Timers, Signalized Intersections

Use of Cycling Helmets

Level of Service (LOS)

 

 
    Sitting here in the apartment overlooking False Creek, the Downtown Peninsula, and the mountain range that encompasses the Georgia Basin, it is timely for reflecting on the past almost three months.

 
    What stands out about the trip?

 
    The trip was more pleasant than I had anticipated.

 
    The boredom of the prairie was not that long.

 
    The days were not that demanding. It was not my normal type of trip where I would do longer days on the bike and be dehydrated at the end. The muscles would not rest vibrate as if something was needed. Plenty of orange juice would be drunk.

 
    Again, another trip hardly impacted by rain. I think that I donned my wet gear two days out of 79. There were a number of days that rain came down after I arrived at the motel for that tonight, but not that many. At one stage in the ride, we were one day behind a tornado.

 
    Again it was a hot trip with most days in the 30 degree plus range. Just like last year.

 
  A Cyclists First Long Distance Cycling Touring    
    I must admire John Fair’s determination in cycling from Vancouver to Chicago. When we were preparing for the trip, I was expecting John to decide that he had enough somewhere three weeks into the trip and that he would continue by bus.

 
    This was his first long trip. He had done one short trip of about four days with short distances each day. Now he would be packed for a long journey with longer days on the bike. The worst part was that after one long day we would be entering the mountains and staying there for about 28 days.

 
    He persevered and made the trip all the way. He faced the issue of heat with daily temperatures in the 30, 35, to 40 degrees Celsius range, day after day and with little shade from the sun. He faced the issue with road noise of fast passing cars and trucks. The road selection criteiae under these conditions became quite interesting and crystallized as the trip wore on. He faced the issue of finding the right daily trip length for him. We tried a variety of lengths to about 140 kilometres under various conditions, including mountain ascends. He faced the issue of frequent flats on the road and the nuisance of changing them on the road, their interruption into the rhythm of a daily cycle, and the mental frustration of the uncertainty of when the next would happen.

 
    But, he persisted and made the full length of the trip. It may have taken longer each day than he might have wished. He recognized that his style of riding is going slower with willingness to endure longer days. Just keep pumping and that next mountain will be scaled.

 
    The main purpose of the trip was to attend the Pro Walk Pro Bike conference in Madison, Wisconsin. Other purposes evolved including the desire just to be on the road for a while on a bicycle. After all, it has almost been a year since my last four month trip. This trip provided an opportunity to learn and assess cycling facilities that have been implemented within urban and rural environments. From this, hopefully, local advocacy will benefit.

 
  Traffic Signals – Pedestrians    
    In one city as I was walking about I realized that when a traffic signal change was happening the walk light phase came on about 3 seconds before the green light came on. Great, this was a clear signal that in this city pedestrian traffic is important and has a priority. The safety value of this approach was apparent. Pedestrians could get on the road and be very visible to drivers before they were allowed to make right turns.

 
    Countdown timers for the pedestrian phase provide a level of safety and comfort for cyclists transitioning through an intersection. It is very easy to understand how long it takes to get through a two lane or four lane road with countdown timers. The “Is there enough time to get across the intersection” question with flashing red pedestrian signal phase is removed. All jurisdictions should be using countdown timers on their pedestrian and cycling traffic signals for safety sake, for cyclists cycling comfort.

 
    In the States where this trip took me, it seemed that the pedestrian go phase of the signal sequence was longer than locally here and more attuned to the length of the green phase. This increased the Pedestrian Level of Service at intersections and made walking a much more efficient transportation mode as wait time at intersections, especially one intersection after another, was significantly reduced. One could actually reach the next intersection on a green / go phase.

 
    Locally, the length of the pedestrian go phase is shortened so that when a person steps of the curb, the other side can be reached before a yellow phase comes on. With the use of countdown timer, each person becomes aware of the number of seconds that this needed to get across and can make that decision to proceed based on personal walking speed, not that of the least denominator for a walker.

 
    It also seemed that “No Turn on Red” signs were used much more frequently in the municipalities that I travelled through than here at home.

 
  Traffic Signals - Cyclists    
    There were a number of villages, towns, and cities where it appeared as if the light signal would change to the green phase just as I was approaching or reaching the intersection. When the light signal was on the red phase as I arrived, I learned to keep the feet on the pedals and hesitate for two or three seconds as very frequently then the signal turned green. There was a town with many signalized intersections that I was able to cycle through without stopping. The lights just kept on turning green as I approached the intersection. No, this was not a due to consistent speed cycling at the speed the lights were timed for. Hesitating on a red phase was enough for the light to change to the green phase.

 
    There were intersections with the crossing street having one or two cars queued at the light. The green phase would come on just long enough to get the cars through the intersection, sometimes just a few seconds. It seemed that the length of the traffic signal was being timed for the length of the queue at the intersection and then the green phase was back with the predominant traffic direction.

 
    When I had a chance to look, it appeared that he signals were being controlled with above ground sensors on to of the traffic signal poles.

 
  Cycling Highways

   
    It was impressive to observe the voluminous number of cyclists using what I call the “Cycling Highways” of Madison, WI and Davis, CA.

 
    In Madison’s case, these “Highways” were mostly rail-trails criss-crossing the city. It was easy; it was fun cycling on quiet corridors only with other cyclists and sharing the trails with pedestrians. One could efficiently move about the city.
The traffic was high. Obviously, people enjoyed the cycling environment and would use it for their trip.

 
    The trails could use some cyclist-activated traffic signals on secondary and arterial road crossings. Median road bulges on wide roads (four lanes, etc.) is not enough for less than confident cyclists or people with depth perception problems. Cyclist-activated traffic signals should increase the cycling on the trails.

 
    Comprehensive signage is needed on such a trail network both on parallel or crossing streets so that cyclists are aware a trail is present and, also, on the trail as one negotiates one’s way through the city.

 
    Davis, CA approach to high volume cycling corridors is to provide bike paths located on the arterial road’s shoulders. Where two bike paths meet, a traffic circle would be placed. The traffic circle had raised centre lines with an effort to control passage around the e traffic circle in an orderly manner that would also provide safety to users.

 
  Value of Highway Grants for road construction, reconstruction, and Resurfacing to Including Cycling Facilities

   
    Small hamlets, small towns, small cities, not too small cites, rural roads and good places to cycle where one is removed from direct motorized traffic. Last year, I was cycling in a few American states and noticed this phenomenon. This year I noticed a definite increase.

 
    While not every municipality has jumped in and joined providing good cycling facilities for the better way of transportation, the chances of encountering them has definitely escalated.

 
    What a feeling to come to the gateway of a municipality, size not important here, and be greeted with a bike lane that takes you right through downtown and to the other side. What a feeling to have cycled a day in rural setting and have completed a day where it was all n good quality, paved shoulders wide enough that the motor vehicles beside you did not need your attention.

 
  Interstate Highway Bikeway

   
    One of the real pleasant phenomena along the way occurred in leaving Spokane. While the I-90 Interstate was out of bounds to cyclists, there parallel ran an I-90 Bikeway, complete with Interstate bikeway sign.

 
    While cycling on the interstate highways’ shoulders was pleasant as they are quite wide, usually 3 metres plus and frequently separated from motorized vehicles with rumble strips, they do tend to be a bit noisy. With a cycling interstate trail within eye sight of the I-highway, noise is less of a consideration.

 
    Cyclists would be much more comfortable being on a parallel bike highway than right on the shoulder.

 
  Road Selection Criteriae

   
    Who would want to cycle on an interstate highway? That was the thinking of my cycling buddy on this trip at the start. Later on, when we found ourselves in Minnesota on the interstate highway with quality of paved shoulders so disgraceful that we had to abandon the I-highway for neighbouring roads, the thinking was something different by that time. Our backs and spinal cord needed a break. Besides that, Minnesota did not allow cycling on the interstate.

 
    We had a good long day rides where we had choice of riding on interstate highways or on frontage roads as they seemed to be called. These frontage roads would parallel the interstate highway for many, many kilometres. Normally they were narrow two-lane highways with no shoulder and curvy, and hilly. Traffic was much more sparse than on the I-highways but the speeds then to be higher.

 
    So, what considerations let to choosing interstate highways first?

 
  Interstate Highways    
   

the good

 

 
      • Wide shoulders removing the cyclist from the motorised traffic. Did not have to pay attention to it.
• The grades – not as demanding and very infrequent to be over 6%, a quite cycleable grade.
• The hills – the road tended to have lower hill ridges than frontage roads and farther apart.

    the not so good • Flat after flat after flat from wires, thorns, glass, sharp stones, and so on
• Continuous noise from the speeding trucks and cars
• Garbage on the shoulders that continuously had to avoided – rethread tires the biggest issue, gravel, lumber, and so on
• Rumble strips – sometimes narrowed the paved shoulder too much for comfortable cycling.

  Frontage Highways    
    the good  
      • Motorized traffic – much less
• Noise – a lot less of it. . Long periods of silence to listen to the birds.
• Tire piercing garbage on the road – extremely little
• Flat tires – had none

   

the not so good

 

 
      • Line of sight for motorists – curvy and hilly. These roads tended to be where speeding drivers did not have such a good line of sight on the cyclists ahead. Unexpectedly, one comes upon a cyclist. Too many times we were told that a cyclist was killed on at road that we planned to take ahead just a day of cycling or so away.
• Speed of motorized vehicles - high
• The grades of the hills – usually, but not in some few cases, many more hills, more frequent, and steeper grades. A factor in the afternoons of very sunny and hot days.
• Shoulders – non-existing. So you stay on a narrow lane.
• Road connectivity – never quite sure from the maps or road signs if the road would lead back to the interstate highway or to other roads at its terminus
• Maps – frequently the frontage roads were not marked on maps. Google earth was quite reliable in depicting these roads.
  Cycling Through Countryside and Entering Cities on Rail-Trails or Bike Trails

   
    There were days that were spent on trails. Sometimes for 60, 80, 100, or more kilometres, they were long. Some rail-trails took you from one city to another or across state lines. Sometimes one saw a rail-trail just off the road but was unsure where it went to. Signage tended to be poor for making one aware of a trail going to one’s destination.

 
    Some were paved others had good limestone surfaces. Others had surfaces rougher than that so those were avoided. Why were they not all paved, extending the season when one could use a trail? Rain was a good reason to stay off a limestone surfaced trail.

 
    Such rail or bike trails provided a chance to get back into the rural environment with birds signing as the trail rolled through farm land, water, and bus. They brought some peace and quietness. One could listen to the sounds of the country. One could cycle very relaxed.

 
  Well Aligned and Signed Trails

   
    It was always a pleasure to cycle along a trial with fabulous signage and interesting alignment. One knew where one was and where one should be going to. Some trails had the intersecting streets name posts. This was a great help in navigation through these strange lands.

 
  Streetcars, LRT, Rapid Transit and Bicycles

   
    Transportation transparency where one is going makes life so much more pleasant. Sometimes one saw signs welcoming bikes on these forms of transportation. Some had low floors. Some had raised floors with their three steps on the way up. Some had central stations with spiralling ramps for the bikes to be rolled on the raised floors. Sometimes or just lifts the bike up the three steps. It all works. No need to segregate people just because they cycle.

 
  Use of Countdown Timers, Signalized Intersections

   
    Spread out these countdown timers were in the municipalities passed through. So much easier and so much safer was it cycling though these intersections. One gets to know who many seconds one needs to get across. No longer wondering if the flashing pedestrians signal will turn solid red before transitioning through an intersection.

 
 

Use of Cycling Helmets

 

   
    An observation from my three-month summer trip through many American urban areas, large and small!

 
   

Vancouver cyclists helmet wearing exceeds by far that of most of the American cities and towns which I passed through. For the most part, it seemed that the only ones wearing helmets were the more speed and distance oriented cyclists, the randonneur and the racers types.

 
    Given this observation, questions come to mind:

 
   

Should police focus on conformance to helmet legislation or put their effort on behaviours that causes drivers to collide with cyclists?

 

 
   

Should police focus on reducing the consequence of a collision or crash or focus on the conditions that could causes it in the first place?

 

 
   

Should conformity to a law be achieved through enforcement or through education and leading by example?

 

 
    In the City of Vancouver this summer, police action seemed to have focused on wearing of helmets while cycling. Tickets were handed out. A back to school helmet media event was held in September.

 
    Now, should action be taken that may discourage those who will not wear helmets while cycling through their own choice? Instead, should the effort be directed on driving behaviour found offensive, discouraging some people from undertaking cycling for transportation? Where should Vancouver police put their efforts?

 
    Why do people want to cycle without wearing their helmets? There may be freedom issues to some, the feeling of wind flowing through their hair. There may be personal health factors for some, the weight of a helmet affecting head and spinal systems. There may be heat and comfort issues, perspiration in their hair and itchiness on their scalp. Each has their own reason.

 
    Cycling helmets are extremely useful when an incidence occurs which displaces a cyclist to the pavement or onto some hard object, a car as an example. Personally, I would not cycle without a helmet on. I have had enough unplanned encounters with terra firma to understand the value of a helmet on the head, not on the handlebar.

 
    Helmets do nothing towards the prevention of a collision or crash or other types of incidences. Maybe public focus, people effort and other resources should be focussed on reducing the potential of such collisions or crashes instead of fining cyclists for not wearing helmets.

 
    But, does that mean that all cyclists should wear helmets? Maybe I think so considering the value of a helmet when something does occur and head injury which may result. Others may have different perspectives and thinking. After all, it is their body and especially their brain which is at risk. Does that mean it needs to be legislated or enforced? A believe in something has much longer effect than a fine. Believes come from education and example. If it means more people cycling instead of driving, do we all not win?

 
 

Intersection and Road Level of Service (LOS)

 

 

 
   

It became very apparent at the conference in the presentations and discussions that followed that most engineers still continue to think of Level of Service (LOS) for intersections and roads in the 1960’ term of getting cars through the intersections and along roads as quickly as possible, without regard for effects on pedestrians, cyclists, or on anything else including personals’ life, health and wellness, and the environment. The guidelines were set by engineers without regard for cities and the future direction that these cities wanted to take. It was very evident that most engineers involved in the presentations and discussions on LOS did not understand that cities visions, policies, commitments, and directions set the basis for LOS in any city and that LOS is one of the methods of implementing the any cities’ agreed upon direction. Today, LOS of ‘as quick as possible’ is not the way to go. LOS of predetermined delays and congestion better fits the needs of many cities’ directions.