Les Humphreys

posted Dec 22, 2010, 12:17 PM by Les Humphreys   [ updated Jan 9, 2011, 3:12 PM by RCC Admin. ]

Holding areas for left turning bicycle traffic

I note that the designated parking spots between Kent and O'Connor, from which alighting passengers would block the segregated bike path. Presumably,  there is an assumption that few cars using those spots would be carrying  passengers. However, the same situation applies to delivery vehicles,  which would block the pathway for more extended periods. Given that automotive traffic on Laurier would resent bicyclists attempting to use the other traffic lanes (and take offensive action to nudge bicyclists back onto the segregated path), that leaves path users the option of either dismounting onto the sidewalk or waiting for the delivery to be completed. This is hardly a satisfactory situation for those seeking a more efficient way to get about the city.

A further consideration regarding the holding areas for left turning bike riders is how much allowance there is for tandems, trailers and trail-a-bikes. Such machines, while not in common use for commuting, are popular with bicycle-tourists. Such combinations do not easily lend themselves to narrow confines, and could even find themselves dangerously exposed to cross traffic in less than adequate holding areas.

Impact of electrically powered bicycles and non-cycling users

Electrically powered bicycles will present an interesting challenge to users of segregated pathways. Capable of sustaining a pace comparable with the so called  cycling elite, electric bikes in the hands of untrained novices will undoubtedly be a source of incidents.

As with the NCC recreational trails segregated paths are also very likely to attract a whole range of non cycling users, including joggers, roller bladers, wheelchairs and strollers, which, like the NCC trails along the Rideau Canal, will result in unacceptable congestion, especially at traffic lights, where the joggers and roller bladers take off faster than the bikers, only to block the pathway, once the bikes reach operating speed.

Single file assumption

Bicycle lane designs often appear to make the assumption that cyclists all pedal at the same uniform speed, in single file. Cycling is a physical activity and as such is subject to variation according to the strength and ability of each individual. Inevitably, there must be provision for the faster riders to pass those moving at a slower pace. This becomes particularly important on uphill grades, where those who are unable to make the grade end up weaving suddenly across the path in order to maintain balance.

Riders whose path gets blocked by sudden weaving manoevres will either be forced out into traffic or forced over a kerb. Those who stop to get off and walk end up blocking the path for those who are still moving. The solution of course is to make the path wide enough for bicycles to pass safely, but the width allowed in the city proposal seems a little narrow for this purpose. Unlike a bicycle lane,. which allows the ability to move into traffic if necessary to avoid an obstacle, the bike path option appears to negate this.

A cheaper alternative

A simple alternative to what many taxpayers would regard as an unnecessary expense would be to provide bike lanes and lower the traffic speed limit to 40kph along the proposed route. The lower speed limit would afford a calmer traffic flow, and give all users time and space to look out and make room for each other. This may upset drivers who are used to driving at 60kph in 50 kph zones, but it is an accepted fact of life in school safety zones, so why not here ? Lower speed limits would make it easier for people to park, which would perhaps make the preferred route along Somerset more acceptable to the business owners who objected to that preferred option in the first place. The money that would otherwise have been spent on the segregated facility could be spent instead on cycling education, for which the city of Ottawa was once a leader.