Whyte Avenue

Cyclist Town Hall Meeting - Whyte Avenue Corridor Bike Paths

Bike Paths Along the Whyte Avenue Corridor

Cyclist Town Hall Meeting

Many Edmonton streets are unsafe for cyclists. As Edmonton’s cycling hub, the Whyte Avenue Corridor is in dire need of dedicated infrastructure to increase safety and make cycling more comfortable for cyclists of all abilities.

Agenda:

  1. Edmonton Bicycle Commuters : presentation on bicycle infrastructure
  2. Conrad Nobert: Ideas for Whyte Avenue Bike Infrastructure
  3. Ben Henderson, Edmonton City Councillor
  4. You: open forum/town hall meeting. What bicycle infrastructure do you think would make Whyte Avenue safer and more comfortable for cyclists?

The goal of this meeting is to galvanize public support for Whyte Avenue Bike infrastructure, and then to form a working group to refine a proposal to make to the city. Cyclists should decide what infrastructure would best improve cycling safety and comfort along the Whyte Avenue corridor.

When: September 25, 2012, 7:30pm

Where: Queen Alexandra Community Hall, 10425 University Ave (near Calgary Trail and 76th Avenue)

Facebook Event Link

What Now? Making Whyte Ave Safer for Cyclists (part 3)

The underutilized, one-way transit/bike lane that runs along Calgary Trail

In the wake of the tragedy that took Isaak Kornelsen's life recently, I'm wondering: what now? I'd like to see the cycling community present a vision of a safe, bikable Whyte Avenue corridor to the city.

I am writing a three-part series on approaches to bike infrastructure that the city could take:

  1. a separated bike path right on Whyte Avenue
  2. the "tempting alternative routes" approach: two off-Whyte bike routes to pull cyclists away from the Avenue
  3. A North-South Connector Along Calgary Trail

A North-South Connector Along Calgary Trail

In addition to east-west running bike paths north and south of Whyte Avenue, another piece of the puzzle that could greatly affect the safety and comfort of bikes in the area would be a bike-friendly way to access the businesses along Calgary Trail.

It just so happens that there is a low-hanging fruit: a piece of transportation infrastructure that is underutilized, just waiting to be converted into a two-way separated bike path.

Running parallel to Calgary Trail, from Saskatchewan Drive to 75 Avenue, there is a one-way northbound street. Between 75 Avenue and Whyte Avenue, only bikes, busses and taxis are allowed on it.

My kids and I feel relief every time we start heading north on this street. It's a great resource for cyclists heading northbound.

But how exactly does a cyclist get from north of Whyte to Save-On Foods, United Cycle, or Doan's Vietnamese Restaurant? The options are to ride on the very hairy Calgary Trail, to walk one's bike a couple of blocks on the sidewalk to the (dangerous) Shopper's Drug Mart parking lot, or to ride west an extra block to 104 Street (a congested, narrow street).

I think that a key piece of the Whyte Avenue bike puzzle would be to make this one-way transit/bike street into a two-way dedicated bike path.

The political cost would be minimal. Changes would include:

  1. Removing taxis from the road. I don't think this would be a big deal. Prime time for cabbies is in the dead of night, when the area isn't nearly as congested as during the day.
  2. Removing one bus route from the road. Okay, this one is a bit bigger of a deal. However, there's no reason that the #52 bus can't take Gateway Boulevard instead.
  3. Changing the lights to make cyclist safe from left-turning vehicles at the intersections of 83rd, 82nd, 81st, 80th, 78th and 76th Avenues. This probably wouldn't upset people too much. They may have to wait a few more moments to turn left, but no biggie.
  4. Removing the option to turn left (possibly) at 79th Ave and 77th Ave. The howling-with-rage motorist demographic kicks in a bit stronger here. However, riding through those intersections on a weekly basis for the past few years gives me the impression that they are not that heavily used (79th anyway, I'm not so sure about 77th).

In conjunction with excellent bike routes north and south of Whyte Avenue, I think that this north-south bike resource would entice many more cyclist to the area (more bikes = safer bikes), and make the cycling experience safer and more comfortable for cyclist riding south to the important commercial area that is anchored by Save-On Foods at 78th Avenue and Calgary Trail.

What Now? Making Whyte Ave Safer for Cyclists (part 2)

Proposed pedestrian/bike crossing, 80th Avenue and 103 Street

In the wake of the tragedy that took Isaak Kornelsen's life recently, I'm wondering: what now? I'd like to see the cycling community present a vision of a safe, bikable Whyte Avenue corridor to the city.

I am writing a three-part series on approaches to bike infrastructure that the city could take:

  1. a separated bike path right on Whyte Avenue
  2. the "tempting alternative routes" approach: two off-Whyte bike routes to pull cyclists away from the Avenue
  3. A North-South Connector Along Calgary Trail

The "Tempting Alternative Routes" Approach

Chris Chang-Yen Phillips blogged last week about why Isaak wasn't riding on 83rd Avenue. The answer of course is that alternative routes to Whyte avenue are narrow, clogged with cars, blocked by rail roads, and (in 83rd ave's case) partially one-way. I ride east-west along the Whyte Avenue corridor almost daily, often with my children (ages six and eight) and my route is a zigzaggy compilation of moonscape-like residential streets and back alleys.

A wonderful way to make cyclists like myself and my kids safer is to provide a safe, bike-friendly alternative route to Whyte Avenue. In order to accommodate those who live south of Whyte Avenue in the neighbourhoods of Ritchie, Hazeldean and beyond, it only makes sense to provide two such routes, one south of Whyte and the other north of it.

The South-of-Whyte Route

Any bike route that will entice cyclists to ride south of Whyte Avenue begins and ends with the CP rail line. I think that most people dismiss such a route out-of-hand because of the line, but has the city actually ever pursued a new railway crossing?

A new pedestrian/bicycle railway crossing, complete with ding-ding lights and barricades, would be a game-changer for the entire neighbourhood. It would get more people on their bikes and walking (and more cyclists = better cyclist safety), as it would be more convenient to leave the car at home for many residents. 

Here is the view across the tracks from 80th Avenue and 102 Street:

We're talking 25 feet of crossing across two tracks. 

The rest of the south-of-Whyte bike route infrastructure I will leave for another time. The railway crossing is the key, and I can't think of a single reason that we can't have it.

The North-Of-Whyte Route

An alternative route, north of Whyte Avenue, is already in the works. Here is a (terrible) screenshot from Edmonton's Bicycle Transportation Plan Network Map (pdf file here).

Bike Boulevard, 83rd Avenue

The yellow line represents a planned bike boulevard that will be built sometime in the 2013-2015 time period. A bike boulevard is defined (in this pdf document) as  "roadways that function as through streets for cyclist, while maintaining limited automobile access for local residents" (p. 29). I can't find a more solid definition or illustration, but I believe that an honest effort to build a bike boulevard would yield a very pleasing two-way route for cyclists that would draw them away from Whyte Avenue.

Conclusion

I prefer the "tempting alternative routes" approach to making the Whyte Avenue area safer and more friendly for bikes (and pedestrians).

A separated bike path on Whyte Avenue would entail a major political cost. In fact, it seems impossible that our city council would vote for it in the face of the predictable motorist outrage. Furthermore, while it would make travelling the last block to reach a business on Whyte Avenue safer and more pleasant, I don't see it providing a major benefit to cyclists. Besides safety, one of the reasons that I avoid Whyte is the traffic lights. Riding on Whyte would negate a major advantage of bicycling, the ability to avoid lights by riding through slower residential neighbourhoods.

On the other hand, having two alternative routes to Whyte Ave. would make the lives of cyclists much easier. The railway crossing would totally alter non-automobile traffic patterns in the neighbourhood, and I think it would really open up the Junction district that is south of Whyte, wedged between the railway and 99th Street.

Plus, the political cost of these two routes would be smaller than putting a separated bike path on Whyte. Don't get me wrong, there will definitely be howls of protest due to losing parking on 83rd Avenue. For once, though, we need to make sure the city doesn't back down to those who insist on having their transportation choices overly subsidized. Parking is a public subsidy, and it shouldn't be a guarantee in every circumstance.

It's time for Edmonton to start investing in a bikable city. There are so many reasons why this is good for everyone (motorists included) that it's almost cliche to start listing them off. Let's see some action on city council's part. Cyclist deserve some useful, dedicated infrastructure, and the Whyte Avenue area will be better off for it.

What Now? Making Whyte Ave Safer for Cyclists (part 1)

Owly Images

(photo credit: Chris Chan, Edmonton Bicycle Commuters)

In the wake of the tragedy that took Isaak Kornelsen's life recently, I'm wondering: what now? I'd like to see the cycling community present a vision of a safe, bikable Whyte Avenue corridor to the city.

I am writing a three-part series on approaches to bike infrastructure that the city could take:

  1. a separated bike path right on Whyte Avenue
  2. the "tempting alternative routes" approach: two off-Whyte bike routes to pull cyclists away from the Avenue
  3. A North-South Connector Along Calgary Trail

A separated bike path on Whyte Avenue (one, bi-directional path)

First off, I have eliminated on-Whyte painted bike lanes as a possibility. There is not a lot of data about whether they actually keep cyclist safe, but I'm going to go ahead and declare them a failure right now. I know that I wouldn't ride in them, especially when they would almost certainly put cyclists squarely in the door zone (the space on the road that an opening car door opens into) like they do on 76th avenue.

I will also not consider two separated bike paths, one on either side of Whyte. Although at first blush it may seem safer to have cyclists on either side of the road I think that the "total intervention" strategy, where every intersection is redesigned with the bike path in mind (rather than just having the bikes integrate at every intersection) would be safer in the end. The more disruptive option would do more to increase motorist awareness. (Plus, virtually every single image that appears when Googling "separated bike lane" is of a two-way bike lane. I think that it's the way the cities are going.)

(source)

A bike lane like the one pictured above, with bicycles riding in both directions on one side of the street, would involve a major re-engineering of Whyte Avenue traffic patterns.

This would involve disallowing turning off of Whyte by vehicles in some intersections (where there are no traffic lights), and the changing of some traffic signals to allow bikes to clear the intersection before vehicles turn off of the avenue. Some streets would encounter a dead end at Whyte Avenue, and traffic would likely have to be slowed (to 40 km/h) to increase safety at intersections.

It would go from Mill Creek bridge to 112 street.

There are precedents to this type of bike path (two-way, one side, along a busy street) in other cities. Here's a video describing Vancouver's Dunsmuir bike path:

Obviously, this type of bike path would drastically change Whyte Avenue. Traffic moving through the area would be much slower, making it more pedestrian-friendly (and safer for pedestrians I might add). The effect would be greater on the bike-path side of Whyte, reclaiming a large piece of the Avenue back to the human sphere. It would obviously also make the cycling experience safer and more fun.

Of course, there are disadvantages, the primary one being the howling rage of motorists who want nothing more than to get through Old Strathcona as fast as possible. This type of bike path would make it less convenient to move east-west through the city, and given that the next available option is Argyll Road, there is some validity to this complaint.

Next up: the "tempting alternative routes" approach: two off-Whyte bike routes to pull cyclists away from the Avenue