BLOC – The Bike to Work Week edition!

My place of employment had a remarkably successful Bike To Work Week – lots of people rode their bikes in, some every day, some just one day. That is the point of BTWW- for people to take a chance and see of riding a bike works for them. In the end, our organization more than tripled the number of kilometers ridden in BTWW over last year, by creating some fun inside challenges, and a significant beer-based bet between co-workers. It was fun for all, but mostly for those of us who ride in on a regular basis.

As I have written before, my ride to work is really, really good. The bike route is, for the most part, really well designed, safe, and easy to use. However, there is one ongoing issue that I keep complaining about (and I am not alone): the lack of respect for bike routes. With the vanishingly small amount of our regional transportation investment going to bike infrastructure, can we please just acknowledge that bike lanes are for bikes- the one piece of our region’s vast expanses of pavement that are not dedicated to cars and trucks?

Here is what I am talking about, in images. And yes, every single one of these photos was taken this week during my regular bike route to or from work. I wish this was not typical, but this is my daily commute, folks. Actually, this is an abridged sample of my week.


I’m not the only one avoiding this guy.
in his defense, how could he possibly have seen the bike lane of no parking sign? 


At least it is a pictogram of a bike under him, not an actual one.
Nice picture of my commuting bike, and a no stopping sign on the bike lane.


This guy put a cone up, which is nice, in a way.
Note the only construction stuff blocking this bike lane is the warning sign.


Note both of these pics for Thursday are from the way home, as the morning ride was too rainy to photograph.
And note this guy is a jerk… 
…but not as big a jerk as this guy who honked at me (?) as I passed him.


Yes, he was parked. Yes, a completely separated lane. 
Note no stopping sign. 

I’m not sure  what my point here is, except that I don’t think any of these people were in any kind of risk of receiving a ticket for their illegal vehicle use, while the City of Vancouver police were using BTWW to crack down on people riding bicycles on bike lanes without helmets and Bruce Allen was ranting on the radio about scofflaw bike riders and the out of control bike lane lobby. You would figure people like Bruce would love bike lanes – if only for the free parking.

BLOC – Calling a spade a spade

So I’m on my regular commute home yesterday, and find my bike lane blocked by a parked Tow Truck. It is not all that unusual to have cars parked in bike lanes; there were actually three on my route home yesterday alone.

Most of the time, I just occupy the driving lane (when safe) and mutter under my breath. If the vehicle is a little dusty, I might stop and write “don’t park in bike lanes” with my finger on the back window. Very occasionally, I stop and snap a picture, thinking it might end up on my blog at some point. The Tow Truck was near a “no stopping” sign, and right on top of the bike route decal, and was blocking the entire lane, and I thought – what the hell, I have my camera right here.

As I stop in front of the truck and frame the picture, a guy sitting on the porch of the adjacent house asks me what I’m doing.

“Some asshole parked in the Bike Lane,” I said. “I’m taking a picture”.

He replies, “That’s my truck.”

I turn slowly towards him, shrug my shoulders in a way that I hope imparted the “you called it, not me” impression. Snapped my photo, got on my bike and rode away.

He shouted something after me, I’m not sure what.

It was a good day.

My Nominee for the Worst Road in BC


Every year, BC’s Car Nobbling Council the BC Automobile Association has a little campaign to shame municipalities into giving more money to the BC Road Builders. This “news” is dutifully lapped up by the popular media, and many fingers are wagged at Cities for not maintaining their infrastructure.

It is good media, good advertising for the BCAA, and after the rush of the contest cools down, AM radio goes back to complaining about high taxes and the evils of socialism. No-one ever mentions that roads are, de facto, a socialist enterprise. Government pooling money from taxpayers and spending it building something for the common good – roads are the very model of socialism. But I digress.

This year, I want to nominate a candidate. There is one route that I have been lamenting for a few years, and it never seems to get the attention it needs. It is 9 kilometres of undulating, root-cracked, potholed, uneven, poorly marked, inconsistent, horribly maintained, and (IMHO) unsafe pavement connecting the New Westminster Quayside boardwalk to Burnaby’s Central Park. It sees a lot of traffic, provides an important arterial corridor connecting numerous other routes, and it has seen little more than a few asphalt patches in 27 years.

Yes, I am talking about the BC Parkway, or to give credit to sponsors from 27 years ago, the combined “John Molson Way” walking path and “7-Eleven Bike Route”.

Let me take you back to the heady days of Expo86. The theme was “World in Motion” and transportation was central to most exhibits. When the SkyTrain was built out to New Westminster to bring Vancouver into the 70’s, transportation-wise, the entire line was paralleled by the BC Parkway. I’m not sure why Molson decided to sponsor a walking path, but for a decade around that time 7-Eleven sponsored a major international cycling team. In fact, the only Canadians to ever wear the Yellow Jersey in the Tour de France did it for Team 7-Eleven: Alex Stieda in 1986 and Steve Bauer in 1990. (Bauer also wore yellow in 1988, riding for Weinmann – La Suisse the year Greg Lemond was busy being shot, but I’m geeking out now). At the time, they also provided me countless post-ride Slurpees. No-one has to convince me of 7-Eleven’s credibility when it comes to support for cycling.

The BC Parkway represented Greater Vancouver’s first multi-community-connecting active transport route – our first “Greenway” that didn’t wrap around Stanley Park – but time has not been good to it.

In the intervening 27 years, the BC Parkway through Burnaby and New Westminster has seen a lot of development. Metrotown, Edmonds, Downtown New Westminster and the Quayside have all blown up since 1986. With all the change, some connections on the BC Parkway have been improved, some have been severed. The pavement has degraded, the crossings have become hazardous, the sight lines destroyed and the route chopped up. The asphalt in place is so bad that tree roots have pushed right through- and are being eroded by bike tires! What other road in the province features tree roots being held back by tires? This is a shameful state for our region’s first real integrated municipality-spanning Greenway!

So, please, I implore you – go to the BCAA website and vote for “BC Parkway, Vancouver ” for being “Unsafe for Cyclists and Pedestrians“. You cannot select it with the map, but enter “BC Parkway” in the search, and if it doesn’t find it, choose the highlighted “following form” text to the left. It takes 30 seconds to use the pull-down menus, and if we enter it enough, they may need to acknowledge us. They have acknowledged us! We are now in the top 10 list of worst roads, so you can enter “BC Parkway” in the search and vote with one push of the button! Tell your friends, tell your neighbours, tell your mom, tell cyclists you see rattling their teeth or getting lost on the BC Parkway, tell pedestrians tired of being treated like pylons on the BC Parkway! If you only vote once this month, do it at the BCAA website!

May 22 UPDATE: You can now Choose “BC Parkway Burnaby” or “BC Parkway Vancouver” – and at this point, I don’t care which you choose, as they are both in the Top 10! All the pictures below are form the Burnaby and New Westminster portion, but applies as well to much of the Vancouver portion. Oh, and the BCAA has subtley changed their marketing around this, to make it apparent that they are OK with a bikeway winning! So get one more vote in – only 3 days to go!

In case you need more convincing, here are some highlights of my tour yesterday from Central Park to New Westminster along the Parkway:

The new parts through Central Park are actually quite pleasant!
First problem at Patterson Station. No traffic controls. Do I dodge pedestrians
on the narrow sidewalk / bus stop / newspaper kiosk, or do I go against
 the Do Not Enter sign through the bus lane? 
Sometimes I’m separated from the sidewalk, sometimes not. What is
a pedestrian to think? 
I guess I could go through the bollards onto the narrow sidewalk to avoid
the pedestrians, but there are signs and bus stops. 
Completely nonsensical intersection, no bicycle controls at all,
high pedestrian traffic, blind approaches. Alas, I dismount.
Hard to get contrast, but this root lump is better than a foot high. 
Yes, tree roots. Yes, they are exposed, and the bark rubbed
off of them by wheels and feet. They have been exposed that long.
Suspension at work. 
Bad pavement, blind intersections, forced to go to the sidewalk,
and unclear way-finding. This picture is the full BC Parkway experience.  
I hope it is legal to ride a bike on the sidewalk in Burnaby, because the
Parkway has completely disappeared.  
Oh! There it is, a few hundred feet down the road. 
I like surfing as much as the next guy, but prefer my waves more watery.
Regular way-finding signs remind you where now-destroyed portions
of the BC Parkway used to be. Memories of EXPO86. 
Interesting fact: much of the Parkway follows the old BC Inter-Urban
electric rail bed. No point removing the tracks, I guess.  
More crumbling pavement…
…and another terrible blind crossing with no accommodation
for bicycles, high traffic, and few options!
Speaking of options, the way-making sign to the right has no
relation whatsoever to the multiple junctions within view. 
There is a sign, there must a Parkway around here somewhere. 
There are my bollards! All I have to do is cross 20th street
with no traffic light, no crosswalk, and terrible visibility. 
This is where the trail takes me in New West – to a narrow sidewalk on the wrong side
of 6th Ave., with no access to the rest of the parkway for several kilometres. 
Insider tip – the Parkway continues on the south side of Stewardson, you just
need to cross the Queensborough Bridge. Please dismount. 
See? Queensborough bridge makes the obvious connection!
(I ranted two years ago about this little way-making fiasco
Unfortunately, the trail over here does not have better pavement…
…or safer crossings.
Our journey ends at Stewardson and Third Ave- where you can choose two roads
with no cycling infrastructure, or an overpass to some unknown place,
there being no way- finding around here. Thanks for joining me! Now go vote! 

Bicycle Lane Obstacle Course #4

On Labour Day, I rode my bike along the Central Valley Greenway, one of the premier regional bike routes.

Also a good place to park.

Its not like the driver couldn’t see the diamond or the bike symbol. What made them think this was a parking spot?

Possibly because it used to be a parking spot. It has been part of the CVG since the bike route opened more than three years ago to much fanfare. However, up until a few months ago the very spot this car is parked looked like this:

Yes. That is an operating parking meter. There were about a half dozen of them along the bike lane on Sapperton. In defence of the City’s Transportation guys, once this was brought to their attention, they took the meters out pretty quick (there are meter-stumps there now). So I guess Mr. Civic Driver figured it was now free parking. Bonus!

I am just confused that the fact there were parking meters on a bike lane had to be brought to the attention of the Transportation Staff three years after the bike lane opened. I mean, did the guys painting the lanes not notice the meters? Did the Meter Collector not notice the lane paintings? Did no-one working for the City put two and two together?

Thousands of cyclists must have ridden by parked cars in the bike lanes over those three years… and silently lamented the cars parked in the travelling lane. That is how unremarkable the first photo is to cyclists, even on the region’s premier bike routes.

Bicycle Lane Obstacle Course #3

In light of comments from someone whose opinions matter, I thought I would clarify the purpose of these posts a bit.

I am always first to point out that my bike route to work is pretty good, an example of what should be available to more people in more places. I don’t get all that concerned about the few little issues that pop up – because I am cognizant of how difficult it is to operate a City, and manage all of the little things that crop up, not to mention the hassles that typically go with living in a big urban area with 3 million other people.

So when they are tearing up a road to replace a water line, that doesn’t bother me. When they need to drill holes in a road and close a lane, and have lots of signs and flag persons, and I have to wait a minute to get on my way, that’s part of the deal of getting to use the infrastructure. Most drivers roll with that, and so do I when riding.

Sometimes commercial vehicles, for whatever reason, need to block a lane for an extended period of time to do their jobs. When that happens, they apply to the City for a temporary road closure permit, and set up appropriate safety flagging, signage, etc. The City I work for does not charge for this: the permits are free, a service your tax dollars provide. When driving or riding, you see these things as necessary and accept them as part of City life.

That’s not what I’m talking abut here. What I’m talking about is things we find in the bike lane that would never happen in a driving lane, or at least would be met with outrage by drivers, but is commonplace in the bike lane, or as it is typically viewed “the shoulder of the road”. Daily dodging people pulling into the bike lane to pass on the right is par for the course. Until they kill me, I’ll just get used to it.

So when I complained about this commercial vehicle blocking the bike lane during rush hour, it was not just him being there, it was because we know he would not block the car lane during rush hour, and it is not like he had no alternative: this is the commercial loading zone less then 20 feet away where he chose not to park, because the bike lane was just too convenient:

But here is the best example I have found yet, one I griped about earlier, but fits as probably the model example of the Bicycle Lane Obstacle Course, one worthy of BLOC post #3:

damn cyclist, swerving all over the place, and not even wearing a helmet!
Can you imagine a lit sign in the middle of the driving lane asking people to “Ride Safely!” that cars had to swerve around? What if it forced you to get out of your car (“dismount”) and push your car around the obstacle, or maybe to hop onto the sidewalk and dodge pedestrians, to get through safely – hey, its only a few seconds of your time… then you can get on your way!
So I hope to show examples of how good cycling infrastructure (all photos so far show good, well planned bicycle lanes) goes terribly wrong by missing the details, or through general lack of acknowledgement that it even matters.

Bicycle Lane Obstacle Course #2

As I said in edition #1 of this series, my bike commute is pretty good. For a decent amount of the trip, where I am parallel to a significant but narrow rural road where speeding is endemic, there is a two-way separated bike path. The path is not perfect (the white bollards are virtually invisible during winter rains when oncoming car lights are present, and the driveways provide lots of blind opportunities to get nailed), but it is a pretty progressive piece of infrastructure, and the risks it presents can be managed by most riders.

Unless, or course, someone chooses to park in the middle of it. Makes me want to call the cops, except:

I should note, the officer was not (evidence suggests) responding to an urgent request, had no emergency lights on, and was not doing a speed trap (based on the normal 80km/h flow on the 50km/h Westminster Highway). He was just doing normal parked-on-the-side-of-the road-cop-stuff (idling and poking away at his computer). Something he could easily do in a legal parking spot 100m up the road, one presumes, or 500m up the road where there is a proper shoulder that isn’t a separated bike path, or at least not right next to a no parking sign.

Bicycle Lane Obstacle Course #1

I’m starting a new theme here on NWimby, this will be the first edition of a (hopefully) very short series. It occurred to me a few days ago, for obvious reasons, during a ride to work.

I ride my bike to work occasionally-to-regularly, depending on various weather and life-management issues. This has me crossing half of New Westminster and half of Richmond. As far as bike facilities, I have absolutely nothing to complain about. I have a 21km ride each way where about 5km are on completely separated bike lanes, about 7km are on traffic-calmed Greenway with sharrows and very little traffic, about 8km are on busier roads with well-marked bike lanes, and pretty much all of the connections and traffic lights have some cycling infrastructure, or though of bicycle infrastructure. My work has a secure bike locker system, showers, most of what I need. Kudos to New West and Richmond for this.

I can ride this trip door-to-door faster than Transit can do the same job, so I am withholding any TransLink Kudos.

However, the bicycle commute is not without challenges, as I have written ranted about before. But something I have noticed with the increase in bikes lanes in our everyday lives: how well used they are by people not on bikes, and how little design or maintenance issues often turn a great investment in cycling infrastructure into an unacknowledged hazard for cyclists, often in a way no driver of a car would tolerate in a “real” road lane.

So this is my little reaction to that. I will be posting regular photos of things I see on my bike commutes, loosely collected under the title: Bike Lane Obstacle Course.

BLOC #1. I present for your consideration: