Cycling News

Cyclists Deserve Consideration, too!

Comments on the
Circle Drive South River Crossing Functional Planning Study

Letter, February 10, 2005:

To: City of Saskatoon
February 10, 2005

As planning progresses toward a south river crossing in Saskatoon, I would like to comment on the needs of cyclists. According to the 2001 Census, Saskatoon has the second highest rate of commuter bicycle use in Canada, 2.51 percent of the workforce. This is approximately half the rate of Victoria (4.80%), yet well above the rates of other recognized "cycling" cities: Ottawa-Hull (1.92%), Vancouver (1.86%) and Montreal (1.30%). Saskatoon also leads the prairies. Calgary (1.48%), Winnipeg (1.42%), Regina (1.40%) and Edmonton (1.19%) all lag significantly behind Saskatoon in bicycle use. Saskatoon is a cycling city.

With the development of a south river crossing - and, subsequently, a future north crossing - accommodation of cyclists will need to be taken into account. A crossing at the most recently proposed location would prove extremely attractive to cyclists. As the City's own research shows, the proposed location will attract more traffic than a bridge located further south. This is especially true for cyclists.

The City's Comprehensive Bicycle Plan and Bicycle Facility Network Study show that the south crossing would be used by cyclists and serve as reminders of the City's commitment to accommodating cyclists in infrastructure development. In addition, the Circle Drive South River Crossing Functional Planning Study identifies issues of access to residential and business areas, increased traffic noise and air pollution, impacts to leisure facilities, increased dependency on private automobile use, and environmental concerns - all issues which can be addressed by ensuring that cyclists can safety and conveniently use the crossing.

Cyclists would be attracted to this bridge for a variety of reasons. Transportation cyclists (commuters) will find it to be an efficient means to traverse the city. The proposed location will conveniently connect residential and commercial/industrial areas where cyclists work or do business. Recreational cyclists will find it irresistible for completing training circuits and expanding leisure exploration.

In particular, cyclists will use the bridge from the following approaches. On the east side: Avalon Residential and CN Industrial areas (whether origin/destination or enroute to/from other points east as far as Briarwood); via Ruth, Portage and Lorne avenues; via Taylor, Hilliard, Ruth streets and St. Henry Avenue; and via Glasgow Street, should a crossing of Circle/Idylwyld Drive ever be constructed above or below grade at that location (a crossing at this location would provide a very direct route for cyclists and pedestrians). In rare instances, cyclists may approach westbound from, or exit eastbound on, Circle Drive (the current prohibition of cyclists from Circle Drive east of Idylwyld is based on subjective legislative requirements rather than on objective safety and transportation criteria). On the west side: Montgomery Place and South West Industrial areas (whether origin/destination or enroute to/from points west as far as Parkridge and Confederation Park); via 11th Street and Dundonald Avenue. Additionally, cyclists would benefit by direct access into the South West Industrial area and onto Spadina Crescent (providing access to Holiday Park and King George neighbourhoods). Cyclists using the Meewasin Trail network will demand access to the bridge from Diefenbaker Park and Spadina Crescent. In short, cyclists want to go the same places other drivers do, although direct, level, non-stop routes are higher priorities for cyclists.

It will be easier - and more cost effective - to accommodate cyclists if consideration is given to their needs early in the planning process. Crossings such as the Circle Drive Bridge in the north and the Senator Sid Buckwold Bridge downtown provide sorely substandard accommodation, primarily as a result of attending to the needs of pedestrians and cyclists too late in the planning process. For example, approaches are steep, sight lines are poor, and turning radii are tight. Cyclist-pedestrian conflict is inevitable. Route planning is made more difficult or impossible by convoluted, confusing and indirect access. With a little foresight, the south river crossing can be a showcase of efficient and convenient bicycle transportation, without spending a lot of money.

My primary interest in commenting on the south river crossing study is in relation to cyclists. I am sure that others will comment on the needs of pedestrians. Although pedestrians and cyclists are often considered as a single group in facilities discussions of this type, I must point out a crucial difference. Cyclists are drivers of vehicles, whereas pedestrians are not. This is a rational, as well as a legal, distinction. Bicycles have different speed and manoeuvrability characteristics than pedestrians, characteristics which appropriately define them as vehicles. While cyclists are often separated from high-speed motorized traffic on facilities of this type, it must still be recognized that mixing cyclists with pedestrians can lead to conflict and injury, especially on approaches and in situations involving turning and crossing. These differences between cyclists and pedestrians should be taken into account when planning the south river crossing.


References:

1. Mode of Transportation (9), Age Groups (7) and Sex (3) for Employed Labour Force 15 Years and Over Having a Usual Place of Work or No Fixed Workplace Address, for Canada, Provinces, Territories, Census Metropolitan Areas and Census Agglomerations, 2001 Census - 20% Sample Data. Catalogue: 97F0015XCB01002.
2. Circle Drive South River Crossing Functional Planning Study, Stantec Consulting and City of Saskatoon.
3. Comprehensive Bicycle Plan, City of Saskatoon (2002).
4. Bicycle Facility Network Study, City of Saskatoon (2003).
5. CYCLING Towards Health and Safety, British Medical Association, Oxford University Press, New York, 1992.
6. John Franklin, Achieving Cycle Friendly Infrastructure. Paper presented at Cycle Friendly Infrastructure Conference, University of Nottingham, 16th April 2002 (repeated 27th June 2002).
7. Matthew Page, Yim Ling Siu, Miles Tight and Mark Wardman (University of Leeds Institute for Transport Studies, 1999), Cycling and urban travel choice, Proceedings of Velo-city '99, Østrig/Slovenien.
8. Planning and Design of Bicycle Facilities for the University of Calgary, Faculty of Environmental Design, Faculty of Engineering, Department of Civil Engineering, University of Calgary, Calgary, AB, 1996.
9. Richard Drdul, P.Eng, How To Be Bicycle Friendly. Paper presented at the Western Canadian Traffic Association annual conference, Vancouver, BC, April 1994.
10. National Survey on Active Transportation, Go for Green, Environics, 1998.
11. Malcolm J Wardlaw, Three lessons for a better cycling future. British Medical Journal, Volume 321 23–30, December 2000.
12. John Franklin, Enabling and encouraging people to cycle. Paper presented to Cambridge Cycling Campaign AGM, October 1999.
13. Paul Schimek, The Dilemmas of Bicycle Planning. Massachusetts Institute of Technology Department of Urban Studies and Planning and U.S. Department of Transportation Volpe National Transportation Systems Center. Presented at the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning (ACSP) and Association of European Schools of Planning (AESOP) Joint International Congress, July 27, 1996, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Revised, February 13, 1997. U.S. DOT Volpe Center, DTS-49, Cambridge, MA.

--
Darrell Noakes

Follow-up, December 13, 2005:

To: City of Saskatoon
December 13, 2005

I see that an update on the South Bridge was made available on November 23 and is available for download from the City web site. I previously submitted comments on earlier options by email on February 10, 2005.

The proposed roadway shown in the November 23 update looks like an attractive and efficient route for getting across the city. I would like to remind the City that cyclists and pedestrians will expect their access to be as attractive and efficient as that for motor vehicle drivers. I would like to make some suggestions to accommodate cyclists.

On the east side, cyclists should expect access to the roadway shoulders at least as far east as Lorne Avenue, if not from the Avalon residential area. At Lorne, cyclists should be able to enter the proposed roadway whether travelling north-bound or south-bound on Lorne. This access appears to be straightforward in the November 23 recommended option. Cyclists travelling eastward on the proposed roadway should be able to exit and proceed either north or south on Lorne. There does not appear to be an exit ramp for Lorne Avenue traffic in the November 23 option, so it may be necessary to construct a facility to enable cyclists to make this traffic manoeuvre effectively.

Additional entry and exit points for cyclists should also be considered at St. Henry Avenue and the Meewasin Trail. These entry and exit points may also be able to accommodate pedestrians.

On the west side, cyclists should have access to the roadway shoulders at 11th Street. This access appears to be straightforward in the recommended option, so cyclists should be able to be accommodated here without difficulty. Additional entry and exit points would also be beneficial from the Montgomery residential area and Holiday Park industrial area (these may be combined). Access to Spadina and the Meewasin Trail should also be considered.

I would like to emphasize that cyclists must be accommodated according to accepted traffic principles, even if they are separated from motorized traffic. Cyclists are not pedestrians. Forcing them to act as pedestrians, as is often done, not only creates unnecessary delay but also increases collision and injury rates. If access is implemented effectively, cyclists will be able to operate as drivers of vehicles when entering or leaving roadways such as 11th Street and Lorne Avenue.

Some recreational cyclists, such as those using the Meewasin Trail or the parks, may have needs for access that are different from those of cyclists using the bridge and roads for commuting and other transportation. Nonetheless, it is important to avoid channelling all cyclists in a manner inconsistent with proper traffic behaviour. For example, cyclists must not be forced to travel on the "wrong" side of the road (even when separated by barriers), especially when approaching intersections. They should not be directed onto sidewalks and pathways that are difficult to negotiate, cause conflict with pedestrians or cause conflict with motorized traffic at intersections.

Earlier documents published by the City state that consultation included "20-25 stakeholder groups including: Community Associations; Environmental Groups; Business Groups; Property/business Owners; Meewasin Valley Authority; Issues Groups; RM of Corman Park; Emergency Services." Cyclists have been conspicuously absent from these stakeholder consultations, yet they will comprise a significant proportion of traffic. Saskatoon's six cycling clubs and their provincial governing body, the Saskatchewan Cycling Association, should be consulted. Cyclists who do not belong to cycling clubs should be sought out and consulted, for example, by soliciting their involvement through local cycling businesses.

Commuter cyclists will comprise about two to three percent of traffic on the new bridge. Trail riders and other users would increase cycling traffic beyond this proportion. If their needs are implemented with forethought and good planning, the cost to accommodate cyclists will be less than one percent of the total cost of construction. To me, this seems like a good return on investment, so please don't sell cyclists short by neglecting their needs until it's too late.

Thank you for considering these suggestions.

--
Darrell Noakes


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