Saturday, July 30, 2011

Six City of Vancouver Reports Just in Time For the Long Weekend

The City of Vancouver has been a busy bee. Six reports were released in the last few days on subjects ranging from the separated bike lanes to sustainable neighbourhoods projects to homelessness to pedestrian safety. I have yet to read all the reports, but here they are linked in all their multi-page glory for those of you who have some time during this long weekend to sit down with a cold beer and some good ol' fashioned municipal publications (note: these are all links to PDFs).

Improving Pedestrian Safety and Accessibility

photo of the Dunsmuir separated bike lane taken by the author

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Photo: Duck Duck Goose

A game of "Duck Duck Goose" on University Blvd.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Vancouver's Parkades Under Parks

If you're going to have a car parkade, best to put a real park on top of it like this one here in Vancouver's Coal Harbour.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Minneapolis' Green Sharrow Bike Lane

I thought I'd share a few pictures of one of the more interesting pieces of bicycle infrastructure I came across on my recent trip to Minneapolis. They are green sharrow lanes in the downtown core of the city. They're not quite just sharrows, but they're also not quite bike lanes. What they do provide, however, is added visibility and space for bikers on roads where, for whatever reason, the city has decided they don't have space for an actual dedicated bike-only painted lane. This gives bikers a clearly denoted shared space on the road with cars, alerting drivers to expect and give room to bikers riding in the green lane.

I took a few pictures of how I saw it working from my perch on top of the Minneapolis Public Library.

Here's the stretch of sharrow lane as it sits empty. Sharrows are painted at the beginning and end of the lane with the middle stretch painted green. This is not coloured asphalt, but just green paint. Pretty easy and cheap to apply, I'd imagine.

Here's a biker using the lane, while a car sits up ahead waiting to turn. They're both using the same space.

And here is a bus using the lane:

And what it looks like when the road gets busy:

As with all sharrows, the lane pretty much disappears when there are too many cars, forcing bikers to the gutter and virtually obliterating their space. I think there are some positives and negatives to the painted lane approach for sharrows. On the one hand, if you're going to put in sharrows only, then adding a different colour on the road is a good way to visually alert drivers to expect bikers and give them their space. On the negative, this lane in no way replaces a dedicated bike lane and could be actually less safe in that bikers might have a false sense of security riding in this lane, forgetting it is shared with cars and busses. It would be interesting to see some collision statistics for before and after.

Could these work on College where the bike lanes disappears on the west portion? How about on Spadina Ave?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Toronto Vs. Vancouver: Garbage Can Edition

photo by JBcurio from Flickr Creative Commons

I'm not sure what it says about me that I take pictures of garbage cans when I'm on vacation, but I couldn't help snapping a few photos of some of Vancouver's newest additions to the trash scene when I was there last week. I never really gave garbage cans much thought before I moved to Toronto and encountered the ugly, non-functional and corporate-branded AstralMedia garbage cans that dominate the Toronto streetscape (see above photo).

These hulking, plastic bins feature a step-bar that is meant to open a flap so you don't have to soil your hand while throwing something away. Great idea. Except that 99% of the time it's broken. The company that provided them, AstralMedia, recently admitted that their garbage cans are, well, garbage.

I'm not sure when these were put up, but Vancouver's new all metal compost/recycling/garbage receptacles, which I found down near the Vancouver Convention Centre are great. Best part about these that I can see? They're easy to clean. No curving lines, weird plastic or hinges. Just hose these suckers off and they're shiny as new.

I also found some new receptacles near the Olympic Village that featured a similar functional design with multiple compartments for different recyclables, and also a solar-powered trash compactor. I have my doubts that people are going to be using the compartments exactly as labeled. Most times people just chuck their junk into the nearest opening without checking to make sure whether it's for newspapers or banana peels. However, the thin slot for the newspapers bin discourages people who would ignorantly toss in the remains of their Bic Mac.

These two designs are much better than the often over-flowing garbage cans that Vancouver began installing en masse several years ago. Those garbage cans allowed no place for recyclables or compost (granted, at the time the City didn't collect compost). They did however, contain a spot that was meant for cans and bottles so that "binners"--people that collect cans and bottles for their refund--didn't have to reach into the garbage can to collect them. Unfortunately, these trays simply filled with garbage most times.

photo by Carolyn Coles from Flickr Creative Commons

Of course, we could just get rid of garbage cans altogether and install a system of trash-sucking pneumatic tubes like those found on New York's Roosevelt Island or Stockholm's Hammarby Sjostad neighbourhood. Just don't fall in.

photos my own, except where noted.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Wayfinding Signage Without the Ads

So while I was away on vacation it seems a newly designed Info-To-Go pillar was presented to City Council here in Toronto. I think wayfinding signage around town is completely essential, but am disappointed to see that the ratio of city information to advertising on these pillars is pretty terrible--even more terrible than the previous design (you can read Torontoist's article on the previous pillar design here). Apparently if you want to find your way, you only get a sliver of spot to look at, but if you're interested in new diamond rings, well, look no further.

One of the places I went on my vacation was back to Vancouver to visit some friends and family. Vancouver began installing info pillars before the Olympics in 2010, but the program has seen a lot of expansion since I left just over a year ago. They were all over the place. A typical pillar was a skinny strip with a map, directions to things nearby, and a listing of local business. The opposite side of the pillar contained the same information. There was a giant 'i' on top. There are no ads (unless you consider the local business listing an ad). Here is one for Coal Harbour:

Now, to be fair, Vancouver's info pillars on busy downtown streets like Robson contain an ad on one side and information on the other, but the vast majority of the pillars are like the ones pictured above. No ads, just info.

Why can't Toronto do something like this?