Friday, June 5, 2015
New sections of the E&N trail, a commuter cycling route that runs parallel to our hopeful railway across the Capital Region, are completing final touches to connect the path through View Royal to the Colwood overpass near Thetis Lake at Island Highway. Here the trail meanders on to the Galloping Goose before reappearing in Langford at Savary School.
One of the final touches here is most certainly unwelcome.
Few will notice it, fewer still will pay it any heed, but signs instructing cyclists to dismount and walk through a pair of crosswalks don’t meet the test of good design. They need to be removed.
The trail is already a minor street, soon to be a major conduit for bicycle travel. It has always been intended to serve that function. Much of the early funding was secured on the premise that it would help convert commute trips from cars to bikes – I helped write the formulas essential to a successful application. The dismount protocol runs contrary to the trail’s purpose and needs to be dropped.
There is likely nothing in any safety analysis that would likely point trail managers to raise a panic over cyclists crossing an access road (to the Adams Storage property off Island Highway, where trip volumes are low, access to the main route is stop controlled and sight lines are adequate, if not completely ideal). A few metres further along, where Island Highway and Burnside Road meet below the Colwood Overpass, the crossing has been designed for cyclists to ride through (I did consulting work on the project and we shaped the streetscape to allow a ride through median), movements are controlled by traffic signals, hardly a situation where dismount instructions are needed.
Precedents are everywhere on the Goose and Lochside Trails. No crossings remain where the “dismount and walk your bike” approach has been sustained. Those that were in place were dropped years back and local bylaws enacted to endorse the concept of bicycles as traffic, not as rolling pedestrians.
Use of the E&N trail has ramped up significantly with every new emergent segment, impatient cyclists finding their way round barriers and sections under construction. Even as the new signs have gone up, none have paid any attention whatsoever to the harebrained instruction to dismount along a hurried route. Whatever for?
If any road users notice the signs, and mercifully they are small, the protocol might seem absurd, though some few may whine a familiar refrain that brands cyclists as scofflaws intent on bending the rules to suit their arrogance. It breeds disrespect to impose a requirement that no one will observe. Better to design to reflect patterns of use than post impotent signs that satisfy some hand-wringer concerned about who is using the trail.
While it may seem small, most every detail of design and delivery of the project has caught my eye over the course of the project development. It’s one I’ve been working on for near two decades. Design matters, and bad design ideas won’t serve the users our new facilities are intended to attract.
Somebody needs to put their thinking cap on and take out the signs. And while you are at it, perhaps you could run some wiring under the sidewalk at the overpass so trail users don’t have to contort themselves trying to push a button for their turn at the signal. And when you don’t know what you are doing, please ask someone who does.