Bike Hazards on UBC Campus

Our campus has clearly become more bike-friendly and specifically more bike-commuter friendly over the past 4 years that I’ve been commuting by bike daily. The most concrete (literally in some cases) markers of this are the secure bike lock-up facilities and the great number of bike stands on campus.

Yet in striving to set an example for other employers and commuting-destinations, there are further improvements that could be made, mostly to do with roadways to/across campus.

1. The traffic circle at Wesbrook and 16th is a biking disaster even though it is of recent provenance and has presumably benefitted from careful planning given the decision for a traffic circle over traffic light.

Why a disaster? Markings on the road indicate that bike riders should go up on the sidewalk (presumably dismount) to cross roads. That is significantly worse than having to wait at a traffic light.

However, HUB discussions have suggested to me that the road signage here only refers to the option of walking across roads, not an injunction or even expectation. So, I ride through the traffic circle in the appropriate lane as any other vehicle would. I’m sure many drivers see the road markings and think to themselves, “What’s the bike doing in my lane, he’s supposed to be over there.”

Solution? Get rid of on-the-road markings, add signs “Share the Road”.

2. Passenger drop-off on campus roads. I usually enter campus on Main Mall, turn down on Thunderbird Blvd to head North on West Mall. The section of West Mall between University Blvd and Crescent Rd seems to be a particular favourite for parents, partners to drop off their loved ones. However, since this is a one-lane (in one direction) road, a car pulling over inevitably represents a hazard, particularly when slow-moving drivers (dropping off) seem especially prone to cell phone use.

The solution? Enforce “no stopping” gently and either mark entrances to campus with “no pedestrian drop-off on campus” or clearly mark locations that move a vehicle dropping off out of traffic, for example one spot in the Memorial Rd parking lot.

3. Tour bus traffic on campus. I see no reason whatsoever why tour buses should drive on campus roads. Yes, VERY occasionally a group of students may be getting picked up, but for the most part these seem to be tourist operations. Again, this is particularly common on the Northern end of West Mall, close to the Museum of Anthropology.

Solution? Outreach to tour operators that campus is not a place to be driving, nor stopping.

4. Main mall. This has turned into a real attractive feature in part because car traffic is gone (see 2. and 3.). However, tiling the road way has also meant that while bikes are meant to be allowed to use Main Mall, pedestrians are not paying much attention to bike riders, creating a real hazard.

Solution? Tough one. Even as a bike rider, I’d probably have to say, “Ban bikes on Main Mall”. This would be palatable if parallel routes were expressly dedicated to bike traffic. How about the Northern end of East Mall? There’s no through traffic there now anyway and the roadway still offers the opportunity to mark this as a space where pedestrians need to pay attention. This could also address 2. and 3. above as it would concentrate North-South bike traffic.

5. Bus loop on University Blvd in front of War Memorial Gym. This has been quite a saga from the original bus loop to the hard-to-fathom underground bus station plan, back to a bus loop. Clearly it’s all looking much more attractive now (along with improvements to Main Mall, these visual appearances do matter on campus, I’m convinced), but the arrangement with busses by the curb and the bike lane next to them, then another lane for rolling bus traffic (presumably) seems less than ideal. This is compounded by the anarchic pedestrian patterns and large numbers around here.

Solution? Again, this seems like it’s an area where a clear separation of different modes of transport might have been better. Maybe a centre bike lane demarcated by a curb of sorts? At least application of the bright green bike lane colour used in the city?