Imperial Drive

The most dangerous road conditions on my Mackenzie Heights to UBC bike commute are on Imperial Drive. I use Imperial Drive as the continuation of the 29th Ave bike route to reach 16th where I head West to UBC. It is a very attractive part of the ride because it crosses through Pacific Spirit Park and the curves in the road mean that cars are not racing through here as they are on 16th, for example.

However, the road surface is becoming worse and worse. As is often the case, it is wearing out from the outside, i.e. exactly where I would be riding my bike. Cracks, developing holes and – especially hazardous, I find – chunks of asphalt breaking off at the edge.

These road conditions are especially treacherous coming home in the afternoon/evening as there is no street lighting on this stretch of road. Given the condition of the roadway, I feel compelled to ride in the centre of the lane which obviously works well when there is no car traffic behind me. Should a car come, however, I move over to the side where the road conditions are scary and I’ve already pitched off the roadway onto the soft should once. The lack of light is exacerbated by on-coming traffic that doesn’t alway recognize a bike light as a signal to switch to low-beams. My Gotham Defender bike light does give me some light on the road at the speed I’m going, but this is no use (no fault of the light) in on-coming high-beams.

Grit Accumulating in Cycle Lane

One of the aspects of commuting by bike in Vancouver in the winter where insult is added to injury is the fact that grit, wetness, leaves, etc. all seem to accumulate in the bike lanes on big streets.

Take 16th, for example, as I’m heading to UBC. Last week we had some days that were somewhat dry, but followed on wetter days. The road was either dry or just wet as passing cars were drying it off.

Trees are obviously dropping lots of leaves onto roads (though less so on the stretch through Pacific Spirit Park) and the amount of rain seems to wash a fair bit of gravel and grit onto the road.

All this grit seems to accumulate in the bike lane. My shoe covers and the bottom of the forward-diagonal tube on the bike look like they’ve been gently sandblasted by the time I arrive on campus.

The fix for all of this? Obvious! More people riding => more grit gets thrown up and out of the cycle lane.

Bike Routes and Bike Lanes

Obviously, we’ve been gaining many dedicated bike lanes in Vancouver for some years. Most recently, the focus seems to be on making these lanes more visible by painting them a bright green. That’s great!

But why stop there?

How about intersections on bike routes?

One of the greatest danger spots on my commute through Dunbar is the traffic circle at 29th/Blenheim. Blenheim is a very convenient and reasonably fast N-S connection for many people from Kits to Kerrisdale or even on through to Richmond/YVR. While this is not a highway and people aren’t going crazy fast, it’s also not a back street.

The intersection has been changed to a traffic circle in the past two years or so where traffic in the circle has the right of way. What that means to me is: if I’m in the intersection as a car approaches, I have the right away. Or, if I arrive at the intersection when a car is approaching, I’m entering the circle first and would have the right of way.

There are signs that signify that one should yield when entering the traffic circle and this is also how the circle further down on Blenheim (37th, I think, also a bike route) as well as the larger traffic circle at 16th/Wesbrook operates.

However, the notion that cars should yield to a bike that’s in the circle already does not appear to be very clear to drivers.

As I’m about to enter the traffic circle, all too often a car is approaching at great enough speed and with not apparent intention to slow down to keep me from actually entering the circle. Yes, I’m stubborn and self-righteous but not so much so that I will hurl myself in front of traffic.

For a while I thought that a traffic education campaign with police posted near the circles and stopping “offenders” to educate them would be the best way to go, but I wonder whether a green stripe across the circle marking the bike route wouldn’t also be quite effective.

With the preponderance of bright green downtown to mark bike lanes, why not keep going with that theme?