Commercial Drive: A Complete Street?

A Complete Street Commercial Dr.? (Image Credit: Streets for Everyone)

Wow, this is a great design for Commercial Dr. (these to scale renderings where created by Streets for Everyone, a team of dedicated volunteers).   The sidewalks are being widened and protected bikelanes are being added, but vehicular parking, and right of way for transit and vehicular movement is still being maintained.  This is a true win-win-win solution!

Parking, protected cycling lanes, pedestrians all in the same space! (Image Credit: Streets for Everyone)

This design maintains on-street parking for vehicular access and freight deliveries.  Deliveries are the lifeline for many of the restaurants, and retail businesses on such a mixed-use street.  You have to maintain access for the delivery trucks for the supplies and goods that these businesses need.  Another thing to point out is that Commercial Dr. also has side streets and rear alleys which will also help facilitate deliveries.  My only criticism for this plan would to be designate one on-street parking spot per block for loading and unloading along Commercial Drive.

While cars will have to share only one lane with bus traffic the additional capacity being added for more pedestrians and people cycling will far out weigh the capacity lost. You can move more people as pedestrians, on bikes and transit, in the same space than with cars.

Same number of people, but different space requirements. (Image Credit: www.cyclingpromotion.com.au)

Crowded and Narrow Commercial Dr. Sidewalks Source: https://flic.kr/p/6B1Mrv

Crowded and Narrow Commercial Dr. Sidewalks Source: https://flic.kr/p/6B1Mrv

If you have ever walked on Commercial Dr. recently, you may have noticed how crowded the sidewalks become with street lamps, restaurant patios, pedestrians, strollers and dogs all competing for space on the narrow sidewalks.  This can get in the way of peoples enjoyment of their time there.  This can also get in the way of peoples desire or ability to stay in the area on the streets which is vital for street life and commercial businesses. In high quality public spaces, people attract people and make the street attractive.

Which is more attractive this?

Which street makes you want to stay more, this? (Image Credit: https://flic.kr/p/94rHfN)

Or this?  (Image Credit: https://flic.kr/p/acLfYf)

Or this? (Image Credit: https://flic.kr/p/acLfYf)

Widening the sidewalks will give visitors and residents a little bit more breathing room, and add capacity for more people.  This may even allow for more patio room and potentially a low cost way to increase seating capacity and revenue generation for restaurants.  Other businesses may have more room to display their wares outside the store, inviting people to wander inside your business. Pedestrians can relax and slow down which can also help translate into more sales for the businesses, as they have more time to peruse the wares.

Another great feature of this design is the addition of the traffic separated and protected bike lane.  Cycling lanes are often relegated to the “off-broadway” quieter streets so that cities can minimize safety investments where people actually want to be, “on-broadway.”  This will add more “foot traffic” directly onto Commercial Dr. and visibility for businesses, which can result in more exposure and sales for businesses.  There are some studies that show that while pedestrians and people cycling spend less per visit, they also visit more often, ultimately spending more overall than people driving in some situations.

People walking, cycling and using transit may the same amount or more than people driving for some businesses. (Source: http://www.citylab.com/commute/2012/12/cyclists-and-pedestrians-can-end-spending-more-each-month-drivers/4066/)

Cycling Traffic Separated Intersection (Image Credit: Streets For Everyone)

These designs don’t mess around, it introduces complete cycling traffic separation.  The cycling lane is being protected by a physical concrete barrier and a lane of parking.  The most important safety feature (often neglected in North American cycling lane designs) occurs at the intersection which is the most dangerous location for pedestrians and people cycling in our road network. According to this study conducted by the City of Vancouver in 2012:

Approximately 75% of all pedestrian collisions were located at
intersections.

The proposed concrete islands at the intersections will provide a safe waiting spot for people cycling and pedestrians.  It will also slow down drivers since the tighter turning radius requires drivers to navigate more carefully to make a turn. People cycling will be able to pull ahead at intersections behind the barrier to maintain visibility with drivers and gives them the lead in intersection light sequencing.  If you haven’t already, I highly recommend you watch this video and this video to get a sense of how this would work.  (**Please note that for this intesection to ensure safety it is necessary for the cycling stop line to be in front of drivers for maximum driver, cycling visibility.

These bike lanes also make things safer, and more enjoyable for pedestrians by further separating them from the traffic.  People will be able to carry out conversations.

Could this be Commercial Drive? (Image Credit: Bicycle Dutch)

Some of the other nice designs features I noticed:

  • The cycling lanes are raised at the intersections which will help the comfort and dignity of our most vulnerable; older adults and those with strollers, wheelchairs and disabilities.
  • Seating is being added at intersection “bulb outs” which allows people to sit back enjoy the exciting Commercial Drive activities. This will also give busy shoppers a chance to catch a break or for people to enjoy their gelato.
  • Waiting zones with shelters are added for people waiting for transit, removing them from blocking business store fronts and the flow of people.  These zones still maintain access for one of the busiest transit corridors in Vancouver (2nd best bus route in terms of the number of passengers per route per year, and 7th best in terms cost per boarded passenger according to TransLinks’ 2013 Bus Service Performance Review)
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