Thursday 6 March 2014

Completing Our Streets: A Community Workshop

Imagining Our Future:
A community workshop to create a safer,
healthier, accessible, and more prosperous Oak Bay

DATE: Saturday, April 12, 1 - 4pm
LOCATION: Windsor Pavilion

For information about Registration (free):

What would a more attractive Oak Bay look like? What changes do you think would help make our streets and sidewalks safer for citizens of all ages and abilities? How can we help local businesses? And how can we maintain the inviting “village” character that has been such a part of Oak Bay’s heritage?

Now is your chance to start a conversation about the future of Oak Bay. Join Todd Litman of the Victoria Transport Policy Institute and Oak Bay’s Active Transportation Advisory Committee for a solution-focused community workshop on urban redesign. Together, we will re-imagine our current cityscape and start developing a blueprint for the Oak Bay of the future.

As a community, we face decisions about how to revitalize Oak Bay Avenue for shoppers, tourists and residents. We need solutions for the transportation challenges posed by the new Oak Bay High School, Neighbourhood Learning Centre, Performing Arts Theatre, and adjacent Oak Bay Recreation Centre so that everyone can enjoy their benefits.

The workshop will begin with an introduction to the ideas, techniques and benefits of “Complete Streets” design philosophy from Todd Litman. Then we will roll up our sleeves, roll out the maps and identify ways to improve our municipality’s transportation infrastructure and urban networks. After the workshop, the Active Transportation Advisory Committee will present your ideas and priorities directly to Oak Bay Council on your behalf.

Get inspired. Get involved. Get together for a thought-provoking (and fun!) afternoon of community building and idea sharing. Sign up now to reserve your spot!

Who We Are

The Active Transportation Advisory Committee is a 10-member volunteer group of Oak Bay citizens, created by Oak Bay Council in January 2012, with the mandate to recommend policies and projects to promote active transportation in the municipality.

Todd Litman is the executive director of the Victoria Transport Policy Institute, a widely published author and inspiring expert speaker on the topics of complete streets, active transportation and practical solutions to urban design issues.

Thursday 14 March 2013

Untying Oak Bay's traffic knot

Thanks to the Oak Bay News for a great article that highlights the work of ATAC and the importance of "complete streets policy and philosophy to making Oak Bay an even more livable municipality—for everyone.

Thursday 22 November 2012

Active transportation priorities for Oak Bay

On Monday, November 19th (2012) the Active Transportation Advisory Committee ( recommended four priority active transportation projects to Oak Bay Municipal Council.  The priority projects are consistent with recommendations from previous seminal reports -  the CRD Pedestrian and Cycling Master Plan (2011), the Active Transportation Strategy Report completed for Oak Bay in 2011, and the Accessibility Committee Report on Oak Bay Ave. They are entirely consistent with the Complete Streets Policy adopted by Oak Bay Council earlier this year.

All four projects meet the following criteria established by the Committee: 

  • Can take advantage of external funding
  • Maximum impact
  • Support regional priorities
  • Urgent and feasible
The four projects - two that we considered strategic in the sense that they are large and require additional expertise and funding and two that we saw as operational in that they can be done with the existing resources and expertise are listed here:

Haultain East-West Connector
UVIC/Lansdowne North South Pathway

Oak Bay Ave
Oak Bay High School Redevlopment

The full presentation that we made to Council can be found at this link:

Members of the Active Transportation Advisory Committee were gratified by the overwhelming support Council demonstrated in their unanimous vote in support of the recommended priorities. Moreover, they followed up with five key motions directing staff to report back on feasibility/cost for all four projects. Oak Bay is off to a promising start! 

Sunday 23 September 2012

A tale of two cities - Portland and Victoria

Two recent experiences again brought to mind why we ought to be putting more effort into building up our cycling infrastructure.

I recently completed Cycle Oregon, a week-long 787 km organized bike ride through rural Oregon. The registration for the ride took place in February and sold out within 30 minutes: 2,200 cyclists from far and near—Oregon, Alaska,  New York, Texas, North Carolina, Hawaii, B.C., Ontario, Japan, and Germany, to name but a few. This was a Baby Boom generation group—average age was 55—healthy, fit, and with both time and resources. They are interested in travelling to places with cycling infrastructure and routes.

One conversation during Cycle Oregon brought to my attention why the Capital Region needs to do more in terms of the kind of cycling experience it offers for residents and visitors alike. A couple from Portland visited Victoria in August 2011, with their 9-year-old daughter. They left their car in Port Angeles and rode their bikes over on the ferry. They were very disappointed with their experience here; they found the route from the ferry through James Bay and along Dallas Road to be very busy and, with no designated bike lane, too much for their daughter, who was not used to having to navigate in heavy traffic. Compared with their experience of biking in Portland, they found Victoria seriously wanting. They will not be back anytime soon and it is unlikely that they will recommend Victoria as a cycling destination to others.

By contrast, an acquaintance just back from Portland was struck by how accommodating the city is to cyclists and commuters, starting with the airport where there is a designated area complete with tools so that people travelling with bicycles can reassemble them before leaving the airport. The train from the airport to downtown Portland has hooks so that riders with bicycles can hang them up in the train. (In a week of commuting within the city, including to and from a conference venue that was an hour away, this person only spent $10.)

Bike rack in Portland train

Once in Portland, the city abounds with evidence of a cycling culture. Some examples:
  • Cycle tracks: These bike lanes are physically separated from motor vehicle lanes by concrete barriers or curbs, which apparently help increase bicycle ridership 18% to 20%, especially among women and children.
  • Bike lanes: Painted lanes on streets.
  • Sharrows: "Sharing arrows"—street markings show an outline of a bicycle and two arrows pointing forward, indicating that bicycles and cars both have full use of the lane.
  • Bicycle boulevards: Also called "neighborhood greenways", these residential streets are marked for both bikes and cars and have a speed limit of 20 mph.
There are many more examples too, such as an extensive cycling pathway network, but suffice to say that my acquaintance is planning to return to Portland next summer, with her bike. That is in stark contrast to the family from Portland who does not have Victoria on their list of places to return to anytime soon.

Tuesday 28 August 2012

Same street, 2 municipalities, different intersection experiences

One priority for the Active Transportation Advisory Committee is addressing the gap in cycling routes between (north) Oak Bay and Victoria by creating an east-west bikeway that connects with the greenway priority route on Haultain Road in the City of Victoria. Two issues need to be addressed to make this corridor a reality: lack of signage and crossing safety. 

Here are three examples of intersections that cyclists travelling west from Oak Bay towards Victoria on Haultain Street, experience. This is the corridor that cyclists would potentially use to access Royal Jubilee Hospital, St. Patrick's Elementary School, Victoria High School, downtown Victoria, and the Galloping Good Regional trail.
Crossing #1: Haultain Road at Foul Bay, with a pedestrian activated warning beacon. 

Crossing #1: Haultain Road at Foul Bay, no warning system or enhanced treatment for cyclists

Crossing #2: Haultain Road at Richmond, no signal or warning beacons but traffic calming barrier causes motorists to slow down considerably making the crossing for cyclists and pedestrians safer. 

Crossing #3: Haultain Road at Shelbourne Street, signalized intersection with bicycle loop detectors and pedestrian push buttons. 

The CRD Draft Working Paper No. 3 - Bicycle Strategy Report (2002) identifies the crossing at Haultain and Foul Bay Road as one of several key intersections that needs improvement. It is easy to see why.

Monday 27 August 2012

Perception vs Reality: how to make cycling safer

Much has been made of figuring out what motivates people to ride a bike and to use a bike as a means of transportation. Studies conducted by UBC researchers identified the top 10 reasons for choosing not to ride.  Apart from weather (snow, rain) or street conditions (icy, wet, debris on the road), cycling can be encouraged or discouraged by the presence (or lack thereof) of route design and urban infrastructure. In other words, good cycling facilities are important, including good signage and biking networks. 

Environmental factors important to cyclists are cycling infrastructure and road connectivity. 

Cyclists perceive major streets with shared lanes and no parked cars as having the greatest risk. I am not surprised. Recently, while attending the BC Summer Games, I decided to go for a bike ride. Having scoped out the area in which we were staying, I saw that there was a bike lane. Unfortunately, it was part of a very busy major roadway. While someone in the engineering department may have seen that as an obvious route, to me it screamed "unpleasant, noisy, and hazardous". I chose a different route that was more residential and visually pleasing. 

Not surprisingly, cyclists perceive residential streets as far less risky. In fact, one UBC study noted one of the top three preferred routes for riders is residential streets that are part of a designated bike route and have traffic calming routes.  Are these just perceptions or are there real benefits? The study shows that perception and reality are "aligned"—i.e. such streets are indeed safer for cyclists. No wonder then that cyclists will go out of their way to use designated bicycle routes, so long as they are well marked in terms of signage and pavement markings and have bike activated signals. (See link.)

ATAC has drawn up a list of  potential priorities to take to Oak Bay Municipal Council in the fall. On my list is improved cycling networks and pathways—signage and access. Of particular interest is addressing the gap in east/west cycling routes between (north) Oak Bay and Victoria by creating an east-west bikeway that connects Willows Beach, Estevan Village and Haultain Road with the greenway priority route on Haultain Road in the City of Victoria. Two issues exist: lack of signage for this route and crossing safety at the intersection of Haultain & Foul Bay Roads due to lack of a controlled access option for cyclists. These are both issues that we hope to bring to Council's attention. 

Monday 30 July 2012

Triggering lights in Oak Bay

It does not seem to be widely known by motorists or cyclists that cyclists can trigger lights intersections or that many intersections are set up with this equipment. These triggers (called inductive loop detectors) are designed to set off an advanced left turn light or simply a green light. Sometimes they don't work because of a malfunction, but most often they don't work because the cyclist has no idea where to position his or her bike in order to activate the trigger. 

A painted symbol on the road lets cyclists know where to position their bikes, but without that, many would not know that this option exists. Some might simply venture out into the intersection without bothering to wait for the light to turn—an obviously unsafe and unwanted situation. 

In Oak Bay recently, a member of the Active Transportation Advisory Committee, set out to discover which intersection inductive loop detectors were working and which were not. He checked out eight intersections and found some worked and some did not. The results of his survey can be seen here

The survey results were presented to the municipal engineering department recently, which agreed that the intersections needed attention. Oak Bay staff are now painting bike symbols at all triggered intersections to indicate the correct place to position your bike. The Active Transportation Advisory Committee is pleased with the cooperation that took place on this item and invites all cyclists to watch for and test Oak Bay's newly painted intersections over the next few weeks and let us know how this the inductive loop detectors are working.