Prototype Small Scale Solutions
As a resort community, Revelstoke sees a lot of tourist traffic in the downtown, both pedestrians and vehicles. Additionally, as a community to over 7,500 residents, Revelstoke boasts one of the highest per capita rates of active transportation in Canada, with over 22% in the 2016 census showing walking or cycling as the main mode of transportation for their work commute. Providing residents and visitors safe street designs is part of my department’s work, and we’ve focused on some small-scale implementations to trial or prototype ideas.
Three Problems, one solution?
Revelstoke, like most communities has multiple bike racks on most downtown blocks, but it is not uncommon to see ten bikes leaning against a building, bikes against every tree and post. At times this can take away from pedestrian movement, safety and enjoyment of the downtown.
Parking in Revelstoke can be tough, particularly on busy summer days, and often vehicles park in areas marked as no parking with a yellow curb. Given the high volume of larger vehicles coming into the downtown, such as RVs, and trucks with travel trailers or boats, often these vehicles will park in these locations that are intended to give drivers and pedestrians better visibility for safely navigating the intersections. Sometimes, vehicles will even park blocking the crosswalk with their trailers.
Downtown Revelstoke is generally a pedestrian and cycling friendly zone, but the City has received concerns about the intersection of 2nd St and Mackenzie, which now operates as a two way stop, particularly with vehicles turning off Mackenzie at higher speeds. There have been requests for this intersection to be changed to a 4-way stop, however, unnecessary stop signs often breed indifference to regulatory signs and shouldn’t be used to regulate speed. 4-Way stops are a passive, authoritarian device, enforcing unbending rules on everyone, even at 2am. Every single vehicle that approaches the intersection must stop, this is a tyranny that can backfire when a frustrated driver about to have the right of way is held up for a precious few more seconds by an innocent pedestrian. We can do better than that!
[Tweet “Prototyping small scale solutions is an effective local government process for incremental improvements”]
Bike racks are a key component in shifting away from a car dominant culture. The City often receives requests from businesses for more bike racks, but finding areas to fit them in that doesn’t impact the sidewalk experience, or take away from vehicle parking has been challenging. We’ve reached a level of saturation on the sidewalks in some areas of town, and needed to look for innovative solutions.
Last week we installed sixteen new bike racks in the heart of downtown. Located outside a busy coffee shop and the Mountain Co-Lab, this site will restrict illegal parking, improving pedestrian safety at the adjacent intersection, and offers much needed bike parking surrounded by planters. There’s still some polishing touches to finish, a couple more delineators on the street side of the bike racks and maybe some lane markings, but even before staff were finished installing this facility, there were already bikes lined up in the racks.
By restricting vehicles from parking illegally at this location, which was an almost hourly occurrence at some times of the year, the potential height of obstructions for visibility has been reduced from 6 or more feet of solid truck or travel trailer height, down to less than 4 feet of bike and 2 1/2 feet of planter. As with all out bike racks, we’ll be pulling these out in the fall to make sure they are not damaged by snow or snow removal activities, so we may still need to develop a longer term solution to manage winter parking and safety challenges here.
Other projects in this program include a one-way island to restrict through traffic on a local road, while allowing cyclists through, (at the corner of Douglas and Charles), which was completed last year; reducing the speed limit on the Illecillewaet Bridge to 30km/hr and restricting passing on the bridge to protect cyclists; and in the next couple of weeks staff will be installing some traffic calming and pedestrian safety improvements at the intersection of Fourth St (one of Revelstoke’s main stroads) and Edward, by Southside market, where a young cyclist was injured a couple of years ago.
Finding innovative ways to make places safer and more livable, and trialing these concepts at relatively low cost is the future for many improvement programs in communities of all sizes. There will still be a need for the bigger civil projects to make incrementally larger improvements, Revelstoke’s roundabout projects are good examples of this need, sometimes the issues are well beyond small scale interventions. For now though, we’ll watch how these projects work, learn from our efforts, refine, document, and if successful, we’ll repeat elsewhere.
Originally published at UrbanWorkbench.