Are painted lines enough for S.W. Marine Drive one of the marquee rides of Vancouver?

S.W. MarineDrUpgradesWR

The City of Vancouver (Cov) is proposing upgrades to the bike route on South West Marine Dr. Here is the staff report for the full details of the project. Here

One of the great cycle routes in the City of Vancouver is SW Marine Drive. S.W. Marine Dr. is designated a bike route by the city, connecting UBC and the Endowment lands to Granville St.. This iconic ride is one the best in Vancouver. But the bike path is fraught with unacceptable risk that need fixing.

Strava is an online site for logging and sharing rides and runs. The site uses data from smart phones and GPS devices and is very popular with road cyclist. Strava states that there where 140 million runs in rides in Vancouver between Jan. 2014 and May 2015! If you look at the “heat maps” that Strava generates you can see that SW Marine Dr. is a popular route the city.Heat Map

The bike path on SW Marine Dr. is non existent in some places and very narrow in other places. In addition to the variability of the width is the condition of the surface with many patches, bumps and holes that really require riders to pay careful attention to the road conditions. More importantly is the path’s proximity to the road and the lack of physical separation. There are many large trucks and buses that use this route. Also, there are high volumes of traffic on this road because it is an arterial road and is an important route in the context of Metro Van traffic management.

Particularly at intersections where there is no left hand turn bays, people driving cars regularly and recklessly drop to the right into the bike lane to get around left turning cars. This is one of the biggest dangers to folks riding bikes on this route. There is also a significant risk with the number of cars that park along this route and the potential to get doored.

The City of Vancouver states: “From 2009 through 2013 (5 year period),there were twenty-six (26) collisions that involved vehicle traffic and people cycling along Southwest Marine Drive approximately six collisions per year).The collisions attributed to factors such as vehicle dooring and parking in the bike lane, drivers passing too closely to people biking, and vehicles turning at intersections or in and out of driveways”

proposed road design for SW Marine Dr.WPClearly this route needs upgrades. In fact the bike route does not meet the CoV design guidelines and if not improved should be dropped as a designated bike path. However city staff are not recommending full separation and triple A upgrades that would be suitable for “all ages and abilities”. The reasons for the proposed upgrades to the route are because Metro Van is upgrading the road and it was view by engineering staff as a opportunity to improve riding conditions in the area in a more cost effective way.

CoV staff are not supportive of full separation because of the following reasons:

“Any widening beyond the proposed bikeway improvements would have significant impacts on costs, trees, and utility relocations as well as introduce substantial delays to project implementation”. (for more details see page 8 of the CoV report. Estimated cost for AAA path is $11 m! )

It is a bit disappointing at this time that a full upgrade is not possible, as this area would be great for families to ride around in, there are some beautiful rides down on the Fraser River. The proposed design upgrades will make incremental improvements to cycling conditions in the area. The city is planning on spending $3.1 million on this project. The proposed design is to construct a path that has consistent width of 1.8 m. $200 k is ear marked for high risk area such as intersections and corners where full concrete barriers will be deployed so cars can’t move right into the bike lane!



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