A recent letter to the Richmond News from Daniel Pascual was a good one, and it made a lot of valid points. Essentially, we have many roads with lanes that are wide enough to accommodate wider bike lanes, or bike lanes period, yet City Hall seems unwilling to either put a bike lane on them or even a cement divider separating the vehicles from bikes. Ideally, separated bike lines with cement dividers would be fabulous - although with caveats which I’ll talk about in a bit. As Daniel mentions, it would encourage more people to ride their bikes due to the extra barrier, and it also would help to put motorists at ease as they don’t need to try and gauge the space between them and cyclists as they go around them.
In my experience around the Lower Mainland, cement barriers are great. However, there’s an important issue which needs to be considered. In cities I ride in with barriered bike lanes, there can be a debris problem if the city doesn’t assign the man-power to constantly sweep that lane. For example, think of Granville Avenue in Richmond. We have a decent bike lane joined to the road. And this means that when the street sweeper cleans the road - the bike lane is cleaned. This can’t be done with cement barriers in place, and I’ve seen some situations where leaves and branches pile up and the separated lane gets quite dangerous. One of the worst offenders is when there is a car accident, and instead of sweeping and removing glass and debris, someone just throws it over the barrier into the bike lane.
But is there a middle ground? There might be. I present Marine Drive in South Vancouver, going from Granville to 49th Ave (towards UBC). What they’ve done is they’ve created a double line system - as wide as a cement barrier that separates the bike lanes from the vehicular lane. Then, at large intersections, they will install short cement barriers, or plastic barriers (or both) to deter motorists from cutting into the bike lane at intersections to go around cars etc.
I think this would be a great start in Richmond. Create a buffer between the bike lane and vehicles, and this does leave the option open for full barriers in the future. I've taken some photos to show you. If you ever drive that stretch of Marine Drive towards UBC then pay attention to it and see how you feel as a motorist, does it make it easier to avoid cyclists? If you’re a more casual rider, would this make you feel safer on Richmond’s roads?
The city needs to invest in street upgrades that could last for years and possibly save lives.
Geordie McGillivray is an avid Richmond cyclist.