Metro Cities: Time for Canada to put pedal to the metal on cycling
From ‘protected intersections’ to ‘Idaho stop signs’ and reconsidering red light rules, ideas abound for safer, more satisfying bike rides.
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It’s time for Canada’s cities to put their “bike pedal” to the metal — and shift gears to improve cycling — says an expert on urban bicycle planning. Unlike many of their European counterparts, Canadian city plans often relegate bikes to second-class citizens. There’s no lack of fixes to move cycling from an overlooked mode of transit to a celebrated (and, in turn, safer) one, explained UBC public health professor Kay Teschke.
‘Idaho stops’: This year marks 35 years since Idaho passed a law that’s inspired cities elsewhere: it allows cyclists to save energy by treating stop signs as a “yield,” and red lights as “stop signs” requiring a full halt before proceeding. It’s popular among cyclists, but Teschke said cities’ top priority should instead be ending bike-car collisions — and saving lives.
‘Dutch junctions’: Common in the Netherlands but yet to seriously hit the pavement here, these “protected intersections” feature raised refuge “islands” at the four corners of intersections where cyclists can wait — in plain sight — for their turn to cross unimpeded. And they can also include raised waiting-points halfway across for cyclists to make crossings in two steps.
Bike skyways: Copenhagen, Denmark wants to become the most bikeable city in the world. And as part of that goal, it’s built the “Cykelslangen,” or Bicycle Snake, a raised bikes-only bridge through its downtown where cyclists can avoid traffic altogether safely above the streets.
‘Intelligent’ traffic signals: Danish cities have also installed special traffic lights that prioritize cyclists over motorists on some of its busiest bike routes. Not only do they give bikes a head-start before vehicles, keeping cyclists flowing, but at peak-cycling hours they’re also timed to synchronize at an average cyclists’ pace, lowering the number of times cyclists are forced to stop en route.
Floating cycle roundabouts: Pioneered in the Dutch city of Eindhoven, the space-age-looking “Hovenring” makes crossing four-or-more street intersections a breeze, keeping cyclists moving at all times by bypassing roads altogether — from above.