I recently spent a few days in Kelowna for the Canadian Institute of Transportation Engineers (CITE) Annual Conference. The industry continues to move towards complete streets approaches to street design and that seemed to be the predominant topic of the sessions I sat in, its encouraging, but will take a long time to rectify many decades of auto orientated design. The best education during these weeks often comes from exploring the city and seeing how they have implemented various transportation ideas. Read on for some of the things I came across...
Biking is always one of the most talked about subjects in urban planning these days and the once forgotten mode is enjoying a comeback. Kelowna is no different and is implementing the latest concepts in bike infrastructure too. Like most places they have a variety of levels of bike infrastructure so we'll start with the worst. The Sharrow, which I found on one of their main (and newly revitalized) streets... Bernard Avenue. In my opinion, the only purpose for Sharrows is to guide cyclists down very low volume streets suitable for shared cycling. While I wouldn't call the traffic volumes on this street high, it is somewhat busy. I don't think the Sharrow is the best application here. However, the remainder of the street has some very nice design features which I'll get to later.
Moving up from the Sharrow, we have the typical painted bike lane.
After this things start to get interesting and we see a couple of examples of protected bike paths. First, one with one-way bike paths on either side of the roadway separated from the sidewalk by a grass boulevard and from the roadway by a paved surface.
Secondly we have the two-way bike path separated on both sides from the sidewalk and roadway by a boulevard strip with various shrubs and trees. Interestingly, and something we have had concerns about previously is the presence of many driveways along this section. Best practice would typically recommend such a facility where there are few interruptions, but here it seems to work well and traffic volumes are low.
One of the many great things about Kelowna is the waterfront, and that features a number of multi-use paths where the spaces is shared by people using many kinds of non-motorised transportation. Below are a few examples.
With a lot of bike infrastructure you need a lot of bike parking and in the main commercial center there are a few options. The image below shows your traditional bolt down rack, the architect designed rack that fits with the urban design, as well as the more secure longer term bike storage locker.
While we are in the main pedestrian centre we may as well look at the street design and furniture. at the east end there is the gateway approach, a number of didferent style of benches and tables to sit/stand/have a coffee/chat with friends.
The sidewalk is split into distinct zones - frontage zone for commercial activity, pedestrian zone for movement and landscape/furniture zone to provide separation and useful space between the vehicle lanes and pedestrian activity.
Where space has not been available for all zones, rather than have a parklet and place seating next to the traffic lanes, they have built the sidewalk out and kept the seating adjacent to the premises.
A few things you might not notice immediately, but do once you sit through a presentation on the design of the street is the accommodation for the blind. Below we have tactile (for the blind) high contrast (for vision impaired) paving at the entry to the crosswalk, there are pavers the line the pedestrian zone up with the crosswalk, there is a bollard that lines up with the edge of crosswalk and includes street names in braille.
Wayfinding is also apparent in a variety of means through the downtown, below are some examples of traditional route signs, street names, and downtown maps.
In terms of road design, roundabouts are becoming more common, and a new roundabout takes pride of place on Water Street, complete with multi-colored crosswalks.
And that's a wrap, time to ride off into the sunset...