The above graphic may seem a little crazy, An 18m cross section, approximately what we have on Mountain Highway, and the same space whether you are a person walking, cycling or driving. It would actually function perfectly fine, 3m is more than enough space for cars, trucks and buses to move. The narrow lane actually helps to encourage slower and safer driving speeds, speeds that are more appropriate for an urban setting and a technique that is now often recommended for this exact reason. I suspect Lynn Valley Road and Mountain Highway have existed in their current form since their inception, a time when the car ruled all, and there was little concern for the environment and promoting alternative forms of transportation. It's time for a healthier and more equitable Lynn Valley, read on for one possible solution.
Ever since I've been in Canada I've made the regular pilgrimage by car to Lynn Valley to ride my bike on the North Shore mountains. Now that I live in the community and rather than driving into it, I ride my bike to the trails, to Main Street, to Lonsdale, and over the second narrows bridge, there are clear gaps in the bike network. In Lynn Valley it is not quite a case of ungapping the map, there almost is no map!
Lynn Valley offers a compact and walkable town centre, but riding your bike in or out of it is not a pleasant experience, having to share a lane with fast moving vehicles and often limited lighting after dark. There are only really two routes in and out of the town centre to the main destinations which are all to the south, Mountain Highway and Lynn Valley Road. In their present form, these do not provide an option suitable for all ages and abilities of cyclist, and even for the confident cyclist, are less than enjoyable.
There are a lot of changes happening to improve conditions for cyclists on the periphery of Lynn Valley. Keith Road is being upgraded presently and will include bike lanes, the Mountain Highway Interchange project will include some form of bike provision, Grand Boulevard in the City of North Vancouver will see separated bike lanes, and Lower Mountain Highway is undergoing a design exercise that includes separated bike lanes. That's all great, but how do we get there safely from Lynn Valley?
Below is a rough approximation of the existing configuration of Mountain Highway south of Whiteley Court, where the existing bike lanes end. It has two lanes northbound and one generally wide lane southbound which is often used for on-street parking.
Based on my observations, the road is rarely at capacity, it might seem busy for one or two hours of the day, but it could not be considered congested. Some congestion does occur in the southbound direction, which is a result of the delays from Highway 1 and Keith Road, not as a result of Mountain Highway itself. The improvements here will reduce congestion in the short term at least.
Mountain Highway provides only one through lane in either direction at the north and south ends, so the bloated middle section only serves to encourage higher speeds and allow through traffic to bypass left turning traffic. Removing on-street parking would instantly free up space for a southbound bike lane. Reducing the northbound direction from two lanes to one lane would free up space for a northbound bike lane with space left over for a small buffer on both sides as shown below.
Lynn Valley Road
Lynn Valley Road is the much busier route to and from Lynn Valley. It is five lanes wide for the most part, two in each direction plus left turn lanes. The wide curb lanes are marked with Sharrow's, but cycle that route on a busy day and the proximity of wing mirrors to elbows as cars squeeze past can be a scary experience at times. Again, with the exception of the peak hour in the morning and evening, the road rarely seems anywhere close to congested.
The solution... remove the left turn lanes, reduce vehicle lanes to at least 3.5m and give the remaining space to cyclists. There is even sufficient space for a protective buffer, at least in paint, to save costs in the short term. With regard to the removal of the left turn lanes, through traffic in the left lane, stuck behind left turning traffic has the option of changing lane to lessen their delay, at non-peak times there would likely be no increase in vehicle delay.
Pros and Cons
The current cross sections are built to maximize car capacity within the available cross section for around 2 hours out of 24. But it fails to provide safety for cyclists for 24 hours out of 24. At the cost of a little more delay in those peak hours, both streets could easily provide a safe route for cyclists for every hour of the day.
As municipal budgets rarely have the funds for extravagant solutions, those proposed are intended to be the lowest cost, easiest and quickest way to providing safe cycling facilities along each street.
Here is a quick rundown of some pros and cons of the above options.
Don't confuse this as being in any way connected to or approved by the District of North Vancouver. It is simply my thoughts as a resident on how an alternative and more equitable solution for transportation in and out of Lynn Valley might look.
Would love to hear others thoughts on such a solution whether you drive or ride a bike. For the record, I drive and cycle in and out of Lynn Valley, I'm willing to pay for greater safety whilst cycling with a little extra delay whilst driving.