I’ll take even the smallest of victories in this benighted week…
Way back in December 2007, I wrote to the city to request a stop light at a dangerous intersection on my bike route; the Ontario Street bike route crosses 16th Avenue on a stagger, with no lights or stop signs to protect the cyclists who have to cross and then ride along the busy road before continuing along Ontario. I received a courteous reply saying that the council were looking into cycling infrastructure priorities based on need and cost, but that there were far more requests of this kind than money to pay for them.
When our new, strongly pro-cycling mayor was elected in November 2008, I sent essentially the same email to the new council, and received essentially the same reply.
I joined the Vancouver Area Cycling Coalition around the same time. The VACC organise summer and winter Bike to Work Weeks every year, during which their volunteers hand out food, drinks, bike route maps, reflective gear, and other goodies at mobile stalls set up on the major bike routes that crisscross the city. They also survey all the riders they can on how their routes could be improved; I filled in the form at every possible opportunity, listing the unregulated intersection at Ontario Street and 16th Avenue as the most dangerous part of my route. “We see that one a lot”, volunteers would tell me as I told them what I was writing. They assured me that each survey’s results were sent to the mayor and council, but nothing happened…
…until one day on my staycation in November 2010, I spotted new stop lights being installed on 16th Avenue, either side of the Ontario Street intersection! Oh happy day!
Once the lights had been installed, the work crew covered them with black plastic bags to mark them as not yet active, and then went away.
And stayed away.
My guess was that they were having to gradually phase the new lights into the sequence of lights in the surrounding area, and that it might take a few weeks before they came online. But no… the plastic bags stayed on…
…until a few weeks ago, when a new work crew showed up, closed 16th Avenue just west of the intersection, and started digging stuff up…
…before replacing the now very tattered black plastic bags that were obscuring the lights with purpose-made, fitted, heavy canvas covers.
At this point I essentially gave up, and decided that the lights probably wouldn’t be activated until the community centre at the corner of the intersection gets rebuilt (it’s currently at the “piles of soil and rubble” stage).
I approached the intersection from the north, and realised that the cyclist ahead of me had just hit the button to activate the lights, and that cars were already stopping for him as the light turned to orange!
(OK, so some of them stopped in the intersection, rather than before it, but we could still get round them and hopefully they’ll get better with practice as they get used to the lights being there!)
Big grins all around among the five or six cyclists who went through on that light… I’ve chatted to lots of people over the years who’ve waited at that intersection with me for the cars to let us through, and everyone hated and feared that spot. I met a few other people who’d also contacted the city, and everyone had complained about the intersection on the VACC’s surveys! We’ve waited a long time for this, and it feels great not to have to choose between a mad kamikaze dash across the road and a wait for minutes at a time, often in the pouring rain, for a kindly motorist to take pity on us.
Yay! Not everything sucks!