Let there be lights!

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).

But then!

Last night!

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!

About Cath@VWXYNot?

"one of the sillier science bloggers [...] I thought I should give a warning to the more staid members of the community." - Bob O'Hara, December 2010
This entry was posted in activism, cycling, politics, Vancouver. Bookmark the permalink.

23 Responses to Let there be lights!

  1. Chris says:

    That’s great!
    Safe cycling to all!

  2. Mermaid says:

    Yahoo! That is a tough intersection for biking AND running. Nice to know they have activated the lights. I noticed quite a few new lights on the Heather bike route as well.

    Now we just have to somehow prevent the drivers that ignore the ‘right turn only’ signs and unexpectedly go straight or turn left. One thing at a time….

  3. Nina says:

    hmm. Perhaps I should move to Van after all. Or have more patience with Christchurch city council.

  4. Awesome! I biked to work yesterday for the first time and found a new set of lights along the adanac route (Union & gore) – the one intersection on the route at which I’m regularly fearful for my life.

    Unfortunately, the heavy canvas bags are still on the lights, but I guess it’s only a matter of time till they come off… at least they do come off eventually!

  5. Cath@VWXYNot? says:

    Thanks, Chris and Gerty! I know that many, many people complained, but taking even a tiny fraction of the credit is cheering me up 🙂

    Mermaid, yeah, there’ll be lots of happy pedestrians and joggers as well as cyclists!

    Yesterday I was approaching Main Street on the 29th Ave bike route as the light had just turned green. A car was ahead of me at the intersection, signalling right. As I moved into the centre of the road to pass on its left, the driver suddenly switched to signalling left, and pulled out in front of me without looking behind them. I was far enough back that I wasn’t in any immediate danger, but it was yet another reminder that lights and bike routes are just the start…

    Nina, I’m sorry. Your last post was so sad. I hope they see sense as they continue to rebuild the city.

  6. Cath@VWXYNot? says:

    Anthony, our posts crossed – I used to ride along Adanac and remember that intersection! (And the occasional long wait for the train to cross!) Congrats, and yay for Gregor Robertson!

    Now, about 10th Avenue @ Yukon Street… 🙂

    • Isn’t it amazing how just a few intersections can make all the difference?

      And to think I didn’t vote in the municipal elections…. I think Robertson will be getting my vote next time.

      • Cath@VWXYNot? says:

        I wasn’t eligible last time, but he DEFINITELY gets my vote this time, next time, and in any other election in which he might care to run! (And not just because of the cycling thing!)

  7. chall says:

    woho! Great news with lights! It’s odd that it might take that much time to give less accidents…. I mean, normal intersections with cars have lights… so one would think it would be ok in an intersection with cars vs bik(ers).

  8. Hermitage says:

    Well, if the lights are ever out of commission again, you cyclists can start taping cardboard pictures of Hummers to the front of your bikes. Insta street cred!

    • I dread to think what the wind resistance would be on a cardboard cutout of a hummer… although, now that I think on it, it can’t be much worse than on the real thing.

      • LOL – I’d like to see someone try that. Maybe at the next Critical Mass. You could also rig a fake exhaust with a fake cloud of smoke coming out of it!

        But yeah, Anthony definitely shouldn’t try that on his route – Adanac is basically a wind tunnel!

  9. Lisbeth says:

    Excellent! And hopefully it means persistance is rewarded!
    Maybe I should try that kind of persistence on the Stockholm City Administration who seems to think that putting in lots of kilometers of bike lanes – but NOT adressing how the cyclists should navigate through the intersections – is how to become the bike-friendly city, they aspire to!

  10. Chall, I have no idea how much it costs to install new lights and phase them into the sequence of surrounding lights. But yeah, it took a crazy amount of time… no wonder things like new SkyTrain lines take so many years! I just kept thinking, “if I get hit by a car in this intersection when the lights are installed but not activated, I’m gonna be SO MAD!!” I did have a couple of near misses (because they happen so often at that spot), but survived to tell the tale!

    Lisbeth, it never hurts to ask! Do you have anything like the VACC in Stockholm who advocate on behalf of cyclists?

    • Lisbeth says:

      I’m not sure; public activism like that doesn’t seem to be ‘in vogue’ but on the other hand associations of all kinds are… I must investigate!

  11. ricardipus says:

    Well done you. I’m all for more signals – not just for bike lanes/crossovers, but for pedestrians and cars too.

    Now, can you please do something about all the cyclists who ignore red lights and stop signs?

    • Cath@VWXYNot? says:

      Well, the long gun registry will probably be gone within a few months…

      • and then health care… and then unemployment insurance. If you’re going to be taken out by a gun toting conservative driving a gas guzzling car, you’d better do it soon.

        • Cath@VWXYNot? says:

          I doubt even Harper would dare to start dismantling healthcare… there’d be HUGE protests if that were to happen!

          • Oh, I don’t expect it’ll be dismantled – I’m not THAT much of a cynic – but he has been vocal in the past about privatizing it.

            I was just going for a bit of that left-wing silliness you were talking about before. (=

          • Cath@VWXYNot? says:

            Jolly good, carry on then!

      • ricardipus says:

        I have my doubts – that long gun registry is like some kind of werewolf-vampire-thing. People have tried to kill it before, you know.

        Soon as it’s gone, I’m-a-gonna-buy-me-a-shootin’-iron.*

        *possibly not 100% true

Comments are closed.