Bad design: The easily-circumvented no-biking-for-you gate

Usually at lunch I walk the loop around the Langara Golf Course. It’s about 2.7 km total and is pleasant enough if the weather is decent. The path does not allow bicycles and there are a few signs to that effect at regular intervals.

Recently the point was made even clearer through the erecting of a pair of gates that are tricky for pedestrians to navigate, but downright hostile to cyclists. These are meant to discourage and turn back cyclists and in theory they should do just that.

Here’s one of the gates.

To bike: You shall not pass. Bike: Well, actually…

You can clearly see some people are winding their way through the gate. You can also clearly see enough people are walking around it to create two distinct side paths, one on each side. I am one of those people.

I have yet to see a cyclist navigate around this gate, but I’m reasonably confident that in time I will.

The other gate is up against a fence, so only one side can be passed on the outside, and it’s narrower, but people are working on it.

This is bad design.

These are probably prefab pieces or otherwise made to a standard size. But if the actual location they’re being used in makes them trivially easy to avoid (and it is trivial–in the one pictured above a jogger can deke around the gate without slowing down), there’s not much point, really. You’re just adding an inconvenience for all the people who walk the trail.

My preferred solution in this case would be to remove the gates. Unless there is a serious problem with constant crazed cyclists, there’s little value to be had in placing these obnoxious, easy-to-avoid barriers.

Bad (but logical) design: Bike spaces on SkyTrain

The newest Mark III SkyTrain cars feature a few nice improvements:

  • all four cars are joined together through an articulated “accordion” section, meaning you are free to move between all cars on the train. This also means there is more room overall for passengers
  • larger windows provide a better view and the lower frames work better as pseudo arm rests
  • better fittings all around mean the trains are quieter
  • roomier design all around, so there is less of a sardine can feeling, even when the train is full

But in among these improvements is another that doesn’t really work, and it’s not the fault of the designers. It’s more of a people problem.

The first and last car on each train has one of the middle sections of seats removed and in its place a single bar that runs underneath the window. This is a designated bike area. Making trains bike-friendly is definitely a nice move, as more people are commuting by bike.

However, there is a problem with the execution: it doesn’t take into account normal human behavior and the general likelihood of bikes being on the train at any given time. This leads to the following:

  • as the train fills, people move first into the seats
  • they next stand in the areas that are most open (not between seats), such as the doorways
  • conveniently the bike space is wide open, so it often fills up with standees before the rest of the train
  • a cyclist boarding the train at this point will find it impossible to park their bike in the already-occupied space. Even if people wanted to let them, it’s unlikely there is room for the people in the bike space to stand elsewhere; the cyclist typically props their bike in the doorway area, same as they would without a bike space on the train

Given that cyclists are still uncommon on the SkyTrain and that they have no better chance of boarding before anyone else, there is only a small chance they will actually get to use the designated space for their bikes. There’s also no way to keep other people out of the space (nor should there be).

Conclusion: the dedicated bike area is a well-intentioned idea that ultimately doesn’t work. It’s really just a standing room section that would be better serviced by putting the seats back in.

However, there is a better solution that, while still subject to the whims of the crowd on the train, at least doesn’t remove a bunch of seats. Some rail systems have hooks in the ceiling that bikes can be hung on. This works well for a couple of reasons:

  • the hooks aren’t likely to be used for something else, so they will almost always be free for cyclists to use
  • the bikes stand vertically as a result, taking up a lot less space on the train
  • the hook provides a solid anchor for the bike, reducing the chance of it hitting someone or getting away from its rider

I hold out hope that Translink will ultimately switch from the dedicated space to a hook system and am doing my part by suggesting it to them, not just here, but directly via email as well.

Until then, the bike space on the Mark III trains is likely to remain standees-only.

No description needed for image: cyclist edition

While leaving Burnaby Lake Regional Park after today’s run I saw this.

Cyclists gonna cycle
No text description needed.

I’ll give these cyclists credit, though. After studying the map intently for several minutes they actually turned around and left.

Two other cyclists on the trail were not so courteous. May geese have nipped their tires flat.