In our city of Kelowna BC we have several so-called multi-use traffic corridors, streets where several areas are designated for specific users, separated by a berm of plantings or a line painted on the paving. As far as I can determine, those corridors are meant for safer transportation through multi use areas.

I ride a bike to travel to work when the weather is good enough for riding. It’s an affordable, touring style bicycle copied from the Dutch ladies’ bike style and very comfortable. I have no sore back or hands after my rather short trip, like some racing bikes would cause me. I like the steady speed and the comfortable ride on this model at a decent pace. After all, I am a lady of a certain age and do not like to race through the city at top speed.

I noticed a funny thing with users of this multi-use corridor called the Abbott Street corridor that runs from the downtown area starting by the bridge all the way to the Mission Village area. The city has plans to extend this corridor further along, deeper into the Mission. One would think that the designation of specific lanes for specific users would facilitate that specific use. Not so. It seems to me that the reverse is true for many, who prefer NOT to use the designated space, and apparently find the other users’ designated space much more attractive and they travel on those. I have seen a significant number of people do this on my commute.

For instance, the cycle path is clearly designated at frequent intervals by a picture of a bicycle painted on the pavement. It is bordered by the flower beds with trees on one side of the path and by the little garden between the bike path and the cemented sidewalk on the other side. While I am riding on the bike path, I frequently need to use my bell, to make clear to others that they are going to be in a collision with me, if they stay immobile.

These people could be walkers with or without a dog, or runners, or people just standing around and chatting, possibly neighbours out for a morning stroll taking advantage of a chance encounter, often with a child in tow.

It would be hard for me to leave the bike path, jump off the higher elevation onto the street, possibly in the path of an approaching car, or cross the garden space where the flowers and shrubs would hinder me, to move onto the sidewalk for pedestrians in an attempt to avoid a collision.

Lately I have been more assertive and when they tell me to go around them I have called out that they should leave the bike path instead, as I am on a bike, they’re not!

The car lane is also frequently used by a variety of other, non-vehicular users: bicyclists, runners and walkers.  The racers take their lives in their hands, as occasionally a car shoots onto the Abbott corridor from a side road, or from a lakeshore property driveway.

One would wonder why they do that. The quality of the asphalt of the bike path is just as good as the road’s, and the latter even has the traffic-slowing bumps across it. Hitting that bump with some speed would really hurt a biker in the crotch.

It’s not that the designated lane is too busy–not at all.  Another bicyclist seldom passes me and I do not see runners pass walkers on the sidewalk, no, that’s just not the case. By the way, there is lots of space for passing, for the same type of user.

This seems to indicate that the multi-user corridor concept  will not necessarily make traffic safer.

The phenomenon began to intrigue me and I wonder whether that is true for other multi use corridors as well, or just happens at the Abbott Street corridor. Granted, it’s an area where lakeshore properties line one side of the street, while the homes on other side, although possibly less valuable, still has high a value as real estate. People living in this area might feel more entitled and empowered than in other areas of the city and be prone to not wanting to make way for someone else—on principle. I guess my bias against the rich is showing.

Anyone who has seen this phenomenon, has experience using other multi-use corridors, or has a thought about this, please, I would like to encourage you to leave me a comment.

I grew up in the Netherlands where we have multi-used our streets for centuries without too much special privilege for any one type of user in particular. I remember best that the tram system at one point was made the priority among the heavy traffic in Amsterdam by erecting low, cement barriers in the streets, to give the tram the right of way. Many accidents happened because the cement barriers lining the tram rails stopped unaware cars bouncing off them that got stuck on them, or got thrown off their path and into traffic with a collision as the result. Many cyclist were pushed into the barrier by passing cars, fell and were injured, stopping traffic with the need for an ambulance, etc. This was a complete disaster. Currently some low, easily crossed plastic barriers along the tram lines are established at certain spots, to remind people of the tram–the ultimate priority in the Amsterdam traffic scene–when waiting to cross a busy intersection. Live and Learn: the cement barriers were removed shortly after their installation.

The Dutch are used to look around them while in traffic and do not rely on signs or lights. They must pay attention or lose it at their peril. They know who has priority, which traffic has the right of way. All of the elementary schools give mandatory traffic training to its students followed by a supervised  test ride in traffic on one day during the school year, to get their certificate for riding their bicylce in traffic. At least that was the case when I was growing up there. That is more education training than a lot of teens get in BC before driving a car in traffic!

Although all traffic has to obey the traffic signs and traffic lights, some additional signs exist that one doesn’t see in North America. There are a few that direct traffic in situations that would here be regulated by stop signs that have the actual word “STOP” on it, such as at four-way stop intersections, or in other situations that would here have a stop sign: those stop signs do not exist in most of Europe. Traffic there moves and fast, according to the priority rules on a vast net of highways. Lately I have seen more traffic circles, roundabouts, called rotunda’s in Europe, appear in Kelowna. They move traffic without traffic lights or stop signs and minimize delays.

The groups of traffic classification in Europe are:

The pedestrians—lowest on the totem pole: classified, of course, the only type of traffic allowed on sidewalks: slow traffic

Next up are mopeds and bicyclists. They share the space on the bike paths, where there are any–mostly in the more rural areas where there is more space and they are never allowed on the highways that are for fast traffic only.  The little Vespa scooters are not allowed on highways, only on B-ways, as these are called: secondary roads. This category of is all called  slow traffic. If no bike path exist, they are allowed to travel on the road mixed in with the next category.

The next category consists of cars and trucks. Pick up trucks are not common in cities, praise the lord. A sub-category is a bit more privileged with a special lane or different traffic lights: buses and trams, sometimes taxis. This is all called fast traffic.

The ultimate master of the universe in traffic are the trains which always have the right of way and are protected by tunnels, overpasses and road barriers so they can speed ahead through the landscape and through cities at full speed. I like riding the train and think it’s the best way of travel in all of Europe and also in Mexico, better than air traffic.

 Important rules to know in Europe if you intend to travel there: 

1. Slow traffic has to always yield for fast traffic when no other traffic sign or indicator exists.

2. The most important traffic rule that trumps the Fast – Slow rule is: Traffic coming from the right always has the right of way. 

If you travel to Europe, do not count on being protected as a pedestrian, not even on cross walks as you are slow traffic! On the other hand, they don’t know what jaywalking is either.

Having lived in Canada almost as long as I lived in Europe, my verdict is that with a definite car culture here in north America, additional education is an absolute must,  to prevent more traffic deaths, when traffic is changing to more green modes of transportation. Mostly, a change in attitude is needed from My Way Or The Highway, to Know The Rules and Abide by them. Unfortunately, individual freedoms need to be kept in check for the good of all.

Let me know what you think by entering  a comment.



About BABYBOOMER johanna van zanten

My name is Johanna van Zanten. I am a baby boomer, interested in writing and connecting with other writers and readers to engage in discussions and information sharing, to share a point of view about current global issues, writing, and publishing, diversity, immigration, travel, music, life, specific baby boomer issues, and dating/relationship issues. I have written a novella, ON THIN ICE about baby-boomer Adrienne and will link this blog with the information website for this novella. Right now, I am trying out the blog.
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