Wednesday, February 17, 2021

"Super Class" cycleways for Whitehorse?

I recently saw presentation from a Finnish city on their new "Super Class" of cycle routes in that city.  Perhaps the term "Super Class" translates a bit funny to English, but it resonates with an idea I've been mulling over for Whitehorse for years:  the need for a set of established, named and signed, contiguous cycle commuting routes in Whitehorse.  I don't know what the best name for them would be "premier routes" "named routes" "priority routes"...I'm sure someone clever will come up some good nomenclature.

But the idea is a set of signed, designated key routes that receive high-quality, continuous maintenance year round.   Thus, I broke out the pen and paper (or mouse and PowerPoint to be honest) and dreamed up some ideas based on what I know: 

All of the routes I dreamed up start/end at a central hub at Waterfront and Main Street  These routes should be uniquely identified, so I colour coded them, and again inspired by Oulu, I numbered them, starting like a clock starting from the north. 

I also laid out the routes to connect all of the schools south of Porter Creek.  Thus there is a priority cycle route to each school such that one-day maybe kids could start biking to school routinely again.  A first step is to create a safe way for them to do so.   

I'm not a resident in these subdivisions, so I don't know if the routes I drew up make the most sense of each neighborhood.  Also I didn't draw anything for Porter Creek since I don't know enough about what makes for travel patterns in that neighborhood.  

Anyway, I hope this inspires some ideas for how we can establish designated cycle routes for traveling by bike easily, year-round.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

2018 looks to have been a bad year for Yukon's carbon emissions

Greenhouse gas emission reporting always lags two to three years behind.  I find this frustrating when we are in a Climate Change Emergency and yet do not publish our pollution until three years after the fact.  How are we supposed to manage what we measure three years too late? 

Yukon generates it own emissions estimate because it has access to its own data sets for a more accurate estimate (relative to the National Inventory Report where Yukon is a mere rounding error on the national scale).  But the most recent Yukon estimate ( only goes up to 2017.   It is great Yukon does this more detailed, more accurate estimate, but again, it is still so much after the fact, it is hard to get feedback on how we are doing in our climate change fight.

So I plotted road fuel usage data, as reported by Yukon Bureau of Statics and greenhouse gas emissions to see if it gives some "indication" of how we've done since 2017.  Since we know transportation is responsible for the majority of Yukon's emissions, it does give some insight: more fuel used = more emissions.  Results are below, and the answer is things are not looking good for Yukon's emissions in 2018.  Transportation fuel was up 16 million litres in 2018 vs 2017.

We are going in the wrong direction. It looks like we will need to double-down if we want to achieve our desired 30% reductions in the next 10 years.  

Sunday, July 5, 2020

2019 Carbon Levy Rebate and Our Family's Carbon Emissions

At the end of April Yukoner's got their second carbon levy rebate of $43/person.

As I posted previously, I have been keeping track of our family's carbon emissions over the past year.  Below is our monthly emissions:

So did we pay more in carbon pollution fees than we got back?

Our total carbon that was subject to the Yukon's carbon fee of $20/tonne from April 2019 to end of March 2020 was 6.9 tonnes of CO2.  So that means as a family of three, over the 12 months we paid a total of $138 for the carbon pollution we were directly responsible for.  

Over the same period, we got $258 from government in carbon rebates.  Thus we made $120 last year from the Yukon's carbon pricing scheme!

Thank you to all you folks leaving your cars idling.

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Our Family's Greenhouse Gas Emissions and the Carbon Rebate

On July 1, 2019 Yukon started applying a $20/tonne price on carbon dioxide pollution.  At the same time, the government committed to fully returning the levy to residents.

The rebate is currently $43 / person every six month.  We are a family of 3 and we just got our first 6-month rebate of $129 (it came to us a bit late 'cause I was late filing our 2018 income taxes :-( )

So I was curious - are we going to pay more in our pollution "tipping fee" than we get back from the rebate?  Being someone who believes in "let the data reveal the truth" I've been keeping track of our family's greenhouse gas emissions.  Below are the results for the up till end of February:

  • Gasoline and propane is simply our emissions by volume of gasoline/propane purchased (simply gas receipts)
  • Electricity changes from month-to-month because the carbon intensity of the on-grid electricity varies depending on how much is renewable energy (hydropower) and how much is thermal (diesel and LNG).   I calculate the monthly carbon intensity based on the monthly hydro/thermal generation reported by Yukon Energy.
  • For flying, I use the typical emission factor for a 737-400 of 3.9kg/km, then I divide by the number of seats and my visual assessment of "load factor" (how full the plane is).  Then I multiply by 2 to account for the radiant forcing effect of emitting those greenhouse gasses at altitude instead of at ground.
  • Average Yukoner emissions (red line at top of chart) is from the most recent reliable GHG emissions estimate for the Yukon, which is from 2015 and presented in the Yukon Energy State of Play (Vector Research, 2018).  In 2015 total Yukon emissions are reported as 572,000 tonnes for a population of 37,745--thus about 15 tonnes CO2e / person.
  • You can see our gasoline usage is pretty steady year-round about 0.4 tonnes/month.  It was much higher in August because we took a camping road trip through northern BC. 
  • The Carbon Levy (pollution price) is only paid on gasoline and propane in Yukon.  Joe has conveniently negotiated an "exception" for aviation so Air North gets to dump their garbage in our air for free (my bias is showing!)  Similarly fossil fuels burned to make electricity has been given an "exception" and no pollution fee is charged for electricity generated with diesel or LNG.  
  • Thus we as a family only paid our carbon price on the gasoline and propane we burned and not the aviation or emissions from electricity usage.
Over the six-month period of April through September 2019 (the first rebate was nominally issued in October, so presumably for this period), our family's GHG emissions were:
  • 51 tonnes of CO2e total emitted
  • 5.1 tonnes of CO2e that were subject to the pollution fee
  • $102 in carbon pollution fees paid
  • $129 in rebate
  • + $27 difference
So we are ahead! 

But, given all the driving we did in August 2019 (see chart above), I expect that we'll be further ahead once a full year is paid out.

So yes, more is being rebated than paid by us as the Yukon Government predicted.  Thank you carbon polluters?  But why is our family's emissions so much lower than the "average?"  Well for a few reasons:
  1. Firstly, the "average" emissions I show above include all government, industrial and commercial emissions as well.  Thus it really isn't representative of an individual family's direct greenhouse gas emissions.
  2. We made the choice as a family to try to have a "light" carbon footprint, which includes:
  • Making the conscious choice (and accept the cost) to live and work downtown.  Thus we have very short commutes.
  • I try to cycle as much as possible year-round.  I'd rather spend my money on nice beer instead of buying gasoline.
  • We don't travel a lot - there is lots of fun to be had close to home and lots wild landscapes to explore and experience in southern Yukon. I'm not done exploring home after almost 40 years of living here!
  • We have a relatively modest, energy efficient home that we heat primary with wood and have electric backup.  No more nasty heating oil for us.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Pork Chops and Refuge Islands

I got quite a few question asking "what is a Pork Chop?" after I'd mentioned that feature in my last blog post regarding the new cycle path along the Alaska Highway.

Pork Chop
A "pork chop" it a term to describe a triangular shaped "island" or piece of alienated land created by a right-hand "slip lane" or right-hand merge/diverge lane.  They are kind of an antiquate roadway design for convenience of drivers, but are quite problematic for pedestrians and cyclists.

Unfortunately, Whitehorse is rife with them.  Here are some examples:
Here are the pork chops at the infamous 4th and 2nd Ave intersection.  The kids that presented to City Council spoke extensively about how dangerous this intersection for them biking home from school. Good news is we heard that the City has started planning for re-design of this intersection!

Here is the 2nd and Quartz Rd. intersection.  Look at the convoluted path (sorry about my crude drawing) that a pedestrian has to follow to cross Quartz Rd.  What a pain in the a; not good for making your walk convenient.  Also, those right-hand turning cars are moving fast across those uncontrolled pedestrian crossings.

Here is Alaska Highway and 2-Mile Hill.  Imagine if you are an on-road cyclists trying to go northbound.  You have to first cross the high-speed right-turning traffic, then move through the intersection, then again change lanes across the northbound traffic coming from 2-mile Hill.  Scary for even the most bold of cyclists, never mind pulling children in a Chariot!  Anyone who has ridden through the recently re-built Lewes Blvd and Hospital Road intersection can attest to these hazards.

Here is are examples of pork-chops from the highway through Kelowna.  At YG's recent public seminar on road safety,  highway-safety expert Paul LaFleur cited the highway through Kelowna as a bad example and not what you want to do for a highway through a City.
Some years ago we did an an-hoc survey of all the "problematic" intersections for cyclists in Whitehorse.  Interestingly, all of the "problem" intersections correlated 1:1 to intersections with pork-chops.  

Also, cities are actively removing "pork chops" because of the barriers they create for non-motorists; here is an example from London Ontario:

 Refuge Islands

So how do we make intersection safer for pedestrian and cyclists?  The contemporary solution is a "refuge island."  This is a protected space (created by a median) between the two different directions of travel, see an example below:

Refuge island between the two directions of road travel (from left-to-right).  This is a Dutch example, they have so much bike traffic they provide separate spaces for pedestrians and cyclists!
The refuge island makes the crossing distance shorter for vulnerable road users.  I've seen at least two examples of why this is important:
  1. Children cognitively have a difficult time both keeping track of traffic from two directions AND the relative speed of the vehicles.  Thus crossing two different directions at the same time is dangerous for them as they can't judge the space/distances well.  A refuge island allows them to cross one-direction at at time.
  2. I have a personal example when travelling in Mexico with my aging father last year.  The community we were in divided the roadways and in doing so created refuge islands at the crosswalks.  My father is getting increasingly stiff and so walks slowly.  The refuge island allowed him to cross the roadways, one direction/lane at a time.
In signalized intersections refuge islands are also needed because we allow cars to turn right on red lights and thus cars traverse the cross-walk even when the walk signal is illuminated.

Here is a schematic of a refuge island from busy roads in city of Amsterdam.  Notice the refuge space created between in the two directions of travel.  Again, because of their bike volumes the pedestrians and cyclists have separate spaces.  This is also a good example of a Protected Intersection.