Metro exploring how to keep e-commerce deliveries from choking traffic

Some cities moving to e-cargo bikes to avoid congestion and B.C. groups concerned about safety are calling for lower speed limits and higher fines for violations

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Navdeep Chhina often encounters drivers that park vehicles on bicycle lanes, forcing him to stop or to ride in a car lane.

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“It’s more than an annoyance, it’s dangerous,” said Chhina, manager of campaigns and inclusion for HUB Cycling.

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As more and more trucks and vans deliver for online stores, they are creating problems in cities where roads and sidewalks are already heavily used.

Now a study on how e-commerce is affecting traffic, done by Metro Vancouver, says communities need to consider these delivery methods and develop “a comprehensive loading and unloading zone strategy.”

Regional planners said consumer demand for faster delivery and corporate attempts to streamline deliveries and save money mean drivers need “ample and immediate access” to the curb.

The planners said drones and self-driving vehicles aren’t yet viable but electric cargo bikes can replace gas-powered vehicles, as they did recently in London, where population density is less than in downtown Vancouver.

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Cities could also set up “micro-distribution hubs,” where consumers can pick up goods.

The study said before developing a policy, a region-wide inventory of loading zones, curbs and congestion points is needed.

Meanwhile, cyclists are left to approach drivers who park on the bike lanes for a quick in-and-out, which Chhina said leads to conflicts.

He tweeted about a van and a Canada Post truck that blocked his path recently, noting the truck was empty, and the van driver told him “you know what.”

Canada Posts tweeted back, asking for the vehicle and licence plate numbers so it could investigate.

But Chhina said it’s not fair to go after drivers because it is their employers’ responsibility to educate drivers and the province’s role to change laws to address the rise of e-commerce delivery.

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HUB Cycling is one of several groups that make up the Road Safety Law Reforms Group of B.C., which has made recommendations to change the rules of the road.

Among the recommendations:

• Require drivers to leave a distance of one to 1.5 metres around other road users when passing, something that is already law in 39 U.S. states and Canadian provinces.

• Set the speed limit to 30 km/h on all neighbourhood roads in B.C.

• Increase fines again for dangerous behaviour, such as opening a car door into a cyclist. The fine used to be $81, but it is now $368.

• Set speed limits for electric personal transportation devices.

In Vancouver, city staff said in an email they were not aware of an increase in problems between e-commerce vans and other road users, “however, our crews have noticed an uptick in food delivery drivers who are not using the designated loading zones.”

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In areas where commercial vehicles can’t stop at the curb, drivers are encouraged to use loading areas in lanes. Those with a commercial vehicle permit can stop in commercial loading zones and lanes for up to 30 minutes to load or unload. They can also stop in passenger zones for up to 30 minutes for loading, but up to noon only, and may use metered spaces free up to 10:30 a.m., except if parking or stopping is prohibited.

“All drivers, whether in commercial vehicles or not, must obey no stopping and no parking signs, and other rules on leaving clearances at corners, fire hydrants, lane intersections, and driveways,” the email said.

Vancouver staff in 2021 issued 31,257 tickets for vehicles illegally stopped in loading zones, commercial lanes or no-stopping zones. That compares to 26,600 to the end of August of this year.

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