I have a confession to make…

…I’m also a cycle commuter and a road cyclist. You know, one of those people motorists love to hate? Hated or not, I still see the benefits in it, and I’m not just talking about gas savings. I’m talking about the things mentioned in this article by the West Hollywood Bicycle Coalition. Treehugger has a shorter version of a similar article. But I’m not here to preach.

Lately I’ve been reading articles in the local papers about cycle commuting, both good and bad. When I read articles like this I also read the comments. They show a bigger picture of what’s really going on in the car vs bike debate (which really shouldn’t be a debate at all since we just want to be able to co-exist) beyond the name calling.

This comment from the article I referred to above is fairly typical and this viewpoint comes up in conversations I’ve had with people as well:

Observant One
3:27 PM on 5/18/2012
Finally—a voice of reason! Thank you for this OpEd piece.

The current crew running City Hall is out of touch with reality, and getting more out of control by the day. We do NOT need more bike lanes in downtown Vancouver, and I strenuously object to my property taxes being spent on an initiative that causes me no end of frustration every time I visit downtown. And now they want to start adding bike lanes on Commercial Drive, and elsewhere?

It was difficult to find on-street parking downtown BEFORE spaces were removed to accommodate bike lane installation. Now we’re dealing with the same amount of traffic attempting to squeeze through these bottlenecked areas.

The parking spaces that do exist (whether City-owned or private lots) are exorbitantly priced. The City has increased the cost of metered parking and extended the metered hours to 22:00 hours from 20:00. Add $13.00 to the price of a haircut, medical appointment, or restaurant meal, to park for 1 1/2 hours. In some areas you can’t park at a meter for more than 2 hours—not even long enough to go to a movie.

This is City Council’s idea of a ‘sustainable, liveable, city?’ For whom? Not all citizens have the option of riding a bike to work, or to appointments. This is blatant discrimination against citizens who choose—or need—to drive.

The next civic election can’t come too soon!

I think this person is missing some key points. One of the problems with downtown Vancouver is its geography. If you’re not familiar with Vancouver, here’s what downtown looks like from an aerial view:

You’ll notice that a good portion of it is surrounded by water and park land, it can’t expand any further than it has and has a finite number of ways in and out due to the need for bridges. There is no way to accommodate all the vehicles that would come downtown, the streets can’t handle the volume. Anyone who drives in downtown Vancouver during rush hour will know what I mean. It doesn’t matter what side of the fence you sit on, the City of Vancouver needs to look at alternate means of transportation since it is a rapidly growing city and a good portion of its citizens work in that downtown core. By causing this frustration, they are actually forcing people to find alternate means of transportation to reduce the number of cars squeezing through those bottlenecks. However, people need a viable alternative before they’ll give up their cars.

While Observant One may not agree with spending money on bike lanes, it’s the most cost effective solution to reducing the amount of vehicles coming to the downtown core. The proposed $3 million is much cheaper than the $2 billion that was just spent on the Canada Line. Another thing that he doesn’t realize is people using those bike lanes are people who are not driving their cars, which means fewer people are competing for that elusive parking spot.

To give you an idea of how much space 72 people commuting by cars need, here is an excellent infographic by the City of Munster in Germany which was used as a campaign to show the benefits of cycling and mass transit.

* Bicycle: 72 people are transported on 72 bikes, which requires 90 square meters.
* Car: Based on an average occupancy of 1.2 people per car, 60 cars are needed to transport 72 people, which takes 1,000 square meters.
* Bus: 72 people can be transported on 1 bus, which only requires 30 square meters of space and no permanent parking space, since it can be parked elsewhere.

If you make something easier, and safer, for people to do, they will do it. Many are also led by example and wouldn’t think of cycle commuting as an option until they see several others riding their bikes. I wasn’t able to find the current stats on how many people now cycle commute as the BC Stats website was down when I wrote this, however I did find the 2006 Metro Vancouver Commute Report which shows 2,865 more people were commuting by bike. which was a 20.9% increase in the number of people commuting by bike between 1996 and 2006. Remember, many cyclists also drive… If Observant One thought parking was bad before, had these people chosen not to commute by bike he’d still be in the same, or worse, situation he is today. The bike lanes need to happen.

So where do you put these bike lanes? No matter where they go, someone isn’t going to be happy whether it be a motorist or a cyclist. Lots of factors need to be looked at to keep the flow of traffic moving for both cyclists and cars, some of which are discussed in this article by the Vancouver Sun. They had one of their reporters cycle down the streets that are candidates for the new bike lanes. Deciding where to put bike lanes isn’t an easy task.

These types of problems are faced by cities everywhere and isn’t specific to Vancouver. I just happen to be more familiar with Vancouver since my commute took me from Vancouver’s West End to Burnaby. I was lucky to go against rush hour traffic so my commute by car wasn’t horrendous when I did choose to drive, I just thought that hour a day spent in my car could be better used as a cardio workout. To my surprise, my cycle to work only took 10 minutes longer than driving and was 30 minutes faster than taking transit. If I had a proper bike for commuting instead of putting slick tires on my 32 lbs mountain bike, my cycle to work probably would have been taken the same amount of time as driving. I also enjoyed my ride down the Adanac corridor (Adanac is a specified bike route) and was surprised by the volume of bike traffic heading into the city. I took a different route home through Mt Pleasant and Fraserview before heading over the Burrard Street Bridge to mix it up.

I’d also like to address another article that appeared in the Province where they wanted cyclists to undergo a test and carry ID before hitting the road. The article seemed to entirely miss the fact that many cyclists drive as well and the cyclists you see that don’t come to a complete stop are probably doing the same thing in their car. (I invite you to sit at any four way stop sign and count how many cars come to a complete stop when no other cars are around.) There also seemed to be confusion regarding the rules of the road for cyclists in both of the Province articles I’ve referred to. (For anyone confused about rules of the road where cyclists are concerned here in British Columbia, please refer to the Bike Sense website.) I agree that education is needed, however this education must apply to motorists as well. Make it a mandatory portion of drivers’ education, especially since most of us learned the rules of the road while studying for our driver’s exam when we were 16.

1 comment for “I have a confession to make…

  1. Pingback: Friday Links - Cliffwalk Accident, SAR Accident, Black Bears, and Meta World Peace Edition - Outdoor Vancouver | Outdoor Vancouver

Leave a Reply