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Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Archive for August 30th, 2008

“Vancouver … has very mediocre cycling facilities,” Gil Penalosa

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Hat tip to Richard Campbell who keeps the trans-action list up to date with stuff like this.

I was sad that I missed Penalosa’s presentation at the SFU Harbour Centre lecture hall last week (August 20). But he has voiced what I have often thought but largely kept to myself. I had not thought of his criterion

“Anytime we [create] a facility for pedestrians or
cyclists, always keep this in mind: Would you send an eight-year-old
and an 80-year-old there?” Penalosa says. “If you would, it’s
safe enough. If you would not, it’s not safe enough.”

But it sounds like a pretty good yard stick to me.

I also wonder if sometimes the reason we get the facilities we do is due to pressure from the bike lobby – who tend to be “kamikaze cyclists” too. I was amzed when I first came to BC that cyclists were allowed to use the hard shoulder of what to me looked like a motorway (Highway #17 through Saanich). I used to use the Ridgeway bike route in Vancouver – which is nearly all shared with traffic – a lot of it very agressive traffic using the route to get around arterial congestion. The short  section though a small park was a blessed relief. As with Richmond after a while I started planning my own route through less busy streets and paths. Lanes, I quickly discovered, were not a good idea.

Many cycling advoactes seem to work from the principle that since bikes are traffic then they have the right to go anywhere cars do. I am not at all sure that this rights based approach is wise, nor does it seem likely to get our cycle use near European standards. We also seem to have educated an entire generation that bikes are traffic – since the angriest motorists are those who expect cyclists to obey every rule as though they were in cars – which obviously cannot work.

Riding a bike in Paris without a helmet – or even cycle clips – was a revelation as drivers of cars, trucks and busses all accepted that the cyclist has a right to be there but also needs some allowance and great tolerance. This attitude also seems to extend to pedestrians – to the extent that many simply walk across when their light is green, without looking first – a suicidal thing to do in Greater Vancouver.

The other thing that I have said many times is that becuase Vancouver has been told (mostly by Americans) that we are doing well, we assume we are perfect. And that is very far from the truth. We also seem to be stuck with a “not invented here” attitude to most suggestions of how things could be improved. Which I can only hope changes as the boomers get replaced by new blood as they start to retire.

Written by Stephen Rees

August 30, 2008 at 3:50 pm

Posted in cycling, Road safety