In the lovely city of Victoria on Vancouver Island, design of its first (long overdue) protected two-way bike lane is taking shape. The design calls for the loss of 32 parking spots. In reaction, local merchants have submitted a petition opposing any protected bike lanes that compromise parking. Here is one of the proposed bikes lanes for Victoria. It’s just painted lines – not even physical separations – but it’s a whole lot better than nothing.
I am so mightily sick of the selfish behavior that opposes the most basic of safe infrastructure for active transportation, and I am so sick of standing by meekly and letting our safety be compromised by commercial interests.
Did you know that in the 1970s, The Netherlands was just as awful for cyclists and pedestrians as the rest of the world is today? But the Dutch said NO. Furious at the slaughter by vehicle of hundreds of pedestrians and cyclists (including many children), they just got up and said NO! We are not going to take it any more! And do you know what? It worked! Now, even Dutch toddlers with their big heads and soft skulls are transported all over the place WITHOUT helmets, because they are safe from being crushed by cars. Almost no one in the Netherlands wears cycling helmets, yet their rate of cycling-associated head injuries is the lowest in the world. They don’t need helmets, because they have demanded safe infrastructure, and they got it.
Cycling is not dangerous, cars are dangerous.
It constantly amazes me that the Dutch valued their lives and the lives of their children enough to make this stand, while we Canadians not only accept the slaughter, but many of us go out of our way to perpetuate the slaughter by demanding that we continue to favor cars over all else. Do we Canadians just value life less than the Dutch? Or are Canadian lives less valuable?
I am happy to say that here in Vancouver a whole lot of safe cycling infrastructure has gone in over the last ten years, under the leadership of Mayor Gregor Robertson. As a result, the numbers of cyclists is growing (while business continues to boom). Cyclists in Victoria deserve the same consideration.
The selfish disregard for the lives and safety of cyclists and pedestrians is all the more infuriating because it is illogical and ignores all the research. (Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to stay stupid.) For example, I wrote about a Vancouver businessman, restaurant owner Steve Da Cruz who originally opposed the separated bike lanes, but has now changed his mind because he has found that business actually improved!
In 2013, Vancouver proposed adding protected bike lanes to a single block of Union Street – a block that happens to be a crucial connection between two of the city’s most important bikeways. I have cycled that block for years, and it has always been horrible and dangerous, so I was delighted about the proposal. But adding the separate bike lane required removing several dozen street parking spaces – as a result of which, many local business people were extremely unhappy and antagonistic (ringing any bells?). Da Cruz said: “To slash and burn like this is not going to work.”
In the end, there was a kind of compromise, but the block was made pleasant and safe for cyclists, at the cost of a few parking spots. It’s now one of my favorite blocks on my commute. Below is part of it. Notice how the cyclists are completely separated from the cars. The design is actually a lot better (and more expensive) than the proposal for Victoria, which relies on motorists not driving over while paint lanes – something which, in my experience of driving, is incredibly easy to do. It’s like the tires can’t even FEEL the painted lines!
In the three months after this bike lane was built, Da Cruz’s sales dropped 30 percent. But then, just two months later … business rebounded! Thanks to the separate bike lane, more people were going past his storefront than ever. One year after it was built, Da Cruz told Business in Vancouver that his restaurant was doing better than ever. He said:
“We definitely have benefited from the increased usage of the bike lane.”
Da Cruz went on to talk about how many cyclists were patronizing his restaurant, and about how tourists are using bikes to get to his restaurant. I admire Da Cruz for having the courage to publicly change his mind and admit that something he once opposed has in fact been a blessing. Hear more from Da Cruz in this video. Note how he advocates businesses working together with developers, rather than blindly going into opposition mode.
It is just wonderful to see things ending in a win-win situation. And I am not at all surprised. As I wrote in another post, a report out of Victoria called Bikes Mean Business showed that cyclists and pedestrians actually DO SPEND MONEY, and therefore should be embraced by business.
The Bikes Mean Business Report out of Victoria points out that a number of recent studies have highlighted the local economic benefits of active transportation (cycling and walking), including: higher property values, increased consumer activity and more cycling-related retail opportunities. The GVCC conducted transportation surveys of downtown businesses and consumers in the fall of 2013. They found that Victoria was falling sadly behind in terms of providing cycling infrastructure.
The beautiful city of Victoria has potential to be a great cycling city, but it has a long, long way to go. I am happy that it is getting started, but saddened (and furious) that it faces opposition from the usual (ignorant) suspects – those who selfishly refuse to share any space at all.
I notice the usual asinine comments on the article in the Times Colonist about this, along the lines of why provide anything for a tiny minority. Of course it’s a tiny minority – because thanks to people like that, it’s NOT safe!!! But with safe infrastructure, this minority will grow into a majority – as is the case in many Dutch cities. These ingnorant people need to Google The Netherlands and be exposed to an intelligent approach to active transportation, instead of remaining mired in their tiny little car-centric mindsets.
Coun. Ben Isitt in Victoria said that the most challenging “pinch points” are going to be in the village centres and it’s going to require engagement with both business owners and residents on the bike route designs. “Parking is at a premium through the city, but how long are we going to let cars hold our community back? I think we do have to transition to more human powered and less carbon intensive forms of transport.”
You think? If you live in Victoria, find out the names of those businesses, and boycott them. Don’t take this lying down any more! It’s your life that is at stake – is your life less valuable than 32 parking spots and the concerns of uniformed, ignorant, and selfish merchants?
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