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Cycling, Separation and Change

March 19, 2012

Sun reporter Kelly Sinoski continues to address the challenge of accommodating cycling in a world designed for cars.

Potential bike commuters still concerned about safety

Great to see the comments and discussion in Who goes Where, below.   But the conclusion I come to is this: It is not possible to cycle realistically and obey an ambiguous law (no passing on the right) when cyclists and cars are treated as equals, competing for the same space.

Cycling regulation, after all, comes under the ‘Motor Vehicle Act’ – a blunt statement of priorities.  And it’s the reason why some motorists become emotional if not hysterical when a separated bike lane is introduced on an existing street.  It is seen as a violation of the natural order.

So long as cyclists are thrown into the traffic, expected to act like cars, and yet not able to do so, then there is an effective restriction on the number of people likely to actually cycle for transportation (as opposed to recreation) – under 5 per cent, the so-called road warriors (which says a lot about the relationship).  And hence, until recently in North America, transportation planners haven’t had to take them seriously or provide separated infrastructure, thereby avoiding the expense and controversy that accompanies such a full-scale commitment.

But that’s changing as we move into the Post-Motordom world – one no longer designed on the assumption of car dominance, and where the social order as well as the use of the streets change together.

Here’s an indicator – Musette, the coffee bar targeted to cyclists, tucked away on a lane near the Hornby bike route (map here, in rear of A), set in a landscape of automobiles:

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And that’s all going to change too.  First, the cars will disappear – replaced by the Burrard Gateway, a mixed-use project next to separated bike lanes on two sides.  And so will Musette, when its building is demolished for the project – a perfect illustration of how new ideas need old buildings, places where small entrepreneurs can afford to experiment, and then move on and up.

An old order dies: surface parking for an automobile dealership; a new one strives: bike and pedestrian-friendly services along streets designed for different ways of moving, and living.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Richard permalink
    March 19, 2012 10:38 am

    We’ve been encouraging the city to place a greenway connection for cyclists and pedestrians through the Burrard Gateway site to connect Hornby directly to Burnaby Street. This would make the connections to the West End and even Burrard much more convenient for most people. Ironically connection through the site would be right where Musette is.

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