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City hall should slow down on bike lane ambitions

After this week, I bet we’re going to have a shiny new separate lanejust for bikes on busy Hornby Street, whether we like it or not.<br />

After this week, I bet we’re going to have a shiny new separate lane just for bikes on busy Hornby Street, whether we like it or not.

There are lots of people in the “not” category, including 97 per cent of the businesses along Hornby. That’s according to Laura Jones of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, one of – but not the only – business organization opposed to the plan to remove 158 parking spaces and build barriers to protect cyclists and motorists from each other.

Memo to Mayor Robertson:

If 97 per cent of the people who pay taxes and actually inhabit the street are opposed, why are you continuing to torture these poor people?

These are hardly bike-hatin’ businesses. The same survey says 71 per cent already support the existing bike lane. They want the city to hold off until it assesses its so-called six-month trial bike fortress on Dunsmuir (although it looks pretty permanent to me). They also want the city to look at alternatives, such as putting the lane on the other side of the parked cars.

However, various pronouncements from Coun. Geoff Meggs, the city’s attack dog, er, spokesperson, make you wonder if Gregor and the gang actually care what business thinks. Meggs told one reporter “we” want to get people downtown “by any means,” apparently even if it means a bunch of ill-considered transportation experiments.

It is true that more people are getting into cycling. Since the beginning of the 2000s, the number of bike commutes has increased by 42 per cent in the U.S. That’s the good news; the bad news is that bike commutes still account for a tiny 0.9 per cent of the total. That’s the U.S., where warm, year-round places like Hawaii, Florida and California skew the results.

In the face of these facts, you could argue we have to encourage more cycle commuters. But it’s going to take more than separated bike lanes. Right now, secure bike parking, emphasis on secure, is non-existent. Most people don’t have showers and change facilities in their office buildings. No one wants to go through the day shivering like a drenched rat.

And there’s a whole round of education and training that needs to happen for both motorists and cyclists to play nice. Right now, the rules are literally all over the road.

The mayor thinks people who disagree with him are “@#$% NPA hacks,” so it may be too much to ask him to rethink the business federation plea and just slow down on his ambitious plan to make everyone cycle to work and like it.

Never mind all the peddling. This could be the healthiest thing he can do for his political career right now.

 
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