In Vancouver, my hometown, city council is using the COVID-19 pandemic to fulfil a long-held fantasy: the elimination of cars and the end of vehicle traffic throughout the city.
While the rest of us are coping with one of the worst economic crisis in Canadian history and bungling along with reduced public transit and dwindling basic services, Vancouver council has decided to close off a further 50 km of city streets to vehicle traffic and pour even more money into bike and pedestrian infrastructure.
Apparently, there were public information sessions and ‘consultation’ beforehand, but this whole concept was a foregone conclusion years ago. The City of Vancouver’s leadership group does not like automobiles and doesn’t give a damn whether you like it or not.
The current car-hating city council wants to transform Vancouver into the Canadian version of Amsterdam or Copenhagen, as soon as possible. And any public discourse regarding bicycle lanes is a sham – council has made up its mind and we’re getting more bicycle lanes, like it or lump it.
This is also the crux of the problem with bicycle advocates. They always take a hard line and actively antagonize automobile drivers. They disregard traffic laws, hog sidewalks and roadways, and the irresponsible critical mass mess that paralyzes traffic and breaks just about every traffic law on the books goes on, month after month. It ties the city up in knots, causing all manner of chaos and mayhem.
As a car owner/driver who also rides a bicycle, I say there’s room for everyone. So, by all means add bike lanes wherever possible. But not at my expense.
Traffic in Vancouver is bad enough as it is – the worst in Canada, in fact. And giving a bunch of hardcore cyclists free rein through the west side and rerouting car traffic through quiet neighbourhoods to accommodate them isn’t helping.
Apparently, a couple of city council members visited Copenhagen and Amsterdam a few years ago, saw all the bikes and said: “Hmmm … we can do that in Vancouver.”
Never mind that these European cities are flat, where Vancouver is anything but, and it rains here half the year.
As well, a former council member got knocked off his bicycle by a car a year or two back so, as far as Vancouver’s civic government is concerned, all cars are evil and if you don’t ride a bicycle, you’re the enemy.
Awhile back, a cyclist collided with a pedestrian on the Stanley Park causeway and fell into the path of a bus. Unfortunately, the cyclist died.
Did cyclist advocates apologize or offer some conciliation?
Hell, no. In their eyes, the pedestrian was at fault, despite the fact that the whole thing happened on a sidewalk, where bikes aren’t supposed to be in. So not only are motorists getting in the way of cyclists, apparently pedestrians are too.
It’s also quite obvious that Vancouver is becoming a city that doesn’t like older people and doesn’t want them to come downtown. Older folks simply don’t ride bicycles on a regular basis or go about their business on two wheels.
Bicycles are for the young and no amount of self-righteous, anti-car posturing on the part of city officials will change that.
Older folks value their cars – an automobile means independence, particularly in bad weather.
So my message to Vancouver council and cyclists everywhere is simple: Just because you ride a bike, that doesn’t put you on the side of the angels or make you better than the rest of us.
I ride a bike, but most of the time I prefer to drive a car. And, to use your own words, I’m not going away.
Ted Laturnus writes for Troy Media’s Driver Seat Associate website. An automotive journalist since 1976, he has been named Canadian Automotive Journalist of the Year twice and is past-president of the Automotive Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC).