The issue that will not die.

Dan Fumano, in a dissection of the social-media manager for Coalition Vancouver, quotes Gary Bizzo:

Asked why he was getting involved with the Vancouver mayoral race when he lives in Burnaby, Bizzo said: “It affects everybody, doesn’t it? I have offices downtown and this bikelane stuff is driving me crazy.”

Well, of course they don’t drive most people crazy, as a couple of elections proved. And they don’t cause congestion – because if they did, boy, would we know it.  First, drivers would experience it.  Then there would be data. But above all, the media would relentlessly pound that story, with endlessly looped video for illustration.

(The story, arguably, is ‘why didn’t the bikelanes cause congestion?’  It was expected that by removing lanes from major roads and bridges, the result world be (doom music here) carmageddon.  Didn’t happen.  Not news.  No reports.)

And yet the craziness continues, notably among those like Bizzo who don’t live in Vancouver – along with the supposition that there is a war on the car.  (Vancouver Magazine asked “Is There an ‘Ideological War on Transportation’ in Vancouver?”  Answer: Nope.)

But of course that’s a matter of perspective:



  1. My working theory:

    1) Status perceptions. Cyclists are seen as low status or strange compared to drivers. They are either poor or they are Mamils (
    2) Power difference. The most power most people experience in their day to day lives is when they get into their cars, and sudden can choose whether or not to kill the people around them. Cyclists and pedestrians are especially vulnerable to this power difference.
    3) Recreation vs transportation. Cyclists are seen as engaging in a recreational pursuit in space that other people are using for serious transportation business such as commuting.
    4) Childlike/Childish. In much of North America cycling is a popular childhood activity that people stop doing in adulthood. Many/most adults are deeply offended at other adults acting in a childish way.
    5) Driving sucks. It is frustrating, dangerous, and expensive. It makes people angry to begin with. It is a constant exercise in frustrated power. If only those other people would get out of your way, you could go go go.
    6) Visibility. Driving sucks, you are stuck in traffic, and there go cyclists zipping by taking up space you can’t use it must be their fault.
    7) Othering. Most North American adults don’t cycle for transportation. A large number probably don’t even know anyone who does. These are *other people*, and we don’t have empathy for other people.

    Put it all together and you have a recipe for rage. Powerless low status adults behaving childishly and getting in your way and you the driver have to take extra care not to kill them while sitting behind them going slowly or watching them zip away in traffic.

    Hopefully as separated routes proliferate and more people at least know someone who cycles for transportation the empathy gap will be bridged and those perceptions will change.

    1. “… the most power most people experience in their day to day lives is when they get into their cars, and sudden can choose whether or not to kill the people around them…”
      Why yes David. that’s exactly what your average commuter thinks upon getting into their car. Thank you for your reasoned and non-inflammatory contribution. It illustrates perfectly why so many motorists and pedestrians detest cyclists.

      1. I’d happily agree that almost no one is consciously thinking about it. Yet people act in a might makes right way on the roads. Power asymmetry changes how people behave towards each other whether they think about it or not. Especially if they don’t think of the other people as being part of their group.

        Drivers in big trucks will drive more aggressively and people will get out of their way, because they’ll lose a confrontation. People in expensive cars are less likely to stop at stop signs and crosswalks. Many men expect women to get out of their way on sidewalks. Big groups of people will ignore rules of the road that small groups will follow. None of these things require a conscious decision to use your power to gain advantage.

        Drivers who make left turns through crosswalks with pedestrians in them are threatening the lives of the pedestrians. They likely aren’t thinking about that consciously. If they did they might stop. They’re probably just thinking ‘get out of my way.’ They don’t *have* to think about it because the consequences to them are much less severe than the consequences to others. That’s how power works.

        1. “People in expensive cars are less likely to stop at stop signs and crosswalks. Many men expect women to get out of their way on sidewalks” There’s a lot there, and most of it seems like bs. I’ve never heard of either of these things, dare I hazard a request for any substantiation to this?

          “Big groups of people will ignore rules of the road that small groups will follow.” Everyone ignores a lot of the rules of the road. I cross the street mid-block all the time as an individual, I don’t do it because motorists also break the rules. People break the rules because that’s what people do, all people, regardless of the rule.

          1. Here is a BBC bit on an ‘expensive cars less likely to stop’

            I don’t know of a peer reviewed study on “men expect women to get out of the way” but it is a pretty standard phenomenon. Example

            Yes everyone breaks the rules, but the way people break the rules are based on their expectations of consequences they will face if they do so. When drivers break rules they impose much more severe consequences on others than they themselves face.

  2. I have been contemplating this issue for some time. I believe that th “other” factor is the most important. In elementary and high school, many students who do not conform to the norm get seriously bullied. this “us” vs “them” continues into adulthood. Minorities get villified. I believe that people who choose to cycle for some of their trips are discriminate against every bit as much as those of different race or colour The only problem is that transportation mode choice is not built into our human rights codel

    In order to find out more about this issue, I posited a question on the VanPoli facebook page. The question was that the addition of bike lanes encouraged more people to cycle and isn’t this good for people who choose to drive since more people cycling means less people driving.? So how could anyone object to the introduction of protected bike lanes?

    In response, I received mostly a pile of abuse and a few comments relating to the difficulty of turning right on Beatty due to the protected bike lanes. Most concerning was the request from David Fine that these type of posts were not to be done because “We are tired of cycling issues”. As this is a key political issue in Vancouver, I was very surprised by this.

    I had an interesting back and forth with one individual. He did agree with me that more people cycling would reduce congestion but he was still opposed to adding more bike lanes. This person was obviously so anti cycling that he was irrational.

    My sense is that many of the people who responded to me were anti Vision. My suspicion is that their thought process went like this: Vision is pro cycling. I hate Vision. Therefore I must be anti cycling.


  3. I see it less as someone being anti-cycling/anti-cyclist as much as them being dominators and having a feeling that they should be the only ones allowed to exist. They’re told by the culture that they have achieved success and to them success means they dominate over others. It has nothing to do with cycling. Mobility is freedom. (I totally get that. In fact cyclists, people with disabilities, people who take transit, etc. all want to get some of that too. ) If they feel that they’re having some of that taken away they get angry. Twenty years ago it was Chinese drivers that were the target. In the future it will be some other group.
    Another factor is opportunistic politicians who look around for any conflict and try to latch onto it for their personal gain. It could have been anything else or any other group. They don’t really care themselves. They just want to get in office.
    Then there’s the media who constantly frames things to make cyclists and transit be the bad guys. Either for ratings or because alternative transportation threatens the owners’ other interests in the oil and auto industries.

    Locally I see the anti-cycling sentiment lessening. Five years ago I was suddenly getting flack from people who I thought were my friends. (Despite me being multimodal and not really cycling much.) They saw me as “one of them”. I was suddenly an “other” in their midst. It was similar to racism. In the past year however a few of those people have (kind of indirectly) apologized. One has even asked me for bike shopping advice.

  4. Cycling and transit infrastructure represent a threat to entitlement, especially to those who possess a zero-sum mentality. Not only does ‘more for someone else’ inherently mean ‘less for me’, but the mere fact that there is currently a debate over how to use our streets questions the moral rectitude of middle class male identity. Driving is a huge part of our social and individual identity and still represents Freedom to a lot of people. Also, just look at the vitriol with which many white males of a certain age kvetch about ‘special minority privileges’ and ‘feminism run amok’, as if the assertion of the rights by others somehow diminishes their own. They are painfully insecure and feel their entire way of life and sense of self are under attack. This is only going to get uglier.

    That’s why bike lanes drive so many people crazy, Charlie Brown.

  5. I was a passenger once in Silverado. The driver was aggressive. “You can do that in a truck,” he asserted.
    I wish that, rather than fines and points, or as an adjunct too, motorists would be stripped if their driving “privileges” for weeks/months/years at a time – forced to rely on transit or cycling – to diminish the bully-dominator-mentality of motordom. They might find they enjoy cycling, or see the benefits of transit and sharing rides.

    I cycled with my son to the pool yesterday. It was great. That evening I drove my daughter to the gym. It was a downer. Driving sucks. A big part of why people buy more and more expensive vehicles, aside from being brainwashed by ads, is that they think their luxoboat will make the experience suck less. It doesn’t.

    This may seem off the wall, but for the past few days I’ve been thinking of a parallel between the giant worms in Herbert’s classic ‘Dune’ and motordom – specifically, the relationship between the worms and the prescience-giving spice vis-a-vis parking and driving. The worms are essential to the spice; and parking is essential to driving. If you solve the parking problem, maybe you’ll solve the driving problem. If you watch Stop a Douchebag, the number one issue is parking.

    1. I’ve been a passenger in cars where the drivers were doing all sorts of dangerous things and either didn’t notice or thought nothing of it. I don’t say anything because I’m dependent on them for the rides but later realize that motorists aren’t evil or intentionally harassing others, they are just going along with how things work and are insulated from the effect they have on others.
      The problems aren’t with personality types, they’re systemic. Challenging or arguing with individuals is not going to change the system. You can argue all you want with a motorist and maybe feel like you won for a moment but there’ll be another one along soon enough. It’s the whole system that has to change.

  6. Another angle:

    It’s nothing new that motorists have heard about the many problems associated with car use. It goes back to the 60’s. Pollution? I don’t care. Carnage? Not my problem. Sprawl? I want a big yard and easy parking? Obesity and sedentary lifestyles? I go to the gym. And the biggy! Climate change. As if you could their attention with mere catastrophic environmental collapse when they’ve been in denial for generations.

    No adult in their right mind rides a bike. It’s dangerous, hard, takes too long and it’s almost always rainy anyway – except when it’s too hot. Cyclists are all either losers or zealots. Freaks! That’s the way it should remain. Society can handle a few freaks… but only a few.

    Building bike lanes tells people that cycling is legitimate. That just doesn’t square. When more and more people start using them it confronts their excuses to improve their lives and the lives of others. Nobody is telling them they have to ride but that’s how they perceive it anyway. How many times have we heard that line?

    They go crazy because we’re demanding that they join the ranks of the crazies.

  7. The real head-scratcher is the demand for 100% compliance with road rules from a cohort that cannot meet their own conditions of road use or effectively police their fellow chronic motorists. One would think bike lanes would be manna from heaven from these folks, as it would remove people in bikes from the long list of things they have to speed past and cut off, but I have discovered logic and anti-cycling opinions are almost never inhabiting the same human.

  8. In the same vein, I dread the inevitable proliferation of powerful E-bikes – esp. those piloted by riders wearing helmets. I’ve encountered a fair number who charge like bulls. They feel invincible in their nut cases. They feel safer – peds don’t. If hard riders weren’t thus ensconced, they’d ride more circumspectly.

  9. Arnie Carnegie wrote: “In the same vein, I dread the inevitable proliferation of powerful E-bikes – esp. those piloted by riders wearing helmets.”

    I keep hearing this meme about how helmets embolden cyclists. As a cyclist who always wears a helmet, I sure don’t feel emboldened. I fear breaking my arms and legs or puncturing my lungs just as much as I fear cracking my skull…

    1. Which begs some obvious questions. If you really do fear these things “just as much”, do you always wear body protection? And if you don’t, why do you “always” wear a helmet?

      It is difficult to pull out meaningful statistical data about the emboldened attitude of helmet wearers from the dozens of studies written on helmets. There are just so many variables. But suffice it to say that you don’t need laws to convince road racers and mountain bikers to wear helmets – they just do. They would certainly take far fewer risks in their pursuits if they were to tackle the same courses without a helmet.

      Just sayin’

      1. Well, I mainly wear my helmet because it’s required by law. And since my head is furthest from the ground (where it can gather the most speed in a fall) and probably my most important asset, it just seems like a sensible thing to do. And I guess it’s a relatively small inconvenience to me compared to strapping on elbow, ankle and shoulder pads every time I get on my bike.

        The once or twice that I’ve forgotten to put my helmet on I didn’t really feel like I was riding any differently.

        1. Sometimes the law is an ass.
          Laws against women voting; against gays; against cannabis use; against people of colour; against First Nations raising thie own kids; against potlatch; against religions …
          The helmet law is an ass. The research has been done – even at UBC.

          1. Anyone who really studies cycling helmets with an evidence based approach and analyzing the methodology of the studies discovers that we’ve been conned. It started as a scam to sell helmets, then promoted by well intentioned but misled people and now is used to sell cars.
            Time to end the scam.

    2. (I can’t help myself.) If you “always” wear a helmet, how can you possibly know if it emboldens you or not?

  10. ‘How cycling can save the world’, by Peter Walker of the Guardian, has an excellent analysis of helmet use, including risk compensation. No memes – statistics.

  11. The key point of conflict is the imposed privilege of cyclists over the will and need of neighbourhoods and residents.

    As an example look at the Arbutus Greenway planning for the area between Fir and Arbutus Streets. The current plan is to destroy all of the current gardens and trees, and to reduce open space in order to pave more area for cycling use. Resident families don’t want this and those living adjacent don’t want this (the gardens are to be moved right in front of the back windows of 1800 block 5th Ave condos). The only people pushing for this are the various cycling organizations and their sympathizers in Vancouver civic planning.

    This open area is desperately needed by resident local families who are increasingly being pushed into high density circumstances. This particular family demographic of those living in condos is growing quickly in Kits and is not being reflected in planning.

    So all you have to do is remove the parking and meters on the north side of 6th Ave and install a “complete street” style green lane for bikes. But instead we see HUB and BCCC willing to do anything to inconvenience residents.

    So vote Wai Young, drain the swamp, and remove bad bike planning. Or at least just listen to what people are saying.

    1. Did you not have a chance to participate in the extensive public consultation that has been done on this project to date?

      1. Sure my kids and I went to nearly all of them including those before the tarmac was even laid down.

        But if you are going to take the opinion of every cyclist in the lower mainland and give them the same weight as those of families resident in the area then it’s pointless. The process should reflect the need of the community and they should survey door to door rather than just poll able bodied cyclists on the greenway. The data obtained from such public consultations is worthless.

        Do you think that anyone living here wants the open space and all the work put into the area by the kids from Tennyson and St Augustine’s schools paved over?

        1. The Arbutus Greenway Design Jam did not have participants from all over Metro. It had people from all over the CoV, but was weighted rather heavily towards local residents, by a quota system. And it certainly wasn’t populated exclusively by able bodied people, or cyclists.

          If people from across the City are paying for it I think it should be planned and designed for them. Doing otherwise would open residents to charges of NIMBYism.

    2. I have never heard this conspiracy theory before so kind of surprised. I also have never heard any preference by people who cycle, Hub or BCCC about where the cycle path would go. I was told that the gardens were moved back in the plan for the benefit of the gardeners and of people walking. The cycle path was moved closer to the street. This is standard practise in the Netherland where travel modes are separated by their general speed and the generally faster ones are next to each other. ‘
      Currently it’s: fast-garden-slow-medium. It should be, and the plan is: fast-medium-slow-garden. I don’t know about you but I see this as benefitting the locals who garden there.
      Moving a bunch of plants will be some work for awhile but once that’s over it’ll be better overall and into the future.

    3. Sanlitun – We could just as easily remove parking from 6th Ave and create gardens there. Why don’t you get together with your neighbors and petition council to do this? More green space, less cars. Win-win all around.

  12. Interesting….this post sure hit the ‘3rd rail’ in interest and responses. I’ve been thinking about writing this post for a couple a days so here it is.

    At 64, I’m sure glad I have not bought a car since 1980 and since 1961 been riding a bike and of course walking and the last few decades riding a skate board. I feel fitter and more chill than I would if I was driving every day. My transportation budget each month is about $60.

    But I have no children and it is much easier to avoid driving. I’ve also chosen to live close to work with an eye to how many buses head to work from where I live and that has resulted in me having more choices each day.

    These days I have a lot of empathy for car drivers but also the future looks kinda stressed for those driving a car. Having said that I would also notice.

    1. My best friend has his own business and he spends much of his day driving all over the lower mainland because he has to. We usually get together every Friday. When he arrives home he is so angry and stressed. His wife and I do what we can to chill him out. Last year we drove together (which I rarely do in this town unless the taxi driver is driving) and it was remarkable how congested and slow it was particularly in East Van. Doing that so I grasped why he was so stressed when I saw him each Friday. As someone who rides a bike or a skateboard and primarily walks I do not have to deal with what he has to 5 – 6 days a week.
    2. I have a young colleague who lives in Mount Pleasant they have two children. He and his wife have to have at least one car just to get their children to child care and also one of them to get to work after delivering them to child care. One friend has to drive his child to Metro Town from Commercial Drive to her child care. Governments have not prioritized child care so many millennial parents have no choice but to drive and both have to work to afford an apartment with 2 or 3 bedrooms in Mt. Pleasant
    3. We live in a region with bridges and that makes things difficult to drive. Also, noticing the biggest ticket item for governments is health care and then education and then transportation so it is no wonder we do not have better facilities given the ideology of the day is limited government.
    4. As a City employee I have had many chats with enraged people about traffic. About ten years ago after the Hornby bike lane was built I was chatting with a West End resident who was angry about that. So I suggested she take her bike out and ride the bike lane on Burrard which is between a bus lane and a car lane and then head back on the Hornby bike lane and see what she thinks. She looked at me like I was from another planet and I guess I am for her.
    5. I also said to her I have watched 3 Councils approve the City Wide Transportation Plan (1997), the Downtown Transportation Plan (2004?) and Transportation 2040 more recently with a basic policy that street ROW’s be prioritized for walking, then cycling and then transit, then goods movement and lastly cars…two Councils I believe were NPA and one was Vision. So I do not see it changing…there is only so much ROW to move more people in the long term and those priorities will result in more people moving than focing on the SOV…it is sensible to do that.
    6. Props to David Brokenshire’s first post….quite thoughtful…thank you David!!

  13. To get back to the headline topic, I think it is a matter of what some people have been exposed to. For some, bicycles never went away. They may have been a minority thing overall but where they made sense a lot of people continued to use them as one of their travel choices. To them bicycles continued to be one of the things on the road. But for some others, many others, from their experience they did go away. From their perspective those people now see the resurgence as something new that’s now on the road.
    Corporate media tends to focus on (and demonize) the people doing the cycling but really the focus should be on the people who see it as a new thing and are reacting. They’re the ones that are having a hard time adjusting to modern life. To them the resurgence is a fad and therefore we shouldn’t be spending money on something that will go away again. Some of them want us to go back to the highways in cities model of the past. (Except of course their houses wouldn’t be the ones demolished to make room for these highways…)

  14. Speaking of power – the new Tesla will accelerate to 100kph in 2.1 seconds and has a top speed of over 400kph. That’s demonic; and an incredibly stupid guy thing. Wonder how fast it will park; and how many bags of groceries it will hold. Bet I could beat it on a shopping trip with my bicycle with panniers – door to door – no parking issues.
    How long before that young psycho with the Lambo who was arrested twice on the Lion’s Gate for insane speeding gets his rich little paws on one.

    1. See, that’s the thing. It’s not really the people (motorists) who are to blame, it’s the toys that most of us are able to get ahold of nowadays. They’re just following their noses and doing what feels good at the time. If there will in the future be a bunch of vehicles out there for people to buy or rent, autonomous and electric with super fast acceleration we need to respond to them and change our built environment, (like we did almost a century ago) to deal with them to try and reduce the problems they will cause.

  15. Biking in most of Vancouver is mainly a joy now .. when the sun is shining or at least when it is not raining. Further out, excepting perhaps bike friendly and super flat Richmond, not so much. I took a e-bike trip to Deep Cove the other day and it was a chore, even with an e-bike, anywhere east of Lonsdale.

    At least Gregor did one thing right in his 10 years in office. Bravo & thank you for that.

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