Design editor Lloyd Alter of Tree Hugger sums up what is truly happening in the “sharing the road” adage that is so popular these days. As Lloyd recalls in this article in  “Everyone hates everyone”. That is a pretty true statement and we have to do a better job and get that done now.

 Lloyd Alter states “Unless we start planning now and figuring out how to share the space we have equitably, in 10 years it won’t be drivers hating pedestrians hating cyclists, It will be everybody hating old people. Because we will be everywhere.”

It really is not about a demographic time bomb of old people showing up on adult tricycles scooting along bike lanes. It is really about our discussion on why when talking about sharing space, we still pit pedestrians against cyclists, giving vehicular users a relatively free pass to the rest of the street without much discussion.

I wrote about the unfortunate bicycle crash that happened with City of Vancouver’s Transportation manager (and all around nice guy) Dale Bracewell who suffered a shattered elbow when a vehicle literally debiked him.  Both Lloyd Alter and Dale quoted the just released study from Australia which suggests that many motorists don’t see cyclists as real people and vulnerable road users with as much right to the road space as they do. You can take a look at that study here.

If you have been a cyclist or a pedestrian in Australian cities you will know it is still a bit like the wild west, with vehicles having priority on streets, and state government at odds with the big cities who want to traffic calm on state run road networks and give pedestrians priority at signalized intersections.

Of course there are issues between cyclists and pedestrians as well.

Cyclists will often hop their bikes on a sidewalk for safety or convenience reasons. But the work done by Jan Garrard for Victoria Walks in Australia shows that seniors use walking as their major mode of transport, and require a higher standard of design and street maintenance to stay mobile and safe. Bikes, dogs and distractions  on sidewalks can result in seniors falling.  As Garrard notes:

 “Just as older adults can be more vulnerable to environmental hazards while walking,they also express high levels of concern about the behaviours of other road/path users. These concerns may be heightened for older adults because of their reduced ability to avoid a collision in the event of the sudden, unexpected movement of another road/path user,and increased likelihood that a collision (or the avoidance manoeuvre) will result in a fall and/or injury”.

Garrard’s work also shows that for older seniors there is a high likelihood  that senior to be deceased within several months after a traumatic fall on a city sidewalk or street. There is a reason seniors fear falling.

As Lloyd Alter surmises  talking about seniors in the United States “In 10 years, when the oldest of 70 million boomers are in their 80s, the drivers are going to have a lot more to complain about — millions of old people who take too long to cross the street, many more crosswalks and traffic islands taking up space, wider sidewalks and wider bike lanes to handle an explosion in the numbers of e-bikes and mobility devices.”

The time to have the serious conversation on how we share the city street and road surface needs to happen now. It’s time to humanize the pedestrian and cyclist by applying the Safe  Road System~Vision Zero approach and nix the 85 percentile way of building road space solely for vehicular traffic. Better design, lower speeds and changing driver behaviour on city streets are mandatory.  We need good street infrastructure, delight, visual interest, benches and public washrooms for vulnerable road users. And we also need a new way of looking at road share.

As this article by the Brookings Institute observes its no longer good enough to measure street use by a level of service. New standards measuring “broader community goals around accessibility, economic development, sustainability and livability” need to be immediately instituted.
We are all going to be using those streets in the future, and moving sustainably by cycle and foot will not only be a necessity, but a way to keep an older population agile, connected and fit, making communities more cohesive. The health of the  population, our spaces and our streets depend upon that.


Images: Tasmaniagov & Pond5


  1. A lot of city design is based on the idea that driving is the only valid mode of transportation. This means that the budget for any other mode is so tiny that people are forced to share a path when cycling and when walking. Because of the different speeds this isn’t working but it does get those activities out of the way of driving and that’s all that matters.
    Bicycles are safe to be around of course and pose extremely little danger to anyone else but it can be unsettling when you’re out for a walk and the designed environment directs people to cycle near you. Seniors especially have lesser peripheral vision so in their perception it appears to have come out of nowhere.

    Another issue is wording. A few times in this posting as well as in linked articles the wording is such that people are described as something. (Pedestrian, driver, cyclist) as opposed to talking about the activities (Walking, driving, cycling).

    The phrase “Share the Road” has been a failure. It was meant to remind people when driving to have patient when someone cycling is forced by a narrow point in the road to take the lane. How it has got interpreted by some is that it’s directed at the person cycling to get out of the way of people driving. I’m glad it’s falling out of style now.

    But you know I don’t think much will change until there’s a complete cultural change around driving. It should start with driver education. People studying for their test need to learn how roads and streets are funded. They need to learn about how much driving is subsidized by everyone. They need to learn to expect various devices on the road and to have patient when slowed by a tractor or bicycle or mobility scooter. They also need to learn what proper cycling looks like. Proper actions like taking the lane are sometimes misinterpreted as being inconsiderate or something.

  2. Great article, and after the post yesterday about Dale Bracewell, I came across this Edmonton newspaper article where “the serious conversation on how we share the city street and road surface” (as you say above) is being carried out by the police with tickets for riding bikes on sidewalks in low-income areas with no bike lanes. Now there’s a discussion about equality and access! Oh dear….

  3. Indeed sharing is a two-way street requiring mutual understanding, education, coercion and fines.

    Where are the signs on major through roads in Vancouver reminding bikers that there is a safer bicycle dedicated road a block or 2 east or west ?

    Of course cars or trucks parked on bike lanes, too, are far too common or folks turning or opening their door onto bike lanes !

    More education please.

    But also more mutual respect and awareness, please !

    1. The point of ‘Share the Road’ is not to shunt cyclists off elsewhere. It’s to allow everyone to use the road or path they prefer, usually the most direct one.

      You could just as well put up signs reminding motorists that there are other, more pleasant, and parallel routes they can take instead of the one they’re on. But that would be crazy!

      1. A thoroughfare like Broadway, Commercial, Granville, 41st, Main etc is designed to take more car traffic than the parallel residential streets specifically redesigned to take bicycles. As such bikes that clog the thoroughfares unnecessarily need to be better educated on the alternatives, not the other way around !!

        1. Who decides on ‘unnecessary’?

          Attend to your own choices and leave the rest of us to our ability to decide for ourselves what route is best for our needs. Otherwise be prepared to have your transportation and lifestyle choices adjudicated. I suspect that’s not on your list of preferred outcomes.

          1. “Adjudication” i.e. rules happens all the time. Many prefer to go 80 km/h but signs says 50 km/h. Traffic light says red but no one crosses actually. Sign says stop but maybe I think a yield is good enough. Etc .. Ditto with bike lanes.

            Bikers like to use every road. Why is that ?

            We don’t let pedestrians walks on the road either. We have sidewalks for that. We need to have far more roads that are EXCLUDED for bikes, not just Hwy 1. ALL major throughfares to me in Vancouver fall into that category. Bikes clog the road by forcing faster cars, trucks or buses over into the other lane AND pose a risk (thus, unnecessary cost) to society and themselves. It is not too much to ask to use a road (often with a dedicated bike lane or sharrows or traffic calmed) 1 – 2 blocks over and then walk your bike 1/2 bock on a sidewalk to your destination as opposed to leisurely biking on Broadway, for example !

          2. The same speed limits are applied to (nearly) all vehicles in practice. Your example is brutally wrong.

            You equate speed with importance of the trip. Another fallacious assumption.

            If you can’t merge without creating risk… best take the bus.

            It’s not too much to ask a motorist to slow down slightly and move their vehicle a few feet over, costing them a few seconds. You find this objectionable and want people using bicycles to detour and cost THEM time and distance far in excess of this. Why? You believe (apparently) that anyone in a motor vehicle has a greater right to public space. The double standard is obvious to a dispassionate observer.

            Your posts are a great example of starting from a foolish position and then having to heap illogic and inequity onto it in a vain attempt to justify that position. They don’t add much to the knowledge base here, but sure illuminate the pretzel logic required to tout the status quo despite the evidence of its negative impacts.

            Pedestrians… here’s the relevant passage from the motor vehicle act, so you can update your (erroneous) contention that we don’t let them walk on roads:

            Pedestrian walking along highway
            182 (1) If there is a sidewalk that is reasonably passable on either or both sides of a highway, a pedestrian must not walk on a roadway.

            (2) If there is no sidewalk, a pedestrian walking along or on a highway must walk only on the extreme left side of the roadway or the shoulder of the highway, facing traffic approaching from the opposite direction.

            But if you want to barrack for bike lanes on every street as we do with sidewalks in urban areas, go for it.

          3. The world is moving to more complete streets, ones which accommodate all users.

            Thomas is arguing for more incomplete streets. Too funny.

            “bikers like to use every road….”

            Take out the word biker, and insert the word people. See if you can spot the answer. Hint: it could have something to do with where the road goes.

          4. Y@ Chris K: Yes it inconveniences cars, buses and trucks too much to yield to a slow bicycle on a busy road!!

            As such, bicyclists ought to use nearby roads unless, of course, there is a dedicated bike lane, which does not exist on many of Vancouver’s major arteries like Broadway, Granville, etc .. so yes SOME streets ought to disallow bicycles categorically !

            if we can squeeze in a dedicated bike lane, great, but as we see on SW Marine Drive, for example, from UBC to Granville that is an insult to commuters and poor land use ! It ought to have been a 3 lane road with a counter-flow lane.

          5. People commute by bike. Are you saying the bike lane is an insult to those riding their bike?

        2. “Unnecessary “? Motorists are the only ones that matter, apparently. Everyone else is just in the way and cosplaying at adulthood in your world.

        3. Unnecessarily?
          Again, here’s the classist assumption that a person’s trip when they take a bike is frivolous but if they hop in a car for that same trip, no matter what they’re doing, it’s automatically important.
          This is the problem here not the existence of more than one travel mode.
          But sure, wayfinding signs are welcome. Another good idea are maps on signs showing the cycle network. Currently there are paper maps but I don’t know if people know where to get them or even think of it. Lots of people are new to cycling. The way things are now, it’s not obvious what to do.

          And please don’t use the word “biker” unless you mean somebody riding a Harley-Davidson.

  4. Major thoroughfares usually have more than one lane for motorists. If one is being ‘delayed’ by a cyclist on the road, there is almost always a lane immediately adjacent and provided for your convenience. One may be required to slow slightly to perform this ‘merge’. To date there are no recorded incidents of successful merging leading to instant death. Good Luck!

    1. I had the experience of being on a bus stuck behind a cyclist the length of Hastings from basically Renfrew to Main. 70 passengers going the pace of a single person on a bike – sure we probably only lost a handful of minutes, but it’s like forcing cyclists to go the speed of traffic. It’s not just single passenger vehicles inconvenienced.

      1. Crawling in traffic jams is a daily occurrence due to motorists wrecking their cars. Huge delays. Huge. Impacting tens of thousands of commuters. Why worry about edge cases of people legally using infrastructure, when we have a huge issue with motorist caused delays due to carelessness and scofflawism. It’s so bad they have entire radio stations devoted to updates!!

        Madness. Utter madness. We shall be mocked and deservedly so by our grandkids.

        1. More likely your grandkids driving their clean hydrogen powered cars will mock you for restricting the road network and striking a blow against mobility. No civilization ever rose to greatness by making it more difficult to get around.

          1. Kids are not rushing out to get their drivers licenses at the pace they used to . Young adults are not buying cars like their parents did. Living in urban centres is increasingly popular among successful young people. VKT is falling in much of the developed world. It has been falling in Vancouver for over a decade.

            No civilization ever rose to greatness by ignoring fundamental problems within its society.

            It’s easier to get around in Vancouver than ever.

          2. It’s not any intent to make it difficult to get around. That’s happening all on its own because the approach that all trips will be made by motor vehicle doesn’t work. It’s okay in rural areas where there are few people but does not scale up to population.
            What Vancouver and many cities are now doing is making it easier to get around. It’s being done by making other ways better. Other transportation methods are to support and increase mobility.
            If there were no buses or Skytrain or cycling and walking infrastructure it would be much harder to drive around. If all trips made by people on bike and transit were done in a car traffic jams would be way worse.
            Don’t blame the solution.

      2. Transit should have it’s own lane. Problem solved.

        Why should buses full of people moving efficiently ever be stuck behind cars moving people inefficiently? You might have had the experience of being stuck behind a cyclist. Whoopee! You had the experience. It was noteworthy. Buses being stuck behind cars is so common you don’t even acknowledge it.

        1. As implemented by the great former mayor of Bogota, Enrique Penalosa: the Transmilenio.
          Against moneyed interests he gave the majority the ability to travel better – greatest good for the largest number of people. The video of motorats bumping along a potholed dirt road while transit users and cyclists – the majority – have better facilities, is priceless.
          We’ve been held hostage by motordom for so long, we suffer from Stockholm Syndrome.
          There is nothing noble about being a motorat. Squeaking that you are a commuterat – that you are driving to work – does not absolve you from censure.
          And, if you are rat-running solo in your air-bagged coffee dome, cigarette in hand, your life needs re-evaluation.
          It’s stunning how many motorats work horrible mindless life-killing jobs, so that they can drive to work. Idiotic.
          Seeing motorats washing their vehicular millstones and then anointing them with wax … reminds me of lingam worship.

        2. We do that on Broadway at rush hour.

          Yes it could be expanded all day.

          Yet, like a tram, the bus will still stops at intersections and clogs cross-traffic.

          Have you sen an ad anywhere, ever, advertising a new condo building “Buy here – close to a bus” ?? Anywhere ? In any city? EVER ? Ask yourself: why is that ?

  5. Last trip to Portland we were struck with how courteous car drivers were to us as cyclists compared to Vancouver.

    I’m not sure how, but Portland seems to get that cyclists are human and drivers seem to give a little more room and consideration.

  6. Why did the chicken cross the road?
    More importantly, why did the duck cross the ocean from Hungary, to land in Asbestos, Quebec, to get packaged for sale around Canada as “Brome Lake Duck”?
    8,649 kms from Budapest to Vancouver!
    What kind of economic imperialism is that?
    How can someone make money selling a duck from Hungary in a Stuporstore in Vancouver for $11 bucks?
    Duck fat alone is $5 bucks for 250 g at Windsor Meats.
    How many ducks would be sold if they were labelled as “Asbestos Duck”?
    Why did the bunny hop over the ocean from France, about 8,000 kms, to be sold frozen in Vancouver? They’re hippity-hopping fresh and natural in a neighbourhood near you. Peel and eat.
    Wtf with the bunnies and the duck?
    If there’s room on the road for foreign bunnies and the wayward duck, surely there’s room for we the people.

  7. According to the 2018 gestalten book VELO CITY, the Copenhaagendazsers commissioned a study on costs of private motordom vs cycling.
    “The study looked at parameters such as vehicle operating costs, time costs, accident costs, pollution and externalities, safety costs, health benefits, discomfort costs, and recreational values. According to the results, for each kilometre driven by a car in Copenhagen, society loses $0.93 (€0.76), never to be seen again. Meanwhile for each kilometre cycled, society earns $0.22 (€0.18), most of which is enjoyed in reduction in congestion, noise pollution, lifestyle diseases, and vehicle operating costs.”
    Who is sharing the road with whom?

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