Do you see what NPA Park Commissioner Tricia Barker is doing here?
In Vancouver, the civic government has a “transportation hierarchy” list. I propose we put compromised seniors and people with disabilities at the top of this list and give them first priority. …
For too long we’ve put seniors and people with disabilities last. The city’s “hierarchy of transportation modes” says it will consider the needs and safety of each group of road users in the following order of priority: 1st walking; 2nd cycling; 3rd transit and taxi/shared vehicles, and 4th private auto (Vancouver’s Transportation 2040 condensed plan, Page 13). Seniors and persons with disabilities aren’t even mentioned.
Of course seniors and the disabled aren’t mentioned. They’re people, not modes of transportation.
Seniors and disabled people* can be walkers, cyclists, transit and vehicle users. What Barker implies without having to say explicitly is that they’re all dependent car users. So in order to give them top priority, motordom must be maintained.
On that she is explicit:
As we move forward, let’s make a promise to never take away something that has already been given. … Let’s enact a policy where you can’t take away a necessity because it’s convenient or others may like it.
What are these necessities that can’t be taken away? Parking. Road space. Motordom: the city designed for the car, which, by her argument, seniors and the disabled see as essential. Hence, any diminishment of motordom is a sign of disrespect. Their right to easy access everywhere by automobile must be maintained as a first priority – something to be encoded in policy to be used as the basis for planning.
It’s kind of a brilliant strategy: use the disabled to disable progress towards active transportation, towards progress on climate change, towards safer cities and greater choice – all the policies you don’t want to publicly oppose but can frustrate by out-woking the progressives.
Here’s another example:
In April, the City of Vancouver closed the eastbound lane of Beach Avenue to vehicular traffic. The measure was intended to allow West End residents to use the lane for exercise and other outdoor activities.
This created one problem, according to Anthony Kupferschmidt, executive director of the West End Seniors’ Network. … a number of seniors find it difficult to get to Davie Street because of the uphill walk.
Kupferschmidt brought this concern with city hall, and some changes may be coming. … The Straight learned from city hall that modifications being considered for the West End thoroughfare may include car and bus traffic.
There’s no question that good urban transportation planning must try to accommodate seniors, the disabled and otherwise marginalized groups, along with a maximum of transport choices according to the priorities established by council. But Barker’s strategy is to replace those priorities with a pre-emption: cars and vehicles go first because seniors and the disabled must go first.
Indeed, as council demonstrated recently, it’s not enough just to maintain a motordom status quo; incentives should be provided for the marginalized and those to be honored with special status to drive even more:
Staff did their job: they reported to council that giving pretty much unlimited free use of some of the most valuable real estate in the city – curb parking – is hardly consistent with the Big Move priorities it has approved to deal with the climate emergency.
By voting unanimously to reject that advice and provide a giveaway of unknown dimension, easily subject to abuse (the sticker goes with the car, not the person), the message was clear: don’t take us too seriously when we say we will take tough decisions to deal with the climate emergency and our transportation priorities.
Tricia Barker would be pleased.
*There’s another flawed assumption here too: that seniors are essentially another class of disabled people, unable to function normally without the assistance of a vehicle.