Tom Babin has written a cogent article in Shifter on why municipalities embraced and adopted the fact that bicycles should be treated like cars. In North America bicyclists share the street, use hand signals, and cross traffic at left-hand turns just like a car.
This concept was piloted by an American named John Forester. The acceptance of treating bikes like cars meant that no separated facilities needed to be built. It was a cheap way of managing bikes on the road.
Forester developed an effective cycling educational program that integrated motorists and educated cyclists, claiming that this reduced accidents more than separated bicycle lanes.
At the same time as these views were being adopted in North America, Europe and Montreal were doing things differently. Montreal’s separated bike path on Rue Berrie was built in the 1980’s, but was the subject of derision from other municipalities. Montreal paralleled Denmark and the Netherlands in going for separated bike facilities, perhaps as a response to the car domination of the post-war period.
Fast forward 40 years and Montreal is known for a surprisingly comfortable walking and biking network, with many separated bike paths on streets. Velo Quebec estimates that in the last 20 years 600,000 people have commenced bicycle riding in the Province, and 2.7 million people ride a bike weekly. The network in Quebec has grown by 30 per cent since 2010 to a total of 12,000 kilometers, and major injuries on bikeways continue to drop.
Metro Vancouver is catching up to the innovative work of Montreal, which Babin calls “a bicycle haven in a continent of car-centricity, perhaps the most bike-friendly city on the continent“.
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