Below is a picture of what you first see at the border of the District of West Vancouver after coming across the Lions Gate Bridge by bicycle. Read more »
There’s no signage telling a cyclist where to go. No bike lanes. Nothing that says West Van encourages (or even tolerates) alternative transportation. The result has been frustrating for everyone: the cyclists don’t know where they should be, and pedestrians are upset when they go where they shouldn’t, and there are always conflicts with cars. It’s confusing, intimidating and unnecessary.
But that’s changing. As Colette Parsons noted in a previous post, there will eventually be a bike route through Ambleside.
And that’s thanks in part to the Spirit Trail funding coming from the provincial Ministry of Transportation. That’s right – Kevin Falcon! And kudos to him for pushing for a bike trail across the North Shore, and providing the money to do it.
The lack of a bike route through Ambleside has been a curious omission, since it’s one of the few places in this hillside municipality that’s conducive to cycling.
Ambleside, in fact, has all the elements needed. From Lions Gate to the community centre at 22nd Street, it’s well within the 5 kilometre radius of most practical cycling trips. (The red line below shows a distance of only 3 K.)
Below Marine and up to 19th Street, the topography is flat, the population is dense and the mix of uses is superb – everything you’d need in a day. There’s the appeal of the beaches and the parks, and there’s plenty of space to provide routes for all.
But in West Van itself, there’s a curious absence of cyclists. Which means that, given the underlying conditions and the absence of action, the municipality has actually been discouraging healthy behaviour and encouraged more driving.
That was abundantly apparent this B.C. Day, when the Harmony Arts Festival was taking place along the waterfront. In a series of tents and performance spaces, the event was one of those things that give West Van its small-town appeal.
But it seemed almost everyone drove there and tried to find a parking space. The result:
Conflict for all.
As Vancouver learned with the Fireworks festival, the West End had to be closed off to circulating traffic and people had to walk in, preferably after taking transit, in order to save the event from itself. The walk became part of the experience.
West Van, given its aging population and topography, doesn’t really believe that’s an option. So increasingly it finds itself in a bind: having never actively encouraged alternatives, even in places where it makes sense, it now suffers from the paradox of the automobile – when everyone uses cars, the car becomes useless (as a recent report from the Ministry of Transportation on Lions Gate Bridge congestion so brutally illustrates. )
West Vancouverites – drivers especially – have a self-interested rationale for encouraging other people to take alternatives. Not to mention related goals: more fitness in the face of obesity, less carbon in the face of climate change. But search for “sustainability” on the District’s website and the references will take you to the “Fiscal Sustainability Task Force.”
It’s time for a new direction. All I’m waiting for is one sign that says, “Cyclists, go here.”