There’s been a lot of this sort of argument recently:
I thought of how this city, my city, puts more care into providing bike lanes for urban professionals than for housing the homeless. … If Robertson and the city of Vancouver would put one ounce of the passion into putting a few roofs over a few heads as they do with providing surplus recreation for the over-privileged, there’s one old man who might still be here today.
That’s from an op-ed in today’s Sun. But it’s typical: Choose your issue – and then decry the expenditure of dollars for something as trivial – or at least of lower priority – as a bike lane.
Such a juxtaposition usually suggests confusion between capital and operating expenditures. That is, the difference between paying for a program in an annual budget versus paying (or borrowing) to build or maintain a permanent piece of infrastructure.
And that’s not just a wonky distinction. If resources can be shifted from capital to operating any time a consitutency or politician dislikes a high-profile project, then any attempt at planning for infrastructure that extends beyond the term of a council wouldn’t be taken seriously.
But hey, so what. It makes a point about our priorities. So why not go where the real money is?
Did you know we are spending $22 billion on the Pacific Gateway – ports, roads, railways and airports. That’s a lot of money. (To illustrate: a million seconds equals about 12 days. A billion seconds? Almost 32 years.)
Doesn’t quite turn people’s crank like a bike lane, does it? And while, sure, the Gateway project is arguably justified as a jobs-generator, as good for the economy, so, arguably (no kidding), are bike lanes.
This is the block of Hornby Street (you can see the cycle-track divider in the foreground) between Beach and Pacific where the Appleton Gallery (the red building on the left) was once located – the business the owner claimed was killed by the Burrard bike-lane project.
But look what is next to it. The gray building is the Tactix Gym, which specializes in the kind of cross-training that appeals to, guess who?, the kind of customer who will be attracted by the bike lane. So which kind of business has the most potential for investment, jobs and growth? The art gallery or the gym? And which will benefit by this ‘investment in infrastructure’? I’m guessing the gym. With the bike racks out front.
So if job generation and economic growth is a good argument for the Pacific Gateway, it’s a good argument for a bike lane that attracts customers for the business that pays the city rent and property taxes. Which then helps pay for a city-funded shelter in the lane a block from the gym.
(Interestingly, the architect, Richard Evans, who has his office atop the gym, tells me that practically all eight of his staff will cycle to work, walk or take transit, with no need for car parking. Another saving, another competitive advantage for a downtown business.)Read more »