Infrastructure
October 29, 2019

No Windshield: Don Bell’s New World

I served with Don Bell on the regional district board when he was Mayor of the District of North Vancouver.  Now he’s a councillor In the City (CNV), and one of the longest serving local leaders in Metro.

So yeah, he’s an old white guy who’s been around a long time.  How does he stay relevant?

Like this:

Don Bell bought an e-scooter/bike.

Cllr Tony Vallente took this shot at the opening of Reckless Shipyards, where two modes – scooters and cycles – are hybridizing.

I always thought of Don as a windshield politician.  A car windshield.  Everything he saw on the other side was designed to assist the way he was moving, from the engineering of the road to the size of the parking lot.  All the houses and apartment buildings, the shops and offices, the warehouses and whatever – everything based on the assumption that almost everyone drove, almost everywhere, almost all the time.

Don’s world.  Where the car is a member of the family.

That was the District Don was mayor of. But it’s not the City he represents now – the city that has embraced urbanism, that believes in the regional vision – of dense, mixed-use centres, connected by good transit.  Like Lower Lonsdale.  And now Upper Lonsdale.

The Council has, by fits and starts, agreed to get denser and different.  To not be as car dependent.  North Vancouver isn’t just suburbia.  Nor is Don now just a driver.

Now he’s bought an e-scooter.  Seeing without a windshield the community he helps shape.

 

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… or at least Italy, from where John Graham reports:

In the south of Italy – here in Sorrento at the end of the Amalfi coast – the e-bike with fat tires is taking over. And not by the mountain-biker demographic, as you can see from the front basket and rear child seat.

This bike on the main pedestrian shopping street is their version of the mini SUV. The fat tires are for the rough and variable cobblestones.

The rider was a woman in her 40’s who got off and went into the cosmetic shop behind.

 

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Another counter-intuitive study that offsets a reasonable expectation that more electric bikes and scooters will mean less fit users – kind of like the idea that ‘riding hailing will result in less SOV use and vehicle congestion’.  (Turns out Uber et al increase congestion and reduce transit use.)  But there are qualifications.

From treehugger:

E-bikers use their bikes more, go longer distances, and often substitute it for driving or transit. …

A new study, with a mouthful of a title, “Physical activity of electric bicycle users compared to conventional bicycle users and non-cyclists: Insights based on health and transport data from an online survey in seven European cities,” finds that in fact it is true: e-bikers take longer trips and get pretty much the same physical activity gains as analog cyclists. …

But perhaps even more significant is the dramatic increase in exercise among people who switch from cars to e-bikes, a much easier transition than from cars to a-bikes.

It should be noted that this study looks at European pedelec e-bikes like my Gazelle, where people have to pedal a bit to get the 250 watt motor to kick in. Results probably don’t apply to overpowered throttle-controlled American e-bikes or scooters. Because, as the study authors note, with a pedelec, “using an e-bike requires moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity, depending on topography.”

There is so much to unpack from this study. It also looks at how e-bikes are easier for older riders, keeping them fitter longer. It also reinforces my opinion that the Europeans got it right by limiting speed and power on e-bikes and mandating that they are all pedelecs rather than throttle operated; you don’t get much exercise on a motorcycle.

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