From Barry Rueger, a member of the District of North Vancouver’s Transportation Consultation Committee for three years.
Bicycles are not a North Shore Panacea, Transit Might Be.
For three years I’ve been part of the District of North Vancouver’s Transportation Consultation Committee. Few things have enjoyed more discussion than cycling infrastructure. Read more »
The cycling community, including HUB, have done a tremendous job of lobbying local governments for better bike paths and lanes, and for the inclusion of bike specific amenities in major developments.
Good though that is, it isn’t about to solve the problems of the daily traffic jams on the Upper Levels highway.
The North Shore has a significant problem caused by the volume of automobiles trying to get to and from the North Shore via the two bridges.
When these discussions happen, bicycles are almost immediately proposed as the solution to traffic jams.
The problem is that our most avid cyclists don’t seem to understand the motivation of all of the thousands of people driving to and from their destinations.
The people who are driving to and from work each day don’t generally enjoy it, and they don’t like what it costs them. No one chooses to sit for an hour in stop and go traffic, or to pay more and more for gas and insurance for the privilege.
Just raising gas prices, eliminating parking, or laying on guilt trips won’t change this. You can probably make commuting by car twice as expensive and see little decrease in traffic volume – unless you can offer drivers a real and practical alternative.
Or more to the point, offer drivers an alternative that they see as reasonable and attractive.
I have neighbours who cycle from Lynn Valley to downtown Vancouver and UBC respectively, but they are part of a very, very small minority. The number of North Shore residents who will be prepared to cycle or walk to jobs in Vancouver or Surrey is marginal at best. For the vast majority of commuters the only possible options are private automobiles or public transit.
Despite the apocryphal stories about cyclists whizzing by slow moving cars on Lions Gate Bridge, the majority of drivers believe that, all things being equal, driving will get them to their destination faster than cycling.
For the vast majority of drivers that’s entirely true.
Travelling long distances by bike, over hilly terrain, at the same speed as driving, requires a high level of fitness, and probably a bike costing at least thousand dollars. Plus an employer who either doesn’t mind wet, smelly employees, or has shower and change facilitates at the office. The cyclists who have all of these things available really do represent a pretty elite group.
As an elite, they leave out the people who are physically unable to ride a bike. The people who are moving three or four children to various activities each day, as well as shopping and medical appointments. People moving appliances and parcels. People who carry the tools of their trade to work each day, or who work in different places and at different times. People who can’t afford the bike, and clothing, and helmet, and the extra time to travel by bike.
And, of course, people who simply don’t want to ride bicycles.
For the North Shore, a solution that relies solely or mostly on cycling is not reasonable.
Lecturing commuters about the “real costs” of driving (either in terms of infrastructure or in terms of the environment) won’t move more than a marginal number of people out of their cars.
The factors that keep people driving are entirely different.
The person who is commuting by car will ask a few specific questions about any transportation option you offer them.
They’ll ask how long it takes to get to and from their job. If they can’t get to work on time, or if they are forced leave home a half hour early just to be sure, they’ll stay in their car. If they arrive home an hour later, and miss their kid’s soccer game, they’ll stay in their car. If their commute includes a transfer in the middle – or two – and those connections are unreliable, they’ll stay in their car.
They’ll ask how close the transit start point is from their home,