I just received an email on the GVCC listserv, that reproduces a jaw-dropping editorial from The Province in Vancouver: “Bike lobby still gripping city hall’s handlebars.” The newspaper criticizes Vancouver City Council for committing to spend a third of their road budget over the next two years ($25 million) on cycling improvements like bike lanes, in an attempt to increase cycling’s mode share. The newspaper claims that since most people use motorized transport to get around the city, and since those cars, trucks and buses “spend too much time idling in traffic thanks to our inefficient roads” that it’s unfair and undemocratic to transfer road space to cyclists.
1. People choose not to cycle in cities partly because they perceive doing so to be unsafe. If perceptions of safety were increased, by the expansion of biking facilities, more people might choose to cycle.
2. The Province has apparently never heard of induced, or generated, traffic, in which building more roads temporarily reduces traffic congestion and encourages people to drive cars; as more people use the new, bigger or more frequently spaced roads, this leads to even greater congestion. I presume The Province‘s solution to Vancouver’s”inefficient roads” would be to build more of them. Fortunately, this concept applies to cycling as well, so building more cycling facilities will make it easier, more convenient and safer to cycle in the city – as well as more “efficient” to use motorized vehicles, as the numbers of people doing so decrease, which would decrease congestion. Contrary to what The Province claims, “build it, [and cyclists] will come.”
3. The argument that this is bad for tax rates in Vancouver seems to be gibberish. I’m not a tax expert, but it seems that The Province is arguing that this money should be spent on improving roads for motorized traffic. It’s not clear how that would help keep tax levels low in Vancouver, since it costs more to maintain roads used by large numbers of heavy vehicles than those used by smaller ones. Cars are also subsidized in many other ways, and cycling/pedestrian uses cost less than motorized uses on local roads.
The Province‘s mentality on this kind of issue frustrates me a great deal, because it’s so demonstrably wrong. I think The Province, as a widely read newspaper, could be doing a lot to educate its readers about these issues, rather than pandering to its readers preconceived notions. As I said in yesterday’s post, we should be conscious of how we socially construct our cities; since large media outlets have a big responsibility in creating a common culture in our cities, they need to wield it well.