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Fringe party proposes bike-only routes for Vancouver

The Work Less Party of Vancouver want people to drive less too. They are hoping to encourage people out of…

By Katie Hyslop , in Elections , on November 13, 2008 Tags: , , , , ,

The Work Less Party of Vancouver want people to drive less too. They are hoping to encourage people out of their cars and onto their bicycles by creating a network of bike-only streets in the city.

Drivers don't look out for cyclists in bike lanes, says Shaw.
Drivers don't look out for cyclists in bike lanes, says Shaw

“We have to change our transportation priorities in this city,” said Dr. Chris Shaw, party spokesperson and candidate for Vancouver City Council.

Vancouver already has a series of bikeways that form a network of 23 paved routes that intersect with or run parallel to major roadways. There are also designated bike lanes on some major streets.

Shaw likes these routes, but argues they are not enough. He says safety is a concern for cyclists in the city and makes it hard to persuade more people to use bikes.

“A lot of the drivers, we know, sadly don’t always see bikes very well and if you’re in a car tangle, we know who’s going to lose,” said Shaw.

“[Cyclists] need to be able to ride safely, and one way to be to do that is to provide bike-only streets.”

Election rivals Vision Vancouver have a similar proposal for cycling infrastructure, though they want to move at a much slower pace.

“Vision wants to start a trial, we want to shut down streets [to cars] in the summer,” said Ian Baillie of Vision Vancouver, adding a trial period would help drivers adjust. “We’re saying let’s start slow, let’s have a trial.”

The Non Partisan Alliance (PDF) could not be reached for comment by press time. The party’s electoral platform (PDF) electoral platform says it would expand Vancouver’s bike routes and lanes, increasing the emphasis on safety for cyclists.

Related: Major parties pedal plans for cycling city

A mix of traffic

In contrast, the Work Less Party is proposing taking major east-west and north-south streets in the city, such as Broadway, Cambie Street, and Oak Street, and making limiting them to bikes and buses.

For bike-only streets, the party wants to alternate smaller streets as car streets or bike-only streets. Shaw says the change will be gradual to help drivers adapt.

The ultimate goal is for traffic consisting of one-third cars, one-third bikes, and one-third mass transit.

Residential streets designated bike-only will allow drivers to use back lane entrances, while commercial streets for bikes or mass transit will let delivery trucks and vans through to access businesses, says Shaw.

“It wouldn’t necessarily be a one-for-one thing, it might only be one bike lane per five car streets,” said Shaw.

“The devil will be in the details, but those are pretty far down in the weeks considering we are just proposing it as more a conceptual notion right now than a practical, hardcore plan.”

“We could work that out, and we could do so in consultation with transportation experts from the different communities, in other words the biking community, the mass transit communities, and of course average people who just have to drive their cars.”

Learning from abroad

Cameron Dean, a bike mechanic at the University of British Columbia’s Bike Kitchen, thinks a network of bike-only streets sounds like a good idea.

Bike mechanic Cameron Dean wants bike infrastructure similar to Dublin, Ireland's.
Bike mechanic Cameron Dean wants bike plans similar to Dublin

He recommends the next city council take transit cues from bike friendly cities like Dublin, Ireland.

“I really like what they do on almost all major roads…just sections on the side of the road that’s painted a different colour, that’s connected to all of the major roads,” said Dean, who lived in Dublin for a year.

He saw how this made “bikes part of traffic as opposed to relegating them to the side streets and the less popular routes.”

Dean says Dublin cyclists have a distinct advantage over Vancouver cyclists because drivers are more aware of them.

“Every time a car would turn into traffic or change lanes, the person looks to see if there is a cyclist or a motorcyclist coming by them, no matter what lane they’re in and no matter what road,” he said.

“Here, car drivers on some roads sort of seem to take the attitude that they’re the only ones that are on the road.”

Shaw admits he drives his car from his house in North Vancouver to his job at UBC’s hospital, but says he uses his bike when at home.

“Unfortunately I am not a good example of how this should work. But if I lived here in Vancouver I would ride a bike.”

End of car days

The Work Less Party recognizes the plan might not be popular with voters, especially drivers, but Shaw says the shift is needed.

“We’re used to having endless fossil fuels, being able to drive our cars everywhere,” he said.

Bike routes are good, but not enough for The Work Less Party

“Those days are coming to an end, so we can decide to do it in a transitional, step-by-step way, in a very deliberate fashion, or we can wait until we crash into the wall and have to pick up the pieces afterwards.”

“We see ourselves as a party that strives to put new options before the public to increase debate and to get people thinking about ways to change the way our society works — if that costs us this election, that’s fine.”

Motorist Stefan Schwertfeger had never heard of The Work Less Party, but he supports a network of bike only streets.

“I like that idea, because I take my bike as well when I’m not driving,” he said. “I like [the bike paths], but there’s too many traffic lights.”

Election rivals Vision Vancouver have a similar proposal for cycling infrastructure, though they want to move at a much slower pace.

“Vision wants to start a trial, we want to shut down streets [to cars] in the summer,” said Ian Baillie, media relations for Vision Vancouver, adding a trial period would help drivers adjust. “We’re saying let’s start slow, let’s have a trial.”

The Non Partisan Association could not be reached for comment by press time.

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