Credit: Flickr / Ariane Colenbrander

I was asked today by "networking ninja" Cecilia Lu of Kiwano Marketing for my thoughts on the debate over the Burrard Bridge lane re-allocation and Critical Mass for a blog post she's writing about the bike movement in Vancouver. I thought I'd just post them here for ya'll to discuss.


If you could, take a moment to comment with your thoughts and critiques, and hopefully some ideas of your own on how to solve the bike-car divide...

What used to be a movement guided and maintained by the die-hard DIY set who, rightly, felt oppressed by their car-driving counterparts has more recently been co-opted by non-protesters who just want a healthy way to get around that feels good and gets them outdoors. This is perhaps why Critical Mass seems so out of place for most of us nowadays.

I think when the CM protesters were a smaller group, more non-cyclists felt a level of sympathy for their "cause" and therefore were more easygoing about the delays the monthly protest caused. These days it seems almost anachronistic to demonstrate on the grounds that cyclists don’t have their proper place on the road. Sure, we have a long way to go toward making this city the Copenhagen of North America but that doesn’t mean we haven’t benefited from a wonderful network of dedicated bikeways—to say nothing of the recent lane re-allocation on the Burrard Bridge.

It just takes time, and buy-in. And that buy-in comes from making the city a safer, more pleasurable and efficient place to ride—something the current mayor and council are making great strides to do. The next step, and perhaps this is where the CM community could lend its voice and make itself a valuable lobbying group, is to craft better traffic and safety regulations that actually take the realities of cycling into account.

For example, many complain that cyclists too often roll through stop signs and red lights. Yes, given the current traffic laws, which were originally conceived by and for drivers, this is a problem; it is both unsafe and unpredictable, and it makes drivers hesitant to trust cyclists—thus relegating them to second-class road citizens. However, the current laws do not consider that a cyclist is more in control of his/her bike when in motion, and therefore is often safer not coming to a full stop. So as long as people put their own safety as their first priority, they will continue to break this law. Because any law that asks a person to act against their own safety doesn’t work.

Now, I’m not sure what the solution is, but I do know that the current situation is unsustainable, and there must be a compromise between the two extremes.

This is important because looking long-term, big picture, we can’t all own cars. That’s just a reality we will have to face at a certain point, considering we’ll all soon feel the effects of peak oil, population growth and the various taxes that go along with them. But, just as many are quick to point out, right now it just isn’t feasible for all of us, for example, to take our kids to school or do a full shopping trip on bikes. Yet. But in order for us to get to a point where the option to ride our bike is more appealing, equally safe, more convenient and as efficient (or more) as driving, we have to bring all players to the table. And we all have to be ready to listen and compromise.

For more on this issue:

Read my posts on the Burrard Bridge trial for more on my thoughts regarding Vancouver, cycling and long-term livability goals for the region:

Burrard, bikes and Vancouver’s long-term livability goals

Bikes or cars? Look at L.A.

Here’s our audio slideshow showing the other side of Critical Mass, the side that fosters community spirit and empowerment.

Here are some quotes from Vancouverites on why they bike to work.

Here are 6 reasons I love to bike to work.

And here's a whole wack of articles and blog posts on cycling in Vancouver.