Published: Price Tags (link)

August 30, 2016

1135 words

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.

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. When these discussions happen, bicycles are almost immediately proposed as the solution to traffic jams.

Good though that is, it isn’t about to solve the problems of the daily traffic jams on the Upper Levels highway. 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 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. 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. 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, and the only possible options are private automobiles or public transit.

Travelling long distances by bike, over hilly terrain, at the same speed as driving, requires a high level of fitness, 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.