Thanks to all readers who took the time to write in about my last column. The story of the cyclist who assaulted pedestrian Daryl Richardson for walking in the bike lane of the Burrard Bridge clearly touched a nerve for many people.
I received a number of very interesting suggestions around what, to me, remains the core issue: how cyclists, pedestrians and the drivers of motorized vehicles of a variety of sizes and types can better share a single road infrastructure.
It's a knotty problem, not least because most of the roads in our city weren't built with these three different groups in mind. Roads were generally built for cars with accommodations for pedestrians, and cycling infrastructure came along later.
It's no wonder bike routes are such a polarizing issue. Additional space for bikes often equates to the removal of space for one of the other two groups. (Or both in the case of the Burrard Bridge, where one car lane has been removed and bike and pedestrian traffic segregated to different sides of the bridge.)
Readers are also polarized when it comes to resolving the issue of shared space. One letter writer proposed amending the city's bylaws to allow for legal use of sidewalks by bikes under certain circumstances: for example, where the road is dangerous for bikes and the sidewalk wide enough to permit safe travel by both bikes and pedestrians, with pedestrians always retaining the right of way. Another letter from a pedestrian spoke eloquently of the growing frustration and even fear caused by bikes racing along sidewalks where they have no legal right, and questioned why bike bylaws aren't more rigorously enforced by the city.
There's a definite perception both in the media and popular opinion that the City of Vancouver is firmly focused on bikes as a transportation priority. Is this really the case, though?
The city's director of transportation Jerry Dobrovolny said this week, "Pedestrians are the highest priority in our transportation system." (A trawl through online news comment sections suggests pedestrians and drivers would both beg to differ.)
Looking at the hard facts over the past 15 years, there's no question which group has benefited most: between 1994 and 2004, trips on foot were up 44 per cent; transit rides were up 20 per cent; and single vehicle trips were down 10 per cent, unsurprisingly given the city's currently policy goal to "prioritize transportation options other than car use."
Finally, cycle trips were up an impressive 180 per cent.
When it comes to sharing the road, sometimes it's hard to see beyond our own immediate individual needs and the desire for convenience. But in a world where we all need to be conscious of our environmental footprint and the sustainability of the means we choose to get ourselves from A to B, I support this as a move in the right direction.
Kay Cahill is a cyclist and librarian who believes bikes are for life, not just for commuting. Contact her at email@example.com.