07 January 2011

Wake Up, Ottawa!

I think a re-post of the above Streetfilm is in order. The City of Ottawa, Canada is planning an inaugural stretch of separated bicycle lane. A bold step, albeit one that is perhaps a little late in coming. But better late than never.

Following in the footsteps of scores of cities around the world - including Montreal and Vancouver in their own country, Ottawa is moving towards creating a safe - and profitable - environment for Citizen Cyclists in their city. Even Toronto, as I saw on Twitter today, is planning similar 'cycle tracks'. Read Physically Separated Bicycle Lanes Coming to Toronto.

But hey, Ottawa, have a look at the above film. Featuring a slough of bicycle advocates from your neck of the woods letting you know that what your city is doing is a good thing. In no uncertain terms. A whopping eleven representatives from Ottawa and Gatineau attended the Velo-City Conference in Copenhagen this past summer. What did they get out of it? Inspiration. Like what Mia Birk of Alta Planning says in this interview:

"Portland’s already enlightened traffic engineer, Rob Burchfield, said the week he spent in Amsterdam and Copenhagen was the equivalent of 15 years worth of conferences and trainings. He already was on board conceptually, but experiencing it in real life made it real for him."

Here's the Mayor of Gatineau on my bike - :-)
Mayor of Gatineau

So, you're on the right track, Ottawa. But why am I writing this little serenade to you? Well, I can understand that there is some resistance to the physically-separated bicycle infrastructure your city planners are proposing.

Some of it is coming from the Bank Street BIA (Business Improvement Area). From what I understand they banned the rainbow flags associated with the gay and lesbian community in their area and now they're battling the bike lane(s). Perhaps it's time to tell them that We're Here, We're Geared, Get Used to It.

Bizarrely, the BIA is claiming "safety concerns" as a reason for being a stick in the mud.

"The BIA raised safety concerns as well. Citing a study that looks at accidents between cyclists and vehicles in Copenhagen after segregated bike lanes were implemented, the BIA pointed out that there was a 129-per-cent increase in accidents involving right-turning cars — cars cutting across the paths of cyclists who were proceeding straight through intersections in their dedicated lanes"

Oh, my. THAT sounds familiar. All too familiar. No trouble tracing the source of the BIA's 'research'. It originates with the man behind www.vehicularcyclist.com, continuing the Vehicular Cyclists' (VC) desperate attempt to block the bicycle infrastructure we see all over the world. Infrastructure that increases cycling, makes cyclists safer and benefits the public health, reduction of pollution, etc etc.

Nevermind the fact that the above statement is wrong - segregated infrastructure dates from the turn of the last century and there were no studies about it back then and cycling levels exploded when newer segregated lanes were implemented (and where on earth did that 129% number come from?!) - the BIA have had the wool pulled over their eyes.

Without really knowing any about the effects of implemention of bicycle infrastructure on cities - or commerce - they grasped at the only straw presented to them. One held by a tiny sub-culture intent on preserving cycling for themselves and restricting access to safe cycling to the general public. A radical little sub-culture with their own Creationist Theory who base their ideology on gross manipulation of one single study from Copenhagen.

Here's what you should do, Ottawans: Ask the BIA what happened AFTER the publication of the study the BIA is quoting. What was the result? What actions did the City of Copenhagen take - and continue to take - to gently tweak the bicycle infrastructure to make it even safer? THAT is how the story ends. Not with a feeble, misinformed quote.

You know what? The BIA - or the "Responsible Cycling Coalition" (old wine in new bottles) started by the same chap behind the VC website above - won't be able to tell you. They don't have a clue. Which isn't very credible at all.

This Responsible Cycling Coalition made a little film which is not only spooky, but really spells out of the folly of how the BIA have been manipulated.
Carry on in Copenhagen
I suggest the BIA contact like-minded organisations in cities that have enjoyed success with bicycle infrastructure (which is virtually all of them). They'll quickly learn the vast benefits of bicycle infrastructure. It's not just safer, there's money in it!

Bicycle infrastructure increases not only the number of Citizen Cyclists, but the number of pedestrians on the sidewalks. This, of course, increases sales.

Bicycle infrastructure increases real estate value.

Infrastructure also serves as a kind of traffic calming measure. Cars driving slower increases the attractiveness of any street.

People on bicycles make better shoppers. They spend, on average, more money when shopping.

Jan Gehl has replied, when faced with statements about how bicycle lanes are bad for business, "Bullshit."

I concur.

Come on, Ottawa. Wake up and smell the bicycle culture.
Shopalicious Bikeness

The BIA's shockingly uninformed position paper is available as a .pdf here.