Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Awareness, the best reason for segregated bike lanes.

Some of the opposition to the Laurier segregrated cycling lane plan has really made me wonder how much of a car culture we have and how ingrained the mindset is in Ottawa that cars do, and should, always come first.  While I know listening to talk radio can often be hazardous to your mental health I sometimes listen anyway and the other day I did hear some comments on a local radio program that made me shake my head. One is the often trotted out view that we do not have enough cyclists to justify special bike lanes. However, every study I have seen shows that the number of cyclists increases with segregated lanes and with an overall sense of safety. I don’t see why this wouldn’t happen in Ottawa. Maintaining these lanes in the winter is also an important factor in increasing our cycling trips and anyone who frequents the canal pathway along Queen Elizabeth Driveway will have noticed the increase in cyclists the last few winters. It’s not a coincidence. We all know that building or widening roads increases the number of vehicles using the roads. Yet the opponents of bike lanes don’t seem to feel this would also be the case with bikes. Curious!
The removal of parking spaces from Laurier Avenue also seems to be bothering some individuals. Several callers expressed concern that the segregated lane would remove some visitor parking from the west end of Laurier. I also noted this view expressed in a letter to the Citizen though I suspect it was the same person who had voiced their concern on the radio show. First of all, I don’t think it is the city’s business to provide visitor parking on a major street like Laurier for tenants of an apartment building. The condominiums between Lyon and Percy are big and the tenants numerous and the city should not be expected to provide visitor spots. Secondly, the city has been very clear (though the opponents keep forgetting) that they will make up most, if not all, of these spaces on Gloucester Street. 
 I think it is really vital that we start to change this ingrained view that streets are only for cars. By putting more bikes on the road and making it very obvious they have a place here we may slowly start to change that perception.  

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