artist: Peter Drew, Adelaide. Image: carltonreid, flickr
As a member of my city's Cycling Committee, I see the degree of resistance our conservative citizens have toward any change, especially where the almighty auto is concerned. After reluctantly reading yet another screed in the local rag against a bike lanes trial along our Lakeshore Drive, I felt I had to say something, lest these frightened masses whip themselves into a fury that runs our Cycling Master Plan right off the road. The straw that broke the camel's back for me was one citizen, who had the temerity to drive around for an entire hour on a mild day this January counting bicycles (nice way to treat the air, eh?!) to build his case that there aren't enough of "us" to justify expenditures on bike lanes. There are several issues I want to address before I give up on this godforsaken region, but to stay on topic for my reply to the editor, I kept it to the following:
In response to __________'s Letter to the Editor, 'Where were all the cyclists?'
19 bikes in the middle of January sounds great, given that most cyclists have their steeds in storage! But no, you are correct, Mr. _____, Burlington is "not Holland or Europe." It is a city - those are a country and a continent. If you want to experience large, sprawling cities, you should visit some of those found in Holland and Europe. They are simply ahead of where Burlington is; they were enlightened enough in days gone by to create the networks necessary for their large, latent contingents of interested-but-hesitant cyclists to hop onto their bikes. Having lived and biked in a "sprawling city" in France, I am speaking from my experience. Until such time as Burlington has a comprehensive network of bike lanes that allows a person to cycle from any given Point A to Point B without risking a "squeeze play" with automobiles, people like you will always be able to point to anemic numbers as proof of failure of initiatives such as these. Instead, they are a sign that we still have work to do, and, perhaps tragically for some, compromise to make.
The big picture I see here is that each person who chooses to bike instead of drive is making a comprehensive change in their life. Whether it is for recreational, fitness, or commuting purposes, this revised lifestyle alters the entire make-up of their day. This is in exchange for what, realistically, might amount to a delay measured in seconds or, in a worst case scenario, a few minutes? It seems like a reasonable compromise to ask of fellow citizens: many seconds - if any - from one to improve many hours for others. This is not a comprehensive lifestyle change for drivers - you're just being asked to share the road here. Now that I think of it, perhaps, Mr. _____, you are afraid this trial will be successful, in which case your hour of driving around the city will entail passing countless cyclists?!
To anyone who says cyclists should be segregated to one artery like the hydro path, I say, Get real. What motorist would tolerate one single, partial, route across this city? It is nice that it exists and I thank the city - and all of us taxpayers - for the option and I use it when it suits my needs, but what if I want to go anywhere else? Like you, Mr. _____, I may want to spend an hour travelling from east to west in this large, sprawling city, but, unlike you, I just don't want to drive to do so.
It is amazing how effective it is to wait for five minutes before sending out diatribes like mine. I axed a ton of insults and sarcasm.