Here's a photo that's being sent around the internet by some of my colleagues, at least one of whom organized a Gregor Robertson fundraiser during the last election. He won't be organizing a Vision fundraiser next election.
I received it since I am seen by some friends as a 'bike lane supporter'. I must confess, I am in favour of safer bike lanes, and said so in an August 2007 Vancouver Sun article that I am reprinting below.
But I must also confess that I had reservations about the appropriateness of the Dunsmuir and Hornby Street bike trials, in part since I didn't really believe they were being designed and implemented as 'trials' with a reasonable level of community input.
Now I am increasingly of the opinion that unless these lanes attract a much higher level of use by cyclists, and the congestion and traffic safety issues caused by the lanes are addressed, there could well be a new Mayor in November 2011 who will be elected, in part, on an anti-bike lane platform. The new Mayor will remove them in whole or in part after winning. Here's my earlier Vancouver Sun story:
Move on to make city more bike friendly
It is a well-known fact that where we live is directly related to how we get around. While most North Americans drive cars, people living on other continents use different forms of transportation: trains, trams, tuk-tuks, and in many places, bicycles.
I credit former Vancouver city councillor Gordon Price -- and more recently, Coun. Peter Ladner -- for making Vancouver one of the more bicycle-friendly cities in North America.
As a result of their initiatives, and those of like-minded politicians and planners, we now have bicycle lanes along many streets, required bicycle parking in multi-family projects and an emerging ''bike culture'' in our region.
But still, our bike scene is very modest when compared with that of most European cities, most notably Amsterdam, where I recently spent a few days en route to South America.
Those who have never been to the Netherlands and Amsterdam may not know that bicycles are the primary form of transportation in many towns and cities.
Cyclists have priority over cars, and even pedestrians. Bikes are everywhere, and used by everyone: young and old, rich and poor, even mothers with babies.
Of course, it is much easier to get around the Netherlands on a bike since the country is extremely flat. But I think there are lessons Vancouver can learn from the Netherlands and European cities that would make our city better and healthier for both cyclists and non-cyclists.
Let us start with bicycle lanes. Ideally, cyclists would be separated from automobiles and pedestrians, but this is not usually possible in Vancouver. Consequently, bicycle lanes are often located within a street's right-of-way, sometimes separated from cars by a white line.
But in many European cities, bicycle lanes are an extension of the sidewalk, rather than the road. When you think about it, this makes a lot of sense, since it is often easier to widen a sidewalk than a road.
Cyclists are also safer travelling next to pedestrians, rather than cars, although the same may not always be the case for pedestrians.
Bicycle lanes are painted a distinct colour or constructed from a different material in order to direct cyclists and minimize accidents. In Ljubljana, Slovenia, for instance, the bicycle lanes are painted red.
One can follow them along the sidewalks, across road intersections, and in some instances, through public plazas.
Where bicycle lanes cannot be accommodated as part of the sidewalk, they are located within the road, but clearly demarcated with paint. The colouring also makes the sidewalks and intersections safer for pedestrians.
In Gothenburg, Sweden, I was surprised to discover bicycle lanes between the parking lane and the sidewalk.
I thought this also made sense since cyclists would be less likely to be hit by cars or injured by drivers carelessly opening car doors.
Along the beachfront in Rio de Janeiro -- where I am writing this article -- cyclists are separated from both the road and sidewalk by curbs.
To save space, the two bicycle lanes are situated beside one another, in opposite directions.
This seems to work very well, although pedestrians crossing the street have to watch out for cyclists whizzing by, especially where the bike lanes' paint has worn off.
While it might be difficult to incorporate this arrangement into most existing roadways, it would be feasible in new developments and in situations where an overly wide road needs to be 'put on a diet'.
Research has shown that narrowing driving lanes can result in safer and quieter streets due to lower vehicle speeds. Separated bicycle lanes would be an added bonus.
As bicycles become more popular in Vancouver, we will have another problem to deal with: Where to park them? Bicycle parking is a major problem in Amsterdam.
Bikes can be found leaning against every conceivable vertical surface; in the early morning, they are often found lying around sidewalks or hanging off bridges.
Conventional bicycle racks have been added along the sidewalks, but often this does not solve the problem.
Therefore, Amsterdam's engineers have started to convert on-street vehicle parking spaces into bicycle parking by fixing specially-designed racks onto roads.
Near train stations and most major commercial and institutional buildings, large areas can be found devoted to bicycle racks.
Amsterdam has even built parking garages exclusively for bikes.
While I don't expect to see bicycle-only garages in Vancouver in the foreseeable future, the city does need to increase the supply of bicycle parking soon.
This may well require the conversion of on-street car parking for bikes.
While I would not have suggested this before setting off on my trip, the degree of traffic congestion in cities which are primarily car dependent has made me change my thinking.
Two final thoughts. In Amsterdam, most bikes have one or three gears, and upright handlebars. Cyclists tend to travel at lower speeds and many do not wear helmets.
I have often thought that more people in Vancouver would ride bikes if they did not have to wear helmets.
While I do not want to publicly advocate an unsafe practice, it may be worth considering that helmets might not be as necessary if it was safer to ride bikes in Vancouver.
This may also result in more cyclists -- and fewer motorists -- on the road.
In addition to the obvious benefits of bicycles -- reduced traffic congestion, fewer greenhouse gas emissions and lower transportation costs -- bicycles offer another plus. In the Netherlands, you do not see as many overweight people as you do in North America.
While I have not seen any research, I am convinced there is a correlation between bicycle use and good health.
This is why I plan to ride my bicycle much more when I return to Vancouver, especially if I can be safely separated from the cars, and have a convenient place to park.