“Winning” at the expense of pedestrians

This week the biking community “won” a pair of battles to add bike infrastructure in a pair of cities. But what did they really win? First, let’s look at Toronto:

Photo Credit: Marc Lostracco/Torontoist
Jarvis Street - Photo Credit: Marc Lostracco/Torontoist

The 5-lane Jarvis Street is being redeveloped to make it more pedestrian and bicycle friendly. Sadly, rather than do the right thing and remove two car lanes to both expand the sidewalk and add bike lanes, the council decided to remove only one lane, which means they forgo widening the sidewalks in favour of bike lanes.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, the Vancouver City Council went far beyond that. They actually took away space from pedestrians to give it to bikes. They are closing the eastern (northbound) sidewalk to make it bike-only, while southbound cyclists will have use of a car lane. This means all pedestrians will now have to use the western (southbound) side of the bridge. This image below explains it better:

Source: City of Vancouver page - click on image to view

And in Portland, a recent crash and general pedestrian and bicycle congestion issues on the Hawthorne Bridge has created a suggestion to do that bridge what they are planning on the Burrard Street Bridge, save that they would dedicate one sidewalk to each mode.

Let me very clear: These are not wins for bicyclists, the larger community or of sustainable transportation in the longer term. All they will do is pit cyclists against pedestrians while drivers laugh all the way to their hit and run. Streets must be designed to protect the most vulnerable users first. This means that pedestrians trump bikes everytime (and bikes trump cars…). This is why we have crosswalks with lights and curb bulge outs. This is why we widen sidewalks and have ramps to allow wheelchairs and strollers to pass easily.

2 thoughts on ““Winning” at the expense of pedestrians”

  1. Please get the story straight. No one in the cycling community here considers the one lane trial and the banning of pedestrians from the east sidewalk a win or a long term solution to this issue.

    The bicycle community in Vancouver was pushing for a two lane reallocation which would have maintained pedestrian access on the Burrard Bridge. We don’t really expect the ban to be followed anyway, so the east sidewalk will still be shared with pedestrians and the safety issues will not be resolved.

  2. I understand that it isn’t a long term solution and that the bicycle community didn’t ask or want these kinds of deals. But the reality is that they exist and we, as bicycling and pedestrian advocates, need to figure out how to make certain that our communities don’t get pitted against each other.

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