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:
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:
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.