Last week, city reporter extraordinaire Frances Bula posted in her blog about whether or not cyclists should be banned from using arterial roads. This was an issue that councillor-elect Adriane Carr clumsily raised during the civic election. Bula cited two pieces of evidence for an existing arterial-jam problem: watching “traffic jam up behind a cyclist who has decided to take up a lane on 12th or Hastings or Granville during rush hour,” as well as an anecdote about a lady riding along Broadway.
I don’t really want to rehash the question of whether or not cyclists should be banned on any city road — you can read through the comments on her blog for an interesting (but somewhat derailed) discussion. My take on it is: bicycles are traffic, deal with it.
The “deal with it” means not only should motorists learn to drive with cyclists (and vice versa), but also the city’s engineering department should design and build infrastructure that accommodates all forms of traffic in the city.
I’m also of the philosophy that just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should. In this case, I think there are certain arterials that make no sense to ride on at all. This includes the stretch of Broadway between Granville and Arbutus, and the stretch between Macdonald and Alma. In these cases, there are bike routes one or two blocks north AND one block south (mostly). Unless you’re visiting a local business, the high-density traffic on Broadway, the cars constantly parking and flinging doors open, and the constant transit traffic make this a choice that is much more dangerous than riding the nearby bike routes.
Not to say that the bike routes don’t have their problems. Particularly through Kits, the routes are so narrow that with cars parked on both sides of the road, there is only room for a single vehicle to actually drive on the road. Playing chicken with oncoming traffic isn’t fun. Because there are so many parked cars, the chances of being doored are high if you’re not careful. Being careful means riding a full door length and then some away from the parked cars. Motorists are also not very picky about coming to full and complete stops, or for that matter, slowing down at all for stop signs. And, if you’re riding at night, the lighting along many stretches of the bike routes is abysmal.
Having said that, though, there are certain arterials where it makes sense to ride on them rather than the alternative. Cornwall/Pt Grey Road is one of these. There is no better alternative if you’re trying to get to or from the Burrard Bridge on the northern edge of Kits. Riding from the bridge to Alma Street is about 3.5 km/10 min along Cornwall/Pt. Grey Road. If you were to follow the bike routes to and from the same destinations, it’s 5 km/15 min, hillier, and potentially more dangerous given the tight streets with parking both sides and uncontrolled crossings of major arterials (Macdonald, Alma, etc). The picture below shows the two routes; you tell me which one makes more sense.
But still, I wonder. I often see people riding Broadway or 12th and I just shake my head. I literally don’t understand why you’d do that other than “because you can”. Doing so is significantly more dangerous for the cyclist and does nothing at all to lessen the pajorative attitude that many drivers have with cyclists.
And so, I’m left with an honest question: If you ride on arterial roads, particularly in Kits, please leave a comment and explain *why*. Perhaps with a better understanding of why this happens, things can be done to make getting around the city safer for everyone.