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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

2012 InReview: It’s Not About The Bike Or Car—It’s About Better Cities

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As 2012 comes to a closes and our Spacing Vancouver contributors take a well deserved break, we would like to take the opportunity to look back of what we’ve covered over the last 12 months. Each day this week, we will be posting some of our favourite posts from the past year.


It’s Not About The Bike Or Car —It’s About Better Cities

Originally posted on October 8, 2012


Dunsmuir Bike Lane at Richards, Vancouver BC. Photo courtesy Paul Krueger.

This week, I watched with concern Canada’s largest city have a rhetoric-heavy debate about removing the relatively new separated bike lane on Jarvis Street. They even originally had the intention of using bike-lane funds to remove it!

Bike-lane debates have been going on for some time in Toronto, as they have in many cities like Vancouver. In recent years, exaggerated and polarizing phrases like “anti-car” and “the war on the car” have been thrown around irresponsibly by media and politicians alike, making me wonder more than a few times if Fox News had moved to the place once called “The City That Works.”

I suppose it illustrates part of the problem, that I feel the urge to point out I don’t consider myself a “cyclist.” Calling myself that would seem as odd as calling myself a walker, a transit-rider, or a driver. I’m an urbanite, someone who loves living in cities, and an urbanist who has studied how cities work all of my adult life. Really, I’m a citizen.

I point that out because there is too much pitting of self-described “drivers” and “cyclists” against each other. Most North American families are actually multi-modal – they drive, walk, and probably take transit and bike in at least certain circumstances, if not routinely. Certainly many who cycle, also drive, and visa versa.

We need a more sophisticated discussion about how we get around in cities, and it starts with this — it’s not about loving your bike. It’s about loving what biking does for cities. If more cars make cities worse, the opposite is true for bikes. Expanding urban biking is about making better, fiscally smarter, healthier, more flexible and resilient cities. Bikes are hardly a silver bullet, but they can be a big part of better city-making.

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