A bike-commuting mom speaks out for bike lanes
Put away the bike lane counters. This decision is about the future of our city.
I had a 7:30am dentist appointment today. I chipped my tooth and it was the only time I could fit in the chisel. I have 3 year old twins at home. I work full time teaching a university in downtown Vancouver. I rode my bike to the dentist across town because it was the best way for me to get there at that time of day. It was a pretty mellow ride along 18th avenue, crossing Cambie at a light, over to Heather (a bike route) and down to 10th Avenue (another bike route). These Vancouver bike routes wind through single family homes, apartments and other mixed uses buildings. It took twenty minutes and it was no sweat, literally.
After the dentist I had to go to work downtown. I made a decision to ride directly down Burrard Street while approaching the dedicated bike lanes on the bridge. As I approached Burrard and Broadway I thought about my student who just got out of the hospital with a broken ankle from being hit at this intersection. The bumper of the car tore her leg into shreds – they sewed up her Achilles tendon and put pins in her leg. She has a long road to recovery ahead.
I took a deep breath and I took the lane – this means you ride in the middle of the lane as a car might do. It is thought to be safer than holding tight to the curb as cars are more likely to see you and treat you as another car. But I’m not another car. I’m a mom on a bike just trying to get to work.
I ride fast, my heart beats and I take the calculated risk of riding in traffic. No bike lane here. The thought of paying $15 to park downtown for a day is ridiculous and the crowded morning bus on my route is reason enough to bike in the pouring rain.
I smile as I finally make it on to the Burrard Bridge. The dedicated laneway is a retreat from the chaos of the morning commute. At the peak of the bridge, I look up and notice my surroundings, see birds above me, a commuter boat from Bowen Island arriving. The pace of the bike allows me to see detail, to ponder the day ahead, my brain and body are peaceful.
I’m at the intersection of Pacific and Hornby and the left turn signal is yellow – it's doubtful that I’ll make it across 3 lanes of traffic so I wait to cross. Three cars run the red light. I love counting them. It doesn’t even make me mad anymore. I just smile at how ridiculous we’ve all become about driving. How righteous we are about being hurried and never having enough time.
I ride the bike lane down Hornby – there are two painted lines on either side of me – cars fly by me on the left, a city truck is parallel parking and the bikers swerve around and eventually stop as he puts on his reverse lights through the bike lane.
There is a plan to make this a dedicated lane. I’ve filled out the survey in approval.
A few blocks down I see a TV camera and a young reporter with a clicker counting the bikes. There are 6 ahead of me at the intersection. I give the reporter a thumbs up in approval of making Hornby a dedicated bike lane.
The counters have it all wrong. This is not about bike lanes. It is about the future of Vancouver for my kids.
It is about making decisions now that will influence the way we make all the roads in Vancouver. The look and feel of our city is eroding with the speed of our roadways. Oil is a thing of the past, not the future.
I turn on to the new dedicated lane on Dunsmuir. On my regular commute
I ride here on a daily basis. It is my reprieve on a rainy day ride. Bikers smile, plants grow in between me and the cars. What used to be a chaotic road for bikers has become an oasis in the city. There are signals made only for bikes. The pavement is green.
I’m so proud to live in a city that thinks boldly about how we want to live. That the Mayor did something bold is reason enough to vote for him again. I
want leaders to lead, to move in the direction they say they will. If we
want to be an international destination for tourists we need to take
care of people and our environment. Dedicated bike lanes are a way to
slow traffic down, create walkable cities and increase bike use.
I want to live in a city that is safe enough for me to ride my bike
from my house to my workplace with my kids in tow. Imagine a future
where everyone felt safe getting around in our city. Imagine a city
where walking and cycling were priorities. Build the lanes and the
bikers, tourists, sightseers and walkers will come.