Archive for the ‘other cities’ Category

The right to bike

While this blog has waxed ambivalent on Critical Mass before, I have to say I was heartened to see that the British House of Lords has over-ruled attempet at police restrictions on the event. Essentially, the police wanted to require “prior notice of the ride’s date, time and route and the names and addresses of the organisers” for every CM ride. The law lords say CM is not bound by the Public Order Act, which would have allowed suched restrictions.

Vancouver stats

A reader pointed us to this report from the Greenways and Neighbourhood Transportation Branch of the City of Vancouver. It documents cycling and pedestrian traffic based on StatsCan census data and the city’s field research.

As you’d expect, cycling and walking are highest in the downtown, with walking being more popular in the core, and cycling being more popular slightly outside of downtown. However, I would have guessed that in a dense, fair-climate city like Vancouver, that the combined walking and biking share for the downtown would be higher than 50%. Are the other 50% taking the Skytrain to workplaces outside the downtown? Or are they motorists? Although the purpose of this report is to highlight cycling and walking, but I’m instantly curious about the traffic breakdown (although I could dig it up on StatsCan).

Bad data

Bad Science deconstructs and rebuts some silly, fearmongering cycling accident statistics from a British insurance company:

“Mounting financial pressures have led to a surge in inexperienced cyclists taking to the roads,”say LV in their press release: “resulting in a 29% increase in road accidents involving cyclists in the past six months.” It’s topical, it involves death and fear, it’s dressed in the cloak of statistical authority: this is totally going on the telly.

The first thing to note is that LV were comparing accidents in the 6 months leading up to November 2008 against accidents in the 6 months prior to that. What these insurance geniuses have failed to account for here, we might reasonably suspect, is the well-documented seasonal variation in road traffic incidents, since fewer people cycle in winter. I shall not be buying shares in this insurance company.

Who’s being silly?

I bike TO notes the public response and eventual apology after a Waterloo Region police sergeant had this to say after a 34-year-old father of four was hit from behind, and killed, by a car, while cycling on a dry country road and full of reflectors:

Riding a bike with weather conditions like this, it seems kind of silly…. It’s common sense.

Why Belgium does it better (part 2)

Part two of this two-part post on why Belgium does it better has to do with bike paths. Or, rather, what we in Canada call bike paths. In Belgium it’s more like a expansive network of exclusive bike roads linking all of the Flemish-speaking region.

Last weekend, my girlfriend and I took off from Brussels for a two day bike trip through part of the Flemish region, taking the train back to Brussels on Sunday evening. I had heard that bike touring was good in Belgium, but coming from some experience bike touring in Canada, I assumed that this meant that there were plenty of country roads and generally polite drivers.

But, no, that’s only the beginning. In fact, in the Flemish region, there is a huge network of bike-exclusive roads, which you navigate by going from one numbered checkpoint to another. Actually, to be clear, the routes alternate between bike-exclusive paths and shared use as a minor road, which hardly differed from the bike-exclusive paths. The entire network is in a fantastic state of maintenance, and extremely well sign-posted.

I’ll give a brief photo journey of the trip. Coming out of Brussels, we went through the Foret de la Soigne, just outside the Brussels city centre, which boasts great scenery and a comprehensive set of trails for walking, running and cycling. It suffered a little bit on the sign-posting front, but made up for it in beauty.

From there, we connected onto the Flemish network, which largely passed through the country-side. There, we probably saw more apple orchards in harvest than cars.

So, why is it possible for Belgium to maintain this system over Canada? There’s no doubt that it benefits from the proximity of one town to another. However, there are certainly areas of Canada that have the same layout, and we don’t see a similar system.

More importantly, it benefits from the culture in Belgium. People bike here. They bike to work (although that is somewhat less the case in Brussels itself given how crowded the city is with cars). They bike for recreation. They bike to get groceries. They bike as families, as couples or alone. On Sunday morning, we saw at least a dozen bike teams, in matching jerseys, biking around the Flemish region. Some appeared to be quite competitive, others didn’t.

There simply isn’t the same barrier here to bicycling as a mode of transport. It’s done recreationally on a much wider scale than in Canada, but bicycles are also used for practical purposes on a routine basis, which probably in turn fosters their recreational use.

It’s this culture of bicycling in Belgium that allows them to sustain such an impressive system of bike routes. It’s this culture that explains why Belgium does it so much better.

Council failing on biking

Ecology Ottawa and the Sierra Club issued a report card on the current council’s environmental measures. They say that “Mayor O’Brien’s Council lags behind other Canadian cities on the environment.”

One reason for some of the failing grades: lack of funding for cycling. From the Ottawa Citizen:

[F]our years ago, funding for cycling came in at $400,000 per year and out of all commuters, two per cent rode bikes. Funding for cycling is now zero, and Mr. Doucet said it’s no surprise that cycling rates are stagnant “while other cities have caught up to Ottawa and are passing us.”

You can take a look at how your councillor is doing here.