Thursday, March 9, 2017

Making Commercial Drive Better for Everyone

Photo Credit: Canadian Veggie Flickr via Compfight cc

A link popped up in one of my social media feeds today to a British Columbia Cycling Coalition page, asking us to write to Vancouver's City Council in support of adding bike lanes to Commercial Drive. I do occasionally email my various elected representatives, when I get around to it, if I've got the time... You know how it goes. But today I wrote a letter to our city council because it was so easy to do on the BCCC site. They've got a form set up that will email all of City Council--no copying & pasting or clicking through various sites.

There has been a lot of very vocal push back from business owners on the Drive who fear that bike lanes are going to somehow decimate their livelihoods, despite all the research that shows drivers make up a very small portion of their customers. Experience in other cities around the world and research on the separated bike lanes that have been added in Vancouver show that they are a great thing for business and make a neighbourhood so much safer for cyclists and pedestrians too. I fear that the people who support the idea of devoting more of the streetscape of The Drive to all the active transportation that's currently the majority of traffic there are not being loud enough. If you would like to see bike lanes on Commercial Drive, write a quick letter to City Council showing your support.

There's a lot more information on BCCC's site here, including the form to easily write a letter to the city.

Here's what I wrote, mostly off the cuff, this morning:

I'm writing in support of adding bike lanes on Commercial Drive and turning it into Vancouver's first proper Complete Street. This is particularly important to me, as I live in East Vancouver, not far from Commercial, plus walking and cycling are my family's primary means of transportation.

We actually don't shop on Commercial Drive very often anymore, though we would like to, because we don't feel that safe biking there since we've had children. We prefer to shop in areas like Commercial Drive because of all the great independent shops, cafes, and for the community feel to the place. We normally have a few stops to make at various businesses, but on Commercial Drive, that is particularly awkward by bike. We don't feel safe riding *on* Commercial Drive from shop to shop, but riding all the way over to the nearest parallel bike route to go north or south a block or two doesn't really make sense. Walking our cargo bike with the kids in it is heavy & very difficult on narrow sidewalks that are as congested as Commercial Drive can get.

Fully separated bike lanes along Commercial would help us feel much safer riding with our children and make it a lot easier for us to go from stop to stop at the various businesses there. I know the bike lanes would also make it safer for us to walk in the area as well, creating more of a buffer between pedestrians and traffic and narrowing the crossing distance when we do have to cross the car lanes.

Even when we leave the bike at home and walk from place to place around Commercial, the sidewalks feel quite crowded and difficult to navigate with a stroller and small children. Crossing the street at most of the intersections feels risky and I've had many close calls with drivers turning into crosswalks or being rude and aggressive.

My letter has focussed on *our* experience as cyclists and pedestrians on The Drive, but I know there are many other families with young children like us in the city who get around on an ever growing fleet of cargo bikes, as well as pulling trailers and toting child seats on their bikes. Cycling and walking are both growing mode shares in the City of Vancouver, as I'm sure you are aware.

I would love to see Commercial Drive--the space from one property line to the other across the street--devoted more equitably to pedestrians and cyclists, reflecting the fact that walking and cycling make up such a large portion of the traffic through that area. I think this is a great opportunity for the City to show leadership and demonstrate how much better the Commercial Drive community can be when it becomes a Complete Street.

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