Reclaiming Our Cities From the Automobile: Start With Plowing the Bike Lanes

CC BY 2.0. Lloyd Alter/ Shaw Street Contraflow bike lane

While our mayor was doing who knows what in a Vancouver washroom on the weekend, it snowed in Toronto. The city's plows hit the streets, carefully piling all the snow into the bike lanes. Our new contraflow bike lanes become impassible as there really only is one lane, and it is full of cars coming at you.

They don't take bikes seriously in this city, or for that matter, pedestrians. Yet Christopher Hume, in his new ebook Carsick, notes that the city is changing rapidly, right under the glazed eyes of our mayor, as more and more people do without cars.

Boomers may define themselves through their vehicles, but their progeny less so. Young professionals living in closet-sized downtown condos can get most everywhere they want by walking, biking, taxis and transit. Their apartments are so small they inhabit the city in ways their parents would never have considered. Their dining room is the closest restaurant, their backyard the neighbourhood park. Because they live close to the places where they work and play, there’s little need to own a car. When need arises, they rent one, sometimes by the hour. A new industry has sprung up with companies such as Car2Go and Zipcar operating out of local parking lots.
shaw street snow

Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0

Chris notes that the city has not exactly been jumping on the bike and pedestrian bandwagon.

Positive steps such as bike lanes have also fared poorly. In 2001, the city pledged to create 405 kilometres of bike lanes by 2011. As of 2014, we had 113 kilometres.... Even pedestrians have a rough go of it. In 2013, 38 were killed on the streets of Toronto, a 10-year high. When Toronto Chief Medical Officer Dr. David McKeown suggested lowering speed limits to 30 or 40 kilometres an hour, Mayor Ford publicly scoffed at the idea. Clearly, the steady stream of pedestrian fatalities is acceptable to civic leaders. It is simply the price we must pay for convenience.

Chris is right; the city is changing rapidly. in Forbes, Mark Rogowsky writes:

All of this has been made possible by technology, smartphone apps most especially that let you reserve a Zipcar or an Uber within seconds. “Software is eating the world,” famed venture capitalist Marc Andreessen said in 2011. Now, it’s taking bites out of the giant global auto industry.

Software is indeed eating the world, and it is eating urban planning and design as we know it. It's time for our politicians to catch up.