EXCLUSIVE: One lane on the Burrard Bridge is not world class, says Bass

Post by Fred Bass in


Copenhagen is walking the walk when it comes to becoming a green city, says Fred Bass

CityCaucus.com welcomes former COPE City Councillor Fred Bass as a guest editorialist...

Unfortunately, the Mayor and City Council of Vancouver are not showing the vision and courage it takes to even follow in the footsteps of the city of Copenhagen.

Earlier this year, Copenhagen’s Director of Planning, Niels Torslov, visited Vancouver and described how a truly world-class city sets its course. It first asks the question, “What kind of a city do we want?” For the people of Copenhagen, the answer came back, “a city that is humanizing, healthy, livable, clean, safe, and makes minimal contribution to global warming.” Copenhagen plans to become the “Eco-Metropolis of the world.” But instead of just expressing the wish to become the greenest city in the world as Vancouver has recently done, Copenhagen has been doing its homework.

Copenhagen tracks what it knows is important. In 1998, it knew in what locations its cyclists received 569 serious injuries and set a ten-year goal to cut that annual number in half. Through a comprehensive program of traffic redesign and enforcement, Copenhagen reached 230 injuries, a reduction of 60%, after just seven years

But even more spectacular is that city’s commitment to cycling. In 2004, 36% of all trips to work or to school were by bicycle (and another 23% traveled on foot). Their cycling goal for 2015 is to climb from 36% to 50%. Meanwhile, Vancouver sputters along in 2006 at 4% commuting by bike. It is unlikely that Vancouver will even reach its goal of 10% commuting by bike by 2010.

Why are we so far behind? In transportation planning, we plod along one isolated project at a time without looking at the overall picture, without relating one project to another, without tying transportation to the kind of city we want, without setting goals for the city to meet and without measuring progress towards those goals.

It’s time to start doing it right. Transportation is not about building facilities. It’s about walking, cycling, using transit, driving cars — behaviour that is served by facilities and behaviour that is desired by many and opposed by a few.

The City of Vancouver’s reports on the Burrard Bridge fail because they are not framed in an overall transportation plan that calls for measured changes in transportation behaviour and measured investment to support those changes. Nowhere in these reports is there mention of how this project will contribute to Council’s goal of 10% cycling by 2010. Nowhere in these reports is there a specific, measurable goal for reduction of serious injuries on the Burrard Bridge. Nor does Vancouver offer any of the quantitative estimates of the benefits to health, productivity, noise control and greenhouse gas production that Copenhagen uses in its transportation planning. These reports do not set basic parameters for the project: minimum duration and criteria for success or failure.

Vancouver’s plan to dedicate one lane of the Burrard Bridge to bicycles is really about how the Mayor, Council and senior staff can get away at the lowest political cost with a bicycle facility that will least offend the drivers of the 80% of the vehicles on the Burrard Bridge that have only one passenger. This inefficient use of valuable road space needs to be confronted, not accommodated.

If Vancouver wants to be in the same league as the greenest cities in the world, it is time for Mayor and Council to tell staff that a report that fails to specify measurable goals for transportation behaviour is no longer acceptable. In the 1980’s Vancouver was brave enough to take a strong stand on smoking in public places. Torslov, Copenhagen’s planning director, says politicians know that investing in cycling pays off big dividends. It is cheap. It produces positive and visible results quickly. And, most telling, it builds pride in the city

Vancouver needs to have the courage of its stated convictions. When the Artic ice is melting faster than any of the climate scientists’ reports predicted, when cheap oil is vanishing and when the economy is in tatters, we need to have politicians who can see beyond the next election and policies that will lead to the where the world is going, not actions that offer the least challenge to the status quo.

It is time for Mayor and Council to think outside the bridge and go for the payoffs — money, health, safety, transportation leadership, livability, tourism, and sustainability.

Dr Fred Bass is a cyclist, preventive medicine physician and former City Councillor


Mayor "**** THE CAR" Robertson keeps forgetting that over 75,000 COMMERCIAL TRUCKS, CARS, SEMI TRUCKS, VANS etc a DAY enter the downtown core to make their DAILY if not HOURLY deliveries. Mayor "**** THE CAR" Robertson forgets that at least 95% of those DRIVERS of said COMMERCIAL TRUCKS, CARS, SEMI TRUCKS, VANS etc a DAY are VANCOUVER VOTERS.

we will remember you you f****** IDIOT ROBERTSON, come election day.....trust us,.......you'll be SORRY! \

While I agree we need an overall transportation plan please remember Vancouver is no Copenhagen - our fuel is $1.00 a litre - theirs is $4, cars are astronomically priced over there, parking is nearly impossible and population density is astronomic compared to here. I doubt many of us would trade those factors for the sake of cyclists.
So how about the greenest plan of all - work from home? Both my wife and I do and while not all jobs can be done at home 100% can we not incent companies who allow, encourage or even enforce a no commute workplace? Our vehicle logs less than 8000 km a year - mostly runs to Costco and Whistler. I have friends who commute for an hour from the Valley to work office jobs - thats crazy.

@ Hanna (above)
Great "comment" Could use a few more symbols and CAPS to really drive home your point.

Where do you get your stats from? You are saying of the 75,000 trucks entering downtown, 71,250 of those drivers live in Vancouver? Right...

There are so many ways to enter Vancouver's downtown - many of these bridge-free!

Unfortunately, Bass hits it right when he says council is doing the least it can to avoid pissing drivers off. Those are not the types a visionary city council should pander to.

I grew up in Vancouver as an avid cyclist, but we used to follow the rules of the road. Cyclists today break every rule in the book, and I would never cater to them now. I no longer have a bicycle. I walk miles and miles every day in Vancouver.

However, what I WILL do is vote for a different city council in the next election. For sure.

Check out BCWineLover.com!

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