"Divide and conquer" tactics put to good use by Vision on controversial policies
Pick up today's 24 Hours newspaper and read a story by crack reporter Dharm Makwana titled Dunsmuir bike lane has its opponents. Dharm quotes a ticked off small business owner named Igor Kivritsky who's suffered the slings and arrows of declining customers on Seymour Street. Igor doesn't hold back when it comes to describing Mayor Gregor Robertson:
“Our genius mayor made it difficult for our clients to get here,” charged the high-end electronics retailer. “He just sits there with his big smile and says, ‘Tough. This is what I want to do to advance my political career.’”
He goes on to hit the proverbial nail on the head:
“What the mayor’s trying to do is drive social change by force,” he said. “The way we’re going about it is to help one person we must inconvenience a thousand.”
Robertson shrugs off Kivritsky's concerns, saying it's a minor inconvenience. Getting down 500-block Seymour by car means you've got to make a three-block detour if you've entered downtown by Dunsmuir Street. For some drivers it might cause enough confusion to kill sales in Kivritsky's hi-fi equipment store.
Bully tactics are nothing new in Vancouver politics, but it's usually capitalists like Kivritsky throwing their weight around. Today, however, thanks to the Machiavellian tactics of Vision Vancouver and an extremely vocal cluster of bike route advocates who've seen to it that the concrete is set before the consultation begins.
Vision have become masters of divide and conquer politics. For example, in order to drive a wedge in the West End over brewing furor on the STIR projects, they offered space to GLBTQ advocates Qmunity and got them to lobby for the development's success. It put stand-out neighbourhood leader Jennifer Breakspear at cross-purposes with locals with their own concerns about the STIR developments.
On the bike lanes issue they get the cyclistas to attack anyone who doesn't abide by Vision's plan. We see them on Frances Bula's blog, or here and elsewhere whenever there's a whiff of concern about the lack of public process, or perhaps if another route may have been considered. These guys pounce because they think we just don't get it.
Now, yesterday, when I attended the Little Mountain housing public consultation I see there are plans to build a separated bike lane on Ontario Street. I couldn't help but let an expletive slip out of my mouth as I couldn't believe that a wide street with speed bumps and barely any traffic at all would need a barrier built into it. Such is the power of the new Deputy City Manager that the otherwise sensible Engineering Department is being talked into projects like this.
This is how extreme this approach has become. The argument is that somehow we need to make concrete barriers between bikes and the pedestrians and drivers so anxious newbie cyclists can feel comfortable commuting downtown. Now we're looking at building barriers down residential streets, and blocking them off without notice as they did down by Nat Bailey Stadium.
What happened to cyclists minding the rules of the road like everyone else? We all see rogue bike riders hitting sidewalks and going helmetless. If we're going to level the playing field for our cyclists, then issue a mandatory bike license and require a skills test to pass it. Then use fines to penalize abuse, just as with drivers.
For the past two decades the City of Vancouver has built hundreds of kilometres of bike routes, installed push-button crossings, and reduced the priority of car commuters with barely a grumble from the general public. Most of us know the positives of this work and support it. But Vision's calculated politicking on the issue is hurting the cause of reducing car dependency and is creating hardships for small business owners.
If Gregor Robertson's agenda is about driving social change, then he better consider more constituencies than those who high-five him at Critical Mass.
- Read also Gord Price's welcome take on the Dunsmuir bike lane for another perspective