When will pedestrians truly become a top priority at Vancouver City Hall?
It’s only May and six pedestrians have already died on Vancouver streets.
It’s become so commonplace these types of deaths rarely make the evening news anymore. Yet, for the families of these victims, these tragedies will last a lifetime.
Pedestrians are officially the City of Vancouver’s top transportation priority. However, you’d never know that if you regularly monitor city hall debates. You’re likely to encounter more talk about backyard chickens, separated bike lanes and symbolic vegetable gardens than how to make local streets safer for those on foot.
Vancouver claims it wants to become the greenest city in the world by 2020, yet Mayor Gregor Robertson only pays lip service to the most environmentally-friendly form of transport of all – walking. That’s because spending millions on a short strip of bike lanes triggers way more media attention than building a few lighted crosswalks.
It wasn’t until recently council asked staff to write a report regarding what else can be done to protect pedestrians. The report will likely be released just prior to the upcoming civic election to make it appear as though the mayor isn’t solely fixated on two-wheeled forms of transport.
So why so much focus on cycling and so little on pedestrians? Maybe it’s because a powerful cycling lobby has dominated so much of the debate over the last decade. The stark reality is Vancouver’s cycling lobbyists are tenacious, well-organized and often financed by your tax dollars to boot.
If you don’t believe pedestrians are taking a backseat to cyclists, just look at how shabbily they were treated when Vision Vancouver built a “temporary” bike lane on Burrard Bridge. Pedestrians were no longer permitted access to some sidewalks and are now being forced to cross a number of very hazardous streets.
Where are the pedestrian-oriented lobbyists asking council for safer sidewalks? Why does Vancouver City Hall have a food policy committee, but not a pedestrian advisory committee? Surely reducing the number of deaths on our streets is as important as growing fresh tomatoes.
If Vancouver wants to consider itself as a truly progressive city, it should follow the lead of other jurisdictions like Portland, Ore, and formalize the input they receive from pedestrians. Perhaps then we’ll finally begin to reduce the number of lives lost for doing nothing more than crossing a street.
- Post by Daniel. You can also read Fontaine's civic affairs column in 24 Hours Vancouver every Thursday.