People have shown their enthusiasm for moving towards environmentally sustainability in our urban and rural places while attacking causes which are affecting our personal health more and more each day. Breathing disorders are on the rise along with obesity increasing the provincial health care costs and affecting the time span we can expect to live.
It is argued that for this province to move towards a sustainable greenest province with greenest cities, its transportation capacity must be environmentally friendly. Each mode of transportation must do its part. It is also argued that at this time, the transportation system is not in balance.
Infrastructure with Cars as a New Consumer Product
Looking back to the first half-century of the 1900’s, city streets were filled with people walking to their destinations, taking streetcars and buses, using interurban trams, and cycling. There were a few cars and trucks about. Post-war governments needed to create jobs for people. So they turned to the automobile as a
saviour. Governments were willing to quickly jump on this bandwagon by looking to the car industry and the oil companies for post-war jobs. Streetcar transit disappeared to make a market for gasoline and diesel-powered buses. For the sake of personal freedom and to explore our cities and countryside, the populous happily embraced this trend.
Car-Based Evolution of the Transportation Infrastructure
Over the last 50 to 60 years, the infrastructure for movement by cars, has been well funded. In fact, it could be argued that funding has exceeded the needs of the infrastructure for movement of freight. During this time, pedestrian infrastructure has reasonably kept up with its role in the system. Over the last 20 years, transit has seen growth in investment. Much still needs to be done, especially in semi and real rapid transit as well as intercity fast train infrastructures. The bus systems have moved towards maturity from a network perspective but still needs much funding for improvement of service levels to where it really is a competitor to car travel.
Currently, cycling as a serious competitor to car travel, is well behind where it should be. Cycling needs a large infusion of capital within this province. Infrastructure design toolkits needs to be revitalized, based on European thinking to draw people to cycling. Cycling has an important place as a mode of transportation both for taking people to their end destination, as well as, bringing people to high-frequency service, faster transit, or rapid transit lines.
Cycling as part of Greenest Cities
Looking at transportation mode share for a province such as British Columbia, some cities should have a cycling mode share of 20% while others should be in the 10% to 15% range. Technology and climate is now there for such mode shares. E-bikes can now effectively tackle hills which may be deterrents to cycling for some people. What we lack, are an infrastructure which appeals to people to make personal changes in mode of travel, infrastructure design toolkits which appeals to people who do not cycle today, and social marketing programs which would encourage people to make that change.
Rebuilding the Cycling Environment as a Transportation Option
Over the past 10 to 20 years some progress in the cycling environment has been done by all levels of governments within the province. Modest amounts of moneys have been invested in infrastructure. It has allowed cycling mode share to increase to the 3.7% and 5.5% levels in Vancouver and Victoria.
Unfortunately, there are no other municipalities achieving that type of growth. Transit buses in the province all have bike racks. Bike racks are a support tool for people to make the shift to cycling as racks provide people with an option to cycling by taking the bus when they need it. Rapid transit systems allow a modest and insufficient number of bicycles on board. Ferries accommodate cycling. It may be observed that this is a start and that is all it is.
From people’s feedback much more needs to be done and now is the time. There is a change in people’s priorities and commitment to a sustainable, healthy, and environmental province. Timing may be right for more focus and investments by governments for cycling.
Teschke, Kay Dr. Cycling in Cities Survey. Vancouver: University of British Columbia, 2005 and 2006.