How about this sun-soaked 2013 Vancouver summer? My poor Scottish skin can barely handle it. I’m so red Venezuela just offered me political asylum. I almost feel envious of all the summer whining Torontonians have been getting to do this year. That’s usually our thing.
People have been taking advantage of the glorious West Coast weather in various ways—swimming, barbecuing, closing the drapes and watching stacks of Netflix. As for me, I have taken the opportunity to pedal my butt around the Lower Mainland. After 25 years in Vancouver I have made epic journeys this summer I’d never attempted before, biking from my west-of-Denman neighbourhood all the way to Horseshoe Bay, Whytecliffe Park, and even over the new Canada Line bridge through Richmond and down to Steveston Village. (It was after that trip I found my face and arms roasted so crimson that for a couple of days after, gentle breezes made me wince.)
My trusty old bicycle has enough replacement parts to star on Real Housewives and I do not wear the usual flashy Lycra gear. But it’s not about looking the part. It’s about climbing aboard and setting off—and realizing that it can indeed be done. That’s one reason why I am grateful for the bike initiatives being pushed by Vancouver City Council.
I understand that the issue of bike lanes makes some motorists homicidal. I understand too that bike use tends to be seasonal. While I do ride my bike year-round (I was able to let my car insurance lapse) I don’t ride in the rain if I can help it, and it is on those rainy winter days that motorists point triumphantly to empty bike lanes as evidence of Mayor Gregor Robertson’s folly.
But this is an issue that requires leadership. Bike use will not increase if safe lanes are not available. Individual bike lanes may or may not be well conceived but the overall idea of building bicycle-friendly infrastructure is a good one, even if civic planners are presently ahead of the curve. The funny thing about true political leadership is that everybody says they want it, but let politicians really get out in front of the crowd and just listen to the howls of outrage. Most people don’t ride bikes—they drive cars. And Hell hath no fury like a majority scorned. But I hope city planners will stay the course. And while they’re at it perhaps pass a bylaw making sunscreen mandatory.
Photo by Steve Burgess.