Nerves of steel and a high fitness level shouldn't be required to ride on Richmond's bike lanes. It's time to design bike lanes for everyone.
Richmond should be a bustling city for biking. It's flat, with straight roads, and neighbourhood shopping centres are spaced evenly through the suburbs. But it isn't. Why?
An eight year old boy should be able to ride to school. A mom should be able to bundle her little ones into a bike trailer to ride to the bakery. A grandma should be able to ride her cargo trike to her book club.
Richmond also has a reputation for speeding, careless driving, and a disrespect for painted bike lanes. While speed calming measures are being implemented across the city, average speed remains above the speed limit on most arterial roads. Daily, there are posts on social media bemoaning yet another truck parked in a bike lane or a driver using the bike lane as an additional car lane.
Residents who would otherwise choose to hop on their bikes for their journey, opt instead for vehicle or transit travel out of safety concerns.
Why should we care?
The Metro Vancouver area is expecting about one million more people to settle here by 2041. Congestion is already noted by many road users, and both commuters and businesses are feeling the negative effects of regular, extended, delays. Can you imagine what congestion would look like if just half of those extra million people use a personal vehicle for all their trips?
Not everyone can opt to use active transportation, such as biking or walking, or public transportation, like buses and trains. But if we give good alternative options to using a personal vehicle, many can and will make the switch, easing traffic congestion for those road users who must use a car or truck. End destinations will also benefit from less pressure on limited parking facilities. As a bonus, research has shown that people on bikes spend more in their local shops! A win for small business!
Which brings us back to Richmond. There are many reasons to bike or walk: health, environment, pleasure, but we aren't seeing enough uptake of everyday biking. Protected bike lanes are a must if we are going to see large-scale adoption of bike lanes. They need to be designed for everyone. An eight year old boy should be able to ride to school. A mom should be able to bundle her little ones into a bike trailer to ride to the bakery. A grandma should be able to ride her cargo trike to her book club.
To do this, we need to radically reconsider "who are bike lanes for" and plan our bike lanes of tomorrow accordingly. They must be fully protected with a concrete barrier. Better design for intersections and other conflict points must happen. The great thing is that many cities around the world have already implemented modern biking infrastructure. No need to reinvent the wheel! So let's commit to fully protected bike lanes, and combine them with Dutch intersections, re-timed lights, and wider bike lanes.
Tomorrow starts today.
City of Richmond General Purposes Committee minutes: Motion referred back to staff.