Letters April 13: Tales about a prince; why building bicycle lanes makes sense

Safe, convenient cycling routes help

A recent letter claimed that Victoria will never reach European levels of cycling because European cities have dense medieval cores that were shaped long before the automobile.

In fact, most European cities were rebuilt and expanded during the post-war period, and car use grew rapidly through the 1960s and 1970s.

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European cities were on the same track as North American cities, and were becoming choked with traffic; historic squares and piazzas were used for parking lots.

It wasn’t until the last 30-40 years that European cities really began to push back against automobile dominance, building protected bike lanes and creating pedestrianized areas.

When you look at cities around the world, the biggest factor impacting the amount of cycling isn’t climate or “culture”; cycling use is directly related to the amount of safe and convenient cycling infrastructure that cities have built. That’s why nearly every city in North America is developing a network of all ages and abilities cycling routes.

While it’s true that many European cities are denser than Victoria, really high densities aren’t required for cycling to be a convenient option. A city just needs to be compact enough so that most cycling trips can be made in 15-20 minutes – a criterion that the City of Victoria already meets.

The letter also claimed that taking away road space from cars results in more congestion and idling, and thus more greenhouse gases.

This “theory” has been widely disproved by numerous studies looking at real-world examples in cities. In fact, cities that have built lots of automobile infrastructure and have more free flow traffic produce more greenhouse gases per capita than more congested cities with less car infrastructure.

This is because building more lanes for cars leads to induced demand, resulting in even more driving and pollution. Perhaps more surprisingly, the converse is also true: if you take space away from cars and make driving slightly more inconvenient relative to other travel modes, people will drive less.

It is not “pie in the sky” to aim for European levels of cycling in Victoria.

According to census data, Greater Victoria already ranks first among 393 metro areas in the U.S. and Canada in terms of the cycling share of work trips.

We are starting from a strong foundation, and building more safe and convenient cycling routes is the key to making cycling even more popular.

Steven Murray
Victoria

Facts matter in bike lane debate

It is fair to criticize the design and location of bike lanes. However, if you entirely disagree with the premise of adding bike lanes to Victoria, which is your prerogative, it does not make the proposed bike network a bad idea or a project that lacked consultation and engagement.

Let’s keep in mind the facts when we craft our critiques of the decision-making process:

- The network is predicated on the Official Community Plan, which included two and a half years of public consultation with more than 6,000 people.

• The initial engagement period was open for six weeks before the pandemic.

• Pop-up events were held in high traffic public spaces.

• The project summit, open to all, attracted more than 400 attendees.

• “Neighbourhood salons” were held in community centres and small businesses in the impacted neighbourhoods.

• The public was invited to provide feedback through an online survey. 1,745 surveys were collected.

• Thousands interacted with the project through social media channels.

• Print ads, online ads, stakeholder emails, postcards and posters were used to raise awareness and to promote engagement opportunities.

• The design review sessions include B.C. Transit, ICBC, Victoria Fire, and B.C. Emergency Health Services.

• The network planning involved a diverse technical advisory committee which, from the outset, evaluated development and provided guidance.

In total, at least 2,500 people participated in the public process. The purpose of an engagement process is not to gather unanimous support or consensus before proceeding.

If we held the government to this sort of direct democracy standard, nothing would ever get done and city infrastructure would be a disaster.

That you personally disagree with a decision does not mean that the process was flawed or needs to be repeated.

Jeremy Schmidt
Victoria

Changes not needed on Richardson

My wife and I have driven (I also rode my bike) along Richardson Street both ways at least once a day for 32 years and have yet to see any major conflicts between cars and bikes.

Both groups of users of this thoroughfare are for the most part considerate of each other. Granted the traffic (both groups) has increased over the years, but has adjusted to the increase.

The proposed changes are not helpful and will increase traffic on side streets, not allowing a steady flow east and west along Richardson. The proposal appears to endanger all traffic. This change is not needed.

James Scott|
Victoria

A Yukon highlight for the Duke of Edinburgh

I am saddened to learn of the passing of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.

May I recount one of the stories of his 1954 visit to “the wilds of colonial Canada.” He is reputed to love to tell this anecdote to visiting Canadian dignitaries over a cocktail.

Philip was scheduled to visit the Yukon during his 1954 visit. At the time, the Royal Canadian Air Force had a small station in Whitehorse. The commanding officer thought he had best put on a mess dinner in honour of the duke’s visit.

The officer’s mess did not have sufficient serving staff, so they recruited several waitresses from the local cafes to work the dinner.

The staff were trained in all the proper etiquette; serve from the right, pick up from the left, only speak when spoken to and then always address him as “Your Highness.”

All went well at the dinner. The wine was poured, toasts were made, dinner served. Having finished his meal, Prince Philip set his knife and fork at the proper 4 o’clock position on the plate.

The waitress bent in from the left to pick up the plate and exclaimed:

“Hold on to your fork Dukie, there’s pie coming!”

Bob Kanngiesser
Port Alberni

Prince Philip knew what had to be done

My parents were good friends with Gar and Lorna Dixon, who ran Government House for many years.

They met all the royals. Here is a quick story about Prince Philip:

“They” were staying at Government House.

After dinner there was a slide show about something that went on perhaps a bit too long.

After a few too many slides, Commander Gar decided to sneak out for a breather. He realized he might be seen, so he crawled on his hands and knees in the darkness and nearly knocked heads with the Duke, doing the same thing.

Rick Stevens
Victoria

Coronavirus response was too little, too late

British Columbia has many unique regions and unfortunately both medical and political decision-makers have failed to recognize this fundamental fact in the management of COVID-19.

Vancouver Island is a classic example. It would have been relatively easy to keep numbers low here with simple measures.

The biggest failure to control rests with the ferry corporation. Limiting sailings, reserving space for commercial vehicles and those with confirmed medical appointments on the mainland and keeping people in their vehicles would have been relatively simple.

Since we do not have an international airport, automatic quarantine of travellers from elsewhere would have discouraged people from coming to the Island. None of this is impossible.

It seems that governments at all levels and public health officials failed to comprehend the seriousness of the situation, unlike New Zealand, Australia and several Asian countries.

Had the Island been treated as a separate entity with these protective measures, things would be pretty much back to normal right now, with businesses open.

Unfortunately it has largely been a saga of too little, too late. All we can do now is hunker down, follow protective protocols and get vaccinated as soon as we can … assuming we have an adequate vaccine supply.

Shirley McBride
Victoria

Don’t compare Canada to Australia

I too miss seeing my Australian pack and greatly regret having to go virtual for a granddaughter’s wedding there.

But the root causes of the differences in their situation to ours are most probably not due to government actions. The lifetime of an aerosol particle in the Australian climate is an order of magnitude less than in wintertime here.

That fact, combined with our tendency to huddle indoors in the Canadian winter, compared to their very outdoors lifestyle reduces the transmission enormously. Sure, they were faster on the lockdowns, but don’t blame our governments for our plight, blame the climate.

Now, when it comes to vaccine supply, it’s a different story, keep piling the grief on Ottawa.

Alec Mitchell
Victoria

Economic impact was predictable

Re: “Budget needs to be fiscally conservative,” editorial, April 9.

The Times Colonist must think the public a gullible lot.

Suggesting that “warning signs” for the $13 billion provincial debt can only now be seen through the gift of “hindsight” is absolutely appalling.

COVID-19 didn’t create the debt. The province did, and more than one year into the epidemic continues to do so.

A high school student in accounting would know what happens to a balance sheet when revenues disappear.

From the outset, clinical and economic issues were seen by the government as separate, not joint, issues. There were no unintended consequences of one shut down after another.

Where was your headline, “Pandemic handling needs to be fiscally conservative” and related democratic activism when most needed?

Hundreds of thousands in the province knew where the government’s approach was going to take the economy.

You knew it. You said nothing, and made certain no critical views of the government ever made it to your pages.

Such was and remains a predictable effect of this cancel culture.

The NDP is not fit to run this province. Just look at the record. Don’t get this one wrong, too.

Brian Nimeroski
Sooke

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