Comment: Bike lanes can work, and we need them

A commentary by an Esquimalt resident and longtime cyclist.

Re: “Lanes on Wharf Street put cyclists at risk,” Aug. 21.

I’ve just finished cycling the Wharf Street bike lanes and — contrary to the myriad of dire warnings appearing in these pages over the last several days — I did not crash into any pedestrians, get hit by any wobbly novice cyclists, or get run over by cars coming up from the parking lot below.

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True, I had to watch out for hazards, just as I always do when cycling in Victoria, but generally I felt much safer with that concrete divider protecting me than I did in the old days when I had to make my way past tour buses, horse-pulled carriages, and general traffic.

I am 73 years old, and have driven in Victoria since I was 16. Over those 57 years, there have been enormous changes in traffic.

I can remember driving to my downtown summer job from my home in Fairfield in just over five minutes and taking my pick of free parking spaces when I got there. Now the same trip would take double the time and more, depending on the time of day.

We read that we are to expect more and more people in Victoria in the next few years. More people and more cars. Imagine 5 p.m. gridlock 10 years from now (with accompanying air pollution and climate warming), if we keep on increasing our car population.

So what’s to be done? I give thanks that we have leaders who are looking to the future and not just continuing the patterns of the past! We have to start doing things differently. Sure, there’s a learning curve. Pedestrians and drivers will need to learn to watch for cyclists coming from both directions.

Cyclists will need to follow the rules of the road, and if they don’t, they should be ticketed, just like drivers. But it can be done.

Take Montreal, where two-way divided bike lanes criss-cross the city, and whenever the weather’s passable, those bike lanes are filled with cyclists. Or Vancouver, whose latest statistics show that record numbers of cyclists used their bikeways in July.

To the Greek chorus of naysayers taking potshots at Lisa Helps and her council, I say: So what is your plan for Victoria’s transportation future? How would you encourage people to get out of their cars and into other forms of transportation? Would you prefer council to sit back and do nothing, while gridlock gets worse and worse?

Change is never easy, but we’ve either got to change or face a hot and gridlocked future.

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