Appeared in North Shore News – July 9, 2010
Vancouver allows chickens. But the biggest cluck in the city’s backyard is Mayor Gregor Robertson.
With his trusty allies at his side — mountain-biker Health Minister and former transport minister Kevin Falcon, pedalling force behind the disastrous Spirit Trail whose effects are being visited on West Vancouver, and Vancouver Coun. Geoff Meggs, still recovering from a serious bicycle accident in March — Robertson has hatched a 10-year, $25-million program to create bicycle lanes and improvements.
This is lunacy, especially in tight times. City hall’s (suspect) figure is that 3.7 per cent of all trips in Vancouver are made by bicycle. Robertson aims to goose this to 10 per cent by 2020. He has babbled about a $45-million bicycle-pedestrian bridge across False Creek. In furtherance of his goals Robertson has screwed up Burrard Bridge motor traffic and frustrated drivers in other West End areas like Beach Avenue and Dunsmuir Street.
Numerate persons like CKNW’s Jill Bennett and delightful ranter Bruce Allen have counted actual cyclists on the Burrard bike lane at any given time and haven’t reached two figures. Sun columnist Miro Cernetig checked usage of the $800,000 lane at Dunsmuir and Hornby, 10 to 11 a.m. on a Tuesday, and counted precisely 30 cyclists in that hour.
Brainy and usually astute former councillor Peter Ladner, who Robertson unfortunately defeated in the last election, is with the mayor on this. In a Business in Vancouver column, Ladner advocates the public bike-sharing system used in several major cities. He sampled the Bixi version in Montreal. Loved it.
I’ve not seen it. But I say this authoritatively: Unless the bikes have quick adjustments (that are actually made) of seat and handlebars to accommodate the five-foot to the six-foot-six rider, I’d condemn the idea. A bicycle that doesn’t fit the rider is inefficient, uncomfortable and unsafe.
Ladner and other enthusiasts cite bicycle use in Europe (a 40-per-cent share of transportation in Copenhagen, he writes). This is grotesquely misleading. The bicycle in Amsterdam is an entirely different animal from the pseudo-racers on our streets, which I scorn as transportation vehicles.
Why? B.C. law requires a bell and a front light on all bicycles. Ha, ha. Based on more than casual eyeball evidence, I’d estimate that 1.44 per cent of bikes on our roads are street-legal. (Is Robertson’s? Is Ladner’s?) As for requirement to obey the same laws as motor traffic — more ha, ha.
You can find Dutch commuting-type bicycles in Vancouver, if you look really hard. Bring money: They’re around $1,300. They are massive, handsome, ponderously dignified and, of course, properly equipped.
Ours, overwhelmingly, aren’t. Most have no lights, bell or horn, fenders, chain guards (so much for cycling in office clothes, and don’t even think of leather dress shoes), and nothing so decadent as carriers, which explains all those riders with backpacks. That’s dangerous. Not much more than a toothbrush should be carried on a rider’s back. And the back-bending rams-horn handlebars can limit visibility.
Obviously, serious cycling has a narrow appeal. It’s plain that many people are too young, too old, too frail, too fat, too lame or otherwise medically incapable of cycling. Then there’s the weather (if you wear glasses you’ll get a new respect for windshield wipers) and the incline you didn’t even notice when driving.
You’re left with little beyond the Robertson-Meggs-Ladner demographic: Upper-middle-class, well-educated, environmentally sensitive persons, mostly ideologically left, with offices where they can change and shower, and a moral smugness that runs right off the scale. But no hypocrites: Off-camera, on Sundays they cycle away from the old folks home with Granny tied to the handlebars, go to the theatre with their significant other on a bicycle built for two, and bring back family groceries in small, safe loads in their backpacks.
Yeah, right. If they were up-front they’d paste one of those bumper stickers on their backpacks, something like: “My other vehicle is a BMW.”
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So a Squamish chief wants to change the name of Stanley Park to that of a Squamish village said to have once existed there.
Isn’t that the band that short months ago raised several electronic billboards, including near Lions Gate Bridge, ignoring all but unanimous community rage? They get the back of my hand.
The usual suspects instantly fell into line. Kudos for parks commissioner Ian Robertson, who didn’t, while the politically correct (Mayor Robertson predictably among them) squeaked liberal noises.
I jeer at this paper’s fatuous editorial, which sounded as if it had been written by the Che Guevera cell of the Commercial Drive Marxist Collective — maundering about “colonialism” and the park being named for “a British politician who briefly occupied a ceremonial position more than a century ago.”
Ye ed, as legendary publisher Ma Murray would say, should know that constitutionally the governor-general is more than a “ceremonial position.” We’re deeply indebted to Lord Stanley for creating a park where today there would be simply more West End. (Thanks for the cup, too.)
The Squamish village didn’t exist since forever anyway. The war-like Squamish came down from the north and ousted the Musqueam from the North Shore, which is why the latter are ensconced on Vancouver’s southwest side.
Stockwell Day, federal minister for B.C., firmly and quickly suffocated this notion after its 15 minutes of talk-show fame. But be sure: It’ll be resuscitated some day. The Liberals and New Democrats will eagerly breathe life back into it.
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Pat Boname’s church, West Vancouver Presbyterian, has done what town council should have rushed to do. It has dedicated a garden in her name.
Pat was a splendid citizen. Councillor, mayor and school trustee were only the most visible of her activities. As church member Joanne Wallis notes, she was also a volunteer in the arts, in the disability sphere, a Lions Gate Hospital board member and much else.
Mayor Pam Goldsmith-Jones should have led the charge to name something for Pat Boname. Coun. Michael Evison told me he’d raise the matter to council. Later acknowledged he hadn’t. I won’t take Evison’s assurances to the bank hereafter.
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Ever been reading and something startling jumps out at you? I was trolling through the acknowledgements of The Strange Demise of British Canada: The Liberals and Canadian Nationalism, 1964-1968 — highly recommended, sent to me, mysteriously, by McGill-Queen’s University Press — when I snapped to attention on falling upon author C.P. Champion’s closing nod to “the late David A. Moon, RCN (ret.) of The Bookstall in Ambleside, my summer employer during high school.”
Anyone here remember Christopher Champion, born 1970, now living in Mont Ste-Marie, Que.? I must have encountered him on Moon’s cherished and eccentric premises.
Voila, this coincided with the resurrection of Moon’s old business, now the Ambleside Book Barn, owned by Scott Akin and his mother Gill. Tidiness was never part of Moon’s job description. The Akins have brought in 40,000 books (the former owner has moved her business and stock to Vancouver) and the premises have been transformed. Delightful that West Van’s only used bookstore is still around.
© Trevor Lautens, 2010