Saanich resident, father, high school teacher and cyclist Daniel Mari writes about his car-lite lifestyle and how he and his family (of seven!) rely on Victoria's bicycle infrastructure.
Keep them separated
We have five children and they all ride bicycles. The youngest is 4 and the oldest is 12. When the seven of us are out riding our bicycles on the Galloping Goose Trail, we are footloose and fancy-free. Our bicycles provide transportation, exercise, family bonding, community engagement, and relaxation. Cycling decreases the traffic congestion for motorists, but this can only be accomplished safely through separated bike lanes.
The Galloping Goose provides an accessible and separated transportation system. Our kids, along with so many others, rely on the safety of this trail to access their community. We use our car less and we feel good about reducing motor-vehicle congestion and carbon emissions. When cars and bicycles are separated, it reduces the stress for both motorist and cyclists. Bikes remain in their own lane where they belong, car and carefree.
As a parent, a separated bike lane provides me with peace of mind. As a commuter who bikes to Oak Bay every day from Uptown, it provides me with a relaxing car-free option. And now with the recently added bike lanes—thank you Mayor Helps—I can enjoy my commute "out of mind and out of car lane".
Car vs. Bike
Victoria is a mostly phenomenal 20-minute city. I say mostly, because I have to carefully pick the route I cycle to avoid car-dominated streets. There are certain streets that would make my commute faster, however, motorists tend to crowd cyclists by not giving ample space when passing and to make generally unsafe decisions when in the vicinity of cyclists. As a motorist, I do realize that sharing the road can be difficult, but many motorists don't realize how stressful and difficult it can be for cyclists. Try riding your bike at a reasonable speed down a narrower street with parked cars on your right while passing motorists are annoyed that you are encroaching on their perceived space when suddenly, a car door opens right in front of you, that's game over. The inherent dangers that exist between cars and bikes sharing the road without separated bike lanes are only magnified when you add younger and less confident motorists and cyclists. Cyclists make there fair share of mistakes on the road as well, but a bike tangling with a car is like Justin Beiber tangling with a Sumo wrestler. Therefore, the straightforward solution is more separated bike lanes.
Out of mind and out of the car lane, is the best solution for cars, cyclists, and pedestrians. Many European cities have embraced the separated bike lane infrastructure, and so can we. We don't expect pedestrians to walk on the road, but in a separated dedicated lane called the sidewalk. Wouldn't it be great to extend the sidewalk system to cyclists? Maybe if The Jetsons had featured flying bicycles in their vision of the future, we would have separated bike lanes by now. The future of transportation is changing, so let's embrace it and build a culture that recognizes the long list of benefits the bicycle brings to our communities.
Why is there so much resistance? Maybe it's like John Steinbeck declared in Travels With Charley:
It is the nature of a man as he grows older, a small bridge in time, to protest against change, particularly change for the better. The sad ones are those who waste their energy in trying to hold it back, for they can only feel bitterness in loss and no joy in gain.
Young and free
A car, bicycle, bus, or train—all ways to get from point A to point B. My children started to ride their bicycles on The Galloping Goose Trail at age 3 on a $50 bike or a hand me down; now that's cost-effective transportation! But more than that, it was their first real taste of independence, responsibility, and freedom. Their sense of accomplishment in riding their bicycle with commuters, siblings and mom and dad was memorable and powerful. A bicycle is a powerful tool for all ages and helps mobilize people ages 3 to103!