A Canadian in Amsterdam discovers the downside of a cyclist’s paradise
It is an old article (October 25 this year) that has been doing the rounds and found its way to my in box today. I was going to ignore it but then I decided that as the sun was out I would take my bike on some errands rather than use the car.
The contrast between Richmond and Amsterdam is what made me want to write this. If you cycle at all in Greater Vancouver you needn’t bother to read this. Nothing new here. And I somehow doubt that any drivers who need to will actually be bothered to.
There were lots of motorized vehicles in the city’s core, but there seemed to be many more cyclists, and they all looked confident sitting upright on their sturdy bicycles, the handlebars rounded toward their torsos, allowing them to keep their backs straight and heads high looking out over the rest of the traffic.
Here the cyclist is a lone warrior in a hostile environment. I live on Steveston Highway, which has no bicycle lanes – or indeed any other acknowledgment that there may be others who want to use the road. On the eastbound side of the road there are no sidewalks either. I have to put on a helmet, of course, and since my bike does not have a chain guard tuck my trousers into my socks. I have a special hi-vis cycling jacket too, and proper cycling gloves. My handlebars are straight, so the posture is – different.
To get across the road to go in the direction I want, I push the bike to the nearest traffic light and wait, and wait, for the pedestrian signal. Even so, turning traffic weaves around me. It does not wait for me to cross. Once on the bike I try to keep clear of the broken glass and uneven inspection covers that make the right side of the road an uncomfortable place to be. This obviously upsets everyone behind me, but I simply ignore them. There are two travel lanes for vehicles but at the middle of the morning quite sparse traffic. So they could get over, if they felt like it. They don’t. The posted speed is 50. Anyone who drives at or below this is exceptional.
I get to the shopping centre at Ironwood but stay in the vehicle circulation area. I do not think it is reasonable for cyclists to weave around pedestrians in such places. Car drivers seem perplexed by my presence, but I am not alone and there are lots of bike parking racks. Of course, I have to lock up my bike and take everything off it while I am in the shops.
On the way back, it is the same as before. To leave the parking lot and turn left back on to the Highway I simply claim my rightful pace in the turn lane – and go in front of the vehicles at the stop line to make my presence obvious. So I manage to get onto the highway home without dismounting and pushing. Except there are road works. Only one lane open for a short stretch of road. Traffic lines up in the left lane, so I go through in the open right lane to the point of closure. Here I rejoin the traffic. Note that I have done nothing illegal. But the Dodge Ram van cannot stand the idea that a cyclist is now ahead of him, so he forces forward – knocking over pylons. The lane is narrow, the traffic is literally inching forward at walking pace – yet it is inconceivable to this driver that he should be behind a cyclist – for even a few metres and a minute or two at most. The flag lady simply looks in another direction, and pretends to be fascinated by the excavation she is guarding. And of course at the next traffic light there is the same green van, who has arrived at the light perhaps 30 seconds before me, in triumph.
It is going to be a long time before drivers willingly give up any space to cyclists in Greater Vancouver. And until we start managing traffic as though we were trying to achieve people movement (not vehicle movement) this will continue.
“We are not blocking traffic, we ARE traffic.”