TODERIAN: It’s not about the bike or car —it’s about better cities

Brent Toderian is the former chief planner for Vancouver and writes regularly for Spacing Vancouver

This week, I watched with concern Canada’s largest city have a rhetoric-heavy debate about removing the relatively new separated bike lane on Jarvis Street. They even originally had the intention of using bike-lane funds to remove it!

Bike-lane debates have been going on for some time in Toronto, as they have in many cities like Vancouver. In recent years, exaggerated and polarizing phrases like “anti-car” and “the war on the car” have been thrown around irresponsibly by media and politicians alike, making me wonder more than a few times if Fox News had moved to the place once called “The City That Works.”

I suppose it illustrates part of the problem, that I feel the urge to point out I don’t consider myself a “cyclist.” Calling myself that would seem as odd as calling myself a walker, a transit-rider, or a driver. I’m an urbanite, someone who loves living in cities, and an urbanist who has studied how cities work all of my adult life. Really, I’m a citizen.

I point that out because there is too much pitting of self-described “drivers” and “cyclists” against each other. Most North American families are actually multi-modal – they drive, walk, and probably take transit and bike in at least certain circumstances, if not routinely. Certainly many who cycle, also drive, and visa versa.