Cars and Community Planning … in a roundabout sort of way

A recent run-in with the pavement got me thinking about bike commuting in Vancouver, indeed anywhere in which the car is king on the roads.

I went end-over handlebars and broke my elbow, an accident that would have been considerably worse if I hit the car I was trying to avoid.

Two things struck me (ok three if you count the ground!)

  1. People in this town don’t understand roundabouts
  2. Significant change is needed to make our roads safer and more accessible for non-car transit. And this is some thing we should aspire to (… that’s 4. I feel like I’m in a Monty Python sketch)

When it comes to roundabouts, unless there are traffic control signs, these are uncontrolled intersections … so you’ve gotta remember three things – yield to traffic on the right if the other vehicle has arrived first or at the same time, yield to traffic already in the roundabout to your left and NEVER come to a full stop in a roundabout (unless traffic conditions require it). Come on peeps … it’s that easy! Making our roads safer for riders however will take a little more work.

It’s about choice – easy alternatives

Creating real and workable alternatives is our first priority. With more bike paths, public transit, walking routes, pedestrian and bike only streets we create real alternatives and these also need to be CHEAPER. Policy and legal changes would help with bike focused road rules. What about GPS-enabled information about transit times … make it real-time and real-easy!

If it made more impact on our wallets we would think twice about taking the car everywhere. Increase the cost of the car, gas, insurance and parking. But an interesting thought strikes me. How does making cars and car ownership more expensive impact our community? By making cars and car ownership more expensive, driving becomes accessible to a privileged few whose wallets are large enough. Unless a working family or single mum are within walking distance of schools, child-care, stores and community centers they are penalized because they cant afford to 1. live in a service appropriate area or 2. afford a car.

Following in the footsteps of friends to the south the creation of 20-minute neighbourhoods is such a thoughtful and simple way to challenge how we plan our urban environment. Take the car out of the picture by making it so much easier, nicer and cheaper to ride, walk or take transit to your local neighbourhood – which has everything you need. Support those who work outside their neighbourhood with integrated transit systems.

I wonder when we’ll finally turn that corner and the car will no longer be king of the roads. What a day that will be!