Whenever we talk about cycling in Halifax Magazine, we hear the same sorts of reader comments. “There is no need for the city to pay for a multi-million dollar ramp at the end of the bridge for a handful of cycling zealots.”
And, “I find that Halifax is being merely politically correct when it comes to bicycles.” And, “Ride though Halifax today and I bet you can find at least one bicyclist doing something stupid. Yes car drivers break the law, but rarely do bicyclists or pedestrians get charged as drivers do.”
Those comments were posted to Ryan Van Horne’s column “We’re all in this together” from our November 2015 issue. They’re the most recent examples, but there are plenty more out there.
The view boils down to this: most people don’t cycle and cyclists are a nuisance on the road. Supporting cycling is a fruitless sop to political correctness that does nothing to benefit the average Haligonian.
Not all drivers hold those views, but a lot do and while I’m sure they’re kindly, well-intentioned people, they’re also completely wrong.
Every day, there are more cars on Halifax’s roads. Yet every day, Halifax does not grow more roads and parking spaces. And more roads aren’t the answer anyway. Halifax’s most congested area, the urban core, has a grid designed for horses and is crammed onto a small peninsula. There is nowhere to put more roads, even if we had the millions to build them.
The obvious solution is to get some cars off the road by making it easier for people to not drive. Buses and ferries are part of the equation, but not all of it. Look at European cities that do this really well (Copenhagen and Amsterdam come to mind) and you’ll see that accommodating cyclists is a marvellously effective way to get cars off the road.
For decades, those cities have been investing in bike infrastructure: protected lanes, signal lights, bike racks everywhere, and yes, ramps for bikes. They understand what still seems to be a pretty radical view in Halifax: bike infrastructure isn’t just for bikes.
The point Van Horne made in his November column bears repeating: when you make it easier to bike, you get cars off the road, and everyone benefits. Traffic is less congested, roads face less wear and tear, pollution goes down, and more people engage in daily exercise. All those things are good for everyone, even if you’re committed to never biking.
So for 2016, Halifax should resolve to adopt a bigger view of biking, to stop thinking like a car-dominated small town and start thinking like some of the world’s best cities. Investment in bike infrastructure will make this a better city for all of us and the sooner we do it, the better off we’ll be.
In our cover story on page 22, Jon Tattrie returns with his annual year-in-review essay. With a federal election behind us and a municipal election ahead, he looks at how the city changed in 2015 and what 2016 holds. Related to that change theme, Katie Toth talks with erstwhile Halifax MP Megan Leslie about her surprising defeat, and what comes next. See that story on page 24. This is Toth’s first story for Halifax Magazine, and we’re delighted to have her join our team.
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