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Bruce Allen: The war on the car isn't working, and driving is still a nightmare

E-bikes are putting pedestrians at risk, too
Driving and cycling just aren't mixing well in Vancouver, writes Bruce Allen. | Mike Howell

The war on the car has made driving in the city a nightmare. Where there were two-lanes for cars to cruise in the city, there is now one lane.

Case in point: Richards from Georgia to Pacific. This is a classic. Metered parking on both sides of the street. A two-way bike lane on one side of the street and a standard sidewalk on each side. But it’s that two-way bike lane that’s the problem.

Twice this month, I’ve seen some clown flying down Richards Street on a motorized skateboard, wiping out as he barely dodged some guests checking into the Hermitage Hotel. Here’s the problem: the driver gets out of the car, and instead of stepping onto the real sidewalk, he steps onto a much smaller sidewalk with a two-lane bike lane between it and the parking meters which are on the real sidewalk.

Locals and visitors who walk across that double bike lane are putting themselves at risk. That’s what happened to those guests checking into the Hermitage. They didn’t look left or right. They were not aware that they were crossing a miniature freeway with various “vehicles” like traditional bicycles, electric bikes with pedal assist, electric bikes with a hand throttle (that sounds like a motorcycle to me) and various skateboards (some motorized) and one-wheelers that go like the wind.

If you are a pedestrian in this city, this is what you are dealing with every day. And I’ve seen some hideous crashes. Like a pedestrian run over by an ebike on Robson and Richards, who was knocked out cold. The cyclist just disappeared.

A week or so ago, a cop served a ticket to an e-bike driver for speeding. The e-biker plans to dispute the ticket. He claims that an electric bike that can go 30+ miles an hour down any street or bike lane is a bicycle. He’s wrong. It is a motorcycle. Period. An electric bike with pedal assist is in a different category. These bikes are ridden by people who should move to the Prairies where they don’t have hills. The trouble is, they don’t have any scenery, either. So people with pedal assist bikes can go for their lovely rides and just flip a switch when they need help to get up some hill. You wouldn’t want to crack a sweat, would you?! Canada has no restrictions for these dilettantes. Anyone 16 or older can ride an e-bike. No drivers license is needed.

The city is not winning the war on the car, though. You are not going to get people out of their cars. It’s there that they can think about things that are important to them. It’s peaceful to be alone in a car. If you don’t like silence, you can listen to your music or a podcast or any number of talk shows, sporting events or news headlines. A lot of people can’t do some of those things at home!!

It's good that we don’t have to deal with cyclists much longer. In a couple of months the bikes will be put away and the gas guzzlers will return to the streets. Our bike lanes will now go back to just being annoyances. Unless you get your food delivered.

Bruce Allen is a music manager and commentator.