Metro column: Burrard Bridge bike trial backlash brewing

29 June 2009 05:27

The Burrard Street Bridge cycling experiment that gets underway two weeks from today is raising hopes for a bike-friendlier future in Metro Vancouver. The expectation is that allocating more space for bikes on the busy crossing will encourage more commuters to swap their car keys for a two-wheeler.

But far from a breakthrough, this bold initiative is more likely to be a bust. Here’s why.

By taking over space previously reserved for automobiles and pedestrians, the summer trial runs the risk of alienating two traditional allies of the cycling community: Bus riders and walkers. Continue reading

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Filed under Commuting, Cycling, Environment, Green Space, Transportation, Urban Planning, Vancouver

Metro column: Ferry boss laments state of maritime travel

22 June 2009 05:35

Just because Ihab Shaker is disenchanted with the state of passenger ferries in Metro Vancouver doesn’t mean he’s planning on sailing away from the region anytime soon.

The owner of Coastal Link Ferries — which serves walk-on commuters between Bowen Island and downtown Vancouver — fumes over the uneven playing field for his privately run service, and the layers of bureaucracy he is constantly up against.

But far from giving up in the face of adversity, the sea captain is gamely expanding his business.

Since the winter, he has tripled the number of sailings between Bowen’s Snug Cove and Vancouver’s Coal Harbour. An upswing in customers has naturally followed.

More recently, according to Shaker, he has reached an agreement with the Port of Vancouver to construct a new, albeit modest, terminal for his ferry between the SeaBus station and the Helijet landing pad on the south shore of Burrard Inlet. Continue reading

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Filed under British Columbia, Commuting, Environment, Marine transport, Politics, Tourism, Transportation

Metro column: Sad end for Japantown’s field of memories

15 June 2009 05:27

Later this week, the Vancouver Canadians baseball team will play its much-anticipated season opener at Nat Bailey Stadium.

Expect the scene to be an upbeat one — from the singing of Take Me Out To The Ball Game to Little Leaguers cheerfully chasing foul balls in the bleachers.

But not far away, in the Downtown Eastside, a far less happy baseball story is being played out.

At Oppenheimer Park, in Vancouver’s old Japantown neighbourhood, the historic playing field of the Asahi baseball team is being demolished. The City of Vancouver is removing the ball diamond as part of its renovation of the park. Continue reading

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Filed under Culture, Environment, Green Space, Heritage, Immigration, Japan, Neighbourhoods, Parks, Politics, Protest, Sports, Vancouver

Metro column: Cycling plan goes beyond lip service

08 June 2009 05:21

Last week, while cycling home from the office, I was almost flattened by a car charging through a red light. This came moments after I was nearly run off the road by another careless motorist who mistook my bike lane for a turning lane of his own.

Welcome to Bike Month in Metro Vancouver.

This being June, the annual push is on to get locals onto this more sustainable mode of transport.

But don’t be fooled by the cheery speeches or beefed-up Critical Mass rides: Bike mode share — the number of cyclists on the road compared to motorists, transit riders or pedestrians — is disappointingly small in this region. Continue reading

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Filed under Commuting, Cycling, Environment, Events, Health, Transportation, Urban Planning

Metro column: Breakdown leaves customers in the dark

01 June 2009 05:26

TransLink is on a roll these days.

Sparkling mega-projects like the Canada Line and the Golden Ears Bridge are nearing completion. For cyclists, the Central Valley Greenway will be completed at the end of this month. Needed upgrades are happening across the transit system.

So it’s a shame that when TransLink screws up, it has to do so in royal form.

A case in point is the No. 44 bus service. At the best of times, it is a frustrating, unpredictable affair — complete with pass-ups, overcrowding, and third-rate scheduling.

But at the worst of times, it simply doesn’t show up. Continue reading

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Filed under Commuting, Transportation

Metro column: Politicians on slow train to nowhere

25 May 2009 05:22

This Wednesday, Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson will travel to Portland to speak at the Cascadia Rail Partnership Conference — a gathering of transport pundits, policy wonks and politicians focused on bringing high-speed rail to the corridor stretching between Vancouver and Eugene, Ore.

The group should be especially energized, thanks to last month’s funding announcement by U.S.
President Barack Obama — pledging $8 billion for high-speed rail along major population corridors, including the Pacific Northwest.

But frustrated Vancouverites stuck in airport queues or traffic jams en route to the U.S. West Coast would be wise not to envision themselves rocketing down the I-5 corridor in a Shinkansen bullet train just yet. Continue reading

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Filed under British Columbia, Cascadia, Commuting, Japan, Portland, Seattle, Tourism, Transportation, Vancouver

Metro column: Cycling and transit a winning combination

In case you haven’t heard, Bike to Work Week starts today.

The annual cycling event aims to get more working stiffs out of their carbon-emitting cars and SUVs, and onto eco-friendlier 12-speeds and cruisers instead.

I’ll admit it.

I’ve drunk the cycling lobby’s Kool-Aid.

This spring, I’m captaining a Bike to Work team at my office.

And why not? I could use the exercise and the fresh air. Besides, cycling as a viable form of commuting has come a long way in the Lower Mainland.

Yes, cyclists still have to contend with rampant bike theft, and many routes could be a whole lot safer.

But beyond these points, cycling is an enjoyable, economical and environmentally sensible mode of transport in Metro Vancouver. Continue reading

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Filed under Commuting, Cycling, Environment, Neighbourhoods, Transportation, Urban Planning