Thursday, June 28, 2012

Vancouver's Bike Lanes: We're Eating Airplane Food

One of the first times I saw Father Guido Sarducci was on Letterman, back in the days when Dave was funny ("hip" and "ironic" were big terms in the 80s, because so few shows were), Sarducci was asking why airplane food was so bad. (Yes, for my two readers who weren't around then, airlines used to serve passengers real meals on flights over 3 hours long. With metal cutlery and real plates. What could they have been thinking???) Anyway, he said if you were trapped in a well for a week, and after the rescuers pulled you out and offered you a typical airplane meal, you'd think it was pretty good. But otherwise, no.

Tonight's talk by Mikael Colville-Andersen on bicycle design for cities reminded me of the Sarducci routine. Andersen's talk was entertaining, of course. But during the questions from the audience, someone asked him how he felt about Vancouver's bike network. We had already seen the slide of the broken chair which can still support a grown man standing on it, just like the bike infrastructure. But with that question, Andersen got serious, and took the city to task for ignoring the "best practices", just copying and pasting, and instead built things like two-way separated lanes which Copenhagen had tried and tossed out 20 years ago.

This isn't the first time I've heard something like this. But after spending decades in various North American cities dodging errant BMWs and other sundry 4-wheeled scum while trying to get from point A to B, I was like that guy in the well, just happy to have a few crumbs of separated bikeways tossed my way. And forgetting how it should be.

Now that we know that one separated lane on the Burrard Bridge doesn't have morning rush hour traffic backed up 16 blocks -- it's more or less like it was before the lane change -- it's time to put in the separate northbound lane and return the east sidewalk to the pedestrians.  I personally don't mind the two-way lanes on Hornby and Dunsmiur, but I can see how less-seasoned riders might. If they need to be included to meet the city's goals for 2040, then finish the job and put in dedicated one-way lanes on Richards and Georgia to complement the other two.

But then I also used to make my own lunches back in elementary school with Venice Bakery's airline-style buns. Shows you what people will put up with when they don't know any better.

Andersen's talk will probably find its way online somewhere, but you can hear the gist of his talk at Wednesday's interview on The Current

And if anyone can find the Sarducci sketch I mentioned, please let me know.  I vaguely recall he read some of his correspondence with the airline in question, where they apologized for the meal that didn't meet his expectations, and he said that he wasn't referring to a specific meal. He was referring to the Platonic notion of an airplane meal (which is now more of a Buddhist ideal).

The Fridays sketch is just a placeholder. Think of it as an incentive to get someone to find the clip in mind. I need to refresh that 30-year-old memory.

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