Vancouver Courier article - 17 April 2005
Highway expansion money better spent on bikes
By Mike Howell-Staff writer
The provincial government should take the $1.4 billion it will spend to twin the Port Mann Bridge and widen the Trans-Canada Highway and instead buy a bicycle for every person in the Lower Mainland.
That might seem like a far-fetched idea, but Deanne LaRocque of Better Environmentally Sound Transportation (BEST) said it would encourage more people to park their cars and get on a bike.
"If you look around North America, there is no case example that says widening a highway has decreased congestion," LaRocque said. "If you build it, cars will come-but the same thing goes if you build more bike paths."
LaRocque's comments come after a Commercial Drive activist group, Citizens Concerned with Highway Expansion, released a survey Monday of traffic counts on the Port Mann Bridge.
Counting vehicles on a morning and evening rush hour, and on a Saturday afternoon, the group discovered most vehicles were occupied by just one person.
For example, on the afternoon rush between 4:15 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. on March 16, the group counted 4,880 single-occupancy vehicles travelling east on the Port Mann Bridge.
The data confirms the assumption of David Fields, spokesman for the citizens' group, which is opposed to the government's Gateway Project. Fields believes the project would only bring more cars to Vancouver. He'd rather see an improved transit system, bike lanes and more carpooling.
Even though the government has agreed to public consultation on the project, Fields said the Liberals have already said they're going ahead with the plan.
"We're not interested in talking about what colour [the bridge] will be, we don't want it at all," he said.
In a March 8 speech to the Vancouver Board of Trade, Transportation Minister Kevin Falcon said the project will bring "flexibility" to expand HOV lanes, add commercial transit lanes and allow transit to go over the Port Mann.
"You can't have public transit on that corridor because it's too congested," Falcon said. "There's not a possibility that public transit could keep to any kind of a schedule in the most congested corridor in the Lower Mainland."
Falcon also noted the expansion would allow for bicycle lanes, but he wasn't specific where they would be located or how many would be included in the design.
While the debate continues, LaRocque strives to get more people out of their cars to use alternative modes of transportation. Since 1997, BEST has consulted with 600 companies about helping their employees commute to work in a more environmentally friendly way.
Part of that change has come by encouraging companies to add showers, storage for bicycles and assigning a staff member to take a BEST course on what commuting options are available.
"There are people who want to do something for the environment, or for themselves, but they're not necessarily sure how that would work," she said.
"We're kind of led to believe that we have to buy cars to get to work."
posted on 04/18/2005