NSV Candidates for City Council – Group Responses ~ Nicole Benson, Marie Kerchum, Terry Martin, Elizabeth Murphy
Vancouver Area Cycling Coalition, November 10, 2011
Q1. What is your relationship with cycling?
A (Nicole Benson): I have been cycling since I was a little girl and it is my preferred mode of transportation, especially in the summer.
A (Randy Helten, mayoral candidate): The bicycle is my primary means of mobility in Vancouver.
Q2. Do you believe that cycling is a viable form of transportation?
A: Yes, absolutely.
Q3. How would you support the expansion of separated bike lanes on key routes? If you are not in support, please explain why.
A: Separated lanes are proving successful in many cities and have a role to play in Vancouver. Routes must be selected with care based on rigorous criteria and meaningful public consultation and, where community support is demonstrated, implemented on a trial basis. Trials must be carefully monitored, and if problems are identified (e.g. safety issues, transit delays, significant impacts to businesses) these must be corrected or successfully mitigated prior to the lanes being approved on a permanent basis.
Q4. If elected, would you aim to increase or decrease cycling funding from current levels? What would be the ideal cycle funding ratio in Vancouver? Can you recommend a percentage (or an amount) of the transportation budget that should be devoted to developing cycling infrastructure and programs?
A: NSV policy is that spending priorities will be determined through public consultation and be consistent with existing Local Area Plans (Community Plans) and Vision Directions unless these are amended through a CityPlan process that includes resident surveys. NSV has no plans to decrease current levels of funding. Our preference is that transportation infrastructure be primarily funded through polluter-pay sources rather than downloaded on property taxes.
Q5. We believe there is an urgent need to increase funding for cycling education and promotion/programs as well as infrastructure. Would you support mandatory spending on cycling education and promotion/programs in addition to infrastructure?
A: NSV does not at present have a policy in regard to spending on cycling education. However, since we sincerely support cycling as an essential and highly sustainable mode of transport, it would follow that appropriate and sufficient funding be put in place to make the most of public investments in cycling infrastructure through dissemination of relevant information. In this regard, the best bang-for-the-buck can be achieved by working with advocacy groups such as VACC, the City’s Bicycle Advisory Group, etc., in consort with neighbourhood-based groups, such as CityPlan Committees and Area Councils (and Neighbourhood Councils, if and when these are established) to develop policy and produce programs, including outreach and communication.
Q6. How do you envision cycling fitting into Vancouver’s long-term transportation plan?
A: The bicycle is the most energy-efficient transport device that has ever been devised. Moreover, improvements in bicycle technology are ongoing. Examples include bicycle trailers, enclosures, rain apparel and electric-assist systems (which make hills more manageable and extend practical range). For an increasing number of residents cycling is proving to be a healthy and cost-effective personal transport alternative to owning a car (the bicycle, in conjunction with walking, public transit, car-share and taxis can provide a comprehensive and economical transportation system for individuals and families). Peak oil and the imperative to reduce our carbon footprint can be expected to continue to propel demand and innovation in cycling technology and mode share. Through its role in policing, the City needs to devise better strategies and practices to prevent bike theft. TransLink need to do a better job of integrating cycling and our public transit system, and the City of Vancouver has a responsibility to further that objective. There is little doubt that cycling in various forms will play a major role in Vancouver’s long-term transportation future. One of the advantages of cycling is that existing infrastructure can be relatively and smoothly adapted to accommodate cycling. By assuming a significant and growing role for cycling in our transportation planning, we can reduce the costs of providing transportation infrastructure. We must ensure that as Vancouver’s population grows (and our streets shrink as sidewalks are widened to accommodate pedestrians) that car ownership will increasingly be viewed as a choice, not a necessity.
Q7. Public bike share programs have become popular in cities from Montreal to London and Stockholm. None of these cities legally require cyclists to wear a helmet. Melbourne does require helmets and has seen their bike share remain unsuccessful. Do you support a public bike share program, and how would you propose Vancouver learn from the lessons learned in Melbourne?
A: We support developing a bike share program for Vancouver, but are concerned that it be well designed with the necessary factors in place for success. If it fails because of low usage and/or heavy subsidies It could be a long time before it is attempted again, and that would be a pity. The Melbourne program appears to be underused and over-subsidized for a combination of reasons, one of which is the helmet law. When their law was enacted about 15 years ago, cycling dropped off by more than a third, and has never fully recovered. Helmets are now available at low cost (about $5) at shops near some of the bike-share stations, but it remains to be seen if this will make a difference. Cycling in Vancouver is gaining in popularity despite the helmet requirement—our cool and frequently wet climate makes helmet use less onerous–but we acknowledge that requiring helmets would make a successful bike-share program more of an uphill climb. This is a difficult dilemma. Some of us have friends that were in cycling accidents and might now be suffering permanent brain damage were it not for head protection. We understand though that most cities worldwide do not require helmets and there is little statistical evidence that helmet laws actually reduce the rate of injuries. In fact, in some cities it appears the rate of injury may actually have increased after helmet use was required and decreased following rescinding of the regulation. The reasons for this are unclear, but it may be that head protection gives some cyclists and/or motorists a false sense of security which leads unconsciously to less due care. If this is the case, then it needs to be addressed through education and public awareness regardless of whether helmet use is required. While NSV is not prepared at this point to advocate rescinding the helmet rule, we think that there needs to be an informed public conversation on both the helmet bylaw and the type of bike share program that would be most likely to succeed in Vancouver. If the weight of opinion—especially among cyclists—favoured making helmet use optional, a prudent next step would be a 2 or 3-year trial, during which time adults would not be required to wear helmets. If other factors were in place (e.g. sufficient seed funding, ample station locations, theft prevention, etc.) it would make sense to initiate a bike share program at that time. The trial could provide accurate and meaningful comparisons between pre and post-trial injury rates (especially serious head injuries), as well as changes in mode share resulting from the trial recent ion.
Q8. What type of improvements would encourage you to cycle more?
A: Reduced threat of bicycle theft.
A (Nicole Benson): I already bike a lot so I don’t need much encouragement but I would like to see a continued focus on designated bike routes.
A (Randy Helten): I’m already a frequent cyclist, so not likely to increase much further. But more bicycle lock up spots are needed in some places. Some schools need more covered bicycle parking. I’m sure there are many other things that could be done and we can learn a lot from public input as well as good practices in other cities.
Q9. Secure bike storage has been identified as a major impediment for Vancouver cyclists and would-be cyclists. Will you provide funding to ensure cycle end-of-trip facilities in Vancouver are dramatically increased?
A: We would consult the public citywide and on a neighbourhood by neighbourhood basis to determine the degree of funding appropriate, and the source of funding, e.g. general or targeted property taxation, development cost levies, community amenity contributions, polluter pay revenue (e.g. from fuel/carbon tax) etc.
Q10. What do you think could be done to improve the relationship between cyclists and motorists on Vancouver’s roads?
A: Better education in road sharing for both motorists and cyclists. More emphasis needs to be given to the needs and rights of pedestrians and cyclists in driving courses and exams. Consideration should be given to requiring that children and youths (e.g. under 16 years) be required to pass a bicycle safety course (which could be administered through school board) before cycling on streets.
Q11. What do you see as the main benefits of increasing the number of cyclists in Vancouver? (Health, environment, community, etc?)
A: All the above. Cycling is an integral part of an efficient and comprehensive urban transportation system.
Q12. What do you think can be done to make cycling in Vancouver safer?
A: Separated lanes on key routes (to be determined through detailed analysis of options, informed by empirical evidence, local knowledge and neighbourhood support—but not necessarily using massive concrete barriers or by eliminating motor vehicle parking, which provides a buffer for pedestrians on sidewalks and is needed for commerce in neighbourhood centres. Better education of cyclists and motorists in regard to road-sharing practices, and stepped-up enforcement targeted to where and when it would be most effective.