A ride, and a rebuttal

25 06 2010

It’s fitting that my ride on the last Friday of Bike Month achieved a number of firsts.

• It was my first ride of the season without tights, a jacket, full-finger gloves, or warmers of any kind; we’re finally getting some summer weather!

• As a consequence of the former, it was also the first time I had to do a full-on application of sun screen; hello tan!

• I also stopped to enjoy my first street ‘dog of the season. Yeah, not the healthiest lunch, but there’s something simply sublime about a well-grilled smokie garnished with raw onions, mustard and sauerkraut.

Mmmmm, hot dog!

• It was my first round-trip ride to The Stan, otherwise known as Stanley Park.

I've no idea why the flags are at half-staff at Stanley Park. The first anniversary of Michael Jackson's death, perhaps?

• Which means it was also my first 100+ kilometer ride of the season; 103.64 km to be exact.

My first 100km ride of the season! Albeit much later than usual.

Unfortunately, all of those accomplishments came at least a month later than they usually do; last year my first 100 km ride happened on March 13. That’s how crummy our spring/early summer has been.

Riding to The Stan necessitates traversing the Burrard Bridge. Before last year, that crossing was always the source of heart-stuttering anxiety; bikes were confined to the narrow sidewalks, battling for space with often oblivious pedestrians. And with the road more than a foot below the sidewalks, there was no margin for error.

Last year Vancouver council decided to close one lane of the bridge to car traffic and turn it over to cyclists. They also gave the full northbound sidewalk to bikes and confined pedestrians to their own southbound sidewalk.

Now the crossing is pleasant and stress-free.

Except to some blowhard dinosaur motorists.

Like the host of the afternoon drive show on the local all-sports talk radio station, David Pratt.

One afternoon last week he kicked off his show with a 10-minute rant against cyclists. By the end of it, he all but encouraged motorists to start running cyclists off the road. My jaw was agape. Katie also heard it and she was outraged.

What set off his hate-filled vitriolic diatribe was a recent decision by Vancouver council to build a bike lane on another of the bridges serving the downtown core.

Now, I don’t listen to sports talk radio expecting to hear intelligent, well-reasoned discourse and debate. Mostly it’s just background noise while I’m in the car, with the occasional nugget that catches my attention.

Mr. Pratt’s anti-cyclist crusade was an absolute turd.

According to Mr. Pratt, granola-chomping, non-tax paying, eco-terrorist cyclists have co-opted the local government and are plotting to squeeze the fossil-fuel guzzling car into extinction because he’s lost access to one lane for his ten minute drive from his downtown condo to his station’s studio.

Of course, if Mr. Pratt got out of his Mercedes and walked the 20 minutes or so it would take him to do that commute on foot, or, better yet, ride a bike, he might not be so prone to getting stressed out by the inconvenience these new bikes lanes are apparently causing him.

It’s his contention that the bikes lanes, built to serve only a handful of cyclists, are causing unnecessary traffic congestion, making it impossible for motorists to get into the downtown, likely scaring many of them away from ever venturing there.

But his argument quickly falls apart.

The lanes aren’t being built just for existing cyclists, but to create a safe environment to encourage future cyclists to park their cars and get on their bikes now that they can get to work reasonably assured that they won’t be run over by a bus.

And where is this choking traffic congestion of which he speaks? At rush hour? Well, that’s always been the case, even before the bike lane. But certainly not in the middle of a Friday afternoon.

Everything is calm and orderly on the Burrard Bridge in the middle of a Friday afternoon.

As often occurs when car-loving dinosaurs rant against cyclists, Mr. Pratt’s characterization of cyclists as scofflaws who don’t pay taxes and yet have the gall to claim a right to a piece of the road paid for totally by motorists is based entirely on ignorance.

By law, bikes are recognized as vehicles with the same rights and responsibilities to the road as a Ferrari or semi-tractor trailer. Sure there’s some cyclists who take advantage of that recognition to do pretty much whatever they please, usually at their peril. But there’s just as many motorists who speed, blow yellow and red lights, roll through stop signs, change lanes or make turns without signaling. It’s up to the police to enforce traffic laws upon whoever abuses them. And it’s up to everyone to take responsibility for their actions on the roads, whether we’re on two wheels or four.

As for not paying taxes, I wonder if Mr. Pratt could point to the line in the Revenue Canada tax forms that asks whether I’m a cyclist, and then absolves me from paying tax; heck, if that was the case, I could afford to buy a new Pinarello or DeRosa every year!

News flash Mr. Pratt; most cyclists have jobs, that means we DO pay federal and provincial taxes. Most of us aren’t homeless, which means we also pay municipal property taxes, either directly as homeowners, or as a share of rent payments as tenants. And many of us aren’t so puritanical that we also don’t drive cars.

So yeah Mr. Pratt, we’ve also helped pay for those very roads upon which we choose to ride our bikes. Get over yourself, and your prehistoric ways.

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