Comment 99697

By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted April 03, 2014 at 06:19:18 in reply to Comment 99689

The reason we're not like those European cities is that they have spent the past 30-40 years making different planning decisions than we have been making.

In the 1970s, most European cities looked very much like their North American counterparts: steadily widening streets, heavy automobile traffic, rapidly falling rates of walking, cycling and transit. In cities like Amsterdam and Copenhagen, for example, the cycling modal share was in the very low single digits before the modern resurgence of cycling began.

Then, starting after the first OPEC crisis, many European cities began to reduce their reliance on the automobile (partly in response to the fact that Europe imports most of its oil and is thus vulnerable to price shocks). Instead of widening streets, they built separated bike lanes. Instead of running urban expressways through city centres, they began building modern LRT lines (after having previously ripped out their old streetcar lines, just like us). Instead of starving their transit budgets, they increased them, boosting service levels to the point that transit became a viable option for more people.

My favourite example is Paris, a city in which cycling was virtually unheard-of just a couple of decades ago. Starting in the mid-'90s, after a new medical study found that air pollution was killing far too many Parisians and a Metro workers strike ground the city to a halt, city officials decided to invest in a cycling network. People scoffed - "This is Paris. No one rides a bike! Besides, where will the bike lanes go? Our streets are already congested with cars!"

But the city embarked on an ambitious plan to install hundreds of kilometres of new bike lanes. Also, since most Parisians live in apartments and the buildings have only tiny retrofitted elevators, the City also established a municipal bike-share program with over 20,000 bikes at 2,000 stations around the city.

Spoiler alert: Paris has become a cycling city.

Cycling in Paris

The only way Hamilton is not "equivalent" to these cities is that we have stubbornly resisted making the policy decisions that are proven to change the evolution of the city and provide people with the option for a more balanced set of choices in how to get around.

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