Wellington West and the problem with marginal improvements

On Friday, Bridgehead–supposed social justice advocates of the coffee industry–came out very strongly against bike (and street) (and pedestrian) safety. As the city works to improve safety along Beechwood, including implementing bike lanes, Bridgehead decided that the threat to the parking across the street (not to the street parking in front of their business, nor their parking lot) was just too much.

They failed to mention that the proposed re-development of Beechwood would lead to a net increase in on-street parking, but I digress…

Here’s their position:


Bridgehead eventually apologized, though they stuck with their “better balance” argument.

But this isn’t just an issue with a company stepping in it, or with people feeling it’s okay to put cyclists (and pedestrians) (and other motorists) in peril in order to prioritize parking (even if it’s not proven to be a wise economic choice). No, this is also an issue in which a bare minimum attempt to make our streets safer can be used as a rhetorical tool to try to block actual, concrete improvements to our city.

The Wellington West Dooring Zone project is an interesting idea, academically-speaking. Though we know that sharrows, alone, have a deleterious effect on safety, it is possible that including a painted dooring zone (for all the well-deserved scorn it has received) may be a marginal improvement over the status quo.

But, in the end, we know that paint isn’t really infrastructure. We know that the best way to improve bicycle safety (and get more people out on bikes!) is to build segregated bike lanes.

Forget talk about the perfect being the enemy of the good. What we have just seen is Bridgehead making the possibly-not-totally-horrible the enemy of the good. In this situation, the city has created an absurdly low expectation for bicycle (and street) (and pedestrian) safety.

I was open to the Wellington West project. I didn’t want to pre-judge it. I wanted to wait until the research was in before passing judgement. However, if it is going to be used to block other safety improvement efforts, I won’t care what little benefit it might have. We shouldn’t tolerate such half measures.

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