Recently, I’ve been writing…well, tweeting…a lot about pro-biking, pro-pedestrian and pro-car attitudes and policies. It should be clear where I come out. The city should be operating with a slight anti-car bias. There are a number of reasons for this: it makes more fiscal sense, it’s more environmentally sustainable, it’s better for our health, it’s better for our security and it’s better for the local economy. It also makes for a more liveable city, but that’s more value-based than the other reasons.
Further, street design should prioritize the safety of the most vulnerable. Taking up the operation of a two tonne death machine comes with it burdens. We accept that sort of thinking in just about any other circumstance, but cars are treated as a special case.
All that being said, if I were to get my way in most or all of the policy debates that we’re currently having, the result would not be an anti-car city. It would result in a car-agnostic city. Indeed, it would merely balance all modes of transportation. The city would be mode-agnostic.
All in all, cars would still get the bulk of the space out there. Sure, the downtown would be turned over to pedestrian, bikes, transit and cars, in that order of priority, but as you made your way out of the central neighbourhoods, street space would start to tip towards cars.
Not every bike lane would need to be as wide as car lanes. Not every street will require a bike lane. Some streets may not even require sidewalks. And once you got out to the exurb and rural areas, you’d really see car accommodation flourish.
Yes, there will definitely be places that will be very anti-car. We need to be anti-car for RedBlacks games, for instance. We simply don’t have the capacity to accommodate 27,000 driving to Lansdowne. We’d be turning our central neighbouhoods into freeways for that.
Similarly, there are attractions that will need to be reached primarily by drivers. LRT isn’t going to the Cumberland Museum (that I know of), and I don’t think it’s a big enough draw to demand it. Even on busy days, the traffic infrastructure isn’t overwhelmed, and their parking lot doesn’t eat into the space necessary to present all the Museum has to offer.
So when central councillors and whatever politically-minded urbanists start talking about bike lanes, prioritizing transit and making streets safe for pedestrians, it’s not an anti-car message (even if an anti-car message would benefit the city). It’s a re-calibration. It’s an attempt to bring balance to our transportation network, and provide a little more accommodation, convenience and safety to residents whose needs have long been sacrificed to driving culture.
So if we make some improvements to the core, and if you can no longer drive and park anywhere you want, it’s not a war on cars; it’s not not attacking drivers; it’s merely no longer over-privileging drivers.