Not everyone can ride a bike

When discussing making our streets safer and implementing proper bike lanes, one of the most banal and irritating counters is that “not everyone can ride a bike”. It came up on Twitter last week during discussions about Bridgehead’s ridiculous stance on street safety on Beechwood.

Not everyone can ride a bike.

You don’t say.

Obviously, not everyone can ride a bike, and, obviously, not every trip is conducive to bicycling. And if anyone was advocating the complete removal of all transportation infrastructure except bike lanes, then that statement might actually mean something.

Because in all our discussions about bike lanes, Complete Streets, sustainable transit, wider sidewalks, pedestrian space and so on, no one is talking about getting rid of car infrastructure. On Beechwood, cars will still be able to drive wherever the hell they please, if the proposed plan is implemented. (In fact, with that plan, there will be even more parking spaces for them.)

Do you know what else is true, yet actually pertains to these discussions? Not everyone can drive a car. Age, income, physical impairment–these are all impediments to driving, and they can, in some cases, be addressed with a bike.

And not everyone can ride a bike or drive a car. That’s why we need transit and proper pedestrian infrastructure. That’s the whole point of things like Complete Streets. Done properly, this philosophy seeks to ensure that everyone is accommodated, not just drivers. It balances needs and vulnerabilities, establishing priorities for street design.

In very few situations does anyone need to drive a car. You want to get downtown? Take the bus. You don’t live near a bus route? Park-n-Ride. Rack-n-Roll. You don’t have to be able to drive all the way to your preferred destination. You just need to get there.

So, no, not everyone can ride a bike. Not everyone can drive a car. Not everyone can take a bus. If you’re going to spout one as a necessary consideration for street design, you need to follow up with the other two, otherwise no one should ever take you seriously, ever again.

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