Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Defending the de Maisonneuve bike path

The critics of the excellent new downtown bike path are starting to pop up in the media.

The Montreal Gazette letters-to-the-editor section today printed a letter from letter from Mr Mark Lipson of Montreal concerning the hideous and awful proposed Griffintown urban redevelopment project. The letter featured his complaint against tax-payer funded subsidies for urban projects.

Then out of the blue and without any logical reason (ok, any reason that my small brain could find) Mr Lipson then compared the Griffintown project with the new east-west cross-downtown bike path on de Maisonneuve boulevard.
"Given the extravagance of the de Maisonneuve Blvd. bicycle path vs the pragmatic/miserly (but very effective) approach of the Westmount portion..."
Mr Lipson makes two big statements here that I take issue with:
  • extravagance of the de Maisonneuve Blvd. bicycle path
  • very effective approach of the westmount portion
Let's take the second point first.

The simple lines-painted-on-the-road and occasional plastic posts used to define the path in Westmount are very effective. But this is because this street in Westmount is comparatively suburban, non-commercial, and filled with with polite Westmount drivers. Yes it is very effective in the low-traffic Westmount part of de Maisonneuve Blvd, but this is a VERY different context from the kinds of crazy driving that goes on in downtown Montreal.

Illegal parking on bike paths, no separation of traffic flows from what is basically a busy urban expressway, in the downtown core cyclists need more protection from cars than the other way around. (Which is, essentially, the Westmount approach: to protect the cars from the bicycles!)

Government operates legitimately when it protects the safety of the weaker and more vulnerable users of the traffic system.

Mr Lipson's second point is about the cost of the de Maisonneuve bicycle path's new construction. I'd like to know what Mr Lipson thinks how much what is essentially building a new road through the downtown should cost? Could we have just placed "New Jersey" concrete barriers between the car and the bicycle lanes? Would lines painted on the road been a safe alternative to the hundreds and the thousands of people (young and old, large and small, fast and slow) who can now ride safely to work through downtown every day, at every time of the day, including the busiest part of rush hour?

What I take issue with the most is his argument framing the bicycle path as "extravagant." This is a propaganda technique to train people to associate new taxpayer-funded construction (any new taxpayer funded infrastructure, including roads, and soon: our hospitals) as extravagant, a luxury, a waste of taspayer's money, and something that is frankly, a bad bad thing.

Is this new bike path a bad thing?

In as few words as possible: Hell no!

The new bike path is a great thing.
  • It gets cars off the road: cleaner air
  • It gets car's off the road: smaller traffic jams
  • Lets more people enter downtoan daily without requiring additional car infrastructure
  • It's good for people's health to exercise daily
  • Montreal is a compact city ideal to use the bike for trips of 5 km or less.
  • Montreal has high density urban population, with fewer cars than the urban cdn norm, again ideal situation where not every household has one (or more!) cars.
  • Families can now travel downtown in safety: on bike!
  • sooner or later it's going to cost too much to use gas to drive to work, we're preparing for this with the path
  • if there's a sudden oil crisis (oil supply shortages - remember the 1970's) then more bikes will need to be used. Actually if there's no oil, there's no cars, but then we will have wished we had bought a lot more metro cars!

It is best if you just to skip over this next part, and just go to the next blog entry!

Frankly I wouldn't be surprised if My Lipson is a member of an anti-tax group infiltrating our media with letters like this to shape public opinion against any public-funded projects. These groups ultimate goal is to end the Canadian practice of using government spending as a tool of public policy to make beneficial changes in the lives of Canadians.

These groups are funded by wealthy individuals who, frankly want more money for the rich and screw (and starve) the rest of us. The rich can live in exclusive gated communities with private police forces and force the rest of us to live in slave-like conditions in a surveillance society "totalitarian democracy" where "survival of the richest" is the only rule.

Or did I just drink too much coffee today?


At 5:04 PM, Blogger MikeD said...

Excellent post. My thinking exactly. And you didn't have too much coffee today.


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