The snow is melting, and with that comes hidden potholes and an annual conversation: cars versus bikes. Rose City Politics dives into the war on cars…or bikes.
Cars Rule & Bikes Drool! Or is it Bikes Rule & Cars Drool?
Oh the annual conversation, so tired, so outdated, so BORING.
We all want to get where we’re going faster, and that can mean a lot of different things to different people. In a world of fast-paced lives with a desire to travel with speed and convenience, it is increasingly difficult to escape the clutches of our automotive past, present, and potentially future, and rightfully so; that industry has employed generations in our region.
But, there is now war in Europe, continuous increases in fuel costs, and that volatility may push some to look towards a less volatile means of transportation: alternative transit or, dare I say, public transit!
Local radio broadcasts of the price at fuel pumps are now a weekly feature; this increased cost causes drivers to reevaluate their mileage and driving habits.
Blessed as we are in Windsor Essex, it’s not unusual to see multiple cars, and even a truck, in most driveways. When fuel is cheap, everyone drives with ease, but change that scenario and watch people realize just how important driving is: it is only a means to an end.
Across the world we have seen cities ban automobiles or charge excessive fees to enter world capitals, and global shipping companies are dealing with this by investing in bicycle fleets. Alternatives do exist.
While cycling is a healthier mode of transportation, it can come with additional stress during inclement weather, and not to mention when the infrastructure is inadequate or doesn’t even exist.
Let people make their own decisions, but also give them the options.
While we have trumped up the “right” to drive as a passage of entering adulthood, perhaps in the future it won’t be viewed as such. It’s up to everyone to choose their own. And that’s just fine.
The automobile, along with the freedom and personal mobility it has brought to millions of people in North America and around the world, was one of the most significant social and economic developments of the twentieth century. Windsor is an important part of that history and you don’t have to look far to see the ways that car culture pervades our community. We celebrate our association with automobiles and the auto industry. This is all true, but it does not alter the reality that political resistance to improving active transportation options is counterproductive.
Urbanists and environmental activists who advocate for better active transportation options are often vilified as participating in a “war on the car.” That kind of populist rhetoric is easy to deploy here, but Windsorites should reject it so that Windsor can continue to be liveable, affordable and attractive down the road.
The pendulum in Windsor has swung so far in the direction of car dependence that we are missing important opportunities to improve quality of life and make Windsor a more equitable place to live. Making life better for people who prefer to use active transportation will make life cheaper and better for everyone. Getting cars off the road by encouraging active transportation will reduce dependence on expensive road infrastructure, reduce our carbon footprint, and make driving more pleasant for those who choose to do so.
For evidence, we can look to our neighbors in Essex County. While Windsor’s cycling infrastructure has languished – embarrassingly, Windsor still does not have a single kilometer of protected bike lanes in a city of a quarter million people – Essex County has shown through the CWATS program that you can promote healthy alternatives to driving without negative impact on motorists. “War on the car” rhetoric is counterproductive nonsense that only holds us back.
Don Merrifield Jr.:
The “ Automotive Capital of Canada” seems to be unable to see itself as anything else. Automobiles have obviously been an integral part of the development and growth of our city for decades. But much like the disappearance of one of my favourite places growing up, Checker Flag Raceway, things do have to move forward or we get stuck in the past. As someone who has lived in other cities and travelled to many other cities it does confuse me how we continue to think of other forms of transportation as “crazy radical ideas” or just an insult to the history of our community.
Simple things like protected bike lanes, sidewalks, and other forms of alternative transportation seem to be beyond the grasp of the people running and planning for our city. The fact that areas like Lasalle or Colchester have bicycle specific infrastructure and Windsor on a relative basis is lacking, should really be an embarrassment. Those areas don’t even have a transit system.
Much fanfare has been made by our politicians of all the funding going into roads and sewers after decades of neglect. But the fact that most, if not all, new road construction doesn’t by default include some sort of separated and protected bicycle lanes is ridiculous. If anyone believes that a painted white line on a road next to the curb that includes garbage and sewer grates is “biking infrastructure” they should stop breathing so much car exhaust fumes.
With an election coming you will hear much talk about active transportation as we did the past 2 or 3 elections. If you believe that it will result in any significant change, I encourage you to hop on your Unicorn and ride down to city hall using the dedicated “Unicorn Only” lanes and congratulate the Mayor, Council, and administration on their accomplishments.