What about the potholes?

Bicycle lanes a lovely thought, but fix the pot holes first

Forget utopia and fix the potholes. We all want to live in a beautiful place. It’s nice to imagine a superbly healthy population walking, hiking, and riding bikes along Ribbons of Green while a soft breeze stirs the leaves of a tree-shaded city. It’s a lovely thought that someday our compliant citizens will all wend their way slowly through the city on public transit, stopping here and there to inhale fresh spring air with a great big happy smile.

But that’s not reality. It’s not reality now and it won’t be reality in the future.

It’s neither fun nor safe to bike in the winter, and winter is an unfortunate part of our material plane here in Vernon. Slipping and sliding along an ice-encrusted hiking  trail isn’t most people’s idea of a good time either, and I dare say most senior citizens aren’t going to strap on snowshoes and set out to slog over hill-and-dale in the name of fitness.

And using public transit as a principle form of transportation is always a much better idea for someone else to follow than it is for ourselves.

I’ll hazard a guess that most people, including the folks who argue most vigorously for it, aren’t about to take the bus themselves on a regular basis.

This disconnect between what some folks imagine and what reality dictates has become a real problem in Vernon. It’s one thing to dream about Never-Neverland, but quite another to spend taxpayers’ money preparing for it.

Shrinking roads and destroying parking spots to accommodate hypothetical future cyclists is not only a waste of money, but actively counterproductive in a city already short of parking space. Trying to attract businesses (another annoying necessity in the real world) to a city with diminishing roadways and no parking will be an uphill battle at best.

Let me be the first to say that the intersection improvement at 25th Avenue and Highway 97 is wonderful, and as a bicycle enthusiast, I love the new bicycle and vehicle lanes. What I cannot understand is the current plan to turn 43rd Avenue into a three-lane, traffic-jam-in-the-making.

First, anyone who rides a bike knows very well that bicycle arteries in a grid-plan city are a non-starter. It’s easy to drive a car three blocks to cross Highway 97 at a light, but people on bikes will cross wherever they happen to be, because it takes significant effort to travel three or four blocks – which is to say that once all is said and done, 43rd Avenue is going to attract no more bikes than it did before, and the adjacent streets will have no fewer bikes than they did before.

Second, how are cyclists going to be any safer on a road with cars that have less room? Third, how are the businesses along 43rd Avenue going to survive without adequate parking?

Fourth, even if the idea wasn’t counterproductive, what makes it important enough to devote scarce resources towards in the middle of a recession? Meanwhile, existing roads are falling apart. City council needs to realign with reality and prioritize its resources. Forget utopia and fix the potholes.


Scott Anderson, Vernon



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