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Vancouver Is 'True North' for Seattle Bike Lane Advocates

In Seattle, securing every new bike lane seems like a "tooth and nail" fight. But across a border to the north, vigorous initial opposition melted away as a connected system took shape.
May 1, 2018, 10am PDT | Philip Rojc | @PhilipRojc
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Paul Krueger

"In Seattle," David Gutman writes, "every bike lane, whether it's just a painted white line or a fully separated, landscaped bikeway, seems to be fought tooth and nail, in a never-ending battle over precious street space." But in Vancouver, the battle's over. Bike lanes have emerged triumphant.

Weaving together a connected system, rather than simply installing isolated bike-friendly stretches, has been integral to increased use. "As recently as nine years ago, not a single protected bike lane existed in downtown Vancouver. Now, you can stand downtown at the corner of Hornby and Dunsmuir streets, in the heart of the city's financial district, and bike for miles in almost any direction, physically separated from car traffic."

Two decades ago, motorists and businesses ridiculed Vancouver's halting first attempts. But over time, a "sea change" in public opinion took place as advocates and the city kept pushing bike lanes and studying their effects. Gutman notes that Vancouver cyclists don't have to contend with Seattle's hills. "But with similar weather and a similar culture, the city is pushing forward — haltingly — hoping it can build a network of connected bike lanes as successful as Vancouver's."

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Published on Monday, April 23, 2018 in The Seattle Times
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