By Kirk Grayson/Special to The News
Here’s what I used to think were the reasons everyone gets in their car to go anywhere.
They’re going to work.
They work somewhere else.
Public transit doesn’t go where they’re headed.
It’s too far to bike or walk.
But I was wrong.
Turns out, we get in our cars because it’s convenient, fast, easy, and we feel safe.
About two thirds of all trips that begin in Maple Ridge or Pitt Meadows, end here too.
But short as these local trips are, we still take the car 85 per cent of the time. And in a not-very-mysterious correlation, more than half of our district-wide greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) come from the cars and trucks on our roads.
Other places do it differently. Take Copenhagen, where 62 per cent of the population now commutes by bicycle to work or school each day.
A decade ago, Copenhagen’s city hall was facing a crisis.
Their transportation infrastructure was aging, and they couldn’t afford all the upgrades needed for existing roadways – never mind future growth.
At the same time, they recognized the urgent need to reduce GHGs and had set an ambitious target to become carbon neutral by 2025. This inspite of expected population growth of 20 per cent during the coming decade – and the city’s desire to encourage, not constrain, economic development.
They knew that changing the picture of mobility – how people get from point A to point B and back – would be one of the keys.
The city planners came up with a nervy new idea.
How about expanding and enhancing existing cycling facilities?
It would cost a fraction of the price of building and maintaining roads.
Would this throttle the urgent need for car-based infrastructure?
Would people actually use the new bikeways, saving money, lowering emissions and boosting their health to boot?
What would it take to get lazy Danes out of their cars and onto their bikes?
The planners surveyed citizens to learn what mattered to them.
They set targets for numbers of trips taken by bike and public transit vs. car.
They brought in experts to design safe, efficient cycling paths.
They began to build.
And as the cycling network spread throughout the city and more and more Copenhageners took to their bikes, the city planners went back and asked what motivated them to do it.
Was it because it was the cleaner, greener thing to do?
From most-cited reason to least, the Danes said they were hopping on their bikes because it was faster, easier, better exercise, cheaper, more convenient, and oh yes, a measly seven per cent of them were doing it because it was better for the environment.
That’s how I know why we use our cars for the same trips the Danes now make by bike.
The city of Copenhagen has made it so darn convenient and safe to cycle that they prefer their bikes, looking for the same payback we only get from cars (minus the health and financial benefits).
This inspiring success story started with a problem, an opportunity and an idea.
Today in Maple Ridge we’re at the same point.
Our problem? All of Canada is suffering from aging infrastructure (roads, bridges, plumbing, etc.) and the needed upgrades look pricey.
And Maple Ridge is expecting a ton of population growth during the next few decades, which will lead to even worse congestion on our roads and more CO2 pouring into the atmosphere.
This year Maple Ridge’s strategic transportation plan is up for renewal.
It’s a five-year playbook that will carry us more than half-way through the precious decade we have to drop our emissions like the ton of breathable garbage they are.
We need our planners, engineers, and City council to bring us big, glorious ideas that will help us get around safely by bike and on foot, for those 60 per cent of trips that are local.
Ideas that will let us connect easily and safely with public transit when we need or want to go further.
Ideas that will get us walking to school and cycling to work, or to pick up the groceries, go to the park, or head downtown.
Ideas that will have us enjoying our longer, healthier lives.
And in return, we need to give them a resounding “Yes, please!”
In Maple Ridge’s new strategic transportation plan, let’s carve a little cash out of the roads-for-cars side of the ledger and plop it down on the bikes-and-feet side.
If there was ever a time to think globally and act locally, it would be now.
Maple Ridge Strategic Transportation Plan Report 2014 https://www.mapleridge.ca/DocumentCenter/View/3400/Strategic-Transportation-Plan-Final-Report—-October-16-2014?bidId=
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