Sunday, April 22, 2007

Pop a Wheelie.

In (very late) honour of Earth Day, some interesting information from an article in the current issue of the Canadian Institute of Planners' publication Plan Canada. This article, written by John Pucher and Ralph Buehler, is entitled Cycling in Canada and the United States: Why Canadians are so far ahead. (Misleading title, by the way - as if some self-congratulation is in order...instead of which, no matter how "far ahead" we are, we still only use bikes for about 2% of work trips.) I am bulleting this information ruthlessly: there's a lot more where this came from, trust me. (Also: Emphasis mine - all mine.)

You might want to grab a cup of fairly-traded joe, by the way: this post is long and random, though its components are bound together by a strong theme: "We're Freaking Doomed".

One might assume that the colder climate in Canada would deter cycling and thus lead to a lower bike share of urban travel in Canada than in the United States. [But]the Yukon Territory - roughly the same latitude as Alaska - has a bike share of work trips more than twice as high as California's (2.0% vs. 0.8%) and more than three times as high as Florida's (0.6%).

...higher densities and mixed-use development in Canadian cities promote even greater transit use, while the lower densities and single-use zoning in most American cities encourage car use. ...Canadian cities [are found to be] 50% to 152% denser than US cities.

...lower levels of car ownership in Canada encourage cycling, just as they encourage transit use. Canadians have 41% fewer cars and light trucks per capita than Americans. Not only are incomes lower in Canada [average $30,500 USD vs. $37,000 USD], but the overall costs of owning and operating a car are higher. Perhaps most strikingly, gasoline prices in Canada have been about 50% higher than in the US over the entire period from 1990 to 2003. parking in Canada is less available and more expensive than in the United States...American cities, on average, set minimum parking requirements three times higher than in Canadian cities.

The greater availability of transit services in Canada complements bike use by serving those trips too long to cycle, thus facilitating a less car-dependent lifestyle. ...Canadians average 46 transit trips a year compared to only 24 transit trips per American.

Canadian cities average almost three times as many kilometres of bike paths and lanes per capita as the American cities sampled. [These stats] do not include signed bike routes on roadways or traffic-calmed residential streets....

One obvious factor that can discourage cycling is the risk of death and injury in traffic crashes. Graph 2 shows rates of cycling fatalities per 100 million kilometres cycled in each of seven European and two North American countries.

While the bike share of work trips is three times higher in Canada than in the US, it still represents only about one percent of trips, a very small share indeed. ...many European cities have fully integrated, comprehensive bikeway networks, something that no Canadian city currently offers.

Forgive me for a moment while I stagger in shock at the news that Canadians average only 46 transit trips per year. What?!?! That means Canadians only take the bus/train every EIGHT DAYS.

Take the quiz and find out just how awful you really are. Telling the painful truth about things, I end up at 4.7 global hectares. Apparently, if everyone lived like me, we would need 2.6 planets.


Sometimes I worry about how dependent North American - and particularly US - culture is on oil and gas. Sometimes I think those who have a vested interest in such things might be willing to go to diabolical lengths to maintain their fossil-fuel-driven lifestyle.

Realistically, we Canadians are married to the US. If They go down, We go down. Eventually we're all going to be out of oil...They might run out before We do. When that happens, what will become of us, the pacific northern neighbour with all that nice black sand, and all the pretty sparkling miles of protected oceans?

Hey, no worries, right? Dubya himself said we're in this together. Boy we're lucky.

By the way - here is another addition to my ongoing meme. Probably unnecessary considering the content of this post.

3- I literally lie awake nights worrying about the state of the planet and the fact that I might have doomed my precious children and all our subsequent descendants, by the act of creating them, to a short cramped life in some biosphere somewhere, maybe on the ocean floor where the toxic rays of the fiery sun are filtered and therefore unable to instantaneously burn the flesh from their helpless bodies. Like Battle School - the water you drink has been through everyone's kidneys seven times.

And yet, with all that going on in my head, I still manage to worry that the gelato dispenser scorns me.

Lastly, a bit of beauty to soften the ragged edges of this random post.

Ode to Bicycles

I was walking
a sizzling road:
the sun popped like
a field of blazing maize,
was hot,
an infinite circle
with an empty
blue sky overhead.

A few bicycles
me by,
the only
that dry
moment of summer,
barely stirred
the air.

Workers and girls
were riding to their
their eyes
to summer,
their heads to the sky,
sitting on the
beetle backs
of the whirling
that whirred
as they rode by
bridges, rosebushes, brambles
and midday.

I thought about evening when
the boys
wash up,
sing, eat, raise
a cup
of wine
in honor
of love
and life,
and waiting
at the door,
the bicycle,
only moving
does it have a soul,
and fallen there
it isn't
a translucent insect
through summer
a cold
that will return to
when it's needed,
when it's light,
that is,
of each day.

Pablo Neruda

Yes, I was very tempted to mess with the line breaks in this poem. But I didn't.


clumsy ox said...

Yeah... that graph showing death and dismemberment on a bicycle much more likely in the US than anywhere else is precisely why I drive the meagre distance to work every day.

I sympathize with your bicycle/mass transit fascination, but getting hit on a bike or mugged on the bus ain't worth it...

Shan said...

I know, isn't it terrible? And I've heard horror stories about the Dreaded Freeway in your city, and how you have to use a car to get anywhere.

Getting mugged on the bus - hadn't thought of that, though we do have that problem occasionally in Vancouver, Toronto or Montreal.