Robertson backpedals on previous support for “critical mess”


Tempers could well boil over tomorrow as over 3000 cyclists plan to plug up Vancouver’s downtown streets during rush hour

Vancouverites are bracing for traffic gridlock in the downtown core tomorrow after the Vancouver Police Department issued a rare statement urging people to stay out of the area due to a massive cyclist protest aimed at plugging up city streets.

Vancouver’s Mayor (and Chair of the Police Board), once a proud supporter of what is known fondly as "Critical Mass", was doing everything he could today to backpedal from his previous support of the group. Critical Mass takes place the last Friday of every month. It basically consists of thousands of cyclists allegedly protesting the lack of bicycle paths and routes within city limits. It is claimed there are no organizers of the event and it simply happens spontaneously.

The protest consists of riding en masse (often in funny costumes or skimpy outfits) throughout the downtown core and plugging up traffic, all the while breaking every traffic violation known to man. Prior to becoming the Chair of the Police Board, Robertson (an avid cyclist) was often seen riding with the protestors through the streets of Vancouver. Former NPA mayoral candidate Peter Ladner also participated in the protests. As it happens, many of these same cyclists were also pivotal in helping the Mayor sweep to victory last November.

That was then, this is now. Today the Mayor issued an almost laughable statement saying he felt the protests had now run their course and it was time for the cyclists to stand down in order to prevent a mass revolt by automobile drivers. Huh? This after he supported their relentless efforts at causing traffic mayhem downtown for years? Me thinks the Mayor is worried that he might have to wear some of the blame if the downtown really does get plugged up with traffic chaos tomorrow.

Interestingly, his statement was issued a day after the police chief warned residents of the pending traffic chaos. With so many events happening downtown on the eve of a long-weekend, the critical mass ride, which is predicted to consist of 3000 cyclists, could very well shut down the heart of the city. Or at least some major roadways.

As for the Vancouver police, they state they will not arrest a single cyclist for breaking the laws of the road. They say that issuing tickets would only inflame the situation, so they would rather people simply avoid coming downtown all together. Who could blame them for taking a softer approach when the Chair of the Police Board has proven to be an ardent supporter of Critical Mass in the past.

Ironically, it is being reported the cyclists are planning on going over the Burrard Bridge tomorrow as part of their protest. They will apparently not only use the new bicycle lane provided to them by Robertson, but they also plan to use the other lanes currently occupied by vehicular traffic. That is unless the Mayor can meet with the "organizers" prior to this happening.

A tough sounding Robertson told the Vancouver Sun editorial board that he was "pissed off" that the organizers hadn’t announced which route they were going to take tomorrow. Note he wasn’t "pissed off" that the protest was happening, rather, just that they hadn’t published their route.

I would be "pissed off" too if I had just used up a lot of political capital to build a new $1.5 million dollar bike lane on Burrard Bridge for these folks, only to have that effort wiped out by a stupid protest a few weeks later.

Perhaps in a weaker moment as he flashed back to his Critical Mass days, the Mayor told the Sun that cyclists have been:

rightfully upset about the lack of bike lanes

It is worth noting that previous Vancouver councils have invested tens of millions of dollars to build bicycle paths throughout the city. In fact, by 2008 there were over 400 kilometres of bicycle paths weaving throughout the City of Vancouver.

Once again the Mayor’s wingnutty supporters are causing him grief. With Critical Mass, he’s caught between the law abiding tax paying citizens who put him in office and the nut bar activists who continue to surround him and his staff. I for one believe the patience of Vancouver’s citizenry is about to be put to the test tomorrow, and it likely won’t be pretty. That is, unless the Mayor can call off his troops in time.

Car free in Vancouver Part II: Cycling
Another HEAT shelter put on ice

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  • Comebacksalmon

    Gregor was pissed off he wasn’t consulted? Geez – ouch Mr Bubble – maybe the organizers took a page out of the VISION handbook ‘all you would have said is no’ or at least that is what Kerry Jang said about the missing HEAT shelter consultation.
    I guess Kerry Jang can call Hizzonner irresponsible and tell him to suck it up like he told the residents of False Creek North to do after opening VISION’s own interpretation of Cirque de Soliel – aka HEAT shelters.
    Mr Peanut could do a better job running the city.

  • ‘back-pedal’
    peddling is selling stuff
    as to Gregor’s about-face, isn’t a leader who changes their mind when faced with new information and a changing scenario a good thing?

  • Thanks for the catch on the typo! Now been fixed. Someone in our spell cheque department going to be held accountible for this!

  • glad two bee of service too ewe!
    cheers,
    CK

  • Des

    While the critical mass approach has its flaws and can turn out a touch antagonistic (thanks in no small part to police warnings and lopsided coverage in the Sun/Province), cyclists in this city really don’t have it very good. There are very few useful routes where cyclists are protected from moving traffic and the doors of parked cars in any meaningful way. A couple of cheap stencils and some signage has allowed the City to extend the cycling network by leaps and bounds (400km!!!), but on the vast majority of these routes, you’d be hard-pressed to know what differentiates them from any other residential street. Ride on some of these routes with someone from Calgary, or even Montréal, and they’ll usually ask ‘how exactly is this a bike route?’ These routes are by and large the kind of thing that looks good in an annual report or on a map, but on the ground, they’re still not very safe or comfortable for ALL cyclists.
    Hopefully cyclists’ very sound case for better quality facilities that are safe and comfortable for everyone will be received by a mainstream media that has managed to calm down a little bit and drop the ‘war on cars’ metaphors that were so popular in Toronto just recently. One can only imagine that the message will go be better received if it is delivered in a respectful, non-taunting way, without unduly inconveniencing other road users, particularly pedestrians and transit riders. The idea is to show just how many cyclists there are, that there’s a critical mass and a constituency for improved cycling facilities, not to foul up the PM commute for all and sundry.

  • Tiktaalik

    Bicyclists don’t pay taxes?! News to me. I suppose I should stop!

  • Michael Phillips

    “There are very few useful routes where cyclists are protected from moving traffic and the doors of parked cars in any meaningful way. A couple of cheap stencils and some signage has allowed the City to extend the cycling network by leaps and bounds (400km!!!)”
    – Des
    Exactly!!!
    This is not a bike lane.
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/luton/2899704115/
    It’s a street with a bike painted on it, and you’re going to end up as flat as that painted bike if you ride on it long enough.
    This is a bike lane.
    http://biketoronto.ca/images/content/628/LoganContraLaneEasternS2007.jpg
    We don’t need many, many bike lanes, we need an interconnection of arterial, genuine bike lanes.

  • Urb Anwriter

    Do you write copy for the Province in your spare time? For free, so that there’s no taxable income? Perhaps you write for the Sun, a paper equally guilty of yellow journalism?

  • Thanks for linking to my picture. The bike route illustrated is through quiet residential streets with limited available right of way. You wouldn’t put a bike lane into this environment. Bike lanes best fit on busier, arterial roads with more width, where you can build facilities to some standard. Bike facilities are not a one size, fits all tool; they are more often context sensitive. Here’s a bike lane that many cyclists in Vancouver will be familiar with, and it’s a useful treatment at the location. http://www.flickr.com/photos/luton/2216664617/
    Notwithstanding the impatience of some Critical Mass riders, new facilities are emerging all the time in Vancouver and other cities. Protest rides may be satisfying and celebratory, but often do little to advance the cause. New bike facilities are being built because of the work of practical advocates and sympathetic local politicians and staff who are working together on the difficult task of selecting priorities and designing engineered solutions that provide a safe, comfortable and convenient environment where more people can choose cycling.
    Facilities are not cheap, (although peanuts next to the cost of more roads and highways), so change will not happen overnight. Have fun at the mass, but if you want more and better facilities, there are more productive ways of achieving your objectives.