One of the world’s most raucous rivalries was born from two Karls.
Karl Drais is credited with creating the bicycle in 1817. Karl Benz, is credited with creating the first commercially available automobile in 1888. Thus, we can assume, the first instance of a driver flipping out on a bicyclist occurred in Germany sometime in the late 1800’s. We can’t know which side instigated that historic, inaugural interaction but both sides have been shaking their fists at each other ever since. It’s a rivalry that’s aced the test of time and burst through every border. In hindsight, it’s a shame it was such a lopsided one.
Benz’s machine ran on petrol and the world united under a flag of fossil-fuel consumption, which steered infrastructure projects for the following century. We designed our planet to accommodate motorcars. Governments spent non-refundable dollars on car-friendly roadways that the private sector filled with gas stations. Earth began to melt and our scientists didn’t tell us until our societies were already built.
Even with everything we know today about fossil fuels, global warming and climate change, it’s still a car-eat-bike world out there. Our own backyard provides a stellar example of the lingering normalization of auto-domination. The Pacific Rim National Park spent roughly $10.5 million to upgrade the highway that runs through it last summer and did nothing to improve that highway’s bikeability.
Our local Member of Parliament is trying to swing the pendulum.
When Gord Johns put his first bill forward to Canada’s House of Commons last month, chuckles were cued. Bill C-312 calls for a national cycling strategy. It’s so heavily doused in his hometown Tofino’s pie-in-the-sky flavouring that it’s tough to imagine mainlanders and the other Coast taking it seriously.
It’s not the first time a politician has tried to make Canada a cycling nation and it’s not the first time the idea has triggered snickers. It is the right time to get behind it though.
Justin Trudeau is following his heart towards spending more on infrastructure than any Prime Minister before him. He’s going for gold and isn’t content with just breaking the bank, he wants to break records.
If his promised boom ignores cyclists, like every boom before it, we’re headed for rough waters.
The $18 million path he’s promised to build through the Pacific Rim National Park’s paradise seems like a good step, but getting cyclists off highways and onto trails cancels out commuters and perpetuates the idea that cycling is an activity rather than a mode of transportation.
Trudeau’s trail isn’t bike infrastructure, it’s a tourist attraction that will lure visitors to an area that’s already buckling under the weight of its summer seasons.
While the West Coast Multiplex Society searches for $6 million to bring us an amenity we don’t have, our federal government is spending three times that to bring a trail to a Park, and a region, full of them.
It also tees up the exact type of piecemeal-driven disaster Johns’ national strategy would help prevent. Tofino’s Multiple Use Path ends roughly 2.5 kilometres away from the Park’s border. Your local government is terrified of that gap.
The Park is a world-renowned destination and the West Coast is setting tourism records every year. Imagine the road rage that will ensue when clusters of paradise-awed tourists pedal out of the Park on their way to Tofino and find themselves in the middle of the notoriously narrow Pacific Rim Highway while the annual swarm of Albertan license plates is at its peak.
Tofino’s district office is saying it’s going to cost roughly $3.5 million to connect the MUP to the Park. If they can’t find those funds, the animosity-rich rivalry between cyclists and motorists is going to get even uglier than it’s already become.