Is Vancouver becoming more and more of a traffic war zone with each passing day?
Cyclists and motorists have always had a shaky relationship wherever they share a patch of turf in the Big Smoke. A large segment of Vancouverís burgeoning army of cyclists appears to make up the rules of the road as they go along. Forget about braking for stop signs, or traffic lights, unless a collision is imminent. Even then, some riders figure that maybe they can win at a game of chicken. For many pedal-powered enthusiasts, crosswalks and sidewalks have become convenient extensions of the road. At any moment cyclists have been known to leave the pavement, roll up onto the sidewalk, burst across a marked crosswalk and back onto the street without altering their tempo.
Vancouver drivers are no less wayward than their two-wheeled fellow travellers. Stories abound of drivers texting, gabbing on cellphones, or engaging in other distractions.
Downtown speed limits, especially on the Lions Gate Bridge and the Granville and Burrard bridges, are more or less just feeble suggestions, as are stop signs throughout the city. Sudden U-turns in the middle of busy intersections have become the directional change tactic of first resort for many drivers. And donít set this page alight in anger if you drive a Beamer, but does any city have more BMWs speeding along city streets and pinballing up and down lanes, alleys and around parking lots than Vancouver?
Letís not place all the blame for traffic mayhem entirely on the shoulders of cyclists and motorists. Too many pedestrians in Vancouver seem to have stepped off the sidewalk of reason altogether. They are in a league of their own and they can cause drivers no end of grief. Jaywalking in traffic situations of every description has become the guiding principle throughout the great metropolis. Rising to hitherto unpiloted altitudes of self-absorption, pedestrians appear convinced they have a charter right to cross the street whenever and wherever they like.
Despite those indiscretions, a study commissioned by the City of Vancouver reached the conclusion that pedestrian accident rates have been steadily decreasing. Still, between 2005 and 2010, a yearly average of 511 collisions involving pedestrians occurred. Approximately 75 per cent of those encounters happened at marked intersections and were a result of drivers failing to yield when pedestrians had the right-of-way. In other words, there may be some method to all that jaywalking madness.
Nonetheless, whatever spin we put on the situation, the bottom line is those accident numbers are much too high. And, before we get caught up in a finger-pointing frenzy, letís ask ourselves how much of Vancouverís traffic ďattitudeĒ has percolated up to the top of Howe Sound.