November 3, 2020

A Brilliant Strategy: Disabling Our Priorities in the Name of the Disabled

Do you see what NPA Park Commissioner Tricia Barker is doing here?

From a Province op-ed:

In Vancouver, the civic government has a “transportation hierarchy” list. I propose we put compromised seniors and people with disabilities at the top of this list and give them first priority. …

For too long we’ve put seniors and people with disabilities last. The city’s “hierarchy of transportation modes” says it will consider the needs and safety of each group of road users in the following order of priority: 1st walking; 2nd cycling; 3rd transit and taxi/shared vehicles, and 4th private auto (Vancouver’s Transportation 2040 condensed plan, Page 13). Seniors and persons with disabilities aren’t even mentioned.

Of course seniors and the disabled aren’t mentioned.  They’re people, not modes of transportation.

Seniors and disabled people* can be walkers, cyclists, transit and vehicle users.  What Barker implies without having to say explicitly is that they’re all dependent car users.  So in order to give them top priority, motordom must be maintained.

On that she is explicit:

As we move forward, let’s make a promise to never take away something that has already been given. … Let’s enact a policy where you can’t take away a necessity because it’s convenient or others may like it.

What are these necessities that can’t be taken away?  Parking.  Road space.  Motordom: the city designed for the car, which, by her argument, seniors and the disabled see as essential.  Hence, any diminishment of motordom is a sign of disrespect.  Their right to easy access everywhere by automobile must be maintained as a first priority – something to be encoded in policy to be used as the basis for planning.

It’s kind of a brilliant strategy: use the disabled to disable progress towards active transportation, towards progress on climate change, towards safer cities and greater choice – all the policies you don’t want to publicly oppose but can frustrate by out-woking the progressives.

Here’s another example:

In April, the City of Vancouver closed the eastbound lane of Beach Avenue to vehicular traffic. The measure was intended to allow West End residents to use the lane for exercise and other outdoor activities.

This created one problem, according to Anthony Kupferschmidt, executive director of the West End Seniors’ Network. … a number of seniors find it difficult to get to Davie Street because of the uphill walk.

Kupferschmidt brought this concern with city hall, and some changes may be coming.  … The Straight learned from city hall that modifications being considered for the West End thoroughfare may include car and bus traffic.

There’s no question that good urban transportation planning must try to accommodate seniors, the disabled and otherwise marginalized groups, along with a maximum of transport choices according to the priorities established by council.  But Barker’s strategy is to replace those priorities with a pre-emption: cars and vehicles go first because seniors and the disabled must go first.

Indeed, as council demonstrated recently, it’s not enough just to maintain a motordom status quo; incentives should be provided for the marginalized and those to be honored with special status to drive even more:

Staff did their job: they reported to council that giving pretty much unlimited free use of some of the most valuable real estate in the city – curb parking – is hardly consistent with the Big Move priorities it has approved to deal with the climate emergency.

By voting unanimously to reject that advice and provide a giveaway of unknown dimension, easily subject to abuse (the sticker goes with the car, not the person), the message was clear: don’t take us too seriously when we say we will take tough decisions to deal with the climate emergency and our transportation priorities.

Tricia Barker would be pleased.


*There’s another flawed assumption here too: that seniors are essentially another class of disabled people, unable to function normally without the assistance of a vehicle.

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  1. As a 69 year old transit using, walking, cycling, car driving citizen I object to being classified as a helpless harry who needs more cars blocking my access to the spaces I enjoy and the services I use. Ms Barker might be more usefully employed by getting City Hall to protect us seniors from hypertension by mandating the use of masks in public places. No I am not touting masks as the pandemical panacea but I am literally sick because of the stress of having mouth breathing mutton heads chatting, laughing and arguing within my personal space on Skytrain, on busses, in Safeway etc.. Want to help me and thousands of other seniors Tricia? Instead of creating problems where none exist, take a friggin bus and act on what you see . There real issues out there. Deal with *them*. That’s what we elected you for.

  2. The problem is proper consultations. Changing bus route 23 causes inconvenience and a long uphill walk for many riders.

    The easy solution is running this small minibus on Burnaby/Harwood streets, but as usual TransLink and the City Engineer are not interested in common-sense solutions.

    TransLink and the City Engineer are refusing to conduct proper consultation on transit services.

      1. Why not tried it? That is the problem with the City Engineer.
        A small mini bus in one direction would cause no problems. HandyDART buses use these streets.

    1. The easy solution is to address on-street parking east of Denman. That would allow the return of bidirectional vehicle traffic, including the 23 bus.

      There are four competing uses for Beach Ave: Westbound vehicles. Eastbound vehicles. Bidirectional protected cycle lane. And curbside car storage. There is room for three of the four. And since our transportation hierarchy puts cycling above both vehicles and transit, I would say keep the protected bike lane, and then have a debate around which two of the other three people want to see there. Hint: it should include transit, which is ranked higher than private vehicles.

      1. Right. There likely are many off street parking spots available. They just need to find out if there are enough for visitors, taxies and delivery people. Once that is done the on street parking spots can no longer be justified. With that extra space taken up for storage it can be used for travel.

  3. “As we move forward, let’s make a promise to never take away something that has already been given.”

    Like the ability to walk around town without having to risk life and limb or my hearing?

  4. A bicycle (e-bike or regular) is treated in the California VC as something that’s only used by the able-bodied. We have special protections for people who are NOT on a bike. They can be on foot or on any assistive wheeled device… as long as that assistive wheeled device is NOT a bicycle. Being on a bike literally strips away certain legal protections, even if that bike is used AS an assistive wheeled device–as I often use mine.

    Due to my condition, I sometimes cannot safely drive a car. But I can safely ride my bike! And when I ride my bike, I can’t possibly be disabled according to the CVC.

    But if you are “disabled” and drive a car, then you get EXTRA dispensations and protections. Park for free, and with no time limits. Preferential parking. My permanent disabled placard works in my car, and it does nothing while on my bike.

    How can we stop the crazy?

  5. “let’s make a promise to never take away something that has already been given”

    One would not even make such a daft promise to a toddler.

  6. One should really think about the appalling statistics regarding senior pedestrians and cars. This is where the real problem is.
    That being said, a lot of seniors don’t own cars, can’t drive, or have limited mobility. They still have the right to feel the wind in their hair though.

  7. Is this not giving this ploy too much credit by calling it brilliant? Looks like garden variety concern trolling. No one wants to keep anyone out of the park, actually people want it open for all, as per the Oppenheimer epigraph. If anyone needs motorized transport to transport them around the park, that can easily be accommodated. Handy Dart can be given permission, and those with handicap placards can have access to Park Drive whatever the outcome of any restructure. (That said, as a cyclist, I don’t think much is to be gained by removing cars from Park Drive or the parking lots. Those drivers are the nicest drivers in the city.)

    Beach Avenue, like Point Grey Road before it, is also about the competition between bikes, cars, and car storage. On Point Grey Road, storage won the day, but it ought not be so on Beach. There are higher priority uses.