The Provincial Government introduced a Climate Change Plan in October 2021 that has a “Clean BC Roadmap” for 2030. The “roadmap” has a stated goal of reducing the distances travelled by “light duty” vehicles (meaning cars and small trucks) by 25 percent, or 2. 5 percent per year between 2020 and 2030.
The Province has not yet laid out a plan of how that is to occur (there’s an Action Plan expected next year) but there are already ways that municipalities in British Columbia can begin the work.
Victoria planner Eric Doherty has been thinking and writing about the impact of this paradigm shift in how we plan and design roads and cities. The twentieth century has been about championing vehicular movement, and the idea that vehicles are fast, efficient and need unbridled access to a road network designed particularly for vehicles, and not for anything else.
Viewpoint Vancouver has written about how pedestrians are treated like vehicles in being asked to cross at the intersections of streets, and how the term “jaywalker” became applied to anyone that was crossing mid-block. Pesky pedestrians were relegated to intersections that were controlled by engineering traffic standards, with the concept that traffic engineers were better judges of pedestrian safety than the pedestrians themselves. A century later this article by Nate Vander Broek points out a midblock crossing is safer, more visible and direct for pedestrians to cross without having to walk to an intersection.
And it looks like midblock crossings, raised crosswalks, wider sidewalks, separated bike lanes that are safe for children and seniors, and better transit stations are the 21st century new road language. The big change in reducing vehicular miles travelled by 25 percent is realizing that it is not the adoption of electric vehicles that is the salvo, but actively making vehicles use less space, and providing alternatives to using vehicles.
TransLink’s Five Year Strategy includes increasing the rapid transit network from 100 to 400 kilometers, and creating a comprehensive 850 kilometer bike route.
They are also looking at the last mile problem-more people would use transit if they could find a good way to get home from the transit station. TransLink will be exploring electric bikes, scooters and even electric vehicles/vans to help people get to and from their residences.
The most exciting part of this BC Roadmap (which you can download here) is the implications for funding. The province and municipalities have always had budgets for the design, maintenance and expansion of the road network. Now in order to make the provincial goal of a 25 percent reduction in distances vehicles travelled, municipalities will need to reallocate some of that funding for public transit, walking and cycling facilities.
While the City of Vancouver is already reallocating 11 percent of road space to walking, cycling and transit, you can take a look at the experience in Paris when they started taking out roads. The French developed the term “traffic evaporation” and found that removing a fast lane from a highway reduced overall traffic by 14 percent in months. The reduction of traffic was behavioural, as people shifted to changing the frequency of travel and the mode of transport. Paris has reduced traffic by 45 percent in the last two decades by reducing vehicle road space, and by 2024 will be banning vehicles from the downtown core.
This is about sustainability and quality of life for everyone, and a new way for citizens to be able to move in their neighbourhoods and cities as if they mattered, not just vehicular traffic. It also brings up the importance of public bus networks for suburban and rural communities, be they scheduled or on demand. Most importantly it is also about equity, allowing a walker, roller, transit rider or cyclist have access to ways to move in their communities even if they do not have access to a vehicle.
Be like Paris.