Rooth: Bike lanes an important move forward

A cyclist travels along the King Street bicycle lane while others wait for the bus in London, Ont. on Tuesday July 2, 2019. Derek Ruttan/The London Free Press/Postmedia Network

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The United Nations announced last week that without sweeping changes to how we immediately address climate change, humanity will face a worldwide food shortage threat.

According to the report, prepared by over 100 experts from 52 countries, soil is being lost 10 to 100 times faster than it’s forming and over a half-billion people are living in areas now turning into deserts. Greenhouse gas (from burning fossil fuels) will reduce the nutritional quality of food as we watch rising temperatures create devastation to crops and livestock.

Back in April our city council, with a vote of 12-3, declared a climate emergency. This was a positive step forward, a symbolic gesture at the very least that we recognize the problem and will participate in change.

This change includes cycling.

Slowly, we are turning our roads into shared spaces. Parking on King Street has been replaced recently with a more equitable alternative, the protected bike lane. The King Street bike lane is not a bad idea. In fact, it’s a really good idea and one that we need to remember is only temporary until rapid transit is put on King and the bike lane is moved to Dundas Street.

It takes time for travel patterns to be established. Let’s give the bike lane on King more than a couple of months during construction season. In fact, let’s stick to the plan and stop second-guessing ourselves and wasting precious tax dollars rehashing decisions. Time is money.

Numerous studies conclude that protected bike lanes save lives. Not only that, it engages those who had previously given up cycling for fear of being run down in the street. More people on bicycles means fewer people not in fossil fuel-burning vehicles.

By sharing the roads we all pay for, this means healthier outcomes on many different levels for all of us. Regardless of where the bike lane is, street parking on King Street is not making a comeback. At some point, we need to let it go and move on to a new parking spot.

I appreciate that the lack of street parking on King is an inconvenience to some. It doesn’t mean we should resist change, especially when we are running out of alternatives.

The Chicken Little argument that a lack of street parking will kill downtown also rings hollow. Numerous anchor buildings owned by one company have been sitting empty or nearly empty for years on end. This should be a council concern, especially during a housing crisis and ongoing rejuvenation of the core.

There are approximately 14,000 parking spots downtown. RBC Place (formerly the London Convention Centre) is offering $5 weekday parking all summer long. Parking at Citiplaza and Covent Garden Market come with validation for free parking. That’s almost 2,000 spaces in those two venues alone.

Maybe try being one of the 15,000 transit users who come downtown by bus every weekday and don’t think about parking at all.

Or hop on your bike and enjoy what progressive decision making feels like.

Sheryl Rooth is a Londoner columnist and the chair of the London Transit Commission.

Sherylwrites@yahoo.com

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