Dan Burden and Vancouver Weddings

Hearing Dan Burden speak to a Vancouver crowd was like Mariah Carey’s third wedding to the same guy: superfluous, self-congratulatory, and all criticism aside, a great way to renew vows.

Thanks to Christopher Lewis Cotrel on Flickr for this heartwarming photo of a Vancouver bicycle wedding!

Vancouver is an incredibly walkable and bikeable place. We get mixed use right, with small scale neighbourhood grocers and a variety of housing types. We care about the human scale, with tree-lined streets, frequent parks and a never-ending supply of the urban necessity of coffee shops. We fight the good fight in reducing travel lanes and handing them over to people, with the Olympics and the Burrard Bridge as examples. Dan reminded us that not only do we have it right, we are innovators in making it better. Having observed three bicycle weddings in one day, Dan is a pretty big fan of Vancouver.

Amidst all of the head-nodding and the jovial winks and nods, Dan did mention something that was news to me. Apparently, well-designed streets with slower speeds and fewer lanes can actually move more traffic. It is the intersections that make all the difference. In fact, much traffic congestion occurs from long pedestrian signals as people walk across six-plus lanes of traffic. Narrowing streets and adding medians allow people to cross more quickly and traffic to flow more freely. This win-win potential highlights the important role that transportation planners have in creating quality public space. Apparently by doing so, they can do their job better!

Dan Burden argues that on-street parking can help to make streets less congestion-prone by narrowing them. Photo of Vancouver's East 10th bike route (with on-street parking on both sides) by Vanessa Kay, with permission.

As a peak oil and climate change pragmatist, I worry that these win-wins to accommodate private automobiles will soon become a case of over-engineering. Dan suggests adding street parking as a strategy to narrow through-ways. Vancouver has done a great job of making the city accessible to both people and cars. Do we really need so much of both? How will we use all of our roads and structure parking when driving is no longer an affordable luxury good? With more than one car to every two Vancouverites, we have a long way to go.

I guess what Vancouver can’t teach other cities is to create narrow streets in the first place. But we sure could lead the way in turning wide public spaces into a showroom for the cars that no-one really needs or uses.

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One Response to “Dan Burden and Vancouver Weddings”

  1. Michelle said:

    Apr 27, 10 at 3:43 pm

    I don’t disagree that in future (and probably not that far off)we will have to make more sustainable choices in how we use the space on our roads but in the short term I think the city should add full time parking on all arterial streets to significantly calm streets for the benefit of pedestrians. This would work especially well on shopping streets (where parking is currenlty stripped during rush hour) where parked cars provide a very noticeable buffer from traffic.