If you want an example of what sets greater Vancouver apart from the cities south of the US-Canadian border, look no farther than this Vancouver Sun headline: Council votes to turn two of six lanes on Burrard Bridge into dedicated bike lanes.
Just for context—the Burrard Bridge is one of just a few main access points to downtown Vancouver, and carries a significant amount of car traffic into downtown from some of the western neighborhoods. Vancouver tried a similar experiment in the mid-1990s, but it ended after just a week or so because of a public outcry over congestion. The same thing may well happen again.
So politically, this is a risky move. Which makes it all the more impressive: Vancouver city leaders are actually willing to take concrete and potentially unpopular steps to reduce the city’s global warming emissions and promote biking and walking—steps that seem completely outside the realm of political possibility in, say, Seattle or Portland. Even Seattle mayor Greg Nickels, who has won national recognition for organizing hundreds of the nation’s mayors to speak up on global warming, has dedicated considerable political capital to rebuilding the Alaskan Way Viaduct—a massively expensive project that will, in all likelihood, increase the amount of greenhouse gases Seattle residents spew into the atmosphere. Sadly, the city’s actions fall short of the rhetoric.
Compare that with this statement of on Vancouver city councillor Fred Bass:
“I became a city councillor because of global warming,” Bass said after the vote. “And it seems to me that what we have here is a very feasible way of testing out whether we can mobilize people to walk and cycle and for people to leave their cars behind.”
Definitely an experiment worth keeping an eye on.