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We want what we want

This past Sunday night I was out for a bike ride with a few friends all around downtown Toronto. According to Strava, we did almost 22 km. Click here to see our route. During the ride, one of my friends said something to me that stood out. He said that when he’s on a bike he wants all cars off the road; but when he’s in a car, he wants all bikes off the road.

Now, this may seem like a fairly banal statement, but I think it demonstrates a number of things about people and the way we interact with cities. First, we’re all probably pretty selfish. We want what we want at a specific moment in time and we easily forget what it’s like to be on the other side of a situation.

Second, I think it reinforces what I wrote a month ago in a post called: Every street can’t be everything to everyone. If we want to improve the user experience for a variety of different use cases (driving, biking, walking and so on), we should decide when and where we’re going to optimize for each. 

The reason my friend said what he said was because we were riding on a road with no bike lanes. We were swerving in and around cars. And when the street is shared like this it naturally becomes a competition of who can be the most aggressive and dominate the road–bikes or cars. But as exciting as that might be, it’s probably not an ideal way to build our cities.

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