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Bike lanes worldwide are not socialist phenomena

The Editor, Re. "Lefties' ideology backs bike lanes" (Face to Face, The Tri-City News, May 25).

The Editor,

Re. "Lefties' ideology backs bike lanes" (Face to Face, The Tri-City News, May 25).

Regarding Face to Face columnist Andy Radia's criticism of bike lanes, a few points:

European cities are just as likely to have hills and lots of rain - even snow - as Vancouver. Most of Europe is not a tropical paradise.

Bike lanes go back to the late 19th century. The first dedicated bike path was apparently built in Brooklyn and networks of bike paths were built in the 1920s and '30s in Germany and the Netherlands (not exactly socialist heaven then).

In the years right after the Second World War, whole cities in Europe and Asia had to be rebuilt, including transit systems. Newly rebuilt factories were located in newer suburban areas, away from the traditional districts where working class people lived, and as wages were low and cars - produced in limited numbers - much too expensive for average workers, bikes became a necessity.

Bike lanes and car-free streets aren't a socialist plot. Bordeaux, my birthplace, has had two mayors since the mid-1940s, both staunchly conservative, both in favour of bike lanes and car-free streets. Soon after his election in 1995, the current mayor banned cars from most of downtown Bordeaux the first Sunday of each month.

Boris Johnson, the mayor of London, also hardly a lefty, is a strong bike advocate. He is directly in charge of the Greater London Transit system and made sure that both walking and biking are viable alternatives to using transit. He has also kept the congestion charge for cars (7 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays) and even increased the rate.

Nowadays bike lanes are mostly found along a few avenues in the average major European city as side streets - some of them going back thousands of years - are too narrow for both cars and bikes. European suburbanites are more likely to use bikes than downtown dwellers, as they need to go to a rail or rapid transit station near their home and suburban residential streets tend have a light to moderate car traffic that make riding a bike safer.

Has Mr. Radia ever heard of downtown streets that are car-free 365 days a year? They are found in the downtown areas of not only pretty much all European cities but also lots of cities around the world - North America being, as in many things, the exception.

J-L Brussac, Coquitlam