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Friday, March 8, 2013

A Push for Cycling in Vancouver [Vancouver Magazine]

On a rare snowy December at UBC, the morning bus commute is a miserable crawl through a city shocked by a sudden burst of winter. Yet Jinhua Zhao, assistant professor at the School of Community and Regional Planning and the department of civil engineering, is beaming. He loves this weather as a metaphor for the shock he says Vancouver needs in order to establish a bicycle culture.
In 2007, Vancity ran an experiment that invited people to share a fleet of 45 free machines. Two months later, half the bikes had disappeared and the rest were eventually donated to a nonprofit connecting low-income earners with transportation options. That short-lived pilot was inspired by UBC, which has been home to its own public bike share since 1998: $15 grants access to some 100 purple-and-yellow bicycles scattered around campus. Zhao likes these programs but wants more, much more. "What if we buy one million bicycles-cheap bicycles from China for, say, $30 million-and just scatter them around the city?" he says. "You need to build up enough momentum to say this is serious. One million bicycles would really disrupt the system. I would call it Magic Bicycle Week."
Sure, many bikes would end up stolen, abandoned, or sold for scrap. But Zhao insists a sudden invasion would create a seismic shift in a city whose two-wheeled renaissance lags despite the best intentions of city officials and transportation authorities.


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