dearborn street bike lane cropHow would you feel if your local government decides to remove parking spots and convert them into bike lanes? Apparently, it is only a matter of how the proposal is presented to you, and the city planners of Montreal demonstrated that.

Being able to sell a product or an idea is really a talent, so is the ability to chose just the right strategy to present a fresh new project to the public without making them angry. The city of Montreal’s down-town bike project is a clear example of this.

Back in 2005, when the start of the project was announced, the residents received the news that all parking spaces within 200 meters of the project will be removed and replaced by bike lanes. As you can imagine, the newspaper headlines that followed screamed that half of the parking places on one of the biggest boulevards in town will go.

The problem got so big that the city officials had to hire a bike advocacy in the face of a nonprofit organization, Velo Quibec, to investigate.  It turns out, all the city planners had to do was just put the numbers in a different context. They presented to the citizens statistics on total number of parking spaces in their district (11,000 to be exact), and then showed that only 300 of these will be converted into bike lanes. Apparently, this is all that was needed.

I wonder why people took the news as a personal attack towards them. My best guess would be that not many are willing to sacrifice their precious four-wheeler and jump on a much greener and healthier mean of transportation. It is a shame that many people do not see bike lanes as a solution to much bigger problems and selfishly complain about anything and everything that threatens their “comfort”.

It is strange that a whole psychological strategy needs to be worked out and implemented, before everyone can realize that biking is a good thing, much better than sitting inside a polluting vehicle, stuck in a traffic jam, complaining that the city has not done anything to ease up the situation. Nevertheless, what the planners did was genius and has to be acknowledged with the great respect it deserves.

Image (c) Flickr

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