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We’re Walkin’ Ridin’ Drivin’ Here – Traffic Safety an Issue in 1937

August 27, 2016

Nowadays cycling is the darling mode of transportation of the sophisticated “world” city. Some headlines from the 1930’s indicate that it took some time to work this out:

“The Bicycle Problem”

“Two-Wheeled Anarchy”

“The Pest of the Streets”

Under the headline “Stunting Cyclists Traffic Problem,” appeared a report of the findings of a Chicago traffic expert who had conducted a survey in Vancouver.

“Bicycle riding is a serious part of the traffic problem of this city” stated engineer Earl J Reeder.

“The riders seem inclined to go everywhere on the streets and perform the most spectacular stunts I have ever seen in any city.” -News Herald 1937 06 29

The National Safety Council of Chicago published Reeder’s report in 1938 with the title Improving Street Traffic: Vancouver BC – Report of the Vancouver Traffic Survey 1936-1938.

It was quite thorough, even presenting a “Spot Map of Residences of Drivers Involved in Accidents.”

Reeder studied accident statistics and made comparisons with other large cities across the continent.

With regard to bicycles here is a summary of his remarks in 1937.

“A complicating factor in the bicycle problem is that the city streets provide no segregation of bicyclists from other classes of traffic. Upon the sidewalk he is considered a menace to the pedestrian. In the roadway he is in serious danger from vehicular traffic.”

“The bicycle problem on the bridges is acute because of the restricted roadways and dense traffic. I recommend the reservation of one sidewalk on each bridge exclusively for bicycles and the other for pedestrians, and prohibition of the riding of bicycles elsewhere on the bridges.”


horse and carriage on Pattullo Bridge - New Westminster Archives photo

A horse-drawn stage-coach keeps up with traffic on north end of Pattullo Bridge in this undated Basil King photo from the New Westminster Archives.

Reeder’s survey was conducted in 1937. The Pattullo Bridge on Fraser River opened that year with only one narrow sidewalk to be shared by pedestrians and bicyclists.  Vancouver bridges on Burrard Street (1932). First Narrows (1938) and Granville Street (1954) have sidewalks on either side.


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