British Columbia

Bike and pedestrian-friendly Vancouver not so friendly to disabled people, prof says

“When you make it hard to park, maybe you are encouraging people who are able to walk and bike … to take the bus. Me? You’re just keeping me out," says a professor with mobility disability.

City says number of accessible parking spaces in Vancouver 'generally' increases every year

A UBC prof says as Vancouver loses general parking spaces, more people are parking illegally in spots reserved for people with disabilities. (CBC)

University of British Columbia professor Allison Tom says the City of Vancouver's efforts to be more bike-and-pedestrian friendly are making it harder for people with disabilities to get around.

Tom knows firsthand: she has mobility impairment and says if she can't drive somewhere, she can't get there at all.

"The focus on reducing the use of cars in the city has led to an attitude where people who are driving should be pressured, across the board, not to drive, by reducing parking for example," she told On The Coast host Stephen Quinn.

"When you make it hard to park, maybe you are encouraging people who are able to walk and bike … to take the bus. Me? You're just keeping me out."

Tom says she is only able to walk one or two blocks at most, so if there isn't parking available close enough to where she wants to go, she simply has to go home.

City says number of accessible spots increasing

Jerry Dobrovolny, the city's general manager of engineering services, said the city "generally" increases parking spaces in Vancouver every year, and the city responds to requests for accessible parking in specific locations.

"We have lots of competition for curb space throughout the city, but we absolutely have not taken out any handicap parking spaces to put in Mobi bike spaces," he said.  

But Tom says if that's the case, they're not increasing fast enough, and they're often not placed close enough to where she needs to go.

She also says they are often taken up by able-bodied people who feel they "need" the spot, and this problem is being made worse by there not being enough general parking.

"Two weeks ago, I was going to use [an accessible parking spot by a bank], and a courier was in that spot," she said. "I parked in front of him, so he would have to talk to me before he leaves, and he said he had no choice because he couldn't find parking."

"I'm sure he felt pressured, but I didn't have any place to park. He could've walked further than I could've. It would've cost him some money, but I couldn't have gone if I didn't have that spot."

She says situations like these are becoming more frequent as Vancouver loses parking spots.

With files from CBC Radio One's On The Coast and Brenna Rose

To hear the full story, click the audio labelled: Bike and pedestrian-friendly Vancouver not friendly to disabled people, prof says