Poor cycling options lowers Richmond's ranking

Being squeezed off the road and out of the housing market put city at 100 of 190 best places to live

The City of Richmond took a dive on MoneySense magazines annual Canadas Best Places to Live list from 62nd place last year, to 100th in 2012.

Of the 190 cities being ranked, Richmond placed especially poorly for the percentage of people who walk or bike to work (154th place with only five per cent), for average housing prices (188th place with $686,700) and for the amount of time required to pay for a house (189th place with almost nine years).

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The city, however, came in fifth place for its high number of new cars.

Bike commuter Keith Ippel said that the list raises a valid point more should be done to encourage walking and cycling in the city.

On one front, I think Richmond as a city can do more to provide walking and cycling options in the city, said Ippel.

Part of that, he feels, means not only establishing paths, but also training locals in bike use, safety and equipment needs.

We just need more cyclists on the road, more chance of people seeing them. Thats the biggest challenge for Richmond, he said.

Ippel, who commutes to Gastown from his home near Garden City and Cambie roads, wondered whether the low number of bike or foot commuters related to the high rate of new cars.

Theres a bit of a cultural barrier in Richmond. The first thing some immigrants do when they come to Canada is buy cars, he said. Richmond needs to overcome these cultural and status barriers, and a big part of that means improving cycling education and awareness.

Ted Townsend, spokesman for the City of Richmond, brushed off the magazines ranking as simply a subjective generalization.

Were not losing any sleep over it, said Townsend. We certainly dont agree with that ranking and Richmonds received a number of national and international awards over the years, specifically in terms of its livability.

Still, the housing and cycling issues that the magazine raises are among the citys top priorities.

Certainly, housing affordability is a concern, and its something that city council has made a priority, but thats not an issue thats just limited to Richmond, he said.

This notion was reflected in MoneySenses rankings, with Vancouver placing worst in the country for housing affordability and many Lower Mainland cities faring not much better than Richmond.

And as for walking and cycling options, Townsend points out that the city is making great strides in creating paths and encouraging their use.

Plus, he adds, Richmond is ideal for walking and biking because its flat.

Community planner Tom Lancaster, who has done consulting work in Richmond and throughout the region, found that some of the rankings methodology was sketchy.

Theres a mix of numerical figures and opinion, basically, said Lancaster, noting that the intangible quality of life cant be gauged from afar.

Its a misleading way to rank a city.

That said, he understood how the magazine rated the city so poorly for its walking and cycling options and housing affordability.

The key to developing a bikeable city is having somewhere to go, he explained, suggesting that developing compact neighbourhoods with homes only a short distance from businesses and services would boost the number of people walking and biking.

The reason people dont get on a bike in Richmond is because its so spread out.

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