Dunsmuir street bike lanes – Photo by Christopher Porter
Despite some opposition from motorists, the City of Vancouver approved new dedicated bike lanes along Hornby street late Tuesday evening – with installation to be completed by the end this year. The Hornby lane would cross the entire downtown area to create a barrier-protected connection to the other recent barrier-protected bike lanes on Dunsmuir street.
The Vancouver Sun notes that the city of Vancouver has experienced a boom in population growth and jobs in the past decade – with bike trips increasing by 180 percent. There are apparently an average of 60,000 bike trips a day in Vancouver in that city of ~580,000 (metro population ~2.1 million).
While bicycle transportation has increased by 180 percent, car travel has decreased by 10 percent in the metro area – and 7 percent in the city.
This illustrates a point we have made countless times to motorists who are loath to giving up a minimal amount of space for bicycle infrastructure. Getting more people on bicycles helps to decrease the number of cars on the road – reducing congestion – which benefits everyone, including motorists!
The problem with this logic is that narrow minded people only look at the immediate short-term effects. If you look at the bigger picture, it’s easy to see that giving up a single lane of automobile traffic to create 2 lanes of bicycle traffic has positive long term benefits for the city.
Here in Toronto the car still rules City Hall. Selfish drivers have a loud voice at City Hall, and our inept council failed this summer to pass a council vote for a temporary pilot program to create dedicated bicycle lanes on the 8-lane-wide University Avenue.
Here is a look at downtown Vancouver’s current and proposed dedicated bicycle infrastructure:
Map courtesy of City of Vancouver
To build a case for the Hornby bike lanes, Vancouver surveyed 500 random visitors to the Hornby street area from August 28th to Sept 2nd to see how they felt about the dedicated bike lanes. They found that 57% of these visitors supported the dedicated infrastructure, while only 30% were not in support of the proposal.
Survey courtesy of City of Vancouver Hornby survey
Furthermore, the survey found that 47% of these visitors would be willing to consider cycling on Hornby if there was a protected lane. 30% of those who currently drive vehicles said they were willing to try out cycling on Hornby if it had dedicated infrastructure.
Dedicated bicycle facilities create a level of comfort and calmness to urban bicycling. Most people I talk to cite danger as the primary reason they don’t use a bicycle in the city – and there are many more mythical barriers to cycling besides the perceived danger.
Other cities in North America have been implementing similar dedicated bicycle facilities in the past few years. Here you can see dedicated curb-separated bicycle lanes in downtown Montreal:
Photo by James D. Schwartz / The Urban Country (July 2009)
New York City has similar dedicated facilities along several streets/avenues as well:
Photo by James D. Schwartz / The Urban Country (March 2010)
If designed properly, dedicated bicycle facilities can reduce and even eliminate potential conflict between motor vehicles and bicycles, making for a safer and more comfortable trip.
The progress being made in Vancouver is a great start. With some great new infrastructure, perhaps they might be willing to rescind their ludicrous mandatory helmet law.
- Biking the Big Apple (March 2010)
- Toronto Yearns for Bicycle Superhighway (Dec 2009)
- Suburban Bike Infrastructure (March 2010)
- United States Moving Forward After Decades of Neglect (March 2010)