Vancouver’s Fastest Growing Transportation Sector

By Roy L Hales

Screen-shot-2014-03-18-at-3.43.47-PM1Though the numbers are still far from what is being reported in European cities like Copenhagen, more and more British Columbians are adopting bicycles as their principal form of transportation. According to a spokesperson from the Ministry of Transportation, 25,115 cyclists participated in Bike to Work Week in 2014. A large number of them were in one city. Cycling is Vancouver’s fastest growing transportation sector.

Primary Means Of Transportation

Bike To Work Week at Main & Terminal -Courtesy HUB Cycling
Bike To Work Week at Main & Terminal -Courtesy HUB Cycling

“The most recent data tell us that 5% of trips are made by bike in the City of Vancouver. There is also data in that report that shows Respondents Who Generally Use a Bicycle at Least Twice Per Week ranges between 10% and 27% in Vancouver neighbourhoods,” said Erin O`Melinn, Executive Director of HUB Cycling.

More than 17,000 people participate in her organization’s cycling programs each year.  The next one is Bike to Work Week, October 26-Nov 1st.

“The focus is to get people to keep cycling through the winter, giving tips on how to stay visible and comfortable as the days get shorter, darker, and wetter,” she said.

O`Melinn uses her bike every day, as do a good number of her friends and acquaintances.

“We own a car but I drive it less than once a month. When going on trips too far for cycling, I usually look to transit first,” she said.

“Buying a car is lower on many millennials priority list, if they are living in Vancouver,” said the city’s Director of Sustainability, Amanda Pitre-Hayes.

She pedals to work.

So do all the people in one of the city’s environmental groups, which did not want the name of their organization mentioned. (They aren’t promoting cycling, they just do it.)

Fastest Growing Transportation Sector

Courtesy HUB Cycling
Courtesy HUB Cycling

“Cycling is currently the fastest growing mode of transportation in Vancouver with a 20% increase in the number of bike trips from 2013 to 2014. Growing our bicycle network and designing it for people of all ages and abilities, which includes building protected bike lanes, will continue to be an important part of our goal of making cycling safe, convenient, comfortable and fun. While we recently reached our Greenest City 2020 goal with half of all trips in Vancouver being made by sustainable modes, cycling will be an important part of the City’s future as we work towards our Transportation 2040 target of two-thirds of all trips made by walking, cycling or transit,” said Dale Bracewell, Manager, Active Transportation, City of Vancouver.

Upgrading the Cycling Infrastructure

Courtesy The City Of Vancouver
Courtesy The City Of Vancouver

Over the last few years, the City of Vancouver has invested approximately $4M per year in active transportation corridors (bikeways or greenways) and citywide spot improvements. There are currently 270 kilometres of bikeways.  Additional cycling improvements have also been included as part of major projects such as the Powell Street Overpass and the Burrard Street Bridge.

“The City of Vancouver has made significant progress in becoming more bicycle friendly. Their additions of downtown protected bike lanes that go north-south and east-west were the start of an important trend of creating a well-connected network (not just a few-blocks fragments of bike lane). They have built upon that by protecting and traffic calming other key areas, improving paving, signals, intersection design, and limiting speeds on residential bike routes. They are starting to invest in cycling education in schools, which along with promotion, is the other key component in creating cycling growth,” said O`Melinn.

The province has also made significant investments in the city’s bicycle infrastructure. The Ministry spokesperson mentioned “a $7-million project to improve pedestrian and cyclist safety along the Stanley Park causeway, which included widening the pathways and installing safety fencing on both sides of the causeway.” Another of the province’s projects involved $20-million to widen the bridge sidewalks and pathway approaches on the Ironworker’s Memorial Bridge.

The Future Of Cycling In Vancouver

Strong of Bikes - Courtesy HUB Cycling
Strong of Bikes – Courtesy HUB Cycling

“Our ideal future of Vancouver includes every school, community centre, and workplace offering cycling education because the health, affordability, connectivity and environmental benefits are so clear. We see a fully connected cycling network that is attractive for all ages and abilities. And because of this great education and infrastructure, we see cycling as a major mode of transportation,” said O`Melinn.

“We’d like to see improved education and promotion sooner rather than later. They do some of this, but they should be supporting cycling education to every child in school, as well as creating accessible adult cycling education, and the promotion to show the mainstream how convenient, safe, and fun cycling for transportation can be.”

The Future Of Cycling In British Columbia

Cycling along the beach, Tofino by djmonkeyboy via Flickr (CC BY SA, 2.0 License)
Cycling along the beach, Tofino by djmonkeyboy via Flickr (CC BY SA, 2.0 License)

British Columbia also has a vision for the future. The government has invested $160 million in the province’s cycling infrastructure since 2001.  They worked with local governments to create new bicycle lanes and trails in over 100 communities.

The Ministry spokesperson said cycling also makes a significant contribution to tourism, “From our consumer studies, on average we know approximately 10% of Canadian travellers, 11% of US travellers and 18% of overseas travellers participate in cycling, biking, or bike touring while visiting BC.”