Data Nerd – Mapping Cycling Mode Share in Vancouver

It’s raining outside. Must be Bike to Work Week. Thousands of riders are commuting by bike this week and logging their trips online, but just how popular is cycling in Vancouver?

I’ve heard some people claim that only 1.7% of people in Vancouver bike, while criticizing the investments in new bike lanes the city has made. That’s bullshit.

The number comes from Statistics Canada, but is often misunderstood and misused. The long form census (now optional and called the National Household Survey) has the following question:
How did this person usually get to work? (Their emphasis, not mine)

  • Car, truck or van – as a driver
  • Car, truck or van – as a passenger
  • Public transit
  • Walked to work
  • Bicycle
  • Other method

Across all of Metro Vancouver (including the burbs), 1.7% usually commute by bike. In the City of Vancouver it’s 4.3%. The neighbourhoods around downtown have cycling mode shares of 15%, but in southeast Vancouver there are many areas where no one bikes, or so the stats seem to indicate (full searchable results). It’s important to consider what the statistics represent.

The question asks what the usual means of commuting is. Think of all the recreational riders, weekend warriors, and fair-weather cyclists (cycling volumes often double in the summer vs the winter). It’s unlikely casual cyclists would identify the bicycle as their usual means of commuting to work. Unfortunately, the NHS doesn’t ask people what means of transportation they sometimes use, and there aren’t any other comprehensive data sets available. The NHS survey results might under-represent cycling but it does indicate a minimum level that cycling has reached (it’s safe to say at least 4.3% of Vancouverites commute by bike) and it offers a good opportunity to create maps and see trends over time.

Here’s are the Vancouver maps of commuting patterns in 2011 for cycling, walking, and public transit. The Vancouver Sun created similar maps a few years ago with 2006 census data. In 2006, the highest mode share for cycling was 12% in South Cambie. In 2011, Grandview-Woodland had 15% bike commuters, Strathcona had 14%, Mount Pleasant had 13%, and Kitsilano, South Cambie, and Riley Park had 12%. For the walking and public transit, the darkest areas represent mode shares of close to 50% (for walking in the West End and transit in Marpole and Renfrew-Collingwood).
VancouverCyclingLevels VancouverWalkingevels VancouverTransitLevels

If you want to play with interactive maps, you can open these files in Google Earth:
I generated these maps using KML files from as a base. I would be easy to generate heat maps for all of Metro Vancouver, but I couldn’t find a kml file with census tract boundaries for more than the Vancouver proper.

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Welfare Food Challenge Recap

Dahl and Chapatis
I survived the Welfare Food Challenge, but I’m happy its over. A week living on $1 meals was possible but draining. It took a lot of time to prepare our food and the meals weren’t nutritionally complete.

After realizing mid-challenge that we were lacking fat, I used some of our remaining budget to buy a jar of peanut butter. It was a real life safer and mood booster, but that might be because peanut butter is my ultimate comfort food.

Welfare Food Challenge LeftoversTotal money spent: $40.65.

At the end of the week, we still have lots of rice, beans, and flour left. We also have half a bag of carrots and half a bag of potatoes. The fresh vegetables are long gone. We obviously could have planned a better.

In many ways our ‘welfare’ experience was atypical. We planned ahead, focused on nutrition, spent long hours cooking, and used our well-stocked kitchen (with a stove and blender) to our advantage – which would haven been difficult/impossible if we were living in an SRO. The experience was a good opportunity to think about the level of social assistance we expect our government to provide and spark conversations with our friends and co-workers about welfare rates.

The most shocking thing I learned about welfare rates during this challenge is that couples on welfare receive 30% less than two individuals (couples get $877.22 while singles get $610). The biggest reason we were able to survive this challenge was because we did it as a couple. We were able to bulk buy, share cooking responsibilities, and lean on each other for support. And yet the government penalizes couples on welfare to the point that it removes all advantages. It’s no wonder that 81% of welfare recipients are singles, and only 3% are couples with no children.

This challenge also taught me that it is possible to eat simpler and save loads of money by making your own soups, baking bread, and avoiding canned beans. That is something I hope to continue with post-challenge. But I also want to be able to spend money on good food and eat out on occasion. I celebrated the end of the challenge by eating a nutritious, raw-food lunch at Gorilla Food and having a vegan donut for dessert. My lunch cost $20, almost as much as I spent on the previous 21 meals, but it was worth it.

Emily and I normally spend $270 weekly on food. While we were on the welfare challenge, we only spent $40.65. We decided to donate the difference to the Collingwood Neighbourhood House because we know they have an excellent food and nutrition program.

If you want to see changes to the welfare rates in BC, I encourage you to contact your MLA and sign this petition.

Leftover Soup Bread and PB Making Chapatis

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Welfare Food Challenge – Surviving but not Thriving

Sushi and BSG
We’re halfway done the Welfare Food Challenge and it is no longer smooth sailing. Our fresh produce is going bad but we can’t afford to replace it; I’m bored of rice and beans and oatmeal; and both Emily and I are feeling tired and sluggish, so there’s likely a nutritional deficiency in our diet.

The hardest part of the challenge has been socializing with friends and not being able to eat the food they offer. Last night I had to resist snacks and sushi while battling cylons. It was a good conversation starter about welfare rates in BC, but it was difficult feeling content with carrots and bread when everyone else was snacking on strawberries and olives.

Mouldy Tomatoes Fresh Salsa Homemade Tomato Sauce
Our tomatoes have started to go mouldy. We turned the good ones into fresh salsa (the 8 cent jalapeno was my best purchase!). I chopped off the mouldy bits of the others and turned them into tomato sauce. That should buy us some time. Our kale is also starting to go bad, so we’ll have to eat it soon or freeze it.

When we did our initial grocery shopping, I was confident we had enough nutritious food to last us the week. However, it’s becoming increasingly evident that something is lacking. Could it be low iron or not enough protein? I created a spreadsheet of all the food I’ve eaten in the first 3 days and the nutritional content of everything.

Ideal Average (Day 1-3)
Calories 2300 2074
Fat (g) 70 21
Carbohydrates (g) 330 408
Protein (g) 80 84
Vitamin A 100% 1521%
Vitamin C 100% 173%
Calcium 100% 51%
Iron 100% 157%

Most of the numbers are good – lots of protein, carbohydrates, Vitamin C, and Iron, and we’re getting a ridiculous amount of Vitamin A (thank you carrots). Our calorie consumption is a bit low, but we have leftovers after almost every meal. It’s possible the boringness of the meals is causing us to eat less.

I’m only slightly worried about our calcium levels – half of what they should be – but I don’t think it’s causing short term health problems. We’re missing many of our best sources of calcium like almonds (25% of daily calcium in 100 g), broccoli, and oranges. We get some calcium from the beans, but the best source we bought this week is kale and we’ve been saving it.

The really worrying number is fat – 30% of ideal level – this is likely the cause of our malaise. The biggest things missing from our diet this week are nuts and fresh vegetables. A cup of cashews or almonds would have 45 g of fat. A single avocado would have 30 g. The only significant fat source we bought this week is the canola oil. We have $6 left in our food budget, so I’m going to find a cheap source of healthy fat to supplement our diet for the remaining 4 days.

Pictures of some of our meals on Day 2 and Day 3:
Welfare Food Challenge - Day 2 Lunch Welfare Food Challenge - Day 3 Lunch Welfare Food Challenge - Day 3 Dinner Lots of Rice

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Mapping the Vancouver 2014 Election Candidates

Vancouver 2014 Election Candidates Map
Is there any regional bias to the Vancouver election candidates? I took the postal codes from the candidates nomination papers and mapped them.

Here are a few interesting tidbits I noticed.

  • NPA mayoral candidate Kirk LaPointe lives on the UBC Endowment Lands, so he can’t actually vote for himself (a detail the Straight already noticed).
  • For the main parties, their heaviest concentration of candidates are in the same areas their supporters live, unsurprisingly.
  • Vision and COPE’s candidates are mostly from Kitsilano and East Vancouver.
  • The majority of the NPA’s candidates are from the west-side (12), only 4 are from East Van, and 4 are from the downtown peninsula.
  • Vancouver 1st is running 12 candidates, evenly spread out throughout the city, though none are from the downtown peninsula.
  • The vast majority of the independent candidates live in East Van, including a number from the DTES.
  • For comparison, I also mapped the candidates during the 2011 election.

Mayor and City Councillors

Park Commissioners and School Trustees

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Welfare Food Challenge – Day 1

We survived Day 1 of the Welfare Food Challenge. There are lots of interesting people blogging and tweeting about their experiences. I’ve been surprised to see a number of people buying cans of beans. Obviously more convenient, but a lot more expensive than dried beans.

After Day 1, I feel well fed but gassy. I guess eating a lot of beans will do that.

Welfare Food Challenge - Breakfast 1
Breakfast was a simple but filling meal of oatmeal, half a banana, and a spoonful of sugar.

Lentil Lunch
Lunch was rice, lentils, tomatoes, and a few carrots. We made way too much and now have leftovers for lunch tomorrow.

Bean, Potato, and Carrot Soup
For dinner I made a simple soup with potatoes, carrots, white beans, garlic, and broth. Nothing fancy, but satisfying.

I also made bread (one loaf tonight and one ready to bake tomorrow). Here is the recipe I followed. It took a few hours (most of it waiting for it to rise), so it wasn’t ready in time for dinner. It just came out of the oven and is the ugliest looking loaf of bread I’ve ever seen (kind of slug like), but it smells delicious and tastes pretty good. Although I wish I had honey or jam to spread on it.
Baking Bread Fresh Bread Homemade Bread

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Welfare Food Challenge – Shopping Trip

Welfare Food Challenge
Tonight we did a big shopping trip in preparation for the Welfare Food Challenge. Amazingly we managed to buy what we think is a week’s worth of groceries for only $36.60, well within our $42 budget. There isn’t a lot of fresh vegetables, but what we bought is reasonably nutritious. We scouted out our neighbourhood grocery stores on Saturday and found the cheapest prices at Buy-Low and Kia.

Kia Discount Fruit and VegetablesThe bulk of our diet for the next week will be beans ($10), rice ($4), flour ($3.50), and oatmeal ($2.17). Our best find was a 10 lb bag of carrots for $4 at Kia. We got lucky with lots of items on sale at Buy-Low and discounted vegetables at Kia.

Here’s what we managed to buy with a rough calorie count. If we ate everything, we’d have almost 3000 calories each per day, more than the daily requirement. Although that doesn’t take into account vitamins and other nutrients, and a large portion of those calories come from the flour and oil.

Item Weight (g) Price Calories
Green Lentils 450 $1.50 1475
Red Lentils 450 $1.50 1475
Pinto Beans 450 $1.50 1475
White Beans 450 $1.50 1522
Black Beans 408 $1.64 1384
Chickpeas 617 $2.48 2245
Rice, Long Grain Brown 1814 $4.00 6853
Macaroni 454 $1.25 1602
Flour, Whole Wheat 2500 $3.49 9167
Canola Oil 473 ml $2.19 3784
Yeast, Active Baking 23 $0.36 160
Soup Stock, powder 50 $0.39 117
Oats, Quick 1000 $2.17 3750
Sugar, White 240 $0.96 930
Potatoes, White (5 lb bag) 2268 $1.99 1841
Carrots (10 lb bag) 4536 $3.99 2041
Tomatoes (9, discount) 828 $1.00 99
Kale (discount) 400 $1.00 402
Apples, Granny Smith (3) 700 $1.53 364
Bananas (3) 560 $0.84 364
Onion, Yellow (1) 155 $0.24 348
Garlic (40 cloves) 120 $1.00 160
Jalapeno Pepper (1) 15 $0.08 4
Total 18.963 kg $36.60 41,470

I’m optimistic now that we can survive the week. With the garlic, onion, broth, and jalapeno our food will be reasonably flavourful. The trade-off is time. We’ve spent hours planning our meals and grocery shopping. Making our meals from raw ingredients and dry beans will mean many more hours spent cooking this week than we normally do.

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Taking the Welfare Food Challenge

Welfare rates are ridiculously low in BC and haven’t increased in 7 years, even though the cost of living continues to rise. To help raise awareness, Emily and I have decided to participate in the Welfare Food Challenge. For 7 days, our food budget will be the same as two people on welfare – $42 ($21 each).

I expect this to be a difficult challenge. I’m generally a cheap person, but food is one area where I’m willing to spend more for quality. I like buying local, organic food and shopping at the farmers market. I also enjoy eating out. On average, we spend $120 on groceries each week plus another $150 on restaurants. Cutting that down to $42 is not going to be easy. It might be impossible.

If Soylent was cheaper, I might consider experimenting with it, but it costs $10/day. Our plan is to buy the cheapest, most nutritionally dense foods we can afford. That means we’ll be eating a lot of oatmeal, rice, and beans with only a few vegetables and maybe some fruit (and we won’t be shopping at Urban Fare or Whole Foods). Homemade bread, essentially just flour, yeast, and water, will also help stretch our food budget.

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