Getting more Asses on Bikes in Vancouver

Work Commute
I’ve been thinking a lot about cycling lately. Vancouver just hosted the world’s premier bike conference, Velo-City, so cycling issues have been dominating the news and my twitter feed.

On Thursday night I went to a talk by Mikael Colville-Andersen, the man behind the Copenhagenize blog. It was a fascinating look into what cities can do to bring cycling into the mainstream. Mikael’s goal is to make cycling as common as vacuuming – you don’t need special training to vacuum, there are no “avid vacuumists”, and you don’t go to Vacuum Equipment Co-op to buy special gear – it’s just something you do. In Copenhagen, people don’t self-identify as cyclists and only a small percentage of people who bike do so for financial or environmental reasons. Most people do it because it’s the most convenient way to get from A to B.

After listening to Mikael and reading the reports coming out of Velo-City 2012, I realized Vancouver has a long way to go before it achieves the cycling mode-share seen in Copenhagen (37% compared to 5% in Vancouver). Here’s my list of things that need to change before cycling goes mainstream.

  1. Introducing a public bike share system.
  2. Scrapping the mandatory helmet law.
  3. Building a connected grid of separated bike lanes.
  4. Calming automobile traffic.

Progress is being made on all these fronts, but it’s moving at a glacial pace. The bike share system has been announced, but delayed by a year while they figure out how to work helmets into the system. Opposition to helmet law is mounting, but politicians are reluctant to speak out against a law that still has popular support outside of cycling circles. Vision Vancouver took a lot of flack for the new separated bike lanes they built downtown, but they were rewarded with an increased majority on city council. Hopefully they take this as a sign to keep building new separated lanes.

As for traffic calming, Vancouver has been on a road diet for decades, and vehicle volumes have been steadily dropping over the past two decades – they’re now at the same levels they were in 1965. The next step is to reduce the speeds that cars move at. According to Colville-Andersen, Barcelona is adding 30 km/h zones across the city, and 80% of all streets will have lower speed limits by 2015. Why? Because fast cars kill. If you get hit by a car going 30 km/h you have a 95% chance of surviving, but at 50 km/h it’s 55% and at 65 km/h it’s only 15%.

Hopefully the City of Vancouver, Mayor Gregor Robertson, and Vision Vancouver respond to Velo-City 2012 Conference by increasing the pace of cycling improvements.

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About canadianveggie

I enjoy exploring the great outdoors, eating good vegan food, cycling around Vancouver, solving problems with software, learning about urban planning, and discussing politics.
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5 Responses to Getting more Asses on Bikes in Vancouver

  1. Ryan says:

    How was coverage of the conference locally? If it wasn’t for twitter and blogs, you wouldn’t have a clue it was happening if you lived in Ontario.

    I remember leading up to the past municipal election in Vancouver, so many people were saying Gregor will be ousted because of his “ridiculous and wasteful bike lane schemes”…If there is ever talk or Vancouver and the surrounding suburbs amalgamating together…fight it tooth and nail! Toronto is a prime example of what happens when you lets the suburbs run a city.

    Lower speed limits are a near impossible sell in most of Ontario. After all this is a province where you can pass provincial police on highways, going 20km/h over the speed limit and you won’t be pulled over.
    99.9% of the city roads in St. Catharines are 50km/h. It’s actually better then most cities in Ontario, where speed limits (within the city) can reach up to 80km/h.

  2. Kerrie says:

    Sounds like a very interesting conference! Glad you are spreading the news…have you sent your comments to the city about the transportation plan? Today is the last day! Maybe there are some lessons learned from the conference that can be applied/added to the plan?? Here’s where you can make comments/suggest revisions to the plan… http://talkvancouver.com/transportation

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