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Dunsmuir Bike Corral
NOTE: An updated version of this analysis can be found on Spacing Vancouver.

The past few days I’ve had a tough time finding a spot to park my bike at work. The large bike corral at Dunsmuir and Seymour has been jam packed every morning by 9 am. This anecdotal evidence makes me think cycling is on the rise downtown, but it’s nice to see some hard numbers.

Last February, the City of Vancouver published statistics showing the number of cycling trips taken on the new downtown separated bike lanes. I had fun analyzing it, but was limited by the amount of data – there was only 11 months of numbers to crunch. Since then the City has diligently updated and published the stats every month, and now there is finally enough data to see year-over-year changes (at least on Dunsmuir). The results are interesting and encouraging.

Even after a lousy summer, bike volumes on Dunsmuir have gone up dramatically. July 2011 saw 17% more cycling trips than July 2010. August saw an astounding 43% increase year-over-year! This is a strong indication that cycling is becoming more popular with Vancouverites and the separated lanes are attracting new riders. The Dunsmuir separated bike lane was installed in June 2010, so the infrastructure was the same both summers, and yet 2011 saw higher cycling volumes even with colder weather. One possible theory is that the Hornby separated bike lane (completed in December 2010) is creating a network effect that is making cycling downtown more appealing, and thereby encouraging more people to bike downtown via Dunmsuir.

The Burrard Bridge saw a year-over-year increases of 15% in June and 18% in August. July, which was cold and wet, saw a 5% drop year-over-year (even though it recorded the busiest day on record – more below). The other months were similar to the previous year, except February and March, which saw significant year-over-year drops because 2010 had abnormally high volumes during the Olympics.

Dunmsuir and Hornby both had their busiest days ever on Wednesday, August 3, 2011 (during the Celebration of Light when Spain put on their fireworks show over English Bay) with 3,009 bike trips on Dunsmuir and 2,243 on Hornby.

The Burrard Bridge also had high volumes on the fireworks days (6,566 on August 3), but its busiest day was July 9, 2011 (the Saturday of the Summer Live concert in Stanley Park) when a whopping 7,619 cycling trips were made across the bridge. To get an idea what 7,000 cyclists looks like (albeit with more lycra), check out the pictures from yesterday’s Gran Fondo bike ride from Vancouver to Whistler.

In the past year, the Burrard Bridge has seen over 1 million bike trips! A total of 1,020,216 bike trips were taken over the Burrard Bridge and 434,130 trips along the Dunsmuir separated bike lane between September 1, 2010 and August 31, 2011.

Hornby and Dunsmuir are clearly commuter routes (not surprising as they serve the downtown core). On weekends, bike volumes drop 40% – 50%. The Burrard Bridge, on the other hand, is both a commuter route and a recreational route (as it connects to the Seawall on both ends). Year round, the Burrard Bridge sees nearly as many weekend cyclists as weekday cyclists. In fact, July and August 2011 saw more cyclists using the bridge on weekends than weekdays, which I found quite surprising.

Source - City of Vancouver

Overall, the Burrard Bridge sees twice the volume of cyclists as Dunsmuir Viaduct, and the Hornby separated bike lane is seeing about 80% of the riders of the Dunsmuir Street lane. The Burrard Bridge is the only bike-friendly connection to downtown for everyone living west of Granville, so that explains why its volumes are so much higher than the Dunsmuir Viaduct. From the east, the Seawall, Expo Boulevard, Dunsmuir Viaduct, and Pender all provide bike lanes into the downtown peninsula.

*Note: The Hornby data is missing 12 days in the middle of July (including the Summer live weekend), which is why that month looks unusually low.

To put some of these numbers in perspective, whereas the Burrard Bridge averages 5,000 trips/day in the summer, the busiest bike bridge in Portland, the Hawthorne Bridge, sees around 7,000 trips (source – PDF), Montreal’s busiest separated cycle tracks see around 5,000 cyclists (source), and the “busiest bicycle street in the western world”, located in Copenhagen, is 5 meters wide and sees 38,000 bikes per day (source). So, we’re definitely on par with the top cycling cities in North America, but we have a long way to go before we challenge Copenhagen.