Tag Archives: dunsmuir

Vote Vision Vancouver – Reason #2: Separated Bike Lanes

Dunsmuir Bike Lane Opening Day
Reason #2: Separated Bike Lanes
From a numbers perspective, Vancouver’s separated bike lanes have been a huge success, and continue to be even as the weather cools. However, that hasn’t stopped some hotheads from turning bike lanes into a political issue.

Vision Vancouver deserves full credit for having the courage and conviction to create not one, not two, but three separated bike lanes in downtown Vancouver. They’ve also doubled the cycling budget, added traffic calming to residential neighbourhoods (especially along bike routes), and tendered an RFP for a bike share program.

It’s difficult to pin down the NPA’s position on bike lanes. Suzanne Anton originally voted in favour of the bike lanes, but later rescinded her support. The NPA takes offence at being labelled as anti-cyclist, but have suggested a moratorium on downtown bike lanes, ripping out bike lanes, removing bike lanes during the winter, and licensing cyclists. I’m not sure how to classify their plans as anything but anti-cyclist. They need to read this post: Debunked: Arguments Against Cycling.

The future of Vancouver’s cycling infrastructure will be one of the largest outcomes of this election. If the NPA wins, we could lose the separated bike lanes in the downtown. If Vision wins, we will likely see more bike lanes, a bike-share program, and a continued shift away from automobiles.

Vancouver’s Separated Bike Lanes – September Update

Bike Lane in the Rain
A quick update on Vancouver’s separated bike lanes. Last month I wrote about how the lanes were “more popular than ever“, and the trend is continuing. The data for September 2011 is now available, and the bike lanes are still rocking.

Continue reading Vancouver’s Separated Bike Lanes – September Update

Vancouver’s Separated Bike Lanes – More Popular Than Ever

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.
Continue reading Vancouver’s Separated Bike Lanes – More Popular Than Ever

Dunsmuir Bike Lane – By The Numbers

A few days ago the City of Vancouver posted the daily statistics for the Dunsmuir and Hornby separated bike lanes (available here). I am the self-appointed data nerd at work, and thought it would be fun to apply some of the same techniques we use to analyze building energy to bike trips.

The first thing I did was go through the data to see if I could determine the driving factors of bike lane usage. The data file contains data from several sensors (located up and down Hornby and Dunsmuir) but I focused on the Dunsmuir viaduct because it had the most data (11 months worth). With only 11 months of data, you can’t do any year-over-year comparisons, but you can start to notice trends.

The first obvious pattern is there is a clear difference between weekday and weekend usage, with volumes nearly doubling Monday-Friday. This makes sense, since the bike lanes provide access to the downtown.

There is also a noticeable seasonal difference in the data, with summer traffic (peaking at 2099 trips per day) doubling the December high of 1025. The driver of this is, as you might guess, weather related. Once I added in weather data from Environment Canada, you can see a strong correlation between average temperature and bike trips.

The next biggest driver of bike trips is the addition of the separated bike lane on Dunsmuir. On March 3 a bike lane was added to the Dunsmuir Viaduct. On June 15, the separated bike lane extending from the viaduct to Hornby was completed, replacing a painted bike lane. It really shifted up usage of the Dunsmuir Viaduct, adding about 500 extra trips per day in the 2nd half of June.

You can build a pretty good linear model that would predict bike lane usage based on the day of the week and the temperature. The outliers you’ll notice are holidays (which have very low usage), fireworks (which were the highest used days) and days with > 3 mm of rain (marked with R) or snow (marked with S). I was surprised that holiday volumes are lower then weekend volumes. Rain and snow are obvious deterrents to cycling, but extreme cold apparently isn’t. On days where the temperature dropped below freezing, but were dry, cycling volumes were on par with days averaging +5 C.

The last question to ask is “is bike usage increasing”? There was a definite jump after the Dunsmuir separated lane bike lane was completed on June 15. Looking at data since then, you need to isolate out weather to make a fair comparison. If you look at months with similar average temperatures (July/August and December/January) there is small, but noticeable growth in cycling volumes. However, it is tough to say if it is a trend or not. Another year of data would really help. After July 2011, we’ll be able to compare the data to July 2010 and do a year-over-year comparison where the infrastructure isn’t changing. That is when we’ll be able to spot growth.

Thanks to the City of Vancouver for providing this data and the separated bike lanes. It is really interesting to see the growth of commuter cyclists in Vancouver.

Update: Hirtopolis addresses the issue of data fudging and anomalous readings in the city’s data.

Bike to Work Week at Pulse Energy

Biker Breakfast Bait

While most of the country is preparing for snow, Vancouver is celebrating the rainy season with Bike to Work Week, which started on Monday. As the self-appointed captain of the Bike to Work Week team at Pulse Energy, I’m trying to ensure we defend our title for most commutes that we won in the summer. My job is made easy by the group of dedicated cyclists who work at Pulse and the improved cycling infrastructure, which is key to getting new cyclists to bike downtown – luckily our office is located along on the Dunsmuir separated bike lane.

On Monday, I offered breakfast for anyone who cycled in or who promised to bike in at least one day this week. I baked up some apple strudel, spinach and feta pie, and gluten-free pumpkin muffins. Considering that every morsel was eaten, we should have no problem getting lots of bums on bike seats this week. So far, the results look good – we’re close to the top in 2 categories.

Bike Lanes Make Me Hornby

Dunsmuir Separated Bike Lane
It is official, Hornby is getting a separated bike lane! Construction is set to begin immediately and be finished in 2 1/2 months. It is the best Christmas present I could have wished for – a completed downtown cycling network with separated lanes.

I’m really proud of city council for standing up to the fear-mongering of Laura Jones (of the CFIB, formerly of the Fraser Institute), who claims businesses along Hornby are set to lose 23% of their sales when the Hornby lane goes in (source) – a great made-up statistic. We’ll have to see if business actually suffers, but given the experience of businesses on Dunsmuir I highly doubt it. Hornby is not a strip-mall. It’s a busy street in downtown Vancouver. I’m not sure how any business on that street can reasonably expect to have cheap, abundant parking close by. Nor should they need it. The area is well served by transit and 100,000 people live within walking distance.

There were several passionate speeches to council, both for and against the bike lane, but the one that seems to stand out is remarks made by Gordon Price. He talked about how many of Vancouver’s most cherished, quality-of-live features were controversial when added – deciding not to build a freeway into downtown, traffic calming, and even the paved seawall. You can watch his full comment by loading http://www4.insinc.com/ibc/mp/md/play/c/317/1199/201010051910wv150en,003.asx into Windows Media Player and jumping to 2:33:50. I’ve heard from a few people, it was his speech that convinced opposition councillor Susan Anton to vote for it, which meant city council unanimously approved the bike lane construction.

Update: I was disappointed to learn this morning that Councillor Anton has decided to rescind her vote in support of the bike lane. My opinion of that decision is here.

Note: The title for this post was stolen from CBC’s Bill Richardson (source).

Debunked: Arguments Against Cycling

map-separated-bike-lanes
Looks like Downtown Vancouver is getting another separated cycling lane. The Hornby lane will connect the separated bike lanes on the Burrard Bridge to the separated bike lane on Dunsmuir. Once this is complete, the last piece in the puzzle will be the Helmcken-Comox Greenway, which planing should start on next year.

I went to the information session at the Pacific Centre to ask a few questions and lend my support to the Hornby bike lane, and ended up in a 20-minute debate with a guy who kept repeating the same lame arguments I’ve heard before. He also insisted on calling me a “militant cyclist”, which I found amusing. I’m willing to be labelled a dedicated cyclist, an enthusiastic cyclist, or even a hard-core cyclist (although compared to most cyclists I know I’m not very hard-core). But militant? I don’t think I’ve blown up enough SUVs to deserve the ‘militant’ label.

Here are the most common arguments I hear against cycling debunked. They’re all used as justification for not investing in cycling infrastructure, and especially for preserving road space dedicated to cars. The guy I was arguing with tried to use all of them at various points in the conversation.

  1. Hardly anyone cycles. Why are we spending money on such a small minority? – The best statistics on cycling come from the long-form census (the same one the Conservatives are scrapping). In 2006, 3.7% of commuting trips in Vancouver were by bike. In the neighbourhoods bordering downtown it is around 10%. Not an insignificant number, but nowhere near the target of 10% city-wide set by a previous city council many years ago. The best way to get more people on bikes is to build infrastructure to make cycling safer.
  2. The cycling infrastructure we have is good enough. There are already bike lanes downtown, we don’t need separated bike lanes. – Sadly, the separated bike lanes are not for cyclists like me. I will use and appreciate them, but I already cycle and will continue to do so, even with modest infrastructure we currently have. If the city wants to get to 10% cycling mode-share it needs to attract people who are currently afraid of cycling downtown. That’s why the separated cycling lanes are so important, they make it possible for people who are unwilling to battle with cars to get to work by bike. If you build it, they will bike.
  3. Converting car lanes to bike lanes will result in traffic gridlock. All that congestion is bad for the environment. – I love it when people who spend their days sitting in traffic pretend to worry about the environment, when really they just want to get home faster. As we’ve seen with the the Burrard Bridge and Dunsmuir, it is possible to take away car space without causing gridlock. If gridlock is really a problem, we should consider congestion pricing, but it is hardly a problem in Vancouver. The number of car trips into the downtown has been steadily declining over the past decade, while cycling, walking ,and public transit is on the rise.
  4. Police should crack down on cyclists who flaunt the rules. They don’t wear helmets and they don’t stop at stop signs. – If you want to be a stickler for the rules, I’d guess that the average car commuter breaks at least one law every time they drive to work (rolling through stop signs, speeding, etc). It’s easy to find cars breaking the law. That’s no reason not to build roads. If we refused to fund highways because of speeding, there wouldn’t be a single highway in Canada. The worst cycling rule-breakers are the road warriors and bike couriers – people who currently dominate downtown cyclists and get a high out of getting around as fast as possible, regardless of the danger. As cycling infrastructure improves, and more business people, children, and families start biking I’m confident the pace will decrease and you’ll see more civilized bikers.
  5. Cyclists should be insured/licensed to ride on the roads. – This argument usually takes one of two forms. For licensing, it is to provide accountability and ensure cyclists follow the rules. For insurance, it is to have cyclists pay more because cars need insurance. But cars need insurance because of the huge damage they can cause when accidents happen, not really an issue with bikes. As for licensing, some cities have tried with no success. Momentum has a good summary of the bike licensing debate. I just want to add that in Vancouver bike couriers are actually licensed and they’re the worst cyclists on the road, so I’m not sure licensing would accomplish anything.
  6. Cyclists should be forced to pay a road tax because they don’t pay gas taxes. – Cycling saves the government money – mostly because bikes take up less space and cause less wear. Cyclists may not pay gas taxes, but the majority of transportation projects are payed for by property taxes that everyone pays. And infrastructure for cars costs way more then bike infrastructure. “Engineering staff figure, on a very rough estimate, that the overall allocation of city transportation infrastructure is about two per cent for cyclists, 20 per cent for pedestrians and 78 per cent for cars.” – Cyclists are not freeloaders (Vancouver Sun). For years, the only infrastructure cyclists got was paint and signs (pretty cheap stuff). The separated bike lanes are not cheap, but to put the costs into perspective: the Dunsmuir bike lane cost about $1 million to install, while a left turn lane at Knight and Clark cost $3.7 million.

The interesting thing about the cycling debate is it has little impact on the politics here. The opponents who are the most angry are suburb commuters and they don’t vote for our city council. And even if they did, every political party in Vancouver supports the bike lanes, and has for the past 20 years. So opponents can rant and rave all they want, they’re only spinning their tires.