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At What Cost?

by Bryn — last modified Dec 19, 2010 11:01 AM
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Numbers numbers numbers... The City of Vancouver has pledged $25 million over 3 years for bike lane improvements, including the Hornby and Dunsmuir separated bike lanes. Here's a look at how that looks compared to other capital programs the CoV takes on every year.

Sometimes it is hard to put things in to perspective.  There's been a lot of comments in the news media complaining about the expense of installing bike lanes, saying that the money could be spent better elsewhere.  As an avid follower of what goes on in municipal politics here in Vancouver I recognize it's easy to miss the "big picture" around what really gets spent in our city and how things like these bike improvements stand compared to other expenses.  I thought it might be helpful to everyone to get an idea of what various city improvement projects cost in comparison to the bike lane projects, to get an idea of how they stand and what we get for our money.

First off, the cost of some of our new bike lanes:

  • $800,000 - Dunsmuir Bike Lane - Design & Build from Abbot to Hornby (no signals, minimal changes)
  • $3,265,000 - Hornby Bike Lane - Note the cost includes quite a lot beyond the bike lane itself, and has a $500,000 contingency fund.  Without the contingency fund the price is $2,765,000.

I'd love to list more, but in terms of separated lanes built in the last 18 months or so that's it!  So first off let's take a look at the big ticket item here - the Hornby bike lane...

Item Cost
Signal Work (Bike Traffic Signals & Changes to Vehicle Signals) $1,100,000
Street Work (The actual bike lane itself) $947,000
Planters (including soil & plants) $390,000
Bike Corrals & Parking $30,000
Monitoring Program & Enforcement $93,000
Communications (media around the bike lane, etc) $200,000
Contingency $500,000
TOTAL $3,260,000

 

Amazingly just getting the traffic lights updated cost more than building the bike lane itself!  There was considerable repaving and improvements to the city streets in the immediate area too, which I believe is counted in this cost.  

So how does that stack up?  Here's another project the City of Vancouver is undertaking:

  • $6,200,000 - Knight Street Left Turn Bays @ 57th, Minor Street Changes - The City of Vancouver report is here...

Why do we not have articles in the news screaming about the cost of these left turn bays?  I mean if we can build a bike lane through the entire downtown core for about half the cost, isn't that a better use of city funds?  

To get some perspective, the City of Vancouver alone takes in around $720,000,000 per year - the Hornby bike lane therefore cost 0.4% of one year's budget.  We of course expect the bike lanes to last far more than a year - about 50 years would be a normal expectation for a city project.  Therefore over the lifetime of the bike lane we are expecting its cost to be about $62,500 per year, or 0.0086% of the City's annual revenues - nearly too small to measure.

Projects like this give us back far more than they cost - I don't think I need to really talk about what we gain from the bike lanes - a healthier population, a more liveable city... It's clear given the minuscule cost that we should simply embrace projects like this rather than seeing sensationalist media disputing the validity or worthiness.  You never see media reports complaining about the cost of resurfacing a major street - I can't find the report for it but the city just completed a major project on 41st Avenue that extended from Cambie to Joyce.  I've got to believe that cost a heck of a lot more than a bike lane on Hornby!

 

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Perspective

Avatar Posted by David Walker at Dec 21, 2010 01:31 PM
Thank you for putting the bike lane costs in perspective, all I ever see per the new bicycle lanes in the media is negativity.

Bruce Allen

Avatar Posted by Mike Dorsey at Feb 13, 2011 09:16 PM
This guy is slagging bike lanes and cyclists. I almost think we are his main bread and butter.

Yep

Avatar Posted by Bryn at Feb 13, 2011 09:19 PM
He's one of those folks who's public persona is based on controversy big time. Kind of like Don Cherry for instance...