CoV's Goal: 10% of all trips in Vancouver to be by BIKE
Vancouver has put $25 million over the next 2 years on the table for bike route improvements. The goal is to increase cycling from the 3.7% share it currently has to 10% of all trips, a worthy goal which some say is a pipe dream.
Vancouver does have an impressive network of bike routes - the city reports over 400 lane-kilometers of bicycle routes throughout the city, but just a small fraction of those routes are actually dedicated, separated facilities where cyclists don't have to compete with traffic. A great example would be Main street - there's pictures of bicycles painted on the road, but I certainly don't feel comfortable dodging parking cars, car doors, buses and dump trucks rolling along at less than half the speed of traffic!
Studies show there's a few types of riders - those who will ride no matter what (the "Spandex Warriors" as I like to call them), those who are willing to ride provided they have at least some semblance of a bike route (i.e. bombing down Yukon because there's pictures of bicycles), and the vast, vast majority who will only ride if they feel totally safe. The last group is who the city is trying to reach out to - the first group will ride no matter what you do, whether there's bike routes or not. Trying to appeal to them won't get you anywhere. The second group tends to be the most vocal, but it's more of an anti-car agenda than anything. The second group is pretty well taken care of by the current way things are done - designate a street a bike route, make sure there's some buttons to cross major streets and paint some pictures of bikes on the road. If we want any serious increases in cycling though, we need to get people riding who aren't already doing it!
For comparison's sake, check out this morning commute in the Nederlands:
Pretty wide range of riders!! In a lot of areas in Europe over 40% of trips are made by bike. There's no one age or gender that really stands out - anyone and everyone feels safe and compelled to ride a bike. The reason? Dedicated facilities entirely separated from other traffic. That last group mentioned above, the one we're trying to appeal to need this kind of facility to feel safe. If you ask anyone what their biggest fear as a cyclist is you can almost bet the answer will be "CARS!!" - I know it is for me.
Actually carving out separated routes is a challenge though. If we go back to the Main street example above, imagine for a moment that the parking lanes were converted into separated bike routes. Cyclists have much more of an ability to interact with their environment than a motorist does - we can smell that delicious bakery, see how fresh the tomatoes look at the produce store, admire a gorgeous painting in the window of a gallery and best of all, at a moment's notice we can pop our bike on the curb and actually enter one of the shops we're cruising on by. If you're in a car, chances are you're going to have to drive around for 10 minutes (in that area anyhow) looking for a parking space - not something you're going to do on the spur of the moment.
In Vancouver however, the storefront street parking spot is treated as if it were laid out in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The small business lobby would have us believe that those parking spaces deliver hundreds of people to their businesses daily, and that transit or cycling couldn't possibly ever come close. When we talk about improving bike routes instead we get this:
Actually coming up with places to spend that $25 million is going to be interesting!