Will statistics vindicate Gregor Robertson and Vision Vancouver’s bike-lane policies?
Holding a passionate opinion on bicycle lanes has just about become a requirement for anybody who purports to call themselves a true resident of Vancouver.
Today, there’s a new piece of ammunition for those in the pro-bike camp.
The graphic above appears to show that when it comes to cycling infrastructure, if you build it, they will come.
In a 10-year period during which time New York City increased the number of designated bicycle lanes measured by miles from roughly 500 to 900, the number of community cyclists increased from about 5,000 to 19,000.
The graph was posted on Twitter by Felix Salmon, a financial journalist with Reuters. He attributed the diagram to Janette Sadik-Khan, commissioner for the New York City Department of Transportation.
It leaves unanswered questions of cause and effect. What came first for New York, bicycle lanes, or a significant number of cycling enthusiasts who were waiting for bike lanes to be built? (It’s worth noting that opponents have criticized New York mayor Michael Bloomberg for implementing bike-friendly policies in a manner they argue lacks adequate public consultation, much the same way that Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson and Vision Vancouver have taken flack for similar policies.)
Regardless, the graphic makes clear that at least in the case of New York, once designated bike lanes were developed, people quickly started to use them. It also shows that as more bike lanes were built and more cyclists took to the streets to share space with cars, there was actually a decline in accidents involving bicycles.
Bloomberg began his push for bike lanes several years before Gregor and Vision took a majority of Vancouver city council seats in 2008. Not enough time has passed since then for there to exist the sort of data that could illustrate long-term trends for Vancouver like the graph above does for New York.
A few years down the road, it will be interesting to see if Vancouver’s cycling advocates will have the same sort of statistics to hold up in the face of Vision’s detractors.
Update: Kevin Quinlan, a spokesperson for the mayor's office, reached out and provided a link to a series of statistics related to transportation in Vancouver covering the years 2008 to 2011. It's stated there that during those years, "cycling was the fastest growing transportation mode with 40% growth in the number of trips, nearly 20,000 more trips citywide, increasing the cycling mode share from 2.9% to 3.8%." You can read more here.
Maps of the City of Vancouver’s bicycle lanes and regional cycling infrastructure are available at TransLink’s website.