Mayor Gregor Robertson laments city's cycling "hesitation"

The weather may be more cyclist-friendly this week, but Mayor Gregor Robertson is disappointed that Vancouver hasn’t come very close to reaching its goal of seeing bicycles account for 10 percent of all trips by 2010.

Robertson, an avid cyclist, demonstrated his impatience when staff presented a report on cycling statistics at the February 17 meeting of city council’s transportation and traffic committee.

“The 10-percent mode share sounds like it’s been more of an aspirational goal to date,” Robertson declared at the meeting. “My concern is we haven’t done what we need to do to be on target to hit 10 percent by 2010. What will it take to get there?”

Vision Vancouver councillor Heather Deal asked whether staff are continuing to pursue the “citywide” 10-percent goal.

“We are still working towards that goal, of course,” Tom Timm, general manager of engineering services, confirmed.

The eight-page staff report, penned by transportation engineer Jerry Dobrovolny, noted that the city completed its bicycle plan in 1999, when cycling and walking represented approximately 3.3 percent and 10.7 percent of the total mode share, respectively.

According to the 2006 census, 3.7 percent of all trips to work are made by bicycle, a 12-percent increase over the figure reported in the 1996 census. The cycling mode share is highest in the South Cambie and West Point Grey–Kitsilano areas, at 11.9 and 11.8 percent, respectively. The mode share in Grandview-Woodlands is also over 11 percent.

However, the downtown mode share for bikes ranges from 1.3 percent to 5.8 percent—figures that troubled Coalition of Progressive Electors councillor David Cadman and Vision councillor Geoff Meggs. At the meeting, both suggested that this was due to reduced safety for cyclists in the city centre. Timm responded that the large percentage of pedestrians downtown contributed to the lower mode share of cycling there.

“I’m concerned there is still hesitation versus courage to make the shift,” Robertson said.

Dobrovolny said his department may be able to “rethink the [infrastructure] reallocation that was made a decade or so ago”, as the public now has more appetite for cycling.