Here’s how Metro Vancouver cities stack up for cyclists
A downtown-based cyclist and the director of SFU's city program believes fitness, climate change, and energy are the “three critical issues of our time”.
“And they all interact,” Gordon Price, a city councillor with the Non-Partisan Association from 1986 to 2002, told the Georgia Straight by phone. “But regardless of where you put them on your priority list and whether or not you take them seriously—and how could you not—they are only one degree of separation from cycling.”
Price, 61, jokingly refers to himself and his husband, Len Sobo, as MAMILs: Middle-Aged Men in Lycra. He doesn't use a bicycle as his sole means of getting around, but he said he supports separated bike lanes. And he is “more than optimistic” about cyclists using them in greater numbers.
“I'm going to be predictive and say we're going to be running into problems of overuse in a few years,” Price said. “And you know why? Electric batteries [powering or assisting bicycles]. I think we are going to see an explosion of that. And tell me the price of oil at the same time and I'll adjust my time line for you.”
Price said, though, that he's aware of recent opposition to bike-lane expansion. That was reinforced on February 8 when cyclist Rob Macdonald, CEO of Macdonald Development Corp., wrote a scathing op-ed in a daily newspaper calling the downtown expansion of bicycle lanes “lunacy”.
Speaking to the Straight by phone, lone NPA councillor and cyclist Suzanne Anton attacked Vision Vancouver over how it executed the downtown expansion.
“First of all, on bike lanes, there were 400 kilometres of bike lanes by the end of the NPA term in 2008,” Anton said, echoing Macdonald's column. “They'd all gone in smooth as butter. So, I think what [Mayor] Gregor [Robertson] managed to do was stir up a real hornet's nest. That's not a good result for cycling or for transportation.”
Anton said she continues to hear about the lanes from constituents. However, she is in favour of separated lanes “if done properly”.
Given oil prices, new technologies, and public-health mandates demanding that the population get more active, Price said it isn't surprising that bike lanes both spring up and rankle some people.
“This is very disruptive stuff,” he said. “It's upsetting a lot of people's assumptions about the way the world should be ordered.”
Price said he has no problem debating the process of writing bike policies, but he added, “The moment you say you're going to tear it [a bike lane] out, and the moment you throw the cyclists back into the traffic, you've got a tough position to defend. Because you're saying, ”˜Nah, that's not worth taking seriously.' And I think that's a very tough position to take when you look at the headlines.”
After her election to council in November 2005, Anton voted to cancel the planned bike-lane trial on the Burrard Street Bridge. The Straight asked whether she plans to campaign this November on ripping up the separated bike lanes on Hornby and Dunsmuir streets.
“No,” Anton said. “It's not the job of one council to tear apart the work of another council.”
Every municipal-election year, we ask cycling fanatics to rate the infrastructure in their municipalities.
The grades from 2008 are in parentheses.
Rhiannon Chernencoff, city bicycle advisory committee vice-chair
AVAILABILITY OF OPTIONS: B (C+)
“Pretty good for a North American city, especially with the new cycle tracks downtown. Still, Vancouver could go much further to completing the network and improving access to a wider range of users. Options are generally better the closer you are to downtown and the surrounding areas, though the downtown itself is still missing crucial links such as a safe, convenient east-west route connecting the West End with downtown. South Vancouver has a lot of missing links and areas that are not very friendly to mobility scooters, pedestrians, or bikes.”
SAFETY: B (C+)
“Great strides have been made with the protected cycle tracks; still, areas in the city exist that do not provide safe enough space for vulnerable active users. Shared lane markings like those on Main Street—called sharrows—are dangerous in their current configuration by forcing cyclists to share space with speeding vehicles. Main and East 2nd [Avenue] has one of Vancouver's highest accident rates for cyclists. More could be done at known problem areas to increase safety.”
OVERALL: C+ (C)
“Great steps in the right direction, but still missing some key links. Some areas and routes seem relegated or in need of upgrades. Hopefully, the upcoming city active transportation master plan will help to address issues of long-term planning and connection so that the grid is tightened, key connections made, and facilities strengthened. Vancouver's facilities are better than any of the neighbouring regions in the Lower Mainland, though, which is extremely evident when I cycle out of the city.”
Joe Foy, Wilderness Committee spokesperson and commuter cyclist
AVAILABILITY OF OPTIONS: Burnaby B (C+), New West B (C+)
“The Central Valley Greenway is now completed through Burnaby and New West, and is a pleasure to ride. The section that parallels New West's East Columbia is completed to the New West riverfront. In New West, the Crosstown Greenway connects the B.C. Parkway to the Central Valley Greenway, providing a pretty good network in this small city. Improvements to the Queensborough Bridge make access to Queensborough easier as well. The completion of the Central Valley Greenway has improved Burnaby cycling options as well. In Burnaby and New West (Vancouver, too), the B.C. Parkway could sure use some love and attention. Tree roots have turned sections of this paved route into washboard and sections of the route come to an abrupt end, leaving new riders to try to figure out where their route went. It's a worthwhile bike route and deserves a rethink and a rebuild.”
SAFETY: Burnaby B (C+), New West C+ (C-)
“In Burnaby, the Central Valley Greenway has improved safety a great deal for those who commute across the city. A short, separated bikeway and proper crossing lights on Winston [Street] at Cariboo [Road] have made this dangerous intersection (especially on a rainy night) much safer. Painted bike lanes along Winston help prevent confused drivers from wandering into cyclists. The bike/pedestrian bridge at the west end of Winston is a great improvement and allows cyclists to get over the railway tracks to access the car-free stretch along Still Creek, which, by the way, takes away the need to ride Lougheed Highway with its fast-moving big trucks. All in all, a very good safety improvement over 2008. In New West, the completion of the Central Valley [Greenway] to the Quay has made cycling to downtown much safer as well.”
OVERALL: Burnaby B+ (B), New West B (C+)
“For me, it's all about the Central Valley Greenway. This new main-stem bike route connects a lot of other great bikeways together in a safe and easy-to-ride manner. For example, I was able to ride with my 12-year-old nephew from our home in New West all across Burnaby, then across East Vancouver to False Creek, in an easy afternoon cycle trip. From there, we rode around Stanley Park, had a bite to eat, and returned home on the B.C. Parkway route, eventually hitting New West's Crosstown Greenway. It was a great day out made possible by the Central Valley Greenway.”
Darrell Mussatto, City of North Vancouver mayor
AVAILABILITY OF OPTIONS: City of North Van C+ (C), District of North Van C (E), West Van, C- (E)
“DNV has made cycling safer along Marine Drive and is including cycling lanes along Capilano Road. West Van has a new section of the Spirit Trail. The city has completed a number of sections of the Spirit Trail and made cycling improvements to major commuter routes such as West 13th.”
SAFETY: CNV C+ (C), DNV C- (F), West Van C- (E)
“This is the area in all three municipalities requiring greatest improvement. All municipalities must do better to encourage new cycle commuters. Separated cycling routes continues to be the standard.”
OVERALL: CNV C+ (C), DNV C (F), West Van D (F)
“The city eliminating one automobile lane on the 3rd Street hill and installing bicycle lanes was a positive step but needs to be replicated elsewhere. A new cycle lane on Capilano Road will be an improvement but needs to be continued further north. West Van needs to actually link up their mishmash of cycling routes spread out across their municipality. All three municipalities need to address the steep terrain somehow. A TRAMPE bicycle-lift system for the North Shore?”
MAJOR CHANGES SINCE 2008
“DNV has wider curb lanes along Marine Drive for east-west commuting. In DWV [West Van], the Spirit Trail section behind Park Royal has been completed and is great for recreational cyclists. In the city, sections of the Spirit Trail have been completed or are very near completion over railway tracks, and new cycling lanes on 3rd Street hill.
In terms of options, the North Shore as a whole has gone from a failing grade three years ago to a barely passing one today.”
Alexi Zawadzki, Vancouver Area Cycling Coalition Tri-Cities
AVAILABILITY OF OPTIONS: D+ (D)
“New routes built in 2010 improve cycling options. However, most of these routes are relatively short and have poor connectivity. The Crosstown bike route was established, but this consisted of the installation of signage and ”˜sharrows'—bike arrows painted on the road—with very limited improvements to the infrastructure. A good start, but more work needs to be done to connect to routes within Coquitlam and the surrounding cities. In Port Coquitlam, cyclists have complained that new construction has reduced the options.”
SAFETY: C- (C-)
“No change here since 2008. The top priorities that were identified by Coquitlam in 2006 are still that—priorities. Five years later and very little has been done to improve safety along the Lougheed Corridor. The Tri-Cities need a safe route that connects southern Coquitlam/Port Coquitlam/Pitt Meadows to New West/Burnaby. The Tri-Cities VACC's top priority is to develop an off-road bike route south of Highway 1 and north of United Boulevard that will connect the Port Mann Bridge to the Central Valley Greenway.”
OVERALL: C (c)
MAJOR CHANGES SINCE 2008
“I wish I had more to add here, but there have been some improvements. The Coast Meridian Overpass has very good cycling lanes. The Crosstown bike route in Coquitlam achieves the goal of advertising an existing route, and is being used because of that. Coquitlam has installed a couple of kilometres of new bike lanes along the Barnet Highway which are excellent, but don't connect to anything. Port Moody is still a terrible place to ride (and drive), and they really need to get their finger out and build some bike routes to reduce congestion and improve safety. Generally, we have seen Port Coquitlam and Coquitlam pay more attention to cycling in 2010/2011. This is encouraging, and we hope Port Moody follows suit.”
Walnut Grove resident, cyclist, and three-time federal Green candidate Patrick Meyer gave Langley an “ungraded” in 2008. In 2011, he said he's upgrading it to I for “incomplete”.
Mar 17, 2011 at 7:42am
'“First of all, on bike lanes, there were 400 kilometres of bike lanes by the end of the NPA term in 2008,” Anton said, echoing Macdonald's column.'
Macdonald's factually laughable column, that is. Among other distortions, his "over 400 kilometres of bike lanes," is gross misuse of a figure including paths (15% of the network) and neighbourhood streets (65%). The actual on-street lanes would barely make a two-way loop around the city.
Not to mention that downtown is where paths and neighbourhood streets don't work, and the existing lanes weren't anywhere near good enough.
Unfortunate poor planning in Vancouver.
Mar 17, 2011 at 10:20am
I still don't understand why bike lanes were added to the Burrard Bridge, a bridge that already had sidewalks so wide that a car could almost drive on them.
While Robertson's ideas sounded fun on paper, no intelligent city planner would have allowed such lunacy to unfold. There is going to be a very expensive undoing of almost everything Mr. Robertson did during his time in office. This is the hardest pill to swallow at this point.
Mar 17, 2011 at 10:57am
After 18 years and several million dollars of public consultation, the NPA still did not have a solution for the dangerously narrow shared sidewalks on the bridge. Ten years after they approved the 1999 Bicycle Plan that had 4 east west bike lanes downtown they had not yet implemented even one eastbound bike lane in downtown due to opposition from a vocal minority. Sure, what they did may have went in "smooth as butter" but it did because they gave up when things got a bit difficult and the nattering nabobs of negativity complained. Thankfully, Vision showed real leadership.
Mar 17, 2011 at 11:51am
Bike lanes. Who cares? I want know where are the HORSE LANES ?
Mar 17, 2011 at 12:47pm
I have to agree that Mr. Macdonad's op-ed piece was factually in error on many counts. His credibility is essentially zero on account of this.
Meanwhile, cycling contunues to grow as a fun and easy way to get around the City of Vancouver -- with lots of room for improvement in infrastructure.
Mar 17, 2011 at 12:55pm
The sidewalks on the Burrard Bridge are narrow, nowhere near to allowing room for both cyclists and pedestrians. As to allowing for a car -- that is really silly.
And there were many really serious injuries to Burrard Bridge's cyclists before the lanes went in -- as reported in the Straight by Matthew Burrows on May 6, 2009.
Average Joe Cyclist
Mar 17, 2011 at 1:37pm
This is a great article with lots of good information. I appreciate the diversity of opinions offered, and the general air of common sense about cycling (as opposed to hysterical fear).
However, I was disappointed to see Macdonald's article quoted. It puzzles me that this article is taken so seriously. As I argued in a recent blog post, (http://averagejoecyclist.com/?p=2694), Macdonald's article was little else but an hysterical tour de force of Smoke and Mirrors.
Mar 17, 2011 at 1:43pm
The assessments are quite reasonable & show a good understanding of cyclist perspective, except for Burnaby. I certainly hope the CVG is not "completed," a lot of work still needs to be done. There are some sections still with inadequate sight lines. The off-street section thru the Still Creek marsh needs to be paved, and the section past the Recycling Depot is still a real disaster.
I also still have problems with the two-way routing of the separated "bike tracks" downtown. The special bike lights on Hornby alleviate some of the issues, but not all; there is still some elevated risk riding in the "wrong direction" on both Hornby & Dunsmuir. Same problem exists on the CVG on the Great Northern section. I don't even use that anymore; between Victoria and Main I use 10th Ave./Rue Ste. Catherine/6th/5th/Quebec instead. Much safer!
Mar 17, 2011 at 11:20pm
No mention of bikes and transit. For me (and family) this is a big one. I'm fine with biking everywhere around town, but appreciate being able to say to hell with we'll stick the bike on the bus or the skytrain on the way home.
Recently took transit to Fort Langley. F for fail. Not doing that again.
As for paths, the Central Valley Greenway is a great route for commuting or recreation, and the new separated routes through the downtown are really welcome. Good to see better bike parking such as at the shops on Commercial and 8th.
Mar 17, 2011 at 11:52pm
I totally agree with the assessments here that show Vancouver and Burnaby are head and shoulders above the rest of Metro Vancouver in terms of cycling infrastructure. I cycle regularly along several routes in both cities and am very grateful for the work that's been done.
The most egregious issue in my mind are the "sharrow"-marked roads in Vancouver. Sharrows are the worst of both worlds, and I pretty much use the "sharrow" legend on Vancouver's bike route map as an indication of what routes NOT to use.
Other than that, the cycling routes are so much nicer and safer now than in the 70's when I started riding my bike around the city. Aside from the separated lanes downtown, I especially appreciate the cyclist-activated crossing signals where the bike routes on secondary streets cross major arteries.