By HUB Cycling
It may not be a convenient truth, but bike advocates should be among the first to admit their vehicle of choice —in isolation— will not conveniently take them everywhere they may need to go. It lacks the required range, as most people will only regularly cycle for journeys under eight kilometres.
Similarly, public transit—in and of itself—won’t substitute for the private automobile, as it lacks the necessary penetration into lower-density areas.
Combine these two modes of transport into a single “bike-transit” system, however, and a seamless, door-to-door mobility option is immediately unlocked, capable of replacing thousands of car trips, and reducing congestion across Metro Vancouver.
Capturing this synergy between bikes and transit is precisely the job of Derek Yau, the planner and transportation engineer in charge of cycling projects at TransLink. Yau spends much of his time and energy addressing the "first and last mile gap" from Langley to Lions Bay; that is, the distance that transit users travel between their stop and origin or destination.
“A lot of people in cities bridge that gap by walking,” he explains. “But more and more, we’re seeing people are choosing to cycle, and those who do so travel distances that would be prohibitively far to walk.”
When you consider the increased efficiencies produced by the bike-transit combination, it’s easy to see why planners like Yau are so compelled by it.
“Effectively, cycling to transit extends the reach and catchment area of transit—in that you can travel longer distances using the same time and energy.”
By pedalling five kilometres using the same effort as a one-kilometre walk, suddenly the catchment area of a given station increases five-fold in each direction, becoming 25 times as large. Not only does this make the transit system more streamlined—allowing for fewer stops that are farther apart—but it also delivers more customers to the system and more cyclists to the bikeways, in a virtuous circle of sustainable transportation.
Yau notes there are even instances when it makes sense to replace specific segments of a transit trip with a bike trip.
“In an urban context, a lot of bus routes travel at speeds comparable to cycling,” he reveals. “For those who bridge that first or last mile with a bus ride—if you’re taking the bus to Skytrain for example—you might even get a faster trip if you just ride your bike to the SkyTrain.”
Over the years, TransLink has been one of the most bike-friendly transit agencies on the continent, with all of its vehicles—buses, SeaBuses, Skytrains, and West Coast Express—able to carry bikes, with the exception of the Expo and Millennium Lines in peak directions during peak hours. But those offerings aren’t the most scalable, so Yau is working on long-term solutions that can grow along with the system.
“We recognize one of the barriers to casual, utilitarian cycling is the lack of secure, dedicated places to park your bike,” Yau concedes. “So we made a plan to build a number of bike parkades at transit hubs across the region.”
Currently located at Main Street, King George, and Joyce-Collingwood stations, TransLink now offers indoor bike parking facilities to anyone with a Compass Card. They have 24-7 access, CCTV, high-quality racks, and—at $1 per day up to a maximum of $8.00 per month—a reasonable rate.
After registering your card at compasscard.ca you can sign up for bike parkade under "My Programs". Then entry is as simple as a tap of the Compass Card.
If these three particular locations aren’t on your travel radar, don’t sweat. TransLink will be rolling out another 10 across Metro Vancouver in the next two years.
“Typically in the past, we’ve put bike parkades in places where we knew mode share was already high, or where we could capitalize on adjacent station upgrade opportunities,” Yau says. “Moving forward, we want to stay true to that, but also want to spread our resources as much as possible across the entire region.”
By the end of this spring, new bike parkades will open at King Edward and Metrotown stations, and by the end of the year, at Commercial-Broadway.
“Then we have seven more coming across the region by the end of 2019,” Yau discloses. “Notably, there are three that actually aren’t going to be at SkyTrain stations; two at West Coast Express stations, and one at Carvolth Bus Exchange in Langley.”
While the idea of merging a daily bike and transit ride may seem a bit complicated and intimidating to the casual user, Yau suggests starting off slowly—maybe once or twice a week—and building a regular routine from there.
“You shouldn’t feel like a lone wolf, because many people already do it, and you’re undoubtedly among friends,” he says. “I think it’s a lot easier and a lot more fun than people think.”
For more information visit bikehub.ca/biketotransit.