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Vancouver Feature Lead ImageCruising by Stanley Park.
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Vancouver Puddle ReflectionA cyclist rolls by a puddle as rain clouds part to reveal the evening sun.
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Wall RideTyler Johnson doing a wall ride for the Vancouver fixed gear film The Revival, by Skitch & Morhart Films. therevivalfilm.com
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Vancouver Bike PoloEast Van Bike Polo at Grandview Park.
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Goat SprintsGoat Sprints riders.
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Sunset VancouverSunset riders relaxing at Third Beach.
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B:C:ClettesSome of the B:C:Clettes perform at the Bicycle Music Fest.
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Ryder Goatley and David Niddrie
Vancouver Bike PeopleFrom left to right: Arno Schortinghuis (photo by Ryder Goatley), Redsara Ross (photo by David Niddrie), Richard Campbell and Gordon Price (photos by Ryder Goatley).
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Vancouver Feature Lead Image
Vancouver Puddle Reflection
Vancouver Bike Polo
Vancouver Bike People
By Sarah Ripplinger
Photography: David Niddrie, Ryder Goatley, and Ben Johnson
Vancouver isn’t your typical metropolitan center. Known for having a densely populated downtown core where many health and ecology conscious citizens walk or cycle to work, its lush mountains and glittering glass condos attract soul seekers, explorers and hedonists alike from around the world. Vancouver is a place where extremes often meet.
Within the extreme transportation demands of a bustling port city and tourist destination, lives a thriving commuter cycling movement which is seeing the fruits of about 30 years of effort. The city of Vancouver has extended an olive branch to cyclists in an effort to improve the transportation system and meet the mounting calls for safer and more sustainable roads.
“Several cycling projects that people have been working on for years have been completed or happened this summer, including the Central Valley Greenway, the bike path on the Canada Line Bridge and, of course, the Burrard Bridge [bike lane trial],” said Richard Campbell, commuter cycling advocate and co-founder of Better Environmentally Sound Transportation (BEST) and the British Columbia Cycling Coalition. “All of these point the way to the future.”
The Burrard Street Bridge bike lane trial, in particular, has been a defining moment in Vancouver’s cycling history. After a disastrous first attempt in 1996, the separated bike lane trial that launched on July 13, 2009 has been praised as a success story for the city. Statistics indicate an estimated 26 percent increase in ridership over the bridge since it began and no significant change in the number of motor vehicles heading over the bridge. In turn, pre- and mid-trial polls of 300 residents – conducted for the city – found that 45 percent supported a continuation of the trial, with 31 percent opposed.
“I think this bodes well for other protected bike lanes in the city in the future,” said Campbell, who added that he sees more children and women on the bridge now that there are protective barriers separating the bikes-only sidewalk heading north and the bikes-only street lane heading south over the bridge. “We’re having a bicycle baby boom these days… There seems to be children on bikes everywhere.”
Vancouver’s bike cultural scene has been building since people first rode bicycles here in the late 1800s, but the contemporary cycling movement began taking shape in 1968, when protesters headed off the construction of the inner-city Chinatown Freeway, which later became part of the Adanac Bikeway. Transportation cycling discussions took off after 1980, when city hall established a bicycle committee with a mandate to examine infrastructure for cyclists. The first bike stencils hit the ground in the early 1990s for what is now an extensive bikeways system, which utilizes side roads rather than arterials. A moderately well-connected network of on- and off-road bike paths link the downtown core to the many satellite communities within the City of Vancouver proper and the 22 municipalities that compose Metro Vancouver, including Burnaby, Richmond, New Westminster and North Vancouver.
Still, the commuter cycling push at city hall has had some growing pains. Streets generally continue to be dominated by the personal automobile. However, much has changed since the late 1980s when advocates for bike paths and safer roads for cyclists were labeled radicals.
In the early 1980s, just as mountain biking was finding a fertile home on the slopes of the North Shore, The Bicycle People – one of the first groups to tackle transportation cycling in Vancouver – was formed. An ensemble of between 50 to 100 advocates, The Bicycle People staged rides and protests to draw attention to their cause.
“Vancouver really wasn’t a great place to cycle around then,” said Campbell, “certainly, things needed improving.”
The advocacy group BEST was founded in 1991 by dedicated cyclists to marry sustainable urban design and transportation needs with cycling.
Critical Mass (CM) began in 1996 and was attended by a core group of about half a dozen people. Soon after, The Bicycle People disbanded, many directing their efforts towards the galvanizing spirit of Critical Mass. Between 1996 and 2009, participation in CM grew from half a dozen individuals to several thousand in the summertime.
The rides, which for a few years concluded with a “Velofusion” Party at the Australia/New Zealand (ANZA) Club, have become a powerful venue for utility riders to physically demonstrate what roads dominated by bikes might look like.
By the late 1990s and 2000s, Vancouver bike culture blossomed with theatrical responses to auto addiction: the community-spirited bike rides of Dinosaurs Against Fossil Fuels; Wholesome Undy; World Naked Bike Ride; Musical Lantern Ride etc.; art shows; Uberkrank and the Margaret Charles Chopper Collective chopper gangs, and the B.C.Clettes – an all-woman bike-inspired performance collective!