Vancouver, BC is Totally Killing It With the Whole Biking Thing

The city has been taking initiative to increase their cycling modal share, and their plan is working.

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Cycling in Vancouver

Looking North from the Seaside Greenway in Vancouver’s False Creek. Photo from the seat of a bicycle by 3dpete

In 2012, the council of Vancouver, BC set out to make the coastal Canadian city a model for sustainable transportation not only in North America, but worldwide. As part of their Transportation 2040 plan, they set their sights on achieving a 7% cycling mode share by 2020. It was an ambitious goal for a mountainous, rainy city in a country with an average cycling mode share of 1.3%, nestled on the west coast of a continent with an average cycling mode share so depressingly low it isn’t even worth mentioning.

Four short years and hundreds of kilometers of new bike lanes later, the city has reached its 7% goal a cool four years ahead of schedule. When it comes to trips to work, the cycling mode share jumps to 10%, placing Vancouver firmly in the top three for bike commuting anywhere in North America.

While much could be surmised about the rapid growth of cycling having to do with the relatively mild winters or unusually fit general population, the fact of the matter is it all comes down to smart planning. With bike-commuting mayor Gregor Robertson at the helm, the city has been busy constructing an integrated network of protected bike lanes, traffic-calmed residential streets, bike-specific signal phasing and a whole whack of bicycle parking.

Taking advantage of the region’s breathtaking natural beauty, they also completed the enviable Seaside Greenway, a 28km (17 mile) protected biking and walking path stretching along the water from the downtown core all the way out to the sandy beaches of the Spanish Banks at the westernmost tip of the city. After completion of the project, average daily bicycle trips more than doubled at four automatic counters along the route, and in one case increased by 600%.

Meanwhile, the average annual distance citywide driven per resident fell 27% between 2007 and 2015.

Cycling in Vancouver

Taking a breather on one of the many beaches along the Seaside Greenway. Photo by Craig Paterson

As a regular commuter cyclist in Vancouver, I can attest to the functionality of the city’s still-growing bicycle network. Every day, I ride 4.6 km to work and scarcely have to leave a bike lane or traffic-calmed back street for more than a block. On weekends or sunny evenings, I saddle up my back rack with a small picnic and ride the Seaside Greenway out to the beach, leisurely chatting to friends as we ride along in the total security of a protected cycle path.

But in this city as in all others, a commitment to cycling, walking, and other forms of sustainable transportation isn’t simply about mobility or a relaxing ride to the beach, it’s about building a healthy community. Transportation is much more than getting from point A to point B, it’s what connects people to each other and to the world around them. Mobility means access to jobs, to entertainment, to leisure activities, to nature.

So this city which is working so hard to redefine their transportation system for the needs of the 21st century is the perfect location for a groundbreaking conference on biking, walking, and placemaking. This coming September, Vancouver will play host to Pro Walk/Pro Bike/Pro Place 2016, a biennial conference of planners, landscape architects, engineers, advocates, and others from around the world who want to network, engage, and learn best practices about smart urban planning. Themed “Moving Towards a Healthier World,” the conference will feature panels, workshops, and activities in the focus areas of Health, Resilience, Mobility, and Governance.

Thousands of people will descend on the city to see how Vancouver is making great strides in creating a healthier community through their investment in green spaces and active transportation, and similarly Vancouver will have the opportunity to learn from those who are making huge changes in their own communities around the globe.

Here at Momentum Mag, we’re proud to be from a city who is taking their commitment to cycling and active transportation seriously, and we’re even happier to be a part of this upcoming conference. Pro Walk/ Pro Bike/ Pro Place is happening in and around our beautiful city from September 12-15, 2016. Early bird registration is closing on May 20, 2016, so there’s no time like the present to join in if you’re in the city. For those elsewhere, regular registration remains open and we hope you’ll come visit us for this unique, inspiring event!

To learn more, visit walkbikeplaces.org

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