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More than one in 10 cycle to work in some Vancouver neighbourhoods

February 11th, 2009 · 32 Comments

That’s the news from the highly anticipated, recently compiled statistics on cycling and walking in Vancouver, which comes out just in time for the pro and con sides in the Burrard Bridge debate to whack each other on the head with the numbers.

It’s also the occasion when Vancouver lords it over all the other municipalities because we just have so many more people walking and cycling here than, like, anywhere else. Take that, you SUV-driving losers, the report says. Okay, not exactly that, but it’s pretty much the message. (Actually, Victoria as a whole does better than us. The only explanation I’ve ever been able to come up with for that all the highly paid government employees and politicians can actually afford housing near their office buildings and can therefore walk.)

The report is here, with lots more numbers. The essentials:

– just over 40 per cent of people who live in the Downtown or West End walk or cycle to work. (For the city as a whole, it’s 16 per cent; for all of Metro, eight per cent.)

– in all of Vancouver, cycling accounts for 3.7 per cent of trips to work. Cycling actually decreased slightly in the Downtown and West End between 1996 and 2006, according to census stats, but walking trips there went up in the same time period.

– The Point Grey/Kits, Commercial Drive and lowers Main Street neighbourhoods had the highest rates of cycling to work, up to almost 12 per cent in some of them. I’m not surprised, since I live on a bike route in the Main Street area and see great herds of them go past my house every day.

– Summer peak hour counts along the bike routes show the highest traffic around Ontario and Prior, where the two most heavily used north-south and east-west routes intersect. The count there just over 700. the 10th Avenue route the next heaviest, with about 500.

– No numbers for the Burrard Bridge per se. In fact, the map in this report makes it look as though there is no bridge. Interesting.

Categories: Uncategorized

  • GrowingConcern

    Funny! seeing this story and reading the blog in regards to the cost cutting at city hall. The reference to greenways and bike lanes as being “fluff”. If encouraging transportation modes other than the car and reducing traffic (speeds and volumes, which is part of what greenways do) in our neighbourhoods are considered “fluff” then I’m very sad for Vancouver. I guess we should all concentrate our efforts on keeping the cars and the sewage flowing and forget about creating communities where our kids are safe on neighbourhood streets.

  • Jane

    Even ‘bike routes’ in the city are unsafe if cars continue to speed down them. I came upon an ambulance and a downed cyclist this morning on the bike route at Clarke Drive. A sobering wakeup to the fact that cycling gets little respect in this so called “green city”.

  • Jane (and responding to FABula’s joking(?) comment about gov’t workers)–

    I think that maybe one of the reasons for Victoria’s high numbers.

    They’ve got a REAL/CAR FREE bike route system that runs on parts of the old rail lines that goes out to the suburbs (both north and west) and right downtown (to where all those govt workers are going)

  • Jane, where on Clark was the cyclist injured?

    Burrard Bridge is at 6% cycling and 4 walking for a total of 10%.

    During the 1996 trial, cycling went up by 37% with just one lane. With the two lanes, cycling should go up by even more. It will be so much better for people walking over the bridge, I expect walking will go up dramatically as well.

  • Len B

    A few weeks back I watched an episode of David Suzuki’s Diaries where he traveled through Europe for examples of what they were doing differently than here.

    After visiting Copenhagen and seeing their bike culture, where 33% of people use their bikes as a main form of transportation, his observations were something we need to learn from here.

    (Out of context), the first one was that it needed to be convenient for people to convert from their cars. The second was that they built the infrastructure to support heavy bike use – such as entire parking garages for bicycles.

    His third observation was mixed in with the first. His approach over the past years has been wrong. You can’t force anyone to change, they need to want to change and often they must have a reason to do so.

    What I absorbed from this was that we’re doing this all wrong here in Vancouver. Although I keep hearing this cyclists/pedestrians are crap mantra, that is far from the truth. As is the anti-car mantra that has been coming out of city council for a decade now.

    First, the bike routes I drive past (gasp…I drive a car when I need to) in Kits are used about as infrequently as they could be, while cyclists are one or two blocks over on Cornwall taking the scenic route. Here David Suzuki’s observations are correct, the bike route is not the most convenient, so it is not being used and you can’t force people to take a route they simply aren’t interested in.

    So yes, some of the bike infrastructure is fluff and wasted money. I’m not going to criticize the traffic engineers on this one, I’m pretty sure they were trying to keep traffic on Cornwall moving while trying to work in some bike lanes into the ‘hood. The reality is that the cyclists are not cooperating.

    Secondly, my wife would love to bike to work. The reason she doesn’t is that there is no room to store it, as well as some others I won’t get into. Back to Suzuki’s observations, here again it’s not convenient and it ain’t gonna happen.

    Forgetting bikes for just a second, we have the issue of transit versus car use. In this city, it’s still cheaper and far more convenient for her to drive than it is to use transit. Using Mr. Suzuki’s other observation, there is no financial incentive for her to change, so ergo it won’t happen.

    The last one I’ll touch on is the pollution factor. There is no doubt that a car pollutes more than a bike.

    That said, regarding the Burrard Bridge and the fact that pedestrians and cyclists are just 10% of those using the bridge, to close any of the lanes is a HUGE mistake.

    For every minute a car sits stuck in traffic waiting to cross that bridge, it is spewing 0.048Kgs of extra carbon into the air. (That’s on the low side by the way if you care to argue).

    If you spend some time and calculate that out, the increased carbon emissions over False Creek and into the surrounding neighborhoods shouldn’t be acceptable. Not from a car use, but from a clean environment perspective.

    With some traffic diverting to the Granville Bridge and possibly around False Creek to the Cambie Bridge, the increased carbon emission widens and now engulfs even more neighborhoods. Vancouver isn’t so clean anymore.

    People need to stop thinking anything other than an increase in fuel costs is going to force people out of their cars. It’s been tried and it fails each and every time. What you get is traffic diversion which wastes more gas and pollutes more.

    This city council unlike ones before them should be thinking outside of the norm to better the flow of traffic, make it more convenient for people to bike and for people to walk into and out of the downtown core.

    What should be happening over False Creek is several bike and/or pedestrian crossings forming a network linking the Seawall from side to side. This isn’t a new idea, this came up in the 2002 public consultations and was shot down on several fronts: A) Cost, B) Boat height, C) A council policy of no further crossings over False Creek.

    The council policy must go. That was obviously intended to prevent further car bridges from being built. It should be amended to say that only pedestrian and/or cycling bridges are allowed – the car bridge ban would stay.

    Boat traffic. There are many forms of movable pedestrian/bike bridges in use in Copenhagen and Amsterdam, where I might add they seem to be doing things correctly. Do we really want to favor the wealthy and their freedom to come and go without waiting for a bridge to open for 5 minutes, versus the average Joe/Jill walking to work – who probably can’t afford that boat?

    Cost. We can do this rightly, or we can continue to piss away money on half-assed band-aids like we’ve been doing for years. The Burrard Bridge lane closures and traffic diversion is a half-assed band-aid that’s going to waste money in the long-run.

    I’m not advocating for the status quo, I’d like to see a better plan put forth than what we have that meets the needs of all people and not just the 10% that walk and bike to work.

    Apparently a majority of people doing something means little once you’ve gained office.

  • Chris B

    … plus the better the weather, the better the cycling. When I lived in vancouver, I cycled year round (barring some really miserable days). Now that I live in Ottawa, I cycle April/May – November.

  • Michael Phillips

    This is yet another instance of the people of Vancouver out-performing their civic government.

    These statistics are fantastic. Assuming that the percentage of trips to work taken by bike is analogous to the percentage of commuters-to-work who bike, we might even be second in all of North America behind annoying Victoria. Portland received the distinction in 2007 of having the highest percentage of commuters who bike to work in all of the U.S. at 3.5 percent.

    This of course includes many cities with far less rain and no snow compared to us. So way to go Vancouver!

    But this is entirely despite the lack of attention bike commuting has received in this city over many years. Our “bike route” system is a joke compared to other cities. A bike route is not a road with a stencil of a bike painted on it, these are bike routes:

    A bike route is a hard flat surface along which only bicycles can travel, perhaps even separated from other forms of traffic by some sort of barrier, and which offers to one direction of bicycle traffic no less than a meter and a half of width.

    This is not a bike lane:

    This is a street with a bike painted on it.

    Bike route safety and accessibility brings more people into the biking transportation system, ameliorating physical and environmental health, and saving money individually and socially.

    We need a genuine bicycle route system and if that means less room to park then that’s what it means.

  • Len B

    I agree with Michael, we need a genuine cycling route system that isn’t what we have here.

    What worries me is the manner in which decisions have been hastily made. I’ve read numerous cyclists about wanting the Burrard trials to just begin already. As well, this council and mayor had their minds made up before the election that this would happen. Yet I see no plan and no vision for what comes next, how this fits with an overall transportation strategy, etc….

    What a great way to spend money rather than invest it.

    Far too many band-aids, no real plan for the future THAT MAKES SENSE, which means a pile of wasted money down the road.

  • Chris

    Len B – I don’t buy the argument that reducing car capacity increases air pollution due to idling cars. That would only be true if the same number of people continue to drive. However, if you make biking and walking more convenient and driving less convenient, then people will switch modes of transportation. So, GHG will actually go down. It’s the same reason why GHG don’t drop when we build more highways and bridges. Grid lock might ease for a bit, but more people will drive if it’s faster then the alternatives.

  • foo

    If you look at the map in the report, you can see that cycling is essentially non-existent in the entire south and east part of the city, which constitutes the majority of the population.

    Instead of spending a whole lot more on ways to make life easier for the downtown/westend/kits residents, don’t you think it would be more beneficial to the city to work on bike/pedestrian friendliness on the east side?

    If we were really concerned about the environmental benefits, there would be a massive program to improve walkability along, say, Kingsway, or Knight, or even Marine. Fast-track the ‘town-centre’ development on the Fraserlands. Improve transit that connects parts of Vancouver not in the downtown core; improve transit that connects ‘suburban’ Vancouver to Burnaby, Richmond etc.

    The fact that these things are not even on the radar for the city makes me believe that all the talk about sustainability, environmental friendliness, etc is just crap. It’s really that the planners and the people with influence all live in the downtown peninsula, false creek, kits area, and they’re only interested in making that part of the city nice to live in.

  • Len B


    What’s not to buy with respect to the argument that GHG will increase. Even if the amount of cyclists increase by 50%, you there is no way to tell if those people come from cars or buses.

    Let’s just say they all come from cars though, 50% of 800-900 people an hour is only 400-450 single -occupant cars. With an average commute from Cornwall and Cyprus across the bridge to Pacific, perhaps taking 3 minutes now, versus 6 minutes due to congestion, that’s like adding 3000 extra cars.

    Those who argue that reducing lanes will mean less traffic are as well mistaken in that belief. Less lanes may mean less traffic, that doesn’t mean people will get out of their cars, they will just go to another bridge increasing their commute and GHG along the way.

    Next, your argument on highways is inapplicable to the Burrard Bridge. This bridge is used primarily by people that live somewhere in Vancouver to get to downtown. It is not a thoroughfare type of bridge that is used by people coming from the burbs.

    The use of this bridge can be controlled through urban planning and density as neighborhoods are developed. Thus controlling GHG’s in the future.

    Chris, I understand that many people have an ideology that cars are bad, period. Yes they pollute, no argument from me on that.

    However, there is an equal and just as valid argument that clogging up traffic increases GHG and pollutes.

    We need a comprehensive traffic plan with a vision to that works in tangent with transit, bicycles, pedestrians, AND cars.

    The anti-car people aren’t helping matters – they aren’t going away and never will.

  • Darcy McGee

    Commercial Drive has a high propensity to cycle, and yet the Adanac Bike Route remains in tragic condition.

    I cycle from K-dale every day to Burnaby. It’s not a bad route, but I avoid Adanac when I go from Burnaby to downtown to swim. (When I go to Kits Pool Adanac wouldn’t make sense.)

    The city needs to /invest/ in cycling infrastructure, not just let it sit there as an add on for cars.

    I don’t want a damn lane on the Granville Bridge. I want a damn pedestian & cyclist /only/ bridge over False Creek. It would be spectacular.

  • Darcy McGee

    Sorry…that should be “a damn lane on the Burrard Bridge…”

  • Chris

    I think your math is a bit off.
    At peak there are 8000 trips / hour across the bridge.
    55% by single occupancy vehicles = 4400
    6% by bike = 480.

    If the bridge will increase cycling by 50%, that means and extra 240 people biking. If we assume that they’re no longer be driving, and the average commute is 15 km (it might be more or less), that means 3600 less km driven. At about 200 g CO2/km = 720 kg less of CO2.

    If the average commute does go up by 3 minutes, that means the vehicles still on the road (maybe 4500 of them including car pools and buses) will contribute an extra 648 kg because of idling, by your figures. Less then the 720 kg saved by the cyclists.

    That’s not a huge savings, but it will only increase as more people switch to cycling. And I doubt that the average commute will go up by 3 minutes. I’ve lived on Beach Avenue overlooking the Burrard Bridge for the past 2 years and I watch the rush hour traffic every morning. I’ve never seen all 3 lanes fill up. Sometimes the turning lane onto Pacific backs up, but the bridge capacity is not the bottle neck, it’s Pacific Avenue. Taking away lanes for cyclists won’t make that worse.

  • Len B


    That’s 8000 people across the bridge in peak hours, not cars. According to the stats I have in a pdf saved from the city web site, it’s roughly 3800 cars per peak hour. If I knew how to post the pdf in a comment I would do it for you, where it exists on the city web site I’m not sure because I save files as opposed to links.

    As for where you live and what you see, the Burrard Bridge has traffic from the 3 other sides you don’t see – you’re getting one angle of vision.

    Try coming over to Kitsilano at about 7am in the morning for a coffee then driving your car back over the bridge about 8am and see if you enjoy it. It’s ridiculous.

    Also I had a meeting downtown last night and was going back into Kits at 6pm going south down Burrard to cross the bridge. What a bloody mess.

    And speaking of bloody messes, how about when everyone and their dog comes down to kits on nice sunny days. It’s bad enough already trying to come down Cornwall on any nice day, driving in the summer is going to be a nightmare.

    Chris your ideology is clouding your math – period. Commutes will increase, 3 minutes for the average car is generously low. If the rush hour was 90 minutes, expect that to move to 120 minutes at least. That’s 30 extra minutes of smog so your math does not work.

    The advancement of this project is all about ideology, nothing more nothing less. It’s a band-aid instead of a comprehensive plan to improve all modes of transportation going forward.

    The mayor and council should be ashamed of themselves for the needless expenditure and mistake this will prove to be.

  • Chris

    The 3 minute figure was taken from your post. I was just trying to point out that for every car you take off the road, you don’t just save emissions from the 3 minutes crossing the bridge, but from the whole commute, which more then compensates for slightly slower commute times for everyone else. And the PDF was already linked to in an above comment, but here it is again – those are the figures I used.

    I’m not saying there isn’t congestion for people coming across the Burrard Bridge, I just don’t think the bridge itself is the bottleneck. It’s streets like Cornwall and Pacific. If the Bridge had 10 lanes it wouldn’t make a difference to commute times. I don’t think taking away one lane (counter-flow in the initial trials) or two lanes (as suggested by cycling coalitions) will change the choke points around the bridge.

  • Chris

    Furthermore, each driver redirected to biking will reduce congestion along the whole route it would normally drive. Hopefully that will ease problems on streets like Cornwall and Pacific and actually quicken commute times.

  • Pingback: New Stats On Cycling & Walking In Vancouver | Outdoor Vancouver()

  • Granville is only a short drive away and is faster than Burrard for many trips. There will be some confusion for the first week then everything will be fine. Don’t forget Cambie Street will be back at full capacity soon and the Canada Line with a capacity of 300,000 people per day will be open this fall. Drivers won’t miss the lanes on Burrard for long.

    Oh yeah, after the Olympics, $33 million worth of construction is planned for Burrard Bridge anyway to repair the crumbling rails. This will likely require one or more lanes to be closed for a year or two. Might as well get used to it now.

  • Arno

    Len B – You fail to consider that many cars are now hybrid and shut off when stopped. More so in the future. You shouldn’t think 50% increase in cycling but 400%. In Copenhagen, a city with a similar climate to ours, almost 40% of trips are by bike. We can do the same here, but it requires dramatic improvement in cycling infrastructure so that people will want to ride their bikes. Projects like reallocating 2 lanes of Burrard Bridge to cycling. With respect to cost, would you rather spend $31 million to widen sidewalks or $2 to $3 million to reallocate lanes?
    What about all the injuries on the sidewalk? Do we have to wait for someone to get killed?

    I applaud council for doing the right thing and moving forward with lane reallocation.

  • foo

    Actually, spending $2-3m on the Adenac route, or something along 33rd/41/49 or even Kingsway would do a whole lot more in the long run to reduce emissions.

    Or even making a reserved bus lane along Granville and over the bridge. Significantly more people, now and in the future, use buses than cycles.

    The whole thing looks like a boondoggle to benefit a tiny, but vocal and well-connected minority.

  • Len B


    You were calculating the entire commute time for a person converting to cycling, I was just talking the bridge from Cornwall at Cyprus, to Burrard at Pacific. Just last week one morning it was 8 minutes for that distance – just ludicrous and without bike lanes.

    If I start calculating in times to drive down Cornwall and Burrard Streets which will become congested with reduced lanes on the bridge, now we’re starting to talk big time increases.

    Again you were calculating in total commute, I was calculating the bottleneck – big difference.

  • Len B


    Are you serious when you try and claim MANY cars are now hybrid. Seriously find the stats to back that up, especially and specifically vehicles using the Burrard Bridge.

    You’re dreaming.

    Next, Copenhagen also has the infrastructure to support the bike traffic they have. As I wrote in my first post, spending millions on piece of the puzzle (puzzle being a cycling transportation route) is like spending billions building one frickin Sky-train extension versus using LRT.

    You can applaud council all you want, this will prove to be a huge waste of money in the long-run because it will be changed in the future – mark my words.

  • Len B


    The Granville Bridge ramp from Kits to downtown was removed years ago so that you have to make 3 right turn to get onto the bridge. It slows down traffic unnecessarily.

    Also in the cities plans are to do the same thing on the north side of the bridge. Again 3 right turns to get onto a bridge.

    If anyone has gone to Montreal and seen the long traffic lines that must do the same silly thing to get onto certain bridges you’d understand in the long-run that’s a failed strategy/plan.

    The Granville Bridge is a few short years is going to be mess and changes to the Burrard Bridge now are not going to help matters.

    As for the Cambie Bridge, people have changed their trips to use the Granville and Burrard Bridges since construction on the Canada Line started.

    Any subsequent decrease in traffic will only get the bridge to where it was 3 years ago. If you remember we had a trial then and it went miserably, prompting the then NPA to promise during that election that the traffic lanes would not be touched.

    New council, new mantra. It still doesn’t fit into a better more broad plan which would be far better in the long run.

    This is an old idea that’s been floated for at least a decade without changing for 2009, let alone 2015 or beyond. These people are supposed to have VISION, yet this is a stale plan from the past that makes no sense for the future.

  • Len B

    You conveniently forgot about the $3 billion rapid transit line with a capacity of 300,000 per day that should help a bit.

    For the people that think is is a “boondoggle”, it is exactly the opposite. It is the least expensive solution, costing perhaps a couple of million. The widening would have been an extra $30 million AND would have lead to construction delays for a year or two. A new bridge would be at least $100 million.

    It is only a trial at this point. Lets give it a chance and settle the debate once and for all. So far the city has spend millions of dollars trying to figure out what to do. Let give it a try.

    Now go to the census figures that was the subject of the post and you will realize that a lot of people who live close to the bridge walk and cycle, (30-50% downtown, 20-30% south of the Bridge).

  • It was the well connected minority of NPA supporters that killed the trial which resulted in the wasting of a couple of million dollars on the design for the wider sidewalks on the bridge.

  • Len B

    Now go to the census figures that was the subject of the post and you will realize that a lot of people who live close to the bridge walk and cycle, (30-50% downtown, 20-30% south of the Bridge).


    Please show me where this report says that 30-50% of people downtown walk or cycle across the Burrard Bridge.

    From your very first post above: “Burrard Bridge is at 6% cycling and 4 walking for a total of 10%.”

    You appear to be contradicting your own posts.

    And for your “small minority” of NPA supporters who killed the trial….why not own up to the fact that it was thousands of drivers who vote – that killed the trials.

    Lastly, I’m not advocating for a new Burrard Bridge, I’m talking about a cycling only crossing that will cost far less, and not much more than what all these changes are going to cost anyway.

    Pedestrian/cycling only bridges DO NOT cost $30 million unless someone is padding someone’s wallet.

    This city does not have any infrastructure to support an increase of cyclists to the downtown, and your suggestions of 400% are pie in the sky.

    Bottom line is Richard your ideology and mind are made up and it’s you that doesn’t want to look at other options.

  • CJ

    – Summer peak hour counts along the bike routes show the highest traffic around Ontario and Prior, where the two most heavily used north-south and east-west routes intersect.

    Huh? Ontario and Prior? They intersect? I thought Ontario ended at the south side of False Creek and Prior ended at the Georgia Viaduct. What am I missing here?

  • fbula


    Yes, I could have worded that a little better. But, as cyclists know, the Ontario route continues on through the Science World parking lot and intersects with the Adanac route at the north end of the lot, which is actually running on Prior Street by that point. (Prior doesn’t end at the viaduct. There’s a little squib that runs next to the viaduct between Main and Quebec.)

  • Len B

    I’m not contradicting my posts. Please try reading. I never said 30-50% of people crossing the bridge were walking or cycling. I was simply pointing out a lot of people that live near the bridge walk and cycle and that the number that walk and cycle that go over the bridge will go up during the trial.

    The $30 million was for widening the sidewalks outwards. The last time the city estimated the cost of a bike and ped bridge four or so years ago, the cost ranged from $50 million for a basic bridge to $250 million for a signature bridge.

    Realize that because of the boat traffic, any bridge across False Creek must be almost as high as Burrard Bridge. Ped and bike bridges must be build as strong as automobile bridges as they must be able to hold people standing shoulder to shoulder on the bridge. This can happen during fireworks and special events. When they don’t build them strong enough, they collapse. Once or twice a year you will hear a story on the news when people are killed during the collapse of a substandard ped bridge.

  • Len B

    Finally, the city has spent the last fifteen years looking at all possible options. After years of trying in vain to find other options, they have realized the the best and most affordable option is lane reallocation. That is the bottom line.

    Even Anton and Ladner were for it until they were talked out of it by Sam. This flip-flop didn’t do them much good in the last election, did it.

    I suggest you actually go back and look at all of the studies and reports so you will actually know what you are talking about. They are available on the web site. One little tidbit from the staff report after the trial back in 1996 you might be interested in is that after a week, the traffic delays were minimal and the number of people supporting the trial was about the same as the number of people against it.

  • Len B


    You did contradict your own posts, I posted your writing.

    What was not researched were movable type bridges that are used in both Amsterdam and Copenhagen, something this city seems to think we should model for their bike use.

    If we’re going to be serious about this, using an old tired plan and then defending it with the same tired excuses that you seem intent on rehashing is quite simply not a vision for the future.

    If you’re a traffic engineer at city hall, perhaps your just upset that someone is calling you on failed the failed traffic planning and lack of ingenuity that has gone on for years.