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Weekend report: Bikes and blunders

November 1st, 2009 · 20 Comments

Just in time, yet another news release is issued on the city’s favourite one-kilometre stretch of news, the Burrard Bridge and its bike lane. The mayor’s office issued Bulletin 23 today, with polling results showing everyone in Vancouver wants to kiss a cyclist. Well, something like that. (See exact wording below, plus the city report here.)

I’m sure it’s just a coincidence it helped feed the news media something this weekend besides the news of Andrea Reimer’s Twitter faux pas, an incident that will surely appear in the list of Ten Top Bad Twitter Posts for the year.

New poll shows strong support across city for Burrard Bridge bike lanes

In a new poll released this week as part of a council report on the Burrard Bridge bike lanes, strong support exists across the city to maintain the protected bike lane trial.

The poll, conducted by the Mustel Group from September 23 through 28, surveyed 310 Vancouverites who live downtown, on the westside (west of Granville, north of 33rd), and across the city about their attitudes towards the bike lane trial. Among the findings:

    • Support for the continuation of the bike lane trial outnumbers opposition by over 2:1, with 45% in favor versus 21% opposed;

    • Support rises within the downtown, with 57% in support and 20% opposed;

    • Support is highest on the westside, with 60% support, and only 18% opposed;

    • 90% of cyclists and 79% of pedestrians support the continuation of the trial; and

    • Of those who travel the Burrard Bridge by single occupancy vehicle, 51% support the continuation of the bike lane trial, with 31% opposed.

Mayor Robertson said the poll shows that the bike lane trial has been a success, and that people are more supportive of cycling infrastructure than is often thought.

“It is great to see strong support for the bike lane trial across the city. It goes to show that cycling isn’t some fringe issue – people in Vancouver care about cycling safety and are willing to support a reasonable approach like the protected bike lanes,” Mayor Robertson said.

“This poll shows that Vancouverites are embracing our goal of becoming the world’s greenest city. With even a majority of car drivers supporting the bike lanes, it demonstrates that our city is serious about wanting better bike and pedestrian infrastructure.

“People, no matter how they get around, want to see the city make cycling safe and enjoyable for everyone.”

The staff report on the Burrard Bridge bike lane can be viewed here:

Categories: Uncategorized

  • Frothingham

    well well … vancouverites are maturing after all. as we said all along.. .transportation in to and in the city core is achanging. get used to it.

    as for Reimer’s twitter: … if they can’t take a joke… fick them!

  • Westender

    Gee, I thought the City employed well-paid engineers and transportation planners to make recommendations on changes to our transportation infrastructure. Instead I learn that all it takes is a public survey to determine the best approach for the bridge and our transportation objectives.

    Apart from the reliance on public opinion as a basis for technical decisions, I’m curious why the data on vehicle trip times has been omitted from the Council Report on this issue. Previous data in a City news release showed that southbound vehicle trips from downtown to Burrard and 12th in the 9-10 am period had increased by up to 72%. And that was in August, prior to the “back to school/back to work” period.

    I support improved bike facilities on the bridge, but I do not support the “self-fulfilling prophecy” approach being used to declare the trial a “complete success” with “no impact” on car and pedestrian traffic. (Residents of Beach Avenue and Pacific Street might suggest they have experienced something other than “no impact.”)

    I look forward to a longer-term solution that benefits cycle, vehicle, and pedestrian needs and that reverses the current uglification of the bridge. Based on past experience however, I’m not holding my breath for a balanced approach.

  • Bill Lee

    Mention in the report was that the Downtown Business Association polled its members and got no response. !? How? What? Phone or that boring email we never open?

    The Mustel poll “For each of the pre-trial and mid-trial phases of research, 300 random telephone interviews were completed among City residents with an emphasis on target neighbourhoods most affected by the changes to the bridge—i.e., all of the Downtown and the near Westside (west of Granville Street and north of 33rd Avenue). Approximately 80% of the interviews were with residents of these target neighbourhoods and 20% with residents from the rest of the City.
    Results in total are weighted on the basis of age within gender and brought into regional proportion according to the latest census data.”

    So the phone poll is of typical size for Vancouver city views, but would miss out the mobile phone numbers which are ex-directory.

    Still, if the City was really interested in better traffic, they would narrow the major streets à la Main street and the entire ‘Mun. of Point Grey’ (West side, ex-CPR lands) to 2 lanes only and reduce our asphalt footprint, leaving only one side of the street for parking and one lane for movement of cars and bikes.

    And really, the streets are just a thin film of gravel and tar on top of of lovely 7 degree C soil that could be a public heating/cooling resource for geothermal households year round without having to dig under houses or make much of a retrofit. When the city redoes the hydrant network or the sewers they could install the heat exchange pipes for households as they do now for water, gas and soon underground electricity.
    Two birds with one stone?

  • Darcy McGee

    I have but two words for Mr. gmgw’s inevitable comments:

    Suck it.

  • SV

    Ah, Monday.

  • “Apart from the reliance on public opinion as a basis for technical decisions”

    Worth noting the lane trial was designed by city staff after much deliberation and public consultation. The survey referenced above is a snapshot of people’s opinions before and during the trial, not a call for recommendations.

    “Previous data in a City news release showed that southbound vehicle trips from downtown to Burrard and 12th in the 9-10 am period had increased by up to 72%. ”

    Sounds like a lot, but the actual numbers translate into an increase of six minutes for 3.5km (distance from Georgia to 12th), or an average speed reduction of roughly 4 kph (from 24 kph to 20 kph). At least according to my calculations, which are being done before the first cup of coffee has fully kicked in.

  • Also, regarding trip times, one hour, one-way viewed in isolation doesn’t offer a complete picture. Trip times for cars are now shorter northbound in the afternoon, and down across the board northbound. To be cheeky for a moment, it seems the way to get cars moving faster is to put in bike lanes!

  • Trip times for cars are now shorter northbound in the afternoon, and down across the board northbound

    Oops. Trip times for cars are now shorter SOUTHBOUND in the afternoon….

  • “Apart from the reliance on public opinion as a basis for technical decisions”

    The funny thing is, many people opposed to the trial beforehand claimed that it was been foisted on an unwilling population by a vocal minority.

    Now we can truly see which side was the vocal minority.

  • Westender

    The way the Council report is written implies that the survey does inform the recommendation to extend the trial – perhaps there is some other technical analysis that was left out of the report, for whatever reason.

    With regard to the trip times, I don’t think the public has sufficient information for vehicle trip times north or south – the only data released was for Tuesdays and Thursdays between June 23 and August 20. Does anyone know for certain that northbound trips are faster post-trial than pre-trial? (And I think we can be reasonably confident that the 6 minute delay noted in the southbound trips is related to congestion at the bridge entrance not an averaged drop in speed for the 3.5 km length of the trip.)

  • IanS

    From the poll and the report / data, I’d have to say that the trial has been a success if one accepts the underlying assumption that some change was necessary. I say this for a number of reasons:

    1. It hasn’t been a disaster. I admit I was skeptical at the outset, but the doomsday scenario of traffic congestion has not materialized.

    (Having said that, I am curious as to why the figures identifying the delay times were removed from the public site and have not been released. One possible inference is that they do not support the positive assessment.)

    2. According to the report, there were fewer serious accidents this summer as opposed to last summer, ie. 1 as opposed to 3. As a statistical sampling, it’s not much, but it is a reduction.

    (I would be curious to see the accident figures generally, not just the numbers for the serious accidents.)

    3. The bike lane is the cheapest solution. Again, assuming something had to be done, why spend more than necessary?

    Having said that, I don’t think the bike lane has been a success as a “green” measure. The City data shows no decrease in car use and (before it was removed and suppressed) the data also showed an increase in travel times during certain period. Hence, I think it’s reasonable to conclude that the bike lane has resulted in at least a small increase in emissions.

    Also, the report’s conclusions as to the increase in bike use, and the cause of the increase in bike use, are speculative at best, likely fueled by political considerations. We don’t have the data we would need to conclude that the bike lane resulted in any increase in bike use. In order to make that determination, we would need data from previous years during the same period. All we have are the numbers from one week prior to the lane being installed.

    One thing we do know from the data is that car use has been pretty consistent, both before and after installation of the lane. Hence, if there has been an increase in bike use on the bridge, it is not from drivers changing their ways.

    All in all, given the underlying assumption that it was necessary to do something to the Burrard Street Bridge to make it more bike friendly, I think the bike lane has been a success, as the least expensive and least problematic option.

  • (And I think we can be reasonably confident that the 6 minute delay noted in the southbound trips is related to congestion at the bridge entrance not an averaged drop in speed for the 3.5 km length of the trip)

    I agree the increase is probably due to congestion at the bridge entrance. I wanted to put it into context with regard to the overall trip, as a 72% increase sounds like a big difference. But really it’s not, especially as that 3.5 km distance is probably a portion of a longer journey, making the delay an even smaller proportion of a longer drive.

  • I’m very happy with this result, and I think the poll results show that the loud and confident voices of “common sense” in opposition to the trial have proven to be as wrong as they were loud and confident.

    That said, given the precedent that the success of this trial sets, I will not be at all surprised to see the search for negative talking points about it to continue for a very long time. If it can be claimed to be a failure in some measure, however trivial, then these claims can be trotted out the next time anyone has the temerity to suggest reducing capacity for cars.

  • gmgw

    Darcy: Sorry, you big rough tough warror princess, you, but yours just isn’t big enough for me. By the way, have you asked your doctor about that Lithium yet? It sounds like your bipolar problem is getting worse– and now you’re babbling insults at people who aren’t even in the room. Hmm– hallucinations, too? Get help. Now. You need it. It’s not too late.

  • MB

    I’m glad they stuck to their pedals and saw the trial through to a logical end with measureable results. It puts the previously cancelled trial and its $65 million alternative sponsored by the last council in perspective.

    I have to agree with Heather Deal on the radio this morming that this trial has saved Vancouver $30 million on the necessary bridge retofit. I hope the permanent bike lane replaces the concrete barriers with something that looks better.

    Sidebar: Would Darcy and GMGW please take it offline? Or start your own blogs.

  • Westender, your point makes little sense. How is technical data the basis for a decision if you don’t have someone’s opinion, whether it be council’s, staff’s or the public’s on how the technical data should guide the decision?

    In fact, it is better to make such decisions on how people feel about the project rather than on technical data. If most people are supportive, who cares about the technical data.

  • Westender

    Thank you for clarifying that Richard. I’ll look forward to future city decisions on traffic signal timing and sanitary sewer design to be based on public opinion.

  • D

    I second MB’s sidebar comment: could Darcy and gmgw please stop it with their back-and-forth. It’s kind of uncomfortable for everyone to watch, especially given that this isn’t off-the-cuff shouting, but actual thought-out typing and clicking ‘submit’. Why would you think anyone else is interested in such comments? A bit of judgment, please…

    As for Richard and Westender’s discussion, perhaps not caring about the technical data is overstating the case, but the opinions are pretty important and are a huge part of how we understand/evaluate the technical data.
    Technical data are tools or indicators, but ultimately they’re not ends in and of themselves and we shouldn’t unwittingly let them lead the process. Perhaps travel times have increased, but people are satisfied nonetheless? Of course, the converse could also be true…!

    All that said, it would be nice to see a summary report that puts it all together – both the ‘perception’ data from Mustel and the ‘reality’ data from the City (observed travel times, counts, etc).

  • Westender, your comparison is not really valid. As opposed to structural and sewer engineering, traffic engineering is really more of an art than a science. Many people pretend that it is a science but when pressed, they admit, that it is really not predictable. For example, the traffic models that the city did on the trial predicted far worse congestion than what happened.

    Back the the trial, the delay and amount of congestion that is acceptable is a political decision. You cannot prove what is an acceptable level or not. You can ask people what is acceptable and essential, that is what the city did.

  • Bill Lee

    @Chris Keam
    Bill Lee said “No one ever talks about the “accidents” (crashes), broken bones and even death from bicycle falls.”
    Chris Keam replied
    ” I would suggest that the reason they are not discussed is because the tiny fraction of bike injuries resulting from cycling that require medical attention (not counting those involving negligence, cars, racing or off-road riding) isn’t worth mentioning. Cycling is inherently as safe or safer than any other form of locomotion. Once moving, the bike wants to stay upright.
    Most of the time you’re travelling at 20-30 kph or thereabouts.
    For comparison, Usain Bolt’s Olympic gold medal run was 43.9 kph.

    Orthopedic injuries requiring bone setting would be noted. They are small compared to kilometres ridden and per person, but not negligible.”

    Well I note that the UBC/UVIC BICE study is looking for such injuries.
    I’m concerned by the ‘happy day’ reporting of extensive biking. And the lack of self-first-aid thought on the riders even for bruises let alone soft tissue tears or extensive abrasions. These are rarely reported as people deal with them at home for self-treatment. But some are not just bandage repairs.

    You may think of bike and road scars as a badge of honour but they needn’t occur. Women take a much different approach to scarring.
    Along with your concern for road and bridge design, there is also basic training of the cyclist. Cyclist en-masse would prove a social control on better riding style, lights, reflectors, gloves, helmets, appropriate clothing, signalling, shoulder checking, caution at the usual hotspots and so on.

    Did you see John Pucher’s presentation here earlier this year with all the sunny photos?
    John Pucher moans about the lack of good medical data in his 2006 paper contrasting Canadian and U.S. cycling. Caveats galore.

    And he points out in the July 2008 paper, repeating an earlier graph that cycling is in the same level as walking to work. So we should encourage both by better housing, work and transport policies. Thankfully Pucher puts up PDFs of all his papers on his site to get around the scientific journal paywalls.