Thursday, 4 February 2010

Vancouver proposes segregated cycling

This is very interesting. The message that segregated cycling is the only way you’ll get significant numbers of people cycling has reached Vancouver, where it has even won support among the highway engineering community.

Vancouver engineers and cycling enthusiasts want to create at least one route through the peninsula where cyclists are physically protected from vehicular traffic, arguing that they're never going to attract the silent majority of potential cyclists if they don't.

"If we want to get to the 10- or 20-per-cent mark, we're going to need facilities," said Rob Wynen.

The city started this week with a motion calling for a bike lane protected by a concrete barrier on the Dunsmuir Viaduct - one of the major east-west commuter routes into the downtown. That proposed $300,000 upgrade, which so far has prompted none of the doomsday predictions that accompanied the creation of a bike lane on the Burrard Bridge last summer, is considered an easy first step. "That's low-hanging fruit," said Mr. Wynen, who noted that a lane has been closed on the viaduct for the past four years. "But obviously when we get to a list of routes going through the downtown core, that'll be trickier."

That tricky part is coming soon. The report on the Dunsmuir Viaduct, expected to be passed at council tomorrow, also asks for approval in principle to create a route through the downtown to connect the Burrard Bridge and Dunsmuir Viaduct.

Like Mr. Wynen, city engineer Jerry Dobrovolny argues in his report that people won't be enticed into cycling unless they feel physically protected. A Portland study he cites found that people separate into four general categories when it comes to cycling. The "strong and fearless" and the "enthused and confident" - mostly men aged 20 to 50 - account for about 8 per cent, while 60 per cent are "interested but concerned" and 33 per cent say "no way no how."

The No. 1 method to make that big "interested but concerned" group get on bikes is by providing physical separation, Mr. Dobrovolny says. In Copenhagen, where 36 per cent of the population bikes to work, giving people a sense of security about cycling is one of the guiding principles and separated bike lanes abound. New York has also been energetically creating protected bike lanes.

"To attract the majority of the population not currently cycling, separated bike lanes are the only option," said Mr. Dobrovolny in his report. If engineers can work out an acceptable solution, they can move on to the next challenge in the city's bike network -
a barrier-protected bike lane down the city's popular and busy road along the beaches of Kitsilano and out to Point Grey.