Will Vancouver be the first Winter Olympics host city with the greatest number of people using bikes for transportation during the Olympics and ParaOlympics? If there are days with no icy pavements, all signals point that Vancouver could step up to the top podium.
According to local and national news media, as well at the web site for Vancouver Organizing Committee (VANOC), the 2010 Winter Olympics promises to be environmentally sustainable. Cycling has been promoted as an alternative transportation option to deal with the impending daily avalanche of over 100,000 more visitors, spectators, journalists and athletes in the downtown core and at the main sports venues during the Olympic and ParaOlympics.
Local residents, including cyclists await with bated breath.
Slick media images of lush white snowdrifts and snow-laden evergreens promoted abroad, are found more often at Cypress, Grouse and Seymour Mountains and Whistler. Soon the rest of the world may be surprised to learn that Vancouver normally enjoys mild winters with little or no snow at the foot of its mountains. Who knows –Vancouver may be the first Winter Olympics (not Summer Olympics) where there may be a visible number of cyclists wheeling about during the Olympics for transportation. We can only hope for this result.
In the past year, leading up to the Olympics next month, there has been effort by City of Vancouver and TransLink in transportation planning, to integrate cycling as a viable, even necessary transportation mode during the Olympics. Already TransLink acknowledges Skytrain and Canada Line stations near Olympic venue sites, cannot quickly accommodate sudden surges of massive crowds. There will be lengthy wait times by thousands of spectators for commuter trains.
The aim is to reduce car traffic in downtown Vancouver by 30% during the Olympics. Since Third Wave Cycling Group members already live and work in or very close to downtown Vancouver, we know that downtown Olympic athletic
and celebration sites, are within a 15 to 30 minute walking distance from Skytrain, West Coast Express and bus stops, as well as between Olympic sites. The unknown factor for many local cyclists living or travelling downtown, will be weather conditions of streets and paths, combined with thousands of people who will be walking or using vehicles and not truly familiar with the city, its temporary traffic rerouting and road closures.
Recent permanent expansion of cycling routes may ease some congestion pain during the Olympics – with limits. The most salient infrastructure legacy of the 2010 Olympics for local cycling, is the improved extension of the Seaside separated bike path in South False Creek through Olympic Village. Unfortunately this flat, landscaped segment will be sealed off to the public, January to March 2010 for security reasons. Diversions by bike to Granville Market, are abit more convoluted and lengthier – doable for local cyclists, but more confusing for visitors who might have originally wished for easy scenic bike ride or stroll.
A few days ago, TransLink posted a public directive that no bikes will be allowed any time on Skytrain and Canada Line trains, Feb. 2 to Mar. 7, 2010. Although trains will be operating for extended hours until 2:30 am during the Olympics, this latest change will be another wrinkle in plotting an integrated cycle-train route in even very early morning hours during inclement weather. Obviously TransLink is forecasting continuous heavy train use at all hours.
Over the last twenty years, official reports by past Winter Olympic host cities, do not mention use of bicycles. There was use of bicycles at various former Summer Olympics for both internal Olympic operations and by the public. Brief searches of final reports revealed for the 1972 Munich Olympics, 462 bikes for internal Olympic operations which included security, interpreters, and journalists. (As side trivia, 30 Vespa scooter-motorcycles were also available.) The 2000 Sydney Olympics did promote cycling, walking and transit as evidenced by its archived official Olympic web site. Athens was hoping for its 2004 Olympics to have local cyclists use Marathon Ave. to offset forecasted traffic road congestion. More research on previous experiences, is beyond the scope of this blog article.
Perhaps London will be the beneficiary of lessons learned, including Vancouver’s Olympic experience with cycling transportation: London is aiming for 100% walking, cycling or transit by spectators during 2012 Summer Olympics.
For certain, Vancouver is the first Winter Olympic host city to proactively and consistently market cycling as a transportation option, by providing revised cycling route information, infrastructure and 7 temporary bike valet parking areas for up to 1,000 bikes. There will be bike racks within the valet areas which will be donated to local schools after the Olympics.
In the suburb of Richmond, near a Canada Line train station, people can borrow a Dutch bike from 400 bikes provided by the Netherlands Consulate General at their Olympic public headquarters, Heineken House and not far from the Richmond Olympic Speedskating Oval.
Drop by this blog later for observations and experiences on local cycling and people movement during the Olympics right in the heart of Vancouver. It promises to be an unforgettable ride of a lifetime!
Addendum: Cyclists from the cycling advocacy group, BikeSydney, Australia provide their experiences on cycling for transportation during the 2000 Summer Olympics. Great lessons to be learned by all wanting to reduce car traffic congestion during mass events.
City of Vancouver. 2010: Getting Around by Bicycle. On bike valet parking and altered bike routes during Olympics.
Die Spiele. (Official report for Munich 1972 Summer Olympics). Vol. 1, part 2: Organization. P. 334.
International Olympic Committee. IOC Fact Sheet: Environment and Sustainable Development. 3-4. Update. July 2009.
Official London 2012 Summer Olympics Web Site. Making it Happen: Transportation. Walking and Cycling. As of Jan. 2010.
Summer Olympics Sydney 2000. Official archived web site. Not all links may work.
TransLink. Olympic Pledge: Make Your Pledge to Reduce Vehicle Trips by at least 30%. 2009-2010.
TransLink. Travelsmart2010 : Temporary Changes to Bike Restrictions on Skytrains due to Increased Ridership and Limited Spaces on Trains During Games. Jan. 15, 2010.