Archive for the ‘Vancouver’ Category

There are some more challenging work sites to reach by bike:  construction sites, industrial sites and farms.  These areas are often in more isolated areas, not well served by public transit and may lack safe, bike friendly routes.   Such

Golden Ears Bridge construction. Langley, BC 2008. Photo by J. Chong

Golden Ears Bridge construction. Langley, BC 2008. On the way to work site. Photo by J. Chong

work sites are located out in the suburbs, in industrial parks or  in a busy city district where there is little provision for construction site workers to store a bike nearby all day safely.

Then on top of these challenges, one is even lucky that a construction site or a farm offers a continuously clean room to change clothing. After all, it is a construction site where users may track dirt directly into the washroom. More often at the site, it’s just a port-a-loo. Hardly an ideal spot for clothes changing.

Patchwork of Cycling, Rapid Transit, Bus and Walking
For several years I worked at a large, busy construction site for the creation of  the Golden Ears Bridge and its highway approaches.  I had a lengthy, convoluted round trip which was an 1. 5 hr. commute  one-way, between Vancouver and Langley. My commute  was a crazy patchwork of part-cycling, Skytrain, bus and then walking for 15 minutes through construction traffic and activity to and from the site office. Cycling all the way would have been even more time-consuming  in order to avoid highway stretches where cycling was illegal. By bike, it would have meant a 102 kms. round trip ride.

I stored my bike at Metrotown in a bike locker and saved the relaxing ride  homeward –after getting off the Skytrain. The day was long enough but the bike ride was my glorious fitness saviour and destressor.  It was the only way to build in regular fitness within my daily work and travel schedule.  I was seriously committed, maybe abit insane.

Glimmers of Cycling Interest at Construction Site
Bike to Work Week  at the construction site for a cyclist, was  a bizarre dream —  amongst temporary trailer buildings, dust, caterpillar earth-moving machines, trucks, concrete pourers, dangerous piles of materials and potholes.

At minimum, there were 120 employees at our head office site where I worked, who drove.   During the first year, there were no bikes parked at the office. Nevertheless, I emailed to the entire organization, including 5 other work sites, to announce Bike to Work Week was on and I had copies of bike maps. 

Migrant farm workers' bikes. Dresden, ON 2009. Photo by J.Chong

Migrant farm workers' bikes near tomato processing plant. Dresden, ON 2009. Bikes were loaned to workers from the Carribbean and Mexico. They were seen often cycling around town after work. Photo by J.Chong

Up to 10 employees picked up a map and most were ex-patriate staff, hired directly from Germany, Great Britain and U.S.  They were interested in maps for weekend cycling. Several German employees did tell me of growing up using bikes often or simply there was more cycling back home since Germany has an  established network of bike paths.

During the second year, the number of parked bikes  and employees riding to work, increased from zero to 10 frequent cyclists.  However there was nothing to lock up the bikes, so the bikes were kept by the office trailers under the office windows.

Near the end of the construction project, several employees even banded together as a corporate team for an annual MS 75 km. fundraising bike ride among the local wineries.

Postscript:  The Golden Ears Bridge was completed in mid-June 2009. Now there are separated bike lanes on the bridge and also  bike lanes on several highway approaches.  Since then, we have biked the 102  km. round trip  several times on weekends where there are always a few cyclists using the new cycling facilities.  Local muncipalities are now expanding cycling routes into their core  areas.

J.Chong was Document Control Manager during the design-build stage for the $800 million Golden Ears Bridge and its highway approaches. During peak construction, there were over 600 employees and contract labourers.

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I was inspired to write this article after attending a corporate gala luncheon sponsored by Canon Canada where Maelle Ricker, Olympic 2010 gold medalist for women’s snowboarding, was a guest speaker.

I mused over  the frequency or shall we say, infrequency of world-class competitive cyclists to promote cycling consistently and often, for transportation or as a lifestyle. From Canada it is rare, for any world competitive Canadian cyclist to speak nationally and often, to support cycling infrastructure, particularily with strong, broad market reach. We are not even sure if Lance Armstrong has acted often as public spokesperson in this area. Except for perhaps Ryan Leech.

Over the past few years, Ryan Leech has been one of the rare Canadian cyclists competing internationally who can be an engaging, articulate spokesperson and role model for young and older folks on cycling for fun, recreation, competition or for transportation.  It helps that he does have corporate sponsorship of the bike manufacturer, Norco. It also helps he has a  clean-cut image with a kick for adventure, BMX-cross bike handling tricks,  and now an added dimension as a  yoga practitioner and teacher.  His yoga interest grew out of his need for injury prevention and cross-training.   His appeal is now even more multi-faceted and broader for generating cycling enthusiasm.  In this article at the nsbm.com website, he explains the benefits of yoga for mountain bikers.

For the last few years, he delivers  talks to children across Canada on goal-setting, work perseverance and dazzles them with his bike handling skills. The instructional themes are part of his programs for children, including “Trials of Life”.

Last year, as surprise finish to one of Metro Vancouver’s sustainability public breakfast sessions, he performed some bike tricks. Manoeuvres included leaping onto the conference table plus vaulting himself on bike over 2 probably, petrified  workshop people from the audience who laid down on the carpet face-up.

In the latest video released earlier this year by Norco, he guides the viewer on how much easier cycling can become, if it is dovetailed into a person’s  daily schedule and lifestyle, as a form of transportation and fitness in one sweep.  He speaks on how much easier cycling would be if there was appropriate cycling infrastructure to travel more safely and seamlessly on bike.

There are some facts sprinkled throughout the video on-screen. For instance, within the first year of cycle commuting, a person can lose up to 13 lbs.

Check out this video.  Use it to help others understand personal benefits of cycling and good cycling infrastructure. It’s a great tool for a general audience.


Interesting Reading:
Official Web Site for Ryan Leech.

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Mosaic Planet- Part 1 of 4 mosaic tile series (2002). By Glen Anderson & Marina Szijarto.

Mosaic Planet- Part 1 of 4 mosaic tile series (2002). By Glen Anderson & Marina Szijarto. East 10th and Commerical St., Vancouver BC. Photo by J. Chong

It’s embarrassing but for several years, I cycled blithely unaware of some nearby outdoor public bike art installations in Vancouver.  Just recently after browsing John Steil’s book on over 500 Vancouver outdoor public art pieces, I have sharpened my visual acuity and stopped to look more closely at some of these intriguing art works.

Day after day on my bike commute ride to work along 10th Ave., I unknowingly breezed by the red-tiled, sidewalk  mosaic at Commercial Dr. The mosaic is by Glen Anderson and Marina Szijarto which is part of a four-piece series in this area,  “Mosaic Planet” (2002).  

Transported Through Time (2008). By Bruce Walther. Smithe and Burrard St. Historic rendering of transportation modes in Vancouver --First Nations boat, electric inter-urban streetcar, bus, seaplane, ocean liner, train and bicycle. Photo by J. Chong

Transported Through Time (2008). By Bruce Walther. Smithe and Burrard St. Historic rendering of transportation modes in Vancouver --First Nations boat, electric inter-urban streetcar, bus, seaplane, ocean liner, train and bicycle. Photo by J. Chong

Cycling can be a sensory whole experience  –including  visual appreciation of nature and culture. No matter how dull, provacative or engaging, public outdoor art in Vancouver can be literally just steps away if you notice it.

Take a look at Granville, Cambie, Fraser St.  and 37th St. intersections along the Ridgeway bike route:  there are

Machina Metronoma (1997). By Dwight Anderson. Fraser St. and 37th St. on Ridgeway bike route.

Machina Metronoma (1997). By Dwight Anderson. Fraser St. and 37th St. on Ridgeway bike route. Photo by J. Chong

dun-coloured  sculptures, “Machina Metronoma”  (1997).  Although the artist chose a non-obtrusive colour to adorn the aerial streetscape, unfortunately passersby may barely notice the pedal and sprocket details on these  fiberglass and steel sculptures. Other intersections feature a roller skate motif instead of the pedal.  So look up at the cyclist-activated traffic light intersections and you might even see them wiggle in the wind like a metronome.

Whereas “Big Bike” (1998)  by  B. Luger and B. Potegal, is a well-known sculpture marker or meeting point  by Queen Elizabeth Park for many local cyclists or joggers speeding down or ascending up the 37th St. hill. You can sit on the sculpture’s literal bike

Big Bike (1998). By Barry Luger and Bob Potegal. Ontario and 37th St. by Queen Elizabeth Park., Vancouver BC. Photo by J. Chong

Big Bike (1998). By Barry Luger and Bob Potegal. Ontario and 37th St. by Queen Elizabeth Park., Vancouver BC. Photo by J. Chong

rack bench by a water fountain after parking your bike.

There have not yet been many Vancouver building murals that feature a bike as the central focus. The exception is the mural at 1175 Adanac St. by Union St. which features oncoming cyclists and  the Vancouver

1175 Adanac Great Beginnings & Strathcona BIA Mural Project Cristoni Peori

1175 Adanac St. Great Beginnings & Strathcona BIA Mural Project. Vancouver BC. Project lead: Cristoni Peori. Artist worked with others to complete actual painting. Photo in spring by J. Chong

waterfront skyline. Just make sure you view this full mural on weekends or evenings without the line of parked cars.  During different seasons and under a variety of daylight conditions, there is wonderful integration of surrounding live trees and light play which teases your vision by  blurring art and

Lefthand mural extension for: 1175 Adanac Great Beginnings & Strathcona BIA Mural Project Cristoni Peori

Left-hand mural extension of 1175 Adanac St. Great Beginnings & Strathcona BIA Mural Project. Vancouver, BC. Project lead: Cristoni Peori. Dappled light play fuses art and reality. Photo by J. Chong

reality. (See my previous article for an autumn photo.)  This magic effect would be lost if the trees gracing around this mural were completely cut down.

After several trips, we located another nearby bike mural at 1249 Adanac.  Apparently it was completed in fall 2009.  We initially missed it because we did not look around on every side of the building. 

1249 Adanac St. Great Beginnings & Strathcona BIA Mural Project Jordan Bent & Jay Senetchko

1249 Adanac St. Great Beginnings & Strathcona BIA Mural Project 2009. Project leads: Jordan Bent & Jay Senetchko. Photo by J. Chong

 The mural blends cycling along with abit of  transportation imagery and historic allusion to the Chinese-Canadian  railway workers for the building of the national railroad.  (See painted figure to the  right of green-helmeted cycling woman.)  Both murals are  just a few blocks away from Vancouver’s historic  Chinatown. Both murals were completed by work teams of local residents.

Converging Lines. By Elizabeth Roy (1998). Metal "clothesline" sculpture on Ridgeway bike route near Inverness bike route. Vancouver, BC

Converging Lines. By Elizabeth Roy (1998). Metal "clothesline" sculpture near intersection of Ridgeway and Inverness bike routes. On 37th St. at Ross and Colludun corner. Images of community hung on wires. Vancouver, BC. Photo by J. Chong

 Other Vancouver public art installations, incorporate a bike motif as part of its overall theme –usually themes of community activity, fun or sport.

The newest bike art piece to be  be officially 

Solar Bike Tree. By Spring Gillard 2010. Science World building by Seaside Path

Solar Bike Tree. By Spring Gillard 2010. Science World building by Seaside bike and pedestrian path False Creek. Vancouver, BC. With solar panels for night lighting, vertical hanging racks and regular ground racks for bikes. Photo by J. Chong

recognized later this spring, is the  Solar Bike Tree right by the bike path  at Science World near the gazebo.  Its multiple year long birth has been arduous. The artist, Spring Gillard conceived of her vision four years ago after she abandoned her original proposal of a mural using real bikes.  Solar Bike Tree is very much  utilitarian –designed to prevent anyone from climbing the steel tree and strong enough to hold solar panels that light the stand. It is also another form of bike parking.  One wonders if either the artist or the city engineering department even thought of a more arresting or playful paint colour.

As cycling moves beyond transportation and permeates the life and culture of Vancouver as a “green city”, we may well see more celebrations of  cycling captured in local artistic imagination.

Solar Bike Tree is lighted by solar energy panels. Vancouver, BC 2010. Photo by J. Becker

Solar Bike Tree is lighted at night by its solar energy panels. Vancouver, BC 2010. Centre light is activated by motion sensor detection system as one approaches near the bike tree. Photo by J. Becker

 Interesting Reading: 
City of Vancouver. Public Art Registry.

Gillard, Spring. Solar Bike Tree. Composting Diaries Blog. Jan.26, 2010.

Steil, John and Aileen Stalker. Public Art in Vancouver : Angels Among Lions. Vancouver:  TouchWood Editions, 2009.

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By H-JEH Becker and Jean Chong
Updated May 21, 2010 with addendum at end.

Just earlier this week and despite vocal opposition from a handful of politicians and residents, Toronto Public Works Committee councillors approved a summer pilot for separated bike lanes on University Avenue, a major 8-lane arterial road in middle of downtown Toronto. Yes, it is 8 lanes wide.  Final approval should occur at the Toronto City Council meeting on May 11 and 12.

Proposed Separated Bike Lanes. University Ave. Toronto, ON. 2010.

Proposed Separated Bike Lanes. University Ave. facing north towards Queen's Park, Ontario legislative buildings. Toronto, ON. 2010. Mock-up illustrates one of the proposed options for pilot implementation. Photo from City of Toronto Report Apr. 2010.

 Toronto’s First Separated Bike Lanes
The alignment of the proposed bike lanes would make good use of the wide, people-scaled centre median running along University Ave.  The median is populated with art, statues, benches, trees and flower gardens. The proposed 1-km. long separated bike lanes from Queen St to College St. would reduce University Ave. to 3 car lanes in each direction.

It will be the first separated bike lane in Toronto.  University Ave. cuts across several east-west bike streets with bike lanes which are well-used by cyclists.

This street is well serviced with the Yonge – University – Spadina subway line and its closely-spaced stations leading to underground retail shopping malls thus minimizing the need for surface bus routes.  Within a dense workforce corridor, several large hospitals, financial institutions, courthouses and high-rise corporate head offices line the street.  Once a sterile street void of people after the sunset,  high-rise residential housing is making its gradual appearance.

University Ave. Toronto, ON. Photo by J. Becker

Walking along University Ave. Toronto, ON. 2006. Green treed centre median is just left of the orange dumpster. Photo by J. Becker

 As a North American city, Toronto is distinctive where it has always maintained an important residential component to its make-up in the downtown core.  Over the years, this component has been strengthened with conversion of a few office building to include residential units.

When Jean cycle-commuted to work from Scarborough into downtown Toronto for several years, University Ave. was handy. The pavement was smooth for cycling and there were less bus interruptions. On the other hand, car speed was and probably still is fast. During the work day, there were pedestrians streaming from subway stations, buildings and the feeder streets. However at night, University Ave. was void of pedestrians and street life. Cars zoomed along but clearly not in the great numbers as during the day — typical of a business district area.  However pedestrians did walk along intersecting streets after work hours on their way to a subway station for other destinations in the entertainment or shopping districts.

Humanizing University Avenue
Separated bike lanes could help rebalance overall road usage at all hours of the day and night, calm traffic and increase safety for both cyclists and pedestrians. As a pedestrian, I do remember several times nearly running across University Ave. just to make the crossing on one traffic signal.

Separated bike lanes could also allow safe cycling for parents with children within downtown. At this time, there are no child protected cycling facilities in downtown Toronto except for the Waterfront Trail sections and in the ravine bike trails system. Just like Toronto, lack of protected cycling routes for children, is also true in downtown Vancouver except for sections of the 30-km. Seaside-Seawall bike path. 

Cyclists on Separated Bike Two-Way Lanes. Berri St. Montreal, QC 2005. Photo by J. Becker

Cyclists on Separated Bike Two-Way Lanes. Berri St. Montreal, QC 2005. Photo by J. Becker

 This trial will be quite different from Vancouver’s Burrard Bridge or Dunsmuir Viaduct separated bike lanes into downtown. If successful, separated bike lanes could, once more, humanize and bring back more Toronto pedestrians along University Ave. and even create, gasp, more demand for on-street cafes, and social meeting spaces. Vancouver is also planning new separated bike lanes for this year,  by extending the lanes on the Dunsmuir Viaduct and the Burrard Bridge into the downtown core.  Of course, Montreal cyclists have been enjoying their separated bike lanes for years with a network leading from the suburbs into the downtown core and into Old Montreal.

With separated bike lanes being installed this summer both in Toronto and Vancouver, we have two different laboratories for observing the contribution of cycling and car separation within downtown cores for growing cycling traffic volumes.

Interesting Reading:
City of Toronto. Protected Bike Lane Pilot : University Avenue and Queens Park Crescent Project. Presentation to the Public Works and Infrastructure Committee. Apr. 20, 2010.  Document includes photo examples of separated bike lanes in other cities worldwide.

James, Royson. “James: Stop and Smell the Lilies”. In Toronto Star, Apr. 24, 2010.

Shepherd, Jeremy. “City Considers More Bike Lanes.” In Vancouver Courier, Apr. 23, 2010.

On May 12, 2010, Toronto city council did not approve the pilot University Avenue separated bike lanes. However their first Bixi public bike rental program was approved the day before by council.

On May 20, 2010, Vancouver city council approved extension of the Dunsmuir separated bike lane into downtown Vancouver. Projected completion for this 6-month trial, is expected to be June 15, 2010.

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Mayor Robertson speaking on official opening Dunsmuir Viaduct. Mar.10, 2010

Mayor Robertson speaks at official opening of Dunsmuir viaduct separated bike lane. Councillor Ellen Woodsworth and Jerry Dobrovolny, Assistant City Engineer on left. Mar.10, 2010. Photo by J.Chong

 Today in morning rain drizzle, City of Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson led an enthusiastic group of  over 25 cyclists on a ride across the Dunsmuir Viaduct  separated bike lane to mark its official opening.  However over a week earlier, cyclists were already enthusiastically using it.

 The Dunsmuir Viaduct bike lane is a good example of a separated bike lane that was mentioned in the University of British Columbia study, Cycling in Cities. The study points out in order for  Vancouver to significantly increase its mode share of cycling for transportation, there needs to be more separated bike lanes where cyclists of all ages feel safer. 

On Dusmuir viaduct separated bike lane. Cyclist heading towards downtown Vancouver. Mar. 2010.

On Dunsmuir viaduct separated bike lane heading towards downtown Vancouver. Mar. 2010. Photo by J. Becker

It was low-cost, low-effort opportunity for the City of Vancouver to create the Dunsmuir Viaduct lane. The city had been testing the traffic road capacity by reducing car lanes from 3 to 2 lanes during the last 5 years. Road lane reduction was necessary for construction of an adjacent highrise condominium-Costco store complex.  Already car drivers had time to adjust travel routes. Already  concrete blocks were there to create the bike lane barrier.

On Dunsmuir viaduct separated bike lane. Near Union and Main St.

On Dunsmuir viaduct separated bike lane. Near Union and Main St. Vancouver, BC. Mar. 2010. Photo by J. Becker

 We welcome this most recent feeder route into the city’s cycling infrastructure network quickly on the heels of the Olympic Games. During the Olympics, there was massive proof of thousands of people adjusting to alternative transportation to reduce car traffic congestion.

During Robertson’s remarks for the press and public outside Stadium Station, there was a stream of incoming cyclists on Dunsmuir. The Dunsmuir Viaduct bike route will become popular since it is a faster, direct and uninterupted bikeway into downtown.

Unfortunately the morning’s announcement and event was marred by a cyclist accident that someone witnessed at Penticton St. today.  Also Councillor Geoff Meggs,  a cycling  champion, sustained a spine injury in a cycling accident yesterday morning during his bike ride in south Vancouver when a car ran into his unprotected bike lane. Councillor Meggs was unable to attend today’s opening. We all wish him a speedy recovery.

Further Reading:
Becker, Jack. Vancouver Moving Towards Separated Bike Lanes. Feb. 2,  2010.

CBC News- British Columbia. “Vancouver Opens Viaduct Bike Lane. Cycling Councillor Hit by Car One Day Before Opening.”  Mar. 10, 2010.  Video on Robertson’s speech.

Howell, Mike.  “Bike lane champion on council in hospital after collision with car”. In Vancouver Courier. Mar. 10, 2010.

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Cyclist in Chinatown for Olympic torch relay viewing. Feb. 12, 2010. Photo by J. Chong

Cyclist in Chinatown for Olympic torch relay viewing. Feb. 12, 2010. Photo by J. Chong

Vancouver cyclists have been pedaling regularily this winter and are continuing to do so now during the Olympic weeks.  The spring-like days make cycling irresistible. For beginners, it is a great way to test cooler weather cycling downtown in a festive street atmosphere.

Cops on Bikes
Before the 2010 Olympic Games started, a cyclist was already faithfully riding on the job, for nearly the entire Olympic torch relay

Police on bikes. 12th and Ontario St.. Olympic torch relay. Feb. 11, 2010. Photo by J. Chong

Police on bikes. 12th and Ontario St. Olympic torch relay. Feb. 11, 2010. Photo by J. Chong

across Canada on its way to Vancouver.  Bike police officer, Sergeant Tony Parks from Victoria, BC was cycling just a few wheel spins ahead for nearly each segment of the 45,000 kms. torch relay run.  He hovered occasionally, in front of TV cameras as he rode ahead to instruct the next relay runner and help hold back cheering crowds flanking the route course.

When the torch relay crossed into Metro Vancouver, there were more cops on bikes ahead and close by  torch relay runners as the crowds became thicker.  This full-time police bike squad is only being provided during the Olympics.  During the Games, we saw them ride

R. Wynan, cyclist with Olympic torch on Adanac St. Vancouver, BC. Feb. 12, 2010.

R. Wynan, cyclist with Olympic torch on Adanac St. Vancouver, BC. Feb. 12, 2010. Photo by J. Becker

 around on duty through the downtown core.  After the Olympics, the number of Vancouver police officers will be reduced to 56 officers on part-time bike patrol. One wonders why the bike squad will be disassembled  when it is well known that bike squads are less costly to operate than police officers in just cars and are more effective in neighbourhood on-street policing. 

Cycling with the Olympic Torch
Yes, the Olympic torch relay did include many different modes of transportation, including by bike. On the final torch relay day near Rupert St. on Adanac, Rob Wynan,  member of the City of Vancouver Bicycle Advisory Committee, chugged his way up the hill valiantly with one hand on the  handlebar while holding the torch in the other hand.

Young cyclist in Yaletown. Vancouver, BC. Feb. 2010. Photo by J. Chong

Young cyclist in Yaletown. Vancouver, BC. Feb. 2010. Photo by J. Chong

 Another cyclist, though not part of the official torch relay, rode near the tail end for a small East Vancouver segment, on his recumbent bike.  He gives a saddle seat view for a few minutes, of the enthusiastic crowds that marked most of the relay route.

Cycling in Downtown  
Cycling did become easier since car traffic became much lighter with road closures to  accommodate large volumes of pedestrians in downtown Vancouver.  The caveat for good cycling during the Olympics was reorienting oneself to road and path diversions and avoiding peak pedestrian volume areas.   Many locals left their cars at home during the Olympics and joined the record-breaking passenger crowds on the transit system or in pedestrian walkways created by  road closures.  Road closures also resulted in some festive public spaces popping up with happy, relaxed revellers.

Cyclists on Dutch Ov-Fiets bikes in Yaletown. Vancouver, BC. Bikes were on public loan with fleet located in Richmond during Olympics. Feb. 2010.

Cyclists on Dutch Ov-Fiets bikes in Yaletown. Vancouver, BC. Bikes were on public loan with fleet located in Richmond during Olympics. Feb. 2010. Photo by J. Chong

 Shared Bikes
In Yaletown I caught a glimpse of some cyclists on the Dutch Ov-Fiets bikes from Richmond where the fleet is temporarily located for public loan  during the Games.  Maybe they were the same cyclists with same bikes parked outside the Sheraton Wall Hotel earlier in the day on Burrard St.  Several days later, we spotted a single rider on same bike model on the Cambie Bridge.

Just a tiny example, if there is free loan of bikes, people might ride them a lot farther than expected or at least use the bike racks on TransLink buses. 

Elsewhere at the Olympic Swiss House (normally Bridges Restaurant), a few bikes were spotted with an electric battery pack and marked with “Swiss  House”  –most likely for the staff working there.  Convenient to have, even if they only rode around False Creek.

Bike valet parking near B.C. Stadium. Vancouver, BC. Feb. 2010.

Bike valet parking near B.C. Stadium. Vancouver, BC. Feb. 2010. Photo by J. Becker

Bike Valet Parking
Although use statistics at the seven Olympic bike valet parking lots will not be finalized for awhile, there appeared to be parking use at select lots downtown.  During the first week of the Olympics on rain-free days, bike valet use increased.  Bike parking space packs in 10 to 14 bikes for each car vehicle parking spot. During the Olympics, the designated bike valet parking areas occupied underutilized walking space under road viaducts and by community centres.  At Thunderbird Arena, University of British Columbia, a venue for some Olympic hockey games, we did not see any bike parking facilities near by at all –a bit strange since the arena is on a campus. Cyclists were locking up their bikes to any railing, post or tree available, even if found in the middle of the road.

 According to preliminary comments from the City of Vancouver, cycling levels on Cambie, Burrard and Granville Bridges did  reach warmer season levels.  We look forward to release of traffic data count. Roads south of False Creek seem to carry spring traffic loads.  The north part of the Ontario Bike Route appears to be lighter, which may be partially due to complete bike route closures around the Olympic Village and signage for alternate routes, such as Yukon St.

Cyclists on Cambie Bridge. Vancouver, BC. Feb. 24, 2010. Photo by J. Becker

Cyclists on Cambie Bridge. Vancouver, BC. Feb. 24, 2010. Photo by J. Becker

 Olympic Winter Cycling Traffic:  At Warmer Season Volumes
As a casual observation, there has been less cycling in the Downtown Peninsula than expected during the Olympics.  Again, it may be due to some road and path closures or preference by some regular cyclists to walk or take transit with non-cycling friends to enjoy Olympic events.  The Seaside Path in Yaletown was quite void of cyclists, with pedestrians crowds overflowing on both bike and  pedestrian paths, but many cyclists merely went onto the road.  Just a bit further west, the Seaside Path seemed to be used by cyclists often enough as during spring season.

On Cambie Bridge. Vancouver, BC. Feb. 26, 2010. Photo by J. Becker

On Cambie Bridge. Vancouver, BC. Feb. 26, 2010. Photo by J. Becker

Organized effort to provide infrastructure and advance cycling information for transportation in Vancouver, did yield some cycling traffic during the Games at levels noticeably higher than other winters.  Most certainly, large mass events must provide secure bike parking if participants are not given the option to drive.  The Vancouver experience avoided the problem of the Sydney 2000 Summer Olympic experience when bike valet parking was inadequate at many major venues, even though cycling was promoted to reduce congestion.

We can only hope that overwhelmingly high volumes of transit users and pedestrians during the Games, will spark rethinking by some celebrants to integrate cycling more often into their lives after the Olympics. 


Further Reading:
Bicycle Advisory Committee. City of Vancouver. Extension of Vancouver Police Department (VPD) Bicycle Squad. Report date: Dec. 21, 2009. Presented to City Council, Feb. 10, 2010.

City of Vancouver. “Olympic Transportation Plan Creates Sustainable Legacy for Vancouver.” Media Release. Feb. 24, 2010.

Zacharias, Yvonne.   “Bike Escort Touched By the Way the Relay Inspires, Brings Canadians Together”. In Vancouver Sun, Jan. 27, 2010.

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An official corporate sponsor is ready. Feb. 2010

An official corporate sponsor is ready. Feb. 2010

While cycling about the city and particularly around  the main Games venues, each day we see signs of readiness for the Olympics. The official corporate sponsors are certainly prepared and hoping for a windfall of more customers and revenues.

Olympic torch relay. 37th St. & Queen Elizabeth Park, Vancouver BC. Feb. 11,  2010

Olympic torch relay. 37th St. & Queen Elizabeth Park, Vancouver BC. Feb. 11, 2010. Photo by J.Chong

Outcomes of transportation planning for the Olympics will be critiqued on all fronts.  For the next few weeks, we will see the fruits from a few years of transportation planning, forecasting and modeling mass movement of people while also ensuring their safety. The planning has been executed and hopefully, coordinated at all levels – municipal, provincial, national and international.

 On the roads, each lane or road closure provides an opportunity for testing where the traffic goes and how much disappears.  Transit ridership and cycling traffic are being measured.  Some neighbourhoods are becoming much quieter with less pollution being emitted from vehicles.  Hopefully, the experience will be well documented with research papers.

From this laboratory will come new knowledge and new opportunities for realigning streets to accommodate all road users from pedestrians, to cyclists, to transit users, to car drivers.  More appealing and  comfortable people streets could be gained from this knowledge.

A massive choreography where there is no single shared music score except

Olympic torch relay by canoe. North False Creek to Yaletown Ferry Dock, Vancouver, BC. Feb. 12, 2010. Photo by J. Chong

Olympic torch relay by canoe. North False Creek to Yaletown Ferry Dock, Vancouver, BC. Feb. 12, 2010. Photo by J. Chong

 people wanting to travel for their own reasons, on their own terms, and on

Olympic torch flame canoe reaching Yaletown dock. Vancouver, BC. Feb. 12, 2010. Photo by J. Becker

Olympic torch flame canoe reaching Yaletown dock. Vancouver, BC. Feb. 12, 2010. Photo by J. Becker

 their own schedule between several different destinations.  The choreographer has to effectively mix people movement by air, water and land.

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Olympic streetcar line, Vancouver BC. Feb. 2010. Photo by J. Becker

Olympic streetcar line, Vancouver BC. Feb. 2010. Photo by J. Becker

 The environmental “carrots” for  balking car drivers are here now: Granville Island has more active transportation options.  Different approaches to transportation during the Olympics on Granville Island, have been well underway for the past month before the official Games start on Feb. 12, 2010.

The Olympic streetcar line between the Canada Line Olympic Village Station and Granville Island,  already has a steady stream of passengers. After all, it is free for anyone 6:30 am – 12:30 am, Jan. 21 – Mar. 21, 2010.  My informal observations  of the pedestrian traffic from the streetcar onto the Island appear  to be at least  30 to 50 people getting off each streetcar.  Even on Mondays.  Streetcar  capacity is for 178 people with 50 seated passengers. 

Passenger demand is expected to increase during the Olympics, particularily with 3 welcome  pavilions  for the public –Atlantic House, Francophonie and Swiss House on Granville Island  in addition to regular market business.

Bike Parking. Granville Island Public Market on winter day. Jan 2010.

Bike Parking Granville Island Public Market on mild winter day. Jan 2010. Photo by J. Becker

 Now paid parking is in effect as of Feb. 8 for 1,200 parking spots. Rates are $3.00 per hour and $5.00 for two hours, with a parking maximum of two hours.  Free car parking is only before 10:00 am during Feb. 2010.

Also the number of bicycle racks around Granville Market have increased from 5 to 10.  I have observed from mid-morning onward, rack usage has increased to summer levels.

Both ferry shuttle companies, Aquabus and False Creek Ferries, have extended their operational hours during the Olympics. Each company has slightly different hours for different destinations.

Granville Island vehicle and pedestrian traffic.  Jan. 2010. Photo by J. Becker

Granville Island vehicle and pedestrian traffic mix. Jan. 2010. Photo by J. Becker

The big question will be whether or not  the streetcar line and more bike parking,  will generate sufficient traffic to off-set normal car volumes on Granville Island.  It may take time for local residents to rethink and change their normal transportation modes  long  after the Olympics and ParaOlympics.  Will  Vancouverites fall in love with the streetcar line that they will want to keep the streetcar in operation indefinitely?

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Bike lane with barrier. Lyon, France. Photo by J. Becker, TWC 2008.

Bike lane with barrier. Lyon, France. Photo by J. Becker, TWC 2008.

It has now been over 10 years since the last bicycle master plan was brought forth.  For the last few years, cyclists have been calling for a quick, three-year completion of the 1999 Bicycle Plan. Cyclists were looking for a completed cycling network to get around this city.  While we have seen significant progress in rolling out the network plan in the past year, there is still much to do. The Bicycle Plan is getting old and a new one is required to address the changing needs of future cyclists.   

Meanwhile attitudes are changing towards more cycling for transportation — including government direction.

In 2003, cyclists wanted completion of a bike route network within the city that would include some bike lanes in the downtown peninsula.  Also time was spent on dialogue between the philosophies of a bike route-only oriented network versus a  network which included bike lanes.  The thinking has changed with time. 

2008 City of Vancouver Bicycle Counts on Bike Routes

2008 City of Vancouver Bicycle Counts on Bike Routes. See Figure 6 for enlargement: http://tiny.cc/c0wXn

While this discourse was going on, a few cyclists were calling for a change in the cycling design toolkit.  They had come under the spell of success in cycling growth in Amsterdam, Copenhagen, and other cycling-active cities within Europe.  Usually these cyclists had some European cycling experience.  They were calling for physically separated bike lanes instead of bike lanes created by painted lines.  Separated bike lanes provide a greater level of comfort while cycling and appealed to a larger 

Carrall Greenway bike path. City of Vancouver 2009.

Carrall Greenway bike path. City of Vancouver 2009.

number of cyclists and, most importantly, potential cyclists.  While a significant number of cyclists prefer off-road cycling facilities, separated bike lanes provide part of that cycling experience within roadways.

 Slowly, the call increased for separated cycling facilities within road right-of-way, especially as more cyclists went to Europe. In 2005 and 2006, UBC’s Cycling in Cities Survey brought research support for the concept.  The potential cyclists saw separated bike lanes and off-road bike trails as prerequisites for making a mode change to cycling for transportation.  Without such facilities, these people would not make the change.

While we tend to look at Victoria’s Galloping Goose Trail as a prime local example for the value of separation, we can even look at data from the Burrard Bridge which supports such separation.  During the years of separating cyclists from cars but not from pedestrians, still grew to 4,000 daily trips across the bridge.  With full separation achieved in 2009, the immediate response was a 25% growth in cycling traffic.  What will that growth be in two years when new cycling facilities tend to mature in cycling traffic growth?  Some of us predict that it will be in the 100% range.

In June 2009, Vancouver Council supported the call for separated bike lanes with a motion.

Now, a motion is before Council  which recommends one separated facility and approval in principle for separated connection of two bridges to downtown Vancouver.  http://vancouver.ca/ctyclerk/cclerk/20100204/documents/csbu2.pdf

Within the cycling community, there are discussions going on with the  priority of investment in the city’s cycling infrastructure.  Some are arguing that the current bike routes need to be upgraded and the network plan needs to be completed first, before new initiatives are undertaken.

Cycle track. Copenhagen, Denmark. Photo by J. Becker, TWC 2008.

Cycle track. Copenhagen, Denmark. Photo by J. Becker, TWC 2008.

There is a bit of a quandary here on direction:  complete the network first or shift gears.  Advocates have been quite verbal  for significant increases in funding  for earlier completion of the Bicycle Plan, rather than much later.  Advocacy has also been increasing for  separated bike lanes for many, many years now.

With the support of Cycling in Cities Survey, more people, including potential cyclists, have been calling for separated bike lanes.  If we consider Council’s direction for the Greenest City in the world, the question is if the timing is right to  take a dramatic step change now:  “Move quickly in rolling out separated bike lanes within the next two years and then complete the network.”  The speed of rollout for these separated bike lanes could be significantly accelerated by using the New York City approach.  First, put in  temporary facilities and then making the facilities permanent when funds become available.  This way, many more kilometres of facilities could be implemented each year –perhaps  three times or more.

Has step change occurred in other cities?  Sydney, Australia comes to mind as an example. In 2008, the Mayor undertook a four-year, $70 million Green City plan which will see 55 km. of separated cycleways (bike lanes) implemented on  local roads.

Cycle track. Lyon, France. Photo by J. Becker, TWC 2008.

Cycle track. Lyon, France. Photo by J. Becker, TWC 2008.

 History has shown that true change does not happen from small corrections in the course by an organization is sailing on.  Effective change tends to come from bringing the ship to a halt and turning down a new course.

People tend to need demonstration facilities to try out new designs  before they feel comfortable to support a direction in their community. The use of demonstration facilities is a good step before reworking a Cycling Master Plan.  Public engagement will be more effective and knowledgeable for the direction that cycling facilities should develop.  Demonstration facilities should also be geographically placed where people normally cycle.  Demonstration facilities downtown and in residential areas of a city, will provide more opportunities for exposure to the separation concept on a street.

A comprehensive Cycling Master Plan will succeed in attracting potential cyclists, especially those who drive today, by using time-proven, European design techniques of cycling separation, visibility, trip time efficiency, and priority at intersections.  A Cycling Master Plan should truly be designed  to implement Vancouver’s transportation priority of “Cycling second after pedestrian movements”.  This Plan is also a lever to drive us in the Greenest City direction. 

As someone remarked:  “while cycling is a thing of its own, it is really an indicator of the health and liveability of a city”.


Further Reading:
 A bike route is defined as a local road which has been traffic calmed resulting in less motorized vehicle (cars primarily) traffic and slower speeds.

City of Copenhagen. Cycle Lanes and Cycle Tracks. (Accessed Feb. 2, 2010).  Defines differences between cycle lanes and cycle tracks.

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