Course:GEOG350/2011ST1/Group 1 DntnVanBikeLanes

From UBC Wiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Bike lane construction on Hornby.[1]
Bike lane signal.[2]

Executive Summary

Vancouver, British Columbia, is widely recognized as one of the world’s most livable urban areas. This reputation was created as a result of its rejection of inner city freeways and for the development of a “living first” downtown core with extensive public waterfront and green space.[3] However, while much of the city has been presented as a leader in city planning, much of this region “resembles the sprawling, automobile-focused familiar to most North Americans.”[4] This report will discuss the Hornby Bike Lane debate in downtown Vancouver and transportation in relation to the larger theme of sustainability.

Although Vancouver currently has the lowest Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions per capita than any other major city in North America at 4.6 tonnes, the population continues to grow by 27% and jobs by 18%. [5] Vancouver has set a number of goals as climate protection targets; however, it is important we create a stronger action plan to obtain our desired outcomes. Recently, the City of Vancouver has introduced two-way separated bicycle lanes in order for an easier connection to work, shop, or visit downtown. [6] The Hornby bike lane and additional bike lane proposals have created a large debate amongst the City of Vancouver, drivers, bikers, transit systems and the general public. It is important to note that this debate stands for a much larger controversy with the issue of sustainability and a growing population, and a result this issue is worth analyzing to find possible solutions to decrease greenhouse gas. The goal is to find a solution to unify cars, pedestrians, public transportation, and bikes to work together and promote a community of sustainable living though urban design, primarily transportation. It is important the general public is educated on all climate protection initiatives the City of Vancouver is participating in locally, as well as internationally, and understands the importance of suitability for the future. Policy recommendations will discuss the following: Hornby bike lane debate, proposing rezoning of transportation, the benefits of car-free areas, and promote a livable city.

Green Initiative

During the 1960s, many citizens in Vancouver perceived a decreasing quality of life, which resulted in the Livable Region Plan of the 1976. In order to compensate for this perception, the Livable Region Plan created four key objectives for sustainable urban panning. The objectives included:

  1. Protect the Green Zone surrounding the built area, which includes agriculture and watershed.
  2. Develop a compact region that encourages new development to locate in existing communities.
  3. Build complete communities to minimize commuting between jobs and housing.
  4. Increase transportation choices to reduce private automobile use.

More recently, the City has developed new initiatives to become the greenest city by 2020. [7] In 1999, the City of Vancouver’s Official Development Plan introduced their increased transportation forms as a regional plan. The City of Vancouver is working to make transportation “clean, green, and healthy,” and this is expected to be done through walking, cycling, public transit, and greenways.[8]

The Hornby Bike Lane debate demonstrates a much larger controversy over the “Vancouver’s 2020: A Bright Green Future” initiative, which began in 2009 when Mayor Gregor Robertson created the Greenest City Action Team. His goal is to have Vancouver be the greenest city in world by 2020.[9] This plan was developed as a result of their desire to improve their community in regards to environmental sustainability, as they “continue to consume vast quantities of resources and produce prodigious volumes of green house gas emissions, air and water pollution, and solid waste.”[10] The City of Vancouver has developed a very proactive plan in order to conquer this idea. However, it is important to note that Vancouver is competing on a global scale to be acknowledged as the greenest city around the world. For instance,“in July 2009 London Mayor Boris Johnson pledged to make London the ‘cleanest and greenest city in the world.’ Sydney, Copenhagen, New York, Portland, Seattle, San Francisco, Chicago, Toronto, Berlin, Paris, Stockholm, and others have joined the race.”[11] The City of Vancouver also created the initiative of “Green Mobility,” which has the goal of making the majority of trips (over 50%) on foot, bicycle, and public transit.[12] Within this large initiative it is important to understand the significance of the role of transportation, while creating a green environment.

Although cars are not the only contributor to climate change, they do amount for a large portion of the damage, which a large percent of the population is unaware of.[13] In addition to the direction emissions the put into the air, they also consume large amounts of raw materials during their fabrication stage.[14] Also, the disposal of cars and parts (batteries in particular) also contribute to this problem. J. H. Crawford explains, “the transportation and refining of petroleum further taxes the globalecosystem. When all these burdens are taken into account, the problem becomes large indeed.”[15]

As a result of automobiles, poisoning of the air, land, and water all increase. One of the primary causes of air pollution in large cities is caused by extreme concentration of cars and trucks. Vehicles are not usually associated with water pollution, but they are a source of two major pollutants: oil and salt.[16] Ironically, “cars release more oil than tanker spills, and winter road salt finds its way into drinking water.” [17] Vehicles also contribute heavy-metal pollutants into our environment. For example, lead is released in large quantities because it is added to gasoline as an octane booster. Lead can also have a serious impact on the mental development of children, even in tiny amounts.[18]

Automobiles also negatively impact the green initiative through resource consumption, which in turn will increase the price of oil. In 2002, the global automobile amount was about 500 million vehicles. In developed nations, every second person owns a vehicle. [19] J.H. Crawford points out, “if this rate of car ownership were extended to a global population of 6 billion then we would have 3 billion automobiles, or six times as many now.”[20] Geologist M. King Hubbert was a key figure in interpreting the relationship between petroleum supplies and industrial economies. It is important to understand that our planet does not have enough natural resources to allow for this many automobiles. Oil reserves are limited, and oil consumption is doubling every 35 years. To date, we have already burned one-third of all recoverable oil that has existed.[21]

Climate change is also impacted because cars are fueled, both directly and indirectly, by fossil fuels and intensify global warming as a result of their CO2 emissions.[22] The City of Vancouver had the goal to reduce greenhouse emissions 33% form 2007 level, however, without public support, and their desire to reduce car dependency, it is unlikely they will become the greenest city in the world. The Hornby Debate demonstrates that the citizens of Vancouver need to be further educated on the importance of these initiatives, and the impact vehicles have on their living environment and their families on a larger scale.

After examining the impact of vehicles, it becomes more apparent that simply adding more roads to decrease congestion would not be a realistic solution. Beyond a certain point, it would be nearly impossible to meet the demand needed for more road capacity. In addition, this option does not support our green initiate, but further damages our living environment, thus decreasing the livability of the city drastically. It is important the citizens of the Metro Vancouver area embrace the global idea of a green initiative in order to maintain the city’s natural beauty. The Hornby Bike Lane demonstrates the importance of sustainable transportation and shows great accomplishment on a global and local scale, which is continuously growing.

[23] [24] [25] [26]

Current form of the Downtown of Vancouver

Downtown Vancouver, from Burrard Street to Main Street, consists of approximately 15,669 households, about 21,814 adult residents. [27] The greater City of Vancouver hosts more than 378,000 jobs. [28] In the core of downtown the goal Floor Space Ratio (FSR) ranges from 5 to 11 FSR. These skyscrapers make up the combination of residential, commercial, and business spaces.[29] The majority of employment is in the sales and service area at 21% and business, finance and administration at 19%. [30] 42% of residence walk to work, 35% drive a car, and 14% utilize public transit. Only 3% report that the regularly bike to their place of employment. [31]

Downtown Vancouver adult population statistics. Dwelling age. Most common methods of travel to place of employment. Occupation chart.

Transportation History in Vancouver

Proposed Pleasure Drive System from Harland Bartholomew’s A Plan for the City of Vancouver, 1929.[32]
SkyTrain Lines The SkyTrain Expo and the Millennium lines and the proposed Richmond Airport-Vancouver (RAV) Line follow in the interurban’s footsteps. [33]
Street Car Tracks Top Vancouver’s streetcar track growth from Harland Bartholomew’s A Plan for the City of Vancouver, 1929. [34]
No Freeways, thank you Greater Vancouver’s limited freeway system.[35]

Located in the Pacific North West region of Canada, and nestled within the Lower Mainland, lies the City of Vancouver. Known for its strong sense of place, Vancouver is uniquely situated within a dramatic natural landscape located on a peninsula, between Coastal mountains, the Pacific Ocean, and the Fraser River. Vancouver city was incorporated officially in 1886 [36], and at the epicenter of its development was the central business district which began as the township of Granville. The activities of this epicenter rippled outward into the surrounding areas which gradually formed neighborhoods, communities, and districts. The neighborhood which encompasses the Hornby Street bike lane acted as a central corridor within the central business district thus acting as a divide delineating the Eastern and Western Business districts in the early days of development. Some prominent historical landmarks in the area include the former Provincial Courthouse built in 1906 (now the Vancouver Art Gallery),the Credit Foncier Franco-Canadian building (1913-14) and the Bank of Canada building built in 1965. In order to gain a deeper understanding of the Hornby street neighborhood and its much debated bike lane it is important to consider the historic context of the city and its palimpsest of transportation systems.

As we will see, the relationship between transportation and urban development is crucial in understanding how this city came to be. In fact transportation and the imprint of its infrastructure was a main catalyst for Vancouver's urban growth.

The most important source of this growth was Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR). Not only did the CPR spur local residential development but it also created the need for railway yards, port facilities and amenities. This investment in turn increased the demand for real estate, lumber, and food. It spurred the growth of real estate firms , construction companies, sawmills, farms and wholesale firms.[37]

The CPR transformed the Burrard Inlet into a location best suited to serve as British Columbia’s trade and distribution center. Vancouver, the ‘Terminal City’ became an important link a modern transportation network of locomotives and steamships that stretched across Canada and around the world.

It has been said that “Vancouver is a model of transportation egalitarianism”. In other words there is no obvious transportation hierarchy with a centre of tightly intersecting routes and systems trailing off towards the extremities.[38] Vancouver has no old town core, unlike preindustrial European cities where the patterns for future road networks evolved from randomly intersecting and winding roads, carved out over centuries by animal drawn transport. “In Vancouver, the street system was imposed on the land in one fell swoop”.[39] Overlaid on Vancouver's physical settings is the rigorous street grid laid out by the royal engineers and the Canadian Pacific Railways surveyors. Almost the entire network of the city’s public streets follows a variation of the cardinal grid, which acts as a geometric, and brutally efficient way of dividing the landscape into parcels. Conversely, the downtown peninsula street grid is rotated approximately 46 degrees from the dominant grid which adds a unique sight line from outside the Downtown Core. This grid literally acts as the armature of this city, which has sustained and spurred further transportation and urban development.[40]

The City of Vancouver has a long history of evolving transportation from the Streetcar to the Skytrain. Today, as a result of a growing population, climate change, and congestion, the City must turn to a more sustainable transportation mode and increase the usage of bicycles within Vancouver.

The StreetCar

A mere four years after Vancouver's incorporation in 1886 the streetcar system was established. The urban electric streetcar and interurban railway linked communities together both locally and regionally. These low impact urban transporters moved within a system of interconnected routes. Within the next few decades, Vancouver would see an exponential growth of the street cars routes, extending from its downtown core to as far as the Fraser River. Vancouver's residential development largely followed the streetcar lines with local shops an services opening up along key routes of the city. By 1912 Vancouver's basic arterial retail and residential neighborhood land use patterns were established, largely due to the streetcar.[41]

The streetcar lines and interurban routes gave Vancouver a sophisticated system of urban transit that would set the stage for much of the city’s subsequent growth. In the post-second World War years, as the regional road system and private car ownership expanded these modes of transport were replaced by more efficient and economical buses and private automobiles.[42]

The Freeway

Unlike most North American cities, Vancouver has never developed a comprehensive freeway network that runs trough the city center. Two simple reasons for this were the level of necessity and a low population density. Since its inception, Vancouver had no major manufacturing industry,and with the port shipment system based initially on railways; freeways did not become a major concern until the 1960s when there was a proposal for a freeway route to run through historic Gastown and Strathcona districts. The proposed route would connect the city center to the Trans-Canada Highway, but would also rip apart the urban fabric of those historic areas. This enraged the local populace and eventually resulted in the proposal being resoundingly vetoed. With the freeway defeated at the municipal level, senior levels of government quickly reallocated money that had been designated for the project and instead implemented the Sea Bus ferry service across the the Burrard inlet.[43]

The SkyTrain

It would not be until the 1986 that Vancouver would see any regional form of transport again. The approach of the Expo 86 world fair (whose theme was transportation) spurred the growth of what emerged as SkyTrain. SkyTrain was an unmanned, fully automated, advanced light rail system heralded as the latest in rapid transit. It was promoted by Government and designers as the answer to Vancouver's increasing problem of traffic congestion, air pollution, and suburban sprawl. SkyTrain would cross municipal boundary lines and would become the next formative agent in shaping the regions urban growth. [44]

Sustainable Transportation Methods and The Bicycle

In 1997 the City of Vancouver drew out a 20-year transportation plan for the city. The plan emphasizes transportation choices that support a more sustainable city. The 1997 plan emphasized:

  • limiting overall road capacity to the 1997 level
  • providing more comfortable walking and biking environments
  • increasing the provision and use of transit
  • calming traffic in neighborhoods, and
  • maintaining an efficient network for goods movement. [45]

Adding to the many layers of Vancouver’s transportation options is the recent addition of bike lanes. With an ever increasing population, traffic congestion, air pollution and the City of Vancouver’s recent initiative to be the ‘Greenest city by 2020’,[46] there has been many recent efforts at re-engineering the city’s infrastructure to accommodate the bicycle as a serious transportation option. City surveys show that dedicated cyclists account for more than 10 percent of downtown traffic, and 60 percent of cyclists indicated interest in biking regularly if it were safe to do so. [47]

Bike Lanes

Vancouver now has a comprehensive, and growing, recreational and commuter bike route network. Streets are being redesigned in order to balance out the relationship between the over privileged automobile and the bicycle. Of the said bike routes is the Hornby street bike lane which is part of a city wide trial program. Several adjacent municipalities also have active bicycle route programs, and a major regional project. For example, the $14 million dollar Central Valley Greenway, has connected a number of Vancouver Municipalities along a 25km bike route. [48]

Initially, the city implemented on-road bicycle lanes [49] on many major streets downtown by means of painting the lanes with white lines on the street. These were not separated with barricades and lacked the safety element that separated bike lanes provide for both cyclists and drivers as neither could meander into the others lane. Also cars were still able to merge into these lanes in order to make right turns or to park and cyclists had to compete with buses that made frequent stops forcing bikers into the vehicle lanes. The first separated bike lanes were implemented along the cities sea wall and were met with great support from the public. These paved bike lanes were separate from the pedestrian pathways that line the popular sea wall and from streets and building development with large green spaces. The first separated bike lane to be implemented on a city street was the Burrard bridge bike lane that was set out as a trial in July 2009. It comprised of a two-way bike lane on the west side of the bridge that replaced one lane of traffic. In July 2009 the Burrard lane carried it’s 1 millionth cyclist. [50]

This lane was not met with the same applause from the general public as that of the sea wall, as some citizens were concerned about the effects of having one less vehicle lane on one of the major bridges leading into downtown. After a four week closure of the Dunsmuir viaduct during the 2010 Olympics, cyclists were greeted with a new two-way separated bike path connecting the network of downtown bike lanes with the Adanac Bikeway in East Vancouver. This lane was also initially met with some controversy. According to a bike lane usage study conducted by the city of Vancouver, In July and August 2010 an average of 1,900 cyclists per weekday used the Dunsmuir Street separated bike lanes (Richards to Homer). By December, these numbers had dropped to 800 per day. Before the separated bike lanes were installed on Dunsmuir Street, there was an average of 500 cyclists who used this corridor. [51]

After the addition of the Burrard and Dunsmuir bike lanes, there were separated bike lanes leading into downtown, but nothing penetrating into the core of downtown. The city aimed to connect existing bike routes to each other and to Stanley Park. In December 2011, the city implemented its first big through downtown project in the form of a trial run for the proposed Hornby bike lane.

The Hornby Bike Lane Debate

Vancouver Bikers [52] Bikers in separated bike lane.

The Hornby bike lane has been met with much controversy, from cyclists, drivers and businesses alike. The city is very divided on the issue; on the City of Vancouver’s public discussion forum some Vancouverites praise the city for thinking progressively and valuing the safety of bikers, while others are outraged.

The Hornby Bike Lane is a two-way bike lane running down the heavily trafficked Hornby Street, separated from the vehicle lanes with planters serving as ‘green barriers’. The lane adds about 1 .5 miles to the city's existing 200 miles of bike lanes and cost the city 2.2 million dollars.[53] Currently there Hornby has two lanes of vehicle traffic,with parking on either side and the two-way bike lane on the east side of the street. There are also bike lock up areas along the street. Stop lights have been added in order to increase safety,and able vehicles to make right turns across the bike lane, giving them an advanced green.

Bike volumes have generally been increasing on Hornby Street since the separated lanes opened in early December until the warmer spring months. According to the city of Vancouver, In January 2010, the mid-week average was 750 bike trips per day Robson to Georgia; in February, 850 bike trips per day; in March 900 bike trips per day; and in April 1150 bike trips per day. [54]

On the supportive side of the argument are cyclists and people concerned with sustainability issues. They feel that the bike lane is great as it values the safety of bikers, where previously they were nervous about commuting to work though downtown and hopefully will help improve air quality and reduce Vancouver's carbon footprint. There are many testaments of riders having been struck by cars, often apologetically, while using the downtown on-road bike lanes. Some people express gratitude in the new-found ability to ride through downtown with their young children and grand children some thing previously too dangerous. An other, perhaps unexpected, benefit of the Hornby bike lane is the ability of people using electric wheel chairs to share these lanes with bikers, as the sidewalks were not necessarily the most adapt for them, and it wasn’t safe to use the on-road bike lanes. The city hopes that with the facilitation of cycling downtown bicycle ridership will increase and help and lessen the dependency on single occupancy vehicles.

However, many feel that this strategy is flawed and people will not stop driving their cars, due to several reasons including Vancouver’s wet climate, the long distances many people who work downtown commute from, and the fact that not everyone is able bodied. Critics of the bike lane, including Hornby street business owners, and residence of downtown, state that, since the trial run has begun, traffic has been even more backed up on Hornby, Dunsmire and Burrard, causing cars to idle thus decreasing the quality of the air downtown, a result that was meant to be quite the opposite in the planning of the bike lane. Another concern is that drivers are now using less busy streets and residential streets to get through down town as they predict Hornby will be too congested. Many Businesses along Hornby complain that their sales have gone down since the lane has been implemented, as much as 80% during construction.[55]

On July 28th, 2011 the City of Vancouver released a report compiling the results of their study on the economic impact of separated bike lanes on businesses that line Hornby and Dunsmuir. Approximately 30% of businesses responded to the survey that was administered in this study. The study concluded that average profits deceased on all streets downtown, including those with separated bike lanes and those unaffected by the bike lanes, however Hornby and Dunsmuir streets, which have separated bike lanes, suffered a greater decrease in profits in comparison to before the bike lanes were implemented in relation to comparison streets by an average difference for both streets of 10% [56] 80% of pedestrians surveyed exiting shops on Dunsmuir and Hornby claimed that their shopping habit hadn’t changed [57] 10% surveyed claimed that they find shopping on these two streets less desirable [58] Reasons stated for increased interest in shopping on streets with separated bike lanes include a more pleasant experience on the streets due to the existence of the bike lanes rather than traffic lanes. Reasons stated for decreased interest in shopping on bike lane streets were lack of parking options and increased traffic congestion. Some limitations of the study are concerns over the low percentage of participants surveyed and the potential for bias based on the risk that businesses that would make the effort to participate may well be the businesses most negatively effected. Also, it is difficult to differentiate between the negative economic effects that are results of the separated bike lanes and those that are results of the recent international recession or of increased parking prices due to the implementation of the HST tax. [59]

Initially there was fear from the business community that since the city planned on getting rid of street parking on the north side of the street and that would effect business, however the plan was revised and one lane of traffic has been made into a parking lane, leaving two driving lanes. Some members of the disabled community feel especially targeted by the bike lane, as many of them do not have the choice to ride a bike and rely on convenient street parking in order to do there shopping and use the downtown services, as they can not walk far distances from parking. Some of these people have voiced that they feel the city hasn’t taken them into account at all. Another reason people are angry is the use of taxpayer money that is being used to implement these trial lanes. Some drivers feel that bikes should be licensed just like cars and should have to take a road test and road safe bike inspection before being aloud to drive downtown in any capacity. These drivers claim to have had bad experiences with cyclists riding unsafely and not following the rules of the road. Many drivers feel that Mayor Gregory Robertson, who is an avid cyclist and commutes to work by bike everyday, and even participates in the controversial ‘critical mass’ an event in which cyclists take over or 'reclaim' a busy city street during rush hour for about an hour on the last weekend of every month, can not sympathies with them as he himself is a cyclist. In the height of the controversy, Vision Vancouver came out with t-shirts reading, “Bike lanes make me Hornby.” Many people opposed to the bike lanes felt that this was almost mocking and that their city was not taking their concerns seriously.

Will downtown commuters be able to come to friendly terms regarding the bike lane? Does this controversy represent “growing pains” of a city gearing itself towards more sustainable forms of transportation? Traffic calming of residential streets, another project in the cities 20 year transportation plan, was also initially met with resistance and a public that was divided on the issue, however now people seam to be in support and would not opt the get ride of traffic calming if they had the choice. Will the bike lane controversy peter out in a similar way?

Bike Culture in Vancouver

In addition to the cities efforts to enhance cycling infrastructure and promote cycling as a viable means of commuting, Vancouver hosts a thriving commuter bicycle culture. In 2001 Vancouver hosted Bikesummer– a month long festival that for each year moved from city to city promoting and celebrating bicycle culture.[60] This inspired the inception of Velolove, an online bike hub / discussion group and volunteer driven community group that promotes bike culture and events in Vancouver and organizes the popular, annual Velopoloza festival, based on Portland’s pedalpoloza, that is comprised of 18 days of bike events in the month of June, which is Bike Month in BC.[61]

In 1991 the federal charity “Better Environmentally Sound Transportation” was formed based out of Vancouver. B.E.S.T has become the local voice for cycling issues and an organization that works with governments, educators, youth, workplaces and community groups to bring about the changes that will contribute to a better quality of life for people and communities in the Lower Mainland [62] With lobbying from B.E.S.T the City of Vancouver designated June as “Bike Month”. This month is packed with events to promote biking put on by the city as well as various organizations and corporate sponsorships. These events include; bike to work weeks, streetwise cycling courses, Car Free Day and other various bike promoting festivals around the GVR. In 1993, BEST opened “Our Community Bikes,” Vancouver’s first do-it-yourself bike store, for people who wish to learn how to fix their own bikes.[63] Out of this came the P.E.D.A.L organization- “Pedal Energy Development ALternatives”. This is an umbrella organization for several bicycle related projects in the Vancouver area. Currently the main projects of PEDAL are Our Community Bikes, the Pedal Depot and After School Bike Program. P.E.D.A.L encourages biking as a transportation chose to Vancouverites by recycling and restoring old bikes in order to reduce waste created by discarded bikes, and offering these bikes at affordable prices. [64] In 2006 P.E.D.A.L opened The Pedal Depot, which is a bicycle education and recycling workshop. [65] Women on Wheels is a bi-monthly workshop night, at the Pedal Depot that offers a comfortable environment to women and trans people who may feel less comfortable in a male dominated realm of cycling and mechanics. [66]

Vancouver is an active city of Critical Mass which is a Monthly Bike event that takes place monthly in over 300 cities around the world. It is a spontaneous event in which cyclists “reclaim the street”, as hundreds, often thousands in the case of Vancouver, simultaneously ride down a major street, often during rush hour, making it difficult if not impossible for motorized vehicles to use or cross through the street. This causes a backlog of vehicle traffic congestion at intersections. The event takes place without leaders or planning which has led many news articles to refer to critical mass as an anarchist protest event. Vancouver’s current Mayor Gregor Robertson has been known to participate in the event.[67] The World Naked Bike Ride is a distinctive form of Critical Mass taking place once a year in Vancouver and hundreds of cities worldwide. This form of Critical Mass (Sometimes referred to as “Critical Ass”) is clothing optional and has the same goals as critical mass with the additional message of promoting positive body image.[68] Another testament of the City of Vancouver's commitment to support bike culture was seen on May 14th, 2011 when the City of Vancouver Parks Board opened the world’s first bike polo court.[69]

As Vancouver's bike culture continues to thrive, the Hornby bike lane represents a bicycle supportive city that is willing to support this culture as well as an important transportation feature in the downtown-core neighborhood. Promoting and facilitating alternative transportation is in line with the City's green initiative, and with this Vancouver's image continues to be that of a bike friendly city.

Precedent Studies


In Copenhagen, 37% of traffic to and from work or school is by bicycle compared to 4% in Vancouver. [70] Bicycle traffic in Copenhagen is calmer, rides are more comfortable, the majority of cyclists are women, and bicycle traffic includes all age groups from school children to senior citizens. The longstanding bicycle tradition was being threatened in the 1950s and 1960s, but the oil crises in the 1970s became catalyst for cyclist. Today, bicycle make up a considerable part of Copenhagen’s city traffic, and have helped keep vehicular traffic at an unusually low level compared to other large cities in Western Europe. Copenhagen is an example of a good bicycle city, and it is no surprise they have the lowest GHG Emissions per Capita in the world. [71] It sets a great example for Vancouver to be the greenest city by 2020.

A cohesive network for bicycles is comprised in all parts of Copenhagen. Traffic is so quiet on small side streets and residential streets in 15 and 30 km per hour that a special cycle network is not necessary, but all major streets have one. On most streets, the network consists of bicycle paths along the sidewalks, typically using the curbstones as dividers towards the sidewalk, as well as parking and driving lanes. This system is known as “Copenhagen-style bicycle lanes”. [72] This type of bike lane infrastructure sets a precedent for the Hornby bike lane.

Room for Copenhagen’s comprehensive bicycle network has been largely gained by down-sizing car traffic. Parking space and driving lanes have been gradually reduced, as traffic patterns have moved from car to bicycle traffic. Most of the city’s major four-lane streets are converted to two-lane streets with two bicycle paths, two sidewalks and a broad median strip intended to make it safer for pedestrians to cross the street. Roadside trees have been planted and traffic is two-way as was initially. The broad buffer zone between vehicular traffic and bike lanes adds a significant sense of safety which encourages potential bikers to gain confidence on the road. While many Vancouverites feel the lack of safety biking on major streets, Copenhagen’s main traffic arteries are coordinated in favour of cyclist during rush hour as part of their green movement. To relieve the bike congestion in the city, Copenhagen recently built the world’s first bicycle superhighway to extend further out to the suburbs. [73]

Bicycle traffic is integrated into the public transportation system, including taxis which have racks for carrying two bikes. [74] Another important link in an integrated transport policy is the possibility to park bicycles securely at stations and traffic hubs, as well as along streets, schools, offices, and dwellings. Large intersections have special bicycle lanes of blue asphalt and bicycle icons to remind drivers to watch out for bicycles. Vancouver have caught on this movement by differentiating major bike lanes in green asphalt. Intersections also have special light signals for bicycles, which typically give a green light to bicycle traffic six seconds before cars are allowed to move. Trucks and buses are required to have special bicycle mirrors and frequent media campaigns to remind drivers to watch out for bicycles, particularly at intersections.

The volume of bicycle traffic is one of the most significant safety factors for making bicycle systems safe. The quantity of bicycles forces drivers to watch out for bicyclist, a positive effect when bicycle traffic reaches a “critical mass”. In order to maintain and increase Copenhagen’s critical mass, the city has proposed 9 area of focus[75]:

  • Cycle tracks and reinforced cycle lanes
  • Green cycle routes
  • Improved cycling conditions in the City Centre
  • Combing cycling and public transport
  • Bicycle parking
  • Improved signal intersections
  • Better cycle track maintenance
  • Better cycle track cleaning
  • Campaigns and information

Today Copenhagen has 2000 city bicycles available at 110 bicycle stations in the city centre. Much like the Velib program in Paris, the bicycles are free, financed by advertisements. Local people are able to ride a bike without the trouble of storing and maintaining it. User pay a coin deposit, which is returned when the borrowed bicycle is returned to one of the official bicycle racks. If Vancouver can also find a private investment to fund the bicycle rental system, it could create a mutually beneficial system for the health of the city.


In North America, Portland, Oregon is taking a big leap in bike in upgrading the biking experience by investing in better bike lanes. The situation is very similar to what Vancouver is experiencing today. Bike safety lesson are implemented in the public education system to encourage the next generation to bike. [76] Like most North American cities which are heavily dependent on cars, Portland’s transition from vehicular traffic to bike lanes was not without opposition. By introducing the bike lane with an all day car free celebration, it changed the attitude of drivers and overcome the biking fear for beginners. [77] The city reclaimed one vehicular lane for a two way bike lane. Smart businesses also joined forces by trading their parking spot for more bike parking because it is good for their business. The advocacy for bike not only improved health of citizens and reduced GHG emission, it also promoted a $100,000,000 bike industry and created 15,000,000 local green jobs. The 300 miles of bikeway and encouragement activity cost less than 1% of the transportation budget. [78] In addition, the more bikers joined the force, the safer it is to ride. It sets a great example for the bike lane planning in Vancouver because the two shares similar geography.

Potential Solutions

Figure One: Proposed Solutions.
Figure Two: Current Bike Lanes. .
Figure Three: Current Public Transit Routes.

No-Car Zones

By isolating certain streets as no-car zones, similar to the 2010 Olympic street closures, the common cause of car-cyclist frustration is reduced. In this proposal, instead of being sandwiched between a parking lane and driving lane the cyclists would have use of the street space adjacent to the bus lanes. Another cause of common incidents is when one form of transportation turns onto a perpendicular street, cutting off other lanes of movement. Reducing the frequency of crossing lanes of different types of traffic lessens the confusion and potential for incident.

Figure One demonstrates Vancouver's transportation system crisscrosses the downtown in an a combination of bus, train, car and bike access. The congestion from the large number of people traveling into the downtown core is illustrated with the knot of paths on the map. So many systems overlaid on each other could benefit from a collaborative reorganization as well as implementation of new cooperation between forms of transportation. The black boxed selection along the Hornby Street bike lane is scaled up in the image below to show the separation of bikes from the two lane of car traffic, as well as the lane of car parking. Additional streets have been suggested as no-car zones or isolated streets. Cardero Street, Hardwood Street, and Carrall Street are already primarily used for cyclists. Robson Street and Dunsmuir Street are both used by bikes and buses through major commercial areas of the Downtown core. Drake Street is a needed biking throughway across Yaletown to make a connection with the Seawall. All of these suggestions for isolated streets join the cyclist network together across the extent of Downtown. The streets can be either isolated for bike and bus or bike and car where appropriate. The goal of these suggestions is to cover downtown with safe bike access while not disrupting the current flow of traffic by focusing on side streets and streets that are already used for bus lines. The proposed solutions to enhance the relationship between cars, buses, cyclists, and pedestrians take the form of pedestrian-bike-bus isolated streets that form a network of ideal transects through the city core and reorganization of intersections to lessen confusion and promote safety.

Whereas Figure Two, which is the current transportation form of Downtown Vancouver, has multiple levels of bike routes including off street or divided bike lanes in purple, on-road bike lanes on major streets in orange, shared space for bikes next to car traffic in yellow, and suggested tertiary streets for bikes use in green. The bike path system, although extensive, can be frustrating for users. Designated paths end without clear connection to another path. Intersections can be confusing to cyclists, pedestrians, and car drivers. Figure Three shows the current Translink bus and train route. From this diagram it is apparent that other modes of transportation are necessary, as it does not extend fully to the entire Downtown core.Translink's bus and train system bring residents and tourists into and through downtown, however even with the large number of people using public transit the congestion of Downtown Vancouver continues to be a problem of pollution and viability of downtown as a place of work for people living outside the city.


The next phase of implementation after the isolation of streets is the redesign of boundaries, buffers and communication systems focused on the coordination of crosswalks and traffic. There is a need for higher visibility at intersections where multiple different forms of traffic are interfacing. For instance, by keeping the cyclists to the center of the street and the buses closer to the curb, pedestrians are directly connected to the buses from the sidewalk and there is a buffer zone between the cyclists and the pedestrians at intersections. Learning from the Copenhagen and Portland, establishing a clear and comprehensive signage and circulation system will reduce confusion and accidents. A series of small-traffic oriented communication would be developed for the pedestrian-cyclist scale in these areas.

The communication and signage design needs to be well thought out to avoid any confusion during and after the transition period. The text should be legible for car drivers, cyclist and pedestrians considering the speed of cars and night visions. The interchangeability of signage is needed to accommodate any future changes and consistency. Learning from our precedent studies, raising public awareness for bike by various types of campaign is needed for citizens to adapt to the system in harmony. Consistency, simplicity and communication are all key to a successful bike friendly city.

The road lane design requires flexibility to accommodate different modes of transportation and its demand. Giving enough buffer zone can promote safe rides and eliminate injuries. The buffer zone ranges from movable planters to fences depending on the available space. On narrow streets where separate bike lanes are not allowed, car speed should be reduced. On wider streets, street parking or extra lanes could be traded for bike lanes. One vehicle lane can create a generous two lane bike lane. The same area can transport more people on the bike lane compared to the vehicle lane which aids the traffic congestion issues. Aside from physical barriers such as planter and fences, bus lane also can be a spacial barrier.

Ride-Share Programs

Another phase in the reformation is to increase the use of the bike lanes even further, aiding the City of Vancouver’s goal to move toward better sustainability. The use of rideshare stations as seen in Paris, Montreal and China at key transit hubs in the city would cater to those users coming from outside of the city area but who would still like to bike around the city. It can also be adapted for locals from the suburbs to bike in downtown Vancouver. Like in the cities of our precedent studies the introduction of bike share cooperation promotes the use of bike lanes by creating more convenient access to the larger population who otherwise may be isolated from the option. For further convenience there is a need for secure bike storage, short and long term lockup spaces throughout the city. Some of these spaces may be within private building structures and others more similar to public car parking along the lanes or sidewalks. This is also to be added with public bike parking.

In conjunction to these amendments it would be helpful to consider that Vancouver’s transportation woes are merely symptomatic of a greater issue that perhaps could be solved through well considered planning and intensification of currently decentralized suburban areas. Reducing the need for people to commute by car to work would alleviate the strain on the current network of transportation, the environment, and be much less stressful for those who drive. For example, the simple rezoning of suburban towns would spur more outlets for production (jobs and places of commerce). This of course would be coupled with the proximity to amenities and affordable places to live. Another less environmentally harmful way to approach this issue would be to build localized transit systems in suburban areas that interconnect with the regional transit system which would make commuting easier and traffic less. For example, a stronger regional transit system similar to Europe's train system.

Concluding Remarks

Scaled up view of a portion of Hornby St. from Davie St. to Helmcken St.

This plan shows a portion of Hornby St. from Davie St. to Helmcken St. with the separated bike lane next to the lane of car parking and two lanes of single direction traffic. Painted paths at intersections delineate the bike crossing from the car and pedestrian crossings. Reflective signage at intersections helps announce the start and end of the separation barriers. Breaks in the barrier allow for access to driveways and lane ways. Parking designation ends when there is a need for a right turn lane. Further along the bike lane near the Skytrain Station is space for large numbers of bike parking.

Overall, this multi-level use of transportation in the city makes for a nervous confrontation. This proposal aims to create a network that allows for simultaneous use and harmony within the city through no-car zones, redesigning safer bike lanes, and ride-share programs, while promoting sustainable living. Not only is the Hornby Bike Lane a step in the right direction, it is also important the City of Vancouver takes an even more proactive stance to ensure they are the greenest city by 2020.


  3. United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), Global Report on Human Settlements 2009. Planning Sustainable cities: London, 2009. pg.178
  4. United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), Global Report on Human Settlements 2009. Planning Sustainable cities: London, 2009. pg.178
  7. Dr. Anne McAffe, Ideas into Action. City of Vancouver and World Urban Forum, 2006. pg.3
  9. Greenest City Action Team, Vancouver 2020: A Bright Green Future, 4.
  10. Greenest City Action Team, Vancouver 2020: A Bright Green Future, 11.
  11. Greenest City Action Team, Vancouver 2020: A Bright Green Future, 11.
  12. Greenest City Action Team, Vancouver 2020: A Bright Green Future, 15.
  13. J.H Crawford, Car free Cities. (Utrecht: International Books, 2000),78.
  14. J.H Crawford, Carfree Cities. (Utrecht: International Books, 2000),79.
  15. J.H Crawford, Carfree Cities. (Utrecht: International Books, 2000),79.
  16. J.H Crawford, Carfree Cities.(Utrecht: International Books, 2000),79.
  17. J.H Crawford, Carfree Cities. (Utrecht: International Books, 2000),79.
  18. J.H Crawford, Carfree Cities. (Utrecht: International Books, 2000),80.
  19. J.H Crawford, Car free Cities. (Utrecht: International Books, 2000),80.
  20. J.H Crawford, Carfree Cities. (Utrecht: International Books, 2000),80.
  21. J.H Crawford, Carfree Cities. (Utrecht: International Books, 2000),80.
  22. J.H Crawford, Car free Cities. (Utrecht: International Books, 2000),79.
  29. newsletter4.pdf
  32. Berelowitz, Lance. Dream City 2005, Published by Douglas McIntyre Ltd (130)
  33. Berelowitz, Lance. Dream City 2005, Published by Douglas McIntyre Ltd (79)
  34. Berelowitz, Lance. Dream City 2005, Published by Douglas McIntyre Ltd (75)
  35. Berelowitz, Lance. Dream Ciy 2005, Published by Douglas McIntyre Ltd (82)
  36. Macdonald, Bruce. Vancouver A Visual History 1992, Published by Talon Books Ltd.
  37. Berelowitz, Lance. Dream Ciy2005, Published by Douglas McIntyre Ltd (71)
  38. Berelowitz, Lance. Dream City 2005, Published by Douglas McIntyre Ltd (71)
  39. Berelowitz, Lance. Dream City 2005, Published by Douglas McIntyre Ltd(71)
  40. Berelowitz, Lance. Dream City 2005, Published by Douglas McIntyre Ltd(71)
  41. Berelowitz, Lance. Dream City 2005, Published by Douglas McIntyre Ltd(73)
  42. Berelowitz, Lance. Dream Ciy2005, Published by Douglas McIntyre Ltd(74)
  43. Berelowitz, Lance. Dream Ciy2005, Published by Douglas McIntyre Ltd(78)
  44. Berelowitz, Lance. Dream Ciy2005, Published by Douglas McIntyre Ltd(78)
  45. City of Vancouver. "City of Vancouver transportation plan." official report, Vancouver, 1997.
  46. City of Vancouver. Accessed on 18 June2011.
  47. Newcomb., Tim. "Vancouver Embraces Bikes, Adds Lanes." Planning 77, no. 2 (2011): 5.
  48. Berelowitz,Lance. Dream Ciy 2005, Published by Douglas McIntyre Ltd(83)
  49. Pucher, J., Dill, J., Handy, S. “Infrastructure, programs, and policies to increase bicycling: an international review” Preventive Medicine 50 (2010) S106-S125.
  50. City of Vancouver. City of Vancouver/Transportation/Open Dialogue. March 9, 2011. (accessed June 18, 2011).
  51. City of Vancouver. City of Vancouver/Transportation/Open Dialogue. March 9, 2011. (accessed June 18, 2011).
  52. "New Separated Bike Lane for Downtown Vancouver" by Stephanie Doerksen, VIA Architecture, 28 July 2010.
  53. Newcomb., Tim. "Vancouver Embraces Bikes, Adds Lanes." Planning 77, no. 2 (2011): 5.
  54. City of Vancouver. City of Vancouver/Transportation/Open Dialogue. March 9, 2011. (accessed June 18, 2011).
  55. Newcomb., Tim. "Vancouver Embraces Bikes, Adds Lanes." Planning 77, no. 2 (2011): 5.
  56. Stantec. Business Impact Study Report,Downtown Separated Bicycle Lanes. Planning and Environment, Vancouver: City of Vancouver, 2011.
  57. Stantec. Business Impact Study Report,Downtown Separated Bicycle Lanes. Planning and Environment, Vancouver: City of Vancouver, 2011.
  58. Stantec. Business Impact Study Report,Downtown Separated Bicycle Lanes. Planning and Environment, Vancouver: City of Vancouver, 2011.
  59. Stantec. Business Impact Study Report,Downtown Seperated Bicycle Lanes. Planning and Environment, Vancouver: City of Vancouver, 2011.
  60. Critical Mass. July 10, 2010.! (accessed july 26, 2011).
  61. Velolove. Velopoloza .June 1, 2011. (accessed July 26, 2011).
  62. B.E.S.T. Better environmentaly sustainable transportation. 2011. (accessed July 26, 2011).
  63. P.E.D.A.L. Pedal : Our Community Bikes. 2011. (accessed July 26, 2011).
  64. P.E.D.A.L. Pedal : Our Community Bikes. 2011. (accessed July 26, 2011).
  65. P.E.D.A.L. Pedal : Our Community Bikes. 2011. (accessed July 26, 2011).
  66. P.E.D.A.L. Pedal : Our Community Bikes. 2011. (accessed July 26, 2011).
  67. Critical Mass Vancouver. Critical Mass Vancouver. july 21, 2011. (accessed july 26, 2011).
  68. Velolove. Velopoloza. June 1, 2011. (accessed July 26, 2011).
  69. Kohout, Mia. Momentum Planet Magazine. May 14, 2011. (accessed July 26, 2011).
  70. Cities for People, Jan Gehl, Island Press, 2010
  71. Cities for People, Jan Gehl, Island Press, 2010
  72. Cities for People, Jan Gehl, Island Press, 2010
  73. Bicycle Commuter Superhighways in Copenhagen
  74. City of Copenhagen. Cycle Policy 2002-2012. July 2002.
  75. City of Copenhagen. Cycle Policy 2002-2012. July 2002.
  76. TEDxPortland: Mia Birk on Pedaling Towards a Healthier Planet
  77. City of Copenhagen. Cycle Policy 2002-2012. July 2002.
  78. TEDxPortland: Mia Birk on Pedaling Towards a Healthier Planet

Group members: Erica Hansen, Nicole Kurtz, Will Morrison, Tessa Sodini, Mira Yung