Cailynn Klingbeil in the Globe writes about changing attitudes within the world of transportation and local street-front retail businesses.

There’s been a sea change in the attitude about cyclists and frankly the value that the cycling community and the cycling consumer is bringing to the marketplace,” says Charles Gauthier, president and chief executive officer of the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association. “Businesses are responding by making it clear they’re catering to them.” . . . .
. . . . Mr. Gauthier’s own organization has shifted its stance on bike lanes. In 2010, the BIA raised concerns over the loss of 170 on-street parking spaces and how that would affect area businesses’ bottom lines. But an assumption held by many merchants – that most customers arrive by car – turned out to be false, Mr. Gauthier says. A 2011 economic impact study commissioned by the city and other associations, including the Downtown Vancouver BIA, showed most people walked, cycled or took transit to get downtown. Just 20 per cent of customers on Hornby and Dunsmuir arrived by car.

Mr. Gauthier’s reference to a 5-year-old economic impact study refers to the Stantec Business Impact Study on bike lanes — largely ignored by our local press when it was published on July 20, 2011.  After all, there was a juicy populist, negative and divisive angle to be pursued — good old “us” vs. “them”.
How things change.  And don’t change, as is the case on Vancouver’s Commercial Drive.

Shops more often; spends more per month


  1. Hard to shop when you’re driving, as Cambridge Massachusetts found out. They smoothed the flow of traffic through Central Square and the shops sufferred. They slowed it down again and shops sprung back to life. In part it was because drivers could see more of what they were passing. But mostly it was because pedestrians and cyclists (who were doing mist of the shopping) could navigate across the street more easily instead of being cut off by free flowing cars.

  2. Nick Pogar of the Commercial Drive Business Society should spend some time talking with Mr. Gauthier. The CDBS is still citing Hornby and Dunsmuir as examples of failed infrastructure, when the facts show otherwise, and the DVBIA is being very open about the benefits of the lanes.
    At the recent Italian Days on the Drive, I spoke to representatives of the CDBS at their tent. They were asking attendees to sign their petition against bike lanes. I asked them what their biggest concern was, and they said reductions in vehicle parking. They said if people couldn’t park on the Drive itself, no one would come there. I was at that moment standing in a throng of people that was six or more blocks long, jam packed, with not a car parked on the Drive at all. They couldn’t see the irony, and kept insisting that no street parking meant no visitors.

    1. I am surprised that they are still flogging that “petition”. Their loss of parking suggestion is totally bogus. Up to now, the city has not even started a planning process for upgrades to Commercial Drive and the suggested plan from Streets for Everyone shows only a handfull of parking spots being upgraded to create safer intersections and maybe the odd bike corral which can hold 8 times as many bikes as cars. Some car parking spots would be added by use of shorter bus stop areas. Meanwhile, how many people (like me) are avoiding Commercial Drive because of how cycling and walking unfriendly it is? These people are totally out of touch with reality.

    2. I might want to quibble a bit about the so-called “Car Free” day on Commercial and Main. In fact, most attendees incongruently drive to these events and invade the neighbouring streets, and rat run on parallel streets much to the angst of residents.
      But I still get the irony.

      1. Most attendees? It may seem that way but let’s look at some numbers. Admittedly some big guesses in here:
        25,000 people at 3 per car is about 8500 cars.
        The Main Street’ closure is 20 blocks long Commercial much shorter.
        At 20 blocks you have to distribute 425 cars per linear block on streets that have limited parking (they are gently densified neighbourhoods that rely on street parking) there are very few dedicated parking lots.
        Even if you could get 10 extra cars per block (highly doubtful) you’d need over 40 blocks – 20 in each direction to accommodate them.
        It would be much worse on The Drive with its shorter closure.
        I think, by far, most come by some other means.
        Still, I agree – way too many cars for a car free event.

        1. 25,000? Doubt it. Could be 15,000. Definitely 10,000.
          The side streets seethe with non-resident parked cars constantly turning over, and the cruisers circulating for signs of spots being vacated. The impact is measured strongly in the two blocks either side of Main, and only starts to peter out in the third block.
          There you go. 80 blocks greatly affected, another 40 moderately affected, for a total of 120 blocks affected in some way by visiting cars on “car free” day.

        2. From Wikipedia: “In its first year of operation, over 25,000 people were in attendance to celebrate this community event.”
          It has gotten bigger since.

        3. From the Mount Pleasant BIA website:
          Drawing between 120,000 and 150,000 people to Main Street, the festival is the perfect opportunity to showcase your business to potential new clients and customers from all over Vancouver.

        4. From the Vancouver Courier:
          Today, Car Free Day has expanded to Kitsilano, the West End and Main Street. Each festival is organized by volunteers from its own community. An estimated 250,000 people are expected to attend all four events.

        5. So if we use the 120 blocks MB suggests to accommodate those crowds with 3 per car average you’d need to fit 275-300 extra cars per block. Clearly most people are not coming by car.

  3. I didn’t know CDBS would have a tent at the commercial car free day. I wish I had gone just to have the amusement of talking to them about their petition.

  4. I was at Italian Days, not Car Free Day, but I imagine CDBS was at both events.
    The CDBS tent was right across the street from the free Bike Valet service. It was full. An excellent program.

    1. Good point. These bike trips are not captured by the Census commute data, though they are captured by TransLink trip diary and CoV trip surveys. Another multi-modal trip is riding to rapid transit station or bus stop in order to extend trip using transit. That is why TransLink’s plans to provide safe cycling routes to transit stations is so important but TransLink will not or can not fund these.

  5. One thing about the bike lanes in Vancouver that I never see mentioned, is the amount of multi modal riders that are using them. I call these people the Park’n’Riders. The idea is, you park somewhere close to your destination (preferably free parking) with your bike on a car rack, and then you cycle the rest of the way in to work. You’re saving money on parking, and you’re having fun ( and getting a little exercise ). Notice the amount of cars with full bike racks in rush hour traffic. I know this is common at UBC, the preferred place to park is 16th ave ( I used to do it myself, now I cycle the whole commute), but I don’t have any idea how much this happens for downtown. I do suspect however, that a lot of people find parking in Strathcona and points east, and use the Adanac bikeway to come into town. Perhaps more research is needed?

  6. Always remember …In 1978, the Downtown Businessmen’s (yes, businessMEN) Association fought hard to reject the “boondoggle” that was to become the Granville Island redevelopment. If these reactionary associations are opposed to an idea, we should just embrace it.

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