In today’s Seattle Times, reporter David Gutman compares the state of cycling infrastructure in Seattle and Vancouver.
Mr. Gutman’s article digs into strategy, results, history and opposition.

Seattle’s leaders are working to build a network of connected bike lanes, but every inch of pavement is contested and tensions run high. In Vancouver, which already has such a network, cycling numbers are up. Driving numbers are down. And the opposition has largely melted away.

It’s a good read, since he covers the fundamentals of Vancouver’s path as we reach for a clearly stated goal — to increase the number of people choosing a bike as a means of travelling.
The first principle he uncovers is the network. Clearly, an isolated bike lane to nowhere is going just there — nowhere. It’s a waste of money and political capital.

In less than a decade the city has stitched together a network of bike lanes, mostly separate from traffic, that lets cyclists navigate downtown and beyond without going shoulder-to-shoulder with cars. . .
But [Seattle’s bike lanes] still remain, mostly, islands to themselves. They don’t connect to one another, and bikers still have to fight car traffic to get from one to the next.
Downtown Vancouver is peppered with interconnected bike infrastructure.

He also digs into the results, including the large increase in women choosing the bike for some trips.

Bike trips have steadily increased, while driving has decreased. More than 10 percent of commutes are now made by bicycle in Vancouver, an increase of 60 percent over 2013, according to city data. In Seattle, the share of bike commuters is about 3 percent, and hasn’t budged in years.

Mr. Gutman’s last observation is about the decrease (not elimination, mind you) in opposing voices, to the point where new Vancouver infrastructure plans now barely raise the population’s pulse, and the pitchforks and torches mostly remain in people’s garages.
Just last week, the Times published Gutman’s comparison of the two cities’ transit planning and infrastructure. Ultimately, the comparisons may be suggestive of two cities at two very different stages. And the difference seems to be in strategic vision and willingness to spend political capital.


  1. It’s a good article overall. (Well, except for them using the term “bikers” to refer to people when they cycle.)
    The story makes it seem like nothing happened before 2009. There’s no mention of the decades of work that citizens did before then to get us to the point where cycling could be included in city design.
    I think a big factor (not unique to Vancouver) is discovering that the solution to the motorist problem doesn’t lie in enforcement or education but in infrastructure.
    In the article what’s funny are the comments especially the ones that say “We can’t do the same here in Seattle because Vancouver is flat.” Hilarious. Didn’t we hear that about us not able to be like Amsterdam because Vancouver is hilly?

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