September 30, 2019

Daily Scot Abroad: Victoria, Bike Lanes – 1

While enjoying a few days in our provincial capital, I was pleasantly surprised to discover more separated bicycle lanes in the downtown core with the recent completion of the Humboldt and Wharf Street routes. (Click on title for pics.)


There are some great road diet and public realm measures taken here in addition to providing cycling infrastructure.


A street closure where Humboldt met Douglas giving way to an urban plaza complete with seating, bike racks and a ping-pong table.




Further down the route, a rework and calming of the vehicular travel lanes where Humboldt, Government and Wharf meet connects to the Wharf street separated bike lanes.


There’s even a bike traffic counter in this new plaza which no doubt will keep ticking over as ridership grows.


And of course, the usual controversy and commentary: ‘I’m not against bike lanes, it’s just that everything you did or would have done is really stupid.’

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They call him Downtown Charles. Okay, he calls himself that, but it fits. For the past 27 years, Charles Gauthier has led the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association, one of hundreds of BIAs that sprung up across Canada (and the world) in the past 40 years.

Beginning in 1992, with a downtown business core saddled with double-digit commercial vacancy rates, Gauthier has helped usher in new programs aimed at stimulating greater public engagement in more public spaces. More promotional and support programs for downtown businesses.  And with all that, sustained growth and livability in one of North America’s most densely populated and heavily commuted downtowns.

More tellingly, Gauthier has led the BIA — staff, Board and Policy Council — into tough conversations, many of them public, about policy issues once considered outside the purview of the business community. That’s because they’re issues at the core of what makes this city tick — bike lanes, transit, housing policies, and intersectional diversity and representation. First in traditional media, and now on social media, Gauthier has become a voice of reason (and in Gord’ view, “master of the segue”).

Today, just prior to yet another BIA renewal process, and as a new council votes on a number of important motions about active transportation and densification, Gauthier say’s he’s ready…to fight the NIMBYs.

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The issue that will not die.

Dan Fumano, in a dissection of the social-media manager for Coalition Vancouver, quotes Gary Bizzo:

Asked why he was getting involved with the Vancouver mayoral race when he lives in Burnaby, Bizzo said: “It affects everybody, doesn’t it? I have offices downtown and this bikelane stuff is driving me crazy.”

Well, of course they don’t drive most people crazy, as a couple of elections proved. And they don’t cause congestion – because if they did, boy, would we know it.  First, drivers would experience it.  Then there would be data. But above all, the media would relentlessly pound that story, with endlessly looped video for illustration.

(The story, arguably, is ‘why didn’t the bikelanes cause congestion?’  It was expected that by removing lanes from major roads and bridges, the result world be (doom music here) carmageddon.  Didn’t happen.  Not news.  No reports.)

And yet the craziness continues, notably among those like Bizzo who don’t live in Vancouver – along with the supposition that there is a war on the car.  (Vancouver Magazine asked “Is There an ‘Ideological War on Transportation’ in Vancouver?”  Answer: Nope.)

But of course that’s a matter of perspective:


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This just in from the City of Vancouver:
2017 summer sees record cycling volumes on five major bike routes across Vancouver
This July and August, Vancouver saw record cycling volumes on five of the city’s 10 fully protected bike routes, including at Science World, Union and Hawkes, Hornby and Robson, Lions Gate, and Canada Line. …
Over the past year, several improvements have been made to create more opportunities for people of all ages and abilities to choose to cycle to get around the city for transportation and recreation.

  • Upgrades and additions to the downtown bike network;
  • Improvements at Quebec Street and 1st Avenue;
  • Improved cycling route along SW Marine Drive (Granville to University Endowment Lands);
  • Improvements along the Adanac Bikeway;
  • The addition of the Arbutus Greenway temporary path;
  • The completion of the Seaside Greenway link between Volunteer Park and Jericho Beach;
  • Additional separation between people walking and cycling on the False Creek Seawall.

Of priority cycling routes identified in the Transportation 2040, the City has now completed Comox/Helmken Greenway, Point Grey-Cornwall section of the Seaside Greenway, spot improvements to the Union/Adanac Bikeway, and safety improvements to SW Marine Drive.
Record cycling volumes by location in comparison to previous record years:

Bike Route Previous Record (Years vary) Current Year (2017) Record Breaking in 2017     Science World 204,000 in August 2016 227,000 in July * Adanac Bikeway (at Hawks) 115,000 in June 2015 120,000 in July Hornby Bikeway (at Robson) 75,000 in August 2016 80,000 in July Lions Gate Bridge 70,000 in June 2015 71,000 in July Canada Line Pedestrian and Bike Bridge 28,000 in June 2015 29,000 in July Other Major Routes and highest volume month in 2017     Burrard and Cornwall 195,000 in July 2014 190,000 in August Dunsmuir Street (Union and Main) 69,000 in August 2016 66,000 in August Dunsmuir Viaduct 76,000 in June 2015 73,000 in July 10th Ave and Clark 82,000 in June 2015 70,000 in July Point Grey Road at Volunteer Park 102,000 in July 2015 99,000 in July

*Data is not available for August 2017 due to technical difficulties with counter equipment.
Despite extensive construction work on Burrard Bridge and Point Grey Road over the last year, cycling volumes along those routes have remained high.
The highest record breaker in the summer of 2017 was the Science World location.
The bike counter at Science World was installed in March 2013 when the first bike count of 53,000 was recorded. Only four years later, bike counts at Science World have increased more than four times that amount. The highest monthly bike volume that has been recorded to date is 204,000, which was reached at Science World last August 2016. This Science World record was broken this July reaching 227,000.
The City has been collecting data on protected bike routes since 2009. Data is reported out monthly and can be viewed online. The data includes monthly two-way totals rounded to the nearest thousand, and shows mid-week averages on 10 protected bike routes.

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Inside this story is a larger one.  And right on time, as the Commercial Drive bike lane debate plods on, with no resolution in sight.
Kevin Griffin writes in Postmedia’s Vancouver Sun about new businesses springing up in response to the success of Vancouver’s existing bike lanes. This is all good.
First, in respect of existing businesses, Mr. Griffin updates those few who may have missed it on the bike-lane turnaround at the DVBIA, which represents 8,000 businesses of immense variety. He quotes Charles Gauthier:

Some businesses expressed a lot of concerns primarily that they thought their customers primarily arrived by parking and driving in front of their store,” he says.. . .  But a 2011 Vancouver Separated Bike Lane Impact Study included surveys that talked to customers and businesses affected by the Dunsmuir and Hornby bike routes. It found a big difference between perception and reality: 20 per cent of customers arrived by car compared to 42 per cent by transit, 32 per cent on foot and about eight per cent by bike.

“What we have seen in the intervening years along Hornby Street is that things have settled down considerably,” says Gauthier. “We’re hearing less and less about it as a point of concern.

Mr. Griffin goes on to highlight several new businesses that are bike-lane-related.  But there is something else hidden in the stories, which is the City’s reputation, and the reaction of visitors to Vancouver, amid these new opportunities:

Says Cycle City Tours’  Josh Bloomfield, who offers guided city tours by bike, and is ranked spectacularly high on TripAdvisor:

We get a lot of families, parents going out with kids, and people who have heard that Vancouver is bike friendly,” he says.

“If we didn’t have this reputation and the infrastructure that you can obviously see, you wouldn’t do that. . . .

“. . .  We see the smile on people’s faces when they come back,” he says. “They’ve experienced the city in a new way. They tell us ‘I wish our city could be like this.’

Says ModaCity’s Chris Bruntlett, about the move into bike-related filmmaking:

We’re telling Vancouver’s story and what’s coming out of this huge shift that’s got 10 per cent of trips to work on bicycle,” he says. “The eyes of North America are really on our city in terms of promoting and enabling cycling.

Here’s Bomber Brewing’s Blair Calibaba on their business success, located at the intersection of the Adanac and Mosaic bikeways.  Don’t forget that Cycle City offers a “Craft Beer Tour”, encouraging travel (by bike) to parts of town off the typical Stanley Park – Gastown circuit:

Part of the draw for us was the location and being on such a busy avenue for cycling,” he says. “We knew we would get traffic and consistent customers. The city’s bike culture is growing incredibly in this city, thanks to the infrastructure and more cycling routes.

My take is that the bike lanes we have work fine for existing businesses, and are spawning new locally-focused and visitor-focused ones.  Such opportunities will multiply as Vancouver’s AAA-network (*) spreads, and more and more destinations can be reached by people of all ages and abilities (AAA) on bikes.

I hope to see, some day in the future, more locals and tourists setting out (as they do now for other areas) for the Drive, — which is a wonderful area to explore and spend some bucks.  And they will increasingly want to do it by bike.  And it is the AAA bike lanes, and the network of them, which will get more people travelling to the Drive.

(*) All Ages and Abilities bike network defined.

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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.

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