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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Regular PT commenter Jeff Leigh (also Chair of HUB Cycling’s Vancouver Local Committee) writes in the DailyHive with HUB’s reaction to the Commercial Drive Business Society’s (CDBS) view of bike lanes proposed for the Drive.
No surprise that the CDBS position of Carmageddon (or is that Bizmageddon) has attracted this rebuttal. CDBS apparently thinks that the Drive is unique, and so there must be no interference with car access to it.  But experience in Vancouver and elsewhere is the opposite — in that encouraging peds, bikes and transit creates a payoff for local businesses.  Not to mention people.

Many people are currently unwilling to cycle on the Drive due to high levels of traffic but the City has a chance to change this. Introducing bike lanes will not lead to the “bike highway” that Mr. Pogor described, but create a safe route that would act as a catalyst for increased trade and give people of all ages and abilities access to one of the city’s most popular areas.
The Drive is an area famed for its history, vibrancy, and diverse culture, we cannot let the outdated and insular views of a few prevent it evolving into a space for all.


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How many times have you thought: I’d love to sit outside but it’s kinda noisy and stinky with the cars right there?

This is my fourth post in a series on transforming our shopping districts into more pleasant places to get to safely and hang out in.
We’ve reached an awkward moment in Vancouver’s history where trips by active transportation and transit are increasing without updating our shopping districts to accommodate those modes as well.
If as of May, 2015 50% of all trips in Vancouver are made by walking, bicycling, or transit and we haven’t updated the safety for those modes in any of our shopping districts yet, is this affecting how well businesses are doing? It seems it must be.
Janette Sadik-Khan, likening a City to a business for a moment, said about updating streets: “If you didn’t change your major capital asset in 50-60 years, would you still be in business?”
Now that an interesting amount of data from best practices elsewhere confirms these changes are good for business, it is time for the City to plan improving the streets in our shopping districts with updates such as wider sidewalks including bulges, raised crosswalks, mid-block crossings, protected bike lanes and intersections, better bicycle parking, car-free plazas, space for transitioning between modes, and other additions.
Successful business owners like Jimmy Pattison always talk about exceptional, friendly customer service being the most important step for companies. What they really mean is that the whole customer experience – from the first website visit, to ease of getting there and getting through the door, to the impression the place is clean and appealing indoors and out, through the direct customer experience until the good-bye/see you soon – should be at least safe and pleasant or even fun.
Every successful business also adapts to the times to continue to be desired. They adjust to new ways their customers reach them (both online and via other modes of travel). Businesses are not served well by being seen as on the wrong side of history on the issue of safer streets.
Reach out to the successful ones who intend to be there throughout and after these transitions. The businesses who do well for many years do the following:

  • keep their awnings clean, readable, and free of green fuzz,
  • ask the City to install bike racks near them by tweeting details @CityofVancouver #311,
  • make sure the doors, floors, tables, chairs and bathrooms are clean,
  • greet customers with a smile,
  • make an effort to get to know regulars,
  • are in tune with what menu items or stock their customers really want,
  • have great relationships with their suppliers to get those items on a consistent basis,
  • handle complaints graciously – often with follow-up check-ins,
  • and always say please and thank you.

What we can do to help local businesses – especially through this transition:

  • make an effort to thank and support local businesses and their owners – especially the ones who support safer streets for all,
  • avoid lecturing (or “You should…” sentences to) business owners who have no intention of changing; it’s a waste of energy; they will learn the hard way,
  • go to the business manager or owner before complaining elsewhere if you have any problems: Assume If you like us, tell your friends; if not, tell us! is the motto of every business,
  • spread the word about great experiences in person, on social media, and with your friends and co-workers,
  • every time you visit, casually mention to the server what mode you took to get there,
  • notify the City if you see loose bike racks, street lights out, plastic bags stuck in street trees, etc. by tweeting the details to @CityofVancouver #311,
  • and always say please and thank you.

The City, together with residents, business owners, employees, and our visitors will need to pitch in to improve the health, safety, economic viability, and delightfulness of our shopping districts.

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Did you really think I was going to skip this topic?
The Grandview-Woodlands Community Plan – including the Transportation component – is likely to go to Vancouver City Council in April for approval. Within it are some interesting percentages. Out of about 550 respondents, 75% support adding pedestrian space and improving the public realm (page 18). 70% of respondents support making cycling more comfortable and convenient (page 24). These responses refer to the area as a whole, though, not specifically Commercial Drive.
There are also questions about retail areas: 39% support retaining or improving on-street vehicle parking in retail areas. 54% support “limit(ing) or possibly reduc(ing) on-street parking to provide opportunity for enhanced pedestrian, bicycle, and/or transit infrastructure”(page 37).
You call that a survey?
Even How to construct a bogus survey doesn’t suggest being as blatant as the Commercial Drive Business Society (BIA) was with their rant plus fear-based questions they call a survey. I’m disappointed with Kenneth Chan‘s coverage of it in Vancity Buzz as if it is a good survey. Alone, it doesn’t deserve the attention. Don’t encourage him by looking it up.
A better account is this earlier story by CKNW showing both sides. They included the photos that Bandidas Taqueria, in support of safety improvements on The Drive, generously posted of their completed Commercial Drive Society “survey” before sending it in. Check it out if you’re curious about the “survey” wording. With the questions so geared against safety improvements such as wider sidewalks and bike lanes on The Drive, Bandidas’ answers seem absurd, amusing, and brave.
What next? Here are some strategies for how to move forward.

A) Carrot

An urban planner suggested luring some of the reluctant, long-time business owners by highlighting the culture of the neighbourhood: evoking a plan of a Euro chic, romantic scene fit for Little Italy. He envisions renderings of electric bikes (today’s version of the 1960s Vespa) parked in a row in front of pizza parlours (in lieu of car parking) like our memories of a lifestyle we yearned for while watching films like La Dolce Vita or Roman Holiday.

B) Stick

An aware and involved citizen muttered to me that banquet halls catering to private parties with considerable drinking and lots of space to park your car don’t mix well in the public’s eye. He thinks the best strategy is to heighten the public’s awareness of those businesses’ encouragement to drive and get MADD involved.
From Federico’s website (with no mention of how to arrive via transit or bicycle and no suggestion to take a taxi home):
“Ample Parking is available in the area
*Il Mercato underground parking
(NW corner of 1st and Commercial)
*Royal Bank during non-banking hours
(located across the street)
*Street and meter parking”

C) Collect and Share Data

In North American cities, businesses consistently grossly overestimate how many of their customers arrive by car. Data-driven decision making should count more than an emotional fear of change. For example, this annotated, chart-filled review of 12 studies from around the world.
City of Vancouver staff plan to conduct intercept surveys (real ones) on Commercial Drive, measuring the modes of customers before and after the upgrades so Vancouver finally has its first All Ages and Abilities (AAA) corridor on a high street and first valuable data to show the effects on business.

D) Carry On

Make the changes, with public consultation. Do it because you were elected on the platform to do so.

E) All of the Above

Speaking of everything, please see this PT post about Slow Streets’ The Case for a Complete Street on The Drive.

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Some Price Tags posts seem to have staying power – comments-wise.  Like this one.  Biclii posted the most recent comment, which I’m referencing because of its link to an important CityLab article: . .


Examples are taken from around the world.  Here are the two from Canada:


Vancouver, Canada

This study of shops in downtown Vancouver did find a net decrease in sales after the implementation of a separated bike lane. But the analysis relied on business surveys, rather than actual sales data, which might have led to a response bias among the merchants who took the biggest hit. The little sales data that was received “indicated that the estimated loss in sales was not as high as reported in the surveys.”
Key line:

Despite efforts to increase response with follow-up telephone calls, there is some degree of uncertainty about the randomness of the results obtained.

. Toronto, Canada

Surveys were conducted with 61 merchants and 538 patrons on Bloor Street in Toronto. It was found that only 10 percent of patrons drove to the shopping area, and that those arriving by foot and bicycle spent the most money per month. Report authors concluded that converting street parking into a bike lane in the area was “unlikely” to have a negative impact on business and that, on the contrary, “this change will likely increase commercial activity.”
Key chart:

Clean Air Partnership.

 All case studies here.

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This is circulating widely around the interweb today, so I’ll add to the buzz:



Oh no. The Commercial Drive BIA has put out a very persuasive “survey”/petition opposed to the proposed bike lanes on Commercial Drive. Streets for Everyone … help us respond to this by reaching out to your business contacts in the area to come out in favor of the proposed street enhancement project! Please help!
Yes, the Commercial Drive “Business Improvement Assocation” is out to delegitimize the some two dozen Commercial Drive businesses that are already supporting a Street For Everyone (see list below). One of their arguments is that a bike lane is apparently a “high speed cycling lane” and would be unsafe for pedestrians. Really, less safe than four lanes of fast moving cars and trucks? The protected bike lane improvements on Hornby Street made the road safer for people walking, cycling and driving reducing crashes by 19%. We expect similar results on the Drive.
None of the BIA’s protest points are empirically founded.
1. Tax burden:
The opposite is the case. Study after study finds that walking & cycling places is not only less of a burden than driving, it brings economic benefit to society, while driving is effectively subsidized by government.


2. Decreased customer traffic and “job losses”:
Myth. Here is “every study ever conducted” on the topic: cyclists are “competitive consumers”. Is the BIA under the impressive that cyclists have no money to spend, that they don’t eat?


3. Parking:
SFE’s analysis, backed up by independent analysis, has already found that a bike lane can be implemented with no net loss of parking. The experiences of Union Street and downtown lanes has shown that business continues to thrive..

Surprisingly, the BIA’s own Vision and Guidelines document says:
“If the City determines that a bike lane is required on Commercial Drive resulting in any loss of on-street parking, this vision proposes that the City mitigate any such loss of parking” 
“If the City does decide to implement bike lanes on Commercial Drive, the CDBS would suggest converting one (or two) travel lane(s) to two-way painted bike lanes, rather than removing on-street parking.”
Well, why is the BIA launching a campaign on the false pretence that parking needs to be taken away, when in fact their own vision describes a scenario similar to Streets For Everyone’s? Their own policy contradiction is a head-scratcher.


4. Connecting to other bike routes:
It will connect to other bike routes: the Central Valley Greenway and Lakewood, Woodland, and Adanac via side streets. Would we like the bike lane to go even further? Yes, of course! If this was truly the BIA’s central point of contention, they could join us for that campaign.


5. Topography:
Commercial Drive hardly has the city’s most challenging topography.
The BIA doesn’t explain what they mean by this.


The Downtown Vancouver Business Association is far ahead of the Commercial BIA, coming out last month in favour of more cyclist infrastructure. See this and this. Their representative said, “There’s often a disconnect between how businesses think their customers get to their store and what their reality is.”
And clearly, judging by SFE’s business supporters, the Commercial Drive BIA is not representing all businesses’ points of view. Nor is it representing the community’s point of view: following an extensive community engagement process, the Grandview-Woodland Citizens’ Assembly said ‘yes!’ to a Commercial Drive bike lane.
How to act:
1. Email the BIA and tell them they’re wrong:
Check out out Fact Sheet for some content inspiration.
2. Talk to all the Commercial Drive businesses you visit.
Tell them that pedestrians and cyclists shop, too, and deserve to be treated with respect. There are tons of reasons for businesses to support a bike lane: we talk about them in our Fact Sheet and on Facebook sometimes.

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From Slow Streets:


The Case For a Complete Street contends that Vancouver’s Commercial Drive would benefit greatly from becoming a Complete Street.

In its current format, Commercial Drive’s streetscape fails to acknowledge the street’s role as a regional destination for culture, shopping, dining and other activities. Rather, Commercial Drive is treated primarily as a thoroughfare for automobiles whose size and speed create an uncomfortable walking, cycling and dwelling experience. Prioritizing slower modes would strengthen existing activities and allow for new uses which are only imaginable during the annual Car Free Day festival.  Re-envisioning Commercial Drive as a Complete Street would enhance its sense of place and make the street more accessible to a greater number of people. In turn, more value – and a better overall experience – would be generated for all visitors, residents and businesses.

The Case For a Complete Street details primary research conducted by Slow Streets between September 2014 and January 2015 including pedestrian observations, business surveys and an inventory of parking. Slow Streets also conducted a literature review of Complete Streets best practices and the impacts on neighbourhoods and businesses in other cities.

The report can be downloaded below or via Dropbox.



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