Earlier this month we had the incredible luck of being sent to Velocity which this year was held in Vancouver. There was plenty of inspiring discussion about how we can improve cities, and of course make them better places to cycle. So, we thought we’d share our thoughts on the conference over the next few days. First up we turn our gaze to Vancouver itself and take a look at what they’ve been doing to improve conditions for cyclist.
Vancouver, for any of you who haven’t yet discovered it, could well be the most attractive city just about anywhere. Stunning mountains form a backdrop to the city, with an incredible skyline and beautiful harbour. This all makes for a rather pleasant cycling environment. Vancouver’s Mayor Gregor Robertson is making lots of positive noises about cycling, and the City Planning Department is starting to implement some interesting infrastructure. In fact, most of it made this Londoner rather jealous.
It is one of the few cities in the Western world that has seen a drop in vehicles entering the city, and this has meant that the Government could take road space and allocate to the cyclist without too much of a public backlash. This is largely due to a policy of intensifying development in the centre of Vancouver, along with investment in public transport.
There are several leisure cycle routes to please the recreational cyclist, including the very attractive waterfront cycling route around Stanley Park.
In the nearby suburbs, the Government has taken the policy of only encouraging vehicles to drive into residential areas for access, whilst keeping the majority of traffic on strategic routes. Traffic calming and traffic filtering results in a fairly pleasant network of quieter side streets for cyclists.
One of the major links into central Vancouver, Burrard Bridge, now has segregated lanes for cyclists. This is a one year trial, which the Government actually tried to implement 10 years ago but in the end removed following intense public criticism. On this second attempt public opinion has changed and the lanes seem to be more of a hit.
The first major segregated lane through Central Vancouver has just been made permanent following a one year trial. Segregated by planters, these are some of the most attractive segregated lanes we’ve come across. At each junction there is green paint to warn drivers of the possibility of cyclists, as well as a traffic phase for cyclists to reduce the potential for conflict.
They’ve included cycle parking along these lanes, and from what we saw they were being rather well used.
Whilst it is no Copenhagen, for a fairly car dominated Western city we were impressed with the investment going into cycling in Vancouver and their plans for increasing their modal share for cycling to levels that would rival the traditional cycling havens of Europe. There are lessons here for London, and a warning that even some of the most car dominated North American cities are leaving us behind in terms of provision for cyclists.