What Transportation 2040 means for cycling in Vancouver

Dunsmuir Separated Bike Lanes 22On October 31, Vancouver City Council approved the Transportation 2040 “strategic vision,” an ambitious set of policies that aim to improve the movement of people and goods in Vancouver in an economically supportive, environmentally friendly, healthy way.

Characterized by some as a “war on the car”, the Transportation 2040 plan shares many of the plans and goals of the Greenest City 2020 Action Plan. Mostly, it provides a set of policy guidelines rather than firm projects or plans. The plan aims to have 66% of all trips in the city by foot, bike, or transit by 2040. Currently, this number sits at 44%. Interestingly enough, despite Vancouver’s population being 50% more (and regionally 300% more), traffic entering downtown is at 1965-levels and continues to decline!

The plan forms policies that deal with pedestrians, cyclists, transit, motorized vehicles (cars), goods movement (trucks and trains), and emergency services. The parts of the plan that deal directly with cycling focus on the idea of improving the comfort, safety, and enjoyment of cyclists in the city for “all ages and abilities”. This phrase is transportation-planning jargon for cycling facilities that target casual cyclists such as occasional riders, families, and tourists. Don’t expect to see any cycling autobahns anytime soon. Having said that, the plan recommends physically separating bikes from other modes whenever possible (huzzah!). It discusses traffic restrictions (one-way for motorized vehicles?), speed management (which is useless without enforcement in my opinion), and parking restrictions on residential streets. Eliminating parking on one side of residential bike routes – thereby eliminating the dangerous car canyons that characterize many of the bike routes in Kits and other areas of the city – would go far to improving the perceived safety on these routes.

The plan outlines the need to improve connections between certain bike routes (read: the downtown separated bike routes) and add new routes “that take advantage of unused and available space”. I’m not entirely certain how much “unused and available” space exists in Vancouver, but I certainly support the idea of more bike routes.

The plan also talks about “enhanced education and enforcement” to build rider safety. Hopefully this means education and enforcement for all road users and not just helmet traps on the bike routes.

Increased parking and storage options that integrate with the transit system get mentioned as well. This is something that will be important for increasing cycling in the city by people who are coming in from the suburbs and the more residential areas of the city. The City-supported public bike share program also supports this objective. It seems much more likely that people would take transit to hubs near major work centres (Downtown, Broadway, UBC) and then jump on a Bixi to ride a few blocks than it would be to convince those same people to ride 10-15 km from Fraserview, Collingwood, or Marpole.

In the “Delivering the Plan” portion of the document, a few objectives are singled out. The Granville and Cambie Street bridges are identified as having excess capacity that – due to the surrounding road network – are unable to achieve full capacity. This extra capacity is to be examined for repurposing to pedestrian and/or cycling use. You may have seen the artist’s rendition of a greenway down the middle of the Granville Street Bridge as an example of what this might look like.

As previously discussed, the Cornwall/Pt Grey Road route has been identified as a location for a future “AAA” (all ages and abilities) bike route, along with portions of Commercial Drive. The Comox-Helmcken Greenway has been in the works for some time and gets a mention too. Southwest Marine Drive is also singled out, due to other working going on down there (Marine Gateway, big box stores, etc). The heavily-used Adanac Bike Route has had a number of locations identified for improvements.

The other bicycling item in the plan is the support of the public bike share system. I have reservations about the proposed system, particularly with public funds being given to it, the whole helmet problem, and the limited geographic coverage (no UBC, limited East Van?). It seems clear that a public bike system has great potential to help the city achieve its goals, but the implementation details will be critical to its success or failure.

Overall, the plan is a firm statement of the City’s commitment to promoting what used to be considered “alternate” forms of transportation: walking, cycling, and transit. There’s nothing particularly revolutionary in the vision, but it is definitely a progressive look to the future.

Read the plan yourself here: http://vancouver.ca/streets-transportation/transportation-2040.aspx

One Response to “What Transportation 2040 means for cycling in Vancouver”

  1. Bill Barilko says:

    “Characterized by some as a “war on the car”

    Because that’s exactly what it is.