Have Bike, Will Commute


Hi there! Kitsilano.ca has invited me to contribute blogs on bike commuting. I’ve been a bike commuter in Vancouver for over 14 years, commuting daily along the Off-Broadway bikeway back and forth to UBC. I ride rain or shine, putting about 5,000 km a year on my bike. Having said that, though, I’m not a hard-core cyclist. I’ve got a couple bikes, sure, but I’m not a gear head.

I hope that I’ll be able to highlight various aspects of bike commuting, and particularly how it affects people in Kits. According to StatsCan, in 2006 almost 12% of work trips from Kitsilano were by bike. This was before the Burrard Bridge bike lane, the downtown bike lanes, and the 10th Ave bikeway improvements. Given the recent statistics of use of the Burrard Bridge bike lane, it’s clear that the number of bike commuters in Kits is only going up.

Some of the topics I’ll look at in the coming weeks include bike safety, gear, riding in the wet weather, riding in the dark, dealing with motorists and pedestrians, issues with the bikeways, and so on. If you have any suggestions on things you’d like to see covered, leave a comment.

Last modified: September 30, 2011

13 Responses to " Have Bike, Will Commute "

  1. Jerry says:

    Perhaps you could address why so many cyclists ignore the basic rules of the road ie. no stop at stop signs or red lights, riding on sidewalks, riding on 4th, Broadway, or Cornwall when there are bike routes close by…to start with. Our six-year-old is just starting out, and even she wonders why this is so prevalent!

  2. Anthony says:

    Thanks for the comment. You raise a number of good questions, which touch on a number of different issues. I certainly intend to look at riding habits and laws, but also attitudes between cyclists, motorists, and pedestrians. There’s lots of emotional conflict that surrounds these discussions for some reason, but hopefully we can keep it from devolving into name-calling.

  3. Graeme says:

    As a commuter cyclist, I am appalled at these behaviours as well. I see most of these behaviours from cyclists and pedestrians daily, but only a few of them (running stop signs & red lights) from motorists. On the flip-side, why do more motorists than cyclists feel inclined to talk on cell phones? Why do they not yield to pedestrians in crosswalks when turning right on a red?

    Choosing not to use a bike route is an easy one. Sometimes a parallel route is simply more convenient, and the cyclist has as much right to use the road as a motorist. The complaint would be similar to one regarding all of the multi-occupancy vehicles driving down the freeway in the non-HOV lanes.

  4. Jason says:

    90% of my travel in this city is by bike.
    The cyclists I see on main thoroughfares just leave me shaking my head. Most of them seem to be helmetless, which is telling in itself. Sure, one CAN ride there, but why? It is more dangerous, especially the always lurking door prizes. It holds up and annoys car traffic – a good way to make car drivers hate cyclists all the more. Cyclists have designated traffic eased routes all over the place here. I can’t think of one instance where a busily trafficked road is more convenient.

  5. Bill Barilko says:

    Note that no one has the ‘right’ to use the road-it’s a privilege and can be revoked.

  6. Anthony says:

    Vancouverites are not short of opinion about cycling and cyclists. I’m sure we’ll have lots of fun discussions over all these issues in the weeks to come.

    @jason and @jerry I agree, riding on arterials when there are bike routes so close (I’m think of Broadway in particular which has *two* parallel bike routes 1 block away) seems foolish. But in other cases, it seems justified … the stretch of Cornwall between the pool and the sailing club doesn’t have a good equivalent bike route. The Seaside Bypass meanders through the north end of Kits, with lots of hills, parked cars, and unfavourable traffic controls. Taking the 3 minute ride along that stretch of Cornwall seems like the best route.

  7. Erik says:

    @Anthony It’s not an official bike route, but York Avenue is one block away and infinitely safer than Cornwall. It boggles my mind that so many cyclists won’t make this simple detour and possibly save their lives.

  8. Alex P says:

    Hi Anthony,

    I bike year around too, including much in Kitsilano. It’s mostly great, except in the summer I wish there were an easier connection between Jericho and Kits beaches- the Seaside route involves some hills that could be avoided with a route along Pt Grey Rd and Cornwall, I wish there were a better connection between the Cypress route and the Burrard Bridge (should be made easy enough that my grandmother could do it), and the crossings along Off-Broadway at Alma and Macdonald can be a bit tricky, (although there is always the option to hop off and just cross in the crosswalk as a pedestrian.)

    Otherwise, it’s very fast, safe, and easy to get around Kits I find. The amount of new bike parking that has appeared over the past few years outside businesses is just great.

    Looking forward to future posts!

  9. Anthony says:

    @erik I wonder what the ICBC stats are like for Cornwall with regards to cyclists. York isn’t a viable alternative … it ends just short of Macdonald. At any rate, I think we’re agreed that it’s an area that definitely could use improvement

    @alex We were discussing the Burrard Bridge approaches this morning here in my office (where 60% of us commute by bike daily). The south end in Kits isn’t particularly comfortable for novice cyclists, and the north end connection to Hornby going north is downright awful. Mind you, having the bike lane on the bridge is much, much better than the old arrangement of sharing the sidewalk. I’ll bring this up in a future post, and maybe some commenters can come up with some innovative solutions.

  10. Jonathan says:

    The main complaint from drivers (other than the dearth of bikers on the dedicated lanes during the winter months) is the great number of commuting bikers that obey the road rules only when it is convenient (using cross-walks, running red lights, passing on the right, weaving through traffic). Bikers should be licensed (now there is a good revenue generation idea for the City) and be required to pass a road safety exam.

  11. Graeme says:

    @Jonathan I agree completely that there are a lot of “cyclists” who disobey the basic rules of the road, but I don’t think licensing would magically solve the problem. It hasn’t worked for motorists, and it seem to remember reading that licensing has been abandoned in most cities that have tried it. (There is a group of cyclists who are licensed in Vancouver, by the way: bicycle couriers. ’nuff said?)

    Education—for cyclists, motorists and pedestrians—is certainly needed. We rarely see honest discussion of the problem. Cyclists complain about disobedient drivers and drivers complain about disobedient cyclists. The simple fact is that they’re all the same people. Most cyclists are also drivers who have to put up with bad cyclists. Drivers get stressed and enraged by other drivers every day, but seem to forget this in a context where they’re discussing cyclists. Cyclists tend to get defensive and unable to admit that there are bad cyclists out there.

  12. Wayne says:

    If it’s any consolation, cycling here is a whole lot safer than in Frankfurt, Germany, where I lived for the last decade. (And Frankfurt was a breath of fresh air compared to London where I took m life in my hands every day.)

    And because I feel safe, I know I can feel comfortable taking the lane (even with a Chariot trailer) on those first few blocks on Cornwall. As long as I’m well-lit, signal appropriately and keep my speed up, then I have the feeling that my right [surely a right rather than a privilege, Bill Barilko?] to do so is respected, and I’m not getting dirty looks.

    Looking forward to more in this series.

  13. Diana says:

    I have a short daily commute from Kits to Mt. Pleasant, and basically rely on my bike to take me everywhere else as well. I have to say that I don’t always follow all the rules of the road all the time. For example, I do treat most stop signs as yields, I don’t always wear a helmet, and I’ll occasionally ride on a sidewalk. That being said, when I’m at a 4 way stop with other cars, I DO wait my turn. I yield to pedestrians and I try to smile at people and generally not act like an idiot. I doubt anyone obeys all the rules all the time, but I think the important thing is your attitude on the road. If you’re impatient, angry and aggressive, even if you were to follow ALL the rules, it’s likely you’d still be a dangerous driver.