Cycling getting trippy in Vancouver

12th and Cambie


Kind of seems hard to believe, doesn’t it — Vancouverites made an average of 100,000 bike trips per day in this city last year.

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When you consider Vancouver’s population is hovering around 600,000, that 100K stat really does seem unbelievable. Even 50,000 trips per day back in 2008 boggled the mind.

But in 2009, the city allowed a separate and barrier-protected bike lane on the Burrard Bridge. That move was followed in 2010 with protected lanes along Dunsmuir, the Dunsmuir viaduct and Hornby. Then in 2014, the city opened the Seaside Greenway along Point Grey Road.

So, if you’re a cyclist, that means you can safely ride from Kitsilano through downtown and in to Chinatown.

Which is great for the two-wheeled crowd.

But are that many people really riding bikes in this city?

Jerry Dobrovolny, the city’s acting general manager of engineering services, gets that question a lot.

He answered it again at city council Tuesday, where he and Lon LaClaire, the city’s acting director of transportation, presented two reports that updated council on how people are getting around in Vancouver.

The answer, Dobrovolny said, is in the data.

The city is able to say 100,000 bike trips per day are made in the city largely because of findings of the “Vancouver panel survey,” where 2,500 Vancouverites were randomly selected to answer questions about what forms of transportation they use to get around.

“We hire professionals to help us select people so that we have a statistically significant sample size from the city,” he said, noting where people live, their socio-economic status, age and race are factors in determining respondents. “I just want to be really crystal clear that this isn’t an engagement process [like Talk Vancouver where people voluntarily answered questions online]. We use some of the same tools. But this is a statistical survey.”

So from those 2,500 Vancouverites, the city did some math to extrapolate its findings on a wider scale to conclude 100,000 bike trips per day were made across the city in 2014. Transit ridership was at 329,000 trips per day, walking trips at 477,000 and vehicle use totalled 918,000, a decrease of 65,000 over 2013.

That means 50 per cent of trips were done without vehicles.

Before I go any further, let me explain what a “trip” is because it’s probably not what you think.

In answering a question from council, LaClaire explained the definition of a trip.

“So you’re headed to work, for example, that’s a trip,” he said. “If you stop on your way to work and you pick up something that you need, or on your way home, that would be two trips.”

So what he’s saying is that if you ride down the alley to get a coffee, that’s a trip. You jump back on your bike to meet a friend for lunch, that’s a trip. You finish lunch and ride over to visit Mike Howell at the Vancouver Courier — and randomly give him a large cheque for being a good guy — that’s a trip.

Get it?

Dobrovolny and LaClaire also shared with council that nine “permanent counter locations” indicate an 11 per cent increase in cycling volumes across the city from 2013 to 2014. Total monthly trips across the Burrard Bridge reached a whopping 300,000 trips, according to the counters.

If you don’t believe the numbers, and you want to talk about it, here’s what Dobrovolny says: “The start of that conversation for us at the city is to bring it to research, bring it to data and present those numbers. It’s not a one-time conversation, it’s not a fast conversation but it is to try to shift the conversation so it’s grounded in numbers.”

If you don’t believe him, read the city reports.

Or call the mayor.

You know, the guy on the bike.


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