Photo: Arguments overwhelmingly in favour of new cycling infrastructure

Active transportation networks in cities enhance health, the safety of our communities and the long-term sustainability of our society. (Credit: Paul Krueger via Flickr)

By Tyler Bryant, Energy Policy Analyst

Active transportation networks in cities enhance health, the safety of our communities and the long-term sustainability of our society. The recent debate on Vancouver's Pt. Grey and Cornwall active transport (walking, cycling, non-motorized options) corridor exemplifies the bumpy road ahead as we repurpose cities to more liveable neighbourhoods.

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This debate flared up because the City of Vancouver is considering active transportation infrastructure along a beautiful beachside drive. As a resident of Kitsilano and as a walker, cyclist, and driver, I'm aware that changes will have an impact but, a new, well-designed active transport network needs to work for everyone in the neighbourhood. This development would make the commuter route safer and more accessible to cyclists and pedestrians. And, by virtue of that, a safer route for drivers as well. It would also move the needle on the City achieving its transportation goals to make Vancouver a more liveable and sustainable city.

City planners have consulted with the community over six months and are adjusting the corridor design to meet resident concerns. Traffic will increase in some areas, decrease in others and some parking may be removed. The proposed new route will be accessible for all ages and abilities to enjoy the health benefits of cycling. Research has shown that every hour spent cycling increases your healthy life expectancy by more than one hour.

By 2020, the City aims to increase the share of active transport trips to 50 per cent. This is entirely possible if we continue to build the network of cycling infrastructure. Since 1992, when Vancouver began its ambitious cycling network, the share of active trips has increased 45 per cent and the use of vehicles is down 20 percent. In the past four years, active transport trips have increased to 44 per cent of all trips taken in the city. Dedicated cycling lanes on Burrard and Dunsmuir have bumped up use by 40 per cent. We can expect similar increases on Cornwall with the right infrastructure.

Residents need to be part of the solution. The new plan would provide a strong incentive for residents to use active transport more often, like those of all ages do in European cities. In Germany, those over 65 make 41 per cent of their trips by walking or biking, compared to the U.S. where only 0.5 per cent of those in that age group cycle. But it wasn't always this way: European cities had very similar levels of vehicle use to North American cities in the 1970s. After experiencing significant increases in fatalities and pollution, they began investing in active transport alternatives. Besides creating a more liveable and safer community, the transportation sector is the largest source of GHGs in B.C. and it's the toughest sector in which to reduce emissions. A combination of alternative fueled vehicles and getting people out of their cars is needed if we want to meet our climate targets. If all B.C. achieved Vancouver's Transportation 2040 plan goals of reducing vehicle trip share to 33 per cent we would reduce over 2 million tonnes of GHGs. Over the next decades, we can pave the way in Vancouver as a leader in tackling transportation changes. Let's find solutions that work for residents, Vancouverites and for the future.

For more info on the benefits of active transportation check out these videos from SFU.

Why the current situation is unsafe.

If you're a Vancouverite or use Vancouver transportation, send an email to to show your support or sign this petition.

And you can join this event hosted by SFU to discuss changes to the network.

July 17, 2013

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Jul 28, 2013
6:05 PM

I understand that increasing the amount of active transportation in any heavy populated city will dramatically decrease City’s environmental impacts. Although increasing the active transportation infrastructure within the City of Vancouver will encourage more walking, cycling and other non-motorised modes of transportation, I believe that there are many things that should be done prior to taking this step. First of all, the reduction in personal vehicle use will not be significantly reduced by an increase in active transportation. We should set priorities to what we begin to improve within any major city based on what will have the most positive impact. For example, many major cities such as Toronto and Ottawa have been investing money into LRT. LRT provides one of the most efficient modes of transportation yielding an optimal travel time per passenger – kilometer as well as an optimal passenger-kilometer per energy consumed or emission created. An LRV can hold 255 people in each vehicle and can travel faster than both buses and streetcars. It also consumes about 1/100 of the energy consumed by a bus due to the regenerated power. If we take these parking spaces that are being considered to be transformed into bike and walking paths, and we use this space to create LRT or other sustainable modes of transportation, we can reduce the traffic congestion and the emissions more than what active transportation could ever do. Secondly, the government should put more effort into encouraging the public to use the infrastructure already existent until it reaches an efficient level. For example, the government offers a tax credit for “green vehicles,” but does not offer one with the purchase of a bicycle. In my opinion, the government should be encouraging more bicycle and pedestrian commuting, and once theses bike paths and walking paths start to reach their designed capacity, then they should be upgraded. A major problem that arises from the active transportation infrastructure is that it cannot always be utilized at an optimal capacity. It is not entirely practical in the winter months of the year to bike or walk, therefore wasting this capital that could have been used for year round sustainable transportation. If we could increase the efficiency of the active transportation within the city it will be more ideal than just creating more. In the Ottawa for example, every Sunday morning, the roads run by the National Capital Commission (NCC) are closed off and open for cyclists, rollerbladers, and walkers. People can commute around Ottawa and enjoy the cite-seeing along the Rideau Canal. An option that Vancouver could do is to create public transportation to be used when active transportation is inconvenient and close it down for certain periods where biking and walking are more desirable.

Jul 25, 2013
5:06 PM

Sweet article!

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