July 30, 2014

Extraordinary Stats: The Bike-Transit Comparison

The Buzzer Blog has been doing a series on #WhatsTheLink – what TransLink is responsible for in the region.  (They’ve been trying for years to emphasize that they are not just a transit agency.)

Here’s the summary graphic:



Roads, as you see, have been put on top.

But notice: 418,000 passengers a day on transit.  And 107,000 bike trips a day – one cycle trip for every four on transit.

Frankly, wow.  Would not have thought it that high.

Transit advocates emphasize the consequences to car drivers if everyone on a bus started taking up their equivalent space on the road.  You’ve seen the illustration:




So the argument applies – to some degree – if the transit system had to accommodate those on bikes.

The question, of course, is to what degree?  A comment from Jimmy MacGregor (new to PT?) with respect to bikeshare makes the point:

I don’t understand how bikesharing is a viable substitute for or complement to public transit in a city that rains six months a year. …  Long term, I fail to see how they would do anything to solve congestion.

Most of us fail to see how anything solves congestion if roads are treated as a free good – but at least the alternatives take some of the pressure off and provide a choice.  The truism here is that this applies to every aspect of the transportation system: Every mode depends on the others to avoid the consequences of its overuse.

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  1. One point of clarification…
    The 418,000 transit figure is unique users…who likely make multiple trips in a single day
    The 107,000 cycling figure is total trips.

    Total Translink boardings in 2013 were ~354M, or just under 1,000,000 a day
    Total revenue trips in 2013 were ~232M, or about ~650,000 a day.

    So depending on how you define a ‘trip’, the ratio is either 6.5 to 1, or 10 to 1 transit to cycling. Not 4 to 1.

  2. Bike sharing critics always bring up the weather. In Vancouver it’s the rain. In New York, Montreal and Toronto it’s the snow.

    Weather isn’t anything new, we’ve been “commuting” in the rain and snow for thousands of years, why would this stop people now? Yes biking in the rain can be more challenging, and yes you may require wearing clothes appropriate for the weather. It still has all the same benefits as it does on a clear sunny day.

    Bike sharing is about providing another transportation option.

    1. Bike sharing is just another tax, especially in jurisdictions like Vancouver, BC to support a very small minority and some minor aspect of tourism. Without a bike helmet law it may make marginal sense, if one doesn’t count valuable real estate taken up for free by the bike stations that should be charged market rent of say $20,000/year per location (but usually are not).

      If one adds the bike helmet law in BC, and certainly the free station use, it makes no sense to me whatsoever. It is just another feather in the left-wing Vision marketing program for being so “green” without providing any real benefits at enormous costs to the tax payer.

    2. There’s a great little video made by the good folk from Transportation Alternatives and a guy is talking to his daughter about riding in the rain and he says: “It’s OK. You’re not sugar – you won’t melt”. Love it.
      Having just returned from Denmark, their approach to riding in the rain is this: pull over, put on a waterproof poncho, continue journey. No fanfare, no drama, no complaint.
      It’s the stuff of dreams as riding truly is the most natural thing for them to do.

      1. Why is Denmark, Holland, Belgium, parts of Germany or even Italy so far ahead of Vancouver in terms of biking despite similar weather ? Is it our British (non-biking) heritage & governance ? Or low low gasoline prices ? Or wide streets & urban layout designed for cars ?

        1. Honestly Thomas? I think it’s a combination of all of them. Denmark is a bit of a unique story but you’re right – you can point to numerous other cities with similar histories to Britain and yet the results are vastly different in terms of biking. I think governance has a significant part to play however. It’s about priorities really, isn’t it?

  3. My experience in cycling on a regular basis is that I only need to wear rain gear for about 10% of my trips. I bring my rain gear (waterproof pant covers and cape) along more often than that because the weather often looks threatening, but that’s about the percentage where I’m actually motivated to use it.

    Yes, it rains often in Vancouver. But the number of days that it rains too heavily for ordinary clothing is surprisingly small.