March 17, 2015

Photo Essay: A Seattle Family’s Vancouver Bicycle Cruise

Sightline author Alyse Nelson reports back, in a well-researched and beautifully illustrated piece, on what she discovered in Vancouver:

When my husband Jason and I planned a trip to Vancouver, BC, we decided to bring our family’s bikes just in case. With our eight-year-old son Orion in tow, I wasn’t sure we’d have the chance to ride unless we sought out an off-street trail. To my surprise, we were able to ride—and not just on trails we had to drive or take a bus to, but through the heart of downtown Vancouver on a mixture of greenways and separated cycle lanes.




Go for the pictures, stay for the history: “A brief history of bike planning in Vancouver, BC.”

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  1. This photo is Point Grey Road at Balaclava Street. Love to see the cyclists enjoying the road, but they must learn to leave room for the local motorists; otherwise, accidents will result. Come on cyclists, learn and apply the rules of the road if you want more bikeways like this one.

      1. Antje,

        Please do not comment on something you know nothing about; there are between 1000-2000 cars per day on Point Grey Road, with even more on weekends and holidays. I have them on video daily.

  2. Nothing scientific, but I walk there frequently, and there are very few cars. As such, spreading out as a biking family seems OK to me in a slow, traffic calmed street even if it is against the law formally.

    1. Thomas,

      I video the road daily at all hours, and the numbers are 1000-2000 per day. Fact. Moreover, it is a slippery slope for you, and others, to advocate breaking the law. Teaching young children to cycle down the middle of a road regardless of cars is hardly a wise move.

  3. Happy picture! I trust, or at least fervently hope, that there are at least as many bikes as cars on a daily basis on this street after all this change. Anybody know the answer?

    1. Frank,

      4500+ bikes per day on Point Grey Road, with more than that on a sunny day, weekend or holiday = more than double the number of cars.

  4. Some time ago, I did a snapshot of people moving on the new PGR (“An hour on Point Grey Road”). And then repeated it some time later. Kind persons counted the travelers, and provided rough-and-ready rules of thumb to provide an approximation of the daily number of people. With the following results:

    March 23, 2014
    In one hour: 19 cars, 210 people on foot, 220 people on bikes.
    Approx daily: 190 cars, 2100 people on foot, 2200 people on bikes.

    July 15, 2014
    In one hour: 22 vehicles, 172 people on foot, 250 people on bikes
    Approx daily: 220 vehicles, 1720 people on foot, 2500 people on bikes.

    You can see the photos at the URL’s above.

    1. Ken,

      Yes, and the number of bikes, pedestrians and cars have doubled since your last photo diary. It is quite the place to be in the city.

  5. Ken – thank you very much for the enlightening measurements! Roughly 20+:1 bikes/peds vs. cars, at least on an hourly basis and about the same ratio on a given day, by extrapolation. Cool.

    1. And the number of people (on bikes and foot) seems even higher this year, although it’s only April. More people also enjoy the pocket parks along the street now that there is no traffic noise.

      1. Antje, you are correct about the much lowered traffic noise; it is astounding that residents of the road can now see and hear the birds, squirrels and frogs. Before, nature seemed non-existent on Point Grey Road as the din of engines roared incessantly.

  6. I take the position that a bicycle is just like a motorcycle in that it can (and should) occupy a place in the middle of the traffic lane. That position gives the greatest visibility and provides the cyclist with the most options for dealing with cross traffic and unexpected events like a dog running into the street.

    Riding close to parked cars and the curb is dangerous for everyone and should be avoided. Sadly I think that’s where the law says bikes should be.

    On a traffic calmed street cars should respect other road users and follow behind rather than assume they have the right to zip past. The net result is that a driver might have to slow to bike speed for a whole block while waiting for a safe passing opportunity. What a horrible crime, a driver might actually have to spend an extra 30 seconds in her car on a designated scenic route.

    Now on the specific matter of riding abreast, yes that’s a problem even for other cyclists. I’ve had groups of cyclists re-arrange their positions while I’ve been attempting to pass them on my bike and had a couple of near misses as a result, but I failed to alert them to my intentions so I accept some of the blame.

    My perspective comes from daily bike commuting from late May to mid October 2014 and I’m glad to hear that the route is even better used now than when I worked downtown.

    1. Cycling two abreast is legal in many jurisdictions, just not here. It is interesting that it is legal here in BC for motorcyclists to ride two abreast (just not three abreast…).

      When I took my motorcycle operator training many years ago, we were taught not to ride in the centre of the lane, as that is where dropped oil and debris is more likely to be. The safest position was to ride in one of the common car tire tracks. In most cases, it was the left one, as it asserted your position in the lane and did not encourage car drivers to crowd past you where there wasn’t room.

      The rule about riding to the right states “as far as practicable”. It doesn’t say you have to hug the curb. If there are parked cars, it is only reasonable (and practicable) to leave space for opening doors. It is not safe to weave in and out; rather cyclists should hold a line and so be more visible. We need a better word than practicable, and we need a minimum space law on the left of people on bikes, so that sufficient space is allowed by passing car drivers.

      These and other points are being discussed as part of revisions to the BC Motor Vehicle Act. Maybe it will even be called something more inclusive, and not just focus on motor vehicles.

      1. As seen in the picture, the parking has been removed from the North side of Point Grey Road to make way for the bikes to keep to the right and allow motorists to travel between the bikes that are on both sides of the road heading East and West. The man in the yellow and person in the grey in the centre of the road are clearly in violation of the law as well as what is sensible.

        1. Susan, I thought you liked your traffic calmed street and yet you’re arguing that the bikes should move over and clear a path for cars to move unimpeded at (or more likely above) the speed limit.

          1. Despite the signage people do park their cars, trucks, construction bins and moving pods on Pt. Grey Road removing the curb lane from use.
          2. Weaving in and out of the curb lane is very unsafe. Cyclists should stay in the travel lane if there is anything impeding the curb lane at any point.
          3. Most drivers respect cyclists who share driving lanes and it’s usually a much safer journey than hugging the curb and having vehicles zip past with millimetres to spare.
          4. The posted speed limit is 30km/h, a speed that many of the commuter and sport cyclists can achieve so a driver “stuck” behind a bike might be doing the speed limit already.
          5. If any driver is angry about being “stuck” behind some slow moving cyclists on a traffic calmed scenic route for 1 or even 2 blocks they have some serious psychological issues they should be dealing with.

          1. And the City should be out there ticketing those who are illegally taking up the curb lane with garbage, vehicles and such.

        2. Susan, have you considered that the man in yellow with the trailer may be in the process of passing the two cyclists (green & purple) in front of him, while the person in grey may be passing the man in yellow? Or yellow & grey are travelling together and passing green & purple. Of course I don’t know, but you don’t know either.

          This is fun, we can analyze a simple photo to death.

          1. Antje,

            They should not be passing other bikes if passing leaves no room for motorists or others coming from the other direction.

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