July 7, 2020

Measuring Cycling in the Hundreds of Thousands

Let’s just repeat these numbers from the Daily Hive:

According to Green Party commissioner Dave Demers, Park Board staff estimate visitation within Stanley Park is up by 50% since May 1, and they have counted 350,000 cyclists over the last 67-day period.  …over the same period in 2019, there were about 60,000 vehicles in Stanley Park, which is a figure that includes high-occupancy cars and tour buses.

We are now measuring cycling counts in the hundreds of thousands, rounding off to the nearest ten-thousandth.  That, for anyone who remembers the early days of cycling infrastructure, when success would be measured in the hundreds, is boggling.  And not just in Stanley Park.  Here’s Point Grey Road this weekend:

Foreshortened shots can be deceptive, but anyone who was there would have realized that the traffic counts this weekend would also be measured in the closest thousandth – more, I expect, than anyone who opposed the transformation of PGR would have imagined.  Here’s a video from the same location on July 5:  Point Grey Road on a Sunday.

And yet, this quite astonishing growth really hasn’t changed the narrative for most of the media: it’s still a bikes-versus-cars dynamic, with a presumption that cars are in the majority and have right-of-way – another repeat of the same ol,’ same ol’ since the 1990s.  Except now we have horses to throw into the mix.

Stanley Park Horse Drawn Tours owner Gerry O’Neil has been operating in the park for decades — offering tourists a way to see the sites while riding in an open carriage.

His horses and carriages, with a top speed of five km/h, must now share the one lane dedicated to vehicle traffic, and that is causing problems….

“Ideally, scrap the trial and get all the stakeholders involved so we can all have our say and take into consideration everything that’s in the park,” he said.

Let’s see: several hundred carriage passengers, several thousand drivers, tens of thousands cyclists.  Should be an easy choice.

The comfort of consultation is the notion that all needs can be met.  Sometimes that’s achievable, but more often priorities must be chosen.

If everyone and their needs are to be accommodated (this is where the ‘isms’ come in)  then Gerry is right: go back to the way Stanley Park was – two full lanes for vehicle priority.  Cars and buses can then pass his carriage safely.  Bikes can compete for the spaces in between.  Pedestrians and cyclists can crowd together again.

The pandemic forced our decision-makers to make choices.  Overnight.  With little to no consultation.  Because of the virus.

Bikes got priority.

If that hadn’t happened, we wouldn’t know now that the result would be cyclists measured in the hundreds of thousands.



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  1. The current orange traffic pylon extravaganza on Park Drive is an indicator of a troubled mind. Apparently to some, bicycles are so terrifying in their novelty that they must be segregated and warned against for the safeguarding of the common weal. One is reminded of the requirement that a person walk ahead of steam-powered automobiles with a red flag to warn the populace of the impending threat. And at every opportunity the cyclists must be separated from the other road users though circuitous parking lot detours. It’s just ridiculous.

    But I come at it from a different angle than others. It looks to me like a solution in search of a problem. Before covid, most cyclists took the low-track along the sea wall for the views and the avoidance of hills. The hill-climbers, much fewer in number, were a stronger sort that happily co-existed with the cars on Park Drive. Cars which were basically the most pleasantly driven in all of the region. The sea wall was crowded on Sunny Summer Sundays, and the road needed some TLC, but the situation worked just fine.

    Now covid moved all the cyclists to the road and hugely increased their number. Yet, contrary to some folks at the parks board, this did not create any problems. Parks board seemed to think that these newly emboldened cyclists, on encountering their first downhill ride, would fling themselves to oblivion against the trees in an orgy of speed. But no, the folks that were happy to zoom down the hill continued to do so, enjoying the skill-testing chicanes, and the rest of us continued our plodding. And even with the huge increase in cyclists on the road, there really was no reason why the nicest cars in the region could not have been there too. Now, with the world’s largest purchase of traffic cones arrayed before us, the cyclists aren’t very happy stuck in one lane that really isn’t big enough and shunted off into detours wherever possible, and apparently the horses and cars aren’t very happy either.

    Something to consider is that when covid has passed, and it too shall pass, we are likely to go back to a situation where most cyclists take the sea wall and not the hill and the hill will revert to the keeners. I am mindful of the fact that bike infrastructure cannot always be built with current user numbers as a target because so many cyclists will only appear after the safe options appear. But I doubt the hill is going to be a Point Grey Road where bikes bloom after a safer option appears. The hill doesn’t have the views of the sea wall and it is after all a hill.

    Covid forced a decision, but was it a good decision? It seems to me to be solutions in search of a problem. Now Park Drive could definitely benefit from a rebuild, moving some of the angled parking to the left so that the right lane where the bikes are most likely to be will not have to deal with cars reversing at them. Previously I thought that one lane for cars and one lane for bikes was reasonable, but now I think that one lane for very slow traffic like horses, Sunday drivers and slow bikes, and another lane for 30kph traffic is reasonable.

    1. While the final solution may not yet be clear, the strategy to get useful data should be pretty obvious. Post Covid, or whenever it is deemed appropriate to re-open the seawall for cyclists, leave the cones in place for a couple of months – or perhaps much longer if it is mid-winter. (In mid winter neither cycling nor motoring will be at peak.) Give it some time to see how many cyclists continue to like the Park Drive challenge.

      Only then can we have an informed debate about the final configuration.

  2. “the cyclists aren’t very happy stuck in one lane that really isn’t big enough”

    It is important not to lump all people on bikes into a single group. The families and slower riders in the protected temporary lane looked very happy on our ride this morning. Most of the faster riders looked happier as well, simply moving into the left lane to overtake slower riders, then moving back into the right lane. It works very smoothly when people decide they want it to work.

    We had one faster sport cyclist come up behind us. No bell, no call out. He braked, and then proceeded to complain about the cones. We said we liked them. We watched him do the same maneuver with three more groups, two of which had small children. He squeezed by each of them. We suggested to him that he could certainly use the left lane for overtaking. We had seen a total of four vehicles in our first lap, and many times that the number of riders. He said he couldn’t, it was just for cars. He was wrong. It is a general purpose lane, for cars, trucks, horse drawn carriages, and people on bikes who are overtaking. There is no sign restricting its use. People on bikes shouldn’t ride there with the aim of obstructing vehicles, but using the available space for overtaking works very well. Except perhaps if one is a political protester masquerading as a cyclist.

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