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Making Biking Better
by Rick



The regional government, Metro Vancouver, has just released its plan to make cycling a popular mode of transportation in the Lower Mainland. The plan called “Cycling for Everyone” has two goals: increase the number of trips taken by bicycle, and make cycling safer.

Cycling has many benefits to a community. It does not pollute and is more energy efficient.  Building cycling ways is less expensive than building roads for automobiles. For shorter trips, the time to ride a bike is comparable to driving the same distance. Finally, a bicycle costs consderably less to own and maintain than a car. Car ownership costs a family between $6000 and 16000 for each vehicle depending on the make and size of the vehicle.

A large proportion of people want to cycle, but they do not for many reasons. Some feel unsafe sharing the road with cars. There is also the problem of having to breathe polluted air along the roads. For some, bike theft is the reason cited for choosing to use a car. Finally, when you get to the end of your trip you might feel dirty, tired and sweaty, not to mention the problems of “helmet head”, chafed thighs and a bruised gluteus maximus. 

Despite the benefits, only 2.2% of trips  less than 8km in the region are done on bikes. By contrast, in the Netherlands cycling makes up 27% of the share of commuter trips.  The goal of Metro Vancouver is to increase the percentage to 15% by 2040. They also hope to increase the proportion of female cyclists from less than one-third to half over the next 30 years. Finally, they want to cut the number of cycling fatalities in half.

In order to achieve these goals government has to do several things. They must make all roads safer for cycling, build low-stress bikeways, develop a better bikeway network, maintain the bikeways and make them easier to navigate, and provide adequate bike parking and end-of-trip facilities with showers and changerooms.

 Additionally, because of the hilly terrain of the Lower Mainland and the large distances many commuters travel, it is important that the transit system works in cooperation with the system of bikeways.

The final piece of the puzzle is to educate people about the benefits and convenience of cycling as well the need for safety. 

On average, government spending on cycling infrastructure and maintenance has been about 4 million dollars a year. There is about 1674 km of bikeways in the region. To achieve the goals of “Cycling for Everyone” local governments will need to spend a lot more money and plan their cities a lot differently.




(July 24, 2011)

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