Boldly going where no Vancouver City Council has gone before, Mayor Gregor Robertson and his Vision Vancouver party took their green vision of a bicycle-friendly downtown Vancouver a step further yesterday (5th October).
After a full day of debate, and only a short while before midnight (11.38 p.m.), they unanimously approved a new $3.2 million separated bike lane on Hornby Street – despite vociferous opposition from some sectors of the business community, most notably Laura Jones of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.
Interestingly, even though Global TV News was on at the time of the vote, they apparently did not deem it important enough to report on (despite promising at the top of the hour to keep us updated).
I got the news from Twitter! And I am reporting it in this post 22 minutes after it happened, and hours before Global will get to it (on tomorrow morning’s news). I guess this is the dawn of a whole new age of information sharing.
The new, physically separated two-way bike lane on Hornby Street will connect the separated bike lane on the Burrard Street Bridge (opened July 2009) with the separated bike lane on Dunsmuir Street (opened March 2010).
Downtown Vancouver will now have a (very basic) network of separated bike lanes that will facilitate safe bicycle commuting.
Since the beginning of this pro-cycling initiative, Vancouver has witnessed an exponential growth in downtown cyclist traffic: for example, cyclist traffic on the Dunsmuir cycle lane increased from 100 per day to 2,000 per day in the first five months after it opened.
At the center of this issue is a fierce debate about the future of transportation in Vancouver. While the population and number of jobs are growing rapidly, car trips into the city declined by 10% in the last 13 years, thanks to a long-term strategy to discourage car traffic. At the same time, total trips increased by 23% – with the difference accounted for by an increase in cycling, walking and transit. This despite the fact that only 1% of Vancouver’s street space is set aside for cyclists!
With the city expected to grow by another 23% by 2041, Vancouver needs to find alternative means for people to get around. Surveys show that 60% of residents would cycle downtown if it was safer. So it seems that safe, separated cycling lanes are the way to go!
The budget for this new lane is $3.2 million – an amount which has been the subject of outraged protests by the anti-cyclist brigade. But this is equivalent to the price of three buses – without the accompanying upkeep costs! And the average cost to build infrastructure for cars is $1 million per block. As the Hornby bike lane will span eight blocks, this means that a similar length of road for cars would cost $8 million – more than twice as much as the budget for this bike route.
So while we rejoice in this decision, let’s keep it in perspective: One Giant Step for Cyclists, One Small Step for Vancouver’s Budget.
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