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Posts from the "Vancouver" Category

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In Vancouver, Traffic Decreases as Population Rises

Can we all just pause for a moment and give Vancouver a standing ovation?

Vancouver prioritized the movement of people over cars, and it got more people and fewer cars. Image: Project for Public Spaces

The perennial contender for the title of world’s most livable city has accomplished what Houston or Atlanta never even dream of: It has reduced traffic on its major thoroughfares even as its population has swelled. How did the city pull off this feat? The answer is intentionally, with smart policies.

In the 1970s, the people of Vancouver decided they wanted their city to be walkable and healthy. The city established a policy that it wouldn’t widen any roads to accommodate more single-occupancy vehicles.

Vancouver was in better shape than the average U.S. city to begin with, because it’s the only major city in North America with no freeways going through it. That meant the original street grid, constructed between 1880 and 1920, would have to suffice. To make that work, Vancouver worked hard to establish the kind of land use policies that would make living car-free a natural choice. The city prioritized walkable, mixed-use development and established a strong transit system with light rail, streetcars, and buses, as well as walking and biking connections.

And guess what? That strategy has worked exactly as planned. Vancouver officials recently trotted out traffic data to make the case for overhauling a traffic-heavy road by the waterfront into a street that prioritizes biking and walking while eliminating through traffic. The figures showed that on major streets, traffic has dropped 20 to 30 percent since 2006 — although the city has grown 4.5 percent percent over that time. Pretty neat trick.

Here’s the city chief transportation engineer, Jerry Dobrovolny, on the wider trend, as quoted in the terrific blog Price Tags:

We have seen a trend, a downward trend over the past 15 years – vehicles entering the city, vehicles entering the downtown, we have seen a downward trend on vehicles crossing the Burrard Bridge, we have seen a downward trend on vehicles entering and leaving [University of British Columbia].

So we’re seeing those continual drops city-wide.

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StreetFilms 9 Comments

Perfect Match: Metro Vancouver Melds Bikes and Transit

Last month Streetfilms took a look at how Vancouver is making big strides toward becoming a safe bicycling city. As we learned while in town for the Velo-City 2012 conference, the city government is not alone — it has a great partner in the regional transportation agency, TransLink, which provides transit service for 22 regional municipalities, plus funding for a network of major roads and cycling infrastructure and programs. TransLink views cycling as a complement to the agency’s trains, buses, and ferries.

In this follow-up, Streetfilms got to speak to TransLink officials about their vision for a transit system that works in tandem with active transportation, and to see some of the ways they’re using bike infrastructure to bolster transit ridership.

StreetFilms 14 Comments

Vancouver’s Velo Vision: Safe Biking for All Ages

In June, the city of Vancouver hosted the Velo-City Global 2012 Conference, where international cycling planners, professionals and advocates convened.

Streetfilms partnered with the city to produce this video about Vancouver’s investment in bicycling. Easy and convenient transportation is key to their status as one of the world’s most livable and sustainable cities. In 2010 they introduced their downtown separated bike lanes. And since, cycling has become the fastest growing mode of transportation in Vancouver.

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Study: Vancouver Merchants Badly Misjudge Effect of Protected Bike Lanes

In Downtown Vancouver, local merchants wildly overestimate the number of their customers who drive. (The numbers on the left side add up to more than 100 percent apparently because of how the question to merchants was formatted.) Image: Stantec Consulting for City of Vancouver

Few groups speak more loudly in debates over the reallocation of street space than local businesses. In New York, there are merchants who vocally favor a better environment for pedestrians, cyclists, and transit, but all it takes are a few firm believers in easy car access to dictate the terms of the public debate. Case in point: In 2009, merchants in Greenwich Village and along Grand Street were able to get mayoral candidate Bill Thompson on the record against bike lanes.

But businesses aren’t transportation planners. In fact, they usually get basic information about their customers’ travel habits wrong. New evidence from an important study of separated bike lanes in downtown Vancouver [PDF] shows just how mistaken they can be.

Last year, Vancouver built two physically separated bike lanes in the heart of its downtown, along Dunsmuir and Hornby Streets. As is so often the case, area businesses worried that the lanes would harm their bottom line. In response, the city joined with three downtown business associations, hired a team of consultants and set up what it hoped would be a high-quality investigation of the effect of the bike lanes on business.

What the consultants found, though, is that merchants’ perceptions can be deeply flawed.

On the surface, the study found that holding all else constant, the bike lanes led to a 10 percent decline in sales along Hornby and a four percent decline along Dunsmuir. But those estimates were based on self-reported sales numbers from those who cared enough to respond to surveys. In the few instances where the researchers obtained hard sales numbers, they wrote, the “data indicated that estimated loss in sales was not as high as reported.”

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Selling Bike-Ped Infrastructure: Vancouver Shows How It’s Done

Now for some positive cycling news. Vancouver, British Columbia, in response to an infrastructure-driven jump in ridership, is installing a new separated two-way bike corridor on downtown's Dunsmuir Street. The project itself, part of an eventual network of protected lanes, seems impressive enough. But as this video shows, the would-be "greenest city in the world" absolutely nails the presentation.

Check it out -- the animation, the cameo by Mayor Gregor Robertson. And if you can say "no" to city engineer Lacey Hirtle, I don't want to know you.

StreetFilms 19 Comments

Vancouver Gives Cyclists a Lane on the Burrard Bridge

Streetfilms' Vancouver correspondent Frank Lopez reports on a development that will sow envy in the heart of anyone who walks or bikes over the narrow, congested paths of the Brooklyn and Pulaski bridges:

It's been 15 years since Vancouver residents started petitioning for a bike lane on one of the bridges that connects to downtown. In the summer of 2009, the city implemented a test lane on the historic Burrard Bridge, and almost immediately cycling shot up 30 percent. Even most solo drivers are happy with the implementation, and overall Vancouverites favor continuing the trial by a margin of 2 to 1.

Note the initial skepticism of Vancouver's media, and enjoy picturing the coverage we'd receive here in New York if we relieved the bike-ped crunch on the Brooklyn Bridge by giving a lane of the roadway to cyclists.