VPSN Supports Separated Hornby Bike Lane
Earlier today the VPSN sent a letter to Mayor Gregor Robertson and members of City Council, supporting the proposed separated bikelane on Hornby Street. The proposal, which has been open for public comment for some time now, will be in front of the City’s Transportation and Traffic Committee (of Council) tomorrow. A staff report (PDF) authored by Jerry Dobrovolny, recommends proceeding with the project. Despite the many benefits of the project, there has been opposition from a number of the local businesses. We felt it important to voice our support for this key initiative.
The following is an excerpt of the letter penned by Brandon Yan and Demian Rueter, two of the VPSN’s Transportation Coordinators:
We are writing to express our support for the Hornby Street two-way separated bike lane that is currently undergoing public consultation. We believe that Hornby Street is a crucial link in creating a substantive and comprehensive bicycle lane network that will increase ridership and safety and will provide benefits for residents and businesses alike. We would like to take the time to stress the importance of these facilities to Vancouver’s goal of being the Greenest City in the world by 2020.
We wish to identify a few other relevant items that lend further support to this initiative:
The City of Portland estimates that around 60% of their population (around 300,000 people) is interested in cycling but is ultimately intimidated and discouraged from riding their bike because of concerns over safety. Their report states that, “[people] would ride if they felt safer on the roadways—if cars were slower and less frequent, and if there were more quiet streets with few cars and paths without any cars at all.”
TransLink’s 2009 Regional Cycling Strategy also endorses this view. It finds that although Metro Vancouver has over 1,400km of bicycle routes, the majority will not attract people to cycling. Translink suggests that in order to achieve a significant increase in the bicycle mode share, bicycle facilitates and programs should be targeted to those concerned about riding in traffic by promoting low-traffic, separated or off-street facilities.
We are pleased that the City of Vancouver is attempting to promote cycling as a viable mode of transportation. In many cities, cycling rivals and even surpasses driving as the fastest, safest, most convenient way to get around. The separated biking facilities on the Burrard Bridge and Dunsmuir Street have proven popular in attracting new ridership with few, if any, negative impacts.
Finally, we are aware that a number of businesses along Hornby Street have voiced their concern over the removal of on-street parking. However we note in response that the perception that bicycle lane infrastructure creates negative impacts on local businesses has been frequently shown to be inaccurate. For example, a 2009 study in Toronto found that the removal of on-street parking in favour of a downtown bike lane would have few negative effects on businesses and that businesses along the route could actually benefit from lane re-allocation. In fact, in the case of the Toronto example, it was determined that only 10% of those businesses’ patrons drove and that those that arrived by foot and bicycle visited more often and spent the most money per month. Alleviating the fears of businesses will be crucial for the success of the Hornby Street bike lanes.
We further note that the loss of parking spaces from the redesign (158 spaces) will be more than offset by the return of street parking on Howe Street (and also Seymour Street), the presence of a number of nearby parking garages, the continued availability of street parking on every block of Hornby, and – best of all (given the City’s desire to encourage a shift to sustainable transportation activities) the installation of improved cycle parking facilities. Given that there are approximately 10,000 off-street parking spaces available within one block of the proposed cycle route, we feel that the argument that the separated bike lane will compromise Hornby businesses is problematic and suspect.