Special thanks to our event partner the DVBIA.
Event Recap: City Conversations | Vancouver cycling gets safer, easier and more popular
by Julia Bronson
Vancouver’s Bike to Work Week broke a new record for participation this month with over 11 000 people registered and 60 000 bike trips logged. Nearing the end of the week, City Conversations brought together cycling innovators and community participants to capture the cycling fervor in conversation. “Vancouver cycling gets safer, easier and more popular” was hosted in an outdoor space on Hastings St. at the end of Hornby St., attracting not only cycling enthusiasts, but curious onlookers stopping by on their lunch breaks. It was an active discussion, featuring the exchange of ideas amongst presenters and participants.
The first to present was Laura Jane of HUB Cycling, the advocacy group behind Bike to Work Week. She outlined benefits to cycling, including how it contributes to affordability, sustainability and improving happiness in a city. Similarly, the General Manager of Vancouver’s soon-to-be bike share Mobi, Mia Kohout, listed the benefits of bike share systems, mentioning that they are one of the safest modes of transportation.
Matt Lowell of CycleHack, a group that enables cycling solution-providers to prototype their ideas, brought up the barriers to riding. Comments from various participants focused on the obstacles as well. Both Matt and participants referenced the need for better infrastructure as key to getting more people cycling. Bike lanes were indicated as the most sought after during the discussion, which reflected previous findings from Re-Imagine Downtown Vancouver, a community engagement project put on by the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association (DVBIA) in partnership with SFU Public Square in 2015. The project involved an online survey in which 44% of participants said they wanted more downtown space allocated for pedestrians and bikes.
The pro-bike lane sentiment from "Re-Imagine" carried through to 2016 and it was clear at City Conversations that it’s not going away. Kohout added that there are other, less obvious, benefits to bike lanes. She mentioned that better infrastructure not only encourages more cycling, but contributes to a boost in the local economy as well. When cyclists are provided safe ways to stop on their trips, they are more likely to buy goods and groceries.
A recommendation of Laura’s rang true for many- that political will is the most important factor for getting municipalities to address cycling needs. Lobbying local governments for better cycling infrastructure and education will not only benefit future generations of cyclists, but will encourage non-cyclers to hop on a bike.
City Conversations is a series of lunchtime meet-ups on the first and third Thursday every month at Simon Fraser University's Vancouver campus. No fees or registration required, just drop by and bring your lunch.
The next City Conversations, "The Missing Middle: Alternatives to single-family houses or towers" is happening on Thursday, June 16 at 12:30, Room 1600 at SFU Vancouver at Harbour Centre.
Julia is the Program Assistant at SFU Public Square. She is a graduate of SFU’s Semester in Dialogue program with a BA in Communication.