How are pedestrians in Vancouver being impacted by separated bike lanes?

Author/s: Simon Jay

Creation date: 2014-01-07

Contact info: n/a

Senior supervisor: Anthony Perl

Keywords: pedestrian indicators, walkability, active transportation, separated bike lane, transportation hierarchy  

Geographic focus: Downtown Vancouver; Vancouver, BC; British Columbia; Canada

Research question/s: How are pedestrians in Vancouver being impacted by separated bike lanes?

Significance

The City of Vancouver brands itself as a green, sustainable city and has recently built separated downtown bike lanes in order to increase the popularity of cycling. Meanwhile, walking is the dominant downtown transportation mode. Because walking is already the most sustainable transportation mode, increasing cycling at the expense of walking does not advance sustainability. It is therefore important to understand how pedestrians have been affected by the introduction of the separated bike lanes. Currently, less is known about these impacts than about their impacts on cyclists and drivers. A primary contribution of this thesis is to evaluate the pedestrian impacts of the Dunsmuir and Hornby separated bike lane corridors, including through a survey of pedestrians that focused on sections of the Dunsmuir separated bike lane.

Findings

Through document review, it was found that the separated bike lanes have significantly reduced the number of sidewalk bike riders and also reduced serious collisions between pedestrians, cyclists and motor vehicles. However, reliable before-and-after pedestrian volume figures for the separated bike lanes are lacking, making it challenging to properly evaluate their sustainability impacts. The author recommends further pedestrian monitoring, including through adaption of the survey tool developed for this research. This research also found that significantly more resources were spent on consulting and monitoring the potential bike lane impacts on vehicle access, volume, travel time and parking than on how pedestrians could be affected. As a result, it appears that the separated lanes have encouraged more pedestrians to switch to cycling than drivers, which does not improve sustainability or reduce costs. The author therefore recommends avoiding putting active transportation modes in competition with each other in the future by considering each mode separately and in hierarchal order. The survey data, though exploratory, suggests that the new bike lanes have influenced perceptions of street conditions and perhaps even caused pedestrians to perceive the block to be less polluted and overcrowded, as well as more stimulating and peaceful. The author recommends better coordination, sharing and publishing of existing pedestrian data.