Saturday, July 9, 2011

Bicycle Infrastructure in Vancouver

I recently went on a trip to Vancouver, as a part of our trip we rented bicycles and toured the city for 8 hours.  That's right we rode our bikes around for 8 hours, it was highly convenient and did not have any accidents or close calls.  I would like to reflect on some the things that Vancouver has done right for cyclists. 

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Often cities will create a separate sign to indicate that there is a bike route along a certain road (as pictured above.)  Well Vancouver does this but they also do something else which is quite clever. 

Someone very smart at city hall in Vancouver realized that they have to put up address signage anyways, so why not take on a little bike symbol if it a bike route.  This way if you need to find a road that is bike worthy you only have to go a block to look at the street signage. 

Almost all cities tend to treat bicycles as automobiles, when they are not.  There are many laws that should not apply to bicycles.  Cyclists are exposed to the elements, so the longer you have to wait at a light the longer you freeze, get wet from the rain/snow, or are blown from the winds.  Cyclists are also self powered, so if you have to stop every block for a stop sign you lose your momentum every time and it becomes tiring especially if you are going uphill.  Cyclists with their bikes only weigh at most 250 pounds, we will not cause the high levels of damage that a car weighing 2000 lbs will. 

Well thankfully someone over at Vancouver realized this and placed priority bicycle crossing signals at a few intersections.  It is not simply enough to place a priority signal at an intersection, Vancouver also placed one specifically for bicycles at intersections.  These were flush with the road such that when you pull up you can simply reach over and push the button, you do not need to disembark your bicycle and clamber onto the sidewalk.

Reused rails and stones acting as a crosswalk.

A third thing that was very prominent in Vancouver was use of interesting and dynamic streetscapes.  Vancouver would at least provide bicycle stands (many cities cannot even get this basic step down), but they would also provide interesting bike stands.  If you want people to live downtown and keep your city vibrant you have to give something back, one way to do that is to make it a place that people want to stay. 

So often we find that cities like to think they are the only city on the planet and that they cannot copy what others are doing because it won't work here.  Get your head out of the sand, all cities face the same problems it about time that we start working together to solve them.

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