Saturday, June 20, 2015


Vancouver has very similar cycleway implementation to Sydney so it is interesting to explore the similarities and differences.  Vancouver is also similar in that it too is hampered by mandatory helmet legislation, imposed by the regional government, though it didn't seem to be very strictly enforced.  (Again, this is a retrospective from the 2012 visit)

Vancouver constructed city centre bidirectional cycleways before the Velo-City conference in June 2012, on Dunsmuir and Hornby Streets.  There was opposition from businesses, but the cycleways and their benefits for the city, have prevailed and more have since been built.  There is also a spectacular path along the sea wall around Stanley Park and great provision for most of the foreshore areas and some other key cycleways around the city and Greenways and bicycle boulevards outside the city centre.  Here is the current cycling map of Vancouver that shows how well they have done at providing a decent connected grid, as Sydney needs to.

City Centre Bi-directional Cycleways

The cycleways provide separation by continuous, or, when adjacent to parking, intermittent planter boxes nestled in a concrete median holding them in place.  The planter boxes look great, though sometimes could do with pruning and their disadvantage is to narrow the effective width.  They provide a very attractive and protected-feeling environment to ride in.

Median nestling the planter boxes that provide attractive separation

Intermittent planter boxes alongside parking to allow access & egress
Here alongside parking looks the same as Sydney's "two step" profile

Even a design for jersey kerbs to incorporate planter boxes

Green paint is used at conflict points - driveways and intersections.  To reduce the risk at some intersections the turns for motor vehicles have been banned completely, and at others there is "Yield" warning signage for drivers.  The bike movements are not time separated by the signals as in Sydney.

Green paint across major driveways

And green paint across intersections
Turning cars to yeild to bikes in both directions

Here the turn has been banned for motor vehicles, to avoid conflict with the cycleway

There are pedestrian crossing markings at bus stops and taxi stands.  

Passengers at the bus shelter have crossings on the cycleway to reach the bus stop
Taxi droppoff

Signs say cyclists must yield to pedestrians (as I think cars have to when pedestrians cross the road).

Cyclists must yield to pedestrians, even where there is no crossing
Bollards are used at intersections and driveways to block entry by cars, but quite a few were damaged and cars still occasionally parked in the cycleway.
Bollards used to prevent motor vehicle access to the cycleway

Burrard Bridge

While we were there in 2012 a trial was underway on Burrard Bridge.  One of the two pedestrian paths had been converted to bicycle only to cater for one direction of dedicated cycleway, with pedestrians relegated to the other side.  For the opposite direction a traffic lane had been claimed with concrete jersey kerbs.  Of course there had been predictions of traffic chaos before, which didn't eventuate.  Both directions felt reasonably comfortable to ride.  Three years later, in June 2015, news is out that the changes will soon be made permanent due to the success of the trial.

The bike lane on approach feels less than comfortable, on a 60mph road.
The sign marks the start of the trial treatment and the kerb diverts pedestrians from using this side.

The width varies but isn't always sufficient to allow passing
Jersey kerb barrier for the trial

Shared Paths

Separated paths were clearly the preference where there was room, but there were still plenty of shared paths, including shared crossings at signals.  Where a shared path crossed an industrial driveway (similar in context to Sydney's Gardeners Road shared path) Vancouver uses green paint across some intersections and driveways and some had warning signage for exiting drivers.

Shared path

With shared crossing at the signals

Signage at a different shared signalised crossing in the city centre
Another shared signalised crossing

Shared path crossing of a minor side street

Shared path marking at industrial driveway

Warning sign facing driveway users

Separated Paths

Separated paths were common in streetscape, foreshore and park settings alike.  Even the separated paths though had signs indicating bikes must yield to pedestrians, though it appeared (can someone confirm or correct me here?) that this also applies for cars on the road - that they must give way to crossing pedestrians even where there are no crossings.  Separated paths commonly used different surface treatments to indicate conflict points.

Stanley Park separated path sign: "15km/h speed limit, cyclists must yield to pedestrians, faster cyclists use road".
The pedestrian only path is on the foreshore, to the right, separated by large grass verge where there was space.
Yet a little further down the path is a marked pedestrian crossing.
Separated paths on the foreshore: still yield to pedestrians on the bike path, but hedge limits crossing points
Visual separation where space is constrained

In retrospect, say the planners, this area should have been wider to cater
better for the heavy use by people walking and riding on weekends.

Separated paths /uni-directional separated cycleway in Chinatown area, with a retirement
home on one side and the Chinese gardens on the other.  Carrall Street.

Bollards used on the retirement home side to separate the bike path from parking/dropoff.

Bicycle Boulevards - Local Street Bikeways

Vancouver suburbs have a great, comprehensive network of Local Street Bikeways.  A key feature is regular traffic diversions which only allow bicycles through, to keep motor vehicle volumes and speeds low.  The speed limit on these streets is 30km/h.

This is only a through route for bikes

A closer view - cars can exit but not enter here - bikes only.

Bike lane in both directions, but cars in both directions need to share the remaining lane. 
Cars going in this direction must wait for any oncoming cars to come through first.
Another example, similar to above, where cars are restricted to one lane, with bike bypasses.

Plenty of diverse use of these local street bikeway routes

Greenways have been developed as part of some SkyTrain (mostly elevated rail) routes, but sadly no photos of those at this time.

Bike Lanes

There were bike lanes on some streets, too, though not as common. 

City centre bike lane leading into bidirectional separated cycleway ahead

And in this new housing development in Olympic Village


 Some examples of signage in Vancouver: street name signs include indication that they are a bike route, whether a separated cycleway or local street bikeway; treatment of a conflict point where bike access through a closure conflicts with a walking route near a school; detour signage during works on a local street bikeway; and instructions for traffic signal detection.

Dunsmuir Street in the city centre has a separated cycleway
West 7th Avenue is a local street bikeway.

Residents' informal signage, I suspect, to supplement lots of official signage

And a speed reducing wriggle

Stop required as well

This detour ahead of a road closure was well sign posted
Clear instructions to trigger signal change
And matching pavement marking

Bicycle Culture

Bicycle parking at the Vancouver International Jazz Festival was full and overflowing

Musette, bike themed cafe, was a great place to hang out
As in Sydney - yarnbombed bike racks
Bicycles as part of commercial displays
And in the Chinese Garden
Complete with old Chinese registration plate
One aspect of Vancouver is that the city centre is very tight, and the most surprising things are right at the fringe of the high rise offices:

A community garden
Low density housing...
And children's play street
And even tiny boat houses


Some short videos here may help give an impression of what it is like to ride on some of the great bike facilities in Vancouver.

A section of Hornby Street cycleway (1:20)
A section of one way cycleway on Carrall Street (1:16)
Foreshore separated path (5:03)

This is the last post from the 2012 trip.