Bike lanes controversial even among cyclists (Second in a series)

A cyclist takes advantage of the Hornby Street bike lanes in Vancouver. (photo by sfbike)

A cyclist takes advantage of the Hornby Street bike lanes in Vancouver. (photo by sfbike)

There are mixed feelings about bike lanes, even among the Vancouver cycling community.

Bike lanes are controversial: Implementing them costs a lot of money, and for many drivers, bike lanes may seem to create problems. There are also many people who want more bicycle-friendly changes, but not all preferences include bike lanes.

In the Transportation 2040 plan, the city says the routes that will be focused on are low-stress, safe routes that connect to key destinations, such as transit stations, shopping centres and schools. The plan also says “separated cycling facilities are to be included in all new major roadway design and construction,” which some cyclists don’t particularly agree with. Some cyclists believe there should be different priorities.

“I’m not sure if just building bike lanes everywhere is the answer,” says Joe Kainer of English Bay Bike Rentals.

“Some of the bike lanes are great, some are not so great. For example, the bike lane they put in on Comox street is totally unused. It wasn’t a busy street beforehand, there was really no point in choking the traffic even further to put in a bike lane on a street that was already really bike friendly. But then you have the Hornby lane and that’s great because it gets people across the city and it’s a way to get across it without being in traffic.”

According to Jesse Cooper, of PEDAL depot in Vancouver, “People want a relatively ‘safe’ space on the streets to become frequent cyclists. Once they’ve developed some skill and confidence, their safety in numbers is the primary help, and less so cycling infrastructure.”

Cooper uses a bike as his primary source of transportation, as does his son. He says the best features of Vancouver’s bike scene are “the connecting routes, paths and lanes that attempt to make accessible cycling arteries through the city.” However, he also says there’s no need for a bike lane on every street.

Lee Miller of Reckless bikes, adds, “I know quite a few customers that only ride the seawall because that’s the place they feel the safest. They don’t feel safe riding on the roads, even though we do have some incredible bike lanes.”

He says bike lanes are controversial because “a lot of people don’t want their lives to be disrupted. People who are against bike lanes aren’t cyclists, and they don’t necessarily care about cycling, so for those guys there’s a lot of resistance.”

Some cyclists, like Kainer, have different priorities when it comes to cycling upgrades. “For me, the key would be end-of-trip facilities more than anything, places where people can feel secure locking up their bike and knowing it’s not going to disappear while they’re gone. Also, maybe places to shower and that kind of stuff [for] commuters.”

Cooper says he would like to see more outreach and education about the benefits of cycling and the resources and opportunities that are already in place for people to use.

Transportation 2040 does include plans for end-of-trip facilities, education and outreach, as well as many other improvements.

Overall, the city’s plans address many different sides of the goal to improve ridership, and include multiple dimensions that would encourage more people to take advantage of any knew cycling amenities, including bike lanes.

Jaclyn Sinclair

Student with an interest in all things Lifestyle, with a particular love for photography and photo-journalism.


  • Samantha Lego
    Reply December 7, 2013

    Samantha Lego

    I understand the necessity for bike lanes – all major European hubs have them – I just feel that the way they were implemented was not the greatest. Some lanes, as pointed out in your article are unused and clog traffic. Others are completely disruptive to traffic due to poor planning, maybe? Vancouver is a congested city. It’s a catch-22. Maybe more people will abandon the cars for bikes if there are more lanes. Maybe more bike lanes are just going to cause more congestion. I don’t know.

  • Avatar
    Reply December 8, 2013

    Cindy St-Laurent

    I am one of those people that feel like bike lanes are not the answer to the traffic problems in Vancouver. Most places in Canada have highways connecting from city to city but in Vancouver we have minimal highways and mostly just a bunch of traffic jams, especially downtown Vancouver. Yes it is great to provide some lanes for those that bike, but most people drive in this city due to the weather and the long distances that need to be travelled to get to and from work. I think more focus should be on fixing the traffic problem, and unfortunately more bike lanes will not get more people on bikes and off cars on the road.

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