Vancouver cyclists say rain and biking don’t mix

Afternoon traffic in Amsterdam. (photo by Copenhagenize Design Co.)

Afternoon traffic in Amsterdam. (photo by Copenhagenize Design Co.)

The City of Vancouver has made plans to make cycling a main mode of transport in the city, but local cyclists say the city has its work cut out for it with the reality of winter weather conditions.

The city’s Transportation 2040 plan includes plans for multiple modes of transportation, but many of the plans revolve around one main goal to make cycling the second favoured mode of transportation, after walking. The city’s goal is to “trigger greater interest in cycling, and increase cycling ridership.” The plan says it will do so by increasing the network of bike routes and providing bicycle parking and other end-of-trip facilities.

In the past, the city has developed facilities and services for people who are already established cyclists. With the Transportation 2040 plan, it is shifting the focus with the hopes of creating an environment that will make cycling more convenient, safe and practical for any citizen.

However, local cyclists say no number of bike lanes will convince Vancouverites to bike in poor weather.

“Here, a lot of people don’t ride in the winter,” says Lee Miller of Reckless Bike Stores in Vancouver. “As soon as September hits, a lot of people are like, ‘Okay, my bike’s going away.’”

Miller says he rides his bike every day as his main source of transportation. However, he says for other people, biking here is weather dependent.

Joe Kainer of English Bay Bike Rentals agreed. “In reality, when it starts to get cold and wet out, people just don’t really want to ride a bike, and I don’t really blame them.”

“There’s a lot more entailed in riding a bike in that kind of weather. It gets icy out, it’s wet and slippery, there’s limited visibility,” Kainer said. “You also have to invest quite a bit in good gear. You need waterproof everything basically.”

When comparing the weather in Vancouver with the weather in what is considered one of the most cyclist populated cities in the world, Amsterdam, average temperatures are similar. However, Vancouver does get more than twice as much precipitation.

Amsterdam was ranked first on the “Copenhagenize Index 2013”, which rates cities according to how bicycle-friendly they are. It lists 13 categories as criteria, including bicycle facilities, bicycle infrastructure and social acceptance.

According to Copenhagenize, the overall mark is supposed to represent the city’s efforts towards re-establishing the bicycle as a “feasible, accepted and practical form of transport.”

Amsterdam received 83 out of 100 points, and for good reason.

Geoff Cotter, a B.C. resident, was there this past summer. “In Amsterdam our tour guide said, basically pedestrians have right-of-way over cars, bicycles have right-of-way over God,” he said.

Cotter said while in Amsterdam, he saw rows upon rows of bicycles locked up along the canals through the city.

“Amsterdam has a complete traffic system just for the bikes. They have lanes, they have street lights that are just for the bikes. So, in the traffic rotation the cars go, and then the bike light will go on and the bikes go. It’s actually pretty cool, but kind of scary to ride there. I was pretty nervous riding around on a bike,” Cotter said.

The 2013 Copenhagenize report says the cycling atmosphere in Holland “is relaxed, enjoyable, and as mainstream as you can get.”

Vancouver on the other hand, didn’t make it on the Index at all.

Vancouver’s Transportation 2040 plan shows goals for improvement in every area of judgement criteria on the Copenhagenize index. But even with improvements, it’s debatable whether Vancouverites would be able to get used to biking in the rain for the majority of the year.

Jaclyn Sinclair

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


  • Avatar
    Reply November 26, 2013


    But it can be done

  • Kait Huziak
    Reply November 27, 2013

    Kait Huziak

    As they say, “if you build it, they will come.”
    While it’s undeniable that the lack of active cyclists during the winter months is due to poor weather, part of me wonders if routes were made much more convenient like the city is planning for, how many of those people (and others) would reconsider their means of transportation

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