Vancouver approves $25 million plan to expand cycling infrastructure by 2011 in order to increase citywide cycling to 10 percent of all trips

A $25 million plan to expand Vancouver’s cycling infrastructure met with unanimous approval from Vancouver council on Thursday, May 6, 2010.


The money will go toward expanding and improving the bike route network, additional end-of-trip facilities like bike parking, creating education and marketing programs to encourage cycling for transportation, and developing a long-range strategy to increase the total share of trips made by bicycle in Vancouver to 10 percent by 2020 (up from 3.7 percent currently citywide).


Five new routes and four previously approved routes are included in the plan. Roughly $12 million will go to new routes and $13 million for upgrades and monitoring outcomes.

Here’s where the money is expected to be spent:

-    10-year Cycling Program Master Plan

-    Arterial bike lanes (Dunbar St)

-    Bike parking installations

-    Carrall St Greenway (Expo-Pacific)

-    Comox-Helmcken Greenway bike route

-    Comprehensive monitoring strategy

-    Cross-town bike way along 45th Ave from Balaclava to Nanaimo

-    Downtown separated bike lanes (Burrard Bridge to Dunsmuir Viaduct)

-    Implementation of the North Arm Trail Greenway

-    Improving access to the Canada Line pedestrian/cycling bridge

-    Ridgeway West Greenway

-    Separated bike lanes outside the downtown core

-    Spot improvements to the existing cycling network

According to the plan, 55 additional kilometres of bike routes and bike lanes will be added to the cycling network in Vancouver by 2011, for a total of 524 km. Much of the money for these new programs is coming from previously budgeted, but unspent funding. $8.3 million will be sourced from monies not yet allocated from Greenways and Bicycle Network program budgets from the 2006–2008 and 2009–2011 Capital Plans.

Vancouver IS Bike City

Vancouver looks good on two wheels

Since 2008, 67 lane-kilometres of cycling routes have been added in Vancouver: 36 km are local street bikeways; 11 km of off-street paths and separated bike lanes were created; 15 km of painted bike lanes; and 5 km of painted shared-use lanes.

Not all Vancouverites happy about 10-year cycling plan

Cycling advocates are lauding the recent announcement, calling it money well spent and none too soon. Critics of the decision, however, are citing a key statistic, claiming cyclists are getting preferential treatment at the hands of councillors pandering to a special interest group.


These opponents point to the fact the $25 million total represents approximately 30 percent of the money that will be spent on roads and bridges over the same period and suggest bicycles are being promoted at the expense of other road users. However, the reality is more nuanced than the naysayers’ cries of “social engineering!” and “This isn’t Amsterdam!” might suggest.

City of Vancouver cycling resources

-    Bicycle plan & network

-    Bikeways & maps

For starters, Vancouver is already 30 percent pavement. Even if a car-crazy council came to power, the road network in the city is pretty much built out. Unless the city decides to start ripping out sidewalks, paving parks and appropriating homes, it’s hard to imagine where we might turn two lanes into four, or four lanes into six. Also, investment into cycling infrastructure has failed to keep pace with spending on transit or automobile travel. Much of the current plan can arguably be considered a case of catch-up.


Perhaps, most importantly, with space at a premium, increasing cycling infrastructure and reducing car space, a.k.a. the “road diet,” is a cost-effective way to reduce traffic congestion, as every additional cyclist commuting by bike also represents one less person in a car or bus.

Vancouver not alone in its cycling aspirations, examples worldwide

Nor is Vancouver embarking on a plan without precedent. Across Europe, Asia and North America, investment in cycling infrastructure is being recognized as an affordable way to make the most of road space.


In South Korea, the government has unveiled a low-carbon, green growth strategy that includes spending US $1.2 billion to construct 4,000 km of bicycle paths around the country. The goal of the program is similar to Vancouver’s—increase cycling mode share from 1.2 percent nationwide to 10 percent by 2017.


South of the border, more than USD$730 million in federal stimulus funds has been allocated to cycling and pedestrian projects, with U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray Lahood recently proclaiming, “This is the end of favouring motorized transportation at the expense of non-motorized” at the National Bike Summit in March.


In the U.S. many cities are embarking on programs similar to Vancouver’s. Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn announced an ambitious USD$30 million program called Walk Bike Ride on Tuesday, May 11. Portland remains a national leader in promoting cycling, while New York City, San Francisco and countless other American cities are courting cyclists by adding separated bike lanes and cycling/pedestrian paths to their road network.


Even in places far removed from the eco-chic concerns of our beloved Left Coast, bike lanes are being seen as a solution to traffic congestion:

-    Nairobi turns to bike lanes to combat congestion, climate change

-    Major infrastructure plans unveiled for Dubai

-    Hobart (Tasmania) doubles cycling in two years

Media and Burrard Bridge bike lane trial skeptics less dubious this time

From the perspective of a cycling advocate and media observer, perhaps the most notable aspect of the Vancouver cycling plan announcement has been the press coverage. Whereas previous initiatives, such as the Burrard Bridge bike lane trial were met with skepticism from many local media outlets, this most recent proposal is being received with far less incredulity than we have seen in the past, especially in the editorial pages.


Whether critics of cycling as transportation are being swayed by the mounting evidence that bike lanes are a good thing, or simply haven’t the energy to fight the good fight against a decidedly pro-bike local government is an interesting question. Whatever the answer, the rise of reasoned debate about cycling’s place in the transportation network, without the usual hysteria from either side, will make objective assessments of the initiative a welcome component of the 10-year plan.


Chris Keam of VACC

Chris Keam is the Vancouver Area Cycling Coalition’s communications coordinator, a freelance writer and video editor. Visit his website and blog at for links to additional articles and videos on cycling and other topics.