Denver Can Learn A Lot From Vancouver’s Protected Bike Lane Network

When it comes to more people biking to get around, Vancouver aims higher than Denver.

Mayor Michael Hancock’s goal is to have 15 percent of all commuting trips made by bike or on foot by 2020. Last year just 2 percent biked and 4 percent walked to work in the Mile High City, according to American Community Survey census data.

Vancouver, on the other hand, wants 7 percent of all trips to be made with a bike by 2020. The Canadian city hit that mark this year, four years ahead of schedule, and its network of safe, low-stress protected bike lanes are a big reason.

Clarence Eckerson Jr. recently traveled to Vancouver and documented the high-quality bike infrastructure for Streetfilms. Denver could learn from what he found. Reports Eckerson:

When you ride around Vancouver’s fantastic network of bike lanes, it’s no wonder the city is experiencing a leap in ridership. Most of Vancouver feels safe to ride, and it’s fun to see all sorts of people out on bikes.

A key factor in Vancouver’s success is that the city constantly goes back to re-engineer, tweak, and improve its bike lanes for greater safety. Hornby Street, which features prominently in this Streetfilm, used to just have painted bike lanes. At the time, women accounted for 28 percent of bike trips on the street, according to Vancouver Transportation Manager Dale Bracewell. After the city installed a landscaped protected bike lane on Hornby, bike trips grew rapidly — especially bike trips by women, who now account for 39 percent of the street’s bike traffic.

Compared to New York City, which has made significant strides in the past eight years to carve out street space for protected bike lanes, Vancouver is clearly going the extra mile. In three days of riding, I didn’t see one car parked in a protected bike lane. When you ride downtown, conflicts with drivers are rare.

A city that keeps cars out of bike lanes? Denver Public Works could certainly take some cues from Vancouver there, especially on Lawrence and Arapahoe streets. Pretty and functional planters, like the ones in the video, that physically separate bike riders from cars? Seems like an ideal treatment for the degraded 15th Street bike lane.

These aren’t just logical ideas — they go hand in hand with Hancock’s official sustainability goals [PDF]: “Provide mobility options (transit, carpooling, biking, walking) that reduce commuting travel in Denver done in single-occupant vehicles to no more than 60% of all trips” by 2020. That’s basically three years from now. Meanwhile, according to new census data, the share of Denverites driving solo to work is higher than it was 10 years ago. Sigh.