Oct 30, 2014 Urban design
Separated bikeways are road lanes for bikes, physically separated from cars and also from pedestrians. Auckland has one small stretch, downtown on Beach Rd. Vancouver has a lot more.
Illustration by Angela Keoghan.
Of all the plans for bikes in my city, Vancouver, without a doubt the most contentious has been separated bike lanes. The authorities put the first one on the highly travelled Burrard Bridge in 2009 and it was an overwhelming success. Yet, despite further successes each time a separated lane is established, new proposals are always met with fervent opposition.
On the Adanac Bikeway, one of Vancouver’s most travelled cycling routes, local resident and restaurateur Steve Da Cruz strenuously objected to a mere block of cycle track passing in front of his business. He said the track would be “cutting [him] off at the knees”, and the city’s claims of consistently unused parking along that stretch of road were “grossly inadequate”.
Yet the project aimed to calm traffic on a road linking East Vancouver to downtown, and not a single parking space was to be removed.
I live in East Vancouver and that bikeway provides my family with direct access to the city centre. Previously, we competed with intimidating delivery trucks and speeding cars, and cycling through the area with my young children had become so stressful we were forced to use longer routes.
The project opened in May this year, just in time for the busiest cycling season, and I now happily take my children on our bikes through this stretch to downtown.
Surprisingly, it did not take long for Da Cruz to declare, “Business is better than ever.” In fact, it’s doubled. The upgraded bikeway has created a surge in the number of cyclists, many of them tourists happily exploring Vancouver’s neighbourhoods by bicycle.
On the city’s west side, proposals to upgrade the narrow and busy Point Grey Rd were met with even more opposition, and politicians from the Non-Partisan Association fuelled the fire.
The project would see the completion of the 28km Seawall, a waterfront pathway used by both cyclists and pedestrians of all ages. NPA councillor George Affleck said the two-lane road was important for commuters. “It’s a street that I think should be for all the citizens of this city, not just a few. And especially, specifically, not just a lot of supporters [of the current government].” Pedestrians, cyclists and people who don’t vote for Affleck do not count among “all the citizens”, apparently.
The project stalled on several occasions, but this spring, the upgraded roadway opened and cyclists and pedestrians from all over the city were quickly raving. The president (and former player) of the Vancouver Canucks ice hockey team, Trevor Linden, spoke on radio, saying, “I can only tell you Point Grey Rd now is an absolute freeway of walkers, dog walkers, bikers, parents with their six-year-old kids… and it’s pretty special, it’s pretty cool.”
For my own car-free family, each new separated cycle track further facilitates our lifestyle. We can now safely travel from the east to the west with little worry of our children coming up against speeding cars on dangerous roadways. My five-year-old son leads the way with a fearlessness that did not seem possible just a few years ago.
And that’s the key to progress: separated bike lanes allow even the most vulnerable of our citizens to travel safely throughout the places they call home.
Melissa Bruntlett and her husband Chris, of Vancouver-based urban mobility consultancy Modacity, will appear at Auckland Conversations on November 4 in a discussion entitled Van Cycle Chic – Observations from an Emerging Bike Culture.
More on cycling in Auckland: