News / Canada

UBC study provides roadmap for attracting cyclists

For every kilometre closer someone lives to a bike lane, they were four times more likely to commute.

A new study from the University of British Columbia looked at census data to get the dirt on bike lanes.

Steve Russell/Torstar News Service

A new study from the University of British Columbia looked at census data to get the dirt on bike lanes.

Cities across North America are trying to get people to choose transit, walking and cycling over driving.

It may seem like an uphill battle, with only 1 per cent of Canadians commuting by bike, according to a 2012 study.

But there is potential: some parts of the country see over 20 per cent of the census tracts commute by bike. That’s a lot fewer cars on the street.

Based on census data, Kay Teschke and Michael Brauer of the University of British Columbia together with Anna Chinn (University of Colorado) recently published a study in the Journal of Transport and Land Use about what it takes to get someone in the bike saddle in Vancouver and Montreal.

Here’s what they learned:

Location matters

Bike lanes make a big difference, especially when they’re in the neighbourhood.

For every kilometre closer someone lives to a bike lane, they were four times more likely to commute.

Not all lanes are equal

The study looked at four different types of bike lanes. The type most likely to attract riders were cycle tracks, a.k.a. separated bike lanes, which makes sense since route safety is the top deterrent for would-be cyclists.

Networking

While separated lanes make the biggest difference, the study says “networks formed may have been more important than specific bike way characteristics.”

That is, people still prefer a bike-friendly way to access the separated lane.

Appeal to women

The study showed that separated bike lanes and a cycling network are particularly important to women. Areas that lacked these features had fewer cyclists and a two-to-one ratio of men to women. With proper infrastructure, there was close to gender parity.

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