News / Vancouver

Vancouver 46th on list of the world's most bike-friendly cities

All political jostling, commuter conflict and Lycra jokes aside, Vancouver is still far from being one of the most bike-friendly cities in the world.

According to the recently released Copenhagenize Design Company’s 2015 index of the most bike-friendly cities in the world, Vancouver ranks 46th.

Using a rating system based on cycling advocacy, infrastructure, facilities, safety, social acceptance, gender split and modal percentage, the urban planning and consulting firm ranked 122 cities around the globe with populations of more than 600,000.

Copenhagnize only publishes their Top 20, but told Metro via email where Vancouver ended up on the index.

The Top 20 is led by Copenhagen, where 45 per cent of people commute by bike thanks to the Danish city’s “unrivalled” urban design for bicycles.

The rest of the list is largely dominated by other European cities.

Buenos Aires (14), Minneapolis (18) and Montreal (20) – applauded for embracing protected bike lanes since the 80s, its bike-share system and a strong gender split – are the only cities outside that continent to feature on this year’s list.

While Vancouver has made significant – but hotly debated – gains in cycling infrastructure in recent years, HUB Cycling executive director Erin O’Melinn thinks Vancouver’s ranking is a fair one.

“Clearly, there are other cities that have had huge head starts,” said O’Melinn. “It’s too bad the issue gets polarized [in Vancouver] when its really about moving people around in a much more efficient way. Our landmass is not getting any bigger, but our population is. Something needs to adapt.”

HUB Cycling is advocating, first and foremost, for increased cycling education.

O’Melinn believes cycling safety should be taught to children in schools, and that adults should have access to the same resources at community centres.

“People don’t change their habits just because bike lanes are built into the environment,” she said, stressing the need for cycling culture to permeate into the mainstream.

In the meantime, there has been progress.

O’Melinn said participation in this year’s Bike to Work Week increased by 45 per cent, and a recent Vancouver Coastal Health survey says 25 per cent of Vancouverites now commute via “active transportation” methods (cycling or walking).

But progress has stalled significantly because improving cycling infrastructure, at the expense of drivers, remains politically contentious.

And then there is the city’s failed attempt to get its own $6-million bike share program off the ground.

Speaking at a Metro Talks panel last month, Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson expressed his dismay that the program, originally slated to open in 2013, has yet to materialize.

“It’s been frustrating that it’s taken this long,” Robertson said. “I’ve been committed to getting a public bike share system since I became mayor.”

However, he said the delay may be beneficial in the sense that new technology has eliminated the need for “big and expensive clunky” docking stations, as originally planned.

“We’re looking at a modest investment to get it off the ground,” he said. “Hopefully it can generate revenue and grow on its own stream.”

The city isn’t immediately looking to add to its collection of separated bike lanes, but the possibility of one along Commercial Drive remains on the table as the Grandview-Woodlands community planning process continues.

More on