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Vancouverites choose bikes over cars

Vehicle use drops in city

More people than ever before are taking transit, walking and riding bikes to get around Vancouver instead of relying on a vehicle for transportation, according to a new report that went before city council Tuesday.

The shift means for the first time in the city’s history that an equal number of people – 50 per cent -- are choosing transportation alternatives other than the vehicle, with its use dropping from 60 per cent in 2008 to 50 per cent in 2014.

“To see this dramatic of shift is phenomenal,” said Mayor Gregor Robertson after listening to a presentation from members of the city’s transportation staff, who pointed out the city achieved its goal five years earlier than projected. “It speaks to how people are making those choices in their lives — that people are embracing the goal to be the greenest city but also to get around in healthier ways without being in cars.”

An increase in people riding bikes is largely the reason for the shift, with staff presenting an accompanying report that revealed cycling trips are up 11 per cent from 2013 to 2014, while injuries to cyclists have dropped.

The highest bike traffic was on the Burrard Bridge, followed by the path that runs past Science World and Union and Hawks streets, which is part of the Union-Adanac bike route. An average of 100,000 bike trips per day were made across the city in 2014, up from 50,000 in 2008.

Both reports point to upgrades to cycling routes, including protected lanes downtown and new infrastructure along bikeways in Kitsilano, as reasons for the increase. Transit-oriented development, where condominiums are built next to transit lines, and building a city where more people can walk to work are other factors.

But the worry for transportation staff members Jerry Dobrovolny, the acting general manager of engineering services, and Lon LaClaire, the acting director of transportation, is that transit ridership has levelled off because of no significant increases to bus service or new transit lines.

“Now that the system is largely at capacity, we don’t really anticipate any growth in the transit system until we’re able to expand the service,” LaClaire told council.

The comment caught the attention of the mayor, who has campaigned for a Yes vote in the transportation and transit tax plebiscite. He and the region’s mayors want voters to agree to a 0.5 per cent tax hike to help pay for a $7.5 billion plan to ease congestion in Metro Vancouver.

The plan calls for more buses, an increase to HandyDart and SeaBus service, rapid transit in Surrey and a subway along the Broadway corridor. In similar presentations, staff has pointed to the significant uptake in transit ridership when the Canada Line began operating in 2009.

“If the referendum passes, we have the possibility of adding all this transit service, it seems logical that we’ll see a spike,” the mayor said.

The city’s statistics for the reports were based on studies, a survey of 2,500 Vancouverites, street counters and data from TransLink, ICBC and AirCare.