Can Vancouver Copenhagenize?

Vancouver could become North America’s cycling capital, reveals the European Cyclists’ Federation (ECF).  

With over 60,000 trips everyday done by bicycle, Vancouver has seen a huge spike in cyclists and pro-cycling policies.

“If Vancouver keeps up this positive momentum towards cycling, I’m almost certain that it could be the Copenhagen or Amsterdam of North America,” says Bernhard Ensink, Secretary General of ECF, which groups together half a million cyclists across Europe.

Cycling has become the fastest growing mode of transportation in the city with bicycle trips nearly doubling in the past decade. Some neighbourhoods see over 10% of all trips made by bicycle putting it on par with many European cities.

“I really think Europeans will be impressed by Vancouver when it hosts the world’s biggest cycling policy conference at the end of the month. Velo-city is going to create a huge push in the number of cyclists,” says Ensink, “but they [Vancouver] will have to continue spending on quality infrastructure.”

At the end of June (26-29), the city will host 1000 cycling experts at the world’s biggest cycle planning conference, ‘Velo-city Global’. Traffic planners, cycling advocates, architects, educators, politicians and others from around the world will be giving advice on everything cycling related. Countries that have hosted the prestigious conference have generally seen an explosion in cyclist numbers. In the run up to Velo-city in 2009, Brussels (Belgium) managed to double cyclists. Seville (Spain), who hosted the conference in 2011, saw bicycle traffic increase ten-fold.

Mikael Colville-Andersen, a Danish-based mobility consultant and editor of the Copenhagenize blog believes that “any city can become the Copenhagen of Canada”.  Compared to Toronto and Montreal, Vancouver takes the lead. It has a higher share of women cycling (37%), and has the highest number of people commuting to work by bicycle (3.7%), with Montreal trailing behind (2.4%) and Toronto seeing 1.7% of commutes by bike (2006 figures).

To become a cycling capital, Colville-Andersen says: “All it requires is a definitive cutting of ties with 80 years of failed traffic engineering and the archaic school of thought that so many traffic engineers desperately cling on to. We need instead the very simple concept of designing cities and we need to design bicycle infrastructure and pedestrian-friendly streets and use common sense and human observation to do so.”

Copenhagen currently sees 10 times as many trips done by bicycle than Vancouver however Mayor Gregor Robertson wants to bridge this gap. He has just signed onto ECF’s Cities for Cyclists’ Network, which groups together high-profile cities such as Copenhagen, Brussels, Vienna and Munich who share best practices in cycling.

Written by ECF Communications Officer, Julian Ferguson.  j.ferguson@ecf.com

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Category: Danish Cycling Know How

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