Vancouver's separated bike lane network has received no shortage of criticism in the three years since its introduction, but a new poll has found nearly two-thirds of Metro Vancouver residents support the initiative.
The poll by Insights West released on Tuesday indicates that 61 per cent of Metro Vancouver residents support separated bike lanes while only 33 per cent oppose them. In the city of Vancouver proper, 64 per cent of respondents supported the network.
Three-quarters of people surveyed agreed the bike lanes provided "more opportunities for people to be physically active" and make the roads safer for both cyclists and motorists. About half (52 per cent) felt the initiative had reduced pollution. Seventy per cent of those polled said they would also support a bike-share program that is in the works and expected to be up and running in Vancouver by next summer.
The lanes, which are dedicated for cyclists and typically separated from the road by concrete medians or large planters, are intended to create a safer cycling environment, particularly for those who are not comfortable riding among vehicular traffic. They have become a hot issue, with critics insisting they cause congestion on busy roads and take up much-needed space for parking. Some, including business owners along bike lane routes and NPA city councillor George Affleck, say the city is moving too quickly on expansion plans without adequate community consultation.
Despite a majority of support for bike lanes in general, many respondents agreed with these concerns. More than two-thirds of respondents (70 per cent) said the bike lanes "have made parking more difficult," for example, and more than half (55 per cent) said they "have hurt local businesses."
Earlier this year, the majority of members of the Kitsilano Chamber of Commerce expressed concerns about a bike lane proposal for the Point Grey Road-Cornwall Avenue corridor, saying it could increase congestion and reduce the number of parking spots along the popular West 4th Avenue.
Forty per cent of respondents believed the lanes are a good use of taxpayers' money; 47 per cent did not.
The online poll surveyed 596 Metro Vancouver residents aged 18 and up between June 22 and 25. The data have been statistically weighted to census figures and assume a margin of error of plus or minus 4.01 per cent, 19 times out of 20.
Councillor Heather Deal called the poll "good news" and said it confirms that people do feel safer now when cycling. She pointed to a recent City of Vancouver report that showed the number of female cyclists on Hornby Street climbed from 28 per cent in 2010 to 32 per cent after the separated bike lane opened, and then to 37 per cent in 2012.
"A higher proportion of girls/women walking and cycling is seen to be an indicator of the quality and comfort of a city's infrastructure," the report stated.
And she pointed out that the downtown core actually has an excess of parking spots.
"There are impressions and there is reality," she said. "We've put up signs on the Easy Park lots – those are the ones we can control – to show people just how many spots are open."
Cycling is the fastest-growing mode of transportation in Vancouver, according to the city. From 2008 to 2011, trips by bicycle increased 40 per cent.
In April, the separated bike lane on the Burrard Street Bridge recorded about 79,000 monthly trips, according to city data. The Hornby Street bike lane recorded about 33,000; Dunsmuir Street had 38,000, and the Dunsmuir Viaduct 39,000.