As populations worldwide choose the bicycle as a preferred means of exercise and transport during the Covid-19 pandemic, Canada’s City of Vancouver has responded by creating more space for people cycling along one of the city’s most popular seaside roads.
Last summer, a new two-way protected bike lane along Beach Avenue quickly became the busiest cycling route in Vancouver, regularly exceeding 10,000 cycling trips per day. The record number of trips on a single day was recorded on one day last July when 12,700 trips were made along the 2km stretch.
The catalyst for the new bike path was overcrowding on the adjacent Vancouver Seawall, which has both cycling and walking paths. With more and more people using the Seawall for exercise during the pandemic it became increasingly difficult for them to respect social distancing restrictions.
“The seawall path was closed to people biking to encourage and make more space for those walking, and provide room for physical distancing. This led to building the temporary Beach Avenue bike path,” explains Dale Bracewell, Manager of Transportation Planning.
Following the huge success and popularity of the Beach Avenue bike path, interim upgrades have already been made. These include the creation of a cement barrier between the path and road – previously separated by cones -, and the improvement of pedestrian crossings at key locations.
Input from HUB Cycling
The Beach Avenue initiative is just one example of the city’s response to its inhabitants’ needs during the Covid-19 pandemic and the result of collaboration and discussions with HUB Cycling, a not-for-profit organisation that has spent over 20 years removing barriers to cycling in Metro Vancouver.
The reallocation of road space on Beach Avenue was at the top of HUB Cycling’s list of requests to the City of Vancouver back in March 2020 and was the first on the list to be implemented.
“Beach has been a fantastic success,” confirms Jeff Leigh, Vice President of HUB Cycling and Chairman of its Regional Advisory Committee and Vancouver UBC Local Committee. “It includes vehicle diversions, and the City was brave enough to do that. It was implemented very quickly, and after a few months we started planning on how to encourage the city to make it permanent.”
A summer celebration event held on the Avenue – while respecting physical distancing - saw HUB Cycling gather support from more than 1000 people - from all areas of the city – in their bid to ensure the facility would stay.
Vancouver, one of 14 UCI Bike Cities and Regions
Covering 115km2, and with a population of more than 630,000 (as of the last census in 2016) Vancouver, which was awarded the UCI Bike City label in 2018, boasts cycling as its fastest growing mode of transport: up from 4% in 2013 to 8.8% in 2019. Beach Avenue joins 326km of bike routes in the city, of which 88km are labelled AAA (All Ages and Abilities) routes thanks to their “no stress”, protected nature.
Beach Avenue is part of Vancouver’s Room to Move initiative, helping residents physically distance, get exercise and access destinations by repurposing parking space and some travel lanes to create more space. As part of this initiative the City of Vancouver has also set up 40 kilometres of Slow Streets: residential streets limited to local traffic only, in turn creating space for people walking and biking.
Photo: © City of Vancouver