Vancouver will never be like Copenhagen as far as bikes are concerned for one reason. Hills. Copenhagen is FLAT, the steepest thing you will ever encounter in Copenhagen is a bridge over a canal. Most European cities that are flat also have a lot of bike riders. Paris.. flat.. Amsterdam.. flat. etc etc. This city can put all the bikes lanes it wants in and around downtown but unless you flatten the lower mainland or make major skytrain/bus improvements to enable bike riders to utilize the transit system then not many people are going to use them. Sure, you can always hop on the train with your bike but any one that has ridden the skytrain during rush hour knows you're going to have to wait a very long time to find space for your bike onboard.
Unless people are travelling a very long distance by bike in Copenhagen they will never break a sweat biking to or from work therefore don't need to shower once they arrive, unless it's pouring rain and they don't have proper gear for the ride. Every single person in my office that bikes to work has to shower once they arrive (unless they have poor personal hygiene) because they've perspired so much from their ride to work. Most of the bikes in Copenhagen are clunky old fixed gear bikes that would never make it out of downtown. So basically, you have to leave your home earlier to bike to work and then once there take a shower. Which for most people would add at least an hour to their commute.
I would love to see that women with the 4 kids infront of her bike or those delivery men get those across any of the bridges leading to/from Downtown Vancouver. I've never seen a train car for bikes only at Copenhagen Central station. There are train cars with a little extra space for bikes but nothing solely dedicated to Bikes and Strollers.
I've organized 14 electric bike shows since 2003 and seen the rise and fall of "cycling culture". There is no doubt that the gasoline vehicle has been the "winner" in commuters' minds. For bicycles to become a primary mode of transportation in Vancouver, here are the barriers that riders (especially middle-aged+) have to overcome, and yes, there are solutions, but not the way that bicycles come off-the-rack:
1) Bicycles get flat tires too often.
2) Saddles are uncomfortable for long trips and can cause bodily dysfunction.
3) Lack of long-travel suspension causes jarring, and "brain fog".
4) Long handlebars can cause "liver-shredding" on a fall. This is a permanent injury.
5) Approximately 1/4 of all bikes are stolen yearly. Some 20% of owners of stolen bikes do not buy a replacement bicycle.
6) Living in "rain-couver"? Riding in gritty wet roads shortens brake pad life to as little as 4 days, from my actual experience.
7) Drive-chains that are open to the elements wear out in 1,000 to 1,500 miles. (The Dutch cover their bicycle chains.)
8) Bicycle riders feel that bicycle riding is very dangerous, from cars. (One solution is to pull the side-mounted Gary Callahan trailer, which seems to cause motorists to give cyclists lots of room.)
9) Statistically, 70% of bicycle injuries come from lower-face impact (a "face plant') which are not protected by ordinary bike helmets. Even the "full face" bike helmets have chin guards that simply break --- this caused a jaw to fracture, to one woman cyclist.
1) Bicycles get flat tires too often.
Electric bikes go a long way in helping on the hills
Electric bikes can go 50 km on a charge
Good infrastructures smooths out the bumps
Tires like the Schwalbe Marathon tire are puncture resistant
Rain and brakes:
Disk brakes really help with the rain
Here's the talk by Andreas Røhl, the Bicycle Program Manager at the City of Copenhagen.
Sticks, Carrots and Tambourines: Actively Learning from Copenhagen's Transport Successes, Part I
SFU's City Program also hosted Mikael Colville-Andersen (of the Copenhagenize blog), and the video should be posted soon. I highly recommend watching both talks if you want to learn some lessons from Copenhagen.
There are a few points missing or misleading in this article. One - both Røhl and Mikael Colville-Andersen are very quick to point out that Copenhagen doesn't have a "cycling culture" - no more than it has a vacuuming culture. Most Danes don't self-identify as "cyclists". Cycling is the most common form of transportation because it is the most convenient.
Cycling is conveient because the government has made it a priority - with a large network of cycle tracks. Vancouver is moving too slow in its implementation of seperated bike lanes.
The mandatory helmet law is a distraction and discouragement for cycling. Helmets don't prevent accidents, good infrastructure does.
It is my understanding that it is completely illegal for a person driving a car to hit anyone on a bike. If you do, you are at fault. No questions asked. Bicyclists have the right of way.
Look at the pictures of Copenhagen. How many looming unecological concrete-and-glass towers do you see there?When Copenhagen city planning doyen Jan Gehl visited Vancouver, planners and councillors genuflected in awe. Gehl says you don't want to go higher than seven stories, you want to respect fundamental human scale. Lots of photo ops, but no listening.Our local rulers turned right around and went on selling out non-downtown residential Vancouver to the drive-to vertical gated communities that destroy street life. Because that's where speculators and profiteers find their best margins – in views, the higher up the better.Sadhu Johnston, as a senior official at the City of Vancouver you are responsible for this state of affairs. Bicycles are a cute and meaningless diversion from the real agenda.
Electric bikes can help get older Vancouverites and working professionals cycling daily. They are great for commuting because people can arrive at work sweat-free, without even needing to bring a change of clothes. The ride can even sometimes take less time than driving, since cycling can allow you to avoid early morning traffic. Electric bicycles, as tyride mentioned, also makes riding up the hilly areas of our city (like down at SW Marine Drive, where I live) easy. I know people who have back and hip problems who have been able to take up cycling again with the help of the electric assist, and e-bikes have helped less fit individuals get back into cycling. Cycling takes a lot of effort and energy, so anything that can make it more convenient and accessible will help get more people cycling.
The biggest barrier to electric bikes is the cost, but if people think of them as car replacements, rather than simply an expensive bike, then the prospect of owning one suddenly becomes much more reasonable.
Winner of the Canadian Online Publishing Awards for Best Online-Only Articles
National news feed from The Canadian Press