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There's a good reason bike-friendly Vancouver ranks behind Saskatoon -- hills!

(Photo credit: Dustin Godfrey for NEWS 1130)
Summary

Study finds good bike lanes encourage more people to pedal to work, but many people don't do hills

Vancouver's Bike Score third in Canada, despite the city's focus on bike lanes and other cycling-friendly infrastructure

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Easy weather, plenty of dedicated routes, and a fairly fit population… you’d think Vancouver would be the most bike-friendly city in the country.

But there’s a good reason we rank below Montreal and Saskatoon.

Research out of Simon Fraser University has found good bike lanes do indeed encourage more people to pedal to work and school, however a lot of folks just don’t do hills.

The study looked at Bike Scores for 24 cities in North America — their “bike-ability” based on factors like dedicated lanes, destinations, route connectivity and topography — and lead researcher Meghan Winters says they found a significant jump in the number of cyclists commuting when a city invests in bike infrastructure.

“We found across all these cities that there was a link between Bike Score and cycling. It’s scaled from 0 to 100. And for every 10 points in Bike Score, there was a 0.5 per cent increase in the number of people who were choosing to cycle to work,” says the SFU Health Sciences assistant professor.

While that number seems small, Winters says cycling typically accounts for one to two per cent of the trips in most cities (it is four per cent in Vancouver) and a half-point increase represents a substantial change.

Even so, at 78/100, Vancouver’s Bike Score is still only third in the country, despite the city’s focus on bike lanes and other cycling-friendly infrastructure.

Montreal is tops at 78.8, followed by flat Saskatoon at 78.7.

Winters suggests Vancouver will need to build even more bike lanes to overcome it’s lower score for its landscape.

“We can’t change topography, obviously. But certainly municipalities are deciding where and what kind of infrastructure to put down,” she tells NEWS 1130.

“Vancouver did score well, relative to other cities. A lot of our neighbourhoods have a lot of support for cycling. But it did also indicate there are areas in the city where there is not as much supportive infrastructure or were more challenged in terms of land-use and hills.”