Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Treat walking and cycling the same way to create a safer, healthier community. Lessons from Sweden.

In BC, we tend to think of people riding bicycles in the same terms as people driving cars when it comes to the provisioning of transportation infrastructure, and the rules of the roads. In Sweden, they tend to think of people riding bicycles in the same terms as people walking. This mindset creates a very different experience for people riding a bike, and as a result, encourages more people to ride bikes for short trips around town.

In Sweden, people cycling and people walking are treated the same. Select image to enlarge.

In the dozen or so municipalities I visited in Sweden, ranging in size from White Rock to Abbotsford, I was surprised to see such a larger number and diversity of people riding bikes. I was especially surprised to see a larger number of seniors riding bicycles around town. There were also little kids riding bikes without parental supervision. Every demographic was represented riding bikes in Sweden.

This makes sense because the cycling infrastructure in Sweden is designed the same way as pedestrian infrastructure. While 203rd Street has some challenges with curb letdowns, it is close to what a typical major corridor looks like in Sweden. People ride bikes and walk across intersections the same way in Sweden. At roundabouts, people driving yield for people cycling and walking.

If 203rd Street was in Sweden, it would use the following sign at all crosswalks:

A pedestrian and cycling crosswalk in North Vancouver. Select image to enlarge.

Because residential side streets are 30km/h in Sweden, there is nothing special needed to make cycling safe on these streets.

One thing that I didn’t see was unprotected shoulder bike lanes in Sweden. This is the default design in BC because we tend to think of cycling like driving. Unfortunately, this kind of cycling infrastructure only attracts the spandex-wearing crowd. It makes cycling an unappealing option for most people.

203rd Street and the recently completed path on Duncan Way in Langley City is the kind of cycling infrastructure that is the default in Sweden for cities of all sizes. Because of this, cycling is an option that people of all abilities and ages take advantage of.

A shared-use path across a bridge in Sweden. A line in the path separates people walking and cycling. Select image to enlarge.

I’m happy that in Langley City, we are focusing on creating cycling infrastructure that is more in line with Sweden because what I saw in that country confirms that we are on the right path here.

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