A recent letter to the editor titled “City’s new bike corridors not making cycling safer” attempts to make a case that the current design of Victoria’s bike network is not conducive to safe cycling. As a transportation planner and cyclist, I disagree with the author on three key points.
First, research in North America consistently shows that all ages and abilities (AAA) facilities such as protected bike lanes are what actually make people feel more safe when riding their bikes. Though driver awareness and care for cyclists certainly helps, it’s protected bike lanes that enhance cyclist safety by reducing fatalities and severe injuries. They’ve contributed to an increase in cycling in Victoria and other cities have seen similar results as documented in a 2019 study titled “Why cities with high bicycling rates are safer for all road users.”
Secondly, the author fails to understand the design of the Vancouver Street bike corridor. It has been designed to include traffic diverters and other measures to make it safer for cyclists, not to accommodate cars. As part of the project, the city has made traffic signal improvements and other road upgrades to surrounding streets to make it more efficient for motor vehicles, who may have previously used Vancouver Street.
Thirdly, new bike facilities always have a learning curve. There are many challenges associated with their design, largely due to the need to accommodate other mobility forms. People riding bikes in these facilities adapt over time and learn how to use them. This makes it safer for the person riding the bike and for the motorist who now has more separation from them.
The author of the letter posed the question: “what is the problem we are trying to solve?” The problem we are trying to solve is a transportation system that has and continues to be largely unsafe for most people who want to ride bikes. Building AAA bike facilities such as the Vancouver Street corridor is what we need to solve this problem. That’s exactly what the City of Victoria will achieve by continuing to expand its AAA cycling network.