Cycling in Vancouver: A portrait of bicycle ridership and safety in Vancouver 2010 – 2020

Author(s): Freixo

Slidedeck Presentation:

CARSP 2022_Eco-Counter Presentation_v1.0_20220617



Urban planners around the world are facing a similar challenge: how and where to build adequate, safe and well used bike infrastructure. In Vancouver, Canada, cycling has significantly grown over the past decades due, in part, to the city’s ongoing development of its cycling network through ambitious policies and actions such as the Transportation 2040 Plan. The plan aims to make cycling safe, convenient, comfortable, and fun for people of all ages and abilities and work towards zero traffic-related fatalities. The City of Vancouver’s cycling network grew by 28% between 2010 and 2020, and now covers roughly 328km of bikeway, of which 22% are considered All Ages and Abilities (AAA).


This study - a collaboration between Eco-Counter and The Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (CAPE) – sought to quantify the recent growth of cycling in Vancouver and how cycling safety has evolved over time.


Data from Vancouver’s network of automated bicycle counters was combined with anonymized bicycle route data (GPS traces) to estimate annual average daily bicycle traffic (AADT) on all roads, multi-use trails and intersections throughout the city. A network screening approach was conducted by layering this bicycle activity data with publicly available bicycle-vehicle crash data to estimate intersection safety.


Overall, bicycle activity in Vancouver has grown significantly as the cycling network has expanded. At three downtown locations, cycling has increased by 30% to 40% when comparing 2010-2012 to 2018-2020. These statistics represent high cycling growth for a North American city. Cycling growth in the past ten years has been more pronounced during the spring months and in November. Similarly, winter cycling (December and January) growth has outstripped peak season growth. Five years ago, winter cycling represented 21% of summer traffic on the Burrard Bridge; last winter, that figure increased to 30%. Taken together, Vancouver cyclists are riding for more months of the year than they were a decade ago.

Turning to safety, between 1996 and 2012 the number of reported collisions involving people on bikes in Vancouver remained relatively consistent. However, once adjusted for the growth in cycling, the annual cycling collision rate decreased by approximately 59% during this time.
Between 2015 and 2018, the number of reported bicycle crashes in Vancouver remained relatively stable by year. However, reported collisions reduced significantly in 2019 and 2020 - by 15% and 43%, respectively - when compared to the previous four years.


An expanded protected bicycle network and dramatically reduced vehicle exposure in 2020 due to the pandemic are likely factors contributing to the reduction. Today, the most active bicycle corridors in Vancouver - those with more than 3000 bike passes per day - closely follow the AAA bike network, confirming the assumption that people who bike prefer protection from vehicle traffic or roads with very low vehicle flow.


This presentation will provide a high-level overview of the Eco-Counter-CAPE Vancouver bicycle volume and safety study. Through this presentation, audience members will learn quick-win, replicable, data-driven strategies bike planners can deploy to answer their most pressing planning needs.