Burnaby Builds for Bikes as Developers Embrace Infrastructure Opportunities

mvconnectHover2Cycling has become more popular these days, especially with growing concern about climate change and the negative effects of having so many cars on the road. Metro Vancouver manages air quality in the region and one viable strategy for cleaner air is the development of infrastructure that makes cycling a viable choice for as many people as possible. At a local cycling conference, attendees learned how designing for timid cyclists brings benefits to commuter riders as well. The city of Burnaby has become a leader in this regard, and is the first city in Metro Vancouver to develop a standard that developers must adhere to when putting up buildings in Burnaby’s town centres. But rather than a burden, it’s being seen as great way to attract buyers.

Traffic. It’s bad, and it’s getting worse. Bumper to bumper congestion releases harmful greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, adding fuel to the argument that getting people out of their cars can be of significant benefit to our environment.

The recent Veloworks cycling conference held in North Vancouver highlighted the city of Burnaby’s efforts to encourage active transportation. It is the first municipality in Metro Vancouver to require developers to install infrastructure for cyclists and pedestrians, as well as rainwater management, for projects being built in Burnaby’s 4 town centres.

“Burnaby is the first place to have actually adopted a set of standards that incorporates all of these different functions within a street,” says Ian Wasson, an Urban Design Planner with the City of Burnaby. “All of these frontages are redeveloped by developers and so it’s an affordable option for the community.”

A key motivator for the new standards is safety. UBC Professor Kay Teschke, who also spoke at the conference, learned through her research that bike lanes separated from traffic and pedestrians would encourage more people to get on their bikes.

“What our research shows is that if you build for the people who are most reluctant you are also successfully building for the commuter cyclist.”

In Burnaby, the new frontages require a curbside lane to allow people to get out of their cars safely, followed by a very wide bicycle track, then a rain garden so the street deals with its own storm water, and finally a generously-sized pedestrian sidewalk and some seating.

“The biggest surprise for us was learning that developers are coming to us and saying, ‘Hey, can we do this in front of our building’,” remarks Wasson. “(They will say) I know I only finished it five years ago but I would love to see this in front of my building.”

It’s hoped these new, safer street plans will be in place soon, at all four of Burnaby’s town centres.

To learn more about the UBC cycling safety research please visit the Cycling in Cities website.

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