We’re devoting a handful of posts to the roads and bridges TransLink is responsible for in the region. For the basics on TransLink’s roads and bridges, check out the Managing major roads and bridges in Metro Vancouver post from our TransLink 101 series. Check out the roads and bridges series to read the other posts.
Roads and bridges aren’t just about buses,cars, trucks and pedestrians; they’re also about bicycles! TransLink has been working towards making cycling a realistic and viable travel option by planning and funding support for bikeways and other cycling infrastructure. For this installment of our series, I spoke with cycling devotee, Helen Cook. Helen is a planning manager in our Roads Department. I sat down with Helen for a few minutes right after her commute to work on her bike.
How long have you been with TransLink?
Helen: I’ve been with TransLink since our inception in 1999. Previously, I worked for BC Transit as a transit planner.
Have you always been passionate about bikes?
Helen: Indeed, I have. I’ve been a cycle commuter since I first moved to Vancouver to go to university and continued when I started working.
Did you focus on bikes while at BC Transit?
Helen: There wasn’t much of a cycling program there per se, but I did have some responsibility for studying and doing some feasibility work for putting bike racks in front of the buses. Over time, I worked with BC Transit to retrofit and install bicycle racks on all the buses. Getting bike racks on all the buses in the region didn’t actually happen until after TransLink was formed.
How does cycling fit into your current role at TransLink?
Helen: he cycling program fits within the Roads Department because it’s largely based on roads infrastructure. TransLink is interested in promoting cycling as a viable mode of travel, and the ways that we help to promote that is through guidance to municipalities through the Regional Cycling Strategy and Implementation Plan as well as providing funding to those municipalities for cycling infrastructure as well as including cycling into our own infrastructure, which includes the transit system and the bridges that we own. We make sure that cyclists can access all of our own infrastructure. TransLink also produces the Metro Vancouver Cycling Map, and delivers education and encouragement for cycling through the TravelSmart program.
What are some cycling infrastructure of note that TransLink is directly involved in?
Helen: When I think of specific infrastructure, I think that the Canada Line Pedestrian-Bicycle Bridge has been great for cycling. There’s a dedicated crossing for both cyclists and pedestrians. It’s accessible from both Richmond and Vancouver and bike routes lead to both sides. It goes a long way to improving the comfort of crossing that part of the Fraser River.
We’re also currently undertaking an operational review of how we can improve our customer experience in terms of cycling as it pertains to our buses, SkyTrain and SeaBus and West Coast Express. Are there things that we can do to make operations safer? Are there things that we could be doing with the vehicles in relation to best practices? These are questions we’re aiming to answer.
Are there any cities or organizations that you look to for inspiration when it comes to cycling infrastructure?
Helen: Well, TransLink is a leader in North America when it comes to accommodating bicycles on transit. One of the places we look to for inspiration or ideas is in regards to bicycle parking. Cities like Portland and Chicago have introduced what are called bike cages or secure bike parking areas. These are separate rooms in a station or separate buildings near a station where cyclists can park their bikes securely on a rack using their own lock while having access to the area with their transit pass.
So these are different than the bike lockers we currently have on the system?
Helen: Yes, our lockers are a program we introduced years ago and are now considered standard equipment at the stations. However, we’d like to make bike storage even more accessible. Our lockers currently require obtaining a key, and you need to sign up for them for at least three months via a rental payment. Secure Bicycle Parking areas are designed to be accessible by many people through use of an electronic entry that can be monitored remotely, much like office access or elevator access cards.
Are there plans to have these rooms on our system?
Helen: Yes, we are preparing to install one at King George Station as a pilot project. We recently received capital funding to install that, and we have a project manager working on finalizing the design. The hope is to have this Secure Bike Parking structure, which will have permeable walls with electricity and video monitoring, finished for spring 2014. We have a lot of bike lockers at King George Station, and they’re usually full and sometimes there’s a waiting list. So, we’re hoping that this new facility, which is more efficient in terms of design of space that it takes up on the plaza, can accommodate all of our new cycling customers and some of the existing ones.
Is TransLink in touch with the City of Vancouver about their new public bike share system they plan to put in place in 2014?
Helen: Yes, TransLink conducted a public bike share feasibility study in 2008/9. After we published this study, Vancouver City Council became interested in bike sharing systems and it looks like they’re on the road to making it happen. Our feasibility study identified the City as the most likely part of the region where Bike Sharing could be successful. Since our study, the City did their own due diligence and investigation and research and have agreed that they are the right organization to implement a bike sharing system.
TransLink supports their decision to move forward with a bike sharing system. We have a Regional Cycling Strategy and a public bike sharing system is identified as a good way to encourage more cycling in the region. One of the ways it encourages more cycling is that supports spontaneous cycling travel. It also allows people to experiment with cycling and hopefully will lead them to discover that they’d like to cycle more. After a few years into implementation, other cities with a public bike sharing systems have seen noticeable upticks in the number of cyclists and bike sales.
What about the Evergreen Line and cycling?
Helen: Since early on in the process of making the line a reality, we’ve been working with the province to maximize access for bikes and we’ve identified road improvements that can be done in conjunction with construction of the line. We’ve also worked with the municipalities involved in the line to synchronize Evergreen Line construction with municipal cycling plans and pedestrian improvements as much as possible.
There are a few intersections that will see improvements for both cyclists and pedestrians as a result of the Evergreen Line. There are also a few slightly off-the-guide-way cycling routes which will also be in place once the line opens. We don’t have the same opportunities with the Evergreen Line as opposed to the Expo Line in terms of clear right of ways. However, we have identified parallel routes to the line which can be used by cyclists.
Have you noticed any major changes in how cycling is viewed over the fourteen years that you’ve been at TransLink?
Helen: Things have changed a lot. I think TransLink and many other transit agencies are far more interested in accommodating cyclists on transit systems. I see a lot encouragement of cycling to transit. The goal of our bike parking program is to encourage people to use their bicycles as part of the system. This shift towards increased incorporation of cycling into the transit system is also the result of more transit employees cycling to work.
Thanks for the interview Helen!