Lessons from Vancouver

In 2012 Vancouver set some ambitious targets for sustainable transportation. Their Transportation 2040 Plan aims to have 2/3 of all trips completed by bike, on foot, or on public transit by the year 2040. These sustainable transport modes help the city keep pace with its goal to become the greenest city in the world. Vancouver was hoping to hit a 50% sustainable mode share by 2020, and as has already hit that target as of 2015 (as has Faraday’s home city of San Francisco).

As most cities continue to sit in more and more traffic, it’s quite the feat for a large North American city to be hitting these kind of numbers. A recent survey also put 10% of Vancouverites heading to work on bike. To put this in perspective, the largest 50 cities in the US have an average commute-by-bike rate of 1%, and the best performing US city, Portland, has 6% of its workers biking to the office.

The short documentary above helps tell the story of how they got there. Vancouver took a stand in the ’60s and rejected freeways coming into the downtown area. They also used international events such as the World Expo in 1986 and the 2010 Winter Olympics to double down on public infrastructure and to serve as a model for how to move around a large city without at car. Of course this was all paired with smart city planning such as building protected bike lines to encourage biking at all skill levels and creating more smart land-use projects so that bike lanes intersected with parks and other public spaces, for example.

The Vancouver story is an impressive one not just because of the city’s current mode share mix, but additionally they’ve shown how quickly a city can invest in transforming its transportation system. We’ll look forward to watching what Vancouver can continue to achieve, and hopefully other cities and citizens can keep an eye on lessons learned for implementation elsewhere.


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