Sort of a twinned tweet thing, as two views of the world of active transportation bounce around in my ever-dimming mind. Be aware, the first item is a big rigorous scientific study — so there’s little material there for cheap shots. For that, you need to look at the second item.
First, the results of a major study on transportation mode and its effect on population health. The results around bike riding are startling in their magnitude. And cast a brighter light on Bike to Work Week, a Vancouver institution, and just what it means. Plus a response from Kay Teschke, prominent UBC professor in the field of population health.
Second, a noisy attempt to reverse, delete, remove and expunge Vancouver’s bike lanes (Burrard Bridge especially), since according to the proponent, usage is low and, you know, cars cars cars.
Here We Go
FIRST: a summary of the study, written by the principals, in reader-friendly prose. The British Medical Journal long-form article is HERE.
To get a better understanding of what the UK could be missing, we looked at 263,450 people with an average age of 53 who were either in paid employment or self-employed, and didn’t always work at home. . . .
We followed people for around five years, counting the incidences of heart disease, cancers and death. Importantly, we adjusted for other health influences including sex, age, deprivation, ethnicity, smoking, body mass index, other types of physical activity, time spent sitting down and diet. Any potential differences in risk associated with road accidents is also accounted for in our analysis, while we excluded participants who had heart disease or cancer already.
We found that cycling to work was associated with a 41% lower risk of dying overall compared to commuting by car or public transport. Cycle commuters had a 52% lower risk of dying from heart disease and a 40% lower risk of dying from cancer. They also had 46% lower risk of developing heart disease and a 45% lower risk of developing cancer at all. . . . . [Emphasis by Ed.]
Some countries are well ahead of the UK in encouraging cyclists. In Copenhagen and Amsterdam, for instance, people cycle because it is the easiest way to get around town.
It was not always this way – both cities pursued clear strategies to improve cycle infrastructure first. Ways to achieve this include increasing provision for cycle lanes, city bike hire schemes, subsidised bike purchase schemes, secure cycle parking and more facilities for bicycles on public transport.
For the UK and other countries that have lagged behind, the new findings suggest there is a clear opportunity. If decision makers are bold enough to rise to the challenge, the long-term benefits are potentially transformative.
SECOND: a petition, with accompanying social media chatter, urging the City of Vancouver to tear out the bike lanes on Burrard and Pacific Avenue because they don’t get much use. Figures say otherwise, of course, with the bike counters tallying 157,000 Burrard crossings by bike in June, 2017, and a total of 1,285,000 in 2016.
Bike lanes, asserts the petition’s organizer, are an arbitrary attempt to “… force citizens to give up their cars . . ” . And no referendum either, or consent by the majority of citizens — although I dimly recollect the 2011 civic election, with bike lanes as a prominent issue, and 2014, when bike lanes were visible, if not so prominent. And the results were pretty clear, it seems to me.
But apparently this petition is raised in the name of democracy, and protecting freedom-loving motorists from vile predations ” . . reminiscent of public decisions made in underdeveloped Third World countries and dictatorships.”
No mention, by the way, of any benefits of bike riding — health or otherwise.
Best of luck with the petition, I say. I won’t be signing it.