Review #1: Hornby Bike Lane


Location Northbound on Hornby Bike Lane, Vancouver
♫ Train Robbin’ Scoundrels by Train Robbin’ Scoundrels

This is the first installment of a new series of reviews of cycling facilities close to home and anywhere I can hop on a bike. My goal is to describe the user’s experience of these facilities, and hopefully suggest some helpful adjustments to make them better.

Let’s roll.

Overview

Map of Vancouver's downtown bike lanes

Source: City of Vancouver web site. November 28, 2011.

The Hornby Bike Lane is a bi-directional separated cycling lane that, as you may have guessed from its name, runs mainly on Hornby Street in downtown Vancouver.

The lane has been around in its separated form since Christmas, 2010 – almost a year now. It was politically controversial when it was installed by the Vision administration, but the furor has largely died down and the lane didn’t seem to hurt Vision’s fortunes as they swept into a second term in office earlier this month.

The lane connects three existing major cycling facilities:

  1. Burrard Bridge, which gives access to downtown from the south.
  2. The Dunsmuir Bike Lane, which gives access to downtown from the east.
  3. The Seawall, which borders False Creek and the downtown peninsula.

As a result, it is a key part of the city’s cycling network. (More on this aspect in a later post.)

The lane is officially in a trial period, meaning that adjustments may be made to it. The City is testing a variety of separators (planters, curbs, etc.), intersection controls, and other features.

The Good

Arguably the biggest obstacle to cycling in a city is dealing with the cars on the road. Many people just don’t feel safe cycling around cars. The beauty of the separated bike lane is that the cars are behind a barrier, where they can’t sideswipe you while changing lanes or open their doors in front of you.

Being a separated lane, Hornby has this wonderful quality: you don’t have to be on constant alert, so the ride becomes more enjoyable. Besides the aforementioned physical barrier between bikes and cars, intersections are controlled so that riders are not squeezed between a car and the curb, and drivers have time to make their turns, so they’re not rushing around the corner.

The lane makes it easy to get into downtown from the south and east. It provides good access to Waterfront Station, the Convention Centre, the Art Gallery, Robson Square, and the seawall. It completes an important link in the cycling network, which makes it so that cyclists coming off the Burrard Bridge Lane and the Dunsmuir Lane can get that much closer to their destinations in a separated lane.

The Bad

Vancouver has few on-street separated bike lanes, and of the bunch Hornby has the most loading zones, complex intersections, and garage entrances. As a result, it can be a bit tricky to navigate.

At the southern end, access to the Burrard Bridge Lane can be hard to spot. At the northern end, the timing to cross Burrard Street is not always intuitive. In between, busy intersections can be confusing to navigate. The good news is that there are some simple changes that can make the lane more user-friendly and inviting to new and experienced cyclists. I’ll tackle these individually in future posts.

Conclusions

The Hornby Bike Lane represents a big step in the growth and development of Vancouver’s cycling network. It’s an open invitation for people from around the city to come downtown on two wheels, and it’s a signal that cycling is an important part of the City’s transportation plan.

It is not flawless, but the good far outweighs the bad, and the bad can be fixed.

So grab your favourite bike, pump up the tires, and go try it out.

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