The Bike Score

UBC Cycling in Cities

Today, researchers from UBC and SFU, in collaboration with Seattle-based WalkScore, released BikeScore for 10 Canadian and 10 US cities.

BikeScore shows a “heat map” of bikeability in each city, based on the presence and type of bike lanes, hills, amenities and lane connectivity, and bike commute mode share.

The results show that Victoria, Vancouver, and Montreal are Canada’s most bikeable cities.

BikeScore is a fantastic addition to the duo of WalkScore and TransitScore. With these three arrows in their quivers, home seekers can easily gauge how easy it will be to get to work and play from a particular location; policy makers can work towards creating more livable cities; and businesses can locate themselves in more accessible areas.

On its own, BikeScore is a powerful tool for evaluating cycling infrastructure. By looking at the relationship between bikeability and actual ridership volumes, we can see what works and what doesn’t. The researchers tell us that “the graph [below] shows that in cities with higher average Bike Scores, more people cycle to work. In fact, the correlation between average Bike Score and commute to work cycling rates is high: 0.74. Of the 10 Canadian cities, the highest scores were for Victoria, Vancouver, Montreal, and Saskatoon, and these four also have the highest cycling rates (from 2.4 to 5.6% of work trips).” [Editor’s note: those are ridership figures from 2006; they’ve gone up since then.]

Average Bike Scores of 10 Canadian Cities vs. % of Commute Trips by Bike.

I hope that as BikeScore matures, it becomes even more powerful and educative. I propose a few ideas for future studies.

Bike Lanes

In order to simplify comparisons between cities, bike lanes were divided into two types: on-street and off-street. Off-street lanes are considered twice as valuable as on-street lanes.

It’s not clear whether separated lanes like Hornby are considered on-street or off-street, but in a poster presentation on bikeability from 2011 that preceded BikeScore, Hornby, Dunsmuir, and Burrard were not considered to be “separated”.

It would be interesting to note the different effects on bikeability of separated on-street and off-street lanes.

Pay Attention to Female Ridership

(That sounds familiar…)
BikeScore uses bike commuting mode share as a component of the bikeability score, making a bit of a circular calculation: the higher the bike mode share, the higher the bike score; the higher the bike score, the higher the bike mode share (in theory, at least).

The ideas are sound: “infrastructure is important, but it’s not the whole story”; and “biking is social”. However, maybe we can break the circular calculation somewhat and still arrive at a useful way of evaluating bikeability.

How can female bike ridership be used in calculating bikeability? What about child bike ridership? Seniors?

Learning From Others

It’s a great start to have BikeScores for 20 cities in North America &emdash; this gives us all some good ideas of what works and what doesn’t. But, as we all know, the world’s most bikeable cities are not in North America but in Europe. Cities like Amsterdam and Copenhagen also have a wide range of infrastructure that could be evaluated, especially with a strong tool like BikeScore, which calculates the bikeability differences within a city.

What could we learn from bikeability heat maps of the world’s most bikeable cities?

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