Knowledge CentreTechnical Resources SearchConference PapersVancouver’s Bicycle Lanes: Retrofitting Arterial Streets to Accommodate Cyclists

Vancouver’s Bicycle Lanes: Retrofitting Arterial Streets to Accommodate Cyclists


The city of Vancouver has been developing facilities for cyclistssince the mid 1980s. However, the development of a more comprehensive bicycle network began in the earnest in the mid 1990s when cycling was reaffirmed as one of the City’s priority transportation modes. Since that time, the network has grown to incorporate almost 400 lane-kilometres of designated bicycle facilities of varying types, including off-street pathways, local street bikeways and arterial bikelanes. Although the majority of the City’s facilities are “local street bikeways” on minor streets, a network of bicycle lanes on arterial streets has also emerged over the past decade. As with most transportation challenges, the provision of bicycle lanes in a highly developed urban environment cannot be achieved with a “one-size-fits-all” solution. The constraint posed by Vancouver’s relatively narrow street rights-of-way has required creativity to retrofit bicycle lanes where road capacity, parking demands and pedestrian space are often at a premium. Transit operations and goods movement are also important design considerations that are potentially affected by the implemation of bicycle lanes. A range of options needs to be considered that recognizes physical and operational constraints, and potential impacts on other modes. Design options that have been used in Vancouver to incorporate bike lanes on arterial streets include: Reconfiguration/ adjustment of motor vehicle travel lanes, Addition or removal of on-street parking, Installation of bike lanes within unused or excess road space, Installation of bike lanes as part of street reconstruction/ widening, Usage of shared-lane markings (sharrows, Combination of bike lanes and shared-lane markings, Separated bike lanes/ cycle tracks. The implementation of bike lanes within the constrained street environment of Vancouver has required design and operational tradeoffs and new approaches often unique to each facility. These tradeoffs must be considered and evaluated through the design and consultation process. More work can be done to develop additional bike lanes throughout Vancouver and other design options may emerge, but to date the City has been successful in retrofitting a well-established arterial street system with bike lanes while increasing the number of cyclists using the network. This paper will explore the various design approaches that have been used to implement bike lanes in Vancouver, and will provide general commentary on the City’s experiences with bike lane design to date.

Conference Paper Details

Session title:
Mike Anderson
Geometric design