Image of Montreal’s existing bikeways courtesy of Ville de Montreal’s Master Plan
In anticipation of our upcoming bike plan election issue of dandyhorse — launch party June 26 — we decided to have our dandy journalism students research and write about other cities’ bike plans to explore new ideas that could work for Toronto’s soon-to-be refurbished bike plan.
This is the second in our series “Bike Plans in Other Cities”.
Bike Plans in Other Cities: Montreal, Bogota and New York City
By Lara Onayak
Municipalities around the world are working towards a greener and safer commute within their communities. Montreal, Bogota and New York City are just a few.
They are quickly adapting to the cyclist world with proposed programs and plans benefiting cyclists and of course, decreasing the gridlock on their roads.
Below are outlines of procedures that have been implemented in the past and the results of how they have helped these cities enhance their bike culture and infrastructure.
If you take the train, bike or drive, just 500 km east of Toronto, you’ll be in a city that recognizes the importance of bicycles. Not only does this city continue to improve existing network conditions, but it also plans to expand its network of bike lanes to 800 km and substantially increase the number of bike parking spaces. As one of North America’s most bike-friendly cities, Montreal continues to promote the eco-friendly and fun way to commute through many programs and procedures.
In 2002, the city of Montreal established a Master Plan– the municipal document of any action related to urban development – after many residents and students expressed their concern to improve and increase bike lanes. This plan will propose beneficial changes for cyclists that will increase the quality of life, as new improvements in infrastructure will be put in place.
Due to increasing popularity or cycling and number of cyclists in Montreal, the city plans to make a portion of the bike network available on a year-round basis. These improvements will help Montreal become one of the world’s leading bike cities. It’s also an opportunity to recreate the city. The city recently proposed to build new bike lanes on St. Laurent running from Bernard to Bellchasse.
Bixi station at Boulevard René- Lévesque in 2010 taken by Yanik Crépeau.
In addition to the Master Plan, Montreal has introduced a bike share program. The Bixi system launched in Montreal in 2009 with 3,000 bicycles and 300 stations located throughout the city.
In a developing country where many struggle to provide basic needs for their families, the city of Bogota installed 300 km of bike lanes stretching from the slum areas and suburbs to the capital district and instantly saw an improvement in health and an increase in cycling-as-transportation.
In Bogota, cyclists have increased over the past decades due to the continuing construction of bike lanes. Specifically, between 300,000 to 400,000 cyclists commute daily within the city.
Image of Bogota’s existing bikeways – outlined in the red spots - from satellite image capture, Zonu.com
The special thing about cycling in Bogota is that it brings every cultural and age group together as one, regardless of their economic situations. For instance, Ciclovia – car-free Sundays – has played a major positive factor for cyclists and created a pedestrian-friendly atmosphere on roads.
Bogota’s bike system is divided into two networks connecting all of the main centers of the city in a direct and accessible way. The first – and main -- network connects the central work and education centres with the most populated residential areas. The second network connects housing and attraction centres as well as parks with the main network while the complimentary network, including a recreational and local networks as well as a system of long green areas to the second network. So it’s not surprising as to why cycling is the top choice for getting around the city.
A May 2006 Flickr photo of Ciclovia in downtown Bogota courtesy of Micah MacAllen.
New York City
Bright lights. Young crowds strolling the streets. The city that never sleeps. With over 191 km of bike facilities ranging from multi-use park paths to on-street lanes, and now the fabulously successful Citibike bike share program, the Big Apple has really taken a big, juicy bite of cycling culture. NYC has seen a steady growth in bicycles -- and bicycle-positive politicians -- during the last decade.
Similarly to Montreal, New York City has also initiated a Master Plan where new procedures and goals have been implemented for the 1,448 km bike network to increase the bicycle usage, improve their safety and institutionalize cycling in public agencies and private organizations.
Image of Eastern Parkway multi-use path courtesy of NYC Bicycle Master Plan
Although taking a cab may seem like the usual routine for many New Yorkers, for many others it is more sensible to commute with bicycles as an environmentally beneficial and fun way to travel within the city due to the dense and flat land, expansive waterfront and its linear park system -- and, of course, the gridlock. The horrible gridlock in NYC now makes taking a cab slower than walking in some instances.
According to estimates by Transportation Alternatives (TA) - an advocacy organization devoted to environmentally friendly transportation - cycling costs only one-quarter as much as driving (assuming cyclists replace their bicycles every three years). TA estimates that the annual savings [of switching to bike commuting from car] would average $1,100 per motorist.
Map of existing bikeways courtesy of NYC Master Plan.
Not only is it cost-effective and environmentally friendly, but also in a mega-city composed of five boroughs it is an enjoyable experience to discover the vast neighborhoods and attractions that are missed in an automobile. Still, biking downtown in New York during rush hour - like any other city - requires a certain level of commitment. At least citizens in that city know that their bureaucrats and political leaders have their backs. New York wants to be a cycling city and so they are taking the steps to try and make that happen. Toronto take note!
Next up in our “Bike Plans in Other Cities” series: Amsterdam, Calgary and Chicago.
Our upcoming issue of dandyhorse – due in June – features a section on best practices in bike plans. We asked 23 local experts what they would do to make Toronto a cycling city.
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