Bike Plans in Other Cities: Vancouver, Portland and Seattle

Cyclist on new separated bike lane in Vancoucer, from the "Cycling in Vancouver" webpage.

Bike Plans in Other Cities: Vancouver, Portland and Seattle

By Alex Chronopoulos

Next up in our series of Bike Plans in Other Cities we have the west coast: Vancouver, Portland and Seattle. Keeping with the theme of protected and connected bikeway networks in our current issue these cities seem to be unleashing a coastal rivalry with their fantastic bike plans.

This is the fifth in our series. We will pick out "Top 5" in an end-of-summer round up soon.


Whilst cycling is growing in popularity in Vancouver, many people remain discouraged to ride because of challenges they faces, including a lack of direct routes, finding convenient and secure parking and uncomfortable interaction with motor vehicle traffic. As such, their Transportation 2040 Plan outlines three major policies that will result in routes that are safe and comfortable, regardless of age and ability, and that are convenient; connecting riders to frequent destinations.

These three policies include focus on: the Cycling Network, Parking and End-of-Trip Facilities and Multi-Modal Integration.

This map shows the various "All Ages and Abilities (AAA)" routes across Vancouver and when they will be installed. From their Transportation 2040 Plan.

To ensure that the Cycling Network is safe for all vulnerable road users, they are looking to install separated bike lanes on all major streets, design safer intersections by implementing turn restrictions and signal priority and synchronizing traffic signals at the prevailing speed of bike traffic. As of June 2014, there have been 325,000 trips made using the separated bike lanes across Vancouver. They also promise to conduct regular surveys to assess user comfort and collect feedback. As well, to ensure that routes are properly maintained they are looking to develop a mobile app that will allow users to report a maintenance problem.

Secure parking infrastructure is essential to encourage people to bike more often to various destinations, so that they know they have somewhere to keep their bike either for ten minutes or the entire day. Vancouver’s plan is to develop a retrofit program to make it easier to add parking to existing buildings; convert City-owned car parking lots into bike parking spots, and partner with schools, community centres and libraries to install parking and ensure parking at corporate or community events through their new bike valet service. End-of-trip facilities include showers and change rooms that encourage people to ride to work.

This map shows the initial separated bike lanes installed on Vancouver's busiest streets including, Burrard Bridge, Carrall Street, Comox/Helmcken Street, Dunsmuir Street, and Hornby Street. From the "Cycling in Vancouver" webpage

Cycling can extend walking trips or be combined with other modes of transportation to maximize convenience. For the Multi-Modal Integration portion of the plan, Vancouver wants to provide safe connections between major transit stations and the bike network. They will also work with TransLink to plan and implement secure and weather-protected bike parking at stations and expand on-board carrying capacity of bikes on transit vehicles.

The Adanac Bikeway is their most popular and has seen some improvements in the last year, including the addition of 50 parking spaces, three separated bike lanes and the reduction of motor vehicle traffic.


Mayor of Portland, Sam Adams, said: “Our intentions are to be as sustainable a city as possible. That means socially, that means environmentally and that means economically. The bike is great on all three of those factors. You just can’t get a better transportation returns on your investment than you get with promoting bicycling.” Way to Sell it Sam!

This sentiment is also felt in their Bicycle Plan for 2030, which they began implementing in February 2010. Their main goal is to expand the current bicycle network from 1,014 km to 1,548 km. Similar to Vancouver, they aim to introduce safe, comfortable and attractive bikeways that will serve all ages and abilities, construct a dense network that will serve all residents and ensure the network is cohesive with direct routes to frequent destinations.

From Portland's Bicycle Plan for 2030, this illustration juxtaposes the planned and already built bikeways.

By the numbers, the Plan will add 103 km of bike trails, 505 km of separated on-road; including bike lanes, buffered (wider) bike lanes and cycle tracks (separated from motor vehicle traffic by a physical barrier), 412 km of bike boulevards (streets with minimized motorized traffic and bikes are prioritized) and 76 km of enhanced shared roadways (bikes aren’t prioritized but they include an abundance of signage to increase driver awareness).

Bike parking is another issue the Plan looks to combat. Portland has established the free Bicycle Rack Request Program, which allows riders to request infrastructure. Resultant; the Bureau of Transportation is looking to amend Portland’s zoning code to increase short- and long-term bike parking, work with institutions (i.e. schools, civic centres and parks) to install parking infrastructure and review and revise existing design guidelines for the placement and design of bike parking on private property.

Part of their Plan is to also work with transit systems to add 200 km of bikeways to improve connections to stations, engage TriMet and Amtrak to improve the “bikes-on-board” option for long-distance routes and work with Portland International Airport, Union Station, and the Greyhound Bus Terminal to create more long-term parking facilities.

A bike corral (on-street parking) in downtown Portland. From their Bicycle Plan for 2030.

Finally, Portland has also established various programs to support cyclists and biking in the city. These include: Women on Wheels, an annual training and encouragement program for women. Portland by Cycle, an annual education and encouragement program for novice cyclists. Bike Champions, a pilot project that offers incentives for downtown commuters who encourage their co-workers to try a bike. And, Biking is Back, a support and encouragement program for seniors to feel comfortable on three-wheeled bikes, as well as encourage empowerment in transportation and health decisions.


Seattle’s 2007 Bicycle Master Plan has two primary goals: increase use of bicycling for all trip purposes, specifically triple the amount of cycling by 2017. And, improve the safety of cyclists and reduce the rate of bicycle crashes by one third by 2017.

To do this, they are developing a safe, connected and attractive network of bike facilities throughout the city. This will include the addition of a total 725 km of bike paths, the completion of the Urban Trails and Bikeways System, safety improvements at intersections and better maintenance of the bike network. This new network will place 95 per cent of Seattle’s residents within one-quarter mile of a bicycle facility.

Separated bike lanes, from Seattle's Department of Transportation's webpage.

Components of the network will include bicycle facilities on arterial roadways, which will provide direct access to transit stations, offices and residences and be comprised of bike lanes, shared lane marking and paved shoulders.

There will also be improvements to roadways crossings through new traffic signals specific to bikes, curb extensions and median crossing islands. Finally, the network will include a citywide Signed Bicycle Route System, which will connect all urban villages in Seattle.

They will also maximize cyclist convenience through multi-modal integration. Namely, through partnerships with transit systems, installing adequate bike parking at all stations and destinations, changing and shower facilities at places of employment and convenient self-repair service stations. Education, enforcement and encouragement is also important, therefore partnerships with the Seattle Department of Transportation, the Seattle Police Department, the Bicycle Advisory Board, the Bicycle Alliance of Washington and the Cascade Bicycle Club are vital.

Ad campaign by Seattle's Department of Transportation. From their webpage.

Finally, funding is key. Seattle’s Plan looks to secure grant funding, train staff, and integrate the recommendations of the Plan into City policies and coordinate with other regional jurisdictions.

Our NEW issue of dandyhorse (available at our local sponsor shops and fine independent book stores)features a section on best practices in bike plans. We asked 23 local experts what they would do to make Toronto a cycling city.

Related on the dandyBLOG:

Bike Plans in Other Cities: Mississauga, Ottawa, Waterloo and London, Ontario

Bike Plans in Other Cities: Amsterdam, Calgary and Chicago

Bike Plans in Other Cities: Montreal, Bogota and New York City

Bike Plans in Other Cities: Copenhagen, Washington DC and London UK

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