After being put out of action for two years thanks to the COVID induced restrictions, this year’s re-opened Earth Day event at Memorial Peace Park presented another opportunity for the volunteers at the Pitt Meadows – Maple Ridge HUB Cycling local committee to roll out its bike giveaway event.
The Cycle Recycle Program, in which the volunteers at the Pitt Meadows – Maple Ridge HUB Cycling local committee collect donated bikes, refurbish and clean them up, and give them away via lucky draws, has been a consistent feature of Earth Day in Maple Ridge and regularly draws a sizeable crowd at this and other public events.
This year we also took the advantage of the foot traffic at our booth and conducted an admittedly non-scientific survey in order to gauge people’s sentiments – cyclists and non-cyclists alike – towards cycling, what motivates them to cycle – or not – and how they feel about certain cycling infrastructure.
Specifically, visitors to the booth were asked whether they feel safe (1) walking as a pedestrian or (2) riding as a cyclist, on a multi-use path (MUP), and (3) what changes in the cities of Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows would encourage them to ride their bike instead of driving.
Whereas the reason for the third question is obvious, the reason for the first two is a reflection of our rising concerns over the increasing willingness by many municipalities across the region to introduce MUPs as a way to roll out cycling infrastructure in their cities.
A couple of whiteboards were set up for visitors to provide written feedback using sticky notes. For questions #1 and #2, the respondents were asked to give a quick yes or no answer (whether they feel safe on a MUP as a cyclist and a pedestrian). For question #3 the feedback was to be given in free form short answers, whereby a respondent was asked to write down the most important change(s) to encourage him/her to cycle more.
Below are the results of the feedback provided by the visitors during the event.
Question #1: Do you feel safe as a pedestrian, walking on a 9’ wide multi-use path (MUP) alongside bicycles, E-bikes, and E-scooters that travel up to 32 km/ hour and go both directions?
No – 27 (72.9%)
Yes – 6 (16%)
Somewhat – 1 (2.7%)
Better than the street – 1 (2.7%)
Other – 2 (5.4%)
Question #2: Do you feel safe as a cyclist (manual or E-bike) or other rolling path user, riding on a 9’ wide multi-use path (MUP) that is bi-directional and has pedestrians walking on it?
No – 20 (64%)
Yes – 7 (22%)
Somewhat – 2 (6.4%)
Better than the street – 1 (3.2%)
Other – 1 (3.2%)
Question #3: What changes in the cities of Pitt Meadows or Maple Ridge, would encourage you to ride your bike rather that get in your car?
Separated/Safer/Designated Bike Paths or Lanes – 30 (68%)
Better Secure Bike Parking – 5 (11%)
Road Closures/Quieter Roads/Lower vehicle speeds – 3 (6.8%)
Motor Vehicle Driver Education – 2 (4.5%)
Bike Share – 1 (2.2%)
Bike Repair Stations – 1 (2.2%)
Already Riding – 1 (2.2%)
Other – 1 (2.2%)
While the methodology of the survey is far from scientific, the anecdotal evidence from the responses reflects some clear preferences by pedestrians and riders.
In terms of what would encourage one to bike more (question #3), the overwhelming feedback is secure and separated bike paths (68%). An additional 6.8% prefers quieter roads/lower vehicle speeds. In other words, people riding a bicycle would strongly prefer not having to interact with vehicles, and where interactions cannot be avoided, they would want vehicles going at lower speeds.
As for MUPs, the preferences of both pedestrians and cyclists are clear – they would rather not have to interact with other types of users on the path.
The hazard of mixing pedestrians and vehicles is well understood and is mitigated via complete physical separation (roads for cars and sidewalks for pedestrians). On the other hand, mixing pedestrians and cyclists and other users of mobility devices, though of course less lethal than is the case with vehicles, presents more opportunities for conflict between different user types and serves as a deterrent to those who would like to cycle instead of drive. Such conflicts are not common for now as these MUPs are only lightly used due to a disconnected network. Municipalities are all too happy to kick the can down the road and deal with any emerging problem once conflicts and – gasp – accidents on MUPs become more frequent.