Urban Cycling in Canada


Urban Cycling in Canada Map

UrbanCyclingInCanada-5_CommutersvsBiketrips UrbanCyclingInCanada-6_bikelanes_paths UrbanCyclingInCanada-6_women_bikeshopsCity and urban cycling is growing in Canada. Everything I’ve read and seen in the bike lane points to this. I wanted to get some numbers so I went to Statistics Canada to look at their cycling data from the last census in 2011. I also found this great report, Cycle Cities by the Pembina Institute, in 2015. While the numbers in these studies vary the trends are clear.

  1. Montreal, Toronto and then Vancouver are Canada’s biggest cycling cities. Victoria is also big by mode share. 5.9% of Victorians choose to bike to work. I’m sure their great weather is a contributing factor.
  2. Statistics Canada bike commuter numbers seem small. There are a number of reasons why these numbers might not jive with the growth you are seeing on the street. Statistics Canada only looks at how people get to work and only includes people over 15. This excludes people who bike to shop, to get around in their neighborhood, who bike on weekends for transportation and students. That is a lot of people who are unaccounted for. Plus this data is 5 years old now.
  3. In 2015 the daily bicycle trips number is more than triple that of the 2011 daily commuter statistics. To compare in 2011 Montreal had 29,000 commuters who bike to work versus 115,100 daily bicycle trips counted in 2015. The Pembina Institute looked at daily bicycle trips in five major cities. This is a better indicator of how many people are cycling because the calculations are based on real cycling counts done by each city. These counts are usually done over the course of a week at specific intersections and bike lanes in the city centre where they watch and count cyclists.
  4. While cities are always touting the great lengths of their bike lanes in reality the number of on street bike lanes is a very small percentage of the total infrastructure. In Toronto only 128km of the 640km of bike paths are on the street. Montreal 234 out of 648. Vancouver 62 out 289. Calgary 43 out of 1032. Ottawa 54 out of 221. And not all on street lanes are protected. They can be painted or just divided by a line.
  5. The percentage of women cycling is an important indicator for city cycling progress. The average of the 5 Canadian cities shown here is 33%. In Denmark, Netherlands and Germany the percentage is 50%+ women cycling.  Once cities implement safe infrastructure the percentage of women cycling increases. Canada has a ways to go.
  6. Why is ___ city missing from the map. Well I only had so much time and I looked at cities with over 2000 daily commuters.
  7. If you want to open a bike shop the city with the most daily bicycle trips, Montreal, is also the same city with the fewest bike shops per capita. There might be an opportunity there but you have to look at the impact of bike share programs as well.
  8.  Bike shares are also starting to play an important role in urban cycling and are being recognized a part of an integrated public transit system. In Montreal there are 5200 Bixi bikes and 460 stations. In Toronto there are 800 Bike Share bikes and 80 Stations. Vancouver is investing in a bike share program that is planned to start in 2016.
  9. The next Canadian Census is being held in 2016 so it will be interesting to see how the numbers have changed in the past five years. Again the only cycling data will be that of commuter cyclists, which is a vary narrow view.


Sources: Pembina Institute Cycle Cities 2015
Statistics Canada, 2011 National Household Survey