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Vancouver cyclists are reaching peak entitlement

For immediate release:

A survey conducted by the City of Vancouver shows not only a record number of cyclists using the city's enviable network of designated bicycle routes, it also shows that 81 per cent of those regularly using the routes feel more entitled than ever before.

More than 3,300 cyclists of all abilities were surveyed between June 1 and Aug. 31, 2017. Results were correlated using the Copenhagen Cyclist Entitlement Scale (CCES), a measure of cyclist entitlement recognized by 19 G-20 nations.

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"This is great news," Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson said. "When we set out to improve the city's bicycle infrastructure one of our unstated goals was to increase cyclist entitlement. But we didn't expect it to happen this quickly. Needless to say we're thrilled."

The survey focused on typical rider behaviour and posed a number of questions including:

  • When is the last time you ran a stop sign/red light?
  • When is the last time you failed to yield to a pedestrian or vehicle that clearly had the right of way?
  • When is the last time you rode on the sidewalk while wearing noise-cancelling headphones?
  • When is the last time you texted or played a musical instrument while riding?
  • When is the last time you turned right at high speed against a stop sign narrowly missing a pedestrian stepping off the curb and coming so close that they could feel your arm hair?
  • When is the last time you pretended not to notice that a car was pulling away from the curb just so you could scream obscenities at the driver?
  • When is the last time you yelled at a driver for opening their door when you were three-quarters of a block away and they were already standing outside their car?

Respondents were also asked about the frequency of each activity. Seventy-seven per cent say they had engaged in at least one of the activities "A few times a day" to "Like, always."

"This is not a complete picture, but we find these to be major indicators of cyclist entitlement," said Jarl Jessen, who led the study on behalf of the City of Vancouver. "We know that for a certain segment of the bike-riding population imagined conflict and confrontation is part of the exhilaration of their daily journey."

Mr. Robertson credits the record number of people making daily trips on bicycles for the increased sense of entitlement. "We know that having more bikes on the road enhances the illusion of safety in numbers," he said. "We also know that it increases cyclist confidence which, over time, becomes entitlement. In the best-case scenario it leads to delusions of immortality, but we're not expecting miracles here. One day at a time."

The survey also revealed some surprising results. "We were interested to discover that cyclists who used little or no safety gear, such as helmets, lights, reflective clothing and bells were among the most entitled," Mr. Jessen said. "We thought those who were best protected and visible would have the highest degree of confidence and entitlement, so yeah, that one's a head shaker."

In addition the survey revealed that the more confounded and incomprehensible the cycling infrastructure can be made, the more "special" cyclists feel.

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"Just look at what we did at Adanac and Vernon on Vancouver's east side. We hired the same design firm that fortifies embassies in Tehran for that one. What a mess. We left the stop sign in place, but you know, as if," he added.

Mr. Jessen says the same is true of the All Way stop signs installed along the new Arbutus Greenway Bike Route. "We put those in merely as a suggestion," he said. "We have no expectation that they'll be heeded by cyclists, but you know, legal stuff."

The city intends to use the data gathered in this survey to further enhance its already world-class cycling infrastructure.

"The worst of cycling behaviour will continue to shape city policy," Mr. Robertson said. "I mean, at some point, the mob rules, right? You just have go with it."

Stephen Quinn is the host of On the Coast on CBC Radio One, 690 AM and 88.1 FM in Vancouver.

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