Comox-Helmcken Greenway
Greenway = bums off couch and on bike seat

The development of an attractive bike route through Vancouver is turning couch potatoes into hard-breathing, healthier, bike riders.

When the Comox-Helmcken Greenway through downtown Vancouver was built five years ago researchers decided to examine whether the new facility would get bums on seats — bike seats that is.

A major rationale for investing in bike routes is to get more people partaking in physical activity. But does that happen?

Yes, according to the team from the University of British Columbia, who studied the communities who lived along the route, and found that there is a correlation between a heightened level of physical activity and living close proximity to an urban greenway.

Those who live near the greenway — within 300 metres of the route — saw their odds of achieving an average of 20 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity double a year after the opening of the greenway.

Additionally, the odds of being sedentary for over nine hours plummeted by 54%.

These findings are based on self-reported measures of physical activity and sedentary behaviour, with a sample size of 524 participants that had a median age of 44. Surveys were conducted in 2012/13 to establish a baseline and after the completion of the greenway in 2014/15 as a follow-up.

Researchers at UBCʼs Health & Community Design Lab also previously found that those who lived near the greenway reduced their car or bus travel distance by 18% daily following the greenwayʼs completion, with car and bus use falling from 3.4 km per day to 2.8 km per day.

Moreover, daily bike trips increased by 32%, while daily trips using a personal vehicle fell by 23%.

The greenway under study is essentially a traffic calmed street, as shown in the photograph. In this section the street is one way to motor traffic and two-way for bikes. Parking is clustered on one side, intersections are made safe for all users, and seating is installed at regular intervals.

As usual there was much consternation at the outset of the project, but the route is now well used and valued by locals.

There are many opportunities for such improvements on suburban Australian streets.

You can learn more about some of Bicycle Network's active infrastructure campaigns by visiting Our Campaigns page.

Comox-Helmcken Greenway
A look down the Comox-Helmcken Greenway in Vancouver.

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