cycling & bikeway proximity


Montréal and Vancouver are major Canadian cities with 2011 cycling commute mode shares (% of trips to work by bike) of 2.7% and 4.3% respectively and substantial between-neighbourhood variability in cycling. Both have cycle tracks, painted bike lanes, residential street bikeways, and paved off-street bike paths, but their extent and network patterns differ. We examined the following questions:

  • Are mode shares higher when bikeways are closer to where people live and does bikeway type make a difference?
  • Are associations affected by commute duration or slopes on routes to bikeways?
  • Do associations differ for males and females?

Percent of trips by bike (cycling mode share)

This study used 2011 National Household Survey data on commuting to work. As shown in the maps below, cycling commute mode share at the neighbourhood level varied from 0 to 20.4% in Montréal and from 0 to 14.9% in Vancouver. Although half of all commuters were female, only a third of bike commuters were female. The proportion of bike commuters who were female was positively associated with overall mode share in the neighbourhood.


These maps show the distribution of 4 types of bikeways in the two cities.

Montréal bikeways provided less overall coverage, especially in the more suburban/rural areas. The lengths of each bikeway type were similar. The median distance (among census tracts) of homes to the nearest bikeway was 0.37 km, and median distances to each of the four bikeway types were similar to each other: cycle tracks 0.83 km, painted bike lanes 1.0 km, residential street bikeways 0.99 km, and off-street bike paths 0.99 km.

Vancouver had a network of residential street bikeway distributed throughout the city. The lengths of other bikeway types were much shorter. The median distance (among census tracts) of homes to the nearest bikeway was 0.20 km, primarily driven by proximity to residential street bikeways (median 0.24 km). Median distances to other bikeway types were longer: cycle tracks 1.6 km, painted bike lanes 0.87 km, and off-street bike paths 1.3 km.

Factors related to more cycling

The variation in cycle commuting was associated with the proximity of neighbourhood homes to any bikeway and with specific bikeway types. In both cities, proximity to cycle tracks was associated with higher cycling mode shares. Other bikeway types did not have similar associations in the two cities, and the pattern of results suggested that the network formed by other bikeway types may have been more important than the specific bikeway characteristics.

Commute times also made a difference: neighbourhoods with intermediate commute times (20 to 29 minutes on average) had the highest cycling commute mode shares. Uphill slopes on the routes to the nearest bikeway were associated with somewhat lower mode shares, but this effect was not sustained in adjusted models.

In neighbourhoods where cycle commuting was more common, the proportion who were female approached parity with males. Both bikeway type and commute times had stronger associations with cycling mode share in women than men.


The results of the study are available as a poster and published in the Journal of Transport and Land Use.

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