British Columbia

Car ban sparks bike boom in Stanley Park, but what happens post-pandemic?

The number of pedal pushers in Vancouver's favourite park has risen 76 per cent since cars were banned over a month ago.

Cyclists are flocking to the wide roads in Vancouver's most famous park now that there are no vehicles

From left to right: Brindle Kearns, Jay Barre, Grey Kearns, Avery Barre, Bracken Kearns and London Kearns. The group has cycled the nine-kilometre loop along Stanley Park Drive three times since cars were banned from the park. (Karin Larsen/CBC)

Miller Wild's big smile says it all as he cruises past the Stanley Park totem poles on his red four-speed recumbent.

"It's fun," says the 10 year old. "I don't have to worry about cars."

The fourth grader wouldn't normally cycle in the park because there's just not enough room in the designated bike lane on the seawall. 

But ever since COVID-19 concerns prompted officials to close the roads to cars to make way for cyclists — and restrict the seawall to pedestrians only — it's been a different story.

"It's great," says dad Darcy. "He gets to smell the air and see the city firsthand, not through a car window."

Miller Wild and his dad Darcy cruising on Stanley Park Drive. (Karin Larsen/CBC)

Since the car ban on April 8, bike traffic in the park has increased 76 per cent — up from an average of 3,000 cyclists per day to over 5,300.

The single-day peak was Mother's Day, May 10, when 8,301 people rode through the park.

Vancouver Parks general manager Malcolm Bromley says the data is giving officials a lot to think about when it comes to resuming traffic flow post pandemic. 

'Voting with their pedals"

"The question is how do we strike a balance," he said. "How do we make sure our partners in the park, the restaurants and the aquarium who cars are lifeline for, how can we make it work?"

"People are voting with their pedals," he said. 

Cars have been banned in Stanley Park since April 8. (Karin Larsen/CBC)

If that's the case, Bracken Kearns' family has cast multiple ballots. He and his three daughters, age three, five and seven, have cycled the nine-kilometre Stanley Park Drive loop three times since cars were banned. 

"Grey still had training wheels on at the start of the virus," says Kearns proudly.

According to three-year-old Grey, "everything" is great about riding in the park. Sisters Brindle and London count the downhill section between Prospect Point and Ferguson Point as their favourite. And friend Avery, six, loves the snacks and climbing tree at Second Beach.

Avery's dad said the car ban is what drew the group to Stanley Park. 

Stanley Park cyclists from left to right: Perry Taylor, Larry Higgins, Trish Higgins and Ian Taylor. (Karin Larsen/CBC)

"The seawall can be dangerous with the drop-offs and all the traffic," said Jay Barre.

Having a wide, two-lane road makes riding more enjoyable for everyone, says 72-year-old cyclist Trish Higgins.

"You can pass people and not get glared at," she laughs.

Ian Taylor, 82, agrees. 

"Bikes only, forever," he said.

According to stats provided by the city, more than 168,000 total bike trips have been taken in the park since the change last month.

The busiest time on weekends is between 3:00 and 4:00 p.m.

The busiest time weekdays is from 5:00 to 6:00 p.m.