Officially, last Friday was the date to celebrate Canadian Winter Bike to Work Day.
Where does your city rank on Bike Score?
Biking to work anytime between November and April in the Great White North should be cause for celebration in my books. That said, with the push to make our cities more amenable to healthy and physically active lifestyles, an online tool that gives readouts on a city’s bike-friendliness may be of some help, so says a new study published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition.
Suburbanites want parks and recreation centres, downtowners are looking for clean sidewalks and green spaces and everyone except the developers wants to cut down on urban sprawl. For bike-ability, though, a new study finds that Bike Score, the bike-ability index connected to the online service, Walk Score, turns out to be a useful indicator of the bicycle-friendliness.
For many years, Walk Score has been providing apartment hunters and real estate junkies with another way to quantify their dreams. Launched in 2007, the site gives a walkability score between one and 100 for practically any address in any North American city, based on proximity to amenities such as stores, parks and schools. The company has since added Transit Score and then Bike Score in 2012, which has since received an update in 2015. Bike Score is said to rate how good an address and neighbourhood are for biking, based on factors such as the accessibility of bike lanes and trails, how hilly the terrain is and how popular bicycling is in that area.
For the new study, researchers from Simon Fraser University, University of British Columbia and University of Saskatchewan compared results from Bike Score on 24 cities -nine Canadian and 15 American- with survey data retrieved from the 2011 Canadian National Household Survey and the 2013 American Community Survey, both of which produced numbers on how often citizens used the bicycle as their mode of transportation to get to and from work.
The results showed a sizable overlap between Bike Scores’s numbers and actual commuters’ bicycle use. “Given the demonstrated significant and meaningful association across neighborhoods in diverse US and Canadian cities, Bike Score may be a valuable tool to aid with research and with planning for bicycle infrastructure and increasing bicycle mode in large studies,” say the study’s authors.
For the nine Canadian cities in the study, Montreal fared the best with a Bike Score of 78.8, narrowly beating out Saskatoon which had a 78.7. At the lower end, Moncton scored a 49.3 and St. John’s rounded out the bottom at 44.8. These numbers were somewhat paralleled by the commuter bicycling numbers, as it turns out more people bike to work in Montreal (4.8 per cent) than in Moncton (0.4 per cent) – and, unsurprisingly, no one is crazy enough to be biking up all those hills in St. John’s (0.0 per cent).
Lastly, Victoria, BC, proved to be an interesting deviation. While it scored a moderately successful 74.3 on Bike Score, an impressive 11.5 per cent of its citizens bike to work! As if they didn’t have enough to gloat about with their green lawns and flowers coming up in February.