CBC recently published a series of very interesting articles about attitudes across Canada about bike lanes and conflicts between motorists and cyclists. The articles are based on a major poll by Angus Reid which surveyed 5,423 people in urban centers across the country in March.
One of the findings of the poll is that there is far more support for separated (segregated) bike lanes in eastern Canada than western Canada. In Calgary and Edmonton people who believe there are too many bike lanes out number those who think there are not enough. The situation was a little better in Vancouver, but not by much.
Winnipeg was the big exception to the trend in western Canada. Winnipeggers are overwhelmingly of the opinion that there are not enough separated bike lanes. In Toronto, Montréal, and Halifax there are more people who believe that there not enough separated bike lanes than those who think there are too many.
The poll did not include people in the National Capital Region, even though the Ottawa-Gatineau area is Canada’s fourth largest urban centre.
The poll also examined perceptions about conflicts between cyclists and motorists. In most areas of the country, people believe that there is a fair amount of conflict between the two. The exception appears to be suburban Toronto where a large number of people didn’t think there was much of a conflict. I imagine that this is because in the suburbs, cycling is often limited to neighbourhoods, and there are not that many bicycles on the big-box thoroughfares that motorist rely on to get around.
Nationally, 17% of the people polled think there are too many separated bike lanes, 46% believe there are not enough, with the remaining 37% who feel that the status quo is sufficient. At first glance, these numbers seem to favour more separated bike lanes. However, the numbers could be read to mean that 54% of people are not in favour of more separated bike lanes.
In addition, people were polled about their views on who is responsible for the conflict between cyclists and motorists. Among those who believe there is a lot of conflict between the two groups, a majority blame the cyclists. However, the age of the respondents seems to be a factor in how people assign blame. People under the age of 35 tend to blame motorists, while it’s the opposite for the older segment of the population.
The different views of the two age groups can probably be explained by the fact that until recently, the general attitude of law-makers, police, and the general population was that bicycles were tolerated on roads as long as they didn’t interfere with motor vehicles in any way. This attitude has started to change for the better in the last decade or two, and younger people are more aware of this.