With the start of every school year, Campus + Community Planning receives requests for bike lanes on UBC’s main arteries. But installing them would put pedestrians at a greater risk of injury, says Krista Falkner, the department’s Transportation Engineer. Instead, cyclists are encouraged to slow down and yield to pedestrians in these spaces — and head for an alternate route like East or West Mall if they want to go faster.

A Pedestrian Priority Zone sign along Memorial Road.

“The main concern is safety,” Falkner explains. “We are aware that there have been collisions between cyclists and pedestrians, but to our knowledge most injuries have not been serious. This is because cyclists cannot go very fast in the congested areas of Main Mall and University Boulevard. Installing bike lanes there would support fast speeds for cyclists and skateboarders, which would lead to more serious injuries if they hit a pedestrian. That’s a situation the university does not want to create.” 

“The reality is that on Main Mall and University Boulevard, people are travelling every which way,” says Dean Gregory, Landscape Architect, Campus + Community Planning. “A bike lane suggests one, prominent direction of flow, which isn’t possible. Those beautiful open spaces function more like plazas. Putting a bike lane along Main Mall would be akin to putting a freeway through downtown Vancouver; and no one wants that!” 

Cyclists riding onto campus along University Boulevard are encouraged to slow down as they approach the Pedestrian Priority Zone.

Distracted walking is a worry everywhere, but it’s especially prevalent on campus, where the car-free zones mean people aren’t worried about traffic any more, and tend to turn off. “This is a great development,” says Falkner, “but it means pedestrians would be unlikely to look before crossing a bike lane along Main Mall.”

Bike lanes are well suited for perimeter routes or controlled segments, like Vancouver’s wonderful seawalls. But they do not work well in areas with lots of cross traffic, like Main Mall and University Boulevard. Ride the seawall on a nice day and you’ll see cross traffic chaos at points like Third Beach, where cyclists must now dismount. 

UBC Vancouver’s Pedestrian Priority Zone. Click the image to open a larger version.

So if you do want to bike or board, go slow and yield to pedestrians in the centre of campus, where everyone is welcome (the Pedestrian Priority Zone, see map above). Share the space, keep your speed down and treat your fellow travellers with respect. Pick up a cycling map at the Robert H. Lee Alumni Centre and other campus locations.

If you’re in a real rush, head for a local street such as East Mall or West Mall.

(And note that Campus + Community Planning is close to finishing new cycling wayfinding signage, to help cyclists to find best routes across; updates soon.)