bike lane
Fort Street bike lane (Jay Wallace Images)

Stop us if you’ve heard this one before: a city announces plans to install new bike lanes with the goal of making cycling safer, triggering a tug of war between cycling advocates and opponents.

That debate isn’t new to Victoria, as cyclists and drivers pin the blame for their respective traffic grievances on one another and hash things out in social media comment sections.

Now, a new public opinion poll from the Angus Reid Institute has found that people who’ve witnessed accidents between both groups are more likely to blame two-wheeled travellers rather than those on four.

According to the poll, 40% of Canadians say there’s “quite a bit of conflict” between cyclists and drivers, and of that percentage, the majority blame cyclists (60%).

67% of Canadians say cyclists don’t follow the rules of the road, while about the same number (64%) say drivers don’t pay attention to cyclists.

A breakdown of the perception of traffic conflicts between drivers and cyclists. (Angus Reid Institute)

The poll found that city dwellers are more likely to see conflict in their respective areas, likely due to higher rates of congestion and cycling in their streets.

In Metro Vancouver, for example, 56% perceive conflict between drivers and cyclists. In those instances, 65% blame cyclists.

Perception is affected by age, mode of transportation

The poll shows something of a generation gap in the perception of which group is at fault in cases of conflict between cyclists and drivers.

Canadians ages 55 and older who see quite a bit of conflict are more likely to blame cyclists by a three-to-one margin.

Those under 35 who see conflict are a bit more measured, with 53% blaming drivers.

(Angus Reid Institute)

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the sympathy for cyclists among 18-34-year-olds is reflected in that demographic’s propensity for riding bikes. One in six people in that generation ride a bike at least once per week, which is nearly three times as many as those in the 55+ age group.

Seven in ten respondents in the older age group, meanwhile, never ride a bike.

Even more unsurprisingly, those who drive more often are more likely to blame cyclists for conflicts, and vice versa.

67% of respondents who drive cars multiple times a week blame cyclists in cases of conflict, while 70% of respondents who ride bikes blame drivers.

Transit riders, meanwhile, are more evenly split in whose at fault.

(Angus Reid Institute)

Most Canadians are in favour of separated bike lanes

In what is sure to rattle those opposed to expanded bike lanes, the poll found that the majority of Canadians say there are either too few or just the right amount of lanes in their communities.

Excluding respondents who live in communities that don’t have expanded bike lanes, only 17% of respondents say there were too many where they live. 46% of respondents said there are too few, while 37% said there are just the right amount.

Indeed, the Angus Reid Institute is unequivocal in its assessment: “The belief that separated bike lanes are a good thing is the majority view in every metro area in this survey” (except for Alberta).

65% of Canadians believe separated bike lanes are a good thing. 18% of Canadians aren’t sure or can’t say, and 17% say they’re a bad thing.

(Angus Reid Institute)

Click here for the full report.

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