Victoria remains Canada’s cycling commuter capital, with nearly 6 per cent of residents choosing to ride a bicycle on their daily commute. An additional 10 per cent of Victorians commute by foot.

On the other end of the spectrum, St. John’s and Saint John have the lowest rates of bicycle commuting in Canada, but comparatively high rates of walking to work. Montreal, Toronto and Ottawa have the highest percentage of citizens depending on public transit to get them to work, with more than one in five using those systems.

Across Canada, it’s the cities struggling with congestion the most that are seeing the strongest gains in active transportation. Walking and cycling to work is often seen as a way of avoiding the headaches of public transit and the slow slog of a packed freeway.

Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, Edmonton and Vancouver all posted gains in active transportation between 2006 and 2011.

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From The Vancouver Sun:

Whitney Sharp always expected she would be driving when she turned 16. But five years later, she has yet to make it behind the wheel — or even to a driver licensing branch.

Sharp is representative of what TransLink has deemed a “noticeable drop” in the proportion of young adults aged 16-24 who are forgoing a traditional rite of passage: getting a driver’s licence.

Only 50 per cent of young people aged 16-19 and 80 per cent of those 20-29 had a driver’s licence in 2011 — down from 60 per cent and 90 per cent respectively in 1999 — according to TransLink’s latest trip diary, which surveyed almost 18,000 households on their commuting patterns, including how many trips they made in a 24-hour period.

There’s no specific reasons given for the decline, but the TransLink analysis suggests it could be attributed to several factors, including a combination of the graduated licensing program and TransLink’s U-Pass program — a cheap universal pass that gives students access to bus, SeaBus and SkyTrain services within Metro Vancouver — or a “generational behaviour change because of shifts in values and attitudes.”

“The notion of getting a car and the ability to drive as a rite of passage is really eroding,” said Larry Frank, professor and J. Armand Bombardier chair in Sustainable Urban Transportation Systems at the University of B.C. “It’s an indication that our degree of car dependence, at least in this region, is declining.”

It appears teens no longer view a restored Mustang as the ticket to independence, said Maria Su, senior manager of research analytics with TransLink. The high price of gas and car ownership, on one hand, and the U-Pass program and better transit opportunities on the other, she said, are likely contributing to the trend, which “is not unique to Vancouver.”

“It used to be when people got out of school, the first thing they did was get a used car because it was a sign of freedom,” Su said. “Now you can meet up with a friend without a car.”

Check out the rest of the article here

(Photo source: Streetsblog DC)

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From Atlantic Cities:

“Unfortunately for car companies,” Jordan Weissmann noted at TheAtlantic.com a couple weeks back, “today’s teens and twenty-somethings don’t seem all that interested in buying a set of wheels. They’re not even particularly keen on driving.”

Now a major new report from Benjamin Davis and Tony Dutzik at the Frontier Group and Phineas Baxandall, at the U.S. PIRG Education Fund, documents this unprecedented trend across a wide variety of indicators.

Their two big findings about young people and driving:

  • The average annual number of vehicle miles traveled by young people (16 to 34-year-olds) in the U.S. decreased by 23 percent between 2001 and 2009, falling from 10,300 miles per capita to just 7,900 miles per capita in 2009.
  • The share of 14 to 34-year-olds without a driver’s license increased by 5 percentage points, rising from 21 percent in 2000 to 26 percent in 2010, according to the Federal Highway Administration.

Young people are also making more use of transit, bikes, and foot power to get around. In 2009, 16 to 34-year-olds took 24 percent more bike trips than they took in 2001. They walked to their destinations 16 percent more often, while their passenger miles on transit jumped by 40 percent.

Check out the rest of the article to read about the factors driving this shift in getting around. 

(Photo credit: Atlantic Cities)

From The Guardian:

In Britain, the percentage of 17- to 20-year-olds with driving licences fell from 48% in the early 1990s to 35% last year. The number of miles travelled by all forms of domestic transport, per capita per year, has flatlined for years. Meanwhile, road traffic figures for cars and taxis, having risen more or less every year since 1949, have continued to fall since 2007. Motoring groups put it down to oil prices and the economy. Others offer a more fundamental explanation: the golden age of motoring is over.

"The way we run cars is changing fast," says Tim Pollard, associate editor at CAR magazine, “Car manufacturers are worried that younger people in particular don’t aspire to own cars like we used to in the 70s, 80s, or even the 90s. Designers commonly say that teenagers today aspire to own the latest smartphone more than a car. Even car enthusiasts realise we’ve reached a tipping point.”

As hi-tech research and development budgets source to keep pace with the iPhone generation, Pollard says carmakers are also coming to terms with less possessive buyers. “Towards the end of the 20th century, manufacturers cottoned on to the fact that we were owning things for shorter periods.”

This has led to a proliferation of different ownership and rental schemes such as StreetcarZipcar and Whipcar.

The most radical change is that “in big societies, there is a huge status shift happening, where we are losing the idea that you use a car to define your status. 

Underpinning all these innovations and ideas is what Liske sees as a major behavioural shift among the generation of “digital natives”. “They don’t care about owning things. Possession is a burden, and a car is a big investment for most people – not just the vehicle, but the permits, the parking space.”

Social trends can lead to change, but our travel habits are shaped by government policy too: by road, rail and airport building, most obviously, but also by planning regulations. Greenfield development, or the construction of housing on undeveloped land, is favoured by developers because it’s cheaper to build and easier to sell. Yet this is often low-density, suburban-style housing that is poorly suited to public transport and more or less requires homeowners to drive. Brownfield building, though less profitable and less popular, often raises population density, making public transport more viable.

Check out the rest of the article here.

(Photo credit: Guardian)

From Fast Company:

Even major oil companies admit that we are reaching peak oil—the point when the maximum rate of petroleum production is reached and begins to go into an unstoppable decline. But one thing could, at least somewhat, mitigate that problem. We may have also reached peak car usage in our major cities.

study (PDF) from the Curtin University Sustainability Policy Institute says that many cities—including Vienna, Zurich, Atlanta, Los Angeles, and Houston—have already seen a decline in car usage between 1995 and 2005. Driving rates in the U.S. did rise in 2010 by 0.7%, but the study’s authors believe a number of factors could come together to decrease our overall car use: The first is that cities are hitting what’s known as the Marchetti wall. Most people don’t like having to travel more than an hour each way to work, and cities tend to not get larger than one hour via car in every direction. The growth of public transport and the reversal of urban sprawl have also played a role, as more people in concentrated areas leads to more central shopping locations. Cities have also seen the growth of a culture of urbanism, resulting in more people who enthusiastically take public transportation, walk, and ride bikes. There’s also, of course, the rise in fuel prices, which is probably the largest factor.

If all of these factors actually do cause a dramatic decline in car usage, city planners will have to think more about factoring light rail, buses, cycling, and walking routes into their plans.

Check out the rest of the article here.

(Image credit: TheCityFix)

From Grist:

The AAA states that the average yearly cost of maintaining a car is $8,500, a lot of money for a possession that, on average, sits idle for 23 hours of the day. For many members of Gen Y, that sort of cost is untenable. Some 15.2 percent of 20-24 year olds are unemployed, and many more are desperately trying to pay back student loan debt while working low-wage service jobs. So it’s not surprising that the younger generation are doing as I did and abandoning the car in favor of an agile, mobile, smartphone-enabled life.

In an article for the New Statesman, Andrew Pendleton examines the phenomenon of “peak car” in England, citing a report [PDF] that showed that between 1992 and 2007, the proportion of 21-29 year olds with drivers licenses dropped from 75 percent to 66 percent. Pendelton writes, “Young people aren’t simply swapping cars for buses or bikes; they are choosing to own and use other technology instead, such as smartphones and tablet computers.” A survey of smartphone usage habits by college students in Colorado indicates similar trends stateside. Expect this trend to spread to those of us in our thirties and forties as solutions like ZipCar make it easier to maintain a household without owning a car.

For the price of a regular checkup and a couple months of insurance, you can get a smartphone, a transit card, and a decent bike and ditch the headaches and the endless money drain that come with even a hybrid.

Check out the rest of the article here.

(Photo credit: Nokton)