The rate of Victoria commuters who primarily walk or bike to work is higher than in any other major city in Canada, new census data shows.
The new commuting data from the 2021 census, released on StatsCan’s website Wednesday, shows that around 1 in 20 commuters (5.3 per cent) “regularly biked to work in 2021, by far the highest rate” out of Canada’s 41 biggest cities.
“And perhaps not unexpected given Victoria’s compact urban environment, relatively flat topography and generally mild winters,” the agency said.
The data also shows that people are also walking to work here more than any other Census Metropolitan Area in the country.
Those modes of active transportation add up to a rate of around 15 per cent, making Victoria’s commuters the most physically active of any major city in Canada. And it’s not even close, nearly doubling the rate of commuters who walk or bike in cities like Vancouver and Montreal.
According to one local cycling advocate, it cements the fact that Victoria is a biking town — but there’s still a long way to go to catch up with world cycling hubs like Denmark and Holland.
“We’re the best of the laggards. When you compare ourselves to other places in Canada, we’re way up,” said Corey Burger, policy and infrastructure chair for Capital Bike.
“We’re ahead of everybody in Canada, but we should also take a look at the larger, the global picture and go, wait a second, where do we actually need to be?”
Todd Litman of the Victoria Transport Policy Institute also welcomed the census data, but said that the number of people who primarily travel via bike or by walking would be much higher since the census didn’t account of non-commute travel, childrens’ travel, recreational travel or walking and cycling in conjunction with motorized trips.
He pointed to a Capital Regional District 2017 travel survey that suggests more than one-quarter of total trips made in Victoria are by active modes.
“These shares have probably increased since due to the city’s walking and bicycling improvements,” said Litman.
Burger acknowledged that the city’s cycling infrastructure is growing as more separated bike lanes are added to the All Ages and Abilities Network, but cautioned that it’s not just biking commuters who need to be protected.
“It’s clear that our infrastructure’s decent for people who are traveling to work, especially with our very large downtown workforce,” he said. “But there’s a lot more work to do to get people safely to schools, for example.”
Burger added that debate over when to stop building bike lanes in the Capital Region has a simple answer: “When any child in the region can get on their bike and safely get to their school without their parents worrying,” he said. “And we’re not at that stage yet.”