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$1.5 million for Burrard bike-lane trial

April 29th, 2009 · 52 Comments

Weirdly, the long-awaited report on the Burrard bike-lane trial is available on Councillor Geoff Meggs’ website here but it’s not available on the city website yet. This will likely fuel [yet more] speculation in certain quarters that Commissar Meggs is secretly running city hall, though I suspect it’s just he got the report along with other councillors before it was posted to the website and decided to put it up.

Okay, on to the report. So staff seem to be throwing it into the laps of councillors to decide whether it will be a one-lane or two-lane trial. No date is set for starting that I can see and, in fact, one option is to delay doing anything until further reports in September. And the estimated cost is $1.5 million, with a quarter million of that to go into a heavy-duty communications plan since many people are convinced that the trial in 1996 failed because of poor communications.

Well, this ought to be an interesting hot potato. I invite your comments on what intriguing facts or comments you see in Jerry Dobrovolny’s report. He does note repeatedly that the bike lane has the potential to save the city a lot of money, since the current bill for repairing the Burrard Bridge is $63 million, of which $35 million of that is to widen the sidewalks to give more room to cyclists. He also has all kinds of stats on bike use on the bridge.

Categories: Uncategorized

  • Peter L.

    People will not start cycling over the Burrard Bridge in significant numbers, with or without new bike lanes, until the approaches are safe.

    Heading east along Pacific at the north end of the BB and staying off the sidewalk is treacherous until Seymour.

    Heading west along Pacific past Richards, before turning left beside Bicycle Sport Pacific onto the north end of the BB, is the most dangerous four-block section for cycling in all of downtown.

    Heading west along Cornwall past Cypress at the south end of the BB is a safety nightmare right through to Alma.

  • EastVancouverite

    The Burrard Bridge has a finite amount of room that is shared by people using different modes of travel. The current allocation of space creates a conflict between pedestrians and cyclists, which are prioritized by City Council policy ahead of transit, goods movement, and private automobiles. The conflict stems from slow cyclists, inattentive pedestrians, and too little space.

    There is not enough room on the sidewalk for cyclists to safely pass one another, nor maneuver to safety when pedestrians abruptly step into the bicycle lane to pass slower walkers. Installing a guard rail between the raised sidewalk and motor vehicle lanes could save lives but would also exacerbate the underlying conflict. This is because cyclists are already riding at the practicable edge of the sidewalk with their pedals and handlebars extending out into space beyond the sidewalk edge. With a guard rail cyclists would have to ride closer to the centre of the sidewalk and come unacceptably close to pedestrians.

    The status quo is not acceptable. There are alternatives, such as building a dedicated pedestrian and bicycle bridge across False Creek, widening the Burrard Street Bridge deck, or reallocating existing space on the bridge.

    The new bridge would likely be the most expensive option but could potentially yield the best outcomes. To offer maximum utility and amenity to recreational and commuter pedestrians and cyclists any new bridge would have to connect to the existing street network and the Seawall and not present onerous grades or time consuming detours. The requirement of uninterrupted maritime navigability on False Creek would mean that a bridge would have to be quite tall.

    Widening the Burrard Bridge deck has been proposed by the City as part of a $65 million revitalization of the bridge. Much of the work included in this budget, such as repairs to the bridge’s art deco architecture, new lighting, and reopening the Seawall stairwell in the south pier, will go ahead in the coming years. The bridge deck expansion is controversial because it would significantly alter the appearance of the bridge and possibly compromise its heritage character. However it would provide the much-needed additional space that is required for a separated pedestrian and bicycle right of way.

    Reallocating bridge space to provide more room for pedestrians and cyclists is the third, and by far the least expensive option. This could mean removing one motor vehicle lane and building up each sidewalk with half a road lane’s worth of concrete to nearly double the width of the sidewalk. One half of this new space could be allocated to allow pedestrians to walk two abreast and the other half would be used to widen the cycling lane and create the opportunity for cyclists to occasionally pass one another when clear of pedestrians. The pinch points at the piers for the main span of the bridge would still prove challenging and the cycling lane would likely split into two narrow paths for this portion of the bridge, with one half on the roadway side of the steel superstructure and the other on the outside as it is in its current state. Reallocating a second motor vehicle lane would allow for the creation of a shared bicycle and pedestrian pathway of similar to the highly successful one on the East side of the Cambie Street Bridge or much of the Seawall.

    If the oft-cited concern for the rate of travel for transit commuters is sincere, then steps should surely be taken immedately to introduce transit lanes on the Burrard corridor where they do not currently exist. This would include the Burrard Street Bridge itself, along Burrard street to Broadway, and as far as possible along Cornwall. Transit lanes on the bridge will not be possible if road lanes are reallocated to pedestrians and cyclists, which have high priorities under Council policy, but if the bridge deck is expanded or a new non-motorized bridge is built then transit lanes should be installed no matter what. In fact, I think that after the six-month bicycle lane trial is complete a six-month Burrard Bridge transit lane trial should be implemented.

    I reject the assertion that reallocating either one or two road lanes on the Burrard Bridge deck will result in significantly increased traffic volumes on the corridor’s arterial streets. The Bridge plays far less of a role in determining the rate of travel for motorized vehicles along the Burrard Street corridor than traffic signals along the corridor and the bridgeheads. In fact one of the biggest causes of delays along the Burrard corridor are drivers who run orange or red lights and get stuck out in the middle of the intersection.

    The bottom line is that there are many options available to improve the movement of people into and out of downtown along the Burrard Street corridor. For all the mathematical modeling and expert input the only way we will know for certain if the reallocation of space on the bridge deck will yield an improvement in the safety, amenity, and utility of the Burrard Bridge to those at the top of the City’s official transportation policy is to do a trial.