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Debate on Burrard Bridge cycling lanes opened up

January 28th, 2009 · 23 Comments

Here we go, the debate begins.

The city is holding a public session this Saturday on the bridge cycling lanes, as per this notice I just got sent. If you can’t make it on Saturday (though why you wouldn’t want to spend a sunny Saturday locked in a community centre, arguing about who gets which share of the road, I don’t know), I urge you to post your comments here because everyone, and I mean everyone, at city hall reads this blog religiously. I’m not kidding. I heard that the time I posted the video of Sam Sullivan singing with his band, it almost crashed the city’s computer system. 

And if, by any chance, I’m full of it and the entire engineering staff is not on red alert for my blog postings, I promise to forward your comments to the appropriate person.

Public input sought on cycling on Burrard Bridge
The public is invited to give input on a proposed trial to reallocate
lanes on Burrard Bridge to improve cycling and walking:

               Saturday, January 31
               2-5 pm
               Roundhouse Community Centre, Great Hall
               Pacific Boulevard and Davie Street

Information will be available on preliminary designs, including changes
to the intersections at both ends of the bridge.

Staff will be reporting back to Council in March, 2009 with a plan for
setting up a trial for later this spring.

Categories: Uncategorized

  • Kevin Lonergan

    Even as an avid cyclist I’ve lost any motivation to go to more consultations about the Burrard Bridge. This has been beaten to death over and over and council just needs to do SOMETHING. It’s obvious that converting 2 existing lanes is the best option from a cycling, economical, and heritage perspective and could be done quickly. What is a another open house possibly going to tell us? That westside drivers are worried about the bridge becoming congested. Get on with it and do a TRIAL …

  • Concerned Citizen

    I have been looking for some blog that was concerned with building safety but could not find one so hopefully this one will get come exposure.

    Vancouver is in a very high seismic zone.

    All buildings have to be build to very high construction standards.

    A few years ago there was a company roaring around town selling and installation a miracle called shotcrete, which is air applied concrete.

    It was used in many foundations of tall buildings and condos, and for a time was being installed by unlicienced installers.

    There is / was a famous Japanese architect, Hidetsugu Aneha who though no building fell down went to jail for allowing substandard construction practices to build buildings.

    It will be to late after the quake hits, and we are overdue for one, to realise the construction was not correct.

    Please do some checking into this or ask city hall it when they allow an occupancy permit was this contractor working on the foundation and in some buildings footings, walls and columns.

  • LP

    So a simple question on this. Hopefully someone can answer this.

    How many cyclists use the bridge each day currently?

    How many cyclists do they believe will use the bridge modified with dedicated lanes for them?


  • Cyclismo

    I’ve always wanted the train tracks running from the Fraser River to the Burrard Bridge to be converted to a commuter cycle path, then a bike-only overpass running beneath the bridge (if it’s at all possible).

    I’m aware of the legal limbo of the CN rail land, but I’d bet some clever people could broker a deal that is beneficial to all parties.

  • East Vancouverite

    Thanks Frances for the head’s up about the open house. I agree that this issue has been studied to death and that we are long overdue for a trial run of the lane reallocation.

    Regarding Concerned Citizen’s musings on shotcrete, it is used to quickly create effective retaining walls during the excavation phase of construction. This is used instead of the steel and timber retaining walls that are used in areas with different soil conditions. The shotcrete is not a part of the foundation of the building.

  • Curious Guy

    Get on with it! Do a 6 month trial taking over one lane in each direction for cyclists.

  • LB

    Partial response to LP is here:

    “Today, between 8000 and 9000 people cross the Burrard Bridge every hour in peak periods. Approximately half are alone in their cars, one in five is travelling with others in cars (i.e. car pools), one in five is in a bus, and one in ten is walking or cycling.”

    “Walking and cycling volumes increased
    30-40% between 1996 and 2001, and transit ridership increased about 20% in the same period.”

    Estimating latent demand would be a shot in the dark at best, IMHO. But you can count me as 1 person who doesn’t cycle over it because of its current configuration (and I live in the West End).

  • CV

    I’m really not sure what all the fuss is about. There’s obviously a need for wider sidewalks.

    If pedestrians are the highest priority then turn the two outer lanes into cycle lanes and widened sidewalks. If cars are the highest priority then turn one car lane into two cycle lanes and put a reversing auto lane in the middle.

    What’s really needed here is a way to get across false creek from the seawalk level as well.

  • Peter G

    Blocking off a couple of lanes on the bridge would seem to fit in very well with the engineering department’s master plan to bring all traffic in the downtown core to a grinding halt. We currently have scores of lanes blocked with construction stuff. What’s the difference?
    Still, the rate that these guys move, I wouldn’t get too excited about any changes. Staff were told a year ago to come up with a plan to get rid of the dumpsters. Guess how far that has gone….

  • LP

    LB, thanks for posting the link.

    The reason I asked about numbers is because of course there is a cost attached to this, apparently about $4m worth.

    Ona newer post by Frances, we have a budget where home owners are facing an increase, and on this site we regularly discuss the city’s homelessness issue, and no argues that it’s out of out of control.

    Personally I’d sooner see the money be shifted to help the homeless, versus spending $4M on people that have both homes and jobs.

    At 800 to 900 pedestrians and cyclists per peak hour, even if you were to have an increase of 25%, that’s only 200 people. So we’re going to spend $4M to get 200 more people to use a bridge?

    On top of that, these numbers are probably spring and summer. I went across this morning in rush hour and saw 3 bikes, and it was hardly sprinkling, let alone a full-on rain.

    I realize that will get all the cyclists pissed at me however the bridge does work fine as it is. There haven’t been any fatalities or accidents for some time as far as I know, and although many may feel it isn’t safe, neither do 80,000 car loads of people going over the Pattulo bridge every day, where there are accidents and fatalities.

  • Sungsu

    Peter G,

    If you remove capacity on a bridge or street leading into downtown, you will*decrease* congestion in the core because fewer cars will make the trip downtown.

  • Sungsu


    The money is already earmarked. I don’t think the city can simply reallocate the money without going to the voters.

    “The 1994-1996 and 2003-2005 Capital Plan plebiscites approved borrowing authority for
    pedestrian and cyclist improvements to the Burrard Bridge. An existing balance of $11.7
    million is available for this work. The 2003-2005 Capital Plan plebiscite also approved $2.4 million for repair or replacement of the existing railings.”

  • LP


    First I would disagree with your first post to Peter G, that less lanes means less traffic. There is no proof anywhere to back that up, just speculation on your part.

    Secondly, regardless of whether we had to go back to the voters, now you mention a possible $11.7 Million is available for upgrades so that perhaps in 5 years or less, 200 more pedestrians and cyclists would use the Burrard bridge.

    Again, I state this money could be better spent on people without homes and jobs, then people with homes, biking to their jobs.

    Car users aren’t asking for any changes, it’s the pedestrians and cyclists that are. This is a silly waste of money (for a couple of hundred people) when it could be better used on helping the needy in this city.

    I’m not a car user crying over losing two lanes of bridge, just someone calling for some common sense that was lacked by previous councils, and now exacerbated by this one on this issue in particular.

  • td

    They should just go ahead and convert two car lanes into bike lanes. Just do it. Traffic will adjust. We need no trial. We know what will happen: most of the time no impact, rush hour gets more congested, people will adjust. Just do it.

  • Sungsu


    Studies have shown reducing traffic lanes decrease traffic.

    “The findings suggest that predictions of traffic problems are often unnecessarily alarmist, and that, given appropriate local circumstances, significant reductions in overall traffic levels can occur”

    “In the majority of studies a reduction in traffic flow was observed. On average it was found that there was a net 15% decrease in daily traffic flows in the area occurring as a result of roadway capacity reductions.”

    The voters explicitly approved spending that money on cycling and pedestrian improvements.
    What else would you propose transferring to house the homeless? The $184,000 in 2008 for speed humps because drivers won’t obey the speed limit? The $1.4 million in 2008 for traffic signals because drivers won’t stop for pedestrians in crosswalks, as required by law. Or perhaps the $1.6 million spent to construct left-turn bays on Knight Street at 49th?

  • Don

    LP said:

    “There haven’t been any fatalities or accidents for some time as far as I know”
    “I would disagree with your first post to Peter G, that less lanes means less traffic. There is no proof anywhere to back that up”

    With all due respect LP these statements are totally false and really without foundation. Why present your “thoughts” and ask others to prove them wrong?

    Burrard and Pacific is the second most dangerous intersection in the City, according to ICBC. I’ll repeat that – second most dangerous intersection in the City according to ICBC.

    There are more injuries at the Burrard and Pacific intersection than there are injuries in fires City-wide attended by Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services. This is based on data for the most recent year available.

    We spend about $70 million a year on Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services and have fewer injuries (fire fighters and civilians inclusive) than this one single intersection.

    Over the past 5 years on average there have been more than 2 accidents and one injury EVERY WEEK at this intersection. Add in the Bridge itself and the south intersection and you can virtually double that.

    There have been 1080 collisions of all types at Burrard and Pacific in a 10 year period (ICBC).

    There have been 105 cyclist and pedestrian casualties for the Bridge and its intersections in the past 10 years (ICBC) – that’s almost one per month.

    As for less lanes meaning less traffic, this is simple physics. It is also well documented in the transportation planning literature.

    As for the status quo, the NPA were wiped out in the last election for proposing such a reckless solution. Reckless from a safety standpoint, and reckless from a global environmental emergency perspective. Actually what they were proposing was worse than the status quo, and would have cost $30 million.

    Kudos to the new Council for moving ahead so quickly with the trial!

  • LP

    Ok Don, since you have all the stats, when was the last traffic fatality on the Burrard Bridge and lets compare that to the poor lady that burned alive while trying to keep warm.

    VV won the last election because of a very poor council and mayor over the past three years, not because of one issue with the Burrard Bridge.

    Give your head a shake.

  • Poker Face

    I think that while VV wants to make this city even greener, they’re not thinking from a financial standpoint. Like it or not, but the downtown core is practically the lifeblood of this province. Maybe if public transit was better (ie: more buses that run on time and more frequently, and at a reasonable price), then less people would need to drive downtown. I’ve seen other cities with better transit decrease the amount of congestion in their city centres (ie: Boston, London, Taipei, all over Japan etc). I don’t understand how other cities could charge $1-2 and still be incredibly profitable and yet we get charged $2.75 and our services aren’t half as frequent or reliable or clean as other cities. Oh and it’s always nice to know that Coast Mountain posted a sizable profit – it just warms my heart.

    We need to keep those car lanes. There aren’t enough cyclists or pedestrians to justify a huge change. And if they want to do something about it, maybe consider making one of the centre lanes an alternating one depending on traffic (like at the Massey Tunnel and Lions Gate Bridge). Why does it have to be an all or nothing plan?

    As for cyclist accidents, (as a cyclist and a motorist) I think that if cyclists learned to obey the law and stop flip-flopping on what they consider themselves to be, there would be less accidents and less road rage. It’s unreasonable and absolutely appalling how cyclists sometimes choose to ride their bikes as if they’re cars, and other times expect to be given right of way as if they were pedestrians. Oh and it’s awfully nice to see cyclists on the sidewalks when streets are congested. Also, I’ve eavesdropped on so many conversations where cyclists have complained about how dangerous the streets have been for them during our freak snowstorm month. Last I checked, snow/ice is dangerous enough for motorists, much less cyclists. There would be less accidents of cyclists took as much time paying attention to cars and road signs and laws as I (and many other friends) do trying to avoid dangerous cyclists and crazy jaywalkers.

  • FC


    I tend to side with LP. In the reference you provided, this quote “…given appropriate local circumstances,…” is what needs to be examined, that is the specific context of Vancouver. There is no more “rush hour” per say in this city. It seems to me that rush hour now lasts most of the day. The other bridges to downtown are already jammed. We will move most of these cars elsewhere. I don’t buy for a moment the argument that a good number of drivers will suddenly discover the joys of bike riding to work.

    As for Don’s post, if that intersection is dangerous, and I don’t doubt it is based on your references, than fix the intersection. I still don’t see why two lanes need to be reassigned to bikes and pedestrians.

    Thanks to Frances for alerting the public about this meeting the city is putting on. It appears to me that they really didn’t want the public to know about it. I couldn’t see any ads in the mainstream papers announcing it. On the other hand, I’ll bet they made sure the bike lobby was well-aware. Same pattern as when the new city council voted on the issue before Christmas.

  • Don Buchanan


    After having addressed the factual inaccuracies in your initial posts you’ve introduced another red herring – the death of a homeless person – as a reason for not moving forward on Burrard.

    I decline your invitation to engage in further dialogue on this site. It would not be a constructive use of valuable time or respectful of this space Frances has created. I also have no idea who you are other than LP.


  • Don Buchanan

    And forgot to mention there have been two fatalities on the Bridge in a 7 year period (ICBC)

  • SV

    Two thoughts-one impediment to better transit-more/more frequent buses, accurate scheduling, etc.-is traffic congestion. It seems like there might have to be a transitional time when current traffic patterns have to change resulting in frustration to some commuters.

    Second as a cyclist and a driver I get very tired of bad cyclists being held up as examples of us all. Cyclists who run stop signs/lights, ride on sidewalks, don’t signal, etc., bother me too as they make riding my bike more dangerous than it should be, both directly-when they almost collide with me-and indirectly-when drivers don’t act predictably when I follow the rules of the road. However I have to say that the number of crap cyclists I encounter everyday is dwarfed by the number of crap drivers-running stop signs, turning without signaling, turning right in front of cyclists, ignoring traffic calming provisions, etc. It simply doesn’t compare. So let’s try to debate the issue of bike lanes without getting stuck in side arguments.

  • Peter G

    Who said anything about reducing traffic? I live downtown, so I couldn’t care less about bridge traffic. My moan is with the engineering department’s decision to hand over traffic management to the construction industry. If we used the roads and sidewalks for moving vehicles and people, instead of convenient storage for building materials, things might get moving. Try going for a stroll along Robson or Homer. It’s like a minefield. Time to give the city back to the residents.