Frances Bula header image 2

Council decides: One lane for bikes on Burrard Bridge

May 7th, 2009 · 28 Comments

In their first step towards taking away car space for bikes, Vision councillors opted this afternoon for the compromise solution of taking away only one lane on the Burrard Bridge instead of two lanes.

The bike trial, which will start in four to six weeks, will go like this: All pedestrians confined to the west sidewalk (closest to the ocean and West End, for the directionally challenged). All cyclists going south out of the downtown get the western-most lane. All cyclists going north into the downtown get the eastern sidewalk. All drivers will get free clickers to count how many cyclists they pass on the bridge so they can fume about how few there are or be blown away by the city’s massive cycling community. Okay, that last sentence isn’t true, but the rest is.

Couldn’t be at the meeting because I was busy driving my SOV back and forth across town for various reasons, but my understanding of the reasoning for choosing the one-lane option was that this was a pragmatic first step in what is undoubtedly going to be a much-watched experiment. If it goes well, there’s not a huge traffic pile-up and loads of cyclists, I presume there might be some consideration of going to two.

The engineering report doesn’t say so, but I presume one of the reasons why this is considered a more attractive option is that it doesn’t require trying to figure out the headache-inducing problem of what to do at the north end of the bridge if cyclists got the curb lane going northbound there. That curve off the bridge onto Pacific Boulevard is heavily used all day long by drivers who prefer to inch along Hornby rather than Burrard as they’re making their way downtown. There’s not quite the same problem going south, in my personal experience, as it doesn’t seem like as many commuters try to use Thurlow and Pacific to get ON to the bridge going south. (Though I could be wrong.)

The main inconvenience to this for pedestrians is that anyone who normally uses the east sidewalk will have to cross over. Again, the engineering report doesn’t provide any stats on how many people that might be on average.

I’m curious to know what people think of this option, as apparently it was not an option that was ever presented at the open houses on this issue.

P.S. I should note, for the record, that David Cadman and Ellen Woodsworth of COPE supported the two-lane option, while NPAer Suzanne Anton was out of town for the vote but has indicated that she opposed any of the lane-closure options.

Categories: Uncategorized

  • eleanor

    I like this kosher option. Don’t mix bikes and peds.

  • Len B

    So what defines success, what defines failure?

    Since traffic delays to car traffic are not a major concern to the city, what are acceptable transit delays or an acceptable increase in transit times?

    What are the contingency plans going forward if transit times exceed these levels?

    Can I read that anywhere?

  • Darcy McGee

    A muted YAY!

    This is good. I can’t wait to start using it when it’s in place…though I’ll be swimming at Kits Pool by then, so it may not be often.

  • Darcy McGee

    Muted because I would have LOVED to see two lanes…but I think this is the right choice.

  • Wayne

    I’ll be watching like everyone else, maybe it will work better in practice than it sounds in theory.

    I’m mainly a pedestrian and don’t like the sound of any plan that tells pedestrians which sidewalks they can or cannot walk on. Plus, anyone who has to cross that mess of crosswalks at the south end of the bridge knows what a pain it is. Maybe Engineering will change the timing of the signals so it won’t take 10 minutes to cross Burrard and Cornwall to get on to the west sidewalk.

    In the end it sounds like a pot full of money for a plan that has a 50/50 chance of success at best. I’d rather see the money put toward widening the sidewalks outward during the, long overdue, rehab of the bridge.

  • Thanks for your story Frances. WERA has also posted a story about the decision at Council today as well and can be viewed at: http://wera.bc.ca/index.php?itemid=553

    I was at Council this afternoon and folks were disappointed about the the decision today

    WERA Dierctors have been advocating for two lanes for bikes for since before the 1996 one lane trial. WERA is concerned that today decision is a huge lost opportunity to encourage active life styles that will promote happy and health communities.

    WERA will continue to work for positive changes in the built environment of Vancouver and hopes the one lane option will lead to more improvements in the future.

  • Awesome that they are at least going ahead with one lane, but I agree, it really should be two – telling pedestrians to cross the road is not going to make a lot of people happy.

  • Westender

    “That curve off the bridge onto Pacific Boulevard is heavily used all day long by drivers who prefer to inch along Hornby rather than Burrard as they’re making their way downtown.”

    It’s also used by people who need to head westbound on Davie Street, as making a left turn at Davie and Burrard (like most intersections in the downtown core) is a choice of either 1.) prohibited or 2.) terror-inducing.

  • jesse

    I cross this bridge mostly on foot in the summer coming from Granville Island and looping around the seawall towards Yaletown. Going to the west side of the bridge is going to be a pain in the rear end. For the greater good I suppose.

  • Mark A

    I’m glad to see this going ahead. While I would have preferred a two-lane trial, as someone who does walk over the bridge quite a bit I wonder if the comments about having to cross the road are overstated.

    My gut feel based on no data whatsoever is that most of the foot traffic, northbound at least, is on the west side of the bridge – for the simple reason that the area east of Burrard on the south side is almost entirely light industrial, all the way up to 7th Ave, while the area to the west is entirely residential. I live one block west of Burrard and work in Yaletown and can’t remember the last time I walked the east side of the bridge in either direction. Even heading southbound it makes more sense to cross at the north end of the bridge as the crossing is much easier there.

  • gmgw

    Allen Garr said it well in his Courier column on Wednesday: “No matter which solution city council chooses to try and solve the decades-old Burrard Bridge conundrum… there are going to be a lot of unhappy people”. The Robertson regime may have its heart in the right place, but their collective head needs to do some more work on this one. What annoys me about this plan is that once again it sets pedestrians and bicyclists against each other, instead of seeking an inclusionary, cooperative approach to alt-transport which would recognize that both groups embody the transportation alternatives that the city is always yammering about the need for.

    Eleanor (above) says: “Don’t mix bikes and peds”. The thing is, any alternative transportation plan that makes sense has to mix them in some fashion. I realize that that’s not easy. I walk across the Granville bridge up to a dozen times a week. The only thing that scares me more than stepping into the on-and off-ramp crosswalks, praying that the oncoming cars will stop, is the worry I’m going to be taken out by some kamikaze biker who passes me from behind with no warning at 50 KMH, close enough on the narrow sidewalk to brush against my clothing. It happens far too often and says a great deal about the dangers that can arise from riders OD’ing on adrenalin… *and* the dangers of mixing bike/ped traffic with no plan in place for mitigating the results.

    As far as I know no one is currently seeking a solution to the bike/ped problem, or the multiple challenges faced by pedestrians in general. Instead we get decisions like this one of Council’s, which effectively says: “We have checked and compared and have concluded that bicycles deserve precedence over pedestrians”. The symbolism here is disturbing. As longtime local activist Bev Ballantyne of Putting Pedestrians First will tell you, pedestrians have long been getting shortchanged–and are placed in danger– all over this city. I walk across the Burrard bridge maybe half a dozen times a year, invariably on the east sidewalk; for my purposes and usual destinations, it’s much more convenient (and I like the views). At the risk of sounding petty, I resent being banished to the north side. It’s not so much as the ten extra minutes of walking– and crossing of potentially dangerous intersections– it will cost me; it’s feeling once again that I and my fellow peds have been accorded second-class status by the City. It’s long past time for the city to get serious about finding creative and effective ways of integrating pedestrian and bicycle traffic, wherever the problem exists, rather than adopting simplistic segregation-based– and, yes, discriminatory– approaches like this one.

    Note to Frances: Pacific Street (eastbound) does not become Pacific Boulevard until it crosses Richards (or possibly Homer), I believe.

    Note to Mark A: That “almost entirely light industrial” area east of Burrard, known to City planners as the Burrard Slopes, is slowly but steadily being converted to a residential neighbourhood. There are currently two major condo projects under construction there, one on Third west of Fir and another at 4th and Pine, to add to the half-dozen residential buildings already in place (more are on the way). To say nothing of the huge, longstanding Pennyfarthing development at the east end of First, and the numerous residential complexes between Fir and the Granville Island environs. And yes, many people living in that new neighbourhood walk across the Burrard Bridge, some on a regular basis. And while I agree with you that the double crossing of Pacific and the Pacific “offramp” at the north end of the bridge’s east side is dangerous, so is the double crossing peds must make on the northwest side of the intersection, daring the steady traffic pouring off Pacific along the access lane leading onto the bridge span, and southbound drivers impatient to both beat the light(s) at the intersection and to change lanes ASAP. The Burrard & Pacific intersection is one of the most dangerous in the city, with enormous traffic volumes and frighteningly high accident stats (coincidentally, one of my co-workers was seriously injured there last year, struck by a car while riding his scooter).
    gmgw

  • Darcy McGee

    > I’m going to be taken out by some kamikaze biker who passes me from
    > behind with no warning at 50 KMH, close enough on the narrow sidewalk to
    > brush against my clothing

    The speed limit for cyclists on that patch is 15km/h. Given the slope of the bridge it can be challenging to be that slow, but cyclists should be keeping it reasonable.

    I will say that when pedestrians are across the line…actually physically walking into the current dedicated bike lane…I will frequently brush past them on purpose to send a message: stay on your side.

    One weekend there was a fund raising walk with a course that went across the bridge. The bridge wasn’t closed, but those damn fund raisers were walking 4 or 5 abreast. It was extremely annoying, not too mention disrespectful of cyclists and our rights.

  • I’m glad to see a one-lane trial go forward. For some good reading on the Burrard trial specifically and some guides for how to think about traffic flow, Stephen Rees has a great post at http://stephenrees.wordpress.com/2009/05/07/burrard-bridge-bike-lanes-doomed-to-failure/

    Len B, if you’re looking for a metric of how much delay is acceptable to car traffic, look at Broadway and Cambie for the past two years, East 2nd Ave now, Georgia and Granville St. now, and any number of other pre-2010 projects that are causing major disruptions across the city. It’s clear that the delays don’t stop people from driving or taking reduce-capacity routes, so we’re seeing the market decide, as it were.

    I’m looking forward to biking the bridge with when the trial starts.

  • Not Running for Mayor

    “I will say that when pedestrians are across the line…actually physically walking into the current dedicated bike lane…I will frequently brush past them on purpose to send a message: stay on your side.”

    Thanks for the insight Darcy, perhaps I should try that out next time a cyclist veers off away from the shoulder and into the driving lane, not hit them, just a little brush to send him a message.

    I’m just having fun of that flawed logic incase someone acutally thinks I plan on mowing down a cyclist. I myself put more kms on my bike then my car every year.

  • spartikus

    I will frequently brush past them on purpose to send a message: stay on your side.

    I’m sorry…this is really reckless. One miscalculation or unexpected move by either party could result in serious injury.

    Get a bell and be a better ambassador.

  • Mark A

    gmgw: I am well aware of the new developments on Burrard slopes, and I’d agree that the one lane trial arrangement would be less practical as a long term solution for that reason. But during the period of the trial, what I said holds true for all practical purposes.

  • Len B

    gmgw,

    You say: “Note to Mark A: That “almost entirely light industrial” area east of Burrard, known to City planners as the Burrard Slopes, is slowly but steadily being converted to a residential neighbourhood. There are currently two major condo projects under construction there, one on Third west of Fir and another at 4th and Pine, to add to the half-dozen residential buildings already in place (more are on the way)…”

    In a conversation I had with city planners regarding this area, these development approvals are not a move to change the area slowly, rather they were approved while informing those developers that they may be alone in their development of residential there. The city understands they require light-industrial zones through-out the city and this is supposed to remain one of them.

    If there is a plan in place to phase out that light-industrial area into residential it would be in the “hidden – evil city planner agenda handbook”, because it’s definitely not what they tell people when you ask them directly.

    Please note the sarcasm on the ‘handbook’ for those lacking a sense of humour.

    Todd,

    I’m aware of the Cambie changes and problems that ensued. People are also aware the mayor went and testified in civil court in the same manner. Thanks for the refresh though.

    That still doesn’t tell me what a success or fail is, how it’s measured and what the contingency plans are should this create transit problems.

    Does anyone have the criteria of what determines a success or fail?

    Everyone talks about how many city staff read this blog. So if you’re out there and have this information, please post it.

    What’s the big secret – unless it’s completely subjective and there really aren’t any?

  • T W

    Len B

    I agree with your point that the very people who will judge success/failure already have a strong view on the positive/negative features.

    Who will judge the judges?

  • gmgw

    Darcy McGee says:
    “I will say that when pedestrians are across the line…actually physically walking into the current dedicated bike lane…I will frequently brush past them on purpose to send a message: stay on your side.”

    Not to be…umm… critical or anything, McGee, but you’re a (potentially criminally) irresponsible goddamned idiot, and the kind of bicyclist who gives other bicyclists the reputation for arrogance and recklessness that many non-bicyclists ascribe to them. I was speaking of the narrow sidewalks of the Granville Bridge, where the cyclist/pedestrian mix is much more hazardous (partly because 90% of the cyclists on the bridge ignore any and all speed limits), and where behaviour such as your yours could easily lead to injury or even death. But the same principle applies anywhere: Have you ever once stopped to consider what might happen if the person you’re “brushing past”, startled by your sudden presence, was to lurch into your path? Would you feel vindicated if they lost their balance, stumbled off the sidewalk and fell in front of a rapidly oncoming car or under a bus? Or maybe pleased? “Great, that’s one less obstruction to slow me down! Friggin’ poky pedestrians, never lookin’ where they’re goin’…”. You remind me of the speeding biker who knocked down a (walking) friend of mine on the Stanley Park seawall a few years ago. She was left on the ground with a fractured tailbone, and the biker just kept going, giving the finger to witnesses who were yelling at him to stop. Bikers like him– and you– give all cyclists a bad name, and put us all– cyclists, pedestrians, drivers– in grave danger.

    “One weekend there was a fund raising walk with a course that went across the bridge. The bridge wasn’t closed, but those damn fund raisers were walking 4 or 5 abreast. It was extremely annoying, not too mention disrespectful of cyclists and our rights.”

    Arrogance. Phenomenal, unbelievable arrogance. “Disrespectful”?! Who the hell do you think you are? What gives you the right to act like this? Do you think that bicyclists possess some innate moral superiority that should entitle you to exclusive use of all public thoroughfares? Coupled with the adrenalin-fuelled aggression to which you’re clearly prone, your attitude makes you a ticking bomb. I just hope you’re not anywhere near me when it finally goes off. Do us all a favour (including responsible cyclists)– get the hell off the road, sell your bike, and buy a good pair of walking shoes. Or take the bus. You’ll quickly be seeing the world from a whole different perspective.
    gmgw

  • gmgw

    Len B, on the Burrard Slopes:
    “In a conversation I had with city planners regarding this area, these development approvals are not a move to change the area slowly, rather they were approved while informing those developers that they may be alone in their development of residential there. The city understands they require light-industrial zones through-out the city and this is supposed to remain one of them.

    If there is a plan in place to phase out that light-industrial area into residential it would be in the “hidden – evil city planner agenda handbook”, because it’s definitely not what they tell people when you ask them directly.”

    I guess you’ve been talking to different planners that the ones I’ve been talking to. For some years now, planners have been saying both to me and to nearby neighbourhood associations that it’s the City’s intention to gradually convert the Burrard Slopes to a residential/commercial mix (bizarrely, the predominant commercial development in the area lately seems to consist of luxury/exotic car dealerships). The residential conversion happening, if slowly (planning appears to be in no rush, for a change), and will continue to happen.

    If you have a copy of that secret evil city planner handbook, I’d love to see it, but for the moment I’ll just continue to go with the vision for that area that those “other” planners have been quite openly discussing for at least a decade.
    gmgw

  • Living in the City

    I will say that when pedestrians are across the line…actually physically walking into the current dedicated bike lane…I will frequently brush past them on purpose to send a message: stay on your side

    Funny, I’m often tempted to do the same thing…in my car, to cyclists.

  • For cyclists, stick to the speed limit and get a bell. In Holland the mixed pedestrian bicycle model works wondefully but requires understanding that a) cyclists will have to slow down for pedestrians every once and a while and b) pedestrians should be courteous and move, if possible, when a cyclist rings his/her bell.

    Reckless acts of self-regulation are counter-productive. Best slow down and use a bell instead.

  • jesse

    I agree with get a bell. Problem is it is almost more dangerous because pedestrians often scatter in an unpredictable manner. They often run into each other. Regarding the speed limit, the solution is separate paths. A 15kph is not a reasonable limit on the downhill sections. I’m not sure why people complain about cyclists when motorists on the bridge are usually going 40kph over the limit.

  • Len B

    gmgw,

    Apparently there is a “hidden evil-city planners handbook” then.

    I’m definitely not making that up. I was consulting for an organization who were looking for a building to either move into, or buy.

    I met with city planners on several occassions regarding the use/zoning we required and that was definitely what was told to us.

    Although I’m tempted to put their names here, I don’t think that would be fair without talking to them again first.

    Perhaps while I’m snooping around for that handbook!!

    If there are any city planners out there, including Mr. Toderian, can you comment on the Burrard Slopes?

  • gmgw

    Richard says:
    “I’m not sure why people complain about cyclists when motorists on the bridge are usually going 40kph over the limit.”

    I don’t like that, either, and I watch with glee on the rare occasions when a radar trap is operating at the south end of the Granville bridge (almost been caught once or twice myself). In response to your question, though, and at the risk of being thumpingly obvious, allow me to point out that bridge pedestrians are not required to walk in the *car* lanes (not yet, anyway).
    gmgw

  • A. G. Tsakumis

    Anyone who thinks that this is anything other than more empty, ineffective posturing by the the shameless eco-punishers movement, in full flight, is living a reality somewhere between the tooth-fairy and unicorns.

    To cowardly to go for two bikes lanes; and too stupid to embrace even one…

    The legacy of this council, if this keeps up, will be one of fantasy initiatives and pandering to its hardcore base, steeped social fascism.

    Funny that. Sam did the exact same thing, within almost the exact same period of time…

  • MB

    This is a compromise idea.

    It might still work out that the stats prove one lane is enough. But if the latent or induced demand (a known traffic management phenomenon) proves to be high with hordes of additional cyclists, then the one lane may not be enough.

    The question will then be, covert another lane on this bridge or build separate bike / ped bridges and greater cost?

  • Paul

    I say
    Fire the mayor and council members who actually sanctioned this repeat of the 1996 disaster.
    Bikes belong on roads like everywhere else.
    Reduce the speed limit on the bridge, paint out the curb lane, install speed cameras.
    rethink transit so that it works for downtown commuters.
    Ever looked at other world cities do?
    Not this.
    Instead we get:
    grid-lock, idling cars spewing toxic gases,
    commuters traveling farther ‘around’ the nightmare, pissed-off pedestrians,
    and the world sits back and laughs once again
    at another Vancouver city council’s ridiculous decision.
    ‘the greenest city on earth’
    yup
    keep saying it Gregor
    some will start to believe you.