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Bike-only bridge debate breaks out

July 4th, 2009 · 63 Comments

Some of you think that I’m too busy stuffing my face with pasta to pay any attention to what is going on in Vancouver, but that’s simply not true. There is actually a small amount of time between pasta feedings to keep on top of Terminal City news and so I am indeed aware that the mayor has come up with speculation about building a bike/pedestrian bridge, based on a plan by Gregory Henriquez.

Of course, any mention of something like that can’t help but remind London visitors of the Millennium bridge that has turned into a huge tourist draw, in large part because it spans the river between the Tate Modern and St. Paul’s Cathedral. It makes for a stunning walk and has become a new symbolic identifier for London, along with helping make their refurbished south-side river walk even more appealing.

The question I see many of you asking is whether Vancouver can afford it. (I’ve attached comments below that were attached to a previous post of mine but really need to be in their own string.) I find it interesting how often that question dominates any discussions about transportation infrastructure in this region, whether it’s SkyTrain or a bike path. No one ever seems to talk about good planning for the city Vancouver (and I mean the region here) will be in 100 years.

By the way, just to be mischievous, I’ll suggest that if Vancouver does get interested in this bridge, one obvious element to consider is doing what London did and making sure there’s a powerful attraction on each end: the new False Creek shoreline Vancouver Art Gallery on one end (which Gregory’s father, Richard, has been scoping out for the gallery) and then what could there be on the south side that would be an equal draw? I await your suggestions.

In the meantime, here’s the start of the debate from my adorable commenters:

  • Frothingham // Jul 3, 2009 at 8:09 pm

    Frances; you are no doubt much too involved in “la bella vita” in and around Bologna and I am sure will not find much time to access what little wifi is available to be up on the latest coming out of Vancouver: A new pedestrian/bike bridge has been proposed … not unlike those found in london copenhagen and other world class cities. But this is Anton take on it.
    “Coun. Suzanne Anton says drivers are already firing off angry emails to council about the changes on the Burrard Bridge. She says the new bridge proposal is the mayor’s way of diverting attention from the controversial bike lane trial.”

    Anton is a neantherdsl and a dim-wit. she just can’t see the future… time for her to retire.

  • 7 Fred // Jul 4, 2009 at 5:21 am

    Anton is 100% correct. The dimwit in this little story is Gregor, who knows his bridge idea is dead before birth – he has no money, the province has no money and the Feds have no money for the bicycle mafia.

    It is a channel changer to take the HEAT off his last brilliant foray into public policy making by good intentions.

    Look at the pictures for that bridge . . . triples or even quadruples the distance people or bikes have to travel to get across False Creek.

    Now that’s gonna be a winner.

  • 8 michael geller // Jul 4, 2009 at 7:34 am

    So Frances, this is what happens…you want to talk about the joys of being proud Canadians, but some of your readers want to snipe at civic politicians. Since Canada Day has come and gone, I too would like to offer a couple of thoughts on Gregory Henriquez’s bridge proposal.

    I too have been intrigued by the idea of a pedestrian/cycling bridge as another crossing of False Creek. Indeed, I mused that a separate bridge crossing might be a longer term solution during the last election campaign at the Think City Debate at the Public Library. I even presented images of similar bridges in Melbourne and Dublin as part of a presentation at the St. James Community Hall. (12 Great Ideas for Vancouver from Around the World).

    Gregory’s design is very elegant and seductive. However, based on the information that I received, I have to say that the cost will be significantly more than the $45 million suggested by Henriquez and Robertson. In fact, I’m told that the city engineering department did look at a separate bridge crossing as one of its many options, but concluded that the cost would be so much more than the $33 million estimated to widen Burrard Bridge (on top of the $30 required to repair the disintegrating concrete elements.

    I wonder whether the mayor asked his engineers to comment on the proposal before going public. Somehow, I don’t think so. This was foolish of him.

    Now, as any Winnipeger or Bratislava resident will know, one could try to offset the capital cost of the bridge by creating a site for a restaurants at the end(s) of the bridge, or on the top. This was done in those two cities. But the financial benefits would be modest.

    Secondly, I too was told that most commuter cyclists would find the proposed crossing too circuitous to be attractive. This doesn’t mean that the idea shouldn’t be implemented. But not everyone would want to use it. Many cyclists and pedestrians would continue to use the existing bridge.

    So before some of us become too attached to this idea, we should appreciate that the cost estimate is likely to be significantly more…Anton’s suggestion that it could be double (or more) may not be far off…and we should hear from more commuter cyclists in terms of whether it is likely to be too circuitous to be functional.

    But over the longer term, I agree this could be a nice alternative for our city. We just can’t afford it now or in the near future.

    I for one look forward to the results of the July 13 trial. I’ll bet Peter Ladner will also be watching. Frankly, I hope it will work, but I don’t know enough about traffic engineering to say whether it will or not. We’ll see.

    Now, the best Canada Day I ever experienced was in Canada House in London in 1968…..

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