Thursday, March 13, 2008

Bikes on Burrard Bridge

Right now, on both sides of the Burrard Bridge, cyclists and pedestrians share a narrow sidewalk that has no barrier to the adjacent high-speed motor traffic. This has been the situation for many many years. For a long time, the city has wondered how to improve the situation. In the March 6-13 2008 issue of The Georgia Straight an article by Matthew Burrows, Urban cyclists still face unfriendly terrain in Vancouver, discussed this topic..

On July 19, 2005, [Fred] Bass, then the chair of the city’s transportation and traffic committee, sought closure on the 15-year-old Burrard Bridge issue. He proposed that staff look into the lane widening, but that a six-month trial be started in April 2006, in which two lanes of car traffic would be given over to cyclists and in-line skaters, creating a much-needed segregation that would guarantee the safety of pedestrians and cyclists, who still have to share the narrow sidewalks. Bass convinced all COPE councillors to vote in favour, along with then–NPA councillor Peter Ladner. Mayor Sam Sullivan is the sole dissenting vote, though Ladner—now seeking the NPA mayoral nomination—announced later on that he had changed his position. He was derided at the WERA [West End Residents Association] event for doing this.

“I can’t win that one,” Ladner said by phone. “Will I repent? No. If you are a cycling advocate, nothing I did should make you concerned. We are widening the sidewalks. There will be better issues for cyclists. So what’s the issue? It is the anticar advocates who are pissed off at me.”

The Straight asked Ladner how he would react to being called a cycling flip-flopper at election time. “I have always been consistent that cyclists need more space,” he said. “It is just a question of where to put it.”

What's the issue? The issue is that widening the sidewalks will be very costly, both financially and in terms of heritage. I don't think two lanes are needed for cyclists and pedestrians; giving just one lane would suffice. Lane allocation instead of sidewalk widening would be much cheaper and wouldn't damage the bridge's heritage. The people against lane allocation argue that whenever they drive across the bridge they rarely see enough people using the sidewalks to warrant such a move. That's because it's dangerous! I believe there is a large number of people who may be considering cycling as transportation, and who would cross Burrard Bridge, but they don't do it because they either know how dangerous it is, or they keep hearing how dangerous it is.

As mentioned, there was going to be a trial of two lanes given to cyclists. As soon as Sam Sullivan and the NPA gained power, it got scrapped before it even began.

Lane allocation: if you do it, they will come.

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