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Vancouver Adds Cycletrack to Burrard Bridge

It's been 15 years since Vancouver residents started petitioning for a bike lane on one of the bridges that connects to downtown. In the summer of 2009, the city implemented a test lane on the historic Burrard Bridge and almost immediately cycling was up 30%.

Cycling advocates and wheeled commuters explain the advantages to having a protected bicycle path.  Recent reports seem to show most are happy with the implementation and residents favor continuing the trial by a margin of 2 to 1.

[music]

Chris Keam: [0:10] Vancouver's downtown is on a peninsula that's almost an island. It's bordered by water on three sides so we have bridges to get into downtown pretty much no matter where you come from.

Kari Hewett: [0:20] So, what happens is the traffic that moves from anywhere south of here, mainly a lot of the living areas and the farming and industrial areas, crosses over the bridge either for commuting purposes often for business or for actually leaving to go out to another job. The very busy bridges are Burrard and then Granville and Cambie.

Richard Campbell: [0:43] Well, right now the cycling situation on Burrard Bridge is pretty good. About a year ago the City of Vancouver did a trial protected bike lane on the bridge where they reallocated one of the lanes of traffic for a one way bike lane. And then they reallocated one of the sidewalks for cycling traffic the other way. And pedestrians now share the west sidewalk on the bridge. We would rather have seen them allocate lanes on both sides of the bridge so pedestrians could go on on both sides, but this is certainly better than the previous situation.

[music]

Kari: [1:21] For a lot of us, the necessity of having segregated or separated bike lanes makes it a lot more safe, both for pedestrians and for cyclists and expedites our journey in and out of the city in a much better fashion.

Chris: [1:35] Of course, there were some small delays on the first few days, and you had to be here on the first day. There were more television trucks and cameras hovering overhead, and a lot of the local media couldn't quite wrap their heads around it. They really thought there was going to be huge traffic problems.

Television Reporter: [1:55] That's right, Gloria. With rush hour, it seems the biggest problem for drivers right now is actually getting on the bridge heading southbound. Some drivers who are waiting along Pacific Street say they've waited about 20 minutes to get on the bridge. But once they do, things seem to be moving quite quickly, everybody adjusting well to the new bike lanes.

[music]

Dru Venables: [2:21] Now that it's established everyone knows it's the bike lane and there's no question whether or not someone is going to hit you, it's just like your own private lane. And even some bridges on Vancouver now that the bike lane's here, people are just more used to seeing bikes on the bridge and it's not that big of a deal anymore.

[music]

Chris: [2:38] What's really important about what's happened with the bridge and the change to it is that more types of people can use it. Before, you're only going to see your dedicated cyclists who are used to riding in traffic, who are OK weaving around pedestrians and stuff like that, and for a lot of beginner cyclists, for young people, it was impossible.

Richard: [3:03] The city also noticed the percentage of women cycling over the bridge increased, more than the percentage of men. So, that's another great sign that people feel that the bridge is safer.

[music]

Kari: [3:20] I hope it's here to stay, and I hope it provides New York and other cities around the world with an amazing example of what you can do with a beautiful heritage bridge. You can take away the space from the vehicles, be positive, productive and looking towards the future, make it available for other modes of traffic and get people out of cars.

[music]

[3:41]



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  • http://www.intersection911.org Steve B

    Awesome!! We need to follow Vancouver's lead and do similar things in Portland on our Burnside bridge.

  • Sir Lars

    A lane for bikes on an obviously already car-congested bridge? Nice. This is how you put people first and invest in the future. Would love to see this on our Brooklyn Bridge before someone gets hurt badly.

  • http://www.livablestreets.com/people/mepstein8 Mike Epstein

    Wait, they think they're providing an example for New York? We already have separated bike paths on the vast majority of our bridges in New York. I'm confused.

  • http://www.livablestreets.com/people/Jeff Jeff

    Just let them have their moment in the spotlight, and chuckle at the way they pronounce certain vowels.

    In some sense, this should be an example for what New York needs to do with both the Brooklyn Bridge and the Pulaski Bridge, i.e. re-purpose deck space from motorized to human use. Most of our fully separate bridge decks (Williamsburg, Manhattan) exist that way because the infrastructure was built when human beings were actually considered important.

    But I agree. As somebody who is very sensitive and paranoid about Pacific Northwest Elitism, the people interviewed from Seattle probably think that New York is some grime-covered, post-industrial, backwards, East Coast auto-dominated hell hole, and believes that only by following the holy ways of Portland, Seattle, and Vancouver, can we ever climb out of our cesspool of filth that we dare to call a city!

    All Hail the Pacific Northwest!

  • teresa

    Looks like a cool solution for the ridiculously overcrowded Pulaski Bridge bike/ped situation.

  • rlb

    I'll just take this as an opportunity to highlight a New York bridge that has zero bike facilities. That is the Greenpoint ave bridge, aka the JJ Byrne Memorial Bridge which connects Greenpoint with Blissville, Queens en route to Sunnyside.
    When somebody chooses to bike across the bridge, it is either illegaly on crumbling, difficult to access (lacking curbcuts) sidewalks, or along with two lanes (each way) of dangerous speeding traffic.
    The only Mass Transit currently serving Blissville is the B24. A twice an hour bus whose weekend service gets cut come July.
    It's a sad state of affairs.

  • Greener Grass

    Hate to push anyone off the usual Streetsblog high horse but NYC did this (repurposed a traffic lane) on the Queensboro Bridge a couple of decades ago.    

    Pulaski is a bigger challenge for barriered lane solution than this Vancouver Bridge because it is a frequently-opened draw bridge.   

    Also, I've heard bike lanes for the Byrne Bridge are in the works, though it's far from impassable now.  

  • Bridge Rider Boy

    But Mike -

    They already had a bike/ped shared path - much like the Brooklyn and Pulaski...what they did is went one further - because of congestion they took back a lane of traffic on the roadway, which is exactly what we need to be looking at on the Brklyn, Pulaski and - dare I say it - VZ Narrows Bridge!!!!

  • teresa

    To RLB: Greenpoint Avenue Bridge is about to get its (bike) due. I heard that DOT was out recently to a Brooklyn Community Board #1 transportation committee meeting, and they gave a presentation. Work starts soon - some time this summer, again that's what I heard.

  • rlb

    Teresa
    Thanks for the encouraging words! I hope it pans out.
    Until then I will keep my helmet on extra tight.

  • Jon

    Will we see a 'Streetsblog Pacific Northwest' or 'Streetsblog Cascadia' covering Portland, Seattle and Vancouver? I guarantee it would be as popular as your SF & LA versions.

  • http://pedalpressure.blogspot.com/ John_in_NH

    I too would love to see a Pacific Northwest streetsblog, with funding now I doubt it would happen, but plan for the future!!

    and of note, while I would certainly use that facility if cycling, its not pretty and nothing of that setup really wants to make me use it. lets get some planters in there or something, more green, less concrete!!

    (to be fair I have the same complaint in NYC or parts of Montreal(although they got some nice greenspace with their separate  infrastructure) or Boston or the UK....)

    great job!! keep it up!

  • Oscar

    I used to live in Vancouver, until last week. This is the second time they have tried to re-assign Burrard Bridge traffic lanes to bikes. The first time, a few years ago, it was a very tentative attempt by a very divided and timid city council. The anti-change public was able to intimidate politicians into re-assigning the lanes back for car use within a few days. Bringing back separate bike lanes to the bridge was always a point of discussion in city council, partly because of cycling activists and partly because the previous arrangements resulted in many serious accidents to cyclists and pedestrians.

    This time, city council agreed to only taking one traffic lane from cars, instead of two, and also to taking one sidewalk from pedestrians, to give to cyclists. Despite that silly compromise that created conflict between cyclists and pedestrians, it is much better than the previous arrangement. This time the city meant business. They placed concrete barriers to separate bikes from speeding cars. They placed a bike box for bikes coming off the bridge northbound turning left into Hornby Street, which has a bike lane towards downtown, and forbade right-hand turns for cars on that intersection, keeping the bike box open to cyclists.

    The only traffic problems were cars turning onto the bridge from Pacific Ave, as shown in the video. That only lasted about a week before drivers re-routed either to other bridges or to other approaches to the Burrard Bridge. Most of that traffic was drivers coming from the North Shore who would cut through the West End, a high-density residential area between Downtown and Stanley Park. They should have stayed off the West End, and continued on Georgia to Burrard or to Howe to cross South.

    On the enforcement side, for the first week, there were city by-law (ordinance)enforcement officers directing bike, car and pedestrian traffic according to the new design. The police, on the other hand, did not do much. They showed up on the bridge to ticket cyclists who were not wearing helmets, which is not a public safety issue, but which was popular with opponents of the bridge redesign. A punishment to cyclists. Yet they never ticketed cyclists who were going the wrong way on the one-way bike paths. They eventually showed up on Hornby and ticketed drivers who took the now-forbidden right hand turn. But they never ticketed any driver for stopping on the left-turn bike box. Several cars have driven on, and even parked on the separate bike path that was taken away from cars. I am not aware of any of them being ticketed or towed. Also the city forgot to erase the bike signs on the surface of the new pedestrian-only path, and the pedestrian signs on the surface of the new bike-only path, creating confusion among new users of the bike and pedestrian paths.

    The last two city governments have created a lot of new bike infrastructure. This includes a bike path similar to the Burrard one on the Dunsmuir Viaduct, the Carrall Street separate and raised bike paths, which drivers are allowed to park on (no tickets or towing there either), the bike path along the new Canada Line bridge over the North arm of the Fraser River to Richmond, The Central Valley Greenway from Vancouver to New Westminster, which was not finished a month after it was inaugurated.

    There is also a network of partly traffic-calmed, designated bike routes. But those are very slow, as the streets that cross the bikeways often have the right of way. Giving the designated bike routes the right of way on all but the major arterials, and creating car barriers to discourage cars driving more than three blocks on those routes, would be great to providing a competitive alternative to motorized transportation in Vancouver.

  • LB

    As a Vancouverite I can tell you that everyone involved in bike stuff and public space in this city watches NYC very intently for inspiration. NYC is frequently pointed to as an example of how you take take space away from cars and give it to people/bikes and the world doesn't end.

    Not sure why they framed this video in a "let's show NY how to do it" way, that's silly.

    Burrard Bridge - part of the reason it's ugly is because it's a trial reallocation, hasn't been made permanent yet (will be soon).

    The other reason this bridge is such a big deal is because normally we squeeze bike infrastructure into leftover spaces (i.e. narrow all these lanes a bit and paint a bike lane in) - this is the first time we've actually taken space away from cars.

    And because the previous road reallocation trial in 1996 was such a disaster, everyone thought the world would end when they proposed trying again. Amazing what 14 years and proper communication can do!

  • Oscar

    As a Vancouverite, what I really found inspiring was not NYC's improvements, but Bogota's, as shown in Streetfilms.

    LB, how will the "permanent" Burrard Bridge bikeways look different and prettier from the current "trial" version?

  • Clarence Eckerson, Jr.

    LB and others:

    Right now NYC has a number of bridges that are very congested for bikes and pedestrians. There is already what I would term good accommodation on them, but at certain times of the day/seasons it is getting contentious and overcrowded. Being able to open the debate to possibly appropriate a full roadway lane is what people would like to hear. Just as had been done here with the Burrard Bridge in this video.

  • mary walishko

    It is because of the commitment and hard work of people such as Richard Campbell that improvements like this
    can be made.

  • Nancy

    Wow. I love this. But if they did this in LA, the drivers would get out their glocks.

  • Supp Suppinger

    @ Nancy LA: Nancy, cyclists are drivers as well! They drive their bikes. In Europe where I live, each country has another approach to cylcing. But especially here in Austria, pedestrians and cyclists have the right of way, this is the law. Well, let´s assume, at least, pedestrians and cyclists were humans, so it´s a basic human right to not be threatened by 2 tons bombs called cars, right? People will have to change their minds. I know, it´s common to commute one hour to work by car in LA. My dad who was a surgeon walked to his work at the hospital for 5 minutes. For the last 20 years I commuted to school and university by bike for 10-20 minutes. That´s what it should be. By the way I feel sorry, glocks are made in Austria. best regards, Supp.