Thursday, May 7, 2009

Burrard Bridge Bike Lane Proposal: Back From The Dead?

As some seasoned Vancouverites may remember, there was a test conducted on the Burrard bridge back in 1996, in which lanes were closed to motorists and converted into bike lanes. Well, it seems the city council has decided to give it another go.

Obviously, this is great news for cyclists in general, and cyclo-commuters in particular. There is no question this will make life easier for those of us who commute into downtown from the south side of False Creek. However, there are some concerns that definitely need to be raised.

The current proposal contains three different options for the lane closures. One of them is great for cyclists, one is decent, and one is complete rubbish. They are as follows:

1. Close both curbside lanes, resulting in a dedicated bike lane in each direction. Motorists are relegated to the middle four lanes, pedestrians to the sidewalk.

2. Close only the west curbside lane, making this a southbound bike-only lane. Motorists get five lanes, southbound pedestrians get the sidewalk, and northbound cyclists share the sidewalk with pedestrians.

3. Close only the west curbside lane, making this a southbound bike-only lane. Motorists again get five lanes, pedestrians going both ways are allowed only on the west sidewalk, and the east sidewalk becomes the northbound bike-only lane.

Clearly option 1 is most favourable for cyclists. A lane each way all to ourselves is more than adequate for even peak-hour, fair-weather cyclo-commuting periods. However, reducing the number of motorist lanes by two will make motorists markedly displeased, so this one may encounter serious resistance when it goes before council.

Option 2 should be thrown out immediately and emphatically. Multiple studies have concluded that riding amongst pedestrians is considerably more likely to result in an accident than riding amongst cars.

Option 3 seem to be the happy medium. Motorists only lose one lane, and thus raise less of a fuss; cyclists get a "lane" to themselves in both directions, though one of these "lanes" is a repurposed sidewalk. Considering the low volume of pedestrians crossing the Burrard bridge, a single sidewalk will definitely suffice for pedestrian use.

The bottom line is that as cyclists, we should all be crossing our fingers and rooting for the first option; we should also be willing to accept the third. In the end, I think this issue will prove itself an effective measuring post with which to gauge how bike-friendly Vancouver really is.

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