'Game-changer': Burrard Bridge bike lane turns 10
When the City of Vancouver announced that it would be removing a vehicle lane to install a protected bike lane on the Burrard Bridge, critics and drivers alike predicted traffic mayhem and conflict on the major artery into the downtown core.
But as time passed, signage improved, and walkers, cyclists and drivers alike adapted to the concrete-barriered bikeways, the criticism evaporated.
It’s now been 10 years and the city says cycling trips have grown to some 1.2 million per year over that span, which has been upgraded in recent years to provide better car and bike access to as well as pedestrian-only access on both sides of the bridge.
"It attracted different types of people, like people that were new to cycling for the first time in Vancouver," says Manager of Transportation Planning Dale Bracewell. "In that sense, it was a game-changer and we've been building off that realm of designing for people of all ages and ability in cycling in Vancouver since 2009."
The city had first tried a similar pilot project in 1996 but it only lasted a week before the volume of complaints to city hall prompted its removal.
And while there was considerable confusion about signage and wayfinding when the Burrard Bridge bike lane was installed, tweaking and improvements over the years now have the span and its connections to the north and south running smoothly for all users of those intersections.
The city now has 325 kilometres of bike lanes shared with roadways, with about a quarter of that being the protected bike lanes the city considers the "AAA network" it says are "designated as All-Ages-and-Abilities… The AAA Network is a connected series of mostly protected bike lanes and some local street bikeways with lower traffic volumes."
Every two years, city staff updates its proposed list of upgrades and addition to the network.
The 2018-2022 plan includes an ambitious expansion across much of the city, including some contentious areas like the Commercial Drive area, where some merchants are urging planners to avoid removing parking spaces and redirect the bike lanes to either side of the popular dining and shopping district.
"In the light of climate emergency, staff have to look at how do we expand opportunities for more people to walk and cycle and take transit, so looking at people cycling and where we're prioritizing citywide is an important part of our days ahead," said Bracewell.
While the Burrard bike lane is being trumpeted as an example of the viability of separated lanes in urban areas, Thomas Eleizegui, owner of the Musette Bike Café on Burrard says while he feels safer on protected bike lanes and has seen a surge in walking and cycling as a result, he has concerns about cyclists now racing southward toward the bridge with an overconfidence that's caused unnecessary accidents.
"They go down the hill at a pretty quick pace so I think (the city) should moderate that for sure," he said.