Burrard Bridge bike lanes start summer trial
Many Vancouver commuters were adjusting to the changes on the Burrard Bridge on Monday after the city turned one of the southbound traffic lanes into a bike-only lane over the weekend.
The six-month trial project also created a second bike-only lane for northbound cyclists on the eastern sidewalk, while the western sidewalk is now reserved for pedestrians in both directions.
On Monday morning, traffic on the bridge was light and there appeared to be few problems with the new traffic patterns. Some pedestrians said they were annoyed about losing access to the eastern sidewalk, forcing them to cross busy intersections at both ends of the bridge.
On Monday evening, traffic on the bridge remained lighter than usual, but southbound cars faced delays getting onto the bridge during rush hour. Drivers along Pacific Street on the north end of the bridge reported delays of up to 20 minutes. But once they got on the bridge, traffic appeared to move quickly.
Mayor Gregor Robertson pedalled his way over the bridge Sunday afternoon after crews had finished installing the concrete barriers and new signage.
He said the change in traffic patterns might be most noticeable in the afternoon when there will only be two vehicle lanes, instead of the usual three, heading southbound out of downtown.
"Hopefully, everyone [who] is in cars can adjust. The Granville Bridge has a lot of spare capacity and we're hoping that people, particularly coming out of downtown, can use Howe Street onto the Granville Bridge to exit the downtown, spread the traffic, and we don't have congestion like some are predicting," Robertson said.
Vehicle approaches and exits from the two bridges have also been modified in several places to accommodate changes in traffic patterns.
Robertson, known as a keen bicycle commuter, says it will take patience from everyone to make the bike lane project work
"Many are expecting chaos for the days ahead, Hopefully, cooler heads prevail," said the mayor.
This test of the bike lane is scheduled to last at least until September, but has been authorized by city council to last as long as six months, depending on the results. A previous trial on the Burrard Bridge more than a decade ago was cancelled after less than a week because of confrontations between drivers and cyclists.
Former city councillor and Simon Fraser University urban planning expert Gordon Price believes this time, the bike lane will be successful.
"This has been much better thought out. There has been a lot of messaging. People are more prepared. I think just as important though, the culture has changed. Even just with the Olympics coming up, the changes that have occurred to traffic patterns already, this kind of fits into the bigger picture," Price said Monday morning.
Cycling advocates have been demanding changes to the bridge for years, saying too many people are ending up in hospital emergency rooms after being knocked into traffic from the bridge's crowded and elevated sidewalks.