British Columbia

'They were saying no one would ride it': 10 years on, Burrard bike lane is N. America's busiest, officials say

Proponents of a landmark bike lane in Vancouver are using its 10-year anniversary to chide those who originally thought the idea would be a disaster for transportation in the city.

After outcry over effect on traffic and business in 2009, more than a million cyclists cross bridge every year

Despite criticism over the idea of having a permanent bike lane on the Burrard Street Bridge in 2009, it has since become the most used lane in North America, officials say. (Jon Hernandez/CBC)

Proponents of a landmark bike lane in Vancouver are using its 10-year anniversary to chide those who originally thought the idea would be a disaster for transportation in the city.

The Burrard Street Bridge bike lane is now the busiest bike lane in North America, according to officials.

The permanent cycle lane on the south side of the bridge opened on July 13, 2009, but the months leading up to it were marked by harsh criticism from some leaders and community members that it would result in gridlock.

Kevin Quinlan was press secretary for then-mayor Gregor Robertson at the time and had fun on Twitter on Saturday pointing out the folly of the doomsayers.

'Chaos and congestion'

"They were saying no one would ride it, Vancouver's too rainy," he said.

"When it went in in that first week and those predictions of chaos and congestion just did not materialize, a lot of that opposition subsided pretty quickly."

One of those naysayers was Charles Gauthier, president and CEO with the Downtown Business Improvement Association.

Based on an ill-launched bike lane pilot project in 1996, it wasn't an unreasonable position to take

When city council voted to accept a permanent lane, Gauthier said it should have chosen to widen the bridge instead as taking a vehicle lane away would not be in the best interests of businesses downtown.

"None of us had a crystal ball back then," he said. "We couldn't have predicted how popular cycling would become if you made it safer for people."

In 2017, more work was completed on the bridge to add a bike lane on both sides. (Jon Hernandez/CBC)

Now the BIA and Gauthier endorse cycling infrastructure, as many businesses have employees and customers who bike.

"Our position is that we need to ensure that downtown is accessible by all modes of transportation, and that includes cycling," he said.

In 2017, the city finished more work on the bridge that reconfigured it to include a lane on both sides.

The city says more than a million cyclists ride across the bridge each year and Quilan says it has become the model for other bike lanes across Vancouver.

With files from Jon Hernandez

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