Vancouver Gives a Bridge Lane to Bikes

New York isn’t the only city that’s experimenting with closing roads to improve traffic and create better conditions for pedestrians and cyclists. Today, from Streetsblog Network member Human Transit, we hear of a bridge in Vancouver where a lane of car traffic has been given over to cyclists:

3717925612_6fee0558f6.jpgHappy cyclists coming off the Burrard Bridge in Vancouver. Photo by Ariane Colenbrander via Flickr.

Last weekend, after years of debate, the City of Vancouver
experimentally converted one of the outbound lanes of the Burrard Bridge to a bike lane, leaving two outbound traffic lanes where there had been three. This should have been a problem on the afternoon peak. The media were out in force, ready to interview angry motorists and stream live video of gridlock.  And as Gordon documents on his blog, nothing much happened.

They’re not over the hump yet. The experiment will run for at least three months. Schools come back in September. And it’s easy to get people on their bicycles in Vancouver’s bucolic summer, when it’s light until 9:00 PM. What will the bridge look like as Vancouver heads into its famously gloomy winter, when windy rain lashes the bridge and the whole PM commute happens in the dark?

My guess is that many of the fair-weather cyclists, knowing there’s not room for as many cars, will try to use transit. And it will all come down to a tipping point: do enough of them do this that the bridge still flows fairly well? Or do they generate just enough car traffic to strangle the transit, so that both motorists and transit riders lose?

It’s great that Vancouver’s political leaders had the gumption to go ahead with this despite the doubters. It’s actually quite a sensible thing to try. A study released last year called "The Price of Anarchy in Transportation Networks" floated some interesting ideas about why having fewer route options can speed traffic. The study’s authors found that narrowing drivers’ choices resulted in shorter collective travel time.

In New York, the Brooklyn Bridge — where pedestrian-bicyclist conflicts are constant and sometimes ugly — would be the obvious place to try giving a traffic lane to bicyclists. We hope the city’s DOT keeps an eye on Vancouver’s experiment.

More thought-provoking posts from around the network: The Vine asks whether there is such a thing as sustainable biofuels. Seattle’s Bus Chick is car-free, but laments the necessity of occasional car-seat drama. And Copenhagenize highlights a peculiar Audi ad — it seems to promise that driving might be as fun as riding a bike.

  • Larry Littlefield

    “In New York, the Brooklyn Bridge — where pedestrian-bicyclist conflicts are constant and sometimes ugly — would be the obvious place to try giving a traffic lane to bicyclists.”

    Makes sense to me, but my wife told me if she had to ride right next to the noise and fumes of the motor vehicles, she wouldn’t want to ride to Manhattan anymore. And to be fair, I found the walk/bike path on the GW Bridge to be rather unpleasant for that reason, compared with the East River bridges.

    A more expensive solution would be to build an elevated bike path on an inner lane above the traffic, but below the pedestrian path (putting cyclist’s heads below the beams). That would help to restore the historical use and look of the bridge, when what is now the inner lanes held the cable railway.

  • Moses Gates

    The Pulaski bridge, where Bike/Ped conflict is just as bad but where the auto lanes are extremely underutilized, is a good place to try this as a PILOT program. The idea has been brought to DOT already, hopefully they’ll try it out.

  • Let me repeat the invitation to join the Livable Streets Group Brooklyn Bridge Cycle Track Advocates. The more people join, the more likely we’ll be able to accomplish something!

  • J

    DOT has already done this on the Queensboro Bridge. The biking/walking path on the north side of the bridge is simply a car lane that was rededicated to biking and walking. The corresponding space on the south side of the bridge still functions as a car lane.

  • I \v/ NY

    similar project under construction now in portland oregon converting a morrison bridge lane into a bike path.

  • Thanks to all who’ve joined the Group so far – we’ve doubled our membership this morning! Please contribute thoughts, links, blog posts, discusssions. One about Larry’s suggestion upthread would be particularly helpful.

    J, I know it looks like they’re car lanes, but they’re actually trolley trackbeds.

  • Vern On

    Does the roadway on the Pulaski Bridge have big crappy expansion joints on it? maybe the long narrow kind with little nobby rivets? Is it doable with skinny tires? Been on it a bunch of times but can’t remember.

  • The Brooklyn Bridge ALREADY HAS a bike/ped path. It is lovely.

    The Verrazano-Narrows, on the other hand, which connects Staten Island to Brooklyn, is a tolled two-level, twelve-lane, autos-only bridge. Giving it a bike/ped lane would allow non-drivers exponentially easier access to Prospect Park, Coney Island, and the Rockaways, cutting out the transfer into Manhattan. It would also increase cycling as a free means of getting across the Verrazano.

    http://www.examiner.com/examiner/x-3139-NY-Bicycle-Transportation-Examiner~y2009m7d22-VerrazanoNarrows-Bridge-needs-a-bicyclepedestrian-lane

    Let’s do that instead. 🙂

  • gecko

    A cantilevered elevated veloway on the Brooklyn Bridge would be real nice and make a statement about our committment to sensible transportation.

    But, getting the streets safe and ready for a New York scale public bicycle system should be the highest priority.

    There really does not seem to be enough bicycle traffic across the bridges to justify major expenditures at this time although the Brooklyn Bridge walkway seems to be a major tourist draw and the city might find considerable advantage in developing it further to capitalize on increased revenues from tourist dollars; such as veloway and or cycle rail crossings.

  • This isn’t the first time that Burrard St. Bridge had a lane dedicated to bikes. In 1996 they tried very much the same thing. Given how left-leaning the whole Vancouver City Council is currently, I am cautiously optimistic.

  • A good Vancouver limousine service will help you do just that: by providing the best transportation available to you, you can make sure that such life-changing events will be made as memorable as possible.

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