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. Anyone else out there know of places where this kind of trial might be merited?

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.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

Vancouver Set to Claim Another Bridge Lane for Active Transportation

|
In 2009, Vancouver converted a southbound car lane on the west side of the Burrard Bridge to a protected bikeway using concrete dividers, freeing up the sidewalk for pedestrians. On the east side, the city converted the existing sidewalk into a bike path. The three-month experiment defied predictions of carmageddon and became a permanent fixture. Thanks to the protected lane and […]

How Vancouver Designs Intersections With Bike Lanes to Minimize Conflicts

|
For the last installment of our series previewing the Pro-Walk Pro-Bike Pro-Place conference, which starts Monday in Pittsburgh, I talked to Jerry Dobrovolny, transportation director of the city of Vancouver, BC, about how the city designs intersections where there are protected bike lanes. (The interview has been lightly edited for clarity and length.) Members of his […]

How Should Streetcars and Bikes Interact?

|
Streetcar service could finally begin this year in Washington, DC. Trial runs are already taking place. And the debate about how people on bikes will navigate the tracks is already raging. Last week, the District Department of Transportation quietly proposed streetcar regulations that would ban bicycling within a streetcar guideway except to cross the street. Most immediately, […]

Touring Portland’s Brand New Car-Free Bridge

|
Okay, it seems like now Portland is just showing off. The city is putting the finishing touches on the Tilikum Bridge, a multi-modal span that will serve buses, cyclists, pedestrians and trains — but no cars. This bridge has it all: a safe walking and biking path, transitways free of traffic congestion, sleek design, bike counters, a […]

Rob Ford’s Toronto: Moving Backwards

|
Toronto is a beautiful, progressive, global city. I was just visiting a couple of weeks ago, and I was so impressed with the teeming sidewalks, the subways, the streetcars, the buses and, most importantly, the bike lanes. My boyfriend and I brought our bikes and that was all we needed to get around the city […]