Former COPE councillor Fred Bass has this to say about Vision Vancouver and COPE’s proposal for a one-lane reversible bike-lane trial on the Burrard Bridge: “It won’t work.”
Bass, a city councillor from 1999 to 2005, devised a six-month, two-lane trial passed by council in July 2005, before current NPA councillors voted to nix it in December of that year after winning a majority on city council.
Now both COPE and Vision Vancouver have dropped Bass’s idea in favour of a one-lane proposal. COPE’s platform advocates splitting “one of the six traffic lanes”, while Vision’s platform states it favours “incorporating lane-signaling (like on the Lion’s [sic] Gate Bridge) to maintain three of the remaining five lanes for rush-hour traffic”.
“What they are doing is not planning,” Bass told the Georgia Straight. “What they are doing involves a huge amount of expense, complication, and possibly increased risk in having three lanes going to two lanes going to three lanes. What they are doing is, well, let’s just say they are ”˜bastardizing Bass’. If this foretells the weak-kneedness of Vision and COPE together, then Vancouver has lost something substantial.”
COPE council candidate Ellen Woodsworth was on council from 2002 to 2005 and voted in favour of Bass’s original idea. In a phone interview with the Straight, she defended the new policy as a “practical, political, and environmental solution”.
In response to Bass’s comments, she said “both COPE and Vision are filled with bikers who say it [the new trial] will work.”
“The original idea, in the end, didn’t go through, and I think it cost us a lot politically,” Woodsworth added of Bass’s trial. “As a cyclist, I just want to see something happen before anyone else gets hurt.”
Bass claimed that a one-lane reallocation is not enough to guarantee cyclists’ safety. He suggested the change of plan has happened “because there are people guided not by the best decision but by which way the winds are blowing”.
NPA councillors have never supported reassigning any car lanes. After cancelling Bass’s trial, they opted for a sidewalk-widening option priced at $14.5 million. Costs have now spiralled to between $57 million and $63 million, depending on when construction would begin.
On November 3, the NPA announced it had moderated its position in favour of a barrier between the sidewalk and the roadway. The cost of that is expected to be about $33 million, according to the party’s media release.
Cycling advocate Richard Campbell told the Straight the NPA’s latest plan is a “lose-lose compromise”, adding: “It took them three years to work out the widening is too expensive. That’s pathetic.”
Regarding COPE and Vision, Campbell said their one-lane proposal is at least moving in the right direction, “but it’s not as good as Fred’s original vision”.
Bev Ballantyne, outspoken founder of the community group Putting Pedestrians First, told the Straight she believes “[city] staff won’t do one lane at all. They will fight tooth and nail and they will say it’s not safe enough for cyclists.”
Speaking by phone prior to the NPA announcement, engineering-services general manager Tom Timm told the Straight “the final decision will be made over the course of the next year.” Unlike the NPA, he did not express concern that the project looked “unaffordable” because costs were rising.
“I still support the widening option and would start to try and find some senior-government cost-sharing,” Timm said.
Timm also noted that $20 million allocated to the widening under the capital plan, when added to the $13 million already committed, comes to $33 million, “which works out to about 50 percent of the funding needed”.
Top cycling priorities according to the city’s Bicycle Advisory Committee
> Greater emphasis on education and promotion of cycling
> Separated bikeways wherever possible
> Preferably a two-lane reallocation for the Burrard Bridge
> A 10-percent bike-mode share (of all trips) by 2010
> Working closely with City of Vancouver engineering, planning, and police departments to make the roads safer
Source: Kari Hewett, acting chair, City of Vancouver Bicycle Advisory Committee