Vision Vancouver’s resident mechanical engineer has not ruled out a two-lane traffic-reallocation trial on the Burrard Bridge next spring.
Coun. George Chow told the Georgia Straight it is “a possibility” that Vancouverites will see two traffic lanes on the art deco span reallocated to other modes of transportation such as cycling and in-line skating.
This is despite the fact that Chow’s party campaigned last month on a reversible one-lane trial, in which half a lane in each direction would be given over to cyclists and traffic signalling would be installed to allow one reversible traffic lane in the centre. (In addition, the previous NPA–led council had already nixed a two-lane plan devised by former COPE councillor Fred Bass in 2005.)
“For a trial, I think it’s a possibility, a very strong possibility, for two reasons,” Chow explained in a Kitsilano coffee shop. “Firstly, in terms of cost, if you do a half-lane trial in each direction, you need to re-mark all the lanes.”¦There are a lot of costs involved if you want to do a half-lane trial each way, plus lane-switching. So it would seem to me, in order to get the data we want—the traffic volume and the bicycle volume—and [in order] to attract more cyclists you may like to have one lane in each direction.”
At council’s planning and environment committee meeting Thursday (December 18), Chow will introduce a motion asking staff to prepare a report and implementation plan by February 16, 2009, “on options for lane reallocation trials on the Burrard Bridge in 2009”. Staff will report back on cost estimates, schedule, and duration of trials, as well as a recommendation for a midtrial evaluation. Chow said this would give potential opponents a chance to offer feedback or concerns.
Chow said that, if it’s successful, it “could very well be” that a two-lane reallocation is made permanent.
“We are not reading into the future yet,” he said. “If it works well and if we manage the traffic, yes, it may be cheaper as well. If you have one lane in each direction, I would imagine—and I will check that with our engineers—that you don’t have to build that safety barrier down the sidewalk. You wouldn’t need to because you have that full lane.”
On November 3, ahead of the November 15 civic election and its political obliteration, the NPA announced that it favoured a $33-million option, incorporating safety upgrades already on the books, to erect a barrier to protect cyclists.
The only surviving NPA councillor, Suzanne Anton, told the Straight she will “have to be voting against” any proposed reallocation of traffic lanes.
“It’s been our position for a number of years,” Anton said by phone.
When asked what could swing her vote round, Anton—a keen cyclist—said, “My support or non-support is a matter of complete irrelevance to this council.”
Charles Gauthier, executive director of the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association, spoke in favour when the NPA nixed Bass’s reallocation in 2005. In 2008, Gauthier said his association “has some concerns” about what he believes is an increased risk of congestion if traffic lanes are reallocated. He added quickly: “The wisdom of council is important here.”
“I am relying on city staff,” Gauthier said. “Hey, if they come back with something else that changes the city staff’s position, we’ll probably take a look at that and make an assessment. At the same time, we know there is a need to improve cyclist and pedestrian access on that bridge and to make it safer. I’ve used it once as a cyclist, and I wouldn’t use it again, personally. I agree that there is a need for changes.”
Pedestrian advocate Bev Ballantyne said the prospect of a two-lane trial is “good”, but she added that the issue “has been studied to death”.
“Everyone on council should go back and read everything that’s been written about the Burrard Bridge this last 20 years,” she told the Straight.