The Burrard trial begins

Yesterday council approved an option for the Burrard Bridge lane reallocation trial that allocates a southbound road lane to cyclists, the east sidewalk exclusively to northbound cyclists and the west sidewalk to exclusively to pedestrians travelling in both directions.

Mayor Gregor Robertson and the Vision councillors supported the one-lane trial, COPE councillors supported a two-lane trial and NPA councillor Suzanne Anton was absent.

Mayor Gregor Robertson committed to a one-lane trial during his election campaign. During debate yestereday, he told council “this is not a decision that comes easily, but it is driven by safety first and affordability.

“We heard compelling calls for a two-lane trial but there are obvious ongoing concerns about the shift of traffic volume. This option represents an opportunity to demonstrate how quickly traffic can shift. For cyclists this is an opportunity to begin a transition.”

The arguments for a trial are conclusive. It is the best way to learn whether or not the Bridge can be made safe for cyclists without a $30 million sidewalk widening procedure that would destroy the Bridge’s heritage character. That’s equivalent to an entire year’s expenditure on transportation improvements.

This decision disapppointed many cyclists, who overwhelmingly favoured the two-lane option presented to council. But the one-lane trial is an important first step in the drive to improve cycling and increase the number of cyclists in Vancouver. Success on this lane separation project should demonstrate the value and necessity of creating separate lanes for cyclists city-wide.

In addition, a one-lane trial should go a long way to assuring motorists that lane re-allocation is a sensible way to grow more sustainable transportation options in Vancouver. As many studies have shown, concerns about new gridlock are often unfounded.

The Burrard Bridge lane re-allocation can’t wait. We need the trial. I’m hopeful this trial will lay the groundwork for more improvements on the bridge and citywide, for pedestrians, cyclists and motorists.