Friday, January 16, 2009

Burrard Bridge Two Lane Trial FAQ

Q: Why do we need to change the current situation on the Burrard Bridge?

A: The City of Vancouver’s transportation priorities are walking and cycling. Several people have been seriously injured due to the substandard width of the sidewalks. The large number of people already walking, cycling and jogging over the bridge is expected to increase as more individuals choose sustainable transportation methods and the city’s population continues to grow.

Q: Why not just put a barrier in?
A: A barrier would make the sidewalk even narrower, increasing the likelihood of even more accidents involving cyclists and pedestrians. Also, narrower sidewalks will not allow for further increases in bicycle and pedestrian traffic.

Q: Why don’t cyclists slow down and obey the 15kph speed limit?
A: 15kph is less than 10mph. This is not a reasonable speed limit for cyclists going downhill and it’s twice the speed of the average pedestrian. We don’t encourage bikes to use regular sidewalks for safety reasons. Those same reasons apply on bridge sidewalks as well. Motorists do not obey the speed limit on the bridge either.

Q: Why not a one-lane reallocation?
A: A two-lane reallocation is quicker, simpler and less costly to implement. The bridge surface contains asbestos, the grinding required to reline the bridge requires special procedures that are expensive and long lead times. During the trial, permanent solutions including a one-lane reallocation can be studied. The two-lane trial will give us a good indication on whether or not a one-lane reallocation is the best solution. A two-lane trial is much safer for cyclists and will encourage more people to ride reducing traffic on the bridge.

Q: Why is a two-lane trial better for cyclists than a one-lane trial?
A: A two-lane trial allows enough space for barriers to protect cyclists from high-speed vehicle traffic. This increased safety will encourage more people to ride on the bridge. A two-lane trial allows enough room for both fast cyclists and slower cyclists on the long up hill sections. In a one-lane trial, cyclists would be forced to pass by entering traffic lanes. This would be both dangerous and disruptive to traffic on the bridge, causing congestion. Additionally, at 1.5 metres in width, the bike lanes would be below Transportation Association of Canada standards and could expose the city to the risk of legal action in the event of an accident. At the middle of the bridge, the bridge structure further reduces the width of the current sidewalk/bike lane.

Q: Instead of bike lanes, why not widen the sidewalks inward.

A: This would be costly, disruptive to traffic and impractical to do on a trial basis.

Q: Won’t this cause transit delays?
A: Bus lanes can be added along Cornwall and Burrard south of the bridge to minimize transit delays.

Q: Won’t lane reallocation cause traffic chaos?
A: We expect confusion on the first few days but are confident in the ability of all users to quickly adapt. The key is to inform drivers of the trial and alternatives to Burrard. Some important facts to consider:
- The traffic on Burrard increased by 10% during Canada Line construction. This shows that people are adaptable and willing to change routes.
- The opening of the Canada Line, with a capacity of 300,000 people per day will further reduce traffic on all bridges to downtown
- At Broadway, the Granville Street is only three blocks east of Burrard. The Granville Street Bridge has plenty of spare capacity. The Canada Line rapid transit sytem will also reduce the number of buses on Granville further increasing space on Granville, Seymour and Howe.
- The bridge requires $33 million dollars of improvements to repair the railings. This work will require disruptions to traffic anyway over the next few years.
- Northbound, the main cause of traffic delays is the signal at the corner of Hornby and Pacific. We will encourage the city to address the issues at this intersect to decrease delays during the trial.
- It should be noted that the Lions Gate Bridge carries 60% more traffic than the Burrard Bridge with only three lanes.
- Car traffic has been consistently decreasing since 2001, while pedestrian and cycling traffic has had dramatic increases.

Q: What about a new bridge?
A: A new bridge has been considered. It would take years to plan and design. The cost would be at least $100 million dollars. It may not be close enough to Burrard to address the safety issues on the sidewalk. Cities like London, Copenhagen and Lyon, improve existing bridges while added new bicycle and pedestrian bridges.

Q: What about emergency vehicles?
A: The bus lanes will help emergency vehicles. The proposed widening would have likely had a greater impact on emergency vehicles than the trial. Emergency vehicles function on congested streets and bridges all around the city. In considering the long-term solution, the impact on emergency vehicles will be a prime consideration. The trial would likely have less impact on emergency vehicles than the 18 months of construction delays that widening the bridge would have caused.

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