Credit: Flickr / kennymagic

This just in: The Burrard Bridge re-allocation trial may actually be good for us

The latest post by CityCaucus.com blogger Daniel Fontaine expressed a surprising 180-degree turn on the Burrard bike lane issue after a recent trip to the dreaded, sprawling car capitol of Los Angeles. He writes:

Extremely poor planning decisions which encouraged the growth of suburban neighbourhoods is at the root of the transportation mayhem facing California's largest city. For as far as the eye can see, there are thousands of acres of single family homes sprawling North, East and South of the downtown core. ... Most disappointing is that despite knowing what the pitfalls are, low density growth continues unabated throughout the region. ...

I must say I did feel for the people who must get up by 4 am every morning in order to get to work on time in the LA basin. What a horrible existence.

On the long trip back to Vancouver, I had quite a few hours to ponder my most recent LA experience and compare it to the Vancouver region and its future growth plans. As a result, I can't help but look at plans to facilitate vehicle use by expanding the Port Mann Bridge, as well as other recent "shovel ready" road construction projects, with a bit more skepticism. I can't help but look at the proliferation of new low density, car-dependent single family housing developments in the Fraser Valley and wonder if it will become our version of the San Fernando Valley. ...

I grudgingly admit that I am even looking at the recent lane re-allocation trial on the Burrard Bridge in a different light. If the future of Metro Vancouver really does look even a little like LA, and facilitating more vehicle use will get us there, then perhaps removing one lane on a six lane bridge wasn't so bad a decision after all.


Bravo, Daniel, for having the grace to change your opinion on an issue that has raised the emotional mercury of city residents to boiling!

Daniel has struck on an important lesson, that more lanes do not equal less congestion. But more importantly, when considering city planning and initiatives such as the Burrard Bridge bike lane trial, we need to look beyond our day-to-day and ask ourselves what our long-range goals are for Vancouver.

Do we want a more livable city with healthier citizens who engage with each other daily and who help us achieve carbon-neutrality? Or do we want to facilitate a more car-friendly environment, with single-occupant cars producing greater pollution, longer commutes, road rage and greater alienation from our fellow Metro Vancouverites? The latter is unsustainable. If the running of a metropolitan area were a private business, we’d go bankrupt trying to accommodate the car traffic from our ever-expanding population.

Looking long term, we should note that bike infrastructure complements EcoDensity, while car infrastructure generally facilitates urban sprawl. We’ve already figured out the inefficiencies and negative effects to our environment and our communities of transforming farm and wetlands into suburban housing blocks disconnected from commerce and employment—in fact, California is perhaps the best case in point. So, as the City of Vancouver works to bring online its gentle density initiatives, so too should its bike infrastructure gain greater investment and consideration.

Truthfully, I love riding my bike in Vancouver. The infrastructure available to me on the Eastside is fantastic: I can commute to work faster via bike than SkyTrain and, with so many bike highways nearby, I have the distinct pleasure of being able to make cycling my primary mode of transport—and safely. While I chose to relocate to my current address for just this reason (plus access to the SkyTrain), others do not always have that luxury. And this is why I support the bike lane addition on the Burrard Street Bridge. I have cycled that bridge before and was thoroughly scared for my life. Making it safer can only but induce more residents to access it daily.

Now, I know people will counter that once the rains come this fall there won’t be enough cycling traffic to justify the lane, but I hope city council won’t be cowed. It will take several years for us as a city to become more bike savvy, more comfortable cycling through traffic, more adept with the rules of the road. Shucks, lots of people still don’t even own a bike. So we have to give it time.

And we have to give drivers time, too. They’re not the bad guys here. They’re just trying to get home after a long day at work. But I have faith that after a period of time, drivers will learn new routes that will get them home faster and without delay.

Want a more livable city? Support safer, more accessible bike infrastructure. For all. (I’m looking at you, Coquitlam.)