The paving is complete, the traffic is flowing. From watching the webcams for most of the day, there hasn’t been any of the predicted chaos. Even for a Sunday, the traffic seemed light.
People are still trying to figure out the new arrangements:
But it’s already clear that that the new bike lanes are a pleasure to cycle, particularly the downhill grade on the west side. Before, when cyclists gaining speed had to watch for predestrians on one side and the drop-off of the curb on the other, it made for a very tense experience. One of the reasons so many people wouldn’t even try. Now it’s a joy.
The changes at the northwest and east corners, where Burrard meets Pacific, are as significant as the changes on the bridge deck itself. The ‘free rights’ have been reconfigured. Free rights are the curving turn lanes that allow motorists to merge into traffic without necessarily stopping, so long as they yield to walkers and cyclists who cut across their path.
Until now, there were two lanes in each of the free rights coming on and off Pacific. Now there’s one for cyclists, one for cars.
The bike lanes extend back along Pacific for a block, giving cyclists enough road space so that they don’t have to be on the sidewalks.
It’s simpler, it’s safer, but it’s probably going to result in a back-up of traffic waiting to merge. I won’t be surprised to see the lines extend up Thurlow tomorrow. That, and the requirement for north-bound motorists coming off the bridge who want to get to Beach Avenue to now have to go another block further to Howe before turning, will cause no end of annoyance to those who really dislike change to their daily habits, especially when they’re inconvenienced. And that includes most of us.
What I am really looking for, though, is this:
Will kids and families now be cycling (and walking) across Burrard Bridge? Will a mother feel it’s safe to take her children by bike from Kitsilano to the Aquatic Centre? Will, for that matter, everyone from eight to eighty now feel safer and more comfortable?
This experiment is not about hardy youth and confident athletes. This is about accomodating Burrard Bridge for everyone. The goal is to find the right balance for all the users, including drivers, while addressing a lot of related issues. Legal commitments, yes. Safety and comfort, yes. Reducing greenhouse gases, yes. Fitness and health, yes.
We may not get it exactly right the first time, but for a lot of reasons we’ve got to keep trying.