Today marked a new stage in cycling in Vancouver.

UPDATE: See a cyclist-eye view of the new lane, thanks to a helmet-cam, here.

UPDATE: Sun columnist Miro Cernetig writes about the next next stage – Bixi-style bike sharing.

From the late 80s, with the opening of the Seaside route, to the 90s, with the development of the bikeway network, Vancouver has been steadily increasing the number of kilometres designed to encourage cycling.   But with the success of the Burrard Bridge lane, fully separated from passing traffic, Council gained the confidence to move forward, quickly and decisively, to introduce ‘cycle tracks’ into downtown.

Now it is possible to cycle on Dunsmuir Street from Main Street to Hornby on a two-way track, separated from sidewalks and vehicle lanes, in comfort and safety.

The Mayor led a hundred or so cyclists on an inaugural parade this morning, heavily covered by media – a reflection that ‘alternative transportation’ is now not a sideshow, that Vancouver is changing into something more akin to a northern European metropolis.   We’re Copenhagenizing.

It happened fast.  The Engineering department moved in and transformed Dunsmuir with surprising speed – and not just by laying in a row of Jersey barriers.  They’re experimenting with several types of separation, including planters and paint and concrete dividers.

But the truth is more likely found in a classic saying credited to Robert Moses, the construction coordinator of New York City: “Once you’ve poured the concrete, they’ll never make you tear it up.”

There are trade-offs.  Some congestion, especially when a truck blocks one of the remaining two lanes for deliveries.  Or a hotel loses a drop-off.  Or right-hand turns are prohibited on some streets.  The media, of course, asked about the loss of a business on Hornby Street.  But the gain is in safety and eventual transformation of the city, to a place where, as more people choose other modes of transportation, more space is available for those who actually need to drive.  It’s happening, but it’s incremental, and hard for the sceptics to grasp, especially when they see the change more in terms of a culture war, an implied criticism of their way of life, if not an actual threat, where territory is gained and lost.

As interesting will be the change in cycling strategies.  For me, a West Ender, the east-bound use of Dunsmuir is constrained by the lack of connection to Pender Street and parts west.   But for west-bound use, particularly for those coming from the Adanac Bikeway, one of the most heavily-used routes in the city, it’s brilliant – particularly since whether by design or coincidence, the signals seemed to be synched for bike speed, allowing the cyclist to get from the viaduct to about Seymour Street without stopping.  Sweet.

And because the track is two-way, it won’t have the problem of ‘bike salmon’ – those who cycle upstream against the traffic on the one-way tracks that characterize New York’s avenues.  (For more on that, see Price Tags 108.)

So congratulations to all who made this possible: the politicians, the city staff, the activists and the citizens – some of who are pictured after the break.

Richard Campbell, looking back while cycling forward.

Amy Walker, from Momentum.

City Greenways Engineer Scott Edwards (in blue).

Assistant City Manager Sadhu Johnston.

City Engineer Lacey Hirtle, in charge of the project construction, looking rightfully pleased.

Mayor Gregor Robertson paying close attention to City Transportation Engineer Jerry Dobrovolny.

More pics welcome.  Send to

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