Today is the 75th anniversary of the Pattullo Bridge. (The New Westminster News Leader tells the story here.)
But its days are likely numbered. TransLink staff has approval from its board (and another $7 million for preliminary work) to proceed with design for a six-lane replacement, roughly where the existing bridge is now. (Though there are rumours the particulars may change as a result of negotiations with New Westminster.)
Nonetheless, it’s an interesting reflection of priorities when compared with the stated policies of the agency – and the actual demands in the region – for cycling infrastructure, as illustrated here:
UPDATE: Chart revised.
 TransLink 2008 Screenline counts
 TransLink 2008 Trip Diary
 TransLink 2011 Trip Diary
 TransLink 2013 Base Plan
From 2011-2013, the cycling program has been cut in half, back to 2004 levels – divesting the cycling program of a total of $9 million over three years. That’s a cut of 50 percent in order to save TransLink 0.2 percent of its total budget – a drop in the bucket for overall transportation funding but a massive blow to cycling in the region.
Add in cost-sharing with municipalities and the province, it could be a potential loss of $18 million towards cycling infrastructure investment in Metro Vancouver over three years.
Of TransLink’s six stated goals in Transport 2040, the cycling budget supports all of them. The Pattullo Bridge only supports one: efficient goods movement (and even that’s debatable).
One can make the case that the best outcome for the Pattullo might be a new four-lane bridge (same auto capacity as we have now) with excellent, well-designed ped and bike facilities. It’s actually more of a critical link for cycling than it is for cars: For a car to divert to the Alex Fraser or Port Mann is not that big of a deal and it would actually probably induce them to switch to SkyTrain, but for a ped or cyclist to divert that far is a big inconvenience.
The danger is that even with a new six-lane bridge, we might end up with substandard pedestrian and bike facilities. When budgets get crunched, the ped & bike facilities always seem to be the first to go. An upgrade of the existing bridge, though, would likely leave it with existing unsafe conditions for peds and bikes.
But when it comes to the design of a new bridge (or whether to replace it at all), it is cycling that provides one of the best arguments for renewal. Ironic, eh?
UPDATE: From the International Herald Tribune –
With more bikes than people, and a 43 percent bicycle commuting mode share, Amsterdam is certainly the envy of global cities (such as London, Paris, Barcelona, and New York) that are trying to expand their bicycling infrastructure. With the recent announcement of $150 million of investment in upgrading bike routes and enhancing bicycle storage, those cities chasing Amsterdam are going to be left in the dust, reports Christopher F. Schuetze.