29.10.10

Vancouver's Burrard Bridge Bike Lane - Competing for Space

If you drive a car in Vancouver, you complain about the traffic.  If you drive downtown, you have a lot to complain about.  Traffic is frequently back to back and finding parking is a chronic frustration.  It's a big city.  That's big city life.  And in Vancouver, it's the price we pay for not having ugly (both aesthetically and environmentally) freeways.



Last year the city implemented a bridge lane reallocation trial on the Burrard bridge, one of our many bridges connecting the downtown core with the rest of the city.  This particular bridge is frequently used by cyclists and pedestrians who were sharing the same sidewalk.  After a number of accidents, the city decided to transform vehicle lanes into bike lanes.  There's been a lot of guff about it in the media (mostly from an aggressively opposed radio host).   Without much investigation, I opinioned that removing vehicle lanes would have to cause further traffic congestion in the downtown core.  I decided to check out the city's website and read the Mid-Trial evaluation report before I committed to a position.  Traffic data is also available on the site, which is perfect for visualizing with Tableau Public.  The City plans on adding traffic count data to their OpenData portal in the future.

Vancouver implemented the bike lanes on the Burrard bridge on July 11 and 12, 2009 at a cost of $1.8 million (which included evaluation).
The Burrard Bridge Lane Reallocation Trial is about determining whether creating a new protected bike lane is a viable, lower-cost alternative to increase the safety and comfort of cyclists and pedestrians-while maintaining an effective flow of traffic and continuing the shift toward green transportation alternatives.  Burrard Bridge Lane Trial




As you can see, there has been a reduction of vehicle traffic and an increase in both pedestrians and bicycles since February, 2010.  The reduction in vehicle and bike traffic in February is likely due to the Olympic and Para-Olympic games, when the bridge saw a record number of pedestrians (1.5 million took to the streets!).

It would seem from this data and the report that there has been an overall reduction in vehicle traffic on the bridge.  Commuters are likely using other routes or perhaps it is a result of the new Canada Line.  The report notes that there is minimal increase in wait-times for vehicle traffic and that there is some extra congestion in other intersections, but nothing serious.

The bike lanes are here to stay, but it will be interesting to monitor this data over time.  Seasonal traffic patterns suggest that there will be fewer pedestrians and bicycles once the rains set in (September to March) and that vehicle traffic increases when school starts in September.  The construction of the Canada Line in 2009, the Olympics events in February 2010, and the ongoing construction downtown all make it difficult to definitively interpret traffic patterns in this past year.

In 2008, I had the pleasure of attending a lecture by Jaimie Learner in Edmonton on "Sustainable Cities". Mr. Learner is a renowned architect and urban planner who helped transform the city of Caritiba, Brazil, winner of the 2010 Globe Sustainable City Award.  It was this quote of Mr Lerner's that had me concerned about the bridge lane reallocation trial: 
...To combine all the systems, and with one condition:  never -- if you have a subway, if you have surface systems, if you have any kind of system -- never compete in the same space.  Jaime Lerner


Happy Rainy Halloween!  (Trick:  I don't own a car or bike.)

The data can be downloaded here.

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