Well, that only took two decades: Vancouver approves Burrard Bridge upgrade …
On Wednesday, after listening to contradictory, but equally impassioned, views about the potential impacts of the project to improve traffic flow, the Vision Vancouver councillors used their majority to approve it.
But it was an outcome that few would have imagined back in the 1990s – including me. Richard Campbell passed along this fascinating coverage from the West End Times, dated August 4, 1993:
Click twice to enlarge.
As Margaret Macpherson reported, as a city councillor I was opposed to taking a lane from the bridge for cyclists, concentrating instead on the development of the Seaside route along English Bay – controversial enough, since it required elimination of vehicle parking and paving over parts of the greensward.
But three years later, a different story.
By then millions had been approved in a capital plan for upgrading the bridge, and the engineering staff had proposed a widening of the bridge deck to accommodate bike lanes – over considerable objection by the heritage community. At this point, I argued (and convinced a bare majority of council) to support an experimental closure of one north-bound lane for bikes for one week in March 1996 to see if we could save the cost of the widening and avoid altering the heritage character of the structure.
It was a disaster.
With a few hours on the first day, the traffic started to back up on Cornwall and Burrard, motorists were infuriated, and, since this was the beginning of the cell-phone era, they could immediately call the media and the mayor’s office. After an emergency caucus, it was agreed to cancel the closure at the end of the week, and never talk of it again! (By that time, of course, the traffic had sorted itself out, given a 9 percent reduction in volume, likely transferred over to the Granville Bridge.)
Didn’t matter. The mistake was in choosing an east-side closure during the morning rush, concentrating all the congestion, which for many came as a surprise since there hadn’t been much coverage beforehand. There were likely other factors – but it would take a long time before any such experiment would be tried again.
The best outcome was that a gun-shy council avoided proceeding with the bridge widening, instead devoting money to an expansion of the non-controversial bikeway network, which in turn created a constituency of cyclists that would both create the demand and provide support for the solution we have reached today.
The failed experiment, however, reinforced in the mind of the NPA that cycling was a loser issue for their constituency – a position they hold, in spite of electoral evidence to the contrary, today:
The three Non-Partisan Association councillors opposed the entire project, saying the city didn’t address all the issues and that staff appeared to be acting on the wishes of the Vision majority rather than what was best for the city.
“It seems we’re just Band-Aiding a problem that is getting bigger and bigger,” NPA Coun. Melissa De Genova said of traffic congestion. “I think there are huge holes in this plan.” …
Her NPA colleague Coun. George Affleck blamed Vision’s preoccupation with bike lanes on the bridge for why the city has increased safety problems at the Pacific intersection. He said such basic things as painting the superstructure were not included.
Vision councillors, however, said the bridge retrofit and intersection realignment are long overdue. Coun. Raymond Louie pointed out that a plan under a previous NPA government would have cost $60 million.
Sometime in the next month, the millionth cyclist is due to ride over the bridge this year – and work will begin to develop another separated lane on the east side, as part of a network of such routes through downtown.
Two decades ago, all of that would have been, if not unimaginable, so unlikely as to be considered crazy.
Welcome to crazy.