October 3, 2017

Burrard Bridge: Everything in Its Place

A model comes to life.

Models don’t predict the future.  Models compare versions of the future.  And here in concrete, asphalt and paint is the one chosen for movement on the Burrard Bridge and all the flows that feed it. If it works well, the crossing should be easier, safer and maybe even faster.
Burrard Bridge has two of the first fully separated intersections in North America.  All the movements for vehicles, bikes and pedestrians have their own lanes and spaces.  They intersect with clarity, properly signed and signaled.  Users know where they should be and how they should proceed.  Together and separate.
No more free rights:

For instance, the southwest corner of Pacific and Burrard.  No more straining your neck to see what’s coming from the left while edging the vehicle, angled right, into sporadic traffic careening down Burrard or swinging into a conflicted lane from the east.  And then missing the cyclist careening down Burrard or the runner darting in from the right.
Now, there’s a place and a time for everyone.


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  1. I saw that concrete island taking shape and 2 things came to mind:
    1) it doesn’t allow much flexibility if an ambulance or fire truck needs to get past stopped traffic – could it have sloped sides?
    2) if you are dedicated to a median, can you make it a planter?
    Maybe, despite the height of the curb, they expect emergency vehicles to drive over it, so no plants?

  2. Minor quibble – not quite fully protected intersection. HUB asked for the turn onto Pacific east to be protected and while that movement was made better, it is still a bike box.

    1. In the original plan, there was no bike movement accomodated eastbound on Pacific through the intersection. HUB advocated for this to be included, but there wasn’t room for a protected lane eastbound, west of Burrard, without reducing the two turning lanes on to the bridge. The compromise was a bike box, to be painted green, and accessed from the bike path on Pacific, to accommodate eastbound bikes. There is always Beach as an alternate route for those who want to avoid the elevation gain eastbound, but people on bikes arriving at the intersection shouldn’t have had to use three crosswalks simply to continue east. The compromise is a reasonable accommodation IMO.

  3. Overall an improvement
    The pedestrian island is a welcome addition: it comes standard in Europe, with usually traffic signal remainder on the island…and nowadays some way to signal the pedestrian refuge to people with visual impairment…
    Holistically, speaking, the impediment this represent to the fire truck could be offsetted by the added safety provides to the pedestrians…
    also, where is the bus stop?

    1. For all the praise about improvements for pedestrians and cyclists (which is valid) we can clearly see that motordom still rules and dominates the land.

  4. This is a major, progressive improvement not just to the bridge, but to Burrard al the way south. Many kudos to the city and to the engineers who worked this out after no doubt several iterations on paper.
    I would like to see more colour applied to the crosswalks, green of course for the bike lanes (now a standard), and perhaps red for the pedestrian crossings. Most of the applied colour (heat-gunned applique) treatments elsewhere have held up well with traffic and only needs minor repairs on occasion. The exception, of course, is when the inevitable roadworks dig up part of the street, and sometimes that occurs not long after completion.
    With respect to planted medians, maintenance is a huge headache. Some Metro cities have developed a policy where medians are planted only when they are large enough to excavate and contain significant soil volumes to retain moisture and ensure tree roots have adequate space to grow into. Subsurface vaulting is now becoming common for urban trees in paved environments. Automated irrigation and a thin paved strip behind the curb should be standard. The latter can actually be a life saver for maintenance staff with roaring traffic nipping at their shoulders. The alternative is to block a lane or two of traffic whenever maintenance is required.
    With these elements in mind, I wouldn’t recommend planting of any kind in these small medians, which were likely cast directly onto the road base. Decorative paving and even the creative placement of boulders or mortared stonework are all quite effective alternatives.

  5. Great job CoV. It makes me smile everyday for the increased safety for all users.
    I did notice a fix is needed to the west island you see in the photo of the cycle/pedestrian crosswalk. The Burrard street west curb when you are travelling south in the cycle lane is west about 2 ft from the west side of the west dotted line. If you pull up and place your foot on the curb waiting for the light to change you must swing into the bike lane. The first day I almost hit the island so I know that this situation can lead to collision with a fast moving cyclist.

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