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Vancouver Gives a Bridge Lane to Bikes

New York isn’t the only city that’s experimenting with closing roads to improve traffic and create better conditions for pedestrians and cyclists. Today, from Streetsblog Network member Human Transit, we hear of a bridge in Vancouver where a lane of car traffic has been given over to cyclists:

3717925612_6fee0558f6.jpgHappy cyclists coming off the Burrard Bridge in Vancouver. Photo by Ariane Colenbrander via Flickr.

Last
weekend, after years of debate, the City of Vancouver
experimentally converted one of the outbound lanes of the Burrard
Bridge to a bike lane, leaving two outbound traffic lanes where there
had been three. This should have been a problem on the afternoon peak.
The media were out in force, ready to interview angry motorists and
stream live video of gridlock.  And as Gordon documents on his blog, nothing much happened.

They’re
not over the hump yet. The experiment will run for at least three
months. Schools come back in September. And it’s easy to get people on
their bicycles in Vancouver’s bucolic summer, when it’s light until
9:00 PM. What will the bridge look like as Vancouver heads into its
famously gloomy winter, when windy rain lashes the bridge and the whole
PM commute happens in the dark?

My guess is that many
of the fair-weather cyclists, knowing there’s not room for as many
cars, will try to use transit. And it will all come down to a tipping
point: do enough of them do this that the bridge still flows fairly
well? Or do they generate just enough car traffic to strangle the
transit, so that both motorists and transit riders lose?

It’s great that Vancouver’s
political leaders had the gumption to go ahead with this despite the
doubters. It’s actually quite a sensible thing to try. A study released
last year called "The Price of Anarchy in Transportation Networks" floated some interesting ideas about why having fewer route options can speed traffic. The study’s authors found that narrowing drivers’ choices resulted in shorter collective travel time.

In
New York, the Brooklyn Bridge — where pedestrian-bicyclist conflicts
are constant and sometimes ugly — would be the obvious place to try
giving a traffic lane to bicyclists. We hope the city’s DOT keeps an
eye on Vancouver’s experiment.

More thought-provoking posts from around the network: The Vine asks whether there is such a thing as sustainable biofuels. Seattle’s Bus Chick is car-free, but laments the necessity of occasional car-seat drama. And Copenhagenize highlights a peculiar Audi ad — it seems to promise that driving might be as fun as riding a bike.