Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Estimate for bike lanes on Burrard Bridge hits $57M

with 11 comments

Photo by Chris Piggott on flickr


The cost of adding bicycle lanes to Vancouver’s Burrard Bridge has quadrupled, according to the latest estimates.

“The estimated cost to do the work necessary to make the improvements in 2009 dollars would be $57 million,” Coun. Kim Capri told the CBC on Monday.

And the final cost could rise further, as high $63 million, since the work would have to be put off until after the 2010 Olympics, said Capri.

The numbers were presented to city councillors on Monday by city engineers at a special workshop on the latest plan to add bike lanes to the heritage-listed bridge.

It was always a very stupid idea. Say thank you taxpayers of Vancouver to your Mayor and the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association. It all stems from their inability to understand basic traffic management. City staff, and Kim Capri, are infected with the same disease.

The news reopens the debate about whether the city should reconsider an older plan, which called for closing traffic lanes to make room for bikes, said Coun. George Chow.

That plan was adopted by the previous council, but dropped by the current council immediately following the last civic election, in 2005.

But staff warned against reconsidering it because it would back up traffic on both end of the bridge and lead to gridlock, said Capri.

If anybody ever uses the word “gridlock” you know they are grandstanding. Gridlock is a temporary phenomenon caused by drivers entering an intersection when their exit is not clear. Networks quickly sort themselves out – which is why the idea of a trial of lane closures preceded by a public information period was also rejected by the City. Because that would demonstrate that closing lanes to cars on the bridge (to allow for bikes and buses) would work. And we don’t want that do we. Otherwise people would start saying things like “Why can we not close more lanes to through traffic?” – just like they have been doing in Copenhagen for the last forty years and seeing a dramatic rise in the use and popularity of the City Centre.

The number of lanes on the bridge is not the critical issue for traffic flow. It is the capacity of the junctions at each end. And if all the traffic from West Vancouver (and some of North) can be accommodated into the three lane Lion’s Gate Bridge, which does Kits and Point Grey need six? And why would you wreck an art deco jewel with bolted on excrescences?

The City has a Transportation Policy. It states that priority will be given to pedestrains, cyclists and transit ahead of cars. That policy has not been rescinded and is part of the City Plan. So how come this nonsense continues? Because a very small group of very powerful people put their self interest ahead of common sense.

If they have $57m to spend I can think of a lot of things that could be done with that sum that would make the City a much nicer place to be. And the Burrard Bridge could stay pretty much as it is: a bit of paint for lanes and some road signs, and a bit of re-jigging of the intersections ought to do it for well under $1m I reckon. But the people carrying performance of the bridge would be enhanced significantly – and it is people that need to be counted not vehicles!

Brent Granby of WERA advises that there is a survey on the CBC web site

Written by Stephen Rees

April 29, 2008 at 11:26 am

Posted in bicycles, Traffic, Transportation

Tagged with

11 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. I guess it’s the same mentality that gave us Skytrain over at-grade lrt, right? Anything to keep the cars running “freely”…


    April 29, 2008 at 12:02 pm

  2. This actually really gets to me, because despite all these supposed “accolades” of Vancouver being some kind of great urban city, in reality we are still basically planning for the automobile and so many of our actions reflect that.

    The real Vancouver to me is endless suburbs as soon as one leaves downtown, constant congestion combined with a poor transit system, bike lanes as an afterthought on most streets, and to top it all off various levels of government that seem hell bent on following the same old patterns.

    I wonder how hard it is to get a Danish passport…


    April 29, 2008 at 12:14 pm

  3. the price has to be over 50 million dollars—–thats the criteria for a p3s—–it stipulates all p3s are over 50 million——thats why every project in this province are over priced by millions and millions—– ……………………………..10 s of billions of dollars worth of p3s that we haven`t paid for yet—in order to keep them off the books—-signed…………………our bc credit card is maxed out

    grant g

    April 29, 2008 at 2:47 pm

  4. $57 million for paint??!! I guess they got Sir Humphrey Applebee to do the planning. I’m staggered and if this demonstrates the ‘green’ savvy of Vancouver, god help us all.

    Malcolm J

    April 29, 2008 at 3:23 pm

  5. I think the $57 million is for scaffolding-like protrusions attached to the sides of the bridge.

    Or were you being facetious? 🙂


    April 29, 2008 at 4:09 pm

  6. it is very distressing, what is the point of all the carefully worded policy statements if there isn’t an intent to implement? In Vancouver, we have some of the most enlightened dialogue on urban form and urbanism anywhere in North America but the City must be consistently in the forefront of making our city livable – and not just waiting for a developer to come along that we can attach a list of conditions to.

    One of the key places we need to start is expanding our commitment to enabling residents to get the heck out of our cars. And these efforts just break down where weak links remain – daunting to ride a bike over a bridge, can’t make a transit connection to get to work on time, etc. etc.

    Thankfully we have blogs like this that provide a forum to remind us about all the important small steps and missteps that we are collectively taking or are being taken on our behalf. Thanks Stephen!


    April 29, 2008 at 4:48 pm

  7. I just spent four days in Calgary, and with the exception of some very small pockets in the first inner city ring outside of downtown, Vancouver is paradise. Yes, there’s much room for improvement, especially to those of us who see much to admire in Europe, but from North American standpoint cities that can compare can be counted with the fingers on one hand. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for the burbs.

    BTW, the estimate for the Burrard Bridge outrigger bike lanes has now hit $63 million. I remember blogging here a few weeks back on the much lower cost of taking one traffic lane out of commission for two inward extensions of the sidewalks, and converting the centre lane of traffic to a counterflow lane. That would cost less than a third of the current estimate.


    April 30, 2008 at 12:04 pm

  8. As mentioned in that previous thread – my view is – keep it simple – just reallocate one lane into two bike lanes.

    Ron C.

    April 30, 2008 at 12:19 pm

  9. one bus –thats all you need, a nice bus with lots of bike racks, 200.000.00 dollars a year for drivers wages, the bus could go over the bridge turn around and go back over the bridge, all the bus needs is an easy place to turn around safely, because eventualy we will get a fancy new crossing, the interest alone on 63 million would more than pay for the bus and drivers.——————-signed……………………..keep it simple stupid

    grant g

    April 30, 2008 at 2:01 pm

  10. I’ve felt for years that Vancouver some how missed the boat when it comes to maintaining and developing infrastructure. The bike lane issue has been kicked around for, 10 years? 15 years? The cost of all the feasibility studies is not included in the current estimate for bike lanes.
    In the Sun article it is stated that the reason the cost has jumped from an initial estimate of 14.5 million smackers to 63 million is because the engineers didn’t originally consider the added weight the extensions would create. What??? There isn’t an structural engineer on the planet who wouldn’t identify that issue from the outset. I think the average 12 year old would figure that one out.
    I’m in favour of the extensions if they do it right. But it’s sounding more and more as though they can’t or won’t. How pathetic.


    April 30, 2008 at 8:10 pm

  11. Another option is to add bus lanes, which would be open to bikes. Because the backups are usually on the downhill portions due to the traffic lights at either end, buses can pass cyclists on the uphill pretty easily.


    May 1, 2008 at 11:07 am

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: