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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.