My daily commute takes me east-west through Kits, but a large number of people commute north-south, mostly along the Cypress bike route and over the Burrard Street bridge. The controversial Burrard Bridge Lane Reallocation Trial has made travelling from Kits to downtown much easier and safer, but it still has some issues.
Heading northbound into downtown, there are four options: north-bound straight down Burrard St., east along 1st Ave. (turning north on Burrard), west along 1st Ave. (turning north on Burrard), or east bound along Cornwall to the bridge. All these approaches are along busy roads with lots of pedestrians, motorists, and other cyclists.
Last week I had to head downtown and videoed my trip over the bridge. It wasn’t a bad trip, but punctuated by a number of bad behaviours that discourage people from riding.
The first problem was something that happens all the time on Cypress: Two cars going around the “No entry, bicycles only” sign on Cypress just south of 4th Ave. The sign obstructs the south-bound lane, but cars routinely ignore it.
Surprisingly everyone was well-behaved at 1st and Cypress — unusual because this intersection is one where many cyclists blow the 4-way stop. The intersection of 1st and Burrard was more troublesome: as I was clearing the intersection on the yellow light, a vehicle coming in the other direction, and turning NB onto Burrard, didn’t yield.
The next problem was two people walking their bikes in the bike lane on the bridge. Not sure why they were doing this — pedestrians are prohibited from the bike lane — but they didn’t cause much of a problem. Neither did the other pedestrian a bit further along the bridge.
The northbound bike lane occupies the full sidewalk and is separated from traffic by a line of concrete barriers. The lane is narrow as a result, and there are signs indicating no passing. This is fine in theory, until you get caught up behind some painfully slow traffic. This happened twice on my way over: once behind an older guy, who made some room for me to pass where the lane widens at mid-span, and once behind an electric scooter. Apparently considered “bicycles” according to the Motor Vehicle Act, I’m not convinced these things belong in the bike lanes. But on the other hand, this one was going about 10 kph, so I can understand not wanting to be in with regular traffic.
The biggest problem of the trip is what to do when you reach the northbound side of the bridge. If you want to connect to the Hornby St. separated bike lane (which also runs north-south) somehow you have to get from the Burrard bike lane, which ends up running along east-bound Pacific. Frankly I’m not sure how you’re supposed to do this. If you go along Pacific, you have a half block to cross two lanes of traffic moving in your direction to turn left up Hornby. There’s just not enough room and too much traffic to do this safely.
Your next option is to go along Pacific, then wait at the south corner of Pacific and Hornby to cross north. This isn’t a great option either since there’s not enough room to turn around at that corner, you get in the way of east-bound bike traffic, and you get in the way of north-bound bike traffic. The third option is to turn down the alley before Hornby, then short-cut through the E/W alley to turn up Hornby. This is the safest alternative, but involves going halfway down a decent hill only to have to turn around and go back up it.
To make matters worse, there isn’t any good signage telling you what you should do. The only sign is one that points you down the alley and then points you towards the Seaside bike route — which is in the wrong direction.
I’ve asked the City of Vancouver Bicycle Hotline (email@example.com) what their recommended way for transferring from NB Burrard to NB Hornby, but after repeated requests, I’ve yet to receive a response.
At the very end of the video, watch the right-hook maneuver. An SUV decides at the last minute to turn right. However, the SUV has a red light specifically prohibiting that, and the bike lane has a green light specifically allowing the bikes to go straight through. Doesn’t bother the motorist in the least.
You can watch the video here: http://youtu.be/_kyrBRUUob8
What have your experiences been travelling northbound over the Burrard Bridge? Have you had many problems? Do you have any suggestions for improvements?
Last modified: February 28, 2012