Last Friday was bike to work day and I was in Vancouver for a meeting being hosted by the Candian Centre for Policy Alternatives on climate justice. Before I got on the train for home I walked over to the Burrard Bridge. I have been reading lately about efforts to create a dedicated bike lane on the bridge.

In other posts I have written about what supports increases in bike ridership. One big issue is safety. Vancouver, like Portland and Seattle, is struggling with making biking a viable alternative to driving to work. 

The City of Vancouver is discussing some major changes on the bridge to improve safety for cyclists. The proposed dedicated lane for bikes has created a lot of controversy.

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  • The City has proposed three options for accommodating cars, bikes and people crossing the bridge. The plan is to test one of these options over the summer. Opponents say this was tried more than 10 years ago and didn’t work. Some opponents agree that the bridge needs improvements but suggest that fixing the bridge is happening anyway, why not wait until then to implement improvements.    

    There doesn’t seem to be any doubt that the bridge needs improvements. Preliminary data from a study being conducted by the University of British Columbia showed a higher number of bicycle accidents on Burrard than on the City’s other bridges. The question for Vancouver seems to be how to make the bridge work for everyone and when.

    Seattle has had similar challenges in trying to accommodate cars and bikes along Stone Way. All of this may actually be really good news though. While Canadians ride bikes more than we do—one study shows three times more–it’s good to know that the entire region is still learning to manage more bikes on the road.

    And that, perhaps, is the silver lining. More civic discussion and debate over how bikes, cars and pedestrians share the road might be an early indicator that more people are riding bikes. More bikes on the road is sparking healthy discussions in the region about how to improve safety.

    Already in Portland work is underway on a large project to connect the Lair Hill neighborhood with the waterfront. Projects like this and the discussions of the Burrard Bridge show that bikes and pedestrians are now being fully considered when large investments are made in transportation infrastructure. The controversies might not be pleasant but they might be a sign of things changing for the better.