Burrard Bridge – Plans up for Debate

News Features By Matthew Burrows

Some feel politicians aren’t walking the talk on cycle- and pedestrian-friendly bridge changes A pedestrian advocate claims that local politicians are hypocrites when it comes to the Burrard Street Bridge. Two open houses in the coming days will reveal whether the public agrees.

Kitsilano resident Bev Ballantyne founded the group Putting Pedestrians First to bring pedestrian rights to light. Now she calls the city’s plans to widen the sidewalks and add outriggers to the art-deco span “an outrage”.

“People like Mayor Sam Sullivan want to talk about EcoDensity, and yet they want to provide lots of space on the Burrard Bridge for cars,” Ballantyne told the Georgia Straight by phone, noting that she participated in the city’s False Creek Pedestrian and Cycling Crossings Study in 2001. “The obvious way to deal with this, which would also please the heritage people, would be to take two [traffic] lanes off. It’s so straightforward. Previous consultants have said this is what needs to be done. But politicians in general in B.C. don’t have the balls and political will to make decisions that need to be made.”

City greenways and neighbourhood transportation engineer David Rawsthorne told the Straight last week that there will be no reduction in the six motor-vehicle traffic lanes, because that is “the direction council gave us”. Shortly after their election in November 2005, Sullivan and all five NPA councillors voted to cancel the lane-reallocation pilot the previous COPE council majority had voted for four months before.

In 2002, the city estimated that the cost of widening sidewalks on the bridge would be around $14 million. However, COPE councillor David Cadman told the Straight that “the cost of the Burrard Bridge is going to be a lot higher than anyone is prepared to pay, and we will have wasted two full cycling seasons.”

Last week, Heritage Vancouver president Donald Luxton told the Straight that the final cost is likely to be around $50 million. Rob Wynen, former executive director of the West End Residents Association, told the Straight that he finds it “frustrating” that the city could end up spending “$60 million on a design that is inferior to a plan [COPE’s lane pilot] that would cost only $2 million”.

“So here we have a plan that costs 30 times as much as a plan that is not only more effective at moving pedestrians and cyclists but also preserves the heritage of the bridge and has the almost-unanimous backing of the stakeholders that have studied the issue for close to 15 years,” Wynen, a daily cycling commuter, said. “This will sap money away from pedestrian and cycling improvements for years to come.”

The City of Vancouver will host two open houses: the first on Saturday (August 25) from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the H.R. MacMillan Space Centre at 1100 Chestnut Street, and the second on Wednesday (August 29) from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Peretz Centre for Secular Jewish Culture at 6184 Ash Street.

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