They cannot wait. The cyclists just cannot wait until the barriers are completed. After the workers leave for the day, the cyclists take over the partially completed separated bike lanes under construction on Dunsmuir St.
Curb separation between the general traffic lanes and cars and the two-way bike lanes have been built. The planters are still to come. In one block, bike racks still need to be installed within the barrier space. The bus stops still need to be poured. Construction signage and pylons still line the road.
One late afternoon as rush hour traffic forms, cyclists take over the construction site. Signs are disobeyed with enthusiasm as cyclists pounce on the new bike lanes. Still cycling traffic is in the same direction as car movement. Contra-flow cycling on Dunsmuir has not taken hold, save for a few cyclists including myself. Traffic signals have not been installed for these cyclists.
Yet there is enthusiasm among the cyclists with a sense of a free spirit. The neighbouring car traffic is less onerous. What is truly amazing is the appeal of these separated lanes to cyclists whereby they abandoned parallel streets to cycle through a construction area.
What is even more amazing is the speed that these lanes are being built. Other bike lane projects were approved months or maybe a year ago and still wait for the construction scheduler somewhere in City of Vancouver land to give the nod for crews to start the work. However, for Dunsmuir, there is a rush. There is a desire to have the lanes in place before the summer cycling traffic grows. Have the lanes open in mid-June, right in Bike Month in Vancouver. Then monitor the cycling traffic grow into the fall. What a way to see the draw of separated bike lanes to bring cyclists to Dunsmuir St. Just a few days ago, city staff reported that the usual 100 cyclists on Dunsmuir Viaduct have multiplied by 10 fold after separation was installed , giving cyclists their own space removed from car and pedestrian traffic. What growth will separated bike lanes bring to the downtown core?
Going back to the amazing speed that these lanes have evolved from the black asphalt: just awhile ago on May 20th, Council gave their approval to these lanes. That night, staff already was busy sweeping the asphalt so that the new configurations could be painted on the road surface. Construction drawings were completed. Then just 9 days later, already on several blocks downtown,
the car traffic lanes emerged from construction mayhem to operating normally in the post construction road configuration. Now for construction, what is left, can now happen within the confines of the bike lanes. Is this not a construction miracle? Nine days into construction, car lanes are back to normal operation. Is this the way of future for building bike lanes? One could only dream of it or go to Dunsmuir and experience the dream being played out.
What is this all about? Maybe the Vancouver Sun article May 28th, provides some insight. Population is expected to grow strongly within the next few decades. Will the city grow to “a busy metropolis that’s a pressure cooker of humanity, traffic jams and subways that pack commuters in like sardines?” “Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson is pushing to replace car lanes with bicycle lanes — a policy that will accelerate.” Maybe separated bike lanes will induce people to forsake their cars for their trips to work and to shopping. Maybe separated bike lanes are a relieve valve for that pressure cooker. Let’s come back in 6, 12 months and look at the evidence.
In June 2009, Vancouver’s City Council approved the concept of separated bike lanes within Vancouver. On February 4, 2010, Council approved separated bike lanes on the Dunsmuir Viaduct. As well, Council approved separated bike lanes from the Burrard Bridge and the Viaduct into downtown core. On May 6th, Council at the CS&B Committee meeting, endorsed staff’s report recommending that staff report back on trials for separated bike lanes outside of the Downtown core, including an arterial street and on part of a local street bikeway.
Cernetig, Miro. Growing metropolis needs unified vision. In Vancouver Sun, May 28, 2010.
City of Vancouver. Engineering Services. Separated Bike Lanes in Downtown. Administrative Report to Standing Committee on City Services and Budgets. Supports Item No. 2. February 4, 2010.
City of Vancouver. Engineering Services. Cycling in Vancouver: Looking Forward 2010/2011. Administrative Report to Standing Committee on City Services and Budgets. Supports Item No. 5. May 6, 2010.
Cole, Yolanda. Bike-lane work on downtown Vancouver’s Dunsmuir Street could snarl traffic. In The Province, May 28, 2010.