Friday, May 16, 2008

Bicycling on Burrard Bridge

So yesterday I had to pick up my bike at a bikeshop at the intersection of Burrard and Pacific, and afterward I headed back Southbound across the Burrard Bridge on my bike. If you've walked or biked on that bridge, you know that cyclists and pedestrians are forced to share a very narrow walkway, and that said walkway is separated from traffic by a ledge of maybe 6 inches or so. Just after the halfway point of the bridge, as I was cycling alongside pedestrians on a sunny late afternoon, a jogger alongside me blindly moved from the pedestrian lane to the cycling lane in order to pass some walkers, failing to look behind him for cyclists. I was able to quickly swerve and he brushed my handlebars, and I didn't lose stability. But if his timing or my timing had been slightly different, I likely would have been body-checked into traffic. Since then, I've been fuming about how a careless jogger could have been responsible for me sustaining serious injuries or being killed.

I know that Vancouver has plans to put bicycle lanes on the Burrard Bridge sometime after the Olympics, but it's absolutely unacceptable that the current situation will be maintained in the interim. Since I'm fairly new to the city and luckily don't have to cross that bridge very often, I don't know how frequently such accidents occur, but a few seconds' Googling brought up this story:
Every day, hundreds of people cycle over the shared path on the Burrard Bridge, one of Vancouver's busiest. Jane Lister was one of them, until her commute home from work one day.

Halfway across the bridge, she swerved to avoid some pedestrians.

"My first memory is the sensation of a tube being pulled from my throat. I broke all the ribs on my left side, and had punctured and collapsed lungs. I fell into a mini van, and my head kind of got trapped between the car and the curb."

It may sound like just another accident between a cyclist and a car, but - in this case - neither was to blame. Instead, the problem was cyclists, pedestrians, dog-walkers and runners forced to share the same narrow path.

Her scenario was exactly the same as mine, except she was thrown into traffic and nearly killed. I agree that the blame is primarily due to the shared path, but a cyclist shouldn't have to suddenly swerve to avoid pedestrians on a shared path. Pedestrians need to stay on the pedestrian side of the walkway. But the city is responsible. Jane Lister sued the city and got a settlement. The city had been aware of the problem and hadn't done anything to remedy it. That was more than four years ago.

1 comment:

Randy Chatterjee said...

Thanks for an excellent post, with valuable research.

Our City Council has debated this horrific and irresponsible situation for nearly 22 hours over just the past 5 years. Decision making in this City is grid-locked, and both residents and taxpayers are paying dearly for it.

There is not one safe bridge over False Creek, for pedestrians or cyclists, and Vancouver just today won an award from Canadian podiatrists for its "walkability."

Knowing that Vancouver General Hospital sees its greatest emergency patient load from vehicle-pedestrian and vehicle-cyclist "interactions" gives some perspective on this.

Shame on this city for putting its residents at such high risk!