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Opening day gets thumbs up from cyclists Add to ...

Except for a few angry drivers, the first day of the Burrard Bridge bike lane experiment - with one traffic lane designated for bicycles - had a smooth start yesterday.

Mayor Gregor Robertson, who pushed for the three-month trial, said people were willing to make the change.

The traffic moved slowly for eastbound drivers on Pacific Street who were waiting to get on the bridge in the southbound lanes during the afternoon rush, but once on the bridge, traffic was relatively light.

Some honked and gave thumbs down to one less lane for the southbound traffic.

"It's a ridiculous idea," said Hazel Tam, who had to wait for some time to get on the bridge.

But for the cyclists, it was a day to cheer.

Scores of bicycle enthusiasts, pedicab drivers, rollerbladers and parents with jogging strollers were in motion on the newly designated bike lane.

Sharon de Souza rode across Burrard Bridge for the very first time yesterday - in the designated bike lane. "I was a pedestrian earlier," she said. An artist by profession, Ms. de Souza said it was time people chose more sustainable ways of getting around. "Biking is great for you and it's also a great exercise," she said.

The city closed off the west curb lane toward Kitsilano to traffic and designated a bicycle lane. The east sidewalk, earlier shared by both pedestrians and cyclists, is now designated for bicycles going into downtown; barriers separate both bike lanes from car traffic.

Pedestrians have to use the west sidewalk to walk in either direction on the bridge, which annoyed a few.

Shannon Yelland, who walks on the bridge twice a week, said the designated bike lane is a good idea but it's harder now. She counted five traffic signals she and her walking partner had to cross to get to the west sidewalk.

The last time the city experimented with closing off a traffic lane to a designated bike lane was in 1996 - the project was shelved after a week. Mr. Robertson, who wants to make the bridge safer for cyclists and pedestrians, pushed to try the same option again and is optimistic the trial will be a success this time.

A motorist yelled profanities at the mayor as he spoke to the media at the south end of the bridge in the morning but cyclists greeted him with applause.

City councillors and members of the governing Vision Vancouver civic party also rode their bikes in the newly designated bike lane.

Mr. Robertson said the city is committed to try the bike lane experiment for at least three months and if it doesn't work, officials will consider other options, such as widening the bridge sidewalks or possibly a dedicated new bridge for cyclists and pedestrians. But he said these options will come with a bigger price tag and will take longer.

"It's just a matter of allocating space fairly and ensuring everyone can use the road and sidewalk safely," Mr. Robertson said.

He said a safe commute and the number of cyclists using the designated lanes will decide the success of the trial.

 

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