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Conceptual drawing of the Granville Street Bridge with pedestrian centre


The Granville Bridge is a truck route that carries 65,000 vehicles a day. It's one of the city's unloveliest water crossings.

But to city planners, it could become the unlikely home to a pastoral, Brooklyn-Bridge-style greenway down the middle for pedestrians and cyclists.

That's one idea floated as part of the city's sweeping new transportation plan aimed at increasing non-car trips in Vancouver to 60 per cent of all travel in the next 20 years from the current 40 per cent.

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The idea is not actually written in the plan, but made its debut to the public this week as one of several conceptual drawings showing the kind of changes Vancouver might make – including a pedestrian-only Robson Square – to make the city more friendly for walking and cycling.

"The Granville Bridge idea was a way of showing the possibilities," city transportation engineer Jerry Dobrovolny said. "Everything we've shown is feasible. That bridge has eight lanes and it's far overcapacity."

But the idea came as a surprise to many, even groups that have been consulted at length about the city's plan in the past few months, and is prompting bewildered responses about how it would actually work.

The Burrard Bridge was redone in 2009 to create a bike lane on each side, and the idea of taking down the two viaduct bridges that connect downtown to the east side of the city has been discussed since 2010.

For some, even though they welcome changes that enhance Vancouver's unique downtown culture, it's all overwhelming.

"We're being inundated with a number of transformative changes," said Charles Gauthier, executive director of the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association.

On the other side of the bridge, his counterpart at the South Granville Business Improvement Association was somewhat warmer to the concept, but still confused.

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"If it can revitalize that whole section of Granville [north of Broadway], that'd be cool," said Sharon Townsend. "There's art galleries, there's all this cultural activity there." At the moment, drivers tend to zoom past it at high speed.

However, Ms. Townsend said she couldn't figure out how engineers would get people from the middle of a busy six-lane bridge over to the sidewalks on either side at each end.

Predictably, cycling advocates said they were in favour of anything that would make the Granville Bridge less terrifying.

"It's really dangerous, and it's really unpleasant," former Non-Partisan Association councillor Peter Ladner said. "I've scurried over that bridge in fear many times."

In spite of the proliferation of ideas promoting walking, cycling and transit in the city's 187 recommendations for its Transportation 2040 plan, Mr. Dobrovolny said the plan also makes it clear which routes are primarily meant for cars and trucks.

Rather than turn every street into a "complete street," with space for cyclists and cars on each one, the city's plan makes it clear that some routes – like the two streets that feed into the Granville Bridge, Seymour and Howe – will give priority to motor vehicles.

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About the Author
Urban affairs contributor

Frances Bula has written about urban issues and city politics in B.C.’s Vancouver region, covering everything from Downtown Eastside drug addiction to billion-dollar development projects, since 1994. More


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