Urban Tribe - Ride with your kids in front.

Inspiration for separation on Burnside Bridge

Posted by on May 10th, 2010 at 10:47 am

Streetfilms has published a new video that details a new, physically separated bike lane that has been installed on the Burrard Bridge in Vancouver, B.C..

Lanes on the Burnside Bridge
(Google Streetview)

Bike planners in that city have made biking and walking over the bridge much more pleasant by simply re-allocating lane space and adding a concrete barrier to separate motor vehicle and non-motorized traffic. The bridge reminds me of the Burnside Bridge in Portland where the standard bike lane has become a safety issue that warranted stop-gap measures and riled up advocates.

In Vancouver city officials are calling the separated bike lane on the Burrard Bridge a “trial” (sound familiar?). So far, it seems to be going quite well.

If Portland is serious about attracting the “interested but concerned,” we’ve got to build more separated bikeways (the Morrison Bridge improvements are a good start).

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  • Ted Buehler May 10, 2010 at 11:09 am

    Burrard Bridge, Vancouver BC.

    I rode this cycletrack for the first time 2 weeks ago. It was absolutely fabulous. Much better than the previous configuration.

    I’d prefer a raised cycletrack on Couch, though. It’s a tight squiggle, and it’s in a dip so it’s always going to be collecting muck. And you could put the superelevation in the right direction on a raised sidewalk (so it’s banked into the turn, not into the gutter).

    Ted Buehler

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  • mitch May 10, 2010 at 11:11 am

    This is a great idea!

    BTW…Vancouver, BC makes for a great bike-cation. Load yourself and your bike on the train and head up there. You can skip the sometimes long wait at the border, and once you’re there its really easy to get around by bike.

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  • Allan May 10, 2010 at 11:30 am

    i went back and looked at the original plans. they have a full city block to work with. they made the 1st turn quite wide and the 2nd one quite narrrow. It sounds like the city doesn’t want to rip up the work they just did but maybe that’s what’s in order here. shift the driving lanes over a few feet.

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  • Nick V May 10, 2010 at 11:56 am

    I couldn’t agree more about “separated bikeways”.
    As many bike lanes as Portland is lucky enough to have, most of them look like afterthoughts simply “tacked on” to the streets, which I guess they were…..

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  • Scott Mizée May 10, 2010 at 12:36 pm


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  • Steve B. May 10, 2010 at 12:42 pm


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  • Camp Bike Fun May 10, 2010 at 12:48 pm

    I agree. BUILD IT!

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  • KWW May 10, 2010 at 1:01 pm

    To me, separated bikeways make the most sense on 4 lane roads and bridges.

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  • Daniel Ronan May 10, 2010 at 2:01 pm

    While I love the Burrard Street Bridge and have ridden it a lot, one thing that really irks me is the fact that you are only allowed to walk on one side of the structure. I think it’s important that if we are to widen sidewalks and take over a lane for mode separated bicycle traffic, we still maintain accessibility to all users on both sides of the bridge.

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  • Steve B. May 10, 2010 at 3:35 pm

    I agree, Daniel. One of the people interviewed said that was the preferred option, but I guess they need a little more political will to do the cycletrack on both sides?

    Someday, I’d love to see people on foot taking back those sidewalks on the Hawthorne and Broadway bridges. I find it to be incredibly unpleasant to walk on any of our MUPs or bridgeways because of all the bike traffic.

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  • Steve B. May 10, 2010 at 3:36 pm

    Although, I’d argue a lot of the unpleasantness comes from lack of respect/etiquette from some folks on bikes.

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  • Lenny Anderson May 10, 2010 at 5:17 pm

    The Burnside Bridge is now 5 lanes. Why not four?, with the extra lane space used to make raised and separated multi-use paths on both sides for bikes and peds instead of the narrow sidewalk and unprotected bike lane? It has a great unobstructed view of the City, the River and such. Returning the streetcar line down the middle will make it even more fun. Then we can convert the Eastbank Freeway to a riverside park with beach, and we will have something to be really proud of.

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  • Anonymous May 10, 2010 at 5:27 pm

    “Although, I’d argue a lot of the unpleasantness comes from lack of respect/etiquette from some folks on bikes.”

    Yeah those bicyclists shouting left at you are so rude!1!!

    I’ve never tried to knock a pedestrian down. I have never thrown an object at a pedestrian. I have never slapped a pedestrian as they walked by me. I have also never verbally abused a pedestrian.

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  • J.Chong May 10, 2010 at 5:59 pm

    To add to mitch’s comment that one can bike from the Via Rail-Amtrak train (and Greyhound bus station) in downtown Vancouver, BC:

    One can now bring their bike onto the Canada Line commuter train from the Vancouver airport:
    (There will be another article on explicit instructions how to cycle from airport.)

    Today Toronto city council is debating on its committee approved proposal for its first separated bike lane in the downtown core. It’s currently a 8-lane road with a well-established-European like treed and flower boulevard in sections. This is a significant effort the Toronto cycling advocates and its transportation planning dept.

    I have been informed that the discussion may also include proposal for its first Bixi bike rental program.


    Montreal has had some separated bike lanes in the downtown core for last few years.

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  • J.Chong May 10, 2010 at 7:20 pm

    Sorry Toronto’s city council public discussion and vote on their lst separated bike lane in downtown core, begins tomorrow.

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  • gthu May 10, 2010 at 8:16 pm

    Glad to hear Portlanders (presumably) are beginning to understand the enhanced value that comes with a separated facility versus a bike lane. That hardcore 5% can so often be its own worst political enemy with the “if it’s good enough for me it’s good enough for anybody” attitude that the other 95% find so off-putting.

    Even setting aside the East Couch to Burnside design and execution failure(s), Jonathan is right to focus on the Burnside Bridge itself because it has so much excess auto capacity. The City could and should do a Burrard Bridge-like trial tomorrow. $100 says give people six months and they won’t remember what it used to be. For motorists it will be much ado about nothing. For bicyclists it will be 100x improved. For pedestrians, they’ll appreciate the additional buffer.

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  • gthu May 10, 2010 at 8:19 pm

    Another $100 says the first North American city to adopt system-wide separated facility treatments “wins” the race to bike mode split nirvana. The greatest bike mode split increases will occur in the cities that most thoroughly adopt the separated approach.

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  • sabernar May 10, 2010 at 8:27 pm

    Keep in mind that our bridges are drawbridges. It costs a lot more money and takes more time to do major modifications to them compared to a static bridge. Take a look at how long it took to finish the Morrison Bridge bike lane. It’s not as simple as “BUILD IT” like some people want to think. Nor can you just throw down some concrete barriers across the bridge to make a bike lane.

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  • Ted Buehler May 10, 2010 at 10:59 pm

    >> The Burnside Bridge is now 5 lanes. Why not four? <<

    Ding ding!

    The Burrard Bridge didn't need all six traffic lanes on the main span, just at the intersections at each end. Still, it was 15 years from their first trial cycletrack in 1995 until 2010 when they finally built it.

    Burnside is the same. It certainly doesn't need 5 lanes of traffic on the bridge. 4 would do. And concrete barriers separating the bike traffic from car traffic would make that bridge ever so much more safe and pleasant for bicyclists. And they could stripe 2 bike lanes of 5' width each, and pokey folk could learn to stay in the right lane and speedsters could haul @ss in the left…

    Ted Buehler

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  • Ted Buehler May 10, 2010 at 11:02 pm

    >> It costs a lot more money and takes more time to do major modifications to them compared to a static bridge. <<

    Burnside would be a piece of cake compared to the Morrison Bridge.
    * The deck is concrete, not steel mesh.
    * Bikes are on both sides, not one sides.
    * There's zero freeway-style on and off ramps, instead of 7.
    * The concrete barrier could be skipped for the lift span. Or a lighter-weight steel barrier bolted on.

    Ted Buehler

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  • Ted Buehler May 10, 2010 at 11:11 pm

    Daniel wrote:
    >> While I love the Burrard Street Bridge and have ridden it a lot, one thing that really irks me is the fact that you are only allowed to walk on one side of the structure. <<

    I'd argue it's a big improvement on the Burrard Bridge to have the two cycletracks and peds limited to one side.

    With bikes and peds sharing the sidewalk, it was sketchy to walk with a friend, walk with your kid, walk with a dog, on either side of the bridge. Now, it's no problem whatsoever. Except that you can only do it on one side.

    Ted Buehler

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  • Ted Buehler May 10, 2010 at 11:19 pm

    For comparison:

    Bridge length:
    * Burrard: 0.60 miles
    * Hawthorne: 0.34 miles
    * Burnside: 0.44 miles
    * I-5 bridge over the Columbia River: 0.66 miles

    Burrard is much longer than Portland’s downtown bridges, so peds crossing to the other sidewalk is comparatively less trouble than for any of the Portland bridges.

    The Burrard Bridge also has long straight drop on the west end, probably in the 100′ to 150′ range. So bikes could easily hit 40 mph if they felt so inclined…

    Restricting peds to one side of the Burrard Bridge is less of a big deal than it would be for any of the Portland bridges.


    Ted Buehler

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  • dabby May 10, 2010 at 11:32 pm

    Once again people, separation is not considered sharing the road!

    There is not, and has not been, a problem with bicycling on the Burnside Bridge. If there ever has been a problem, it is debris in the bike lane.
    Oh, and of course the obvious problem of Tri Met bus drivers taking breaks in the bike lane right.

    In fact, one of the things I like about the Burnside is that at speed, a person like myself is moving right along past some bicycle traffic. The open bike lane allows for easy abandonment and merging into the traffic lane. Also, it makes dealing with the bad drivers at the east end turning lanes feasible, as I tend to ride straight up Burnside instead of the slow transition to Ankeny.

    With a cycle track, any vehicular cycling actions are off the table. That is where you are, in the bike lane, unless you like bunny hopping sideways over curbs to change lanes.

    I cannot understand why people are so into Cycle tracks.

    While for a few years now we have been preaching the word of sharing the road, and responsible road usage, the new wave seems to be behind Cycle tracks. Bad, bad, bad…

    Cycle tracks separate, segregate, and irritate both drivers and riders, and could not be farther from the concept of sharing the road. Not to mention the placement of a cycle track certainly making riding outside of it illegal, opening up another can of worms, stings, and income for the PPB. many PPB officers still think it is illegal to ride outside of the existing bike lanes.

    This is not the Netherlands people.

    This is Portland, where we ride on the road….

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  • Beth May 11, 2010 at 12:06 am

    Re: Comment 23

    I would disagree that there “is not a problem” with bicycling across the current Burnside Bridge. For many potential and current cyclists, it is not a perceived safe option. And perception is everything.

    I was waiting for a table at Screen Door on Sunday morning. Three girls in their early 30s standing next to us waiting for a table too. They were talking animatedly about how they had all started bicycling for the first time ever in their lives this past year.

    Their conversation turned to the bridges across the Willamette, and they all said exactly the same thing – they’re too scared to bike across the Burnside Bridge, and currently go all the way down to the Hawthorne to get across the river.

    And these are healthy, fit, vivacious people in their 30s – young, active, fit – exactly the demographic Portland wants to be getting out on bikes, stat!

    I can’t imagine how scary navigating the approaches on or off the bridge from any direction must be for people who aren’t serious riders. Let alone seniors, or kids, or…. well, anybody.

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  • resopmok May 11, 2010 at 12:28 am

    Am I the only one that notices when you reach downtown from the Burnside Bridge, that the bike lane disappears into two lanes of very impatient traffic and a right turn only lane? The money would be better spent bringing bike facilities to Burnside in downtown than building a physical barrier in a place where I, at least, have never felt crowded. All I seem to hear is built it built it build it with little thought behind whether “it” is a good idea and use of limited funding resources available for these types of projects in the first place.

    A first rate, bright green supercycletrack that’s raised, separated and visible from satellite won’t help me the slightest amount if I’m trying to reach such useless destinations as the Pearl district via Burnside. I know I’m living in a fantasy world to suggest removing parking and repainting the now available lane for bikes, but it sure would be cheap and effective and useful for people who are trying to get from point a to point b with their bicycles.

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  • Michael M. May 11, 2010 at 7:41 am

    I’m inclined to agree with dabby (#23) & resopmok (#24). In a perfect world of unlimited budgets, a separated cycle track might make sense on the Burnside, but it’s a question of priorities. I’d love to see more spent on maintenance, and I’d love to see infrastructure improvements in areas that are much more problematic than the Burnside, which is okay the way it is. What is it about the Portland mindset that encourages putting all available resources to the shiny & new? We build all these bioswales without a hint of a plan (or money) for maintaining them. This is how the city ended up with a pile of empty condo towers. This is why downtown has been losing jobs for more than a decade. This is why we’re in so much debt. Cries of “BUILD IT” may energize people (like the Tea Party energizes people), but who’s figuring out how we pay for it? And what more do we sacrifice to pay for it?

    And I don’t understand what I see as a disconnect between the manner in which people ride here and the infrastructure that cycling advocates are pushing. We don’t ride along at less than 10MPH on heavy Dutch-style bike. We ride fast, we don’t always obey the traffic rules we expect everyone else to obey, we aren’t the most patient and accommodating bike riders in the world. Is the feeling, “change infrastructure and you’ll change behavior”? Is there any evidence that will work? Because I haven’t seen evidence that it does work on the current separated infrastructure we have.

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  • spare_wheel May 11, 2010 at 8:10 am

    “We don’t ride along at less than 10MPH on heavy Dutch-style bike.”

    You clearly have not experienced the sublime joy of riding a 50 lb batavus while wearing itchy but fashionable clothes.

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  • beanpdx May 11, 2010 at 9:22 am

    Holy moly, lining our streets with Jersey barriers will make our city look sooooo nice.
    Are there any other options?

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  • chris r May 11, 2010 at 12:28 pm

    I’ve ridden the Burrard Bridge quite a bit and I initially had a lot of these same thoughts. First it was, ‘wow, jersey barriers, what a seemingly cheap yet ugly solution’ and then I started wondering how it all came about. The same concerns were probably shared that we have here, some planning took place, and somehow the decision was made to implement. Accessibility seemed about the same, and it doesn’t seem to have stopped people from riding it, so overall I’d say it works.

    On the other hand, I too am a firm believer in sharing the road but there’s also practicality and a general amount of common sense that I try to apply. Would riders be safer with a physically separated lane on Burnside? Probably. Does it contradict sharing the road? Probably. But why care even as a vehicular cyclist? The concern for so many of these projects should be safety and accessibility, not about being the best cycling city or to allow someone to take the lane if there’s debris in the bikeway (The latter argument being ridiculous, by the way. If there’s an obstruction then brake, cautiously move around, and notify an authority if the hazard persists. No different than any single lane road).

    Anyway, the balance here is how to make things safe while still managing cost and keeping things accessible. I’m all for being treated as a vehicle but in the end, I don’t think that lane separation on the Burnside Bridge is going to ruin my day. A nice jersey barrier will give me something to lean against while the drawbridge is up.

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  • Lenny Anderson May 11, 2010 at 2:36 pm

    Come check out the new crash barrier on the new, wider and safer bike/ped piece, aka sidewalk, of reconstructed Going Street Bridge to Swan Island.

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  • Richard Campbell May 11, 2010 at 10:22 pm

    Ironically, we used the reallocation of the lane years ago on Burnside as inspiration for Burrard. And yes, it would be great if the city reallocated a lane on the east side so pedestrians can use that sidewalk. What has been termed “pedestrian reallocation” is not a good trend. That said, it is much more pleasant and safe to be able to walk on the sidewalk without worrying about knocking a cyclist into traffic. Friends and lovers can actually walk beside each other know.

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  • Zaphod May 11, 2010 at 10:59 pm


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  • trail user May 12, 2010 at 3:55 pm

    Should not have built the Morrison Bridge wall of shame because hardly anyone uses it.

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  • another trail user May 12, 2010 at 4:22 pm

    Should not have built the Morrison Bridge wall of shame because hardly anyone uses it.

    WHAT?!!??? Thats like saying no one ever uses the MAX! (and people still say that all the time.)

    I personally ride The Morrison nearly every day!

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  • Dan May 12, 2010 at 7:07 pm

    Hey Beth,

    What exactly is it about “healthy, fit, vivacious people in their 30s” that makes them “exactly the demographic Portland wants to be getting out on bikes”?

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  • Anne Hawley May 13, 2010 at 1:09 pm

    @Dan #35: Because they make bike-riding look cool, silly!

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  • Beth May 13, 2010 at 1:41 pm

    Dan (comment # 35)

    The point I had going on in my head is that, if you can’t even get young, fit, fearless and healthy people to give bicycling a try here in Portland, then… well, good luck getting other, even harder-to-reach demographics a try (such as the senior population).

    Respectfully, Beth.

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