Which way is the right way for Cambie Bridge cyclists?

Foot and pedal commuters still getting used to new directional protocol

It seems that Vancouverites’ sense of entitlement is no match for their equally innate Canadian politeness.

Last week, the City of Vancouver opened the new bike lane on the west side of the Cambie Bridge. It also implemented a new protocol for the shared bike/pedestrian lane on the east side.

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Although there is still a lot of confusion about who should be where, everyone seems to be working it out without yelling at one another about being in the wrong lane.

Why the confusion? The changes on the east side of the bridge were made before the signage could go up. This left the task of figuring it all out to the hundreds of people who use the sidewalks every day.

I'm one of them. Every morning I walk from home to the Courier office on West 5th Avenue a few blocks east of Cambie. And every night I walk the bridge to go home.

Until last week, pedestrians and cyclists going in the same direction used the same lane on the bridge's east (Science World) side. One side of the sidewalk was for everyone going north; the other side was for everyone going south.

It was, for the most part, fairly safe but the shared use of the lane made some people uncomfortable, says Lon LaClaire, the city’s transportation director.

The new lane on the sunset side of the bridge is intended for southbound cyclists only.

It will be a slightly more complicated for ingress and egress for some people. On the south side, access is next to the Olympic Village Canada Line station while on the north side, it’s at Beatty and Nelson.

Pedestrians on the west side now have the narrow sidewalk to themselves.

That leaves northbound cyclists having sole access to the sunrise side of the bridge. They have the side of the lane closest to road traffic. Pedestrians simply have politely make way for one another on the scenic side overlooking False Creek.

Or that's the way it's supposed to be.

In the first few days, there was mild confusion on the bridge after people sensed a change was afoot. Suddenly cyclists and pedestrians were faced by oncoming traffic in what they had thought was their lane.

Gradually, over time, and with few witnessed shouts of “Get out of my lane!”, people seemed to figure out that it was bikes in one lane, pedestrians in another. Most people got settled into the new formation and were back to ignoring one another.

However, not every cyclist got the memo that if they are heading south they should be using the bike lane on the west side of the bridge. As a result, north and southbound cyclists are squeezing by one another in one lane (and, for the first time, I've sometimes felt they are a little too close to me for comfort.)

It's helped that the city has now painted symbols on the sidewalk. The cycling symbol includes a directional arrow.

LaClaire says patience is needed — by everyone. The city is working with cycling groups to spread the word about the changes and had staff positioned on the north side of the bridge to explain the changes to cyclists.

There's a grace period to let everyone sort themselves out. LaClaire says the city will go easy on enforcement as people get used to the changes.

mperkins@vancourier.com

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