OUR VIEW: City Needs a Car-free Crossing

Kera McArthur By Kera McArthur
A recent Vancouver Sun article focuses on how a stand-alone bridge for False Creek will (or, more accurately, how it won't) address the Burrard Bridge traffic issue (too expensive, it won't affect traffic loads, etc.).

As the debate descends into minute detail, Vancouver is proving once again that it's a good city, not a great one. How boring.

Around the world, pedestrian bridges are becoming popular features of the urban landscape, and are frequently hailed as signature architectural landmarks in cities with the vision and wisdom to make these kinds of investments - London's Millennium Bridge, or the Pont des Arts in Paris, or the amazing Henderson Wave Bridge in Singapore. Closer to home we have the Liberty Bridge in Greenville, SC, the dramatic Sundial Bridge in Redding, CA and the Esplanade Riel in Winnipeg. Each of these bridges has helped transform its community.

These cities have plotted a bold course. They are saying pedestrians matter. And confirming urban activist Jane Jacobs's view, that to understand your city you have to get out and walk. Vancouver claims to have the best quality of life in the world. Yet we quibble about peak-time loads.

Development on both sides of False Creek means pedestrian and bicycle traffic will continue to grow as adjacent neighbourhoods become more densely populated. And so will the need for facilities that help make it easier to get around the city on foot - an essential but often forgotten piece of what makes for a great city.

Vancouver architect Gregory Henriquez recently made an interesting contribution to the debate with his design for a pedestrian bridge linking Vanier Park and Sunset Beach, also raising the broader question of future transportation links across False Creek. It has already stimulated discussion around the design and form, as well as the best location, for such a crossing.

But what has been lacking from the public debate about crossings for False Creek is the public.

Think City wants to open up the discussion to Vancouver's citizens. We are proposing a design competition that invites all members of the public to bring forward their ideas for a car-free crossing to connect downtown with the south shore of False Creek.

And we don't believe that bridges are the only solutions. That's why it's a car-free crossing. What other options are there? Where should it go? Do we need a new seabus service for False Creek? Could former city councillor Jim Green's gondolas be the answer? Let the best idea win.

At Think City, we believe citizens, not politicians or bureaucrats, know what's best for their community. So instead of a discussion by elites in a backroom, we need to open up the conversation about a car-free crossing to the public. We just might get something unexpected and visionary.

The car-free crossing is an idea whose time has come. It will help take our city from good to great.

Kera McArthur is a Think City board member and chair of car-free crossing propject.

Take Action: Please show support for car-cree crossing here.

The goal must be reducing carbon in the atmosphere

How does a pedestrian/cycling bridge get cars off the road? It doesn't. There are plenty of lanes in and out of downtown Vancouver. The problem they are turned over to carbon producing machines instead of human powered transportation.

pedestrian bridge and the transit wars

I'd like to preface my comment by stating at the outside that I am a lifetime, committed cyclist who has frequently been guilty of some of the attitudes I decry here.
Although a separate bridge is an attractive idea, I don't think it makes it to the top of the list as a spending priority. The number one problem to deal with in this city is finding and creating homes for people. The second priority should be affordable, convenient transit options, which need to be available to everybody, not just to people strong or brave enough to make it across the city on a cycle. Both of these problems have been greatly exacerbated by the abdication of responsibility by senior levels of government, essentially dumping difficulties in the laps of cities without offering them the tools to pay for the solutions. We as citizens need to hold these bodies accountable, with our votes, but also with our letters. In the meantime we need to face the fact that local solutions will have to come largely from local pockets, fueled by a common desire to create a liveable city.
Liveability consists of much more than bike lanes, or pedestrian bridges. It means being able to live close to where you work. It means not being afraid when you walk out your front door. It means feeling that your opinion matters, that you're not regarded with contempt by others because of your lifestyle or income (or race, sex etc). It means being able to access the things you need to make your existence pleasant, or at least tolerable. These parts of our social contract are failing us, resulting in mutual finger-pointing and suspicion.
In the numerous posts here I note the increasing rancor between cyclists and drivers, both of whom demonstrate attitudes of entitlement. If anyone needs to grow up, it's all of us. Cyclists and motorists should treat one another with caution and respect, and avoid the self-righteous put-downs and judgement which only produce similar stupidity from their object. I believe public forums for the driving and bicycling public to meet and hear one another's issues, and to suggest common solutions, would help. In the meantime maybe we can tone down the rhetoric, if we really want not just to vent but rather to have people on the other side of the issue hear us.
We are in a very real sense responsible for one another. It is an inescapable reality that by our choices and attitudes we literally create our shared world.


We all use one or several modes of transportation - likely some combination of public transit, cycling, walking, and yes, driving. I'd like to see a lot more acceptance of the multiplicity of our needs instead of quite so much hyperbole about how cycling (or whatever) is the only answer. Let's meet in community forums and discuss how to work together to provide options for all. A separate bridge for pedestrians and cyclists is an interesting and possibly very creative idea. Let's discuss! Let's be open & flexible & make this a community project.


what ever gets bikes off the sidewalks is a good idea! too many cyclists running people down on vancouver sidewalks is not helping the cause or racing thru crosswalks while walk light is on. grow up!

a new pedestian bridge across false creek

This is not solely about cycling. It is very much about pedestrians too. The debate so far doesn't seem to recognize that, which is really unfortunate. In my view it is a terrific idea whose time has come; the sole question is where should it be: east or west of the Burrard bridge [see below], and eventually, should there be one or two? . Have any of the nay-sayers visited cities with these new bridges? If they did they could see first hand what a remarkable and positive social change they bring. For example visit London and compare the south bank of the Thames now to what it was before the Millenium bridge. It hasn't meant that the "City" has exploded into the south bank but it sure has made all of that area hugely more liveable. Other cities bear similar witness to this as well. Do we need that sort of thing in Vancouver? You bet your jeans we do. I like the design that has been presented, although it is not for the moment the thing we need to support one way or the other. What is needed is support for the concept. We need to get behind it. We have relied for too long on the natural beaurty of our surroundings; we need more than that if we are to become the truly great and dynamic city we can be. Wherre should it be? I would like the east side of the Burrard bridge to be explored, using an extension of Hornby as the natural route from the north, with two arms on the south, one directly onto the southern end of Granville Island., and another to its east leading to the heart of Kits. {And eventaullly a second one? Joining Mount Pleasant with Yaletown -- stay tuned] But right now I'm just pleased as hell that it has been proposed and is being discussed.

Crazy ideas...

It's true. There are a lot of folks out there that don't follow the rules. This includes cyclists, drivers, and pedestrians. One thing that might improve this is to introduce some form of cycling license. Then make this license mandatory before a person is eligible for a drivers license. This would teach cyclists how to use the road, and give drivers a little bit of first hand experience in the saddle. With regards to the bridge idea, what if we could fund the bridge by making it wide enough to have small retail spaces along it. Perhaps the center could be pedestrian only with access to the shops, and the outside lanes for the bikes. Maybe there could be pull outs for the bikes to park if they wanted to do some shopping as well. Over time, perhaps this bridge could pay for itself, and maybe even generate a little extra for other projects around the city. Go ahead and call this crazy, but only if you have an idea of your own.

taxpayers altready overtaxed

What a stupid idea. I am a regular cyclist and have absolutely NO problem negotiating any crossing in Vancouver. This is a complete waste of taxpayers hard earned money. What do you say to the homeless? "We are building you a new bridge that you can sleep under"? Stupid!

Two comments: Financial: As

Two comments:

Financial: As neat as it sounds, I think that financially speaking, we need to be more realisitc approach to cycling & pedestrian infrastructure in this city. We have a number of crossings already available and there's no reason that more space shouldn't be allocated to sustainable transport. That includes rapid transit, cycling and pedestrians. If you want people out of their cars, you have to give them viable alternatives and stop favouring the private vehicle everywhere.

Cyclists not following the rules: of course they don't. Some of the rules make sense, but for the most part, rules like helmets exist for the benefit of drivers, not cyclists. If you look at cities that support their cyclists like Berlin, Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Copenhagen etc., you'll note that they have *safe* places to ride, and their own traffic signals. Safe rides mean no helmets and no helmets means more cyclists.

Bridge for Cyclists

Ditto the above two remarks. I would say 80% of cyclists have no idea of the rules of the road. It would be wonderful if the police would ticket them for riding on the sidewalks. I see this all the time. I guess they've never heard of a side street or a lane. Use my tax dollars to build them a bridge? Forget it !!

Benefits of a car-free option

How about a crossing between the Granville and Burrard bridges that provides access for pedestrians, cyclists to various destinations and routes such as downtown, Granville Island, established cycle paths, seawall paths, residential neighbourhoods, etc, etc. It would also be a great tourist-friendly attraction. As for those who complain about tax dollars been spent on 'car-free' infrastructure may I remind them that the City's Engineering budget is heavily weighted to 'car only' infrastrucure.... and there is a significant number of rate payers in Vancouver that do not own or use cars (maybe even a majority)..... they walk, cycle, or use transit to and from their destinations.

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