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Two Lane Trial Petition - Add Your Voice

In a recent letter to Victoria’s mayor and councillors, and a CFAX radio debate with councillor John Luton, we outlined our argument to try removing one of the westbound car lanes from the Johnson Street Bridge, and create two new lanes for bicycles. But will the councillors listen? We want you to send them a message.

Victoria's Blue Bridge

Victoria's Blue Bridge

As things stand currently, it appears the designs for refurbishment of the Johnson Street Bridge to be presented on June 14 will offer only two options to improve the bridge for cyclists and pedestrians: 1) remove the E&N railway tracks and turn the railway span into a bicycle/pedestrian path, or 2) build a whole new bridge for cyclists and pedestrians at a cost of $15 million or more.

We believe the City should consider a third option, which would improve the bridge for non-car users, preserve the railway, and save money: try removing one of the westbound lanes on the car span, and create two new bicycle lanes.

A similar trial on Vancouver’s Burrard Bridge has proven remarkably successful. But so far, the City of Victoria has refused to attempt such an experiment, even though it would take a few weeks to conduct, and cost relatively little to arrange. Councillor Luton claims such a lane reduction will result in chaos – even though, as we’ve pointed out, the Johnson Street Bridge’s one eastbound lane already carries the same daily volume of traffic as the two lanes headed west, and a similar volume of traffic currently uses the two-lane Bay Street Bridge.

The numbers suggest that the Blue Bridge can handle two lanes of traffic. But there’s one way to find out for sure. Only a real trial will conclusively prove whether or not a lane reduction will work. Tell Victoria’s council that you want them to try an experiment that could save the E&N railway, and millions of dollars.

Please sign the petition for a Two-Lane Trial on the Blue Bridge:


17 comments to Sign the Petition for a Two-Lane Trial on the Blue Bridge

  • SeaBreeze

    The two lanes are pretty essential for cars to ease traffic congestion. I can’t support this initiative.

  • Jen

    The congestion this would cause approaching the bridge would be a nightmare. Two lanes off Pandora come onto the bridge, two lanes off Wharf. Both of these would have to merge to one lane. Then imagine if the bridge is up. Traffic would get backed up to the Empress.
    From a bikers point of view, all I can see is angry drivers getting more upset at cyclists.
    We have a train bridge that gets used twice a day by a train. How hard would it be to convert that into a more effective use for pedestrians and cyclists.

  • Jamie

    This sounds like a pretty bad idea to me. I bike into town from Esquimalt almost every day and I’ll tell you that bridge is a disaster for cyclist, but this won’t fix it.

    Shutting down a lane of traffic isn’t going to make it any easier. On days when the weather is good, I’ll often ride across the main bridge deck, but I never want to be on the metal grating in the rain. Even with lanes, that would be treacherous. Never mind the traffic that would back up on the downtown side (worse when the bridge goes up), trying to bike the dangerous S-curve, and dealing with traffic cutting across my lane on the way to the Delta Hotel.

    I’d love to see cycling improvements on the bridge, but this is not the way to do it.

    Have you actually talked to any traffic engineers, or cyclists for that matter?

    • Ross

      Jen and Jamie, thank you for commenting. If you read the proposal, you’ll see we’re suggesting the City either cover the existing grate for the width of two bike lanes, or cut away those portions and replace them with a different material which can be properly surfaced for cyclists.

      If a car lane is removed from the bridge, drivers will have to adjust, but they’ve already done that on Fort, Bay, Quadra, Richmond, and numerous other places where car lanes have been removed to create bike lanes. I haven’t heard about angry drivers getting upset at cyclists on those streets, and I don’t think they will here, especially if the change saves millions of dollars.

      I strongly doubt a lane removal will create huge traffic tie-ups. Wharf Street northbound is one lane already (it only opens up after Yates) so there won’t be much change there. Bridge-bound traffic on Yates and Pandora can be channeled into single lanes in the block west of Government. Sure, the lines will be longer — but we’re talking about one line of 12 cars instead of two lines of 6 cars. Go down to Pandora and Yates and see: we’re not exactly talking about LA-sized volumes of traffic.

      The main thing is to try the experiment. If it doesn’t work, fine; then we have to move on to more expensive solutions. But we should try the cheaper and simpler one first.

      We certainly have spoken to cyclists. (I’m one myself.) Several prominent cycling advocates in town have already thanked us, because they’ve been advocating for a similar trial for years.

  • BlueBoy

    The report Monday to city council said the proposed 2 lane system was studied, and given a rating of F (for Failure), as it would result in massive amounts of congestion downtown. There are too many streets to feed into only one lane.

    Any comments on the results of the study?

  • Susanna

    The effects on merging and queueing during normal traffic flow is one thing, but the real congestion problem would occur when the bridge is raised, which can be for 10 minutes at a time, even during rush hour.

  • Jamie

    I don’t think you answered my question about what happens with traffic going to the Delta Hotel. Having traffic that acts like it is driving straight, as traffic to the hotel does, crossing a bike lane coming off the bridge does not seem very safe. Before trying out this experiment, I expect some care would be taken to examine the safety of that interaction.

    Further, the “prominent cycling advocates in town” I’ve spoken to seem to disagree with you.

    The study was posted on the city’s website shortly after the presentation to council, as were a large collection of other documents at johnsonstreetbridge.com.

    This was discussed more than once during the presentation at City Hall and the documents went up soon after.

    The study is peer reviewed and uses current best practices to model traffic flows. It looked at two different ways to handle the lane reduction and in both cases they led to unacceptable levels of service.

    Given the complexity of the street network on the downtown side, the study supports the case for two westbound lanes.

    Among other observations, in the section discussing closing the lane after the intersection, the study says:

    Under the current conditions, the westbound traffic from the Pandora Street/Store Street intersection clears onto the bridge before the north to west bound traffic from the Johnson Street/Wharf Street intersection arrives. This does not occur under the scenarios studied. The last vehicles in the west bound platoon from the Pandora Street/Store Street intersection must yield and wait for a gap in the traffic platoon arriving from the Johnson Street/Wharf Street intersection.

    Delays are even worse when the lane is removed before the intersection.

    With all due respect, I will take the opinion of a peer reviewed study (and the discussions I’ve had with prominent cycling advocates in town) over anecdotal strong doubts when the time comes to make up my mind.

    If you’d like to go with anecdotes, I’ll say this, having seen early afternoon traffic badly backed up as it was during the lane reduction earlier this week, I’m quite happy to keep two westbound lanes. A lane-reduced bridge experiment has been tried, and from a traffic flow perspective, it looks like a failed experiment.

  • BlueBoy

    Thanks Jamie, that’s a really good question that I’m not hearing answers to. How do cyclists deal with a bike lane that is crossed by the Delta Hotel laneway?

    Vehicles heading for the hotel will being going straight off the bridge, not bearing left with the rest of traffic. That has them crossing the bike lane on a diagonal, a very dangerous maneuver for both the cyclists and the drivers. Don’t expect the tourists driving to the hotel to know what they’re doing on this unusual merge through a line of cyclists.

    Routing the cyclists up the laneway doesn’t work either, as it leaves all the bike traffic (3000 a day/2) with that nasty up-hill u-turn across the tracks at the top. It would also be a dead end for anyone headed to Esquimalt.

    I’d also like to hear more about the safety of having bike lanes be 1.5m wide. One side is a solid bridge support, and the other will often be a large transport truck or a bus. I wouldn’t ride that, as there’s no way out if the large vehicle meanders in its lane. One large vehicle in each direction + side mirrors + a bike = the cyclist loses.

  • Dennis Robinson

    “A lane-reduced bridge experiment has been tried, and from a traffic flow perspective, it looks like a failed experiment.” Jamie, is that the experiment that happened on the bridge last Monday afternoon? It didn’t appear to be a failure to me. The bridge went up during the test, and when it came down all traffic seemed to be back to normal in under four minutes.

  • Here’s some corrections on the fiction that the Bridge is just like streets where lanes have been reduced.

    First, there are no bike lanes on Quadra St. and no lane reductions there. Richmond has the same number of lanes that it had before bike lanes, they are just narrower.

    All of those corridors that have had “road diets” also have additional capacity at intersections and for left turning traffic. It’s not relevant, by the way, that there is no need to turn left off of the middle of the bridge, only that the additional lane drains some significant numbers from the through traffic that is critical for functional capacity.

    Bay St. at Cook where the lane reduction has been applied carries about 18,000 trips a day, Esquimalt Rd around 16,000 and Fort St. about 19,000 and all with additional capacity at intersections and with the additional left turn lanes. In terms of carrying capcity, the design differences are significant and the numbers significantly below the maximum demand on the bridge. At these numbers and these configurations, no amount of alchemy is going to make it work.

    The least cost option left the building several months ago, and I’m sure many of Victoria’s citizens will be hesitant about risking further cost escalations to try something that a good number of traffic engineers (as opposed to structural engineers), have confirmed won’t work. (As noted already even the short term lane closures have created considerable congestions problems).

    Individual cyclists or those interested in preserving the bridge are free to express their opinions on what they would like to see, but I haven’t seen any research based proposition that supports the notion that the 2 lane configuration will work.

    In any event, I don’t see how rearranging travel lanes makes the bridge more seismically sound, deals with superstructure decay or addresses the mechanical and electrical deficiencies of the old bridge. It’s like offering someone a band-aid when they need a hip replacement.

  • Dennis Robinson

    Try again
    with one less lane,
    the price to pay is cheap.
    New will be a pain,
    so keep your pockets deep.

  • Cynthia

    Thanks for the link to that traffic study, BlueBoy. It’s fascinating – especially the introductory section where MMM Group states that their “analysis was based on 2009 weekday PM peak hour traffic volumes provided by the City.” The study does not, however, set out the numbers provided.

    In a letter I wrote to all City Councillors in December 2009 regarding the Delcan report, I pointed out a similar issue of the City directing its contractor to use certain assumptions:

    “Delcan indicates in its report “With higher discount rates, the repair option would become more advantageous.” Delcan’s calculations were stated to be based on a discount rate of 2.1 % “as required by the City.” The proper discount rate should be recommended by an independent expert, not the City because it has a significant effect on a 40-year cost projection. Similarly, it is inappropriate that Council considered a Delcan presentation of a 100-year life cycle comparison that did not include any discount rate.”

    The City is not an objective source of information when it comes to the Blue Bridge.