Burrard Bridge: a follow-up

July 21, 2015

Some remarks on the report to be presented to the Standing Committee on Planning, Transportation and Environment [2], On July 22.

Bus stop and line of sight at Burrard#Pacific

As mentioned in a previous post’s comment, the COV planners indicated some line of sight involved by the Burrard street concave alignment at Pacific were cause of concern for CMBC toward the implementation of a South Bound bus stop on the South West corner of the intersection. The problem is illustrated below:

due to the concave alignment of Burrard. A bus could need to be positioned at an angle preserving line of sight on incoming traffic, before reentering traffic: that would be an angle similar to the current slip-in lane to  not compromise lines of sight

Hindered lines of sight for bus leaving a stop, due to a concave alignment of the street, exist in multiple locations on the Transit bus network. a short list below:

While the line of sight concern are legitimate, they could have been overblown in the case of Burrard bridge. They can be addressed by external safety mirror, as often seen in Europe. Here there is sufficient room to accommodate an articulated bus at an angle preserving the line of sight for a safe pull-out:

A design, where the bus bay is in the alignement of Burrard street North of Pacific [4], bus bay designed in accordance with [3]. The tall cypress is obviously not in the way. A protected bike box with an advanced traffic signal allow EW connection along Pacific

We were admittedly too optimistic to see the City elaborates on the above solution. Instead, The line of sight concerns expressed at the open house, have since been replaced by the concerns on the preservation of a cypress tree which could not have been endangered by a bus bay on the south side.

We tend to see all that as excuses for inaction. Whether not, the restoration of the south bound bus stop on the North West corner of the intersection should have been in order. However, after feedback of the public, the initial proposal to move the South Bound bus stop further north has been given up. Instead, the bus stop will be moved south by half a block (from Burnaby to Drake). It is a step in the right direction, but insufficient: It seems nothing more than paying lip service: Transit accessibility is still much worse than it was in 2009 and before.

Pacifc East West bike connection

Our above proposal integrate them with an island to create a protected bike box, which can be given and advanced signal. the design to be submitted to the council also propose a bike box, but in what seems to be a more clumsy way:

the bike box for thru movement is in a right turn bay! this right turn bay is supposed to have green light while the the thru lane could still be on red (to protect right urning from Burarrd to Pacific East). That creates confusion and place cyclists in an uncomfortable spot

The Suicide prevention barrier

This part was not presented at the open-house, and “popped up” afterward, the reasons why are unclear, since the City is supposed to have engaged with stack-holders ahead of the general public open-houses, where the issue could have been identified. Burrard bridge being such a iconic bridge, its alteration by suicide barriers, which also hinder the view of the bridge span, and affect negatively the user experience, raise some legitimate concerns from heritage groups.

Mapo Bridge, Seoul, Korea, use technology, art and interactivity to reduce suicide rate, without relying on high suicide barrier

Due to this, the request for more consultation seems reasonable. The city could explore alternative to physical barriers. The Mapo bridge in Seoul, Korea, using technology to detect suicide attempt, and then connect victim with help, could be an option to consider, after having a correct assessment of the experience [1]

Overall, The Burrard North end project seems to be a bit rushed.

[1] Many medias, especially in North America, have reported the experience as failure, because the reported “suicide attempt” have increased by a 600% after the introduction of suicide prevention measure. However many observers consider the experience as successful, since the effective number of committed suicide has been reduced by 77% . One can conjecture that distressed people could target Mapo bridge, knowing they get a chance to be recognized as such and get helped. On the Authority side, it also help to locate those distressed people, and provide them with the needed help to prevent suicide in general.

[2] Burrard Bridge Upgrades and North Intersection Improvements, City Of Vancouver, Lon Laclaire, July 13, 2015

[3] BC Transit Infrastructure Design Guidelines, Nov 2010.

[4] here we provide a design maximizing the line of sight. However, the required length of the line of sight could be shorter, allowing to reduce the angle of the bus bay.

5 Responses to “Burrard Bridge: a follow-up”

  1. Fbfree Says:

    Where would an external mirror be positioned to allow buses to pull out safely? The far side of the road is a long way away.

    It does look like the angled bus stop should work.

    • Voony Says:

      Where would an external mirror be positioned to allow buses to pull out safely? The far side of the road is a long way away

      good point, we could consider a mirror mounted on a gantry (but that could create some dazzle issue), or a system of camera/screen (but technology break)…

      so the angled bus stop would probably the best and simplest option.

  2. Jeff Leigh Says:


    Your revised drawing appears to have three bike crossings of sidewalks, instead of one. Also, bikes travelling southbound downhill (likely to be going faster) face a T junction instead of going straight on to the bridge ramp. If they carry straight on inadvertently, they would be in the bus loading/unloading zone.

    The bike box is a compromise to allow bikes to travel eastbound, as they should be able to. It is a two stage crossing, because first you move to the bike box, and then you cross. Some confident cyclists may just take the vehicle lane at Thurlow. Ideally, there would be a protected lane from Thurlow between the turn lanes and straight through lane, so no need for a bike box. However, that reduces the two turn lanes and creates delays on to the bridge for motor vehicles. I think more will be known in the months after implementation, and perhaps a straight through bike lane will be implemented as needs dictate, based on both motor vehicle and bicycle volumes.

    I don’t believe there will be an advance bike signal eastbound.

    As I look at the drawings, and recall discussions about the types of crashes documented, I think of how complex the intersection is. These changes are simplifying the intersection in the interest of safety of all users. Putting a bus stop back in there, in my mind, makes it much more complicated again. I understand the reason for a bus stop near Pacific, but think it would be better before the intersection than in it.

    I found the City to be very responsive in this consultation. More details noted on Pricetags.

    • Voony Says:

      To be sure, the drawing is to illustrate it is fesable to implement a bus bay, for artics buses (in fact there is room to accomodate a artic bus + a standard bus), on the SW corner of the intersection (In respect of the typical local design guideline) without endangering the old cypress tree.

      The design is a worse case scenario, the bus bay angle allow “infinite” line of sight along Burrard street, but you could need “only” ~100m, so the angle could be much smaller, making the bus approach easier, and the bay less intruding into the “island”

      I didn’t put too much thought on the bike/ped paths alignment… or rather, I have designed the pedestrian path to espouse as much as what could be the pedestrian desire lines. However, your points are well taken, especially the one relative to speed of cyclist coming from Burrard.

      The bike and pedestrian paths alignement could easily be revised to reflect the advantage of the city design and reduce the number of ped/bike inetreaction as in the city proposal.

      You could still have one more ped/bike interaction than in the city proposal, this to allow access to the bus stop. However, this bus stop could replace the one proposed at Drake…so globally the proposal doesn’t add more bike/ped interactions.

      Yes, the change makes the intersection safer by reducing the solicitation for the motorist (have to check for both bike traffic, and motor vehicle traffic at the same time…to merge into traffic using a slip lane), and is welcome for that.

      A bus stop doesn’t compound solicitation to the motorist at the intersection (the motorist has already engaged in the intersection), so the added complexity argument is a bit specious. Far side bus stops are a normal component of a major interection in Metro Vancouver which the motorist is used to deal with. That said, I have no issue at seeing the bus stop on the near side of the intersection. A bus bay is not possible, so that could reduce the Burrard street throughput, that is the reason a far side look a better option (but for user access, the near side could be better, due to lack of ped crossing on the South side of the intersection).

      Notice, also that Lon Laclaire mentioned at the open house, the city desire to see the C21 rerouted from beach avenue to Pacific bld. A very welcome idea, which suppose the resorbption of the traffic queuing on Pacific#Burrard, to see Translink considering that…An additional reason to have a south bound bus stop on Burrard at Pacific (according to Lon Lacalire, They have integrated in the pacific Bld design, the possibility to implement bus stop on it)

      regarding the bike box, yes, a bike lane between the turn lane and thru lane from Thurlow could be ideal. In the interim, an advanced traffic signal could make the EW crossing more comfortable for cyclist.

      As for the responsiveness of the city: I have also brought the E-W cycling connection issue. yes the city has been responsive on it…but when come the transit issues…At least we are not regressing anymore, I guess we should be thankful for that?

  3. FRJ Says:

    In the early 2000’s, Toronto added a suicide barrier to the Prince Edward Viaduct (http://tiny.cc/sxjw0x) which, at the time, had the 2nd highest rate of suicide jumps of any bridge in North America. The barrier successfully halted suicide attempts at that location but didn’t reduce suicide attempts in the city (http://tiny.cc/kvkw0x); they simply went to other locations, notably the Leaside Bridge (http://tiny.cc/lckw0x).

    The first attempted suicide at the Prince Edward Viaduct in a decade occurred in Oct. 2014 but was prevented by quick thinking police and fire and rescue workers (http://globalnews.ca/news/1641119/officers-talk-about-rescuing-man-attempting-suicide-on-bloor-viaduct/).

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