If the politicians can summon up the political will, the bicycle wheels can follow. Building a better version of the north of the existing Wardance Bridge on the Capilano River will encourage more North Shore people to commute to downtown Vancouver on their bikes, reduce the Lions Gate grid lock, and boost economic activity in the community. It’s the kind of infrastructure investment that can be a solution to a seemingly intractable problem, says Peter Scholefield, the vice-chair of HUB-North Shore Committee.
HUB is a community organisation that encourages biking and is calling upon the West Vancouver council to revive a now defunct plan to install a new bridge on the north side of the existing Wardance Bridge, which connects West Vancouver to North Vancouver but is increasingly being used by people to bike to downtown Vancouver. Scholefield said HUB realizes that it would take some time and effort to obtain the necessary permits and funding to build a new crossing, but a new bridge north of the existing bridge would the safest option for cyclists and pedestrians.
“Cyclists crossing a on a separate bridge would not come in contact or have to deal with any automobile traffic so all traffic hazards in the list would be solved, Scholefield said. The current bridge is owned and operated by Park Royal and has several safety concerns. For example, most westbound cyclists who cross the bridge must proceed through the busy four-way stop intersection at Taylor Way to get back to the Spirit Trail. After coming off from the bridge, some cyclists cross the roadway to get onto the Spirit Trail before reaching the four-way stop intersection which can be dangerous in heavy traffic. The traffic lanes on the bridge are less than four metre wide, narrow than the recommended guidelines.
A new bridge north of the existing bridge would help solve some of these issues, says Scholefield. In fact, such a bridge was planned in 2009 but never built. In April of 2009 Park Royal offered to contribute $500,000 towards building a new bridge and widening the sidewalk on the south side of the existing bridge.
The plan was scuttled due to conflicting jurisdictions and the permits were never obtained. Park Royal then agreed to build an extension off the south side of the bridge for a 3.2 m wide multi-use pathway to connect the Spirit Trail on either side of the river. The plan stalled because the estimates to do so were higher than Park Royal was willing to pay and West Vancouver couldn’t offer any money because taxpayers’ money would be seen as improving a bridge owned by Park Royal. Scholefield is calling upon West Vancouver councillors to once again muster the political will and work through the bureaucratic maze to build a new bridge on the north. At least one councillor has a personal stake in this. Coun.
Craig Cameron’s daughter had a narrow escape when she fell off her bike on the bridge. It there was a car coming from the other side, it could have been tragic. “I realised how unbelievably precarious that bridge is and this situation can’t continue. I will be seeking to have a motion by the end of September and put a dedicated bike lane. Building a new bridge entails working with the first nations, with the ocean and fishers and entails a lot of money on top of that. But in the meantime, I’m not going to sit by. You could easily have a fatality there,” he said.
Scholefield said HUB recently met West Vancouver’s transportation director, Raymond Fung, who has promised a new safety measures. Those include narrow green-painted lanes in the middle of the traffic lanes where cyclists could ride in single file with motorists and a separate green-painted crossing for eastbound cyclists adjacent to the existing crosswalk near the entrance to the RV Park. A new bridge to the north would be the permanent solution, Scholefield insists. “A new crossing would not be a privately owned structure, so could facilitate obtaining funding from a variety of sources.
For example, the contributions from Park Royal and the District could be supplemented by infrastructure funding from the federal and provincial governments and from TransLink. A new crossing could have a bold iconic design which would attract cyclists from outside the District, leading to an increase in business and tourism in Ambleside, Dundarave and Park Royal. West Vancouver spokesperson Jeff McDonald said the staff are exploring options at the moment and a report to the council will likely come forward at some point.