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Burrard bridge bike lane to open on July 13: City

VANCOUVER - One lane of traffic on the Burrard Bridge will be diverted to cyclists beginning July 13, the city confirmed Tuesday.

The trial will see one of the six lanes on the westernmost bridge over False Creek given to cyclists. The curbside, southbound lane will now be exclusively for cyclists, meaning there will be only two vehicle traffic lanes leading out of downtown.

And the eastern, northbound sidewalk leading into downtown will also be exclusively for cyclists, meaning pedestrians walking into downtown from Burrard will have to cross at West 1st Avenue and use the opposite sidewalk.

Well aware that a similar trial to close off a lane to traffic on the bridge in the 1990s failed, city staff have been working on a communications plan intended to ease the pain.

"We spent a lot of time thinking about the last time this happened and why it wasn't a success," said one senior staff member, who briefed media on technical aspects of the issue Tuesday.

The city will be encouraging motorists to adjust their routes in and out of downtown. Transportation staff say there is underused capacity a couple of blocks away on the Granville Street Bridge, which has two more lanes of traffic.

The city will also adjust traffic signal timings to make it easier to get to Granville, staff say.

What to do with the aging Burrard Bridge has been a city conundrum for years.

Several factors have forced the city's hand this year: The current bike lanes on the bridge's sidewalks are more narrow than current regulations recommend; staff say it presents a significant safety issue.

Cost is another factor. Other options, like building a pedestrian/cyclist exclusive bridge over False Creek, were seen as being too costly.

A previous council voted to widen the bridge sidewalks to allow enough space for pedestrians and cyclists, but when the pricetag came back at some $30 million, city hall got cold feet.

And the bridge is in need of structural repairs (at a cost of another $30 million), forcing the city to decide what it will do with the bridge before it begins the work.

The trial is set to begin July 13, a Monday, if necessary roadwork can be completed in time. There's no fixed length for the trial, but council will receive an interim report about three months later in the fall.

Irwin Loy reports for Vancouver 24 hours.

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