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Power to the pedal

VANCOUVER - Call it Round Two of the Burrard Bridge experiment.

Thirteen years after the city handed over one lane of bridge vehicle traffic to cyclists - then abruptly aborted the trial a week later - the experiment begins again today.

The southbound curb lane heading out of downtown will be exclusively for cyclists, leaving two southbound lanes for drivers. All three northbound lanes remain unchanged.

This time around, cycling advocate Jack Becker is hoping city hall has the stomach to see the trial through.

"The council at the time was very responsive to the concerns of a few drivers," said Becker, director of the Vancouver Area Cycling Coalition.

Becker thinks vehicle traffic will adjust to the new rules. If Burrard is tied up, cars will shift a few blocks over to the eight-lane Granville Street Bridge.

And cyclists and pedestrians, meanwhile, won't have to worry about being knocked into oncoming traffic from the existing narrow sidewalk.

NPA Coun. Suzanne Anton, however, is predicting hardship for downtown businesses and residents, with cars backed up through the West End, buses stalled on the bridge and shoppers steering clear of the area.

"It is a project that is going to really annoy a lot of people," said Anton, who thinks ongoing safety concerns should be addressed by widening the bridge's sidewalks and leaving the traffic as is.

The original 1996 lane trial was the idea of former Coun. Gord Price, who says the city was ill prepared at the time

"It was a different time," said Price, now the director of the City Program at SFU.

But the new trial comes at a time when cities like New York are rededicating lanes on major roads to cyclists.

"This is what I'm looking to see," Price said, "how much has Vancouver changed?"

Irwin Loy reports for Vancouver 24 Hours.

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