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After a Series of Failures, This Is How Vancouver Finally Built a Controversial Bike Lane

The Burrard Street Bridge is a case study in pushing a difficult policy.
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In 1996, Vancouver temporarily converted a car lane on the Burrard Street Bridge into a separated bicycle lane. The six-month trial was a spectacular failure: it lasted a week. In 2005, the city revisited the idea, only to have it shot down for fear of reprising the previous debacle. Then, in 2009, the Burrard bike lane got one more chance—only to work out beautifully and become a permanent fixture.

So why was the third time the charm? University of Toronto planning scholars Matti Siemiatycki, Matt Smith, and Alan Walks reviewed the history of Burrard and found four factors that finally tipped the scale: seizing a political window, designing a great trial, shaping media coverage, and exerting strong leadership. In a new journal article, they hold Burrard as a bike-lane blueprint for other cities to follow against strong opposition from drivers, retail groups, and others: