The Burrard bridge is changing today, affecting everyone who uses it: pedestrians, cyclists, transit-users and motorists. One southbound lane and the east sidewalk on the opposite side will be dedicated to cyclists, while pedestrians will have exclusive use of the west sidewalk.

Will benefits experienced by non-motorized commuters outweigh the loss of a lane for motorists and bus riders? There is much heated debate about this, but we cannot know whether the new lane configuration is a success or a failure until it is tested. Furthermore, the final decision should hinge also on safety, fairness, and our collective vision for the city.

The changes have been proposed because the current arrangement is unsafe. A University of B.C. study counted eight serious bicycle crashes on the Burrard bridge in a five-month period last year, far more than occurred on either the Granville or Cambie bridges. At least three of those cyclists were almost killed when sideways-moving pedestrians knocked them into traffic. This would not have happened were there adequate room for each mode of travel.

Vancouver aspires to have state-of the art infrastructure and governance, and prides itself on its “walkability” and “bikeability.”

Relatively low-cost improvements to the infrastructure for non-motorized road users could make a great difference to safety and convenience for all commuters.

It’s the summer, so lots of people are walking, rollerblading and out on their bikes.

No matter how you commute, everyone who uses the bridge is part of this civic experiment. Let’s use it and give it a fair trial.

Have your say

• On average, half of the people who cross Burrard bridge are alone in their cars, one in five is travelling with others in cars (i.e. carpooling), one in five is in a bus, and one in 10 (1,000 people per hour) is walking or cycling.

• The trial that was originally proposed would have seen two full lanes converted to cyclist traffic while the sidewalks would have been exclusively for pedestrians.

• If you have an opinion about the trial or the two-lane option as a potentially better and safer alternative, write to city council at www.vancouver.ca/ctyclerk/mayorcouncil

– Kai Chan is an assistant professor and Canada Research Chair at the Institute for Resources, Environment, and Sustainability (IRES) at UBC; vancouverletters@metronews.ca.