Will Dunsmuir gridlock undermine future bike lane allocations?

Post by Mike Klassen in


Gridlock is typical on the main westbound thoroughfare into Vancouver's downtown core

We've had a number of emails from folks who wanted us to have a closer look at the Dunsmuir Viaduct bike lane, which re-engineered the traffic patterns along the bridge and especially on the Main street onramp. Given that our position on bike infrastructure is generally supportive, we thought we'd let the "dust settle" and wait for commuters to adjust to the changes.

Well it's been almost 2 months since the bike lane opened and it's true that there has been an increasing amount of gridlock throughout the day on this major route into Vancouver's downtown core. The $300,000 approved by Vancouver city council for this change has resulted in bumper to bumper traffic on this short but important stretch of roadway, especially during peak hours (rush hour, mid-day, etc.) and during other parts of the day.

We Eastsiders must be a patient lot, because if this kind of gridlock happened on the Burrard Bridge happened, we'd never hear the end of it.

My initial expectation is that the reallocation of a lane would not cause any traffic problems. The fact is that the south lane of the Dunsmuir Viaduct had been closed for months during the construction of new housing just west of GM Place. Traffic seemed to flow relatively well during that time, albeit with some delays. Who'd think that closing the entire north lane of the viaduct instead would have traffic moving at a snail's pace?

What immediately irked commuters who used the Main street onramp was that the 2-lane merge which happened at the top of the ramp now occurred at the bottom of it. This meant much more awkward turns off busy Main street during the advanced turning light, sometimes impeding southbound traffic on Main. Then once you get up on the viaduct you inevitably have to merge with the gridlock forming from cars who've entered off Venables.

Of course, everyone predicted that the real mess would be the Burrard Bridge. That didn't happen, of course. So it was expected that drivers would adjust to the changes on Dunsmuir as well. Well, that doesn't seem to be happening either based upon reports we've been getting. The photo above was taken during a typical morning commute.

So what do we expect will happen now that city council has made the $300,000 commitment to this traffic change? Given the political emphasis on bike lanes, it's unlikely council will retreat on this. It's possible that Chinatown will become more agitated by the increasing cars passing through to avoid Dunsmuir – but who else will object?

What do you think? Are any of you finding Dunsmuir gridlock to be a problem and avoiding it? Leave a comment below with your thoughts.

- post by Mike


The gridlock was bad this morning, but that's because of the construction on Dunsmuir, not the bike lane. Prior to the construction, I haven't noticed traffic backing up at all.

But if you want to restart gregorsgridlock.com go for it, I'll be laughing twice as hard when you take it down next time.

Perhaps when Chris and other bike riders travel over the viaduct next time they can take pleasure inhaling all the lovely fumes of those backed up cars.

Pass the Doritos if they don't pass out first...

Gotta love the smell of CO in the morning!

On a serious note......
The back up is obviously due to a lack of a lane, 2 lights within 10 metres of each other (at Citadel & at Beatty) (yet another tip to ingenious traffic planning)and the construction.

As for the Burrard Bridge, anyone try to maneuver 4th Avenue in rush hour going west before Burrard.. have fun

I live right beside the viaduct and have a great view of it. As the previous commenter says, construction on Beatty for the past week has indeed caused gridlock the entire day.

But other than that, the slow down has not been any worse at rush hour than it always was before the bike lane. And in fact rush hour is not the worst time - events at GM Place and BC Place are what cause the biggest jam because of all the pedestrians crossing from the sky train station.

Additionally, turning left from Main onto the viaduct being a frequent route of mine to get home, I've found the lines to turn left to be far shorter than they ever were when the two longer merge lanes were there. I never have to wait more than one light to turn, when before the bike lane was added,it would take three or four at rush hour. It seems people are avoiding it?

I use that bridge every day and it has definitely gotten worse since they closed a lane. Anyone who argues different is smoking some of that fine Cortes Island weed. Why can't the cyclistas just admit that closing lanes causes traffic backups and be done with it? If you're so convinced this is all working, just own up to it rather than remaining in denial. In our new happy planet, cycling good, drivers bad.

The south lane was closed for 2 or 3 years due to the construction. The only time I have seen it backed up is before an event at the stadium. Otherwise, there seems to be very little traffic on it. Don't forget that both the viaducts were closed during the Olympics and the world seemed to still turn.

Anyway, once oil hits $200 a barrel, there won't be much congestion in the viaduct or anywhere else for that matter except maybe the bike lanes.

If you think the traffic congestion is bad now, wait until Vancouver Council introduces chicken crossing lanes!

Why put as bike lane on a major traffic artery in the 1st place when you have a better option. There is no cost effective option @ the moment on the Burrard Bridge but there is @ the Viaducts. A grade level separated bike lane could be routed along the sides of the Viaducts & then below. It would be safer, less disruptive & more 'green' because car congestion would be reduced.

They did not close a traffic lane to create the bike path, contrary to a previous comment. They closed the south lane in order to create a larger pedestrian path at the west end (for pedestrian access to the arena and the new condos). The creation of the bike path simply moved the already-closed south lane to the north side. The only part of that that impacted motorists is that the Main Street on ramp was shortened, and traffic is prevented from turning right at the west end.

The real culprit here is the poor planning regarding the new development at the west end of the viaduct. Don't blame a bike path for a whole whack of previously poor traffic and development planning. Someone gave a gift to developers at the expense of the viaduct. Perhaps, as has been suggested by someone else, it is time to get rid of the viaducts all together.

Mike how could you say there are no problems with the Burrard Street Bridge backups?

As someone points out 4th Ave is affected. And the whole area around the North side of the Bridge is a disaster. What were once quiet residential streets now are heavily trafficked and Beach Ave has line ups back to Cardero on many days.

Coming West on Pacific, off the Granville Street ramp is a constant accident site, or hazardous close shaves as cars merge and have to cross lanes. The cars turning (L) onto Howe coming from that same direction, can wait up to 4-5 lights to make the turn. Meantime, long time merchants are hurting and no one is listening (or interested in talkgin) .

Worst of all the Burrard St Bridge bicycle lane barely has a cycle in sight despite the City count (it actually shows the cycle numbers down!). It is all such a farcical situation that our neighbors, like many of those who oppose the STIR project, can't wait for the next election to get rid of these "lack of Vision" folks. They will not listen, consult or countenance any opposition to their irresponsible imposition on our community.

On top of all this one of the City's heritage icons, the Burrard St Bridge is falling down and needs at least $50 mill spent on it to bring it back to its former glory. Meantime these thugs waste money on bicycle lanes that serve only a few elites. Shame on them and disappointing that you too haven't heard the voices of the West End over the self proclamations of our Mayors Meggs and Robertson. If Bruce Allen, CKNW gets it (has done several comments on it) , why don't you?

I work on the west side in kits, and live on the east side. I use the viaducts every day, and they are usually the best part of my trip. However, the dunsmuir viaduct's new 'sneaky' bike lane does seem to add a few minutes on a normal day without construction. This wait did not notably occur in these conditions with three lanes, however, as pointed out, the citadel light REALLY throws the flow of traffic off, so it doesn't take much for things to get worse. I sat on that viaduct for ten minutes the other morning, but minutes were not the only thing I was counting. The number of cyclists using the lane certainly did not require more than two hands to count which seems obvious considering the bike path DIRECTLY UNDERNEATH. Baby steps, I say. Stop spending the taxpayer's money on tactics to irritate and endanger people out of their cars, and try INCREASING AWARENESS on both sides. How about, for a start, grooving the edges of non isolated bike lanes so that motorists are forced to be aware when they cross this line, and what it means? A physical trigger to help you remember: slow down and look around, shoulder check and be more aware. it's a small start to better driving, and better relations between each other. more solutions, less ideals! go reality!

I drive the viaduct every morning and the new changes have made it unsafe. I have posted similar pictues as you to my facebook showing the insane gridlock (where there was none before) since the bike lanes have been put in.
More importantly, the merging of two lanes into one at the bottom of the on-ramp is the most unsafe thing I've ever seen done. It needs to be fixed. Cars are almost sideswiping each other every morening.
Acutally, the onramp from Beach to Burrard eastbound is as unsafe, because if forces you to pull out into oncoming bike traffic to see if there is other traffic approaching so you can merge. Just put a camera there one day and see how many angry outbursts of driver vs. biker happen. Mayor's biker warriors have no problem kicking and hitting cars in protest of the cars being in their lane - but Juice Boy's engineers didn't figure out that cars need to see on-coming traffic when merging onto the bridge.


"It was all a big mistake."

That's according to the City of Vancouver after crews started installing traffic signals for cyclists along Dunsmuir even before council made a decision on dedicated bike lanes for the route.

Assistant City Engineer of Transportation Jerry Dobrovolny says crews made an error by starting to install the cycling signals.

The work was stopped when the city received a call from the Executive Director of the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association Charles Gauthier who wasn't impressed.

"It confirms that decisions are made in advance you really can't change things," Gauthier said.

A public hearing was held last month but Dobrovolny insists no decisions have been made.

The issue goes to council on Thursday.

If there is one action that characterizes the arrogance of this vision government, it's having their staff put in the bike signal lights before there has even been a vote in council.

Imagine, to be so arrogant that you don't even care what people have to say, and simply ram things through. I know they've done it before, but never so blatantly. Now they say it was all a mistake and they didn't mean to do it. Rubbish.

This council has its mind made up even before the lights turn on in the chamber. Public hearings are a sham. They pretend like they listen to us, but they are laughing at us. They trot out polls that say "look, we're popular, so who cares if we run over your civil rights. The people like us."

What cknw reported is simply amazing and a testimony of how arrogant and out of touch this regime has become in only 18 months.

I'm not sure why we're arguing over how best to use this viaduct when it clearly should be demolished anyway.


The Pacific Burrard intersection does need improving however, by removing one of the right turn lanes from Pacific to the bridge it was made much safer for drivers, cyclists and pedestrians. Before the trial, the drivers in the south turn lane could not see past vehicles in the north lane which caused lots of crashes.

After 18 years of "study" by the city, this council has taken fast action to decide on the configuration of the bridge so that the intersection can be rebuilt to make it safer for everyone.

Has anybody mentioned how dangerously people lunge into westbound bridge traffic from Citadel because of extremely poor sight lines? Or the confusion caused by having two sets of lights so close to each other,both east and westbound there? I witnessed an acccident where a driver went through a red light at Beatty eastbound because all he could see was the green light beyond at Citadel. Extremely dangerous,extremely poor engineering and the sad part is that the people making these potentially deadly botch-ups are sinecured bureaucrats.They're going to be around no matter who you vote for.

Re:Eliminating south lane make creates a safer turn...are you on crack? Where there was once an easy merge there is now a very short time to read traffic and it is quite disorienting the way it is laid out.We have yet to hear back from city staff or ICBC about accident stats but anecdotal evidence seems to suggest that there are a lot more rear-enders at that corner.

When we had a mayor who is handicapped, they city redo all the pavement/sidewalk/footpath into wheelchair accessible.

Now we have a mayor who likes to bike, the city spent our money to bike this bike that.

What's next?

Check out BCWineLover.com!

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