Oh those crazy Canucks!


The problem with such scenarios is that they work only when there are alternate routes, with excess capacity, that drivers can take, which have enough capacity to accept the traffic they'll have to bear. If a road system is already far too small to handle the load, and if all the alternative routes are at or past capacity currently, then closing one of them cannot do anything BUT increase congestion rather than alleviate it.

Put another way ... the example cited in the blog entry (choice of short bridge vs. longer highway) is too idealized, artificial and arbitrary to reflect "real world" conditions everywhere. If life were as simple as this example, traffic wouldn't be anywhere near as much of a problem as it is. But life isn't that simple, and we all know it.

Most metropolitan areas in the US currently do not have any of the excess capacity (i.e. the longer highway segment in the example) required for this to work. It would be nice to think that there's some sort of "magic" in these selective road closures that makes traffic jams go away ... but sorry, it ain't so. Traffic that's jammed on one road, has to go somewhere ... it isn't going to just conveniently vanish because someone decides to close that road.



Actually, according to the other paper in town, there were large traffic jams as a result of the bridge change:

As a Vancouverite, I kind of doubt the change will cause fewer traffic jams. There may be enough roads that overall, it won't have a noticable effect.


In the meantime, studies in the US show that when you add one lane to a congested road, you eventually increase traffic, don't they?

Another David

Hey, if they closed some of the roads to cars on my route to work, I would take my bike everyday. But as it stands now, it's way too dangerous.


coud it be that everyone was scared of sitting in a traffic jam and therefore used alternate routes? what is the impact in 6 months or a year after everyone has recovered from the initial scare of one less lane? do the drivers come back to that road?


I would imagine a lot of traffic jams are caused by people swapping lanes constantly. They cause people to have to tailgate to keep "their place in line" and to come to abrupt slow downs when getting cutoff, disrupting the flow of traffic. Forcing folks to be more constrained would seem to limit this.


Aren't they ignoring the effect of traffic lights that are not run by sensors, poorly timed, or not linked with nearby lights? I'm sure we all have sat at a light and watched it go through 3 or 4 cycles without moving.


I'm not exactly certain of the rationale, but I believe New York has done something similar recently by closing parts of Broadway near Times Square.


And if you close all the roads there will be zero traffic jams. Genius!

Vincent Clement

David: The traffic jam was on the first day. That is expected. The important question is: was the traffic jam as big a week or two later?


Traffic is a fluid dynamics problem. Seriously. Cars are an incompressible fluid. From there it's all about flow rates and bottlenecks. If you have an alternate pipe with sufficient capacity, this works fine...if not, you've only succeeded in reducing your flow rate overall.


I'd like to see M street in Georgetown turned into a pedestrian promenade.

Joe Smith

The partial Burrard Street bridge closure is ridiculous. The move is not surprising. Vancouver is full of poseur, pretend environmentalists.

The cost of building or replacing the Burrard Street bridge could not be justified for bicycle traffic.

There are of course alternate routes for the cars (or the bicycles for that matter).


As is mentioned above, there is an alternative for drivers in this scenario--just a few blocks away is Granville St. Bridge that Vancouver city staff identified as having excess capacity. This bridge is slightly more inconvenient for drivers that use the Burrard Bridge, but with the increased lineups for the other bridge, some of the Burrard Bridge drivers will undoubtedly shift over.

As well, another side-effect of this move might be a reduced number of ER trips for cyclists. A University of BC study showed that before the lane closure, a Burrard Bridge cyclist visited the ER every 19-20 days.


Looks like another potential example of Braess's Paradox:


Never thought of it, but I wonder how traffic in L.A. would change if they made one of the main westside arteries in to a Bike's only street, either all the time or else just during rush hour.

There are a lot of streets that would allow for this without causing too many problems -- Pico, olympic, Venice...

The advantage it would create is that people who are normally too scared about safety to ride their bike to work (me, Another David, etc.), would be a lot more likely to do it this way.


I have driven over the bridge once since the lane closure. Traffic was backup up along one of the main roads that access the bridge as far as I could see. I counted 5 bikes on my way across the bridge.

I'd also like to point out that July should be the least busy month in terms of car traffic for that bridge. Many people are away, because it's nice out some people are more inclined to walk/bike to work, and UBC is not in session. Most people driving to UBC from the West End or the North Shore would use that bridge.

Furthermore, I can't access Hornby Street south of Pacific coming off the bridge now because of the road closures. I'm sure the businesses there are happy about that.


There's a place on I-64 on my drive from school to home that is always backed up. Strangely enough, it's where the road changes from 2 lanes to 4...


Philly is trying something like this downtown

PHILADELPHIA - Bicyclists in downtown Philadelphia could have a much easier trip from river to river come this fall.

City officials say they will dedicate one lane each of Pine and Spruce streets solely to bicycle traffic starting around Labor Day.

The city will then track how heavily the lanes are used. The pilot program will last until spring.

After that, the city will decide whether to keep the bike lanes when the roads are repaved or get rid of them.

The special lanes will stretch about 25 blocks through the heart of downtown, linking the Delaware and Schuylkill rivers.