Train bridge closure dissuades pedestrians, cyclists

It could be the unseasonable weather, or just an aberration – but early counts of rush-hour traffic  suggests some pedestrians and cyclists find the partial closure of the Johnson Street Bridge to be a deal breaker.

Cyclists belonging to the Greater Victoria Cycling Coalition counted all forms of traffic on the bridge both before and after the city closed one of its two spans. On April 9, the city permanently lifted the train bridge, due to safety concerns, leaving the traffic bridge open for crossing.

“Pedestrian numbers were down quite a bit,” said Susanna Grimes, who organized the count May 3. “They’re really inconvenienced now with the train bridge closure, because everybody’s got to cross to the other side of the bridge.”

Between 4 and 6 p.m., the counters spotted 45 jay walkers, “dashing across the Esquimalt Road,” Grimes said. Three people even took their chances walking across the bridge in the traffic lane, rather than on the remaining sidewalk.

In total, 630 pedestrians crossed during the two hours of observation. That compares to 730 counted before the closure on April 7.

The number of cyclists rose marginally between the two counts, from 670 to 680, but the slight gain is deceptive, added Grimes.

Normally, cycling increases in the warming months, peaking in July and August.

Based on previous season’s traffic counts, cyclists on the bridge should have numbered closer to 760.

The GVCC will conduct another count tomorrow (May 12) to ensure last week’s count wasn’t an anomaly.

“I’m not surprised cycling has been affected,” Grimes said. “Given the reticence that cyclists have to ride on the road bridge, I’m not surprised that now that they’re forced to some are just saying ‘forget it.'”

The city has implemented a number of measures to aid cyclists, including sharrows, signage, and pilons to demarcate safe travel lanes. In about four months time, the city plans to install a traffic light at Esquimalt and Harbour Road.

The light may be on-demand only, triggered by a waiting car or cyclist.

“We talked about whether to put in a cyclist-activated button … weather to have bike lanes through the underpass or more sharrows along the road,” said Grimes. “Those details can make a big difference.”

rholmen@vicnews.com