An 'Olympic Legacy' You Can Enjoy Today

I recently rode right into something something to love about the Olympics: what it has done for traffic management in the city. It's really too bad it took this event to do it, but the changes are amazing to behold.

We have here an opportunity to practice what the area will be like in 5 years - and watch what can happen when traffic patterns are forced to change to accommodate this larger population.

I don't think I was supposed to use the 'Olympic Lane' along East Hastings to ride in last weekend, but it was wide open, just waiting for me to bomb past the traffic that usually would be far too intimidating to even bother with. I'd probably get tasered for using it (the RCMP are in town, remember) now, but last Saturday it was a fresh and open space: just me, some trolley buses, and the 135.

Hastings, like many major arterial roads in the city, is not the favoured route for cyclists to take to the downtown core - there is a bike lane available a few blocks away. Riding the artery is usually at best unpleasant, unhealthy, and stressful; at worst downright suicidal. However, the arterial offers the smoothest pavement, the most direct route, and smallest altitude fluctuations of any other route downtown.

I happened to notice the open lane while picking up some bus tickets at a shop on the street. I was on my way west through downtown anyways, and have found that I beat the bus every time when I ride. So I took the lane, watching my back for buses (or cops) along the way, so I could duck out to the side and let them pass. The lane was fast, really fast, and free of cars all the way to Gastown. It was amazing.

When I reached Dunsmuir, it took me a minute to notice the change -- there were no cars approaching from my left at all, as the viaduct had been closed. I gleefully rode the wrong way down the street just because I could, and hung out in the middle of the intersection for an entire light cycle just because it felt good. I then went down to Expo boulevard and took up the whole street, riding the wrong way down it as well.

Large pedestrian-oriented areas downtown. No parking on major arterials, with lanes dedicated to transit (and cycling?). More buses, longer trains, running more often and at later hours. Priority given to transit, cycling, and walking - when the Cambie bridge was closed today, cyclists and pedestrians were still permitted to cross.

I've heard transit riders - and even drivers - waxing ecstatic about these changes.

Doesn't it feel great? Are there really any reasons why some of these ideas can't stick around once our excuse for trying them out passes by?

>> photo by J_B