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MOVE ON: Safe river crossings vitally important for North Shore cyclists and pedestrians

Car-free bridges must be a priority for the pinch points in our rugged terrain
Fishermans Trail Bridge construction
Construction crews work on a suspension bridge spanning the Seymour River in 2018. The bridge, now open to pedestrians and cyclists, is one of the many river crossings that helps people navigate the North Shore's rugged terrain while avoiding vehicle traffic. photo North Shore News files

Here on the North Shore, our currently boisterous rivers and creeks define our identity as hillside people.

They divide and connect our peaks and plateaus. Their diamond clarity determines north-south travel corridors. Nelson Creek, Cypress Creek, Lawson Creek, MacDonald Creek, the Cap, Mackay Creek, Mosquito Creek, Kilmer, Lynn Creek, Seymour River, Panorama, and so many smaller streams in between. Our streams distil the essence of North Shore life. 

However, our cherished waterways are also significant impediments to east-west travel. Bridges become traffic pinch points where everyone must squish through. Bikes, pedestrians, buses, trucks and cars all vie for space on bridges that cross the Seymour, the Lynn, the Capilano, Mackay and Mosquito. 

When one of those links is not working optimally, we all suffer. No matter what your travel mode, you’ve probably experienced delays along Marine Drive these last months due to the new Mosquito Creek bridge construction project. There’s no getting around it. We need a new bridge. After that one is complete, the Mackay Creek bridge down the road on Marine Drive is likely next up for replacement. 

The new bridges on Keith at the Lynn and across the Capilano provide great new bikeways, much appreciated. But my favourite North Shore bridges don’t allow vehicles at all. They are the many delightful connectors that run across various creeks, allowing pedestrians and cyclists to percolate through neighbourhoods without having to join up with vehicles at pinch points.

I love the crisscrossing bridges along Wagg Creek in Mahon Park. Also that rusty metal one that crosses Lynn Creek, joining Lynn Valley to Inter-River Park. Or the slim span that connects Redonda to Malaspina. Another joins Emerald Drive to Sunset over to Eldon Park. Edgewood to Cheviot. What about the two that cross Mosquito above Queens? There are scores of these bridges all over. Even though many are not very bike-friendly, I actively seek them as alternatives to vehicular bridges. 

Some new bridge projects coming up will focus on active transportation. As part of the new development down at Lynn Creek, the district will be creating a pedestrian and cycling bridge across Lynn Creek at Hunter Street. The Spirit Trail, which now ends at Park & Tilford, will eventually join up with the river path at MEC. A short cycle up to a Hunter Street crossing will allow people to cross between the two commercial shopping districts more easily. You could go from Save-On to Canadian Tire without a ridiculously long and scary detour along Main Street. This project is in the design phase and scheduled for construction in the summer of 2021. 

The pedestrian bridge that crosses Mosquito Creek at Evergreen is under review for an upgrade. The idea is to remove the stairs on both sides to create a more accessible path for people on wheels. This will be an improvement for folks who want to connect from Upper Lonsdale to get to Bob’s at Delbrook Plaza. Or in reverse – people in Canyon Heights can get up and over to district hall to pay their taxes without having to go all the way down to Queens and back up again. I hope they fix the big hill on the east side so we don’t have to get off and push. Can they do that? Please?

Not all new bridges cross rivers. Projects like the new Casano-Loutet pedestrian and cycling overpass connect communities and, at the same time, split vehicle traffic from active transportation. The new overpass will connect Loutet Park to Casano Drive in Lynn Valley over Highway 1. For those who find Lynn Valley Road and the Highway 1 underpass scary, this new bridge will be a great new way to get up and down to and from Lynn Valley town centre.

Not quite the narrow bridge over a creek type project, this one will cost $7 million with funding coming from Bike BC, TransLink and the City of North Vancouver. Sounds pricey, but when you think about the $189 million going into the vehicle-focused new interchanges in Lower Lynn, $7 million is a deal. This project is funded and construction will begin this January. Look out Cedar Village, here we come. 

While on the topic, I propose two more active transportation bridges. One would cross Mackay Creek at 21st Street. Actually, there is a perfectly serviceable bridge already across Mackay Creek off of 22nd that could work, but the approaches need grading to allow for bikes and other wheeled devices.

The other potential link would span Mosquito Creek in line with the first connecting 21st west of Fell to 21st east of Fell. These twin spans would connect Pemberton Heights and Hamilton with Central Lonsdale. That’s covering a lot of ground on quiet, flat routes. Yes, the topography is challenging, rivers generally being in ravines and all, but likely no more difficult or expensive than spanning Highway 1. 

River crossings are spectacular reminders of our natural heritage. For active transportation, they are essential. Bring them on. 

Heather Drugge is a sustainable transportation advocate who has used her bike for transportation for 20 years. She’s looking at getting an e-bike and maybe a jetpack next. [email protected]