Mann oh Mann

4 07 2015

There’s a new bridge in town.

Actually, the new Port Mann Bridge has been open to traffic for a few years now. The billion-dollar behemoth spans the Fraser River, linking the eastern suburbs to Vancouver and its immediate neighbours. For a time it was the widest cable-stayed bridge in the world, comprised of 10 lanes for highway traffic, and one for pedestrians and cyclists.

Well, it took them a while to finish the latter.

Cyclists welcomed the news of an additional crossing with a jaundiced eye.

The narrow old Port Mann bridge had no accommodation for cyclists or pedestrians, meaning a ride over the Fraser River and out to the Valley could only be achieved by a circuitous route to some of the other, more distant bridges like the Golden Ears or the Alex Fraser. The old Pattullo is an immediate option, but it’s a horrific, dangerous traverse that requires nerves of steel because of the close proximity of speeding traffic along its narrow lanes.

But the new Port Mann is bookended by complicated weaves of entrance and exit ramps that are difficult enough for a motorist to disentangle. How a bike lane would be squeezed between them was anybody’s guess.

Well, Wednesday we got our answer when the lane officially opened.

It’s on the east side of the bridge, offering a soaring view of the river below and the valley beyond.

150704bridge

The lane is wide, the climb from the west end gradual enough that it doesn’t strain the legs.

A high barrier hides much of the traffic speeding past on the highway, and adds a further sense of safety.

So far, the entrance to the bridge is still a bit of a mystery to the rookie crosser. There’s a lack of signage on the feeder bike path, and until you’re actually on the final approach to the bridge, it’s still hard to conjure how a bike path could access the bridge. Hopefully that’s dealt with.

It’s a good crossing that opens up new options for exploration. It should be used.

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