October 2nd – Lions Gate Bridge

Lions Gate Bridge in the mist

Another day, another fog shrouded bridge (this is about as bad as the weather got through our near-3 week stay in Canada).

Today the gloom was gobbling up the deck of the Lions Gate Bridge as it entered North Vancouver (or simply ‘North Van’ to the locals, just sayin’).

As with any significant bridge, there are numerous stories attached.

Firstly the name “Lion’s Gate” is in reference to the domed peaks on ranges to the north of Vancouver. Simply called ‘The Lions’, they are one of the city’s icons, and lends their name to the local CFL team the BC Lions.

The need for a bridge at the ‘First Narrows’ was initially discussed as far back as 1890, amid concerns for Stanley Park. It wasn’t until 1927 that it was put to a plebiscite, which was defeated.

Enter the Guiness family, of the rich, brown stout beer variety.

It came down to this – Alfred James Towle Taylor owned the franchise to build the bridge, but didn’t have the funds. He was however able to convince the Guinness family to purchase land on the opposite shores.

A second vote to build the bridge was passed in December 1933.

Bridge into the mist

Construction began on March 31, 1937 and was completed within 18 months, at a cost of nearly 6 million Canadian dollars. It was formally opened on May 29, 1939 in the company of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, however it had been operating, with a toll of 25 cents, for a little over 6 months.

On January 20, 1955, the Guinness family sold the bridge to the province for effectively the same price it cost them to build, and in 1963 tolls were dropped entirely.

The bridge is almost two kilometres long, with nearly 500 metres of that the main span. The bridge at its highest point is 111 metres, with a ships clearance of 61 metres.

With only 3 lanes it is considered a traffic bottle-neck, but the City of Vancouver isn’t considering any radical plans to expand it, in fact quite the opposite. There is a plan in place to close the bridge to private traffic, instead providing the city’s cyclists a spectacular, scenic and safe passage to work.

It’s unlikely to be implemented, but the plan sums up Vancouver City’s commonsense way of thinking. Things like that just add to the beauty of this city.

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