|Lions Gate Bridge. Image ©Luke Potter|
Huge maple leaves scatter the pathway as you near the causeway overpass approaching from Prospect Point.
The green trees are beginning to yellow. It’s that time of year.
The noise of the causeway traffic gets louder.
Standing atop this rumbling overpass you are now aligned with the bridge.
What a sight it is.
Just stand and stare.
Tall and majestic the bridge arcs towards the North Shore Mountains.
Pulling your gaze to the wilderness beyond.
In the advancing darkness the bridge’s illuminations, like fallen stars suspended, gain definition against a cold night sky.
Steady streams of traffic motor in either direction.
Vehicles of every shape and size zip beneath your feet.
White lights heading to the Downtown core and red lights ablaze, doing their utmost to escape the city.
Swift, silent cyclists, and there are many, travel smoothly along lanes adjacent to the roadway.
Unlike the heavier transit they don’t create the rhythmic two-bump thud when hitting the join where the bridge begins. The Lion’s beat.
A solitary runner, whose reflective backpack alights with each passing car, strides towards the bridge on the homeward leg of their daily commute.
The immense cast lions sit proud on plinths looking down on all who pass them on northward journeys.
The traffic roars suit these chiseled beasts.
Behind me passing cars, stop.
Engines left running. Exhausts left billowing.
People are quick to the edge of the overpass to snatch their own Lions Gate Bridge.
Some glance at me. Unmoving. Studying the northern view.
“Yes, I’ll be here a while.”
|Lions Gate Bridge. Image © Luke Potter|
An engineering contractor and industrialist Alfred J.T. Taylor envisioned the bridge as a means of connecting the downtown city core of Vancouver with the development potential of the north shore.
Due to the depression, governments had no money to build another bridge in 1930 so Taylor whom Taylor Way in West Vancouver is named, developed a scheme to save the municipality from bankruptcy and build a bridge. The British Guinness brewing company acted as the primary financier for the project.
The Lions Gate Bridge, originally known as the First Narrows Bridge, was the longest suspension bridge in the British Empire when it opened in 1938.
The term "Lions Gate" refers to The Lions, a pair of mountain peaks north of Vancouver. In January 1939, two great Art Deco lion figures, which were the last public work of Vancouver’s most prominent sculptor Charles Marega, were placed at the entrance to the south side of the bridge.
The provincial government purchased the bridge in 1955. It ceased to be a toll bridge in 1963. Overcrowded for decades, the bridge narrowly avoided demolition in the 1990s, instead being refurbished by the provincial government. Its retention indicated the city was beginning to move beyond the automobile age.
In 1986 the Guinness family, as a gift to Vancouver, purchased decorative lights that make it a distinctive nighttime landmark. In July 2009, the bridge's lighting system was updated with new LED lights to replace this existing system of 100-watt mercury vapour bulbs. The switch to LEDs is expected to reduce power consumption on the bridge by 90 per cent and save the Province about $30,000 a year in energy and maintenance costs.
The main bridge deck was replaced in 2000 and 2001 – the first time a suspension bridge's deck had been replaced. This was facilitated by a series of separate nighttime and weekend closures to replace one section at a time. The old section would be lowered to a barge, and the new one raised into place and connected. The change allowed the two pedestrian walkways to be moved to the outside of the structure and the road lanes were accordingly widened. Also, the main structural elements were moved to below the bridge deck, thus giving a much more open appearance. The entire suspended structure was thus replaced with little or no interruption in daytime traffic.
Alfred Taylor died in New York City aged 57 in 1945. According to his wishes, he was cremated and his ashes scattered from the Lions Gate Bridge.
There is a blue plaque fixed in place to the causeway bridge in Stanley Park, which tells of the Guinness family’s involvement with the bridge but there is no mention of the visionary behind the project Alfred Taylor. Now that’s a shame.
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