Biketoria approval draws mixed reactions

The wheels are in motion for the City of Victoria’s Biketoria project aimed at implementing an all-ages cycling network.

The wheels are in motion for the City of Victoria’s multi-million dollar Biketoria project aimed at implementing an all-ages cycling network by 2018.

Council approved the first phase of the Biketoria project during a meeting last Thursday.

Phase one of the project will include three priority bike lanes downtown beginning with Fort Street (Wharf to Cook streets), Wharf and Humboldt streets (Pandora Avenue to Cook Street), and Cook Street (Pandora Avenue to Pakington Street),

It would add 5.4 kilometres of bike lanes with an estimated price tag of $7.65 million.

Following the completion of the above lanes, phase two would include the construction of corridors along Kings Road (Government Street to Fifth Street), Government Street (Pandora Avenue to Bay Street), and Vancouver Street (from Pandora Avenue to Kings Road) for an additional three kilometres of lanes.

Phase three includes connecting communities towards Saanich and Camosun College and phase four will focus on the completion of the priority corridors.

Council is also moving forward with the construction of the city’s first fully-protected bike facility on Pandora Avenue. The 1.2-kilometre two-way protected lane will begin construction in June and be complete at the end of the November.

Some proposed bike lanes still need work, however. Community consultation will continue regarding bike lanes on Oak Bay Avenue, Government Street, and Cook Street Village and James Bay, due to a number of concerns from the public such as loss of parking, impacts on sidewalks, parking and traffic congestion.

Mayor Lisa Helps said while there has been a bit of push back from the community, most of the feedback the city has received has been positive.

“For the next generation, there will be transportations options that haven’t been available to this generation,” said Helps. “Biketoria is about making sure that future generations of Victorians will grow up with transportation alteratives. So that by the time they turn 16, they might not even consider getting their driver’s licence.”

Edward Pullman, executive director of the Greater Victoria Cycling Coalition, said they’re happy to see the project move forward.

“We’re very happy to see (council) moving forward and we’re really looking forward to working with the city to ensure the completion of phase one of the network by 2018 and identifying improvements to the proposed network and also identifying new sources of funding to build the rest of it, ” he said.

Ray Straatsma, also with the coalition, said phase one is the start of a new era in cycling infrastructure and investments in Victoria.

“Right now, there’s not many bike lanes and there’s lots of traffic, lots of intersections.So focusing on those routes first is wise. In the end, the level of design, the quality bike routes that they’re intending to build, we’re quite certain will generate growing ridership, and make people who are riding now and also potential cyclists and visitors more comfortable and feel safer and make it more convenient and fun to be riding a bike in town.”

However, not everyone is excited about the plan.

Members of the Cook Street Village Business Association said one of the bike lanes, which will be running through the Cook Street Village, is going to have a significant impact on businesses.

Bart Reed, a member of the association, called council’s decision “extremely disappointing.”

“One-hundred businesses, that’s 50 businesses, every single one of us have said do not put them through the Cook Street Village. They’re dangerous, you’re removing parking, you’re going to cause pick up and delivery problems with the removal of the middle turn lane, and the congestion is going to get worse,” Reed said, adding he estimated the village will lose 11 of their 50 parking spots.

“Everybody complains about parking as it is and people often tell us that they drive down here, if they can’t see a parking stall, they go away.”

He admitted there is nothing that can be done now, but said the association will be active in the planning of the community plan for the area.