Proposed bike lanes fire up Fairfield residents and business owners

Merchants in the Cook Street Village are worried about losing valuable parking that's already difficult to find.

When Victoria council unveiled its plan to build a network of eight bike corridors throughout the city during the next five years, Mayor Lisa Helps expected there would be some push back from the community.

In order to make sure residents and business owners fully understand the proposed network (named Biketoria), the city has held information sessions and workshops, collecting feedback to produce design concepts for each corridor.

So far, city councillors have heard a lot of excitement from residents about the network, but merchants in the Cook Street Village continue to worry about losing valuable parking that’s already difficult to find.

Last month, Cook Street Village business owner Bart Reed started a petition collecting 34 signatures from other business owners along the popular street that’s been pegged for one of the corridors.

According to Reed, city staff conversed with business owners last week and were told as many as 40 out of the 60 parking spaces could be removed. If that were to happen, Reed said it would destroy businesses in the area.

“It’s extremely difficult to find parking already and everybody knows it…You would see, over the next two or three years, about five or six businesses closing shop, which means fewer people in the village,” said Reed, who would like to see the bike lanes moved one block over to Vancouver Street. “We’re not saying no to bike lanes, we’re saying it can not be here for some very technical reasons.”

Don Monsour, president of the Fairfield Gonzales Community Association, has also received hundreds of emails and phone calls about the project going through Cook Street Village. Most of the emails are from people “dead against it,” citing concerns with parking, safety and traffic flow in an area that’s already congested.

Helps said the number of parking spaces that could be removed on Cook Street has yet to be determined. One idea she’s heard about and likes is slowing down cars passing through the village to the same speed of pedestrians. The key, however, is to find a design solution that works.

“We’ve got to do this in a way that works for the villages because people go to the villages for business,” said Helps. “Were making lots of changes in all sorts of areas. There’s a lot going on and in this instance, we need to work with the businesses to make this work for them because if it doesn’t work for them, it’s not going to work.”

The proposed bike network is designed for all ages and abilities, and is made up of protected bike lanes, neighbourhood greenways and off street pathways.

Council has asked staff to take their time collecting comprehensive feedback from business owners. A final recommendation on the design is expected to be made to council in the spring.