Victoria residents want the skinny on bike lanes.
While the veins of Biketoria prompt strong emotions from people some argue that it’s not a matter of emotion, it’s a matter of measurement, saying that some bike lanes across Victoria are thinner than ideal.
Bruce Dean started an initiative called #Way2narrow, after noticing some problems while cycling around town.
“The most obvious guideline talks about if it’s high-traffic zones, the bike paths need to be wide enough to pass, and we can’t do that,” Dean said. “That creates all sorts of safety issues when you’re going head on to oncoming traffic.”
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Dean lives with a disability that leaves him unable to walk for long periods of time. He has several electric bikes, including his own Ameri-can eChopper, which he presented on Dragon’s Den.
Dean has had several close calls on Victoria’s protected bike lanes, including from car doors, families unloading their cars into lanes and oncoming traffic.
Dean also likes to bring his dog on a trailer, but it isn’t always easy.
“The width of the lanes don’t allow for parents to tow children, they don’t allow the disabled to use three-wheeled or four-wheeled vehicles, they’re made for elite cyclists,” Dean said. “It’s supposed to be an All Ages and Abilities bike network — you can’t call it that if it doesn’t meet the minimum guidelines so children and cyclists can get by. “
Victoria needs this desperately; the entire bicycle network, including the new protected bicycle lanes is built #way2narrow - failing to meet the minimum allowable widths dictated by TAC Safety Guidelines.#VisionZero #biketoria #yyj #yyjtraffic #bcpoli https://t.co/nQ525EhQBA pic.twitter.com/3EahqKMTtF— Bruce Dean (@photowarrior) April 9, 2019
Regulations from the Transporation Association of Canada call for a minimum width of 1.5 metres per direction for a protected bike lane with a 0.6 m buffer if beside parked cars. Bidirectional bike lanes can be narrowed to 2.7 m in specific areas. However, not all lanes are meeting these standards.
Black Press measured random sites across the protected Fort Street and Pandora Avenue bike lanes, and found narrow spots consistently, measuring from 1.13- 1.47 m. Tested areas did not include the 500-block of Fort or Pandora, as these lanes are intentionally whittled down to 2.7 m for bidirectional lanes because these blocks were narrow to begin with.
“The protected bike lanes downtown follow modern standards and are generally 3 m plus wide,” said Corey Burger, policy and infrastructure chair to the Greater Victoria Cycling Coalition in an email. “Now one giant caveat: these are design widths. Construction companies sometimes don’t follow to the exact spec[ifications], so some bike lanes vary in both directions.”
Examples of this can be seen at intersections such as Pandora Avenue and Blanshard Street, a busy intersection where a single lane width is 1.13 m.
“The lane width really starts to matter when you get below the lane width of a bicycle, so at 1.13 m you’re basically at the width of a bicycle so it’s not fantastic, but really width matters at the key places where there are curbs and high-volume locations,” Burger said in an interview. “It’s not perfect that those are under that, but at the same time, the lanes work and that’s the key.”
Burger said that in his work he hasn’t heard reports of cyclist collisions on the new, protected lanes. More problems actually happen on the older, unprotected lanes.
Modern standards say that unprotected bike lanes should be between 1.5 to 1.8 m, but many of Victoria’s older lanes are far less, and transitions between other municipalities are not smooth.
“If you want an excellent example of the transition from older standard to newer standard, go to Esquimalt Road on the Esquimalt-Victoria border,” Burger said.” The Victoria bike lane is approximately 1.6 m wide, while the Esquimalt lane is under 1.5 m. It is pretty stark.”
Burger also cited old unprotected lanes along Finlayson Road and Gorge Road E.
“My guess is that it’s .9 from the seam of the gutter,” Burger said. “Having ridden in it, I have a mirror that’s another 5-6 cm and it’s hanging outside the lane.”
The City of Victoria said that it’s aware of the discrepencies in width.
“It’s true that not all bike lanes are the same size,” said Sheldon Johnson, manager of engagement in an email. “There are a number of factors at play when determining dimensions for bike lanes – the goal is to balance safety for all road users… Our recent projects have been designed by professional engineers and fall within recommended design guidelines. In some locations, there may be segments which are intended to slow bicycle traffic or support other road users.”
Johnson noted that in the continued work on the expanding bike network, upgrades will be done on existing bike lanes, including on Gorge Road.
“When existing roads are re-surfaced or major underground infrastructure is replaced, the City will take the opportunity to review vehicle lane widths, bike lane widths and pedestrian space and may make further adjustments,” Johnson said.
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