A recent post on social media by the Saanich Police reminded commuters that the rules for the new Douglas Street bus lane are different, depending on which side of Tolmie Street you are on.
On the Victoria portion of Douglas Street it’s a bus and bike lane yet when it reaches the Saanich border at Tolmie Avenue, where Douglas is managed by the Ministry of Transportation (as it becomes Highway 1), the signage overhead along the Douglas bus lane changes and excludes any mention of cycling.
It’s been four months since the Douglas Street bus lanes officially opened. They run northbound from Fisgard to Tillicum Avenue and southbound from Tolmie to Fisgard (with an expansion to Tillicum in the planning). To date the project cost $4.3 million with $2.1 from City of Victoria, $1.5 million from the Transit Futures Fund and $700,000 from the province.
What surprised the Greater Victoria Cycling Coalition was how an infrastructure project for alternative transit could be built for 2018 with cycling as an after thought, said GVCC’s Corey Burger. The GVCC said they raised the issue of the incongruity of the signage upon seeing the plans for the Douglas bus lane two years ago.
It’s the latest example in Saanich where a bike lane disappears, something the engineering department is working hard to fix by with plans to connect Saanich’s bike lane network.
Would you bike on the new Douglas Street bus/bike lane? A quick visit this afternoon proved many people do. The lane is designated for cycling within Victoria but not so much once cyclists reach Saanich, where MOTI manages Douglas as it transitions into the Trans Canada Highway. pic.twitter.com/9ASjMZEeTH— travisApaterson (@TravisAPaterson) March 4, 2019
“Putting these bus lanes in was a project that needed to happen, we supported that all along,” said Burger. “It’s great to have this and fantastic to speed up buses.”
However, there is a lot of remaining confusion about the new bus and bike lanes.
Last week a number of cycling advocates, and drivers, entered an open discussion with Saanich Police in response to its post about the Douglas Street signage and the exact rules of how to navigate the roads as a cyclist.
Burger says northbound cyclists riding on Douglas have two options when they cross Tolmie into Saanich. Legally, Burger says cyclists on that section of Douglas are supposed to ride in the centre lane, albeit on the right side of the centre lane, and stay out of the bus lane. However, cyclists are choosing to ride where it’s safest, which is in the bus lane, either right in the middle or on the right side of it.
“You can ride where it’s safest for you, and best for you, or you can ride where it’s legal,” Burger said. “If someone hits you and you’re in the bus lane, you’re legally liable because you’re not in the right place. So you’re put in an conundrum.
“What we’re asking for is a bus-bike connection from Tolmie to Carey, where you meet the Galloping Goose and Lochside Trail,” Burger said.
In a statement on Monday the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure confirmed that, after Tolmie Avenue, Douglas Street turns into Highway 1 and cyclists are restricted from occupying a bus lane.
Instead of cycling on that section of Douglas, MOTI suggest cyclists use the nearby Galloping Goose Trail as it provides a safer, separated bike lane for cyclists. It also keeps cyclists from interfering with the operations of the buses, they said.
In their own response, Saanich Police said according to the motor vehicle act cyclists are permitted on roadways as long as they abide by the requirements set out in section 183 of the act, which includes riding as close to the right hand side of the road as practical, said Sgt. Julie Fast.
Officially, the MVA states that citizens you can’t drive a vehicle or other device in the lane. The ‘other device’ includes a bike, Fast said.
“This means that bikes are legally required to ride on the right hand side of the lane immediately adjacent to the bus only lane,” Fast said. “That being said, riding a bike between two lanes of traffic can be unsafe and at the end of the day, the safety of the cyclist is the most important factor to consider.”