The City of Victoria is looking at potentially fast-tracking the construction of its comprehensive cycling network to have it completed a year earlier than expected.
City council recently approved a motion to have staff look at the financial and resource implications of completing the 24-kilometre, all-ages cycling network by 2022, a year sooner than its original 2023 completion date.
“I’d love to have the whole thing built by 2018, I’d love to have the whole thing built by 2022, but I don’t want the whole thing built by 2023,” said Mayor Lisa Helps, adding 2022 is the end of the next term of council, and it would be prudent not to stretch the project to three terms.
“Realistically 2022 is a good deadline. We’ll see the disruption, but also the benefits, the sooner we see these benefits, the better.”
Plans for the network are well underway with the construction of the 1.3-kilometre two-way protected bike lane on Pandora Avenue, which is on track to be complete by April. The city is also moving forward with stakeholder consultation on another two-way protected bike lane along Fort Street (from Wharf to Cook street). The Fort Street bike lane, along with lanes on Cook Street (from Pandora to Pakington), and Government Street (Pandora Avenue to Humboldt Street) or Wharf Street or Humdoldt Street are expected to be complete by the end of 2018.
When complete, the phase one grid will consist of 5.4 kilometres of fully protected bike lanes, with a price tag of roughly $8 million.
Implementation of the Fairfield/Gonzalez, Fernwood, Hillside/Quadra, North Park, Oaklands, Rockland and Vic West cycling lanes are projected to be complete by 2019. Burnside lanes are expected to be complete in 2020, followed by north and south jubilee lanes in 2021 and James Bay lanes in 2022.
A number of pedestrian and cyclist controlled signalized crossings will also be installed at intersections at Haultain and Cook streets, and Blanshard Street and Kings Road, as safety improvements.
“I look forward to seeing what it will take to get this done by 2022,” said Coun. Jeremy Loveday. “I think realistically moving forward it will be a push to build it by 2022, but it’s a push we need to make to make sure people can travel safely within our city.”
But the project has faced push back from residents and businesses since it was approved in May of last year. Most recently, business owners along Fort Street spoke out against the proposed bike lane, saying it will cause traffic congestion, and taking away parking spots will make it difficult for seniors and people with disabilities.
Ben Isitt was the only councillor to vote against the motion. Isitt hoped to move the completion date up three years, instead of one, arguing council doesn’t have enough political will to move up the deadline.
“I think it (the deadline) is too slow. There’s a good chance that a cyclist will be severely maimed or killed by 2022,” he said. “The city has the fiscal resources, what’s lacking is political will.”
However, Helps disagreed, calling Isitt’s claims of a lack of political “unfounded,” adding she has been a champion of the project for months.
“I think what is evident at this table is political will. I take offence to the fact that someone’s suggesting that we don’t have the political will, when I am the one out front championing this project,” she said.