A group of activists are pushing back against B.C. Transit after learning the company plans on cutting down dozens of trees to make room for an express bus lane on Douglas Street.
Earlier this week, the Victoria Citizens Action Network, a group of citizens working together on local and regional environmental and social justice issues, tied yellow ribbons to 26 trees between Hillside Street and Tolmie Avenue as part of a campaign to stop B.C. Transit from cutting down the trees.
The $1.6-million plan will add a dedicated southbound bus lane on Douglas, by widening the road by one metre and narrowing existing travel lanes to eventually run rapid transit between downtown and the West Shore.
However, locals are concerned about the loss of the trees, many of which are dozens of years old and were planted in 1921 to honour local soldiers who died in World War I, activists said.
“Some of these are huge, mature heritage trees and cutting them down would make the area very unsafe for pedestrians and cyclists,” said Stuart Hertzog, coordinator of the Victoria Citizens Action Network. “It would make it not a nice place to be.”
Hertzog first heard about the plan to tear down the trees earlier this month after B.C. Transit presented their plan to the Victoria Regional Transit Commission.
“I was fuming mad. This makes the city less liveable,” he said. “People don’t like to walk in areas like that because it’s dangerous.”
However, B.C. Transit said roughly 20 trees on the stretch between Finlayson and Burnside Road east are to be removed, pending Victoria city council approval.
“Ppart of the plan is to remove the trees and also keep these other trees up,” said Drew Snider, spokesperson with B.C. Transit.
“A lot of what is in this plan involves preserving sidewalk and boulevard space as much as possible. It’s not going to be pinching out pedestrians. But what this is going to do, is it’s going to allow buses to travel through there unhindered by traffic.”
Snider also noted according to city park staff, the trees were planted in the early 1960s not in the 1920s. Once the lane is complete, 23 trees will be replanted to replace the ones cut down.
The plan will go before Victoria city council next month. The lane is expected to be complete in 2017.