The plan of a protected bike line that extends on Pandora Avenue all the way to Oak Bay Avenue and into Oak Bay Village is still taking shape, and would redefine Victoria and Oak Bay.
And for some cyclists, it can’t come soon enough.
Roy Brooke and his family live in the South Jubilee neighbourhood, a half block from Oak Bay Avenue and Foul Bay Road intersection. If Brooke could safely ride his bike downtown to Victoria with his eight year old son, he would.
“There is simply no way for me to bike from Oak Bay to downtown safely, so we always drive,” Brooke said.
His sentiment is the same for Oak Bay Village. Despite Oak Bay Avenue’s width, Brooke and his son recently rode into so much auto congestion on Oak Bay Avenue they gave up and turned their bikes around.
Tried to #bike to @DistrictOakBay shops today with my child. So car-choked and dangerous we gave up. Long overdue for separated #bikelanes here so road works for everyone-families too. @lisahelps @MurdochOakBay @GVCC pic.twitter.com/NPP5jwrR7b— Roy Brooke (@RBrooke) May 11, 2019
“The current, disconnected situation works poorly for groups including families with children that want to travel by a variety of means,” he said.
Brooke is among many cyclists awaiting a protected bike corridor that runs along Pandora and Oak Bay Avenue, all the way into the village. It would essentially connect Wharf Street with Newport Avenue.
Victoria’s plan for 2022 is to extend Pandora’s two-way lane from Cook Street, where it currently ends, right to the intersection with Fort Street where Pandora turns into Oak Bay Avenue (street names randomly changing being one of Victoria’s charming quirks) and carry on to the border with Oak Bay. Anecdotally, Oak Bay Avenue has plenty of width, in both the Victoria and Oak Bay sections.
Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps said it would be great to see Oak Bay build cycling infrastructure to connect with Victoria’s.
At 12 per cent, Oak Bay has the highest percentage of any cycling commuters riding to work in Greater Victoria. The number is from 2016, and it’s more likely that number has grown, thanks to the construction of Victoria’s new bikeways network. Studies show that with protected bike lanes ridership increases dramatically.
Despite that, there is no protected route from Oak Bay to Victoria for cyclists, something that’s long overdue, said Greater Victoria Cycling Coalition’s Corey Burger.
Helps is still interested in the Pandora-Oak Bay bike lane, but the GVCC is concerned as Victoria planners are also considering rerouting the Pandora extension onto Leighton Road. On Leighton, eastbound cyclists would ride up Fort or Pandora and turn right at Christie’s Carriage House pub. However, Leighton dead-ends at Foul Bay, a north-south corridor that Oak Bay Mayor Kevin Murdoch confirmed is too narrow and unlikely to host a future bike lane.
Murdoch said Oak Bay is moving slowly and carefully on a future bike lane network that would be contiguous, without any breaks. Oak Bay Avenue would be part of a greater study for north-south, east-west routes, he said.
“As a cyclist, what drives me most crazy is when you’re in a bike lane and it suddenly ends,” said Murdoch. “It’s not ideal. There’s a lot of value in making contiguous lanes.”
In the GVCC’s perspective Victoria got it right in considering extending the two-way bike lane on Oak Bay Avenue, and now they’re backpedalling, Burger said.
“What’s happened in the last few years is the city keeps whittling away from its proposed bike lane routes and are making their plan worse,” Burger said. “They’re rerouting off Shelbourne [which would have connected to Saanich’s coming Shelbourne bike lane], off Oak Bay Avenue, off Gorge Road and also in James Bay.
“Essentially, if we’re trying to tackle our climate emergency, if we’re going that we need big bold action, with bike lanes on main routes, not bike lanes on side streets. We’re losing the directness and the appeal.”
“It’s a logical route, it’s flat, straight, and goes to all the places you want to go to,” Burger said. “If you’re trying to make it easy to ride a bike, don’t make it difficult by not putting bike lanes to the places people want to go.”
Burger noted a protected bike lane on Oak Bay Avenue would also create tourism opportunities, increasing tourism traffic into Oak Bay Village.
“The region must be better connected, with safe, physically-separated bike lanes so that it works for everyone, not just drivers, but also pedestrians and cyclists of all ages and abilities,” Brooke added.
Murdoch wouldn’t put a time table on it but said that a bike network will be considered. He said that despite the usefulness of suggestions such as the Cadboro Bay Road bike lane proposal by Grade 5 Willows elementary school students last year, he’d rather create a connecting network than spend money on a short corridor that doesn’t connect to other routes.