City planners have proposed minimizing pubic consultation and hiring new staff to expedite the completion of phase 1 of the Victoria bike network. (Nicole Crescenzi/News Staff)

City planners have proposed minimizing pubic consultation and hiring new staff to expedite the completion of phase 1 of the Victoria bike network. (Nicole Crescenzi/News Staff)

Victoria considers hiring more staff, less public engagement to get bike lanes built faster

An expedited installation of bike lanes could cost an extra $410,000

Planners at the City of Victoria are exploring options to accelerate the construction of bike lanes and concluded the best way to do this is to limit public consultation, shorten the time devoted to design planning, and hire more staff.

In a report put forward by Fraser Work, director of engineering and public works, it was found that if the same processes that have been used for the Pandora Avenue and Fort Street bike lanes continue, the originally-proposed completion deadline for the four phases of the bike network would not meet the 2022 deadline, and probably trickle over to 2024.

READ MORE: Victoria’s next set of bike lanes slated to run along Beacon Hill Park

“Accelerating project timelines is not possible without assuming some additional cost risks (additional resources) and social risks (reduced engagement scope/complexity), but those risks can be offset somewhat by creative engagement design and procurement models, improved approvals reporting, and construction management activities,” the report reads.

ALSO READ: City of Victoria wins environmental award for contentious bike lanes

The suggested steps to expedite this process includes limiting the amount of public engagement and consultation opportunities to key stakeholders, as well as proposing several projects at once. The plan aims at shortening the engagement process from six to eight months down to three.

“Staff’s experience with bike master plan public engagement suggests that maximum benefit/input are reached well before the end of engagement activities,” the report reads. “Consensus building is not considered a likely outcome of these processes. The engagement process was originally designed to minimize dissent and maximize the potential for consensus. Reductions in engagement complexity and duration may not meet public appetite for engagement, but based on recent discussions with council, that risk may be considered acceptable.”

ALSO READ: Blind community says bike lanes put their lives at risk

WATCH: City approves Wharf, Humboldt Street bike lane

The report also suggests reducing design time by adding additional technical staff members. This would include two temporary roles for transportation technologists (each costing $90,000 per year), one project communications specialist ($110,000 per year) a construction management tech, one administrative support member ($60,000 per year) and a one-time $60,000 cost to hire a consultant to help decide the final corridors for Phase IV of the plan.

Presenting the public and council with multiple projects and budget considerations at a time, rather than one by one, will further cut down on time, the report argued.

The $410,000 increase in proposed costs would come from gas tax grants, said Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps, who was largely in favour of Work’s report, saying the recommendations are reasonable.

“We absolutely can’t use the gas tax money for policing or for housing. It’s only for projects with a sustainability objective,” Helps said.

She added that speeding up the installation of bike lanes is a pivotal move to reducing carbon emissions in the city.

“We are in a climate crisis. In October, the intergovernmental panel on climate change identified that we have 11 years to significantly reduce our carbon pollution,” Helps said. “Eighteen per cent of the city’s carbon pollution can be reduced by walking, cycling and transit.”

Helps said that the city is trying to balance out the desire for public consultation with the desire to address climate change.

“They may not like it now, but they will once they’re installed,” Helps said. “Or, if they don’t now, they will in 2030 or 2050 when their grandkids have a planet to live on.”

The entire report will be presented to council to vote on this Thursday.

nicole.crescenzi@vicnews.com


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