With Victoria council about to finalize the 2020 bicycle network improvements, Oak Bay council has sent a letter requesting a chance to talk about the designs, specifically, Richardson Street.
After years of consultation and designs, Victoria referred the latest set of extensions to the bike network to Thursday’s committee of the whole. The 2020 group entails a Kings-Haultain corridor from Douglas to Richmond Road, Government Street north (from Pandora to Gorge Road), a Kimta Road connector from the Johnson Street Bridge to the E&N regional trail, and the Richardson Street redesign which will connect Vancouver Street to Foul Bay Road.
A commuter crosses the border from Oak Bay into Victoria over Foul Bay Road from McNeill Avenue onto Richardson Street where there is soon to be a diverter for westbound vehicles. (Travis Paterson/News Staff)
It’s this last piece that has Oak Bay council concerned, namely, with questions about the spillover effect from traffic calming diversions, said Mayor Kevin Murdoch. It includes a contentious bikes-only diversion that will block westbound traffic from crossing the city border at Foul Bay Road, where McNeill turns into Richardson.
In the last Census, 2016, Oak Bay had the highest number of people commuting to work by bike in the Greater Victoria region at 12 per cent.
Only Coun. Andrew Appleton voted against the motion to send the letter.
“We’re asking for [Victoria council] to initiate a process to have their staff come to our council and share the plan so we can ask questions,” Murdoch said. “They’re looking at diverting 3,000 cars onto Fairfield, others, onto narrow streets, so providing us a little bit more understanding what the expectations are, what [the morning flow] will look like.”
Richardson will also have a diversion for westbound traffic at Maddison Street and an eastbound diversion at St. Charles Street. In addition to a series of mid-block crossings, speed bumps and intersection improvements, there will also be a diversion that bisects Richardson just east of Durban Street.
“We want to be part of the discussion on the upstream and downstream effects,” Murdoch said.
“There are only a few east-west corridors though Richardson is flat, and wide, so it’s a logical place to have a bike corridor. But there is some question as to why it’s moved off Oak Bay Avenue onto side streets.”
Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps said she spoke to Murdoch and is aware the letter is on the agenda Thursday, but foresees little change.
“Bike lanes are operational and not political, so I’m a bit surprised,” Helps said. “We would never have thought to ask [Oak Bay’s] input on a bike lane any more than we would ask them for input on a traffic light.”
Once approved, the 2020 bike network improvements would go into the 2021 budget for construction next year.
“Staff designed them and worked with Oak Bay transportation staff the whole way along,” Helps said. “There were no secrets, everyone was aware [we were in the consultation and design stages] and we also had numerous Oak Bay residents involved in the consultation. We had feedback from people in Oak Bay.”
Victoria is currently about to add 4.8 kilometres of corridors on Vancouver Street, the Hillside-Quadra connector, and Harbour Road. Those projects are out to tender for construction to start this year.
Helps added her council might consider sending the Victoria staff who designed the plan to present at Oak Bay council.
Oak Bay does have a master cycling plan in its 2011 active transportation plan. It identifies McNeill as a connector to Richardson, partly because there are so few options of through roads (only Oak Bay Avenue and Fairfield/Beach Drive link through to downtown), Murdoch noted.
Even so, the Greater Victoria Cycling Coalition policy and infrastructure chair Corey Burger says Oak Bay’s active transportation plan has flaws. Namely, it’s outdated, as the standard now is to build bikeways to the All Ages and Abilities standard.
“While the Oak Bay active transportation strategy is good for identifying routes, its summary of what should be built is out of date,” Burger said. “Any future route should follow [AAA].”
While Murdoch admits there might not be much Oak Bay council can do, he said there should be a good neighbour policy that Victoria would talk to Oak Bay before the final approval is made.
“At the end of the day it’s their decision, if they want to build a wall on our border, we can’t stop them,” Murdoch said.
That said, the designs are too far along now to consider opening up Richardson at Foul Bay, Helps said.
“It wouldn’t accomplish what we’re out to do,” Helps said. “We have a really good working relationship with Oak Bay and other neighbours, Saanich and Esquimalt. If we were going to stop the process at this point and say we’re going to work with Oak Bay council to change things, that wouldn’t be honest to the process.”