Down­town bike routes are a dis­as­ter

Sep­a­rated lanes cause se­vere dis­rup­tion to other traf­fic, while serv­ing needs of only a small num­ber of rid­ers

Vancouver Sun - - OPINION - BY ROB MACDONALD Rob Macdonald, CEO of Macdonald Devel­op­ment Corp., is an avid cy­clist and fi­nan­cially sup­ports cy­cling events in Van­cou­ver.

The City of Van­cou­ver has over 400 kilo­me­tres of bike lanes; 98 per cent were prop­erly planned over many years in ac­cor­dance with the city’s long-term strate­gic trans­porta­tion plan. How­ever, the re­cent un­war­ranted and un­wanted ex­pan­sion of the down­town bike lanes prin­ci­pally on Hornby and Dun­smuir streets has been a dis­as­ter, and a les­son in abysmal govern­ment prac­tice.

This civic fail­ure has sev­eral com­po­nents:

1. There was close to zero pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion be­fore ex­pand­ing the Dun­smuir bike lane. The lit­tle in­for­ma­tion pro­vided to mem­bers of the pub­lic was mis­lead­ing and they were in­ten­tion­ally given no voice on the mat­ter.

2. Af­ter thou­sands of com­plaints about the Dun­smuir fi­asco, the bu­reau­crats de­cided to hold a brief in­for­ma­tion and pub­lic sug­ges­tion process on the pro­posed Hornby bike lane ex­pan­sion. This process was a sham, as coun­cil ig­nored the strong op­po­si­tion to the de­sign, with the ul­ti­mate slap in the face be­ing to be­gin con­struc­tion on the de­struc­tion of Hornby Street only six hours af­ter the project was ap­proved at a mid­night coun­cil meet­ing. Wast­ing ev­ery­one’s valu­able time when the de­ci­sion to pro­ceed was al­ready cast in con­crete proved coun­cil’s lack of re­spect and dis­dain for the views of the af­fected cit­i­zens, 97 per cent of whom were against the patently flawed plan, ac­cord­ing to sur­veys.

3. The mas­sive ex­pan­sion of the bike lanes has re­quired loss of crit­i­cal street park­ing, load­ing zones, traf­fic lanes and right-turn lanes. These harm­ful changes to what were pri­mary ar­te­rial roads are in di­rect con­tra­ven­tion of the city’s trans­porta­tion plan, which specif­i­cally op­posed any fur­ther loss of crit­i­cal traf­fic and park­ing lanes.

4. The pre­vi­ous bike lane de­sign for down­town was work­able and bal­anced. The re­cent in­stal­la­tion of the ex­panded and sep­a­rated bike lanes has been car­ried out by ex­trem­ists who don’t care about the many par­ties whose in­ter­ests are tied to these ma­jor ar­ter­ies. How else could some­one con­sciously de­sign a sys­tem that is so de­struc­tive to so many peo­ple?

The city’s trans­porta­tion depart­ment says the “ di­vided” bike lanes are safer for cy­clists. Tell that to the cy­clist who re­cently T-boned a de­liv­ery truck on Dun­smuir in the bike lane, and the fire truck crew who could not reach her for 20 min­utes be­cause the di­vided bike lanes pre­vented the fire truck from turn­ing from Sey­mour onto Dun­smuir. The am­bu­lance also got stuck as traf­fic backed up to the Ge­or­gia Viaduct. City staff and coun­cil ig­nored warn­ings that fire trucks would not be able to make this turn be­cause of the bike lane bar­ri­ers. So what is the re­sult of this lu­nacy? Traf­fic jams for cars and buses, which wastes valu­able time and cre­ates more pol­lu­tion; loss of ac­cess to busi­nesses; dan­ger­ous cy­cling con­di­tions; se­ri­ous safety con­cerns; and the loss of at least $ 1 mil­lion of an­nual park­ing me­ter rev­enue for the city.

Also, a sub­stan­tial drop in sales rev­enue, in some cases up­wards of 30 per cent, in most of the busi­nesses di­rectly im­pacted; job losses; busi­ness clo­sures; shop­keep­ers’ life sav­ings wiped out; fall­ing prop­erty val­ues, with a re­sult­ing loss of prop­erty taxes for the city; and a down­town traf­fic plan that is so com­pro­mised that many peo­ple won’t go down­town un­less they ab­so­lutely have to, which fur­ther neg­a­tively af­fects the area’s eco­nomic fab­ric.

All these prob­lems were pre­dictable, but many of our coun­cil­lors seem to have be­come sanc­ti­mo­nious par­ti­sans who pre­fer to feel good about them­selves in iso­la­tion from what is good for the vast ma­jor­ity of their con­stituents.

With the down­town bike lane ex­pan­sion two mat­ters re­quire close re­view:

First, the trans­porta­tion depart­ment ap­pears to be pro­vid­ing in­cor­rect in­for­ma­tion about bike lane us­age. We have our own 24-hour cam­eras that monitor Dun­smuir Street, and our re­sults show that the city is wildly over­stat­ing the ac­tual us­age. Ei­ther our ex­tremely ex­pen­sive dig­i­tal cam­eras are wrong, or some­one at City Hall is fudg­ing the facts.

Sec­ond, the trans­porta­tion depart­ment re­peat­edly stated that the down­town bike lane ex­pan­sion was “ only a trial.”

Now does any­one be­lieve the city would spend $ 25 mil­lion of tax­pay­ers’ hard-earned money on this gold­plated boon­dog­gle if it were a sim­ple “ trial”? When Coun. Ray­mond Louie says things like “ peo­ple need to ad­just,” does that sound like these in­stal­la­tions, which have been se­cured deep in the ground with con­crete and re­in­forc­ing steel, are just a “ trial”?

I am one of the lucky ones in this night­mare.

Our busi­ness was the only one al­lowed to speak to coun­cil be­fore the Dun­smuir bike lane ex­pan­sion was ap­proved.

The trans­porta­tion en­gi­neers were about to ma­te­ri­ally harm our busi­ness on Dun­smuir by re­mov­ing the pas­sen­ger load­ing zone at our ho­tel. Coun. Geoff Meggs stepped in, and I ap­pre­ci­ate that. I only wish coun­cil would look at all the other busi­nesses that have been and will be ru­ined by this bike lane ex­pan­sion with the same car­ing that Meggs showed to me.

The ob­vi­ous so­lu­tion is to re­store the down­town bike lanes to their pre­vi­ous con­di­tion. This would re­bal­ance the traf­fic sys­tem and pre­serve eco­nomic vi­tal­ity in the down­town Van­cou­ver core.

GLENN BAGLO / PNG

Sep­a­rated bike lanes in down­town Van­cou­ver cre­ate more prob­lems than they solve, Rob Macdonald says.

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