Downtown bike routes are a disaster
Separated lanes cause severe disruption to other traffic, while serving needs of only a small number of riders
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.
Separated bike lanes in downtown Vancouver create more problems than they solve, Rob Macdonald says.