The perennial debate over bike lanes in Vancouver will be back before city council next week, as councillors weigh development plans for the Broadway corridor.
Last year, council voted to move forward with cycling and active transportation lanes on Broadway as the key travel route is upgraded in tandem with construction of a SkyTrain subway line from East Vancouver to Arbutus Street.
But in a new report to council, city staff are recommending Broadway upgrades not include the lanes, and instead be completed with the possibility of adding them in the future.
“I expected different design options to come back. I didn’t expect the report to come back with a recommendation against including the bike lane,” OneCity Coun. Christine Boyle, who first proposed the active transportation lanes, told Global News.
“Council committed to building this bike lane, including six councillors who are returning from the last council. So I am disappointed to see it up for yet another vote, and I am worried that the ABC majority on council will kill it.”
The recommended upgrades would see curb lanes reallocated to the installation of wider sidewalks and public space.
A second option would see the current curb lanes reallocated as active transpiration lanes, at the cost of expanding sidewalks and some parking and loading areas.
A third option would see Broadway reduced to a single-vehicle traffic lane in each direction, adding an active transportation lane in each direction and widened sidewalks. The report says this option would reduce vehicle traffic capacity, parking and loading options and reduce emergency vehicle access.
Options two and three would also require the city to negotiate with the province over road allocation in the blocks where new subway stations are being built, the report notes.
The Greater Vancouver Board of Trade has come out against the proposed cycling lanes, calling the loss of vehicle capacity “misguided.”
“It would create major congestion for trucks, cars, transit, emergency vehicles and traffic generally,” the business group said in a media release.
Brian Montague, a councillor with ABC Vancouver, said adding bike lanes to Broadway doesn’t make sense given there are already well-used bike-priority greenways on 10 Avenue and 7 Avenue, both of which run parallel to Broadway.
He also pointed to impacts to traffic, business access and emergency vehicle capacity.
“There’s a huge cost to this, millions and millions and millions of dollars, and we have to ask ourselves where is that money coming from? There’s no allocation for it right now, so where are we going to get that money from? Likely it will come from other projects, other active transportation projects the city wants to do, that won’t get done,” Montague said.
“The staff report right now shows pretty clearly the evidence just doesn’t support putting a bike lane or active transportation in right now.”
Boyle, however, argued that nearby cycling routes don’t actually address the needs of Broadway itself.
“The reason we need active mobility lanes on Broadway is because people are already using Broadway. They’re there to shop, to access services. And they will continue to be there,” she said.
“Killing the active mobility lanes would make the street less safe for everyone. Building active mobility lanes keeps scooters off the sidewalks, so it makes the sidewalks safer. It keeps scooters and bicycles out of traffic lanes so they’re not mixing with cars and trucks and buses.”
Boyle argued that many less experienced cyclists are uncomfortable on the 10 Avenue and 7 Avenue routes because they’re still forced to mix with vehicles.
She said research has repeatedly shown that pedestrians and cyclists are more likely to stop and shop at local businesses than vehicle drivers, and that adding the lanes would create a more vibrant community.
Council is slated to receive the report for debate next Wednesday.