New bike lanes on Broadway timed with subway completion extremely challenging

Mar 23 2023, 12:57 am

During the Broadway Plan debate in June 2022, the previous makeup of Vancouver City Council endorsed an amendment in support of adding new protected bike lanes along the length of Broadway — timed with the completion of SkyTrain’s Millennium Line Broadway Extension under the street.

But once again, adding bike lanes on Broadway is easier said than done, with City of Vancouver staff coming back to City Council next week strongly recommending against the idea — reiterating the same major challenges they highlighted last year, but in greater detail.

A report by City staff ahead of next week’s meeting strongly recommends the option of essentially proceeding with the original plan of redesigning Broadway’s station blocks — the city blocks where subway station construction is being undertaken — with a focus on more space for pedestrians and patios for businesses.

Wider sidewalks for pedestrians and patios would be achieved by using the existing curbside parking/bus-only lane on both sides of the street, effectively narrowing Broadway’s general width from six vehicle lanes to four vehicle lanes at station blocks. There would also be some design considerations to potentially allow bike lanes to be added along Broadway at some point in the future, specifically the placement of trees and the poles for street lamps and trolley bus wires.

Two other alternative options that are not recommended by City staff would implement protected bike lanes on both sides of the street as part of the subway project’s restoration of the station blocks, following the completion of the underground station structures.

An alternative second option to achieve protected bike lanes would be to reallocate the widened sidewalk space into the curbside lane for the bike lanes. Like the first option, four vehicle lanes — two vehicle lanes in each direction — would be maintained.

“Instead of allocating all of the repurposed space towards public/patio space and dedicated curb uses, much of the space would be used to provide protected active transportation lanes,” reads the City staff report describing the second option.

broadway plan great street

Recommended Option 1: Great Street concept for Broadway of four vehicle lanes and widened pedestrian sidewalks, as currently planned under the Broadway Plan. (City of Vancouver)


broadway plan bike lanes

Alternative Option 2, not recommended: Broadway concept with four vehicle lanes, plus bike lanes on the curbside space and a status quo width for pedestrian sidewalks. (City of Vancouver)

The alternative third option would retain the concept of widened sidewalks for pedestrians and patios, and place the protected bike lane on the curbside lane. This would effectively narrow Broadway’s arterial road capacity to just two vehicle lanes — one vehicle lane in each direction.

Option three “would further reduce motor vehicle capacity to a single lane in either direction, impacting transit, goods movement and emergency vehicles. There would likely be little opportunity for parking and loading along the corridor,” state City staff in their report. Broadway is a major access road for the Vancouver General Hospital campus, and an city-wide east-west for freight traffic.

Option three is also the only option that would greatly impact the ability to provide turning bays at major intersections, and the optimal placement of bus stops. With one lane in each direction, turning vehicles and TransLink buses would stop in the one and only travel lane, leading to severe congestion on this arterial road route.

broadway plan bike lanes

Alternative Option 3, not recommended: Broadway concept of two vehicle lanes, with bike lanes on the curbside space and added pedestrian sidewalk space retained. (City of Vancouver)

As well, reducing Broadway to two vehicle lanes (or fewer than four vehicle lanes) would require the approval of TransLink, as the street is part of Metro Vancouver’s Major Road Network.

City staff state TransLink previously approved a standard of four vehicle lanes only for the station blocks, and noted that the non-station blocks require further analysis.

“Broadway is the central street in the second-largest employment centre in British Columbia, with growing commercial, institutional and light industrial areas and a high volume of transit users. It is an important part of the Frequent Transit Network (FTN), Major Road Network (MRN), and truck network. As part of the MRN, TransLink must approve any reduction to vehicle-moving capacity,” state City staff in their report.

“As vehicular capacity would be significantly reduced, conversations with TransLink will be required to ensure this design meets their operational requirements as Broadway is part of the MRN… Significant changes to the Major Road Network and truck network to achieve option 3 would require regional agreement.”

Furthermore, the restored roadway design by the provincial government’s subway construction contractor is already almost complete, and restoration work on the station blocks is expected to start sometime in early or the middle of 2024.

City staff state City Council’s decision and the resulting additional design and planning work are highly time sensitive, as the restoration work must be coordinated with subway construction.

Both alternative options two and three would require the municipal government to enter renegotiations on the subway contract with both the provincial government and the private contractor on changing the design of the street, which is dictated by the placement of tunnel vents and other critical station infrastructure.

Any changes in the road design could have implications on utilities, trolley pole locations, tree placement, road grading, and green infrastructure.

broadway plan great street

Existing standard of Broadway. (City of Vancouver)

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Construction progress on Oak-VGH Station, as of March 13, 2023. (Kenneth Chan/Daily Hive)

The design and construction cost alone would be significant — an obstacle for the financially challenged municipal government, given the recent 2023 budget and property tax hike debate, which highlighted many competing priorities.

The costs of the recommended option one would be “minimal.” But option two would cost over $10 million, and option three would cost over $20 million.

An interim bike lane design on the Broadway city blocks not being used for subway station construction, along the impacted span between Arbutus Street and Quebec Street, could potentially cost between $2 million and $5 million.

“There is no budget currently allocated to fund active transportation lanes along Broadway,” state City staff.

“In the station blocks, the City would need to negotiate with the Province to make any changes to the design — there is a risk that an agreement would not be reached and, if an agreement is reached, the financial risk to the City would be high.”

City staff state option one’s deferral of any potential bike lane until sometime after the Millennium Line Broadway Extension opens in 2026 would enable them to better understand traffic flow changes as a result of the subway. They are confident that the subway will reduce vehicle volumes by at least 15%.

broadway plan vancouver final 2022

Example of a SkyTrain station area in the Broadway Plan area with new higher density, transit-oriented development. Broadway is improved to a “Great Street” with wider sidewalks and narrowed configuration to four vehicle lanes. (City of Vancouver)

broadway corridor Broadway City Hall Crossroads subway construction

Previous preliminary conceptual artistic rendering of a Great Street concept outside the Crossroads building at the northwest corner of Broadway and Cambie Street. (City of Vancouver)

As well, it is emphasized that during the consultation process for the Broadway Plan for improving Broadway into a “Great Street,” there was was a preference from the public and stakeholders to focus on more pedestrian, patio, and public/flexible spaces, with some parking/loading areas.

Bike lanes were not included in the future design of Broadway as there are already parallel cycling routes immediately to the north and south. The Broadway Plan’s active transportation strategy also calls for improvements to existing parallel cycling routes, and the creation of new cycling routes.

“The design did not include protected active transportation lanes, with a higher priority placed on space for other public realm components and recognizing that there are parallel routes nearby (10th Avenue/Off-Broadway on 7th/8th Avenue),” add City staff.


Kenneth ChanKenneth Chan

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