City of Vancouver staff warn new Broadway bike lanes will cause "significant congestion"

Jun 7 2022, 12:07 am

Squeezing in bidirectional bike lanes onto the central segment of Broadway as a component of the Broadway Plan faces immense challenges, resulting in highly negative impacts.

In an internal memo to Vancouver City Council on May 27, City of Vancouver staff confirmed and outlined the many real issues of reducing the number of vehicle traffic lanes on Broadway beyond what is already proposed under the Broadway Plan. It reiterates what City staff previously told Daily Hive Urbanized.

This is in response to OneCity councillor Christine Boyle’s expected proposed amendment on Wednesday, June 8, calling on City staff to build new bike lanes on Broadway by specifically reducing road space even further.

Currently under the proposed Broadway Plan by City staff, the roadway of Broadway would be reduced from its existing standard of six vehicle lanes (three lanes in each direction) to four vehicle lanes (two travel lanes in each direction, plus dedicated left turn bays at major intersections). For years, City staff have envisioned replacing the curbside lane on both sides of the street with an expanded sidewalk space for pedestrians and patios.

Existing standard of Broadway:

broadway plan great street

Existing standard of Broadway. (City of Vancouver)

Great Street concept currently planned under the Broadway Plan:

broadway plan great street

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 great street

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

This current concept is called the “Great Street” for Broadway, with the first segments of the new four-lane vehicle standard and widened pedestrian sidewalks to be built by 2025 on the city blocks of the five new Broadway subway stations of SkyTrain’s Millennium Line Broadway Extension. Over time, the city blocks between the subway stations would also be redesigned with the Great Street configuration.

To achieve bike lanes on Broadway, City staff state there are two options.

Option 1: Reduce Broadway to only 2-3 vehicle lanes for bike lanes

Under Boyle’s proposed direction of reducing road space, City staff state in their memo that such a scenario would require Broadway to be further narrowed to just one vehicle travel lane in each of the westbound and eastbound directions. This also maintains the “Great Street” concept of widening sidewalks into the curbside lanes.

broadway plan bike lanes

Broadway concept of two vehicle lanes, with bike lanes on the curbside space and added pedestrian sidewalk space retained. (City of Vancouver)

In their memo, City staff have explicitly noted such a configuration “would create significant congestion and have impacts to trucks, buses, emergency vehicles, and general traffic.”

Broadway is a city-wide and regional-level arterial roadway, and one of the major routes leading to and from Vancouver General Hospital.

A new subway does not eliminate the need to maintain Broadway as a functional arterial route, with City staff previously identifying four vehicle lanes to be a suitable reduced standard that balances the considerations of added transportation capacity of the subway and some of the reduced vehicle traffic that can be expected.

City staff estimate the subway will result in about a 15% reduction in vehicle traffic along Broadway, which can be accommodated in their currently proposed four-lane design standard.

“There is no additional motor vehicle capacity on alternate corridors,” state City staff, while also noting that Broadway is part of the Major Road Network, which is overseen by TransLink and requires approval for such changes.

Furthermore, City staff emphasize that “Broadway is a designated truck route and an important goods movement corridor to commercial/industrial businesses in the Broadway Corridor.”

According to City staff, a single travel lane would be highly challenging for truck turns, as this action requires about two vehicle lanes to turn into in most cases.

City staff specifically note that “the impact of a bus stopping in the only travel lane on Broadway would be significant,” given that there would still be local bus routes operating along Broadway even with the subway.

broadway plan bike lanes

Broadway concept of three vehicle lanes including a left turn lane, with bike lanes on the curbside space and added pedestrian sidewalk space retained. (City of Vancouver)

There would also be narrowed pedestrian spaces at key intersections, and bus stop locations allowing a convenient transfer between SkyTrain and bus services would not be able to be located near the subway stations — impeding on the optimal usability of the public transit system.

Furthermore, “all vehicle parking and loading would likely need to be removed.”

On May 31, during city council’s fourth public meeting last month on the Broadway Plan, Matt Shillito, the acting director of the special projects office of planning and sustainability for the City, reiterated the major challenges that would need to be resolved if vehicle lanes were to be reduced even further.

“This option would impact traffic movement including goods movement, buses, and emergency vehicles, and there would be a number of design issues to resolve relating to bus stops, truck turning, parking, and loading. As Broadway is part of the Major Road network, approval would also be required from TransLink on any such changes,” said Shillito in his closing remarks to city council during the meeting.

Option 2: Taking away pedestrian space for new bike lanes

Given all of the obstacles and impacts of reducing vehicle lanes even further, the more likely alternative scenario of accommodating bike lanes on Broadway appears to be abolishing the planned Great Street concept of added sidewalk space for pedestrians. This maintains the functional arterial road standard of four vehicle lanes, plus dedicated left turn bays at key intersections.

Bike lanes on Broadway would effectively come to the detriment of pedestrians, and the potential for added patio spaces to support businesses.

Under this option, the existing curbside lanes would be repurposed for bike lanes instead of a pedestrian sidewalk widening.

The status quo narrow width of pedestrian sidewalks would be maintained to accommodate bike lanes in this option.

However, according to City staff, this configuration of bike lanes on the curbside lanes is not possible within most of the subway station construction blocks due to the subway air vents that have already been designed.

broadway plan bike lanes

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 two varying options for bike lanes on Broadway between Arbutus Street and Glen Drive carry a construction cost range of $20 million to $80 million, depending on the level of treatment.

City staff state a low-end design would be a “temporary/interim” standard, which would not allow for the expansion of pedestrian sidewalks and may limit vehicle parking and loading. A high-end design would be a full street reconstruction of both widened sidewalks and raised protected bike lanes.

Shillito says should there be a desire, city council could direct City staff to report back in detail on these options.

In recent years, major investments have been made by the City to improve west-east bike routes that parallel Broadway, including along 10th Avenue just to the south. City staff’s Broadway Plan also specifically calls for major new bike routes and improvements to existing bike routes within the area plan, with $39 million set aside for this purpose over the first 10 years of the plan’s adoption.

vancouver broadway plan greenways bike lanes

Existing and future greenway routes and purpose-built bike routes within the Broadway Plan. (City of Vancouver)

The public speakers segment of city council’s Broadway Plan deliberations concluded last week with over 200 public speakers.

City council will reconvene this Wednesday to deliberate and decide on the Broadway Plan. Dozens of amendments to the area plan — including Boyle’s bike lane amendment — are expected to be put forward by city council for further debate and decision, before city council is able to move to a final vote on adopting the Broadway Plan as a whole.

If approved, the Broadway Plan will add 50,000 more residents and 42,000 jobs within the vicinity of Broadway between Vine Street to the west and Clark Drive to the east, and effectively expand downtown Vancouver’s economic activity and vitality southwards. By 2050, the Broadway Plan area’s population would grow to 100,000 residents and 126,400 jobs.

Orchard Road Singapore

Wide sidewalks are a key design feature for Singapore’s vibrant Orchard Road, which is the principal shopping street in the city state. It also maintains its role as a critical arterial roadway. (Shutterstock)


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