Since the introduction of separated bike lanes a few years back, it’s caused quite the debate between drivers and cyclists. The City of Vancouver recently spent $5.46 million on a 2-km Comox-Helmcken Greenway, and today it will be voting on three new separated bike lane projects.
The three new separated bike lanes proposed are:
1. Upgrades to Union Street from Gore to Carrall to the seawall. Cost is $700,000.
2. Canada Line Bridge Connection in South Vancouver. Cost is $750, 000.
3. North end of the Cambie Bridge to Beatty. Cost is $1.5 million.
The total cost of the separated bike lanes is approximately $3 million. That is in addition to the Comox-Helmcken Greenway, which has added yet another highly unnecessary “stop-and-go” traffic light at the intersection of Burrard and Helmcken Streets. That means there are now four traffic lights over a very short 300-metre stretch of one of downtown Vancouver’s most important arterial roads! There is now an unnecessary traffic bottleneck on Burrard Street, right in front of St. Paul’s Hospital and along a major route into Downtown used by many transit buses.
The main reason the city is pushing for separated bike lanes is cyclist safety as a recent staff report claims that bike lanes on Hornby and Dunsmuir Streets have reduced bike-to-vehicle collisions by 20 per cent in 2012. Vancouver’s flurry of introduction of bike lanes has also resulted in an increase in ridership as well. According to TransLink’s Trip Diary in 2011, 19,400 more trips were made by bike than in 2008.
However, for many, the issues with bike lanes are that traffic and parking has been impacted. It is a legitimate concern and for anyone that has to make a right turn on Hornby and Georgia during peak periods (for instance), you’ll completely understand.
Surely, bike lanes can be introduced into the city in a way that does not impede on car and bus traffic. Congestion costs this city money, and it’s not just cars but also buses that get held up. Reality check: for the everyday individual and working citizen, time is money.
Taking our climate into consideration, is bike infrastructure really such a good investment? Cycling is a short-haul form of transport for the majority and a long-haul form for only the diehards, especially for 6 months of the year when it’s cold, wet, and miserable.
Are bike lanes really a good use of this much road space when they are virtually empty during early-spring, the entire winter, and late-fall? We should be thinking about an efficient and truly sustainable transportation network that takes regional impact much more seriously.
Those who commute from outside the Downtown peninsula and the suburbs should be given much more consideration, given that they make up for the majority of commuters in the city. If we were given a choice, wouldn’t the space for bike lanes be better used for HOV and especially bus lanes? Wouldn’t such lanes benefit many more commuters in a sustainable way than bike lanes?
For a City Council that constantly focuses on the implementation of a “Green City,” how exactly are idling buses and vehicles sustainable?
And how are we affording to build such low-utility infrastructure (little value and use in money spent) when cutbacks are being made in much more vital areas of everyday city operations and infrastructure maintenance?
TransLink plans to contribute $705,000 to the projects, while the City of Vancouver will come up with the rest of the money from their capital budget.
What are your thoughts? Let us know by commenting below.
Featured photo credit: Paul Krueger.