It's official: Vancouver City Council rejects protected bike lanes for Broadway

Mar 30 2023, 11:09 pm

Protected bike lanes will not be coming to Broadway in Vancouver as part of the reconstruction of the street’s city blocks impacted by subway construction.

The ABC Vancouver party-controlled City Council followed recommendations by City staff to oppose the installation of the bike lane at this time.

With today’s decision, the Broadway city blocks currently impacted by the construction of five subway stations for SkyTrain’s Millennium Line Broadway Extension will see a reconstructed road design with four vehicle lanes — down from the existing standard of six vehicle lanes — along with widened sidewalk space for pedestrians, patios, street furniture, and trees, on the existing curbside lane, to make it a “Great Street” for pedestrians.

City Council voted 6-3 in favour of following City staff recommendations, with OneCity Councillor Christine Boyle and Green councillors Adriane Carr and Pete Fry in opposition. ABC councillors Sarah Kirby-Yung and Rebecca Bligh were absent from the decision.

“Right now Broadway is not an attractive street, but it will be a more attractive street if we follow this [original] plan,” said ABC Councillor Mike Klassen during the meeting.

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West Broadway’s six-lane roadway standard looking west from Cambie Street. (Google Maps)

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Preliminary conceptual artistic rendering of a previous concept of narrowing Broadway into a “Great Street” with four vehicle lanes plus a widened sidewalk for pedestrians. No bike lanes. (City of Vancouver)

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Conceptual artistic rendering of the Broadway Plan’s “Great Street” transformation of Broadway with a design of four vehicle lanes plus a widened sidewalk for pedestrians and patios. (City of Vancouver)

In their presentation to City Council, City staff strongly recommended against putting in bike lanes as the subway project’s private contractor’s design process for the new road configuration as originally contemplated is already almost complete, and the City would likely be on the hook for up to over $20 million in unexpected capital costs related to changing the design to accommodate bike lanes. Road reconstruction work will start soon in 2024.

Both ABC mayor Ken Sim and city councillor Peter Meiszner suggested making investments on adding bike lanes to Broadway would come at the expense of other planned bike lane projects elsewhere in the city, where there have not been investments in active transportation infrastructure.

“I am very pro bike infrastructure, and multimodal infrastructure. In a perfect world with unlimited resources, we would literally do everything, but unfortunately we don’t live in la-la-land where we have unlimited resources. We do have to prioritize… we have a greater need for infrastructure in many parts of Vancouver that are under-serviced,” said Mayor Ken Sim.

“The Broadway Corridor is one of the most well-served corridors in the city. We have a full bike lane on 10th Avenue, and additional routes on 7th, 8th, and 14th avenues. Using limited funds to build not totally necessary lanes would impact our ability to improve active transportation corridors.”

Two alternative options of incorporating bike lanes onto the street would require the municipal government to enter renegotiations with both the provincial government and the contractor on changing the design of the street, which is dictated by the placement of tunnel vents and other critical station infrastructure.

The two alternative options of achieving the bike lane would eliminate the added sidewalk space for pedestrians, patios, and trees, which would maintain four vehicle lanes on the street, or retain the widened sidewalk space by placing the bike lanes by narrowing Broadway to only two lanes for vehicles.

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Three options for the new road design of Broadway, with option 1 excluding a bike lane, and option 2 and option 3 adding a bike lane using different methods. (City of Vancouver)

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Option 1 of redesigning Broadway with four vehicle lanes, and widened pedestrian sidewalks and patios on the existing curbside vehicle lane. This option does not provide protected bike lanes. (City of Vancouver)

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Option 2 of redesigning Broadway with four vehicle lanes, plus protected bike lanes on existing curbside vehicle lanes, which was originally envisioned for widened pedestrian sidewalk space and patios. (City of Vancouver)

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Option 3 of redesigning Broadway with two vehicle lanes, protected bike lanes on the existing curbside bike lane space, and status quo space for pedestrian sidewalks. (City of Vancouver)

But Broadway is one of Vancouver’s few major east-west arterial roadways, and a major route for freight trucks, public transit buses, and emergency vehicles reaching the Vancouver General Hospital campus.

As a result of subway construction, there has already been a notable increase in traffic congestion on the parallel roadway of 12th Avenue to the south, as well as along the 2nd/4th/6th avenue corridor to the north.

Redevelopments catalyzed by the Broadway Plan would grow the area with 50,000 additional residents and 40,000 additional jobs over the next 30 years.

Changing the design of the street would also necessitate the approval of TransLink, which has designated Broadway as part of Metro Vancouver’s Major Road Network. TransLink has only approved the original redesign concept of narrowing Broadway’s station blocks to four vehicle lanes. City staff questioned the likelihood of whether TransLink would support the reduction of the regional arterial road to two vehicle lanes — one lane in each direction following turning vehicles, buses stopping to pick up passengers, and freight trucks.

“There’s no better time than now to be doing this work,” said OneCity councillor Christine Boyle during the meeting today. She was the proponent for adding protected bike lanes onto the roadway in Spring/Summer 2022, when the Broadway Plan was being deliberated by the previous makeup of City Council. At the time, last year, City staff were also against bike lanes, emphasizing a focus on pedestrians and patios instead of cyclists.

“It is not going to get easier, it’s absolutely not going to get any cheaper. I’ll just say this is a major missed opportunity, I’m angry and heartbroken about it,” said Boyle.

Advocates and other supporters of the bike lane suggested it would improve safety for cyclists, but ABC councillor Brian Montague, a former Vancouver Police officer with the Traffic Section and Collision Investigation Unit, suggested that is not always the case.

“I’m well aware of what happens when we mix pedestrians and cyclists and vehicles on the road… the potential for horrific crashes, life-altering and life-ending questions,” said Montague.

“I heard a lot of people say that if we don’t put a bike lane in, we don’t care about people’s safety. That’s simply not the case. I can wholeheartedly say safety is a top priority not just for me, but everyone here on Council.”

While bike lanes are not planned for Broadway, the Broadway Plan calls for major improvements to active transportation on other streets in the area plan over time.

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

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The recently-built 10th Avenue bike lane, located one block south of Broadway, near Vancouver General Hospital. (Google Maps)

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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