Thursday, June 6, 2013

June 2013
Bike Lanes Threatened

BC Transit is considering options for rapid bus services along Douglas St., the Trans-Canada Highway, and other main transit routes serving high demand destinations in the region.

Some proposals that will be presented should set off alarm bells for cyclists in Greater Victoria.  Existing bike lanes could be erased for transit priority service - bad medicine for a transportation system that needs to shift road capacity to more sustainable choices.  Bike lanes shouldn’t be sacrificed to coddle the cars.  We need to offer alternatives for drivers to choose transit – not try and push bikes off the road where design challenges are too much for planners to grapple with.

Across downtown bicycling’s share of the commuter market exceeds 10%, not so far behind transit passenger volumes.  Like every traveler on our roads, cyclists are looking for direct and convenient routes to their destinations and, without an effective grid system, few options to take parallel routes.

For the same reasons that Blanshard has been dismissed as a primary rapid transit corridor, cyclists destined for shopping or workplaces along Douglas will want to use Douglas.  They already do, by the hundreds, if not by the thousands, every day.  They too pay their taxes and deserve no less access to the streets they pay for than do their fellow citizens.

Lately a “complete streets” approach to allocating road space has gained currency across North America and is rapidly gaining traction here in Victoria.  Pushing cyclists off of a key route by erasing bike lanes runs counter to a policy framework embraced by both the city and the region and should come off the table.

We are trying to build a more sustainable city, a more sustainable region and we are working to provide alternatives to an over-reliance on the private automobile.  Stealing space from cycling to speed up transit won’t be successful if it does so only to keep car capacity whole.

What we are seeing here is a retreat to an old-style of thinking – some see bikes as a competitor to transit, so they aren’t invested in providing space, let alone funding, to make more complete streets work in practice, (if it is seen to be stealing market share).

The real target, (and a much bigger one), are the more than 70% of residents who still choose driving first.  Chip away at some of their space; make transit a little more competitive in time and convenience - then you can start attracting the big numbers you need to fill buses, justify more resources and start developing the case for LRT again.  Stealing capacity at the margins from bicycle commuters targets a much smaller market, generates ill will among potential allies, and belies a commitment to sustainable transportation.

With more bike commuters, based on population, than in any other city in Canada, and well beyond most every city in North America, we are not a good target for reduced levels of service for cycling – rather we need more.  We need to find the option that helps Transit do their job better, but allows for those of us who ride to maintain fair access to the routes and destinations we need to get to - just like everyone else.

Let Transit know that cutting bike lanes is not on.  Check out the Transit future bus “open house” road show.  Make sure your council hears from you.  Transit meets on June 27th to consider options.  Don’t let them take away what we’ve worked hard to build.



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