The new bike lanes are one of the most common subjects that people bring up at the doorsteps. They almost always start with something along the lines of "I'm not against bike lanes, but..." and proceed to then criticize, rightfully so, the Fort & Pandora bike lane infrastructure. As a result of a lack of proper consultation, cost overruns, and botched implementation, what should have been a simple and noble endeavour has become one of the most divisive issues in the city.
I generally support a bike network, but the current bike lanes that have been developed are not only hurting some of our local businesses, they are also also putting at risk those with visual impairments as well as novice cyclists. Unidirectional bike lanes should have been the priority from day one. Cities with decades of bike lane experience in Scandinavia have long since abandoned the multi-directional bike lanes that feature cyclists riding straight at one another. When it comes to a community-wide bike network, it is vital that we have proper community engagement that includes residents with diverse abilities, local residents and business owners, transportation experts, community planners, BC Transit, emergency first responders, and other stakeholders.
As someone that was a proponent of moving the planned Cook Street bike lane to Vancouver Street, I am well aware of the lack of engagement over several years on the second phase of the bike lane network. I am thrilled the city finally heard us after so many years but it highlights the fact that we need proper consultation on the second phase. The portions of Vancouver & Wharf Street that link Fort & Pandora make sense, but I don't believe anything further than that (including the parts of Wharf & Vancouver that are South of Fort) currently has the social license to proceed, especially given the cost overruns and lack of proper consultation.
I know many James Bay residents felt blind-sided by the fact that the overall plan for Wharf Street runs into their neighbourhood according to Phase 4 of Biketoria. Until it was pointed out by some, most were unaware of this as Wharf Street itself does not continue into James Bay, so they believed the plan did not pertain to them. This was another misstep in the botched consultation that has marred what should have been a simple and uncontroversial process.
Broad community engagement will need to occur to mitigate the challenges faced, and frustration voiced, during the development of the Pandora and Fort bike lanes. We must also ensure that when building active transportation infrastructure, we do so in a fiscally responsible way. Bike lanes are great part of an active transportation network, but if residents do not feel as though their concerns are being heard and their tax dollars respected, then that is doing more harm than good to the active transportation discussion.
We also must remember that biking is but one form of active transportation. We need an active transportation network that supports a range of modalities – wheelchairs, strollers, pedestrians, skateboarders, and transit-users, not just prioritizing cyclists above all others.