Building new cycling infrastructure throughout the capital region is about to get expensive and likely controversial, according to planners and bike experts.
The predictions are backed up by the Capital Regional District's Pedestrian and Cycling Master Plan, which estimates upgrades for the region could cost $220 million and involve changes to traditional vehicle traffic patterns.
"We're finding that projects are getting more and more expensive because they are more infrastructure-intensive," said Steve Hutchison, transportation planner for the City of Victoria.
Communities will have to roll out the upgrades over the next decade or two, but if accomplished, the report says, the region could achieve cycling rates of up to 25 per cent in highdensity areas and 15 per cent region-wide - far higher than the current nine per cent in high density and 3.2 per cent overall.
To reach those rates, municipalities would have to invest aggressively in more infrastructure. While the CRD's master plan calls for $220 million for new infrastructure, the priority projects would cost about $100 million.
Most municipalities have installed bike lanes and trails in the past 20 years - including 140 kilometres of bike lanes in Saanich and 28 km in Victoria - but the work has mostly involved narrowing roads to make bike lanes.
Planners and elected officials recognize the work to date has consisted mostly of easy and inexpensive upgrades that have not interfered much with roadways, parking spaces or property owners.
They are now bracing for more expensive projects - such as buffered lanes and barrier lanes - to improve cycling safety.
Some of the more extensive projects were discussed at a two-day workshop in Saanich last week.
Saanich, for example, is planning buffered bike lanes along McKenzie Avenue. The lanes, which include a painted buffer zone between bike and vehicle lanes, are more expensive than simply narrowing roadways to make room for bike lanes.
The buffer zone will be 2.2 metres compared with the typical 1.5 metres. There have been no cost estimates yet, but work could be in the millions for these types of main corridors, said Saanich Coun. Judy Brownoff.
In Victoria, Fort Street between Wharf and Cook streets could be a candidate for barriers that separate cyclists from vehicle traffic, Hutchison said.
"That road is nearing the end of its life and will be up for renewal, so there might be a discussion there about future separation," he said.
Langford has tackled cycling issues in recent years, setting up a bike-loan program and creating bike lanes.
Council is now considering going to a referendum to ask residents to borrow up to $2.5 million to install more bike lanes that connect every neighbourhood.
"If you don't like bike lanes, then go out there and beat us up about it," said Langford Mayor Stew Young.
"We could just raise taxes and do it, but we want to gauge public support for it."
But these types of projects come with more than just a hefty price tag, according to the Greater Victoria Cycling Coalition.
Darren Marr, the group's president, said the removal of parking spaces and lanes can spark a backlash against cycling infrastructure.
"There are going to be some expensive projects, but they also become more controversial as well," he said.
He urged stakeholders to work together to come up with solutions that work for everyone.
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