Steve Wallace: Beware Victoria's single-lane traffic experiment

Years ago, pavement politics meant the government of the day would be looking to curry favour with the electorate immediately before an election, by paving everything in sight. These days, it might mean just the opposite.

Dysfunction-By-The-Sea is truly a place in Backward Columbia. Try Suicide Lanes by the Sea. Yes, the City of Victoria seems to want to solve problems that do not exist. Longtime residents of Victoria can remember the giant traffic circle at the Douglas-Hillside-Gorge intersection. According to those who are still alive, it worked very well. Traffic flowed in one direction, eliminating the dreaded head-on and T-bone crash potential. This functioning roundabout was replaced with a brand-new toy, signalized traffic lights. Proving once again you can always tell an engineer, but not very much. Giving up on a proven technology in favour of an unproven new toy is their eternal fault. Their heralded advancements are much appreciated, but every so often, they overreach. Frankly, we cannot live without engineers, but every so often, we could do without their shiny new toy.

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The ultra-brand-new toy is the shared lane insanity about to be hoisted upon an unsuspecting commuting public.

The one-block trial, where a single lane, referred to as a Suicide lane in the old days, is intended to serve opposite motor vehicle directional travel. Once a driver comes face-to-face with another car driver in the single provided road lane, it is expected that each would swerve right. This action takes the drivers into the well-marked, same direction, painted bike lanes on each side of the street.

By the way, bike riders are not restricted to these well-marked bike lanes. Drivers will not only have to make a right shoulder check before moving right from the suicide lane, but also check their left shoulder before returning to the suicide lane, since bike riders are not restricted to bike lanes.

I have nothing against bikes. I like bike riders. The more bike riders, the fewer cars needed to get from A to B. This odd new toy will be especially difficult for visitors to our city. Who in their right mind, would choose a city block, with a major hotel complex, to do a first run of this unnecessary matrix? What do visitors to the hotel think? Is this block of Humboldt street a high crash site? Is it the location of fatal crashes?

Richardson Avenue is another future disaster in the making. The plan is to do the same configuration on this commuter arterial. Crash rates and vehicle volume do not justify the proposed suicide-lane modifications. Residents are up in arms and cyclists are not of one mind when it comes to these revolutionary changes.

• If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! This phrase comes to mind when referencing not only Richardson, but also Vancouver street. Richardson is a connector street, and a low stress way to get to and from the Tweed Curtain, known as Oak Bay. The death rate on Richardson must be astronomically high for such changes to be proposed. It is not!

The Vancouver Street directional changes are different than others referenced. The plan is to do major capital expense, namely concrete and stationary construction, in order to physically block and re-route motor vehicle traffic. Vancouver Street will no longer be a through street for motor vehicles. The 4,000 to 5,000 vehicles using the street will be diverted to Quadra or Cook. These streets are already stressed during morning and afternoon commutes.

Why are any of these projects being considered at this time of municipal financial crisis?

City council would be wise to delay in this time of a never before experienced financially stressful pandemic.

Steve Wallace is the owner of Wallace Driving School on Vancouver Island. He is a former vice-president of the Driving Schools Association of the Americas, a registered B.C. teacher and a University of Manitoba graduate.

stevedwallace@shaw.ca

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