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Bus, bike priority lanes open on Douglas Street in Victoria

Victoria and B.C. Transit officials will officially open the first phase of Douglas Street’s new bike and bus priority lanes today. Victoria Mayor Dean Fortin called the opening of the relatively short stretch “an important first step.

Victoria and B.C. Transit officials will officially open the first phase of Douglas Street’s new bike and bus priority lanes today.

Victoria Mayor Dean Fortin called the opening of the relatively short stretch “an important first step.”

“For the first time, we’ve actually prioritized people over cars when we’ve done transportation improvements. So taking that first step is extremely important,” Fortin said.

The priority lanes are designed to improve reliability of buses — getting buses out of heavy traffic during key times — and shorten travel times for bus riders.

The new transit and cycling lanes run from Fisgard Street to Hillside Avenue — a distance of about one kilometre — from Monday through Friday from 6 to 9 a.m. southbound and from 3 to 6 p.m. northbound.

About 80 parking spots will be out of use when the lanes are functioning. Parking will be permitted along Douglas Street during off-peak hours.

Fortin said they tried as much as possible not to interfere with parking.

“We weren’t trying to take a lane away from drivers, we were adding to the system. The effort was to try not to take away from anyone but to try to enhance the system,” Fortin said.

“The importance was to find a balance and an opportunity for everyone to win. … That was our goal. How do we bring the bus lanes on? How do we ensure they can share it with cyclists? How do we make sure that pedestrians can cross safely?”

Bev Highton, spokesman for CRD Business and Residential Taxpayers’ Association, said he didn’t think the time-specific loss of parking would be a huge inconvenience for businesses or their customers.

He said he would reserve judgment on the new lanes until they are operational, but he didn’t expect the change to be a problem.

“It’s an incremental step, and if it helps transit move slightly quicker, it’s better than spending a billion dollars we can ill afford on a tram going from Victoria to Colwood,” Highton said.

A second phase of the project, expected to begin early next year, will create a northbound priority lane from Hillside Avenue to Tolmie Avenue. The $1.5-million cost of both phases is being picked up by B.C. Transit and the Greater Victoria Transit Commission.

Work on Douglas Street to create the new transit and bike corridor began in February. Changes include elimination of some sidewalk “bulbs” — curb extensions often found at intersections and crosswalks — improved access for people getting on and off buses and a new pedestrian signal at Douglas and Pembroke streets.

bcleverley@timescolonist.com

Map of Douglas Street bus bike priority lanes, Phase 1

How do the lanes work?

The priority lanes are specially marked lanes for transit and cyclist use only. They are designed to shorten travel time and increase the reliability of transit.

• Where are the new priority transit lanes located?

Fisgard Street to Hillside Avenue.

• When are these lanes operating?

Monday through Friday from 6 to 9 a.m. southbound and from 3 to 6 p.m. northbound.

• During hours of operation, what changes for me in these lanes?

You are not allowed to park, unload a vehicle or drive in the lane — unless you are making a right-hand turn in that block.

• What happens during off-peak hours?

Parking is permitted while the lanes are not in operation.

• How can I identify a bus lane?

There will be signs at the start and end of each bus lane, as well as markings on the road.

• What if I’m a cyclist?

Cyclists are allowed to use the bus lanes during operational hours.

• How is this being enforced?

City of Victoria staff will monitor the lanes and ensure that buses and cyclists have unrestricted use.

More information on the plan is available here.

— Source: The City of Victoria and B.C. Transit