Bike lanes strike fear into Oak Bay Avenue merchants

Oak Bay Avenue merchants fear proposed bike lanes would cut into on-street parking and reduce their revenues.

“I think it would definitely hurt my business. I think less people will come by,” said Alan Pang, who has owned the Savoury Café at 106-1841 Oak Bay Ave., for five years.

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Take out parking spots and shoppers will park in nearby residential areas, Pang said Monday.

Merchants are concerned about a proposal for one or two bike lanes on the City of Victoria’s stretch of the avenue, running east from Richmond Road to Foul Bay Road. Businesses are preparing for a community meeting Wednesday to discuss the plan, part of Biketoria, a city initiative to create a cycling network.

Like Cook Street merchants who have spoken out against plans for bike lanes, merchants on Oak Bay Avenue said their area is a regional destination, requiring customers to bring their vehicles.

Victoria Coun. Pamela Madoff, who is responsible for the South Jubilee area, said the upcoming meeting is to gather community feedback, not to tell people that bike lanes are happening.

The meeting is Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the Victoria College of Art, 1625 Bank St. City officials will be on hand, as will members of the South Jubilee Neighbourhood Association.

Madoff thinks past efforts to solicit comments on the plan ended up attracting mainly cyclists and not other members of the community who may be affected. Not everyone is able to cycle, she said. “One demographic that really hadn’t been considered is folks who have even moderate disabilities.

“I don’t want people to not be able to have a choice of how they move around,” said Madoff.

Junice Da Costa Reis said nearby parking is necessary at her 21-year-old Good Things Consignments at 104-1841 Oak Bay Ave. Customers not only come from throughout the region, but from up-Island as well, and frequently drop off heavy consignment items and buy bulky goods, which means they need a vehicle.

Along with other merchants, Da Costa Reis said there has not been sufficient consultation about bike lanes.

“The people who have worked so hard to create independent businesses in this city really need to be acknowledged for that.”

Bike lanes are being considered at the same time this section of the avenue is becoming more vibrant. The locally owned Red Barn Market at 1993 Oak Bay Ave. is the most recent arrival, sharing a parking lot with Home Hardware next door. Parking in the neighbourhood is already at a premium, said Red Barn part-owner Russ Benwell, who does not want to lose the adjacent eight to 10 street-parking spaces.

Given that the weather is not conducive for cycling during winter months, Benwell argued that bikes and traffic can co-exist on the avenue without bike lanes.

Home Hardware manager Andrew Wrean said while he supports the idea of bike lanes, on-street parking is crucial to local businesses, and stores would lose sales if on-street parking was taken out.

He also said his customers need nearby parking to carry away large items.

At Oak Bay Bicycles at 1990 Oak Bay Ave., owner Karl Ullrich favours bike lanes. “No surprise — we think it is a move in the right direction. The street is certainly busy and there’s a lot of on-street parking on both sides of the road, so it does tend to make things a bit narrow.”

That narrow travelling area makes cyclists uncomfortable, he said. Even so, he said, retailers need parking.

The city has been lenient on its parking requirements for new developments, Ullrich said. “You’re sending a signal that you are hoping people will find alternative forms of transportation.”

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