Victoria’s Vancouver Street will be transformed from a north-south connector for motorists into a local roadway where pedestrians and cyclists have priority, under the city’s cycling-network plans.
The street will be blocked to through motor traffic in at least two locations where “street plazas” with trees and seating will be built as part of the city’s All Ages and Abilities cycling network. At some intersections, cars will be restricted from turning onto Vancouver. The goal is to reduce traffic on the street to between 500 and 1,000 vehicles a day from current volumes, which range between about 5,600 and more than 6,200 vehicles daily.
“Vancouver Street is actually an existing greenway within the city’s designation and it’s a local road,” said Philip Bellefontaine, assistant director of transportation.
“On either side of it, we have Quadra Street and Cook Street, which are the city’s arterial roads, and arterial roads are those roads designated in our road hierarchy that are designed to carry that through traffic,” he said.
Bellefontaine said the proposal endeavours to make sure “local access and circulation” for motorists remains good.
“We have lots of east-west connections, so there’s lots of opportunities to circulate within the neighbourhood. But what we’re trying to do here is manage the volume of that through traffic,” he said.
Vancouver Street would be blocked to vehicle traffic south of Pandora Avenue where a street plaza would be installed. A second street plaza is proposed farther to the south on Vancouver at McClure Street.
Detailed design is still in the early stages, Bellefontaine said, but emergency vehicles, as well as cyclists and pedestrians, would be able to manoeuvre through the street plazas.
Mayor Lisa Helps called the proposals exciting. Original plans had bike lanes on Cook Street, but on the advice of engineers, councillors last year directed that Vancouver be used instead.
“I was not expecting three new public plazas, 50 to 60 new parking spots, five new pedestrian crossings, no net loss of street trees and the addition of street trees,” Helps said. “I think this has come back tremendously. I’m delighted.”
Helps said that the shared-streets approach is “way, way, way cheaper” than building separated bike lanes.
While separated, protected bike lanes are proposed to be built on either side of the road from Balmoral Road to Meares Street, the concept calls for a “shared streets” approach farther south along Vancouver from Meares through Beacon Hill Park, connecting to bike lanes to be built along Dallas Road.
Planners are proposing to restrict traffic at Meares as the bike network transitions into a shared street from protected bike lanes. Instead of being allowed to flow through on Vancouver at Meares, vehicles will be diverted east to Cook Street or west to Quadra Street. Speed limits of 30 km/h are recommended between Meares Street and Park Boulevard.
Vehicles would not be allowed to turn south onto Vancouver from Fairfield Road or to turn north onto Vancouver from Southgate Street.
A pedestrian crossing is proposed at Oliphant Avenue.
The bike route would connect with existing cycling lanes through Beacon Hill Park and ultimately connect with bike lanes being built along Dallas Road.
North of Pandora, traffic on Vancouver would be forced to turn either east to Cook Street or west to Quadra at Balmoral Road where a new pedestrian crossing is planned, with new curb bulb-outs and shorter crossing distances.
Turns onto Vancouver from Caledonia would be prohibited as traffic once again is diverted to either Cook or Quadra. Signalized crossing improvements for pedestrians and cyclists are planned.
Vehicles will be prohibited from turning south onto Vancouver from Bay Street.
A two-way protected bike lane is to be built on the south side of Bay between Vancouver and Graham streets and signalized crossing upgrades are planned at Graham for both pedestrians and bikes.
While consultation has been underway for some time, another open house on the plan will be held at Victoria City Hall on Tuesday from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m.