Despite critics, Victoria’s new bike lanes win award

They’ve been met with mixed reviews at home but Victoria’s new separated bike lanes are scoring kudos from further afield.

The city’s All Ages and Abilities bike network has won a Community Energy Association Climate and Energy Action Award.

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“[It’s like] we won the Stanley Cup,” joked Mayor Lisa Helps, who accepted the award from B.C. Environment Minister George Heyman at the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention in Whistler this week, noting that the trophy is so large it comes with its own carrying case.

Helps called the award given in the community planning and development category “fantastic.”

“There’s been a lot of pushback about the bike lanes but we’re doing it for the future and we’re doing it to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. That was recognized not only by the Community Energy Association but by the minister of environment,” Helps said.

When completed, the 32-kilometre All Ages and Abilities bike network is expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 10,000 tonnes a year, Helps said.

The city opened the first leg of the network — a two-way bike lane on Pandora Avenue between Cook and Wharf streets in April 2017, at a cost of $3.4 million. The second leg on Fort Street between Cook and Wharf opened in May at a cost of $3.27 million.

The city hopes to go to tender soon on the Wharf-Humboldt bike lanes that will link the Pandora legs and Fort as well as tying into the Galloping Goose via the Johnson Street Bridge.

The city says use of the bike lanes is steadily picking up and 530,000 trips were recorded in the first 14 months of operation.

But there have been growing pains. The two-way cycling lanes on one-way streets such as Fort and Pandora are seen by some people as counterintuitive, citing no right-turns on red lights and separate turn signals for motorists.

There have been complaints about the loss of parking and many Fort Street merchants have said business plummeted during the lengthy construction period.

Helps said the award is proof that others, including Heyman and the Community Energy Association, think the city is headed down the right path.

“To see Victoria come out on top with this bike network is a validation that we’re going in the right direction. I know there’s been a lot of disruption as we proceed but it’s infrastructure for the future and, if we build it now, we’re going to be future-proofing the city,” Helps said.

“So I think cities have a role to play in taking action on climate change and we’ve been working hard on this bike network.”

The Community Energy Association organizes the Climate and Energy Action Awards annually in partnership with the province, the Union of B.C. Municipalities, B.C. Hydro, Fortis B.C. and the Real Estate Foundation of B.C.

The awards are given for municipal or regional district projects or programs that best integrate energy and climate planning into community or corporate planning and development processes.

Meanwhile, the Capital Regional District won a 2018 Climate and Energy Action Award in the public sector collaboration category for its Zero Emissions Fleet Initiative pilot project, which is expected to lower greenhouse gas emissions from the CRD vehicle fleet by 132 tonnes over three years.

bcleverley@timescolonist.com

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