Food vendors on bikes might soon be pedalling Victoria streets

Bells signalling that the ice-cream bike is nearby might be heard in Victoria once again this summer.

Victoria staff are recommending that bicycle food vendors be allowed to peddle their wares on city streets and in most city parks this summer and fall under a pilot program.

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“I’m excited about it,” said Coun. Jeremy Loveday, who with Coun. Ben Isitt has been advocating a change in city regulations to permit bike vendors.

“I think it’s going to give some new entrepreneurs a shot at having a business in the city of Victoria and add some vibrancy to our streets.”

Isitt agreed. “I’m happy to see this recommendation come forward,” he said.

Results of the project will help in a review of the regulations dealing with bicycle vendors, food trucks and street vending now underway, city staff say.

There is a growing demand for street vending — residents are looking for more dynamic and diverse use of public spaces and entrepreneurs are increasingly interested in opening mobile food operations.

Of two bike ice-cream vendors who recently approached the city, one would be willing to start rolling as soon as the regulations permit, staff say.

“It’s great to see there’s at least one entrepreneur who wants to give this type of economic activity a shot and I hope others will step forward as well,” Isitt said.

Currently, three mobile food vendors are grandfathered and permitted to operate on city property. No new food vendors, including food trucks, carts and bicycles, have been permitted to operate on streets for years under the city’s street-vendor bylaw. Food trucks are, however, allowed to operate on private property.

Staff are recommending that bike vendors be permitted on all city streets and in parks, for up to 30 minutes at a time.

The bike vendors would not be allowed in several locations, including:

• in Beacon Hill Park, because of the 1882 trust that prohibits commercial activity

• in the Inner Causeway, which is under the authority of the Greater Victoria Harbour Authority

• within 30 metres of grade schools on school days between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.

• too close to businesses that sell ice cream.

Staff are also recommending that street vending be allowed in front of shops during special days such as Car Free Day and occasions when portions of Government Street are closed to vehicles.

The existing bylaw allows for a small portion of the sidewalk to be used for the sale of fresh produce, limited to one-fifth of the sidewalk. The only non-food vending currently permitted is newspaper hawkers.

The staff report says a large number of sidewalk displays downtown are not in compliance with the bylaw — either selling non-permitted goods or using too much of the sidewalk.

The Downtown Victoria Business Association has asked that those provisions of the bylaw be examined, particularly on Douglas Street during Car Free Day.

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