Vancouver Street favoured over Cook Street for bike lanes

The proposed bike lanes on Cook Street should be shifted one block over to Vancouver Street to save money, protect trees and prevent traffic tie-ups, a Victoria city staff report says.

Design work on the Cook Street lanes has revealed a number of complications that would be costly to fix, the report says.

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The route was initially favoured by cyclists because of its gentle topography and direct access to the Cook Street and North Park villages.

It was discovered, however, that the bike lanes would add to lineups at intersections such as Pandora and Johnson streets, the report says.

The congestion could be alleviated by adding an extra vehicle lane, but that would cost more, cut into pedestrian space and require the city to remove additional trees.

“Staff concluded through additional analysis that Vancouver Street represents a more reasonable compromise between safety, cost and traffic performance, when compared to the Cook Street [options],” the report states.

Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps said staff reached a balanced conclusion based on the available evidence. “When the original plan was made, it was at a very high level and as we get into detailed design, the rubber hits the road and we have to make [decisions] based on reality, not just on drawing lines on a map,” she said.

“The benefits of Vancouver, and the way staff are proposing it, is we can do the whole corridor all at once — essentially from Beacon Hill Park all the way to Bay Street.”

She said the fact that Vancouver Street doesn’t directly link with Cook Street Village can be managed by posting signs for cyclists.

“There’s lots of ways to connect people biking along Vancouver between Southgate and Park and letting them know: ‘Hey, the village is just right that way and here’s a safe way to get there,’ ” she said.

“I’m one for evidence-based decisions and when our staff looked at all of the considerations on Cook versus all of the considerations on Vancouver, I think Vancouver is a balanced decision. Maybe ideally Cook would be better, but we don’t live in the ideal world, we live in the real world.”

Coun. Chris Coleman said Vancouver Street has long been touted as a potential “cycling spine” from Beacon Hill Park to the Crystal Pool and Royal Athletic Park.

“This is now back to that opportunity and it does make some sense,” he said. “Personally, I’m quite pleased that we’re going back and reassessing this one.”

Edward Pullman, president of the Greater Victoria Cycling Coalition, said he prefers Cook, in part because it is flatter. Vancouver Street has a couple of steep sections that will be difficult for some riders to climb, he said.

“Our preference is still to go ahead with Cook, but regardless, the most important thing for us is getting the network completed in a timely fashion,” he said.

A two-way bike lane along Pandora Avenue was completed last year and the second two-way leg on Fort Street is slated to open May 27, but north-south routes have yet to be built.

“We’re very confident as more of the network is completed and connected we’re going to see really higher increases in ridership and that’s going to have all sorts of benefits for the region,” Pullman said.

Helps said that even if Vancouver Street becomes the preferred bike route, Cook Street will need attention in the future. She said it’s a “car-oriented” street that’s difficult for some elderly pedestrians to cross. “Even as we move the bike lanes to Vancouver Street for all the reasons cited in the staff report, I think we can’t leave Cook Street behind.”

lkines@timescolonist.com

Map - Vancouver Street
Proposed Vancouver Street bike lane route.

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