Victoria councillors look at fast-tracking bike-lane network

Victoria councillors have asked city staff to look at fast-tracking the city’s controversial 32-kilometre bicycling network.

Councillors unanimously asked staff to report back on options for completing the cycling network by the end of 2022.

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“I wouldn’t call it expedited. I would say it’s just getting it done,” said Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps, who proposed the motion. “The timeline was originally four years. Then it turned into eight, so I would say it’s sticking to the original plan of council just to get this thing built.”

Director of engineering Fraser Work said timing of the bike lane construction is dictated by a number of factors including:

• How the public is engaged and how much time that takes.

• The construction market. (Timelines are difficult to control in a hot construction market and lack of workers can drive up prices.)

• Quality of design which requires input from agencies including emergency services and B.C. Transit.

• Availability of grant funding.

Consultation is “the longest pole in the tent,” Work said. He said consultation is done not only to help inform and improve the bike lane design but to educate the community on how the projects work.

Helps said in an interview the city made a mistake in its consultation process for the first legs of the project.

“The mistake we made last time or the unclarity we made last time was we didn’t say: ‘We’ve done a strategic plan. We’re building a bike network. Now help us figure out what it’s going to look like corridor by corridor.’ ” Helps said there is now no question, especially given the intervening election in October, that the decision has been made to build the bike network.

So the consultation is not about whether or not to move ahead but how best to move ahead, she said. “So I think the consultation will be about making the design better along the corridor, not a back and forth about whether we should even do it.”

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.

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