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Commercial Drive business society puts brakes on bike lane

Imagine a protected bike lane running for about 14 blocks along the car-heavy Commercial Drive. City council can. Nick Pogor, the executive director of the Commercial Drive Business Society, can’t.
The city’s five-year cycling route plan includes a protected bike lane on Commercial Drive. photo Dan Toulgoet

Imagine a protected bike lane running for about 14 blocks along the car-heavy Commercial Drive.

City council can.

Nick Pogor, the executive director of the Commercial Drive Business Society, can’t.

“There are already two established bicycle routes parallel to Commercial Drive, within four blocks of each other,” Pogor told council at a Dec. 10 meeting.

Woodland Drive, which run through residential neighbourhoods,  and Lakewood Drive are the two routes. “Why does [city] staff think the city needs a third parallel bike lane route between these two nearby routes? Why not optimize the existing routes with [protected] bike lanes on one or both routes, and have connections going across the Drive?”

Pogor never got an answer and hopes to get one in the new year as he and members of the business society, which represent close to 750 business owners, meet with city staff to challenge the need for a protected lane on the Drive.

Council agreed in principle to implement a protected lane — likely with planters, curbs or a combination of both — on the Drive as part of 12 new cycling routes planned for the city.

The Granville Bridge, several streets downtown and Gore Street in Chinatown are also slated for protected lanes. In addition, council approved 17 upgrades to existing cycling routes, including Southwest Marine Drive, 10th Avenue, Adanac Street and the Cambie Bridge.

Although a protected lane on the Drive was identified in the city’s 2040 transportation plan approved in 2012, consultation and final design of that route and others has not been finalized.

A city map included in staff’s latest report to council on the bike routes shows the lane along the Drive beginning on East 14th and running about 14 blocks north to Graveley Street.

Pogor said many small businesses on the Drive are already having a tough go financially, and he and his members believe a protected lane would further affect their bottom line. The installation of a protected lane usually requires removal of parking spots and, depending on the size of the project, several months of construction.

Lon Laclaire, acting city transportation director, and Dale Bracewell, the city’s manager of active transportation, promised council that Pogor and the Drive’s business society will be consulted, with evidence presented and options provided before a final decision is made.

Vision Coun. Andrea Reimer pointed out to Pogor that many people want a protected bike lane on the Drive. With compelling cases on both sides of the debate, Reimer asked Pogor how council should decide.

“It’s a hard question to answer but I think all of the factors point to the fact that a bike lane may have a more negative than positive effect on Commercial Drive,” he said, agreeing with Reimer that more data was needed.

Vision Coun. Geoff Meggs urged Pogor to examine how businesses were doing on Hornby and Union streets, where both have protected bike lanes.

“So far, based on a third party review that we had done with the [downtown] BIA and the Vancouver Economic Commission, it was very positive on Hornby, where it was a red-hot argument along that line and likewise on Union Street,” Meggs said, pointing out that ridership in Grandview-Woodland was only second to Kitsilano.

Richard Campbell of the B.C. Cycling Coalition congratulated council for proceeding with its five-year cycling plan, including the Commercial Drive lane.

“It’s critical that we do this as fast as we can because we know that there’s people that want to use their bikes out there, and we know that they aren’t cycling because of the lack of facilities,” said Campbell, noting a survey conducted in B.C. by the coalition revealed that 56 per cent of respondents would cycle more if they were protected from traffic.

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