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No compensation for Vancouver businesses claiming losses from bike lanes, says mayor

Robertson notes inconclusive study, calls impact moderate

Mayor Gregor Robertson says downtown business operators blaming a decrease in sales on the introduction of separated bike lanes will not be financially compensated for their losses.

Robertsons comments were related to a city-commissioned study released July 21 in which operators on Hornby and Dunsmuir streets reported they sustained a combined sales loss of $2.4 million because of the lanes.

I dont think this warrants compensation, the mayor told the Courier Monday. Its considered a moderate impact for some businesses and an impact that can be mitigated by improvements.

The Dunsmuir separated bike lane opened in June 2010 and the Hornby lane opened in December 2010. Both lanes, which are separated from traffic by barriers, are considered temporary and part of a trial.

The Vancouver Economic Development Commission oversaw the study which involved the city, business associations and consultants. City council ordered the study and it was conducted between May and July.

But the studys authors couldnt conclusively connect the loss in sales solely to the lanes because operators were unwilling to share data on their finances.

Overall, the partners in the study were disappointed by the survey response rates and by the limited number of businesses willing to provide hard data to the consulting team on loss of sales or impacts, which affected the strength of the analysis, said a city report that summarized the findings of the study that goes before council Thursday.

Of 225 street-level businesses surveyed along the routes and neighbouring streets, 73 responded. Of 15 businesses claiming greater impacts because of the lanes, four responded. And 34 commercial property owners or managers participated out of a possible 114.

Robertson said he too was disappointed by the participation rate and acknowledged the study wasnt a rigorous analysis of the impacts on businesses.

If the estimated loss of $2.4 million is accurate, the studys authors described the downturn as moderate and that loss is expected to decrease over time.

This is relatively moderate based on industry standards and, in general, insufficient to create persistent vacancies, the study said. The downtown is and will remain vibrant and the moderate negative impact of the lanes will diminish over time as mitigation strategies take effect.

So-called hot spots where solutions are being applied to help businesses were identified in the 400, 500, 600 and 1000-blocks of Hornby Street and the 600-block of Dunsmuir.

The studys recommendations to address specific problemssome of which have already been implementedinclude encouraging cyclists to use businesses on bike lane routes, altering vehicle parking hours and restrictions, strategic placement of bike parking, removal or modification of bike traffic lights, better signs and establishing a downtown business transportation advisory committee.

Another city report on the lanes released last week said cycling use of the separated lanes continues to grow. The number of bike trips on Dunsmuir reached 55,000 per month in June and is expected to be higher in July and August. Bike trips along Hornby peaked at 45,000 in June, according to city data.

The city report pointed out vehicle collisions reported to the Insurance Corporation of B.C. decreased by 18 per cent since the Dunsmuir lane opened in June 2010.

However, there is insufficient collision data to assess this element of overall cycling safety related to the separated bike lanes, the report said.

The report said vehicle traffic times and traffic volumes on these streets appear largely unaffected but acknowledged turn restrictions and loss of on-street parking has inconvenienced some drivers.

Given these findings, it is the opinion of staff that the separated bicycle lanes should remain in place at least until more complete data is available regarding safety, and that staff report back at that time, the report added.

Twitter: @Howellings