The head of a downtown business lobby wants Vancouver city council to do more to help retailers affected by bike lanes.
A staff report to Wednesday's transportation committee meeting recommends deeming the downtown bike lane system permanent. Separated lanes on Dunsmuir, Dunsmuir Viaduct and Hornby Street were officially trials when first installed. The report said annual maintenance for the lanes costs $50,000, but to remove them would cost up to $1.5 million.
Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association executive director Charles Gauthier said the bans on vehicle right turns and elimination of on-street parking have made it difficult for customers to access stores. The report also said there should be no change to the right turn ban at the intersection of Dunsmuir and Hornby. Staff estimated it would cost $500,000 for new signals and $2 million to widen the street and narrow the bike lane to allow right turns.
"It's been dismissed, yet on the other hand we spent $4.2 million and counting on separated bike lanes and an unspecified amount on modifications, and the annual operating costs," said Gauthier. "The economic lens hasn't been applied to this report."
A report for the Vancouver Economic Development Commission last July estimated a $2.4 million loss of sales for businesses along the Hornby and Dunsmuir routes.
"The moderate negative impact of the lanes will diminish over time as long as mitigation strategies take effect," the report said.
Council approved the one-way bike lanes on the Burrard Bridge in May 2009 and a two-way separated lane on the Dunsmuir Viaduct in January 2010. In May of that year, it added the two-way separated Dunsmuir Street bike lane. The Hornby Street bike lane was constructed in October 2010.
The report said bicycle usage of the Dunsmuir and Hornby routes increased from 1.34 million to 1.45 million over the last year. It claimed there was "little to no negative effect" on TransLink bus running times. Right-turn bans have forced vehicles to re-route at several intersections and only minor rush hour delays have resulted at the north end of the Burrard Bridge and at some Hornby intersections.
Collisions between bicycles and vehicles increased from a rate of one to four a year over the last decade to 13 last year at the Burrard Bridge. Ten were apparently due to illegal right turns by vehicles.
At the same meeting, city transportation director Jerry Dobrovolny is scheduled to present an update on the public bike system, otherwise known as bike sharing. City of Vancouver sought expressions of interest from operators in spring 2011. Barriers for such a program include the Motor Vehicle Act's safety helmet law for cyclists and the potential of theft.
City hall's flurry of two-wheeled activity comes amid the annual bike month. The climax is the European Cyclists' Federation's Velo-City Global 2012 Vancouver convention and exhibition June 26-29. The final day coincides with the monthly Critical Mass pro-cycling protest ride from the Vancouver Art Gallery.
Meanwhile, Sunday's TNA Westside Cycling Classic is the first of six major bicycle races in Metro Vancouver this month and next. The Tour de Gastown returns as the Global Relay Gastown Grand Prix during the five-stop B.C. Superweek July 6-15.