Strathcona group opposes Union Street bike lane changes

City criticized for lack of consultation

A group of East Side residents and business owners have launched a website to boost their campaign against proposed changes to a bike route on Union Street.

According to a press release from the Strathcona Residents' Association, the site, bikepathforeveryone.ca, was started because of frustration felt by residents and businesses from Strathcona, Chinatown and City Gate over what they say is the city's lack of consultation on Union Street upgrades. "We are trying to engage in the planning process," said Pete Fry, chairman of the Strathcona Residents' Association.

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He said so far the city is not listening to those who live and work in the area. The website is a way to "jump the gun and present our opinion out there in front of the court of public opinion."

The website offers eight proposed changes, including maintaining street parking along Union Street and removing the option for cars to access the viaduct ramp at Gore Street.

Fry said the lack of consultation on this project is a symptom of an overall lack of real civic engagement by the city. In the case of the Union Street changes, Fry said the open houses amounted to city representatives "presenting a plan they had already developed."

At a June 12 city council meeting, five hours of discussion centred on bike lanes led to approval of a separated bike lane at Union Street near the Adanac bikeway. But council agreed more consultation was needed regarding upgrades to Union Street east of Gore. Fry said no consultation has taken place, but a notice was sent out by the city July 3, announcing construction on upgrades would begin within a month.

In a written statement, Vision Vancouver Coun. Heather Deal said construction going forward is on the already-approved upgrades, including the removal of one side of parking at 200 Union St. to install a separated bike lane and replace the parking with 50 new spaces on Main Street.

Future changes will be taken to the area stakeholders.

"This summer, city staff will be contacting local neighbourhood pedestrians, cyclists, businesses and community associations to undertake an inclusive consultation process to discuss additional potential transportation changes on Union from Main Street and Princess Avenue, and the remainder of the bikeway through Strathcona. I know staff will be considering the proposals from the Strathcona residents as part of their consultations and I look forward to hearing what they recommend," Deal wrote.

Steve Da Cruz, who owns the Parker restaurant on Union Street, said he doesn't feel there was ever any real consultation. Removing the parking in front of his and other businesses is a blow to a group of new owners who have worked hard over the past few years to bring commercial options to an area where there were none, he said. "I bike every day of the year, but my guests come here by electric car and they need to park," said Da Cruz. "If we can reduce the number of cars on the road that is great, but it has to be a process. To slash and burn like this is not going to work."

Resident Jurgen Schlote, who owns a condo on Union Street, is happy with the bikeway plan he has seen so far. While he said the loss of parking for the separated lane may affect businesses, "it will be a nice aesthetic improvement to our street."

An avid cyclist, Schlote believes overall the changes proposed will make cycling safer. "I do use the bike lane frequently and it's a bit of a free for all right now," said Schlote.

The changes are part of the city's Transportation 2040 plan passed in October 2012, with the aims to make a "smart and efficient transportation system" and support healthy citizens.

thuncher@shaw.ca

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