A city plan to build a separated bike lane through one of the most popular cycling areas of Vancouver has drawn heavy criticism from local entrepreneurs who say changes associated with the new bikeway threaten the viability of their fledgling businesses.
“We are all a little scared,” said Taryn O’Gorman, owner of the Department of W.O.W., one of about a dozen small shops and restaurants to open their doors in recent months in the 200 block of Union Street.
The fear centres around a city proposal to upgrade the Adanac bikeway, which runs along residential streets from downtown Vancouver to Boundary Road and is used by an estimated 4,000 cyclists per day in the summertime.
The proposal, which has yet to receive the approval of city council, calls for a complete closure of the most dangerous portion of the route, at Union and Main streets, to vehicle traffic in a bid to boost safety and encourage more commuters out of their cars.
The intersection at Union and Main is a top cyclist collision location and has the highest number of accidents between cyclists and vehicles along the entire bikeway.
Jerry Dobrovolny, city transportation manager, said the road closure will take an estimated 3,000 vehicles a day off Union, and significantly improve safety for cyclists at what is now a “very complicated intersection.”
Other proposed changes along the route include a partial road closure to eastbound traffic at Union and Gore, and the elimination of about 20 unregulated parking spaces in the 100 block of Union. (City transportation planners say there will be no net loss of parking to the neighbourhood with 50 new on-street parking spaces around the corner on Main Street.)
O’Gorman said the road closures and loss of parking immediately outside her clothing and jewelry shop, now six-months old, represents a serious blow to local business. Area revitalization is so new and customers need coaxing to venture into the neighbourhood, she said.
“We all know that unless you’ve spent enough time in Chinatown or Gastown to know that it is not necessarily scary, people are afraid of it,” she said.
Steve Da Cruz, owner of The Parker vegetarian restaurant in the same block, said most people in Vancouver aren’t familiar with businesses on Union Street and significant changes to traffic patterns and parking could prove devastating.
“The whole thing just seems poorly thought out and reactionary,” Da Cruz said of the city’s plans.
Da Cruz and O’Gorman are expected to be among a list of speakers, including local residents affected by the traffic-pattern changes, who intend to ask the city to rethink those plans when the staff recommendations go to council next Wednesday.
If approved, work could begin on the bikeway upgrades this fall.
City council will also be asked to consider approving recommendations for two more bike and pedestrian projects:
• The Canada Line bridge connection project ($750,000) is aimed to make it safer and easier to access the bridge over the north arm of the Fraser.
• Improvements to the east side of the Cambie Street bridge ($1.5 million) from downtown will mean cyclists and pedestrians will no longer have to share the sidewalk.
The city has earmarked up to $2.25 million in the 2013 capital budget to pay for the work, with TransLink expected to kick in another $705,000 from a fund dedicated to bicycle infrastructure improvements.
Dobrovolny said city staff will continue to work with business owners and residents to address particular concerns. Adjustments have already been made to the Union Street proposal to allow for two-way traffic to continue along the 200 block. The original plan called for one-way traffic flow but that was altered after many of the businesses expressed concerns over loss of vehicle access.