Cook Street Village area residents Brian Kendrick, left, and Robert McConnell are among those ramping up efforts to put the brakes on a proposed bike lane system for the south section of Cook Street. Don Descoteau/Victoria News

Cook Street bike lane opposition grows among residents

City of Victoria says it's still looking at various options

Residents and merchants continue to be frustrated by the City of Victoria’s move toward installing dedicated bike lanes on Cook Street.

Pakington Street resident Robert McConnell, who hopes the City seriously reconsiders using Cook Street for dedicated one-way bike lanes, has met with City staff and spoken about the issue at council meetings in past.

He favours dedicating bike lane space on the much quieter Vancouver Street, noting there are serious safety concerns with replacing a lane of traffic on each side of Cook Street with a bike lane.

“By narrowing Cook to two traffic lanes you are just inviting disaster,” he said, sitting in a café in Cook Street Village.

He pointed to the sheer volume of traffic that uses Cook, including emergency vehicles, delivery trucks and transit buses. Using similar right-turn protocols to that seen on Pandora Avenue and, eventually, Fort Street – vehicles turning right who would have a separate advance light would cause chaos with just one lane of through traffic, he said.

Vehicles would resort to using neighbourhood streets to get through more quickly, he added, and many of those are not designed for such traffic loads.

Brian Kendrick, who lives on Pendergast Street in the village, was more abrupt in his criticism of the process and how he believes council is pushing this aspect of the cycling network through.

“Despite all the prevailing evidence, council seems dead set on Cook,” he said. “The concept and execution are flawed.”

The first indication of the controversy over the long-term project was a recent discussion of the Fairfield Community Plan, at a meeting of council’s committee of the whole , that devolved into a debate over bike lanes and a reduction of parking in Cook Street Village.

The issues from Southgate Street south through the village are one thing, but McConnell is particularly concerned about the section between Southgate and Pandora.

There, he said, loss of parking is not as much of an issue as transit access – Handydart buses tend to stop on the street for minutes at a time as clients make their way to the street – and the location of underground infrastructure.

Fraser Work, City of Victoria director of engineering and public works, says his department is using input received from previous engagement sessions to build and run various models and designs for the corridor, as a way to determine the impacts on vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists.

“All of the concerns from the residents along that section, we share fully and completely, and we’re doing the analysis to find out which ones can be mitigated and which ones are providing pretty significant design challenges,” he said.

Options such as Vancouver Street remain part of the overall conversation, he said, noting that the plans are “by no means a done deal” yet.

The insights that emerge from the analysis will lead to a recommended design, he said, which will be presented to council sometime in April.

“I think we’ll get close to something that we’ll be able to present [to council] in the next six or eight weeks and be able to hopefully make a decision … we’re under orders to go on this and we need to keep moving through it. So we don’t want to be paralyzed by analysis paralysis.”

In the meantime, McConnell and Kendrick are putting together a handout to distribute to area residents to inform them of how to register their opposition to the idea.

Their plans are available online at savecookstreet.ca.

The City’s cycling network plans can be found online at victoria.ca under the Residents icon and following the links to transportation, then cycling.

editor@vicnews.com

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