The City of Victoria on Thursday reflected on the biking infrastructure built in less than a decade and the long-term vision for local routes.
Since the cycling strategy was approved in 2016, staff said, the goal has been to make Victoria the region’s biking leader and increase ridership by improving connectivity and safety. That strategy was partly motivated by 85 per cent of residents saying they were interested in biking but concerned about safety, along with the city’s infrastructure at the time not reflecting “best practices in road safety.”
Early in the rollout, council directed that the bike network be designed with an onus on creating complete streets, where the aim is for all road users to thrive in a push for sustainability and livability.
Staff said this focus adds short-term complexity to projects, but helps lower overall bike network costs, completes needed construction work all at once and is key to securing senior government grants. The city says the complete street approach aims to be cost effective by making cycling and other pedestrian or livability improvements when areas need larger repairs to watermains, sewers, repaving or other work.
The city used the $4.3-million improvements to Government Street North as an example as the new protected bike lanes accounted for nine per cent of that project’s cost. In comparison, paving (47 per cent), utility replacement (17 per cent) and traffic signal improvements (12 per cent) all had higher price tags.
“While these very much are about increasing options for people to cycle and to walk, they’re also about improving our streetscape and replacing infrastructure,” Sarah Webb, manager of sustainable transportation planning and development, said at the July 7 committee meeting.
Some of the final routes in the 33-kilometre priority bike lane network are targeted to be completed next year. Projects beginning this summer include the Kimta Road E&N Trail extension, Superior Street, Montreal Street and Government Street South.
Council directed staff to update them in the final months of 2022 on the proposals for next steps and possible priority routes for expanding the all ages and abilities (AAA) bike network. Several councillors said they hope to see more parking and security options so people feel comfortable leaving their bikes locked up.
A long-term vision identifies many potential AAA route candidates around the city. Blanshard Street between Fort Street and Caledonia Avenue is seen as a priority candidate since watermain construction will begin this summer.
Hundreds of crosswalks, 83 traffic signals, 57 trees, nine plazas and accessible aspects have also been added alongside the bike network improvements. Overall road paving funding and work had been declining on average since the early 1980s but has been increasing since 2018.
Webb said people didn’t see the network’s value when the city built the first stages downtown, but that changed as it started to connect libraries, parks, schools and neighbourhoods.
“We started to see that momentum and recognition of how bundling projects and reaching out to different parts of our community has created new awareness as well as (new) use of our streets.”
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