The part-time bike lane on Henderson Road rides into the Oak Bay strategic priorities planning instead of community consultation after a councillor’s failed bid to get the process going.
Oak Bay council was divided on Coun. Carrie Smart’s move to remove night and weekend parking from the segment of Henderson that boasts a timed bike lane.
As part of a 2008 agreement with residents in the neighbourhood, the lane near the University of Victoria is an official, signed bike lane from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. The other 12 hours of the day – and on weekends – it’s available for street parking.
She provided council with a notice of motion providing intent earlier in February, so many members read from written statements during the Feb. 27 council meeting.
Smart cited ways to make impactful and early progress on active transportation, citing significant changes in local and global communities since 2008 – specifically awareness of the climate crisis, how humans contribute and emissions reduction options.
Census numbers show about 11 per cent of residents use a bicycle as main mode of transportation for getting to school, shopping and work.
“We currently have a precedent for allowing part-time bike lanes in an area of Oak Bay where the average driveway can hold four cars in addition to a garage. I’m unaware of any other municipality in B.C. that has this type of allowance,” Smart said, asking council to show leadership by fully utilizing bike lanes that are in place.
“When their safety is most at risk – at night – they need to navigate around parked cars,” she said.
That position was supported by letters that rolled in to Oak Bay, with those in favour of nixing the parking for a permanent bike lane far outweighing those opposed.
Three residents, from Oak Bay, Victoria and Esquimalt, spoke during public input. All were proponents of a full-time bike lane, as did Coun. Leslie Watson, calling it a “low-cost, easy but high value proposition.”
Coun. Andrew Appleton, who did not read from prepared remarks, said he had concerns that addressing Henderson this way would hinder implementing the active transportation plan in a “comprehensive and holistic way” – but on balance the part-time bike lane was overdue for a revisit.
“This motion gives us an opportunity to move the ball down the field a certain extent,” he said, supporting the motion.
Coun. Cairine Green countered with process, noting the intensive work done to create a list of council priorities with background documentation and the Henderson lane did not arise. A master active transportation plan with recent results of active transportation survey are part of the plan.
“It was encouraging to know that such planning would result in coherent policy and design and involve broad and focused public engagement as opposed to a patchwork quilt approach for which Oak Bay has taken criticism in recent years,” Green said. Green, Braithwaite and Paterson opposed the motion.
Mayor Kevin Murdoch – who called bike lanes fascinating, adding they’re more divisive than necessary – dealt the final vote that nixed the original motion.
Both sides of the conversation are valid with merit, he said, but he leaned into the process as a better way to build trust with the community.
“I think that process that we follow is incredibly valuable to bring the community along with us and prevent that division,” he said, noting the process may also have better outcome, a better design than simply removing parking. He suggested it be deferred to strategic priorities and potentially expedited to this council term’s active transportation plan.
Brathwaite followed up the suggestion.
That passed, with Smart, Watson and Appleton opposed.