Some members of the visually impaired community say they are afraid to use the crosswalks that stretch across bike lanes when trying to get to a bus stop. (Nicole Crescenzi/News Staff)

City of Victoria responds to blind community’s B.C. Human Rights Tribunal case

The Canadian Federation of the Blind says bike lanes can be dangerous

The City of Victoria has submitted a response to a B.C. Human Rights Tribunal complaint from the Canadian Federation of the Blind (CFB), but cannot confirm if it’s a dismissal or not.

“The City’s response to the BCHRT will be released to the public and the media in due course as part of the Tribunal’s normal procedures,” said Bill Eisenhauer, head of engagement at the City of Victoria in an emailed statement. “In the meantime, we believe the dialogue should be between the parties and not through the media.”

In July, the CFB filed a complaint against the City in regards to the Pandora Avenue bike lanes.

READ MORE: Blind community says bike lanes put their lives at risk

The group argues that having a bus stop on a mid-street meridian is unsafe for those who are blind or partially sighted, as they have no safe way of crossing the bike lane to get to the bus shelter.

In a previous interview with Black Press, Oriano Belusic, vice president of CFB, said there’s no way to hear cyclists riding down the lanes.

“It’s like playing Russian roulette,” he said. “Without eye contact, you really don’t know if you’re gonna get whacked by a bike.”

READ MORE: ‘We live in an ableist society,’ Victoria candidates debate how to approach accessibility

Belusic argued it was unsafe for the blind, and also for their service dogs.

The City of Victoria has an Accessibility Working Group which is formed by volunteers to guide city policy to make services and infrastructure more accessible. However, the group wasn’t formed until after planning decisions for the Pandora lanes had been made.

Since the problem came to light the Accessibility Working Group has demonstrated the problems to City staff, who resolved to put more signage around crosswalks on Fort Street bike lanes.

In the BCHRT file, the CFB has asked the city to remove the floating bus stop islands and place them at a safer location at a regular sidewalk, noting that signage is not enough.

ALSO READ: Only half of Victoria’s accessible parking meets basic standards

“The City is committed to improving accessibility for all residents and visitors,” Eisenhauer said, adding that the lanes are up to North American transporation standards. “We are open to exploring further improvements.”

Since July, the city has also installed additional signage and pathway markings on the Pandora lanes.

“We have recently taken action to improve warnings at this location, and the City is actively monitoring and reviewing those systems to determine what additional safety measures may be required.”

nicole.crescenzi@vicnews.com


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