Cyclists are getting a separated bike lane on Dunsmuir Street after Vancouver city council voted today (May 20) to approve a six-month trial in time for Bike Month.
The cost is $810,000, which comes from $25 million already allocated this month, according to assistant city engineer Jerry Dobrovolny. While it will mean fewer lanes for cars, Dobrovolny said there are always trade-offs when it comes to the reallocation of space.
“This is a demonstration project that will give us the opportunity to try some new things,” Dobrovolny said during the council meeting.
Dobrovolny noted this is the first part in a two-phase set of cycling initiatives passed by council earlier this year. The second phase involves the linking of the Burrard Bridge bike lane with the Dunsmuir lane, and is “more challenging”, he added.
Upon hearing the news of the Dunsmuir lane getting approval, one long-time Vancouver cycling advocate and regular bike commuter was so happy he yelled “excellent”.
“That’s fantastic news,” Dave Olsen told the Straight by phone. “That’s exactly what I was hoping for. I’ve been using the viaduct part and I’ve been going against the traffic [on Dunsmuir Street] to get to it. This is great.”
All councillors present were in support, though Non-Partisan Association councillor Suzanne Anton missed the vote after a lunch recess.
However, Charles Gauthier, executive director of the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association, said his organization would not support the concept of a separated lane on Dunsmuir “west of Richards”. He urged council to look at the Richards Street apex as the point where cyclists, in theory, could disperse and head to various parts of the downtown core.
Echoing this, several hotel and building managers along the route expressed outrage at how the separated lane would affect their business. One general manager, Nick Marini, from the Hudson residential strata complex, said residents in the 423-unit building at 601 Granville Street were not consulted as part of a survey conducted by Dobrovolny and his staff.
Jeremy Roncoroni, general manager of the newly renovated St. Regis Hotel at 602 Dunsmuir Street, said the trial would mean taxis would no longer be able to pull up outside his hotel on Dunsmuir and wait up to three minutes, legally, to have their bags hauled in.
“We will cease to function as a hotel,” Roncoroni told council.
He added that having to receive passengers in the alley behind the property—with parking already tight around the area—would put him at competitive disadvantage. Roncoroni maintained that other hoteliers in the adjoining blocks are able to receive clients right outside their hotels.
To resolve this impasse, council amended the original motion to ask that staff designate a “troubleshooter” to work directly and promptly with stakeholders to mitigate negative impacts of the trial and “that staff prioritize a traffic management plan to minimize negative impacts on businesses and pedestrians on the south side of the 600-block of Dunsmuir”.
While others are urging caution, Olsen is urging more separation of bikes.
“My question is what stopped them from taking it all the way out,” Olsen said of the Dunsmuir lane. “Do cyclists all get off their bikes at Howe and say, ”˜Okay, I can either risk my life or get off my bike?’”
Olsen said it would be ideal for cyclists if a fully separated bike lane network linked the viaduct to Stanley Park.
The Dunsmuir trial is set to be in place by June 15 to coincide with Bike Month in the city.