Vancouver bike solution idea is up in the air literally relocate bike lane above traffic between a thin center road meridian. News – Inventor, Keith Ranville

Cyclist ride the Hornby St bike lane during the morning rush hour in Vancouver, BC., June 7, 2012. City hall has voted to make them permanent and rejected a business proposal to spend an extra $2.5 million to put in some right turn lanes onto Hornby to help local businesses attract more vehicle traffic.

Photograph by: Nick Procaylo , PHG

Vancouver’s controversial separated bike lanes were made permanent Wednesday but city council decided against a downtown business proposal to spend an extra $2.5 million to put in some right turn lanes.

The bike lanes, which separate bicycles from vehicle along Hornby and Dunsmuir streets and along the Dunsmuir Viaduct were put in at a cost of $4.1 million. Their aim is to give cyclists a safe route through the downtown core, and connect to the Seawall and Stanley Park.

Their installation closed off right turns off Dunsmuir onto Seymour Street and Hornby.

Businesses, primarily along Hornby, felt an immediate drop in visitors and were also affected by the loss of on-street parking.

Charles Gauthier, executive director of the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association, made a last-ditch appeal to the city to set up a “trial” of right turns for Hornby and Seymour.

Jerry Dobrovolny, the city’s director of transportation, said reworking the streets to allow the right turn lanes would reduce sidewalks in the affected areas from three metres to 1.8 metres — or about the frontage on residential street.

There was also what Dobrovolny called “the potential for conflict” because in peak hours about 200 to 300 drivers would be making right turns on Hornby and Seymour. But in those same peak hours there were 300 to four cyclists using the lanes and potentially being at risk.

Gauthier said he was “disappointed but not surprised.”

“We knew this was going to be an uphill battle,” he said. “We’ll just have to adapt, it sounds like.

“I think what will happen over time is that the businesses that are not able to adapt will at some point not renew their leases along that corridor,” he said.

Council spent most of the day discussing bikes as it was also briefed on the state of the city’s public bike share program.

The program will involve bikes which can be used for short trips around the downtown as an extension of the transit system, as is done in cities around the world.

A deal is still being worked out with the proponent who will run the system but Dobrovolny said the cost to the city could be about $1.9 million annually for 10 years.

The plan is to have 1,500 bikes at 125 stations with helmets, which is a provincial regulation complicating the plan.

Dobrovolny said an increase of just one per cent in cycling would be equivalent to 16,000 trips a day — reducing congestion on the roads and transit, along with less greenhouse gas emissions.

But bike rental companies, particularly around Stanley Park, fear the bike share program as deadly competition. A thriving bike rental business in Montreal was severely impacted when a bike share was started there.

Council will vote on the deal this fall, with implementation scheduled for spring of 2013.

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