Vancouver moves forward on separated bike lane for Richards Street

The City of Vancouver is moving forward on plans to redesign a bike lane in the downtown core that many cyclists deem hazardous.

It's seeking public feedback on a proposal for a separated two-way bike lane running along the east side of Richards Street. The protected path would result in a net loss of 50 parking spaces and a full lane of traffic outside of rush hour.

"There's a small percentage [of people] that really feel comfortable out on the street with cars, but there's a much higher percentage of people who aren't really comfortable until they're in a protected space — away from vehicles," said Paul Storer, the city's manager of transportation design. "

Part of the painted bike lane was separated from traffic in 2013 as the city moved forward on its Transportation 2040 plan. The plan aims to curb the city's average of 500 cyclist collisions a year.

Jon Hernandez/CBC

But the other half of the bike lane is only painted onto the road. For riders like Ram Anoor, a local food delivery cyclist, using the path doesn't always feel safe.

"At the intersections, the cars can cut you off," he told CBC News. Every day, I've been cut off by people. [They] don't usually do shoulder checks."

"I'm wearing a helmet, but my life is at stake," he added.

A redesign

City staff have been working toward a redesign of the cycling route since 2016, consulting with groups like HUB Cycling and the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association.

Initial plans were to redesign the stretch from Water to Robson streets, adding wider bike lanes and reducing 20 per cent of the on-street parking.

City of Vancouver

However, following rounds of consultation with businesses and cyclists, the city revamped efforts to include a larger, two-way separated bike lane, allowing space for northbound cyclists as well.

There would be a net decrease of 50 parking spaces — or 15 per cent of spots — along Richards Street. Traffic would be reduced to one lane; however, parking restrictions during the afternoon rush hour would open up a second lane.

"Traffic volumes on Richards Street aren't very high outside of the afternoon peak period. The traffic very easily fits into a single travel lane," said Storer.

Jon Hernandez/CBC

The design has garnered the support of HUB and the DBIA. The city says it would be integrated with green infrastructure to create "a more pleasant sidewalk.'"

Feedback forms can be filled out online. The city will host an open house Thursday afternoon at the Vancouver Public Library.