The City of Victoria recently opened protected two-way bike lanes on Harbour Road, linking the Galloping Goose Trail with the Johnson Street bridge. (Don Descoteau/News Staff)

The City of Victoria recently opened protected two-way bike lanes on Harbour Road, linking the Galloping Goose Trail with the Johnson Street bridge. (Don Descoteau/News Staff)

Growth of Victoria’s bike lane network continues from downtown heart

City staff work toward a full buildout of 32-kilometre network by 2022

Whether one uses protected cycling lanes or not – or even supports their presence – progress continues unabated on Victoria’s city wide network of dedicated bike pathways.

Lately, finishing touches have been installed on the newest section along Harbour Road, a roughly 500-metre stretch that connects the city’s downtown cycling networks, via the Johnson Street bridge deck, to the Galloping Goose trailhead near the Bay Street bridge.

“This is a great link to help solidify the connection to the rest of the regional trails network,” says Sarah Webb, the city’s manager of transportation planning and development.

The Harbour Road completion means cyclists can now ride on a dedicated pathway from Humboldt Street in Victoria all the way to Sooke and Sidney, with only a residential segment of Lochside Drive in Saanich and a brief crossing of Island Highway in Colwood interrupting that flow.

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Victoria has embraced the idea of building out its triple-A – for all ages and abilities – cycling infrastructure. Council has directed staff to complete the 32-kilometre network by the end of 2022, Webb says, and there are various new routes in the works.

Construction is underway on the northern section of a designated north-south route along relatively flat Vancouver Street, with a jog over Bay Street to Graham Street towards Hillside Avenue. While it’s part of the triple-A network, casual cyclists will be challenged with a long and gradual hill upward to Summit Avenue. It continues with an up-and-down stretch along Jackson Street to Finlayson Street, then a pleasant downhill glide to the city’s border at Tolmie Avenue.

From there, the designated path climbs along quiet Wicklow Street in Saanich, winding up the protected bike lanes on Cook Street.

That corridor will add roughly 4.8 kilometres to the city’s network, more than doubling its current size. Residents and interested cyclists can get updates on this and other bike lanes construction projects by emailing engage@victoria.ca and asking to be added to the mailing list.

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The city is surveying the public on the next phases of the network planning, which involves routes into the Jubilee neighbourhood, and corridor connections through the Oaklands, Fernwood and Fort Street central neighbourhoods. Residents and others are encouraged to take one of the surveys at engage.victoria.ca.

“We’re really excited about the progress that is being made,” Webb says. “With each of these projects, it’s a chance to investigate various barriers that may exist for residents. We’re not just creating great places to cycle, but also great places for walking … This is the kind of thing that does encourage more people to ride, but also encourages people to sit on these quieter streets and enjoy the spaces that have been created.”

Webb admits there are – and have been – many challenges with instituting such broad cycling infrastructure, from respecting the needs of other road users to working with merchants to ensure unfettered access.

“We have to think about emergency vehicles, garbage trucks and other commercial vehicles,” she says, not to mention pedestrians, people with mobility issues and, yes, all the other private motor vehicles on the road. “The biggest challenge is finding that right balance. Plus we’re still continuing to invest in roads, that’s not going away anytime soon.”

Mayor Lisa Helps describes the bigger picture in a video outlining Victoria’s active transportation network:

“The vision is grander than bikes and it’s well-being infrastructure. We can build cities that create well being, we can build cities that give people options, and we can build cities that are much more liveable than 20th century cities,” Helps said.

For more information about Victoria bike lane progress and the opportunities to provide input on future projects, visit bit.ly/3j0mX3z.

don.descoteau@blackpress.ca