Dunsmuir bike lanes mark turning point in opening downtown to cycling

Despite the relative calm as council approved segregated bike lanes for Dunsmuir St., today’s decision may prove more significant than last year’s Burrard Bridge trial.

For the first time, council is testing segregated lanes in the heart of the city in an effort to break the logjam that has kept cycling mode share at a fraction of the longstanding goal.

The Burrard trial attracted “end of civilization” media coverage, a barrage of e-mails on both sides of the issue and platoons of intervenors at council.

Dunsmuir saw a small flurry of e-mails and about four intervenors, including three representing busineses in the 600 block. The whole discussion took about three hours, with general agreement the project looks sound between Richards and Beatty.

West of Richards the road narrows, raising serious concerns from the Downtown Vancouver BIA, which opposes the impending ban on right turns at Seymour and Hornby. It also will affect transit, taxi zones and the drop-off zone at the front door of the St. Regis Hotel.

Unlike the Burrard trial, the Dunsmuir project carries more uncertainties, particularly for the dense residential, commercial and retail project built around the Dunsmuir entrance to the Skytrain.

Burrard had been studied to death, but the Dunsmuir project is a true trial, to be followed later this summer by a north-south connection along the Burrard corridor still to be determined. This phase is bound to be even more complex, given its length.

Aware of the potential pitfalls, council directed staff to have a troubleshooter ready to hear concerns and make changes, if warranted, as the Dunsmuir trial unfolds.

If both phases of this year’s work are a success, council will have penetrated to the heart of the matter — the downtown core which is the destination of most urban travellers.