July 2 GPC Summary & Observations

I started off all grumpy this morning because the media table had been shoved back in the back corner of the council chambers which made for both a bad view and terrible acoustics because it was crammed in beside a fancy looking air conditioning unit.

Council Air Conditioner

So I said “screw that” and sat in the front row of the audience. 

July 2 GPC Table

The other picture I should have taken from this vantage point was that of the silent wall of staff sitting to the right of this table. Their inflated numbers today were the likely reason for why the media table ended up getting squished in the back. Of note, is that only two of these staffers ended up speaking this morning, and the third who only got involved when things went off the rails, joined the table from his seat in the audience behind me.

All told, another “well organized” morning.

Here was the agenda and here is the video from this morning.

Victoria Youth Council 

They seem like a good positive group. They were there this morning to make their annual presentation to Council which is required as part of the $20,000 in annual funding they receive. Here is the ppt their members took turns speaking to this morning.

Of note is that Councillor Loveday has been a new pioneer of Youth Engagement and is also the Council rep to the Youth Council. He was also the one who made a motion a few months back for staff to come up with options for a Youth Engagement strategy, which is part of Council’s 2015-18 Strategic Plan. Looking forward, all members of Council are excited to do more project specific liaison work with the Youth Council.

The most interesting part of this section of the meeting this morning for me, was when Councillor Madoff praised the Youth Council in a roundabout way for how “they do more than Youth governance”. And in doing so, she made the comment that if she was a youth, she would have appreciated being able to join them as a result because if they were just governance focused, she would not have been interested. Good thing she a long time City Councillor eh!

Pandora Johnson Bike Lanes

Today was the next step in an engagement opportunity that was first presented to GPC back on February 26th (summary here). As listed in a relatively brief staff report, the staff recommendation was:

1. That Council endorse the design and construction of a two-way fully protected bike lane with traffic signal changes on Pandora Avenue, and marked bike lanes on Johnson Street.

2. That physical separation used in the design be primarily parked vehicles and bollards, with enhanced separation (concrete islands) used at bus zones, mid-block crosswalks, and at the approach to intersections where parking is not permitted.

After about an hour or so of questions and comments GPC gave unanimous approval – of note is that Young and Isitt were absent.

On the issue of what exactly was being proposed this morning, the practical implications of any possible decision weren’t all that clear and this wasn’t helped by the absolute lack of visual and graphics related to how this proposed 2 way protected bike lane on Pandora is anticipated to work. Or who will use it.

In fact the only visuals clearly available in the Council chambers (other than simple graphic in the staff report) were the two great big long banners strung on the side of the room ( seen on the far wall).

Banners in Council Chambers

And it was only after everyone was thoroughly confused by the staff presentation that it got moved to the centre of the Council table.

2 way Pandora Lane Banner

Even after this happened, things still weren’t that clear.

I approached the Director of Transportation and Parking Services, Brad after the meeting to ask if paper or electronic version of these maps are available. This then led to some back and forth because he thought all the information was available on the Have your Say Victoria page (where the bike survey results were posted) but it turned out all the attachments had been removed and built into a new section of the City’s website on a specific Protected Bike Lanes page instead (available here). So check it out for more.

Silly me had just assumed all info needed to make a decision (e.g., whether or not to “endorse design & construction of a 2 way cycle track) would all just be available from the meeting agenda.

But it wasn’t.

Here was the PPT deck shown by staff this morning.

So what Did Members of Council Say?

Councillor Madoff

Put up a good sized stink as the Council Representative to the Royal McPherson Theatre Society and made sure to mention many times how the City owns the McPherson theatre (still owns I guess).

Her primary issue was how it doesn’t appear as though McPherson theatre was consulted regarding the proposed protected Bike Lane along Pandora because if they were, Council would have heard from them because installation of the bike lane will result in their Pandora street parking access being moved “20 meters to the East” and Madoff spoke at length on how this will detract immensely from the accessibility of site and its immediate revenue as a result.

 

She made some strong arguments and as a result the RMTS will actually be consulted regarding changes to their side of Pandora.McPherson

Madoff also made some good persnickety comments about how staff really need to make sure they’ve got all public information related to the bike lanes easily available so that Council can defend their (inevitable) decision to move forward with protected bike lanes.

Councillor Coleman

Made an interesting comment about how he figures a different groups of residents (e.g., the supposed 750 people who completed the survey & 400 people who attended the pop-up open house) would likely provide a different response if consulted on protected bike lane option. But how it would/could be different from mixed levels of support currently received and read into, I do not know.

He made sure to mention though that he believes the City is building bike lanes for the future.

Councillor Thornton-Joe

She started things off by asking about impacts to parking and loading with installation of a new protected bike lane. Was told that “pockets” will still be available for parking and loading.

She also asked questions about whether skateboarders and electric assist cycles will be able to use the bike lanes. Was told they will. In response to her questions on how transit will work along Pandora with the introduction of the new bike lanes, she was told that a series of new transit islands will have to be built up along Pandora because transit buses will now be parking in traffic upon implementation of the new protected bike lanes.

Speaking on behalf of the Downtown Victoria Business Association, she spoke of how downtown businesses won’t want bike lane construction happening outside of their stores during the critical Christmas shopping months of November & December. The response from staff on this one made me chuckle because they basically said “you’ve got us o a tight timeline so there will be construction happening at this time”.

Councillor Lucas

Started off by inquiring about best practices in bike lane design. Said she’s seen a lot more folks coming to her hotel (the Rialto) on bikes lately so its exciting to get the protected bike lane in. She also suggested that building protected bike lanes would help the City become more of a 12 month tourism destination. She thinks the 2 way solution on Pandora is a good idea because she’s seen how well the cycle track on Hornby in Vancouver works.

Councillor Loveday

As a major champion for this initiative, he spoke of how having a 2 way cycle track is exciting and the best option for building a world class network in accordance with the strategic plan. He also seemed to be the only one with actual experience cycling on such tracks elsewhere. As well, he asked a number of good questions about potential logistics of parkings and public transit and how they will be used after implementation of the new 2 way cycle track.

Councillor Alto

Spoke at length about her reservations. In particular, she was concerned about the tight fit (3 meters) for a two way cycle track (1.5 meters each) that will be used by cyclists  “who move faster than cars” in her experience. She was able to support the 2 way lane on Pandora so long as it was considered “just the beginning” because more lanes on other streets (e.g, Johnson) really need to be built.

Mayor Helps

A bunch of Councillors mentioned and refuted a recent news story that identified the City of Victoria as scoring an “F” in their cycling network. Mayor Helps embraced this scorecard though, said it was “true”  and that “we don’t have to be this way”. She asked for more detail on practical hypothetical travel examples along a 2 way Pandora cycle track and expressed her urgency to get stuff done (e.g., get lanes built quickly) on multiple occasions. Related to this, she expressed a desire for Hotel Zed get involved as a champion of the new bike lanes.

She also expressed a desire to see the promised Accessibility working group formally set up so that in cases such as the 2 way Pandora Bike lane, this Accessibility group can be formally consulted.   Related to this I believe she tasked Councillor Loveday with bringing a motion forward (at a later date) for operationalizing this group.

Lastly, she asked for an update on when the motion previously approved by Council for design of a new cycling network (other than the one previously approved by Citizens and facilitated by the city I gather) and was told that RFP documents still haven’t been issued.

On the topic of the current RFP (for design only of Pandora) she was told that draft documents exist and that tender documents for actual construction will depend on whether or not Gas Tax funding was successful because, I believe if funding is received then the work has to be done by contractors in not in-house. Mayor Helps reiterated again, the need for things to be done quickly.

My Thoughts on it All

I’m inclined to agree with John Luton who I chatted with this morning. He is of the impression that this bike lane is getting rushed to say “hey folks we have a bike lane” in the sense that the Johnson Street bridge is not yet complete (which means its still not entirely clear how folks travelling from the GOOSE and across the JSB) will actually access this 2 way bike lane on Pandora.

For additional context on this I visited the JSB website and discovered that multiple possible pathways have been identified for cycle use (click on the image below to enlarge & see the green lines).

JSB Cycle Traffic

My concern is that once and if we then get cyclists traveling east on Pandora,  who is to say that folks intending to travel further east of Cook Street or South of Pandora would even bother to use this new 2 way route going East? Won’t it just take you off your path and potentially lead to many accidents in any new public realm that get created in front of the Janion Building. Won’t it just be easier to head east on Johnson?

Or am being cynical?

If you think I am, please tell me who this lane is for.

I’d like to know!

 

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