The debate regarding bike lanes on Seventh Avenue was back before council on Monday afternoon, and councillors have decided to tweak the previously approved plan.
Last month, a 5-2 vote by council moved the project forward, but Mayor Randy Hawes reintroduced the issue.
Hawes, who did not vote in favour of the project last month due to several safety concerns, asked staff to reconfigure the bike lane plan to create more room for traffic.
The original plan, suggested by the cycling task force, would see a 1.5 metre curbside bike lane on either side of Seventh Avenue (between Stave Lake Street and Taulbut Street) and a 2.4 metre space (on the south side) for street parking. There would be no parking on the north side. That would leave room for two 3.3 metre travel lanes, one in each direction, for vehicles.
The new configuration presented to council on Monday would have curbside parking (2.4 metres) on the south side of the street, then the 1.5 metre bike lane, two 3.5 metre traffic lanes (one in each direction) and a 1.3 metre bike lane (on the north side). There is still no parking on the north side.
The bike lanes will be separated, visually, from the traffic lanes by a painted buffer of diagonal lines that will be half a metre in length.
After rescinding the previous decision, council first voted 5-2 in favour of moving the bike lane project forward. Hawes and Coun. Jim Hinds were opposed.
The second vote was to change the planned layout to the newer version. This time only Hinds voted against the proposal.
Hawes explained that although he voted against the project moving forward at this time, at least the new changes would make it safer, in his opinion.
Although there were some mixed feelings on council, members of the cycling task force seemed to be united in their opposition of the proposed changes.
The newly approved design was not one of the three proposals suggested by the task force that was formed last year to examine bike lane options.
On Monday night, two members of the task force attended the evening council meeting to voice their disapproval.
Neil Smith wanted to know why council ignored the three options presented by the task force.
He said after being appointed to the task force with other cyclists, they created three options, one of which council approved last month.
“What you voted on today was none of those three options … What you agreed on today would not have met our approval in any way,” Smith said.
He said his main objection to the new proposal is that one of the bike lanes is now sandwiched between the parking and the travel lane, which he said is a disincentive to novice cyclists.
“One of our compromises was no loss of parking, narrower bike lanes. It’s not our preferred solution, but it was on the table for you. Instead, you chose to come up with a solution that was not approved or recommended by the cycling task force, which you appointed. So now I think residents of Mission must, every time they get invited to join a task force of some kind, will be asking the question, why bother?”
Hawes explained that the problem with task forces is they “never got elected by the people to make actual decisions; they make recommendations” and sometimes recommendations are only partially accepted or not accepted at all.
Bruce “Rocky” Blondin, also on the task force, wanted to know why neither staff nor council consulted the force about the changes.
“We spent a year of our time volunteering and trying to understand the needs of the city and you then, at the last second, have changed all of that, crumpled it up in a piece of paper and thrown it in the garbage… Why would we serve in these committees and these task forces when our perspective and our effort is ignored?”
Hawes said the bottom line is the bike lanes are going to be built on Seventh Avenue because of the work of the task force.
“When you look at how it gets laid out on the street, that is the responsibility, among other things, of our engineering staff,” Hawes said.