Downtown Vancouver businesses’ attitudes towards bike lanes have changed in the last 5 years

VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) – Remember all the controversy when the city started installing bike lanes downtown five years ago?

At the time, the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association spoke out against the lanes, backing up its members who claimed lost parking would affect their bottom lines.

But the group that represents many merchants in the area is now singing a different tune.

“Times have changed, and it’s obvious that separated bike lanes [are] working in the downtown area and I don’t think any politician, regardless of what political party they’re with, would ever dare take them out. So they’re here to stay and we need to adapt. From an organization perspective, there are other pressing priorities for the organization than fighting separated bike lanes,” says DVBIA Executive Director Charles Gauthier.

He says the lanes seem to be bringing in an ever-growing number of people who choose two wheels.

“We want downtown to be accessible by all modes of transportation and I think if we say, ‘Well, we’re not interested in separated bike lanes because of this and that, we’re going to basically exclude ourselves from a growing market of people that commute to work by bike as well as people that are living downtown and travelling throughout the Vancouver area by bike.

“We’re seeing obviously a greater demographic of people of all ages and abilities in the separated bike lanes because they’re obviously more safe and providing more comfort. At the end of the day, we don’t want to tell employers that we’re not accommodating maybe a portion of their employees that are coming to work by bike, nor do we want to turn away customers that are making that decision as well,” adds Gauthier.

He wants people to be able to get downtown by all modes of transportation.

Gauthier adds the city is requiring new developments to accommodate people who cycle, and building owners are recognizing there need to be things like showers and secure storage rooms available.

“This is all about being competitive in the market place, and the consumer is demanding cycling facilities and demanding end-of-trip facilities, and it’s being mandated by the City. So those two factors are driving the new businesses [and] the new office towers to adapt to that new change.”

Gauthier says people are making the switch to cycling for a variety of reasons, including health and being able to control your commute.

“But I’m seeing people of all ages and abilities that are riding in the bike lanes that I wouldn’t have seen five, ten years ago. And certainly, the case that the engineers made and the case that cycling advocates made that separated bike lanes are really the necessity to get people of all ages and abilities to travel and commute that way has proven to be correct. We were Doubting Thomases but certainly, we now have it included in our five-year strategic plan that we want downtown to be accessible by all modes of transportation, and we don’t want to deny ouselves of any customers or employees that want to use that way of travelling to and from the downtown.”

The DVBIA is a sponsor of Bike to Work Week, and has been for the last seven years.

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