Tuesday, March 2, 2021
March 2, 2021

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Vancouver to delay plans for Columbia Street bike lanes

City to review, refine project after parking revisions criticized

By , Columbian environment and transportation reporter
Published:

Vancouver will delay plans to add protected bike lanes along Columbia Street downtown, opting for a fuller review and more public outreach work, following criticism from neighbors.

City staff told the Vancouver City Council Monday it will push back building a proposed bike corridor on Columbia Street to 2020-2021, to give the city and stakeholders time to organize and refine a plan and come to some kind of consensus.

The proposed bike lane project would remove on-street parking on much of Columbia Street from Mill Plain Boulevard to Fourth Plain Boulevard, adding protected bike lanes in each direction.

The city council twice moved to review the plan following outcry from neighbors, many saying they had inadequate notice about the plan, that it would deprive them of parking, or create accessibility problems for older or disabled people.

City Community and Economic Development Director Chad Eiken, summarizing the work so far, said the route on Columbia Street was identified after scoring the highest in planners’ analysis. City officials looked at existing traffic conditions such as bike and pedestrian use, vehicle volume, parking use and other metrics, as part of the framework set by the city’s broader Westside Mobility Strategy. Staff also did public outreach projects in summer and fall last year.

The work identified Columbia Street, Daniels and Franklin streets, and Lincoln and Kauffman avenues as good north-south biking corridors, with Columbia showing the best access.

(The first phase of the work, in the original and updated plan, is set for Columbia Street, from Mill Plain to Fourth Plain. The rest of the roadway and the other corridors would come later. Only the Lincoln-Kaufman stretch would see similar parking changes.)

Further analysis showed Columbia Street was best in regards to safety, options for making multimodal transportation improvements, and connectivity with popular destinations. City staff organized multiple community meetings, sent out thousands of postcards, posts, door hangers and other communications as part of the outreach.

Still, Eiken said, not everyone seemed to be in the loop.

“It’s clear to us, based on where we’re at in this process, we need to do more work,” he said. “We would like to take more time to create community stakeholder groups and spend a little more time, actually a lot more time, working with all of the various perspectives on this fairly complicated process.”

Following an upswell of public concern and council questions earlier this year, city officials visited with neighborhood associations, business groups, and individuals, including 16 homes with no off-street parking.

They also developed a plan to further localize outreach, with the Columbia Street phase of the project and others, going stretch by stretch.

City Long Range Planning Manager Rebecca Kennedy said staff, in their latest round of outreach, didn’t hear cyclist versus walker versus driver conflict.

“I think that one thing I’ve come to understand is that there is a desire to work together collectively as a community to come up with a consensus opinion on how to move this project forward” she said. “I think folks just want to find a solution that will work for everyone.”

Instead of installing the bike lanes this summer, as part of planned repaving efforts for Columbia Street, the city will plan to do it the summer after, roughly, to give a new project stakeholder committee time to work.

Eiken also said the city Parking Advisory Committee will be involved, as well. They were not part of the Columbia bike lane process, and that was his mistake, he said.

“We should have gone to the parking advisory committee,” he said. “They should really have a chance to give us their feedback. That was something I didn’t catch.”

The city will continue planned curb ramp upgrades on Columbia this year, along with road work, but delaying the bike lanes project will mean pushing off repaving Columbia Street, Kennedy said.

Repaving before adding protected bike lanes would cost more, she said, and could damage the road.

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