The next phase of a $9-million Victoria bike lane project expected to get green light despite growing concerns from businesses. Tess van Straaten reports.

A steady stream of cyclists are making their way along the new Pandora bike lanes.

The separated lanes have only been open for a month but preliminary numbers show an average of 1,100 cyclists a day are already using them.

“It has been enormously successful ? way better than we expected,” Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps said.

“We’ve seen an increase of 50 per cent during the morning commute times and a doubling in the afternoon commute so people are using the infrastructure.”

The two-way bike lanes are the first phase of a $9-million project to make cycling safer and more accessible in the B.C. capital.

And Helps said it’s working, with more kids and seniors taking advantage of the new bike lanes.

“I know it’s very controversial but this is the case in every city,” Helps said.

“Every city that builds these sees ridership go up and retail sales also go up along the corridor.”

A similar project is now planned for Fort Street between Wharf and Cook.

But adding the two-way lanes will mean losing a lane of vehicle traffic between Wharf and Douglas, and businesses aren’t happy.

“This street has a disproportionate amount of impacts,” Rob Simon of Paul Mara Jewellers said.

“Not only are we losing all the parking on the north side, we’re also losing a lane of traffic and that isn’t the case for any other part of this project.”

With just one lane for vehicles and the loss of 18 parking stalls in just two blocks, businesses are worried about customer access, congestion and difficulty unloading deliveries.

But despite the growing concerns, Victoria City Council is expected to green-light the $3.2-million project this week.

“What will happen is that as more people get onto their bikes, there will be less people in the cars and that will decrease congestion,” Helps said.

“That’s what happens. I don’t make this up. That’s what the data from everywhere else shows.”

But business owners ? who say the city is ignoring their concerns ? aren’t convinced.

“The way they’ve positioned it is ‘bike lanes and nothing else’ and they’re basically compromising the interests of a lot of people just to advance this project in the short term,” Simon said.

Riding high on the Pandora numbers, Helps says she wants the Fort Street project to begin no later than Sept 30.

Tess van Straaten