Cyclists slowing down buses in Victoria's new priority lanes, union head says
Dedicated bus lanes have opened along one of Victoria's most critical arteries, Douglas Street. Nov. 5, 2018. (CTV Vancouver Island)
CTV Vancouver Island
Published Tuesday, January 8, 2019 5:26PM PST
New priority bus lanes along one of Victoria's busiest routes seem to be working, but a union spokesman says trips could be faster if not for one issue: cyclists.
Ben Williams, the president of Unifor Local 333, says the new priority bus lanes that opened on Douglas Street between Fisgard Street and Tolmie Avenue in November say the lanes' design isn't ideal for drivers.
That's because cyclists are also permitted to use the lanes, meant to speed up travel times on the corridor.
"If cyclists are sharing those bus lanes, then we're not going to be able to obtain the maximum benefit from it," said Williams.
He said buses can only go as fast as the slowest cyclist in front of them in the priority lane. Drivers turning right are also permitted to use the lanes, given they're in the same block as the turn they're making.
It's not just the bus drivers' union that feels the lanes could be better.
"It's definitely a very imperfect solution," said Corey Burger of the Greater Victoria Cycling Coalition. "The bus lanes here on Douglas, they're a bit of an ugly political compromise."
Both Williams and Burger think the region can do better to speed up the commute by transit – and protect cyclists on the road.
"Peak rush hour, that crunch time there, usually all of the lanes are full of traffic," said Williams. "So there's not enough room at all for a transit bus to actually maneuver around a cyclist."
Burger thinks the solution lies in a median section for buses with protected bike lanes on either side of Douglas.
"Let's make this a true urban street, not a traffic sewer in and out of downtown Victoria," he said.
But the partners involved in the design of the bus lanes say that pitch wasn't possible.
"There's not enough space," said Fraser Work, Director of Engineering and Public Works for the City of Victoria. "We only have so much right of way to work with to stay within budget."
They also say the overarching plan – to speed up bus travel times on the corridor – is working.
"The commission is very pleased with the bus priority lanes and how they are helping to move the buses efficiently," said Susan Brice, Chair of the Victoria Regional Transit Commission.
Work added that the lanes have already shaved off "several minutes of time" between Tolmie and Hillside avenues.
The City of Victoria confirmed it is looking at long-term bike lane plans near Douglas Street.
BC Transit is also working to outfit buses with technology that would give drivers some control over traffic lights, enabling them to hit a switch to hold a green light.