Bike-lane work downtown could snarl traffic

VANCOUVER – Cyclists will soon have an easier commute through downtown, but as construction on a Dunsmuir Street bike lane continues, traffic delays could cause headaches for drivers.

Dunsmuir traffic will be reduced to two lanes from Hornby to Beatty streets during the morning and evening rush hour and down to one lane during non-peak times of day, as city crews construct medians and traffic signal poles for a new two-way bike lane. Weekend traffic between 7 a.m. and 3 p.m. will be reduced to one lane.

City staff are encouraging motorists to take alternative routes such as the Cambie Street Bridge to avoid traffic congestion.

"We’re messaging to motorists that there’s lots of capacity on the Cambie Bridge and encouraging people to look at alternatives," said Jerry Dobrovolny, assistant city engineer of transportation.

While many cyclists are looking forward to using the enclosed bike lane, some drivers making their way through downtown Thursday afternoon were complaining of delays on Dunsmuir. David Calmeyer said despite the traffic, he hasn’t seen anyone using the new cycling route on the Dunsmuir Viaduct.

"I can see it from my window and I look out and I see traffic like crazy and no one riding in the bike lane," he said.

According to Dobrovolny, a trial of the separated bike lane on the Dunsmuir Viaduct has shown an increase from less than 100 cyclists a day to nearly 1,000 daily. He anticipates that once the new downtown cycling route is completed by June 15, it will encourage more people to take their bikes to work instead of their cars.

Arno Schortinghuis, president of the Vancouver Area Cycling Coalition, said the completion of the enclosed bike lane will make a big difference for cyclists downtown.

"It’s going to be extremely important," he said. "This is exactly the type of facility that will get way more people riding bikes. The more people that ride bikes, the safer it is for all cyclists."

Next week’s Bike to Work Week also aims to get more cyclists on the road. Leading up to bike week, ICBC is encouraging cyclists to take safety precautions to avoid collisions, such as wearing a helmet and reflective clothing.

Drivers are encouraged to keep an eye out for cyclists, keep at least a three-second following distance and stay out of bike lanes.

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