Vancouver Beatty Street bike lane draws fire from the Canadian Armed Forces

The latest battle in Vancouver's war over bike lanes involves actual artillery — and the Canadian Armed Forces.

B.C.'s oldest regiment says a new bike lane in downtown Vancouver puts soldiers and cyclists at risk

The upgraded Beatty Street bike lane moves cyclists next to the sidewalk, with a concrete barrier and then parking. The armoury complained that, now, unloading ammunition, tents and other equipment from their large trucks will be unsafe for cyclists and soldiers. (CBC)

The latest battle in Vancouver's war over bike lanes involves actual artillery — and the Canadian Armed Forces.

City of Vancouver workers are upgrading a bike lane in downtown Vancouver, right in front of the Beatty Street Drill Hall, home to the oldest military regiment in B.C.

Hon. Col. Ted Hawthorne called the Beatty Street bike lane upgrade a 'recipe for disaster,' and said the reserve regiment had not been consulted. (CBC)

"It's a recipe for disaster," said Hon. Col. Ted Hawthorne with The British Columbia Regiment (Duke of Connaught's Own).

The regiment had dedicated parking right in front of the drill hall to unload tents, ammunition, weapons systems and other equipment from large trucks parked outside, said officials. There was a painted bike lane between the parking and the street.

Now, bikes have been moved next to the sidewalk, a concrete barrier has gone up, and regiment says it's losing parking spots.

"I don't know that it was all that well thought out. We certainly didn't know anything about it and now it puts us and our soldiers in a position that's not very good," said Hawthorne.

The British Columbia Regiment is an armoured reconnaissance reserve regiment whose members support Canadian troops abroad and civilian authorities during emergencies at home.

The old arrangement of bike lanes and parking on Beatty Street in front of the drill hall, as captured by Google Street View in May 2015. (Google Street View)

'Enough is enough'

Regimental leaders decided to air their concerns publicly after being surprised by the construction outside the armoury last week, said Hon. Lt-Col. Scott Shepherd.

"This is not a political issue. All our soldiers, we love bike lanes," he told reporters Wednesday.

The problem is safety, he said — and the risk that someone could get hurt while soldiers cross the bike lane to load and unload their massive trucks.

"We sure don't want a situation where any of our soldiers could be hurt while they're trying to load, where a bicyclist comes flying down."

For years, he said, the city has moved or removed parking for the regiment to make way for buses or bikes.

"Enough is enough ... We're not living with it, because people could get hurt."

How Beatty Street used to look — long before the bike lanes. This archival photo shows Canadian Army Medical Corps outside the Beatty Street Drill Hall in 1912. The British Columbia Regiment (Duke of Connaught's Own) has used the location in downtown Vancouver since 1901. (City of Vancouver Archives)

Planned for years

Construction may have started last week on the upgraded lanes, but the project has been in the works for years — included in long-term plans, discussed at an open house, and voted on by city council last December.

The city's director of transportation, Lon LaClaire, said the upgrades are meant to improve safety for cyclists who were at risk of getting "doored" by riding next to parked cars, protected only by a painted line.

"From our experience the separated bike lanes improve the overall safety," said LaClaire, who spoke to Shepherd about the concerns today.

Cyclist Nathan Graalman questioned the regiment's safety argument.

"I think they probably don't have too many emergencies in downtown Vancouver where it's so urgent for them to get across a bike lane," he said.

But Shepherd said the city should have talked to the regiment directly — since they take up half the block and have used the Beatty Street Drill Hall for more than a century.

"It is our right to have adequate parking to serve the people of Vancouver and the people of Canada. It's not the city's right to take it away and rearrange it as they see fit."

City crews began work last week, but the plan to upgrade the bike lane has been publicly discussed for years, including in city council and an open house, said Lon LaClaire, director of transportation for the City of Vancouver. (CBC)

With files from Meera Bains

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