The City of Vancouver has approved plans to build 12 new bike lanes over the next five years, as outlined in an earlier transportation report by city staff.

"Skateboarders tend to go back and forth. And cyclists tend to go in straight lines so we will have to see how that works."
- Vancouver City Councillor Heather Deal

Thursday night's vote means the city can move forward on new routes planned for eight busy downtown streets including Richards, Bute, Smithe and, Nelson streets, along with Commercial Drive and the Granville Street Bridge.

The plan also includes a year-long pilot project to share protected cycling lanes with rollerbladers, push scooters and skateboards.

Skateboards alongside cyclists

"They didn't have a safe place to go," City Councillor Heather Deal told CBC today. "Skateboarders tend to go back and forth. And cyclists tend to go in straight lines so we will have to see how that works."

Some years ago skateboarders were allowed to use side streets, but now they don't need to fear tickets in protected bike lanes.

The plan was outlined earlier this year in the city's Transportation 2040 plan. The goal is to make cyclists feel safer, after bike traffic hit record highs in 2015.

"We know there are a lot of people who will bike if they feel safer. We've seen those numbers shooting up in recent years as we add more safe cycling routes," Councillor Heather Deal said earlier this year.

Parking their concerns

The plan is to start with new routes along Cambie, Nelson and Smithe in 2016 and 2017.

Some restaurant and business owners have already raised concerns that will cut into parking spaces.

The Cambie Street project will connect the Dunsmuir bike route to Gastown, and mean removing a quarter of the parking spots between Dunsmuir and Water streets.

New bike routes on Nelson and Smithe streets will connect eastbound and westbound traffic between Richards Street and the Cambie Bridge. Vehicle traffic won't change, but 20 parking spots will be lost.

In each case, bikes will be protected from moving vehicles by some sort of barrier, either a row of parked cars or a concrete divider, city councillors have said.

"There is a lot of work to be done," said Deal.

She acknowledged that Commercial Drive would be the biggest challenge as the street is already crowded with buses, cars and walking traffic that frequents the stores, restaurants and coffee shops.

Nick Pogar of the Commercial Drive Business Society says the city needs to consult with his group, and hopes city staff rethink the expensive, controversial plans for the busy destination street.

"There are already four bike lanes that exist in the area. We don't think the additional burden on the taxpayer is warranted," said Pogar.

Restaurant owners have been outspoken against the Commercial Drive bike lane plan, with particular concern about the impact on parking along the "The Drive," a popular focal point in the city.

Planned new protected bike routes

The City of Vancouver has committed to building 12 new protected bike routes in the next five years. (City of Vancouver)