Despite some strong opposition, protected bike lanes will be staying in downtown Saskatoon.

Saskatoon city council voted on Monday afternoon to keep the existing protected cycling lanes on 23rd Street and Fourth Avenue until a downtown-wide cycling network is developed. 

"What I don't want to see today is for us to take a step backward before we know how we're heading forward," said Councillor Hilary Gough. "I'm really pleased that the focus of this report and the next steps are to develop a network."

A study conducted by the City of Saskatoon showed that cyclists felt safer biking in the downtown while using the lanes and that the frequency and severity of collisions has dropped since the pilot started.

The downtown bike lane pilot project has been controversial ever since installation began in 2015. Many councillors noted their constituents felt the bike lanes were confusing and unsafe, and some drivers avoided the downtown as a result.

In a survey conducted by the city, 66 per cent of people had something negative to say about the lanes. 

"Numbers don't lie," said Coun. Troy Davies. "The majority of the residents that have contacted me and responded to the survey want the bike lanes on Fourth Avenue to be removed, and it's time we listened."

A report on the Downtown All Ages and Abilities Cycling Network is expected to come back this spring. As a result, many councillors wanted to see a network plan in place before deciding on the current cycling lanes.

"No matter what decision we make today here, and no matter what decision we vote on, we're looking at whether bike lanes are staying or going in May or June," said Coun. Zach Jeffries. 

It's unclear whether the plan will advise that the city move the location of the lanes or keep them in the same spot.

"It will not be any easier, I don't think, for us to initiate a project of this nature on another downtown roadway," said Coun. Mairin Loewen. "This represents a significant shift from the status quo. It is going to disrupt the transportation patterns of all kinds of residents."

The city report noted that if the protected bike lanes are made permanent, changes would be made to transit stops, as well as improvements to disabled person parking and loading zones.