“If you’re going to write about Victoria, you’ll have to write about bike lanes.”
So said my friend after I arrived in Victoria in early December.
“Well, it’s winter,” I responded (naively). “Probably won’t have to worry it until the spring.”
But here now it’s January and (sigh) I’m writing about bike lanes after receiving a letter from a Saanich resident who claims to have found the “most disruptive bike lane in the Victoria area.”
“The transformation of Tillicum Road not only outdoes all other traffic disasters, it blows them away,” writes Michel. “It is the Connor McDavid of bike lane imbecility.”
So, yes, we have an early entrant in the annual hyperbole awards.
Michel is really fired up after Saanich added protected bike lanes in 2022 on Tillicum heading towards the Esquimalt border – removing two vehicle lanes in the process.
Now I should state here that I am not a cyclist. Far from it. I’m a driver who doesn’t cycle because I don’t even remotely feel safe cycling on urban roads. I also spent my entire life living in Metro Vancouver, a raging inferno of traffic (see, I can do hyperbole with the best of them) and a place that is hostile to the addition of protected bike lanes.
I once had to write about people setting their hair on fire over adding bike lanes on the Burrard Street bridge in Vancouver. Back then, business leaders said it would destroy all the businesses along the road. Years later, the bike lanes have been embraced – even by those same business leaders.
So I understand people’s irrational hatred of bike lanes. I also understand that a lot of it is overblown.
Michel claims to be a cyclist, but hates these bike lanes and seems to hate the very idea of bike lanes in Victoria.
“The effect on traffic has been dramatic,” Michel wrote about the Tillicum lanes. “All of a sudden, the efficient flow has been reduced to a frustrating crawl in which long lines of cars lurch fitfully along when they’re not actually idling as they wait for a light to change … In summation, the important artery of Tillicum Road has been effectively converted into a traffic jam.”
Now I read this particular section and let out a guffaw when I read “traffic jam” because since moving to Victoria from Metro Vancouver I keep hearing about how bad the traffic is.
Let me say that Victoria residents have no idea about bad traffic compared to Metro Vancouver. Like it’s not even close.
Since moving here, I have basked in how fast it is to get around Greater Victoria at all times of the day. Sure, there’s lineups and stoppages but they’re pretty tame by comparison.
Michel said Tillicum is a “disagreeable chore” even in the middle of the day so I tested out that claim. Traffic was brisk but it was moving quick.
Michel also wrote that the goal of protecting cyclists was pointless because the lanes are “sparsely used” – even on sunny summer days.
I don’t know if the city has done an official count, but I was there for 10 minutes and counted 13 cyclists in the middle of the day.
The thing I really take issue with is Michel calling Saanich politicians “wokist” for the bike lanes. I’m sorry, but adding infrastructure so drivers don’t kill cyclists shouldn’t be mocked – it should be applauded.
I’m not saying Tillicum traffic isn’t inconvenient, but maybe pump the breaks about how it’s some sort of life-altering trauma for poor drivers like me.
Chris Campbell is an editor with Black Press at the Victoria hub of newspapers. You can follow him on Twitter @shinebox44.
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