Photo Credit: Paul Krueger via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Paul Krueger via Compfight cc

The proposal of another 12 new bike lanes through the heart of Vancouver, CNKW reports, has been well received by many businesses, but it isn’t going especially smoothly where Commercial Drive is concerned. There, opposition from at least one local business owner is creating friction as the plan, for a lane from Broadway to 1st Ave. in Commercial Drive’s case, takes shape.

In the process, however, a lesson in the economic benefit of bike lanes is being put before Vancouver residents and businesses alike, advocates say.

Controversy began when Federico Fuoco, a restaurant owner in the Commercial Drive area, accused the plan of being developed without the consultation of business owners. A bike lane, he argued, could affect his business’s financial well-being, CKNW reported. Further, he claimed that a separated bike lane on Commercial is unnecessary to begin with. Despite his vociferous opposition to the lane, however, other business owners along other bike lane routes—some of whom, like Fuoco, initially opposed bike lanes for similar reasons—have spoken up in support of the plan.

It’s support that’s especially meaningful, now that the city has had a chance to get more familiar with bike lanes themselves.

“We’re less opposed to them than we were in the past, and we do see the value in terms of getting people to shift the way they come into downtown,” Charles Gauthier of the Downtown Vancouver Business Association, who originally opposed Hornby Street’s bike lane, told CKNW. There were the usual suggestions, Gauthier said, of how people usually get into downtown. But as the study was being conducted, it was learned that cyclists are a more influential demographic than presumed, economically-speaking.

“A lot of our businesses on Hornby Street thought that everyone drove down,” Gauthier told reporters. “But when the bike study was done, the interest rep survey showed that the people in the vicinity of that area had got there by bike, by transit and by walking. There’s often a disconnect between how businesses think their customers get to their store and what their reality is.”

Vancouver-area cycling advocates, notably, are among those who say that Fuoco’s issues with the bike lanes aren’t shared by all businesses.

“We have over 20 businesses on Commercial Drive who are in support of having a bike lane on the Drive,” said Alex Thumm with Streets for Everyone, one of the bike lane project’s principal proponents and lobbyists, “and recognize that cyclists have money to spend. People don’t just commute back and forth between where they live and downtown. People are actually shopping.”

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