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BC Transit proposes the City remove 26 mature trees, as well as the green sidewalk setback along the Hillside-Tolmie section of Douglas Street, to create an express bus lane.

Many residents are concerned that this will reduce walkability on Douglas Street, something the majority of respondents of the Burnside Gorge area requested in a recent City survey, “There is a strong desire to see the neighbourhood become more walkable and friendlier to cyclists, families, and people of all ages,” according the report.

The proposal appears to contradict the City’s goal of promoting walking and liveability. As plans are underway around Victoria to increase the separation of pedestrians and traffic with green buffer zones – critics say this is exactly what BC Transit plans to remove on Douglas Street.

Removing the mature trees threatens to turn the area into a traffic wasteland, according to some residents. Volunteers from the grassroots activist group Victoria Citizens Action Network were busy over the Easter weekend attaching notices to the 26 tall and healthy trees.

To avoid causing damage, two yellow ribbons were used to tie warning notices, which alert passers-by that BC Transit intends to remove both the trees and the green setback in which they are growing.

In an online slideshow presentation, ViCAN spokesperson Stuart Hertzog argues that the city has a policy of removing diseased trees, not those that are healthy and provide valuable summer shade, as well as absorb pollutants along a busy stretch of road.

“Cutting these trees and paving over the green setback would be an act of extreme foolishness,” said Hertzog today.

Some were also planted in 1921 to remember Victorians who died in the First World War, states today’s ViCAN press release.

According to Hertzog, a months-long public consultation process found 61% of 939 online respondents wanted to keep the present width of Douglas street. Transit then used the results of a last-minute, online poll which it claims shows 68% or 76 responses, were for widening Douglas Street. Hertzog considers this “an underhanded and deceitful tactic by Transit executives.”

Victoria Citizen Action Network has created an action site, for those wanting to oppose the removal.

The Victoria Regional Transit Commission has approved a budget of $1.6 million for construction of the bus lanes in the 2016/17 fiscal year.

Image of proposed Douglas street widening from BC Transit
Image of proposed Douglas street widening from BC Transit

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