bike lane
Fort Street bike lane (Jay Wallace Images)

Earlier today, three downtown business owners released a joint statement endorsing the re-election of mayor Lisa Helps. In the release, the group mentioned that Victoria’s new bike lanes have helped both their businesses and climate consciousness in the community.

Now, mayoral candidate Stephen Hammond is contesting Helps’ claim that Victoria’s new bike lanes have benefited downtown businesses.

“Three businesses supporting Helps are a far cry from over 128 businesses on Fort Street proving that bike lanes have had an extremely negative impact on their businesses,” said Hammond in a New Council press release.

Hammond cites an April 2018 survey of businesses on Fort street that suggests an average revenue loss of 29% for stores on the street in their first quarter compared to the same quarter in 2017.

“Just walk along Fort Street and look at all the business failures, staff lay-offs, and closures. Downtown businesses have felt the crushing effects of poor planning initiatives without consultation from the city for far too long. It’s time to do things differently.”

Local business owner, Allison Langston of Knightsbridge Gift Shop, joined Hammond in his press release, claiming that the bike lanes contributed to the closing of her business.

“Nothing has ever impacted us the way this has,” said Langston. “On December 31st, we will be forced to close our doors and this is directly attributable to a loss of revenue due to bike lanes – the year-long construction and having them in place.”

“We have been in business for 22 years on the 500 and 600 block of Fort Street. Bike lanes have shattered our retirement dreams.”

Some local business owners disagree

“As established small business owners working downtown, we hear a lot of discussion about bike lanes, and, occasionally, about how they are bad for our city. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Bike lanes and their added bike parking have been nothing but positive for our businesses and we have seen firsthand how they’ve elevated the health of our community,” a trio of business owners said in a joint statement released earlier by the Helps campaign.

“We feel Mayor Helps is the right choice for the future of our city.”

Helps’ response to the original press release

“I’m so thankful that these business leaders are choosing to speak up. The benefits of active transportation that their businesses are experiencing are not unique to Victoria. The correlation between bike lanes, better walkability, and increased customer foot traffic to storefront businesses are tried and true in cities across Canada and around the world.”